Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Was That Thing I Needed To Do?

Around this time of year, I start to get frantic. Not because I'm not getting things done - I AM! But because of the list of things still left to do. And if I sit down and write it all out on paper, I get even more frantic, because then it's actually visible, this list, and while the joy of scratching something off is tempting, the fear of having to add two or three more things just wrecks it.

So I commit these "things to do" to memory, and then wind up waking up at 2:00am, saying to myself - now WHAT was that thing I needed to do tomorrow?

And the worst part? I am a relentless procrastinator. I don't know why I do this to myself, but I've learned over the years that I work much better under pressure. Only trouble with that is, I get high-strung having to deal with stuff at the last minute, and I get frustrated when the time I've allotted for each task actually winds up taking a bit longer than I anticipated, and then I truly do get behind with no time left to finish everything on the ubiquitous list.

Mark tries to help - he tries to put "early" pressure on me - pushing me a bit to get something started, get me off my butt, stop piddling. Sometimes it works. Sometimes just the momentum of getting started with something gets me on a roll. It's the idea of the task that shuts me down the most, not the actual "doing" it. Because for all my procrastinating - I'm also a finisher - that is, once a task is underway, I MUST COMPLETE IT.

After 38 years of living, you'd think I would have this down to a science, and would have learned to use my strengths and squash my weaknesses when things get busy. Well, the best I can say? I'm trying. I really am! Yesterday I got most of my Christmas cards written. I still need to write a few update letters for some of them - relatives we haven't seen in a few years usually get a letter. And last names beginning with Q through Z still await me. But what did I have to sacrifice to get A-P mostly done? Time with my boys. And I hate that. Jonathan in particular can almost sense when I need extra time to myself and I'm trying to get stuff done, because he picks those times to be especially needy. He wants to read, he wants to watch a movie with me, he needs a drink, he needs a hug. Then he comes in and stands next to my chair, silent, until I acknowledged him and said "Now WHAT?" And he says "Mommy, I just wanted to tell you I love you." Sigh. Well, that's sweet baby, but Mommy NEEDS to get this done!! That's what I thought. What I DID, was pull him up on my lap and cuddled for a bit. Then threw him out so I could get more done.

And right now? I'm procrastinating even more. SHOULD be getting food ready for an office party we're supposed to be attending this afternoon. SHOULD be getting more cards written. SHOULD be working on that update letter. SHOULD be making a list for the market with all the stuff I'm going to need for baking and for holiday meals and things I want to make ahead and freeze. SHOULD be putting in a few hours of work so I don't have to work tonight after dinner so we can finish decorating our Christmas tree. SHOULD start wrapping some gifts while Jonathan is out of the house at school. SHOULD do some more cleaning, more laundry. Oops. I said I wasn't going to write it all down, didn't I?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Random Cleaning Tip

With the approaching holidays, we're all looking for a shortcut or two, and when it involves cleaning, well, you've come to the right place! Don't get me wrong, my house is usually somewhere between needs a really good vacuuming and filthy squalor. It is never really and truly clean, and if it ever would be, it wouldn't last 30 minutes. But that doesn't stop me from trying. And those "trying" times usually occur right before Christmas, and sometime in the Spring if I'm really motivated. Everything else is just maintenance cleaning.

So right about now, I'm trying to get the house whipped into shape, and once again, I'm faced with 108 panes of Andersen window glass. Yes, you read right. 27 casement windows, front and back and the front and back of the storm panes as well. Not enough for you? Okay, add in a triple-sliding glass door, front and back, and 6 floor-to-ceiling panes, each one 4 feet across. I think they call them picture windows? I call them torture. Anyway, lots of glass. And with a southern exposure on most of it, that streak-free shine is tough to come by.

So here's my cleaning tip. Ditch the Windex. Nothing but crap. Forget wadded up newspaper, forget water mixed with vinegar. You want sparkly windows with no streaks, go to your local gas station and pick up a gallon of windshield washer fluid for $1.00. Voila! Get a clean rag or some paper towels and go to town! And the best thing, it takes like half the time because the washer fluid isn't greasy-feeling like Windex is, so it wipes away quicker. And it works well in all weather - and in bright sunshine.

How did I find this out? Sheer desperation. Those huge picture windows were just too much. We finally got a squeegee like the pros use, and I didn't have much Windex left in my bottle, so I spied the washer fluid sitting there in the garage, and dumped it into a bucket. Necessity truly is the mother of invention!

Oh, and one more tip. As a first step, get an old dish towel, wet it with plain water, wring it out well and wipe down the windows with that first. It removes the worst of the gunk that causes streaks in the first place, and loosens up stuff like bug poop and squashed bugs and the residue from the random bird vs. window crashes. Let that dry, and then just use the fluid to shine and sparkle.

Happy Cleaning! May all your windows be streak-free. This has been a public service announcement from the Society to Destroy Substances that Claim to Clean Windows But Really Don't. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who Needs an Alarm Clock, Anyway?

He did it again. Jonathan. Gorilla lungs. Mark had already gotten out of bed and turned off the alarm/radio and ventured out to make coffee. Me? I didn't have to get up this morning - no school on Tuesdays for Jonathan and both kids were still asleep anyway, or so I thought. I drifted back to sleep, wrapped up in a tangle of blankets with the dog. Then the screeching began. I tried to ignore it for a few minutes. But then the "MOMMY!" started. It was pretty pathetic-sounding. He actually sounded scared. So I went to his room, opened the door, still mostly asleep, and there was my poor little guy, all curled up and hugging his stuffed dog, wailing that he had a bad dream.

What would any Mommy do? I got in bed with him, pulled him close, told him "Mommy's here." Then he tells me his dream was about an automatic gate. He went through it, and I didn't follow him. Hmmmmmmm. I guess that could be pretty frightening for a 4 year old?

I just find it somewhat amusing that my little guy's dreams don't usually involve monsters or things chasing him or the like. No. Rather, Mister anal/fastidious dreams things like his brother tore down his tower of blocks, or his room was messy, or in one instance, the room was upside-down. Oh well - guess I'd rather have him dream about that stuff than the monsters anyway. We all have our own monsters, right?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse...

...someone gets trampled to death in Walmart. If it wasn't so pathetic and tragic, it might actually be somewhat humorous, had the guy not DIED. Had the morons that ran him over not continued to shop, ignoring the requests of staff to leave the store so they could assess the situation. Had they not complained that they had stood in line for two days so they weren't going to stop shopping. People, when has a bargain been more important for the respect of human life?

Somewhere in between the wrapping, the decorations, the shopping, the baking, the parties, there has just got to come a time when people remember what the season is really about. And when that point is reached, then and only then can a peace settle over us, when we realize what all this madness is really about. It's about a tiny infant being born 2000 years ago. And all the gentleness and mystique that surrounds the story of that lowly birth, my friends, has NOTHING to do with a raging, out-of-control crowd, pushing their way into Walmart, trying to secure a bargain ahead of everyone else.

It IS tragic. But if one good thing can come out of it, let it be this: live your life as if it really mattered. Stay focused on what the important things are. Think before you act. And before you go and trample someone to death, consider if whatever you're after is really worth it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Questions

Okay, last one, I promise! Well, maybe. Depends on what it is. Feel free to copy and paste into your own blog - always fun to read what others have to say!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? A lot of both.
2. Real tree or artificial? Again, both. Last year we had our first artificial. This year, it's going up downstairs, while our main one in the living room will be real.
3. When do you put up the tree? Usually about 2-3 weeks before Christmas.
4. When do you take down the tree? After the Epiphany which is usually on January 6th. MUST leave it up at least for the 12 days of Christmas!
5. Do you like eggnog? Gack. Anything with raw egg is gross.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? You can't be serious
7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad
8. Easiest person to buy for? The boys
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Of course. Several. We're Catholic.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift ever received? Better not say - you never know who reads your blog!
12. Favorite Christmas movie? Home Alone
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Early November
14. Ever recycled a Christmas present? I'll never tell
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Treats! The homemade kind. I love everyone's special homemade cookies - ever notice that people tend to save their best baking for the holidays? "Oh, that's my great-aunt Helen's recipe!
16. Lights on a tree? Absolutely. This year I might go for the LCD's just to be different. LOVE putting up lights. LOVE sitting in the glow of the tree.
17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night
18. Travel or stay home at Christmas? Usually travel. This year home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - a revelation!
19. Can you name all Santa's reindeer? Yes. Take my word for it.
20. Angel on top of the tree, or star? Two doves. This year I'd really like to find an angel, but so far they all look deranged.
21. When do you do presents? Christmas day.
22. Most annoying thing this time of year? Long lines, people acting like morons, parking lots, endless holiday parties with endless fattening goodies that you can't resist. Remember Great-aunt Helen?
23. Favorite Christmas dinner? Whatever is served and whatever I don't have to cook. I'm too busy!
24. What do you want for Christmas this year? For everyone to be WELL, and to have a good time and enjoy the most special time of year with each other. And to not gain 5 pounds.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bi-Annual Update

Wow - time is going by so fast! With the upcoming holiday season, we are just swamped, and me with very little time to blog! But it's been over 6 months since my last update, so here's what's been going on with us lately.


Since my last update, we've had two major changes. First, Jonathan started pre-k, which I'll talk more about in a minute. Second, I started working again. I work from home, part-time as an independent contractor for an environmental firm. I do digital mapping, or GIS, and so far, it's working out great. Working from home certainly has it's challenges, but Mark's been great about watching the kids while I work in the evenings and sometimes a few hours on weekends. And it's only part-time, which means I can set my own hours and just work as much or as little as I want. So if you do the math and figure that I actually haven't eliminated anything in my life, but actually added a part-time job, you now know why my blog has been suffering lately. Hey, something's gotta give!


Jonathan is now 4 years, 8 months. He goes to school 3 mornings a week, and so far is doing very well. He loves it, looks forward to it, talks about it all the time and when he's home, he wants to "play" school, so I'm thinking the choice we made to go ahead and send him was a good one! It's a new chapter in our lives, for sure - pick-ups, drop-offs, school fund-raising, constant, constant communications from the school in the form of reams of wasted paper that gets sent hom every single day....sigh. They sent a full-year calendar of the school's events all the way back in August. I do not need to be reminded of them 16 more times with 16 more sheets of paper that is stuffed into Jonathan's backpack everyday. But I guess if that's my only complaint, then it's okay. In other Jonathan news - he's reading now, probably at a second or third grade level. How he got there, I have no idea. But I give him harder and harder books and he reads them straight through, and if he hits a word he doesn't know, he SOUNDS IT OUT. Ummm, who taught you phonics, Jonathan? When he's home, Jonathan has been showing a great interest in learning to cook and bake. Any long-time reader of my blog must know that this makes me happy - now if I could just get him to EAT what he makes, I'd be even happier! But so far, no dice. He started out assisting me with some recipes that I make all the time, like waffles and pancakes, but now he's been starting to look for recipes on his own and showing a desire to make them for others. Just last week, he found a recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies in his book "Mouse Cookies and More", and with just a tiny bit of supervision, he made the whole thing himself, including cracking the egg! When I suggested he eat one of his cookies, he told me "No, Mommy, I made them for you!" Awwww. How to melt a mommy's heart in one simple step. So then, a few days ago at his school's book fair, the teacher sent home a list of books each child found and was interested in buying, so it was no great surprise to see at the top of Jonathan's list "Disney's Magic Kitchen Cookbook". What a cute book! Full of recipes geared toward kids with a Disney character on every page. How could I not buy it for him? Maybe this cooking craze will last, or maybe it will just be a passing thing. But knowing my little Jonathan, once he's hooked, he'll be hooked for life. Maybe he'll be a great chef someday.

Then, there's Matthew. Matthew is currently 2 years, 5 months. He is finally learning to talk, although he still seems to prefer his own language, which is most certainly not English. We're working on this, but haven't yet ruled out a little intervention if he hasn't made a lot of improvement by Spring. This is not to say he doesn't understand us! It's pretty obvious the child hears and understands every word we say, and, just like his brother, doesn't miss a thing. He just picks and chooses what he hears and goes with it! One of Matthew's favorite activities lately is sneaking into the bathroom, and emptying the contents of our vanity drawers into the trash can. Or knocking down whatever his brother just built. Or sneaking off with a non-washable crayon and decorating our walls. Or discovering the lid off of the liquid soap and fingerpainting the whole house with it. In other words, can you say Terrible Twos? But he's also the sweetest little snuggler you'll ever see - he loves to curl up with us and read or watch tv, or to just "be". In many ways, he's a gentle little spirit, but, like his brother, and I imagine many children his age, he has an agenda and he's sticking to it! Many a tear has been shed because Mark and I, and sometimes even Jonathan decide that we're not going along with the agenda, and it apparently breaks his heart!

I'm sorry to say the sibling rivalry hasn't gotten much better since the last update - there are days when the two of them are offended that they're each breathing the same air. But overall, I would think that things are maybe ever-so-slightly changing. The times when they actually play together and erupt into giggles and squeals may be catching up to the times when it erupts into screams and tears, so that's a step in the right direction. The biggest problem is that Jonathan is very independent, and Matthew likes to follow him around and do what he sees Jonathan doing. Hmmm, what's wrong with THAT picture?!

As for Mark and I? Well, you know about me. My busy is now even busier. And Mark, as a direct result, is busier too, but I can't say enough good things about a guy who comes home from working an 8 hour day, gobbles dinner, and then is responsible for watching the kids, bathing them every night, doling out the bedtime snacks, getting them into bed, and then cleaning up after them, i.e., picking up all the toys and putting them away, cleaning up all the sippy cups and bowls lying around, picking up their clothes, etc....whew, makes me tired just thinking about all that! But he does it, and lately he's been doing it every night. Sure, I'm there to intervene in a crisis - helping out with soap in someone's eyes or finding the one and only bath toy that's acceptable that evening. But Mark's a saint, I'll admit that, but only once! Mostly, he just knows, as I do, how fortunate we are to have this little arrangement where I can work from home, saving us all kinds of extra expense while actually providing us with more cash in these depleted economic times.

So there we are. Just re-reading this update before I save it and post it, I can't help but notice that if someone were to read this, and then ask to describe our family in one word, that word might be...well, not to overuse a word, but that word might be "busy." I'm guessing many families can be described this way these days, but I hope it doesn't seem like that's all we're about. Sure, we have a busy life, but we find time, or rather, we make time and plan time to be a family, to do fun things together, and to make it work. And it's ever-evolving. What worked for us 6 months ago isn't working now, and what's working now probably won't be working 6 months from now. So on that note, I'll check back in 6 months from now and re-assess where we are, then. In the meantime, stay tuned for holiday festivities, more cooking fun and yet another "getting to know you" - this time with a Christmas theme!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yet Another....

My cousin sent me another of those "getting to know you" things by email, so once again, I'll share it here in my blog. Enjoy!

1. What is your occupation right now? SAHM and part-time independent contractor GIS analyst for environmental firm (work from home)

2. What color are your socks right now? dark brown

3. What are you listening to right now? The sound of the two year old (not) napping while kicking his crib and playing his aquarium music, and the movie Ratatouille in the living room which is, for the moment, entertaining Jonathan.

4. What was the last thing you ate? A handful of vegan animal crackers I got from Trader Joe's that the kids WON'T eat.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? In a pinch, but it's been awhile and if I were you, I wouldn't trust me with your clutch

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Mark - I was out shopping and I told him I'd be home with carry-out for lunch!

7. How old are you today? 38

8. Favorite sport to watch on tv? ooohhh, tough one. NFL football, probably, but I like the olympics, too.

9. What is your favorite drink? Coke? Though I rarely drink it anymore.

10. Ever dyed your hair? Yes, if highlights count

11. Favorite food? whatever's cooking

12. Last movie you watched? That Thing You Do

13. Favorite day of the year? Christmas Eve

14. How do you vent anger? lock myself in somewhere and read or watch tv

15. Favorite toy as a child? my bike?

16. What is your favorite season? Fall

17. Cherries or blueberries? cherries

18. Living arrangements? 4 bedroom home I share with hubby, two sons and a dog

19. Last time you cried? Hmmmm...can't really remember...does that mean life is good?

20. What's on the floor of your closet? Lots of shoes and probably a matchbox car or two

21. Friend who will see with you've had the longest? Shannon

22. What did you do last night? Several hours of work at the computer, then found a movie on On Demand

23. What are you most afraid of? My husband or children getting injured or sick

24. Plain, cheese or spicy burgers? Cheese

25. Favorite dog breed? cute and sassy

26. Favorite day of the week? Friday

27. How many states have you lived in? 1

28. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds

29. Favorite flower? whatever Mark plants in the spring for me!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuxedo-Black Christmas Tree?

What will they think of next? In case you can't see it too well - this is an all-black Christmas tree. I actually saw one of these at Walmart yesterday. Black. With little white lights, but still, totally black. Am I the only one who thinks this is just a bit...strange?

Don't get me wrong - black has it's place, for sure. My first car I purchased with my very own money was black. By choice. Black clothing, black vehicles, black accessories (purses! shoes!) - all very elegant, very classy, very tailored. Love it.

But a black Christmas tree? Black TREE? I'm sorry, but when I think of black trees, I think of forest fires. Old, charred wood, blackened branches, leaves gone....

I understand not all trees need to be green, of course. White Christmas trees reminiscent of snow perhaps, and then there's the silver and gold trees, while not exactly true-to-life, at least they are festive and sparkly and have their place.

But Black. I just don't see this one catching on. And if it does, I guess I'm in for a major attitude readjustment, because I'm just not going to make it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

BOO!

A very busy day Halloween turned out to be!! We started at Jonathan's school, where, despite my misgivings about 14 pre-k kids carving their own pumpkins, enough parents showed up to make it quite a success! And despite the fact that it LOOKS like Jonathan carved the pumpkin "all by himself", let's just say, he did MOST of it. Okay, SOME of it. He had a good time, and I did most of the finishing touches!


After carving, the kids got to climb into their costumes. Here, Jonathan is a tiger. I was surprised he decided to dress in this particular costume - I had borrowed a few from a friend, and he didn't seem to like the tiger much. But once we got to school and I showed him the choices I'd brought, that's what he picked.


And so they all lined up for a photograph - there's my little tiger all the way to the left. Then they had a big parade and a party in the classroom. Then, we got to take the little sugared-up goblins home. Oh, the joys of parenting!


The parade was outside this year - it was a stellar day - almost 70 degrees! Why am I chasing a pumpkin, rather than watching the parade? The pumpkin is Matthew. He decided he'd rather run around the track and the football field than wait for his brother to march by with all the elemetary school. So guess who gets to run him down?

Back home for dinner. Trick-or-treat started at 6pm, so while we got Jonathan into his SECOND costume of the day (for trick-or-treating, he decided to be the alligator/dinosaur), we let Matthew go to town on a cupcake. Mistake. By the time he was done, cupcake was everywhere. Oh well - what can you do right? We just put his costume back on - good thing they're washable!


We head outside to the yard for a few minutes, where the pumpkin takes off again. Daddy caught up to him trying to get into the shed! (Which, btw, we just a brand new coat of paint a few weeks ago! Sharp, huh?)


Finally, pumpkin AND dinosaur corralled, off we go.


It was truly a great night for trick-or-treating! The weather was great, and lots of neighbors were out and about. Mark and I both went with the kids - it probably would've been pretty hard for just one of us to manage both kids anyway - and we took a big basket of candy with us so when we met up with other trick-or-treaters, we would just give them the candy on the road and tell them not to bother going up our long, steep driveway because we weren't there! As it turned out, good thing we both went - those hills are steep! Between three things of candy, the wagon, the dog (another mistake, but we're learning!) and the two little guys, we about had our hands full! But the kids LOVED it and didn't even complain too much when Mark and I had finally reached our breaking point and told them we were going home: LAST HOUSE! When we got home, Jonathan stripped off his costume immediately, but Matthew stayed in his long enough for us to get a few pictures! Here's one of him checking out his loot, and another of him giggling over his brother's antics!

So anyway, that was Halloween '08. All in all, a great day for the little guys! We were thinking that since Halloween was Friday, then on Saturday we wouldn't make any plans, just let the sugar wear off and have a slow day. But that didn't happen! We got up the next morning, noticed the kids were really kind of "normal" and decided to take off for Morgantown to do some early Christmas shopping! We spent a long day messing around Barnes and Noble and Target and a few other places, mostly wasting time since we never seem to remember that taking both kids shopping with us is NEVER time well-spent. But we did manage to get a few gifts bought, another two or three researched and priced, and we finished the day with a stop at the West Virginia Brewing Company. Quick stop at Arby's drive through, and home we went. All in all - a great weekend! Looking forward to Mark having the day off tomorrow so we can get some more landscaping/yardwork done...did I mention we were KILLING ourselves in the yard these days? Happy November!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chili and Scones


The Fall Baking has been well underway here for a few weeks - I'm just behind on posts! This was last weekend's goodies - a huge pot of chili and some Fruit and Oatmeal Scones. We also made cut-out Halloween cookies, which are almost gone already, and of course, the requisite apple pie which was several weeks ago. AND, I made my very first pot roast with a beautiful 7 bone chuck roast cut from a grass fed steer. What could be yummier?
NOTHING like baking in the Fall. Hearing the wind blow, the leaves rustling, smelling the smoke from the chimney, coming in from a cool day with rosy cheeks and bellying up to a table with nice, hot, savory meal. Not to mention the good smells, the nice warm kitchen, the little children's faces that light up when they see a ghost-shaped cookie!
We're busy this week - we just had the grandparents visiting for the weekend and they left yesterday, and of course Halloween is on Friday. Jonathan has a big Halloween parade and party in school, and a pumpkin-carving party so meals this week might be a bit rushed here and there. But there's nothing like gathering the family around the table - actually any time of year, but this time of year it just feels special. Maybe because all summer we've been eating outside, half the time in our damp swimsuits, or picnicking somewhere. Bringing everyone back inside to the warm glow of autumn with all the fall colors, looking forward to the big holidays...to me, there's nothing like it. I love Fall. And all the sensory stuff that goes with it. I'm going to go light my gingerbread-flavored candle this morning and plan some meals for the week! And maybe, just maybe start my Christmas gift lists....

Friday, October 24, 2008

3's About Me

My friend Shannon sent me an email with one of those "About Me" things - so rather than email it back and forwarding along, I'm putting it on my blog, just for fun. This one's called 3's About Me. Feel free to cut and paste into your own blog, but I'm not tagging anyone. Enjoy!

Three jobs I've had in my life:
1. Short order cook/crab slinger at carry-out seafood joint
2. Meat wrapper in butcher shop of local grocery store
3. GIS Analyst for 2 agencies of state government

Three people who email me regularly:
1. My friend Judi
2. My friend Jennifer
3. My mom

My favorite foods:
1. Pasta and {fill in the blank}
2. Brownies, cookies, pie, cake, need I say more?
3. Panini sandwiches, especially the ones with neat sauces, like pesto-mayo or sun-dried tomato aioli, etc...

Three places I've lived:
1. Maryland (Randallstown)
2. Maryland (Annapolis)
3. Maryland (Cumberland/LaVale)

Three shows I watch:
1. Cold Case
2. Survivor
3. Without A Trace

Three places I'd rather be right now:
1. Curled up with a book, a hot mug of something and NO interruptions
2. Hiking at Zion National Park
3. Someplace warm, sunny, refreshing and with plenty of free, reliable babysitters

Things I am looking forward to this year: (ummm, does this mean 2009?)
1. Great vacations with various family
2. Jonathan going to school FULL-time!
3. Matthew getting potty-trained

Things I dread having to do:
1. Going to the grocery store with both kids
2. Cleaning the inside of the mini-van
3. Scrubbing out the tub (yuck!)

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Devil Made Me Do It


I just can't help myself. I promised myself I would ignore politics with my blog, and I tried. I really did. But this just beats it all and I just HAVE to pass it along. In case you can't see it all, there they are - Obama, some guy in jeans, Hillary, then the inset of the Palin family - and everyone but Obama saluting our flag, our nation, our patriotism with their hand over their heart like we were all taught in kindergarten. Everyone EXCEPT Obama. What's with that?
Notice here that I am not endorsing a candidate either way. I don't do that. Why? Because I know who I'm voting for. Because I care to be an informed American. See, I take my right to vote very seriously. And so I don't try to sway others to see my side. I believe this highly individualized right to vote that our forefathers gave us should be just that: individualized. If you care; IF you care enough to have a say in who should hold the most powerful position in this nation, then you should be able to research and decide for yourself which candidate would best be suited. You shouldn't be influenced any other way. It's a personal choice, based on personal morals, beliefs, priorties. Unfortunately, that's not the way this nation works.
Every time you turn around, there's some idiot in your face or on your tv or in the paper endorsing a candidate. Great. And by idiots, I do mean idiots. Take for instance, celebrities. First of all, if they knew anything about how the REST of America lives, they might just think differently, but no. They have their $5 million dollar mansions or $20 million dollar mansions or whatever, and they dare to pretend they know what's best for America? What America are you talking about? And really, who cares about your opinion, Paris, Britney, Matt, Cheryl or whoever? Paris, for instance...YOU videotaped yourself having sex and then got mad because it went out on the internet. Let's see, that puts you in the category of not being able to make a rational decision, so why would I even care what you think? Same goes for all of them. And while I'm on the topic, show of hands of everyone who thinks that Angelina and Brad would NOT have 6 children under 7 if they didn't have like 10 nannies? But I digress.....my point is, if you don't LIVE the American way of life, the America that 90% of the nation knows, then shut your pie-hole. Nobody cares.
The latest thing I just read: the media is in a quandry - what are they going to do on election night since they're so sure that Obama is going to have the election wrapped up by dinnertime that they won't have anything suspenseful to broadcast for the next 6 hours? What will they do? OH NO!! Gee, I don't know, maybe actually wait until all the results are in so we can avoid the embarrassing mess that happened let's see, 8 years ago? You would THINK that these geniuses might have learned something from THAT? Sigh. All I can say? Thank God for movie channels. Because that's most likely what I'll be watching election night if I watch anything at all.
So see? I wasn't Obama-bashing after all. Well, maybe a little bit, but it really wasn't my intent. I'm not sure what's going on with that photo - for all I know, it was doctored by the media as well. But it does make you think. Think. And that's all I ask of my fellow Americans. Don't be a lemming. Make up your own mind, based on your own research.

Some Random Photos

Little boys eating breakfast one (must've been warmer) morning -- we haven't been in short-sleeved pajamas for a few weeks now! What's on the menu? Waffles, crayons and a parking garage, what else?

A walking stick. Which is a type of bug. They look like sticks - so if you see them in a tree where they're SUPPOSED to be, they're so camoflaged you can't even tell. THIS one was on our patio door and Mark can't resist photographing icky bugs. THIS walking stick looks more like a walking branch to me, but I've been told it's a female, and they're much bigger than the males.

Matthew indulging in the finer things in life - I managed to get the picture BEFORE he had ice cream up his nose, on his shirt, on the table, on the chair, in his lap, on the floor, you get the idea. We do lots of ice cream around here!

Watching the Raven's game! Every Sunday, Matthew and I put on our matching Ray Lewis jerseys and watch the game. We were relegated to the bedroom tv on this particular week because Jonathan and Mark were glued to the Redskins. Or maybe Jonathan was glued to Noggin and Mark was forced downstairs to the guest room tv. At any rate, why Noggin gets to be on the big flatscreen and we have to watch football games on the smaller, inferior tvs is a mystery. But that has been changing! Noggin is just as good in the bedroom, and we've added a little tv to the kitchen so I don't have to miss the action while I make dinner!

Actually, for Matthew, it's less about the game, and more about hanging out with Mommy, who apparently is all that and a bag of chips lately. Well, more like ever since he was born. Most of the time, it's cute and sweet, but other times, Mommy needs, well, a little quiet time, a little privacy. But they're only this little for so long, right? So for now, I'll endure the little guy, who might as well be one of those sticky little burrs I've been picking out of the dog's fur lately.

In other news, today I feel like baking. After three or four days of really nice weather - in the 70's - today is the start of what looks like the true beginning of cooler weather in these parts. Indian summer is over in a big way. So this morning, I'm baking up a batch of Toll House cookies for the boys, and then later on, I'm going to try this recipe for Fruit and Oatmeal Scones I found in one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks. Be a nice treat for the weekend with coffee while we sit inside with coughing kid(s) and watch the leaves swirl around outside. I'm also making a huge pot of chili for the weekend and beyond - and that means cornbread too! Can you tell I'm hungry right now!? I'll try to post some of the final product photos - I really miss blogging about my recipes and my fun in the kitchen!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bloggin' in REAL Time

Okay, thought I'd try something different, or, rather, try to distract myself less I run out the back door and scream at the top of my lungs into the crisp mountain air tonight. Why? I'm sitting here listening to Matthew scream and scream and scream. I put him to bed half an hour ago. He usually goes in fine - give him a sippy cup with some water, give him a little pat, cover him up, press the button on his little crib/aquarium/music thing and depart. Good for 12 hours. But lately, he's been having a few issues. Perhaps it's related to the two HUGE molars the kid's getting. This child grows the biggest teeth I've ever seen. Like horse-sized. He's getting his two bottom final molars and it's got to hurt. Or perhaps it's related to the hacking cough he's had since Monday. Or maybe it's because we've been babying him a bit (well, he IS a baby) and going into him lately, because a) he's getting molars and b) he has a cough. Somewhat of a circular argument, but I digress.

So half hour ago, I rocked him awhile, kissed his sweet little cheek, smelled his freshly washed head, snuggled in the rocker with him and he was fine. Then I made the supreme mistake of telling him it was bedtime and putting him in his little crib. It's been angst ever since.

So what to do? What to do? Go into him? Pick him up? NO. Will not do one bit of good - he'll just stop crying and then when I put him in again, he'll be hysterical another half hour. So how about going in and giving him a little pat? Nope. He's too old for that. Maybe would work on an 8 month old. But I know as soon as I walk in there, he'll shoot right up, hold his little arms up to be picked up and be all the more insulted if I don't actually pick him up. Sit here and listen to him cry more? Well, so far, it's done nothing except cause me stress. Nail-biting, self-hating, parental technique-doubting stress. I want to scream. He's still screaming.

By now, with the cold he's got, his face is probably soaked with tears and snot. His mattress sheet is probably soaked and slimy. He's probably all congested and has swollen eyes, face, etc....
WAIT. Haven't heard anything for about 30 seconds. Is he....giving up? Still quiet. Could he be falling asleep? Fingers crossed. Heart rate falling ever so slightly. Still quiet. Silence. Don't breathe. If I could whisper-type, I would.

While I'm waiting, let's talk about Ferber. Many people don't like him or his ideas about kids and sleep. I didn't think much of it until my very sanity was in question, then I bought his book. While the man isn't the genius some make him out to be, he does have some good ideas. And while "Ferberizing" your child can be emotionally painful, it does work in the long run. When Matthew was 8 months old, he was waking up to nurse 4-5 times a night, then sleeping half the day and not eating much through the day. It was the Ferber method that not only reversed that, but got him sleeping entirely through the night at about 8.5 months, without even a nursing break - something that Jonathan never gave up until he was completely weaned at one year. So ever since 8.5 months, Matthew's been sleeping through the night wonderful. Except in times of sickness, or if we're traveling or whatever. Jonathan? Well, we weren't so lucky with him - he started sleeping through at about a year old, but it was hit or miss. For the most part, we can't complain. Once they're actually ASLEEP, our kiddos sleep fairly well, and for that, I can be grateful.

And right now, I'm REALLY grateful, because Matthew is still quiet, so it looks like he's down for the count. Hope he stays that way - although it wouldn't surprise me if he needs a midnight round of motrin for his teeth. We had to do that the other night, and we fought our instincts tonight to give him a dose before bedtime. Maybe we should have!

Some Artwork

Remember this? You might, if you're a long-time reader of my blog and/or on my Christmas card list -- this was the photo from the photo card that became our Christmas greeting from last year - Christmas 2007. Now take a look at THIS:


Nice, huh? That's my father-in-law's rendition of Jonathan, as he copied it from the photo. Mark's dad likes to draw, paint, etc...(I think he'd be mortified if I actually said he was an "artist" so let's leave it at that...). At any rate, he tinkers around and when he gave this to us a week or two ago (a total surprise), I was touched. Nothing like original art of your children, no less. I'm going to frame it and hang it up here shortly. Not sure exactly where yet, but we'll figure it out.


But the story doesn't end there. Jonathan understands what the photo is all about and I think he was pretty impressed with the fact that Grandpa drew a picture of him and for him....so the other day, he asked for a piece of paper and a pencil so he could draw a picture for Grandpa. This is what Grandpa is going to get when they come for a visit in a few weeks:

A little person of some sort:



A caterpillar:




And a butterfly: (don't you love the way everything has a face?)


And there's the little artist with the whole array of drawings - there's a few more things on there - the top thing is supposed to be a couch and the thing down to the right is a house with steps leading up the side....he wasn't too happy with the way they looked so he didn't "name" them.

So not bad for a four year old. Better than I could do myself - could he have inherited the art gene that seems to have skipped right over Mark? And trust me, it didn't come from me - I am the most hopelessly deficient person when it comes to artistic ability ever. So we'll have to see what comes of this - in the meantime, I'm going to get him some new arts and crafts things for Christmas and see what transpires!


Oh, and PS - sorry about the little blog vacation recently. I've been up to my neck in all kinds of stuff, and blogging has sort of taken the backseat to some other priorities. But if you know me, you know I can't keep my mouth, well, fingers, shut for too long, so stay tuned and I'll be adding more regularly again!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Buzz, Buzz

Busy as bees we are - sorry I haven't had much time to blog these last few days. Work meetings, kid stuff, fall yardwork, football games -- so many activities, so little time!

Stay tuned for more, coming your way very soon!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And School Starts to Pay Off

My good friend, the one with 5 boys, told me last year when I was particularly frustrated with Jonathan's behavior "don't worry, once he starts school, things will change for the better." Who was I to argue? She certainly has experience in those matters. But secretly, I was thinking, what better child to defy a generation's worth of the inevitable? Jonathan would be sure to be the one holdout in a classroom of compliant children.

But happily, and with extreme caution, I can report that already, we're starting to see some of those changes. It started early. He had only gone to school one or two days, when I stopped hearing "pee-pee-potty." Now he tells me he has to use the "bathroom", and the other day, he excused himself from the dinner table, announcing he had to use the "restroom". Good heavens, who are you and what have you done with Jonathan?

Unbelievably, he has earned his gold stars every single day, even the day when he apparently fell off his seat in the computer lab - he still got a gold star along with a note from the teacher to "please work on teaching Jonathan to sit on his bottom". Mark and I shared a quiet chuckle over this one, after all, if Jonathan is even IN a chair, it's a victory.

The other day, Matthew was (supposedly) taking a nap and I was telling Jonathan to please keep quiet. We were walking down the hallway toward the kitchen, and I reminded him yet again to not run like a herd of cattle, when he turns around and tells me he's going to teach me a song. He puts his finger to his lips and starts whisper-singing "Quiet as a mouse, here we go...quiet as a mouse on tippy-toe...." all the while tip-toeing up the hall past Matthew's door. Whoa. Amazing.

He even likes to play school. He'll get the whole living room set up as a classroom, and calls the kitchen the "cafeteria". He plans a lesson! He announces it's reading time, or time to learn numbers or letters (he has these posters and he'll point to each number or letter and "teach" me what they are). Then there's "game time", coloring time, etc... All the while, he's the teacher, of course, and you never saw a child so still, so focused, so poised. He could play school all afternoon, if I let him. I indulge him a bit - I'll pour a cup of coffee and go in and learn my letters again. But I've now realized that we can also "learn" things like "how to unload the dishwasher" and "cleaning up the classroom before your brother wakes up and finds the crayons and colors on every surface we have, including the LCD screen tv". And HE DOES IT. Happily. With no WHINING!

I realize this is all part of growing up. But I don't think it's a coincidence that all these nice changes have come about just 3 weeks into him starting pre-k. So for now, I'm grateful, and looking forward to even more changes ahead!

Friday, September 19, 2008

You've Got to Be Kidding...

So I read this article just the other day. I can't even remember where it was - but very possibly it might have been August or September's issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Yes, I get it. No, it doesn't help me make MY home and garden better, but we can dream, right? So there's this article about stay-at-homes. How in the past, a stay-at-home spouse was in a position to be coveted - after all, it usually meant that the family was so well-off, one spouse could afford not to work and had the "luxury" of staying home. It talked about the fact that some families don't do it for "monetary reasons", rather, they enjoy the fact that one spouse can stay home and handle the day-to-day affairs of the household, leaving their evenings and weekends free to have fun. Of course, they had an example - an interview with a family - one spouse stayed home - can't remember which one, but Monday and Friday were "errand" days, Tuesday was grocery day, Wednesday was laundry day and Thursday was cleaning day. "It all works out so well!" they gushed - they have the weekends free, no errands to run, no groceries to buy, food is there and prepared.....ok. So what in the world is wrong with this picture? As if setting aside an entire day to shop for groceries and an entire day to do laundry isn't ridiculous enough, this couple HAS NO CHILDREN.

Okay. You have no kids. And you still need all that time to get your day-to-day household business done? C'mon people, are you nuts? After all, how long does it actually TAKE to do the laundry for two people, one of which stays home?! Presumably, that's at least one person that doesn't need to be ironing and laundering special-care items that one would wear to work say in a business setting. And gee, does it REALLY take a whole Tuesday to shop for groceries for two people who actually EAT their food rather than sulk petulantly at the plate in front of them full of a carefully prepared meal that will eventually wind up in the trash?

I remember when Mark and I were just a couple. Our little family of two - we lived in a townhouse in Annapolis, we both worked at the same office, we commuted together, we played co-ed volleyball, we went out to eat with our friends, and SOMEHOW, we managed to get our laundry done, procure food for the house, and STILL had plenty of time to keep the place neat and orderly, and weekends were awesome - I still remember we used to have friends over, go out of town, go to the beach for the day, visit parents - I never once remembered staying home on weekends because OH NO - we both worked, therefore we had to go grocery shopping and pick up the dry-cleaning and it took an entire Saturday!

So I'm a little unimpressed with the logic. "Getting things done so the weekends are free" doesn't seem like a valid reason to be a stay-at-home. Take some advice from someone WITH kids, where's it actually an advantage to be a stay-at-home. We get all that stuff done, too, during the week. We drag our screaming, protesting, picky-eating, whining, and half the time, coughing and sneezing kids with us to the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the bank, the liquor store, etc... We do laundry when we can - throw in a load at 6am, by the time you're ready to leave for school or the library or wherever, it's ready to go in the dryer, fold it at midnight. And cleaning? Well, it's an ongoing thing. Maybe our homes aren't in Better Homes and Gardens (HA!) but things do get picked up, and the vacuum does get run once in awhile.

I'm not saying families of two shouldn't have a stay-at-home. Just please don't try to tell me the whole week is just filled to the brim with "errands" and "running the house." I'm thinking that there must be an awful lot of bon-bon eating going on!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trouble A-Brewin'

If you've ever had kids of any age, but particularly, 4 and 2 year old boys, you know that this is nothing but trouble. Jonathan is allowed to use the computer - he has his own log-in (the others are password-protected) and he knows how to get it set up. He loves Noggin.com to play games, to draw and paint and to see his television friends come alive on the screen. But if there's one thing Jonathan does NOT do well, it is sit down, on his bottom, on the chair. He even got a notation about it from his pre-k teacher, apparently because he fell off his chair while in the computer lab at school. So, here he is, half-on, half-off the chair, and Matthew decided to take full advantage.

The miracle here, is that for one, Jonathan even LET him climb up there in the first place. Usually, Jonathan will not tolerate the intrusion and shove him down before he can even get half a leg up. And the other miracle is that Jonathan actually tolerated it for a LOT longer than I ever thought he would. Hmmmm, could pre-k be making a difference? I removed Matthew in a pre-emptive strike - Jonathan never once complained about him. Of course, Matthew was sitting quietly and watching, not pulling Jonathan's hair for a change, and not grabbing for the mouse -- very uncharacteristic for my terrible-two!

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Thoughts on Recycling

A comment on my previous post inspired me to continue with the recycling theme. There's some history here, and a few questions. The first question is (or was): is the message getting through? Are people "getting" it? Are they understanding that recycling helps the environment, and can also help out with the "bottom line?" A good question, but here's an even better one: what are the communities and local governments doing to inspire people to reduce their own waste and embrace a more conservationist attitude?

Let's wind the clock back a few years. Okay, 15 years. Eek. I worked in Annapolis, in a cube for state government. So did a few friends. One of these friends used to stroll by my office almost daily, come in, peer into my trash, remove anything recyclable and take it with her to heaven knows where. To her credit, she didn't end our friendship over it. But nor did a few dirty looks and heavy sighs on her part convince me that I needed to put myself out long enough to go figure out what in the world she was doing with my empty Coke cans and then go do it myself.

Fast forward a few years. Mark and I bought a townhouse in Annapolis, and one of our first housewarming gifts courtesy of the Anne Arundel county government was a brand-spanking new blue recycling bin. We could set it out on the curb once a week loaded with a mishmash of bottles, jars, paper....we didn't even have to sort! How easy was that? And wow, it was free!! Well, as free as county taxes could be considered free, but let's not get off the topic. They also picked up our trash once a week, so who could complain? Then we moved to Allegany. Uh-oh.

Guess what? Allegany doesn't pick up trash. Nor do they give you shiny blue bins for recycling. Nope, you haul it yourself. Now some very enterprising folks bought some dump trucks and offer their services - curbside, that is, for a nice fee. We resisted for a few years, but finally gave in - after all, those disposable diapers (did I say that!) can get stinky in between trips to the local landfill, and don't smell too great in the back of a mini-van either. And recycling? Well, I must say, although they don't provide pick-up, the county seems to do a pretty good job of providing many places to recycle many things. Cans, bottles, plastics, newspapers, cardboard, motor oil, magazines, you name it. And unbelievably, half the time, the bins are so full you can hardly get your stuff in! Which begs the question: are there that many forward-thinking folks in this little mountain county? Or could there be...another reason?

Well, let's pick it apart a minute. Let's see, we have to contract our own trash pick-up. They come twice a week in this neighborhood. They'll take just about anything, but their unwritten rule is no more than 6-8 bags a week. Big stuff you still need to take to the landfill yourself. For the people that don't contract the pros, you pay 50 cents a bag (40 gallon maximum) to haul it yourself and heave it into these gigantic dumpsters at three or four dump sites around the county. You have to buy these bright orange tags at local vendors and stick them to each and every bag. With me so far? But guess what? Recycling is FREE. You can drop off plastic bottles, glass bottles, paper, all that, as much as you want, for free. So let's do the math. If a family of four generates 2-3 bags of recyclables a week in addition to regular trash, that's $1.50 a week at the landfill, well boy howdy, that's almost $80 a year saved by recycling alone. Effortless.

I'd say the Allegany County government has given families a bit of incentive to recycle, no? Let's see some other local governments start putting some surcharges on the amount of trash you're allowed to leave by the curb, and watch how many folks take a second look at the value of recycling.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Save Some Money, Save The Environment

With all the talk about rising costs here and every newspaper and magazine carrying articles about how to reduce use and stretch the dollar we're re-thinking our daily lives and have come up with some ways to reduce in our own home. This is by no means a complete list, just some of the things we've done recently. Every day I try to think how I can save more, or do just one more little thing that will translate into a bottom-line savings by the end of the year, either for us, or for the environment. So here's some ideas - if anyone has any more, let me know!

Reduce the plastic-bag-at-the-market waste: I've purchased 4 or 5 of the re-usable bags from the grocery store - the ones I got from Trader Joe's are the best! Did you know that you can fit 3 or 4 times the amount of "stuff" in them? So rather than bringing home 10 flimsy plastic bags that rip and tear, you bring home 3 or 4, and there's no waste. And occassionally, if I do get a drippy pack of chicken, I'll put that in a plastic bag, sure. But then when I get home, that plastic bag gets used as a liner for Matthew's trash can where his diapers go, or a liner for the bathroom trash can.

Light bulbs - I never thought I'd do it - I hated flourescent light. But the ones they have out now you can hardly tell the difference! There's a slight delay when you flip the switch, but after that it looks just like incandescent. Yes, they're tons more expensive at the outset. But they last for years, and save you money for every minute they're on.

Paper towels - whew we do go through some paper towels around here. But lately I've challenged myself to see how FEW I can use in a day, or a week. Whereas I used to make a salad and use one to catch all the peels, seeds, etc..., I now just use a cereal bowl and scrape the bowl right into the trash. Where I used to use one or two to clean up the kids after a meal, I now use a separate dish rag and launder it every other day or so. And spills? Well, why NOT dirty up a clean dish towel and toss it in the laundry? That's what they're for! I surprised myself - I tried to go a whole week by only using one paper towel a day, and wound up only using about 4 the whole week!

Plastic baggies - okay, ziplocs have their place, for sure. And we try to re-use them whenever we can and whenever it's practical. But when you're packing lunches and putting sandwiches, chips, fruit, etc...ALL into little individual zip-loc or other plastic bags, that's a bit of a waste. I try to now use waxed paper for most stuff - it's more biodegradeable. And I've purchased some re-usable plastic containers for things like sandwiches and snacks...not the MOST environmentally friendly choice - plastic to replace plastic...but at least it's not winding up in a landfill everyday.

The dishwasher - HAS an air dry cycle. We never used to use it. We do now. If we run a load after dinner, before we go to bed we remember to crack open the door to the washer and voila! By breakfast time, all the dishes are dry. If I have to run a load after breakfast, I do the same thing and they're dry by dinner. We also never run half-loads, and we never bother with pre-rinsing - it's just not necessary anymore. We also have an Energy-Smart dishwasher - courtesy of the previous owners of this home, so at least I can feel good about that!

Leftovers - this may be a no-brainer, but in the pre-kid days, we used to eat out so much that leftovers would go to waste too often. I can recall pulling the trash can over to the refrigerator and just dumping huge loads of food. Occassionally, I still need to "clean out the fridge" where I'll find a half of a lime leftover from a recipe where I only needed a tablespoon of lime juice, and a jar of salsa that is about 1/4 full and a bag of carrots that has one or two carrots that are starting to turn black. But usually, that's about it. Leftovers around here get eaten. Mostly it's because we eat out less, so there's more opportunity to get creative with last night's dinner. But more often, it's because in my head, I usually have a plan when I cook. I make herb chicken breasts one night, and the next, I'm cutting up the leftover chicken and sprinkling it in a salad. I also go to the market with list in hand, dinner ideas scrawled out in some fashion. It doesn't ALWAYS work out, but it's gotten MUCH better over the years!

So there it is. The list is ever-evolving. Some things we've always done like using cloth diapers part-time, and turning out lights when we leave a room, and setting the timer on our thermostat. But other things, we've needed to make some adjustments. Hope this list inspires you a bit!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The BACONATOR

Okay, so I was sitting around watching some tv this weekend...I know, I know, real inspiring. But let me back up - Jonathan woke up with a cold on Friday morning and wound up missing his second day of school....I don't know who was more disappointed, him or ME! And in my quest to have him healthy and ready to return to school Monday (today), we layed pretty low this weekend. Hung out at home, I cleaned the laundry room, we watched some football (take THAT, Ocho-Stinko!) and caught some House episodes (that's a cool show!) since USA was running a House Marathon all weekend.

So on comes this commercial for Wendy's new sandwich, the Baconator. As if the name wasn't bad enough. Two "beef" patties, cheese, SIX slices of bacon...whatever. WHEN are the people in this country going to learn? Every time you turn around, there's some new huge load of food just ready to be purchased. Combo meals, combo platters, pick 5 for $5. Blah, makes me feel bloated just thinking about it. And the marketing agencies love it. The bigger they can make it look on tv, the juicier, the more crap they pile on, the more people will set aside their remote, grab their keys and dash out the door so they can wrap themselves around the latest pile of calories and saturated fat and then whine because their pants don't fit.

Don't get me wrong, my BMI needs a little work, and I address that every day. But it's only within the last year or so that I really started to be disgusted with the fast food industry. These people don't care about you, not one bit. Oh, they may claim they do! "We do it all for you". Yeah, right! What? Give you heart disease? Bigger burgers, bigger fries, "up"-sizing, "Do you want to "round that up?" (heard at Roy Roger's drive-thru recently), "super-value" combo meals...does it ever end? Remember the Shaq-Attack meal they had at BK some years ago? I swear that burger was like 8 inches in diameter. And with all the health issues and the media focusing on better eating and childhood obesity, you would think these national chains would get a clue. But no. And why? Because people are still eating there!

And the response of the fast-food industry: salads. Great. Okay, so I'm going out for a meal, presumably in a hurry or need the convenience, and I'm in my car....yeah, a salad is just perfect. Just the easist thing in the world to eat while whizzing down the highway at 65. Plus, if you add it all up, you realize you just paid $5.49 for something you can make at home, literally for about 90 cents. Yeah, they do it all for you all right.

Oh, yes, thank you Arby's for putting some deli sandwiches on your menu. Thank you for giving us another option that doesn't involve a fried burger on a white bun with cheese. Hmmmm, have you ever seen the nutritional information for these so-called "healthier" options? Most of Arby's new sandwiches are close to or over 700 calories and average 30 grams of fat. Add some curly fries and a Jamocha shake, you're talking enough food for two days for the average American.

I try. I really do. As a family, we eat very, very little fast food. When we do, it's usually breakfast since the kids really love their McPancakes. And chicken fingers and fries are easy to eat in the car for them and if I'm sick of making peanut butter sandwiches every day. But Mark and I have learned. We bring along a power bar or something, and get a coffee and watch the kids eat, or we'll go through the drive-thru to get the kids' food, then go get some sandwiches at the local deli and everyone's happy. And even the kids are limited. No more than once a week, and even that rule may need to be refined a bit. Don't want to be raising kids that when their pediatrician asks them what they like to eat, they say "Baconators!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our Little School Boy

Just before getting into the car:

Now we're in the car, ready to go:

Just before we picked him up at lunchtime - he wasn't done coloring his fish:


The final product - his first art project! Not bad for 4 years old!


And that elusive gold star for good behavior. I'm still convinced she mixed up Jonathan with some other little boy -- we'll see how it goes from here on out!


So there's the pics of the first day of school. A good experience for all of us! Let's just hope the rest of the year goes as smooth.
Today being Thursday, he didn't go, of course, but he is happily looking forward to going tomorrow. Today, though, we had to go to traffic court. Hmmmmmm....why, you ask? Well SOMEONE got a speeding ticket in July. Who? Well, it wasn't Mark, and Jonathan and Matthew don't drive yet. So who does that leave? Luckily, Mark's office is in the same building as the court, so he was able to watch the boys while I went upstairs and got probation for 6 months for going 81 in a 65. Oops, next time I won't get caught speed! They shouldn't be allowed to pull over moms in mini-vans. I wish some of these troopers would get the opportunity to drive ALONE with two children age 4 and under for 2 and a half hours. They would let mini-vans slide by the radar for the rest of their career!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Jonathan's First Day of School

Well, today was the day. Mark still has the camera, so I can't download the pictures, but I will later this week. How did it go? I would say....GREAT!

We started early: Mark and I were up at 6:30, sucking down coffee, me making waffles - the one thing Jonathan was guaranteed to eat in a hurry. By 6:50, we woke Jonathan, and Mark dressed him and sent him out to me, little sleepy bed-head guy. I gave him a waffle, noticed the clock said 7:00 and realized I could breathe. Mark then woke and dressed Matthew (what a great hubby!). I put Matthew's breakfast on the table, finished packing Jonathan's lunch, ate my own breakfast, washed some dishes, cleaned the countertops, brushed my teeth, washed some faces, combed some hair, supervised a potty trip, and poured a cup of milk for Jonathan. Time check: 7:25. Perfect. Into the car. WAIT! Stop for pictures!

By this time, everyone was fully awake, including the sun on what looked like a gorgeous day in the making, thank goodness. All we needed was pouring down rain, right? Not to be - it was sunny and bright.

Everything was smooth, the morning was flawless. Dropped him off at his classroom, and the one who had a meltdown was Matthew, who was horrified that we were LEAVING! I think Matthew wanted to stay with his big brother in that big, bright room full of cool toys! But Jonathan was great - he found an immediate friend and started playing with some train tracks, and when I told him goodbye, he threw me a little wave and said "Bye Mommy!" and went right back to his trains. Thank God. I didn't expect tears or hesitancy - after all, I know my Jonathan, my little social butterfly and I knew he'd fit right in. And all the excitement of the morning didn't give me time for remorse.

Mark and I picked him up together - we peeked in the classroom to see a room full of little ones, all sitting nicely and quietly, eating their lunches and coloring their pictures. Even Jonathan was still, quiet, compliant. Here I thought he'd be the one running amuck while all the other kids would be sitting nicely. He even got a star for good behavior! Does this teacher have a magic wand?

And then he came out of the room, backpack in one hand, lunchbox in the other. His face lit up when he saw us and he smiled, and as we walked toward the door, he turned and said "I love school". Enough said. I'm not sure there's a happier mommy anywhere right now!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My How You've Grown

This is Jonathan. In wading back through a bunch of pictures, I found this one, and it's as far back as I can access right now. I'm guessing he's about 14 or 15 months here. He's now 4 and a half, and will be starting pre-k in a few days, and while I find myself alternately happy as a clam and a nervous wreck, I've resigned myself to just not think about it the next few days, and just go with whatever hits me that first day.

But in the meantime, I'd like to do something different, and share with you Jonathan's birth story. This huge milestone in his life takes me back to the day he was born, when I held him and wondered what time would bring. And since this blog is meant to be a journal of sorts, it wouldn't be complete without a story of how he came into the world.

It was a cold, snowy morning in March in Annapolis, MD, where we lived at the time. I was past my due date, and getting more and more anxious as the days went by, and more and more uncomfortable. The previous morning, I had visited my OB who told me I was about 3 cm dilated, but because it was my first baby, they weren't ready to push things along yet. If, she said, by Friday, this baby hadn't arrived, I would come in, and we would schedule an induction for the following week. Well, the next day was Wednesday, and at 4am that morning, I woke to a gush of water - my water had broken. I, of course, didn't know this, I thought I had rolled over in bed and wet myself. I proceeded to spend the next hour in the bathroom, alternately standing and sitting, trying to decide if I was still wetting myself, or if it was truly what I thought it might be. By 5am, I woke Mark. And by 6, I was on the phone with the OB. No, I wasn't having any kind of contractions. Yes, I was pretty sure it was my water. Go to the hospital at 8, she said. So for the next two hours, I called my parents, emailed my boss, some friends, some family, and sat by with Mark, watching the gentle snow fall on an ever-lightening, but pretty gray and cold day.

By 8:30, we had not only arrived at the hospital, but they had determined that yes, indeed it was my water that had broken, had gotten me checked in, assigned to a room and ready to go. But I still wasn't having any contractions. By 9:30, they decided I needed pitocin. And by 10, I was having contractions. Mild at first, then they started getting worse. They kept upping the amount of pitocin to increase the contractions, and finally, around 2pm, I was in full-blown labor. Trouble was, I wasn't having an easy time with the contractions, go figure, and I was still dilated only to 3. I tried a pain med, but all it did was make me dizzy. So there I was, still in the worst pain ever, and now dizzy on top of it.

By now, it was 3:30 and I was in agony. The nurses wanted me to walk, but I flat-out refused - I could hardly stand up, much less walk. My OB approved an epidural and it was immediately put in by about 3:45pm. God Bless epidurals. God Bless anesthesiologists. Relief!!! It was immediate, and it was wonderful. In one hour and 45 minutes, I went from 3cm to 10cm, and at 5:30, I started to push. Little did I know, the hard part had just begun! For the next two hours, I pushed, I heaved, I played tug-of-war with the nurses with their little rolled-up towel-ropes, I pushed until I thought my head would explode. Luckily, there was no pain. Zero. But I was sucking oxygen in between contractions, and I was exhausted. When he finally crowned, the OB, of course, was nowhere to be found. The nurses said - "just go ahead and breathe through the next few contractions until she gets here", which I did for the first one or two, but after that, I told them to get that OB in that room or I was pushing that baby out myself. My, that OB did appear quickly after that!

About a minute later, Jonathan entered the world....8 lbs, 2 oz, 21 inches long. It was a little after 7:30pm and I was just wiped out. But he was here, he was healthy, and that's all that mattered. Thankfully, his birth was an uneventful one. We had some issues later 0n - I was pretty sore and couldn't really sit down for about 3 weeks. And Jonathan had some inflammation in his neck called torticollis. But 8 weeks later we were back to our new normal, and since then, I can't believe all that has happened, and I can't believe in a few days, I'll be sending him out into the big world. He'll always be my tiny baby, my firstborn, that little guy I fought so hard to bring into the world.

Good luck, Jonathan, our little son. Get used to it early, since you'll be doing it for the next 13 years!



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Educational Road-Kill

We took a trip to Altoona, PA this past weekend. Needed to do some shopping for Jonathan since he starts school next week. Why Altoona, you ask? Well, it's about an hour, maybe slightly more, away from us. It has many, many large retailers all close together, it's a nice drive, and Pennsylvania doesn't tax clothing. Hmmmm, so while we spent a ton more on gas than we saved on tax, we still got a nice outing, a nice drive, perfect weather and lunch at Olive Garden, which is pretty unusual for us (unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks for $5.99 - can't beat it)!

So we get on Rt. 220 North toward Altoona, and the road-kill begins. A squirrel here, possum here, porcupine up a few miles....this is nothing unusual, for some reason Pennsylvania doesn't get to their road-kill very quickly, if at all. We generally do see a LOT of dead animals along this route - maybe because a lot of trucks rumble through at night, but that's just a guess.

So we're crusing along, and we pass what looks like a fairly large animal, dead, of course, but we whizzed by so fast, we didn't really see exactly what it was. It started a debate between Mark and I for at least the next 5 miles. It was big, yes. Not a deer though - the fur was too long, too shaggy. A bear? Wrong color. Around here we have black bears, not grizzlies or brown bears. Ummmm, a rug that fell off the back of someone's pickup truck? :-)

Unable to reach a conclusion, we let it drop. Until late that afternoon, on the way home, when all the sudden, we remembered. Luckily, we hadn't passed it yet. We started looking, we slowed down. There it was. Wow. Bear. Definitely bear. But....again....wrong color. What the heck?

Well, guess what? Black bears do actually come in different colors, one being what they call "cinnamon". And upon researching it when we got home, we found that only 1% of the bear population in Pennsylvania is cinnamon in color. It isn't often you see a road-kill bear. It's not often you see a bear, period. So, road-kill aside, it was pretty neat to see one, particularly of that color.

And if you haven't blogged about road-kill, you just aren't blogging!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Did You Hear THIS Olympic Story?

Yeah, I indulged in a little of the summer olympics. Despite all the negative propaganda about the Chinese government, under-age gymnasts and the computer-enhanced opening ceremonies, you can't deny that watching the games and getting to know a little about the athletes is just plain interesting. And growing up in Baltimore, I'm especially fond of Michael Phelps, I mean, who wouldn't be? The guy is amazing. So it was with a bit of disappointment the other day as I was reading a commentary from Amanda Beard...remember her? Swimming sensation herself from either Athens or Sydney - can't remember, but probably Athens (2004 Games). Anyway, I remember watching her swim and of course, like many Olympic atheletes, hadn't heard another word about her in the mainstream media since then. Until a few days ago.

Amanda Beard just recently posed nude for PETA. Why PETA needs someone to pose nude is beyond the scope of my intellectual capabilities, but I digress. Anyhow, during a subsequent interview, she was questioned about her "dealings" with Michael Phelps. Only being privy to a very short segment of the whole interview, one is led to believe they are talking about romantic dealings, and presumably those that may have occurred during the Athens games. The interviewer asked some pretty personal questions, let's just say the question was as personal as you can get with dealings between a man and a woman....got it? Okay, so here's Amanda. I don't know the girl, don't even know much about her. But her response was something akin to "No way. Ewwwww. He's nasty...."

Real nice, Amanda. I mean, sure, not EVERYONE can be Brad Pitt. But let me tell you something, sweetheart, you ain't no Angelina Jolie yourself. So before you go calling someone else "nasty", take a good long look at yourself in the mirror...and not just your looks. Give your character a once-over as well. Because despite how you may feel about someone, it's really not nice to say such things, and trust me, nobody thinks you're cool. About all you accomplished is making yourself look like an ass.

A tip for Amanda: next time, let's try to have a little respect for our peers, shall we? Never know when it's going to come back and bite us in the (bare) butt.