Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Yes, It Is. No, It's Snot!

So the whole family has colds this week. Ian started out with it last week, and by the weekend we were all afflicted. Last night the really bad part of the colds started, the coughing. When it's just the congestion and snot part of a cold when you have kids, it's no big deal. Sure, the constant nose picking and lack of nose blowing skills is gross and annoying, but it doesn't interrupt your sleep. I can handle the stealth nose wipes on my clothes, the constant green goo streaming out of the nose, and even the sneeze that ends with a splat of bodily fluids on the floor. But the coughing that comes after the snot has congealed and clogs the nose is the worst. Emma was up at 4:00 AM last night coughing and hacking and it was not letting up. After some sips of water and sitting up had no effect on her coughing, I got her to take some cough medicine. (No easy feat for medicine phobic children like mine!) That took 30 - 40 minutes to kick in. Then, at 5:45 Emma was asking if she could get up. This after being up with Zoe twice between 3:00AM, once because she woke up, and the other because her leg was stuck through a slat in the crib.

Then, today at Emma's nap, when she finally layed down after getting out of bed fourteen thousand times (curse the big girl bed!), she coughed so much she couldn't go to sleep. That's when little sister Zoe woke up from her nap coughing, and we all decided to go downstairs for some chocolate milk.

When I picked Ian up from school, his teacher said he had some bad coughing episodes during the day.

Now Emma is laying asleep in her bed, coughing. Do I wake her up to give her cough medicine which will wear off in 4-6 hours and will cause her to be awake for an hour in the middle of the night after it wears off (not because she's coughing but because it has this weird effect on her)? Or, do I hope she'll stop coughing and then give it to her in the middle of the night when the coughing comes back?

I hate colds.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Zoe Likes Starbucks, Too

I was at Target today and since there was a Starbucks there, I got myself an iced chai. After eating four miniature powdered donuts, Zoe started eyeing my drink with a thirsty grin on her face. I gave it to her, and she drank the rest of it! (At least a quarter of the grande cup!) It could get ugly if she keeps this up!

(I'm posting way too much about Starbucks.)

Ian's Going To Be Mad

I am feeling like a bad, bad mom. I forgot to pack Ian a snack today. His first grade teacher lets the kids have a snack each day in the morning, and I forgot to send one. I kept feeling like I was forgetting something this morning, and I even checked his bag this morning. It wasn't until I was at Target at 10:00 AM that I realized what I had done. I considered trying to go back to school with a snack, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to get there very quickly and I didn't know what time he ate snack anyways. I also figure he has to learn to accept when other people make mistakes and learn how to deal with it. I wish I wouldn't have forgotten, but what does it say when I run back and bring him something that isn't actually critical to his day? I hope he handled it well.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

New Moms and Cleanliness

I love new moms, I really do. I was a new mom six years ago. I totally know what they are going through. But, I now have three kids, and having three kids six and under changes how you do things and how you think about things.

This morning I was sitting behind a new mom and dad in church. They had an adorable little blonde haired daughter, probably around 10 or 11 months old. Everything was normal until I saw the mom take her sippy cup and put it in the diaper bag. She put the cup in a baggy before putting it away! I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe the cup leaked a little and they didn't want it to leak on anything. Then the mom took the little girl to get her diaper changed in the bathroom. When she came back she told her husband that the changing mat needed to be washed. Again I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe some poop got smeared on it. They didn't put the changing mat back in the diaper bag, though, they left it sitting in the pew during the rest of mass. I guess they didn't want to contaminate any of the books or other items in the bag.

Now, if this were me today, the sippy cup gets put in the diaper bag without baggy covering, and the changing mat, if dirty goes in, too, just folded so the mess is on the inside so that its not touching anything in the bag. (By the way, a wipe takes care of yucky stuff like that.)

I was never a complete freak over cleanliness of Ian's things, but I rinsed off a dropped pacifier, or brought an extra one in case it came loose from the tether that attached it to his shirt. Now, my kids eat popsicles off the sidewalk, fruit snacks off the floor at Wal-Mart, and pretty much anything that falls on my kitchen floor. I'm not saying I'm proud of it, and I do have my limits. No food that falls on a (public) bathroom floor, sandy foods are off limits unless rinsed off, and suckers and candy with hair stuck to them don't make the cut. But, sometimes when its the last fruit snack and your kid drops it on the floor at the grocery store, and there is no visible dirt, its just better to take the risk than deal with the horrible tantrum that could accompany such a dilemma. They'll outgrow this stage and realize it is gross to eat food off the floor and the problem will be solved. Kids are pretty durable.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I love Starbucks. What can I say? Their drinks are just so good. I have pretty much always just gotten a mocha. I might try variations on it, say a peppermint mocha, an iced mocha, a mocha light frappuccino, a tall decaf nonfat almond mocha, but pretty much mocha is my drink. I once accidentally received an iced almond soy latte (quite good), instead of a mocha, on a whim I tried the caramel frappuccino, and once I ordered a caramel apple cider, but for the most part I don't stray from the mocha. Well, my best friend, Aimee, always gets an iced chai. I'm not a tea drinker. Just don't like it, too weak. Well, after trying hers several times (as well as the testimonials from my sister Leanne on how great they are) I decided to order one. Now I can't stop! I've ordered four chais in a row! No mochas, only chai. My first was an iced nonfat chai. Followed by two hot nonfat chais, followed up today by the ultimate one, the chai frappuccino. Delicious!!!! I don't know if I can stop. Oh, mocha, maybe someday I'll return to you.

French Fries

We had these for dinner tonight (the plain version) and they were so good. Even my picky kids eat these. They are so much healthier than deep fried french fries, and definitely tastier. I've been making both versions of these for several years, and I love them both ways.

Rosemary and Garlic Oven Fries

1 1/2 lbs. all purpose potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" jelly roll pan or large cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut each unpeeled potato lengthwise in half. Holding each potato half flat side down, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices, then cut each slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide sticks.

Place potato sticks in large bowl, toss with oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Arrange potato sticks in single layer in pan. Roast 30 minutes or until potato sticks are tender and golden, turning potatoes once with wide spatula halfway through roasting time.

Yield: 4 cups - 6 servings

To make plain, eliminate the rosemary and garlic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Karate Ian

Ian took karate over the summer for the first time and really enjoyed it. He was a white belt, as all beginners are. Tonight, he tested for his yellow belt and earned it. He was really proud of himself. He will be taking another karate class this fall to continue his learning. He says he wants to keep going until he is a black belt. I don't know if he'll keep at it that long, but it is a good sport to learn for self defense and self-discipline. It would be valuable for him to develop these skills.

Ms. Bennett

I am really feeling optimistic about Ian's first grade teacher, Ms. Bennett. She seems to really want to partner with the parents in educating our children. She sent home a note today that allows each student to be a "student teacher" for two weeks. They will be responsible for whatever Ms. Bennett asks them to do, including a joke and a Bible quote. At the end of the two weeks, the "student teacher" is allowed to invite a special person into the classroom to read a book to the class. Even better than these encouraging signs, Ian is coming home excited about things that happened in school. He has told me interesting things he has learned about his teacher (her boyfriend is from Ohio, she has to take medicine for some problem with her leg) and is genuinely interested in what is going to happen each day. Finally, I was at the community center today and ran into Ms. Bennett. I didn't see her, she saw me and said, "I thought it was you. I saw you from down the hall and thought I saw you wearing that today at school." She didn't have to go out of her way to say hi to me, she could have gone about her day and I wouldn't have even known she was there. I have a really good feeling about this year.

Emma's A Big Girl

Emma had her three year well child exam at the pediatrician's office today. She measured just under 40 inches, which is somewhere in the 90th percentile for height, and she weighed 36 pounds, which is the 91st percentile for weight. That means she is bigger than 90% of all three year old girls and heavier than 91% of all three year old girls. The pediatrician said that it was okay that Emma was drinking one glass of chocolate milk a day as long as she was getting two other servings of calcium a day. (She stopped drinking regular milk after we took her bottles away on August 12.) She is healthy and doing great.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The First Day Of The First Grade

Ian started first grade today. Sometimes I'm still amazed that I have a kid in first grade! Ian slept in until 6:45 this morning and when he got up he didn't seem thrilled with the idea of going to school. But, after some breakfast and a little pep talk, he got ready and we left at 8:00 AM to get to school. I took two pictures of him outside our house and then we were on our way.

The public schools in our district were starting today, too, so there were a lot of people on the roads. On the way to Ian's school, Our Lady of Good Counsel, is East Aurora High School, as well as the roads to two elementary schools in the district. I knew the parking lot at Good Counsel would be crazy, so I wanted to get there in good time. As we were nearing the road we turn onto to get to school, I saw a bus with its flashing lights going. Our district has no busing except for handicapped students, so I knew this was going to be longer than most stops. Wanting to get Ian to school without having to rush him, I turned down an earlier street so we wouldn't have to wait for the bus. When I got back to the next road, I turned left thinking I could take the road behind the school. Much to my horror the road was closed due to construction. So, I turn back the other direction and get stuck behind a digger truck going very slow. I was getting a bit agitated at this point. As soon as we get to the street we can turn on to get to the school I gun it. I can see the lot is overflowing, so I pull over to a side street and proceed to unload the kids. Emma and Ian got out on the sidewalk side, while I grabbed Zoe. I walk around the van to see Emma perched precariously at the edge of the road, just on the sidewalk. I tell her not to go, and she steps into the street in front of an oncoming van. (It was a little ways away, but too close for my comfort!) I yell at her to get back on the sidewalk when the driver waves us across and we get to the parking lot. Ian is now lagging behind, feeling the nerves that are twisting in his stomach. We rush through the lot and try to find his class. The sun is blinding, and Ian who wears glasses and has sensitive eyes is complaining he can't see a thing. We locate his line, and as I guide him to the line with a hand on his back, I can feel him pushing against me. I finally get him in line and join the other moms watching their little ones go to school. We all agree the summer went fast, but we're all fairly happy to see school start again. Ian's line is the first to enter the building, and Ian either doesn't notice them going in (not uncommon for him) or doesn't want to go. Another first grader's mom, whose child is crying and happens to be in line behind Ian, is telling him to go in, and ends up nudging him to get him to go. This is not exactly how I wanted our morning to go.

After a quick visit with Sister Maryann, Emma's nun friend from school, we head back home. At 11:30 we pick Ian up (just a half day today) and he is in great spirits. He gave Emma a hug and told me his first day went great and that he was starving. He mentioned that his teacher, Ms. Bennett, is really nice and there are two new students in his class. He said there are only sixteen students and this is the smallest class his teacher has ever had. He is excited, and I am too. I have heard nothing but great things about Ms. Bennett, and her letter home today about the class is very encouraging. Ian is looking forward to a great year, and so am I.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sorting Laundry

When you are getting your laundry sorted from the hamper upstairs, and your three year old is yelling at you up the stairs saying her 17 month old sister has something she shouldn't, listen to the three year old.

By the time I finished sorting and got down the stairs to check out what Zoe had, the Nestle Quik powder was spread over a large area of the futon and both girls were licking their fingers and sticking them into the chocolate powder. That brush attachment on my vacuum works really well.

The Trip To Ohio

Well, we made it safely back to Illinois yesterday. Our whirlwind trip to Findlay, Ohio was fun and eventful! We left Friday at 7:00 PM and naive little me thought we would be missing the dreaded Chicago traffic. I was wrong. We were going 12 miles an hour along the highway trying to get to the turnpike in Indiana. I was cursing Chicago and it's horrid traffic while Emma watched Tom and Jerry on the TV/VCR unit we put in the van for long trips and Zoe "fed" her baby doll a bottle. Brendan was driving so I was on entertainment detail. Luckily, the girls weren't tired of being in the van yet, so the slow moving traffic didn't bother them too much.

We finally made it out of Illinois and onto the turnpike and Brendan decided to make up for the slow moving traffic. He got up to 80 m.p.h., cruising speed, and off we went through the uneventful terrain of Indiana. We decided to stop at about 9:20 to give the girls a last chance at stretching their legs and hoping they would be ready to fall asleep upon re-entry into the van. We left at 9:45, and being that it was more than an hour past their bedtime, fell asleep quickly. Brendan again accelerates to cruising speed and I attach my i-pod mini to my ears and set the music to shuffle. I doze on and off until I feel us slowing down and stopping. I thought we must be at the tollway at the end of Indiana, but I couldn't see any tollbooths. What I did see however were some flashing red and blue lights. Brendan got pulled over for speeding on the Indiana turnpike. Now, most people from Ohio and Illinois know that there are NEVER andy cops on the Indiana Turnpike. Occasionally during the holidays, but never any other time. Until August 19, at midnight, when we were pulled over. The patrolman was very nice, asked the standard, "Do you now how fast you were going back there?" Brendan answered honestly and the patrolman asked for his license and registration. He took it back to his patrol car to check Brendan out. While the officer was making sure Brendan wasn't a kidnapper or car thief, Emma asked us why the policeman stopped Daddy. We explained to her twice that Daddy was driving faster than he was supposed to go. She told Brendan that he should "go slower so the other cars can go faster." The officer came back and only gave us a warning and asked us to try to keep it under 80. We did.

We arrived at my parents' house at about 2:00 AM (EST) and the girls went straight to bed, and so did we. I was fortunate enough to have to sleep with Zoe, who stys essentially in one place and doesn't get up at the crack of dawn. Brendan got to spend the night with Emma, which usually includes several kicks, a few cries, and wanting to get up at 5:45. He is a saint!

We got up and greeted the nieces and nephews and Ian. Emma, being the only new cousin to arrive and be awake, was rushed off by several of the girl cousins to go play. I barely saw her the rest of the day! Ian was happy to see us and had a great time with his seven cousins and Grandma and Papa. He spent the most time with Colin, his five year old cousin, during the week. They both had the same eye surgery when they were little, both wear glasses, and both get along like two peas in a pod.

After lunch my brother Kevin, his wife Margaret, and their two year old Nathan arrived. Then came my sister Leanne and her husband Mike. Finally, my oldest brother Mark cae with his wife Leanne. We brought a pinata (or pinasta as Emma calls it) filled with candy and the kids had a ball hitting it. It was shaped like an ice cream cone and the kids got several turns to whack it. The first stick used was a plastic golf club, which broke. A second plastic golf club was employed, but finally the pinata was broken using a wooden stick. It was fun to watch the various methods. Some did the classic baseball swing while others used the up and down hack method. My brother-in-law Mike and my brother Kevin discussed which method was better using engineering and scientific terms. The kids just grabbed as much candy as they could and gobbled it up.

After the pinata was the celebrating of the August birthdays and the Talent Show. Samantha (age 5) did a great toss and catch with some horseshoes and Madelyn (age 6) played a beautiful tune on the handbells. Colin (age 5) pretended to be a cowboy riding a horse (his Dad, Kevin) and Ian did some kind of silly dance holding up his wooden gun he had bought earlier in the week. The grand finale was a Karaoke event featuring the two oldest grandkids, Rose and Hannah (both age 9). They teamed up to sing "Summer Nights" from the movie Grease. Rose sang John Travolta's part while Hannah took Olivia Newton John's half. It was really fun to watch. My brother Mark decided to end the Talent Show with a song of his own. He sang a song from The Jungle Book, the one about wanting to be a human like the man cub. It was cute because several of the nieces and nephews started to dance around him in a circle like they were monkeys.

After sharing dinner and some more time together, all the other families went home. We were spending the night and leaving on Sunday morning, so we realaxed, gave the kids baths, and went to bed. (My parents went to bed right after we took our kids upstairs - they were exhausted from the week.) We got up on Sunday, packed up all our stuff and headed home around 10:00 AM. We didn't get pulled over in Indiana this time, but I drove the second leg and we stuck to about 75 m.p.h. The kids were doing great so we decided to just keep going until they got crabby. Consequently I was at the wheel when we got off the turnpike and saw traffic backed up otno the entrance ramp of the highway we usually take. I again cursed Chicago traffic and Brendan directed me to go another way. We ended up on the skyway, which can be kind of scary to drive way up high like that. Then at some point Emma had to go to he bathroom. We got off at Cass Avenue and pulled into a Shell station for the potty break. We realized we were a hop, skip, and a jump from Brendan's aunt Kathy's and headed out that way for a cookout celebrating Brendan's grandparents 63rd (63!!!!) anniversary and his Grandpa's birthday. As usual, Kathy and Mary had an amazing spread of delicious food, and Mary even catered to our children making them grilled cheese and serving it with applesauce. That was so nice. Anyways, we left after 8:30 (our kids' usual bedtime) and got home after 9:00. We got the kids to bed and unloaded the van, then not much later, went to sleep.

It was a good weekend.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Going To Ohio

We're leaving tonight to go to my parents in Findlay, Ohio for a family get together and to pick up Ian from his week at "Grandma and Papa Camp." Should be fun to see everyone and see how Ian enjoyed his week off. Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post next week. Have a great weekend!

Recipe Number 3

We had this casserole for dinner tonight. It is easy to make and really good. It is one of Brendan's favorites, and I got this recipe from his mom, Patti, shortly after we got married. It makes a lot, which is great if you have a lot to feed, or enjoy leftovers.

Hungry Jack Casserole

2 lbs. ground beef
2 cans pork and beans (15.75 oz size)
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons instant minced onion
2 cans Golden Layers Flaky biscuits (9.5 oz. size) or any rolled biscuit
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brown ground beef and drain. Stir in the next four ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Separate biscuits in half horizontally. Place evenly on top of beef mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

This recipe is called Hungry Jack Casserole because the Pillsbury biscuits it used had been called Hungry Jack Biscuits. The biscuits made by Pillsbury are still the same, but have been renamed. This recipe is very easy to cut in half. That is how I usually make it and instead of the 9 x 13 pan, I use an 11 x 7 pan. I usually have two biscuits leftover that I just bake on a cookie sheet while the casserole is cooking.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

So That's Why

Emma is getting over some weird virus that had her chest, face and back covered with a weird rash and had the skin on her fingers and toes peeling. After two visits to the doctor and two strep cultures (one of which has not been completed yet), the doctor either thinks it is a strep infection or some strange little virus that mimics strep infection symptoms. We are waiting for a call from the doctor to let us know whether it is strep or not. She got the rash two weeks ago and then the peeling skin started this week. She has no fever and she is acting normally. The throat culture came back negative, but we are waiting for the other strep culture done rectally. (I didn't realize that you could get strep there!) When the doctor looked over Emma, she didn't think it looked exactly like strep, but did the rectal culture just to be sure. She said if the culture is negative, it's just some virus running it's course and that we don't need to worry about it.

By now you are all wondering where this is going? Emma has always been the one in the family to get the strange illnesses. Last year she had hand, foot and mouth disease, which is a nasty virus that causes serious sores in the mouth, as well as on the hands and feet. Emma didn't eat for three days, and then ate very little for several more days. We dosed her regularly with Motrin and Tylenol, but it did little to help the mouth pain. When she gets normal things, like a cold, she'll often vomit. She is a puker, unfortunately. When we all got the flu around New Years this past year, she puked for two days, while the rest of us only threw up for one day.

She just gets a little sicker than the rest of us, and today I think I found out why. As we were leaving Wal-Mart (yes, Brendan hates it, but I like the good prices) I let the girls each ride one of those 50 cent rides. Emma chose a horse and when it was time to leave she kissed the horse goodbye. That's when it dawned on me. Thousands of grubby little hands, faces, bodies touching the fun little horsie ride, and Emma has to kiss it goodye. Yuck!

Correction: I guess I wasn't thinking, because obviously you can get strep rectally - as in the B Strep virus that pregnant women (or any woman) can have.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What Are You Doing Labor Day Weekend?

I just found out about the 3-Day Novel Contest in which you write a novel over three days (September 3- 5, 2005) and if you win, it will be published. I am not interested in writing a novel, however, Brendan, my husband, is. Having three kids, all age six and under, with a full time job and long commute makes free time to write kind of difficult to come by. This seems like the quick and dirty way to finally get committed and just do it. So, what do you say, Honey? Want to hole up in a hotel somewhere and give it a try?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tea Party

I talked to my mom yesterday to check and see how Ian was doing without his bunny. When I called, she and the eight grandchildren in attendance were having a tea party. She said they made cookies and were now having Snapple tea and cookies. When I mentioned this to my husband in front of our three year old daughter, Emma, she expressed her desire to have a tea party. I told her we could have one today, and that is exactly what we did.

We first prepared by making some sugar cookies from a mix. Emma cracked the egg all by herself and poured the melted butter into the bowl. She then stirred up the ingredients with a spoon and explained to me that when one of her arms got tired, she switched to the other arm. When she was done stirring, I finished up and we moved to rolling dough, dipping it in colored sugar, and placing it on the cookie sheets. My cookies were circular in shape, and fairly uniform in size. Emma's more unique cookies were long and thin, sometimes straight or sometimes wiggly. I chose green sugar to dip mine in, hers were mostly pink. Towards the end we both got adventurous and had two-toned cookies.

While the cookies were baking, Emma chose a Kool-Aid flavor (lemonade) and we mixed it up (with her pouring in the Kool-Aid and the sugar and stirring, of course.) During this time, Emma's 17 month old sister, Zoe, woke up. We got her up and waited for the cookies to be done and then cool. Now the fun could begin!

I carried our card table upstairs, took it outside to the backyard and put it under our tent. Emma helped me carry out the supplies for our tea party and we were set. We enjoyed lemonade and cookies in the shade and had a lot of fun. Emma was impressed that we used "glass" (Corelle) mugs and demonstrated for me how she could drink it using only one hand. Emma and Zoe both sat like little ladies for at least ten minutes while we drank and talked about what fun tea parties are.

I think we will definitely have to do this again.

Cooking Tips

As I was making cookies this afternoon with my three year old daughter, Emma, I thought about the things I do to make cooking with her enjoyable for both of us. I absolutely love to cook and bake, and I want my children to experience the joy of creating delicious and healthy food to eat. I have baked with my children often, usually cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins, homemade ice cream, and several other desserts. It has taken me a long time and several rough cooking episodes for me to be get comfortable with letting them do the stuff they do when we bake. For example, I hate wasting specialty ingredients, like colored sugars or sprinkles. I would rather pour out too little, than too much. You can always add more, but you can't take away! (Okay, you can pour it back into the container, but this isn't always easy, and if you've introduced other ingredients to the sugar/ sprinkles, you have to throw out the excess when the cooking session is complete.) Unfortunately, my son took the brunt of my complaining about pouring too much sugar on sugar cookies we made a few times. He didn't have the skills to be as exact as I was, and I didn't have the understanding and patience to realize this. But, I have a solution to this problem that works for me, and now I don't suck the fun out of our cooking adventures anymore.

Here are my Seven Tips For Cooking With A Three Year Old

1. Wash everyone's hands just before starting to make a recipe. You can never be sure where your kids hands have been.

2. Use the biggest bowl you have in your house for mixing, even if you are only making a muffin mix that makes six muffins. Little kids' ability for stirring and mixing is not controlled and can result in ingredients going everywhere. A big bowl contains the ingredients better and deters much of the spillover.

3. If you allow your child to crack an egg, let them do it in a separate bowl from the one you are putting the rest of the ingredients in. I couldn't stand watching egg shell go everywhere and trying to dig it out of my batter. This way you can see if there is any egg shell in the bowl, fish it out, and then let your kid pour it into the big batter bowl. (Also, you may want to have a few extra eggs on hand if this is your child's first few attempts at egg cracking - we lost several down the sink due to overzealous egg cracking.)

4. Making cookies and other recipes from scratch is great, but a mix speeds things up and is still great fun.

5. Buy decorations and colored sugars in bulk. If you are anything like me, you won't want to waste these items when they come in the tiny little bottles. But when I buy them in large quantities, I don't worry about the waste. I bought green, pink, and red colored sugars from Gordon Food Service in a one pound size. I probably spent about the same amount on these that I would have on two of the smaller bottles.

6. If a recipe calls for taking a teaspoonful and rolling it into a ball, spoon it out yourself and give it to the child to roll. This only applies if you want the cookies to be relatively uniform for cooking time. If you don't mind various sizes, then let your kid go at it themselves! (I find this is only necessary when your child is young, as they get a little older they can be shown the right size and do it themselves.) Also, just because a recipe calls for the cookie shape to be round, doen't mean it has to be. Emma usually ends up with something the shape of a hot dog. We just put it on the cookie sheet and cook it that way - it always comes out yummy.

7. Always take lots of pictures. Either during the making, or of the final result, or both. I have some great ones of my kids mixing, sampling, and proudly displaying their tasty treats.

I hope these tips are handy for all of you contemplating cooking with your kids. It is completely worth it. They get so excited to crack an egg, measure and pour an ingredient into the bowl, mixing with a spoon or even the hand mixer, and carrying the cookie trays to the oven for you to put in. My kids get such a kick out of seeing and tasting their creations. They also love showing it off for their dad when he gets home from work. They always insist on him eating one right away. Get cooking and get ready for some fun!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Mmmmmmmmm. Cake!

The two birthday cakes I made for Ian's and Emma's birthday have been published at This is a website that publishes pictures and the methods to make a homemade birthday cake in various themes. The only requirement is that you make and decorate the cake yourself. You can check out my two cakes by clicking on these links:

Ian's Power Ranger Cake

Emma's Good Luck Care Bear Cake

Take a look around, maybe you'll find some inspiration for your next birthday cake!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Uh Oh!

Ian, age six, left this morning for a week with my parents and seven of his cousins for Grandma & Papa camp. This is his second year of attendance and he has been looking forward to it all summer. We just found his bunny, the special stuffed animal he sleeps with every night. (He has only been without her (yes, it is a her) for five days when we were on vacation in Florida when he was 3 1/2.) This is not good.

This Stuff Tastes Like Swill

Emma, our recently turned three year old, had been drinking her milk out of bottles since I weaned her from breastfeeding at the age of 11 months. She used sippy cups and regular cups for other drinks, but white (plain) milk had to come out of the nipple of a bottle. I am the type of person who never expected to let any of her kids drink out a bottle past age one. But, as other ideas and principles change after you have your own kids, I allowed Emma to keep drinking milk out of the bottles after she was one.

At about 17 months we attempted to take the bottles away, but it was a hellish experience. Emma completely stopped drinking milk for the time we took the bottles away (about three days, I think) and was extremely whiny. I was seven months pregnant with Zoe and just felt a lot of anxiety over doing this, so I gave in and gave Emma the bottles back. We did scale back the amount she drank and number of times she could have the bottle, in hopes of making the eventual transition easier and because she ate more food when she wasn't drinking so much milk.

Well, as the months passed and her third birthday was approaching, my husband, Brendan, told her that when she turned three she couldn't use the bottles anymore. Her third birthday was on Friday, and she has not had a bottle of milk since. When Brendan left for work on Friday, he took the bottles with him. We told Emma that he was giving them to some babies who needed them. When he left I asked Emma if she wanted to say goodbye to her bottles. She said, "Goodye bottles. Goodbye bottles. Goodbye sweet bottles." She also has only had one sip of plain milk since that day. She has special princess sippy sups that we told her she could use when she stopped using her bottles. She eagerly anticipated getting to use the special cup, but she took one sip and made a face that said, "this stuff tastes like swill." Since then, no amount of offering, coaxing, suggesting she try the milk in a regular cup or through a straw has worked. She gets one cup of juice when she wakes up in the morning and we told her if she wants any more juice throughout the day she has to drink some white milk. She refuses and drinks water instead. After her nap she drinks a large cup of chocolate milk through a straw, but no white milk.

This could be difficult.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Happy 3rd Birthday, Emma!

You are such a joyful little girl. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. You approach life with a positive attitude and an excitement unmatched by anyone. I love how you move over and snuggle under my arm when I sit down on the couch with you. I love how you use "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo" to make a decision, but don't really use it and instead just choose whatever you wanted to originally. I love how you say the "Eeeny Meeny Miney Mo" rhyme, saying, "eeny meeny mo, catch a tiger mo." You often think of others, especially your big brother Ian, and make sure that they get or know about whatever wonderful thing you are experiencing. You love pretending to be a ballerina or a princess, and you are the best little mommy to your baby dolls. Your seem to never tire of riding your fast bike, except when you have a handful of dandelions that you've picked for me on the way and you don't want to crush them. You gave up drinking milk out of your bottles like a little trooper, complaining very little. You tell funny jokes (my favorite being this: Knock Knock. Who's There? Apple (or any object). Apple Who? Apple in your underpants!) You love to help your little sister, but you know how to aggravate and antagonize her, too. You are sweeteness personified, and despite your terrible toddler status, your loving heart shines through. I love you!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What's So Funny?

I have been thinking about a question a lot over the last few days. Can you have a good sense of humor but not be a funny person? You often hear a person described as having a great sense of humor, which usually means they can make other people laugh by means of conversation or interactions with them. But, is having a good sense of humor equivalent with being able to make others laugh? Or, can a person find the humor in situations and other people without being able to translate that into laughs for others? I think that a person can have a good sense of humor if they see the humor, but can't necessarily convey it to others. After all, there are a lot of people who can laugh at themselves and not get upset by humorous or embarrassing situations, but can't tell a funny story to save their life. I think that decribes me. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I know I'm not a funny person. I think being funny and having a good sense of humor go together, but are not one in the same.

Who's Raising A Brat?

I went to the library on Monday with the kids and happened to pass by the parenting bookshelf (conveniently located next to the children's area in our library) when a title caught my eye. I picked up the book and looked it over quickly. It looked like a helpful and good read, so I decided to check it out. The book was called I Refuse To Raise A Brat. Aaaaah, you can see where this is going, can't you?

Before I review the book I have to say that checking out parenting books at the library can be intimidating. How can you check out a book with a title like the one above and not assume the librarian (or anyone else who sees you carrying the book) is thinking that this lady doesn't know how to parent her kids and no book is going to help? It also didn't help that my two older kids are climbing the library steps (strictly forbidden without a parent on the steps with them) as I'm trying to check out the book. By the way, whose bright idea was it to put the enticing set of stairs right by the checkout desk, where waiting in line is a given? Anyways, humiliation aside, I checked out the book and I am very glad I did.

I Refuse To Raise A Brat by Marilu Henner and Dr. Ruth Sharon was indeed a good read and very helpful. I have read several books and magazine articles on parenting, and this is one of the better ones that I've read. The book is broken up into easy to read chapters on several parenting issues such as a baby's need to develop independence, handling tantrums or bedtime, discipline and sibling rivalry, to name just a few. Marilu Henner introduces each chapter with examples and experiences from her own life, either when she was a child or now as a mother. Then Dr. Ruth Sharon follows up with her ideas on the topic. After this comes a series of real life questions about the chapter topic with answers given by both Dr. Sharon and Ms. Henner. Finally each chapter ends with a section called "When Little Brats Become Big Brats" that details the consequences of behavior that is not extinguished during childhood but carried into adulthood.

What I noticed immediately was that this book starts with your baby's birth. Most discipline books don't say anything about children younger than a toddler, and usually the methods they suggest are for older children. I found this book gives great advice for a parent of a child of any age, although it may not be useful for a parent of a teenager. It really focuses on younger children, which is great for someone like me.

The main idea of this book is that children who are overindulged and overgratified are being done a terrible disservice and will suffer for it in the long run. Overindulgence and overgratification can take the form of buying a child too many things, not disciplining him or her, shielding him or her from sad or disappointing feelings, over praising, or even doing things for him or her that he or she could be doing for him/herself. They feel a child who is overindulged will not develop the independence, self-discipline, self awareness, and ability to cope with the experiences life will be handing them. Interestingly enough, Dr. Sharon states that children who were seriously overindulged and overgratified will not think of their parents as loving, but quite to the contrary, they will remember their childhood as difficult and not much fun. These children also tend to blame their parents for the bad turns their life has taken as adults.

The practical and real life questions really showed how parents overindulge their children on a regular basis and how we can stop doing these things. I immediately saw some of the practices in the book in my parenting and have already begun to change how I react to given situations. I have seen positive results already. If that weren't enough of an endorsement, here's even more. Because I am parenting with a plan in mind for how to deal with situations, I am no longer feeling bad about how I handle a situation. Just today I had to take a favorite toy away from my six year old son because he was complaining about it relentlessly. I told him that if he said one more negative thing about the toy, I would take it away from him for the rest of the day. Well, he said another negative thing, and I pocketed the toy. That sent him into a tantrum that resulted in a time out up in his room. In the past this would have probably ended up with me yelling at him, along with the time out. Today, no yelling. When I yell, I feel so guilty about it. Not the disciplining, just the yelling. Today, I felt great, because it is my job to discipline, I'm the parent after all. But without the yelling, there was no guilt. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there will still be days with yelling. But if I can get this I'm the parent/you're the child thing down, I'm sure there will be a lot less. I think the clear lines not only make for a happier child, but I know they will make for a happier mom. Being frustrated by your child's behavior day in and day out isn't a good feeling. Being a parent who makes conscious decisions to parent helps ease those frustrations.

One of the most amazing parts in this book dealt with the fallacy that parents should only want their children to be happy in life.
"This sentiment may seem harmless and loving, but it does a real disservice to a child, assigning him an impossible, unobtainable task. For happiness, as a life goal, is elusive, intermittent, often random, and unpredictable. As an adult, he will pursue one career after another, one relationship after another, never settling down and always in search of what will make him happy. Parents who don't make happiness a goal but who concentrate on the basics - making sure their child works hard in school and takes his chores and responsibilities seriously - will produce a child whose talents and values will bring him success." p.96
Wow! You don't see that in most parenting books. I've often thought that I don't just want my children to be happy, but to also be good, kind, generous and loving individuals who love God and those around them.

My one caveat on this recommendation would be that as other parenting books do, this one talks about how adults' problems in life are a result of their upbringing. And while I agree that a poor upbringing can make things more difficult as an adult, at some point a person has to take responsibilty for him/herself and move on in spite of their past. I'm not saying parenting doesn't matter, I think it is probably one of the most important jobs, ever. However, I've known some amazing people who are responsible, loving adults - successful, good parents, good spouses, despite some horrendous childhood experiences.

This book really takes a lot of current advice and turns it on its ear. It is very practical and helpful, and a must read for any parent of young children.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ohio Grieves

I am an Ohio girl, born and bred. Even though I've lived in Illinois for five plus years now, and I am very happy here, I always will think of Ohio as my home. Because of this I'm always interested in stories that happen in Ohio or affect Ohioans. I was moved to tears today as I read an article in Newsweek about the 14 Ohio Marines killed in Iraq. I'm so sorry to all the families who lost their sons and daughters in this war. I went to school and lived in Cleveland for several years and know so many good people who live there. I hope that these soldiers lives were not lost in vain and that when stability and freedom are restored to the people of Iraq, everyone will know and appreciate the bravery and sacrifice these men and women made. I'm sorry, Ohio. I grieve with you.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Perfect For Salad

Here is a definite favorite recipe of mine. I enjoyed it at dinner tonight and decided to share it. This is the most delicious salad dressing I've ever had. (Or as my kids would say, "This is the best salad dressing in the history of salad dressings.") The nicest part is how easy it is to make. I have to give credit to Brendan's Grandma Van for this yummy recipe - I got it from her.

Homemade Salad Dressing

1 slice medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil

Combine first seven ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup oil and blend again until mixed. Transfer to salad dressing container. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 1 pint.

This is such an easy recipe to cut in half if you don't want as much dressing. This is one of those recipes that I always get requests for copies of. It's that good.

Pink For Me

The first week Brendan was at his new job, they had a summer social activity on that Friday. While there, the employees were allowed to choose one of two raffles to enter their name into. Brendan put his name in for a gift certificate to the Apple Store. Well, as luck would have it, he won. Generously, he offered to let me get an iPod shuffle or iPod mini, whichever I would like. Well, yesterday we ventured out to the Apple Store in Oakbrook and I got my pink 4 gig iPod mini. I absolutely love it!

I have already put 251 songs on it (it can hold around 1000) and have listened to it quite a bit. I wasn't sure whether I wanted the mini or the shuffle, but after going to the store I couldn't resist the lure of the cute colors and ability to see my music onscreen. The shuffle, while an amazing product, just didn't excite me the way the mini did. It felt like a lego toy to me, which is mindblowing when you realize something so tiny can hold 240 songs. I remember my first Walkman (used with cassette tapes) and it's cousin, the Discman. I remember how cool I thought it was that I could listen to my music virtually anywhere. How limiting those products were! Not only did you have to take the clunky walkman with you, but all the tapes you wanted to listen to, too. And what about mix tapes?

But I digress. The mini is great! I can now listen to so much music. I have tons of old CD's that I rarely listen to, mainly because they are in the basement and because on many of them there are only four or five songs I want to listen to. With three kids to chase after all the time, searching out a CD in the basement to listen to a few songs, only to have one of your kids say, "Can we listen to The Wheels on the Bus now?" isn't high on my priority list. But now, once I get all my music on the computer, I'll be able to listen to all my favorites anytime, whether on random or by calling the songs up specifically. I also have bought several songs from iTunes, and love the ease and instant gratification it allows.

I also never thought I would be buying a pink mini, but it really is the cutest one. I know "cute" isn't necessarily important for one's mp3 player, but since it's available, why not? The blue and silver did nothing for me, so it came down to the green and pink. Both are nice, but pink beat green up close.

I'm going to be listening to a lot of good music.

Friday, August 05, 2005

False Advertising

So I packed the kids up to go to Starbucks today because earlier in the week I was handed a card that said, "The Ultimate Summer Celebration. Come celebrate summer with us!" This Starbucks card asked me to join them as they "celebrate summer with refreshments and fun for the whole family." It was from 4:00 - 6:00 PM, and as my girls are usually done napping by this time, my husband doesn't get home from work until 6:30 and my six year old son loves the non-coffee frappucinos, I thought why not? It sounded like an event that might involve music, face painting, maybe even a jump-a-round thing. And since the Starbucks is only a five minute drive from my house, if it sucked we could just go home.

Well, it pretty much sucked. We got there at about 4:30 and there were no cars in the parking lot. From the outside of the shop there was no sign that this was "the ultimate summer celebration." I began to fret that maybe I had the wrong date. I could see two young ladies sitting inside at a table enjoying some drinks, and when we went in there was a man working at a laptop computer. As I walked over to the counter I noticed a tray of cookies and little plastic Starbucks shot glasses filled with Tazo iced tea. I knew then I had the right date. As I walked up to the counter, two cheerful employees told me there were free samples today of the tea or frappucinos and the cookies. They also mentioned that there were "tattoos" and chalk for the kids. While I was listening to them, Ian and Emma were running back and forth behind me and Zoe wouldn't let me put her down. So now, I felt obligated to order something for myself, so I could get the kids the free samples we had come for. I got a tall nonfat iced mocha and the kids got the vanilla bean frappucino sample, as well as a tea sample (I called it juice) and some cookies. The drink samples came in the plastic shot glasses, which Ian and Zoe polished off in no time flat. The temporary tattoo was a little black Starbucks girl or something, and I decided to skip the chalk. Within two minutes of sitting down, Emma spilled her tea sample, covering half the table, her right leg, and the floor around our table. She also got her cookie all wet with tea and no longer wanted it.

Despite all of this, my kids were really happy and thrilled with the experience. I rarely take them into a Starbucks (or any other restaurant for that matter), mainly because I have to spend at least $8 if they come with me and it usually ends up with something spilled and me telling them repeatedly not to run around. But today was actually kind of fun. Emma ended up helping Zoe drink her frappucinos by holding the cup for her, which was super cute. Ian read all the posters and signs in the store and asked me questions about them. So, I guess it didn't completely suck, but it definitely was not the "ultimate summer celebration."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My First Recipe

I plan on posting a minimum of one recipe a week here on the blog. I love cooking and baking, and want to share some of my favorite recipes. Here's one that I have cooking up at home today. It's very, very tasty!

Barbecue Pork Sandwiches

1 large green pepper
1 large onion
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 2 1/2 to 4 pound pork shoulder roast
1 18 ounce container of BBQ sauce
Additional BBQ sauce

Coarsely chop the green pepper and onion. Place in bottom of crock pot. Sprinkle tapioca over green pepper and onion. Trim fat from pork roast. Place roast in crock pot (cut in half to fit if necessary). Pour BBQ sauce over roast. Put lid on crock pot and cook on low for 10 - 12 hours or on high for 5 - 6 hours. When done cooking, remove roast and shred with two forks. (You may have to remove some of the fat floating in the pot or in the roast). Serve on buns with additional BBQ sauce.

Serves : 6-10 (depending on size of roast.)

This recipe freezes in ziploc bags great. I often separate it into two sandwich portions and then freeze it. It reheats easily in the microwave and makes for a quick dinner. My favorite BBQ sauce is one called Sweet Baby Ray's. But for this recipe, I often use a cheaper sauce in the crock pot and save the good stuff for putting on top of the sandwich.

A Rash Story

Emma, my almost three year old, woke up this morning with an itchy red rash over her back, belly and face. We were sitting on the couch talking about it when she looked at her tummy and told me, "They're all families."

I said, "The spots are families?"

To which she replied, "Yes, but they're sad because they can't find their mommies and daddies."

"Why can't they find their mommies and daddies?" I asked.

"They're up here on my chin."

Too cute.

A Day At The Pool

I ventured to the pool yesterday with my three kids, Ian (6), Emma (almost 3), and Zoe 17 months. I was never confident enough to try it alone with three kids before, but just needed to get out of the house and finally felt I could handle it. So, after dressing all three in their suits, then me in mine, lubing everyone up with a healthy dose of suntan lotion, and packing four towels, some spare diapers, drinks and snacks, we ventured out. It turned out to be great.

The temperature was in the 90's, so the public pool was pretty full. After staking out a chair with all of our stuff (the bag of towels, plus two swim rings and one noodle), we finally got into the pool. We were there for about two hours. Ian was underwater for the first hour. Honestly, five weeks ago if you asked him to put his head under water, he ducked his head down until the water made it up to his nose. Now, he can't stop sticking his head under the water. He said it was his favorite thing to do. My only concern was that while staying with the two little ones, I often had to figure out where Ian had disappeared to. He wanted to go over to the deeper end of the pool which was fine, but while I watched him repeatedly bob his head in and out of the water, I wasn't sure there was a whole lot of difference between the look of a six year old practicing holding his breath underwater and one that had been knocked out, wasn't breathing and had his face in the water. Despite that, I still let him go and do his thing. He even started jumping into the pool and going under the water, a big step for Ian.

Emma spent most of the time at the pool in her Sesame Street swim ring. She admired other more elaborate rings with turtle and dragon heads. I even saw one that looked like a Cozy coupe toy car. She mentioned several times that she wished she could have a swim ring like those. Unfortunately for her it will never happen unless I find it on clearance or at the dollar store. I just don't spend money on extra inflateable parts on my kids swim rings when I can get a perfectly good one for a dollar or less.

Zoe loved the water, too. She even went under a few times and didn't cry about it. She's a trooper.

After some snacks and a quick visit to the splash pad, Emma and Zoe and I went back to the main pool and Ian headed for the water slides. It was his first time going by himself on the slides and it was marvelous. He went probably six or seven times, and only once did he slip out of the inner tube and go under. He didn't freak out, though, he just grabbed ahold of the tube and made it to the edge of the pool. It was so fun to see how excited he got about doing something he was afraid to do by himself before.

It really was a great trip. I guess that means we'll be doing it more often. I hope so.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Blog Virgin

This is my first blog entry. I'm not sure why I've decided to do this, or how devoted I will be, but reading other peoples' blogs has piqued my interest in creating my own. I will probably talk mostly about the joys and difficulties of being a parent to three rambunctious children, all the recipes I make, and the other events in my life. I hope that I become an active contributor to the blogosphere, and with this first post I begin!