Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Unplugged Holiday

Hello out there!

If you are checking out this blog because you received the URL in our Christmas card, let me apologize for not having updated more recently. I had intended to post a Christmas letter (which we did not include in our cards this year), but the thought of a (mostly) unplugged holiday was so appealing - and so very needed! I hope to be back to a more regular blogging schedule early in January - hopefully with a wrap-up of 2008 and a peek at our holiday celebrations (which have all been lovely). For now, we are still making the most of family time before Big J returns to work and worrying way too much about the impending school selection process for Mister J (oh, yeah, you'll get to read plenty about that, too, I'm sure!).

I sincerely hope that you had a wonderful Christmas, Hannukah, or Kwanzaa, and that you are looking forward to a happy and healthy 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Overheard ... #10

... as Mister J was enjoying the tricycle at Grandma and Grandpa R's house....

Big J (as Mister J was coasting/speeding/flying down the driveway with his feet off the pedals): "Don't run into your sister!"

Mister J (as he leaned into the u-turn at the bottom of the driveway): "I won't! She gets out of the way!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sweet Heart (also known as Overheard ... #9)

I had to make a stop at the hardware store/satellite post office yesterday (yes, that's one stop - in the same building - odd, but convenient). Miss M was patient as I picked up a couple of shipping boxes, then helped me choose just the right ball of twine to make bird feeders for the trees around our house. As we paid for our purchase, she asked for my change. Here's how it all worked out as we completed the purchase and walked out of the store:

Miss M: "Mommy, I need some money."

Mommy: "You do?"

Miss M: "YES! I need some money!"

Mommy: "What will you do with some money?"

Miss M: "I put it in the red bucket!"

Can you guess what she was talking about?

She was talking about the Salvation Army bell ringers and their 'red buckets' that we see so frequently during the Christmas season. Mister J and Miss M get to put change in the buckets whenever we see one. Even if it's only a few coins, I give them whatever change I have so they can put money in every bucket we see. I want them to learn to be generous; I want giving to be a habit. And my sweet little Miss M - my 2 1/2 year old 'baby' girl - remembered that we should give away that spare change even at a store where there was no bucket. To say I am proud does not fully describe my feelings at that moment. She got my change, and we will save it until we see another red bucket.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Overheard ... #8

... as we were getting out of the mommy-van to meet Big J for lunch today.

Mister J: "Hey, Mom, I see some porcupines!"

Me: "Really? Porcupines? Where?"

You must realize that we were not having a picnic in the woods - we were having Mexican food, in a restaurant, in a fairly busy area of town. Not much room for trees there, much less wildlife....

Mister J: (pointing across parking lot) "Over there...."

I turned to look, and truly could not stifle my laugh. He was pointing to a cactus bed. Tee hee! I felt totally awful about laughing - and was a little worried I'd hurt his feelings - so I quickly explained to Mister J how he'd kind of made a joke. We talked about how cacti could stick you just like a porcupine if you touched them, I gave him a new big word (well, phrase...) - defense mechanism - and explained that the spines were for protection. He seemed perfectly content - no harm done - and he got a few new big words to throw around.

Did I mention that this was after I explained lightbulbs and filaments (and gave a very basic CFL rundown) on the way to lunch? I think I need to go back to school just to keep up!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marathon Birthday Week

Well, it's a week later I'm finally getting around to posting about Mister J's birthday celebrations. That should tell you just a little bit about how much fun we had! Admittedly, it was a lot of work, but I sure hope everyone enjoyed the end result as much as we did.

We took cupcakes to preschool for Mister J's actual birthday, and celebrated over the weekend. Grandma RL arrived on Thursday evening, and Aunt L and Grandma & Grandpa R arrived on Friday. Grandpa H and MeMaw had to steer clear since he was just finishing up his chemotherapy (yay, Daddy!) and still had some radiation treatments to go.

After a day of shopping/party preparation on Friday, the big weekend started with a cook-your-own pizza party in the evening to celebrate a buddy of Mister J who shares the same birthday.

Mister J was pretty proud of his final product! While I expected to pick up a child covered head-to-toe in flour, Mister J was spotless once he took off his apron. I think there's a place for him in my kitchen....

Saturday was Mister J's day, and the rain held off for some birthday fun! We played musical chairs, had a visit from some firemen (you may remember that we got the idea from a friend's party), and played a party-themed version of Bingo that I decided to call "Flame." I absolutely loved leading the game of musical chairs. I had some great cheerleaders who helped me with "stop" and "go" after they were out of the game.

You might remember a similar photo - only in shorts - from our friend's party.


Thanks Grandma RL for another awesome birthday cake :) She spent so much time on making it perfect so that we could just cut it up and eat it (it was yummy)!

On Saturday evening, Big J and I were at church for our Sunday school class' Christmas Dinner. Grandma and Grandpa R had some one-on-one time with the kids while we were out (thanks!).
(n.b. - Never make plans to host/coordinate two parties in one day. However, if you must, having them in the same place is a very good idea).

On Sunday morning, Mister J sang in the "Cherub Choir" at church. It was so sweet, and I'm glad that all of our visiting family could stay to hear them sing. After brunch at one of our favorite restaurants, it was time to say our good byes.

The last few days have been spent playing with the new toys and games - what fun! - and of course learning a few lessons about sharing. Some of those new 5-year-old toys have tiny parts, so we're also learning more about the importance of not losing pieces and keeping them out of reach of little hands. No real tragedies yet, but a few close calls!

As for me, I'm now the mother of a 5-year-old. Whoa - when did that happen?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Overheard ... #7

... as we were making one of many stops while I shopped for last weekend's parties.

Me: "Miss M, when we go into the store, you will be riding in the cart."

Miss M: "I walk, Mommy. I not a baby, I just a little girl."

OK, Miss M - thanks for setting me straight :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What are you waiting for?

I don't often post about my faith. In fact, since I just created the label, I have probably not posted anything about my faith. Maybe about church, but not faith. I have been pondering this post, or rather the idea of this post, for a week now. I think I'm ready to share it with you.

On our way to see the family for Thanksgiving, the kids were watching "The Incredibles." I was not really listening to the movie, but at one point the dialogue caught my attention. There's a scene in which Mr. Incredible comes home from work, parks in his driveway, and gets out of his car. He notices the neighborhood kid on his bike at the end of the driveway, waiting and watching.

"What are you waiting for?" asks Mr. Incredible.

"I don't know, something amazing!" says the neighborhood kid.

For the last week, that little bit has replayed itself over and over in my mind. I find myself 'hearing' it on the way to preschool, while I'm out running errands, or while I'm doing work around the house. And each time I think of it, I wonder what I'm waiting for. I wonder what any of us is waiting for. Most of all, I wonder why we are just waiting for something amazing to happen.

For me, this is a reminder that I need to pray every day. However big or small my cares are, I need to take them to God. I need to take them to Him whenever I'm in need, as many times a day as I'm in need. I need to hand it all over, not just wait to see if He will come and take away my cares, fix my problems, and give me something amazing in return. How can I be a good role model for my children (with whom I say bedtime prayers every night) if I'm not saying prayers myself? How can I answer their questions about my relationship with God if I don't truly have one?

I don't know how long I'll keep hearing the neighborhood kid in my head as my reminder, but I hope I'm never found to be just sitting there, waiting on something amazing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Overheard ... #6

... while on the phone with Big J:
(You need a little backstory on this one - today is Mister J's birthday. You'll see more about that soon enough!)

Me: Oh, by the way, E called and I gave him your cell number. Did he reach you?

Big J: Just got off the phone. He invited me to [exciting sporting event in nearby metropolis] this evening.

Me: Oh, bummer that it's tonight and you can't go!

Big J: What do you mean?

Me: (As blood pressure rises and face reddens, but with voice as calm as possible...) It's your son's birthday

Big J: Ok.... And?

Me: (Blood pressure higher, face redder, voice slightly less calm...) And. It's. Your. Son's. Birthday.

Big J: (Laughter. Lots of it. I'm surprised he didn't fall off of his chair. And then, amid continuing laughter....) Sorry, I couldn't keep a straight face for that one! How's your blood pressure?

He knows me too well! With blood pressure slowly settling back down to normal, I laughed along with him as we finished up our conversation. Admittedly, he had me going there for a moment, but I have to confess that I'm thankful for a lighthearted moment like this in the midst of such a busy week!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Travel, Turkey, Family, and Fun!

We drove to Grandma and Grandpa R's house for the Thanksgiving holiday - Wednesday through Sunday. Some of Big J's extended family was there, too - Aunt B and Uncle J. It was a great visit, the weather was quite pleasant for the first half of our visit, and the kids had so much fun! I won't make (m)any comments about the holiday traffic, I'll just say that we are spoiled that the family usually comes to our house for the holidays, rubbernecking is not ok, and does everyone really have to pick the same time as us to drive home? We were also semi-unplugged during our visit - niiice! Yes, I missed my email, Facebook, and bloggy friends, but it wasn't all bad! We had lots of fun, as you will see. I tried really hard to pare down the photos and video for this post, and you should know that it was NOT easy. I ended up with lots of sweet, funny, cute shots of my kiddos - and the rest of the family, too! See....

Thanksgiving Day














That's Miss M serving herself before the meal was actually served. She was especially fond of the cranberry 'jelly'! Mister J enjoyed lots of good food, including pumpkin pie with whipped cream.


















On Thanksgiving afternoon, we went into 'the city' for a mouse hunt! The kids (with some help from Mom, Dad and Grandpa R) found 10 little bronze mice! I just couldn't resist showing you how many great pics I got of Mister J and Miss M together!







































That last one is Miss M, worn out after out the dozen-plus blocks of mouse hunting and walking about town, but before the walk back to where we started! There were lots more good pics, including one of the squirrel we quietly watched so it wouldn't scurry away. I am now convinced, these kids can listen to Mom, but still unsure why it isn't a daily habit....

The weather was still nice on Friday, so we played outside! Swinging, walking Aunt B's dog, riding the tricycle, playing hide-and-seek - we did it all. And, for the record, I will admit that Mister J outsmarted both his Mommy and Daddy. Special thanks to Uncle J for keeping Mister J's hiding place a secret - he will remember that for a long time!



Miss M seemed to finally get comfortable climbing the steps, and is maybe a little too confident now - from Mommy's perspective, at least!


















That evening, we went to see a local Christmas light display. We were able to walk through a portion of it, which the kids enjoyed more than the driving portion, I think. We also had some hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows. Miss M couldn't wait for her spot at the fire, so started eating hers plain!































The weather wasn't quite as nice on Saturday - it was downright COLD! But, in between sprinkles, the kids played outside with a whole team of adults to keep them company.



We had so much fun! Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa R for feeding us, giving us a place to sleep, and keeping us entertained. Uncle J and Aunt B, we are glad you each made the trip - we enjoyed seeing you, and the kids enjoyed having you around to play with them. By the way, as parents, we enjoyed having 8 extra hands around - it's a treat we rarely get, so Thank You!!!!

Poll Results - #3

My favorite kind of day is...

warm and sunny - 33% (2 of 6 votes)
cool and breezy - 16.5% (1 of 6 votes)
cold and dry - 0%
hot and humid - 33% (2 of 6 votes)
cloudy and rainy - 16.5% (1 of 6 votes)

Just FYI - I voted for cool and breezy. I love fall!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Post

Hey - you're checking my blog the day after Thanksgiving! You're not out shopping all the sales?!? Me, either - there is no deal out there worth fighting the crowds! I'm only here long enough to let you know that we are still hangin' with the extended fam. I have loads of pics to share of our holiday fun, and I'll do it soon. Promise! In the meantime, hug your family and let 'em know how thankful you are to have them!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Mother Letter Project

Friends, please check out The Mother Letter Project. It is one of the best Christmas gifts I've ever heard of, for so many reasons. It's a gift from the heart - it's a gift of your time, which is so precious - it's a gift that will give back over and over again to many, many mothers - it's a gift that acknowledges the true spirit of Christmas. Please take a moment, just a moment, to read about The Mother Letter Project and consider helping out the husband with this precious gift.

I just finished my Mother Letter. I hope you will feel led to write one, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What We Did on Friday

The kids and I spend all day together on Fridays. Sometimes we have a day full of errands and chores, sometimes we are packing to go out of town (but not so much while the price of gas was so high...), and sometimes I find a special activity that I think the kids might enjoy. More often than not, we stay in our pj's for breakfast - something we never do on a school day! And, if Miss M is so inclined, she might let Mommy sleep in for 15 minutes or so....

We had a couple of late nights (well, late for the kids) last week, so Miss M (the really early riser in the family) let me sleep about 20 minutes late on Friday morning. When she was ready for me to get up, we left Mister J in bed and tiptoed downstairs. As I opened the blinds, we saw a light dusting of snow on the ground (yes, snow!). After breakfast, we snuggled on the couch and rubbed noses (which Miss M thinks is hysterical), and tried to be quiet so we wouldn't wake up Mister J. It didn't work, so Mister J joined us for some snuggles, snow-gazing, and breakfast a bit later. (No, I didn't let them go out in the snow. It was cold, y'all! Besides, it wasn't enough to really have fun in...)

A little while later, Miss M discovered some Dora the Explorer coloring pages that I'd printed out the night before. While she was coloring, I pulled some supplies together for a cute Thanksgiving craft. After some cutting, gluing, and a little bit of drawing, here's what we made:

Aren't they cute? If you want to make some, here are the directions. I would suggest cutting all of the paper the night before, when the children are in bed. Miss M hasn't yet developed a healthy respect for cutting tools, so that was a little, um, scary. Plus, some of the pilgrim "clothes" and the indian "feathers" are cut freehand - which is a skill that I have yet to perfect in my 30+ years. So, I repeat, cut the paper the night before. You may even want to make one of the people just to get a little practice. Then, let the kids make a whole village full of pilgrims and indians the next day - without a pair of scissors in sight!

Mister J and Miss M have hauled these 'people' up and down the stairs and played with them until the hats and feathers are bent and some of the clothes are coming unglued. I never imagined they would have that much fun pretending with toilet paper tube people! I shouldn't be surprised, since these are just fancied up 'stelescopes' (which they 'make' from paper towel tubes). Once again, my mom was right - whether cardboard boxes or tissue/towel/wrapping paper tubes - the packaging tends to be more fun that what comes in (or on) it! And when these toys wear out, I can just recycle them!

Overheard ... #5

(Also known as the Gross Noise Game)

... in the den this evening while the kids were making gross noises...

Mom: Who taught you that? Because you are never going to see them again....

(gross noises continue)

Mom: Where did you learn that?

Mister J: At the Silliness Store!

(gross noises continue while Mom and Dad stifle their laughter)

I am thankful that I can find the humor in these daily exchanges, but the gross noises are really rather rude (they resemble choking/gagging sounds). I'm trying my best to ignore the kids when they do this, but you can see I wasn't doing very well this evening.... And, since they do it together and laugh with each other, they get positive reinforcement every time it happens! At least they are having fun together and not fighting, right? See - another reason to be thankful for the Gross Noise Game!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

When Mister J made his first purchase after we set him up on the Financial Peace, Jr. chore/commission plan, I shared the story with you. At that time, I wasn't sure what we'd be doing with his 'give' money, but we figured it out! This year, we assembled two shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Mom and Dad subsidized the project, but Mister J put every penny of his give money - about $4.50 - towards the toys we bought for the little girl and little boy that each of our boxes will go to. And then, last night, he helped pack them up. Here's a little photo journal of our project:

Getting ready to pack the boxes with toys, coloring books,
crayons, toiletries and other personal items.


All packed up - ready for our personal
notes and then the lids!


Delivering them to Chick-Fil-A. The kids got
stickers and coupons for free sandwiches!

I am so proud of my 'little' boy! He was very excited about delivering the boxes. He is still trying to understand the idea of 'people who don't have all of the nice things that we do' - which is certainly a difficult concept for little boy, but we are working on it. Although it's certainly hard for me to explain, I don't think I can (or should) hide from him the fact that there are many people out there that have far less than we do. Hopefully, in the process, I can nurture a giving spirit in my little man.

PS - Lots of new posts recently - scroll down so you don't miss out on all of our latest news and fun!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shhhh....

When I tried to reclaim some space, it worked for a while. Then children got sick. And I can't turn away sick children who need snuggles, especially between 2 and 5 AM. So now, these are two of the three people who also wake up in my bed most mornings. And this is what happened when I vacated my space between the two little people this morning. So sweet!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Overheard ... #4

There was a piece about power plants on the news tonight...

Mister J: Dad, where are power plants?

Big J: In our state.

Mister J: In our state?

Big J: Yes.

Mister J: How do you grow them?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

That's not chocolate!


Notice that Miss M is painting herself brown? She painted my hand brown, too. That wasn't part of the plan. The plan was to start working on some holiday crafts. We actually made some (messy) progress, and had fun in the process. Stay tuned....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making Allergies Easier

I've come across several blogs by parents of food-allergic children. I mainly read the ones that are about peanut and egg allergies, but many others have helpful tips and information, too. I've decided to start a list of 'tools' I use to keep Miss M safe, as well as a list of safe foods and substitutes that we use. I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions about living with food allergies.

Safe foods/food substitutes:
  • Soy Butter - it can be hard to find in our local grocery stores, but Wal-Mart has it's own brand that tastes great. I have found soy butter to be a much better peanut butter substitute than SunButter (my personal opinion).
  • Hershey's chocolate chips - several other brands have nut warnings on the label (produced in a facility/on equipment that also processes peanuts)
  • Cascadian Farm Chocolate Chip granola bars - I thought that granola bars were going to be off-limits until I found these. They are the only brand/flavor of granola bars I have ever found without a nut warning. I can only find them at Wal-Mart. I buy 2-3 boxes at a time, and they are a special treat in this house.
  • GORP/trail mix - we make it nut-free around here with cheese crackers/Goldfish and Craisins or other dried fruit. When we can find a peanut-free brand of pretzels (usually at Wal-Mart...), we can add those, too.

Products that Keep Miss M Safe
  • Laptop Lunch System - while we don't use it often right now, when Miss M starts school she'll be taking her lunch (to prevent any exposure to allergens). If you don't already know, I love this lunch box. Hopefully, Miss M will always be excited about the lunches she finds in her LLB, and we won't have to worry about her trading food with classmates.
  • Cup-A-Cake cupcake carrier - anything that comes from a bakery is off-limits for Miss M. The chance of cross-contamination means that even the simplest cakes are not safe for Miss M, so we use the Cup-A-Cake to take along a special, safe treat to birthday parties. I have a batch of cupcakes in the freezer and assorted sprinkles in the pantry. Now I'm working on a recipe for one cupcake's worth of frosting!

Party All the Time

Friends, we are entering the season of parties. I'm not just talking about costume parties for Halloween, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas celebrations. I'm talking about birthday parties, too. We know an entire volleyball team's worth of kids turning five in the next month. Two parties today, one next Saturday, a break for Thanksgiving, then Mister J and two other friends the first weekend in December.

Mister J, who's been under the weather since Wednesday and is recovering from croup (accompanied by night terrors), missed out on today's parties. Our friend E's princess/dress-up party was this morning and our friend M's gymnastics party was this afternoon. As these are both good friends of Mister J, I know he wanted to go, but didn't argue a bit about needing to stay home. Obviously not feeling well, right? Miss M was able to get in on the action, though, and seemed to enjoy both parties. How do I know? Because she completely wore herself out.


When Miss M and I got home from party #2, we were shushed upon entering the front door - Mister J was asleep. So, we found some quiet activities. I was sat down at the kitchen table to read a magazine and Miss M settled in to coloring on the floor (literally, on the floor) and in a coloring book next to me. The next thing I knew, I heard snoring. After telling Big J that he must come and look at Miss M, and after snapping the above photo, we decided to move Miss M's arm to prevent her hand from falling asleep and then tiptoe quietly away. Yes, sportsfans, we left her there. Remember parent self-preservation rule #1? That's right - never wake a sleeping baby. Sooooo - we had two sleeping children at 6pm tonight. What to do? BE. QUIET.

An hour later, Mister J was awake. About 15 minutes after that, Miss M was awake. Parenting rule #1 does not apply to almost-five-year-old big brothers.... She was not happy about being woken up - nor was she pleased with her coloring book pillow. So, we snuggled for a few moments and then it was off to bed for her. Out of the playclothes, into the pjs, and straight to bed. Zzzzzzzzz..... Mister J ended up with some quiet time with Mom, a later-than-normal bedtime, and some special treats even though he missed the parties. I know he'd have preferred to go, but I also know that the rest was good for him. He's getting back to normal. I could see a big difference this evening. He's also ready for it to be Monday so he can go back to preschool. We'll stay home from church tomorrow - give everyone another day of rest and recovery - and hopefully be back to normal this week. Now that calls for some celebration!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

My kids worked hard on some special treats for their Grandpa H's birthday. I wanted to put this up the day they made the cards, but I didn't want to ruin the surprise for my dad. I'm so proud of both of my kids - I took lots of pictures of their work (front, inside, and back), but I'll just show you a sampling here. Miss M is great at stamping, and Mister J's artistic skills blew me away - mainly because I'm just not artistic!


































Here's something else he drew a few days ago - a picture of our house. He's been holding back - keeping his talents a secret from us!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One-handed password

If there's anything that I've learned from having sick children for the past two weeks, it's that you should be able to type your password easily with one hand and you should have your browser "remember" you to avoid typing in your user id every time you log in to your various online accounts. You think that sounds awful, I know - that I would be on my computer while my sick child needs me. I've not done much more than hold kids for several days now - and the world keeps moving anyway. I get emails, I have emails to send, I have work to do - and I can do these fairly well while holding a sleeping child in my lap or snuggling next to me on the couch. It's just easier with a one-handed password.

Another Lunch!

I got to pack another lunch today - yippee! And because Mister J was taking his Laptop Lunch box, Miss M had to have hers, too. In fact, she refused to eat her breakfast once the LLBs were out of the cabinet - so she had a late breakfast out of hers during the parent organization meeting at preschool. It worked out great since it all stays in the box - open to eat, close to go. These are, by far, two of the best purchases I've ever made.

I can't explain why I get so excited about packing the LLBs - well, maybe I can!
  • Because they are just so stinkin' cute, even when they are empty
  • Because when I use them I feel good about doing my part to reduce waste and help the environment
  • Because, since these boxes attract attention (I always get questions about them), I feel even more accountable for packing a healthy lunch
  • Because my kids will eat almost anything I put in them!
So, here they are, my latest lunchtime creations:

Mister J dined on:
Ham and cheese on a whole wheat mini-bagel, cut in half per his preference
Applesauce with a dash of cinnamon
Carrot sticks with hummus
A leftover pack of ranch dressing - he doesn't usually get this since it's off-limits at home due to egg ingredients, so I thought he might enjoy this special treat
A tiny bag of Skittles, left over from Halloween
Silk chocolate soymilk - I usually use the drink bottle that came with the LLB, but had this on hand. I used his bottle to pack and extra drink for myself along with Miss M's lunch (see below).

Since these boxes hold a LOT of food, I packed enough for Miss M and I to share when I packed her LLB. Considering we'd be out and about until 1pm (since Mister J was staying for Lunch Bunch), I knew we'd need something to eat - so why not pack it?


Miss M and I shared:
Applesauce, in the green container - which she ate
Carrot sticks and hummus
Turkey pepperoni and slices of monterey jack cheese
Milton's Multigrain crackers - they are a little large for the blue container. I should have taken it out and just put them in the empty space
Water with a splash of apple juice for her to drink, sweet tea for myself

There were very few leftovers, and Mister J finished his leftovers as an afternoon snack. The kids seemed a little disappointed that I didn't buy the tiny bagged carrots this week, but instead bought whole (organic) carrots and cut them into sticks myself. The savings was huge, and I don't mind the extra cutting and chopping, so it was the logical choice for me. I also feel like it's important for my kids to see all varieties of food - whether it's in the way it looks as it comes from nature or in the manner it's prepared.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My 100th Post!

Woo hoo! It's my 100th post! To honor this milestone, I tried to write a list of 100 things you might not know about me. I didn't quite make it to 100 - I counted about 65.

Since you guys are a good part of my motivation, I need you to really step up now and help me make it to 100! So, take a gander at my list - let me know what's missing, and I'll answer until I hit 100!

Transportation
I drive a ... Honda Odyssey (and I love it)
My first car was a ... 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle
The first car I actually bought was a ... Saturn SL2
My fantasy car ... smart fortwo passion coupe (red, of course!)

Favorites
Food - peanut butter (yes, even though it's off limits in this house)
Colors - red
Crayon - cornflower blue
US City - Austin, TX
International City - London
Holiday - Thanksgiving
Holiday activity - wrapping Christmas gifts
Seasons - Spring, Fall, or Winter
TV Shows - Bones, Burn Notice

Dream
Job - Event Planner
Vacation - 2 weeks at Disney World in February

Hobbies
Reading
Scrapbooking
Geocaching (yes, I know you have to go outdoors for that)

Strangest...
Thing I've ever seen - a bathroom that was completely blue (walls, floor, toilet - everything)
Place I've ever blogged from - bathroom floor (don't ask...)

Did you know that I ...?
Took dance lessons for 15+ years when I was growing up
Played the flute
Was in the high school marching band for a year
Passed the AP English exam
Wore braces for 6 years (7th grade through senior year of high school)
Took 3 years of Latin in high school
Met my husband in my freshman year of college
Studied abroad when I was in college
Have a Master's degree in Education (but I'm not a teacher)
Married my husband after I finished grad school
Can drive a 15-passenger bus
Have gained half a shoe size with each pregnancy
Probably wouldn't have a home computer if I didn't have my husband (aka tech support)
Am a Creative Memories consultant in my 'spare' time
Have played handbells at church
Have been married 10 years
Will be getting braces again in January

I am thankful for
My family
My church family
My friends (sometimes these 3 overlap!)
The ability to stay home with my kids and have a flexible part-time job
Reminders that life is precious

I prefer
Bounty paper towels to any other brand
Toilet paper to roll over rather than under
Wrapping paper to gift bags (I see another theme...)
Going barefoot to wearing shoes

Things that I enjoy
Monday nights
Checking the mail (weird, I know)
Laughing children
The soft glow of Christmas lights

I'd like to try my hand at
Quilting
Running (for general health/fitness)

I dislike
Wearing high heels
Being hot (in the overly warm sense)
Putting the lights on the Christmas tree
Taking the lights off of the Christmas tree

I was older than most people the first time I...
Helped pick out a 'live' Christmas tree (in college)
Went to Disney world (25!)

Places I'd like to visit
Boston, MA
Mount Rushmore
The Grand Canyon
Route 66 (yes, drive it)
New York City (again - for more than a day)
Seattle
Cape Cod
London (again)
Scotland

Overheard... #2 and #3

... as we were following Big J to the motorcycle shop:

Mister J: "Mom, why is Daddy wearing that helmet?"
Mommy: "To protect his head."
Mister J: "From the falling nuts?"
(I did give him a more accurate explanation, but it wasn't quite as entertaining as hearing his!)

... as we continued following Big J:

Mister J: "Daddy's motorcycle is so fast..."
Miss M: "I see him! I see him!"
Mister J: "Daddy's motorcycle is so fast - it's amazing!"
Miss M: "Amazing!"

They love watching him ride the motorcycle - which, of course, they only get to see if we are following him to and from the bike shop. I, on the other hand, get totally nervous watching him ride. I know that he's riding responsibly, but I also know that he's much more vulnerable to the carelessness of other drivers when he's on the bike. And now, I've got two more reasons to worry about him - they were strapped snugly in behind me, squealing with excitement as they watched their father's tail lights shining in the early darkness of a fall evening.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Did I just SEE that?

Y'all, I restrained myself from giving a parenting lecture to some ... irresponsible ... folks I saw this morning. At least, I hope they were the parents - otherwise, if they were childcare providers, the parents are probably really snowed and would be shocked to see what I saw.

After our Wal-Mart run this morning, I was putting Miss M and our purchases into the mommy-van. There was another van parked next to ours, and I could see two adults (who I assume are the parents) in the front seats. As I folded Miss M's stroller and loaded it into the back of the mommy-van, I could see that the adults were outside of the van, and they were smoking. I am well aware of the dangers of smoking around children, and while I don't agree with it, I understand that some parents do smoke around their children. That alone is not a reason for me to get up on my soapbox. (I'm the child of an ex-smoker, and I turned out okay.) It's the next bit, however, that made me want to scream.

It's bright out today, and the sun was shining through so that I could see into the second row of the van parked next to us. There was a little boy strapped into his car seat - he looked to be about 3 years old. Not only could I see his sweet face, I could see that he was wearing a nasal cannula. As you probably just did, I assumed he was using supplemental oxygen. Of course, that tugged at my heartstrings - but also infuriated me since the parents were smoking! So, not only does he already have some breathing problems, but oxygen is flammable. And, sure enough, as I calmly backed out of my parking space, I could see two more tanks of oxygen in the back of their van because the back gate was open.

Y'all, I struggle with calling them parents.... And I'm going to pray for that little boy's safety as well as his health.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yep, She's Feeling Better!

Well, you heard the story about the sickness that hit Mister J on Halloween. That 24 hour bug was over, well, in 24 hours. But, Miss M got sick a few days later, which lasted a bit longer and kept me away from blogging. Miss M had croup. That's some yucky stuff, by the way. It's lasted for days - and kept us up at night. The good news is that most of the sickness happened during Fall Break, so the kids didn't miss much school (Miss M only missed one day). Even better, Miss M wanted to cuddle a lot while she was sick - she's not much of a cuddler, so I happily obliged. But the best news is that she's feeling better. How do I know? Let me give you a list - she:
  • Had minimal coughing overnight
  • Woke up happy this morning
  • Sang along with one of her musical toys this evening
  • Shoved Mister J when she got mad at him today
  • Using her best sneaky skills, hid the box of baby wipes under a blanket on the couch and pretended they were lost when I asked her to find them this evening. When were they found? When I leaned back, unsuspecting, onto a very uncomfortable, hard lump.
Yes, life is getting back to normal in our household! I suppose if I had to choose between sick children and sibling "issues" I'd pick .... Hmmm....

Oh, come on, you know I'd pick well children even if they were normal, argumentative siblings! (Have to admit, though, I was in shock when Miss M shoved Mister J today - and I think he was, too!)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Glad I took some pictures at the Fall Festivals....

No, my camera isn't broken, but I didn't get many photos tonight.... Mister J ended up sick this evening, and didn't get much trick-or-treating in before he and Big J headed home early. Miss M and I stopped at a few more houses before heading back ourselves. So, not much trick-or-treating equals not many pictures....

On the bright side, Miss M did enjoy herself, and went from whispering 'trick-or-treat' to actually saying it so she could be heard. She was having a great time until the bigger kids started trick-or-treating - they are bigger, faster, and aren't really concerned about respecting personal space.... My little cutie even scored extra candy at some houses just for being the cutest clown on the block :) Here's the best shot I could get of my excited little girl before our excursion -

She opted to not wear the clown "hair", but has been very agreeable about ponytails and hairbows lately (so unusual, and I'm taking advantage while I can). By the way - not only is that my Halloween costume from when I was a kid, that's my pumpkin, too! (Yep, plastic stuff lasts forever!)

The kids have been on Fall Break from preschool since the conclusion of the Fall Festival on Wednesday. I managed to get a few good shots there, too. Here are the kids playing one of the many games - my shots of the inflatable slide didn't turn out so well. Thankfully, there isn't one of me carrying Miss M up to the top, or sliding down - but it sure was fun!

Hope you had a lovely evening - whether that means you got lots of candy or gave lots away. Our 60-ish treat bags were nearly gone when Miss M and I got home! Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Fun!

It's finally here! It's Fall Festival and Halloween party week! I can't tell you how excited I am to show off my kids and their costumes this year!

Mister J is old enough now that I let him decide how he wants to dress up, and he chose to be a mailman this year. Thankfully, he's not picked out anything too complicated yet. When he does, I'll be calling Grandma RL to pull out all the stops and work her costume magic, as she did every year when I was a kid.

The most exciting part about this costume (for me) was getting a real nametag from one of the ladies at a local post office. I guess that's one of the benefits to taking the kids along absolutely everywhere - the people we see on a regular basis get to know us and do nice things for us! The ladies at the post office, in particular, recognize us when we stop in, and ask about the kids if I'm there alone. Perhaps that's why Mister J is so interested in all things postal right now.

Miss M will probably start choosing her costumes for herself next year, so I have enjoyed this last opportunity to make the selections this year. She has two costumes again - it seems to be a tradition for her to have more than one.... For the festivals and parties this year, she is wearing this cute little (non-scary) witch costume that I picked up at our church's clothing exchange earlier this fall. We have been asked about the tights SO many times, so I'll let you in on the secret - they came with the dress and hat (and so did the turtleneck she's wearing underneath).

When we trick or treat on Friday, she will wear the clown costume that everyone in my family wears for Halloween when they are two. I wore it, my cousins wore it, even the neighbors' grandkids wore it when I was growing up. Mister J wore it, and now it's Miss M's turn. Yes, it's another piece of my Mama's Magic - which happens to be over 30 years old!

Y'all already know how I feel about trick or treating this year, but I think we are going to try it out anyway. Miss M did well at the 'trunk or treat' at Fall Festival - although scouting out which trunks to avoid is much easier than being picky about which doorbell you ring. However, I'm going to pack our own candy, and if I see candy that's off limits I'll just ask folks to give Miss M a piece of the candy we'll be bringing along. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Overheard...

... today, as I was ferrying a hundred different things (apple slices, soup, crackers, drinks, flatware) to the table for lunch:

Mister J (frustrated): Mom, I don't have my drink yet!

Mommy (with as much patience as possible): I know, sweetheart, I'm working as quickly as I can. I only have two hands.

Mister J (incredulously): Only two? Not six?!?

Big J (from the other room): snorts of muffled laughter

Yes, Big J is raising his own mirror images. ::wink::

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mirror, Mirror ...

If ever there was an example of how children reflect what they see their parents say and do, this is it!

We were sitting at the dinner table this evening, when Big J was trying to entice Miss M to eat some chicken, and told her she had to take a bite before she got her second cup of milk. Of course, she dilly-dallied. Big J held up her cup and pretended to drink from it - he "sipped" and "mmm-mmm"ed over the milk before setting the cup down. Miss M eventually finished her one and only bite of chicken, and got her cup of milk. Here's what happened next:




Needless to say, no one could keep a straight face - and hiding our silent giggles was impossible - so we all enjoyed a good laugh (you'll hear the two J's in the background). Hope you did, too!

Day off?

Here are the results from Columbus Day poll:

2 of 7 (28%) had Columbus Day off
5 of 7 (71%) had to work on Columbus Day

Where did I fall in that poll? Working, of course - mommies don't (usually) get holidays!

Fright Night

You might have already guessed that with Miss M's food allergies, Halloween is particularly nerve-wracking for me. There's a great post from a mom of a food-allergic child over at Rocks In My Dryer, and I wanted to share it as a reminder to my readers of what we live with on a daily basis.

If you haven't already bought your Halloween candy, Jane Anne makes some suggestions about "safe" candy for food-allergic children. Non-food items (stickers, Play-Doh, etc.) are also good options.

I am sure that Halloween will become less 'scary' as the years go by and Miss M is old enough to understand her allergies (and why some candy is off limits). Until then, though, it's scary enough for me without the witches, ghosts, and goblins.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Other Goings-On

Mister J's 5th birthday is sneaking up on me. I know - I can't believe it either - the little man is turning five. The major elements of the party are planned, but I still have to work out the details - writing the guest list, making the invites (yes, making them), etc. I love this kind of thing - just love it. Can't wait to break out my scrapbooking tools and get to work on the invites. I already have an idea of what I'd like to do - of course something I've never done before - so I hope it'll work and I don't have to make up a Plan B. As always, my Mom is working her magic on the birthday cake. I'm not going to spill the beans - you just have to wait.

I finally got to use the Laptop Lunch System when Mister J stayed for lunch bunch at preschool last week. I was so excited to try it out "for real." Yes, I'm weird that way. Wanna see what his lunch looked like? Good, because you knew I took pictures, didn't you?


He had ham and cheese pinwheels, grapes, cucumbers (cut into star shapes), carrots, hummus (in the purple container), pasta salad (in the yellow container), vanilla wafers, and a tiny box of Nerds candy as a special treat. And, a little note from mom. His drink was 2/3 water, 1/3 apple juice. I bet you can guess what got eaten first.... I was actually really proud of how well he ate, even though he did eat the candy first.

When Miss M saw me packing Mister J's lunch that morning, she wanted me to pack hers, too. So, even though she was eating at home with me that day, and even though she had hers for brunch, here's what she had:
Ham and cheese pinwheels, Craisins, grapes, cucumber stars and carrots (underneath), hummus, and Ritz crackers. Since she'd refused breakfast, she ate nearly everything you see here. I have to tell you, these boxes are magic! I think I could put broccoli in them, and the kids would eat it. Seriously.

I just got back from a (solo!) trip to visit my Dad last weekend. It was a quick trip, but I was so glad I was able to go spend some time with him and with my little sis, who also joined us. Y'all, go and visit his blog and be amazed by his positive outlook on "living and working with" the big C - I sure am. He started a new treatment regimen this week - so keep praying that all goes well, that the side effects are minimal, and that he continues to receive great care.

Finally, an update on my latest addictions. I've already told you how much I enjoy geocaching. So much that I made a quick stop for a cache on my way to see Dad last weekend, and also had a long awaited girls-only caching "playdate" yesterday. I was so frustrated at one we missed yesterday that I went back to the greenway today to try and find it, with Miss M along for the walk. The caches are located along a nice, paved trail that was easy work for the jogging stroller. Miss M enjoyed the wildlife and other folks on the trail while I figured out how to work my GPS received properly - something that escaped me yesterday during the hunt. I found the location today, and while the cache was not easily retrievable with a 2-year-old in tow, I know I'll be back to find it. And I'll definitely return to the greenway for non-caching walks - the kids will both enjoy it, it's far enough away from the road that they can run freely, and it's so nice to know several good areas for walking so I don't get bored, either.

You caught on - I said "addictions" - plural. My newest interest is the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Apparently, it's all the rage with the appropriately-aged Facebook crowd - but it's spreading to adults, too. I finished the first book, Twilight, in 2.5 days. I have to wait until Sunday to borrow the rest of them -- pure agony! But I know my family is glad to have me back until then. The oddest thing about my interest in the series is that it's about vampires. I know - totally not something you would imagine me reading. Me, either. But, it's the love story part that gets me. Personally, I think it started a tad slow, but I was so eager to find out the answers to a few questions that I kept reading, and got totally sucked in (pun totally intended).

On the horizon - Halloween! A trip to see the in-laws/grands! And Dream Dinners tomorrow morning (my freezer is getting empty)!

Pumpkin Patch

It's that time of year again, and true to our better-late-than-never style, we finally picked out some pumpkins last weekend!

We went to our favorite pumpkin "patch" (which will soon become our favorite Christmas tree "farm") and started our hunt. Thankfully, we had some seasonal weather this year - I think we wore shorts last time. That's part of the beauty of the South, but it makes for some ... odd .. pictures for the scrapbook!

Mister J quickly started searching for just the right one, but let me have my pick of the pumpkins this year. A great big one with a stem that curved just so.









This particular "patch" always has great decorations - perfect photo spots for people like me! A couple of old wagons, a big, round hay bale, and lots of HUGE pumpkins. Mister J has fun climbing into the wagons all by himself this year!

In his own words:

"I climbed up on the big stuff and got my sister a pumpkin. I got Mommy a pumpkin."

We picked out a small pumpkin for Miss M, and Mister J will be bringing one home from preschool soon. I'm interested to see what kids of "pumpkin activities" he did in class. Perhaps that one is already decorated. Which would be nice, so I don't have to carve my great big one, and then it can last through Thanksgiving, too. I've got to be practical, after all - those pumpkins weren't free!

So, I suppose you are wondering how Miss M enjoyed her trip to the pumpkin patch. Well, take a look...

You might recall that she's not napping anymore. Well, I suppose I can't say never. We made a late afternoon pumpkin run, and sitting still for a ride in the mommy-van put Miss M right to sleep. She didn't wake up until the hunt was over and we were loading up for the trip home.

Though she missed the pumpkin patch, she's satisfied with our selections. She wants to carry the little one everywhere. And she tries to pick up the big one - which I haven't even picked up. I left that to Big J. Who also though it was funny that Miss M was drooling on my shoulder while we searched for our pumpkins. What he didn't realize was that I was wearing his vest to keep dry -- I mean warm.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I am Mommy, Hear Me Snore (or... The Paci Chronicles, Part 3)

Miss M has finally stopped asking for her paci, except yesterday when my mom and I went to the grocery store with Miss M in tow. Riding in the cart (oh, the magic that grandmas can do!) down the cereal aisle, out of the blue, she says, "I need my paci." And of course, as only a grandma can do, my magic mama distracted her with something much more fascinating, and the idea of a paci once again vaporized into thin air.

I, however, long for the days of the paci.

I long for the days when naptime was between 1:30-2:00, and naps lasted for 2 or 3 hours. I long for the days when, once tucked in, little feet were not heard to pitter-patter around (and toys were not heard to crash) upstairs while I tried to get work done without interruption.

Ever since the paci was evicted from our home, Naptime packed his bags and left as well, with a grumpy scowl back in my direction on the way out the door.

It would not be honest of me to say that life is "crazier" than before. It's still just as hectic, but without the nice mid-day break. A four-and-a-half-year-old can, most days, find a quiet activity for an hour or so while Mom works and little sister naps. A two-year-old cannot. A four-and-a-half and two-year-old, together, are even less likely to be able to - somewhere in the negative, those chances.

So, while Miss M adjusts to life without the paci, Mom adjusts to a non-stop busy kind of day (as if there were really any other kind). And earlier bedtimes for us all.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Woggle Goggles

Just have to show you a snap of the 'official' Imagination Movers outdoor playtime uniform. This is Mister J's impression of Mover Scott, who wears "wobble goggles" to help him see through things (talk about imagination!). And, since it's a bit of a tongue twister, Miss M calls them "woggle goggles" - which is just too funny.


Mister J and Miss M argued constantly over this pair of goggles until we found our second pair. I bought them from the dollar store, so I hope they make it until next season when I can buy more (or at least until the "special" wears off). And the rain boots, well Mister J wears them everywhere right now. Everywhere. He's about to outgrow them, so we may have to invest in another pair.

Poll Results - #1

Why do you check in? To:
See how big the kids have gotten - 1 vote (16%)
See what crazy thing the kids are up to now - 3 votes (50%)
Read a heartwarming story about the kids - 1 vote (16%)
Read some of your nutty, yet helpful, advice - 0 votes
Figure out how not to raise my kid - 0 votes
See if anyone has voted in my poll - 1 vote (16%)

Thanks for voting - and for not insulting my parenting style by selection option 5 ;)

Friday, October 10, 2008

You know playtime is over when...

Big J and I had a nice, quiet, adults-only dinner this evening while we listened to the news and the sound of the kids playing outside (the rain finally stopped - hooray!). We let Mister J and Miss M continue playing even after we finished our dinner, knowing that they would tell us when they were hungry. They didn't get to stay outside quite that long, though. Big J took a peek outside and quickly determined that, hungry or not, it was time for the kids to come inside. Here's what he saw:



This is obviously a little girl who is A) very proud of her latest skill, B) very talkative, and C) lacking in modesty. We are proud of her, too. Well, except for the 'lacking in modesty' part, but we know that it will come soon enough. At least this was in the backyard and not anywhere public. As you can see, we have a good sense of humor about it all, but will eventually have to get around to setting limits on where it's okay to undress (like, oh, inside).

In case you need a translation of the toddler-speak, Miss M was telling us that her shirt was on the steps, she took it off, and it went bye-bye. Got to love that toddler logic - keeps life interesting!

Recipe Adventure - No. 1

I borrowed a recipe and a 6-quart crock pot yesterday and made the most delicious soup I've ever made. It has earned a place in my recipe box - written on a recipe card. Trust me, that's a big deal. I wish I could remember where I found it - besides on a blog. When I do figure that detail out, I'll post the link to give credit where credit is due. In the meantime, anonymous blogosphere friend, thank you for sharing your recipe for...

Crock Pot Taco Soup!

You'll need:
4 chicken breasts
2 cans each corn, pinto beans, black beans
1 can Ro-Tel
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
1 package dry taco seasoning mix
1 cup chicken broth

Toppings:
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream

You need at least a 6 quart crock pot for this recipe. You can use frozen chicken breasts, too - run them under hot water for a minute and put then in the crock pot frozen. Then dump the other ingredients (except toppings) on top of the chicken. This really means dump - don't drain anything. Cook all day long on low or 4-6 hours on high. Before serving, remove chicken, shred with forks, and return to crock pot. Top each bowl with cheese, sour cream, and chips.

Additional notes from my experience....
Don't try to make it in a 4 quart pot. It won't fit. Hence, the borrowed crock pot.
I used fresh chicken, but you better believe I'll try it with frozen sometime (as if it wasn't already easy!).
I was hesitant to just dump the black beans since most recipes call for you to rinse and drain them. I wondered if I could drain/rinse/add a little extra chicken broth. However, I have my own personal rule about not changing a recipe until after trying once as written, so I dumped them in.
I used low sodium taco seasoning, and have decided I'm going to look for recipes to make my own taco seasoning and dry ranch mix (to see if I can make them preservative-free).
The only ingredient I questioned at all was the dry ranch mix - but don't leave it out!

After letting it cook for about 5 1/2 hours on high, I was starving! So, I filled a bowl - and this soup was good even before I added the toppings! But who can argue with adding cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream? Not me! Mister J gave it a taste, and actually dipped a few chips in before declaring himself "full." Big J tasted it when he got home (late, so he'd already eaten dinner) - he's excited about having it for lunch tomorrow. Did I mention that this makes a LOT of soup? By the way - if you want to make this vegetarian, I bet it would turn out just fine. I can take or leave the actual chicken, but I'd probably still use chicken broth for the flavor.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My poor, sweet, sleeping girl

One of the 'benefits' of this latest bout with fever is that Miss M has actually napped three out of the last four days. Not official "let-me-tuck-you-in-now" naps, but the "asleep-in-her-tracks" kind of naps. As I was finishing up dinner this evening, I heard the familiar sound of sleep. Not silence, but this:



She's so going to be mad at me one day for posting this. But I just had to share my sweet, sleeping Miss M with you. By the way - other than the fever, she's fine. She's not congested, just noisy.

Feed a what? Starve a who?

I'm home with Miss M today. My exciting, had-it-planned-for-over-a-week, Mommies-Only Playdate got rescheduled due to my feverish little girl who couldn't go to preschool today. Oh, and because of the rainy weather. Yesterday's rain wasn't very conducive to geocaching today, especially since my friend and I were planning to walk the Muddy Creek Greenway on our hunt. But, I digress....

I think I have finally figured it out - I know the answer to the old "Feed a ____, Starve a ____" advice! It's feed a fever, starve a cold (as if any of us would actually starve a sick child....). How did I figure it out? Because my feverish child has been ravenous today. Applesauce, crackers, chicken, fries, more crackers, more applesauce, and LOTS of (straw)berry milk. She also asked for yogurt and a bagel, but that happened when we were on the way to preschool pickup and had no food in the mommy-van. Miss M never eats this much. Ever. Not when she's well, and definitely not when she has a cold. I can barely keep up with her today. So I'm convinced I should feed a fever and 'starve' a cold. Oh, and did I mention my budding vegetarian ate chicken today? Granted, she was only doing it so she could have some fries (one of her favorites), but she wasn't refusing. And - she ate steak last night. Not kidding. She actually asked for seconds on the steak. Wow. I'm thinking that aside from the not going to preschool today part, the fever this time is not such a bad thing....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Good News!

If you are a regular reader, you have probably noticed quite a few changes on my blog lately. There's a new layout, a new seasonal background, and a new counter to log the number of visitors. One of the earliest, yet least noticeable, changes in this round was adding some blogs to my Blogs I Read list. One of those was The BIG "C" - which is my dad's blog. It's about "Living and working with cancer. A (sometimes) lighthearted approach to things in life."

If you are a regular reader, you know that my blog is always full of newsy stuff. It's a way to reach out to our family and friends and share news. My dad's diagnosis with lung cancer was some pretty big news, but this is the first time I've blogged about it. Why? Well, there are a hundred reasons why, but mostly fear. Not just fear about what might happen to my dad, but fear that if I put it out there for all to read, it would make it that much more "real." I emailed a few close friends, put Daddy on the prayer list at our church, and said my own prayers whenever I thought about him. I didn't talk about it around the children; in fact, I rarely spoke about it face-to-face with anyone. It was just too hard. And even though he recently got some really good news, I am still tearing up as I type this.

I don't think I was quite ready to share my personal struggles, even with my regular readers, and I'm sorry. Although this is my space to share funny stories and "I wish I'd thought of that!" mom advice, it's also where I share my struggles. This has been one big struggle, and I shouldn't have forgotten that you are all willing to share the burdens, as well as the triumphs, with me.

Daddy - I love you!

Click to Give

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a link I used to visit quite often has come through my email inbox again (thanks, Mom!). It's the link to The Breast Cancer Site, where your click (that's all - one click!) helps provide free mammograms. Also from this site, you can select from five other click-to-give tabs - The Hunger Site, The Child Health Site, The Literacy Site, The Rainforest Site, and the Animal Rescue Site. In less than 10 seconds online, you can help donate free food, books, healthcare, and more. So, add The Breast Cancer Site to your bookmarks, and make it a habit to click six times before you check your email each day. And, if you have a couple of minutes to give, challenge yourself at freerice.com.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Paci Chronicles, Part 2


It's been a little over a week now since Big J started Operation No More Paci. It's been going very well. Really, it has. Except that Miss M has refused to nap for 4 days in a row now, and for most days since the beginning of Operation NMP. That has been hard. She might stay up in her room playing for about 45 minutes, then she will go to the top of the stairs and yell, "Mommy, I waked up! I waked up!" As if she ever went to sleep! This is one of the few times we have listened to her with the 'room monitor' function of our phones. We listen to her sing and play - she sounds so sweet and happy. If you look at her room afterwards, though, you will see that she's unloaded the basket of stuffies, dumped the basket with all of the dollhouse people and furniture, and unloaded the bookshelf. Nice.

I am feeling total defeat on the nap issue. Yesterday, I didn't even try to put her down for a nap. I just sent the kids out in the yard to play since the weather was so nice. I am feeling total defeat on the nap issue. The trade-off to not napping, though, is that she fell asleep during our later-than-usual dinner at 7:15. At the table. And even through the change into pjs and a clean pull-up, she barely woke up. She did ask for her blanket, which I went back downstairs to retrieve. She was snoring before I made it back to her room.

This morning, I realized that Operation NMP still has a ways to go. Our sweet little girl came into our room at 5am this morning. I wasn't ready to get up, so I tucked her into the little "bed" I've created for the kids, and she went back to sleep. When she woke up again at 7am, she came over to my bed and whispered to me. Among other things, she asked, "Where's my paci?" Ugh. I whispered back (so as not to wake Big J), "I don't know." That seemed to satisfy, as she didn't insist upon finding one, but I know that she hasn't forgotten about it. I guess that will take a while. I'm glad that her dolls only have bottles....

Reclaiming Some Space

I have reached the point where a change must happen. Actually, I want to see a lot of change around my home. I want to rid the place of all the clutter. I want to catch up on my kids' scrapbooks so I can toss the rest of the "stuff" I'm holding on to so I can remember the dates and times and places that go with all of the photos. I want to be able to park the mommy-van in the garage again. But first, I want to reclaim my space in bed.

Our kids know that if they wake up in the night and need something, they can come to us. If they need a snuggle, they know that they can climb into bed and snuggle until morning. There's plenty of room. In fact, that's why we got the gigantic bed in the first place. When Mister J was little, he slept with us most nights until he was around a year old. Miss M spent several nights with us early on, as well. (No shrieky-shrieky allowed - it's a personal decision, let's leave it at that.)

So why, with the gigantic bed and the open invitation for so long, have I changed my mind? Because the goal is really not about being selfish, it's about getting enough sleep be able to function the next day. You see, the kids are getting older (surprise!), and as they get older, they get bigger (I know, you are shocked!). And since they both seem to like sleep upside down and sideways in the bed, it gets crowded really fast. Plus, Mister J is truly a bed hog. I'm not making that up. Also, I'm kind of a light sleeper. It doesn't take a kick in the face wake me up (yes, that really happened), just one of the kids rolling over. So, with two extra people in the bed, trying to snuggle next to me from about 3am to real, sunshiny morning (around 3-4 hours), and me usually not getting to bed until midnight, I'm averaging around 3.5 hours of good sleep, and then 3.5 hours of crappy sleep. At that rate, after a few days, I should not be allowed to drive. Something had to change. And it did. And Big J was shocked.

I cleaned out the corner of the bedroom nearest my side of the bed. Then, I took a comforter that isn't currently in use on a bed and folded it into a kid-sized, bed-shaped cushion. I put that into the corner, along with a pillow and a baby quilt. Viola! My kids now have a place to sleep in the middle of the night when they come into our room. And I get a better night's sleep! And Big J doesn't get disturbed as much, either.

When the kids saw me putting the new kid-space together, they asked what I was doing (after all, I was cleaning, and they were perplexed). I told them what the new space was for, and explained that when they came into our room at night, this is where they would be sleeping now. Of course, they both wanted to check it out. They thought it was really cool. But the big test would come around 3am.

The first night, Miss M came into the room. She fussed about being tucked into the kid space. She wiggled and squirmed. In the end, we were up for the day at 6am, and I'm a 7am kind of girl.... When Mister J came in for his first try, he fell right to sleep and even slept late. Miss M's next time, she wiggled and squirmed and I gave in and pulled her into bed so I could sleep. On her next try, she stayed in the kid space and even slept later than her set-in-stone-no-matter-what 7am wakeup.

The best news in all of this? For the most part, the kids are staying in their beds all night. In the 2 weeks since we have implemented this new arrangement, I think the kids have come into our room a total of 5 times. They might not be sleeping all night, but if they wake up, they are soothing themselves back to sleep. And I'm sleeping like a baby.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Patriotism

I was brought to tears today by my sweet little boy.

As we sat in our home office this afternoon, Big J asked Mister J about his day at preschool. In addition to answering the standard questions, he demonstrated one of the things he's learned since preschool started. He recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And, I'm proud to say, it was nearly perfect - he only left out the "with" at the end. Big J and I were both stunned.

Sixteen days of class so far. Thirty-one words. Two proud parents.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Paci Chronicles, Part 1

Back in March, when we took the kids to the dentist, Dr. Easy-On-The-Eyes told us that Miss M had to lose the paci. He told us that the deadline was when she turned two. I told Big J that he was more than welcome to get to work on Operation No More Paci at any time. Preferably while I was in Cali. In June. The week before Miss M turned two. He laughed at me. We are now 3 months post-deadline, and the kids went to the dentist again last month. And we got busted. By the dentist. Easy on the eyes, not so easy on the tender mommy heart. (BTW, I didn't choose him because he's easy on the eyes, that's just a pleasant bonus.) He was nice about it, but I felt guilty.

We never had to deal with paci issues with Mister J. When he was about eight weeks old, he quit taking the paci. That's another issue entirely. Equally as stressful but for different reasons. Mister J couldn't do anything but eat, sleep, cry, and poop when he gave up the paci. Guess which one of those he used to tell me he needed something? Being a freshly-minted mommy, I was still learning to decode cries. And he wouldn't take the paci. What's a mommy to do? But, I digress....

Recently, we decided to give Operation NMP a try. We started by simply pretending the paci was lost, and leaving Miss M tucked into bed while one of us went to "find" it. (Don't even start on me about the fact we were lying. To our baby. It hurt me more than it hurt her.) Sometimes she would fall asleep, sometimes she'd come looking for one of us to see if we found paci. Then we moved on to the pacis being "old and yuck" - the one we found behind the chest in the master bedroom defintely was! I even persuaded Miss M to toss that one in the trash. Then, Big J got hard core about it, and started telling Miss M that big girls don't use a paci and she had Kitty Cat (and other assorted loveys) to watch over her. It's been three days now, and no paci at nap or bedtime. Just Blanket, 4 loveys, and a minimum of 6 books. I have persevered, and not let her sweet little eyes sway me. Not even her sweet voice telling me, "I need my paci." She's even started asking for them by color. This is particularly noteworthy since she often pretends not to know her colors if I'm the one that's asking (she had me totally snowed for weeks and I worried that she might be colorblind or something!). If it's important enough to ask for by color, surely Mommy can be persuaded to join Miss M in the search for the long-lost, dirty paci - right? Nope.

I can't believe it is working - on her or on me. Knock wood. Now. Yes, you. NOW!

We have heard of all of the "Paci Fairy" and "Give them to the babies that need them" ploys. We just didn't feel that Miss M was developmentally ready to go along with them. But she understands when you can't find it. She understands if it's yucky. And so far, so good. So I'll keep sticking to the plan, thankful all the while that Big J's determination was the encouragement that I needed. 'Cause I'm a sucker when it comes to the kids. And they know it.

PS - Please vote in the poll! Upper left. Just for fun. More my fun than yours, I guess. Consider it practice for November. 39 days and counting!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wonderful Wednesday

Yes, I'm posting on Friday (well, almost Saturday now) and on purpose using Wednesday in the title. Because Wednesday was truly wonderful!

Preschool got off to a bit of a rough start this year, but in this last week, things are looking up. Every day has been a good day since our conference with the teacher. (Oh, yeah, it was conference-with-the-teacher rough [and that's a post for another day]. But, I think that day was the turning point - he knew he had to shape up if Mom and Dad were talking with Mrs E.) He had a terrific day this past Monday (the first day of class since the conference). Mrs. E was so proud of him, and made sure to praise his good behavior when she brought him to the Mommy-van in the pick up line. There was a little issue with sharing on Tuesday when a classmate tried to take a toy from him, but nothing he'd instigated - another small victory! On Wednesday, the best day of the week, Mrs. E took the time to tell me that there was another sharing issue during class, but that time Mister J held his temper and asked a teacher for help. Woohoo! Of course, we were both so proud of him, and he earned a special treat (a SpongeBob sticker) from Mrs. E for being so grown up in class. I have never seen him so proud of a sticker!

Each night at bedtime, I spend a few minutes with J talking about his day at school. He needs quite a while to process the day's events, so I've learned to ask just the most basic questions when I pick him up. During Mommy and J time (while Miss M naps), we do a craft, practice handwriting, or do homework if there is any. If he volunteers anything, I will try to engage him in a longer conversation, but usually we talk most at bedtime. Something along the lines of, "How was your day, J?" "It was good. I didn't spit. I didn't hit. I didn't push." and then I ask a few more specific questions about Circle Time, the Special Helper of the day, and snack time.

On Wednesday evening, after the usual questions, J looked into my eyes and said something I'll not forget. He said, "I'm so proud of myself." I can't even describe my feelings at that moment - but mostly elation! He knows the good choices, he knows it's sometimes hard to make them, and today he made the good choices! **cheers** Of course, you know what I said back to him (as I started to tear up) -

"Honey, I'm proud of you, too!"