Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Days Away (well, 9 1/2) - Part Two

(You can read Part One here!)

Much of our free time at Grandma RL's was spend doing this...
To gain her trust...
And pretty soon, they were rewarded with this...
... which they were able to do pretty early in the week!

On Wednesday, we took it easy again.  We went to the local farmer's market - which boasts a drive through shed.  Personally, I think "shed" doesn't quite hit the mark as far as describing this place, but that's what the website called it, so I'll go with it.
The kids wanted to take a (huge!) watermelon back to Grandma's house.  We settled for browsing, talking about all of the fruits and vegetables for sale, and then buying some (hot!) boiled peanuts.  I also tried to drive the wrong direction on the one-way driveway, but we don't have to dwell on that.  This was the first time either of the kids had eaten boiled peanuts due to Miss M's previous food allergies.  It was only a little disappointing that she didn't like them, but Mister J made up for it with his enthusiasm about this bit of southern cuisine.

We are up to Thursday - the last day of VBS, the day of our semi-return home, and laundry day!  No, I'm not kidding.  We were set to drive home after the VBS wrapped up that evening, and leave for another state and another family reunion on Friday morning.  So on Thursday, we did laundry and packed.  Sorry, no riveting photos....

But then the final night of VBS began!  With a Western theme!  And horses!

And a campfire!  And an awesome dinner!  And all of the desserts you could ask for!
This was the second cone if ice cream.  The first was rainbow - see the blue on Miss M's face?  My kids will never choose vegetables over sweets again....

So, as I mentioned, we had a quick turnaround at home to sleep, get a bit of work done (me), and make room for Daddy in the mommy-van before we hit the road on Friday afternoon.  We had a few errands to run on the way out of town (like buying tap shoes), but we made it to our destination in time for a late dinner with Grandma and Grandpa R to keep us company.

Then it was Saturday again, which must mean it's time for a family reunion!  There was a thunderstorm in the morning, but the clouds moved on in time for our gathering.  The kids had a great time on the playground nearby - I have never, ever seen my children play that hard for that long!  I have also never had to scrub my child's legs and feet twice to get all of the dirt off - but that's not a bad thing. 

One of the highlights of this trip for Mister J was his first ride on Grandpa's motorcycle.
We told him to hold on....  Boys....!

The clouds were building up again towards the end of the reunion, and our motorcycle riders got a bit of a sprinkle on the way back to the hotel.  Still didn't dampen Mister J's excitement!

The next morning, we were back on the road toward home.  We stopped at Cracker Barrel for a late lunch followed by a game of checkers on the porch.  

It was a quick visit with the Grands, but we did follow them most of the way home.  The kids got such a kick out of watching them on their motorcycle!

These nine photos to wrap up our ten-day adventure!  This was the longest I've been away from home since before we had kids - in fact, I can't remember the last time I lived out of a suitcase for this long.  It was great fun, we have lots of great memories, and - believe it or not - I'm already thinking about when we can travel again!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 Days Away (well, 9 1/2) - Part One

EIghteen days ago, the kids and I left home for a 10-day adventure. The bookends of our trip were two family reunions, and in between we hung out with Grandma RL and went to VBS at her church.  Big J was able to join us for part of our travel - and we sure missed him when he was back at home working!

We hit the road to Grandma's on a Friday afternoon, with Big J following us in his car.  After meeting for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants for some yummy shrimp and grits and a chicken salad and fruit plate, we waited out two thunderstorms and navigated around flooded roads to get home and get some sleep before the family reunion on Saturday.

Sunday was another busy day - we said our goodbyes to Daddy, went to a baby shower for my cousin, and then headed off to the first night of VBS!  At Grandma's church!

With a Western theme!  

And saddles!

And wagon rides!

(And waiting in line!)

And popsicles!

And then it was Monday - and we rested.  Just kidding!  We tried out the new ice cream maker!  Miss M was a great help preparing the ingredients for churning.

And then we waited...
(You can find the rest of the story in my post from that day!)

On Tuesday, we visited friends in the town where we used to live.  We spent the morning at the local children's museum, which opened around the time we moved away - so it was a first for us!

Fire truck/man/safety exhibit.  And an itchy nose.

Both kids loved the farm exhibit - 'driving' a tractor, harvesting crops, picking peaches, milking a cow, and collecting eggs.  I think that about covers it.

The grocery exhibit is a hit no matter where we are!  (We've been to three museums with similar exhibits.)  Kudos to this museum for having adult museum-workers to help keep order.  

A couple of exhibits about air power that day.  This one had several styles of 'parachutes' to test - and again, adult museum-workers to supervise (or maybe summer interns - still, my kids listen well when it's someone other than Mom giving instructions). 

Awesome 'put the teeth where they belong' model in the background.  Weirdest-looking mannequin mouth ever on the 'patient.'  Kids didn't seem to mind. 

And on to the outdoor exhibits!  It was a warm day, but thankfully there was a bit of shade out here.  Oh, and some water.  
Fantastic pulleys and cranks and more for the kids to play with.  Oddly, there were no smocks available.  Thankfully, I had a change of clothes for Miss M.

Mister J was able to light the CFL bulb with his own crank-power.  The incandescent bulb was out of the question - so he asked me to give it a try.  I got a little bit of a glow - out of the bulb, and on my forehead (whew!).  If I wasn't a fan of CFLs before,  this was enough to change my mind (though I still prefer the color of an incandescent bulb, I'll sacrifice for the power savings).

Cool art in front of the museum - mom's token 'landmark' photo.

After lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, it was back to VBS for more cowboys! and singing! and Bible stories! and colored punch with dinner!
You know that my kids skipped the lemonade and went straight for the mom-would-never-let-us-have-this-at-home blue drink, right?

Sixteen photos to document the first six days of a ten day trip that began eighteen days ago.  I'll wrap up the trip in another post - coming soon!  (I promise!  I've already written and scheduled it!  But I'm going to make you wait.  Sorry.  But patience is a virtue!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Princess Dance Camp / Survivor Camp

Back in the spring, I won a raffle - the prize was a gift certificate to a local kids' gym, to be used for summer camp.  We used the gift certificate to send Mister J to a "Survivor"-themed camp and Miss M to a "Princess Dance Camp" last week.

The highlight of Princess Dance Camp was an end-of-week performance, though I daresay the actual purchase of tap shoes was an equally big deal for Miss M!  (Note to Grandma RL and Grandpa H - I'm sorry that my narrow feet were hard to fit for dance shoes, and thank you so much for 15 years' worth of assorted dance shoes!  Miss M needed wide tap shoes, so I'm starting to feel your pain.)

Here are several photos (I have loads more!) followed by a video of Miss M's first tap performance.

The Princess Walk
The princesses got to come out one by one, spin, curtsy, and blow a kiss.  My princess moved fairly quickly and my camera wanted to focus on the heads of the people in front of me - therefore, I have blurry photos of the Princess Walk.

The entire cast singing - with arm/hand motions - to "A Whole New World"

The older princesses dance to "Anything Can Happen" from Mary Poppins

I'm sure Miss M loved the long ballet skirts!

"You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray
for their jazz number .
(also known as the "wiggle, wiggle" song by Miss M!)

They tap danced to "Boot Scootin' Boogie" by Brooks & Dunn.
Miss M was so excited to wear her tap shoes that she was showing them to me - and making sure that I noticed them - before the tap number began!   

(Note:  I was holding the video camera in my left hand while snapping photos with a camera in my right hand.  Apologies for the camera sounds in the background and the wiggly video!)

One last photo of my Princess M at the end of the performance.  The girls did several crafts during the week, including their princess hats (see photo of the Princess Walk) and wands.

Survivor Camp didn't have an end-of-week performance, but I was able to get a few snapshots of the kids on one of their obstacle courses.  This one had water, quicksand, and a sneaky shark - plus plenty of balance, jumping, and tumbling activities.  

Both kids had a great time, and I'm sure we'll be back for camps again next summer!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy Almost New Year!

I tend to measure the passage of time by school years rather than calendar years. I think many moms of school-aged (and maybe even preschool-aged) kids do the same. I even measured it this way when I worked in higher ed - the academic and fiscal years would begin within about a few weeks of one another.

As the new school year approaches, I'm thinking about washable markers, backpacks, and antibacterial gel. I'm preparing to pack lunches and snacks every day. I'm getting my new calendar in order: moving appointments from the old into the new, adding in our extra-curricular schedules, and thinking about opportunities for travel.

I am excited about the new school year.  While I have enjoyed the flexibility that summer offers, and for the first time I'm sad to see it end, I really do love the routine that comes with the return to school.

And maybe I'll have some time to get my desk in order.

My momAgendas - 2009-2010 in fuschia; 2010-2011 in turquoise

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tickle Tooth

We're an electric toothbrush family - even the kids.  Every night they rub their noses as we brush their teeth, because the vibrations of the toothbrush tickle.  As a brusher of said teeth, it's a little annoying - their hands get in the way of me trying to see what I'm doing  - but it's what usually happens.  What was a little unusual tonight was something Mister J said to me after I brushed his teeth.

"Mom, I've got a tickle tooth."

My first thought was, "What?!?" - but I caught on quickly enough...  Mister J has his first loose tooth!  It's not very wiggly yet, but certainly enough that the toothbrush would make it feel funny!

It's a big deal, for sure.  Even more so because in his mixed-grade (K-1) class, he was one of the few who hadn't lost a tooth last year.  I'm pretty sure this one will be out before school resumes next month, and I know he'll be excited to show his returning classmates.

(scattered thoughts from here on out - be warned)

Big J and I weren't surprised that it was taking a while to lose the first tooth since it took quite a while for Mister J's teeth to come in as a baby.  Back then, we wondered if he would have teeth by his first birthday! 

Big J asked him what he thought the tooth fairy should bring, and Mister J has requested a dollar coin.  He found it kind of funny that his daddy only got a quarter!  He also says that he's not going to let Daddy pull it, and that he might just wait until it falls out on its own.

Thinking back, I might have been 4.5 of 5 when I lost my first tooth.  Mister J is six and a half!  I guess that's a lot of extra time to develop strong permanent teeth!

I'm not as eeked out by the loose tooth as I thought I would be (I can handle a lot, but eye and teeth issues get to me) - but there's still a ways to go until it's out.  Rest assured, you will get an update then - and photos to boot!

My baby is growing up, y'all!

A Host of Helpful Hints (updated)

All Natural Homemade Cleaners - I'm working on the switch to natural and homemade cleaners, and this post is full of great recipes

The 6 Most Valuable Grocery Products Known to Man - a gigantic list of tips and tricks, with links to even more tips, such as...

75 Extraordinary Uses for Baking Soda - I can confirm numbers 8, 10, 20, and 66, and want to try out number 17, 32,and 70.

Quick Clean-Up - a minute-based plan to clean your home

How to Make Natural Cleaners Work Better -  this is the one I found after I published these links.  Read through the comments for a way to use up 'scraps' of bar soap - clever!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Party in Every Lunch!

It's Day 5 of this week's bento reveals, and this one's as exciting as all the rest!  Remember what I said yesterday about the classics?  Well, this one reminds me of my other first bento - a whimsy set with a purple case for my sweet girl. They've updated that classic, and it's now Confetti!
What little girl doesn't love purple and pink, with a few other colors sprinkled in for fun?   And I'll admit, I love these colors, too!  They simply make lunch fun!

There have been four other reveals this week - Daisy, Tire Plaid, and Stripes, and Primary.  All of the new bento kits are available today at  Remember to use the code momsmagic for a 10% discount on any purchases.

If you're new to bentos, read some of my "lunches" posts to learn why I'm a fan!  If you are looking for lunchbox ideas, you can subscribe to a monthly RSS feed from Laptop Lunches! 

My kids love eating out of their Laptop Lunchboxes, and are willing to try new things that they find in their bentos.  You can bet I'll be reading these lunch menus to gain some inspiration and add some variety through the school year!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes It's the Classics...

It's time for Thursday's bento kit reveal - and to me, it's a classic!

One of the first bento kits that I purchased was an original bento in primary colors.  I selected it over a solid- or two-colored bento kit because it just looked like fun..  The 'primary' user was my little boy, so we opted for a colorful bento system that included a blue insulated case.  What you see here is the updated version - the 2.0 - including a thoughtfully redesigned case!

There have been three other reveals this week - Daisy, Tire Plaid, and Stripes.  All of the new bento kits will be available tomorrow at  Remember to use the code momsmagic for a 10% discount on any purchases.

If you're new to bentos, read some of my "lunches" posts to learn why I'm a fan!

Update: click on these links to see all of the other bento kits revealed this week
Daisy - sweet flowers with a pop of lunchtime color
Tire Plaid - a fun red-and-black combo
Stripes - pretty shades of blue
Confetti - a party in every bento

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Overheard #30

My sweet daughter, after a sneeze that I did not acknowledge:

"Bless me..."

Oh, do I ever love that spunky, sassy, sweet, tomboy-girly-girl!

Let's Go Sailing! (updated!)

It's actually called Stripes, but the latest Laptop Lunches reveal is a bento kit makes me think of all things nautical! 

There have been two other reveals this week - Daisy and Tire Plaid.  All of the new bento kits will be available on Friday at  Remember to use the code momsmagic for a 10% discount on any purchases.

If you're new to bentos, read some of my lunches posts to learn why I'm a fan!

Update:  I just got a sneak peek at the rest of the new bento kits - love, love, love!  And if I didn't already have seven (yes, seven) in my cabinet, plus several extra pieces, I just might have to order one of the new ones!  So, do keep an eye on the blog for more news.  ALSO - if you are looking for lunchbox ideas, you can subscribe to a monthly RSS feed from Laptop Lunches! 

My kids love eating out of their Laptop Lunchboxes, and are willing to try new things that they find in their bentos.  You can bet I'll be reading these lunch menus to gain some inspiration and add some variety through the school year!

Update: click on these links to see all of the other bento kits revealed this week
Daisy - sweet flowers with a pop of lunchtime color
Tire Plaid - a fun red-and-black combo
Primary -  a classic combination
Confetti - a party in every bento

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rev Up Your Lunch!

Rev up your lunch with this new bento kit - Tire Plaid.  This is the second of the new Laptop Lunches designs being revealed this week.  (Looking for something more feminine?  Check out yesterday's reveal, Daisy!)

To take a closer look at this one, or any of the other new designs, go to on Friday.  Remember to use the code momsmagic for a 10% discount on any purchases.

If you're a new reader and wondering why I'm such a fan, you can read my "lunches" posts for the scoop.   You'll see quite a few of the lunches I've packed, but there are also posts why I like these lunchboxes so much - creating waste-free lunches and saving money are tops!

Update: click on these links to see all of the other bento kits revealed this week
Daisy - sweet flowers with a pop of lunchtime color
Stripes - pretty shades of blue
Primary -  a classic combination
Confetti - a party in every bento

Monday, July 19, 2010

Daisy, Daisy

There are some new Laptop Lunches bento kits coming out this week.  They'll be available on Friday.  Here's a sneak peek at ... Daisy!

I love the colors here!  I'll go ahead and admit - just between you and me - that we have several Laptop Lunch boxes.  I like to switch around the inner containers - reds in the blue outer container for patriotic holidays, brightly colored inner containers inside the black outer container for a pop of color as seen here, red and green inner containers at Christmas, all-red or all-pink inside for Valentine's Day, and other fun mix-and-matching.  It's just a small way to turn lunch into a celebration - and my kids notice!

To take a closer look at this bento, or any of the other new designs, go to  Remember to use the code momsmagic for a 10% discount on any purchases.

Update: click on these links to see all of the other bento kits revealed this week
Tire Plaid - a fun red-and-black combo
Stripes - pretty shades of blue
Primary -  a classic combination
Confetti - a party in every bento

You can 'find' me here...

I didn't plan a post for today, but I got a nice mention over here - so I'm just passing a link along.  You might want to head that way, since there's a great geocaching giveaway going on!  (Thanks, Heidi - for the mention and for another awesome giveaway!)

And, just for fun, a few of my posts and guest posts about geocaching:

Smarty Day Trip - Geocaching - May 2010, guest post
All I Want for Christmas is a GPS -  August 2008, first geocaching experience
Loong Overdue - March 2009, scroll down for the part about geocaching at a local park

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nostalgia v. Contentment

I'm a lucky girl.  Except I don't like to use the word "lucky."  I think "fortunate" is better.  I'll even go for "blessed."

I've been married to Big J for over 12 years.  We met during our first semester of college, nearly 18 years ago.  When I turned 35, I joked with him that he'd known me for more than half of my years.  I did it mostly to tease him and make him feel old, but I smiled inside for more than just that reason.

Just like any other couple, our marriage has been filled with ups and downs.  Poorer and richer (in that order, but we are by no means "rich" in the financial sense).  Sickness and health - thankfully, mostly health.  Struggles and smooth sailing - and we have had our share of each.  Changes in jobs, homes, and the size of our family.  A lot has happened in twelve years.

A few days ago, the kids and I visited the area where Big J and I used to live.  We enjoyed some time with friends, ate lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and drove around the downtown area where I used to work.  The city has changed a great deal, thanks in part to the growth of the university.  The building in which I used to work is gone - demolished years ago - and the office in which I used to work has moved to another (beautiful) area of campus.  Near the end of our time in the city, I drove out to the suburban community in which we used to live.  The drive to our former home seemed unfamiliar - almost as if I'd not driven it before.  Although the billboards had changed and there were new stores along the route, the road was still the same - yet it felt completely foreign.  Then I drove past our former home - the first home we purchased together, where we took on our first home improvement projects, and where we brought Mister J after he was born (we moved soon after).  Although it still looks the same - right down to the paint colors and the curtains in the attic windows - it didn't feel familiar any more. 

I had mixed emotions as I drove out of town, bordering on tearfulness. Big J and I made so many memories there, so I had expected this visit to bring up a tidal wave of emotions. Contrary to my expectations, there wasn't any sense of nostalgia.  I left with a sadness because I didn't miss our life there. 

In retrospect, I find these emotions to be a blessing.  Of course I miss our friends that still live there, and certainly there are good memories, but I don't have a longing for what used to be.  This confirmation of the contentment that I feel right now is such a blessing.  We have made a new home, in a new town, with new friends.  It didn't happen right away - we've been here for over six years now.  And of course, life isn't perfect - we have our struggles just like any other couple/parents/homeowners/family.  But the peace I feel inside is wonderful.  It's like a breath of fresh air every time I think about it. 

Contentment is a wonderful feeling.

Friday, July 16, 2010


So, it occurred to me that I never told you about everything we did during our Very Busy Weekend.  I wrote a post about Miss M's birthday.  I taught you how to ship a motorcycle cross-country.  But I didn't tell you that our washing machine broke, and that we decided to replace our nearly-12-year-old washer/dryer pair on Sunday afternoon.  We ordered a new set that would arrive on Monday (yes, the very next day!) and on the way home, decided to head on over to Lowe's and buy some paint. Here's what happened after we got home (and shipped a motorcycle, and put the kids to bed)....

Took down switch and outlet covers, removed shelving, and taped off cabinetry, moulding, window frame, and shelving hardware.  Cut in corners, ceiling, and around moulding (my favorite part of the job).

Rolled walls (Big J's specialty).

Admire re-freshed laundry room.  Marvel at the fact that two people, working in a small space around a washer and dryer, in the late night and wee hours of the morning, didn't paint anything that wasn't meant to be painted - including the floor or each other.
The kids woke up Monday morning to the surprise of a freshly-painted laundry room.  They knew it was being repainted, and had seen the color, but we did all of the painting after they'd gone to sleep. 

And that afternoon, we all got to ooh and aah over the new washer and dryer. 

I still can't believe we repainted a room with about a half-second of time spent decision-making.  It took us longer to pick out the paint color!  (Valspar Brisk Olive, by the way)

After the washer and dryer we in, we decided not to re-hang the shelving (brackets are to the right in the top photo), so we are on the hunt for a narrow table (perhaps a re-purposed sofa table) to use for folding.  Yes - we painted around the hardware, then decided not to re-hang the shelving.  There are no photos of the spackling, sanding, and repainting of those two walls.  I'm also hoping to find a window treatment to dress up the space (after I re-hang the blinds). 

I love the update, and I'm so glad with our decision to eliminate the shelving.  It'll feel less like a closet in there, and more like a real room.  I'm so happy with the results that I'm already thinking about two other projects I'd like to take on - a guest/toy room makeover, and a master bedroom makeover!  I hope to complete at least one of these by the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Bentos

(Also known as "Trip-pool Play"!  Yes, it's cheesy, which is why it didn't make the final cut to be the actual title of this post!)

Many thanks to reader (and follower!) Jenna, who blogs over at Fermented Grapes, for inquiring via a comment as to whether or not there would be any summer bentos.  The answer, until last week, was that I hadn't packed any lunches.  I have to admit that, after an entire school year of lunches, I was looking forward to the break!  We've eaten a good number of lunches away from home - mostly using that time to catch up with friends we don't get to see as often during the school year. 

One day last week, I planned to take the kids for a long afternoon at the pool - including lunch.  As I was packing, I remembered just how much I love packing our lunches!  So of course, I had to take pictures. These are really very simple lunches - most of ours are. 

Mister J's lunch, clockwise from top left:  blueberries and watermelon, strawberries, a fruit bar for an afternoon snack, sunflower seeds, sliced turkey, mozzarella and cheddar cheese cubes and crackers.

Miss M's lunch, clockwise from top left: watermelon, strawberries and blueberries, a fruit bar, sunflower seeds, sliced turkey, cubed mozzarella and cheddar cheese and crackers.  (Deja vu yet?)

My lunch, clockwise from top left: blueberries and watermelon, strawberries, the broken pretzel rods (because the full-length ones don't fit in by lunchbox), sunflower seeds, sliced turkey, mozzarella and cheddar cheese cubes and crackers.  (Seriously, you must have deja vu by now.)

The cute little picks are a new addition to our lunch goodies.  I was hoping to make them a surprise for the kids, but Mister J spotted them while I was packing our meals.

And - yippee! - all of our bentos fit into this cooler!  I don't think I've ever tried this before.  If I have, well, I got excited all over again when I figured this out. 

A few cold packs on top, a soft-sided cooler for our drinks, and we were off! 

My favorite part of lunch was the watermelon.  The kids devoured it, too.  I've read that watermelon is "nature's G@torade."  I wonder if that's why we enjoyed it so much.  It's one of my favorite fruits - best eaten on a sweltering afternoon!