Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hanging Out at the Mall

After a weekend full of errands and cleaning, we all needed to get out of the house on Sunday afternoon. So we went to a nearby mall that has a nice play area for the kids, and let them loose.

It’s amazing to me how easily kids make friends. Within 2 minutes, Sammy and another boy were sliding down the slide, hanging onto each other so they’d tumble off the end in a tangle of arms and legs. They’d laugh and laugh (even though it looked like it hurt) and run up the slide to do it again. Then the other kid got the brilliant idea to go down the slide head-first, on his back. It was a small-ish slide, but very slippery so he shot off the end pretty quickly and his head skidded about a foot across the carpet. No surprise, Sammy decided to do the same thing. The look on his face when he hit the bottom was a look of “Ow, that hurt” and I was expecting tears – his normal response. Nope, after a split second he laughed through his almost-tears, got up, and ran around to the ladder for another round.

Then the two boys played monsters. The other boy chased Sammy around the play area, and then they lost track of each other. Sammy came up to me and asked me where “the good guy” was, just before spotting him on his own. The next time they went around, Sammy giggled as he said, “He’s not a good guy, he’s a bad guy!” I told Sammy he should ask the other boy what his name was.

After “the good guy” left, I asked Sammy what his new friend’s name was. “I don’t know,” he answered, unconcerned. Just like that, he’d forgotten all about his new friend. That’s probably just as well, since they’ll probably never see each other again.

But really, can you imagine making friends like that as an adult? It would be like going shopping, and seeing someone around my age, going up to her and saying, “That shirt would look great on you!” We’d walk around the store, giggling as we chatted and helped each other pick out clothes, and then we’d leave and go home, having never exchanged phone numbers or even names. What a trip that would be!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Land of a Million Bells and Whistles

Last night, we went to Chuck E. Cheese's. We hadn't been there since February, but Sammy remembered it well. Every time he'd see coupons in the newspaper, he'd point them out and ask when we were going again. Since it's too cold to do anything outside these days, I called up my friend J last night to see if she and her two kids wanted to go with us.

The kids had a blast playing games, riding rides, and climbing through the tunnels. And then...Chuck E. Cheese himself made an appearance. Sammy was in love. He looked up at Chuck with adoring eyes and gave him a hug. About that time, I noticed Natalie needed a diaper change so I asked J to keep an eye on Sammy while Natalie and I went to the bathroom.

When I came back, I saw Sammy following Chuck around the restaurant. J was hanging back, laughing, and she explained to me that he had been doing that the entire time we were in the bathroom. Aw, isn't that cute. He makes an adorable little stalker.

Then, Chuck was done visiting customers and started walking towards an employees-only door. Sammy tried to follow him, and I caught up with them just in time to keep Sammy from going through the door after him. I explained that Chuck E. Cheese was taking a break, and he might be out again later. Sammy announced he was going to sit right there and wait for him to come out. I finally convinced him to play some more, but he kept asking about Chuck the rest of the time we were there. I told him I supposed Chuck might have gone to bed already, and Sammy seemed okay with that answer.

First thing this morning, Sammy was asking about Chuck E. Cheese again. He wanted to know what kind of a bed Chuck had. When I said I didn't know, that wasn't good enough, and Sammy wanted me to guess. So I said, "Well, maybe it's one like you have." That was thrilling to Sammy and he exclaimed, "He has a Lightning McQueen bed just like I have?!" Then he said, "Can Chuck E. Cheese come over sometime to see my bed?" I didn't really know how to answer that. How do you explain to a not-quite-yet-3-year-old that it might be a bit inappropriate to ask a grown man (maybe it was a woman) dressed in a mouse suit to come to your house to see your bed? I was hoping to not have that discussion for a few years yet.

In conclusion, a fun time was had by all and Sammy has a new idol.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DIY Christmas Gifts

Link of the day: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/holidays/giving/fromthekitchen.php

They have some great ideas for homemade Christmas gift ideas! I know that this year money is tight for a lot of us, and besides, homemade gifts always mean more than store-bought gifts, right?

In addition to the recipes on this site, I have come up with a few other ideas for potential gifts. I hope some of these can be of use to someone else.

1) Homemade vanilla. Buy tall-ish bottles with corks at your local craft store or even a thrift store (they need to be tall enough for a vanilla bean). Fill with brandy, and add 1-2 vanilla beans (split lengthwise), then cork. Let steep for at least a month. This will keep indefinitely.

2) Etched mirrors, glasses, etc. You could pick up glasses and mirrors for cheap at a thrift store. Trace your design onto contact paper, then press onto the surface. Cut out design with an Xacto knife, then use etching cream on the exposed areas, following the instructions of the particular brand you're using.

3) Teacup candles. Again, you could pick up teacups at a thrift store. Not only are thrift stores inexpensive, but you're reusing instead of buying new! It's like your Christmas gift to the environment.

4) Homemade kahlua. I intended to make this last year, and never got around to it.

5) Gifts in a jar. You can find a lot of great recipes on the internet.

6) Homemade dishcloths. Even if you've never knit before, the pattern on the back of the Sugar 'n' Cream label is incredibly fast and easy. One washcloth takes me about an hour to complete (maybe two hours if you're a beginning knitter).

I'm sure I'll be adding to this list in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Potty Chair

We haven't been hitting potty training too hard yet. It's difficult to be consistent with Sammy being at daycare part of the day. My current plan is to tackle potty training for real the week after Christmas, when I'm on vacation.

However. We have been working on getting him on the potty when it's obvious he "assumes the position" (that is, he hides in the corner and gets a look of concentration on his face). Over the weekend, he agreed to sit on his potty, so I set him up with a book and asked if he wanted me to keep him company, or if he wanted privacy. He opted for "pwivacy", so I scooped up the gawking bystander Natalie and closed the door.

Five minutes later, he announced he was done, and I oohed and aahed over the contents of the potty chair, before dumping it in the toilet. We went to his room for a fresh diaper. Afterwards, I stopped by the bathroom to shut off the light, and found this:

And afterwards, she oohed and aahed over the contents of the (empty) potty chair.

I'm thinking that there may be a bright side to the fact that Natalie wants to copy everything her big brother does.

(I apologize for the picture quality - it was taken with my camera phone, which is sadly still the only working camera in our house. Oh, and don't you love our beautiful pink bathroom. Ugh.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Parenting Poetry

This is why All & Sundry is one of my favorite blogs. I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I did.

I was feeling inspired after reading this post, so I composed one myself.

I know you want milk
I heard you the first
ten times.
Oh, not that cup?
The blue one with
stars on it?

Here’s your milk.
Now you don’t want it?
Here, I’ll set it on
the table while you make up your mind.
Aw, crap.
You’re cleaning that up

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Witching Hour

Let's talk about dinnertime. Every mother of young children struggles with getting dinner in the oven without sticking her own head in the oven out of despair. It's the time of day when everyone's starting to get tired, hungry, and cranky. Spending an hour preparing dinner is out of the question.

I have a list of things that I do to make dinnertime preparation more manageable. I'd love to hear any of your tips or suggestions, as well!

1) A crockpot is a busy mom's best friend. Check out A Year of CrockPotting for some great recipes, if you haven't already. (By the way, Target has an awesome 5.5 quart programmable Smart Crock Pot on sale this week for $19.99!)
2) I remember that once upon a time, I used to go out and do fun things on Friday and Saturday nights. Nowadays, a lot of weekend nights you'll find me in my kitchen, cutting vegetables after the kids go to bed. If you hook up your iPod with some good music, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and dance, you can almost imagine that you're at a club. I suppose you could even wear some trashy clothes, if you wanted. Back to the point - I buy bell peppers and onions in bulk, and then dice and freeze them so I can just take out a handful and throw them into the dish when I'm cooking. The food processor would work well for this, too, but I find chopping vegetables to be therapeutic. Before I started freezing them, I was always having to throw out slimy bell peppers, because I couldn't use them fast enough. No more waste! You could do this with whatever vegetables you use most often.
3) Make one, freeze one. It doesn't pay for me to make an entire casserole for my family, since the leftovers never get eaten in time, so I divide a casserole or lasagna recipe up between two smaller (8' x 8') pans and freeze one. I use a Sharpie to mark the aluminum foil with the name of the dish, the cooking instructions, and the date on which I froze it.
4) Curious George episodes on the DVR. My kids don't watch a lot of TV, but we've recently discovered this show on PBS, and both kids turn into zombies when it's on. At this time of day, that's preferable to their usual curious puppy personas (chewing on non-edible items, piddling on the carpet, knocking over lamps).

So, what things do you do to keep yourself sane while you're trying to prepare dinner?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Ba-a-a-a-a-ck

This morning, I muttered a four-letter word as I woke up and looked out the window. “Snow,” I said in a disgusted voice. While this isn’t the first time it’s snowed this year, this is the first time there’s been accumulation. It was only about an inch, but it’s what it stands for, more than anything. It’ll be another long six or seven months before we can count on nice weather again. This time every year, Ron and I start fantasizing about moving somewhere warm.

The morning commute after the first snowfall is always…interesting. It takes Minnesota drivers awhile to get their “winter legs”, so to speak. No surprise, traffic was very slow this morning.

I find it hilarious to pull into the Park & Ride when there’s snow on the ground. Instead of neat, orderly rows of cars, everyone is parked willy-nilly. Sometimes the gap between rows of cars is so narrow, even though there’s plenty of parking spaces at the end of the row, there’s no way to get to them. It’s especially funny at the end of the day when the snow has melted, to see the yellow lines in relation to where the cars actually are.

Wake me up when it's spring again, please.  I'm going into hibernation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Did you know about Google SMS? I just discovered this, and it's a great thing if you don't have internet on your cell phone. It's a free service, and only costs whatever your carrier charges you for text messages. Want to locate an Applebee's in the Minneapolis area? Just text "Applebee's Minneapolis" to GOOGLE (466453) and you'll get a text message with the addresses and phone numbers of the Applebee's in the vicinity. After using the service a few times, it even sets your home location so you can avoid typing your city every time you do a query. (I think there's a way to manually set your location, too.)

Isn't technology great?

Friday, November 7, 2008

If I Only Had A Brain

Did you know that a woman's brain shrinks up to 8% during pregnancy? According to that first article that I linked, the brain increases in size again after delivery, but I originally heard that the brain rewires itself and eventually becomes more powerful. Well, I'm thinking that rewiring a brain is not a do-it-yourself job. I should have hired a qualified electrician, because my wiring doesn't seem to be up to code.

A few months back, I lost my bus pass. I tore apart my purse, then my car, to no avail. Finally, I broke down and paid the $2.75 fare so I could at least get to work, and figured I'd have to buy a new Metropass. The whole bus ride, I was silently grumbling at Sammy, the likely culprit. He likes to get into my purse to find my stash of bribes rewards suckers. Shortly after I got to work, I got a call from a stranger who found my bus pass lying on the ground at the Park & Ride and kindly retrieved it and tracked me down. I felt so guilty about blaming Sammy (even if it was just in my mind) that I apologized profusely to him later that afternoon, while he stared blankly at the crazy lady.

Then last weekend, I ran a bunch of errands with the kids. Monday morning, when I went to write out a check for daycare, I couldn't find the checkbook anywhere. Again, I tore apart my purse, the car, and the house. I traced back my steps, and the last time I remembered using the checkbook was on Saturday, at Target. By the time I figured this out, it was Tuesday afternoon and it had been four days since I'd last seen the checkbook, and my last hope was to check the lost and found at Target. If it wasn't there, I'd have to talk to the bank to cancel out the rest of the checks in that (practically new) book, with significant cost to me, since I believe it costs $25 per check for that service.

I walked into the office to look up Target's phone number, and saw that the message light on my answering machine was blinking. I couldn't believe my luck when I heard, "Hello, this is the Guest Service desk at Target, and I believe we have your checkbook..."

Now I've been lucky twice, and I don't know how much longer my luck can hold out. Next time, my bus pass/checkbook/keys/purse might fall into the hands of someone much less honest. I used to pride myself on being very organized and on top of things, and I hate this new absentmindedness. I can't even blame it on sleep deprivation, since both kids sleep through the night these days (except for this past week - let the record show that I hate teething and everything that goes along with it).

Please, can anyone tell me that this will get better eventually? Or am I doomed to live out the rest of my life as scatterbrained and forgetful?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red, Red Wine

We have tons of grapes growing on the fence in our backyard. I couldn't even tell you what kind they are - they're small (pea-sized) and have huge pits in them. If you eat them too early, they are incredibly sour, like chokecherries. But if you catch them at the right time, they are actually quite sweet and tasty. And it's hard to tell when that sweet spot is, because they look the same shade of purple whether they're all chokecherry-pucker-inducing or sweet and yummy.

I've never had much use for them before, but this year, I decided I was going to take a trip into the unexplored (by me) world of wine-making. I found this recipe online and used it as my base recipe. I still had tons and tons of raspberries left, so I threw a bunch of those into the mix, too.
The only other thing I did different from the recipe was that I went to our local brew & grow shop, and bought actual wine yeast (as opposed to regular old bread yeast), and threw it into the mix instead of floating it on the bread, as the recipe suggested.

It's been fermenting for about a month, and I've started bottling it. I only had two empty bottles to start with, so let's just say I've been having to drink a lot of wine lately so I can use the empties for my homemade stuff. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. And as an added bonus, you know all that stress I've been under lately from solo parenting? After putting the kids to bed and having a couple of glasses of wine, I'm all, "What kids?"

I actually tasted some of my homemade stuff, and it's quite delicious, if I do say so myself! And I couldn't believe how easy it was.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


We live too far out of the city to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. I'd have to drive the kids from house to house, and somehow, that doesn't feel like trick-or-treating to me. The last couple of years, I've met up with my aunt and my cousins for TOT'ing in their neighborhood. My aunt and I enjoy chatting while the kids beg for candy.

I'd rehearsed with Sammy for a couple of days beforehand. "What do you say when they open the door?" and then, "What do you say when they give you candy?" The first few houses, he did pretty well. Then he forgot his manners and instead of saying "thank you" he said "More, more!" I quickly corrected him, and we only had one more incident of a forgotten "thank you". I think it went pretty well, overall. And the weather was beautiful, probably the only time I remember Halloween being warm. Most years, it's hard to figure out what kids are supposed to be dressed as, since they are usually bundled up in their bulky winter jackets and stocking caps.

With no further ado, the kids in their costumed glory:

Eeek! It's a skunk!

Natalie was about to cry in this one, because I stepped back to take a picture and she thought I was going to leave her.

I made that skunk costume for Sammy on his first Halloween. I haven't had time to sew another costume since, but I have high hopes for next year.

I should dig out a picture of Sammy wearing this costume for a side-by-side comparison. Natalie looks so much like him in this shot.

Get Out and Vote!

Top three reasons to vote today:

1. You will help chooose the next leader of our country.
2. Voting is your civic duty.
3. Starbucks is offering a free tall, brewed coffee to anyone who stops in and says they voted.

To elaborate on item #3, I received an email yesterday from Starbucks with this information. No coupon necessary! Get out and vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tag! I'm It

Mommy Vern tagged me to play. I love games! The name of this one is, locate the 6th photo in your 6th online photo album and post it.

This was taken at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Sammy looks so young in this picture! Looking at the date stamp, he would have been 16 months old, just a little older than Natalie is now. Time goes by so quickly.

Anyway - this was a really funny moment, but it might have been one of those "you had to be there" type things. That cow that Sammy is holding, plays "The Chicken Dance" when you squeeze its udder. Riley, the Sheltie in the foreground, loves to sing/howl along. Riley and Sammy were fighting over that cow toy the whole time we were there that weekend. In this picture, Bailey (the Sheltie looking over Sammy's shoulder) looks like she was about to get in on the action, too.

So, who wants to play? Colleen, although you've already made your post for this month? (Just teasing! I kid because I love!)