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


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!

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!)

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

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

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

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
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)
Cape Cod
London (again)

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!)