Monday, December 28, 2009

How My Kid Got a "Water-Shooting Race Track" for Christmas

I wasn't going to do it. I was dead-set against it!

But the minute Rowan looked up at me with his big blue eyes and said, “I just know that Santa will bring it for me,” I caved.

What can I say? He’s 4 years old, and I don’t know how long he’ll believe. So I decided that the magic was worth the mess.

And it totally was.

“Oh. Man.” he said when he caught his first glimpse of it. “I guess Santa really does bring you what you ask for at Christmas!”

Like I said, worth it.

And the mess wasn't so bad. Although Rowan calls it a "water-shooting race track," it's actually more like a vehicle-shooting car wash....or something like that.

Anyhoo, we set it up on a towel, and the cleanup was a breeze.

All the boys thought it was pretty cool.

And so did I.

Christmas Is Over...Now What?

For how much I complain about dorky Christmas music, I sure felt sad when the Christmas stations were back to regularly scheduled programming today. Seeing all of the boxes and bags in recycling bins on the curb was pretty depressing, too. I suppose we’ll take the tree down this weekend...and clean...


We really must find something to look forward to during the cold months ahead.

A weekend at a hotel with a waterpark maybe? Frequent trips to museums? Movie nights?

Winter is far too long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Special Message for Santa

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #5

Tip #5: Do NOT forget to include batteries, industrial-grade scissors, safety gloves and Band-Aids with any gift that you give to a child!

Nothing is more disappointing than unwrapping a super awesome toy only to discover that you can't play with it until dad runs to the store for batteries.

Scratch that.

Nothing is more disappointing than unwrapping a super awesome toy only to discover that no one can even OPEN the packaging surrounding it!

Even parents who are industrious enough to crack through the sharp plastic casing and melted seams will find it nearly impossible to unwind those evil gray wires that tether the toys inside.

So, if you want to be merely polite, include batteries with your gift. If you want to be exceptionally thoughtful, also include industrial-grade scissors, safety gloves (goggles might be necessary in some cases) and LOTS of Band-Aids.*

Mom and dad (especially dad) will thank you.

*Use your judgement about whether a complete first-aid kit might be necessary.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #4

Tip #4: Do NOT apologize for your gift while the recipient is opening it!

Yeah, yeah, I know how it goes. You couldn't find exactly the right thing. The store was out of what you had hoped to buy. You couldn't decide what size to choose. You didn't have enough time.

Whatever excuse explains your less-than-stellar gift, keep it to yourself!

A person opening a present should not feel compelled to console the giver before the wrapping even hits the floor. ("I understand. It's OK, really it is. Don't worry about it! I'm sure it'll be fine.")

Just hand over your gift, smile politely while it's being opened, and — when you inevitably hear "Thank you!" — muster your most sincere "You're welcome!"

(Oh, and don't forget to include a gift receipt.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #3

Tip #3: Do NOT forget to wrap your presents!

This one might come as a bit of surprise to some of you. Maybe you’re thinking, “Forget to wrap my presents? Of course I’ll wrap my presents!”

For those of you confused by this tip, I have a simple message:
You're LUCKY!

Me? I once received a present wrapped in a Target bag with a red bow. On another occasion, I received a present stuffed in a paper grocery bag with no bow. I have even waited to receive a present while someone wrapped it at the last minute in another room.*

The bottom line: It happens! Just DON’T let it be because of you!

Even if you’re giving a so-so gift, wrap it in some festive paper or stick it in a cute gift bag. Presentation counts! And if you want to be green, go ahead and wrap your presents in grocery bags or newspaper. Just be sure to put forth a little extra effort (stencils, ribbon, raffia) to make it look special for your special someone.

Is that really too much to ask?

I didn’t think so.

*No, not all of these gift-giving faux pas were committed by my husband.**

**Yes, some of them were committed by my husband.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #2

Tip #2: Do NOT express disdain for ANYTHING before you’ve opened your Christmas presents.

And when I say anything, I mean ANYTHING.

Do NOT say that you’ve always hated the color purple.

Do NOT say that you never wear earrings.

Do NOT say that you hate to read.

Do NOT say that you think wool is itchy and uncomfortable.


Because a little known law of nature dictates that whatever you complain about is the very thing that you're about to receive as a gift.

So while you're going on and on at dinner about the fact that Kenny G isn’t “real jazz,” your grandmother will be in tears for having placed his Christmas CD under the tree with your name on it. And when you finally open that ill-fated gift, you'll feel even worse for having said “Only old people buy CDs!” during dessert.

Save yourself this embarrassment. For the next three days, remember to hold your tongue. If you don’t have anything nice to say…well, you know the rest.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Five Etiquette Tips for Givers and Receivers: Tip #1

I might be alone on this one, but I often find it stressful to give and receive gifts.

(Yes, yes, I know. My life must be pretty cushy if this is the only thing I have to complain about. But hear me out…)

In the weeks surrounding Christmas, I can become overwhelmed by the frantic cycle of selecting, purchasing, wrapping, transporting, opening, ooohing, aaahing, sorting, returning and repurchasing. “Stuff management” simply exhausts me.

BUT, I think there might be less interpersonal stress associated with gifting if everyone followed a few simple etiquette tips. Expect to see one tip per day until Christmas Day.

Tip #1: Do NOT buy anything for yourself just before Christmas!

Maybe you’ve been eying a gorgeous sweater that’s now marked 20 percent off. Maybe that cookbook you’ve been talking about for months is finally back in stock. Or maybe you’ve just spritzed your last spritz of your signature fragrance.


Someone thoughtful might have been paying attention to your little desires all this time. And that special person will be absolutely crestfallen if you beat them to the punch mere days before the big reveal.

So resist the temptation. Even if it turns out that your loved ones know absolutely nothing about your wants and needs, you can always buy something nice for yourself after Christmas (and at an even deeper discount). Trust me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Kid Needs the Tiny Font

This week, Rowan's preschool sent home a list that includes the holiday wishes of everyone in class. I had to laugh when I scanned down to Rowan's wish. While it appears that the other kids could easily blurt out a simple want or need, Rowan required a drastic reduction in font size.

What did he say?

"What I want for Christmas is in a book with toys and stuff that you can get for Christmas."

My guess is that the sentence should have ended with a "..." because I highly doubt he planned to end there. How do I know? I've heard this wish before:
"What I want for Christmas is in a book with toys and stuff that you can get for Christmas. It's a special car wash race track that shoots water* and then the cars land in the water. But the cars don't get wet until the end, because the water shoots over the cars until they land in the pool."
Maybe they didn't have a font tiny enough to include the whole thing?

*I know what you're thinking: "A water-shooting race track? What a mess!" Well, you'll be happy to know that Rowan now wants a Lightning McQueen race track that absolutely does NOT shoot water. I wonder if it was our most recent trip to Target that changed his mind. ("Oh my gosh, Rowan, look at this race track! It's sooo cool! Don't you think it's cool?") Hmmm...I wonder.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Life Is Funny (Shopping Is Funnier)

Oh, that poor sales girl.

She didn’t see it coming.

But I couldn’t help it!

(I promise, I really couldn’t!)

It was just so absurd.

And I’m the kind of girl that laughs (hard) in the face of absurdity.

Tell me a joke? I’ll muster a polite chuckle.

Lend me your favorite comedy? I might crack a smile.

But try to convince me — in your sincerest voice — that men need special moisturizing products because of their “unique body oils,” “masculine hormones,” and “PH body specifications,” and I will launch into a spontaneous giggle fit!

And I will ask you if you’re really serious.

And I will tell you that I’m not trying to be mean.

And I will apologize profusely for my rudeness.

And I will explain that it’s been a long day.

And I will finally win you over by asking, “Didn’t you think it was ridiculous when someone told you to say that?”

(You did.)

And you will be smiling, but looking somewhat disillusioned, when I finally walk away without making a purchase.

And I will still be giggling.

Because that’s what I do.

I can’t help it.

Life is just too funny sometimes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Shopping Dialogue

If you see Kyle and I at a mall between now and December 25th, expect to hear the following conversation:

Angie: “What about this? Wouldn't this be nice?”

Kyle: “I don’t’ know.”

Angie: “Don't you like it?”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “Do you think [s/he/they] would like it?

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “I mean, I like it…but do you think [s/he/they] would even like the same things that I do?

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: "What kind of stuff would [s/he/they] get excited about, anyway?"

Kyle: "I don't know."

Angie: “Oh my God... How is it even possible that I’ve known [her/him/them] for almost my whole life, but I still have no idea whether [s/he/they]'d even like this?”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “Isn’t that almost depressing??”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “I feel overwhelmed... Do you think we should we get it or not?”

Kyle: “I don’t know.”

Angie: “This is just too hard, isn’t it? Do you want to get a latte or something while we think about it?”

Kyle: “Yes.”

I hope your Christmas shopping is going better than ours is!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Fell and I Did Get Up

Rowan and I got caught in an interesting little role reversal tonight.

We were just about to watch Elf as a family, when I bolted up the stairs to grab my slippers before the opening scene. Not being the most graceful person on earth, I rolled my foot, twisted my ankle and somehow landed on my back. On the steps.


I must have made a rather loud thud, because Rowan soon was running upstairs to see what had happened.

"Mama, what are you doing?!" he asked.

"I fell," I responded. "I twisted my ankle and hit my back."

"Get up!" he demanded. "I can't tell if you're hurt unless you move around."

"No, I don't think I'm really hurt," I said. "I just need to lie down here for a second."

"Mama, sometimes I fall down and cry because I think I'm hurt," he continued. "But actually, I just scared myself. If you get up and move around you'll be fine."

So I did. And I am.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Is anyone else getting good mileage out of the Santa thing this year?

I sure am!*

Well, I am now. On Sunday, I was worried that I had uttered my last effective "Remember that Santa is watching you!" for this season. Rowan simply looked at me and replied, "You know what, mama? I think you're just trying to trick me into doing what you want me to do."

Uh oh.

But then, on Monday, I received a gift in the form of a horrifyingly strange and propagandaish claymation classic! I honestly have no memory of watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town as a child. Maybe I suppressed its wacky plot deep into my subconscious. I mean, you'd think I'd recall such memorable characters as the repressive Burgermeister Meisterburger and the evil Winter Warlock. And who could forget Topper, the jubilant helper penguin?

Did I mention that the plot is completely insane?

In case you're wondering: YES, I am rather horrified that this movie is now the basis for my son's understanding of the St. Nicholas legend. But I don't care right now. Rowan has been on his very best behavior since Monday evening, so I'm not complaining.

I think it was this final scene that clinched it:

Thank you, Fred Astaire!

I plan to show this scene to Rowan any time I sense that the "magic" is fading.

*Please note: Officially, I am opposed to bribery, threats and all other conditional parenting tactics. Officially. Just so we're clear.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Home for the Holidays

I've decided that the only way to get my house clean is to host a party.

Seriously. Without a looming deadline and the risk of total embarrassment, we might never address that pile of clirty clothes that collects in our bedroom.

What? You've never heard of "clirty" clothes? Well, imagine a sweater that you've worn only once after washing it. It's not exactly clean...but it probably isn't dirty, either. You could totally wear it again...but if you needed to round out a load of delicates, you'd throw it in the washing machine while you had the chance.

The wishy-washy status of clirty clothes leads to some strange logic and behaviors at our house. We seem to believe that clirty clothes don't deserve to reside with the clean clothes in our drawers and closets. But we don't want such items mixing with the truly dirty stuff in the hamper, either.

So, naturally, clirty clothes end up on the floor.

Yup. We're weird.

What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah, parties! So far this fall and winter, we've hosted Rowan's birthday party, a Halloween party and — just today — a tree-trimming party!

Both sides of our family joined us for a day of Christmas fun! I served egg bake, caramel rolls and fruit for brunch. Mmmm.

I put a pretty poinsettia on the table, along with two rather bizarre electric candles that I got on clearance at Target. They flicker and smell like apple cinnamon. A little odd, yes, but at least they didn't singe the poinsettia leaves or burn the kiddos.

After each of us ate at least three caramel rolls, we trimmed the tree! Maddox liked to be lifted up high to reach the top branches, while Avery preferred the "every ornament on one branch" approach to decorating. Rowan made sure to comment on the beauty and significance of the ornaments, each of which he assumed was given to us a long long time ago, when he was very little.

When all the ornaments were up, Rowan placed the star on the top of the tree!

True story about our tree: I bought it when Rowan was just two months old. We were living in our first house at the time, and Kyle was being a bit of a grinch about Christmas (and, more specifically, about setting up a real Christmas tree). So we packed Rowan into the car and drove to Menards, where I picked out a perfectly lovely artificial model. When the salesman told us that the tree I had chosen was out of stock, I started crying. No joke. I was a total mess of frustration and new-mom hormones. In the end, the guy sold us the display model for 20 percent off and gave us the lights and garlands for free!

I bought a candelabra to put in our fireplace this year. Less messy than a real fire, that's for sure.

Our Advent calendar is Rowan's favorite Christmas decoration. Why? Because it's filled with chocolates, of course!

The finished room, all warm and cozy for Christmas!

And to conclude this post, I give you a gratuitously adorable photo of B-Rex and Chuckles (Kyle's nicknames for Breck and Charlie).

Here's wishing you a wonderful season filled with family, friends and fun!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Outsider's Perspective

A woman almost made me cry at Chipotle today.

The place was crazy busy, so I was rehearsing my order in my head to avoid becoming flustered. Rowan, of course, was doing his best to distract me. Dancing his "funky dance," he was belting out a made-up song about beans and cheese. ("Beans beans, oooh yeah, cheesy cheesy, oh yeah...")

"I just love him," came a voice from behind us. "Your son. I just love him."

I turned to see a woman behind me positively beaming at Rowan. "Thanks," I responded, trying not to seem a little creeped out. "I kinda like him too."

"That's such a wonderful age," she mused, still staring in Rowan's direction, but clearly lost in memories. "I miss when my son was that little."

She went on to tell me that her son is a teenager now — still wonderful, of course, but much more serious and independent. "I had to smile as we walked in," she continued. "You said, 'Are you listening to me?' And he said, 'Mama, I'm running and jumping and listening to you!' I just love it! Soak up every second. It goes by so fast."

By the time it was my turn to order, I had tears in my eyes and couldn't remember if I had wanted the carnitas or the barbacoa.

I felt guilty.

To be honest, I hadn't even noticed Rowan's endearing response to my question. So focused on the task at hand, I had just wanted him to listen...and stand still...and be quiet.

As I was taking my receipt, Rowan said, "Mama, I think we should get a cookie after this, because my tummy will be so full of healthy food it won't even notice a treat."

Immediately, I glanced at the woman behind me and smiled. She was still beaming.

Sometimes it takes a stranger to make you realize how precious life is, how fast time flies and how much you have to be grateful for. So thank you, Chipotle customer lady. I gave my son even more hugs and kisses (and a cookie) tonight because of you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Right, Wrong and Rowan

Rowan says he's making a magazine.

Naturally, it looks nothing like a all. The loosely formed mass is comprised of paper that Rowan has cut up, painted, and stuck together using what he calls "sticky things" (tape, staples, string, glue sticks and gift ribbon).

He's been working on his magazine for more than a week. One day, as I pondered the project's total takeover of our dining room table, I told Rowan that he was holding his scissors the wrong way. His response? "There isn't a wrong way to hold a scissors, mama. As long as it's cutting, it's fine."


It wasn't the first time he had corrected me about his methods. "This is how they show me to hold my pencil in preschool," he once declared, demonstrating his tripod grip. "But now I'm making art. I need to hold my pencil the crazy way because it helps me make wild circles and fireworks!"

"Oh, I see," I responded. "That makes sense."

On that note, I have a special request for Rowan's future teachers: Please, please, please don't crush my little guy's artistic dreams just because he colors outside the lines or has absolutely no interest in drawing anything that looks like anything you'd ever recognize. I like him just the way he is.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Special Christmas Wish

Rowan and Maddox visited Santa this past weekend. Rowan asked for a race track, and Maddox asked for...well...let's just say that Maddox is a big fan of the Toy Story movies.

I think he got tired of watching us crack up each time he repeated his wish list. He had no idea why we were laughing, but it didn't take long for him to discover that "guitar" prompted fewer smirks from the grownups.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun Game

We've been having a lot of fun playing Don't Make Me Laugh, Jr. with Rowan lately. Just thought I'd mention it in case anyone is looking for a fun Christmas gift for families with young kids.

I must provide a disclaimer, however, for people who enjoy competition:


At first, I found this a rather annoying. I even toyed around with creating new rules to make it a little more challenging and competetive. But the truth is that Rowan LOVES playing this game just the way it is.

He thinks it's hilarious to act out the silly scenarios and watch Kyle and I do the same. The only catch is that he needs one of us to read his cards for him. But really, since there is no competition involved in this "game," that's not a problem.

It's a nice change of pace from Candyland and Shoots and Ladders, that's for sure.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Secret Santa

Today, I asked Rowan what he hopes Santa will bring him for Christmas. His response?

"I don't have to tell you that. It's a secret for Santa!"

Hmmm. This could be a problem. But considering that the last time I asked, he said he wanted "red paper, a rubber duck and a bigger scissors" my guess is that he isn't aiming very high. In any case, I will be listening very closely when we visit Santa this afternoon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Interview

Rowan, What are you thankful for this year?

  • Mommy
  • Mama
  • Treats
  • Food
  • T.V.
  • Cleaning up
  • My Lighning McQueen cup
  • Love
  • Daddy*
  • Christmas
  • Flowers
  • Santa

What is Thanksgiving all about?

  • Dessert
  • Playing

What do you want to tell everyone on Thanksgiving?

"Once upon a time there was love. Love, love, love. The end."

Happy Thanksgiving!

*Kyle, don't be offended that you came after "cleaning up" and "my Lightning McQueen cup." You know Rowan loves that cup. And sweetie, please know that you'd be at the tippy top of my list!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Delayed Gratification

My son possesses an admirable amount of self-restraint. This evening, for example, he asked for one marshmallow for dessert.* When he realized that he was about to eat the very last marshmallow in the bag, he made an interesting choice.

After consuming two-thirds of the puffed sugar cylinder, he stopped. "I want to save the rest for tomorrow," he said, handing me the sticky white mass. "For after breakfast."

You are a fascinating little boy, Rowan. And we love that about you.

*In case you're wondering: Yes, my son would almost certainly choose a Market Pantry marshmallow over a homemade dessert.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Am Thankful for Butter

Goodness gracious, we consumed an unholy amount of butter tonight!

I realize that my timing is lousy. Thanksgiving — that yearly celebration of gluttony — is just two days away! I should be cooking broth soups or preparing fresh salads to atone for what's coming. Instead, we’re feasting on comfort foods!

I blame the sales. Because Thanksgiving is just two days away, everything rich and decadent has been marked down. Butter: on sale. Cream: on sale. Puff pastry: on sale!

Today, I discovered that you can buy all natural (ALL BUTTER) Dufour puff pastry at Whole Foods Market. I bought a package and decided to make chicken pot pie for dinner and raspberry napoleons for dessert. (Organic raspberries were also on sale!)

For the pot pie, I loosely followed this filling recipe (halved). I poured the warm filling into a pie dish and covered it with rounds of puff pastry, which I had brushed with an egg wash. After thirty minutes at 400 degrees, the filling was bubbling and the puff pastry “biscuits” were golden brown. Yum!

For the napoleons, I made another batch of homemade vanilla pudding and put it in the refrigerator to chill. While the pot pie was in the oven, I baked the remaining puff pastry on a cookie sheet. By the time we were ready for dessert, the pastry was cool, and the pudding was chilled. These pretty desserts were fun to assemble and even more fun to eat!

And now, please excuse me while I go in search of next week’s YMCA group fitness schedule.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Truth

Today, I kind of just sat. And I'm OK with that.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pudding and Patience

Rowan and I made homemade vanilla pudding today. As we slowly stirred the sweetened custard, I was flooded with childhood memories of making tapioca pudding with my dad. I’ll never forget the agony of staring at the saucepan, willing the swirling golden mixture to thicken. The transformation seemed to take forever.

And even when the liquid finally became thick and silky, the waiting had only just begun. Dad would pour the contents of the saucepan into several green-rimmed Corelle bowls and pop them into the refrigerator to set.

“Are they done yet?” we would ask…repeatedly.

He never told us that we couldn’t eat the pudding early, but he made it clear that patience would be rewarded. Eat it too soon, he warned, and it would be tepid and runny. Plus, once you consumed your so-so pudding, you’d be forced to watch everyone else enjoy a perfectly chilled treat!

So we waited…and peeked…and waited…and peeked.

Making pudding was — and is — a lesson in patience.

Today, I smiled when Rowan asked, “Are they done yet?” for the fourth time. I’ve been there. To ease the waiting, I let him lick the spatula, just like I did when I was a kid.

After a little more than an hour in the refrigerator, the pudding was set.

“Waiting for a treat makes it taste extra good!” Rowan declared between slurps.

So true.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Too Cute for Words

If you ever need a one-day break from blogging, just dig up an impossibly cute video of your adorable nephews.

It works for me!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Night Special

On the menu tonight:

  • Macaroni and cheese (at least it was "delux")
  • Sweet white wine (milk for the kiddo, of course)
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough
Before you judge me, keep in mind that I was sick for more than a week. And anyway, you won't fool me into believing that this combination of lowbrow classics isn't at least a little appealing.

Actually, it was pretty good. Not great, but solidly good.

Now I'm off to make a grocery list...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Save or Toss?

I have a little problem.

It's this thing:

What is it, you ask? Well, according to Rowan, it's a masterpiece — a book that he created using pens, markers, blue painter's tape, glue sticks and what he calls "special scratch paper."

Naturally, I'm quite impressed by my son's determination and creativity. He worked on this thing for almost 45 minutes. should I do with it now? Have I given it enough recognition by taking a picture of it and sharing it on our blog? Can I recycle it now? After all, when it comes to art, the process is more important than the end result...right?

What would you do?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rowan's Abstract Photography

Rowan found the camera while watching Sid the Science Kid yesterday. My oh my, he took some freaky pictures! They kinda sorta give me the heebie geebies.

Check them out:

Sooo freaky.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snack Attack

It was my turn to “bring snack” for our ECFE class today. It’s an annoying task, really. Each week, one parent is required to purchase three different snacks: one appropriate for the infant/toddler room, one appropriate for the preschool room, and one appropriate for the parent room.

Last week, our parent educator informed us that we should no longer buy cereal for the infant/toddler room. “They have more Cheerios and Kicks than they know what to do with!” was her exact quote. So instead, they want us to buy packages of special cereal and fruit puffs from the baby food aisle.


Is anyone else a little confused by this logic? If they have an overabundance of Cheerios and Kicks, why don’t they just feed the babies Cheerios and Kicks? Why do we need to buy anything at all? Can’t the babies make it through a 1-hour class without special puffs to sustain them?

I don’t get it.

But the baby snack was the least of my problems. In the old days, we were allowed to bring homemade treats for the parent snack. Not everyone did, of course, but it was always nice when someone took the time to bake a pretty tart or cake for the group.

Not anymore!

“Due to concerns about H1N1, homemade snacks are no longer allowed in the parent room,” was the official position given by our educator.


Is anyone else a little confused by this logic? I mean, I understand if the concern is about dirty kitchens, poisoning attempts or allergies…but H1N1? Why are muffins baked at 350 degrees in someone’s home any more likely to carry H1N1 than a plastic tub of mini scones that who knows how many people have touched at Target?

I ended up buying the puffs for the babies, some crackers for the preschoolers and an assortment of mini scones and rolls for the parents. More than $35 later, I had an acceptable snack.

You know what would really prevent H1N1? How about not passing around a snack at all? Can’t we all make it through a 9 a.m. class without nourishment?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Caught Learning!

Ask Rowan what he learns at preschool, and he'll happily tell you.

"Nothing," he'll say with a sly little grin. "I learn NOTHING at preschool!"

Oh yeah, little punk? Now I have evidence! You can't fool me anymore. No siree.

Consider yourself caught in the act of learning!

Counting to 20 (or something?) in Spanish

Singing about the months of the year

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Night Blues

Bathrooms scrubbed, laundry folded, surfaces disinfected, dishes washed...

Now I need a week-long vacation! A real vacation.

But alas, I'll be back at the office tomorrow...assuming I can keep the coughs and sniffling to a minimum.

Oh joy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side

Being sick is the pits. But since Thanksgiving is approaching, I feel compelled to look on the bright side.

Hmmm... The bright side… What am I thankful for right now?

Oh, I suppose I can thing of a few things:

  1. Ugly underwear: One of the great things about being sick is that you don’t have to pay any attention to your appearance. Putting on make-up is a total waste of time when you’re constantly blowing your nose. And why style your hair when bed head is inevitable?

    But the best part of neglecting your appearance is the underwear. That’s right, ladies. When you’re sick, you can wear your most comfortable, high-waist, full-coverage cotton undies* and not feel the least bit embarrassed. Panty lines? Who cares! And it’s not like your hubby is coming anywhere near you for at least a week. Ahhh. Luxury.

  2. Forced exercise: I’m not a huge fan of working out, but I especially hate ab routines. The crunching, the twisting, the neck-straining. Blech. Thankfully, I no longer need an ab routine. Why? Because I am coughing my way to a better body! And the beauty of this workout is that I can’t stop doing it — not even in my sleep. I doubt I’ll achieve a six-pack during my illness, but I’m okay with that. Involuntary exercise can only accomplish so much.

  3. Reluctant servants: As our family’s primary caretaker, I'll admit that it’s nice to get a little extra TLC while I’m sick. And when I say a little, I mean very little. But every bit counts, right? A cup of tea here. An extra blanket there. Nice! Oh sure, I hear a sigh or see an eye roll from my boys now and then. But it doesn’t matter. While I’m sick, they’re mine!

Seriously, though, I think I'm most thankful for the fact that — so far — no one else has contracted my illness. A healthy family is truly the best blessing of all. It means less work for me! ;)

*I discovered the amazing comfort of full-coverage cotton undies when I accidentally ordered the wrong style from Victoria's Secret. Sooo comfy...and yet sooo dorky. But ladies, they aren't for everyday wear! They're just for times when comfort trumps fashion. Buy some. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Playing Hard and Laying Low

Kyle and Rowan enjoyed a water park this afternoon while I rested on the couch. As they were leaving the facility, Rowan made a special request:

"Daddy, can I look in the window again? Just to remember how fun it was?"

Sounds like they had a great time. I'm sad I missed it. BUT, I'm starting to feel a little better! Gosh, I bet I'll be feeling well just in time to go back to work! :(

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Today

I'm not feeling well enough for silly stories or deep thoughts today. Maybe tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow. Please, please, pretty please tomorrow?

I'm sick of being sick! (Is it just me, or is daytime television even worse than it used to be?)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shared Interest?

I’ve been feeling rather lousy today (aches, fever, chills), so I’m not nearly as verbose as usual. But I thought I’d share a sweet/funny moment that Rowan and I had earlier this evening. We were cuddled up on opposite sides of the couch, watching cooking shows on TPT Life.

Rowan: Did you see that, mama? She’s gonna brine the pork chops in sugar. I love sugar!

Me: It doesn’t taste sugary when it’s done.

Rowan: Yes it does! I think that’s a pretty good trick.

Me: We can try that sometime, if you want to.

[Long pause...]

Me: You know what, Rowan? I really like watching these shows with you. It’s a special thing that just you and I do together.

Rowan: Yeah...

[Long pause…]

Rowan: Were you telling the truth when you said this is the only thing on?

Me: Yes.

[Long pause…]

Rowan: I guess I like watching these shows with you, too.

Me: Thanks, buddy. I love you.

Rowan: I love you, too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Quite unlike his mother, Rowan is a sentimental soul. While I have no problem ridding our house of old projects, ticket stubs and broken toys, he wants to save everything.

But his favorite keepsakes are what he calls our beautiful things — pictures and mementos that we display to admire and remember special times in our lives.

For example, he absolutely adores the Willow Tree "New Dad" figurine in our office. Kyle received it as a gift from his parents shortly after Rowan was born. Rowan asks to hold it and look at it from time to time. As he admired it yesterday, he invited Kyle to take a silly little trip down memory lane.

Rowan: "Daddy, this is a very special beautiful thing, isn't it?"

Kyle: "Yes, it is. I got it from my mom and dad when you were born. It reminds me of when you were a baby."

Rowan: "Do you remember when I was such a tiny baby?"

Kyle: "I do."

Rowan: "Do you remember holding me when I was such a tiny baby?"

Kyle: "I do."

Rowan: "Do you remember sitting on a rock while you were holding me when I was such a tiny baby?"

Kyle: "Uh...[laughs], I don't think I remember sitting on a rock when you were a baby. Maybe we did, though."

Rowan: "I was just wondering about that."

Oh, that kid makes us smile every day!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ugly Web Site Beef Stew

Recipe reviews are so annoying. In theory, they should be totally useful. Learning from the experiences of others could prevent disaster or improve an already wonderful dish. But some reviewers simply go too far. Ever read one like this?

RECIPE: Chef4You44’s Thai Beef Curry

KookingKutie wrote: “This recipe was AMAZING! I made a few changes, though, to suit our family. Instead of beef, I used chicken (had it in the freezer – BIG sale, woohoo!). And instead curry paste and coconut milk (WAY too spicy for DH), I simmered the chicken in stock with some fresh thyme and root vegetables. We didn’t have rice, so I finished it off with some egg noodles. Thanks for the inspiration! Keep ‘em coming!”

Okay, real reviews aren’t usually that bad, but some are pretty close!

So when I was searching for a low-carb* beef stew recipe a couple of weeks ago, I was rather intrigued by this one. After wading through gobs of reviews for various versions on the Food Network, simplicity proved oddly refreshing. No impeccable photos. No long-winded reviews. Just a basic recipe sitting on a totally boring, poorly designed diet site.

So I made it. And it was good! I only made a few changes. (HA! You knew this was coming.)
  • Instead of a can of plain stewed tomatoes, I used fire-roasted tomatoes with diced green chiles (nice and spicy!)
  • Instead of a cube of beef bouillon, I used a teaspoon of organic Better than Bouillon (you know, because it’s better)
  • And instead of zucchini, I used some cauliflower
  • Oh, and I try to use grass-fed beef and organic ingredients whenever possible.

That’s it!

I’ve made three batches over the past couple of weeks to bring to work for lunch. And I’m not sick of it yet! (Now that sounds like an honest review.)


*Why am I eating low-carb? Well, I’m not. Not really, at least. I was just in one of those “I really need to watch it or I won’t make it to the other side of winter without having to buy bigger pants” kinds of moods when I was looking for a recipe.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mystery Solved: Strep Throat

We wasted our entire day in urgent care!

Well, that’s not exactly true.

We wasted our entire day at Minute Clinic and in urgent care.

I suppose it was our own fault for leaving Minute Clinic. We waited there for over an hour to earn the coveted “next in line” spot. So when the practitioner informed us that he’d be taking a 30-minute break before our visit, we were mad. Irrationally mad.

We left.

Kyle found a pediatric urgent care clinic near our house that — at the time we called — had only two patients in the waiting room. ("At the time we called" is the key phrase here.)

But before we discuss urgent care, I'd like to share a few special moments from Minute Clinic/CVS:

  • A woman bought a Snuggie — you know, one of those blanket/dress thingies they pitch on T.V. — for her DOG! (Yes, they make them for dogs.)
  • Another woman cleared the store out of canned vienna sausages! CANNED sausages!
  • And yet another woman slowly worked her way down the “As Seen on T.V.” aisle, praising the virtues of each product to her friend. Bumpits, Wonder Hangers, Space Bags… Rowan was positively star struck!

Anyhoo, urgent care.

What a mistake.

We sat for what felt like an eternity among whining, coughing, sniffling kiddos. Blech. And let me tell you, it's not easy restraining a 4-year-old who wants to look at books "like the boy with the mask."

At least we left with a diagnosis — strep throat — and a prescription for antibiotics. I almost asked for something for myself after sitting that germ-factory. (Kyle is now reminding me that I did ask him for something: wine.)

So our little guy earned himself a “get out of preschool free” card for tomorrow. Here's hoping that this was our last trip to urgent care for the season.

Cross your fingers for us, will ya?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Case of the Disappearing Fever

Rowan seems to have one of those “vanishes during the day, reappears in the evening” illnesses.

This morning, he bounced into our room looking cheerful and symptom-free. “G’morning, Mama!” he said. “Look out the windows. It’s the morning time!”

I couldn’t believe it. Yesterday, he could hardly keep his eyes open!

Not sure if his recovery would stick, we lazed about the house for most of the morning. By noon, however, there seemed to be no reason to stay cooped up on such a beautiful day.

While Kyle raked leaves, Rowan and I soaked up the sun. We kicked a ball around and practiced with his bike.

He had so much energy that he wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take his picture!

After finishing in the yard, Kyle took Rowan to the park. It was a glorious day!

By the time they came home, however, things had started to change. "Can you snuggle me, mama?" Rowan said, climbing up on the couch. He felt warm.

The fever, aches and sore throat had returned. Bummer.

By 5:30, he was sleeping on the couch. Poor baby.

What will tomorrow bring? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Friday, November 6, 2009

To Treat or Not to Treat?

When do you give a child a fever-reducer?

I always struggle with this dilemma. Often, we go without medicine. If Rowan can sleep well, I figure it's unnecessary. Fevers help the body fight infections, after all, so why mess with nature?

But fevers often accompany bothersome aches and pains. Unfortunately, that’s what Rowan is experiencing today. He’s afflicted with…something. I’d say it’s the flu, but this is the second time we’ve suspected the flu this season. He has a fever, aches, a cough, a runny nose and a sore throat. His eyes are watery and the skin around his eyes is red and splotchy.

Basically, he’s sick. And it breaks my heart.

So when he told me he couldn’t sleep because he "hurt everywhere," I decided to give him ibuprofen.

It worked!

Or did it?

Sure, his aches and pains are better, but now I have a new problem: he no longer acts like he’s sick!

Instead of watching cartoons and drifting in and out of sleep, he’s bopping around and begging me for Halloween candy. And instead of keeping his germs confined to one area of the couch, he’s wiping his nose and eyes all over the house.

I mean, I’m glad he feels a little better. But the truth is that he’s not better. He’s just perky.

Is that a good thing?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

We had a few rough weeks when Rowan started preschool this fall. Going from in-home daycare — and in our home at that — to structured preschool was a big adjustment. But we've now reached a place where Rowan seems reasonably happy at school.

We still have our occasional hard days, though. This afternoon, for example, we had the following conversation while driving home.

Rowan: "Mama, I don’t very much like some things about my school."

"Really? Like what?"

"Like a lot of things."

"But you have some good friends there, don’t you?"

"Yeah, I like Rebecca and Matthew and Maverick."

"So playing with them is fun, right?"

"Yeah, but I still don’t like some things about school."


"Like...I wish they had just one basket of toys."

"Really? Just one basket?"

"Yeah, like one basket of toys that I could look in whenever I want."


"And I wish they had a couch instead of an ABC carpet. Or maybe two couches."


"And I sometimes wish they had a T.V. instead of play areas."

"Rowan, are you describing our living room?"


Naturally, I felt a little pang of guilt. After all, no place feels as comfortable as home.

But school has been good for Rowan in so many ways. He's made some new friends ("Wow, you're invited to a birthday party?"), learned more independence ("Wow, you can put on your own coat?") and adopted some good habits ("Wow, you sing all the way through the ABCs to ensure adequate hand-washing duration?!").

So I'm happy with our three-day-a-week separation. And really, five minutes before we had our conversation in the car, he was singing a pretty different tune:

"Mom, go sit over there for a minute. I'm not done playing."

Go figure.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Being Good and Telling the Truth

Children provide such a fascinating window in to human nature. You can almost see their little minds processing life's most basic questions: "Should I be mean or nice? Should I be truthful or tell a little white lie?"

It's rare when you can capture their moral dilemmas on camera. But it sure is hilarious when you do!

Rowan on being nice and good.

Maddox on telling the truth.
(So that's what happened to our Ice Age DVD!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

That's Better

Urbanites and suburbanites have entirely different expectations about their homes (and lawns). After all, if you live in the city — where most homes were built in the early 1900s — "keeping up with the Joneses" has to look a bit different.

Suburban Neighbor to Mr. Jones: "Hey, how’s that home theater project coming along? Man, it’ll be nice to watch the games down there! Ya think there’ll be room around that fancy new wet bar for me and guys? Sure hope so!"

Urban Neighbor to Mr. Jones: "Hey, how’s that foam insulation project coming along? Man, it’ll be nice not to have ice forming in that south-facing bedroom this winter! Ya think that’ll solve your mold problem? Sure hope so!"

Luckily, we haven’t had any major issues with our house....yet (knock on wood). We have completed a few projects to make it more livable, though. For example, our kitchen cabinets are original to the house. The layout is a little odd, but the cabinets are large and made of solid birch. We talked about replacing them, but I choked at the thought of destroying something so central to our home's history.

So for now, we’re working around them. In October, we repaired some of the kitchen walls, put up a fresh coat of paint, installed a pegboard pot rack, and bought a small kitchen cart. Little things, to be sure, but they’ve made a big difference.

East Wall Before:

East Wall After:

We also bought a new stove and are having a chimney-style vent hood installed. But I won’t show you those “before” pics until we can take the “afters.”

I’m quite happy with the little changes we’ve made. Does my kitchen ever seem small? Sure. But I remind myself that families much larger than ours survived in this house just fine. In fact, families all around our neighborhood are surviving in kitchens like ours right now.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Traditions Happen

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I can’t control what Rowan remembers about his childhood. Still, establishing some lovely family traditions is important to me.

Maybe I’m hoping to counteract some of our less desirable family traditions. Last weekend, for example, Rowan explained the following — in his sincerest little voice — to one of our guests:

“That’s our laundry couch, but we cleared it off for the party. You can sit there now if you want to.”

Yep. Family traditions sneak up on you when you least expect them.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to start a tradition of having fancy dinners on Sundays. I like to cook anyway and had just found an interesting chicken recipe online. While the chicken and garlic braised, I whipped up some mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, sautéed greens and maple-glazed delicata squash. I even baked a homemade apple tart!

I was feeling quite proud of myself when everything came together just in time for dinner (no small feat).

Unfortunately, I forgot one thing: my kid doesn’t like food. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but he sure is picky! His favorite foods all have the same ingredients, rearranged slightly: macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, buttered noodles with — you guessed it — cheese (and NO spices).

My beautifully prepared meal did nothing to convert my little lacto-carbitarian. While Kyle and I ate and ate (and ate), Rowan picked at his plate and whined about how his chicken was too “skin-y” and his squash was too “smashy.”

Then he asked for a bowl of cereal.

You can imagine how frustrating it is to have your home-cooked meal snubbed in favor of Clifford Crunch.

Oh well. Until Rowan’s tastes broaden, I guess I’ll have to start a different family tradition. Or maybe I’ve already created one...? I can see it now:

“My mom only feeds me cereal on Sundays, but you can have something different if you want to."

Great. Just great.

(Don't be fooled. He only ate the whipped cream.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The True Meaning of Halloween?

Last year on Halloween, I was appalled by a phenomenon that I had never before experienced or even considered: adults who go trick-or-treating.

Some of you are undoubtedly thinking, “Children need chaperones!”

I agree. But I’m not talking about adults who accompany young trick-or-treaters. I’ll happily dole out an extra Kit Kat (or three) to parents who brave the elements to give their children a once-a-year opportunity to take candy from strangers.

No, I’m referring to adults who hit the town specifically to collect candy for themselves.

Before moving to the city, I had never even considered that adults might go trick-or-treating. Rowan was 3 when we celebrated our first Halloween in this house. We were putting the final touches on his artist costume when we heard a loud knock. Excited, I quickly grabbed our candy bucket and rushed to the door to greet our first arrival!

You can imagine my surprise when I saw a 40ish-year-old woman standing on our front stoop. She was not with a child. She was not wearing a costume. She did not say "trick-or-treat." She did not even thank me after I gave her a bag of Skittles. Nope. When I wished her a happy Halloween, she quickly shook her bag and demanded more!


(Upon recounting this story, I’ve actually had a few people tell me that they would have refused her. I don’t buy it. If some unstable stranger shakes a Cub Foods bag at you and brazenly demands more candy, I highly doubt you’d have the courage to say no. I sure didn’t!)

This year, I wasn’t surprised when a couple of adults stopped by the house well before dark. Did I think it was a little weird? Yep! But I had recently read an interesting factoid about Halloween that made me feel more at peace with the situation.

According to Wikipedia: “Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).”

I obviously have no idea whether our adult trick-or-treaters were poor. Maybe they were just bored…or crazy…or in serious need of a chocolate fix. But clearly something wasn't quite right. So if I could brighten their day with a few packs of candy, so be it. And if they happen to say a few prayers for my deceased relatives, all the better.

My only real concern is safety. We live in a family-friendly neighborhood, but our close proximity to the bus line means that LOTS of our trick-or-treaters are complete strangers to us. But I never had to answer the door alone this year. Why? Because we hosted a Halloween party! (Kyle preferred to call it an “informal get-together” because that seemed like less work. HA!)

We had a great time! I wish we would have taken more pictures, but we're always so busy when people are at our house. Below are a few highlights.

My family!
(You can't see it under his coat, but Kyle was wearing a 1970s vest and polyester trousers. I would have feathered his hair, but we ran out of time before the party. Drat!)

Ghost cake. Cute and delicious!

Me and Shrek. We're tight.

Shrek and his lady love, Fiona.
(a.k.a., my dad and mom)

The kiddos: Paul as the red Power Ranger; Rowan as Lightning McQueen;
Avery as a bumblebee; and Maddox as Buzz Lightyear.

"Can we go yet?!"

Knock knock. "Trick or treat!"

Rowan and Paul watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
(Yes, this is our TV. Yes, that is a converter box below our TV.
Yes, we know that it's almost 2010. Yes, we are surviving just fine.)

Hope you had a happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Trip to the Orchard

We visited the apple orchard this weekend. Every year, I envision that we'll leave with bags of delicious apples to freeze and turn into yummy pies and tarts. But by the time we walk the grounds, take loads of pictures and play on the playground, my guys are usually tired and grumpy. So we at apple donuts, drank cider and called it a day!

The apple of our eye as the eye of their apple.

Rowan and Avery pose for the yearly height check.

Rowan climbs a giant pile of straw. I know what you're thinking: "Doesn't that seem dangerous?!"

Well, considering that older children were digging a tunnel through the hay...yes, I'd say it DID seem a bit dangerous.

Thankfully, Rowan stayed away from the tunnel even when the older children encouraged him to jump through it.

And he appeased his mother by flashing some half-hearted smiles for the camera.

Avery was a bit less compliant. A few seconds after I took this picture, she was throwing straw at me! ;) we make these kids pose for too many pictures?

Breck thought that posing for pictures was yawnsville.

And clearly I was more interested in peoples' attempts to get Charlie to smile than he was.

Are we done yet? Seriously.

But then Charlie gave us this beauty! I caught him at just the right moment!

I even got one with Avery, Rowan and the grandparents. The kids are almost looking! Almost.

We had a great time and enjoyed a beautiful day.
Happy autumn!
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