Thursday, September 17, 2009

Neat Freak Central

Call in hormones, nesting instinct, anything you want, but here lately, I have been on an ever-increasing cleaning streak. I've been doing closets, one by one. Tossing. Airing out. Giving away. Wiping down shelving and walls, organizing. Yesterday, I cleaned the car. Wow - what a humbling experience that was. I mean, I vacuum the car out with a bit of regularity, but I usually don't pull up the stow-and-go seating panels or go over all the carpets and upholstery with my upholstery attachment on my vacuum, and wipe down all the plastics with cleanser. Despite about 2 or 3 years worth of crumb accumulation, I managed to get the thing looking pretty good - but paid for it with a stiff back for the rest of the day.

Today I'm cleaning out our bathroom storage cabinetry. Everything from medications, hair stuff, lotions, sunscreen, cottonballs, extra toothbrushes, you name it. And already, I've got three bags of stuff to throw away. Not sure if I'm going to regret this about a year from now, but the way I see it, if I haven't used it in over a year, sometimes 2, 3 or even 5, then I probably won't use it now, right? At least that's my rationale for the moment, and seeing all the nice SPACE I have now, it makes it that much easier. No more fumbling around, knocking down bottles and jars trying to reach a Q-tip.

So without further ado, it's back to the bathroom to finish up this little task this morning.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Is It About Fall?

I say 'Fall', but I guess really, I mean late summer since it's not QUITE Fall yet. But I'm talking about the way the whole earth seems to start to slow down all the sudden. The sun is lazy, not quite making it up as high in the sky. The animals seem quieter, all except the crickets which seem to chirp all day, rather than just at night. The nights get crisp and cool, and it gets dark so early, and stays dark later and later every day.

I don't know why it is, but I get this crazy desire this time of year to cook and bake. Maybe it's the warmth of the oven and stove, or the good smells from the baking, or the fact that the kids are back in school and making homemade snacks and cookies for lunches and classroom activities is such a joy. But it goes beyond all that, even. I bought a chicken last night, and I can't wait to roast it tomorrow. I haven't thought of that all summer, but bring me one cool night, and I'm off to the market! I made an apple cake yesterday and filled the house with that apple-cinnamony smell. And I'm thinking, tonight might be a good time to do my first batch of overnight crock-pot oatmeal so we can wake up to hot, steaming bowls of oatmeal first thing in the morning - who needs an alarm when the odor of cinnamon and nutmeg waft into the bedroom?

I really love the change of season - we live in an area that sees a lot of change seasonally, so it stands to reason I associate different cooking ideas with different times of year - all summer long it's all about fresh produce - corn and beans and melons, tomatoes, summer squash, salads. Dinners focus on that, with whatever summery thing I can throw on the grill as the main dish - hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, grilled chicken. But as soon as Fall gets near, I find myself a little tired out with all the shelling and peeling and paring and preparing, and just want to stick a chicken in the over, boil up some potatoes to mash, turn on the kitchen light that hasn't been on all summer, and sit down to a cozy meal. It won't last, I know myself. Usually by around March, I'm dying for some fresh stuff, bright greens and yellows and reds on my table again. And summer brings it's own kind of baking - pies and cobblers and fruit muffins, you name it. But for now, I'm ready to move into Fall. Looking forward to that first apple pie I'll make soon, and the smell of homemade bread wafting through at least once a week!

Call me crazy - but I tend to follow my natural urges. Not sure what it's all about, but as long as I'm pulling the fleeces out of the back of the closet, I'll start pulling out the baking dishes as well, and look forward to the season I love best!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Progress...

With the new babe coming in 3 1/2 months (EEK!), we've been doing some rearranging around here. Lately, I've been tearing apart closets, cleaning, tossing, straightening, sorting. So far three are done, and two (or maybe 3) remain. But they are the biggies. Jonathan's closet has a curious mixture of his clothes, Matthew's clothes, the new baby's clothes, OUR clothes, toys, clothes he's grown out of, blankets, old shoes, new shoes....well, you get the picture. Today, I may tackle some of that. Believe it or not, I have sorted bins downstairs with age-appropriate clothing for little boys, and there's a bin in Jonathan's room that needs to be sorted and dealt with. That's my plan for this morning, along with the usual laundry and household chores. If I get past that in a reasonable amount of time, I may start on another section of it.

What's my plan here? Well, by the end of the month, I hope to have Matthew's room re-done, and Jonathan moved in. We've ordered the carpet and a new bed for Matthew, so when they're ready, I'll move everything out of the room, clean it good, paint one wall that needs re-doing, and let the pros do their thing, then put all the new stuff in and have a grand "boys room" re-opening.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day getting Matthew's closet ready for all the new stuff - we bought and hung new shelving, bought and BUILT a different type of shelving and last night put together a new IKEA dresser for inside the closet to hold the overflow of clothes we don't think will fit in the one large dresser we've got that will go in the room itself. I think I'm about ready to move stuff into Matthew's closet, which, thank goodness, is huge and a walk-in.

So, without further ado, time to get dressed, feed the little sleepy 3 year old that just emerged from his bedroom, and get started!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not To Be Forgotten

Yesterday, Matthew and I picked up Jonathan from school, and it was a little tough getting them in the car. Matthew was running up and down the hills by the football field, and Jonathan and his little friend Andy were playing tag and chase while I chatted with Andy's dad. Eventually, we got them all reigned in, but then Jonathan and Matthew started picking "flowers", or in this case, tasseled grass. When we finally got to the car and I was buckling everyone in, Jonathan hands me his little tasseled grass and says:

"Here Mommy, this if for you to remind you of the baby that's coming".

Now how sweet is that? Half the time I don't know if he even remembers that he'll have (another) little brother come Christmastime, but obviously, it stays very much on his mind!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Surprised? Not Really....

Well, Jonathan has his first cold of the school year. Big surprise, noting that the weather has been in the upper 40's/low 50's every morning when he leaves, and almost 80 when I pick him up. How in the world am I supposed to dress the kid? But I think it's more than that - last year he did the same thing - went to school one day and picked something up. Rite of passage, I guess. Last year he did well - after the first round, he was healthy for most of the rest of the year, even when we took him to Mexico for a week in February. I expected to come back to raging illness for weeks, but was pleasantly surprised.

So I sent him to school today - just sniffling a little, no fever, no other complaints, plus, he really wanted to go! Now to try and make sure nobody else gets it. Luckily, all 4 of us have a nice 4 day weekend coming up - Jonathan and Mark both have off on Friday and Monday, so we hope to get a lot of stuff done around here - cover the pool for one, and maybe going to pick out carpet for what I'm now calling the "boys" room - Matthew's room will be transformed and Matthew and Jonathan will share for a few years until Baby Boy 3 is big enough to share with Matthew....then Jonathan will get his room back as the oldest, if he wants it. Right now both of them are delighted at the prospect of sharing a room, so we're going with it!

And it seems that Fall is officially here - even though the days are quite sunny and warm, the nights have been very, very cool and the changes in nature are so evident now - trees starting to turn, migrant wildlife moving through. When I sit and realize I don't have THAT much time before Christmas and this baby coming, and all I have to do, I get kind of jittery. So right now, I'm trying to take one day at a time, get as much done as I can when I'm up to it, and not sweating the rest. If there's one thing I've learned in the last 5 years of being a mom, is that the kids come first. That's not something I knew, rather, something I've really had to learn the hard way. And for those who know my standards of housekeeping, or at least attempting to houseclean, you must know that this didn't come easy for me. But it's a process - and one I'd best to get more used too soon!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How Is School Going, You Ask?

Well, let me tell you...so far, so good! Jonathan started last week with 2 half days, and started yesterday with full days. And it looks like all systems are GO!

I had a few pauses - first of all we found out a week before school began that because there were so many kids to be in the kindergarten class, they decided to make two classes - and by some luck of the draw, Jonathan wound up in the class that didn't have the superstar teacher - the one that everyone loves, the one that he met in June, the one with 20+ years of experience and the one who gives out her home phone number so parents can call her anytime, day or night. Bummer. And as an added bonus, MOST of the kids he was in pre-k with were placed with Superstar Teacher! What's with that? But happily, after meeting his teacher, I am delighted to say that she is a true gem as well, and he loves her, and that's what matters. The second day I went to pick him up, he comes marching outside with his class, and he was holding her hand as they all walked toward the pick-up area. And I recall last year, when the solid-as-a-rock pre-k teacher left unexpectedly a week before school started, and the last-minute replacement turned out to be one of the nicest, most patient and kind people I've ever met. So, never judge a book, they say? They're right. Go with the flow, and you might be unexpectedly pleased. Very pleased.

So anyhow, although pick-ups are a bit hectic, and the parking lot is difficult to navigate with 100's of parents doing the same thing at the same time, and standing outside waiting for the kids gives me some fear about "what happens when it's 30 degrees with 40mph gusts" and I have Matthew and an infant, and oh, did I mention it was freezing rain as well? I know it will happen. Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

For now, I'm relishing my quiet mornings after Jonathan leaves with Daddy, and Matthew isn't awake yet, and I get my morning cup and some computer time (like right now!) or throw a load of laundry or two in, and plan my dinner and my day and don't have to worry about picking him up until 2:40. It's a good feeling, let's hope it lasts! Definitely good enough to get me up and get me moving at 6:30 am EVERY morning.

A few quotes heard recently:

"Mommy, I just LOVE that school!"

"Kindergarten was so GREAT today!"

"Mommy, I'm going to school today!"

Let's just hope THAT lasts!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sigh.

I'm not even going to say it. Okay, just once. I neglect my blog. There it is, now I'm going to leave it alone.

I pick up this blog on a momentous day: the last day of summer vacation for Jonathan, who starts full-time kindergarten tomorrow morning, bright and early. We've already had the meeting, met the teacher, taken his supplies in. We've bought the clothes, we've colored the name tag. The letter to the teacher "Getting to Know Jonathan" has been written and printed and all the forms are filled out and ready to go. So all that's left, all that remains, is one sad Mommy watching her little boy go to school all day, every day.

I'll miss him. I'll never let HIM know that - he's too sensitive. He'd feel bad about it. He'd find a way to turn it into his fault. He'd cry. So, I tell him how wonderful it will be and how much fun he will have, which is the truth. He loves school - he loved his pre-k last year and I know he'll thrive in kindergarten. If they only do half the stuff they say they'll be doing, they'll be doing a LOT. And he tells me he can't wait. He dances around the kitchen, sticking the LAST sticker on the "countdown to school" calendar. He giggles and wiggles and he probably won't sleep much tonight. And that makes me happy, and that makes me proud. I guess if I had to watch my baby go off sad, it would be 1,000 times worse for both him and me - but if I can watch him go off happy, then that's all a mommy can ask for.

And then, as soon as he's gone for most of the day, it's mommy and Matthew time, at least until #3 arrives around Christmas! Mommy and Matthew have lots to do - potty training for one. Scouring the house down to the bare woodwork - a Fall-long project because I think I'll be extremely busy come 2010. Setting up the bedroom, buying new furniture, getting carpet installed, setting up the nursery...again. Going through baby clothes, cleaning out closets. It's a big list, so Matthew and I will be very, very busy, and I tell myself, time will go by so fast, I won't even notice my big boy isn't there. But I don't believe it. I'll notice. I'll miss him like crazy, and maybe it's a funny twist of fate that I wound up pregnant again - a distraction from the process of saying "don't grow up too fast" while actually watching them shoot up like little weeds, and disperse themselves to all corners of the world.

Yes, Jonathan, one day you'll read this, and find out how Mommy REALLY felt.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Algae Blooms and Bruschetta

The last few days around here? A little hectic. Monday afternoon, I was expecting my friend and her 5 boys to come over and swim with my little guys, so after lunch I went outside to take off the solar cover and give it a good vacuuming. Holy algae bloom, batman! Wow - that never happened before! Blame the combination of lots of rain so far this summer and a bit of lackadaisical pool management, but nevertheless, there it was. 2 hours later, I had the whole thing brushed down and shocked, but it was still very cloudy. The kids came over, everyone swam anyway. Not a horrible day.

Then yesterday, water was still cloudy, so we put in some chemical to help that - it helped a bit, but was still cloudy this morning. More kids over to swim yesterday afternoon. By the way, did I mention that Match Box cars sink VERY quickly to the bottom of the pool and are very difficult to fish out with a skimmer net?

ANYWAY, this morning, we still weren't happy with the water clarity, so I was going to re-treat with the clarifier, but when I went out there, I noticed that the dead algae had settled on the walls. I vacuumed again, then brushed down the sides, and immediately, the whole pool started to clear out. Good, good sign. Back in business, almost. I added a maintenance dose of the clarifier instead of the heavy-duty dose, and was putting away my hoses and equipment, when I notice a small child submerged in the shallow end....ummm....that would've been Matthew! Fully clothed and with no flotation, he somehow fell in - and I never heard a sound - splash or anything. Thank God he was bobbing himself to the surface and never even seemed to swallow any water...I fished out the poor little guy and thanked my lucky stars it wasn't any worse.

But enough about pool mishaps - and onto the bruschetta I'm about to make! We have some fresh tomatoes in, and it's way too many for salad - so I'm giving bruschetta a try. Crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Smeared over some nice bread brushed with olive oil and toasted. And if I have enough leftover, might heat it a little and put it over angel hair for dinner with some grated cheese on top. Yum - is it dinnertime yet?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breaking the News to the 5 Year Old

So with all the talk about "#3", and all the doctors appointments, and all the discussion about baby items, etc..., you'd think Jonathan would've caught on by now. But he hadn't said anything, so we weren't sure. The other night at the dinner table, Mark and I were going to say something, but he got distracted and ran off. We tried to call him back and told him we had something to tell him, but no dice. We gave up. Save it for another day, we said.

Well, that other day came last night. Mark and I happened to both be tucking him into bed last night, and I was still wearing my swimsuit from the day's activities, and my sarong tied like a skirt had dipped below my growing belly. Jonathan was rubbing my belly for whatever reason, and then started patting it. Mark, ever the eloquent, says something like - "isn't Mommy's belly getting big?" To which Jonathan responded by patting it more. Then I said "Careful, you don't want to beat on the baby...." He stopped. He paused. He looked up slowly and shyly, and with wonderment in his little eyes and a huge smile on his face, he says "Mommy, are you going to have a baby?" Despite me wondering how on earth this got by him the last few months, I almost melted with the charm of the whole thing - he was so intrigued, so delighted.

A few minutes later, Mark had kissed him and left, and I turned out his light and said prayers with him, then snuggled a bit and asked him if there was anything he wanted to talk to me about. Yes, he says. "What is the name of that fishing boat on Deadliest Catch?" I'm serious - that's the question he had for me. So we talked about names of fishing boats for awhile - and for those of you not initiated - Deadliest Catch is the cable show on Discovery about the Alaskan King Crab fishermen. Jonathan loves the show, is addicted to it. It can be a little rough around the edges, but we let him watch it anyway. So we continue to discuss fishing and crabbing for a bit, when he reaches out a tentative little hand and pats my belly again and says "I can't wait to see it." I told him it would be awhile, but he would eventually have a new little brother or sister. Then he reaches down, pulls up his pajama shirt and pats his own belly and says "Someday, I'll have a baby in my belly, too."

Oh my. Well, I hope not! I'll spare you the rest of the details of THAT conversation, but all in all, I think the news breakage went well. Now lets hope he responds even half as well when we tell him he'll have to share a room with Matthew to make room for whatever's in Mommy's growing belly!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer of Freedom

Okay, so the 4th of July is over, which usually means to me that summer is half over. Yes, I know, technically it's only a 1/3 over, but after the 4th, summer seems to fly by. And with Jonathan starting full-time kindergarten on Aug. 27th (!), there's not that much time left to enjoy all the things we thought we'd enjoy.

First of all, the weather has been pure crap so far! One week of hot weather where we've been able to swim. Then it went back to cool-ish days and downright chilly nights, making the pool water colder, making it not even worth it to pull off the solar cover and go for a swim. It's finally looking like we'll be getting some warmer weather now, so we're counting on that!

And of course, there's vacations (upcoming) and long, long weekends at Grandma and Poppy's house (already did one, still more to come) and day trips and hikes and visits to the zoo and maybe even a baseball game or two. We still have lots of stuff planned for the summer!

But then what? Jonathan starts full-time school. Is that the end of our freedom, our autonomy? Whereas before, we were used to just picking ourselves up and heading anywhere we wanted at anytime. Cancun in February? No problem, just find a cheap flight! Long weekend in Pittsburgh for some shopping, some micro-brews and a visit to the Carnegie museums? Go for it. An overnight at Grandma's, just...because? Just pack an overnight bag and get in the car. Vacations anytime we want, and not when the rest of the world takes vacations? You betcha.

Eek. So now what? 5 days a week. Get up early, pack lunch, get him off to school, pick him up sometime in the afternoon, do it all over again the next day. Sure, we did it last year - for pre-k, but for one, it was only 3 days a week and 1/2 days at that, and he missed quite a few days because we had things to do and places to be! And it really didn't matter much. But kindergarten is mandated. And I believe the school's policy on kids missing days is "strongly discouraged." Meaning, you might get away with it once a year or so, but anything more than that could be troublesome. He may not be allowed to make work up or make up tests (in later years). And although I could certainly write a note saying "Jonathan was 'under the weather'", well, that's like, lying, right? And besides, once we have Matthew in school (the same school) and perhaps #3 in later years...well, they all can't be sick at once, now can they? :-)

Now, granted, being in private school has some advantages - long breaks for the religious holidays for one, and even for Thanksgiving they get a longer break than most. So I guess we'll have to take advantage of these when we can, and if something comes up we just can't say no to, he'll just have to miss a day or two. I'm of the mindset that family excursions and life experience is just as important, if not moreso, than classroom learning anyway, so we'll go with that.

In the meantime, we're going to milk the summer, or at least what's left of it and hope we can get a lot squeezed in over the next few weeks. School is looming - I have a feeling the stores are going to be putting all those picnic supplies on clearance and dragging out the crayons and pencils very shortly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Little Announcement

Well, we had a nice visit with the in-laws - they left yesterday afternoon, and I think our whirlwind of houseguests has settled down for a bit! Not that I mind - I love having people come to visit, but with being pregnant and all...oh, wait, didn't I blog about that yet? NO? Snort. Well, yeah, #3 is on board, so to speak.

I hesitate to call it Baby OOPS in print. After all, blogs will exist in all posterity, right? But technically, it was a little...let's just say...unplanned. After all, I'm 39 years old, and this baby is due on December 31st!! Do you actually think that if it WAS planned, we would've worked out even the POSSIBILITY of having that for a due date?

So anyhow - these things happen, and it will be fine. That's the way life works sometimes. There's a lot of uncertainty - how will Christmas be? How in the world will the boys share a room? THREE kids in private school? What about Mommy's nice job? Can we handle three?

All to be answered at a later date. For now, one day at a time. I just started the second trimester, so I have more time to anguish over everything, oh, did I say anguish? I MEANT "consider", yeah, that's it!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Sunday in June

Well, it doesn't FEEL like June, being cloudy and only about 70 degrees - this summer has been very cool so far. But at least we did get some warm days in this past week. Jonathan had soccer camp and seemed to enjoy it and do well, and we finally managed to get in the pool. I took the boys out swimming 4 days in a row! Makes an un-airconditioned house bearable, when you can spend half the afternoon in the pool, come in, get everyone into dry clothes and then start preparing dinner - even if the house is 85 degrees inside, your body temp is lower from the swimming and the cool water, and I manage to stay cool throughout dinner, same with the kids.

Today? We're waiting for Grammy and Grandpa to arrive for a couple of days. Not sure what time they're planning on arriving, but in the meantime, I think I'll mop a floor or two and maybe go out for a little brunch and hit the market for a few last minute things.

Then, I'm going to make a chocolate angel food cake with a raspberry topping - we got some fresh raspberries at the Farmer's Market yesterday.

And MAYBE, we'll get a little sunshine in the next few days so we can enjoy the pool with the grandparents!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Too Long of an Absence

Wow - almost a whole month gone by with no blog entries. Which is really disappointing to me because I really want to keep up with it for no other reason than to have it as a record of our lives, a journal of sorts to view our lives over the years.

But life gets in the way, and when I only have a few minutes and can't think of anything earth-shattering to blog about, I don't bother. But then it occurs to me, must all my blog entries be earth shattering?

I'm thinking not. I'm thinking that I need to be a little less anxious about my blog, about it's content and continuity, and just write what's in my head from day to day, even if it's only a sentence here or a thought there.

In a way, Facebook has kind of taken over my blog time, but I think I'm going to try to pay a little more attention to my blog.

So I'm going to give it a try. The entries may be briefer and less concise and with less information, but at least I'll be keeping up with it, and at least I'll feel better about what I've been perceiving as our family journal, and what I've been seriously neglecting lately.

Friday, May 29, 2009

May, Schmay

So the month of May kinda stunk around here. The weather hasn't been great - lots of cool, rainy weather with a few nice breaks. We did get some nice warm sunshine for 3 or 4 days in a row at some point, but for the most part, we've been dodging showers, covering our new plantings to avoid frost all the way until THE 18th (!!!), and enduring the windows open, the windows shut, the windows open, the windows shut. One night the boys wear summer pj's to bed, the next night they're wearing long pants and long-sleeved flannel. One night we're shivering under an extra blanket, the next night we need the ceiling fan. Makes no sense, and probably contributed to the fact that all 4 of us have been...well...under the weather. Jonathan has finally stopped coughing. It lasted 4.5 weeks. He's on Zyrtec now, doing better, but I'm still not at all convinced it was only allergies. Matthew had his for just over 3 weeks. I don't think his was allergies at all - I think he had a respiratory infection the whole time. Which I believe he gave to me, which I gave to Mark. I've had it for 2.5 weeks now, Mark for about 2 weeks. Last night, we were still up at midnight, coughing our lungs out and sucking down Ricola's. I think, think, THINK we're all about out of the woods at this point.

So that's been our May. The usually beautiful month of May, and this year, it just hasn't been the greatest! But things are looking up. Today, for instance, is Jonathan's last day of school. They're having a little song presentation at 10:30, followed by a picnic lunch (if it doesn't RAIN!) and then he's done. We're looking forward to summer - vacations, trips to Grandma's, soccer camp, swimming, playdates, walks on the trail, bicycle rides, picnics. Lots of things planned, and I'm sure summer will go by WAY too fast for all of us!

The only other redeeming quality of this bedraggled month? The Farmer's Market started yesterday! Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love the Farmer's market. Right now, in my fridge, I have fresh asparagus, spinach, onions, strawberries and lettuce, right out of the ground. Most was picked yesterday. There is nothing in the world better than food made with fresh produce, and seasoned with herbs right out of my own backyard. Last night, we had chicken florentine pasta seasoned with my own home-grown rosemary and chives. I know I have a long weekend of cooking and washing produce ahead of me - but that's okay - it brings me true joy to be able to use this great stuff and it's so good for you!

So I leave you with the Chicken Florentine recipe - partially absconded from a few websites, but mostly my own creation:

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
salt + pepper or garlic pepper salt

2-3 spring onions, scallions or 1/4 sliced yellow onion
handfull of fresh chives, snipped
nice sprig of fresh rosemary

1/2 c. white cooking wine
1/2 - 3/4 c. heavy whipping cream

a big colander full of washed, torn, fresh spinach
salt and pepper

pasta of your choice

Trim and cube the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper or garlic pepper salt and saute in olive oil until cooked through - 5-8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil, add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes until they begin to turn translucent. Increase heat to medium-high, and add the cooking wine. Bring to a boil, and let about half the liquid boil off. Then add the whipping cream, bring to a boil again, stir until thickened and reduce heat. Add the chicken back in, and the rosemary and chives. Keep over low heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta. Use another pan to wilt the spinach - add some olive oil, throw in the spinach and bring up the heat. Toss and stir the spinach until it begins to wilt a bit, then cover and reduce heat. Allow it to reduce and wilt, but don't let it go to far, and don't let it lose that bright green color.

When the pasta is done and the spinach is done, strain both and add it all together in the pot with the chicken/sauce mixture. Serve hot with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Potty Training, Take One

When Jonathan was almost 3, we decided it was time for him to lose the diapers. About 5 days later, he was fully trained, even overnight. Not sure how that happened, the only explanation I have is that he basically trained himself. We were there to make sure he had the physiological ability to "hold it" and to "know" when he had to go, and once we knew that, a little encouragement here and a little firmness there, and he was done.

Then there's Matthew. He's about the same age as Jonathan was when he trained. He'll be 3 next month. So yesterday, starting the long weekend, we decided to give it a go. Let's just say: no such luck on this one! He'll sit on the potty. He'll sit on the potty for an hour. He'll read books, he'll giggle, he'll play with his toes, he'll point to all his body parts. But eliminate waste from his body he will NOT. No, he'll save that until we get him up, put on his new Elmo underwear and send him out to the kitchen for lunch. Talk about floodgates!

Back to the drawing board. We'll be sitting on the potty everyday. Just for fun. Just to read. And to play with our toes. But just wait, Matthew. The one day that you let your guard down and something comes out of either nether region, wait until you see that celebration! You will want to go again and again and again....we hope.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Gift From a Little Boy

Last night we ate dinner outside on the patio. We love to do that when the weather's nice, but the one problem is keeping the boys in their seats long enough to finish. There are too many things for them to look at outside, and the toys they left behind to come to the table are sitting there in the yard and in the driveway, beckoning to them all through the meal.

Last night was no exception. I think it was Matthew who escaped the table first, followed shortly thereafter by Jonathan, who had at least FINISHED his meal. In a way, it's not so bad. Mark and I get to enjoy the rest of our meal getting our words in edgewise, and switching the conversation to topics that sometimes shouldn't be covered with the little guys present.

So there they were, playing at the edge of the wooded area. More or less behaving. All the sudden, Jonathan seemed to find something incredibly interesting. He picked it up, and started running back to the table, a look of high excitement on his face. I had no idea what was coming. A baby turtle? A feather? Some icky bug? No, it was a rock. In fact, it was a heart-shaped rock. Nothing more spectacular about it, except it was about the size of his palm, and it was indeed, a very distinct heart shape. He held it out, his eyes bright and shining, and brought it to me - "look Mommy, a heart-shaped rock!" I marveled, more at his fascination than the rock itself, until he said "it's for you, Mommy." Awwwwwww. Melt my heart, man. I added it to my collection of "very special things" on my bookshelf, and told him I would cherish it for life.

And I will.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Hike at the Park

One of the reasons we even considered moving to this part of Maryland was the easy access to outdoor opportunities the area provides. All one needs to do is hop in the car and in less than 20 minutes, you can be at some great places to commune with nature. There's hiking and camping, picnic grounds, fishing, canoeing, kayaks, you name it. So when all the stars aligned last weekend bringing us a great weather day, minimal chores to get done and the boys were in relatively good moods, we decided to throw together an impromptu hike and picnic last Saturday.

And what a great day it was! We packed some lunch and some snacks and drinks, jumped in the car and headed for Rocky Gap State Park - a gorgeous area of Mountain Maryland about 15 minutes from our house. Rocky Gap has it all, a nice lake, a lodge, campgrounds, a beach, a mountain or two, golf course, and the requisite hiking trails. That's were we were headed. We haven't explored much of the park yet - most of our exploration had been limited to the Lakeside Loop Trail - a relatively flat, well-traveled trail that circles the lake, goes through the campground and begins and ends at the parking lot. Great for little kids, and lots of great views of the lake. But this time we wanted to check out something different, so at the trail heads, we consulted the map and saw a different trail - the Evitts Mountain Trail that connected to Lakeside Loop and would bring us back to the parking lot within a decent time for lunch. So off we went.

Neither Mark nor I checked the difficulty on the Evitt's Mountain trail. I mean, why bother, right? Our 2 year old and 5 year old could handle it. Right. Actually, it wasn't TOO bad. There were some areas that if someone would've fallen, it would've been disastrous. But what a gorgeous hike it turned out to be. A few minutes through the woods and the trail started going down, down, down, and finally wound up in a gorge with a rushing river at the bottom - we got to cross a neat wooden bridge and then start the major uphill. There were some huge rocks, some cliff-like topography, lots of birds and blooming spring vegetation. Matthew needed to be carried a bit, especially up the slopes, but for the most part, the boys did great and we made it back to the car in time to dig into lunch - well-deserved after a hike made for champions!

I'm ready to go again. So are the boys - all three of them! Nicest part? What we came to Western Maryland for - close to home, didn't cost us a dime, no fighting mass humanity to get where you're going and when you get there, not a soul in sight. We passed nothing but wildlife on that trail, and only started running into a few folks as we got closer to the more well-traveled areas. Lots to explore around these parts - and with the boys getting bigger, looks like a lot of adventures in the coming years!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Swamped

Oh where oh where have you gone, time? I look at my blog and just weeks have gone by. I'm afraid I'm going to have to resort to the deadly "bullet entries" just to get caught up....let's see....

- Three weeks. That's how long Jonathan's been coughing. And coughing. And coughing. Sometimes it's tight, sometimes it's loose (I know, TMI), sometimes it keeps him up half the night, other times he sleeps for 12 solid without a peep.

- Twice. That's how many times we've been to the doctor over this. No fever. No other symptoms. Doctors are thinking allergies.

- Two weeks. That's how long Matthew's been coughing. Did I mention the hoarseness? See above for the doctor schedule.

- Eye drops and Zyrtec. That's the solution for the moment. And riding out this horrible pollen wave this Spring. Maybe in a week or two, things will look better.

- Three days. That's how long I'VE been coughing. But unlike the kids - I have a bona fide cold. I think. Perhaps I'm in for three weeks of this myself. Sigh.

- 70's - 80's. No, not the era, the TEMPERATURE! Finally! Although it was in the 30's overnight two nights ago, it looks like we're finally over the hump, spring has sprung for good, bring on summer, we're ready!

- One brandy-new lawn mower to replace the one that....SOMEONE....broke.

- One very, very clean toolshed (thank you, Grammy and Grandpa for spending the weekend with us so we could get these chores done!) making room for said new lawn mower.

- Spring planting, courtesy of Mark? Getting there. Onions, tomatoes and squash are in the ground. Most perennials in. Annuals are getting there. Plans in the Fall to rip out a hillside or two for a large-scale terracing project that will become our NEW veggie garden next summer.

- Work, work, work. Thank, God, both jobs secure. Enough said.

- School? Jonathan only has 3 more days! Then, end of year picnic. Parent conferences (for pre-k?), kindergarten open-house, and then, in mid-June, soccer camp! If he likes it, he can join the local league in the Fall.

- Potty training? Commences this weekend in full glory. Have spent the last few months "getting to know the potty". Jonathan was so easy. Matthew seems a little...resistant. Wish us luck!

So that's about it right now, unless you want to hear about the "to-do" list. Trust me, you don't. Nice three-day weekend coming up with some nice weather...we're planning on sticking around to try and do this potty thing, so hopefully we'll get a lot of it done. And in between, throwing a large variety of food on the grill for three days in a row. VERY much looking forward to a nice weekend with the family! Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Half-Year Update

Wow, where has time gone? Seems like just yesterday I was writing the November update, and here we are - 6 months later and ready for another one!

So where are we? Pretty much the same as we were in November, and sometimes, that's a good thing. Not to say that change isn't good, but occasionally, you need a little steadiness in your life, a little status quo to maintain sanity.

On that note, we'll start with Mark this time. He always winds up last on the list probably because he has the least change of all of us on a regular basis, but these days, he's busier than ever since Spring is finally here! Mark is busy planning and planting. He put in a ton of onion plants - enough that if they all come up and yield onions, we'll be selling them (or rather paying people to take them) on the street corners. He's also buying annuals and planning the vegetable beds, and already has a few veggies bought - we're just waiting for mid-May to put them in, because around here, that's usually when the threat of frost is officially gone. Add to that list cutting the grass, getting out the patio furniture, tearing out old landscaping and putting in new, mulching all the beds, everywhere, keeping the deer off the flowers, planning a windowsill scraping and painting "party" (with me as the only invited guest), and a shed-cleaning out party (again, a small party, at that), and add in the usual chores of helping out with the kids, keeping this place shipshape, and always, always, doing all our mail, financial stuff and bills, and you've got one busy guy, but one very appreciated guy. Really not sure what I'd do without him!

Next, we have Matthew. Matthew is almost 3 - he'll have his birthday in late June. My previous fears of him never talking were unfounded, and been replaced by the fear that no one will ever understand a word the kid says but maybe me, Mark and Grandma. He's the poster-child for garbled speech. But it's getting better, and we'll let the doctor decide when and if he needs some kind of help. Matthew is kind of a brute. He barrels his way through life, knocking over pretty much anything in his path, his path to whatever he has on his mind. He is also extremely vocal about his needs and wants, and these vocalizations tend to escalate rather obnoxiously until he figures out he's not going to get his way. Then he goes and has a tantrum or tosses a toy. And then he gets to see his friend the Naughty Corner. Did I say Terrible Two's back in November? I sure did. Still there. Waiting for three. Hope it magically changes! But what can I say - he's cute as a button and loves to snuggle, loves to read books and color and play with rocks - anywhere, anytime. He also loves animals and music and sports. He adores his big brother, follows him around, repeats everything Jonathan says, including sneezing and one time, he even mimicked Jonathan when Jonathan tripped and fell on the steps. If I hadn't been concerned for Jonathan's welfare, I think I would have wet myself laughing - he even made the same grunt noise as he fell as Jonathan involuntarily did.

Much to Jonathan's misery. Jonathan loves his little brother, no doubt, but Jonathan also loves his independence, his privacy, and his toys. And he particularly hates it when one of his toys gets broken or goes missing, courtesy of Matthew. But that's what little brothers are for, I guess. Anyway, Jonathan is now 5 years, 2 months, going on about 12. He is almost finished his first year of "school" - his pre-k ends at the end of May. He'll be off to kindergarten full-time in the Fall, and I'm not sure how I'm going to stand it. I said this about pre-k, too, but that was only 3 days a week for half a day. I can't imagine life without my big boy all day, everyday. If you ask me, schools get the best of your children. Early in the day when they're sharp and clever and happy and well-rested. Then, the school sends them home to you - tired, cranky, hungry...thanks a lot. Anyway, more in the Fall on that one I guess. Jonathan is a pretty studious one. Although he loves the great outdoors, riding his bike and going to the playground, his mind is always pre-occupied with some scientific or numerical notion - he counts things he sees, comments about shapes of leaves and the position of the sun in the sky, plays with a calculator in his spare time (Mommy, did you know that 45 plus 51 equals 96?!!!), and is obssessed with learning the states, their location, their capitals, their nicknames and their size ranking. He's really growing up - he can dress and undress himself (when he puts his mind to it!) although he sometimes needs help with a particularly difficult button or a shirt that's tough to get over his head. After most meals, he'll clear away his dishes, putting them in the dishwasher or sink, without even being asked. And saints preserve us, he is finally tasting and eating a wider variety of foods. Thanks to a little strong-arming from us, plus what seems to be a newfound curiousity (or maybe from just watching his school friends eat different foods at lunchtimes in school), he is finally coming around in that department. A few nights a week, I'll still make his favorite, noodles with butter, but other nights, he must at least try what we're eating, or if I truly don't think he'll like it, I'll make him a hot dog or a quesadilla or a peanut butter sandwich. I certainly don't expect him to eat tossed salads with chicken, feta and avocado, but that happens to be one of me and Mark's favorites....so you gotta do what you gotta do!

As for me - not much change here. Busy, as usual, busy at home, busy with the kids, busy with the part-time job, keeping up the house, busy with the flute and various choirs. Had an opportunity to join the local performance band, but had to turn that one down - just not enough hours in the day, and flute committments already take up enough family time; I just don't want to add any more right now. I'm looking forward to summer and the freedom it brings, the warm weather, the windows open, playing with the kids in the pool and summer hikes and bikes. Not to mention one of my absolute favorite things: the farmer's market! Fresh produce is coming, and I can't wait!

So that's us, for this half-year, anyway. Like I said, not much going on, but I'll take it. We have our jobs, we have our home and we have enough leftover to have fun. Right about now, that means the world to me!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Could I Live Without China?

Last week, Mark showed me an article he was reading about drywall that had been manufactured in China during the height of the housing boom here in the US a few years ago. Seems that they were manufacturing drywall so fast because demand was so high, that they weren't paying a whole lot of attention to the process (big surprise) and now the drywall which is in people's homes, is leeching all kinds of toxic crap and making people sick. Well, gee, China, thanks a lot. Not bad enough to hear about toxic dog food, excessive lead in children's toys, and whatever crap was in the baby formula. It got me thinking....first of all, I can't even begin to imagine the factories over there. Considering practically everything we buy is made in China, they must have factories from one end of the horizon to the other. And with however many billion people to work there, and how fast their production is...it's surprising that more stuff isn't faulty, although, technically, it is. Every month I read magazines that tell about recalls on all kinds of stuff...lamps, toys, grills, you name it. It started me wondering...could I live without China-made goods? A quick inspection of everything around me, including the little toys I'd put in my kids' Easter baskets, the plastic eggs and even the basket itself was made in China. Half or probably well over more than half the stuff in my kitchen....well, I could've done a full-house inventory, but we all know what the outcome would've been. Wow.

So I said to Mark - what do you think? Could we do this? Could we put a moratorium on Chinese-manufactured goods coming into this house? Would we, COULD we survive? He was skeptical, and of course, so was I. But think about it. If enough American families did this, it would not only force China to reconsider their shoddy manufacturing, but maybe, just maybe it would expand other markets, like hmmmm, AMERICAN made products? Okay, that's a stretch.

Our first major purchase since then - shelving from IKEA. I'd had my eye on this shelving for about a year now. We did the research, we measured, we packed up the boys and found ourselves in the IKEA store. Never gave nary a thought to where this stuff was from. Just bought and loaded and transported home. Imagine my surprise (and DELIGHT) when we discovered that this particular shelving system was absolutely NOT manufactured in China, rather, it was from Canada, and it was made from sustainable wood products! Oh Happy Day! Gotta love IKEA! And then, yesterday. Here in Cumberland we have this great blanket outlet - Biederlack blankets and they have 50,000 in stock. And I had never been there! So with both little guys in tow, I checked it out yesterday, and bought a great American-made blanket/bedspread thing for our guest room for summer. I will definitely be doing more shopping there in the future - great blankets, even greater prices and local!

But then, a backslide. I've been doing great with the clothesline outside - loving going out, getting a breath of fresh air, hanging up the clothes, NOT using the dryer....but I needed a thing to hold my clothespins (Jonathan was working out for a while, but he tends to run off with my clothespins!) So at the grocery the other day, I found a little canvas pouch-thing on a hanger that was designed to do JUST what I wanted, so I threw it in the cart, no hesitation. Then, I picked it up again and turned it over. China. DOH! And I put it back in the cart. I NEEDED it! What am I supposed to do, go home, search the internet, pay three times as much plus shipping, wait two weeks.....you know the drill. Well, that's just great. That's like a vegetarian eating a cheeseburger and saying "But I was hungry."

So I made sort of a deal with myself for the future. I'm going to make an honest effort to find things not made in China. If I'm pressed for time and have no choice, well, what can I say. And I'm thinking something else might just come out of this. Maybe, just maybe, it will cut down on some impulse purchases. Did you ever think - hey, I want "xyz" so you ran out to buy it the very next day? But sometimes, you think - hey, I want "xyz" and you wait until say, the weekend to get it, and by the weekend, you discover you could live without it? Happens to me sometimes, so maybe if I told myself, I'll buy "xyz" if I can find one not made in China, I may just realize I don't need it after all, and save myself from bringing more stuff into the house.

So why not join me in my China-manufactured goods semi-boycott?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hot Cross Buns


Man, it has been TOO LONG since I've blogged about food and the fun I have in the kitchen! Not to say the cooking has stopped, no indeed. Sometimes I think I spend half my life in this kitchen...somedays it feels like I never leave it. But in a way, that's okay. My kitchen's big and sunny with lots of big windows that overlook the yard, the gardens, and out to the mountains. If there was a room I'd pick to HAVE to be in, it'd be the kitchen.

And so it's with lots of happiness that I bring you: Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday. I was under the mistaken impression that these were traditionally for Easter Sunday. Wrong. Going back to pre-Anglican England, these were almost exclusively for Good Friday - with the cross on top to remind us of the crucifixion of Jesus. Well, why not I asked myself. I consulted a couple of recipe books, then searched online...then did what I always do - take the best parts of several recipes and conjure up my own.

I also learned a really neat new trick. I used to raise bread in my bathroom - don't laugh! There's a wonderful heater in there and the rest of the house is relatively cool - in winter that is. So it's hard to make sure my doughs are staying nice and toasty warm. I read online where a great place to raise dough is actually in the oven with just the light on. The heat from the incandescent bulb provides a nice warm environment, and the closed oven is free from drafts and from curious little fingers. Particularly curious little fingers that have ahem....been in the bathroom and it's environs.

So anyway, I did the first rise in my bread machine - just didn't feel like getting the big mixer with the dough hook out today! I know, I know, I SHOULD be kneading it by hand...but why? Mixer does it so well! Anyway, used the bread machine since it was still on the countertop from last night's pizza crust. Did the first rise in there. Left it in an additional hour. Then shaped the dough into balls, then stuck it in my "oven with the light on" for several hours. Cut some crosses in the top and baked, then glazed with sugary icing and there you have it! Yum. Almost too indulgent for Good Friday, but not really...they're not really all that sweet, and these turned out really light and fluffy. The raisins got a little shredded by my bread machine....darn, didn't think of THAT....but it turned out fine since they got all dispersed throughout the dough rather than just a raisin here, raisin there.

But now, who's going to eat all these buns?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

That's Just What Mommies Do

Yesterday, I think I went from room to room just carrying things around. I'd put something down in one room, pick up something else, trying to organize, trying to straighten the mess that is my house and my life. I walked into Jonathan's room and sighed. Somewhere around two dozen books were piled next to his bed, in his bed, on the floor next to the bed....the child likes to read himself to sleep at night, and while I can't fault him for that, he hasn't yet grasped the concept of returning the books to the bookshelf the next day!

So, guess who gets to do it? And I just can't put them back on the bookshelf. My OCD tendencies take over, and I must line them up by size and genre - that is, the two volume children's dictionary (yes, he reads dictionaries) must go together, and the Dr. Seuss collection must be grouped together. Call me crazy, but I'm a little anal about that stuff.....gee, ya think that's why I never get half the stuff done around the house I should - 'cause I'm too busy alphabetizing my spices? NAH!

Jonathan was at school, so this task actually only took a minute or two, and didn't get ripped apart immediately, because...he was at school! Fast forward to bedtime. I was in the kitchen putting away some groceries because I'd just returned from the market. In my absence, Mark had handled baths, bedtime snacks and teeth-brushings (love you, sweetie!) and Jonathan was ready to be tucked in. I THOUGHT he had already settled in when all the sudden he comes running out to the kitchen.

He says to me "Mommy, I have to thank you for something." I said "You do? What do you have to thank me for?" He tells me "Thank you for straightening my books, you did it beautifully!" Awwww. Well, shucks. He has this cute little smile on his face - the kid was actually really grateful! I hugged him and told him "you're welcome - that's what Mommies are for..." and then I stopped and thought to myself WHAT did I just tell him? Did I just tell him that Mommies are there to clean up everyone's mess and re-organize everyone's life and make things all pretty and neat again (of course, at our own expense)? Did I just say that?

I guess I did. And if it brings my little guy that much pleasure, I'd do it all over again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My New Addition

Guess what I got this weekend? Yet another step in our conservation-minded life goals: outdoor clotheslines! I'm very excited...see, I grew up hanging clothes outside with my mom and grandma who lived next door to us. Mom would get up in the summer and throw in a load or two first thing in the morning, then hang them out when it was still relatively cool. By lunchtime they'd be dry. Sometimes we'd be out or busy, and they'd still be hanging when a good old-fashioned summer afternoon thunderstorm started brewing up - and we'd have to dash to the clothesline to get them in before it started pouring. So, until now, I've been longing for a clothesline - and not just for nostalgia! Did you know that the dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in your house? It's my eventual goal to get one of the high-efficiency washers to not only cut down on water use and overall "loads" because of their larger capacity, but also the increased spin velocity cuts down on dryer time since the clothes are more efficiently wrung out. But for now, my very old washer that came with the house is working just fine, and I hate to just toss a perfectly good appliance! So that'll have to wait a while.

Why haven't we had a clothesline yet? Hard to say - I guess in a way, it was difficult for me to get outside with two toddlers - our yard has some dangerously steep drop-offs and it's not like you can let a couple of little ones just wander while you're struggling to hang a load of sheets and blankets. My kids were and are never the type to sit there and wait...first chance they get, they're off and running in whatever direction is away from me! And of course, hanging clothes causes some of them to need to be ironed, something ELSE that takes up time I really don't have, but seem to have more of now than in the past few years.

But now I think I can swing it, at least I'll give it a try! I love the smell of laundry that's been dried outside in the sunshine and wind - glorious. Especially sheets and towels! The lines we installed are great - they're retractable, so when you're done, you just unhook the lines and they reel back up into their housing that is attached to a pole, or the side of your house, or, in our case, a few trees. In the winter, you just pull a pin and take them inside. So no unsightly lines hanging all year round, or at all when you're not using them.

My first project...washing the winter comforters and bedspreads and blankets at the laundromat (since my washer is not high-capacity, I have to take them out....hmmmmm....ANOTHER reason for a new washer!), but at least now, rather than paying to dry them at the laundromat, I can just bring them home wet and hang them up...saves money as well as time - who wants to sit in the laundry for several hours waiting for stuff to dry?

OH - and I almost forgot! We also did something new in the garden this weekend - Mark planted me a bunch of onions! We've never grown onions before, so we're not sure what to expect, but if they all come up, we'll have onions up to our eyeballs. We're talking about expanding our gardens for next year...it's too late now to start digging up sod, and the time to really do it is in the fall, so the planning has begun for that.

Loving the positive changes and steps toward nature: air-drying clothes and growing more and more of our own foods! Is a chicken coop next in our future? Not sure the neighborhood ordinances would allow that one!

Monday, March 30, 2009

More Stuff....

I've been thinking about "stuff" lately - material possessions. A long time ago, I read someone's blog post about "100 things" - something like some guy decided to pare down his life to only include 100 things and I thought to myself holy crap - I couldn't do that in a million years, unless I could say something like one thing is entire set of cookery and a set of silverware and the dresser in my bedroom with everything that's in it. Individually, I think I went over 100 before I even hit the silverware...okay, maybe mid-way through the silverware, but you get my point. And what if it came down to the lawn mower or the car? Huh? Huh? What do you do then? So I scoffed a bit. I thought - well, if you live in a high-rise and you don't have kids and you don't ever eat at home, it might just work out for you. But for those of us with families and homes and property, good luck. What are we supposed to do with the 100 things in the shed we use to hoe, till, garden, shovel, prune, mow, dig, trim, fertilize, edge, water, rake, weed, saw, I could go on and on....and still come to the same conclusion...it's just not feasible.

But lately, "stuff" has been taking over our life. The other day - last Friday it was, I found myself stuffing newly washed sheets into our linen closet, and I do mean stuffing. More like ramming. Like put my body weight behind it and hold it in place as I shut the door and hope for the best the next time I open the door. And I sighed. Something has to give. Granted, it's a very small linen closet. AND we have four beds in this house, two queens, a full, a twin, AND a pull-out, so make that 5 beds. But let's add in blankets, summer weight and winter weight sheets, summer and winter comforters - whew, no wonder I have no room. And that's just one example. So I re-opened that linen closet door, and literally pulled everything out and reorganized. Somehow managed to get most of it back in with some room to spare just by refolding a lot of it and organizing it a bit better, but it still doesn't help with the overall picture. We have a LOT of stuff! A lot of necessary stuff.

Like, for instance, a turkey roasting pan. Got it for my wedding. It's an awesome pan! Love it. Use it maybe 2 times a year. But I do use it, and I'm certainly not getting rid of it just because it takes up room. So I need to store it.

So in an effort to make our lives more organized, a few months ago Mark and I tore up the "4th bedroom" downstairs to make it an official storage area. In our defense, this room would never have really been a bedroom...it's unheated for one and dark. Mark has his "office" down there, but didn't mind sacrificing the rest of the room to the "cause". So in a weekend, we ripped out the old stinky carpet, cleaned the floor, got a pile ready for the dump, and reorganized the rest. Dandy. Except now, we need shelving. And it occurred to us that we needed some additional storage in our mudroom, so we went to the furniture store this weekend and picked out a piece which will be delivered on Wednesday. Now we're loosely planning a trip to IKEA to get some of their heavy duty shelving systems for our new storage downstairs.

Does it ever end? Stuff comes in the house. Need a place to put it, so we move something to accommodate it, then have to find a spot for the old thing. Not everything can get tossed or donated, so then we need to buy furniture or shelving or whatever to accommodate the old stuff and eventually, when that fills up, we'll find ourselves either deciding we really DON'T need that old thing 10 years down the line, or buying more shelving to accommodate even more old stuff.

So I'm trying to get my head around this. I feel like we do a fairly good job of only keeping stuff we truly use. We've tossed a LOT. And we've donated and sold even more. And yet it keeps coming. I've heard that you expand your possessions to fill the space you are given, and that may be true, but what happens when you start to overflow? Is there ever a house with a large-enough linen closet and enough storage areas and shelving to accommodate ALL your needs? I think not. Because as long as you perceive that you have the space, you'll keep buying. So I can't decide whether we're slaves to our possessions or the other way around.

And don't even get me started on home maintenance. Talk about slavery!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mommy, I Can't Concentrate!

Yes, apparently, Matthew was making a little too much noise this afternoon and was disturbing Jonathan's concentration while he was putting together a puzzle WHILE watching tv. Hmmmm, what's wrong with THAT picture?

Nevermind how many times MY concentration is utterly destroyed by BOTH of them...or that I can barely get a word, thought or action in edgewise half the time. But I had to have an inward chuckle at that one. And couldn't resist recording it for all posterity!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Some Birthday Pictures

We start off with the requisite "wheeled toy" to add to the already overwhelming collection that's already in the house....this one is from PlanToys, which we love since they use sustainable wood products and it's an American company. The toys are really cute, all made of wood, and with the cars in particular, the wheels are rubber so they ride really, really, really quickly across the kitchen floor!Next, we have either a Hot Wheels or Matchbox (I've long-since lost track) Monster Truck Jam ramp. When you're not using the thing as a ramp (noticed the smashed up cars on both sides!), the whole thing folds up and can be used as a carrier for up to 10 (yes, 10!) Monster Trucks. How many Monster Trucks did the thing come with, you ask? 1. How many more Monster Trucks does Jonathan need, now? According to Mommy Math, 0. According to Jonathan, 9. Darn - shouldn't have taught that kid to add and subtract!
And, of course, what child's birthday can be celebrated without giving a LITTLE something to the OTHER child? Well, let's see, Mark and I gave Matthew Ramone and Flo, and Grandma and Poppy gave him Ham and Halloween somebody or other, then later, we gave him Mack - the one you can load up Lightning McQueen and transport him all around.....this kid made out almost as good as his brother!And, finally, we get to the cake. I have no idea why Jonathan wanted a jack-o-lantern for a birthday cake, but I asked him three times on three separate occasions, and he never wavered. So I borrowed some cake pans from a friend's mom and voila. The stem is an upside-down sugar cone. It was a collaborative effort between Mark, me and my dad while Jonathan was at the bowling alley for a little party for one of his school friends. He was delighted when he saw it - glad I could make him happy, and HOPE he doesn't want something like a pirate ship next year! I'm not artistic to begin with, so these kids birthday cakes are taxing my limits!

OH, Okay, one more. We gave Jonathan this cute little butterfly net, along with a child-sized hoe he can use in the garden this spring and summer. He quickly found out he could catch a lot more than just butterflies! Watch Poppy's glasses, Jonathan, remember the time you broke them...and then you broke Daddy's....and.....


Next birthday, MINE! I keep asking Jonathan how old Mommy is, he keeps saying 29 (I'm not kidding!) Love it! The tricky part is asking how old Mommy is going to be! Then he says what any normal pre-schooler would say: 30. Hmmmmm, what to do now? Oh well - guess he'll find out it was a joke sooner or later!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JONATHAN!


Today is Jonathan's actual birthday - nevermind we've been celebrating it since Saturday! My mom, dad and sister came up on that day and we had cake and a party, and then I had to make cupcakes for his school yesterday, and today I'm getting suckered into making yet another cake-ish item since, well, it IS his real birthday! Luckily, we still have some presents to give him, or I'd be off to the store today, too!
Anyway, Jonathan is now 5, and although I find that hard to believe, I was also reflecting on how much he's done and seen in this short little life he's had so far. The child has a passport (that's the photo we used for it, above), and now has his first, of hopefully many, stamps - Mexico - acquired just a few weeks ago. He's quite the traveler - so far in his young life he's been to Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and California...whew! Did I miss any? He's literally climbed mountains, and he's played on the seashore. We've hiked, we've biked, we've visited huge cities and tiny towns. He's ridden a horse and been bucked off, and he's ridden a camel. He's been on a roller coaster and been bowling. He's been swimming in pools where the heat has been unbearable, and been bundled up in snowstorms and blizzards and gone sledding with teeth chattering in the cold.
Of course, all this adventure comes with a price: he's been in the emergency room 4 times already. Although, admittedly, he wasn't injured while traveling or going on adventures. (Well, sort of) We'll keep our fingers crossed on that one!
But anyway, as he grows older and older, we hope to add to this list - a list of places he's been and cool things he's done. We want to show him and his brother the world, literally and figuratively!
Happy Birthday, Jonathan. We love you tons!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

STILL In That Vacation Bubble







Ya know, it wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have sub-zero wind chills half the week! Then I could just start to enjoy "spring" around here and quit thinking about why in the world we left Mexico in the first place!! But this is my last blog post about our trip - mainly because the rest of the pictures really aren't worth posting, and to be truthful, we actually didn't take that many.

The butterfly photos above were taken at XCaret, a resort of sorts, I guess you could possibly call it an eco-resort, but more like a "natural recreational area". Basically, it was a large peninsula, privately owned, that you could spend the day doing all sorts of stuff - swimming, diving, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, sunning on their beaches, floating down an underground river, hiking, eating, watching Mayan shows, strolling through the botanical gardens, the ruins, the craft fairs, the gift shops....did I miss anything? For a flat fee, you got in, then you could pay extra to do some of the more specialized stuff. Mark and I, Jonathan and the in-laws went one day. Rode a nice coach bus down to Playa Del Carmen and arrived at XCaret around 9:30 in the morning. What to do, what to do, what to do FIRST!? They tell you up front that you can't do it all in one day. And they tell you to not miss the Mayan show that starts at 6pm and runs until 8pm. Well, we already counted that out - we were headed back on the early bus at 5pm because we didn't want Jonathan out that late. We figured 8 hours was enough for all of us.
So while the in-laws were kind enough to watch Jonathan for a bit in the morning, Mark and I signed up for a snorkeling trip that went until lunchtime. Mark was a little hesitant, but I somehow convinced him he needed to come with me, so we found ourselves on a boat with snorkeling gear in hand. Ten minutes later, we were anchored over the second largest reef in the world. Into the water we went. Now before I go on, I have to say, I have gills. I grew up swimming since I was about 3 years old, have always had a pool in the backyard, body-surfed in the ocean from as far back as I remember, and will swim anywhere, anytime. I am a certified scuba diver, but unfortunately, don't get much chance to dive anymore. Mark, on the other hand, sinks like a rock. He seems a bit uncomfortable in the water, and truly doesn't like to get his face too wet - even in the shower. So, yeah, he's going to try snorkeling. Hmmmm.

To make matters worse, Mark's snorkeling gear seemed to have some issues - he couldn't get a nice fit with the mask so he had some leakage and it proved to be a fairly windy day, so some of the little white-caps were breaking over the top of the snorkel and these weren't high-end snorkels. Too late - I wished I'd brought mine along - it was back at the villa - a nicer one with a check valve on the end that prevented that. Anyway, Mark lasted all of 5 minutes.

I hated him to miss out, but now I have a goal - work with him in our pool this summer until he is comfortable with the better equipment and maybe he'll be okay for next time. And there will be a next time, my word. Ever seen those tanks at Rainforest Cafe? They have these saltwater tanks with about every color of fish in the world....well, it was sort of like that. The reef was alive with fish of every size, shape, color and description. And the color combinations were astounding - black with royal blue fins, blue with lavender fins, royal blue with bright yellow, red and orange spotted, white and orange striped....it was like sensory overload. And the reef itself was amazing. And with the winds and current, everything was moving, and if you peeked into the reef, you could see more fish hiding. As long as you stayed fairly close to the boat, you could go anywhere you want, so I got to spend the next 40 minutes in an exotic world of sea life - lost in amazement, and struck by how silent that world is.

When we got back to shore, we met up with Jonathan and Mark's folks and had some lunch, then we started walking around - we found the butterfly exhibit and saw the marvelous blue morpho butterflies as well as many other gorgeous species. A few pics are above - the one is the blue morpho, the other is called a Malachite. The blue morphos are munching on plantains - everywhere in the habitat they had these laid out, there were half a dozen or more butterflies munching. The trick was to snap the picture when they opened their wings!

After that, the in-laws hit the botanical gardens, while we went off to find some animals for Jonathan to see - they had some in captivity - monkeys, peccaries, an ox, some donkeys and then we found the bird exhibit which had scarlet macaws, flamingoes, parrots and even some wild birds like a Yucatan woodpecker - a life-bird for both me and Mark!
A few minutes in the gift shops, and exploring an old silver mine shaft, and listening to some Mayan entertainment finally ended our day. We caught the early bus back and made it back to the villa in time to throw some dinner on the table and get the little guy into bed.
I would definitely go back there - mainly to take advantage of a few more of the water sports trips and to perhaps catch the evening shows which are supposed to be pretty spectacular. Despite it's popularity, there weren't huge crowds and the place is well-run and clean.
So now, onto the rest of my life! This weekend, our weather forecasts are saying almost 70 degrees, so perhaps I can stop living my life on a very comfortable poolside lounge and actually be able to go outside here in something less than a down parka. One can only hope. Back to our regularly scheduled blogging - next entry: my child will be 5 years old next week....

Friday, February 27, 2009

A LONG Day in Mexico

Did you know that 38 years ago, there was no Cancun? It was just a tiny fishing village on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, which is actually a very large, very flat coastal lowland. This land was the land of the Mayans. There's quite a bit of history there, so we decided to try and spend part of our trip visiting the ancient Mayan ruins and learning a thing or two about these mysterious people.

The resort we stayed at had a tour agency which booked all kinds of tours, so after talking with them, we decided to pass on the more crowded Chichen Itza ruin which was closer to the hotel district and be a little more adventursome. They had a tour called "Coba and Caves" which visited the Coba ruins - once a thriving Mayan village 18 square kilometers in size. Not only was it huge, but it also had one of the largest excavated temple ruins that you could climb. It also stopped at some caves, one where you could go swimming, so we thought this was a better match for us. It promised to be a long day, but we figured Jonathan could handle it, after all, it was at least 4 hours on the bus back and forth, and he loved the busses. He got to look at the roads and the road signs written in Spanish, and all sorts of neat things like "sideways traffic lights"...ahem. (see future blog post about 4 year olds who are obsessed with all kinds of civil engineering structures...)

ANYWAY. At 7:20 am, a lovely air-conditioned coach bus pulls up in front of our hotel and loaded us up. Along with snacks, towels, camera, binoculars, swimsuits, sunscreen, drinks...in other words, two backpacks jammed to capacity. There were only about 5 other people on the bus and only the three of us got on at our hotel. We thought it would be a really nice trip with only 8 people. Wrong! We proceeded to stop at hotel after hotel and pick up one or two people here and three or four more there, until 2 hours had passed by and the bus was almost full to capacity! And we still weren't at our first destination! Okay, so the Mexicans stick to their own schedule, fine. But we didn't get to Coba until about 11:00 or later. Whew. Long morning on the bus. One nice thing was that our two tour guides were both Mayan, or of direct Mayan descent. They still lived in little Mayan villages, they knew all the history, they even spoke some of the Mayan dialect. We got quite the education along the way, which, happily, was part of why we wanted to go.

Anyway, fast forward - we're finally at Coba, it's a 2km hike through the jungle to get to the temple ruin and it's hot. Jonathan's doing well, so off we go. We stopped at a few lesser ruins along the way to listen to our tour guide, and then we finally made it to the base of the temple. Wow. It was big. And high. But this is what we came for, so up we went. We had no problem getting up there - 121 "steps" to the top - but some of them were more like a "step and a half". Jonathan and I scampered up, or rather, Jonathan scampered and I wondered how we were going to get back down. We finally reached the top - see the photo above, and notice the death grip I had on Jonathan's arm...it was scary! Trust me, you did not want to go tumbling down those steps. We spent a few minutes catching our breath and getting some pictures, then it was time to go back down. I'll spare the details - but thank God they had a rope you could hold onto. You can see it behind me in the second photo - it went all the way down to the ground. THAT'S how I got down, one hand on that, the other hand on Jonathan, taking the steps one at a time on our backsides. Jonathan was fine with it - "let go of my arm, Mommy!" and "Mommy, you're squeezing my arm too tight!" We'll just leave it at that.

Off the temple, then 2km back to the bus in the hottest part of the day - mostly shaded though through the jungle. We dashed back to the bus and arrived with only minutes to spare, hot and sweaty....only to have to wait 20 minutes for the last stragglers - c'mon, if the family with the 4 year old can make it back on time, where were you? Sigh.

Next stop? A Mayan cenote, or sinkhole. Except this sinkhole was in a cave, 60 steps (more steps!) down and about 70 degrees. But wow, was that refreshing. The Mayans say swimming in the cenotes makes you younger. 40 minutes in the water, and I definitely felt younger than I did an hour before! It was very neat - I had my mask and snorkel with me so I got to explore a bit. The waters were crystal clear and along the edges you could see where the cave walls went down and with side chambers - a scuba divers paradise. The guides said that many crystals and precious gems had been found in the formations. I looked, but didn't see anything.

Lunchtime! Finally! It was after 3 by the time we got to the Mayan "restaurant". It was an open-air place, with outdoor furniture for tables and chairs and serapes for tablecloths. They had a buffet-style lunch with authentic Mayan food - don't even know what half of it was, but it was good - a chicken dish, a beef dish and a pork dish, along with tortillas and rice and beans. Fabulous. I think we were all starving.

Back on the road - and our last stop - this time to Aktun Chen cave - a huge cave system with all the fun extras - fruit bats, low-hanging stalactites to crack your head on, more steps, and it's very own wise-cracking guide. They even had a jungle to walk through to get to the mouth of the cave, and the jungle was filled with things like mosquitoes, monkeys and jaguars - luckily we only saw the first two. They also had some "kept" animals - peccaries and deer and some beautiful peacocks.

We finally made it back to the hotel at about 9pm. Jonathan was asleep in my arms when I got off the bus and the in-laws were a little concerned - they expected us around 7. So did the tour agency! But all was well. It was a great day, packed with natural wonders and history, and Jonathan loved every minute, which, in the grand scheme of things, made it worth every penny!










Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Few Pics of Mexico...More Later





For that fun-loving good time in a foreign country, there's always the local tourist-trap restaurant. We found it - or maybe it found us. Pericos in downtown Cancun - translates to "Parrots". They have live entertainment, waitstaff that is constantly entertaining, and after you're done your meal, they drag you off to have your picture taken, see above.
Our particular waiter was fairly charming, always smiling, always fun, that is, until he threw a gigantic plastic cockroach in my lap. Picture this - you're in a restaurant, and all the sudden the crazy woman at the next table over stands up, screaming, throws her napkin and literally runs around the table trying to get away from the ickiest thing ever. Ahem. That would've been me. But it LOOKED real! Plus he had this contraption on a little string, so it was moving and he somehow dragged the string up my arm so it felt like it was running on my arm. Eeeesh. Still gives me willies as I'm writing about it. I guess I could forgive him as he kept bringing us our drinks balanced on his head - even the free round at the end of Pancho Willies? I think that's what they were called. Supposedly with vodka, gin, rum and tequila, but ours were complimentary, so pretty skimpy on the actual alcohol. But tableside (and still on the waiter's head), an assistant lit up a gravy ladle of vodka and poured flaming liquid into each one. FUN TIMES!
And then the picture - we probably wouldn't have bought it except for the cute little "bandito" in the middle....the 4 year old had a blast, and what 4 year old wouldn't have!? Mark, ever the sarcastic one commented that we must've had "TOURIST" stamped across our foreheads, but hey, it made for a pretty fun evening, especially for the kids. The live music was just kicking up when we left, so it was a fun show. One problem, though - the food wasn't all that!! Surprisingly, we kind of expected more authentic food, and I ordered fajitas, thinking I would really get a good, Mexican version of that dish. Sigh. Hate to admit it, I've had much better fajitas at Chevy's Fresh Mex here in the states. Too bad - won't be going there again!!
Anyway - more Mexico pictures later - I'm still trying to sort them out, and really, really disappointed in myself that we never got one of the view of the Caribbean Sea from our balcony! It was so beautiful - such beautiful blue colors! Oh well...next time! :-)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did I Say 5? Make That 6.

That would be emergency room visits. Seems like I just finished that other blog post - you know, the one about Matthew's nose "falling off." Well, fast forward a few days and we come to ER visit number 6.

For those of you more acquainted with our personal lives, you know that we just got back from Cancun. Hmmmm, maybe THAT's why I haven't posted in awhile! Nonetheless, we just got back yesterday from 6 days in Mexico, plus a few more days tacked on either end to get back and forth from the airport, and to drop Matthew off at Grandma and Poppy's house - he didn't go to Mexico with us - call us crazy, but taking this particular 2 1/2 year old on a plane is, trust me, nobody's idea of a good time.

Anyway, dropped Matthew off, then me, Mark and Jonathan headed down to DC to stay overnight in Crystal City by Reagan National Airport, where our flight left at 3:30pm the next day. That particular night happened to be Valentine's Day, so we took the metro, went out for a nice meal, then got Jonathan back to the hotel and we all got a great night's sleep, woke up ready to hit Cancun. Of course, we had a few hours to kill, first.

Did you know that underneath the hotel/airport district in Crystal City is an underground network of malls, hotel access, parking garages, restaurants and metro access? Well, you do now. And underneath the Marriott you can walk for miles and find just about everything you need, without once seeing the light of day. So that day, we went down there to grab some quick lunch for Jonathan (we were still stuffed from breakfast) and to buy some last minute stuff to cram in our carry-ons. Headed back to the hotel lobby to catch the shuttle to the airport and get there in plenty of time...when the unthinkable happened. Jonathan tripped and fell. Hard. On his head.

I'm still not really sure what happened, but he was a few steps ahead of us, doing his usual hop, skip, jump routine, and he must've gotten his feet tangled up. He managed to break his fall a little with his hands, but that didn't prevent his head coming into full contact with the cement floor. Took us a good 5 minutes to get him to stop screaming hysterically. Next, we saw a huge lump on the side of his forehead. Now when I say huge lump, I'm talking huge. Bigger than any lump I've ever seen on any kids' head, my own included. We're talking sticking out a 1/2 inch. Horrible.

Man. What to do? Get on the plane? What if he had a hairline fracture? What if he had any kind of swelling inside? What about hematoma? What if he started seizing or passed out at 40,000 feet? We were beside ourselves. And by now it was about 12:30. We needed to be at the airport SOON.

Long story short -- eventually, with the encouragement of the hotel staff, we called an ambulance to at least get a professional opinion. Unfortunately, the paramedics felt he should go to the hospital so off we went. I rode with Jonathan in the ambulance, while Mark got our car and followed. On the way, I made my appeal to the ambulance guys: please, oh please, is there any way we can make this really, really fast? Bless their hearts, they called ahead and put us in "expedite", and to make a really, really long story even shorter, we were in and out of there in half an hour.

Happily, nobody felt there was any reason why he shouldn't get on a plane, there was no fracture and it was only classed as a minor head injury. By now, though, it was 1:45. I dragged Jonathan through the ER doors, hopped in the car, got LOST on the way back to the hotel, but somehow got righted again, parked the car, threw ourselves into the airport shuttle, and made it through bag check and security with time to spare.

So to the staff at the Marriott Crystal City, the ambulance folks, and the staff at the Arlington Medical Center, thank you. Your hard work and diligence and respect of our time and schedules allowed us to make our plane and enjoy a wonderful vacation, worry-free. And Jonathan is fine - still pretty bruised even 8 days later, but no worse for wear. And if anything, the whole ordeal made me more cautious for the whole trip, which was probably a silver lining. And maybe, just maybe, Mr. Jonathan will learn a lesson or two about hopping around so much!!