Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Focus to New Year's Eve

Over the years, I have had the good fortune to celebrate New Year's Eve any number of fun ways -- when I was a kid, we occasionally went and saw the fireworks downtown. When I was older I had parties with my friends -- both hosted them and attended them. There were the more innocent parties, before I could drink legally, and then there were the "line the kitchen sink with a trash bag and fill it with juice & vodka" parties (sounds delightful now, but back then we thought it was great!). I have celebrated at very fancy dinners in very fancy restaurants, and I have had very fancy dinners in any number of friends' and families' homes, as well as my own.


The year that I was pregnant with our first daughter, her due date was January 12th, so that New Year's there was no drinking, no going out -- just a mellow night, each of us on our own couch, me with a bottle of sparkling grape juice, and an all night "Law & Order" marathon! The year after that, our very good friends invited us over and we brought the baby with us -- just the 5 of us -- and it was a great evening, but we were both so nervous driving home that night -- it's such a terrible night to be out driving!
Now that both of our girls have come along, my husband and I have refocused what we like to do on New Year's. Now, it's more about staying home and making it a festive evening with our kids than going out for a gourmet meal, or going out to a party. I think last year we watched the countdown on the Disney channel, instead of Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve. This year we are planning to watch "Rudolph's Shiny New Year", have some kid-friendly munchies that our girls will like, and get out our New Year's decorations -- New Year's party napkins, hats, noisemakers, some sparkler candles, etc.

One thing that has become a tradition for us at New Year's is for everyone to have "crackers" -- they are actually a Christmas tradition in the United Kingdom, but we started using them as a New Year's Eve treat in our house. For those who are unfamiliar with them, they are a brightly wrapped cardboard tube that is filled with a few little trinkets and usually you pull them open and there is a little "bang" as they pop open. Our oldest daughter loves them! My stepmother put them out for us for Christmas dinner this year and my girl had fun opening, well, everyone's! This year I've been sick and sticking to the house, so I have not had time to go out and buy the crackers, but I decided that I'm going to try my hand at making them! I plan to take a wrapping paper roll and cut it into a few small tube-lengths, and then I will fill it with some treats -- I have some candy, some plastic beaded party necklaces that my girls will love, and I'll just see what else I find -- then I will wrap them with wrapping paper like the picture above and tie them with ribbon -- voila! I may do these on my own to surprise my girls, but this would also be very easy to have the kids do themselves, as a funny activity!
Our other tradition, came about a few years ago when I had purchased a fancy dessert for us to share, and it did NOT turn out to be something that my daughter appreciated. In a last minute attempt to make her her own "fancy dessert" I grabbed a pudding cup from the fridge, put it on a plate, put a flourish of whipped cream on top and a sprinkling of M&M's -- she LOVED it! Now, that's what she requests when it's a fancy dessert kind of evening!
And don't get me wrong, we're not ALL about the kids -- we have our very festive kid party, and then we put the kids to bed and my husband and I have a nice dinner and some wine or champagne. Last year we had a nice dinner in front of the fireplace with the Christmas tree lights on, and then we snuggled up and watched a romantic movie. We love to spend time with our kids, but it's also important to make time for the grown-ups too!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday -- ours was very nice (I'll share more later) but I was battling bronchitis over the holiday and I'm still getting over it, and so now begins our next favorite season - cold and flu season! Yesterday my youngest (17 month old) came down with a cold and I was up with her until about 2:30am trying to make her comfortable, trying to bring down her fever, and trying to wage a war against everything that was coming out of her nose... Poor sweetie!!


So this is just a quick post to let you know that I am still here, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share my admiration for this wonderful product that has been a god-send! Perhaps that sounds dramatic, but seriously -- this is a WONDERFUL product! I grew up on Vick's Vapo-Rub, and I do swear by that for myself. But, even calling it "Mommy's lotion" to my product-loving eldest daughter, did not sway her into letting me apply it to her to help her get to sleep when she had a cold and stuffy nose. We would do our best to get her to sleep without it, and then I would sneak in and rub a little on the back of her neck to help clear up her stuffy nose, but not totally overpower her with it. Well, then PediaCare came out with this great Vapor Plug that you slip a little medicated pad into and plug it into the wall, and it works like a charm every time! My daughter actually ASKS us to plug it in now when she is congested.
And for anyone who has ever had a small child who is clearly "addicted" to her pacifier ("binky" in our house) -- there is nothing worse than a child that needs the pacifier to get to sleep, but can't breathe through their stuffy nose, and is just completely miserable suffering between wating to breathe through their mouth, but wanting their pacifier all at the same time. This has really worked wonders in our house -- we have one for each child's room, and last night we used them both and eventually both girls slept peacefully through the night!
Just had to spread the word to any other moms in need! Breathe easy! ;)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Update to "Even Moms Need a Time-Out" Post...

Last night my husband and I claimed our usual spots on the couches and we popped in "Love Actually" which I had been waiting all month to watch - it makes me feel very Christmas-y! I looked over at him about 10 mins into the movie (this is one of his favorite movies, btw), and he already had his eyes closed! Well! I was going to watch it anyway! And about 15 minutes later I was totally out -- sound asleep -- didn't wake up until the credits were rolling!! Better luck next time, I guess...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Emergency (Gift) Preparedness

Last night my daughter had "elf night" at her dance class, which meant she was allowed to invite a friend to attend class with her. Well, I did not remember this until I read the dance schedule at 11pm on Tuesday night -- a little late to call her friend's house to invite her! I called from work on Wednesday, apologized for the short notice and extended the invitation. Fortunately, the friend was available and excited to attend with my girl. Phew! I really felt as though they were doing us a favor, because it was so last minute and I would have been so upset with myself if my frazzled-ness (I'm sure that's not a word...) caused my daughter to be the only one without an "elf" friend!

Anyway, my husband and daughter went and picked her friend up, they had a wonderful time and they came home at about 7:30pm and my girl was excitedly waving a little gift bag that her friend had given her. It contained a cute little lotion (a FAVORITE of my daughter's -- she's definitely a "product" girl!) and some stickers. Well, she of course, wants to give her friend something in return -- today, the last day of school before the vacation. Now, this gift could have been a little holiday gift, as they are best friends and that would not be out of the ordinary to exchange -- although, I have a feeling that this is more of a "thank you for inviting me" gift, because her parents are very thoughtful! Anyway, not one to disappoint, after my girl went to bed, I through the tons of bags of holiday gifts that I have purchased for my girls and various other relatives (I can hear my "frugal friend" tsk-ing, right now!) and I pulled out a 3 pack of lip gloss with a cute little tin to hold it in, from the new Disney movie "Enchanted." I had bought it for my girl, but she does have a plethora of lip glosses, so she could certainly share the wealth. Then I went down into the basement where I have an old chest of drawers filled to the brim with ribbons, tissue paper, gift bags - you name it! I pulled out a very cute little tiny gift bag and some tissue and I was very pleased with myself for putting something together so quickly!

When my daughter came downstairs this morning for breakfast, it was sitting next to her lunch box on the counter, and she said, "Oh! Is this gift for my teacher?" Um, no, it's for your friend -- why, are other kids bringing in teacher gifts this year? And she said, yes, kids have been bringing them in all week. GREAT! Talk about short notice! Now, last year in kindergarten, I bought 4 teacher-related gift items -- 2 teacher note pads and 2 "101 Words of Encouragement for Teachers" little books. But last year, no one brought in gifts at the holidays, but instead of returning the items to the store, I decided to hold onto them just in case. Thank goodness! I pulled out one of the little books, had my girl sign "To, From, etc." inside, and back I went to the basement to get another gift bag, more tissue & ribbon, and I tied a candy cane into the bow to be festive.

And I had thought I was working on short notice last night! But, having a few extra items on hand saved me once again! I think it's a great tip for mothers who get those last minute notifications from their children about gifts that they need -- if you see something on sale or have a little extra in the grocery money, put a couple of little gift items away to use in the event of a gift emergency!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Grandpa to the Rescue!

So, I took the day off from work today, with the intention of going to my daughter's elementary school holiday sing-along concert. After that I thought I would try and get my gift wrapping done, possibly run a couple of errands, lots of good things like that. We got up this morning, and I got my girl ready for school - her daddy had ironed a dress for her to wear (isn't he great?) and I did her hair with a ponytail and a fancy red, flower barrette and I pinned a snowman pin on the front of her dress - very festive for her big concert! I got her on the bus and then I finished getting myself ready, started getting my little one ready for the day, and then my dad came over because he was nice enough to come and watch the little one while I was at the concert. I wanted to be able to enjoy my girl's concert and have full attention on her - something she doesn't always get these days.

Well, the best laid plans, right? Everything is running smoothly, I pull out of the driveway and I'm heading up to school, and something doesn't feel right with the car. I get about 2 blocks from my house and pull down a side street so I can get out and investigate. FLAT TIRE. Not just a little flat -- we're talking pancake. UGH! I grabbed my cell phone and I called home and told my dad what had happened and he said he would come right over. Then I called my daughter's school, because at this point, the concert was 5 minutes from starting, and I wanted to ask the school secretary if she would please tell my girl what had happened and let her know that I might not make it. And then I waited. I called my husband at work (30 minutes away) and I called my good friend that I work with (also 30 minutes away) just to kill time while I waited. Dad was quick, all things considered, because he had to bundle up the baby who was still in her jammies! By the time he got there, I was in tears because I was so upset about missing my girl's concert! Dad pulled up, rolled down the window and said, "Hop in - and don't lock the keys in the car, because I'll need them!" (Dad has rescued me on more than one occasion when I have absentmindedly locked the keys in the car...) I assumed that his priority would be for us to take care of the car, but he was there to drive me to my girl's concert, and then he headed back to change my flat tire and put the spare on. He then took the flat tire up to a nearby garage and asked them to fix it, all while I was at the sing-along concert!

Because he was so quick, I only missed the first song, and although I had to stand in the doorway, I made sure to wave until my daughter saw me, and I nearly cried again when I saw her little face light up at the sight of her mom! At the end of the concert, the classes were lead out by their teachers and as my girl walked out I was able to give her a big hug and kiss and tell her what a great job she had done. She went back to class and I called Dad and he came to pick me up.

I thanked him profusely, and told him, "It would have broken my heart to miss it -- she was so excited this morning and she was expecting to see me there. I just couldn't disappoint my little girl!" And my dad said, "I know JUST how you feel!" Thanks, Daddy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Victory At Last!

Have I told you about my battle with the town for sidewalk plowing? My street is the only one in our neighborhood that does not have a sidewalk plowed. I never noticed this until last year, when my daughter started kindergarten and her bus stop was at the corner of our street (also the corner of our yard -- but we have a large lot and it's quite a distance from the house). We had QUITE a lot of snow last winter, and my girl could not walk safely on the sidewalk to wait for her bus -- she would have to walk in the street and stand in the street, near the corner. We live in a very quiet, older neighborhood, but there is a new section behind us and 2 of the neighbors back there own Hummers, and sometimes whip through our street to get to theirs. We also have the occasional "drag racers" sailing through as though toward the finish line. None of this makes me feel comfortable about having my 6 year old standing in the street! Now, usually we do walk her down to the bus and wait with her, but sometimes when it is particularly cold, I agonize about taking my toddler out to wait for her sister's bus. If my girl could walk safely to the bus and I could stand on my front step and watch her, it would make things much easier!

Anyway, last year, I got on the phone to the bus company to see if they could just pick her up in our driveway, as they do with the other kids in the neighborhood. I was told, "No, we can't drive around in circles all day long (I think this was a BIT of an exaggeration...), you need to take it up with the town." So, I called the town. Well, I had to wait a week for the "Sidewalk Plowing Guy" to get back from vacation, then there were a series of phone calls back and forth, and finally after great discussion, I was told that a) if I wanted the sidewalk plowed I needed a petition signed by my neighbors because sidewalk plowing is "a real hot-button issue" in my town, and b) even if I get the petition to them ASAP, they will not plow until next year, because we're too late to get into the schedule... Well! I was QUITE irritated, needless to say, and I got a great deal of advice from my father, my officemate's mother (anyone that heard me crabbing about this -- whether in person or loudly, while they are trying to talk to their daughter who sits in my office!), you name it. Basically, they were telling me that I should call up the town and say that my lawyer would like to know the name of whoever we should sue if my daughter is struck by a car while waiting in the street for her bus!

I actually backed down at that point -- I'm not sure why, I don't usually do that, but I guess I was nervous about getting a reputation as a hot-head with the town, or something.

This year, I didn't think about it until the first snowfall, and then I called again, and again I was told to go get a petition signed -- 51% of the neighbors, which on our "big" street is 5 out of the 9 houses -- that's 9 total including both sides of the street. I got our next door neighbor, and then my husband and our daughter went out after work one night and got the other neighbors that we needed. Everyone was wonderful and completely understanding and thought it was a great idea to get the sidewalks plowed, especially now that the neighborhood is turning over and we have a few younger kids who will be attending school soon. I sent the petition in the next day and the "Sidewalk Plow Guy" that I had spoken to two years in a row confirmed that they would add us to the list!

Well, this morning my husband was getting ready for work and he said, "Honey?" Yes? "They are plowing the sidewalk!" And the tone of his voice was priceless -- it was like "We've won the battle!" Hallelujah!

Sometimes Even Mom Needs a Time-Out!

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth -- I have, as I am sure MANY others have as well, fallen into that hectic flurry of holiday preparations! I have to marvel at how we can go weeks and weeks during the year with no plans, no stress, and then during an already busy period of time (the holidays) we have an influx of activities that have nothing to do with Christmas!

Yesterday was the second Saturday in a row that my girl was invited to a friend's birthday party, at the Las Vegas for kids -- Chuck E. Cheese! Yes, two weeks in a row, my husband was conveniently working (actually, I'm sure he would have traded places with me, if he could have!) and I was left to take my nearly 7 year old and my nearly 18 month old to Chuck E. Cheese. Really, a great time! When I woke up yesterday morning, I was not feeling well, and I asked my husband if he could call and go into work 2 hours late, so that he could take our girl to the party. Unfortunately, he had a new employee starting, and was unable to do so, but he suggested I call my father and stepmother, who, like my mother, very frequently ride to our rescue in times of need. However, I told him that I felt sitting at Chuck E. Cheese for a 2 hour child's birthday party, was beyond what a grandparent should be asked to do! I rallied and I took my girl(s) to the party, and actually, the mother was very nice and suggested that if I needed to, I take the time to run out and do some Christmas shopping, as we were very close to the mall. I checked with my girl (who by this point was already up in the big tunnel with her friends and had probably already forgotten that I was even there!) to make sure she didn't mind, I told her to go see her friend's mother if she needed anything, and I left my cell phone # with this mother, so that she could call in an emergency.

I grabbed my littlest girl, and we drove a few doors down (in the same plaza, conveniently!) to Toys 'R Us -- an absolute zoo on a Saturday during the Christmas shopping season! This year I have done the bulk of my Christmas shopping online, which has been great -- I avoided the madness of the stores, for the most part, and after price checking between several websites, I found that Amazon.com was the least expensive in most cases. But, I still had a few last minute gifts to get for my 2 children and a couple of their cousins. In spite of the crowds, I had my list, I was fairly efficient, and I lucked out while checking out -- they opened up another register, just as I began to suspect that the line I was in was going nowhere! So, I got some shopping done, and I was back in time to watch as the birthday girl opened her gifts. Of course, without Mom there to supervise, MY girl was back up in the tunnel -- she did take a break for pizza and cake -- and was NOT watching her friend open her gifts. I rectified this with a stern call of her first and middle names, which she responded to surprisingly quickly! We went through a similar situation at last week's party, where last week's birthday girl was opening her gifts with only a bunch of mothers and 1 other little girl watching, until I called my girl down from the tunnel to join the party. I got a, "SIGH, but MOM!" and I reminded her that first and foremost, this was a birthday party and it was rude not to participate in the party. She reluctantly joined us and then, after doing her "duty" was able to go off and play again.

Anyway, today, we are having a fairly miserable weather day here, and I am trying to decide whether or not we are going to brave the cold and the slippery roads to go to yet another birthday party (for a cousin, who we will hopefully see on Christmas Eve)!

So, in addition to the non-holiday related activities, we are also busily preparing for Christmas with the usual long list -- holiday shopping, holiday decorating, holiday parties, holiday cards, gift wrapping, school pageants, and on and on! This year I am working on a special holiday project which I will share after Christmas, but that is also keeping me busy!

One way to try and keep sane during all of this craziness, is taking a little time-out after the kids are in bed. I try to quickly get the house picked up (at least the living room, so I can lounge for a little bit without feeling guilty, that I should be cleaning or something!) and then I settle in for a holiday show, or a great movie -- sometimes with egg nog, sometimes with popcorn, sometimes with wine! -- and I make sure the Christmas tree is all lit up. It's very relaxing during this hectic time. A few of my favorite holiday-feeling movies (not necessarily a Christmas movie, but gives you that good holiday feeling!) are Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, and Serendipity -- all great movies that you should see, if you haven't already! Last year my husband and I put on Love Actually (a favorite of his also) and sat on the living room floor wrapping gifts! And of course, some holiday favorites The Preacher's Wife, A Christmas Story, and one of my favorite classics, White Christmas.

Whatever you choose, make sure to take a time-out so that you can catch your breath and enjoy the season!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Decking the Halls

When I was growing up, we never had any evidence that the holidays were upon us, other than the very fake Christmas tree in the family room, and the stockings on the mantle. When I was a little older, my father did an adorable Christmas needlepoint (really – he’s quite masculine, but he is definitely a man of many talents!) and a macramé Santa that hung on the front door. Ok, and maybe we had a Christmas cactus – but that was it.

Then I met my husband and from the first year we were together (14 years ago!) we would celebrate Christmas Eve with my dad’s family and then travel 8 hours to Long Island to celebrate Christmas day with my husband's family. It was crazy, but it was always so much fun and it was great to get to see everyone each year. Anyway, that first year that I walked into my husband’s childhood home, I was blown away by the decorations! My in-laws outdid themselves with a huge real tree, real evergreen garlands, bows, wreaths, holiday nutcrackers, the Dickens Village (which was the length of the den!), Christmas throws, Christmas candles, Christmas towels, Christmas soaps – you name it, it was decorated! It was SO festive, and so amazing, and SO different from what I was used to, it really boosted my holiday spirits!

Right from that first year, my then-future mother-in-law would give me cute holiday decorations as gifts, and of course I always appreciated them, but I have to admit I rarely ever put those things out. In our apartment, we had a tree, maybe a wreath, and some candles. Specifically, I couldn’t see myself changing out the hand soap container to put out the cute snowman soap container that Mom had given me. I always saved everything (hoarding is definitely in my genetic make-up…), but it was all in boxes in the basement.

And then I had my first daughter. I started pulling out the decorations that Mom had given me, and I put those out. And then I would see something cute at the store and I would add to my collection. And then I would see things that were on sale at the end of the season, and I would get them for the next year. Or I would be participating in a Yankee Swap game at work or at Garden Club, and instead of going for the gift card or the scratch off tickets, I would go for the cute Santa that is hanging from the wooden candy cane… And now, we are putting up our holiday decorations this week, and I am looking around at the TWO Christmas trees that we have up – one in the family room, one by the fireplace in the dining room – and I have the Christmas throw pillows out, and the Christmas hand towel hanging on the stove, and the holiday hand towels in the bathroom, and I am devastated, because I can’t find the snowman hand soap dispenser!!

My girl also gets excited about decorating for the holidays. We have made it a holiday tradition in our house, to put up the decorations together. The Christmas music goes on (actually, this year my daughter picked the Harry Potter cd...) or sometimes we put on one of our favorite holiday specials -- Rudolph, Year Without a Santa (we love Heat Miser!), Frosty the Snowman. We serve egg nog with cinnamon (my girl's favorite), and we "deck the halls!" For most of our years together, my husband and I, and then our oldest daughter, would go out and get a real tree or even two real trees. The past couple of years we have used artificial because oddly, it turns out I am allergic to Christmas trees! Anyway, we have two artificial trees that stand up pretty well to real (not like the one from my childhood -- no offense to my parents!), and this year my girl was a huge help in putting the trees up! They have color-coded tips and she took great pride in almost completely putting one of the trees together on her own! And our littlest girlie got in on the act too -- carrying branches over to Daddy to put in the tree. She was so speedy, he couldn't keep up!

It's fun to get the kids involved in the decorating -- it helps direct their excitement over Santa coming, but it also gives them nice memories to cherish. My daughter loves to look at the ornaments and reminisce about where we got them. This week I surprised her with a special ornament that I got during our first family trip to Disney World. I really appreciate all of the holiday traditions and those special holiday decorations that my mother-in-law has given me over the years, and now my girls are growing up to appreciate the preparation for the holidays almost as much as Santa's visit!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Craft Idea


This craft is something that began with an idea that my grandmother in New Hampshire used to put out each year at Thanksgiving. She would always make up little cups filled with candies and nuts and each person would have their own to pick on either while waiting for dinner to be served, or later in the day. My aunt continued the tradition when she took over hosting Thanksgiving, and I always thought it was a nice idea.

This year, I decided to take that idea and make it into a little craft that would help keep my girl busy while I was doing last minute prep work for our company! We took plastic cups (left over from a birthday party) and we drew "feathers" on colored construction paper and cut those out. Now, the paper is colored, but my girl wanted to add her own flair, so she also colored her own feathers. We gathered a few of the colored feathers together and taped them on the outside of the cups on one side, so that they looked like turkey feathers. Then we took one red "feather" and folded that in half, and taped it to the outside of the opposite side of the cup from the tail. I drew on little eyes to look like a turkey face. Then my girl wrote out each one of our names on a cup and we filled them with goodies that everyone likes -- M&M's (regular and peanut butter), Hershey's Kisses, candy corn, pecans, raisins, etc. We also did "special orders" -- for example, my brother-in-law is not a big nut fan, but he does like peanuts, so we replaced his pecans with peanuts. And since the 2 littlest girls were too little for us to give nuts and candy to, my sweet girl suggested that we make their cups with Goldfish crackers, Cheerios, and Gerber Puffs.
We had a good time making these and everyone enjoyed them. This is a very versatile craft - you can either make paper feathers, or use real craft feathers if you have them, or another cute idea is to trace your child's hands on construction paper and put 2 of their hands together to make the turkey's tail feather. Another fun thing would be to use googly eyes instead of drawing the eyes on -- always popular with kids!

This can also be adapted for other holidays or occasions. Try tracing your child's hands on brown paper (construction, paper grocery bag, lunch bags...) and tape 2, slightly separated, on one side of the cup, and then cut out a brown diamond shape, fold that in half and tape it to the front of the cup (similar to the picture above with the red turkey face). Put eyes on that and glue a red paper circle or even a red pom-pom on the tip (below the eyes) and voila, you have a Rudolph cup! I'll have to try this one at Christmas and I'll post a picture to show you how it turned out.

You could even take this idea and use it as an alternative to goodie bags at your child's birthday party or a craft that the kids make at a party -- everyone makes their own cup and then they fill it with their favorite goodies.

Use your imagination (and your child's) and you can come up with all sorts of ideas for this fun and inexpensive craft -- enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Recap

I realize that we are rapidly approaching Christmas, but before we get to that, I just wanted to tell you about the wonderful Thanksgiving we spent at home this year, with my husband's brother and his family. As I mentioned before the holiday, we had a big change in plans and did not spend Thanksgiving in our traditional manner, but we were excited to share it with some of my husband's family for the first time in over 14 years! Just as I had done as a child growing up, my girls had a fantastic time playing all weekend long with their cousins -- there were projects and songs and dances and dress up and even some imaginary monster hunting! This picture shows my two sweet girls on Thanksgiving, and my adorable nephew and niece to their right. My oldest daughter is turning 7 in January, and her cousin will be 4 the week before her birthday. They get along amazingly well for the age difference and the fact that one is a boy and one is a girl. When they are together, they (with not much interference from their parents) manage to find the toys and games that they both enjoy and play those together, not to mention that they both have great imaginations and make up adventures to share.

And the two little ones are only 1 month apart as far as birthdays, however their due dates were 1 day apart originally! My sister-in-law had her daughter early, and as apparently is the case for my children, my daughter came late. It is so much fun to watch these two grow and learn and interact with each other. They are getting to the point where they are more than just curious about the other one, and they are starting to play a little bit together. They are so cute when they try to give hugs or kisses!

We took the kids to the Strong Museum and to The Sandbox Indoor Playground which were both big hits with the kids and the adults. My husband and his brother also took the two older kids to a hockey game (hockey is huge in our family) and my sister-in-law Jess and I stayed home, put the two little ones to bed, and enjoyed a girls evening of appetizers, wine and girl talk! It was a fun night for all! Oh, and we celebrated Thanksgiving, too! We had a leisurely day of watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (big tradition in my family, and Jess' father and brother have worked on the parade for years -- both work in television), munching on this and that, cooking a great meal -- which shockingly for me, all came out at the same time! -- and of course, eating. For the meal itself, we incorporated a few of my family's traditional dishes, Jess made a yummy sweet potato dish, and we tried to have a little something for everyone.
We enjoyed our holiday and as always, enjoyed having the chance to spend time with family - whether we were out visiting museums or home playing "Go Fish" with the kids, it makes the day special when you can spend it with people you love!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Patience may be a virtue, but it's not one of mine!

When God was handing out patience, I must have been too busy to wait in line... This is an area that I fall extremely short in, and I am afraid that my 6 year old is going to follow suit if I don't intervene soon!

It is a never-ending cycle in our house -- our oldest daughter wants something NOW and she is bring impatient, and that makes my husband and I lose OUR patience, and it just gets us nowhere.

Last week, there was something that she urgently needed (like dessert, or something life-threateningly important like that...) and of course, I was in the middle of something and could not attend to her need immediately. And in response to her impatience, I said in a bit of a tone, "Mommy needs just 2 minutes of patience!" And as I said it, I thought, "Hmm, let me try something!" So I set the kitchen timer for 2 minutes. And at the end of the 2 minutes, I had finished what I needed to do, and I was ready to help with her emergency (getting a bowl of ice cream).

Shockingly, that seemed to work for both of us! So, the next day a similar situation came up and I handled it with the same approach -- I gauged how much time I needed to get what I was doing done, and then I said, "Ok, Mommy needs 5 minutes of patience, please." (In a much nicer tone this time!) And to my surprise, before I could even set the timer, my girl said, "Ok, set the buzzer, please!" Unbelievable!

We have been doing this for a week now, and I have found that a) I have maintained my patience amazingly well, and b) we have gotten through some of our least favorite tasks with less crabbiness. I have also been using it for unpleasant things that we have to do -- like brush my daughter's hair! She hates it, and screams and yells no matter how gently I do it. I've tried threats ("We're going to go and get your hair cut shorter than Daddy's!") and psychology ("Hmm, if your head is really that sensitive, maybe we should go see the doctor to see what the problem is?") and nothing works very well. But, this morning I tried the 2 minutes of patience, and she pouted, but asked me to do the timer, and we got through it. I even made a little game out of it to keep her mind off of the hair brushing, and I would say, "One minute left! 30 seconds left!" And then we did a countdown from 10 seconds until the timer went off.

This can also work when you are out in public, away from the timer -- I used it at the store the other day, and she said, "There's no buzzer!" and I said that I would be the buzzer and I went along for about 2 minutes and then said, "Bzzz! Time's up!"

The important thing is to stick with the time limit -- set an amount of time that you can get what you need done, and then when the timer goes off (or, before it goes off, if you are ready early) make sure you take care of what your child wants you to do, or in the case of the hair brushing, if you say 2 minutes, you'd better be finished in 2 minutes!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Traditions

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love getting together with family in a relaxed, cozy atmosphere where we can just enjoy each other's company and of course, a great meal. My mother's family has always spent Thanksgiving together. Long before I was born, Mom's family (in New Hampshire) would gather the entire family together to celebrate Thanksgiving -- there were so many relatives that they would hold the celebration at the church, which was large enough to accommodate everyone. I believe the last one of those Thanksgivings was either the year before, or the year after, I was born.

But, growing up I remember traveling by plane or by car to spend every Thanksgiving in New Hampshire (except the year my cousin Matt was born! We went to my aunt's in Connecticut) at my grandparents' house. I loved those Thanksgivings -- my Nana's wonderful cooking, all of the relatives crammed into the dining room and kitchen, hearing stories from "the good ol' days", and playing with my cousins. I was always SO excited to go to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving, and most of the family came out and stayed at my grandparents' house, so no one was on a schedule -- we just had Weds. night to Sun. morning to spend time with each other. That is still one of my favorite things -- having the whole family together in one place for a long weekend, whether it's my mother's family or my husband's family -- the more the merrier!

We've carried on that tradition for Thanksgiving, losing some of our guests -- my grandparents both passed away, my cousin Todd moved to Florida -- and we've moved from NH to Connecticut, back to NH when my aunt and uncle built at place up there. Life gets busy and it's hard to keep those traditions going, but we do our best! My husband's job makes it difficult to get away at Thanksgiving, so last year Mom's family came out to our house, which was great! My cousin even came up from Florida and brought a new addition -- his fiancee (now wife)! This year we had to stay home again, but we are celebrating with my brother-in-law and his family from Long Island -- this will be the first Thanksgiving that we have spent with my husband's family in at least 14 years! We are very excited to have them come out for the long weekend, and my daughter is already beside herself with excitement about having her cousins here to play all weekend!

Times change, but there is something so warm and comforting about familiar traditions -- even if you have to adapt them a little along the way. We are unable to spend Thanksgiving with our New England relatives, but we're happy to share some of our traditions with our Long Island relatives this year!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Night Terrors

As I've mentioned before, my older daughter has a few sleep issues -- some probably were caused by overprotective, nervous, first time parents. But a large sleep issue that she had (hopefully in the past tense now!) was something called Night Terrors. The name alone is frightening enough, and when you have a child that suffers from this, the whole experience is extremely unnerving, to say the least.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, night terrors are most common in children between the ages of 4 and 12 and affect 1 to 4% of all children. For our daughter, they seemed to start right at the age of 3 and ended (for the most part, we hope!) at the age of 5. From what we have read, and what our doctor told us, a night terror is a frightening dream that usually happens during deep sleep and is accompanied by crying, yelling, screaming, etc. When the child / adult (it does occur rarely in adults -- we know of two people that have them as adults) wakes up after the night terror, they have no memory of the dream or of what they were doing during the "episode."

In our daughter's case, they would not only involve her crying hysterically and yelling at the top of her lungs, but often she would be kicking or hitting (us quite frequently, in the beginning) and in many instances, she would be hopping around on her bed, seemingly wide awake - eyes open - almost as though she were having a temper tantrum. And eventually, she would "go back to sleep" (although in actuality she was asleep the entire time) and in the morning she would have no recollection of what had occurred during the night. In some severe cases, she would actually sleep walk, which was very frightening to us. We put a gate at the top of our staircase, for fear that she would fall down the stairs in the middle of the night.

When the night terrors first began, we had no idea what was going on, and we would take turns going into her room to try to get her back to sleep. Both of us would be losing patience, thinking that she was awake and refusing to go back to bed. She would talk (yell) and some of the things she said sounded like they made sense -- she wasn't speaking gibberish -- and that supported our idea that she was awake. As this went on, we did some research on the internet and we spoke with our doctor, and we all came to the conclusion that these were night terrors. There is really not a lot that can be done, the most important thing is to keep the child safe. My husband and I would get around her (especially when she was hopping around her bed) and we would put our arms out, like a big circle, enclosing her but not touching her. In our experience it is extremely difficult to wake someone up during a night terror. We did on several occasions try an "old wives tale" that we read about on the internet, and that was to put her feet in cool water. Someone on an NT support website mentioned dunking their child's feet in the toilet out of desperation one night -- we just ran some cool water over her feet in the sink. It seemed to calm her down a little bit.

We also started to pay more attention to what we determined to be "triggers." We made sure that she was on a strict schedule -- we had been pretty lax about this early on -- some kids get cranky if they don't get to sleep on time. Ours would often have a night terror -- that will get you to stick with a schedule! Another thing seemed to be if she had a really active, overstimulating day. I vividly remember her having night terrors when we were out of town, staying at my brother-in-law's house -- we were in the living room, trying to watch "Desperate Housewives" and our daughter started screaming. My husband and I went in and did our "safety circle" around her, as she hopped around on the guest bed. My brother-in-law had NO idea what was going on, but my sister-in-law and I had discussed it before, so she was explaining it to him. It's hard for people that have never experienced this to understand -- he couldn't understand why she didn't just go to sleep. We realized that even though we had gotten her to bed at her usual time that night, she had been playing all day with her cousins, was super excited to be visiting the family, and it was just a little too much for her.

It has been such a relief to get through nearly 2 years without a night terror. We still keep her on a strict bedtime schedule, for the most part, and we have been very good with her sister's schedule. They say that night terrors run in families -- we are certainly hoping that is not the case in ours!

For anyone who would like more information on night terrors, there are a multitude of sites on the internet, one that I found informative is http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/nightmares-night-terrors.html. And certainly, contact your physician or pediatrician. Night terrors are extremely stressful to deal with, but you can get through them!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lunch and a Show!

Today I was treated to a lovely surprise by my 6 year old daughter. She surprised me with lunch (a bologna & mustard sandwich -- much better than her first attempt today, which was a mustard and mayonnaise sandwich... -- and a Tootsie Pop for dessert) and a play that she put on while I ate my lunch.

This was a great activity that kept her quite entertained this afternoon (wish I could take credit, but she thought it up on her own!) -- she spent a great deal of time making drawings and cutting them out, and then she used them as puppets and put on a puppet show! She had been reading one of her "My First Little House" books, which are short stories taken from the real Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but these have full-color illustrations and are great for new readers.

While reading the Christmas book today, she got the idea to make "puppets" of all of the characters in the book -- Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, Baby Carrie, Jack the bulldog, along with Uncle Peter, Aunt Eliza, and the cousins -- and then she made up some other puppet props -- the Little House in Wisconsin (Big Woods and all), snow, etc. Then she sat in a chair in our living room and used the back of it as her puppet stage. She opened up the book and read that as a narration, and held up the puppets to illustrate her story -- it was quite creative and very entertaining!

I give her full credit for coming up with this idea, but I thought I'd pass it along as a great idea that anyone could use for entertaining their kids -- pick a favorite easy-read book, give the kids some art supplies and let them make their own puppets. When they are finished, you can help them to put on their own puppet show!

Hi-Tech Babies

It's crazy to me how far we have come with technology over the years. And I myself, have come leaps and bounds since between the birth of my first daughter, and my second daughter. Nearly 7 years ago, when I had my first daughter, I would take roll upon roll of pictures of her on our good old, "regular film" camera. Then I would get pictures printed at the store and I would have doubles made, and I would decide who I was going to share the doubles with -- some to my parents, mailing some out to my husband's family. Or, I would go back to the store (after seeing which pictures came out best) and bring my negatives and have reprints made to share with the family. Whew! It was a lot of work, and frankly a lot of money.

Not to mention how SLOW the whole process was! Most of the time, I would wait until we went out of town to see relatives to share pictures with them -- bringing albums for them to look through and copies for them to keep.

Fast forward to our second daughter! We have moved into this century with a great digital camera, that I just love! It takes wonderful pictures, and best of all, I can see what I took on the display and instantly know if I need to try and capture that moment again or not. Nothing was more irritating than thinking you are getting a great shot, and then finding out once the pictures are printed, that someone blinked, or my flash didn't go off, etc.

Another great thing about the digital age, is that now, I upload my pictures to my computer and can review what I have and print only what I want. I personally like to use Kodak Gallery. I can upload my pictures to Kodak Gallery and I can order prints online -- I get to pick the pictures I want, the sizes that I want, and the quantities -- if I don't want doubles of every picture, I don't have to buy them. I can also create a photo album that I can e-mail out to friends and family members. This is great, because not only am I able to share pictures faster than ever, but they can pick and choose pictures that they like, and order them online.

My newest find, is a website called Babies Online which is a site where you can register -- for free! -- and you can very easily create a webpage for your child. This is another great way to share info and pictures with family and friends. I created a page for my youngest daughter (https://www.babiesonline.com/babies/m/mjm/) and after doing so, she is eligible to be entered into their monthly photo contests (she's in the November "Masquerade" themed contest, running this week - check her out!), which is kind of a fun little bonus of having the webpage.

It's amazing to me how easy technology has made it to keep in touch with our loved ones. I can't imagine what we'll be able to do when my girls hit their teen years!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Little More Attention, Please!

Adding to my overall feeling of exhaustion lately, is my oldest daughter’s recent requirement of a larger than usual amount of attention. She has been really wonderful with the addition of our youngest daughter, last summer. She has been a fantastic older sister, and showers the baby with love and affection. She delights in playing with her little sister and prides herself on being able to make her laugh until her belly shakes (which was even making some of the shoppers in our grocery store laugh the other day!).


When we were making the decision to have our second child, my husband and I tried to put a lot of thought into how this was going to affect our first child, as she had been an "only child" for the first almost 5 years of her life. But, in the end, we decided that another child would be as much of a gift for our first daughter, as it would be for us. Preparing for the baby to arrive, we were very thoughtful and careful about making our daughter an important part of the pregnancy -- she went with us to ultrasounds, she picked out a gift for the new baby, and she even helped her daddy paint the baby's room!


This concern and thoughfulness carried on through the birth of our new daughter and the early months of adjusting to the new addition to the family. Our girl was the first one we called from the hospital, and she was the first one to get to see and hold her new baby sister. She came back up and spent several hours with us at the hospital, and even came up on our last day so that she could help to bring her sister home from the hospital. We signed her up for some activities like, swimming and dance class, so that she would have some special, exciting things to do, and she was thrilled to be the "star" and have her own dance recital that we all attended.

Our girl seemed to adjust to the change wonderfully -- don't get me wrong, there were some "I want to be the baby again" moments, but really, she was remarkable!

Fast forward to the present... We are all used to having our nearly 16-month toddling around us, and we have all slipped back into the hustle and bustle of every day life with two working parents and kids and a house to care for. Needless to say, lately we have been noticing our older daughter practically doing cartwheels in the living room to get everyone's attention -- ours, our family, friends, you name it. And there have been some REALLY moody behaviors as well. I liken them to "Sybil" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers..." We have been nearly at our wit's end, trying to figure out what happened to our darling girl (who can still be darling, when that personality is in control!), and finally we have come to the conclusion that it is a belated cry for attention. We realized that we had stopped worrying so much about whether she was adjusting to having another little one in the house, and we weren't making enough of an effort to give her a little more attention to help balance out the big change in her life.
So, now we are trying to be more aware of when she may be feeling "pushed aside" and we are trying to take a little more time out of our schedules to focus in just on her. Of course, this isn't always possible, or convenient, but we have found that when we are able to give her a little more attention, it helps tremendously with reigning in the other personalities! ;)
Every day with your kids is another day to learn -- I think no matter how much you may feel like you are an expert at parenting (and believe me, I am not -- just feeling more comfortable some days!), your kids can always come up with something new for you!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Autumn & Winter Preparations


As my dear friend Chrissy (she's a huge fan, too!) knows, some of my all-time favorite books are the Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have 2 sets of the books, along with a number of the "My First Little House" versions, which are great for introducing little ones to Laura's stories. My 6 year old and I have been reading those for several years now, and soon she'll be on to the originals, I'm sure. Anyway, one of my favorite things to read about in the books, is how the family prepares for winter. Pa is out hunting for food for the winter, Ma is harvesting food from her garden and storing it away in the attic -- the whole family is stocking the home to keep themselves warm and well fed through the winter months. Every time I read those passages I imagine a warm, cozy, home full of love.

Our house has also been buzzing with preparations for winter and holiday season, but in our own, modern way! The Sunday before Halloween, our family went out to one of our favorite places -- Brown's Berry Patch -- and enjoyed a sunny, but brisk fall day. We went out and picked our pumpkins -- 4, one for each of us, although our 6 year old had to narrow it down from about 10... We went on a hay ride (pretty sure it was a tractor pulling us, and not a horse... quite different from the Little House days!), enjoyed seeing the animals in the barn and all of the great scarecrows -- everything from Blue (from Blue's Clues) to Harry Potter -- you name it! They have a great Barnyard Adventure, with a huge slide that you get to by climbing a rope "wall", a corn maze, the new jumping pillow, and more. Lots of fun for kids! We also picked up cider and apples -- stocking up for apple crisps and homemade pies!


My older daughter decided to paint her pumpkin this year, so that it would last longer, but I carved two of them and toasted pumpkin seeds -- my girl LOVED scooping out the "goop" as she called it, to get to the seeds -- another fall favorite! I'm not baking all day like Ma did, but I've got the cinnamon-scented candles burning at a frequent pace, which adds to the coziness of the house. Last year when we went out "pumpkin-picking" we stopped at one country store along the way and there was a table with candles being sold at a discounted price -- my daughter told my stepmother (Gramby & Grandpa were with us) "Don't let my mom see those! She's got a drawer full at home!" I go through them quickly this time of year though...


We're also getting the house ready with decorations for the upcoming holiday season. My girl and her grandpa made a lovely fall spray with some evergreens, pine cones, acorns, burning bush leaves, etc. that they glued together for a decorative fall project. And of course, our scarecrow (made by my daughter at Brown's a couple of years ago) is sitting on the front steps, ready to greet visitors.

We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their two little ones who will be coming out from Long Island to join us for Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Nothing makes a home feel cozier than having loved ones come to visit!

My family and I are looking forward to a great holiday season, and a cozy winter all snug in our "little house."

I'm Back!

I'd like to apologize to both ;) of my readers for not posting for so long! It has been a hectic week around here and to be honest, I've been feeling quite tired and frankly, a little uninspired for new postings.

But I'm back and ready to try and make up for lost time!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Let Sleeping Babies Lie

Have you ever since the movie, "Terms of Endearment"? It's heartwrenchingly sad, but still in my top 5 of all time favorites. As much as I love the movie, fortunately there is only one part of it that I can totally relate to. At the very beginning of the movie during the credits, Shirley MacLaine's character, "Aurora" goes in to check on her baby while she is sleeping. She's not satisfied by just a quick peek, and she practically climbs into the crib which wakes the baby up, screaming and crying, and then Aurora is satisfied that the child is ok, and leaves the room to go to bed. That's me... Sort of...


I was a LITTLE neurotic when I had my first daughter (to say the least). I was a nursing mom, and she she started out sleeping in a stand-alone bassinet in our bedroom. But I had a hard time getting her back to sleep after her night feedings, and I was so tired (especially when I went back to work 4 days a week), that eventually she moved into a portable bassinet in our bed - between my husband and I. That was very cozy! She slept great, I slept better -- not sure how my husband was sleeping... At least well enough not to move her! She got bigger, and continued sleeping with us. Finally, we moved to our current home before she turned 2, and within short order we moved her into her own room, but it was quite a struggle -- for her and for me. We also were not great with her schedule -- our work schedules can be a little crazy, and we felt like we wouldn't see her if we put her to bed right at 8pm every night. All of these years later, she still has some sleep issues -- still asks for one of us to sleep with her (we won't), comes in to our room in the middle of the night with her pillow and blanket and hops in between us, is a master procrastinator at bedtime, etc.

But, ever since she began sleeping in her own room, every night I feel compelled to tiptoe into her room before I would go to bed and I would stand there and whisper "Mommy loves you" and tuck the blankets in around her. Mostly I think I just need that reassurance that she is sleeping (and breathing) peacefully -- no blankets or pillows blocking airways -- I know, I'm a nut! She always remains peacefully sleeping -- amazingly, even if she is laying horizontally across her bed with her head right near the edge, and I have to try and manuever her 60lb body over to a safer location! She never wakes up!

When I had my second daughter, I had learned my lesson! She slept in a stand-alone bassinet for her first 6 months, and then I moved her into her crib in her own bedroom. We have a consistent bedtime and nap routine for her, and for the most part she is a great sleeper!

Of course, I have had to add her to my nightly "rounds" that I make before bedtime... Before I go to bed, I ever so quietly turn the knob on her bedroom door and slowly, quietly open the door just a crack. Most of the time, no matter what time it is -- 10, 11, 12am -- she pops right up, feels around for her baby doll, and stands up, ready for the day! I take this opportunity to get one last snuggle in before bedtime, and so I go over and lift her up and stand there rocking her back and forth for a few minutes while she rests her head on my shoulder. It's very sweet! And then I lay her back down in her crib and put her baby doll next to her, and then I can slip out of her room and go to bed myself. In my head, I know that she would be just fine without these midnight visits from Mommy, but I just can't help myself! I guess it's just the "Aurora" in me! Baby steps...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Super Easy Pot Roast in the Crock-pot!

Yesterday was unseasonably warm here in our neck of the woods, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I also enjoy the return (today) of the cooler fall weather! Fall weather makes me long for cozy nights at home with my family and there’s nothing I like more than to make them a yummy, hearty, home-cooked meal. Especially when it only takes me about 10 – 15 minutes of prep time in the kitchen! And thus begins the season of Crock-pot cooking! Tonight we had a super easy, super yummy meal:

EASY CROCK-POT ROAST

1 chuck roast (use whichever size will accommodate your family!)
½ bag of baby carrots
½ can of beef broth (or ½ cup of water, if you are out of broth)
salt & pepper to taste

Put the carrots on the bottom of the Crock-pot, lay your chuck roast on top of that, season with salt & pepper, pour beef broth (or water) into the pot and then cook on low for 10 – 12 hours or high for 5 to 6 hours.

I usually serve mashed potatoes with this and take some of the liquid and make a little gravy. You could also put in cut up potatoes or even canned potatoes and make this more like a “Yankee Pot Roast.” I am thrilled that I had leftover mashed potatoes that I was able to reheat for tonight – that brought dinner together even faster!

So I was able to get home, have a nice dinner for my family, get the kids in the tub for a bath (my hubby helped with that), get them into their jammies, and still have some time for a few rousing games of family "Ring Around the Rosie" before bedtime. That is so much fun now that my toddler is walking -- this was her first experience with it, and she cracked up watching her mom, dad, and sister drop to the floor around her!

Easy dinners like this one free me up to spend some quality time with my kids, as opposed to quality time with my stove!

Monday, October 22, 2007

An Evening Out

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I went out on what we anticipated to be our last date before the baby arrived. We started with a plan for a nice, but not overly fancy dinner and then a movie. It was probably a Friday night, and I remember that every place we tried to go to was crowded with a long wait. The dining "ambiance" of the restaurants decreased as we went along. So did our timeframe for dinner and a movie -- I believe we ended up at a crowded little Friendly's for dinner, and no movie because we were both crabby by this point.

As I recall, I had a slight panic attack, sitting in the booth of the restaurant, bright lights glaring overhead, and loud children running all around. I thought, "This is it! This is our social life once we have a baby! No more nice restaurants, no more going out!"

But, right from the start, we grabbed our girl and brought her out, packed like a caravan heading out on an expedition -- baby in carrier, large diaper bag filled with items for every possible emergency! Sure, we never took her to 5 star restaurants, but nicer family restaurants, and actually, the occasional almost-upscale restaurants for special events. And over the years, we have always brought a few things to entertain her (and now her sister), made smart choices when going out -- taking into consideration length of time since the baby's last nap, how much patience do we think the children have -- are we talking appetizer & dinner patience, or just dinner patience...? And, we have always gently corrected inappropriate behavior and taught our girl proper restaurant manners. And with all of this, our girl is pretty well-behaved at restaurants, and so we are able to take her with us and have an enjoyable evening out of the house.

Tonight we went out to dinner. It was a beautiful, warm October night and my husband had today and tomorrow off from work. I was feeling a little cabin-feverish from my own workday so we decided to head out for dinner. We went to our local Applebee's which is not super fancy, but it is a nice compromise between our 6 year old whose first choice is always McDonald's, and my husband and I who would prefer not to eat a burger at every meal. We set out with our big diaper bag for the baby, and I actually brought my own, new portable booster seat that I could strap her into and have her sitting in the booth next to me. This seemed more comfortable to her than those typical wooden restaurant high chairs. My husband and I were in the mood for an appetizer, and our older daughter asked for salad as her appetizer -- I had brought along Cheerios and Gerber Puffs for the baby and everyone was happy. I still alternated between eating my own dinner, and feeding baby food to my little one -- but it was a nice change of atmosphere and I didn't have to cook! She was very entertaining, especially when she realized that her new booster seat was light enough that she could stand up and peek at the people behind us -- but she didn't figure that trick out until we were just about done with dinner and they seemed to think she was cute.

It's great to be able to get out of the house from time to time, and I think it's so important to take your kids with you when it's appropriate -- that's the best way for them to learn how to behave out in public!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kids Say the Darndest Things!

It's amusing (mildly...) that children, who frequently grow up with the ability to tune out what their parents are saying to them (clean your room, do your homework, no you can't have a lollipop before breakfast), have the amazing knack of hearing -- and repeating, of course -- things that we don't intend for them to hear!

My friend Christine's 2-1/2 year old daughter has recently taken to saying, "Oh crap, oh crap!" And then there is my friend Catherine, whose 6-1/2 year old daughter has been heard yelling, "Jesus, Mary & Joseph!" at the Catholic high school football games that her brother plays in.

Now, my older daughter says some innocent things that she has picked up from me, such as "Actually" and "Apparently" (apparently I say actually a LOT). She also says, "For heaven's sake!" and while we still had our dog, she could sometimes be heard saying, "Jazz, get your fanny outside!"

And then there is what my 15 month old daughter said the other night. Three times, with a big smile on her face, while we were at the dinner table... "Bull$hit!" Three times. Clear as a bell, to my husband and I. Our older daughter, FORTUNATELY, was certain that she was saying, "Go sit!" Honestly, we have no idea where our toddler picked this up! I am definitely not a saint, I do say a few choice words, but mostly in the privacy of my office at work, behind closed doors. My husband hardly ever says anything foul. His theory is that she just put some sounds together and it coincidentally came out to sound like "bull$hit"... We tried not to make a big deal out of it, so hopefully she won't say it again. Especially at an inappropriate time like at the family gathering we are going to this afternoon which will include my grandmother who is in her 80's. Or at the christening we are going to for a friend's baby tomorrow... Wish me luck! ;)

Mix Tapes - Revisited

Back in "the day" - I was known to make a mix tape or two... Summer tapes for my best girlfriends, a special mix for my boyfriend (now husband). Well, with cd-burning, we can take "mix tapes" to a whole new level -- no awkward transitions between songs, where you cut off the end of one song by accident. I love burning cd's and have made a number of cd's to listen to in the car for a long trip, a party mix, or a romantic cd for my husband.

But now I am working on a new mix -- a cd for my girls! I am a sentimental fool, I will admit that. I get very "gushy" thinking about my girls, and hoping that they always know how much I love them. I have heard a lot of songs over the last few years that make me think of my daughters -- "In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride, "Blessed" by Elton John, "My Little Girl" by Tim McGraw, and Billy Ray Cyrus' new song, "Ready, Set, Don't Go." So, I decided to gather these songs and some others, and burn a cd for each of my daughters, which I will put away in their special memory boxes (decorative hat boxes that I picked up at my local craft store) for them to enjoy when they are older.

Perhaps I'll add to their "mix" collection over the years -- I think it's a nice, and different way to show my daughters how much they mean to me!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Toy Recalls

The other night when my husband was saying goodnight to our 6 year old, she told him that she has stopped playing with one of her favorite stuffed dogs, because she read on his tag that he was made in China. She has heard a little about the recalls, and we have tried to act very nonchalant about the whole thing, mostly just saying "Just don't put toys in your mouth" and asking that she (as always) keep most of her toys away from her sister.

Sometimes its hard to tell when she is truly upset about something, and when she is trying to use a situation to her advantage. For example, a couple of nights ago she decided that she wanted one of her parents to sleep with her, saying that she has nightmares. So I asked her what she was having nightmares about, and one of the things she said was "the China recalls." How do you respond to that? Is it really that frightening to her? Possibly. But, that was one of those nights when she was pulling out all of the stall tactics to stay up later. And earlier, my toddler had been taken one of my older daughter's baby doll toys that she had been playing with, and my girl said, "Mommy, she can't play with that! It was made in China!" Again, is this genuine concern for her baby sister, or simply a way to get her sister to stop touching her things? (She gets VERY irritated, particularly when, as she claims, her sister has "licked" one of her toys!)

Regardless of whether my daughter's preoccupation with the toy recalls from China stems from real concern or not, it is quite upsetting to me, as a parent. There are so many other things that we have to worry about, we shouldn't also have to worry about whether the toys that our children play with are safe for them.

For anyone who is interested in either looking to see which toys have been recalled, or signing up to receive e-mail notification for anymore recalls, you can visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx for more information.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fast Food Breakfast!

As a working mother of two, with one child in school, and a husband whose work day frequently begins before the crack of dawn -- mornings are a little chaotic, to say the least. Did I mention that I am NOT a morning person? Sleep is one of my favorite things, and I never seem to get enough of it. So I take full advantage of the snooze button, with every hit calculating the time that it will be when it buzzes again in another 9 minutes, and then 9 minutes after that. On school days, my girl is not a morning person either -- some mornings I am having to drag her out of bed. Odd, since on the weekends she is waking me up FAR earlier than we get up on school days!

Anyway, with the long to-do list for work/school mornings -- getting myself showered, dressed, hair done, make-up, dressing my child, brushing her hair (which is a real test of wills every morning!), brushing teeth, packing lunches (I put components together the night before, but have to actually assemble in the morning), and on and on -- I have to squeeze breakfast in there somewhere! Cereal would be my personal choice just for ease and speed, but that gets boring day in and day out. My daugther loves pancakes and sausage, but I don't have time to make homemade pancakes during the week. We buy the frozen mini pancakes and frozen Brown & Serve sausage and after literally 1 minute in the microwave, my daughter has a hot breakfast that she loves!

Occasionally, on the weekends, I will make a batch of homemade pancakes for breakfast, and freeze the leftovers (this was a tip I got a few years ago from my good friend Christine!). Then, when my girl wants pancakes, I can pull a couple out and reheat them in the microwave -- 1 or 2 minutes later, and she has a home-cooked pancake breakfast! Now that's fast food!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

First Grade Friendships, and Other Mysteries of Life


As parents, we try our best to steer our children on the path to being a kind, compassionate person. No matter how hard we try though, once they walk out the door and are no longer under Mom and Dad’s watchful eye, you just don’t know what your child is up to. Until you hear about it from someone else, of course!

Last week I went to Curriculum Night at my daughter’s school, where parents come, unaccompanied by their children, and they get to see the classroom and get an overview of what happens in a typical school day. I sat at my daughter’s desk, next to a friend of mine, whose daughter is in the same first grade class and sits next to my daughter. We met last year through our girls, who were in the same dance class. As we are sitting there, my friend proceeds to tell me about a recent “incident” where her daughter came home very upset because my girl told her that she has decided to only have one friend a day, and that this was not her (the other girl’s) day to be my girl’s friend. So, this little girl went home crying and very upset. Of course, at this point, I couldn’t be more proud… (Sarcasm, for those of you who do not know me personally.) My friend then goes on to say that the next day, her daughter came home very happy, because apparently that day had turned out to be her day to be my daughter’s friend! Well, I got home that night and we sat down for a little chat about friendship and I asked my daughter if she could name some of my friends, which she did. I pointed out that Mommy has a number of friends, not just one, and I said that it’s good to be friendly and nice to everyone and to make lots of friends. I also pointed out a flaw in her plan of only one friend a day – what if she chooses someone who has the same plan, and it turns out that that is not HER day to be THEIR friend? She seemed to follow that logic.

And then last night I get home from work at 6pm and I am greeted with my daughter telling me that she and the same girl got into a “fight” because my daughter felt her friend was being too loud and was distracting her from her work, and so naturally she told the girl this, and things escalated and my daughter said, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!” Fabulous. I could feel another friendship talk was in need! But before I could sit down with her to discuss this, the phone rang, and ANOTHER friend of mine (the mother of my daughter’s best friend since preschool) was calling to tell me that her daughter was so upset about a fight that the girls had had on the playground, that she thought that she would call so the girls could talk and sort it out. And I said, “Gosh, I’m so sorry, I hadn’t heard anything about it!” Which surprised her, because her daughter was so upset! (I didn’t tell her that I had barely finished hearing about the OTHER little girl that was upset over a similar situation, and we had not quite reached this second argument of the day…) So my friend told me that apparently, they were on the playground, and her daughter said that so and so was her boyfriend, and then my daughter said ‘No, he’s MY boyfriend’ and it got to the point that of course, my daughter said what has now apparently become her catch-phrase, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!” UGH. So, I put my girl on the phone and I heard, “Yeah. Yeah. I know! I already made you THREE cards!! Yes, yeah, yes, ok, bye!” And with that, peace had been restored and they were best friends again!


I certainly hope that this is a common occurrence in the first grade, and not just some bizarre behavior that my child has picked up! If anyone has any insight, by all means, please share! Needless to say, we sat down for another talk about how friends should act. In her defense, this was slightly different from the previous friend “issue” – instead of limiting herself to just one friend a day, she was branching out and arguing with TWO friends in one day! Baby steps? Let’s see, it’s the beginning of October – I have a feeling it’s going to be a LONG school year!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mom's Best Friend - The Crock-pot!


All moms need a little extra help around the house – whether they go out to work, or whether they stay home to work. One of my all time favorite “mother’s helpers” is my Crock-pot! Last night was a high stress night in my house, and I happily whipped out my Crock-pot and threw in the ingredients for my favorite beef stew. It is so easy to throw together the night before, refrigerate, plug in the next morning, and voila! That night’s dinner is done!


Here is my recipe for anyone looking for an easy, yummy Crock-pot dinner:

BEEF STEW

- 2 lbs stew beef (I use the already cut up stew beef from my grocery store, and you can adjust the amount of beef and other ingredients depending on how many people you are feeding, and how many meals you want to eat this for!)

- 2 to 3 cans of whole, white potatoes (I get these and cut them in half, or you can buy the sliced version)

- 1 package baby carrots (no peeling, no cutting!)

- frozen pearl onions (put in as many as you want – I keep a bag on hand in the freezer, and it will last me at least 2 or 3 stews – it saves TONS of effort and tears instead of cutting up fresh onions, and adds a nice flavor!)

- frozen peas (ditto what I said above about the onions!)

- ½ can of beef broth (you can use water if you don’t have this, or I have even used a combo of beef broth and red wine or beer which both add nice flavor!)

- 1 teaspoon jarred, minced garlic (use it if you have it, if not, leave it out!)

- Salt & Pepper to taste

Throw the beef in the Crock-pot with the flour, mix well to coat, and then season with salt & pepper. Then throw everything else in, mix it up and that’s it! I make put this together the night before, refrigerate and then pull it out in the morning and put it on Low for 10 – 12 hours, or you can cook it on High for 5 – 6 hours.

I make this for my family and serve it with either a loaf of bread or rolls. If I have time and energy, I will throw together a salad. This is a favorite of mine for busy nights (dance class, Halloween trick or treating, you name it!) and it's also great when we have out of town guests visiting!


Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Adventures on the High Seas!


When I was in school, my dad would always take Columbus Day off and we would motor his sailboat up the river to see the leaves changing. I have such fond memories of those trips that I want to be able to share those experiences with my girls. We were worried about rain for Columbus Day this year, so my father and stepmother took my girls and I out this past Sunday for our “Up the River” cruise.

I started out the afternoon by telling my older daughter about Columbus and how he was an explorer who set off sailing the ships the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria in an effort to prove that the world was round (like her globe) and not flat like people used to think it was. I told her that we were going to go out on the sailboat and go up the river (where she has never been), to have an adventure and discover “new land!”

It was a beautiful early fall day, and what an adventure we had! The water in the river and lake are particularly low this year (we had a very dry summer!) so just trying to get out of the slip was an adventure in itself! Finally away from the dock, my dad decided it was a good idea to take the opportunity to take the mast down (while he was “unstuck” from the slip!) so instead of going up the river, we motored out to the lake and back while he worked on getting the mast ready. We tied off in the work slip and my dad and stepmother worked on taking the mast down, while I entertained my girls down below in the cabin (where I was certain no one would be inadvertently knocked out by the mast!).

This was easier said than done… When we had been out in the cockpit of the boat, my girls were easily entertained by watching the other boats, people, sea gulls, enjoying the breeze, and my 6 year old who took sailing lessons last summer has her sea legs and enjoyed wandering back and forth from bow to stern. Down in the cabin, with limited toys from the diaper bag, my toddler got bored quickly, and my older daughter’s idea of fun was opening and closing the door between the main cabin and the v-berth (“bedroom”). Out of desperation, I handed my toddler her container of Cheerios and told her it was a maraca. I handed 2 plastic blocks to my 6 year old and told her they were castanets, and I “played” the half-filled water bottle. I was amazed that those make-shift instruments entertained my girls for at least 30 minutes – the entire time it took my dad and stepmother to finish taking the mast down! It’s funny how simple it can be to entertain children – sometimes it just takes a little imagination and your undivided attention to make them happy!

Once the mast was down, we headed back up and decided that now that we were a “motor boat” and weren’t at the mercy of the bridge’s schedule, we’d head up the river quickly just to say that we had done it. My girl loved having us all yell and listen to the echo under the bridge! We didn’t get far before we came across a powerboat in distress – they had lost their power steering and had a man on the bow, trying to row with one paddle to steer them back to the boat launch. Never one to leave a fellow boater in trouble, my father offered to help them out and so we rafted them up to us and we were able to guide them back to where they needed to be. This was another fun adventure for my girl, and gave her more of an audience to entertain along the way. And it was also a nice lesson to teach her about helping those in need.

All in all, it wasn’t exactly the trip that we had planned, but we had a great time and hey, you just can’t plan for an adventure! Regardless, it will be a fun memory for my girl, for sure!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Problem-Solving

My 6 year old has developed a unique style of cleaning that I can happily say she did not learn from her parents! After getting her sister up from a nap, I noticed that my girl had laid a paper towel on the kitchen floor, in an effort to clean up a pudding "incident." Apparently, during her afterschool snack, some pudding landed on the kitchen floor and her idea of taking care of the mess was to lay a paper towel over it. But, in her defense, she was not trying to hide it -- in fact, she took a marker and circled where the pudding was under the paper towel, and then she wrote "Pudding pile, do not step here!" with an arrow pointing to the pudding. I guess it just goes to show that there are many different ways to solve a problem!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Homemade" Shortcuts

As a working mom, I don’t always have time to make baked goods from scratch, but I still want my family to have that treat of “home-baked” goodies from time to time. A great time-saver and shortcut that I have found is the prepackaged “break & bake” cookies. In our grocery store, there are a wide variety of these types of cookies, and they are about $2.99 a package. I pick up a couple of these and keep them in the fridge, and then pop them on the cookie sheet whenever I want to make a quick “homemade” treat for my family. I also am a big proponent of the unroll & bake pie crusts and boxed cake & brownie mixes – I love all of these shortcuts that save me so much time, but still allow me to feel like I am doing something special for my family.

And even though I use shortcuts, when I have time, I still try to do a little extra to make it special. If I am making a cake, for example, I usually get white frosting and then I let my daughter pick out food coloring to turn it into whatever color strikes her fancy. My favorite trick is to put frosting into a plastic freezer bag and cut off one corner and voila, I have my own “pastry bag” for decorating. My daughter loves getting to participate in this and we try to match the decorations with the person we are making the cake for. We did an Islanders hockey jersey for my husband, a trombone and music notes for my mom, etc.

I’m sure that lots of moms don’t have the time to make things from scratch – life is so busy! But, I have nice memories of being in the kitchen with my grandmothers, in particular, and helping or watching, them bake and cook. My mother’s mother always made all of her pies for Thanksgiving and she would make delicious squash bread. My father’s mother would make her best friend’s caramel recipe and I would help her roll the caramels in their little wax paper wrappers. I think those are such nice memories, and I want to give my girls the same experiences. I do make homemade apple pies every year for Thanksgiving, and my daughter loves to eat “Mommy’s cinnamon apples” out of the bowl, and requests them as a treat from time to time.

Of course, “homemade” is not always appreciated… Recently, my 6 year old had been begging me for a week to make a pumpkin pie – I did not remember her liking pumpkin pie, but she reminded me that she had tried it at Thanksgiving last year and loved it! Finally, that weekend I baked one for dessert and she was just about beside herself over it. And then she tasted it, and said, “Oh, I guess I like the store-bought kind better!” Sometimes you just can’t win! ;)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

How One Mother Saves Time Each Day

My sister-in-law passed this along to me in an e-mail, and it's too funny not to share! This is a clip of a female comedian (not sure of her name, unfortunately) on YouTube -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXT6Hs113ZA

(If the link doesn't work, you can go to You Tube and search for Mom's William Tell Overture")

This certainly would save Moms a lot time during their day!

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I had to just share this quick little story -- for those of you who are not aware, Disney's "Hannah Montana" is going on tour -- this is like the Beatles coming to America for the first time, only for the 2007 elementary school crowd! I put little notes all around the house last night to remind me that tickets went on sale at 10am today, and I was down here on my computer at 9:55am, waiting, watching the clock. At 10:00 on the dot, I started to try and get the tickets, which are $26.50, $40.50, $56.00 -- for a child's "rock" concert... Of course, I tried for the $26.50 first, and I needed 4 because my friend and her daughter were planning to join us. The tickets that came up were at the far end of the venue, with an obstructed view -- didn't seem worth it when bringing two 6 year olds, with limited attention span and patience level... So, I let those go and tried for the next price level -- nothing available. Tried for the 3rd price level -- nothing available. Tried for 2 tickets at a time, instead of 4 together -- nothing available!

So, here I sat, crushingly disappointed, and my sweet girl, completely unaware of what was going on, came over to show me something and she saw Hannah Montana's picture on the screen. I told her that I had tried to get us tickets, but that all I could get were seats where we wouldn't have been able to see, and that I tried for better, more expensive seats and couldn't get any tickets at all. After a brief look of disappointment, I gave her a big hug and said I was sorry that we couldn't go, and do you know what she said, "That's ok Mommy, Juliet from school is going, so I'll just ask her how it was!" She always surprises me, and so often makes me feel better about life's little disappointments!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lunchbox Notes and Other Expressions of Love

Note writing has become a big thing in our house, ever since school started this month. On the first day of school, I decided to put a little note in my daughter's lunchbox to let her know I was thinking of her. It was short and sweet, a simple "Have a great day, Love Mommy" because I was not certain of what is "cool" in the first grade, and what would be considered baby-ish... I'm sure there is a fine line! Well, turns out this note was well received by my daughter, and so I put another, similar note in the next day's lunch. And then I started getting requests, "Write a longer note, Mommy!" So, this has continued every day since the beginning of school and each day I have to write something different -- no more short and sweet! I will sometimes say something about the classes she has for that day (gym day, art, music) or remind her about turning her library book in, or even mention what I am planning for dinner. I try to do the notes on different types of paper, or add stickers, or sometimes I even fold them and "address" the outside to make it look like an envelope.

The other day, I opened up my purse at work and found that I had a note inside. It said, "Dear Mommy, If you would like ice cream please sign here: ________________ Love, " I thought that was just about the sweetest thing -- and very cool with the "Mommy crowd" -- I can't wait to see what's in there on Monday!

Lunchbox notes are another thing to add to the "to do list" every night, but they are obviously appreciated, and well worth the effort!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hooray!

Oh hooray! My husband is home! He has been out of town on business this week, and I have been masquerading as a single, working mother -- a job that I am happy to give up! Honestly, I don't know how single parents manage all that they have to juggle in a day -- I am exhausted!

Now, granted, part of my exhaustion stems from my 6 year old wanting to sleep in Mommy's room while Daddy is out of town. This is great, in theory, but she comes with a lot of baggage -- literally. Stuffed animals, dolls, decorative pillows, and there was even a plastic toy "Scooby Doo" van that she got from a recent kid's meal! And then of course, is the issue of her moving around in her sleep. A lot. We have a king-sized bed (my husband is a tall guy -- 6'4") and you would think that should be large enough for Mommy and her 6 year old -- until the child tosses and turns in her sleep and spends the majority of the night sleeping horizontally across the bed. With her feet UNDER my back -- very comfortable!

But all of that aside, I found that it takes a lot of energy and organization to get everything done before bedtime (mine) so that I was not scrambling like a crazy person in the morning (at least not scrambling as much...). I usually get home around 5:30 - 6:00pm and dinner needs to be made, children fed, dishes cleaned up, homework done (occasionally -- fortunately we don't have too much yet), clothes pulled out for the next day, lunches packed, teeth brushed, diapers changed, jammies on, children put to bed, and toys picked up.

Some of this I take care of after the kids are in bed, because otherwise I would not get a single minute to snuggle with them or listen to my daughter's ongoing narration of her day, both in "real" school and the neverending "pretend" school that goes on here for all of her waking hours. And it's terrible to feel impatient with your children, that you have to get things done, when spending time with them is really the most important, and probably most fun part of your day! I've learned to try and multi-task as much as possible -- making dinner, doing dishes as I go along, and usually listening to my girl's stories from her day. The other night was great -- I was cooking and doing dishes, and she sat on the stool in the kitchen and read her library book to me -- it made my time in the kitchen go by so fast, and it was a nice break for her from the Disney Channel and her Polly Pockets!

Tonight, I have my husband home to help carry the load, and I am so looking forward to that! And of course, a good night's sleep -- as long as he keeps his feet to himself! ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

On my way to work today, I glanced down at my wrist and noticed that the diamond bracelet that my husband gave me as a wedding gift, was missing. I wear it constantly and I'm so used to it being there that it's become an extension of my arm I'm afraid I don't always pay attention to it and I had no idea when I remembered seeing it last!

I tried to retrace my steps of the past few days -- I asked the women at the front desk of my office if anyone had turned in a bracelet, I called my church, my daughter's Sunday school, and even my local grocery store. I tore apart my desk, purse, tote bag, and my mother (who was watching my daughter at my house today) was nice enough to look around the house for me. Finally, I got a call back from the grocery store, and they said that someone had turned in a bracelet on Sunday (the day I was shopping) and after I described it to the woman, she was sure that this was mine! I can't tell you what a relief it was to get it back -- I nearly cried at the service desk of the store! What are the odds that you could lose something like that in a busy, public place, and you would somehow get it back?

I am a tremendously sentimental person, and I treasure the things that have been passed along to me by my family -- my mother's engagement ring, my grandmother's ring. Having two daughters, I always think about passing these and my own jewelry on for them to treasure when they are older. And now thanks to the thoughtfulness and honesty of a complete stranger, I have one of my most sentimental belongings back -- I can't thank them enough!