Tuesday, June 29, 2010


We had an eventful weekend, and knew the week would start off pretty busy, as well.  Big J had arranged to ship the motorcycle out to Uncle J (yes, there are a lot of J's and R's in our family!), which was scheduled for the start of the week.  On Sunday afternoon we got a call - the truck was in town a day early, so our weekend got a little busier!  We were planning to be around the house for another project anyway, so when the driver asked if he could pick up the motorcycle on Sunday we said that it would be fine. 

"How does one ship a motorcyle?" you ask.  Or perhaps, "Why would one ship a motorcycle?"  Well, Uncle J lives quite a ways from where we live - it would be a long trip!  So there's the price of gas, plus the price of hotels along the way.  It's actually cheaper to ship the bike.  So, back to that first question...

First step - call a company that specializes in shipping motorcycles and wait for the big truck to get here.  (In the meantime, clean bike and wonder how you are going to ship the rest  of the stuff - helmets, jacket, gloves, etc.)  Jump for joy on the day said big truck arrives, and walk down to the corner with the kids to watch the entire process. 
Next: step - Even though you know it won't work, try as hard as you can to keep your 6 1/2 year old out from underfoot so the driver of said big truck can do his job.  Say a quick prayer of thanksgiving when you find out that he, too, has a child about this age so he gets it - and lets your 6 1/2 year old help lower the lift on the big truck.

And then - After signing some papers, watch driver load motorcycle into trailer (that can hold up to 55 motorcycles!). 

Finally - Watch as driver closes up trailer and drives away. 

Happy Birthday!

Our sweet, sassy, tomboy, girly-girl Miss M recently celebrated birthday number FOUR!  Every year, I think, "Has is really been that many years - already?!?"  As I've seen written elsewhere, the days are sometimes long, but the years are short.  Very short.

We invited several families to join us at the pool to celebrate, and midway through the party my dear little girl said to me, "Mom, this is the best birthday ever!"  This was especially noteworthy since it was a very low-key celebration, but I can't argue with that.  We had a great time with our friends and family!  Mister J showed off his swimming skills to the grandparents, and Grandma R even taught him to float on his back!  Wow!

I know what you really want to see - the photos!  So I won't keep you in suspense any longer!

Tried a little something different this year - cake balls!  Much easier to transport - and keep cold on a hot day!  I used chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, and white coating according to this recipe.  Yum!

I think she liked them!  I liked how they turned out, too, even though I'm not a fan of white chocolate.  Mom and I made about 90 (we made them smaller than the instructions called for), and we only brought a dozen or so home.  PS - if you are going to put candles in them, do it while the coating is still soft.  If we hadn't, the coating would have cracked.

After we got home from the pool party, we opened gifts.  Miss M got several nice gifts, including this Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl doll.  She's been asking for this particular toy since before Christmas, and we even had a "Jessie" theme for the party. 

After dinner, we had an actual cake - a yummy strawberry cake!  I had a great time baking for the party, especially since I haven't done a lot of baking lately. 

We had a great time celebrating Miss M!  It was truly a wonderful day! 

(I have more photos from Grandma RL's camera, but they are on my desktop computer.  Will try to update and add more photos later!)

This turned into a Very Busy Weekend, but I didn't post all about it here.  If you want to see what else we did, check out these fun posts:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sweet Kiddos

Usually when mom mom (Grandma RL) comes to visit, she takes turns sleeping in the kids' rooms - and whoever has her as a guest sleeps on the floor in the same room.  If I get it wrong, they let me know whose rooms she's supposed to be staying in.  (I know that wasn't proper grammar - so just ignore it.  It's late.)  There have been tears over it - so thank goodness my mom usually remembers whose turn it is.

A few weekends back, there weren't tears, but there was some poutiness - which was resolved by having both kids sleep on the floor in the same room with Grandma.  When she came back last weekend, she swapped rooms as usual - and both kids stayed on the floor in there.  And they even went to sleep relatively quickly and quietly!

And since she left on Sunday?  The kids are still in the same room.  They are taking turns with who sleeps in the bed and who sleeps on the floor - without argument.  They were disappointed that they couldn't both sleep on the floor - but I did draw the line there.  It's been much easier to get them to go to sleep without (much) silliness when they are separated at least a little bit.  Mister J has been reading the bedtime story to Miss M, then turning off the light and getting into bed.  They still like a bit of a tuck and a kiss from Mom - and I'm not complaining.   

I know this won't last forever, but have to admit that I think it's sweet.  I am so happy that they love each other so much!  And sure, they may just like it because it's different and I let some things slide during the summer - but I also know that this is the stuff of memories.  And I hope that they'll treasure this memory as much as I will.

Is It Really That Easy?

Oh, my - I can't believe I didn't figure this out sooner!

I am not good at cutting anything that's not a straight line.  Curves are too complicated - not to mention anything with an actual shape.  And then I read that the best way to cut curves is not to turn the scissors, but to turn the paper

You know what?  I tried it - and it works!  And I learned this just in time - I have 2 dozen cupcake wrappers to cut for Miss M's birthday party this weekend!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers' Day!

Happy Fathers' Day to the one who...

...isn't afraid to get in the kitchen and teach the kids how to make the best scrambled eggs!

...is patient enough to let the kids help plant the garden!

...takes the time to go to Daddy-Daughter Date Night at Chick-Fil-A (and let the son into the photo before they leave)!  (PS - Here's what mom and son were doing)

...works hard so I can be home with our children!

  Happy Fathers' Day, Big J!  We love you!

And Happy Fathers' Day to our Dads (Grandpa H and Grandpa R), too! 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dance, Dance, Dance!

Miss M's first dance recital was this afternoon - and it was just too cute!  She did a great job!  After her number, we stayed and watched the rest of the show, too (she was dismissed at intermission). 

The theme of the recital was, "Celebrate!"  There were songs to celebrate holidays throughout the year, and Miss M's class did "Peter Cottontail" for Easter.  I can't wait to get the DVD so she can see how well she did.

I tried to get a few snapshots in the front yard before we left the house.  Miss M isn't looking at me because we were all trying to get photos.  Hopefully someone got a good one.  I wish I'd remembered to get a photo of her after the show with the rose she got from Grandpa R.  She was pretty worn out, though, and ended up falling asleep on the way home. 

Our beautiful dancer (looking at someone else for "smile!" cues....)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And one more thing...

After all of the allergy news in our house lately, I thought this bit of news deserved its own post on its own day.

Mister J swam all by himself yesterday!  No pool noodle, not during a lesson, and all on his own.  I'd played in the water with the kids for a while, pretending to 'sit' underwater and let my body float up to the top (like my Dad did for me when I was a kid, and it was one of the turning points when I became more comfortable in the water).  Then he played with another boy for a while - whose Dad was pretending to be a shark and the boys just loved it.

After a snack break, the kids when back into the water while I sat on the side.  A little while later, Mister J called out to me, "Hey, Mom, watch me!"  And I watched him swim!

He was so excited to get home and tell Big J - and I was excited for him.  It was hard to hold my tongue and not spill the beans myself!

Awesome job, Mister J!

(Hopefully I'll get a photo to put up here one day - but I typically don't take my camera to the pool.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That's Nuts!

After Miss M's successful food challenge this morning, we went grocery shopping.  I had a few things on my list, but I also wanted Miss M to pick out something special - something she'd never been able to eat.  As we walked down each aisle, it dawned on me how much has been 'off limits' to us over the years.  When we were checking out, I told her to pick out any candy she wanted.  She picked Skittles (nope, not M&Ms or peanut butter cups!) and a snack-sized box of Goldfish for her brother.  (I never buy the 'snack size' of anything since we pack waste-free lunches, so this was an exciting opportunity!)

For those who live with food allergies, this post probably won't contain many surprises.  For those of you know don't live with food allergies, I just thought you might be interested in seeing the grocery store through my eyes.  I am accustomed to ignoring entire sections of the store because very few (to none) of the items is safe for someone with peanut and/or egg allergies.  That's what was normal - and now we are learning a new normal. 

Since Miss M's diagnosis, we have always had to read labels very closely.  Candy, desserts, and cereals are some of the the biggest 'offenders' when it comes to items that 'contain' or 'may contain' peanuts or tree nuts.  And then there are the 'made on equipment that also processes' or 'made in a facility that also processes' warnings, too.

The candy aisle - full of peanuts or potential cross-contamination

The cereal aisle - the organic section, which happened to have a big empty shelf today.  Even the 'healthy' cereals are full of nut warnings.

The cookie and ice cream aisles.  Even snack crackers (cheddar crackers, for instance) and popsicles (the fruit kind) can carry nut and egg warnings. 

Because so many items were off-limits to Miss M - and therefore our family - I began cooking more from scratch. I found that I really love baking.  So, baking from scratch should solve a lot of the problems, right?  Well, there are a lot of things on the baking aisle that are off-limits, too. 

And this has eggs.

Another tough thing to give up - and find a substitute for - was my favorite on-the-go snack when Mister J was a toddler.
The granola bar section.

Every corner I turned was an eye-opener today.  Y'all, even pretzels can carry a nut warning.  Until you read the labels, you really can't imagine....

So, what will change now?  Well, we'll put a few things back into our diets that haven't been there for quite a while.  I'm excited about having peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs back in our diets.  We splurged on candy and yogurt-covered raisins (potential cross-contamination warning!) and fruit snacks today, but those will continue to be special treats as they always have been.  I do think that I'll continue to bake, because once you are reading labels for nut and egg ingredients, you notice all of the other, less-than-healthy ingredients, too.  Soy butter will still be a lunch-time staple, especially during the school year.  Miss M's classmates will all be together again in the fall, which means she'll still be in a nut-free classroom.  I'll still read labels, I'll just be on the lookout for different things.  And tomorrow, I think we'll have scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Our Miracle

Miss M passed her food challenge today!  She's now allowed to eat all of the peanuts and eggs she wants!  And let me tell you, she wants everything she eats to have nuts in it right now.

Since she has outgrown the peanut allergy, that means she can eat tree nuts again, too.  They were previously off-limits due to the chance of developing an allergy with exposure.

I've been living Ephesians 3:20-21 today (emphasis mine):
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Today, along with the past few days of testing and waiting, has been a miracle.  I only prayed for Miss M's egg allergy to be resolved.  I never even prayed for the peanut allergy to be gone - I just never imagined we would be in that small percentage.  (I say "we" because food allergies affect the entire family.)  I'm still trying to get past the surreal feeling, all the while rejoicing in it and hoping that I never forget the lessons I've learned.

Food Bank Garden

You've seen pictures of our garden plots, but they are small-time compared to the 2-acre food bank garden in our city. The work is done completely by volunteers, and the garden is the primary source of fresh produce for our local food bank.  I thought this would be a great opportunity for our family to get some more gardening experience and knowledge while teaching our children about helping others.  After double-checking that it was a family-friendly activity and signing up for the email list, I waited for the dates and times to work for our schedule (mainly, that meant waiting until school was out).

Today was our first day at the food bank garden  We thought the rain would spoil our plans, but the clouds and thunder passed by quickly, so we decided to head on over.  The garden is very close to downtown, but once you get to the garden (which is on the grounds of a larger farm, which is part of a larger campus....), it's like being in the middle of the country.  You can't see or hear the city - just rolling hills, green grass, trees, and cows.  It's wonderful!

Tonight Mister J and I worked for about an hour, and then spent another 20 minutes or so just exploring different areas of the garden.  Big J and Miss M met us there briefly following their Daddy-Daughter Date Night - and I think they'll join us again next time.  I know Miss M is excited to break in her new gardening gloves!

Here are some cell phone snapshots of our evening.  I'll take a better camera on a future trip!

At the top of the garden - only a portion of it shows in the background

We helped out by re-seeding a row of cucumbers this evening - filling in the spaces where the initial plantings didn't grow.  We also learned that there's irrigation tubing under the plastic bed coverings.

I think the other volunteers were surprised to see such a young helper this evening.  A couple of folks called Mister J over to help pick some cucumbers, and then he started spotting them on his own!  Although I'd already discussed it with him, the other volunteers were so kind to explain to Mister J where the food would be going.  (On the drive over, we even discussed that healthy food sometimes costs more than 'junk' food - which Mister J has decided doesn't make much sense!)  It was great to have that reinforcement of what we'd just been discussing!

After we finished re-seeding and our little bit of harvesting, we explored some of the other parts of the garden.  There's a trial garden for tomatillos, bush beans, the Three Sisters method for corn, beans, and cucumbers, and much more.  There are rows and rows of tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, and corn.  There's an herb garden, and there's probably more that I haven't even seen!
We compared the leaves of the cantaloupe vines to the leaves of the watermelon vines.  The watermelon leaves are much fancier!
 There are sunflowers at the ends of many of the rows.  I hope I'll remember to take more shots with the sunflowers later in the season to compare their growth. 

We had a wonderful time tonight, and I'm looking forward to the time all four of us can go together.  I hope that's very soon - they harvest three times a week!  It's such a great opportunity to learn so many lessons - and I also appreciate the opportunity for my children to interact with (and learn from!) other adults outside of the school year. 

This post is also linked to Food on Fridays hosted by Ann Kroeker.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Two weekends ago I attended a reunion for the small, private school where I went to Kindergarten and 1st grade.  A few of my family members - a cousin and uncle on my mom's side, two cousins on my dad's side - also attended school there in the 70s-early 80s, and my grandmother taught there for several years.  The reunion was for faculty, staff, and any students that had attended the school, and I had the pleasure of making the trip with my grandmother.  My uncle and his wife were also there, so along with being a school reunion, it was a mini family reunion as well.

My mom had driven to my house earlier in the week, and we got up bright and early on Saturday morning to go pick up my grandmother for the trip to a neighboring state.  A few hours of driving, plus the reunion, plus another few hours home gave us plenty of time to visit, but it was also a long enough trip that it was nice to be able to share the driving. 

The enthusiasm displayed by her former students (on the alumni page on Facebook) was one of the main reasons Mom and I decided to make the trip.  My grandmother doesn't travel much anymore, so it was really a big deal to make the trip.  And I'm so glad we did.

Attending the reunion with my grandmother was like spending the day with a celebrity!  So many former students sat down to talk with her - to thank her, to tell her how important she was to their education, to tell her that they still use the lessons she taught them (mainly English, but she also taught Art and History).  When folks asked me how I was connected to the school, they didn't recognize me as having been a student when they were there, too - but they did make the connection when I told them that she was my grandmother.

I took a lot of photographs during the reunion, and plan to get them printed out for my grandmother this week.  I can't wait to take her a photo album filled with photos of  her former students and colleagues as they visited with her that day.

A huge thanks to the folks who worked so hard to organize the reunion.  They even brought the sign and planted it at the reunion site that day, which was a total surprise! (I admit I got a bit teary when I saw it - I'm sentimental that way.)  I'm looking forward to future reunions, and hope that my grandmother and other family member will be able to attend next year.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our Gardens

We've got four square foot garden plots and a container garden this summer.  Yes, it's a lot - I'll be up to my ears in tomatoes if all goes according to plan!

Planting in one of the new plots in mid-May

We decided to try out a few different locations this summer to see if one area of our yard was any better than another.  We have two plots in the same location as last summer, a plot and a container along the back of our yard to take advantage of and area where we lost some trees, and another plot along one side of the yard.  We're growing lots of tomatoes (a few heirloom varieties and some romas that I'll use for pico de gallo and guacamole), squash, cucumbers, zucchini, cilantro, oregano, basil, thyme, sage, and rosemary.  We were supposed to have strawberries, but inadvertently picked up a second squash plant....  I'm glad I like squash!  One of our neighbors sprouted corn from seed and generously shared shared some stalks with us, so we recently transplanted those to our gardens, too!  We also planted a few flowers in the plots for some color.

The tomatoes are already coming along really nicely.  Big J has pruned them a bit and planted several of the pruned pieces (called suckers) in small pots - and they've rooted and become more tomato plants.  I'm excited about all of the fresh herbs, and have already printed out a few recipes I want to try.  The kids are always excited to go out and check on the plants and water the gardens.  The best part?  Often, a trip outside to the gardens ends in some family time in the back yard, playing some of our awesome, made-up games!

Last Day of School & Beginning of Summer!

The school year wrapped up last week, and I snapped a quick photo for a comparison with the first day of the school year.  While there's not really a good point of comparison (like the mailbox), I think Miss M and Mister J look so much bigger than they did last August!  Miss M's hair has been trimmed once or twice, but she's looking forward to getting it cut 'short' after her dance recital.  Both of the kids have grown two sizes in the past 9 months. 

There was an awards program on the last day of school, and each of our children was awarded with the title of Ravenous Reader!  Miss M talks a LOT about spending time in the Home Living center in her classroom, so we were pleased to learn that she continues to enjoy the reading center, too.  Mister J has made great strides in reading, and is hoping to complete the Magic Tree House series this summer.  I see a lot of trips to the library in our future!  I've printed out a checklist so we can keep track.

We will begin our first full week of summer vacation with a gathering at a bouncy play place, a day program for elementary school students at our church, and some time at the pool.  Oh, and Miss M's food challenge on Wednesday!  It's the first week of 'vacation' - but we won't slow down until at least Thursday! 

As much as I love the structure of the school year, I am excited about the summer.  I'm hoping to keep a little structure in our week - as much as possible with camps and travel - but also balance it with special events and spur-of-the-moment fun.  And, I'll keep you posted here with we've got time!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Update on Hope

When I posted this yesterday, I felt sure that it would be two days until we had the results of Miss M's blood test.  I considered that we might even have to wait through the weekend.

Imagine my surprise today when our allergist, Dr. M, with whom we also attend church, called this afternoon.  Her first words were, "Rejoice!  Rejoice!"  The blood test results were back today - and they were also negative!

We won't start feeding her peanut butter right away.  Miss M will have an in-office food challenge next week.  Over the course of an hour she'll be given peanut butter while she's monitored for any reaction. From there?  Well, I'm not sure.  I can't even think about that yet. 

After avoiding it for nearly three years, the idea of feeding my daughter peanut butter is really very ... weird.  Surreal.  I can't even begin to imagine life on the other side of a successful food challenge.  Of course, I'll keep you posted.

In other wonderful news, my dad's 18-month post-treatment CT scan was clear!   We are celebrating blessing upon blessing this week!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

This is what hope feels like

There are a lot of ideas for posts floating around in my head lately - however none on my heart as much as this one right now.

This afternoon I sent a tweet asking folks to pray that Miss M's appointment with the allergist would go well.  Today was the day we would retest for her food allergies, and I was praying that the actual testing would go smoothly (with as few tears and as little discomfort as possible).  I was hopeful we would learn that Miss M had outgrown her egg allergy, but didn't even dare to imagine she would test negative to peanut. 

I am now in the enviable position of HOPE.  All of the skin pricks showed no reaction.  Not to eggs, not to peanuts.  I was speechless, teary-eyed with joy, and trying to stay calm so I wouldn't start sobbing.

We are waiting for the results of blood testing to (hopefully!) confirm the results from earlier this afternoon.  While we wait for the longest two days of our lives, won't you please say one more prayer for us?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Overheard #29

On the way home from lunch after church yesterday. 

Mister J (muffled): Mom, are there nuts in who-oppers?

Me:  What?

Mister J (louder, but still muffled):  Are there nuts in who-oppers?

Me:  What are who hoppers?

Mister J: This candy with the chocolate outside.

He had gotten a pack of candy from the "candy crane" and I didn't realize he was eating it as I drove home.  Then I had the a-ha moment....

Me:  Oh, you mean Whoppers?

Mister J:  No, it's who-oppers.  There's a 'who' on the label.

As if 'candy crane' wasn't funny enough!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Spur-of-the-Moment Adventure

After church, lunch, and rest time, the kids were ready for some action.  I had tried, without success, to upload some photos - thanks to two camera batteries in need of charging and some issues with my scanner.  I have plenty of recent things to blog, and I'm way behind in blogging the 'normal' stuff, too, but I knew I wouldn't be able to make any progress today.

 The kids were anxious to get out of the house, and I couldn't argue with that.  I wanted to get moving, too.  I decided to put on some play clothes, print a map, pack a snack, and hit the road.  The kids weren't quite sure what to do without toys or books - I told you it was spur-of-the-moment!  Mister J and I enjoyed the scenery - corn fields, vineyards, sunshine, back roads, and more - and Miss M ended up napping for the majority of our drive.

We arrived at a nearby state park and set out on a short hike down to a river.  Miss M was a sport and carried the snacks and juice in her backpack.

When we reached our destination we took a couple of photos, snacked, played and relaxed a bit, and then headed back to the car.  The hike back was steep, but Mister J declared it easier than going down since it didn't seem as slippery. 

I don't know if it's because their eyes are closer to the ground or because the are just more curious, but the kids noticed a lot of things on our walk - including a huge mushroom.  I saw plenty of grandaddy longlegs as we walked, but the kids didn't notice those until we were on the way back up.  Miss M pointed out a few bugs on my shirt: she was pretty insistent that I flick them off.  No one but me seemed to notice the bee (or whatever it was) that followed me for good minute plus, buzzing around my left ear, then my right ear, then back to my left.... 

I was pleased that the kids enjoyed the hike as much as they did.  I had a great time, and only carried Miss M for the very last stretch of the hike.  Mister J was very sure-footed and Miss M only needed help (a hand to hold on to) on the steep inclines, mainly because of the washed out crevices due to heavy rain. 

On the way home, we picked up dinner and took it to Big J (who was working).  We hung out with him for a quick dinner, then it was home for baths and bedtime.  They were still talking about our adventure at bedtime and I know they'll be talking about it for a few days.  I'm already excited about our next adventure - maybe a day trip since school will be out soon!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Smarty Mom

Hi, Friends!  I'm not here today.  Nope, I'm over there again.  Hop on over and join me!

I'm a Smarty Mom!

The Triad is just full of great moms, isn't it? Well, thanks to TSP, I am thrilled to introduce to you yet another one: R... L... R..., otherwise known (to all you loyal readers) as "RLR." Before I "officially" met RL, we seemed to cross paths several times. Not just through her contributions to TSP, but also when a potential advertiser once told me she learned about TSP because of Ryan Leigh. So, when I finally met RLR at my son's preschool registration, I couldn't help but give her a hug like an ol' friend!

RL and her husband, J, have two adorable children: J (6 ½) and M (almost 4). They have lived in the Triad a little over six years after moving from {another state}, when J was three months old. As a result of the move, RL was "unexpectedly blessed with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom." In addition to being a mom, RL also spends countless hours volunteering and managing a mommy blog (which we all know can be like a job in itself).

RL gave us a great interview today, and I'm excited for you all to get to know this smarty a little more.

Volunteering is something {she} loves to do, and something she discovered when she was part of a volunteer organization as an undergraduate. After completing her Master's, she worked with student volunteers until she moved to the Triad.

Today, {she} is in her third-year of a three-year term on the Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church Preschool board where she's served as treasurer, vice-chair, and now chair of this group. She also volunteers with Charity Chicks, is on the Mt. Tabor UMC Preschool Clothing Exchange Committee, and spends at least two hours a week volunteering at her children's schools. On top of all this, {she} also keeps a blog Mom's Magic , which is "a little bit baby book, a little bit lessons learned, and a whole lot of funny stories about my kids," her site says.

When we first chatted about your "Smarty Mom" profile, you were on a business trip. Tell us more about that - what was that for?
I work part-time for CIVSA, the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association. I was a member of this professional organization when I worked full-time, and for the past five years I have worked as the Association Manager. It’s a great fit for my life as a mom and also allows me to stay in touch with my former colleagues. I attend a meeting with the CIVSA Board once a year – I just returned from the CIVSA conference in Lexington, Kentucky.

How do you balance your busy schedule with your busy home life?
I try to set aside the same block of time each day for work, though I’m fortunate that my schedule is very forgiving when things change. I also use my BlackBerry to answer emails when I have small blocks of time (waiting at after-school pick-up, in between appointments, etc.). This allows me to focus on homework, dinner, and family in the evenings. If I still have work to do, I wrap things up after the kids are in bed.

What advice do you offer other busy moms?Finding a system that works for you and sticking with it! For me, a set weekly routine and a pencil-and-paper calendar are the keys to making things run smoothly. It’s easier for me to include special events or work around my husband’s call schedule if each week generally looks the same for our family.

Tell us more about your blog and how you got started.I started my blog at the suggestion of a good friend, and the goal was just to share news and write about the funny stuff that happens with my kids. You know, just the normal stuff of being a mom. My audience was mainly family and friends at that time. I have gained a few more readers over the years, which is fun, and I’ve also started writing about a broader range of topics. I have one sponsor that has provided giveaways and another for whom I’m an advertiser of sorts (because I’m nuts about their product!), but I don’t have a real income from blogging.

What are your favorite blogs/web sites for moms?I confess – in the title of my blogroll – that I read too many blogs. Some of my favorites are:

Before the Morning – Patrice Willams’ recently renamed blog
Gravity of Motion – written by another PA (peanut allergy) mom and one of my first ‘bloggy’ friends
The Pioneer Woman – because, oh my goodness, the food!
Life in Forsyth – the writing, the humor, the news, the “And I mean EXACT…” contests…

And of course, Triad Smarty Pants!

Really, though, if it is funny, well-written, local-ish (by that I mean, “written by someone in {our state}”), or I can relate to it in some way, it’s probably in my reader. Several of my friends also blog, so they are in my reader, too – though I don’t put all of them in my blogroll for their privacy.

You mention above being a PA (peanut allergy) mom. Who has a peanut allergy in your family, and how do you manage that challenge?We discovered our daughter’s food allergies (peanuts and eggs) when she was 15 months old. In making the required dietary changes, I discovered that many of the convenient snacks, sweets, and boxed mixes we regularly used were not ‘safe’ foods anymore. At that time, I began making a lot more of things from scratch. I’d made baby food before, but I was never as intentional about what my husband and I were eating. Once I started reading labels more carefully for peanut, tree nut, and egg ingredients, I also noticed the unhealthy ingredients and decided I would work to do better for our whole family. Through this, I have discovered that I enjoy being in the kitchen – especially baking. That doesn’t mean you won’t find chips or cookies in my pantry, but you’ll definitely see less that you would have a few years ago.

M will go through allergy testing again next week. Hopefully, we’ll get good news, and she will have outgrown her egg allergy. If so, we can revive our Saturday morning tradition of scrambled eggs for breakfast. If not, well, life goes on! For our family, all of the food allergy precautions are normal to us now. M is also quickly becoming her own advocate and asking if foods are safe before she eats them. What seemed insurmountable in the beginning has become part of our lifestyle, and that’s the most important thing I share with anyone who is learning to live with food allergies.

Speaking of food, I know you are a big fan of Dream Dinners. Tell us why - and how often - you use this convenient service.
We use Dream Dinners about once a month – and have been for a few years now. As much as I love to cook and bake, the time and money savings with Dream Dinners makes it a great option for our family. We are also MUCH more willing to try new foods – I don’t have to hunt down a recipe or figure out side dishes, we just select the 3-serving size, take advantage of the side dish suggestions, and give it a whirl. That’s how I found out that I like salmon! When we use one of our meals, dinner is usually on the table in about 30 minutes. That leaves a lot more of the evening for me to spend with my husband and kids before they go to bed. Also, if my schedule gets really tight and I can’t fit in a Dream Dinners session, I use the “Made for Me” option and the folks at Dream Dinners will assemble our meals according to our dietary needs and tastes. It’s really a great fit for us since we enjoy a lot of variety and want to encourage the same thing in our children.

Ok, let's move on to some "lighter" topics...
Favorite place to get a good deal on kids clothes?Mt Tabor UMC Clothing Exchange, Old Navy

Favorite place to splurge on kids clothes?We don’t really splurge on the kids clothes, but will put a fair amount of money into shoes –we are a New Balance family (hooray for the TSP discount card!), I usually purchase KEENs online, and dress shoes often come from Stride Rite Outlet.

What is your favorite family activity?It’s hard to choose one answer because it changes with the seasons. Also, as the kids get older, we are able to try many more things together. Right now we are trying our hands at square-foot gardening for the second summer, and we’ve added more square footage this year. The kids really enjoy watching the fruits and vegetables grow, especially when anything’s ready to pick!

Favorite “mommy-time” activity?I enjoy meeting a friend for coffee/lunch/dinner. I try to schedule it just like I would any other appointment to be sure that I make it a priority.

Best place to eat lunch and/or dinner with the kids?Our kids love Beef ‘O’ Brady’s! You can find us there for lunch most Sundays.

Favorite date place?Christopher’s or Firebirds, but most often a redbox movie after the kids are in bed.

Funniest thing your kid(s) has ever said?There really are too many! In fact, I have an “Overheard” label on my blog for this kind of thing, and I should probably use it more often. Recently, though…. “Cats need a lot of room for their babies to hatch.”

Favorite park in the Triad?I would like to explore more of them, but if I had to pick one, I think I’d say Miller Park. The playground, the trails, and the trees (shade!) make it a great place for playing, exploring, and relaxing.

Mini-van or SUV?Honda Odyssey! But I have a confession: I ask for an Accord when my van is in the shop for those “big” services that take half of the day. The change is fun, but in the end, I still love my minivan more.

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
There are plenty of things to do here, but so many other opportunities within a day’s drive. Now that our kids are a bit older, I’m looking forward to trying more of the day trip options I’ve read about on TSP!

Best kept secret in the Triad?
I find something new all the time! My favorite finds are locally-owned businesses – you can’t beat the service and value, especially when you establish relationships as a repeat customer.

Best mom secret YOUR mom has shared with you?Probably the most fun thing I have learned from my mom is to let a sick child drink chicken noodle soup through a straw. I know this because I got to do it when I was a kid. The noodles come right up through the straw – guaranteed to make a sick kid laugh! And I have never really liked the bits of chicken, anyway.

Best birthday party you have attended?A ballerina-themed party held at the home of one of my daughter’s classmates.

Best book you’ve ever read?
Pass – it’s too hard to pick!

What’s your favorite thing about Triad Smarty Pants?
Smarty Finds and Smarty Day Trips.

I could not live without my...Husband! He’s supportive of the roles I juggle, has a great sense of humor, and works hard so I can be a mostly-stay-at-home mom. He was working at his computer while I worked on these answers, giving his “smarty-pants” answers to the questions while I typed mine – we were laughing and having a great time. Tomorrow is our anniversary!

I wish someone had told me sooner about...Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

RL has also guest blogged for TSP on Geocaching as a Day Trip idea, and momAgenda as a Smarty Find, and on food allergies. Be sure to check out these blogs.

Thanks for these fabulous answers, RLR, and congrats to you and Joe on your wedding anniversary!! I'm so glad I finally met you, and we appreciate all the support you give TSP! You truly are one smarty mom!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I recently purchased this Dial soap refill for our liquid soap dispensers.  As I emptied it today, I was annoyed with myself for ever having purchased it.  What looks eco-smart now has me asking, "Is it really?"  Sure, there's less packaging.  The package even states, "uses 67% less plastic that bottle refills."  Perhaps the clue should have been this statement: "Lessens impact on landfills."  What's really got my feathers ruffled?  There is no recycling symbol on this 'eco-smart' packaging.

I was trying to be a smart, environmentally-conscious consumer by purchasing a product that uses less plastic.  And I was using it to refill a soap pump (a glass one) that I already have.  Apparently, though, this product is designed for someone who's not planning to recycle, so they can feel good about putting less plastic that usual into the landfill. Well, I don't feel food about that.  Note to self: look for the recycling symbol before purchasing!

I guess it's a non-issue at this point, really.  I'm slowing making the move to all-natural products.  As I run out of things, I'm trying hard to replace them with something healthier for our home, our bodies, and the planet.  (Now I sound all crunchy-granola, don't I?  Trust me, I've got a long way to go!)  My point is, this soap won't be on my grocery list again.  Even if it did have a recycling symbol.