Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

As we scurry about finishing our last minute preparations for St. Nick's visit tonight, I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I can't speak for anyone else, but I am actually feeling a little more calm at this moment, than I normally do on Christmas Eve. I only have 2 relatively simple menu items to make today -- one for Christmas Eve at my aunt's house tonight, and one for Christmas dinner at our house tomorrow! (How did I get off so easy on the Christmas dinner in my own home? We have a wonderful Gramby who is bringing prime rib AND dessert! I'm doing shrimp cocktail, a yummy potato dish, and asparagus!)

The girls have both written their Christmas letters to Santa, and we were able to visit Santa last weekend. Christmas cards have been sent, and I have hung up the cards that we have received from friends and family. All the shopping has been done, I wrapped my very last gift last night (my poor husband, as usual, has to do all of his wrapping today!), the house is decorated and we are even almost done cleaning it! (Amazing!)

We'll attend church this afternoon and tonight we are going to my aunt's (my dad's sister) to celebrate with my dad's side of the family and what always makes this gathering extra special, is that my 88-year-old grandmother is with us to celebrate. And my aunt started a tradition a few years ago of the whole family going around the neighborhood caroling! This is super fun for the neighbors, my aunt, my grandmother, my girls and I -- not quite as much for some of the other family members... I am feeling relatively prepared for Christmas this year -- not the usual rush to finish wrapping on Christmas Eve! I told my husband that this year, after we put the kids to bed, I want to curl up on the couch with a glass of egg nog, a holiday movie, and enjoy the lights on the tree -- just to take a "time out" from all of the running around, and enjoy the holiday!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies!

I spent most of the day running errands, dropping off and picking up my 3-year-old from preschool, running home to have lunch and wrap some more presents, and then over to my 8-year-old's school to pick her up and save her from the torture of the bus ride home! Whew! But I did squeeze in some time after school to help my girls make Christmas cookies for Santa. I got this trick from my friend (and fellow working mom) Catherine. She introduced me to the bag of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix -- SO easy, so quick, SO yummy! That and a tub of vanilla frosting, food coloring and sprinkles made for a fun afternoon with the girls! That's also part of my way of making it feel a little more "homemade" -- my girls love to mix the food coloring in and pick out their own decorations for the cookies. My older daughter was getting quite creative -- she did a cookie with a mistletoe design, one that was the North Pole through a snow globe... You name it! My little one was less interested in the artistic aspect and more interested in EATING. And licking the top of the sprinkle shaker... Yeah, we had to get rid of that particular container... I used to feel guilty about not making cookies "from scratch", but frankly, if I don't take the easy way out sometimes then I won't have time to do it at all -- and missing out on decorating cookies with my girls would be a big disappointment to all 3 of us! As you can see by the second photo (taken moments after the first), my littlest one QUITE enjoyed the cookie making!

Monday, December 21, 2009

This Season's Best Accessory? A Cute Child!

On Friday, I blissfully started my vacation from work (sorry Cath, not rubbing it in -- just telling a story...). This conveniently coincided with my 8-year-old's holiday concert at school, in which she was playing the xylophone! My husband had to work, but I got my girl off to school on the bus and then I got myself and my 3-year-old dressed and out the door in time for the concert. My girl attends a smallish school -- there is a "multi-purpose" room in which they have gym, eat lunch, and have assemblies (my nieces have one of these at their school in Long Island -- my sister-in-law calls it the "cafe-gym-torium"). Ours is small... With all of the kids in there for the concert, parents were left to crowd in around them along the walls, and spilling out into the hallway. My little one and I were able to get in and squeeze in next to a sweet woman who was there to see her grandson sing. She thought my preschooler was a cutie (she was right!) and she suggested to my little peanut that she sit on the floor in front of her so that my girlie could see her sister. No way! My girlie was not fond of that. But it was sweet of the woman to offer. Through the whole concert she was very concerned about us being able to see -- I was very concerned that we were not crowding her, and she was tiny enough that I could very comfortably shoot my video camera over her head and get much of the concert on tape! After saying goodbye and great job to my eldest, my little one and I headed to the grocery store.

I was expecting crowds, long lines, crabby shoppers. I was pleasantly surprised! It was about 10:30am on Friday and while there were still a lot of people in the store, we were able to get in and out relatively quickly and actually enjoyed ourselves! We cruised throughout the store with people smiling at my girlie and she would smile back, shyly. She really is somewhat of a draw at the grocery store, especially with the older shoppers -- they seem to love to say hello to her and try to get her to smile.

Feeling in the holiday spirit and having people around who also seemed in good humor for being in a grocery store a few days before the holiday, I found myself exchanging pleasantries with many of the other shoppers. I think people might have been so engaging because the store was playing holiday music overhead and my girl and I were strolling up and down the aisles singing along to the tunes. A nice woman shopping next to me in the meat department made sure to point out to me that some of the packages were labeled to be used by the next day and others would last a little longer. I helped another woman in the produce section, because she couldn't reach the plastic bags to put her peppers in. There was a very sweet, elderly woman in the bulk candy section who was trying to scoop some of those gummy spearmint leaf candies into a baggie, but she couldn't reach very well (maybe it wasn't my daughter -- maybe people were pleasant because I'm taller than them!) -- I helped her scoop some candy into her bag and she told me about when she was younger and how much she loved the penny candy containers at the store -- she saw her favorite candy at the store that day and just couldn't help herself!

It is so easy to get caught up in the expense and the hectic schedule of this holiday -- it was really a wonderful break to spend that morning to be in the company of some very sweet people with whom my girl and I shared a little of the holiday spirit.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Funny!

Stopping in between Breakfast with Santa this morning, and a birthday party for one of our favorite 5-year-olds this afternoon, but had to post this before I forget! At the breakfast this morning, my little 3-year-old said to Gramby, "Gramby, I want to go to the Ladies Room!" And Gramby got very excited, because frankly, my girlie is still in diapers and has shown NO interest in learning to use the potty -- I'm going to try to tackle that over my vacation for the next two week's -- wish me luck! Anyway, Gramby took the girls down to the Ladies Room and when they got in there my girl said, "This isn't the Ladies Room! This is the BATHROOM! Where are all of the TOYS?!" Clearly, she had Ladies Room confused with PLAY room... So, no big break through on the potty-training, but a very cute story!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Overcoming A Child's Fear of the Dentist

My 8-year-old daughter suffers from anxiety and one of the things that she worries about the most, is taking a trip to the dentist! Naturally, the majority of us would rather do almost anything than spend an hour at the dentist's office, but this goes beyond that for my girl. We had our 6 month appointments last week, and she saw that on the calendar as soon as we flipped over to November -- and she perseverated about it ever since. To add to her anxiety about a trip to the dentist, she has a loose tooth and she will not let anyone near it and was terrified that the dentist would pull the tooth. We tried to remind her over and over that she's been to see the dentist with a loose tooth on two other occasions -- both times he left the tooth in her mouth and told her to eat a Popsicle (or something very cold to numb her mouth) and then to bite into an apple -- he assured her that she would find the tooth sticking in the apple -- how simple is that? No way... She would not try this method, and left herself (and her family...) in AGONY waiting for the tooth to somehow fall out on its own. And, she would not take our word that this is what has happened two times in the past year and a half, and certainly, this is what would happen again.

She has other fears about the dentist -- biting down on the x-ray film with her loose tooth; sitting back in the chair (this was a BIG one a couple of years ago -- couldn't even get her to let the put the chair back even an inch... I tried to point out that she leans back farther in the recliner at home! I finally stepped away on that one and the dentist and hygienist worked their magic with the chair); and a fear of being told that she has a cavity. She wrote a letter to the dentist, which I brought and gave to him at our appointment. It stated that she has a very loose tooth that would hurt a LOT if he were to pull it out, and she requested that he PLEASE not touch it! She ended the letter with an artist's rendering of her mouth and teeth, an arrow drawn to the tooth in question, and a conversation bubble saying "OW! Please don't pull me out!" Fortunately, our dentist took it in stride and said, "Great! More fan mail!"

We tried to make her as comfortable as possible. We always bring her own toothpaste (which has fluoride and is recommended by the dentist -- but it's a flavor of her choice and she likes it better than the dentist's toothpaste). We also tried to address her fears -- I spoke with the hygienist and confirmed that my girl had had x-rays at her previous appointment and there was no need to do them at this time. At least we could alleviate that anxiety while she has the loose tooth! The dentist did not pull her tooth (as we had told her he wouldn't...) but when he gently touched the tooth, he said he saw her eyes dart up to him like, "I've got my eye on you!"

At the end of the appointment, she was chattering away, all happy -- it had not been anywhere near as traumatic as she had worked it up to be in her mind. I came up with an idea -- she would not believe us when we told her that the dentist was a nice man and that going to see him is not that scary -- perhaps she would believe herself! When we got home, I had her write herself a letter to tell herself that going to the dentist is not so bad! I told her that I will save the letter for her and the next time we go to the dentist, I will pull the letter out for her to read. She wrote a letter "To 9-year-old Livvie, from 8-year-old Livvie." (Because her birthday is next month...) In her letter, she told herself to "Cool it!" The dentist is a nice guy and she should be brave like she was when she finally jumped off the diving board! This is a definite keeper... I'll let you know if it does the trick in 6 months!

What tips do you have for getting your little ones through a trip to the dentist?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bite-Sized Food for Kids

My dear children seem to be getting pickier and pickier about dinner, and I am constantly trying to throw different things into the mix so that we don't get too bored eating the same things all the time. And every once in a while, the girls decide that something they have enjoyed in the past, is now something they no longer will eat... That happened last night with tacos. I figured, tacos, "kid food" how can you go wrong? Yeah, no. No one was interested in those. My older daughter told me she no longer likes ground beef. I said, "Don't you like meatloaf?" (which we had just had last week and she seemed to enjoy) Yes. "You know that's ground beef, right?" Yes, but it tastes spicier, I like it.

Hmm... Spicier than tacos...? Well, who wants to argue! Anyway, at the point that I discovered their distaste for tacos, we were committed to having tacos (meat cooking, seasoning in the meat...). But I grabbed the "Scoops" tortilla chips that we had in the cupboard and for the girls, I made up mini taco cups -- "Scoops" chip with taco meat, shredded cheddar, and topped with a black olive slice. My girls LOVED these -- my older daughter ate the equivalent of what she would have in the past (you know, when she liked tacos... last month...) and my younger daughter actually ate more meat than she would have normally. I might have to try appetizer-like meals on some other things in the future!

I'd love to hear your ideas for getting your kids to eat!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Birthday Party for Baby Jesus

The other night I was on my way home from work, and I noticed a house with a huge, lighted "Happy Birthday, Jesus" sign on the roof. Ordinarily, I would not be a big fan of such a large light display, but it struck me that perhaps the homeowners felt that people needed a large, brightly lit sign to remind them of the true meaning of the Christmas season. Over the past few years, I have felt more and more that I am getting entirely too wrapped up in parties and gift exchanges for work and clubs, and lengthy wish lists from my children, who are blessed enough to already have too much of everything. My husband and I keep trying to do what we can to help others in need during this season, and just as importantly, to try and teach our children to do the same.

An idea sparked, after seeing this sign and having spoken with my sister-in-law Jenny (who could teach us all a lesson about doing good for others -- seriously, if she has a spare moment, she fills it up with another volunteer job!) about how she encouraged her daughter to donate some of her older toys in preparation for her 4th birthday. My husband and I talked about it and we are starting a new tradition in our house this year. During December, we are going to pick a day and have a birthday party for Jesus. The girls will help bake cupcakes or a birthday cake for us to have in celebration of Jesus' birthday. And what is a birthday party without presents? We will all go through and pick out some things that we can donate to someone in need -- I'm sure that Jesus would appreciate that more than a Gameboy or an iPod... I think this is a good way for our family to remember who and what Christmas is really about!

Do you and your family have any traditions for celebrating the true meaning of Christmas? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Gingerbread Recipe

Last Saturday night my husband and I went to Chris and her husband Will's house for our gourmet club. The theme they came up with was "Pioneer Dinner" which turned out to be a wonderful theme for fall -- lots of great fall flavors like squash & apple soup, pork roast with homemade apple ketchup / catsup (and we learned that that is a process of cooking, not specifically just the familiar tomato ketchup). There were lots of other great things including homemade bread and Chris made us all take turns churning our own butter to go with the bread! (I know my husband will just LOVE this picture, but I knew my girls would appreciate seeing Daddy churn butter -- they've helped churn their own butter at Chrissy's!)

Chris assigned dessert to my husband and me, because she knew my 8-year-old would LOVE to help make the recipe she had chosen for us -- Laura Ingalls Wilder's very own Gingerbread! My girl was ecstatic, and of course she donned her Laura Ingalls Wilder outfit to wear while making it! It was really a pretty easy recipe and my girl did most of it, while I supervised and helped out occasionally if she needed it. She loves to cook and is at the age where she is a big help in the kitchen. She did a great job making Laura's gingerbread, and we all loved eating it! (She loved it too -- with vanilla ice cream on the side.) And a nice keepsake for our recipe box? Laura's recipe that we found on the internet along with a note that Laura wrote in her own handwriting to a fellow author! Here's a link to Laura's Gingerbread Recipe.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Girl's Best Friend

Recently my best friend and fellow blogger, Christine, began typing tributes on her blog to several of her closest friends all under the guise of gathering readers. What started somewhat as a joke, ended up turning into a really lovely expression of her heartfelt feelings for those she wrote about. And I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen! Now, she has turned the tables on us and asked us to write in her comment section about how we feel about her! I thought I would post mine here for all of you to read.

Chris and I have been friends since the 10th grade. What started as two girls chatting in Social Studies about boys, turned into the discovery of a lifelong friendship and sisterhood. Who would have thought that the cool girl (her) with the great jewelry and the funky haircut (very '80's -- short on one side, long on the other -- REALLY tough on us when we had lifesaving in gym class and did the hair pull technique...) would have anything in common with the prim and proper girl (me) with the tailored shirts and the ribbons tied in bows at the collar (I looked like a secretary when I was in the 10th grade...)? But something clicked and after a while we were inseparable. Obnoxiously so... We always had adventures - most of which I will not write on here - don't want to give my daughters any ideas! We'll tell our stories to our girls when they are older - 35? - and as we always do when we tell anyone our stories, we will laugh until we cry, and they will nod politely and look for the nearest exit.

We are fiercely loyal to each other, each of us holding grudges on behalf of the other one far past reasonably necessary. There are a couple of people out there that I have long since forgiven their transgressions against me, but they will forever be on Chris' "list!" There was a span of time that she was very quick with a specific finger in the car when that seemed to be called for ("Chrissy, finger!"), and another span of time where she was quick with a glass of water in the direction of whoever had wronged one of us. We both know each others secrets and dreams, we also can have conversations in shorthand -- we have this perfected to an art form!

I'll never forget my mother-in-law telling me that one of the most important relationships a woman can have is the relationship with her best friend. You can always lean on each other and get each other through life's ups and downs.

We have gone through some heartbreaking times together and cried rivers of tears. But we have also been there for each other during our most wonderful times - including the births of our daughters. And this wonderful friendship now includes our husbands and our daughters -- three little girls who love each other like family. And really, that's what we are -- family.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Place Cards

Here is another cute and simple project that my daughter and I did for our family’s Thanksgiving celebration. We took colored construction paper – from the pack that we had, we used red, yellow and green paper, but orange or brown would have been nice too! I cut out leaf shapes (about the size of a 4 x 5 or 5 x 7 photo – not too large) and my daughter and I wrote a family member’s name on one side of the leaf to use for each person's place card.

On the other side of the leaf, we wrote something that we are thankful for about that person. For my father, I wrote that we were so thankful to have such a great grandfather to take care of our girls when we can’t be there. For my husband, my daughter wrote, “I’m so thankful to have a hockey-playing, story-telling Daddy like you!” We thought they looked cute and festive on the table, and they fit right in with the theme of the holiday – giving thanks!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pilgrim Hat Cookies



I found this cute, easy “recipe” in last year’s fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine. This was a recipe created by a young brother and sister team (if I remember correctly from the magazine) and as soon as I saw it I tucked it away for my daughter! My 8-year-old and I made these for our family’s early Thanksgiving celebration, and they seemed to be a big hit.


Pilgrim Hat Cookies
------------------------
Keebler’s Fudge Stripes cookies
Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups
Vanilla Frosting
Yellow Food Coloring
Orange Tic Tacs


Place the fudge striped cookies bottom-side up – this acts as the brown brim of the hat.
Stir the yellow food coloring into the vanilla frosting, to make yellow frosting. The original recipe said to dip the peanut butter cup into the frosting, but that got very messy, very quickly! After a few attempts, I used my old standby trick and I spooned the frosting into the bottom corner of a heavy freezer baggie, then I cut just the tip of the bag’s corner off – voila, makeshift pastry bag! My daughter was able to easily pipe the frosting in a circle around the hole of the cookie. Then she took an unwrapped peanut butter cup and placed it (bottom-side up again) onto the frosting, so that some of the frosting peeks out from under the peanut butter cup. The final step is to place an orange Tic Tac on the yellow frosting. Cutest little Thanksgiving treats, and SO easy to make!


Peanut Free Version!
-------------------------
My friend Catherine was interested in making these for Thanksgiving, but her daughter has a nut allergy. We went to the grocery store to investigate a peanut-free version of this cookie and we found that the Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies are peanut-free and in place of the peanut butter cookies, we came up with Rolo’s chocolate covered caramels, which are a similar shape to the peanut butter cups, but are also peanut free, according to the product label.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You!


Thinking of all of the courageous men and women in the military who sacrifice so much to ensure our freedom -- and thanking them for their service and their bravery.

Bad Blogger...

I am a very bad blogger...  I have been so busy the past couple of weeks, that I have neglected my beloved blog...  I'm still here and I have lots to share and I promise to post more regularly (so that Catherine has something to read on lunch...)!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fun & Easy Crafts From the Pasta Dinner

In order to help entertain the preschoolers at last Friday's preschool Pasta Dinner, we had a few craft tables set up with some easy crafts for the kids.  (Of course, I was unable to take pictures, because my little preschooler took my camera off the counter and hid it in her toy box!  Did not discover that until Sunday...  Have to watch that one!)

Aside from covering the tables in white butcher paper and putting out bowls of crayons for the kids to use to their heart's content, I made the suggestion to our "craft person" that we let the kids make their own jack-o-lantern faces since the dinner was so close to Halloween.  My first thought had been to use felt, but then I decided that construction paper would be easier and less expensive -- you can do it either way!  Tracy, who took care of prepping the crafts for us, used a stencil and cut pumpkins out of construction paper (she made 1 pumpkin out of each piece of paper).  Then she took black construction paper and cut different shapes out -- triangles, circles, etc.  She put the different papers out on the table, with glue, and the kids were able to pick out the shapes they wanted and glue them onto the pumpkin to make fun jack-o-lanterns!

The other craft that we did -- because I am admittedly a theme junkie, and this, after all was a pasta dinner -- was pasta necklaces.  We used curling ribbon cut down to size (anything over 12 inches) but you could use yarn, string -- whatever you have handy!  Tracy used a "recipe" that I found on the internet to dye the pasta and the kids really seemed to enjoy making these!  Here is the recipe that we used:

COLORED PASTA FOR CRAFTS
========================== 
Use 2 cups of pasta, 2 teaspoons of food coloring and 3 teaspoons of alcohol (rubbing). Mix the alcohol with the food coloring and then add the pasta. Put all in a covered bowl or ziploc bag. Shake slowly, making sure to cover the pasta with the liquid. Spread to dry for several hours. 

The colors in the pasta turned out to be very vibrant and kids and even some parents were wandering around with the festive necklaces on -- my older daughter even made a bracelet!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Family Events Frenzy!

Bear with me -- I'm still here!  Slightly buried under a pile of raffle tickets, raffle prizes and strings for pasta necklaces!  We're in the home stretch of our preschool Pasta Dinner preparations (say that 3 times, fast!) and we're looking forward to a (hopefully) wonderful family event on Friday night.  But even more than that, we are looking forward to SATURDAY MORNING!  Husband's off this weekend, not too many plans -- maybe getting to sleep past 8:00am?  Wish me luck!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Fall!



We are enjoying a beautiful, sunny fall day here in Upstate NY.  The leaves on our lawn are all piled up and ready for some little girls to jump in them, and we are looking forward to all the fun of Halloween.  And most of all we wish you a Happy Fall from our family to yours!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

School Picture Day!

Yesterday was School Picture Day for my third-grader. In my limited experience, for the mother of a girl, this was a huge event. For the mother of a boy, I would imagine that this was just a Tuesday. In preparation for this big event, my girl took a shower last night so that she would be all shiny clean for her picture, but so that we would not have to suffer the agony of blow-drying her hair at the crack of dawn this morning! Then there was the negotiation of an outfit. There was one shirt that we both agreed on, but she came skipping down the stairs wearing that (kind of a melon-pink paisley pattern) with a turquoise blue patterned skirt… I suggested that we find something else because the skirt did not match the shirt – she informed me that that was not a problem, because we wouldn’t see the skirt in the picture! Can’t argue with that logic… (Although I did!) Regardless of what she wore with the shirt, on second thought I decided that it might look a little “’70’s.” And, as a friend recently pointed out about some cute madras plaid Capri pants that I had on my little one, she will look back at the picture and be as irritated about that as we were of some of the things our parents dressed us in when we were young! (No offense Mom & Dad!) Anyway, we found an outfit that we were both happy with. Then we looked through her jewelry box to see if we could find something to go with her outfit. She pointed out the beautiful silver-beaded bracelet that we bought her for her First Communion. I said, “Oh no, you can’t wear that to school!” and she (again, pointing out the obvious…) said, “Well YOU bought it for me!” Sigh. I pulled out her pretty pink watch and a heart necklace that has her name on it, along with 3 of the Disney princesses. I said, “Can you wear this, or are the princesses no longer cool?” And she said, “Hmm, let me look at it.” After a quick inspection, she deemed it acceptable to wear to school! This morning we were up early, she got dressed, had breakfast and came upstairs so that I could curl her hair (something we’ve only done about 5 times in her life so far!). She wanted a side-pony tail, but then decided that she thought it looked weird, so we agreed upon leaving her hair down. There was some discussion between a headband and a hair clip, and I found an acceptable hair clip and put that in on one side. A quick inspection in the mirror and then she was ready to go! WHEW. As is our tradition, before she walked out the door, we had her stand and pose for a picture on our camera – this is sort of my insurance policy for the school picture. Once the child steps one foot out of the door, there is no telling what condition they will be in by the time their school picture is taken! I remember the days of standing in line in elementary school and the teachers, aides or volunteer parents coming up with the black plastic comb and combing my hair – not always helping, in some cases! And then there is the smile – my girl kept practicing and practicing and each time it got worse! Her grandfather was a photographer and she practiced smiling for him last night when he was leaving our house. He said, “Oh, that is a nice one! I can see your dimple!” But she heard, “When your smile is right, you can FEEL your dimple.” So last night she kept smiling and touching her check to see if her dimple was there… I can’t imagine that the photographer will wait for her to feel her face to make sure that her dimple is there! I’m envisioning a picture of her face and her hand… Oh well, it’s not like I don’t have a million pictures of her, or that I won’t take a million more – but, School Picture Day is a big event!


And then there will be this little munchkin… I wonder how SHE will pose for the camera!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Scarecrow

We have been going a mile a minute these days (hence no posts for 2 weeks)!  Last Sunday, for example, we had two different fall festivals that we attended with two different groups of people between the hours of 11am and 4pm!  Both were fun and both offered totally different activities, which worked out perfectly!  The first festival offered face painting and pony rides, and the second offered pumpkin picking and scarecrow making!  We paid $16 at Brown's Berry Patch to make ours ($14 without a hat), but this is something that could easily be done at home with the kids. 

You will need an old pair of pants, an old shirt, a pair of pantyhose, some straw (if you don't have this, you can usually get it at the farm market for $5 or under) and twine, heavy string or even yarn.  We started by stuffing straw into the pants and then the shirt to make the scarecrow's body.  You can stuff it as tight as you want, although from previous experience we left ours a little loose so that we could bend his legs to make him sit on a chair (ok, lean casually...).  Take the twine (string, yarn) and tie the shirt closed at the "wrists" and tie the pants closed down by the "ankles."  This will keep the straw from coming out.  Do you have an old pair of boots or gloves?  Tuck the bottoms of the pant legs in the boots and the arms into the old gloves to give your scarecrow a little more style!

Set the top and bottom of your scarecrow aside and take the pantyhose and stuff the top part of the pantyhose with straw -- this is his (her) head -- leaving the long legs empty.  Tie a know in the waistband of the pantyhose to keep the straw from coming out of the head.  To put the body together, set the head on top of the shirt collar.  Take one of the empty pantyhose legs and tuck it into the back of the shirt (between the inside of the shirt and the straw) and pull it down as tight as possible and tie it to the back of the pants (belt loop works best!).  Now do the same with the other leg, pulling down in the same manner through the front of the shirt and tie this leg to the front of the pants (again, use a belt loop if your pants have them!).  You may need to tuck some more straw into the "belly" of your scarecrow and tuck his (her) shirt into the pants to complete the body.



Top your scarecrow off with an old hat if you have one, and let the kids take some acrylic paint and paint a face to really give your scarecrow some personality!  This whole process (minus the painting) took us no more than 20 minutes at Brown's -- my 8-year-old and I did a lot of the stuffing, she and I chose the clothes, and we decided to bring it home to paint the face (to save the interior of the van from getting a fresh coat of paint!).  The last time we made one of these my girl was about 4 years old -- it was well before her little sister was born -- and she painted the face all on her own and did a great job!


This is a great way to recycle some old clothes that might otherwise end up in the trash.  The other day I was throwing away an old, ripped pair of my daughter's jeans and I thought, "Hey, we could use these to make our own scarecrow!"  This is really so easy to do and my kids just loved it -- I'm sure yours will too!  It's great to add to the outdoor fall decorations!  (My girl is taking after me with the decorating flair -- she arranged the pumpkins, including the one lying on it's side, and she added some fall leaves as a finishing touch!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Caught in the Act!

Last night, I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready, and I knew that my older daughter was in the living room, and I was certain that my youngest (3) was in the family room playing.  I called to her, "Kenzie" and she immediately yelled, "Nothing, Mom!"  So, naturally, that sounded a little guilt-ridden, I said, "What are you doing?" and she yelled again, "Nothing, Mom!"  (Same "innocent" tone...)  I asked her to come into the kitchen because we were going to have dinner and she came right in, no harm, no foul as my husband would say.  Later on when we were putting the kids to bed, I opened the linen closet outside of the bathroom and ALL of the clean towels were kind of wadded up and on the next shelf down from where they normally are stored.  They were RIGHT in front of the laundry chute (which is curiously, inside the closet, in the back -- limits the amount of things one can store on the shelf -- but love the laundry chute, none the less -- side note, told my friend at work this story today, she said, "Yeah, my laundry chute is the open basement door -- I shoot laundry down there as I walk by!").  My girl LOVES to take the clean towels and toss them down the laundry -- Daddy just loves that!  So, I'm pretty sure that I caught her in the act!  Look at that sweet face though -- I have a feeling that will help to get her out of hot water with Mom and Dad a LOT in the future! ;)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall Favorites

Fall is by far my favorite time of year. I love all of the seasons, and love living in NY where we see the change of seasons, but there is something special about the fall! This time of year I feel very cozy in my home with my family -- whether it's the slight chill in the air outside, or the spicy scent of my cinnamon-scented votive candles burning inside the house -- autumn definitely signifies the warmth of home and family to me. My girls are both in school (3rd grade and preschool) and we have school pictures coming up, book fairs, school dinners, Girl Scout cookie sales! There are fall festivals and pumpkin and apple picking, cider and donuts, crock-pot dinners, Halloween decorations... This year we are going to visit out-of-town family for Halloween, which will be a fun treat! And soon after that, my favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving! Best wishes for a happy and cozy fall spent with your loved ones!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Speak VERY Clearly...

My friend Christine posted this funny (because no one was injured...) story on her blog about the need for being really clear and concise when speaking to your children! What parent can't relate to a situation like this? Just yesterday, my 8-year-old got off the afternoon school bus and came up to the already open door that I was standing in. She yelled, "Mommy!!" apparently excited to see me, and I put my finger up to my lips and said, "Shh... Your sister is napping." So my girl whispers, "Ok" and proceeds to stick her finger out and ring the doorbell!!! REALLY? Why would you do that? And she says, "I'm sorry, I just wanted to make sure that my bus driver knew that you were here!" What? Does the doorbell ring on the bus? I'm not even sure what that meant... I must always try to remember to speak very clearly and to anticipate any and all possible responses when I am speaking to my girls. "Shh... Your sister is napping upstairs -- please do not yell, ring the doorbell, play a trumpet, bang a bass drum..." Really specific!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary!


Grandpa and Gramby came over last night to watch the girls, and my husband and I had a lovely dinner at our favorite (grown-up) restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. Not a french fry or a pack of crayons in sight, and we only spent about a third of the evening talking about our girls! Everything went smoothly at home (we had no worries) and Gramby told us a cute story about bedtime when we got home. She had put our littlest one to bed, but couldn't find her "bink" (pacifier). Our girlie tried pointing her in the direction of where we keep it (up on a shelf on her wall -- we only use it for nap and bedtime, and we're trying to wean her off of it!), but Gramby could not find it. My girl said, "Maybe your Rick can help you!" and Gramby said, "My what?" And she said, "Your Rick!" Gramby laughed and said, "You know, my Rick is your Grandpa!" And my girl said, "I know!" Sure enough, Grandpa found it, so crisis averted! ;)

Today we will be celebrating with our girls - our usual dinner, dessert, wedding video! Our older daughter loves the video (so do I!) -- it will be interesting to see if her little sister is more interested this year -- she loves to dance and sing, so I imagine watching her relatives dancing on tv will be a new thrill this year! We enjoy our annual tradition of celebrating just the two of us, but also celebrating with our dughters -- after all, they are a very large, very wonderful part of our lives together!

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Still Remember

I just read last year's post and I thought I would share it with you again. Hug your families close today and please remember the people who were lost on 9/11, the people who lost them, and the brave men and women in our military who work so hard to make sure that this never happens again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Day of Third Grade!

(Ok, my girl's first day of school was really last Friday, but things have been hectic, so I'm just posting this now!) Just wanted to show off my cute new third grader! My girl was very excited picking out school clothes this year, and getting to create her own style. Hot pink and lime green are her "signature colors" (her words) this year... She's 8. Wait until she's a teenager -- heaven help us! Anyway, we're looking forward to a great year in the third grade, and she's excited to be one of the oldest kids in the school (it's a K - 3). "Today," she said, "I talked to a kindergartener like I was an adult!" This is the big time! :)

The night before her first day we laid out her outfit, packed her lunch, packed her bag, and had a special "last day of summer vacation" dinner. We also worked on our annual end of summer memory project -- the last couple of years we did big collage posters, but those are so bulky and hard to keep. This year I suggested that we do a little memory book -- this worked out great and we will definitely tuck it into her special keepsake box to reminisce about all of the fun things we did this past summer! This year, my mother was up right before school started, so I got a cute card that we all signed (including Nana) and I tucked that into my girl's lunchbox for a fun surprise on her first day.

Tomorrow my husband and I will be taking our little one to "Meet the Teacher Day" at preschool -- slightly devastated that she is old enough to BE in preschool, but excited about all that she will learn and all the fun that she will have!

How was the first day of school for your children? Do you have any special first day of school traditions?

Monday, September 7, 2009

FYI - Link to Prepared Remarks for President Obama's Address to Students

Much has been said in the media about President Obama's speech to K - 12 school students across America tomorrow. My husband and I were initially concerned about the speech, having "Googled" and read the first draft of the instructions for teachers -- we were not pleased with the section where students, even K - 6 were going to be asked to write a letter on how they could help the president. Our concern was over the collection of the letters and redistribution "at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals." That seemed a little severe to us for our 3rd grade daughter, particularly when she is prone to anxiety... Fortunately, there was enough uproar about that specific item that the Department of Education drafted a new set of instructions for students, leaving that part out.

The other thing that had my husband and I concerned (along with countless other parents) was not knowing what exactly the speech was going to be about. My mother sent me a link to the President's prepared remarks and I was able to read that -- I thought I would pass it along to you, so that if you were interested you could read it over and discuss it with your child(ren) if they have any questions. All in all, I feel much better after reading it -- it has a few things that may concern my anxious 3rd grader (he refers to a young man who developed brain cancer at at young age, talks about his own history with his father leaving his family when he was 2, etc.) but then, frankly, my girl will probably be on edge slightly from the handwashing suggestion that he makes to prevent the flu! It is a very long speech -- I think that he makes a lot of good points, I don't know that all of the kids will hear them all, children's attention spans being what they are. He does reference "Harry Potter" and Michael Jordan, so that may get the kids' attention if he starts to lose them.

I'm glad that I was able to read it beforehand (thanks, Mom!) and I hope that my girl gets a little inspiration out of it, and I will be well prepared if she has any questions about it, or just wants to talk about it at dinner tomorrow night!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Book Club for Girls

My 8-year-old daughter is constantly coming up with ideas, plans, plots – you name it! These range from her desire to put on an elaborate production of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” play with her cousins (all of whom live out of town) in the theatre company, to creating a Webkinz version of the Disney ride “It’s a Small World” (yes, both of these came to her after our Disney trip…) which would involve a big tub filled with water with a smaller tub inside as the boat. I love that she has a great imagination and an industrious mind, but many times I nod and say, “That sounds interesting!”

The other day she came up with an idea that I thought was not only wonderful, but something that would be quite easy to do. She asked me if she could start her own book club! I immediately said that I thought that was a great idea, and we could definitely make that happen. She has named it the "Little Book Worms Book Club" and she typed up the following note that we printed out and she sent as an invitation to 5 of her friends:

"If you want to join the book club, please call XXX-XXXX and ask for Olivia. If you want to join, call soon! And when you call, I will tell you all the information you need. This book club will be SO much fun!!! We meet every month, and we’ll have tiny snacks and talk, and make new friends and read!!!!!! We’ll meet once a month, starting October 2009!!!! Call soon please!!!!!"

She is going to pick the first book, and we will pick a Friday night in October to start. In preparation for the first book club meeting, she is going to come up with a list of questions that they girls can use to discuss the book they have read. At the end of the meeting, we'll put all of the other girls' names in a hat and draw to see who picks the next book. My girl is very excited about this (as are some of her friends who we have already heard from), and I am excited for her -- what a fun time they will have! I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dancing Queen(s)

My 8-year-old recently watched "Mamma Mia" and she is HOOKED on ABBA! She has been playing ABBA Gold and singing the ABBA songs so frequently that her 3-year-old sister now runs around singing "Dancing Queen", "Super Trooper" and "Lay All Your Love On Me" (weird, I know...). Although, she has changed the lyric to "Lay All Your Heart On Me."

Tonight while they were singing, I grabbed the video camera and they grabbed the headbands (costume change...) and the closest microphone that they could find. They took turns dancing around the dining room belting out classics like "Dancing Queen", "You're the One that I Want" (Grease), and the Wonder Pets theme. They were singing, dancing, and falling over each other with laughter. I couldn't be happier to have gotten that on film! My husband will love to watch it when he gets home from work, and we'll all love watching it when our little girls are not so little anymore!

(By the way, don't forget to check out my playlist below to enjoy the original "Dancing Queen"!)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

Tonight we went to my daughter's end of the season sailing banquet -- and I realized that summer is flying by! Ok, well, this wasn't a new revelation -- almost every day I marvel at how quickly this summer is moving along! But tonight I also thought that I am a bad, bad blogger... I have been very neglectful of my little blog (and my faithful reader -- sorry, Cath!) :) forgive me -- it's been a busy summer! I really have so much to share -- "What we would not do again travelling to Disney" (that was from May... Bad blogger!), the "deets" on the princess themed 3rd birthday party (ok, that was just last month -- July!), 2nd annual "Laura Ingalls Wilder Day" (getting better -- that was on Sunday!), getting ready to go back to school (for my 8 year old) and getting ready for preschool (my BABY in preschool -- say it isn't so!!). We have one last trip for the summer -- heading up to visit relatives in New Hampshire -- so we are very excited about that but also busy with trip prep! Tomorrow we are off to tackle school clothes shopping and school supply shopping -- we'll see how that goes... My 8-year-old is already as opinionated as a teenager about her clothing! "Just get all of my clothes at Justice, Mom!" Yeah, $27 for a pair of jeans for an 8 year old... Um, I don't think so! Wish me luck!

How has your summer been going? Are you all ready working on the back-to-school preparation, or still enjoying the "lazy days of summer"? Let me know what you've been up to -- I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Moving the Memories With You

Tonight we spent the evening as a family, saying goodbye to Grandpa & Gramby's home. It was sad to say goodbye to a home that has brought us all so many wonderful memories, but they are moving a couple of miles closer to us and we know that we will have many fun times and make new memories at their new home. We laughed and talked and reminisced about the past 20(?) years that this home has been in our family. My 8-year-old shared her own memories with us -- like the time that she and Gramby made the gingerbread house for Christmas and Griffin, the dog, ate it! We took some pictures, and walked around the house and the yard one last time. My girl was feeling a little sad, saying goodbye, but Gramby told her that it's not the house that's important, it's the people and the memories that we keep with us. On the way home my girl said, "I'll miss this house!" And I said, "I know, but I bet you'll love their new house!" And my girl said, "Oh, I know I will -- because it will have Grandpa and Gramby in it!"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Happy 3rd birthday, to my sweet littlest girl, Kenzie! She is a lovely, funny, caring little soul that brightens our days -- of course, I am her mother, I may be biased, but I don't think so... :) We have been having almost a week-long celebration of her birth this year -- a party last Sunday (which I'll tell you about in further detail later), a very exciting big gift from Mommy & Daddy that she has been enjoying (as have we) all week, a fun day yesterday with a trip to the zoo (thanks, Kristin for inviting us!) and a trip to the movies ("Up" -- great movie, she sat contentedly and watched the whole thing!), another special day today, and then celebrating with Grandpa and Gramby on Sunday -- Gramby & Kenzie share the same birthday!

Three has become a "rite of passage" for our girls -- when our first daughter turned 3, we bought her a "big girl bed" and celebrated with a fun pajama party themed birthday party (you know me and a theme!). The kids that came to the party dressed in their pj's and I had our favorite bakery create a cake that looked like a bed -- throw pillow and everything -- too cute! (If my scanner was not broken, I would share a picture -- maybe some other time!) So, in keeping with this tradition, this week we said goodbye to the crib, and hello to a big girl bed for our little one. She has adjusted to it amazingly well! I've been home on vacation this week, and I've been able to get her used to napping in the bed and not the crib -- thrilled about that! We have a baby gate up in her doorway, so that she cannot get up and walk around the house at night -- that's a scary adjustment for parents -- your child who has been in a crib is now able to get out of bed and wander around on their own -- yikes! This at least still keeps her in a safe place -- not going down the stairs in the dark or anything like that! Of course, she still has gotten out of bed a couple of times after we've tucked her in -- the other night I checked on her before I went to bed, and found books, a music box, and a pair of her sunglasses in bed with her -- no idea what type of party she and her stuffed animals had planned! And then the next night, my husband went in to say goodnight after I had tucked her in, and he said he needed to find something else to put her in for pj's -- apparently she didn't want to wear what I put her in, and so she took her clothes off! Very independent, that one... But all in all, it's been a fun adventure for her and we are so proud of her for transitioning so well, so quickly!

So happy birthday to my Sweet Mackenzie -- you've only been with us for 3 years, but I truly can't imagine life without you -- I'm so blessed to have you in my life! Love always, Mommy

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's the Climb

My 8-year-old is CONSTANTLY asking me, "Are you going to put this on your blog?" every time she or her sister do or say anything. Really. Anything. Well, my sweet girl, YES! I'm putting this on my blog! Warning -- Proud Mommy Moment coming up...

My girl loves to swim. We are fortunate enough to have an inground pool in the backyard which she loves to spend time in. In addition, she has been fortunate enough to have grandparents who have not only sent her to swimming lessons at the yacht club for the past 4(?) years, but a grandpa who has spent many hours driving her there and staying around to wait and watch during her lessons. Along with Grandpa, my husband and I have also gone year after year, lesson after lesson, to watch her progress. We have also, all of us, watched her nearly paralyzing fear when she has been asked to jump off the diving board into the deep end. We have, each of us, experienced her agony, standing there at the end of the diving board, looking down at the water, seeing all of the other kids waiting for her to jump in, seeing the instructors swim in front of the board and hold their hands up, trying to help ease her into the water. We have seen her near tears, backing slowly off the board, insisting that she just can't do it -- it's too high, it's too bouncy, and so on. The past three years we have gone through this -- as a swim lesson is part of her sailing lessons that she takes each summer. She is a very strong swimmer and would probably be at the top of her class, if not for this diving board issue. Because of this, she has been stuck in the same level of swimming for the past 3 summers.

This summer, her grandparents enrolled her in a week-long, all-day sailing course with her cousin, and we were hopeful in the beginning that there would be no swim lesson. We were wrong. With a little help from her doctor, we came to the realization that diving is not something that she was going to do. I myself have gone 20 years (since high school swim class) without having to dive -- we need to pick our battles, and this one is not worth it, we decided. If it came up in swim class again, we would simply talk to the instructors and see if they could just accommodate her somehow.

But tonight, we headed down to the yacht club to have dinner with the family - a special treat for our girl and her cousin - and when my husband and I got there after work, our girl was in the pool and she said that she had a surprise for us. She swam to the side and climbed out of the pool, and she walked over to the diving board and with confidence, she climbed up onto the board -- and then she marched out and she jumped right in! I could not have been more proud of her if she had just won an Olympic medal in diving. I cried right then and there, and frankly, the water works are starting again! That's the really amazing thing about kids -- you can never count them out, because they will always surprise you. Unfortunately, I'm not exactly a sports photographer -- I couldn't click fast enough to get her in mid-air, but I have a feeling I'll have more opportunities in the future!

I am so proud of you, Liv -- I love you!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hooray!!

Oh hooray!! We're back in the 21st century! ;) I took my girls out earlier today, after having done much research, and we bought a new computer! I am taking my time (pretending that I am still setting up the computer) because I know that as soon as I relinquish control of the computer, my 8-year-old will be making up for lost time on Webkinz, Disney, Barbie -- you name it!

I'll check back soon!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Roughing It..."

Still here -- still computer-less... We're shopping around and hoping to be back up and running over the 4th of July weekend. We feel like we are roughing it though -- you don't realize how much you use your computer until it breaks! GOOD NEWS -- a friend from work was able to save everything (PHOTOS!!) off of our hard drive -- HOORAY!

Today is the last day of school for my 8-year-old and she is thrilled, but my husband and I are anticipating the call of "I'm BORED" to begin, let's see -- tomorrow, probably!!

I hope you are enjoying the start of summer! "Talk" to you soon!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Cautionary Tale...

I'm a little out of commission right now -- my home computer all of a sudden dared to stop working yesterday!! Hopefully I will be up and running again soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to pass along these words of wisdom (that would have served me well several days ago...) -- if you take as many digital photos as I do, BACK THEM UP ON CD'S!!!! I actually did that (for the first time) with our Florida vacation pictures, and I do have access to a lot of my more recent pictures (past 2 years?) through Kodakgallery.com, but the ones that I took earlier than that (you know, like the ones of my littlest girl when she was a baby...), are stuck on the computer -- hopefully salvageable in the near future!!

But please, learn from my error -- back up your digital photos!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

That's My Name, Don't Wear It Out!

(WARNING -- I have hundreds of pictures from our trip to Disney, and I reserve the right to use those -- excessively -- in posts, as I see fit -- regardless of their relevance to the subject matter of said post. Excessively.) My nearly 3-year-old has taken to calling my name (Mommy) REPEATEDLY to get what she wants, particularly when she wants to get up in the morning or get up from a nap (she's still in a crib, until her 3rd birthday in July, when she'll get her first "big girl bed")... This morning she made me chuckle by calling my name over and over in her usual sing-songy style, "Mom-mee! Mom-mee" This morning I was feeling quite tired, and she was up quite early sounding her "alarm" so I chose to just lie in bed a little while longer. Finally I heard, "I SAID -- MOM-MEE! MOM-MEE!" Oh, right! That's me -- I'm coming!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Whine Time

The other day, my 8-year-old daughter came up to me and in a whining voice said, "Mommy, my sister hit me in the wrist!" So, after telling her sister our household mantra, "No hit, no kick!" and requesting that she apologize, I asked my older daughter if she really needed to continue to whine and whimper... Apparently, she did. She said (in a whiny voice), "Well, it makes me feel better!" So I thought, ok, what's the harm other than a little irritation on my part? Since she tends to whine and whimper at great length over small things (her little sister, on the other hand just bounces up and says, "I'm okay!") I thought, let's put a time limit on this. I suggested that she could whine all she wanted for 5 minutes and then we would move on with the day. This seemed to work for her and so I took note of the clock and she started, "Whine, whine, sniff, sniff, whine..." Every once in a while this would be interupted with, "How much time do I have left?" "Two more minutes" And then, "Ok! Whine, whine, whimper..." (I can't really type the sound of the whine -- kind of hmmm, hmmm, or something -- you get the point!)

This worked out great, because at the end of the 5 minutes she felt better and had gotten it out of her system, and I did not get irritated listening to it, because a) I knew when it would end, and b) it ended up being pretty amusing with her calling out for time checks! I highly recommend this -- I'm sure we'll have cause to use this tactic again!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

“Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

My sister-in-law, Jenny, sent me the loveliest card for mother’s day and inside she put a copy of “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. You may already be familiar with this piece, but I thought it was worth posting here!

“If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.”

Children learn by example and this is such a wonderful reminder of how easily we can impact the lives of our children either in a negative or positive way. Thanks for sharing, Jen!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Compliment?

Last night as I was tucking my 8-year-old into bed, she said this to me, "Mommy, I'm glad we get to spend the long weekend together, and even though I get mad at you on the weekends, I love spending time with you!" I'm definitely embroidering that on a throw pillow!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Really? THAT Was The Highlight Of Your Day…?

Grandpa told me a funny story the other day. He and my littlest girlie had had a very busy day, full of adventures. They walked Grandpa’s dog, Griffin, around the neighborhood and my girl inspected many sticks along the way (her new favorite – loves to pick up sticks!). Someone in our neighborhood is doing a large project and so they saw a big piece of equipment (backhoe?) breaking ground and they watched that for a few minutes. When they got back to our house they went in the side yard and played on the swingset – she went on the swings, the slide, and the glider… Then they piled into Grandpa’s truck (SUV) and went to the bank. When they got out of the truck, they spotted a nickel on the ground, which my girl got as a “treasure.” They went into the bank and while Grandpa was making a deposit, she got a lollipop and got to wander around a little bit. Grandpa had to meet with someone about closing an account and so my girl explored the woman’s office, playing with a toy magnet and then pointing out an empty fish tank on the woman’s desk. The woman from the bank explained that the tank was being cleaned, and she made a point to show my girl her fish that were in a big cup on her desk. After their adventure at the bank, they went back to our house and had lunch together before her nap.

When Daddy came home from work, he asked her, “Did you have a good day today?” And she answered enthusiastically, “Yes! Griffin pooped!”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Disney Vacation - It's the Little Things...

I thought I would share some of the little things that we did that worked out great:

Bringing a soft-sided cooler! My friend Kim who recently traveled to Disney with her husband and their triplets recommended this, and I’m glad I took her advice! We tucked a small, soft-sided cooler into one of our bags that we checked, but we could have used it as a carry-on, if we needed to. Having the house with the full fridge & freezer, we were able to buy cases of water at the nearby Super Walmart, and freeze the bottles of water to pack in our coolers. This was a great cost-savings with water at the parks being sold for $2.75 per bottle, and with the temperature in the 90’s we were going through water, well, like water! The other great thing about the cooler (and Super Walmart…) was that we picked up Lunchables, apples & grapes to bring for the girls – this was after getting lunch for each of them (kid’s meals ran about $4.99 - $6.99) and combined, our girls did not eat enough to make up 1 kid’s meal! This was not even about the money savings, but the desire to have our children eat something other than ice cream and popsicles!

Speaking of Super Walmart, on the way to the parks the first day, we stopped in to pick up autograph books – $1.50 per spiral bound Disney autograph books – not as fancy as the ones I bought two years ago for $15 (!) but, they more than did the trick! Around the Orlando and Kissimmee area, there are tons of places that sell Disney souvenirs for less money than you can buy things inside the park. Now, my husband will tell you that I am the FIRST one to buy souvenirs at the parks, but I would rather spend my souvenir money on snuggly, adorable stuffed animals that my kids will love and cuddle with, as opposed to $15 on an autograph book that will sit in their memory box.

This trip and our last trip, I bought a few inexpensive Disney souvenirs in preparation for the trip, and brought them along to surprise my kids. This is something that my friend Kim also did for her kids. It’s a little touch that helps to make the trip special for your kids, and it can also significantly cut down on the amounts of souvenirs that you buy at the park. The week before we left, I lucked out, walking into Target to find their $1 section filled with Disney princess pens, pencils, notebooks, sticker books, and even socks – I picked up a few things for each of my girls, handed them out here and there on the trip, and they loved them!

If your kids love to dress up in costume – bring a costume with them to Disney! There are tons of kids walking around in princess costumes, Jack Sparrow costumes, you name it! We were able to bring Minnie Mouse for my littlest one and Tinkerbell for my older daughter (their costumes from Halloween two years ago!). My little one wore her Minnie costume all over the park and was very happy! My older daughter wore her costume from the rental house to the Magic Kingdom, and then just as we got to Main Street USA (you know, 2 feet into the park entrance…) she decided it was itchy and decided to change! Imagine how delighted Mom and Dad would have been if we had gotten there without a costume and fell into that spell of “oh, ok, we’ll buy you one because they look so cute and everyone else is wearing one!” and THEN she had decided not to wear it! You know your kids – if they like to dress up, it’s worth looking for an inexpensive costume at home, pulling one out the closet, borrowing one from a friend… And, you know I’m a sucker for pictures – another great photo op!

In this age of digital cameras, I was concerned about running out of space on my camera’s memory card. For $20 I purchased a 2GB memory card for my digital camera and this was WELL worth the expense! Previously, I was able to take about 100 pictures on my digital camera. With the new memory card – over 1000!! And as I mentioned in one of my previous posts – I ended up taking over 570 pictures! This is one of those trips that you will not want to miss taking pictures of your kids – their faces when they see the characters, the castle – it’s a magical place! I was happy that I thought to get that card prior to leaving – I may have been able to buy it at one of the parks, but I would have paid a fortune for it, and I would have hated to run out of memory and miss a great photo opportunity!

This one I didn’t plan – just lucked out – but next time I will do the same thing for sure! I had packed lots of clothes for us, and when I unpacked at the house, I realized that I had lots of options for matching shirts! The first day I did this, my husband said dryly, “Really? We’re going to be one of those matchy-matchy families?” Yep! But in the end, he didn’t mind and played along (except for pink shirt day… he just didn’t have anything with him to match!). It ended up being great for a couple of reasons – first of all, it’s a GREAT way to keep track of your family! One of use was always with our kids, but if he or I went to the bathroom, the Fast Pass line, to get the stroller, we could easily find our family again in the crowd! And an added bonus? We looked cute for pictures! Disney is a GREAT place for family pictures, and who knows, maybe you’ll end up with next year’s Christmas card photo! I was showing my pictures to our intern at work, and she mentioned that her family did the matching shirt thing when they went to Disney – but they had fun with it, they made tie-dye shirts – a different color for each day, and they got the kids in on the fun of making them!

There were lots of little things that worked out well on this trip, but these are the ones that really stuck in my mind and helped us out a lot! What ideas do you have for making traveling with the kids easier?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Disney Vacation - What We Did Right - Planning

As I mentioned, we just got back from a wonderful trip to the "Wonderful World of Disney" and there were some things that we would do differently (which I'll address in a later post), but there were many things that we were happy we did. Here are some of the things that helped us plan our trip:

1) Flexibility - we were able to be fairly flexible about when we took our trip. This helped with expenses, because originally we talked about going in March or April and airfare was VERY expensive at that time. Ideally, we would have gone during our daughter's school recess, but for the 4 of us to fly during that week would have cost us $2400. We weighed our options, fortunately our daughter is a good student, and we spoke with her teacher well in advance and were able to get the work that she was going to miss. Being able to be flexible on the dates saved us a lot of money, which was great!

2) Pre-planning - we knew well in advance that we were going to make this trip to Disney and that along with our flexibility on travel dates, allowed us the time to watch the airfares and buy tickets when they were at their lowest -- we flew roundtrip, all 4 of us for $708! BIG difference from the $2400 I mentioned earlier! We also had the time to check out a lot of different options for our trip - I priced out regular hotels, Disney hotels, rental houses... I also checked out different rental car options, Disney ticket pricing options -- all of the "big ticket items" for a trip to Disney. It's great to have the time to do a little research and make sure that not only are you getting the best price, but that you are making plans that make sense for your family.

3) Booking a house instead of a hotel - now, this is a personal preference and of course, not everyone feels the same, but one of the best things that we did was to book a rental house instead of a hotel room. We traveled with my brother-in-law, his wife and their 2 young children and we talked about staying at a Disney resort, which we had done once before prior to having kids. It was nice, but it was still just a hotel room. When you have kids, you get back to the hotel room at night or for naptime, and you aren't going to leave them on their own -- so you end up sitting in the hotel room with them, either trying to be quiet (low talking, low tv) so as not to keep them awake, or it's early to bed for you too! The house we rented (through Orlando Villas) was a 4 bedroom home with 2-1/2 baths, laundry, game room, screened-in pool right off the living room, with a piercingly loud alarm that went off if anyone opened one of the doors to the pool -- perfect for kids! We were able to put our kids to bed in their room, and either go into our own room to watch tv or make a plan for the next day, or we could go downstairs to the living room, game room or pool and know that the kids were safe and sound -- just like at home. We were able to have breakfast at the house every morning, we were able to come back after a long day and relax in the house or in the pool, we made dinner in at least one night, and everyone had a room to sleep in -- we didn't have to have 4 people in one room keeping each other up. We also had a laundry room and did our laundry as we went along -- which was great! We packed a lot, but not as much as we might have... And also, we happily threw loads of laundry in at night and folded it and when we got home we did not have tons of laundry to do! And my husband pointed out that while it is nice and sometimes convenient to stay at a Disney property, he thought it was great to get us and the kids out of Disney a little each day/night -- let them unwind and get out of that crazy, overstimulating atmosphere for a little while!

4) Shop around for rental cars - in my preplanning, I had looked on www.expedia.com for a rental car. It looked like we were going to pay about $450 for a car from Sat - Mon (10 days). I plugged this into my budget and was fully prepared to pay this amount. When I finally went to book the car, I did a search for rental cars and I tried Hotwire just for the heck of it. Well, I found that I was able to rent a full-sized car (just like on Expedia) for $287, all things included and for the same amount of days! I asked around about Hotwire, and heard good things about them. The only "catch" is that you have to book and pay before they tell you who you are renting with -- but, they guaranteed it would be with Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise or Hertz -- all companies I was familiar with. We decided to give it a try and it worked out great -- no hidden costs (I double-checked with my car insurance carrier and confirmed that my insurance would cover us in the event of an accident, so no need to get the extra insurance) and we ended up with an SUV just because that's what they had -- and no additional cost for that.

WHEW! That's a lot for one post -- even for long-winded me! Those are the big travel planning-related items. Stay tuned for more!