Monday, March 31, 2008

They're Getting So Big!

Well, there they are. Sometimes when you're with them all day, all night, all week, you just don't see the progress of time. But then you snap a picture, and all the sudden, you notice that, well, they're just not so little anymore! Sure, they still need me for everything, but I can't help but think when I look at those little faces, of the men that they will become someday. Don't grow up too fast, little guys. Even when I say something like, oh, I don't know, "Grow Up!", well....don't listen, okay?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Let Sleeping Babies....

Yes, I know the old adage - the one about DOGS. But I guess it applies to little ones, too. And believe me, I would never have risked taking these pictures had I not been actually trying to wake up Matthew. No, I know better than that! But these pics were taken on Friday, just before Mark was due home because we were headed out to dinner and he was going to have to get up anyway. So I opened the door to his room, saw him lying there, and couldn't resist capturing the moment.
We had a busy weekend! Friday evening was dinner at El Canelo - our favorite Mexican place in Frostburg, MD. Mmmmmmm...fajitas. Then on Saturday, we packed up the car and took off for Uniontown, PA, where we did a little shopping and a little eating and not much else. Got some new shoes for Matthew and that's about it! Not exactly a wasted day - it was too cold to do anything outside, and the drive is really pretty and we just needed to get out of the house as a family - we've been so sick this winter we haven't been able to do much together.
Today we made it to church without mishap and went out to breakfast afterward - seems like we spent the whole weekend eating out! That's okay, one (or three!) less meals I have to cook, but don't tell Mark I said that!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Just Have To Do It

I just can't help myself. I have to blog about Fuzzi-Bunz. Now some people might think - oh no - it's a slow-blog day, but seriously, these things just kick, well, you know. Baby butt. Aren't they cute?

When Jonathan was born, well, actually BEFORE Jonathan was born, I had this great idea that I was going to use cloth diapers. So I did all the research, and landed somewhere between cheap and not-so-easy to use. I bought a load, had them all washed and ready to go and when Jonathan finally came home, I hated them. Too hard to use. Awful. Too bulky. Leaked. Sigh.

I abandoned my crusade for the environment and was forever grateful to Pampers. Then Matthew was born. I quit work and looked for easy ways to cut expenses. I did more research. This time, I landed somewhere between pretty expensive and not only very easy to use, but very effective, attractive and easy to care for. And that, friends, is exactly where I found Fuzzi Bunz. They're cloth, yes. They're called All-In-Ones, or AIO's for those who know the lingo. They're pocket diapers, so you slip the rectangle of fabric (sometimes called a soaker) down into a pocket. For overnights, you can use two or three.

Now cloth diapers aren't for everyone, and on somedays, they're not even for me - okay, well, Matthew. I use them mostly while we're at home, although I have been known to make quick trips to the post office or grocery store while he's wearing one. On some days, I'll still just reach for the disposables because I don't feel like dealing. And for overnight, we always use a disposable. That's because Matthew sleeps for 12 solid hours and I really like him to be as dry as possible in the morning, and there's something about those wicking layers in disposables that really draw the wetness down into that gel stuff. But I digress...

ANYWAY, I highly recommend these things. Every time I put one on him, I feel like I'm not only helping the environment in a big way, but I also admit I feel happy that I'm probably saving myself somewhere between 30 and 75 cents, depending on what disposable he's into that day. And I do have a picture laying around of him wearing one -

There he is - remember this picture of the killer-attack zucchini from last summer? He's actually wearing a Fuzzi-Bunz - one of the brighter colors I have. Did I mention they come in like 26 colors, and even some prints and patterns? I'm going to take another picture of him this weekend, running around in one - this picture just doesn't do it justice. If anyone wants to know more, please ask - I can't say enough good things about these diapers!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

MAJOR Reality Check

Okay, I feel like....I feel like....I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach. Why? Because today, and tomorrow, are registration days for....pre-school. I didn't think I'd ever get here. Let me back up a minute. Jonathan was 4 a few weeks ago - making him 4 1/2 in September - just the right age to start pre-school. It's not required in this county, but they "highly recommend it". Huh? Well, I never went to pre-school, but apparently, it's the norm. Okay. So you have to make a MARCH? Well, apparently you do. Not that you can't register later. But you might not get in. They have limited space. And you can always change your mind and decide to not send your kid on the first day, thus opening up a slot for whoever didn't register like they were supposed March. So once I waded through all the technicalities, and started gathering up all the materials I need (immunization records, proof of residence, birth certificate, etc...), then I called the elementary school down the road from us and asked about the pre-k program. Wow. 5 days a week. Hmmmm. Wow. Didn't expect that. There goes long weekends at Grandma and Poppy's house. There's goes spontaneous weekends out of town. Come to think of it, there goes any vacation not in the months of June, July, and August - gee - when everybody and their BROTHER goes on vacation! Bummer! And 5 days a week for a 4 year old? Isn't that a bit.....much? So I'm thinking, does he REALLY need to go to pre-k? I mean, what are they going to teach my kid who already, at just 4, counts to 200, knows all his shapes, numbers, letters, colors, learning to spell and read and carries on intelligent conversations with any adult with which he comes in contact?

Okay, push all that aside and what's the biggest problem? My baby. My baby is getting ready to go to school. He came in the room when I was hanging up the phone today, and before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed him up, smothered him with a million kisses and asked him if he wanted to go to school. He says "Yes!" And it was on the tip of my tongue to say something like "But Mommy will miss you so bad!!" Glad I caught myself before that. Dumb Mommy.

So after all that, I hunkered down and did some research - found out the local private school has a 3 day a week pre-k program. Well, it doesn't solve ALL my problems - particulary the one that just CAN'T be solved, but it does solve a few. And even though this one we have to pay for, it seems like the right thing to do right now.

I can't believe it's only 5 months away. I can't believe he got that old, that fast. I can't believe that this August, I'll be buying school supplies. It's the start of another era.....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm Changing My Cookware

I try to make sure my family is healthy, I really do. I've thrown out everything (well, mostly everything) in the house with hydrogenated oils, I make all meals at home from scratch, I buy organic when I can, and I've switched every sippy cup and plastic bottle in the house from dangerous 1's and 2's to either the safer 5's or to stainless steel. You wouldn't believe the conversations I get into about my kids' cool stainless steel sippy cups they tote around in public! But then I started seeing articles like this and this. These articles tell all about the dangers of non-stick cookware - I won't bore you with the details - you'll either read it or you won't. But seeing how most of my cookware is of the hard-anodized variety, or just the plain old non-stick variety, the articles gave me pause. So I started to do some research.

The trouble is, I like my non-stick cookware. I like that it's really easy to clean. I like that food doesn't stick. I do a lot of cooking - I need cookware that's not going to cause me extra work! So after a bit of research, I decided to give cast iron a try. Sure sounded like it might be suitable. And these days, it comes pre-seasoned - naturally non-stick - and with a little care, you can maintain the non-stick surface and have cookware that lasts a lifetime. I remember my grandmother had cast iron skillets, and so does my mom. So why didn't I try them before?

I decided to try one skillet and see how it worked for me. I actually found one at Walmart - and would you believe they're actually cheaper than the regular non-stick, and much, much, much cheaper than the hard-anodized stuff? I bought the 10 1/4 inch skillet, brought it home. Let me tell you - it rocks! Totally non-stick. A little heavy, but very, very handsome. Cleans up very easily with just hot water and a little brush action. You can even use a little mild detergent, but it can break down the seasoning, so they recommend you don't. It doesn't bother me - I'm used to using seasoned stoneware and not using detergent to clean it. You do have to dry it right away and then they recommend a very light layer of oil before putting it away. But all in all, I love the stuff. Mark got me the 8 inch skillet as one of my birthday presents this past weekend, and now I'm looking for a 12 inch griddle to replace my Teflon one.

With all the dangers lurking around, it feels good to know that at least SOMETHING is safe. I'm not going to run out and replace every pot I have right away - as my non-stick pieces wear out or show signs of age, I'll replace them one at a time.
Lodge cookware is even manufactured in the United States at a foundry in Tennessee that has been there over 100 years. You HAVE to feel good about that - the less products from China in the household, the better! They have some great pieces, too - covered dutch ovens and deep skillets, chef skillets, grill pans and griddles. I probably won't find a replacement for every one of my favorite cookware pieces, but I think I'll come close!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What in the WORLD?

Okay, the photo is a little close, but I did it that way on purpose - to show the detail. What are those little round things? They are tiny little suction cups, about the size of a dime. They were on a ball the kids had. You take the ball, which was the size of a tennis ball, throw it at a wall or window, and it sticks. Nice concept. Doesn't actually promote "don't play ball in the house", but the boys liked it. Last THURSDAY evening, we find this strange looking thing in the living room on the floor. It looked looked like the suction cup ball without any of the suction cups - they were all gone. We looked at the three culprits. Jonathan? Probably not. He hates it when his toys get broken. He's pretty careful with stuff and is not deliberately destructive. Matthew? Hmmmmm....definitely a better candidate, but where were the suction cups? They were nowhere to be found. And as far as Mark could tell, there were about 2 dozen or so, and we couldn't find one. Bella? Now we're talking. At Christmas, we found that a little rubber snowman had been chewed to pieces, with most of the pieces gone. A few DAYS later, Bella threw them up on the carpet. Which was intriguing, because during those few days, she was eating and drinking and pooping normally - so in the meantime, where had those snowman pieces been? But I digress....back to suction cups. Assuming that Bella was responsible, I figured I had a few days before she started yakking up suction cups all over my floor. Sure enough, Saturday morning, oh, about 20 minutes before we needed to be somewhere and about 2 hours before my family was due to arrive, the first of the suction cups made an appearance on the living room carpet. I made Mark clean and count. First pile - 9. Second pile - 4. That left...a lot more. We locked her in the laundry room, and went about our business. Family came, Easter came, Easter bunny came, then, yesterday morning, the inevitable. First pile - 3 1/2. By this time, they're starting to break down a little. Second pile - nothing! Third pile, thankfully on the stone floor in the den - 10! The mother load! And then, yesterday afternoon, the 2 1/2 pictured above. Total count - 29. Hmmmm - maybe we miscounted, maybe it was actually 29, but 30 seems like such a nice round number.....ANYWAY - at least it seems to be over with. It's still a mystery to me where they were all that time. Maybe it's better that way!

On a lighter note, Easter went well! Here's everyone, except Matthew, dyeing eggs - Matthew was asleep at the time, and although he probably would've liked it, I imagine my kitchen table, chairs and floor would've been irreparably discolored had he been awake.....

And here's the kids with their Easter baskets - they also hunted eggs, although I think only Jonathan had any concept of what that was about! Sandwiched in the weekend somewhere was also my birthday - it was actually Saturday, but we celebrated on Sunday - it was nice that my family was here for it, but with all the other distractions, it was a little lost in the shuffle! But all in all, it was a tremendously happy and fun weekend and although we now have entirely too much chocolate and candy in the house, I can think of worse things to complain about!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On My Mind Today

This is going to be a huge departure from my usual ramblings, but I got an inspiration by reading "Ask Amy" this morning. More on that later. First, a story.

A long time ago, well, okay about 7 years ago, Mark and I were in a bar after our weekly co-ed volleyball game. Mark was chatting up some friends, and I was sitting beside one of our teammates, I'll call him Zack. Zack was a great friend, great volleyball player and also a coworker. At the time, he lived with a woman and had been doing so for several years. They were very committed, to the point where they were toying with the idea of buying a house together. So I asked him - "are you getting married?" He scoffed at me, said "no way". Me, being Catholic and married, decided to pursue it a little farther. "Why not?" He proceeded to tell me that they didn't think much of marriage - after all, HIS parents went through a terrible divorce and the children suffered greatly. And HER parents had a terrible marriage, SHOULD'VE gotten divorced, and the children suffered greatly. Then he asked ME - "religion aside, why are YOU married?" My brain fluttered. Let's see, hmmm.....and I began to realize that if indeed, you didn't have a religious obligation to be married in the eyes of God and your church community, then really, what WAS the point? After all, there are lots of new laws these days that talk about communal property and the rights of unmarried partners. I have to admit, he kind of had me there. Is it really just a piece of paper?

I've been unsettled about this for many years. I've had this same conversation with others, and never did reach a conclusion, with one exception. Many gay people I know wish they could be married to their partners, and wish that the institution of marriage extended beyond the union of a heterosexual man to a heterosexual woman. So what is it about this elusive marriage that is so important to the ones who for whatever reason CAN'T marry?

I found a bit of an answer in this morning's Ask Amy column. A gay woman wrote in and said that marriage is a "private commitment that the relationship is for life. It is also a public declaration of that commitment and a public acknowledgment that the couple has joined the larger web of community connections and sanctions".

Does this answer my question? Would this have satisfied Zack? Does it satisfy me? Not really, since having a "private commitment" certainly can extend beyond the vows of marriage - actually, it almost SUGGESTS extension beyond marriage. And with a veritable mish-mash of "community sanctions" these days, one needs only shop around for the approval of whichever community from one wishes approval. And most important, would this statement mean the same thing coming from a married person? I must admit, it rings a little hollow in that circumstance.

So I remain a little confused. Sure, the heavy-hitting religions, all of them, have their rules and their sanctions all in place, and it's worked for 1000's of years. But throw out religion. How DO you defend marriage as an institution to a non-believer, or non-religious person, whether they are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, you name it? Certainly, there must be some non-religious people out there who are married civily. Maybe one of them would enlighten me.

Oh, and for the record? Zack and the girlfriend broke up a few years later. Would they still be together if they had married? More than likely, not. When it's not right, it's not right, regardless of the piece of paper.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Shannon!

Today is my good friend Shannon's birthday. I remember her birthday because it is exactly three days prior to mine (round of applause for the subtlety of the delivery of that shameless hint?!). Anyway, Shannon and I go way back. All the way back to freshman year of high school, where we met in the band (was it Mr. Schmidt?) and at the lunch table of "misfits". Okay, okay, maybe not misfits. But I was new. I had attended private school for 8 years, and here I was thrown into the local public school for high school (my choice, btw). I knew some of the kids from youth group at church and from sports teams, but nobody else! So the first day for lunch, I saw a table of girls that were wearing sort of what I was wearing, and had their hair sort of like mine, and I took a chance. I found a table of great friends that day - not misfits at all. Just different from most of the other cliquish types; the hair, the makeup, the captain of the football team on your arm, nor the other extreme: the goths. No, the girls I met marched to the beat of their own drummer, and many of us stayed friends for the whole 4 years. But one stands out, and that's my friend, Shannon. We've had our ups and downs over the years. For a long time we had stopped speaking over something heartless I said, but she contacted me out of the blue years later and I'm so glad she did. We've moved on with our lives - we both married a man named Mark, we both have kids. She lives in St. Louis. But we call, we email. We tell each other things we probably don't tell anyone else. And we sometimes share stories and reminisce about those high school days, oh my. Band camp. Steve. Scott. Craig. The twins. Shannon, if you're reading this, I know you're smiling right now! Have a great birthday!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thank You, Walmart

So yeah, blogging does get put on the back burner sometimes. And last week was no exception. I thought I was recovering nicely from cleaning my house, hosting my in-laws and getting through Jonathan's birthday. But this persistent sore throat I had just kept getting worse, and when I finally woke up Friday morning with my one eye stuck shut, I broke down and went to the doctor. So now I'm on antibiotics for 10 days and eye drops for a week. No big deal - I'm getting better and feeling much better now that I was 4 days ago. Just trying to keep the kiddos from getting it - not an easy task, but one I've succeeded at so far!
So yesterday, I felt good enough to get up, get dressed, get the children dressed, and we all headed out for church. Mark was driving, and to his credit, it really wasn't his fault, but well, he was driving. He hits a rock. A big, sharp one. Our tire blew out instantly, and we were in a part of town called "The Narrows" - a very narrow portion of road that twists through the river valley, a solid rock wall on one side, and a guardrail and river on the other. No place to pull over. We were half on the road, half in the mud, no way we can change a tire, no way we can drive out of there on our rim. We're dressed in our Sunday best, well, okay, our Sunday moderately best, and with two little kids in the car and it's 30 degrees. Why does this sound like a chapter out of "How to Survive"?
I'll make a long story short. We called 911, who called us a tow, and kindly sent us a state trooper to sit with us. We were towed to Walmart, where the automotive guys were only too happy to replace the tire, rotate it to the back, and do a wheel-balancing - all at 9 am on a Sunday morning. We were out of there by 10:30, snuggled into our favorite booth at our favorite restaurant, with plates of steaming breakfast. No, we never made it to church. But the effort is what counts, right?
And here's where I must sing Walmart's praises. I know a lot of people don't like Walmart for whatever reason. But Walmart is always there for you. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At least our Super-Walmart is. Where else could we have had our car towed at 9 am on a Sunday morning and gotten a new tire put on the rim? I'll answer that: nowhere. The next best thing we could've done was had it towed to our driveway, where Mark would've spend half the day figuring out the jack, finding the spare, putting it on, and then half the day today running to automotive repair places to get the real tire replaced. But we don't have to worry about that now - it's done. Paid for. And while we waited, the kids got to see the Easter Bunny. Jonathan even sat on his lap. We watched the fishes swimming in the tanks. We found DVD's for $5 and picked one out for Matthew. We checked out ceiling fans and made some plans for this Spring. We even bought Matthew a new pack of undershirts and a brand new shirt after he spilled a drink down the front of himself and was soaked AND changed his clothes in the bathroom. And before we knew it, the automotive department was announcing over the loudspeaker that our car was ready. So a huge thank you to Walmart - you already have my business, so I'm doing this to try to get you more business!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jonathan's 4!

All these pics were taken last night at Jonathan's 4th birthday party. Of course we had Lightning McQueen and Mater joining us! And among all the other birthday presents, the big boy bike was a big hit! He loves it, and wants to get out on the trail as soon as possible - we can't convince him that 30 degrees is NOT the desired temperature to go biking on the trail! He keeps saying "Maybe I can put my jacket on...." Nice thought, kid, but we don't want you sick for Easter!
All in all, it was a great day - it's hard to believe my baby is 4. Everyday I see little signs of him getting so big so fast. Yesterday I was a little run down in the morning - I have a cold and I woke up with a headache and just wasn't sure how I was going to face the day with all I had to do and having my in-laws coming for dinner. Matthew was still asleep and Jonathan was watching TV, so I took a few minutes and laid down on the bed before getting dressed. Next thing I know, here comes Jonathan in my room with a cup of water from the bathroom. He says to me "Here Mommy, drink some water, it will make you feel better." Wow. Growing up fast. What a sweetie.
For his sake, and because it was his birthday, I pulled it together - pretended that cup of water was the magic elixir that I needed....and went about my day. Happy Birthday, little guy!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Where Oh Where Have I Been?

Well, let's see. Despite the picture above, Jonathan is not QUITE 4 yet - that'll happen tomorrow. So why is he in front of a train that looks like it could be cake with candles in it? That's because we stayed down at Grandma and Poppy's for a week, and it was so close to his birthday, we decided to celebrate a little early so they wouldn't have to make the trip to LaVale this weekend. And so a train cake was born - me and my sis worked on it and it turned out well! The log car is actually pretzel rods, and the other decorations are mostly candy.
Tomorrow, his actual birthday, will be more cake and more celebrations because Jonathan's Grammy and Grandpa are coming up for dinner and a little party, AND he'll be getting his presents from me and Mark. Since when do birthdays last for 5 days and since when do you get three rounds of presents? Oh well - to be little again!
So that's where I've been - down at my parent's house. We visited some relatives and went out to lunches and dinners, went shopping and even went for little walks in the warming air. It was nice - my sister was on vacation from work so it was nice that she could spend some time with the nephews!
Now we're back - back into the routines. Gearing up for Easter and very, very much looking forward to warmer weather - have I said that before? Last night was about 22 degrees with about 30 mph winds. Not fun. Did I mention the blowing snow? C'MON SPRING for the 90 millionth time!