Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Grocery Shopping is FUN

I have always been a bargain hunter, but lately I have REALLY gotten into couponing. There are tons of great blogs out there devoted to the cause of saving money, and I consult these blogs weekly to find the best coupons, as well as shopping lists that do the work for me of matching up sale prices to available coupons.

I think this was my best week yet. I just came home from the grocery store (Cub Foods) where I spent $63.50 for $95 worth of groceries. But, wait! That's not even the best part! (30% off retail is my goal, which I meet almost every single week.) I received $26.50 worth of catalina coupons off of my next order - that means, not coupons for specific products but coupons that take money off the total order! Awesome! So this is what I got for basically $37.00.

For perspective, this filled up 5 grocery bags, so it's more stuff than it even appears to be from the picture. Now my pantry is full, so I expect to spend about $20 a week for the next 3-4 weeks. Thank goodness, because we're going to be plopping down $2000 tomorrow on carpet.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Still Trucking Along

Time for a brief check-in....I'm alive, still just overwhelmed with life. Which means, I've had to mostly eliminate a few things from my life - sleep, showering, and internet.

However! I am online today for a very good, very exciting reason. My sister called a few minutes ago to tell me that she is engaged! I couldn't be more happy for her. My future brother-in-law M is a great guy and I'm so happy to be adding him to the family. I immediately logged on to my Facebook account to tell him so, and it so happened that my cousin (who happens to be one of M's best friends) was online, and we spent a few minutes chatting about the happy news.

Isn't the internet grand? It makes the world seem so small.

I don't think I've posted since before Natalie's birthday, which has been almost a month ago already. She's now 2 going on 20. One minute she will be carrying on a mature conversation with me about death ("The baby toad died. I squished him. That was so sad." Trust me, you probably don't want to hear that story. I still get queasy when I think of it.)

And the next minute, she is throwing a tantrum because I chose the WRONG shirt out of her closet.


And now, I hear SpongeBob SquarePants coming to an end out in the living room, which means the end of my time on the internet. Once I get my life straightened out, hopefully within the next month, I will start posting more again.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nothing About Nothing, Really

The kids and I went to the State Fair earlier this week, which is always a lot of fun. Except when it's not.

Probably due to this summer's much-cooler-than-average temperatures, there has been a huge turnout at the Fair this year. Even more so than usual, and it always is a zoo. By about noon, I'd had it with the crowds.

And then it got worse. I took the kids into the bathroom and, because there were no stalls big enough to accommodate a stroller, I pulled my wallet out of the bottom compartment and brought it into the stall with the kids and me. About five minutes later, I realized I'd forgotten it there.
In a panic, I went back into the bathroom and that stall was occupied. I waited, and waited, and waited some more for the occupants to come out (I could see two pairs of shoes under the door). In my mind, I debated - do I yell over the top, "Hey, do you see a wallet in there?" but I didn't want to bring any attention to it if it hadn't already been noticed. When the mom and daughter finally came out of the stall, I was disappointed but not surprised to see that my wallet wasn't there anymore.

After about fifteen more panicked minutes, I located the Lost and Found and was thrilled to discover my wallet had been turned in. The "good Samaritan" had taken a $20 finder's fee, but other than that, everything was there. I was incredibly lucky, and I am still hyperventilating at the thought of all the money and time it would have taken to replace its contents, including my bus pass, driver's license, a credit card and a debit card, and all of the ride tickets I'd pre-purchased for the kids.

The other craziness in my life at the moment revolves around our rental duplex. One of our long-time tenants just moved out, and we've been crazy busy trying to replace carpeting, paint walls, and all the other maintenance-type things that go along with making a house renter-ready. Not to mention, fielding all the phone calls from prospective tenants. One couple was ready to sign the lease - and then they backed out of the deal. Sigh and start over from square one, putting the ad back in the paper and digging out the "For Rent" sign again. I will be really glad to be
done with this. As if I have all this spare time to spend cleaning a SECOND house.

You meet some interesting characters when you have an apartment for rent, though. The last time we had to do this, in 2006, we had the Beverly Hillbillies themselves drive up in their rusty, primer-colored pickup truck to take a look at the place. Four people piled out of the short cab pickup, like clowns out of a clown car. When the wife smiled and showed me her teeth (all two of them), I started looking around to see where the cameras were, because surely I was being punk'd. They showed an unnatural interest in the furnace, which alarmed me. A furnace is a furnace, right? Needless to say, we didn't rent to them. We found out a month later that they had
moved into the rental duplex next door. And then, four months later, we saw the eviction notice on their door.

My favorite Sammy-isms of the week:

#1: "Natalie has such pretty white hair. And I have such pretty brown hair. And Mom has such pretty black hair. And Dad has...Dad really needs a haircut."

#2: I'd given him a piece of gum, a rare treat. He was riding his trike in the driveway, and flipped it over backwards. He was unhurt, but "apparently I swallowed my gum!" he said, in shock. Natalie, standing off to the side, pursed her lips in an "O" of surprise and clasped her hands over her mouth. Oh, the horror - a wasted piece of gum, down the tubes, so to speak.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Town Festival

Our town festival was this past weekend, and the kids had so much fun. First was the parade. Sam rode on his daycare's float and then got to join us for the second half of the parade. I don't have any pictures of him because his daycare's name was displayed prominently on his t-shirt and I don't have the time or inclination to blur it out. But here's a couple of pictures of Natalie instead.

Then was the petting zoo. They have a pretty awesome petting zoo each year, with llamas, chickens and geese, sheep and goats, calves, and a horse and a donkey. This year, there was also a huge bounce house - actually, an entire bounce neighborhood.

On Sunday, Ron and Sam went to the classic car show while Natalie and I went shopping. When the boys got home, I asked Sam how it was. "Great!" he said. "They even had the hoods open so I could look at the engines!" My little budding mechanic.

Needless to say, we were all exhausted by the end of the weekend.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Three Musketeers

Taken a few minutes ago, from my view at the top of the stairwell. The kids were sitting on the front doorstep, enjoying their craisins on a warm summer's evening, while Sam petted his dog.

Aren't the best pictures always taken when the subject is unaware? (At least according to Stalking for Dummies, chapter 4, "Photographing Your Subject").

This summer has been great. The kids are getting along so well, really and truly enjoying each other's company. Every day when we get home, I've been putting the gate up at the end of the driveway and letting the kids and dog run free. With the doors and windows all wide open, I have auditory and/or visual contact at all times and I'm mostly free to clean, cook, or make uninterrupted phone calls.

The past two days, I've canned: Strawberry Blueberry Banana jam, Strawberry Balsamic jam, Lavender-Infused Strawberry jam (strawberries are on sale this week; can you tell?), Gingered Pear preserve, and Mixed Dried Herb vinegar. On the docket for tomorrow is Strawberry Margarita preserves - yummy! It has alcohol in it, in case you didn't guess from the name - so it is mine, all mine, not to be shared with the young'uns. I'm thinking it sounds delish over some vanilla ice cream.

I'm so sad that this summer is almost over, and I'm trying to savor every last remaining second.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Brief Update

Has it really been that long since I've posted?  It's not for lack of things to say - wow, has there been a lot going on lately - but for lack of screen time.  The only screen time I've had lately has been with our screen door, as we've been enjoying this beautiful, temperate summer.
Last week, it got hot for the first time since June.  And I've had the misfortune of this coinciding with me having to wear long pants every time I leave the house, in order to keep people from screaming and running in fear from my leprous-looking legs.
It all started two weeks ago, when I took the kids and the dog to a local park of woodsy, walking trails.  The raspberries were thick, and since we haven't had enough of our own this year*, I was picking dozens of raspberries to feed to my (apparently) starving children and dog.  (Happy the dog LOVES raspberries and peas, I discovered this summer.)  (And anything else, really.  Including, but not limited to, plastic toys.) 
There were lots of mosquitos at the park, as well, so when I noticed lots of bumps on my legs the next day, I assumed they were bug bites.
Until a few days later, when it became evident that I'd tangled with poison ivy.  Which over the course of the next few days developed into the worst case I have ever had.  In case you're lucky enough to be one of the 15% of people who aren't allergic to poison ivy, let me tell you that not only does it itch, in bad cases it causes weeping, oozing sores.  Not to get too disgustingly graphic here, but I would bandage up my legs every morning, using my own patented system of cotton balls, tissues, and band-aids, and I'd still have wet spots developing on my pants by the time I got home from work in the afternoon.
Ah, the glamorous life I lead.  Next up:  Adventures with Bats in the Laundry Room!  I only wish I were joking.
*That's said tongue-in-cheek, you should see the bags upon bags of frozen raspberries residing in my freezer right now!  And the raspberry bushes are again filled with tons more berries that are about to ripen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Things That Go Bump! in the Night

At 12:30 a.m. this morning, I was woken out of a deep sleep by the sound of toenails clicking on our bedroom hardwood floor.  I laid there in the dark, half-asleep, thinking that Ron must have forgotten to put Happy out in his kennel.  In light of all the potty accidents we've had lately*, I knew I should take him outside for a few minutes and then put him in his kennel.  But the lazy half of my brain sleepily murmured that I could clean up any messes in the morning.  I agreed with the lazy half of my brain and started to drift off to sleep.
The second time I heard the toenails, I snapped to attention with a different thought - had I remembered to put Johnny back in his cage?  He'd been running in his exercise ball last evening, and at least three times I had thought to myself, "I really need to put him back in his cage before I forget" but I couldn't remember actually doing it.  Oh crap.  That feeling got even stronger when I found his empty exercise ball in the kitchen.  How he got out is a mystery, but I suspect he bumped into a chair while he was speeding around and the door popped off.
I got out of bed and blearily looked around in the dark.  I couldn't see anything but wasn't really expecting to.  Johnny isn't really that big, after all, and there are tons of hiding spots for a small hamster.  I decided my only choice was to make a hamster trap.  I found an ice-cream pail, put some treats at the bottom of it, and started looking around for something to use as a ramp (the theory being, he'd climb the ramp, see the treats at the bottom of the bucket and drop down, then not be able to get up again).  My sleep-addled brain wasn't cooperating and I couldn't find anything sufficiently ramp-y that would allow him enough traction to actually climb it.
Time for Plan B.  I got a flashlight and started looking behind the dresser and the bookcase.  The flashlight hadn't been on for more than 10 seconds when I felt whiskers brushing against my ankle.  I shone the flashlight down and, lo and behold, there was Johnny looking up at me with his beady eyes.  He came right to me, like a dog or a cat would.  (I suppose he was probably hungry, after being out half the evening.)
After putting him back in his cage, I tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep in spite of the snoring taking place next to me in the bed.  I finally moved out to the couch, where I listened to Johnny happily reuniting with his exercise wheel for the next hour before I finally dozed off.  Shortly after that, Natalie woke up and started crying so I moved back to the bed with her in tow.  And then Sam woke up and decided to join the party, leaving me approximately 2 inches of sleeping space.
Ron slept through the whole nighttime drama, and the kids got to sleep nice and late this morning.  I still had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to head off to work.  *yawn*
*Happy has not been the only source of potty accidents.  A few days ago, Natalie removed her diaper and then took a dump in the hall.  After I cleaned it up, she still excitedly pointed out the spot to anyone who'd listen: "Poop there!  Poop right there!"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Slàn leibh, Frank McCourt

I was never really a Michael Jackson fan, so all this hoopla about his death has seemed a little over-the-top to me.  I was over it about 5 minutes after I heard the news.  (Obviously, I'm in the minority here, or it wouldn't be STILL all over the news, two weeks later.)  No doubt, the guy made some good music, but what I mostly remember him for is the child-molestation accusations that have overshadowed his life for the past 20 years.  Whether or not he was guilty, I don't know - but at the very least he was a sad, strange man-child who made some bad decisions.  Honestly, I can't help but feel a bit sorry for him. 
But I was very saddened to learn this morning that Frank McCourt is critically ill and not expected to live.  Angela's Ashes is on my list of top-10 favorite books of all time.  After reading it with my own eyes, I listened to the recorded book version (which Frank McCourt himself read aloud)  It was so powerful to hear his story, in his own words, read by his own voice.  So sad but yet uplifting.  And, improbably, laugh-out-loud funny at times.
The likely loss of Frank McCourt affects my life much more than Michael Jackson's death did.  I feel a bit as though I'm losing an old friend.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Have Similar Feelings About Cleaning

Freeing the world of obnoxious cleaning equipment, one colorful feather duster at a time.

I wonder what color his poop will be tomorrow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Foot fe*tish

Sam walked over to my friend J, bent down and inspected her toenails, then gave the big toenail a few rubs with the pad of his thumb.  Then without saying a word, he stood up and walked away.
J looked at me and said, "What was that all about?"  I chuckled nervously and joked, "Oh, just a bit of a foot fe*tish.  He gets that from his father."
But the truth is so much more than that.  I think it started when he was a wee baby who didn't like to sleep in his crib.  I'd camp out in a sleeping bag on the floor next to his crib and snake my arm up through the railing so he could hold my hand and know I was still there.  He'd rub my fingernails gently as he drifted off to sleep, and then I'd carefully disentangle my hand from his grasp so I could make my way to my own bed.
Until he was about 2 years old, he also insisted on rubbing my fingernails when we were in the car for long stretches.  I'd finally have to say "no more" when my arm threatened to fall off from the weird angle it was at in order to reach his carseat.  Then I'd listen to wails of "Hand, hand!" as he begged for me to return my beloved fingernails to his possession.
One day his daycare teacher mentioned to me that he liked to rub her fingernails as he fell asleep.  I felt oddly betrayed, thinking But I thought MY fingernails were the only ones he loved
When summer came around and the bare feet came out, it became obvious that toenails were far superior due to their larger rubbing surface.  Recently, Sam told me how much he loved my toenails.  "They're so....rubby," he explained.
I think maybe I see a future for him in podiatry.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Update in Picture Form

There's been a lot going on around here and I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed; thus the lack of posting.   I don't even know where to start so I'm just going to post some pictures as a little snippet of what's been going on the past couple of weeks.

We had a garage sale.  What a disaster that was - hours and hours of work, and barely any garage-salers were out that weekend.  But Natalie had fun helping me put price tags on items.

Every waking moment that I'm not at work, I'm chasing kids and dogs and trying to keep them out of trouble.  Notice how, in this picture, there is one running child and the other two are poised to take off after him?  That's typical of any given moment.  The good news is, they all sleep REALLY well at night.  Me, especially.

A rare moment of stillness, captured for eternity.  I wouldn't have believe it, either, if I hadn't snapped a picture.

Two seconds later, Natalie has had enough of that business.

A 4th of July trip to the farm, and for Sam, a "tractor" ride with Grandpa.  He'll be talking about that for months to come.

No pictures of the snotty noses I've been wiping non-stop for the past week as Natalie and I fought a monstrous cold that attempted to replace every living cell in our body with snot.  You're welcome.  

Monday, June 29, 2009

Goodbye, Old Friend

I remember being in my second trimester of my pregnancy with Sam, and finally allowing myself to get excited about the baby it looked like I was going to end up with in a few short months.  Ron and I set up the crib, then tried to move it into the baby's room, only to find it didn't fit through the doorway.  We had to dismantle it, move the parts into the room, and "re-mantle" it.
For the next few months, I used the crib for storing all the various baby accoutrements we received as gifts and hand-me-downs.  I started to wonder where I was going to store all that stuff when I had to put the actual baby in the crib.
Then Sam was born, and slept in the crib for the next 2 years.  (I use the word "slept" in the loosest sense of the term, since sleep has never been one of his favorite pursuits.)
Then Natalie was born, and after the first couple of months that she spent in a bassinet in our bedroom, she moved to the crib.  Unlike Sam, she actually SLEPT in the crib for the next year and a half.
This weekend, I dismantled the crib and moved it downstairs, where it will live for the next few weeks few months until I get around to posting an ad on Craigslist.
Goodbye, crib.  It's been nice knowing ya.
*sniff, sniff*  Now I officially have no more babies in my house.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Close Encounters of the Medical Kind

Saturday started off with some unwelcome excitement.  The kids, the dog, and I were all outside and Natalie was having a snack while Sam rode his bike around on the driveway.  For no apparent reason, he ran into her with his bike, causing her to start crying.  I could tell from the tone of her cry that she wasn't hurt too badly, so I "attended" to Sam first by sending him to time-out and sending his bike to the inaccessible-to-him bike rack for the remainder of the day.
While I was doing this, a strange, gasping, choking sound started coming from Natalie's direction.  She was choking on her snack.  I've never had any reason to do the Heimlich maneuver in real life, but I pictured 1) my high-school health class and the 2) instruction sheet that used to hang in the kitchen of the restaurant I worked at throughout high school, and on the second thrust -- out popped the obstruction.  Her first cry brought tears to my eyes, similar to the way I felt when I heard her first cry at the hospital the day she was born.
A few hours later, I packed the kids into the car and went to Urgent Care.  Three weeks ago, I was bit by a deer tick and the site is still an itchy bump.  I hadn't been worried about it too much, but I had been thinking I should see my doctor one of these days, since I would have expected a bite to heal by this time.  I'd been watching for the bullseye rash associated with Lyme disease, but hadn't seen one so I figured I was in the clear.
Until Thursday, when I started having some strange symptoms.  Dizzy spells, heart palpitations, and nausea.  When this was still happening on Saturday morning, my husband convinced me to go to Urgent Care.  "Easy for you to say," I said, since he was going to work and I was facing the prospect of taking two young children with me to the clinic.  But ultimately I decided to go in.  At this particular clinic, Urgent Care hours don't start until 12:00.  I was hoping to be in and out quickly, so I promised the kids we'd stop for lunch afterwards. 
The triage nurse sent me to the E.R.  Three hours, two hungry and tired kids, five vials of blood, and $100 later, they discharged me with no answers.  The Lyme disease test won't be available until Wednesday, and that is not even definitive.  A positive test is definitely positive, but a negative test is not necessarily negative.  Evidently, there is not a test available to measure the number of spirochetes in the blood, so they can only measure the number of antibodies being produced.  Early in the disease, my body might not be producing enough antibodies to make the test positive.  So, who knows.
Since I've had no appetite, I've lost a couple of pounds in the last week.  I might hold off on taking the antibiotics until I lose that last, pesky 20 pounds.  Kidding, kidding.  Sorta.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quite a Workout

Monday night, Sam had his preschool screening.  I had no idea they do it so early now, but it makes sense, I guess - better to catch any potential problems as early as you can.  He passed, so he's ready to start kindergarten in the fall of 2011.  Me?  I'm not so ready.  But since it's still two years away, I can live in denial for a bit longer.
The first screener asked him about 50 questions, ranging from "what color is this block?" to "complete this pattern".  At his age, he only had to answer 11 questions correctly.  I didn't find that out until the screening was over, so when questions came up that I hadn't even thought of teaching him, I knew he was going to fail the test and not be able to start kindergarten until he was 10 years old, and it was ALL MY FAULT.  Patterns?  It's never even crossed my mind to teach him that concept.  But he got 29 questions right, so he passed without a problem.  Thank goodness.  I'm counting on him to support me in my old age.
Then they did hearing and vision screening, which he also passed.  When we were done, and waiting to speak to the nurse to review all the results, Sam plopped down into his chair and said, "Whew!  That was a lot of hard work.  I'm very sweaty from all that hard work!"
No one said building mental muscles was easy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Puppy Tales

Happy has been the perfect furry addition to our family.  He is very smart and wants to please, so he's very well-behaved, for the most part.  He has a couple of bad habits, from his previous owners.  Evidently, they 1) fed him table scraps; and 2) let him sleep in the kids' beds, so he barks in his kennel at night.  Monday, I had to put him out in the garage when the kids ate their snack and dinner, because he wouldn't stop begging and trying to climb up onto the table.  Last night, he did great at dinnertime - I actually forgot he was in the house, until I looked around to figure out where he'd gone, and saw him quietly lying under the table.  (He probably knew the odds were in his favor that, if he stayed there long enough, one of the kids would drop something.  He's a smart dog.)
Now, instead of having a 2-kid train follow me from room to room, I have a 2-kid+1-dog train following me everywhere.  I wouldn't have believed that another body could possibly fit into our too-small bathroom, but a small, furry black body does manage to squeeze in. 
Monday night, we had our first mini-crisis.  The chain-link fence in the front yard had a gap between the ground and the bottom of the fence, which I was repairing with chicken wire.  Happy and the kids were playing up by the garage, so I thought he was distracted.  I turned my back to grab the wire snips, and when I turned back around, there was Happy on the WRONG side of the fence, and quick as a flash he took off down the road after a bicyclist.  Of course, Ron was at work so I was home alone.  I told the kids to stay put, and went in chase of the dog.  Wrong move, because of course he thought it was a game and wouldn't come back for anything.
Then I turned to see that Sam was crawling under the fence.  "STAY THERE," I said in my firmest voice, and Sam listened but I could tell he really wanted to come and help me, so I didn't trust him to stay.  I went through the options in my head, and it seemed that all I could do was run in the house to get my keys and throw the kids in the van, and good luck to me finding the dog after all that time had passed.  Thankfully, just then a very nice couple stopped and asked if I needed some help.  The woman made sure my kids didn't go on the road while I finally managed to grab the dog, about a quarter mile down the road.  Good thing I had my tennis shoes on, because I got quite a bit of running in that night. 
While my kids have never run out onto the road and refused to come back, at least once a week they manage to frighten and/or annoy me with their antics, so Happy the dog fits right in with the craziness that is our family.  I think we'll keep him.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our Newest Addition

It's like having another toddler in the house.  But this one actually listens to me.  
1) His name - the one he came with - is Happy.  We might still be changing that.
2) He's an 8-month-old poodle.
3) When Sam realized we were taking him home, he looked up at me with an awestruck expression on his face and, shaking with excitement, said, "I always wanted a dog!"  That, right there, is why we did this.

More details to come later. 

And Sam was thrilled to discover that he fit in the dog's kennel.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Make Way for A Gosling

Driving down the freeway, there were a couple of cars ahead of me who seemed to be competing for the Worst Driver of the Year award.  Darting in and out of traffic, slowing down and speeding up for no apparent reason - you know, the kind of behavior that causes you to drop back a few car lengths so you can avoid being caught up in the accident they are trying to their hardest to create.
Lucky me, both cars were now in my lane, albeit a hundred feet ahead of me - and suddenly, they both SLAMMED on their brakes.  As far back as I was, I still had to brake hard to avoid hitting them.  I grumbled under my breath and was looking for an opening in the next lane, when I saw why they had stopped so abruptly.
Make Way for Ducklings!  Or a gosling, as the case may be.  One lone gosling, flanked by two adult geese, was crossing the busy four-lane freeway.  The adult goose in the back had his neck craned at a weird angle, apparently attempting to make himself look big and bad.  He was showing those cars who was boss.
They did make it safely to the median, but there were four more lanes of north-bound traffic to cross, so I can only hope they made it safely to their destination.
Have you ever seen just one gosling, though?  I don't think I have, and that makes me wonder what happened to his fellow nestlings.  I'm guessing those geese parents might have made some other poor parenting choices.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kids Book List, Theme: Gardening

Have I already said how much I love the library?  So much, that my library card is activated at 4 of the 8 library systems in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area.  Our libraries have an awesome "exchange program" type thing here - first you need to obtain a card from your home county's library system, but you can have it activated at any or all of the other library systems.  Since I work in one county, live in another, and regularly go to two other counties for various errands, this is very convenient because I can just stop at the library wherever I am at the moment.  And because I'm such a nerd, I know which library has the best children's section, the best selection of audiobooks, and the nicest librarians.  (Pssst, to my local friends - the librarians in the Anoka County library system are, in general, the crabbiest, most unhelpful librarians I've ever met.  And I've met a lot.)
I'm subscribed to various newsletters from each of the library systems.  One newsletter tells me about the new books the library has just added to their collection - which allows me to put my name on the wait list immediately, meaning I usually get to read the book within days of its release - without having to pay for a hardcover copy at the bookstore!  Another newsletter, my most favoritest newsletter ever, is called "Birth to Six News", which comes from the Hennepin County library.  It's a children's books newsletter that comes out once a month and includes fingerplays, new and notable books, and usually a section that highlights books on a certain topic. 
Also, on Hennepin County Library's website is ELSIE (Early Literacy Storytime Ideas Exchange).  You can search children's books based on a certain keyword, and limit your selection based on certain skill groups that you want to focus on, like Phonological Sensitivity, Letter Knowledge, and Vocabulary.  You don't even have to have a library card to use this system - anyone can use it to create a book list!  
Usually, the kids and I go to the library and choose books, willy-nilly, off the shelves.  But sometimes I have an agenda, and this month's agenda is "gardening".  Both kids have an intense interest in the garden, and have been helping me plant, water, and weed.  So far, neither one of them has pulled up a desirable plant, either.  But whether that speaks to their plant knowledge, or the weed/seeding ratio in my garden still remains to be seen.  Honestly, I'm betting on the weed/seedling ratio.
Here's my "gardening" booklist for this week:
The Carrot Seed - Ruth Krauss
Growing Vegetable Soup - Lois Ehlert
Ten Red Apples - Virginia Miller
Two Old Potatoes and Me - John Coy
Carrot Soup - John Segal
The Enormous Carrot - Vladimir Vasilevich Vagin
First the Egg - Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Muncha Muncha Muncha - Candace Fleming
Farm-Fresh Cats - Scott Santoro

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2 Reasons Why Carpet is BAD

Friday night I needed to go into a particular cabinet for a potholder.  This cabinet is not organized as well as it should be, as my extract and food coloring bottles are in front of the potholders - meaning, oftentimes when I reach for a potholder, I knock over a bottle.  That's what happened Friday night.  After I'd picked up the food coloring bottles off the floor, I realized I was holding a green cap but no bottle.  I looked under chairs, in corners, and under the refrigerator, but couldn't find a bottle anywhere so I assumed it had been used up and the cap just hadn't gotten thrown away.
*Cue the ominous music*
Later, I went in to start the kids' bath.  I was running the tub, which usually makes the kids come running.  A quick head count informed me that only one child had materialized.  Hmmm, where's Natalie?  I thought absentmindedly.  After the tub was full, I went out to find her.  And find her, I did.  In a puddle of green food coloring.  Which was all over my light-blue carpet.  And Natalie's hands.  And Natalie's khaki shorts.  And Natalie's pink shirt.
I did what anyone would do in this situation.  I screeched, "What did you do omigod what did you do get in the tub right now omigod" and stripped her clothes off on the way to the bathroom.  I scrubbed her down, best as I could - not easy to do when the bathwater instantly starts to look like it's been hit with a major case of algae bloom.  Then I got to work on the carpet.  A bottle of vinegar, six dishtowels, half a bottle of SpotShot, and an hour later, the carpet was reasonably clean.
But this wasn't the end of the carpet fiasco.  Oh no.
Saturday morning, a mere 12 hours after the green dye incident, I opened a bottle of grape juice which I'd just bought the day before.  I gave the kids each their usual watered-down serving.  1/4 cup juice to 3/4 cup water - you know, I actually prefer it this way, too.  I think it's much too sweet full-strength.  But I digress.
15 minutes later - seriously, only 15 minutes later! - Ron bellered at me from the living room.  "Get in here RIGHT NOW!  I need you!" 
Natalie had thrown up her grape juice all over the living room carpet.  Luckily, I still had a few clean dishtowels left and I commenced to scrubbing once more.
But what's a little bit scary is that it was evidently because of the grape juice that she threw up.  Because Sam did the same thing 10 minutes later.  And then neither one threw up the rest of the day.  I'm still not sure what I should do - call the store and explain what happened?  I can't imagine them taking the bottles off the shelves because of that one incident.  And the kids didn't really get that sick.  One good barf and they were both right as rain.
I think I'm going to get hardwood floors.

Monday, June 1, 2009

*Heavy sigh*

Awhile back, I talked about how some research has shown that kids tend to go through disequilibrium around the half-year mark. Sam will be 3 1/2 next month, and the terrible 3's have officially hit our house.
On Thursday of last week, I got the first glimpse of what was about to come.  It was just general naughtiness, nothing I could really put my finger on, but in a general way the behavior was very out of character for Sam.  I have been wanting to paint the bathroom for awhile, and I did have this feeling like - "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't try to do this now, because it probably won't turn out well".  You know how you've heard you should always trust your instincts?  You really should.
After I'd cleaned off the yellow Sam-sized handprints from the front of my (Not Normally Yellow) bathroom cabinets, I banished Sam to his room and kept him on A Very Short Leash for the rest of the night.  Figuratively, not literally - though I have to admit, I just may have been tempted for a brief moment.
The weekend was like a marathon of episodes of a really bad sitcom.  Things that might be funny if you see them on the TV screen, but not so funny when you have to clean up the aftermath.  Like when I was carrying a bucket of sudsy water outside to wash my car, and Sam ran up to me and, as quick as lightning, yanked on one side of the bucket so the water spilled all over the kitchen floor, landing, and stairs.  Trust me, there was no laugh track playing at our house - although there was a deep, reverberating voice narrating the words "GET INTO YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME..."
And this morning, I received a phone call from my husband that Sam had detached a clump of hair from Natalie's skull using brute force.  A clump.  When you hear the words "a clump" and "hair" in the same sentence, it sends a shiver down your spine.  I have not yet surveyed the damage first-hand, but it can't be pretty.  I've been informed that Sam has lost custody of one of his favorite toys for the remainder of the week (and with just cause).
Anyway!  Let's talk about something else more fun, because frankly, I'm getting more annoyed every minute just from typing this.
Like my garden!  I am doing some experimenting this year with fun, new things which I've never grown.  Red sweet corn - did you know there was such a thing?  I've only seen the small, decorative kind of red corn.  But as we speak, I have red sweet corn sprouting in my garden.  And artichokes!  I didn't even know they could grow in Minnesota, with our approximately 2-day growing season.  But the seed packet informs me that they do, by showing our grand state on the "when to plant" map.  We even have an actual color that corresponds to an actual month range on the map key!  So it must be so!  And I found some fun varieties of heirloom tomato plants at the Farmer's Market.  One that produces striped tomatoes, another called a "Black Plum" tomato, and a "Russian Persimmon".
Also, trees!  Now, those of you who know me well will laugh at this.  For, oh, the last 5 years or so, we've been talking about moving to a single-family house with more property.  (We live in an upper-lower duplex, and although we don't rent out the bottom half anymore, we mainly use it for storage so it's largely wasted space.  And who really needs two kitchens and two laundry rooms.)  I think, after 5 years, we're finally ready to give up the dream.  After all, moving is A LOT OF WORK.  Inertia is just easier.  So I'm planting trees.  Trees which won't fruit for 3 or more years, which basically ties me to this land.  Because after paying so much money for these trees, and all the time put into their care, I want to be around to see them pay off!
First, I purchased 2 apple trees from Linder's (a local chain).  I bought a Honeycrisp and a Sweet Sixten...yum.  I paid $50 each, which seemed like a steal since the independent greenhouses I'd perused charged $75 to $100 for the same trees.
Then, I was at Fleet Farm last week (another local chain) and found my holy grail...a Mesabi cherry tree.  I have been looking, and looking for one of these for a couple of months now.  It was marked $44.99.  Awesome!  But even more awesome, it rang up at 25% off - $33.74!!!  If I had room in my yard, I was sorely tempted to buy a pear tree and a plum tree, also.  Maybe next year, I'll find a place to squeeze them in. I'm feeling much better.  I'd so much rather think and talk about my garden than my behaviorally-challenged 3 1/2-year-old at the moment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beyond the Birds and the Bees

We go to the library almost every Saturday, and check out a new bagful o' books.  About three weeks ago, we were heading to the checkout desk when Sam snagged this one off the shelf:

I was *this close* to telling him to put it back on the shelf, we had enough books already.  Thank goodness I didn't.

This book has been single-handedly responsible for giving me more free time in the past three weeks than I've had in the past three and a half years combined.  Well, if you count free time as ten-second intervals of silence in between requests to identify a bushbaby or a lesser red panda.  I've actually learned a lot, too.  Did you know that a black panther is actually just a regular old leopard, who happened to be born with black fur?   I don't know exactly when I'll use that tidbit, but you never know.  It may come in handy someday.

Who'd have thought the answer to all (well, one, but it was a big one) of my problems could be purchased for only $29.99?  (Actually, I'm going to be buying a used copy for much less, but I'd pay about 10 times the cover price if I had to.  Shhh...don't tell the seller.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: Look Again

I recently finished Lisa Scottoline's newest book, Look Again.  I've read (and loved!) everything she's ever written, and this book was no exception.  Even though the ending was a bit too pat and the plot was a bit too implausible, I still loved it.  Scottoline is funny and clever, but unlike Janet Evanovich, whose Stephanie Plum books I stopped reading a few books back, Scottoline's books are always original.  (I used to love the Stephanie Plum series, but after the first ten books, I started to feel like I was reading the same book over and over again.  Then again, maybe I was.  My memory, like the old gray mare, ain't what she used to be.)
If you've read Lisa Scottoline before, you know that she normally writes legal fiction, and her books usually star the same case of characters.  Look Again was a total deviation from her regular formula.  The main character, Ellen, is facing the possibility of losing her 3-year-old son so I'm sure this book affected me more than it would affect someone else who doesn't have a 3-year-old son.  But you may not want to read the last 50 pages when you're, oh, riding a crowded passenger bus home from work.  Just sayin'. 
I was most excited to read on the inside flap of the cover that Lisa Scottoline has a weekly column that runs in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you're a die-hard fan, like I am, this column is worth adding to your reader.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Finally, An Update

Phew.  As I wipe the sweat off my brow, I hardly know where to start explaining where I've been and what I've been doing.

I have been a bit busy lately, with a big project.  Not the "raising two young children" project, or the "taking care of a house" project, but a different one.  Gardening is one of my passions, something I haven't been able to do much of since having kids.  The summer after Sammy was born, we had to tear out my beautiful garden to put in an ugly septic mound.  
This used to be my garden.  Now it's basically a big pile of...well, you know.

Ever since, I haven't had the time or the ambition to start over, but this year I've decided to change all that.

This is what I have to work with:

And this:

I've spent the past couple of weeks digging out tree stumps, hauling black dirt, weeding, mulching, planting, and fencing.  And that's why I haven't been posting lately.


I love summer.  Love, love, love it, for reasons to numerous to mention, but one of the reasons?  Messy projects can move outdoors, leaving the cleanup to Mother Nature instead of Mother Exhausted.
Nah, I didn't really leave the kids outside until it rained.  I mean, I let Mother Nature clean up the driveway.  The kids, I sprayed down with a garden hose.  Which they thought was great fun - almost as fun as the painting itself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

They Say You Shouldn't Judge a Book By Its Cover...

But sometimes, it's really hard not to judge a person by their bumper stickers.
Recently, I was in a parking lot and walked past a car bearing two bumper stickers.  The first one proclaimed, "It's not about whether you pick your nose, it's where you put the boogers".  The second one was a political bumper sticker apparently featuring a 2008 Presidential candidate that I'd never heard of (and I followed political coverage enough to know about early candidates like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Mitt Romney).  Alongside this unknown politician, were the faces of Obama and McCain.  The unknown politician's face smiled out from the bumper sticker, while McCain and Obama's faces had been decorated with marker moustaches, glasses, and whatever else.  If you were ever in second grade, you know the juvenile nonsense that I'm talking about.  There was some dumb saying on that bumper sticker, too, which went in one eye and out the other.
I had an immediate mental image of the kind of person who put those stickers on their car.  Not even a physical image (although I'm guessing either a teenager or early-20-something type person) but more of a personality image.  I have to admit, I hoped I'd see the car's owner but it didn't happen.
When I was in high school, my first car was a 1987 Dodge Aries.  There was something special in the paint used on that car model.  Something special that made the paint fleck off in huge chips.  I could spot a fellow Dodge Arian from a mile away simply by noting the paint job (or lack thereof).
In a misguided attempt to hide the ugliness of the exterior, I decorated the back bumper with some bumper stickers.  A big, colorful flower.  "Peace" or "Love" or some other hippie-ish saying, written in colorful, glittery, bubbly font.  I think those stickers drew even more attention to the car.  I know for a fact it drew more attention from the police, because I got pulled over twice in that car for "speeding".  There was no speeding involved either time, and I was let go with a "warning".  I know now the police were simply looking for an excuse to pull me over, because...come on.  If you see a car like that, don't you assume the driver probably does a little wacky tobaccy sometimes?  (And for the record, I've never smoked any kind of a cigarette.) 
Like it or not, a car's bumper stickers say a lot about the driver - but not always what the driver is intending.  These days, I go au naturel.