Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy Birthday To Me

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. It was nice. Didn't do much, got to sleep in and then read for a little while in the morning. Brendan took Emma and Zoe to Dominick's to pick out some flowers and a card for me. Emma was set on roses and picked out a lovely pink dozen of them. When looking at the cards, she settled on one with a great big pink rose on the front, sure that it was the one I wanted. It was a pretty card, although it was to "Mother" and read, "from both of us." Her intentions were sweet, so how could I not love it?

I made myself an almond cake from a cookbook I received from my mother-in-law for Christmas. I know many people think you shouldn't make your own cake for your birthday, but I actually enjoy it. Twice a year, my birthday and Mother's Day, I make whatever dessert or cake I want. I don't worry if the kids or Brendan will like it or eat it, I simply make what I want to try or have. This cake was simple and delicious. There was no frosting and it didn't need any. What I also loved about this cake is it made a single 9-inch layer, so not a lot of leftovers! Ian and Brendan both liked it, while Emma and Zoe wouldn't try it, opting instead for vanilla ice cream.

I received some cool presents from Brendan, a book called "Whose Bible Is It?", a program to organize all of my recipes on the computer, and some very warm and fleecy pajamas, which I've been wanting since we've turned the heat down this winter to counter the higher gas costs. The kids gave me lots of hugs and kisses and sang me happy birthday and "May the Dear Lord Bless You" sung to the tune of happy birthday. It was a good day.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Just want to say Merry Christmas to everyone today! May your day be filled with good food, good fun, and may you be surrounded by those you love.

Here are two samples of my children's art to celebrate the season. Emma made the tree while Ian created the snowman.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Polar Express

I fell in love with The Polar Express book by Chris Van Allsburg the first time I read it many years ago. Ian's first grade teacher, Miss Bennett, loves the story and movie, and got Ian excited about the story by creating a Polar Express in her classroom. The kids had doughnuts and hot chocolate, received a ticket that they had to have punched by the Conductor (Miss Bennett's Dad), then settled in to listen to the story read by Miss Bennett. Ian came home with a bell around his neck and a true excitement for the story. I suggested we rent the movie to watch tonight and he jumped at the chance. He added lines from the story while watching the movie and was very excited throughout. I loved the movie as well and think we need to get a copy for yearly Christmas viewing. Get the book and the movie, you won't be sorry.

Christmas Concert

Ian's Christmas Concert was on Wednesday and it was great! The kindergarten through third graders all gathered in the school gym to perform Christmas songs for their parents and families. The first graders performed first and sang their three songs loudly and clearly. The third song was about all of the things they are thankful for, and each first grader had a short solo. Ian sang loud enough (without microphones) for the whole audience to hear. It was fun.

The other grades came out and sang their songs, which our girls enjoyed as much as Ian's songs. Finally, the kindergarten came out and did their "Christmas Pageant" program. They sang about the Angel Band dressed as angels and played instruments with the gusto of 5 and 6 year olds. They then moved over to the Nativity scene, complete with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and angel Gabriel. While singing Silent Night, the shepherds and three wise men completed the scene. They ended with Away In A Manger and Zoe became very animated and excited seeing all the kids up on the stage. As I am a sucker for all things adorable, I choked up and realized how amazing and lucky I feel for sending Ian to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Every Christian kid should get a chance to act out the Nativity for Christmas. Those that don't are really missing out. I know how proud Ian was last year to be one of the three wise men. He still points out and gets excited about anything that involves the three kings.

Anyways, it was a great night. It is definitely one of my favorite Christmas experiences so far this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oh My Gosh! I'm Conservative!

Found this on another website and thought it was kind of funny. Brendan and I have had a few discussions about the "War on Christmas" this year. If any of you were not previously aware of my political leanings, this should make it abundantly clear.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'll Give You More Any Day!

While carrying Zoe through the house today I gave her a big kiss on her left cheek. She giggled her big belly giggle then pointed to her right cheek and said, "Moe". I melted into a puddle on the floor then gave her a kiss on her other cheek.

This is why I became a mom.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Reason To Be Happy With What We've Got

Brendan and I have been living in our modest three bedroom one and a half bath home for almost six years now. It is actually our second home, having bought our first house out in Cleveland before moving here to Chicago. I love it, but it is a little small with three kids and a cat. It is also in a terrible school district, prompting us to have to pay for Ian to go to Catholic school. I have watched several of my neighbors, four very close ones in the last two years, move out of our neighborhood and into nicer, newer homes. Hey, we are thinking of looking in the Spring ourselves. But one of the good things about a smaller house with a southern rear exposure is we don't have to run our heat a lot. Our bills are pretty reasonable, although we have turned our thermostat down to 66 at all times and occasionally down to 64 at night with the threat of higher gas bills this year. I sometimes wear three layers (a turtleneck, a sweater, and a sweatshirt over it all) as well as slippers over my socks. But, when the sun is shining, even on a bitterly cold day, our house warms up so much that the heat doesn't run until the sun goes down for the day. This, and the fact that there simply is not a lot of square footage to heat, keeps our gas bill pretty reasonable.

My girlfriend with a new, beautiful home with high ceilings just got her most recent gas bill. It was $465!!!! Our last one was only around $180 or something I think. Not that I'm thrilled with that, but I'll take $180 anyday over $465. I feel bad for her, it sucks to have one bill that high and know we still have at least three more months of temperatures similar to the ones we are having right now. But, I'm happy that for this year, we are still in our little house, with our one and a half bathrooms, and our smaller gas bills.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Why Does Scrooge (McDuck) Hate Christmas?

Ian chose to watch "Mickey's Christmas Carol" for his show while I made dinner tonight. Brendan and I love just about any and all versions of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" so to have him make this choice made me happy. (We have at least three different children's versions of "A Christmas Carol" and hope to eventually get the kids to watch all of them as well as when they are older the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart-our favorite!)

Anyhow, as the story gets going Scrooge, played by Scrooge McDuck, is bah humbugging Christmas. This is where Ian takes the time to inform Emma, his little sister, why Scrooge hates Christmas so much.

Ian - He (Scrooge) hates Christmas.

Emma - Why?

Ian - I think his mom and dad were killed on Christmas Eve.

Emma - Does he like it even a little?

Ian - No.

I'm so glad Emma has someone like Ian to clarify the murky spots in the plot. Never mind that he mixed a little Batman lore into the story.

No Barenaked Holidays For Me

I'm pissed off right now! I went to the official Barenaked Ladies website and found out that the "Barenaked For The Holidays" special was going to air on Bravo today and possibly at a later date as well. I was all excited about it as BNL is my absolute favorite band of all time. I was getting online to blog about it and to give everyone a heads up about when they too could catch this great show. I checked the online listings for Bravo today and saw nothing. I typed in several variations in their search engine and still came up with bupkus. I go over to Bravo Canada's website and lo and behold it is right at the top of the page. Our options for the evening here in Bravo USA are Faith Hill or Elton John. Come on! Not even one lousy hour for the Ladies!?! I know they are Canadian, but they're awesome! E.J. is English but he is still being shown. BNL is singing Christmas music for goodness sakes!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Workin' Together

It snowed again last night/ this morning so Emma, Zoe and I went out to shovel the driveway after dropping Ian off at school. Emma loves using the little orange snow shovel and happily runs up and down the driveway carrying snow from one side all the way to the other to put in some pile she's making. I have to admit that at the start of the snow season I enjoy shovelling, too. It is one chore I actually like and unless it's really bitter cold, don't usually mind doing. It was cold this morning and before I had the driveway done my fingers were feeling cold and painful. I just wanted to get the work done and get inside.

Enter Emma. She comes pushing her shovel next to me, picking up snow and singing, "Working Together, working together" in the most angelic voice you can imagine. Her song warmed me up enough to finish the shovelling this morning.

Eeeewwwww! Yuck!!!

Okay, it's a given parents have to clean up gross stuff a lot. Poop, pee, vomit, spit, chewed up food, boogers and snot. But today when I was mopping the floor I got a lovely little surprise for my cleaning talents. As I cleaned the bathroom floor, I looked up at the wall next to the toilet and saw what appeared to be a poop smear. Not a big one, but a smear of feces nonetheless. I actually don't know for a fact that it is poop. Maybe it is half chewed up Tootsie Roll. Maybe not. My initial reaction (besides disgust) was to sniff it to make sure. Then my rational intelligent half of my brain said, "Don't do it! Don't smell it!" So I didn't smell it. Instead I just cleaned it up with my Antibacterial Clorox Wipes and hope I never see anything like it again!

A Happy "Blue Christmas"?

I borrowed the Fats Domino CD "Christmas Gumbo" from the library today and was listening to it while I mopped the kitchen floor. I like hearing different singers perform Christmas songs and since I don't have any Christmas songs sung by Fats Domino in my collection, thought I'd give this CD a try. It's pretty good, he leaves the songs fairly traditional while adding his own jazzy blues sound. But when I heard "Blue Christmas" I was amused. It was upbeat and snappy, I could almost hear Domino smiling while he sang it. I like it, a new version to enjoy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

So Darn Cute You Could Just Eat Her Up!

This is Zoe, wearing her brother's Viking hat.

Gingerbread Cookies

Since the Christmas baking season was officially opened with the first batch of gingersnaps being made the first weekend of December, my kids have been talking about making gingerbread men. Yesterday Emma helped me mix up some gingerbread cookie dough. We stuck it in the fridge and waited for Ian to come home from school to roll out, cut, bake and decorate the cookies. Ian and Emma took turns with my little gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters, as well as a star cutter and my big gingerbread boy cutter. After cutting out the cookies and depositing them on the cookie sheets, we baked them up and waited for them to cool. After they were completely cooled, I frosted each cookie with vanilla frosting and passed them on to Ian, Emma and Zoe for decorating. I sat an array of colored sugars and Christmas themed sprinkles out and let the kids go to town. They each began shaking and sprinkling their tasty decorations all over the frosted cookies. Ian and Emma both asked if their cookies looked nice while Zoe kept trying to open new sections of her sprinkles can so she could add more sparkle to her cookies. Zoe got both of my variety cans covered in frosting from her cookies and giggled while she licked the frosting off the tops. Fortunately this is the third year or so for those sprinkles, so they were pretty well done anyways. I had to throw both containers away after Zoe's masterful decorating.

It took a lot of patience on my part to not clean up all the sprinkles as they rained onto the floor and not to tell the kids to use less sprinkles on the cookies as they coated every inch of frosting with non-pareils. It bugs the heck out of me when there is a lot of waste of sprinkles or other things like that. But I also know it kills the fun when mom tells the kids to use the sprinkles they've already spread all over the table. When I act like that, what begins as fun ends up as my kids saying they don't want to frost any more cookies. So , I bit my tongue and took satisfaction in the fact that I may have actually learned one thing in my six plus years as a parent. The kids and I had a ball, and the cookies obviously turned out beautiful!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Snow Ice Cream

Besides playing in the snow yesterday, we also made snow ice cream to eat. We waited until Ian got home from school and then set to work making our treat. I made this for the first time last year and followed a simple recipe. This year, I just winged it. And, it came out much tastier this time than I remember it being last year. Here is my simple recipe for snow ice cream. Try it the next time you get a fresh snowfall.
Snow Ice Cream

Fresh snow
half & half

Fill a mixing bowl with fresh snow. Add some sugar and some half & half. Stir. If two snowy and thick, add more half & half. Taste. If not sweet enough, add more sugar. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or to taste). Stir until well incorporated. Eat and enjoy!

Use the milk if you run out of half & half. It will still be good. I used 1% milk when all of my half & Half was gone. I tried this recipe last year with evaporated milk and just regular milk, no half & half. It was okay, but this year's batch was nice and creamy. It will be like soft serve, and you have to eat it all right away. It's a lot of fun to do with the kids on a cold snowy day!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Did You Do Anything Fun Today?

Emma has been talking about playing in the snow since the first few flakes appeared in November. I always assured her that when we got a lot of snow, we would go out and play in it. Well, that's just what we did this morning! Emma and Zoe loved the deep snow, and Emma insisted on pulling her sister in the sled. After some snow angel making, sled riding and pulling, snowball making and hockey playing in the driveway, we finally went inside. All that in less than 30 minutes!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Watch Out Notre Dame!

I'm thinking OSU is a shoe-in for the Fiesta Bowl title. Just a hunch.

Thanks, Mark!

Christmas Kindness

It is so easy to get caught up in the frothy busyness of the Christmas season. I am feeling it more this year than in years past. Tonight I was reminded of the true spirit of Christmas and Christ. My two teenaged neighbor boys, of whom I don't even know their names, and they don't know mine, came and shovelled my driveway. I didn't ask them to. They didn't ask me. They came over, shovelled, and left, without any word. I probably wouldn't have even known they did it except that when I was making dinner I went out into the garage to get some hot dogs from the freezer and heard shovelling sounds. I peeked out my window and there they were, shovelling my driveway and sidewalks. I am so touched by their act of kindness. I am going to try and pass that kindness on to someone else now. Get in the Christmas spirit, do a kindness for someone without thought of thanks. You'll feel so much better about it than running to the mall to get the perfect present.

Humbled By My Kid 2

So Emma, my three year old so full of wisdom, floored me again this afternoon. We were making a nativity art project where Emma was coloring a picture of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. While coloring, she said that crosses were bad. I asked her why she said that. She said crosses were bad because the bad soldiers put the big (adult) Jesus on the cross and he died.

All I can say is, Wow!

Holy Day of Obligation

Today is the Solemnity of Mary, a holy day of obligation for Catholics. I took the girls with me to Our Lady of Good Counsel's mass at 9:00 AM because that was the mass Ian was attending with his school today. I have only attended mass there a few times because we belong to a different parish. As I was waiting for mass to begin with my two girls I waved to Ian who seemed very happy to see me. I also noticed Father Tony setting up an electric guitar. He is an older, balding priest with a strong Polish accent. There was no piano accompinament today, but there was Fr. Tony, with his electric guitar. All the traditional hymns were sung by the students, parishioners and teachers led by Fr. Tony on the electric guitar. Kind of different, but still good. The rest of the mass was fairly simple, students doing the readings and Fr. Russell giving his sermon about Mary. To be quite honest, I didn't get a lot out of it because I had two squirming girls I was trying to keep in line. At the end of mass one of the students announced that the closing song would be "Letter B." Or so I thought. The kids had been given papers with songs on it, I just thought they were lettered and not numbered. Imagine my surprise when strains of the Beatles tune, "Let It Be" came from the electric guitar and mouths of the kids! Very different indeed! I don't know if the students even know the origins of the song, but I sure did. I also know I never got to sing a Beatles song when I left church! It was a memorable service!

Humbled By My Kids

Ian and I had a rough morning yesterday. He is by nature a dawdler who can get lost in his imagination and spend much time there when he should be doing something else. After many bad mornings when he was a kindergartner, I thought I had figured out how to get him moving without having to nag, yell or cajole him. I give him plenty of time to get ready, (the minimum times are: 20 minutes for breakfast, 20 minutes for getting dressed, and 10 minutes for brushing his teeth) and occasionally check up on him without raising my voice or being negative. But yesterday things didn't go as planned. He had at least 30 minutes to get dressed, and despite all of my calm reminders and quick checks on him, he still couldn't get moving. I finally ended up threatening to take away some of his priveleges, and then he got angry with me because I couldn't help him that second to button up his shirt. (I was dressing his two little sisters at the time.) Of course by now I'm aggravated and worried we are going to be late to school. Ian is mad because I'm telling him it is his fault we are late, and things just went downhill from there. He couldn't find his hat and gloves I had laid out for him, he couldn't zip up his jacket, his bag wasn't zipped. On top of all this, I spilled Ian's milk leftover from his cereal when I opened the cupboard and a sugar shaker came out and landed in his bowl. I was in the midst of cleaning that up when I see Ian purposely crush two of the Froot Loops Zoe had spilled all over the floor. Instantly, I'm pissed off. Not only do I have enough to clean up already, but my six year old son who can't seem to get dressed in less than an hour is adding to my mess! Needless to say, I didn't handle it well. I know he didn't do it to make more of a mess for me. I know it is a six year old boy's natural instinct to want to crush something just because he can. But at the time I had had quite enough.

Anyways, fast forward to this morning, which went much better, basically due in my part from deciding not to react to him that way again. I made a chart with the three main things he has to do in the morning. If he does them in the right amount of time and without me having to stand over him, he gets a sticker on the chart. Today he didn't earn one for getting dressed. But he did for eating breakfast and brushing teeth. However, I didn't get upset and neither did he. I didn't take any priveleges away or raise my voice. I did tell him that if he was late to school, he would have to explain to his teacher and to the secretary why he was late, that I would not do it for him. We weren't late, but I have decided that if we are I'm not going to make any excuses for him. I am also not going to get angry. There are worse things than being late. Like yelling at your kid in the morning.

Amazingly, Emma said something very profound to me on the way to taking Ian to school today. We were talking about God and Jesus and when he was born and such. Referencing yesterday morning and my difficulties with Ian, Emma said, "Jesus gave you a very good brain, so you shouldn't be mean to us." So profound, and from the mouth of a three year old!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Loot

Ian and Emma woke up to find that St. Nick had indeed come to our house. He brought Ian five gold chocolate coins and a Star Wars Clone Wars comic digest book. Emma also received five gold chocolate coins and a Barbie Fairytopia comic digest book. Zoe didn't know she was supposed to look in her shoes, but appreciated the six gold chocolate coins that she got when she woke up!

Ian's Not Very Good At Keeping A Secret

Ian came home from school today and was giving me the usual lowdown on how his day went. Then he added that he was making two ornaments at school and that he would be putting them in a bag when he was done making them. He said one was for me, and one was for his Dad. He also stated that he wasn't going to tell me what kind of ornaments they were. I told him that he shouldn't tell me so that it would be a surprise.

Right after I said that to him, Ian says,"It's a gold sticker with three angels and I put Christmas lights around it. We had to do it with yarn."

I stood there staring at him in disbelief. The boy who wasn't going to tell me anything about the ornaments he was making for me just spilled the beans. And not just a detail or two, but the whole project! I smiled and let him go on about how he was going to wait until Brendan and I are asleep on Christmas Eve and then he's going to get up and put the bag with the ornaments under the tree.

I'll be rehearsing a good surprised look between now and Christmas day!

A Lesson On The Circulatory System

While playing in the basement this morning, I came across Ian's old doctor kit toy, and got it out for Emma and Zoe to play with. Emma was absolutely delighted with the discovery and immediately morphed into a doctor with pink Barbie examination gloves and a penchant for giving shots in interesting places. I immediately was her patient, first a baby, then a kitty. She looked at my eyes and ears and took my temperature. She made me take good tasting "juice medicine" and listened to my heart with the stethoscope. Her favorite tool quickly became the blood pressure cuff. She pumped it relentlessly after attaching it to my wrist, checking occasionally to see what number appeared in the display. It was touch and go for a while, anytime the cuff said "64", my hand blew up. After about three explosions, she gave up on the cuff and went back to the stethoscope. She dutifully moved it around on my chest the way her pediatrician has done to her so many times.

Unfortunately, our medical set is not like the old Fisher Price doctor kit that had a working stethoscope. I used that stethoscope often when I was a kid. It was so cool to hear your own heart thumping and beating in your ears. Remembering that excitement, I asked Emma if she would really like to hear my heartbeat. Getting quiet, she put her ear on my chest and listened intently. Suddenly she pulled her head back and had a huge smile on her face. "I heard your heart!" she exclaimed. I asked her what it sounded like. She again put her head on my chest and listened. Again she pulled her head off of me and described a ka-chunk sound. The best part came next. Emma decided that it sounded like there were people inside my heart building my heart. She didn't think the heart could build itself, so there must be people inside building it.

Three year olds have a great view on life!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Set Your Shoes Out Tonight!

Don't forget to leave your shoes out tonight! St. Nicholas is coming and you don't want to miss any of the treats he might leave! Our kids listened to St. Nicholas's story at church this past Sunday and were eager to leave out their shoes tonight. Emma even called me back into her room tonight after going to bed to ask me when the man who would put stuff into their shoes was coming. I told her he wouldn't come until everyone was asleep. It's going to be hard to get Ian or Emma to sleep late tomorrow!

A Visit With Santa

I took the kids to see Santa Claus today. I wasn't sure I was going to do it today or not, so I didn't tell them until just before we went. That meant Emma found out just before picking Ian up from school. She was all atwitter with excitement for seeing Santa. She wondered how long it would take us to get to the North Pole. I explained that it was way too far to go all the way to the North Pole, so Santa came here for a little while so we could see him. She seemed happy with that explanation and couldn't wait until we could get Ian and go see Santa. I told Ian we were going to see Santa when he came out of school and he was very excited. He wondered how Santa travelled here and how long it would take until we saw him. He also wondered if Santa was real, which I told him he better not say to Santa! (He's been bringing this up a lot lately, though never asking us if Santa is real, just contemplating it.) He also said on the way that all he wanted for Christmas was for all of us to have a good Christmas, which I thought was sweet (though probably involves him receiving some specific gifts that we've been hearing about for the last two weeks!)

I took the kids to see Santa at the Phillip's Park Zoo Welcome Center in Aurora. It was great! First of all, there was no one else there. We had Santa and the entire place to ourselves! Second, there's no photographer, you bring your own camera and get your own pictures. Third, it's FREE!!!! Finally, the Santa is very nice.

While Ian ran around looking at all the mastodon fossils located in the Visitor's center, Emma decided to talk to Santa. For all of her excitement about seeing the man in red, she clammed up at the actual meeting. When asked her name she squeaked out an "Emma" and then stood there silent. Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas and all she said was, "A Gameboy." (Her big brother has been filling her head with ideas about princess and Barbie gameboy games and that she can get a Gameboy when she is older - she has never played a Gameboy, though she has watched her brother play his often enough.) Santa asked if there was anything else she wanted, and I prompted her with a few suggestions which she repeated and then she was done. Santa gave her a coloring book and Emma beamed as she left Santa's side.

Ian took his turn next and took no time at all in mentioning his number one gift choice - the DK King of Swing Gameboy game. After that his memory faltered a little and he mentioned how he had a whole list at home. I reminded him of one or two things, after which he recalled two or more things on his own. Santa reminded Ian he could write him a letter with the other ideas. Ian received his coloring book and went back to invesigating the fossils.

Zoe was a bit of a harder sell. She was interested in Santa, but from afar. She was fine sitting on her seat about 15 feet from Santa,and even okay when brought closer in my arms, but once Santa started talking to her, she pulled her sour face and covered her eyes. We asked her if she wanted to sit on Santa's lap, and she gave an emphatic "No!" I tried to get all three kids with Santa, but Zoe would have nothing to do with it.

On our way out Santa reminded the kids to leave cookies and milk for him, and some carrots for his reindeer, because they get hungry, too. It was a lot of fun, and much better than the lines and chaos of the mall. If you have a kid and you live in or near Aurora, it is well worth the time to stop by the Phillips Park Visitors Center and say "hi" to Santa. Who knows, maybe he'll bring you something special, too!

Fiesta Bowl

The Buckeyes are going to drill the little green Irish men of Notre Dame. Mark my words! That's all I'm going to say about that!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Field Trip

Today was Ian's field trip with his first grade class to the Adler Planetarium. Unfortunately when Ian was in kindergarten I was unable to go on any field trips with him. So this year when Brendan offered to take the day off to stay with the girls, I jumped at the chance to go with Ian on his first field trip. We got to the school a little before 8:00 AM and headed in to wait in his classroom with all the other parents and kids. Ian has 16 students in his class. Thirteen parents attended the field trip. We boarded the yellow bus with all students accounted for and headed downtown for our hour long ride. When we got to the planetarium the kids were excited and anxious. Once we stuffed our coats into a locker (it cost $1 for a locker, so we got eight coats into one half locker), and stowed our lunches on a cart for us, we headed into the planetarium.

There were several schools there today, and our first graders were definitely the youngest there. I think the rest of the classes ranged in age from sixth grade through high school. The kids ran around and touched every button they could get their hands on. They spent only a little time at each exhibit, but thoroughly enjoyed the exciting things they were seeing. There was a lifesize replica of a training space capsule that the kids could climb into and get a real feeling for what the astronauts went through. Ian loved the centrifugal "ride" as the kids were calling it, where he and three other classmates got strapped into two boxes that spun around in circles so they could experience a little of the g-force that astronauts experience during space travel. He also enjoyed the Atwood Sphere, which is the oldest planetarium in Chicago. It was built in 1913 and is still available for people to go into. Another exhibit that impressed Ian was the room that appeared to have no floor or ceiling, but just stars. The kids were really hesitant to walk into it, because it appeared that they were walking on air. I actually had a pang of jealousy for the kids, because after a few seconds and gaining my bearings, I could see the mirrored floor and ceiling. After that the magic of walking on "really clean glass" as Ian put it just was kind of lost on me. There was a great 3-D movie that lasted about five minutes (the perfect length for 6 year old boys!) with stars and planets that appeared to come right at you. Another fun exhibit was a crater maker where the kids could push a button that would blow a puff of air out and into what looked like fine moon dust powder.

When it was time to leave, Ian didn't want to go. He loves outings like these, and despite his flitting from one exhibit to another, he really absorbed a lot of information. He wants to go back sometime, which I assured him we would do.

The trip back to school was a little hard on Ian. His best friend wanted to sit with two other little boys in Ian's class. Even though there are still two other boys in Ian's class who didn't have anyone to sit with, he didn't want to sit with them. He sat with me and by the time we got back to school was his old self. It is so hard to watch your child be hurt by things like that, but he has to learn to accept that people can have more than one friend. And his best friend wasn't being mean to him, he simply wanted to sit with some other kids.

After a spelling test, school was dismissed and Ian was invited over to his best friend's house for the afternoon. I let him go, knowing it would help heal the hurt from the bus ride. He had a great afternoon at his friend's house, and a good day all around.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Snow Day!

I know it didn't snow a lot. But it snowed enough for my kids to be excited about it. When we tumbled out the garage door to get into the van to take Ian to school this morning, Ian and Emma couldn't resist walking through the coating of snow on the driveway. Emma talked of building snowmen and making snow angels. Ian noticed how slippery the driveway had become and cautioned me to be careful. After dropping Ian off at Good Counsel, the girls and I headed home. Upon pulling into the driveway Emma asked if we could stay outside and play for a little while. I told her she and Zoe could play outside while I shovelled the driveway, but they had to wear hats and gloves. Emma readily agreed and out into the chilly air we went. Emma insisted on helping me shovel with her little orange child's snow shovel. She wanted to make "a big pile of snow" that she could jump into or sled down. She began piling snow in the middle of the driveway, which I mentioned to her was counterproductive to my shovelling. She decided to move her pile to the grass next to the driveway and proceeded to shovel any snow she could find and carry it to her pile. Zoe mainly played in the garage, getting into the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe or sitting on the "fast bike." As I neared the end of the driveway with my shovel, I looked up to see Zoe standing at the edge of the garage with the only shovel she could find, a sand shovel. I think it was the cutest thing I have ever seen. My heart felt like it was going to burst with the love I felt for her and my other two kids right then.

After finishing the shovelling, Zoe wanted to go on a walk in the stroller. Emma is always up for a walk somewhere, so I got her scooter out and we went down the sidewalk leaving wheel and foot marks in the unshovelled snow. Emma quickly decided it was too difficult to scooter through the snow so we stowed her scooter under the stroller and continued on our way. Emma made snow balls and through them at me and thought she was very funny. When our legs got cold, we turned around and headed for home. At one corner of the sidewalk where the snow had not yet been walked on, Emma decided to make three snow angels. We both decided they were beautiful. We went on home, Emma changed out of her wet clothes, and we settled in for a fun day at home.


Emma's last day of ballet class was on Tuesday. I got to watch her dance and take a few cute pictures. Even though Emma loves the class, I've decided not to sign her up for the Spring session. I would like to, but if she takes the Spring session class there is a recital that I have to buy a $50 dollar costume for, and then, I also have to buy tickets to the recital, too. I heard that the recital is for all of the dance groups taught at the community center, which means it is about a two hour affair, of which my three year old daughter would be on stage all of five to seven minutes. Don't get me wrong, I think the recital would be adorable, and Emma would probably enjoy it. But, she's only three. Doesn't she have plenty of years ahead to do these kinds of things? I just can't see spending about $70 for a recital, plus the $55 the class costs as well. I think nowadays we get our kids into stuff so early that there is nothing exciting left for them to do when they get older. Therefore they are doing things that used to be reserved for teenagers and young adults at younger and younger ages. Only one other mother in the ballet class agreed with me. Many of the other parents tried to get me to change my mind. I have to admit there were times when I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. But $50 for a costume is a lot. She can do the recital thing when she is older if she wants to, but for now we'll take that money and save it for something else

Monday, November 28, 2005

I Know You Are. But What Am I?

Here is the insult my six year old son hurled at his three year old sister this morning.

"You're a bucket full of ugly boogers."


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Annual Christmas Photo

Yesterday we attempted to take our annual Christmas photo of the kids. We dress them up, sit them near the tree, and take as many pictures as possible until chaos reigns. It didn't take long for the craziness to take over this year. With three kids, age six, three and 20 months, getting all of them to look at us with their eyes open and a nice smile on their faces was near impossible. Emma insisted on bringing a stuffed teddy bear into the photos, and pouted when I asked to take just a few pictures without the bear. After about ten or so photos, Zoe went running and giggling into the kitchen, whereupon I sent Brendan to chase her down. No sooner had we sat her down with Ian and Emma did she run off again, laughing at us hysterically. There was going to be no more cooperation this morning! So, we ended the photo shoot and I inspected our meager draw of photos. There were a few decent ones with which I was going to have to be happy with. Here are a few of the rejects. You'll have to wait for your Christmas card to see the one that made the final cut!

Friday, November 25, 2005

I Spy With My Little Eye . . .

Here is Emma looking through one of the favorite toys at Grandpa's house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Three years ago, when I was pregnant with Zoe, Brendan and I went on a weekend getaway to lovely Racine, Wisconsin. It may not sound exciting or fabulous, but it was a great weekend. We stayed at an absolutely amazing bed and breakfast right on Lake Michigan. We had a view of the lake from the window in our room. The food was exceptional and the welcome warm. In my research on Racine, we discovered they are known for a pastry known as Kringle. It is an oval shaped flaky pastry filled with various yummy fillings in flavors like almond, cream cheese, cherry, pecan, raspberry, and various others. After buying one, taking it back to our room and trying it, we were convinced we had to have more! Before we left for home, we stopped at a local bakery called O&H Danish Bakery and picked up three more kringles, two for us and one for my parents who had watched Ian and Emma all weekend.

To make a long story short, last year and this year we've ordered four kringle at Thanksgiving, one for tomorrow, one for Christmas morning, and two for any other time we want. (It costs the same to ship one kringle as it does to ship four, and they freeze amazingly well.) The kids love the stuff, and so do Brendan and I. It is becoming a bit of a tradition as this will be our third Thanksgiving morning to eat kringle.

Here you see Emma and Zoe helping unload the box of kringle after it was delivered. They don't remember it from last year, but I think will be quick converts when they see the white icing on top. Ian was ecstatic when I told him the kringle arrived on Tuesday. He said it best with, "Yay! Kringle!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Funny Conversation of the Day

While laying Emma down for her afternoon nap today I noticed a bad smell.

I said to Emma, "That was a stinky fart."

Her response, "Thank you."

She takes after her father.

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Snack

My new favorite snack are orange flavored dried cranberries. I have the C'raisin kind and they are delicious! They sound weird, but they are great! And if you hate raisins so you think you'd hate these, think again. I can't stand raisins, but these are awesome!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Thanksgiving Recipe

I have never made a turkey, but I do make some mean Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts. Here is a beautifully simple recipe for sweet potatoes. I have gotten many rave reviews and requests for recipes for this dish. Enjoy!

Classic Candied Sweet Potatoes

6 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

Place whole sweet potatoes in a steamer over a couple inches of boiling water and cover. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Peel and slice sweet potatoes lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Place in 9 x 13 inch dish sprayed with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, brown sugar, water and salt. When the sauce is bubbly and sugar is dissolved, pour over potatoes.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, occasionally basting the sweet potatoes with the brown sugar sauce. Serve warm.

I don't always cut the potatoes lengthwise, you can cut them the other way, too. So easy and soooo good!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Friendship and Catholicism

I had two of my good friends and their kids over last Friday. We used to all be neighbors, but Jenni moved to Oswego probably 2 or 3 years ago, and Laura moved to Minooka just this past August. We get along great, but we don't usually delve too far into religious or political issues. We talk about our kids, TV shows, our husbands, our ongoing struggle to lose weight or keep it off, the neighborhood and those kind of things. That is, that's what we usually talk about. Until last Friday.

I don't even know why or how we got onto the topic of religion and the Catholic church, but we did. Among the three of us, I am by far the most faithful when it comes to attending mass, participating in activities of the church and giving to the church. Don't think I'm super devout or anything, I'm not yet. But, compared to Jenni and Laura, I am like a nun.

Anyhow, we began discussing the Catholic church and various things about it. Laura was reminded to sign her first grade daughter up for CCD (religious education) by a neighbor who mentioned that her daughter couldn't come over to play that day because she had CCD. Obviously, Laura is not a practicing Catholic. I have always known that about her. She only signed up for the church here in Aurora so she could get her kids baptized. Now, she wants to make sure her daughter gets in CCD so when she is in second grade, she can make her first communion. She had recently called the Catholic church in Minooka and talked to an old priest about joining the parish. At the end of her conversation he mentioned that someone would be calling her soon to set up a home visit. Now she's nervous that whoever comes is going to be making judgments and asking questions about how much they make and how much they intend to give to the church. She was really bothered by this and said she will give what she can, but since they just moved and have a bigger mortgage, they better not expect her to give a certain amount each week. I asked her why, when she herself feels you don't have to attend church to be "spiritual" or right with God, and since she obviously doesn't attend church even on holidays, she wants to make sure her daughter makes her first communion. Her answer, pressure from her mother.

Switch to my friend Jenni, who does attend mass sporadically, but doesn't see it as especially important. She is married to a divorced Catholic man who did not want to get an annullment, so they couldn't get married in the Catholic church. Of course, she thinks that is wrong. When she moved to Oswego and called the church to register, they asked her many questions, one of which was how much money they make. (A little odd to be sure, but I assume she could decline answering.) She was mad that they asked that, since they would give what they could. "But don't ask me to give to the church when we are struggling to pay our bills!" was something she said to me on Friday. She also thinks priests should be able to get married. I'm not sure why she calls herself Catholic when she so obviously doesn't agree with much of the church's teachings.

What really irked me was that they both were so pissed off that the church would expect them to contribute to the Sunday collection and other costs the church incurred. I didn't have a good response for them on Friday. I can't always come up with a good response in a somewhat pressure filled situation. I did tell them the church doesn't get donations like it used to. People have so many things they think they need or they don't think the church is a good place to put their money, and they give little to no money each week. The church has to pay their bills, too.

As I sat and stewed over our conversation this past weekend, I realized they are being extremely selfish. They want the Catholic church to be there to baptize their children, get them through first communion, and later marry and bury their loved ones, but they don't want to take any responsibility for supporting the church. They want the services, but don't want to have to do anything in return for those services. Ironically, the church would never ask for money from people who truly cannot afford to give. They would still minister to their needs without any thought of return. But, to whom much is given, much is expected. These are not people living in tiny ramshackle houses with little to no ability to pay their bills and buy food to eat. They have multiple TV's in thier newly built houses, nice clothes on their backs, and satellite TV feeds that cost upwards of $80 a month. They are people who go out to eat a few times a week. It is about the choices we make as to whether we can give more to the church each week. It is also about sacrifice, a concept that is often ignored in today's society. They want the church to do whatever they need, but they don't want to return to the church what it needs, namely their time, talent and treasure.

I didn't want this post to sound self-righteous. It is only recently that I started giving more to the church, and initially not by my own volition. But as I become more and more involved in my Catholic church, and learn more about the true teachings and beliefs and why they are held, I am finding I want to give, not just time and talent, but also money.

Sleeping In

Alleluia! Not one of my kids got up before 6:30 AM today! Hooray!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I had a very busy week last week and didn't have a chance to post any recipes. (Didn't have much time to post much of anything for that matter!) Anyways, Our Lady of Good Counsel school had parent-teacher conferences last Thursday. Some of the parents decided we should have a small luncheon for them, since they were going to be there all day. We decided on soup, salad, bread, and cookies for dessert. I volunteered to make the soup and made two big batches of pretty much the only two soups I make. I heard the reviews were positive, and I know I love both of these soups. So, chop, simmer and enjoy a hot bowl full of soup tonight!

Vegetable Beef Soup

1 pound beef boneless chuck, tip or round, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 large stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 cup small pasta shape (like macaroni, ditalini, or alphabet)

Cook and stir beef in oil in 4 quart Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat until brown. Stir in 1 cup water, beef bouillon, salt, marjoram, thyme, seasoned salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until beef is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in 4 cups water, the carrots, celery, onion, potato and tomato sauce. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add pasta shapes, cover and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Yield: 5 servings

This soup is great as a leftover when the pasta shapes get all plump with the broth. Definitely stir after you add the pasta a few times, or it will all stick to the bottom of the pot. If you like other vegetables in your soup, add them!

Soup #2

This is the second soup I made for the teachers. It is a cream soup that is thick and flavorful. It will really warm you up and fill your tummy on a cold day.

Potato - Leek Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 large leeks, well washed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
3/4 cup milk or cream

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan. Turn heat to medium. When oil is hot, add potatoes and leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 2 or 3 minutes.

Boil the water and add bouillon, stirring to combine. Add bouillon water to pan and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Put soup into blender and add milk or cream. Puree until smooth. Reheat. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

This is the soup to make when you don't have a lot of time to make soup! I was told by the luncheon organizer that this soup got lots of raves. If you don't have leeks, you can substitute 3 carrots, peeled and chopped.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm A Winner!

I got a call today from our Market Day coordinator, Jane, and she told me that I won a free pie! November is pie month, and the more pies the school sells, the more money per pie the school can make. I prefer homemade fruit pies, but the cheesecakes and French Silk pies Market Day produces are awesome. So, I put in my internet order for a chocolate silk pie and various other food items, and my name was pulled to get a free pie! I chose the Andes Chocolate Mint Layer Pie. Mmmmmmmm, I can't wait to try it!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Happy Birthdays!

My husband's birthday was this past Sunday, and we had a small celebration to commemmorate the event. He turned 33, and for 54 days, I get to be a whole year younger than him if asked. The kids and I got up early and let him sleep in, then made some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and brought them up to Brendan in bed. The kids get a real kick out of this, and were excited to share the cinnamon rolls with their Dad. After consuming our cinnamony goodness on a plate, we waited until going to my mother-in-law's house for dinner to pass out presents.

Patti, my mom-in-law, made a yummy turkey dinner with my favorite barbecue green beans and hand smashed potatoes, with the beans and potatoes straight from her garden. After dinner Brendan opened his presents and then we had cake. I made his favorite, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I attempted to make a Darth Vader likeness on the top of the cake with mixed success. It looked like Vader, but was pretty simplistic. I might have done a better job if I'd have had more time to create and plan for a Darth Vader cake. The kids added a Batman, Lumiere (from Beauty and the Beast) and plastic balloons from Nana's special cake decorating stash. By the time the candles were added, the cake was quite festive. It was a fun day. I hope Brendan enjoyed it.

Yesterday (Monday) was my mom's birthday. She was out to our place in October when we celebrated her and my Dad's birthdays. I gave her a quick birthday call to see how her day was going. As usual, my parents went all out and my Dad got my Mom a Magic Bullet Blender for her birthday. They're very sentimental, really.

Busy Week

Wow! This is one of those weeks where I just have way to much to do, or at least it seems that way, but instead of getting it done so the stress levels can be reduced, I'm blogging (or watching the last 20 minutes of The Amazing Race and Law and Order S.V.U. at the same time). I didn't even have time to get to K-Mart to get the special toy of the day, Darth Tater, half price only today. Bummer.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On Crying

I have always been an emotional person. I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad, I cry when I'm scared, I cry when I'm mad. You get the picture, right?

Lately, I've been hit with the crying (or at least choking up) bug at really odd times. Is it a getting older thing? I took Ian, my six year old son, to swim lessons last Saturday. I stood peering through the glass at him while he sat on the edge of the pool with the other kids in his class and my eyes filled with tears. He just looked so little among the other kids, and that is not something I'm used to feeling about my oldest child. The funny thing is, he wasn't the smallest kid in his class by a long stretch. And in our house, he's the oldest, the big brother. I often see him with his little sisters, so I think of him as a "big kid." But here he was, nervous and excited about starting a new class, and all I could see was my little boy, still a little boy, not a big boy like I usually think. It struck me right in the heart. My eyes were filled with tears for the big boy I forgot was still little. In the daily grind and the responsiblities of turning our kids into productive and useful citizens, I forgot my boy was just a six year old, vulnerable, funny, loving, sweet.

A similar thing happened to me last week when I was driving from somewhere to somewhere else. I just completely choked up thinking about my husband, about how I don't know what I'd do without him. About how long we've been together and how much our lives have changed. About how I love him so much that my heart actually aches sometimes.

I don't know if this is a getting older thing, just a Heather thing, or maybe God's way of reminding me I am so amazingly blessed. It's probably a little of each.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Coupon Save-O-Rama Mama

I was going to wait until the end of the year to write about my coupon savings plan, but I had an incredible month in October and just had to share the news. I've always been a coupon clipper, but I also was very sporadic about it. Some weeks I'd cut them and remember to bring them to the store, but most weeks I just didn't get to it. In mid-August I decided in earnest that I needed to clip and use coupons regularly. As an incentive to help me keep up with the cutting and organizing, I started writing down in a (Scooby Doo) notebook the exact amount I saved everytime I went to a store and used a coupon. This tactic really helped because as I'd see the amount I saved get bigger and bigger, I wanted to save more and more.

My rule for coupons is that any coupons I had to cut out count, but the coupons stuck to the milk because it is expiring in two days don't count. Those are just bonuses. The same goes for "clipless" coupons, or sale prices on items at stores. They don't count towards my total. I also didn't count my Entertainment Book savings, because although I had to cut those coupons out, I had to pay for the book initially (it was a good investment, I saved at least $38 after re-couping my $20 investment). But anything else, if it came in the mail, a magazine, or in the newspaper was fair game.

My October total of money saved was $76.05! Never did I ever expect to save so much in one month! And I don't use coupons on anything just to use them. I use them on the things I always buy, and occasionally to try something new. I doubt I'll equal this month anytime soon, I saved $16 just at the new CVS, using special grand opening coupons that were only good there. But, people who say coupon cutting isn't worth it aren't shopping at the same places I am. Since August 18 my year to date coupon savings are $134.70. Pretty impressive. I think Brendan, the kids and I are going to do something fun with that money.

Ways To Stay Humble

My six year old son was watching me as I put deodorant on this morning. He patted my pudgy belly and said,"I might think you're having a baby with this belly." Ahhhhhhh, kids.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Recipes

Wow! I have been really bad about adding recipes to the blog lately! I had planned on having an apple recipe for every week of October. I didn't get it done, so I'll add my two other apple recipes now!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons applesauce
1 medium tart apple, peeled and grated

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil, and applesauce. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apple.

Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups two-thirds full. For topping, combine brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in oats and nuts, Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins

This recipe is delicious! If you don't like nuts, omit them. They are good that way, too.

Another Apple Recipe

This is great for game days, as an hors d'oevres, or just a snack!

Apple Brickle Dip

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 package English toffee bits (brickle chips)
3 medium tart apples, cut into chunks or slices

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in toffee bits. Serve with apples. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Yield: 2 cups

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Roundup

Halloween was fun! The kids anticipate it all month long, and it was all Ian and Emma could do to wait until 5:00 when they were going to get to go trick or treating. We started getting kids at 4:00, and Ian and Emma were eager to help pass out candy. Zoe went running in the other direction everytime the doorbell rang. She wanted nothing to do with the costumed people at her door.

After getting a waffle into each kid around 4:45, they suited up. Ian was Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith (must use the complete name!). Emma was Cinderella and Zoe a pumpkin. I took the kids out on our street and by the time we got back to our house, Zoe was saying "Twee Twee" and holding out her bag for treats. It was so cute. Emma repeated "Trick or Treat" over and over again until the person came to the door. It was funny seeing her anticipation and excitement at each house, wondering what she was going to get. When we got back to our house, the kids wanted their Dad to go out with them, so I stayed home and passed out candy to the hundreds of kids (and adults) that came to our house. I estimate we had about 300 trick-or-treaters, a pretty usual year for us.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Emma's Shoes

Emma has a funny way of saying things a lot of times. This morning she was quite proud of the fact that she had put her shoes and socks on herself. Instead of saying she put her shoes on the right feet she said, "I put my feet in the right shoes." Cute!

Getting Dressed

Emma is getting dressed by herself now. She is adamant about doing it herself and actually does quite a good job. It's nice for me, all I have to do is lay out her clothes and she takes care of it herself. Two kids down, one to go!

This morning, she ran upstairs to ask me if she had her pants on the right way. (They're leggings, so she wanted to know if the tag was in the back.) When I checked, the pants were on right, but she had no underwear on! She went downstairs to go put her underwear back on, and the next time she came to check if everything was on right, she had a few more mistakes. This time her underwear was on, but she had one leg through the waist, one through the other leghole, and around her waist was the other leghole! Her pants were on the right way (tag in back) but inside out! She was mad at me for making her take it off and put it all on the right way.

It must be nice to know your waist can fit through the leghole of your undies!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Improving Your Vocabulary

Ian learned about dung beetles at school today. He managed to work the word "dung" into our conversations at home at least 45 times tonight. Knowledge IS power!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Busy Weekend

Wow, we had an incredibly busy weekend this past weekend. My parents came in from Ohio on Friday afternoon for a visit. We had dinner with them on Friday night and the kids ran around and played with them a lot. They call them Grandma and Papa and think they are tons of fun! My mom has always been good with kids, but my dad really came into his own after having grandkids. It is such fun to watch him tickle Zoe or play "bridge" with Ian and Emma. Probably my kids favorite thing is to play "monster" or "Eat me" where they tell my parents they are some form of food, and then my parents chase after them saying they are going to eat them. Ian, Emma and Zoe can never get enough of this.

On Saturday Brendan and I left the kids with my parents so we could go out to dinner and then to his sister and brother-in-law's new condo downtown. They just moved in at the end of September and were having a house warming/ first game of the World Series party. Patrick, the brother-in-law, is a huge White Sox fan, and he's converted his wife into a big fan, too. They have a great place. It's a one bedroom one bath condo with a fireplace and a great patio/ deck. Their kitchen is impressive with stainless steal appliances and what looks like marble countertops. The whole place has hardwood floors, except the bedroom, and they have exposed ceiling and ductwork. The roof of the building is very cool. It has four industrial type grills for anyone's use, some stainless steel prep tables, and several benches and tables and chairs for entertaining or dinner al fresco. The bathroom is a really good size, bigger than our full bath in our house. The only part I wasn't impressed with was the bedroom. It had a decent closet, but it was really tiny and had no door. I could live with the size, but the no door part would bug me, I think. It's really a great place.

The party they had was a lot of fun. Patrick and Elizabeth served two kinds of Pumpkin Ale, and I got mine in a glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. Quite tasty. They have a lot of great friends and family who came out. I have been going to functions with Elizabeth's friends for quite a while now, and they are always so friendly. I'm very comfortable with them, which always makes me look forward to any party Elizabeth and Patrick throw. I like catching up with them and seeing what they are doing. One of her friends even helped get Brendan an interview when he was out of work. They are good people. What I am most amazed about is the different things each of them is doing with their lives. Elizabeth has been friends with a lot of these girls since junior high (maybe earlier) and they are doing incredible things with their lives. Elizabeth is a lawyer. Debbie is a teacher of junior high students, Katie has her masters degree and is an event planner for the city of Naperville, another friend just recently married is now pregnant and due with her first child. It is amazing the variety in their careers, but they are still the best friends. They're very fortunate to have found each other.

After an amazing Sox victory, we headed home late and got into bed. We got up for 9:00 AM mass the next day and after headed out to Sonny Acres for some Fall fun with the kids and my parents. Brendan loves taking the kids to Sonny Acres because his parents took him when he was a kid. There are all kinds of rides like a giant slide, spinning strawberries, kiddie train and truck rides, and pony rides. They have a haunted barn, which Ian thought he wanted to do, but changed his mind at the last minute. Emma loved the giant slide and would have been content to just ride that over and over. It was quite a "mom" moment for me when I asked Emma if she could go by herself, and she said "yes" and then did! She was this little three year old climbing these huge stairs all the way to the top, and then sliding down as fast as possible. She always had a huge smile across her face as she came down. Ian enjoyed the "shooting range" probably the most, while Zoe loved being in the kiddie trucks and driving around and around. After eating a lunch of hamburgers, bratwursts, hot dogs, nachos, Doritos and hot apple cider for the adults, we picked out a pumpkin and went home.

For dinner I tried a new recipe for Stuffed Pork Tenderloin and we celebrated my mom and dad's birthdays. We got my dad a tree limb lopper and my mom these special slippers that she wanted. They both seemed happy with their presents and Ian and Emma were proud of the drawings they made in their cards. They drew a picture of Papa in my dad's card and a picture of Grandma in my mom's card. After dinner we sang happy birthday and had some pumpkin spice cake that I made that afternoon. My parents aren't big cake eaters, but they loved it. We had ice cream with it, which of course the kids loved.

After dinner we settled in to watch the Sox beat the Astros in an awesome game.

My parents left yesterday morning and we are now back into our everyday routine. It was a fun weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Knock Knock Jokes

Emma told me two knock knock jokes this morning. Here they are for your enjoyment.

Joke 1:
Knock Knock

Who's there?


Tissue who?

Wipe it on your nose!

Joke #2:
Knock Knock

Who's there?


Banana who?

Aren't you glad I didn't say toy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Better Than A Gameboy

I gave Ian $5 to spend at his school's book fair yesterday. He picked a good book for his reading level and was very excited about reading it. It was about knights and their fight to be king. He started reading it in school, took it out to read in the van on the way home, and finished reading it while standing in the garage while his sisters played outside. He was very excited about it.

While I was out working bingo last night, he picked it up to read again. This morning after getting ready for school, he took up where he left off last night and again brought it in the van and read it on the way to a doctor's appointment and on the way to school. I made a comment to him that it must be a really good book for him to be reading it twice in two days.

His response was, "I like this book as much as my Gameboy. I like some books even more than my Gameboy."


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bingo Night At OLGC

As a part of our commitment to sending Ian to Our Lady of Good Counsel school, we have to work bingo once a semester. Bingo is every Tuesday, except during Easter or Christmas. It is a great moneymaker for the school, and all of the proceeds from bingo go directly to the school. Without bingo, I don't think many of us could afford to send our kids to a Catholic school.

Bingo brings in an interesting type of person. Many are old, with gray or white hair. The group is predominately female, although you will see a few men here and there. Many are superstitious, at least when it comes to playing bingo.

Tonight I worked bingo with my friend Elizabeth, another mom from school. We try and sign up together to make the night more entertaining. This is our third time working together, and we have a lot of fun. We are constantly amazed at the rituals or good luck charms that many of the players do or have. When you play bingo at our school, you buy a sheet of bingo cards for a certain price. There are 21 games played in all, but you get enough cards for 18 of those games. For the other three games, a mid-bird or "middie" card must be purchased for 50 cents a card. Elizabeth and my first job was to sell the middies before bingo started. (They are called middies because they are played in the middle, after the tenth game and intermission.) Our job was to put the cards into pre-established packs that many people buy. For example, $2 packs of four cards, $3 packs of six cards, $4.50 packs of nine cards, etc. If people wanted a different number, we made that, too, but mainly people pulled from our pre-made stacks. One woman had to have the same color cards (some stacks had orange, some green, some blue) One man wanted 24, all in order from the same stack. Another woman wanted one card, with a certain number in the top right corner, and another certain number in the bottom right corner. She said if she couldn't find it, she'd buy two cards. Elizabeth came through for her and she went away happy with her one card with the right two numbers on it. It was this way most of the night. Weird little rituals and odd utterances.

When the bingo calling actually began, our job changed to floor workers. This entails picking up the used bingo sheets, calling out the bingos to the caller to ensure that they are good bingos, and paying out the money to the bingo winner. It's actually kind of fun, but the players take some getting used to. First, I was asked to go buy a drink for one an get a straw for another. Then, when I was picking up old bingo cards, I almost threw away somebody's middie sheets (they are usually folded over like used cards are). I caught some flack for that. During the game, certain numbers draw sounds from the crowd. Whenever one number was called, two ladies rang a bell. Whenever 74 was called, one woman near the front always shouted out "Big Mama" and if 75 was called, the same woman hollered out "Big Daddy." The regulars were used to it, but a few of the newer players were making comments by the end. When the bingo caller called the numbers too fast, there was a quell of grumbling from the floor. Every third game or so is a special game, often the caller's choice. It was obvious from the first three he called, these were not played often. A lot of questions, a few complaints, and a good amount of grumbling usually ensued after the announcement of one of these special games. I swear the caller called them just to rile the crowd up. He seemed to enjoy it.

By the end of the night, I no longer jumped when the lady called her "Big mamas" or "Big daddys", thinking they were bingos like I did several times early in the night. I was reading the cards like a pro, always going down vertically, starting with the B row and moving to the right (unlike one time when I read the numbers across, causing another player to shout the numbers out for me). I knew that a regular bingo includes a small box (the four spaces diagonally in from the four corners and the free space), and that the telephone pole game can also be called a double T. I enjoyed seeing the different good luck charms like the trolls, lucky daubers, and family photos.

Now Elizabeth and I have plans. We no longer want to just work bingo. We want to come and play bingo and be a part of the joy that is bingo Tuesday. We will bring good luck charms, choose mid-birds in some picky fashion (I want one of every color available), and maybe come up with our own phrase to yell out when B 12 is called. It will be a good time for sure.

Monday, October 17, 2005

It's Hard To Sleep When You've Got A Cold

Zoe has been a good sleeper ever since we brought her home from the hospital. She would never take a pacifier, but once she discovered her thumb, her sleep became amazing. Most nights are great for her. Often, she never even wakes up, and she sleeps later than my other two ever did at this age. I have dreams of sleeping until 7:00 AM (maybe even 7:15) if I could just get Emma to wake up a little later.

Enter the snot monster. The snot monster disrupts everone's life by causing huge amounts of green snot to fly out of Zoe's nose whenever she sneezes. Zoe gets upset and has to have her nose wiped. Ian yells, "Ewww, gross. Mom! Zoe needs her nose wiped." I run to get a tissue and wipe off all the green goo I can see before Zoe starts touching things. It's not pretty.

But the worst thing the snot monster causes (for Zoe at least) is difficulty sleeping. Zoe sucks her thumb when she is going to sleep. Due to her usual good sleeping habits, I assume when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she finds her thumb and that helps her go back to sleep. (I wouldn't actually know, because there is usually no crying, but if there is and it stops before I get up to get her, I don't actually check.) Anyways, with a head full of snot, her thumb sucking sounds more like this: suck, suck, HUH, suck, suck, HUH. The HUH's being where she releases the suction around her thumb so she can actually pull air into her lungs. She can't breathe through her nose, thus sucking her thumb to go to sleep isn't really an option. Now that's where my job as mom and comforter to sick children comes in. I must get up and comfort Zoe, usually two to three times a night. It really cuts into the sleep schedule.

Damn snot monster!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Apple Recipe #2

This is my own recipe. It came about after apple picking last year. I wanted applesauce, but with three kids running around, I didn't want to have to stand over a pot stirring constantly. This recipe is easy and delicious.


16 small to medium sized apples
3 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core and quarter all apples. Place in a 3-1/2 or 4 quart crock pot. Add water. Sprinkle lemon juice over apples. Put lid on crock pot and turn to low.

After 2 hours, stir apples. After 2 more hours, stir again. The apples should begin falling apart at this point. Leave on low in crock pot for 1-2 more hours until apples have reached desired consistency. Add sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm, refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

Yield: approximately 8 cups

I usually don't count my apples, I just peel and cut until my crock pot is full. I also add sugar 1/4 cup at a time until I am happy with the taste. You may want to add more cinnamon, I like to add it on top of my applesauce when I serve it. You can use whatever apples you want, although firmer apples take longer. I use whatever I have on hand. Yesterday I used a combination of Gala, Jonathon, and McIntosh.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Emma Cracks Me Up

I've made the mistake of calling my youngest daughter Zoe a "Little Miss Grouchy Pants" in times of severe screaming and crabbiness. Emma and Ian have taken this to mean that they can call their baby sister this particular term of endearment. It didn't bother me at first, in fact it was kind of cute. It stopped being cute after Emma commandeered the phrase and began using it 22,000 times a day. After repeatedly asking her to stop calling her sister a "Little Miss Grouchy Pants" wasn't working, I began counting her and threatening a time out. It seemed to be working. But this morning the phrase reared its ugly head again. This is how the conversation went.

Zoe screaming.

Emma - "Oh, you're a Little Miss Grouchy Pants today."

Me - "Emma, quit calling your sister that."

Emma - (in a teasing voice) "Little Miss Grouchy Pants!" (in a loud whiny voice now) "My shirt keeps falling down. Get. Me. My. Clothes."

Me - (to Emma) "You're being a Little Miss Grouchy Pants now."

Emma - (indignantly) "I'm not a Little Miss Grouchy Pants! I don't have pants!" (She was wearing a nightgown at the time.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ballerinas Everywhere

Today was visiting day at Emma's ballet class. All the moms came equipped with cameras and camcorders at their side ready to record every moment of the 30 minutes our "precious little angels" would be spinning, twirling, and leaping. I, of course, was no exception. I had Zoe with one hand and the digital camera with the other hand. I also brought along an extra visitor, my father-in-law, Emma's Grandpa. He was the only man in the room, prompting Miss Candi, the teacher to say, "Wave to your moms and dads." Emma was thrilled he was there, and I appreciated that he took time to come see her.

Watching a class of eight 3 year olds dressed in their pink ballerina finest was truly enjoyable. The class impressed me with what was being taught. Miss Candi used the proper ballet terminology and really worked on the steps and positions, all in a very fun and pre-school friendly way. A few of the girls were off in their own little world, occasionally doing what was asked of them when called by name. I couldn't quite tell if those girls were acting different because Mom and Grandma were there to watch them, or if every class is like that for them. Emma seemed to follow most of the moves and listened pretty well. She occasionally got lost when staring at what other girls were doing, but usually was right on the ball when it came to doing what the teacher asked.

Emma was very proud of herself when class was done. She likes her class a lot, even though she says she can't do all the moves. Even though her grand pliers weren't perfect and her leaps far from graceful, I know I was proud of her. I think her Grandpa was, too.

Monday, October 10, 2005

My Wrists Won't Be Cold This Year

If you are a tall woman, shopping can really suck sometimes. Pretty much all stores carry petites and many carry women's (plus) sizes, but only a few carry tall sizes. It is very frustrating. I always said that the best fashion trend that ever happened for me in the 80's was the peg-legging of pants, because mine were never long enough anyways!

I can generally find jeans and khaki pants without a problem. Lee, Dockers, Gloria Vanderbilt, and several other pants makers make tall pants that are readily available at normal priced retailers like Kohl's and JC Penney's. But finding a store that stocks tall shirts or jackets (that aren't outrageously priced) is like finding the Holy Grail. Yes, I know Eddie Bauer sells pretty much everything it stocks in talls, but only the pants (and usually not the cute stuff like cords, etc.) are stocked in the store. That means I have to look at a catalog or online and guess what size to order, then pay shipping and handling costs, and then if it doesn't fit, return it to the store. I'm still out the shipping and handling, though. It can be especially difficult when buying something that comes in medium or large (they don't make small talls in my experience) because I sometimes wear a medium, but usually a large depending on the type of clothing it is.

I recently realized, while taking inventory of my winter coats worn since high school, that I've had to buy one particular kind of coat if I wanted it to fit me. My letter jacket in high school was a boy's jacket, because that's what all the girls who lettered in sports wore. Then, when I went to college I owned a cute plaid coat that had sleeves that could roll up to show a contrasting color. I of course did not roll them up, that way they covered my wrists like coats are supposed to. My green Liz Claiborne coat that I bought when I moved here to Illinois also had the roll up sleeves. When I bought that I went to Burlington Coat Factory and literally spent two hours trying on coats. I think two fit that whole day. Brendan bought me a great leather jacket for my 30th birthday. The sleeves were too short. When we returned it to exchange it for one that fit, my only choices were between two faux fur lined coats that had, you guessed it, sleeves that turned up to reveal the fur.

Right now I'm looking for an affordable winter coat. I love my leather jacket, but I was looking for something casual like a ski type jacket. No luck! I looked at Eddie Bauer, didn't really like what they had, Land's End, whose prices are reasonable, doesn't sell coats for women in tall sizes. JC Penney's didn't offer any ski jackets in talls, although they had some cute wool jackets for talls. I ended up opting for a red wool pea coat from Penney's that I ordered online during a free shipping offer. Again though, I couldn't compare the colors in the store and see which one I liked better wearing. It is very frustrating, to say the least.

On one final note, I also hate that I have to pay extra for tall clothing. Don't get me wrong, I'll pay it so my clothes fit, but it sucks. First of all, since I'm ordering almost everything, my shipping and handling is more than someone else's because that cost is usually calculated by the cost of the items you are ordering, and my items cost more than a regular size. Basically, I'm getting screwed twice. I've always advocated for equal pricing, but not just because I'm cheap. Seriously, think about it. Do petite women get a break on the price of their items because less fabric and thread are being used? No, they pay the same amount as a regular sized item. But a tall woman, because she is getting two or three inches more fabric, pays more. It's not fair. Either make all the prices the same, or give the petite lady a discount.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Apple Recipe #1

We had planned on going apple picking this weekend. I called the orchard we went to last year, but their picking season is over. Called another local orchard, ditto for them. There was a bad frost late in the Spring that hurt their crop this year. So, I bought some Michigan apples at the grocery store and plan on using them for all my traditional fall apple recipes. I plan on putting up a few apple recipes here in the next few weeks, so if you get a chance try one or two.

Sauteed Apples

1/4 cup butter
4 large tart apples - peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch think
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add apples. Cook stirring constantly, until apples are almost tender, about 6-7 minutes.

Dissolve cornstarch in water; add to skillet. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve warm.

These are delicious!!!!!! They make a great side dish, but they are heavenly on top of pancakes. This recipe makes a lot of syrup, so you don't need that maple syrup. I actually have made this with both Granny Smith apples and Golden Delicious apples, and they are both good. Use whatever you prefer. Try it, you won't be sorry.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Overheard Around The Breakfast Table This Morning

After Emma got dressed in a "new" outfit today (it is a hand-me-down from my sister's girls, but Emma has never worn it before) she asked, "Ian, can you look at me?"

Ian responded, "You look like you're ready to go to the little junior block party."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I Did My Part

Today you can go out to eat and the proceeds will go to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Go to the Dine For America website and find a participating restaurant near you.

I took the girls to Caribou Coffee and enjoyed an iced Mint Condition, while they each had an apple juice. After shopping at Kohl's next door, we decided to take a break and since Caribou was a part of the Dine For America campaign, it made a good excuse for me to stop and get a drink. I have never been to a Caribou before, but I must say I am very impressed. The servers were friendly and the place was very clean and bright. I took my time navigating the new menu and ordered a delicious coffee drink. Towards the back of the store was a chalkboard stocked with chalk, small table and chairs, and two stuffed bears that the kids could play on. They even had a few highchairs available for use. Emma had a great time climbing on the bears and told me she was going to ride on one to McDonald's. Zoe enjoyed sorting the chalk from one cup to the other at the little table. It was really nice.

Now, I haven't been to a lot of Starbucks, but I have never seen one with things geared towards children. With so many Starbucks being located in suburban areas, and serving lots of suburban moms, you'd think they would cater more to them. Unfortunately Caribou is not located in a grocery store where I get a free drink after buying seven drinks like Starbucks is, or near me like the other Starbucks in my area is. Caribou's prices are competitive and the drinks are great. I doubt I will drink there often however, because the convenience factor just isn't there.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Zoe Can Hear

I took Zoe, my 18 month old daughter, to have her hearing tested today. Her pediatrician reccommended having her hearing tested after listening to my concerns that she had a small spoken vocabulary and was not saying several of the hard consonant sounds that are often the first sounds a baby makes. I wasn't really convinced Zoe had a hearing problem, and neither was my pediatrician. But, she wanted to rule it out, and frankly, so did I.

So, off to the Dreyer Mercy Medical Campus we went this morning to see if Zoe's ears are hearing everything they are supposed to be. We met the doctor, a nice woman who immediately made me feel at ease. She said to test Zoe's hearing, Zoe and I would go into a boxlike room and sit down in a chair, with Zoe on my lap facing the window where we could see the doctor and she could see us. Then, she would play sounds in the room and she would watch to see if Zoe turned her head towards the sound. It was interesting sitting there with Zoe on my lap hoping she would turn her head each time I heard a sound. The first few times she did exactly what she was supposed to do. Then, she got used to the sound being made by the doctor and seemed to ignore it. The doctor switched her sound by calling Zoe's name and she immediately looked around. She had several more successes and then some very low tones started. She seemed to hear the tones some of the time, but not everytime. My heart just sank as I thought that she wasn't hearing everything she should. Sometimes she turned her head the wrong way, looking for a bunny that lit up and flashed when Zoe would turn her head towards the correct sound. Then I knew that at least she heard the sounds.

When the doctor opened the door to the box, she said Zoe did very well. Zoe is hearing voices right in the normal range for children her age, and she is just below normal for hearing tones for children her age. So, everything is fine.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Fall Recipe

This is a great recipe, simple and delicious. If you haven't had hard shell squash before, this is a great recipe to try it with.

Acorn Squash

1 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon butter
2 - 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Turn acorn squash upside down onto a cookie sheet. Bake in oven until it begins to soften, approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove squash from the oven and turn onto a plate so that hte flesh is facing upwards. Place butter and brown sugar into the squash, and place remaining squash over the other piece. Place squash in a baking dish (so the squash won't slide around too much) while baking.

Place squash back in oven and bake another 30 minutes.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Funny Things My Kids Say

These are a few of the funny things that have come out of my kids' mouths lately.

Emma was playing with her Princess Leappad book (a talking book). She touched Snow White with the pen prompting Snow White to ask, "What's your name?"
Emma aswered, "Emma."
Snow White responded, "Oh, that's a pretty name."
And Emma said, "Yes it is."

While watching the beginning of the movie Sleeping Beauty, where the princess is just a baby, Emma blurted out, "I'm not seeing enough Sleeping Beauty!"

While driving Brendan to the train station today (with all three kids in tow), we passed a vehicle with a magnetic ribbon I had never seen before. It looked spotted, but turned out to be camouflage. I asked Brendan what it said. He answered, "Support Our Troops." Ian, in the back seat heard this, but comprehended it a little differently. His take? "What are Supporter Troops? Are they like Clone Troopers?"

Emma, upon returning from taking Ian from school, took off her own shoes. She then declared, "I want my socks on today because I'm a big girl."

Zoe walked in on Ian after he had used the bathroom, but before he had a chance to pull up his pants. She noticed his penis and pointed to it. Ian tells her loudly, "Don't touch it! Don't touch it! It's my secret weapon for peeing."