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:


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 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:


- 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!


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


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! ;)