Homemade Yogurt – so simple you should try it!

For your yogurt:
-5.5 cups of your choice milk. Organic Grass fed or Food Lion: whole milk or skim
-1/2 cup PLAIN/non-flavored active cultures yogurt
-Put milk in a double boiler and heat without boiling to 185 degrees remove from heat and let it naturally cool to 100-110degrees
-whisk in the yogurt and let sit at 100-110 degrees for at least 9-12 hours.

Congratulations! 



You now have plain full-fat or non-fat yogurt.

– To make it greek or skyr you strain it in cheesecloth. Put it in the fridge for about an hour.
(If it gets thicker than you want it stir some of the liquid back in until you like it.)

-To make your next batch remove 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and save. Before adding flavors or honey.

Add fresh sliced fruit and granola on top or to make your favorite flavor you make a compote or simple jam on the stove with frozen/fresh fruit.

-1.5 2 cups of fruit, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar.



 Let it boil and then simmer until thickened and reduced. Let it cool and mix it into prepared yogurt.

If you want your yogurt sweeter we added some honey or agave to sweeten it more. Now you are really done! 



 The Dash machine keeps it at the right temperature, so the active cultures can turn the milk into yogurt and has a timer for 24 hours so you can make it in the afternoon and keep it warm as long as you need to until you can get to it and strain it etc.  (Note – I have discovered, the longer you leave the yogurt in the Dash the more tangy/sour tasting it will get. Dash recommends 9-12 hours. Some people pull it out at 6 for a more traditional yogurt vs. Greek.) Dash has 2 containers one to hold it in and one that fits the reusable mesh strainer so you do not need cheesecloth etc.

I like the Dash, it is not necessary. 

Before machines would wrap the pot in towels like making a tea cozy and put it in a warm spot or a cooler that is insulated to keep it at the right temperature and then get it out the next day when it was done. This method would allow you to make bigger batches of yogurt. If you want to make lots of yogurt at one time you can.

The yogurt stays good for about a month. You can get large sized mason jars and sanitize as you would for canning. Put the yogurt straight into cooled jars and keep it in the fridge. Once you crack into a jar you are supposed to use it in about a week just like the yogurts say to in the store.

I noticed that my Siggi’s (crazy expensive), the girls #1&3 greek yoplait and chobani $.80 – $1.00 a cup, and Sylvia’s activia $2.70 for 6. Were about 1/3 of my grocery bill and it takes 1/2 a gallon of milk, $1.50 for a batch. Killer savings!!! Even if I use 2 gallons of milk a week in yogurt. We are around $7 a week for yogurt and before I was spending $7 a week per person! I can turn yogurt making into an hourly wage at this rate of savings. I’ll call myself yogurt maker instead of stay-at-home mom!

It’s a scientific process, so once you get it down you are good to go.

Troubleshooting:

-DO not heat too fast or boil milk it changes texture of the milk proteins and makes yogurt grainy. This is why the double boiler is ideal. It keeps the milk from getting to hot and scorching the bottom of the pot. That is personal experience talking there.
-You must heat to 185 degrees I have read you can go to 190.
-DO not add active cultures if temp is above 110 degrees they will die. They won’t grow quickly or well under 100 degrees.

Enjoy making your own yogurt and feel free to share any great ideas you may have!

Why my daughter likes Christmas

Christmas Art

 

Melanie wrote and illustrated this paper at school and it simply melted my heart when I saw it in her folder. I don’t think the most significant part of Christmas to me as a 5-year-old would have been Jesus in the stable. She also includes putting ornaments on the tree a family event in our house. She didn’t say I get presents as her most favorite part. I love that little girl. I know she loves her presents and I love to give them to her, but I couldn’t have been a prouder Mom when I read this. She has a heart of gold and I treasure her. As you are running around (as I am) trying to get everything done for the holidays make sure you take a moment to remember and cherish Jesus, our savior, being born in a stable. Merry Christmas!

Trick-or-Treat

Who said you were to old to Trick-or-Treat?! I’m certainly not! I wanted to make sure my Husband’s paralegal has fun tomorrow and I made a Trick-or-Treat surprise for her. I folded a couple of boxes out of black paper and wrote on one “Trick” and the other “Treat” with a white crayon. I am going to put one of my spider cookies in each box and he will ask her to pick a box and she gets to have what is inside! I think it will be fun. Sure it is the same thing in either box, but she won’t know because he isn’t going to show her the contents of the other box! I think it’s brilliant. It is a quick, easy, and fun little thing to do for someone on halloween. If you did it for their kids, I bet they would find it quite amusing. It took me maybe 10 minutes to make the two boxes, since I didn’t already know how to do it. I hope you have a Happy Halloween tomorrow!

Would box would you pick?

Trick-or-Treat

How to Make Spider Cookies

Spooky Spider Cookies are a Halloween tradition in our house. Come every October Melanie starts to ask for them. These are hands down the most festive and fabulously tasty cookie we make. You cannot go wrong with spiders or chocolate covered pretzels. If you try these anyone who tastes them will be coming back for more!

You need to gather:

  • wax paper
  • a bag of pretzels (sticks or regular pretzel shape)
  • 24oz bag of milk chocolate chips
  • small bag of white chocolate chips
  • creamy peanut butter

You take your pretzels and break them up into little pieces. We need one large bowl of pieces for the bodies and a small bowl of pieces for the legs. We do not smash them with a mallet. You don’t want pretzel dust people you want pretzel bites. I usually break sticks in thirds for the bodies and sticks in half for the legs.

You pour your milk chocolate pieces into a microwave safe bowl and melt your chocolate. You can do this in a double boiler too. I find if you are carful the microwave works great for melting chips.*

Melt on high for 1min. Stir for 1 min. Melt for 20 seconds. Stir for 1 minute. Repeat until your chocolate is smooth and creamy. I nuked my chips for five 20 sec. intervals.

24oz of chocolate chips

1/2 way there

Done and silky smooth!

Stir in a heaping spoonful of peanut butter. I melt in microwave for 15 seconds to warm back up the chocolate.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter! Yum!

Stir pretzel pieces into chocolate in batches. You want to make sure you don’t have too many pieces. The chocolate needs to be able to cover the pieces, but you aren’t looking for chunky chocolate soup either. I find it is usually about 1/2 a bag of pretzel pieces.

Note it is not chocolate soup

Cover your table/counter with wax paper. You spoon a blob of chocolate onto the wax paper, add two pieces of white chocolate for eyes, and 8 sticks for legs. Let the chocolate harden and you have spider cookies!

“Blob” of chocolate pretzels

Spider parts: 2 eyes & 8 legs

1 Spooky Spider Cookie

Please note – our spiders usually have 4 or 6 legs (easier to stick into the body). We also have spiders with lots of eyes, 1 eye, etc. The kids have a great time making “crazy spiders.” The best part is we have a fun Halloween tradition the girls look forward to year after year.

Happy Halloween!

* Tips for melting Chocolate in the microwave.

Microwaves make hot spots. You do not get the even heat that comes from a double boiler. You have to stir vigorously and for at least 1 min between each time you put your chocolate in the microwave you it will seize. You cannot save chocolate that has gotten too hot. It just has to go into the trash. What a waste of 24oz of chocolate chips.  Just make sure you give the hot spots a chance to mix around a spread their heat to their neighboring chips. Also note when using a double boiler if you let the steam creep into the chocolate that will seize up your chips as well. So, just be patient and careful no matter which way you choose to melt your chips.

Spooky Spider Cookies

Every October Melanie and I make spider cookies. Sylvia was old enough to join in the fun this year. Melanie can now put her’s together solo. Yes! This gave me the freedom to keep Sylvia from getting chocolate everywhere! These cookies hands down are the most festive cookie I make. And one of the tastiest too. What is better than a big chocolate covered pretzel? Hmmm, I can’t think of anything! Can you? If you want to try them here are my instructions. You will not be disappointed with how fun they are and how great they taste!

Breaking the pretzels into pieces. Was very happy to outsource this part of the cookie making process.

Making Spiders

Dedicated to her spiders

“hmm, how many eyes? I just add more chips!”

Making Cookies

Don’t forget to lick the spoons!

Yum!

Pump-tastic Pumpkins!

Last year time completely slipped away from us with a new baby and we did not carve our pumpkins for Halloween. I loved carving pumpkins as a kid. It was wonderful seeing them all lit up. Ensuring we didn’t run out of time this year we spent the morning and early afternoon yesterday carving pumpkins with the girls. I picked up a kit to get the saws necessary to carve them. This kit of course came with patterned stencils. I was unaware of this fact and the girls had picked out their pumpkin designs on the car ride home. We said good-bye to the Jack O’lantern idea. And moved onto advanced pumpkin designs.

Excited to carve pumpkins!

We took the pulp out of the pumpkins. They were quite appalled at how messy a pumpkin is. They were also intrigued that it smelled like cantaloupe.

Getting back at them for years of runny noses and food covered faces all over my clothes!

Traced on our stencils.

Carved our the designs!

It was fun. The kids loved it and I know they will love seeing them a glow on the 31st.

Sylvia with her “spooky” raven. It was so spooky she was hesitant to hug it.

Glowing Raven

Melanie of course picked the cat. We like the pumpkin in a pumpkin aspect to her carving.

Glowing Cat!

After the kids went to bed Husband and I carved our own designs into pumpkins. It was a great. We have been dating/married for 12 years and we carved our first pumpkins last night. It was a fun activity. We each did a pumpkin and I love my husband’s. We needed a boy pumpkin amongst the rest of them!

The Avengers – S.H.I.E.L.D. Emblem

I was really excited about my pattern. I found one that used the technique of not carving out the pieces, but shaving away the pumpkin. Of course, I couldn’t find the appropriate tools at Lowe’s and used the end of my vegetable peeler. I was worried a couple times I was going to peel the skin off my finger, but we made it through and next year I will have nice sturdy metal tools for our Pump-tastic Pumpkins! Happy Halloween!

My owl Carving!

My glowing owl! Let’s out much less light and is really hard to take a picture of without a tri-pod.

Who does your sewing?

In my house that would not be me! The most recent victim of wear and tear would be our gigantic stuffed sheep Bob. He has an enormous hole in the seam on his back and he is loosing his fluff. The girls each had their own idea on how to fix this. Our baby thought hey let’s pull out the fluff and play with it. Awesome! The two older girls did not like her plan. My two-year-old said. “Ohh, Nonni need to come here and fix that. She can fix my dress too.” My five-year-old said. “No, Grandmama fixed my raccoon that broke. She can come and fix my Bob up too.” They are both really great ideas. Both of their Grandmas have the skills and motivation required to fix Bob. Could I patch him up? Yep. Will I? I want to say yes, but what the girls have forgotten and what you don’t know is he actually broke over a year ago! Sylvia was 1 then and thought pulling his fluff out was a great idea just like Danielle did and that my dear friends is why he was stuffed up on a high shelf in their closet! I think this might be a job for a Grandma! Don’t you? I bet I can find some buttons and seams that need some help too! 😉

“Please Daddy. Pleeeease!”

Can you hear it? The pleading. The pull on a father’s heart strings. We really really want this. Will you do this for us? It would really make us happy. All rolled up into “Please Daddy. Pleeeease!” Well, those were the words being echoed from my girls this morning as we were getting dressed for church. If you don’t already know, we are a house full of four “fancy Nancy”s and one outnumbered husband/daddy.

Every Sunday, all us girls parade through the room where Daddy is and wait to hear his approval and how beautiful we are. He is always there to compliment our hair, our dress, our shoes, and all the items that pull our outfit together. Melanie always tells Daddy before he leaves, “If you wore a tie, you would be a little bit more handsomer.” Daddy, of course, never wears a tie except when he has to for work. Well, this morning we were all particularly done up, and the girls were pleading, “Please Daddy, Please wear a tie. Pleeeease.” Daddy resists. What Daddy wants to wear a tie on a Sunday, especially to a church where that’s not the norm? He put on slacks, a nice shirt, dress shoes, and walked out to the girls. This was a huge step up from the jeans he usually wears on Sundays, and he figured it was a good compromise.

The girls see him and start up again. “It just isn’t as nice if you don’t wear a tie. Please wear a tie Daddy!” I walk out of the closet and sling the tie over his shoulder. Daddy gives me a sideways glance. “It wasn’t my idea, I promise.” Well, he put on the tie. He wore it to church. He withstood the comments and glances about how dressed up he looked. It was an act of love, and the girls thought he couldn’t look any handsomer.

Girl 1

Girl 2

Girl 3

She looked like a snow baby! (I just re-discovered a bunch of baby clothes!)

He wore a tie – for his ladies!

Kids – They Amaze Me

Yesterday was one of those days you just want to expunge from your mind. If something could go wrong, it did. The kids were crying. Crying all day. Endlessly crying. You might think you would eventually get desensitized to it, but you would be wrong.

Kids are irrational. Kids are visceral. A kid’s feelings are intense, dynamic, and ALWAYS justified in their own mind. They have to have what they “need,” which is just what they want, but they still “NEED” it! As a parent, you chant to yourself, “I am the grown-up. I am the adult. I am the parent.” You lecture yourself. “I must be the patient, calm, understanding one. I AM the reasonable one.” You pause. You take a deep breath. You turn around, and there it is – the crying! You come face to face with relentless wailing and tears. THE NON-STOP CRYING! It happens. You lose it. Lecture lost. You become the irrational, impatient, non-understanding, completely unreasonable person. When you spend your entire day, every minute, moment, second, of a day, every year, with infants…It isn’t pretty. Embarrassing really. You should be better than this. But you’re not.

Well, come 6:00pm last night, my husband walked in the door. Poor husband. A truly wonderful man. I told him (likely yelled) “I ‘m done! I am clocked out.” I couldn’t pick up, talk to, or interact with one of my children for the rest of the night. As unreasonable and unlike a grown-up as it was, I was done. I stomped off to the sofa. I sat in the dark, listening to music for the remainder of the evening.

After showers, which were filled still with that good ole’ crying, husband finally had them all in bed, and he told our oldest. “I’m sorry Mommy and Daddy aren’t perfect parents. Can you love Mommy and Daddy anyways?” She laughed at him, in a cheerful and encouraging, not disrespectful way. While gently rubbing his head, she said “Of course I do, Daddy.” Kids – they amaze me! Don’t they amaze you too?

I realize that I am really lucky. I get to spend my entire day, every minute, moment, second, of a day, for every year, with my kids. I get to hold them, hug them, experience and see their lives. I get to watch them grow. I don’t get to see them just a little bit. I see them constantly. I know them. I likely know them better than they know themselves, and I love them. I love them just the way they are – irrational shrieking and all. Yeah, I need a time out just like they do every now and then. But at the end of the day, I am happy, and I love my kids. The best part – they love my too, unconditionally, just the way I am, despite myself. Doesn’t that just amaze you?

My overly honest Sylvia

It has been a rough couple of days around the house. There have been a stomach virus, head colds, and multiple sleepless nights, and today I wanted to spend my free morning doing something fun. Naturally, I went shopping. I stopped by Michaels, looking for glitter hairspray, and instead I found fall decorations for the house! I don’t decorate much. With a rental house and three little kids, decorating is not a top priority. I put the new garland over the fireplace. It is nothing fancy, but it says fall.  I ran back out to pick up the girls. Sylvia came home and walked to the living room. She pointed up at the mantle. “What’s that Mommy? Why you get that?” “They are fall decorations,” I said. “Well, I don’t like that.” She walked over to it touched a little pumpkin on the garland, turned, and looked to me. “It has this stuff. I don’t like it.” I think to myself, maybe Melanie will like it, and if not, then I know Daddy will say he does even if he doesn’t.

Electric Eel

I commissioned a piece of artwork for an art gallery I am putting together. Melanie was quite willing and excited to create a masterpiece for me. I gave her the colors I wanted her to use, told her to cover the entire canvas with paint, and make it more abstract. She immediately went to work.

It is so much fun to watch her work. She painted for over two hours and wanted to keep going, but there was no more room on her canvas for more paint. I am quite impressed with it. What do you think?

There are a few hidden items in the canvas, a banana, a cloud, a flower, a girl, a heart, and an electric eel. Did you spot them? The best part of commissioning art from Melanie is she currently works for the cost of supplies, hugs, and words of affirmation.

Officially a Soccer Mom

Fall is here, and soccer has started! Yesterday, I packed up the kids, and we stormed the soccer fields. Melanie has been waiting since this past spring to start soccer, and she couldn’t have been more excited to play. We had a meltdown in the morning because our uniform that we picked up Friday was enormous! Fortunately, a good friend bailed us out with some smaller black shorts when we got to the fields.

Sylvia was the typical younger sibling. She was quite put out when we got because she was not playing soccer too. She sat up in her new special camp chair I got for her and fussed, “I need something.” When I asked, “What do you mean?” her frown grew even bigger, and she mumbled, “I need something for me.” I felt little sympathy for her. I spent many a saturday afternoon at tee-ball games for my brothers when I was little – it’s just part of growing up with siblings. Danielle was the tiniest moving thing on the soccer field. She found a pile of soccer balls and spent a long time picking them up and tossing them out, then walking up to dribble them. The girl’s got skills. She is our little athlete.

Soccer was definitely a huge step up in parental entertainment from dance class. You show up to dance class and sit in a lobby and wait for them to come back. In soccer, you get to be out and about and part of the action. It was lots of fun to cheer on the kids as they played their scrimmages in the second half hour. Soccer may snub saturday morning breakfast, and it may be outside in the elements, but I sure had a great time in the morning outside on the edge of the field cheering the kids on. I might just be ready for my soccer ball magnet. It could look good on the backside of my white mini-van….. We shall see.

Completely distracted

I am enjoying my body flow class. I am about halfway through and I keep having to readjust my pants. I can’t figure out why. They have fit so much better in the past. Why are they fitting differently tonight? They seem to be falling down in the back and that hasn’t happened before. I sink down into a warrior pose and it dawns on me. My pants are on backwards! I put them on wrong and it has taken me half of my class to figure it out! Oops. I shrug my shoulders, exhale, and carry on. I am one distracted Mom.

How are you 1 already?!

My baby girl turned 1 today! I have a hard time believing it! You are such a joy. When you smile, it melts my heart. Your boisterous laughter is infectious. Your determination to walk, climb, dance, play, and keep up with your big sisters is inspiring. You are the tiniest and most durable baby I have met.

I love to hear you talk. You run to Melanie, crying “Mel-Mel” when you want her help. When your Daddy walks in from work, you cry “Daddy, Daddy” and race to the back door for a hug. When you are done eating, you tell me you are “all done.” You are always waving and saying “hi” and “bye.” I love to pick you up from the gym. You run to me, yelling “hey, mama.”

In the last year, you have taken naps on the go and chilled in your stroller with your feet up, chowing down on snacks and waiting to move on to the next activity. It took months for people to know you could actually cry. You slept through the night before your older sister Sylvia did. You were one pretty awesome baby! I am so sad to see your first year go. I am looking forward to watching the adventures unfold for you in the next year. I can see you sliding down slides, building sand castles, kicking soccer balls, and running before I know it. I hope you continue to climb up into my lap just to snuggle.

I love you, Danielle! You are an amazing little girl, and I know in the next year you will just show that more and more. Happy Birthday!

Love,

Mommy

Creating Rock Star Hair

My five-year-old was very excited to do her hair this morning. She insisted I pull all her hair into a pony excluding the little bit at the front. I decided a long time ago to allow my girls to express themselves freely with their hair.

Our conversation went like this:

“Melanie I just don’t think it is pretty.”

“Well, I do.”

“Did you look at it in the mirror?” She walks to the bedroom mirror. Glances at her hair swishing it from side to side.

As she jumps into the air she cries. “Yes, it’s awesome! Now all my school friends will love my Rock Star Hair.”

I think I feel a twinge of what lady gaga’s mom must feel sometimes.

Image

Remembering a Good Man

Names are not usually the most descriptive or memorable kind of label. The most flattering thing I have ever been called is “that girl.” It might seem impersonal or even insulting if you don’t know the context, but it’s actually my most treasured nickname. After my mother-in-law lost her mother, she had to travel a couple hours to take care of her dad every other week. He had the beginnings of dementia. I was off for the summer and have always had a sweet spot for grandpas.

I can remember falling head over heels for my great-grandfather when I met him for the first time. I was almost four, and my parents thought I would be afraid and shy as was my usual disposition towards strangers. They couldn’t have been more wrong. I saw him and raced to him. I didn’t get out of his lap or leave his side until forced.

I frequently traveled with my mother-in-law down for these check-up trips to visit her dad, who we kids called Granddaddy. One day, she called to remind him we were on our way, and he asked loudly through the phone, “Are you bringing that girl with you?” My mother-in-law replied, “That girl? You mean Sheena?” “Yeah, that girl.” He couldn’t remember my name. There was no place for it in his failing mind. But he knew me. I became special to him even in his old age, and he thought to ask for me in particular.

I recall the first time I met Granddaddy. I saw a flashback of an enormous young sailor. I saw him towering on a dock. I saw a gentle giant. Then I blinked and saw the old salt in front of me, the weathered man who had been through many storms. I smiled, and I loved him. I sang a duet at his wife’s funeral. When we practiced it for him, as he sat on a bed, he leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and traveled to heaven. You could see in his mind his precious Aldean, his beloved wife for whom he tenderly cared for many long years as she lost her mind and body to Alzheimer’s disease. In his mind, you could see her renewed and unbroken at last, standing in paradise. You could see his never-ending love for her. The true love you dream of. They had it.

Yesterday, Granddaddy passed away. It is a great blessing. He is home. He is again with Aldean. They have long been waiting for this day. I am sad though. For a time, he touched my life. He is in my heart forever, and I know that, for a time, I was in his too.

There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be

song written by James Hill

Now I’m 11 Months Old!

Danielle here. As you might have realized I am 11 months old! It is a big deal because Mommy keeps declaring “I am losing my baby.” She says I am “almost a toddler.” I started talking. My main words are Daddy, Mommy, bye-bye, and uh-oh. I am not very limited by my vocabulary. I am quite expressive and it is pretty easy for Mommy to understand what it is I want. I “cut” 4 teeth this month. That was not fun. They have made eating easier now. I use them to eat my favorite foods bananas and pasta pick-ups. I am exploring the house constantly. I am usually smiling and having fun wherever I go which to play with toys inside our Dora tent.

I have been working really hard the last couple months trying to get mobile enough to keep up with my big sisters. I am quite able to climb the stairs now. I got up them really fast on my first try. Mommy and Daddy quickly gated them off though. Now I bolt for them when they forget to close it and hope they don’t catch me, but they always do. I am a pro crawler, but this isn’t enough for me. I need to walk! I have been watching the olympics with Mommy and I have decided crawling is far from the ideal. So, I practice standing up in the middle of the floor all by myself. The other night I even stood while drinking from my cup. Melanie has me on a strict training regimen. I should be walking any day now. Check out my progress!

Well I am out for now. I will catch you in a month after my big 1-year-old birthday!

-Baby D

Can you be thankful for today?

I am lying on the floor in the girls’ room, gazing up at the ceiling with my head on my husband’s chest while the girls lie in their beds. We have all said our prayers and finished our nightly out-of-tune rendition of “Be thou my vision.” Neither my husband nor myself are popping up to venture downstairs. We lay there for a few moments and I observe three sets of eyes trained on us wondering what is next. They’ve noticed we are not diving out of the room as usual to flake out in childless bliss on the sofa.

I prolong my lazy moment on the floor with a question: “Girls what are you thankful for tonight?”

Melanie slams her head into her pillow. “I don’t want to do this.” She says through the fluff.

Ignoring her attempts for attention. “Well, Sylvie are you thankful for anything tonight?”

“Mmm….hmmm…. I Sylvia.”

We chuckle my head bobs up and down with my husbands deep laugh. “We know you are Sylvia. Are you thankful for anything?”

She quickly explains while pointing her finger. “No. You Mommy. You Daddy. You Danielle. You Melanie.” She touches her finger to her chest. “I Sylvia. I thankful for Sylvia!” Her head begins to bobble up and down. “Mm-hmm. For Sylvia.” I just laugh again and my husband says, “We are thankful for Sylvia too…I am thankful for all my girls.” I gaze his way and give him a sideways glance. “Really? All four of your – insane – drama filled – crazy girls?” “Yes. I am.” Melanie lifts her head at this. “I am thankful for Daddy being home and all the family being together.” “Me too,” My husband says. “Me too.”

I again reposition my eyes to the ceiling. How true. He is home and he is home for five weeks! I begin to panic a little at the thought. I want him here. In five weeks we will all be accustomed to him being here every night of the week. We will undo our walls that keep us sane when he is on the road. The girls will have meltdowns and I quite likely will too.  I breathe in and decide to be thankful, to be thankful to have him here too. He spends so much time on the road it is nice to feign a normal family life. Even if there are five weeks gone looming in our future. I will be thankful and enjoy them. I look around the room at my girls. I cherish them and their answers to my random questions.

Interview with a five-year-old

How does it feel to be five years old?
Great!
What do you want to do before you turn six?
Go to the beach
Make a crocodile
Go to an aquarium
Learn how to ride a scooter
What is your favorite TV show as a five year old?
Care Bears & My Little Pony
What is your favorite food?
Chicken like a giant
What is your favorite snack?
Yogurt raisins
What is your favorite dessert?
Chocolate covered strawberries
What is your favorite thing to do?
Draw
Who’s your best friend?
Cheyenne, Reese, and Abby
Where is your favorite place to go?
The Pet Store
What’s your favorite movie?
Fox and the hound & Ariel II
What is your favorite book?
Peter Pan
What is your favorite song?
Jesus loves the little Children of the World
What is your favorite thing to do at school?
To learn
What do you want to be/do when you grow up?
Work Busch Gardens or Disney World
What is Daddy’s job?
Work.
What is Mommy’s job?
You don’t have job.
Who is God?
Jesus
What did Jesus do?
He ate bread and shared with his friends.
What is really important to you?
Mommy
We all make mistakes sometimes. What is one mistake you make you want to change this year?
I wish I would behave with my Mom so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

I am Melanie a girl that loves people.

-Melanie

Melanie having dessert with her birthday dinner at Outback. (Her favorite restaurant.)

Butterfly Cupcakes

Melanie celebrated her birthday this past week with her friends from school. She wanted  cupcakes with pink frosting and purple butterflies. The perfect choice for our quite girly summer babe. I could have found butterflies on a stick to put into the cupcakes and pink frosting from anywhere. I took the creative idea as a challenge and made butterflies out of chocolate and a new to me frosting called Italian Meringue buttercream! It was amazing! I really wish I had step by step photos of the process to post of both of these, but alas, it was not in the cards for this week.

To make the butterflies I gathered 2 bags of colored chocolate from the craft store. You could use morales, but the chips from the store are tempered and that makes it melt better, dry shiny, and gives it a nice snap. You can also use any of the awesome colors to pick from. I used purple and white. You also need wax paper, a cookie sheet, drawn template of butterfly wings, sugar sprinkles, and two baggies.

I drew my wings which took me a little while. I cut it out and taped to a piece of card stock. I then taped the card stock to my cookie sheet. I then folded over my tape in a circle to make it double sided and placed it onto the sides of my wings template. I cut my wax paper into squares that were slightly bigger than my template so I could stick it to the tape and over the template permitting me to see through and trace the wings. I melted my chocolate into the baggies according to package directions kneading the bag instead of stirring. I cut a tiny hole in the corner and squeezed a border in one color and then filled with the other color. I shook the cookie sheet to smooth them together. I swirled the colors together with a toothpick and then placed my sprinkles on the wings. I then piped chocolate for antennas and chocolate for the bodies on a sheet of wax paper. The chocolate dries pretty quick and it only uses one bag of each color for 24 cupcakes. They were a big hit and they are very fancy.

I made italian meringue buttercream frosting. I piped this frosting onto the cupcakes to look like petals of a flower that the butterflies were resting on. This frosting does not get hard like buttercream, but it was plenty thick enough to hold the butterflies. None of the heavy wings fell down. I followed this recipe. It was really simple. It takes a little while only because you have to leave your mixer running for a multiple 10 minute stretches. It is worth it. There was a moment in the middle when the beautiful fluffy eggs whites collapsed into a soup as I added the butter. I was certain I was sacrificing stick after stick of butter to a bombed project. I stuck with it and it was amazing! The best frosting I have ever eaten. It is rich, creamy, fluffy, not too sweet, and best of all easy to pipe with. I will be preparing this frosting for the rest of my days.

You should definitely give both of these projects a try they are simple even though a little time consuming, but completely worth the effort in flavor and impact. I would use a box cake mix especially for a kids party though, because we all know kids eat the tops and leave the stumps. I wouldn’t waste my time or effort on delicious cake for young ones unless you are ready to watch it all travel to the trash can.

The best part of the project was when Melanie saw them she ran up, gave me an enormous hug, and said “I love you! You are the best Mommy!” 🙂

bye bye ballet

Today Melanie danced in what was likely her last dance recital. She did great. She looked so cute in her costume and even took a moment in the middle to wave towards the audience and say “hi.” The down side is my poor baby girl danced with an ear infection. She wanted to go so badly. My in-laws drove in late last night to see it and she wanted to be up there with her friends. She was in tears before and after because her ear hurt so bad. She insisted upon going to her recital and then the doctor. We went to urgent care and got her all fixed up. She even made it out to Cracker Barrel for her celebratory meal even if it was later than we had intended. She devoured her two blueberry pancakes and looked much better. We then came home and watched a family movie together. In the fall we will be onto “that black and white ball game.” I will wait until she sticks with it before I adorn my white mini-van with the official “soccer mom” soccer ball.

Here are the couple pictures. Pretty good for a girl who felt so bad. 🙂

Ready to watch Mel Mel

With her bestie after the finale

With Grandmama and Grandaddy

The Family! Poor Mel was spent.

I’m eight-and-a-half months old!

Danielle here. I have been begging Mommy to get with the program and tell you what new things I am up to. She has been really busy. Melanie, Melanie, Melanie! One day I will be the only one at home, and I will get all the attention.

I am now sitting up all by myself. I only fall over every now and then. I just aim for the carpet. I am rolling around and scooting around all over the house now. My favorite things are anything Melanie and Sylvia are playing with. They always grab their things and run away. I just keep rolling after them. I should be crawling soon. Whenever I try, I end up moving backwards. I will get the knack here soon though.

I am up in the high chair now. It is good since I kept falling out of the bumbo when I would reach for my toys. I am just too tiny. They didn’t make bumbos for babies like me. I am eating lots of solid foods. My favorite food is pears. I do eat everything Mommy gives me, even the meats, which are my least favorite. I LOVE puffs. I can pick them up and put them in my mouth all-by-myself! Cheerios are really yummy, but since I still don’t have any teeth, it takes a few minutes to gum them up enough to swallow. I have also started taking a bottle. It took a couple weeks to get used to it, but it’s alright. I know it is making Mommy’s life a little easier, and that makes me happy. I even crack a little smile when I see one now.

I am still a “sweet baby girl” as Mommy always calls me. I have decided to be a little more vocal though. I will cry and let them know when I do or don’t want something. It is the best way to get some attention around here for now.

I am still a petite little girl, but I am growing and getting bigger all the time. My goals for the next couple months are to get some teeth, be able to crawl, and eat more big person food. I think that would be nice.

Homemade Strawberry Preserves

My second favorite thing to do with fresh strawberries is make strawberry preserves. The last step in my family’s strawberry tradition. We would go to the field pick the berries. We ran home and put the strawberry pies in the fridge as soon as possible. My family went through two in an evening because you can’t have just one piece. Then we would prepare all the extra berries for preserves.

It took me years to figure out why my mom picked berries the way she did. My basket would always be full of the biggest, brightest, most succulent looking berries. My mom on the other hand would pick berries with a couple centimeters of green at the bottom. Then she would spend most of her time looking for the little teeny tiny ripe berries. They were not even big enough to call bite sized, just a nibble. I was always confused, and year after year I would roll my eyes at her basket, moving forward with my bountiful basket full of enormous berries. The ones my father would always praise me for.

I finally figured her out though. Those green ends are full of pectin, which is necessary to make preserves, and that way you don’t have to add suregel. The bitty berries hold up the best when cooking because you didn’t cut them up into chunks. They turn into the perfect little berry morsel inside your preserves. I highly suggest you try them out against your impulse that the bigger the berry the better.

I am not going to list off and share the process of making the preserves. Head over to the pioneer woman’s site to see her amazing pictures of the process. Remember preserves are whole berries or large pieces of fruit. Jam is mashed fruit. Jelly is the sugared fruit juice with the fruit chunks strained out. There are multiple ways to store your preserves. You can put them in the freezer. You can boil them in water so they seal. I prefer this process because freezer space is a limited resource, and I do not want to spend it on something that can sit in the pantry. The pioneer woman details canning on her site. You can also follow the directions that come with the pot you have to buy.

I added extra flavorings that made the preserves extra special. I made Strawberry Vanilla, Strawberry Lemon, and Strawberry Balsamic preserves. To make the vanilla, you buy a whole vanilla bean, slice it, and drop it into the strawberries for the entire cooking process. You pull it out right before you put it in jars. I used 1/2 a vanilla bean because they are expensive, and it worked great. Most recipes call for some lemon to add acid to the preserves. I added the zest and juice of two lemons for my strawberry lemon batch. It is delicious. The preserves have a tangy tartness to them. For the balsamic vinegar batch, I stirred five tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar in right before putting it into jars. I have a fig balsamic vinegar from a local store that adds a great flavor to the preserves. If you want a gourmet preserve you cannot find in the store, you should try any of these recipes, and you won’t be disappointed! The secret ingredient is fresh-picked field berries. They are superior to the ones you get in the store. Just remember to gather the kiddos to count the “pops” when you pull the jars out of the hot water. It’s the best part! 🙂

Serving up Strawberry Pie

Aren’t they beautiful!

The best way to use a sweet strawberry is in a strawberry pie! If my favorite part is heading out to the fields to pick the strawberries. My second favorite part is filling a graham cracker or shortbread cookie crust with sliced strawberries and covering it in this amazing strawberry jello mixture that makes the strawberries super tasty. Yes it is possible.

Melanie had a great time cooking pie for us.

  • Glaze Recipe
  • heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • 3 tablespoons of strawberry jello
  • put all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir frequently until thickened. It will happen and it happens fast. Then you pour over the strawberries in the prepared pie shell and put it in the fridge for a few hours until it thickens. Slice, plate, top with cream and enjoy. Amazing! 🙂

Pick some strawberries, slice them up, and then you can have some too!

Pre-summer Diet – Week 2

I made it again! I lost two more pounds. I found it much easier to follow my restricted diet this past week. I even found it easier to cut the extra condiments from things that add 20-50 calories. I only got in two workouts because I caught the flu! :/ I would have much rather gone to the gym than lay on the sofa with a fever, but sometimes life has a different plan. The pounds still count though. I am half way through my month! Only 2 more weeks to go.

Summer Fun! Here I come! (Melanie tubing with our great friend!)

A Marvelous Mother’s Day

My girls!

Mother’s week started on Monday. I got a beautiful paper bouquet of flowers from Sylvia after Mother’s Morning Out. She looked at them on the fridge all week and then turned to me: “Mommy, I make for you! I love you Mommy.”

sweet little hands

On Thursday, Melanie’s preschool had “Muffins for Mom,” and I got muffins and an awesome handprint craft from Melanie. She also made me a surprise book that she hid in the house for today. Whenever we find it, it sure will be a surprise.

All of my gifts!

Yesterday, I ran some errands, and I came back to homemade Mother’s day cards from the girls. Sylvia “wrote” lots of sweet things for me. Too bad they are in scribbles and I can’t read them because she wouldn’t let Daddy help her. “I write for Mommy.” I got flowers from Jeremy, and I haven’t had to clean any dishes this weekend. I also got a painted pot of flowers, a carnation, and a note from Melanie after church this week. I am very thankful for all the teachers and people that took time to help my girls make this Mother’s Day special for me.

I had a great Mother’s Day. The only part missing was spending time with my Mom and my Mother-in-law. I loved the above paper so much, I thought I would answer it for each of them!

  • Debbie
  • I love you because you are my friend
  • You help me cook really yummy food
  • You are the best at cooking even yummier food
  • My favorite thing to do with you is walk our circle
  • You are happy when you see your boys all together playing video games
  • It makes me happy when you stand in the corner of a room and smile
  • You make the best prosciutto goat cheese crustini
  • To My Mom – I wouldn’t be a fraction of the Mom I am without you!
  • I love you because you are quiet
  • You help me calm down and fix my problems
  • You are the best at loving me despite me
  • My favorite thing to do with you is sitting on the beach
  • You are happy when you are knitting
  • It makes me happy when you run your fingers through my hair
  • You make the best fried chicken, ka’chuncks, & cacciatore

Learning Letters for Kindergarten

Melanie went to kindergarten registration a couple weeks ago. (That is another post in itself.) They gave all the kids an assessment test. I asked her about it at the end of the morning and she told me “I did good. I read the pages they gave me and I told them all the letters they ask me, but I didn’t know all the sounds.” She went upstairs for her rest time today with some paper. An hour later she came downstairs with this.

so motivated and studious!

She told me she didn’t write “K” because she couldn’t remember how to, but she knows it’s sound. She wrote all her letters and gave them a check if she knew their sound. I asked her “Why did you write out your letters?” She told me “I need to learn them and get ready for Kindergarten. It is my homework Mommy. I didn’t know them all and now I do!”

I just love seeing her so excited to learn. We should all want to learn as much as kids do. We could do and be so much.

Children for God

Sylvia’s Sunday school lesson this past week was “Samuel Helps Eli.”

1 Samuel 1:24 – 28

And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

I heard this for the first time as a teenager. It was a story about faithfulness. She gave her son back to the Lord. It meant so much more to me today. I read it for the first time as a Mom. Many of my friends are in the kid stage of life. I have friends who have to try really hard to have a baby. I also have some friends who despite their trying haven’t been able to have a baby. I can hardly grasp the level of faith and discipline it took to do what Hannah did. How many times did she think to herself “I don’t really have to do this.” “I can, he can serve the Lord another way.” or “I will keep him just a little bit longer.” How many times did she cry when she turned around in the kitchen and he wasn’t there? Or, did she cry at all? Was she overjoyed to follow through with her covenant to the Lord? Was she thrilled to know he was serving the Lord? Was she thankful for the gift of the time she had even her sacrifice of raising him?

I don’t know how I would feel. I don’t know what I would do. I do know I am thankful for God’s faithfulness to me. Today I pray I can be faithful to Him as Hannah was when she gave her son back to the Lord. I am thankful for my girls and come what may, I will be thankful for the time I have had with them.

Strawberry Pickin’

The ultimate start to a southern summer is strawberry pickin’! You can’t have summer without the sweet smooth taste of a freshly picked strawberry! I took the girls with a friend to a local strawberry field. We had a blast. The strawberries were delicious and watching the girls go about picking the strawberries was a hoot.

pickin’ berries!

Melanie picked 8 strawberries. She spent the rest of the time running around and those 8 lonely berries became a pulversized smoothie by the time they hit the scale. Sylvia, was my little work mule. She picked and picked and picked every red berry she saw. She kept saying “Need more berries. Go eat at park.” She capitalized on every moment she had to make her berry hoard as big as it could be. She couldn’t wait to sit down and gobble ’em up until she could hold no more.

our cheerleader

Summer has officially started in this house. Has it started in yours? Go find a strawberry field and go pickin’! As a southern I can say there “ain’t nothin better for da soul!” The only thing missing was my grandma and my parents. They were always out there pickin’ with me.

our berries

Sylvia – the MVP!

Diet plan – Week 1

always eating veggies!

I made it! I lost two pounds. Woo-hoo! This is right on track. I had six great workouts! (2 – RPM, 2- Body Pump, Body Flow, and Ran 3 miles) I ate nothing that I wanted to. On Friday night I had yogurt and granola for dinner just because I didn’t want to eat grilled chicken again and I got to imagine it was strawberry ice cream. Win-Win. I ate bags of steam-able frozen vegetables, egg whites, tons of greek yogurt, lots of water/tea/coffee, and two pieces of strawberry pie. 🙂 Had to cheat a little! We went strawberry picking and that pie is one of my all time favorites! Melanie is gobbling it up fast so it should be gone soon.

This week I will get in another six workouts. It will continue to eat simple low calorie proteins and vegetable knocking out all liquid calories and I only have three weeks of extreme dieting to go before summer break! I definitely had to tear myself away from sonic a couple of times. I heard they now make “mini” sized deserts and I am dying to get one. It is going to have to wait though.

Tummy Troubles

We scurry our way into the fitting room with a bathing suit for Melanie. I help Melanie pull on the top to her bathing suit without messing up her hair and she quickly turns to look in the mirror. She loves to get new clothes.

I glance towards the mirror. I see her smile switch to a crooked frown. She tips out her hip and cocks her head to the side. She pulls down on the tankini top as hard is she can. Then she grabs the bottoms and pulls them up too. She sighs flips around with her arms crossed over her stomach. “It won’t cover my tummy.” I chuckle. “It is a tankini it isn’t supposed to cover your tummy. It is in two pieces.” She sighs again. “Well, I think it should cover my tummy.” I smile so big my baby wants her tummy covered! I reply. “This is the only suit they have in your size. If you don’t like it we will have to look somewhere else. It is easier to use the bathroom in a two piece suit though.” Melanie furrows her brow and thinks about it. “I go potty with all my suits and they covered my tummy.” “Yes you did. We don’t have to get this one.” “Alright. Okay. Let’s do that.”

I take off her tankini. We walk out to see Daddy. “Did you like it?” I shake my head quickly back and forth. Melanie quickly states.”Not at all.” When she is a teenager, I will hold this story as an exhibit against her triangle top bikini.

Springfest 2012

It isn’t officially spring around here until Springfest! We strolled our way downtown and had a wonderful time. The big girls walked all the way from the house and back. Danielle got to ride in the stroller since she is so good at sitting up now. We met up with friends and off we went.

– Heartbreaker!

We ended up next to the art shop and had our faces painted. The big girls got to paint cardboard flowers.

My little artist.

Butterfly!

Unicorn!

The streets downtown were full of artists. There was a granite lazy susan I wanted so badly, but I left it there. There were kid bicycle races, carnival rides, paintings, hair bows, jams, and a man playing music that Sylvia loved! She fell into a trance and couldn’t move. She looked like she had been hypnotized by his wooden pan pipes. We didn’t move quickly though. We greeted every dog we encountered. It was slow going because there were dogs everywhere!

I know two girls who need a dog! One day...

The girls ate hotdogs. The adults had amazing North Carolina Barbecue, and we all topped it off with a huge bag of kettle corn! It was delicious. The only thing missing was my i-phone because these pictures were taken with my dumb phone, and it took Husband over 20 minutes to extract them. Maybe by the time we get a dog, I can have a phone to go with it! Spring has sprung and it was fun!

Me and my baby girl!

Pre-summer diet plan – who’s with me?

This next week, I am going to run at least 10 miles, do two RPM classes, and two body pump classes. I am going to eat more lean protein and vegetables than I want to, 95% less carbohydrates than I desire, and 100% less dessert and cocktails than I need. In the next 4 weeks, I AM going to lose 10 lbs, and on my anniversary, I WILL weigh what I did 8 years ago when I got married before the three babies came into the picture! I promise to only complain about it once a week! 🙂 Anyone out there want to join me in the misery it takes to exercise 6 days a week and eat/drink nothing tasty?

Moms can dream! (from victoria's secret)

Mother, oh Mother…

A good friend had this as her Facebook status and I just had to share it here.

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, Lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek-peek-a-boo).
The shopping is not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there is a hullabaloo.
But I’m playing “Kanga” and this is my “Roo.”
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rock-a-bye, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Ruth Hulburt Hamilton, 1958

I think it says it all. 🙂

Cleaning Crayon

I stand in my bedroom, folding clothes on autopilot while soft country music streams from the internet radio. How long have I been here? I started with three loads of laundry to fold, and now I am almost done. Aside from the country song, there’s no sound, which worries me because my two- and four-year-olds are in the next room over.

I enter the living room, and dread becomes reality. There they are, armed with a box of crayons, marking up every toy in sight, and who knows what else. “No…girls! What are you doing?”

Melanie throws her crayons to the floor and cowers behind our yellow armchair. Sylvia gives a goofy smile and holds her crayon high. “We coloring, Mommy! So pretty.” I force the muscles of my own smile into a rigid stare, then I take a deep breath and survey the damage. They got the Winnie-the-Pooh car, the dragon car, the kids table and chairs, and some spots on the wood floor, but I don’t see any wall or furniture damage. Okay, not as bad as I thought.

“Ladies, follow me.” Melanie pops up and follows close at my heels. Sylvia knows something is off but brings up the end of the line. I get to the kitchen, grab two wash clothes, dampen them under the faucet, and hand them out. “Ladies. We do not color on anything but paper. Melanie, you know better. You will both go clean up the crayon. Understand?” Melanie grumbles a little, but I give her a sharp look, and she shuffles back to the living room.

Sylvia turns and bobs down the hall, singing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”

I shake my head. When the kids are quiet and playing nicely, do not be fooled. It’s only the calm before another storm.

The damage

The cleaning

The witness

Our Day at the Zoo

I love having kids! You are given a unique opportunity to be a kid again. You get to be excited about all the things that aren’t your age anymore. It was a beautiful Saturday two weeks ago when we decided to take the girls to the zoo. (We didn’t get the memo that the rest of North Carolina thought the same thing!) It was so crowded that people were parking on the roads, on grass, and along roads nowhere near the parking lots.

So many cars!

It was a wonderful time. We had the two big girls walk, and Danielle rode in the stroller. Melanie was so tired by the end. She is not used to that much walking. As we left, I told her “we should come every day, Mel.” She whined “Every day?” I said I was only joking, and she sighed in relief. You can get too much of a good thing. We saw most all the African animals. It was slow going with the crowds. Sylvia could have watched the lion all morning. She kept giving him her fiercest roar.

The bird house was chock full of exotic birds and a real treat. Of course, Melanie’s favorite part was the air vent.

I was very thankful I learned last time we went to the zoo to pack a lunch. We would have been waiting for hours to eat, and we are a horrible lot when hungry.

PB&J's in the woods!

All the girls loved the animals. Next time Daddy might take a day off of work to skip the crowds.

Danielle riding like a big girl!

To the little kid in all of us!

p.s. We left at around 3pm. You can see, in the top left corner, people still waiting in line, on the bridge, to get in! Ugh!

Bedtime Snuggles

My girls and I are always on the move. We head to school, gym, dance class, play dates at the park, grocery shopping, and anything else you can imagine. We are always going. When the girls chill in front of the TV, I am usually doing something else. Well, last night they rounded up to watch My little Pony before bed. I sat on the sofa, and they curled up next to me. I love bedtime snuggles! They don’t happen very often. One girl fights with the other for space, or Melanie is sprawled out on the floor. Sylvia frequently looks at you and says “no hugs” if you try to creep in to cuddle. But last night I got to snuggle. One Happy Mommy!

Breaking the Rules

Yesterday we played Cootie. It is a game where the player acquires bug body parts as one rolls the corresponding number with dice. You MUST roll a 1 and then a 2 to build your bug body before you may collect other parts to your bug. Sylvia creamed Daddy and Melanie. She had her bug built in record time. Melanie was devastated. She had been rolling and rolling the die and could not get a 2 despite everyone else getting 2’s over and over again. She only had a head, and Sylvia had won! She had no chance.

Daddy swoops in to save the day. He consoles baby girl who is crying because she lost the game. She was trying so hard not to cry. She knew it wasn’t being a good sport, but she couldn’t help herself. She had asked all weekend to play Cootie, and when we finally played, she lost. (These games are horrible because you really have no control over winning, and when you lose, it’s usually not even close.) Daddy says, “Don’t worry, Melanie. We’ll play to see who wins second place.”

Daddy rolls and rolls the numbers he needs and just ignores them, quickly handing Melanie the dice before she notices. He continues to do this over and over again. They get to the point where they are “tied.” Daddy chimes in “Now, whoever gets a 6 first is the winner.” This is because I have glared at him so long that he has no choice but to allow her the possibility of losing. Melanie rolls, and Melanie wins. Well, sort of.

My husband is a lawyer. He is all about the rules. He breaks out the official rules before every game. He will uphold them to the letter no matter the cost, and he never cheats. He says there is no joy in victory by cheating. He is an uncompromising rule monger. Or so I thought. We found his breaking point yesterday: the tears of devastation from his baby girl. He felt a bit guilty about it afterwards, wondering if in some small way he was robbing our daughter of an important life lesson. Then he rationalized that he was “just finding another way to be like Jesus – breaking the rules in mercy for those he loves.” Oh yes, my dear husband is an excellent lawyer.

Can I get a wet nurse?

I have a beautiful seven-month-old little girl. She is calm, easy going, super smiley, an amazing sleeper, and an exclusive breastfeeder!!! This mom is done. I have been pregnant three times in five years. I nursed my middle babe for nine months, and I was pregnant again a few months after that. I want to wake up in the morning and be a person unattached to a baby. I need freedom. I need to go on dates. I need to be able to go away for a night without my baby. I need a baby who will drink from a bottle.

note: this is not my baby!

I am stuck nursing. In the beginning, it’s a dream come true. I have to sit down to “feed the baby.” It is my number-one job. I am the only one who can do it. I can’t tend to the other children. I can’t clean the kitchen. I can’t fold the laundry. The baby needs me. Now, nursing is in the way. I am fully rested. I don’t want to zone out on the sofa endlessly scrolling a Facebook feed. I want to finish a workout and give the girl a bottle, not nurse a baby all hot and sweaty. I certainly don’t want to spend a summer, by the pool, with a baby under a beach towel when it is 100 degrees outside.

I am in new territory. I have never had a baby who wouldn’t drink a bottle, even loaded with the good stuff. It would be much easier if I could have someone with active udders come my way. You spend the day feeding my baby, so I can be free. I am accepting clean blood panels, and in return you get to help a girl in need. I know she won’t mind. I’ve seen her get hungry and dive into many a chest. Got milk? I’ve got a hungry baby.

“I want her to be my Mommy.”

I pick up the mail and hurry inside to read my new edition of Real Simple. I grab some baby toys, toss them on the sofa, and set Danielle beside them. I lean back and thumb through the pages. There’s an article on swim suits. I set the magazine open on the sofa above Danielle’s head, pick up the baby keys, and dangle them for her to reach at as I glance through the pictures.

Melanie strolls up, looks down at the swimsuit model on the open page, and points. “I want her to be my Mommy.” I stare into Melanie’s eyes. “You really want her to be your Mommy? Why?” Melanie’s face goes flat with a hint of fear. “Well, I just do,” she says. “Well, why do you?” I’m not upset with her, but now she’s in nervous stutter mode.  “S-s-s-see she is just pretty, and we-well, you look pretty sometimes when you wear a dress, b-but you don’t have many pretty dresses and she just looks…pretty.”

“So, you want her to be your Mommy because she is prettier than me.” She just keeps to the facts. “Well, I really do love you as my Mommy, Mommy. And she is pretty.” I look at the picture. I look back to her. “You do realize that saying you want a different Mommy could hurt my feelings, right? You should apologize and say ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you, Mommy. I shouldn’t have said that.’ Don’t you think?” She leans back against the ottoman and sighs. “Yeah…but I can’t remember all those things you just said.” We repeat it back and forth, one step at a time. “I’m sorry Mommy. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I shouldn’t have said that.”

I lean back and think to myself. I would love a personal stylist to do my hair, makeup, pick out my clothes, and most of all, I do wish I could be photoshopped before I leave the house every morning. I can’t blame Melanie for wanting me to look my best, which I know is what she meant. In the end though, I get to be Mom, with the frazzled bun, tired makeup-less face, oversized workout clothes and t-shirts, running from place to place and trying to keep our world running on schedule. This week, Mel has said both “You are the best Mommy ever” and “I want her to be my Mommy.” My funny life with a four-and-a-half-year-old. I set the magazine down, having lost my desire to look at the pictures. Maybe I’ll pick it up after the girls are in bed or just try again next month.

Easter Weekend – The Feast!

Melanie made the crosses at church. What a great centerpiece. It opened up conversation for us at dinner about why we were having such a fancy meal!

This year we decided to stay at our house instead of travel home to family for Easter. Husband’s side of the family has a big dinner with the extended family. It is great and we truly miss living near family. We stuck with the tradition and cooked dinner too. I posted last week our menu and it will be adjusted for next year.

The lamb cake was delicious, but didn’t rise into both sides of my pan. My leg of lamb cooked 1.5 hours faster than it was supposed to. This rushed the rest of my cooking process. Fortunately Husband jumped right in and helped me pull everything together. It was all delicious. Sylvie my meatatarian ate two portions of lamb. Melanie the vegetarian loved her green beans.

I got to use my new (to me) china from my grandmother that I have always loved. We pulled out the crystal and had a fantastic family meal to celebrate Easter.

Everything looks tastier with fancy dishes!

Easter is my favorite holiday and if it continues to be as wonderful as this past weekend was. It always will be.

I really like to cook

One post left to share from the weekend. See you tomorrow.

“You are the best Mommy ever!”

I push the cart to the frozen vegetables and rack my brain for the few items I need. I avoid eye contact with everyone. My three yahoos are a fragile lot. Any unwanted look, misplaced hello, or lingering conversation can tip the scale and spark chaos.

I toss my Steamfresh vegetables in the cart. They are buy-one-get-one-free. I always stock up with this sale. We go through so many vegetables. We walk around the corner, and Sylvia gleefully cries “oooooh.” Melanie frantically scans the cart for the object of Sylvia’s excitement. Sylvia reaches for a bag of vegetables. Melanie glances my way with an enormous grin. “Are they edamame, Mommy? Are they, are they?!” I nod my head as I charge to the checkout counter. “You are the best Mommy ever!” says Melanie. Sylvia now has the bag of frozen edamame, clutching it against her chest. As she swivels her hips side to side embracing the bag, she closes her eyes and sweetly sings, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

I scream, you scream, we all scream for....edamame?

Easter Weekend – Egg Hunt

After church we stopped by to have coffee with our neighbor. As we were visiting she invited us to join her for an egg hunt at the barn where she boards her horse. We eagerly accepted and off we went.

We got to the barn and the girls had fun searching for the eggs. They were just laying in the field, and yet you still had to look hard. The girls relish any opportunity to run free in open spaces. Melanie had fun playing with a young girl she met. Sylvia ate candy as fast as she could. We met some new people and scored an invite to hunt again next year! Count us in!

Nothing like a beautiful day and an Easter Egg Hunt!

That smile says it all! What an Easter. More to come…

 

 

Easter Weekend – Easter Eggs

We did too much this weekend to put into one post. I will start with Friday. We dyed Easter eggs!

I have always loved to dye Easter eggs and fortunately the girls love it too. I covered the dining room table with sheets of wax paper and then put a table cloth over the paper to avoid staining my blonde wood with dye. Sylvia tested this system out and it worked great! Her shirt is forever stained pink, but my table was saved!

I handed Sylvia her first egg. She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and then slammed it as hard as she could onto the table to “crack” it. I demonstrated the process to “color” not crack eggs and she did great. The girls had fun. They dunked them and dyed them and Sylvia was sad when her eight eggs were gone. She could easily have dyed 20. Melanie experimented with dying an egg two different colors. We ended up with no brown eggs, just pretty colors with princess stickers. It was a fun activity.

And we can’t forget Danielle.

Woman Saved from Death by Jet Crash

photo via Kara Mitchell on Facebook

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

– Matthew 6:19-21

Today in my hometown, a fighter jet crashed into an apartment building. A friend’s grandmother was saved from certain death in the burning wreckage of her home because she was at church celebrating the stations of the cross in remembrance of our Savior’s death on Good Friday. Praise the Lord for this miracle, the sparing of her life.

What an amazing story of God’s intercession and redemption of His people! We’re all just trying to get by in this world, live decently with our families, get a well-paying job, save for retirement, and build a small empire that will last. But it won’t last. Our empires are burning, so if we’re wise, we’ll store up our treasures in heaven, and like my friend’s grandmother, we’ll escape the flames of sin and death by remembering and trusting in the work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus, God among men, who loved us so much that He took our sins upon Himself and died for you and me.

What are you living for? What are you building towards? Maybe you would like to make more money. Maybe you want to meet the man or woman of your dreams. Maybe you want that big house in the right part of town. Maybe you want to raise kids that will make you proud. Maybe you want respect in your professional world. But for what? At the end of the day, it will all crumble into dust. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t save yourself. You can’t stop death and keep it from coming.

But Jesus saved you from death when He died in your place, and all you have to do is recognize it. If you see the burning wreck of your life and know it is true, all you have to do is trust in Jesus. Admit your sin and brokenness. Thank Him for the gift of salvation. Make Him the Lord of your life, and follow Him in the kingdom that will never die.

If this true story of God’s grace on Good Friday meant something to you, or if you know someone who needs to hear about the love of Jesus, pass it on!

Waiting for Daddy

Husband has been on work trips all week for the past three weeks. He has only been around for the weekends. The girls have really been missing him. This morning Sylvia looked to me and asked “Where is Daddy?” I know she was wanting a “Daddy hug” and hoping he was here to give one. When I told her he was at work she said “Okay.”

This evening we were waiting to have a family dinner when Husband returned home. The girls were hungry and quite ready to see their Daddy. They went out to wait for him.

Their pose lasted for all of a minute before they ran to play on the swing set. They couldn’t wait inside. They had to get as close to the garage as possible. They had to know the moment Daddy was home.

Body Pump – Day 1 done!

Image

I made it to the class today, despite myself. I was amazed at how much I dreaded going and how much that was keeping me from being excited to be there. It was a good workout, for lifting weights that is. It hurts and I don’t like it. I hope that as the weeks roll on it will get easier to enjoy this type of workout again. I am so thankful my baby weighs 13 pounds because I will hardly be able to lift her tomorrow. In the morning when I wake up and will think to myself “why do I feel like I was hit by a truck.” I hope I can remember “you did this to yourself. Pain is Fun! Right?!” I hope the power of positive thinking kicks in sometime before now and then.

Easter Dinner Menu

Appetizers:

Main Course:

Dessert:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die,yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

Sylvie Sees Jesus

We are pushing Sylvia (my two-year-old) in the swing at the downtown park, enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon. Sylvia points out into the crowd of people saying “Jesus.” Husband and I look out, look back to Sylvia. “What did you say?” She points again — “Jesus.” We crane our heads to the right and turn them back to the left. “Say it again baby.” “Jesus,” she insists, and points to the exact same spot. I look again, and I see a Middle-Eastern lady sitting on the bench with a pink head scarf on. “Did you say Jesus?” “Yes, I see Jesus. There!” I turn to my husband, and we chuckle. “She thinks the lady is Jesus. It is how the drawings from her church lessons look!”

Sylvie’s Lessons:

Lady in a scarf:

Makes sense to Me! 

 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
John 12:13

Happy Palm Sunday Everyone!

Becoming Babe after Babies – Phase 2

Phase one of returning to my pre-baby body was run a 1/2 Marathon. Done! I did it to have a challenge and achieve a new scary fitness goal.  I am now 15lbs lighter and ready to go further. I had a group exercise work out plan created for after my half mary. It did not plan for bad tendonitis in my right ankle. I took one spin class last week and realized my plan was not going to work. I have spent two solid weeks resting and this past week bummed deciding what to do.

I am not a dieter. I like to exercise excessively and eat moderately. I love food too much to let it go. I cannot go through life starving and eat a cube a cheese before I pass out. Since my daily walking has been leaving me with ice on my ankle by 8pm, I have been asking myself “What am I going to do?” My husband, always ready to help, told me to swim. I replied “No, I hate swimming.” I love to swim at the beach on a float while I sun bathe or swim from a boat to a set of skis. I do not swim laps. There is nothing to look at but the ceiling or pool floor. You cannot listen to music or people watch. You have to do the whole change in the locker room thing. I am burdened enough carrying two kids and their stuff into the gym, and now I have to take a bag for me too!

While I was sitting all week with ice on my ankle dreaming of running outside, I remembered 12 weeks ago I hated running too. Now I am in a bad mood because I haven’t worked out in two weeks, and I am going insane. I might not like to swim, but maybe in 10 weeks I will. It only took 10 weeks to fall in love with running, and I should be able to swim with tendonitis. So, tomorrow I am going to head to the pool. I am going to pack a gym bag, change in a locker room, be soaking wet when I leave after a boring swim workout. I might hate it, but I will keep doing it anyways. I am determined to keep on going, and maybe this tendonitis will be the best thing that ever happened to me. It is going to push me once again out of my comfort zone into a workout routine I know I would not have done but for an injury.

Here is my revised schedule: swim Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and body pump class on Tuesday and Thursday. If my ankle hurts, I can always sit down and lift for the exercises that don’t hurt. I have not swam laps since my days in summer swim team, but to the pool I go!

Playing in the Rain

I woke up this morning to rain. I just love lazy, rainy mornings. I grabbed my cup of coffee, opened the front door, and sat on the porch just watching the rain fall. The girls of course came out to join me since I was being “so silly.” Melanie looks out and asks, “Can I go run in the rain?” I almost say no. She is dressed in her pajamas and everyone on our block is going to be home. Once again, I find myself worrying about the judgment of others, and I will myself not to care. “Sure.” She smiles and bounds down the stairs to run barefoot up and down the sidewalk, in her nightgown, in the rain. If only we could all be so free.

Happy Saturday!

There’s No Place Like Home

When I think of home, I see the beach. I dream of the walk from my grandmother’s house down to the sand. I hear the sound of cars driving over the Chesapeake bay bridge. I see my girls as infants sitting in the sand and putting their feet in the water for the first time. I picture my locals’ beach, where kids run together, where people share as neighbors their shovels, buckets, drinks, and snacks.

Danielle's 1st time in the sand!

When I go home, I go to the beach. It doesn’t matter the month or the weather. It calls me and draws me to it. It is a beach like no other. It belongs to my family. When I see my girls running and playing there, I imagine maybe one day it will call to them too. I hope it will draw us together from anywhere back to our home.

Just call me Lady Laundry

If “Mom” is your name, then laundry is your game, and this mom of three is taking a beating. We arrived home from an eight-day trip on Saturday. At the start of yesterday, I still had clothes everywhere! I can list excuses, but they do no good. As Melanie put it yesterday, “I just want to find the clothes I want to wear. They are somewhere! Right, Mommy?!” They sure are somewhere in the madness. Jeremy ran two large loads of laundry on Sunday before he left for work that night. His clothes were gone. Our clothes piled back on top of a suitcase.

I remember a time, long ago, when my oldest was just a little baby. I did a load of laundry every day. One day, whites. The next day, darks. They were folded hot and fresh from the dryer and promptly escorted to their home. Then we moved, had another baby, moved again, had another baby, and now we seem to be back to our bad bad laundry habits. We got married in college. We had a two bedroom condo. One bed was ours, and the guest room bed belonged to our clothes. We took the clothes from the dryer in the basement and dumped them on the bed. Every morning, we raced around rummaging for what we needed, plummeted the two flights of stairs to the basement dryer to “fluff” before we ran out of the house. The only time those clothes saw a hanger or dresser drawer was when company came into town and we needed the bed for a higher purpose. I resigned myself to tackle laundry mountain. It took me most of two days battling my lack of motivation, and now it is done. Laundry – clean – folded – and put away!

Before:

After:

Well, most of it anyway! 🙂 Don’t want to go to far too fast!

Games Without Hunger

guest post by: Jeremy Snyder

(spoiler alert)

Many reviewers have addressed the shortcomings of the Hunger Games film in terms of its watered down brutality. For example, this audition piece of the Rue death scene showcases the kind of emotional depth the film should have provided. By downplaying the kid-on-kid slaughter-fest and retelling the love tragedy between the two lead characters as a cliched romance, the filmmakers have unconsciously become the objects of their own satire. I cannot help but think the irony is lost on them.

The film, and the popular book by Suzanne Collins on which it is based, is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the remnant of the United States is divided into twelve fenced-off districts ruled by a totalitarian Capitol. Each year, to remind people of its limitless power and the danger of rebellion, the Capitol drafts via lottery two children per district to star on a reality television show in which the object is to kill all the other kids before they kill you. Out of 24 children, only one will live, and the hero among them is Katniss, who volunteers for the games in place of her little sister. The other kid from her district, and her supposed love interest in the arena, is Peeta, the baker’s boy who once saved Katniss from starvation by sneaking her a loaf of bread from the family shop.

Right before the start of the games, Peeta announces during the televised pre-game interviews that he is in love with Katniss, though she never knew it. Katniss, knowing she will have to find a way to kill Peeta if she is to survive the games, despises what she sees as Peeta’s clever attempt to sell a sympathetic story with the viewers. This becomes a major plot device, both in the book and the film, that survival in the games requires well-timed gifts, such as water or medicine, parachuted in by wealthy sponsors. To get sponsors, you have to be likeable. Peeta is charming and charismatic, while Katniss is stubborn, naive, and suspicious.

Throughout the book, Katniss waffles back and forth wondering if Peeta is plotting to kill or help her, and she blindly assumes his overtures of love are a ploy to generate viewer interest and sponsors. With some nudging from her mentor and former games victor, Haymitch, Katniss gives in to the unwritten rules of the show and pretends to be in love with Peeta, saving both of their lives in the process. When the games are over, Peeta discovers to his utter humiliation and dismay that Katniss was only “acting” in love with him, and now their lives will depend on carrying forward a sham romance to appease the Capitol and prevent the execution of their families. Katniss is stuck as a perpetual heart-breaker, Peeta is stuck pretending to be in love with the girl who he desperately wants to love him in truth, and both will be haunted by dreams of slaughtered children.

The filmmakers (game makers?) sanitized not just the brutality, but the lover’s angst that formed the subjective heart of the story. Like the phony Capitol drama, moviegoers will see an apparently mutual romance between the lead characters. Katniss’s paranoia towards Peeta, and her rejection of him at the end of the story, would probably have made her less likeable, and less marketable, to the hoards of teenage girls who have made the movie such a box office success. I’m sure we’ll all sleep much easier, and buy more movie tickets, knowing that forcing poor kids to murder one another for political control and entertainment is actually not all that bad because true love conquers all…

The book tells a much richer, truer story, which I encourage you to read.

Shamrock 1/2 Marathon – Done!!!!

I did it! I made it to the finish line! It was an amazing experience. When I started this venture, I had just one goal: get to the end. As I started my training, I knew I would make it. I modified my goals to finish in less than 3 hours. And I made it. I finished the race in 02:38:04! I met my goal and then some!

I was so anxious, I didn’t sleep well last night. In the beginning, I was encouraged because I was running faster than most of the people in my corral. As I kept going, I ended up in a pack. I eventually realized that the guy holding a stick which read “2:30” wasn’t crazy, he was pacing people. It was great. I hope one day I can do that for someone else. I stuck with him as long as I could, and I didn’t lose him from my sight until mile 10 when I took my first walk. This was the first time I have run 9 miles without waking, ever!

I don’t know when or what my next race will be. It could be three years in the future, but I am sure I will keep on running. One of my good friends told me before my race to remember, that you don’t go out and run all by yourself, in the rain, four times a week, for anyone but yourself, and just to have fun. It is so true. You can’t diet or exercise for other people. You have to do it for yourself. It has to be because you want it. The best part is that I decided to run this race. I knew it was going to be a challenge having a 6-month-old baby. It was the challenge I wanted. Today, when I ran that race, I wasn’t a mom. I was just a girl out there running 13.1 miles like everyone else. For 2:38, I was Sheena all by myself. Then I got to run into the arms of my little girls and look at all my family who was there to support me. What a great day!

What are you going to do?

1/2 Marathon – 11 hours and counting!!!

Well, I have done the training, put in the time, run the miles, acquired my bib from the expo (I forgot my camera 😦 ), and I am waiting to run the race. I am a little nervous and pretty excited to finally reach my goal. I have been thinking about doing this for about a year. I committed to the race when I signed up for it in July at 7 months pregnant, and I realized how hard it would be when I went out in November attempting  to run one little mile. It has been a great time. I have had lots of fun embracing this challenge. I enjoy running now. My favorite distance is about 5-6 miles. I would have never known that if I didn’t take on this challenge. I can’t wait to cross the finish line on the 31st street at the Virginia Beach board walk and get my “finisher’s” medal!

Happy St. Patty’s Day Everyone!

Raising Sisters

I jump back in the car from my quick trip in the grocery store. Husband has a goofy look on his face, it is one of complete satisfaction from the fried chicken he just ate at Cracker Barrel. I see something else in his eyes. “What’s up?” I look back towards the back seat. The girls are stuffing their face with the gummy candies they picked from the general store. 

“They are something else.” Husband replies. “How so?” “They were just sitting there eating their candy and Sylvia looks over to Melanie and says ‘I love you Mel Mel.’ Melanie glanced up between bites ‘Yeah, I love you too.'” I smile sit back and buckle up. I laugh “they really are something else.” 

I don’t have a sister. I don’t even have many friends with a sister.  My closest friends through the years have been people who didn’t have sisters. I don’t know how that happened. I also don’t know how I ended up with three little girls. I feel so blessed to experience the world of sisterhood through my girls. When I look at my girls this quote seems to encompass their relationship best.

She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.
— Barbara Alpert


Suffering through Shots

Danielle went to her six month doctor appointment today. She weighed in at 13.3 pounds and fell from the seventh to fourth percentile. As the doctor put it we have a shrinking baby. We might have to change her name to tiny here soon. She earned herself an extra weight check before her first birthday.

The worst part of today was the shots. Danielle always smiles and laughs. Her cries sound more like moaning. Today we realized she can really cry. She won’t use her legs because they are sore, she doesn’t want to eat baby food, she can only go to sleep being rocked, and she whimpers in her sleep. I feel so bad for her. I really hope she wakes up feeling better in the morning. For now, I am getting lots of baby snuggles.

Craft time: Shamrocks

My shamrock 1/2 marathon in Virginia Beach has made me very aware of St. Patricks Day this year. I have never been concerned with it before. This year all I can think about are shamrocks and green colored Yuengling. Brewing beer isn’t really a craft for kids or myself. So, I settled on making homemade shamrocks.

You need to gather a knife, potato, paint, card stock, and your kiddos. I picked up a fat potato to make the stamps with.

You cut the potato in half and then carve the shape of a shamrock leaf (a heart) to make your stamp. When that is done you leave the knife in the kitchen and proceed to your table. I put out the stamp, paint brushes, and green paint on a plate. Now you are ready to go. This craft took me less than five minutes to prepare and they had fun for 30 minutes.

I had my own piece of card stock to use as a demonstration (I really just wanted to paint too) and let them have fun. A quick and easy project. You could paint a rainbow, cut and past a pot of gold if you like. Just relax, sit back, and paint away.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What Girls Were Made for – Shopping!

I pull into the parking lot. Melanie grins from ear to ear in her carseat. I scan the crowded parking lot for an empty space. Khol’s opened today, a major event for our small town. The Peebles closed because they don’t compete in a market where Khol’s is. “You are going to have to stay close to me and hold my hand, Melanie. I don’t want to lose you with all the people. It looks very busy.” “I will stay right next to you, Mommy. I have been waiting for new clothes.” She has been waiting, eagerly, for weeks. “Let’s go.”

Melanie skips along into the store, and I almost want to skip with her. I almost never get to spend one-on-one time with her. I usually feel like a crazed shepherd corralling mindless sheep who run off at any moment with the slightest provocation of their senses. But now I can dedicate some attention to Melanie, who used to be my only girl.

We arrive in her department, and she would be proud if she could see the growing size of her “owl eyes.” The displays beckon us in, and we look at each other with goofy grins, trying to decide where to begin. There are not many children here at the moment, and her section is pretty vacant. We end up surrounded by socks and underwear. “I definitely need new panties and socks, Mommy. We can never find socks for me.” We pick up some socks. She looks up and sees Disney character night gowns. She grabs Rapunzel and begs me for it. “I really want the wand, Mommy. Can I please have a wand?” All in the packaging, I give in. Rapunzel is one of her favorite characters. We move on to the dresses hanging on the wall next to us. She picks out five of them. I am distracted, performing complicated mental math with the markdowns and my 15% off coupon. I agree to the $15 dollar dresses. I justify to myself that we only go shopping a couple times a year. We pick up 2 fancy dresses and some knit tops and skirts from the 6.99 section and hurry off to the fitting room.

Melanie is wowed by the tree panel mirror. “We need mirrors like this at home, Mommy. We could see how beautiful we are three times.” “That would be nice.” Melanie soaks in everything, loves everything. She reads aloud the plaques on the wall: “Love it, Like it, Back to store…What do those mean?” “They are hooks for you to put the clothes on after you try them on.” “Well, we can put everything on the ‘Love it’ because I love them all. I picked them out and just love them.” I just chuckle. We get hung up on one dress in particular. She LOVES it, but I know my husband will kill me if I bring it home. It is a dress suited for Toddlers and Tiaras! We go back and forth on why she cannot have the pretty dress. She picks a more suitable Easter dress, and we are done.

We make our way to the register, and she picks out a new pair of sunglasses. “This has been lots of fun, Melanie. Thank you for behaving so well.” “Me too, Mommy. I love my clothes. We should do this all the time.” I laugh. “Let’s go show Daddy your new clothes.” “Yay!”

We arrive home to flaunt our spoils, and I hear Sylvia at the top of the stairs. She has just woken up from her nap. She sees and hears Melanie running to my husband with her large bag of clothes. Sylvia cries with joy “My clothes, my clothes!” Uh oh. I picked her up an Easter dress, but she was supposed to be sleeping still when we got back. I was going to take Sylvia out to get a few things later in the week, but now I realize my day is getting longer.

I reach into the bag and hand her the dress. She brushes it aside. She gleefuly reaches into the bag to pull out an item, and Melanie lunges for it. “No, Sylvia. These are mine. These are my new clothes. They are not for you. I am showing them to Daddy.” “No Melanie, for me. Mommy, for me. My clothes.” “No, Sylvia they are not yours. They are Melanie’s. Here is a dress for you.” “I don’t want it. I want my clothes.” It is a dress with a long coat. It is very pretty, but with the coat covering it up, it doesn’t fit her schema for “dress.” We take off the jacket, and she puts on the dress. She glares at the large pile of clothes Melanie has acquired. “Where’s my clothes?” she asks. “They are at the store. Would you like to go pick them out with me?” “Yay!” I hold up the jacket and point to the dress she is wearing. “Do you want to take that back and pick something different?” “Yes, take back. I want to pick.” I sigh as I begin to redress her. I go to the computer and print yet another coupon. I reach for a spoonful of peanut butter to sustain me, grab my purse, and venture off to Khol’s once again.

Sylvia is the silent type as we travel in the car. I look in the spy mirror and see her staring out the window. “Are you excited Sylvia?” “I so excited! I want to pick.” She has an enormous grin on her face. We get to the store, and she is a sight. She looks like she jumped out of a Fancy Nancy book. She is wearing a pink leopard print skirt, black polka dot jacket, pouffy purple hair clips, and sunglasses with bright red shoes to match. She carries the return items and hands them to the clerk, declaring “Take it back.” That was explanation enough for the clerk. We then walk back to her section, hand in hand. She stops people in their tracks as they move out of our way. I take her to the dresses on the wall, and she shrieks with joy, running towards the clothes. She looks over all the dresses and points to a white one at the top with flowers. I have to jump twice to knock her size off the bar. She then picks out a bug dress and a fruit dress. We walk to the Easter dresses, and she picks one out. She insists on carrying all four dresses in her arms and walks/trips towards the checkout area. The peanut gallery gives a commentary. “Teaching her young!” “Look at her clothes.” “Isn’t she cute.” “What a shopper!” I can’t help but smile.

As I drive home, I realize this is a dream come true. I dreamed of shopping with my girls and loved every minute of it. I love seeing their personal styles. I love to see their likes and dislikes. I love to see the smiles on their faces as they carry their clothes. I dream of taking Danielle shopping. I dream of a day at the mall with my girls. Will we go to shops all day long? Will we eat lunch at a restaurant? Will we search for the perfect pair of shoes to go with the outfit one of us had to have? Between the four of us, I could have one worn out credit card by day’s end, but it sure will be fun!

1/2 Marathon – Week 8

I made it through another week. I had to steal a day from week 9 to get my long run in, but I made it happen. I ran a total of 18 miles. I missed a run for a root canal. Trust me, I would much rather have been running.

I want to dedicate this week of training to my dear husband. He has been such a great support for me through this venture. I could not have run this morning in more ways than one without his support. I ran for 8.5 miles. I got up at 5:40 to nurse the baby, when I left he got up to get ready for work. He then got the girls ready for school. He had them fed, dressed, and ready to go when I strolled back home at 8:00. I would not have been able to run all those miles today without him. If he didn’t watch the girls every Saturday for the last 12 weeks, I wouldn’t be here. If he didn’t put together my training schedule, I wouldn’t be here. If he hadn’t encouraged me to keep going, I wouldn’t be here. I am thankful for him and cannot believe that my race is now less than two weeks away! Thanks babe, I love you.

I’m 6 Months Old!

Hello, my name is baby, but sometimes they call me Danielle. I am just along for the ride really. I don’t walk, talk, or sit by myself yet. This leaves me pretty limited, but I get to be held all the time. I don’t spend much time crying either. It is pretty pointless in my family. The way to get attention around here is smiling, not crying. My big sisters haven’t figured that out yet. They cry all the time and get sent to far corners of the house. Mommy, she takes one look at me, I flash her my sweet toothless smile, and voila, I get scooped up. Works every time.

Mommy just started me on solid foods. At last I have a really full stomach. I stick it out through the first jar and get to the second one. It is so sweet and delicious I cannot eat it fast enough. I keep grabbing for the food they eat. It has to taste good. I have gotten a few handfuls over the last week, but Mommy takes it back as fast as I catch it. I will taste it soon though. I am perfecting my speed. All this new food is making me pretty regular too, and they are some stinky diapers.

Mommy is trying to get me to drink from a cup now. I never gave the baby bottle a chance. I am giving in to the cup though. I like to hold the handles, and the top is fun to chew on. She figured out not to fill it with fake milk (you call formula). That chalky stuff is a no go. I am a milkaholic, and I refuse to change my ways.

I am sleeping through the night too. I hear this is a pretty big deal. I am still trying to figure out why. It is practical really. You just lay in your cozy bed, clean, full, and go to sleep. One day, I am going to try to teach my big sis Sylvia how to. She could use a full night’s sleep. So could Mommy and Daddy.

I have had six pretty good months and will leave you with what I do best. Happy six months to me!

– Danielle

What a Wonderful Winter in the South

Yesterday it was 80 degrees here in NC. Is it still winter? Was it ever winter? Either way it was amazing. I had lots of plans yesterday and they were cancelled. The new agenda – outside! My three girls had a wonderful day. We had lunch at the park with friends. The girls played for two and a half hours! We came home for naps and went right back outside. We spent the evening downtown. We ate ice cream at the parlor, played on the train tracks, and ran up and down the alleys. We used every ray of evening sunlight left for grilling food, playing on the swing set, and eating dinner.

It was a great day. I remember when I was a kid my mom would kick me out of the house. She would turn off the tv, games, put away all the toys, and send us packing. I believed her to be a crazy emotional lady. Who knew why we suddenly had to get out of the house.  I know now that those were the beautiful days, the once in a while days, and when God gives them, embrace them. Set aside your plans because you don’t get these days back. They are infrequent and priceless.

Owl Eyes

Girl #1 – You’re Grounded

Timeouts are the first stage of reflective discipline. You do something wrong, and you go sit by yourself and think it over. I have heard the appropriate timespan for a timeout is one minute per year of age. For my “four-and-a-half”-year-old, 4.5 minutes is not enough time for reflection, even if we wait to start the clock when she stops shrieking.

We have tried it all: taken away toys, activities, playdates, and tv time. We have praised good behavior with stickers, charts, and more. It never works. Isolation for a few minutes is not enough because it’s no big deal to her. But a good 2-3 hours with her Barbie dolls works on the soul. She doesn’t like it. She wants to be around the family. She wants to participate in other activities. Grounding gets the message across because the punishment is finally more painful than the bad behavior.

I thought she was too young for this. They will always be too young for everything, talking, school, dates, prom, and college. Was I going to give a seven minute timeout to my seven-year-old? She is smart; she knows what to do, and she chooses not to. I choose not to spend all day wrestling with my kid. If she won’t listen or behave, then she can be by herself for a while.

When I was growing up, I was grounded all the time. Once I had to stay in my room until I cleaned it. I was in there for two weeks! That is how stubborn I was. I drove my mother mad. I knew I was bothering her, but I was the boss. Now I know the truth. She was winning. She got to spend two weeks without me driving her crazy, and my punishment was totally self-imposed. She is a genius, and she figured me out. Now to use her skills with my own daughter. The most effective disciplinary tool I have “You’re Grounded.” Give it a try. It could change your world.

It’s official – I am my Mother!

The day has come, and I have been forced to accept my fate. I am my mother. It is a day I swore would never come. We all have that moment when we promise to never do a certain something that is irrational, ridiculous, or nonsensical. We make a futile pact to escape our fate.

Today it happened that I did the thing I swore I would never do. I forgot to eat. You might have been anticipating some form of corporal punishment I finally brought down upon my children. That is not the case. My mother had to grocery shop while brandishing a wooden spoon to keep me from pulling everything into the cart. I don’t blame her for it, and if I had me for a child, I might have done it too.

The thing I swore never to do is much more common. I vividly remember an afternoon in my childhood.  My mother was beside herself,  rummaging madly through the kitchen for a snack that would satisfy but not fill her up before dinner. “Why are you so hungry, Mom?” “Because I forgot to eat.” “How can you forget to eat? That is silly! I could never forget to eat!” “You would be surprised at how easy it can be to forget to eat.” “No, Mom, I will never forget to eat. It is impossible.”

Maybe I am unique in my extreme dependency on normal blood sugar levels. I have always been religious about eating three meals per day at even intervals, and if I were to miss a meal, my crankiness would overwhelm, and no one would be forgetting it.  Thus, I did not believe my mother, and honestly thought she must be covering up for some low calorie diet plan gone wrong.

Today I messed up. I somehow got from 7:00 am to 2:30 pm without a bite to eat. By mid afternoon, I was hunting for a snack. Why was I so hungry? I ate lunch just an hour ago, didn’t I? Wait, what did I eat? I didn’t eat anything, did I? What did I eat for breakfast? Then it hit me. I didn’t eat a thing. I hadn’t had one bite of food all day, and I didn’t know it. I forgot to eat! I was overwhelmed. It was unthinkable, and apparently I am more like the rest of the human race than I previously realized.

Goodbye “Mommy” – Hello “Mom”

My little two-year-old has started to call me Mom. Isn’t it too early for this? I know it is modeling. Melanie has been saying “Mom” to get on my nerves. She still calls my husband Daddy though. Sylvia has picked it up, and she calls us “Mom and Dad.” I keep correcting her and telling her “I’m Mommy.” I cannot have Danielle grow up calling me Mom from the start and not Mommy. She cannot talk yet! Melanie knows it has been bothering me and has reverted back to Mommy now. She has even started correcting Sylvia too, which is probably the real reason she has taken my side in this, because it is one way for her to legitimately assert herself over her younger sister.

I know “Mom and Dad” happens. I did it to my parents and broke their hearts to pieces. Why can’t I stay Mommy forever? I would not mind if they were 40 and still called me Mommy. I am not ready to let my little girls go. They are still little, right? Did I have false expectations? Have I lost my mind? I was holding out for at least six-years-old before this happened.

1/2 Marathon – Week 7

Well, week 7 is over, and it was not my best week. I have rested more since I am battling tendonitis. I was unable to get more than 4 miles in at one time. Danielle was unwilling to stay in the gym nursery. I am really hoping that she is more amenable this next week. I also missed my long run this weekend. It wasn’t meant to be. I am just going to move on with my tapering schedule and hold out for my 13 mile run in a few weeks.

I am still really excited about my race. I am looking forward to running at the oceanfront. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Sunday morning than running through my favorite part of my hometown. There are so many memories for me at the North End of the beach, and the oceanfront in the winter is just the best. I am happy to run this next week. I think it will be better, and I hope to get all 22 of my miles in.

Stretchy Monkey

I reach into the fridge and yank out the greek yogurt. I scoop up some granola and sprinkle some raisins on top. I am starving. I have only eaten a small salad today and it is 2:30. I hear a thud. I hardly register the sound. It isn’t followed with screaming, and my mind dismisses it as irrelevant. I fix my food and turn to the sink to get a glass of water. I look up and see Danielle in the swing. Something is different. But she is still in the swing. That is where I put her. What is wrong? I fill the cup with water and take a sip. I notice Danielle’s hands. She is reaching up to the mobile with one hand and holding her foot with the other. How can she reach the mobile? She has her Daddy’s monkey arms. Wait, where is the toy bar that goes over her? I look down, and it’s sitting on the floor. I know that I hooked it onto the swing. How did it come off? She was holding her feet. The thud. She must of kicked it off! I walk over to the swing to replace the toy bar. “Danielle you are full of surprises.”

Rude People

Wal-Mart. It is always so crowded, but I make my way through with my cart full of three children. I walk into the express checkout lane with my rotisserie chicken and infant sippy cup. A lady comes up behind me and leans over my shoulder. “Is there someone there? Are they open?” “Yes,” I say, “they are just price checking something.  Every time I move, I always get stuck somewhere longer.” She agrees, “That always happens to me too.” We chuckle together and turn to the girls. The lines get longer as we wait. A manager comes and makes a call to the back room. I can see this is no longer an express checkout lane.

I slowly turn my cart around and go back to the lane behind me. She glances up as if she is going to move out of my way, which makes sense. I was here a couple minutes before her after all. But then, the audacity. She darts back, slides in-between some end-caps where my child-encumpered cart cannot fit through, and slithers her way into the line ahead of me. Then, another woman jumps her way in front of me too, but I’m not really mad at her. My former commiserator is now hunched over, now wearing her sunglasses , and avoiding my gaze. Why? Because you totally cut me lady! I slide my weight back on my hip, cross my arms over my chest, and glare. My best, yet feeble assault. I am hoping to drill little holes the size of my eyes into her head. I can tell I have achieved my goal when Melanie asks, “Are you okay Mommy?” Today, I think I need forgiveness for the nasty things I thought about this weasel of a woman. She’s lucky, or maybe I am, there’s a person between us, or I probably would say something, or just maybe, start a cat fight.

Faith

James 1 :5-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

This verse is one of the verses in our bible study this past week. It really has been driving me crazy since I read it. I have a few big things I want to pray for, and I know there is a piece of me doubting that it will make a difference. I want to pray and know that my prayer can create change. I find myself to be the “double-minded man,” praying in submission to God’s plan but not really knowing what that is, not really knowing if my prayers will take action. Is it possible to be like Elijah, calling down fires from heaven? Is it enough to want something? My doubting mind tells me if I ask for bread, I’ll receive a stone. My prayer tonight is to have faith. The faith of a mustard seed, if not to move mountains, then to ask for wisdom from Him who gives generously.

“I did it!”

We are sitting in the doctor’s office at 12:15. I tap my heels, anxious to get out as soon as possible. When I am alone, I can sit in a doctor’s office in peace. When I have all the kiddos with me, the passage of time can be excruciating. We read what seems like all the books in the waiting rom, and Sylvia looks up at me. “I got to go potty.” We all get up, and run to the bathroom. We use the potty, wash our hands, and go back to our seat. One minute has passed. I hear “I got to go potty.” “Again, Sylvia? We just went, are you sure?” She hunches over and grabs her crotch. “Yes, Yes, Mommy.” This time, I just tell the lady at the desk we will be right back. I scoop Sylvia up and dash the to the bathroom, leaving Danielle and Melanie in the waiting room. Sylvia toots. We wash our hands, and go back to the waiting room. I once again settle into my seat. “Mom, they called Sylvia. She said she would come back since you took her potty.” “Thanks, Melanie.” Fantastic…I missed our turn. I shrug my shoulders and continue to pretend I am paying attention to the book Melanie is reading me. “I got to go potty.” “Seriously, Sylvia? You have to go again?!” She insists “again” while grabbing her crotch and taking baby steps towards the bathroom. I put her under my arm like a football and jog off towards the restroom. I strip her clothes off and toss her on the toilet. “Hurry up, baby.” I just know we are going to miss our turn again. She somehow produces an insubstantial amount of pee and toots a few times. “See, I pee pee.” “Very good, Sylvie.” I pick her up to pull up her pants, and a lady walks into the room. I forgot to lock the door. “So sorry. I was in a rush.” We wash our hands and move out to the lobby. Sure enough, the nurse is standing there, waiting for use to emerge. “Mommy, it’s our turn. You need to stop going potty.” I just smile.

We are now in the exam room, also known as purgatory number two.  Sylvia’s urge to use the bathroom has been satiated, and she stands in the corner, silently trying to meld with the wall. Finally, the doctor appears in the door like a kindly mad scientist, complete with Einstein hair and bright spectacled eyes. He moves through the room with frantic energy. He picks Sylvia up and places her on the bench. She stares away at the wall and tries to have an out-of-body experience. It’s okay. It’s okay. He looks in her eyes, ears, nose, feels her tummy, and listens to her lungs. Then he has to look in her throat. He lays her down on the bench and prys his way in quickly. She gags and starts to cry. “We are done,” says Einstein. He scoops her up and places her on the ground. She is taken aback for a moment, and then she suddenly throws both of her hands up into the air. Jumping up and down, she yells, “I did it! I did it! Yeah, I did it!” I look at her and smile. “Yes, you did it.”

Ashamed

I pull into the school parking lot, late as always these days. Time drags all morning, then suddenly accelerates 20 minutes before school gets out. I park next to my friend, who is standing with the big girls, waiting for me to get there. I step out and see Melanie, who avoids my gaze. “Hello, Mel.” She runs into my arms and gives me a huge hug. “I love you so much, Mommy!” She never calls me Mommy. I look up at Stephanie, and she says, “Melanie, are you going to tell your Mommy, or am I?” Melanie squeezes me tighter. “What happened, Melanie?” She takes a step back, and looks at the ground, silent. “You need to tell your Mommy what happened, Melanie. Or do I have to?” “Okay, you tell her. That’s fine.”

Not with me it isn’t. “Melanie, if you did something wrong, you need to tell me what happened.” Stephanie turns and walks to the other side of the car to say hello to a happily squealing Sylvia, and I continue the interrogation. “I need to know what you did, and I want you to tell me, Mel.” She considers her options, then sees Stephanie on her way back. Melanie embraces me and quickly whispers into my ear, “I didn’t clean up toys, and I didn’t get a sticker.” She lets go and runs off to the car. “Goodbye, Ms. Stephanie!”

I recount Melanie’s story to Stephanie. “Is that what she told you? Well, she first accused a boy in the class of having poop in his pants and kept running around the room, chasing him, saying ‘You have poop in your pants! You pooped in your pants!’ ” I cannot help but chuckle and grin. It’s a pretty funny thought. But I can’t believe she is terrorizing people. Where did she learn that? I try to compose myself and embrace the seriousness of the offense.

Stephanie continues “…and later, when Mrs. Archer told them to clean up the room, Melanie said ‘No.’ Mrs. Archer said, ‘You know better, Melanie. Let’s pick up the toys.” Melanie said ‘No!’ again.” Of course she did. That’s my feisty girl. She will look you in the eyes and defy you.

We say goodbye to friends, and I pause at the door of the van. Melanie, Melanie, what am I going to do with you? Teasing kids at school. Am I raising a bully? Defying her teacher. Am I raising a delinquent? Lying to me. Am I raising a deceiver? Am I failing at this mothering thing? I suppose you always mess up the first one a little. Right?

I climb into the car, turn the key in the ignition, and glance up at the girls. “So, Melanie, you didn’t tell me the truth. You lied babe.” She pauses, and asks, “What did Ms. Stephanie tell you?” “That doesn’t matter. Are you going to tell me what really happened?” I put the car in reverse, while everyone sits in silence. I just wait, quietly driving the car towards home. “Well, am I in trouble, Mom?” “Well, Melanie, are you going to tell me what really happened?” More silence. “Melanie, you back-talked and told Mrs. Archer “no” two times, you refused to pick up toys, and why did you tell the boy at school he had poop in his pants?” She considers this. “I don’t know…I’m ashamed.” “You’re what?” “She says louder, “I’m ashamed, Mommy. I did lots bad today. I mean, I don’t know…”

I sit back, and I am impressed. Yeah, she is in trouble, and of course she has just lost video games for three days, but wow. She is ashamed! I can see it in her eyes. She feels sincerely bad about what she did. We had a teaching moment on teasing, back-talking, and lying. But the icing on the cake, she really feels bad about it, and there is hope for my feisty girl after all.

1/2 Marathon – Week 6

I just completed my sixth week of training for my half marathon! This was my toughest week. I am fighting the beginning of tendonitis in my right knee and ankle. I had to cut back my six-mile run to five, and I mostly walked one of my four-mile runs to put less stress on it. It has to hold up just three more weeks so I can make it through the race. I made it through my 11-mile run this morning! I noticed that my little city is pretty small since I ran in and out the town limits a couple of times. It was rainy and cold, but I got it done. The family somehow got out the door and to church, almost on time too. It took me 2:23 to go 11 miles. My goal is to do the 13-mile race in no more than 3 hours, and I am right on track. It is pretty exciting. When I neared the end of my run, my legs felt like boulders. I had to force myself to pick them up so I could get home and out of the cold rain as fast as possible. I ran/walked a total of 24 miles this week. Pretty awesome. You should try it sometime! Have a great week.

“Potty, Potty”

I am almost to the traffic circle on my way to pick up Melanie from pre-school, and I glance at the parent spy mirror.  I see two girls sitting quietly, Sylvia and my friend’s daughter, Belle.  The quiet is typical without Melanie in the car.  Then I see Sylvia’s brow furrow in concern. Ignoring this, I turn my attention back to the road and creep through barely-moving traffic.  Sylvia’s face contorts.  “Are you alright Sylvia?” She looks up.  “I got to go potty,” she gasps.  “Can you hold it?”  “Okay, I hold it.”  I creep one car length forward.  The traffic circle at lunch time is a nightmare.  I recount the twenty minutes it frequently takes to get to the other side.  To my left and right, masses of pine trees loom between the houses, not a store in sight.  I hear whining.  “Hold it, hold it,” I urge her.  “Hold it, hold it,” Sylvia repeats, like a parrot.  I wonder if I had just kept driving, ignoring the silence, would she have been okay?  I look at the tree line and face my dilemma.  Do I let her pee in the car-seat and clean it, or do I pull over and run to the trees, risking her screaming and crying because she has to pee in the woods, surrounded by cars?  Someone who knows us might see.  This is a small town after all.  I silently scold myself for caring about the judgment of others.  We are almost to the circle now, and the opportunity to go for the trees has passed.  “Hold it, you can hold it, right?” “Okay, I hold it.”  I can hear the strain in her voice, the urgency increasing every time we talk.

We pass around the traffic circle.  My friend is waiting with the big girls at pre-school.  We get a quarter mile down the road, and Sylvia begins to sob.  There is no shoulder on this road, only driveways leading to private residences.  Should I knock on the door of a random house?  I can’t do that. I wonder which will hold out longer, my pride or my daughter’s bladder. “You can make it Sylvia.  We are almost there.”  She continues to cry.  I lied.  We are not almost there.  Where am I going to take her?  “You can do it, you can hold it Sylvie.”  Her crying rises in a painful crescendo. “Potty, Potty.”  Panic courses through the van.  Baby Danielle can feel the tension and makes her own small sounds of discomfort.  Belle, who has been silent so far, petitions for Sylvia.  “Potty Ms. Sheena, Sylvie needs a potty.”  “I know baby.  You can hold it Sylvia, okay?  Okay?”  “Okay, Mommy.”

I look up, and I see a beacon of hope on the top of the next hill, the office of a driving range.  I am about to pass it.  I quickly change lanes and come to a sudden stop in the parking lot.  I race around the car, thanking God for my automatic doors that have her door open as I release Sylvia from her chair, and at the same time I yank a diaper from the diaper bag.  I place her on her back, slip the diaper on, and pull up her pants. Now she is safe.  Now she can go.  She looks at me bewildered.  “No diaper, Mommy.  I need potty.”  “Can you hold it?”  “No.”  “Just go in the diaper.” She looks like she is going to try, but then gives up.  “All done.  Go to school.”  I feel the dry diaper and look at her, confused.  How bad did she really have to go?  I have been panicking for five minutes here, and you want to make it to the school! I get Belle and Danielle, and we march up to the driving range office.  What a sight we are, among the well-dressed business men.  I open the door and hardly have the words out of my mouth when a man is leading me towards the restroom.  What else would a sweaty woman in gym clothes scurry into a driving range office for, with two toddlers and an infant in tow?

I cram the four of us into the tiny bathroom, my legs straddling the baby’s car-seat in order to close the door.  I boost Sylvie to the potty, and we both sigh with relief.  “Potty, I go potty.”  She lifts a hand up from the seat for the obligatory high five.

Cake Pops: 102

One of my mini projects this year is to master the cake pop. My first experience with them was at Sylvia’s 2nd birthday party. They were tasty, but not pretty. It was a challenge between the half spheres I got from the cake pop maker, the chocolate dripping everywhere, sprinkles all over the floor, and kiddos in the middle of it. I almost resolved to Goodwill the brand new cake pop maker. I have given it one more shot and am going to share my new tricks with you.

You need to pick out and follow your cake recipe from inside the pop maker instruction book. It makes a great, small, dense batch of batter. You then must really fill up the spheres inside the pop maker. I prefer to have too much than too little. It is so hot that it cleans easily and they just pop out so you can get the perfect balls of cake you are looking for.

You then wait for them to cool and put them into a dish and set them in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This helps them cool down the chocolate coating faster when you dip them.

When you are ready, you melt your chocolate chips. I recommend buying the tempered chocolate melts from the craft store. They are made by Wilton, and they come in every color of the rainbow. We picked red for Valentine’s Day. You then gather together your decorating crew. (Tip: Mommies do chocolate and kiddos to sprinkles. It is much cleaner this way.) (Tip 2: Do not use candy pearls or large heavy sprinkles. They will drip down, fall off, and take your chocolate with them.)

The whole process is actually pretty easy, but don’t forget this next super-important step. You must dip the stick into the chocolate and then punch it into the center of the ball. You do that for the first 12, and then when it hardens, the chocolate is glue that holds the cake on the stick. If you don’t do this step, you will dip your ball into the chocolate, and it will just fall right off. You dip, sprinkle, dry, and you have some very awesome, super-fun kid food. The candy is hard and crunchy on the outside, and the cake is a nice soft center. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I hope you feel inspired to enter the world of cake pops.

1/2 Marathon – Week 5

Here are the quick stats. I ran a total of 22 miles this week. This morning, I ran 10 miles in 2:02. That is about a 12 minute mile pace. I am really enjoying this venture I tossed myself into. In November, when I had a two-month-old baby, I was going outside for 15-16 minutes trying to “run” one mile. I thought I had lost my mind and $90. I have never been a runner. Even through college, I was never good at running, I never enjoyed it, I wanted nothing to do with it. Here I am, a bona fide runner after all. I believe that anyone who set out to achieve this, not only could, but would in fact be a runner by the end.

I told a good friend who is a runner that, after my race, I’d be done with running. I would pick friends up for coffee after their runs. I could say “been there, done that, got the t-shirt,” and never run again. I don’t know if she knew this venture would change me, but it has. I made this commitment I have to achieve. I have to force myself to do it when I don’t want to, and now, I dare say I like it after all. I have dedicated three months to this so far. I have five weeks left. I believe it will have been one of the best decisions of my life. Here’s to week 6 and my 11 mile run next Saturday!

“Banana”

“Can I have a banana?” I hear as I descend the stairs, my arms full of clothes. “Did you finish your bagel, Melanie?” “I did, and I am still hungry.” I rush in to get a banana, and Sylvia asks for one too. “You have to finish your bagel first.” In the meantime, Melanie gobbles up her banana and starts to get ready for school. As I finish dressing Danielle, Sylvia yells, “Banana Mommy please.” I see the clock–8:10. We don’t have time. I boost her out of her chair, and she cries, “Banana!” “You can have one after Melanie goes to school,” I say. “Bagel all gone. Banana!” “I know, we don’t have time, Sylvie. When we get home, okay?” I hurry to put her in clothes and shoes, then we scurry out the door. We get to the car, and I hear, “Melie school, my banana?” “Yes, Sylvie.” When we get to school, I open the car door, and Sylvia reassures herself. “Melie school, my banana.”

We work our way down the hill, Sylvia running as fast as she can without falling down, softly chanting to herself “Banana, Banana.” We drop Melanie at her classroom door, and Sylvia blurts, “Goodbye, Melanie.” Mrs. Archer asks Sylvia, as she always does, “Are you staying with me today?” “No, my banana.” She looks up to me, tugs on my pants, and says, “Go home, banana.” We promptly turn and head back up the hill. Sylvia resumes her chant, “Banana, my Banana,” while trudging up the hill. We get to the car, and she looks at me. “Go home, my banana.” She is afraid I’ll make a detour. “Yes, we are going home for your banana.” When we pull into the garage, her fears are relieved. “Yay, home, my banana!” She hurries into the house, strips off her shoes and coat, and puts them in the closet. “My banana, Mommy.” “It is at the craft table, you can eat it there.” She walks over to the kitchen table and cries “Oh, no, banana gone! My banana! No, banana!” I quickly grab her hand and calm her. “Your banana is at the craft table, sweetie.” We turn the corner to the living room, and she sees the bright yellow peel on top of the table. She throws her hands into the air and runs as fast she can to the table. “Banana!”

My Ballerina

Nothing dramatic has taken place in the last couple days. The family did get to go and watch Melanie’s dance class. This is a once a year event where parents are allowed to enter the room. Every other week they sneak off into a room of mirrors, with blinds over the windows, where we can’t see them. (This way they pay attention to teacher not Mommy.) Husband even took a day off to be able see dance class and eat ice cream at the ice cream parlor afterwards. Yes, we have a very awesome downtown with an old fashioned ice cream parlor and a dance studio right above it. Have a mentioned the Air Force sent us to an awesome place, yet?!

Dance class was fun filled and the girls had a great time. I would love to say Melanie was the best, but she just couldn’t beat out one of the other girls. I did learn she does really well, seems to love it, and she needs a new dance skirt since hers has been attacked by baby bib velcro one to many times. As you look at the pictures imagine the song Castle on a Cloud playing with little girls in beautiful tutu’s dancing at the spring recital! I can’t wait! Here’s a link if you have to hear it. I did!

I know a place where no one’s lost,
I know a place where no one cries,
Crying at all is not allowed,
Not in my castle on a cloud

Sobbing for Breakfast

I open my eyes and see the ceiling. I look at the blinds and think the sun must just be rising. I sit up to see the clock. It reads 7:42. We’re late.  I jump out of bed, slide on my pants, and hurry up the stairs as my stiff legs rebel against my every step. I reach the top bedroom and hear nothing. I open the cracked door to the sound of deep breaths. The girls are fast asleep.

“Good Morning girls. It’s time to get up.” My voice creaks after a night of disuse. My words fail to pry them from their sleep. I tap Melanie on the shoulder, and with a startled shudder she pops up. “Good Morning, Mom.”

Sylvia does not flinch, her body in her usual twisted heap against the bed rail. I reach down and begin to rock her gently side to side. She sobs. I lift her up. She cries for her puppy and her blanket. I shuffle around the bed collecting them, and we go downstairs.  I set Sylvia down, and she continues to sob. Melanie runs off to the bathroom, and I hurry to the closet to put on fresh clothes. Sylvia continues to sob. I stop in the bathroom to run a brush through my hair, and Sylvia mashes herself against my leg, still crying. I pretend she is patiently waiting for breakfast as I walk off to the kitchen.

“Let’s get something to eat.” Sylvia sobs louder than before. I call through the bathroom door, “Would you like a bagel Melanie?” “Yes,” she says.

Sylvia sobs her way into the kitchen, dragging and tripping over her blanket. I try to engage her again. “Would you like a bagel too?” I ask. No response. Melanie pops out, grabs her plate, and runs off to the table to eat her food. I bend down to Sylvia’s level. “Sylvia, what can I get you to eat sweetheart?” She cries, probably wishing we could spend time cuddling in front of cartoons while she eases her way into consciousness.

I try to remain calm and find my inner peace. I walk to the cabinet and pull out the oatmeal and frosted mini-wheats. “Would you like one of these? What can I get you for breakfast?” She carries on. I grab her cup of milk from the fridge and lower it to her. “Would you like your milk?” She doesn’t move an inch. I place the cup on the counter and lift the bagels up. “Can I get you a bagel for breakfast Sylvia?” She cries louder then says in a frustrated voice “I want breakfast!” What does she think I have been trying to do here? I reply in as calm and sweet a voice as I can muster. “Okay, what breakfast?” There is a moment of silence (at last) as she does nothing. I point towards the cereals and again ask, “Would you like oatmeal or frosted mini-wheats?” She breathes heavily from the crying and replies, “Oatmeal.” I lower the box to her level. “Can you pick one for me?” She reaches into the box and grabs the only packet of oatmeal there. “This one! I pick.” We make the oatmeal and move forward with a big hug while the microwave hums.

“Baby Move!”

It was morning time. The house was bustling, getting ready for the day. I was in the bathroom doing my hair and make-up, Jeremy was at work, and the big sisters were bopping around the house doing anything they could think of to avoid putting their shoes on. Then Sylvia gasped and Melanie shrieked in a simultaneous chorus of words. “Baby move, baby move, baby move!” said Sylvia, mortified that this fragile creature who up to this point had been totally immobile was now independent and unprotected. “Mommy, Danielle rolled, she can roll!” said Melanie, elated that her youngest sister took the next step in her motor development.

I laughed as I gently applied my mascara. “I know, it’s okay, she has done that already. Girls, put your shoes on.”

Bad Days

Today it started out okay. The girls slept in and we were a little late getting stated. I proceeded to drop Melanie of at school, Sylvia off at Mother’s Morning Out, Danielle off at the gym nursery. I ran my 3 miles went home, took a shower, downed a clementine and glass of water because I was starving having not yet eaten. I picked up Melanie and friend from school, went to our only indoor play place at Chick-fil-a, and meet my friend who brought Sylvia to me. We played, ate, talked, and came home. It was okay, nothing bad happened. Then the girls, they didn’t stop fighting – all day, Danielle has cried – all day, and to top it off Sylvia woke up from her nap because she wet the bed. So, one more load of emergency laundry to add to the three I was already doing. I am sitting here because Jeremy came in and I gave up on the day. I have been barking around the house. I have hung the phone up on my husband. I didn’t cook and fed the girls cereal for dinner. (In my only defense it is one of their favorite meals.) I have a cold and my head hurts, but I shouldn’t be yelling, how does that help? Husband strolled in and took over. He knew what to expect when I hung up on him for no good reason. It has been quiet and even though my head is still pounding, I now must go apologize to everyone in the house for my unacceptable behavior. Oops. I guess the other side of the coin is tomorrow is a new day. I get a second chance and everyone here loves me despite myself.

Trashed Table

My kids…they are always finding new ways to surprise me. I have this old drop-leaf table my great-grandfather gave me. It is beat up and perfect as our “craft table” for the girls. I have said on numerous occasions, “They can do anything to it.” A lesson to you all: anything is a pretty broad term, and I suggest you avoid using it in any circumstance from this day forward. You just cannot conceive of all the possibilities anything encompasses.

Let me set the scene. We are sitting in the living room having a “family party.” This is when we eat dinner, popcorn, ice cream, etc. and  sit watching a movie at our illustrious craft table. Then Sylvia does something Melanie doesn’t like, Melanie goes to climb on top of the table to put her precious belongings out of her destructive sister’s reach. Sylvia shrieks in outrage, and I look over and see the table casters, which start to move, and the back legs begin to lift. It all happens so fast. Imagine me yelling “Nooooooo!” in slow motion (crazy deep voice) while leaping, arms extended, off the sofa in a futile attempt to stop what is taking place before my eyes. The table legs fly up, and the table goes down. The extended leaf clips both chairs, the chairs fly feet backwards through the room, and the girls go down with the table and come smashing to the floor. The wood splinters, the hinges hyperextend, and popcorn and crayons go flying up through the air. Melanie has a bump on her head and Sylvia a fat lip where their bodies collided with the table. The girls are bawling in pain, and I am simply holding them, horrified and thinking to myself how did anything turn into this…

My parents came into town this weekend, and my father has now taken our beloved table with our prayers.  Hopefully he can repair it to it’s former glory. We have gleaned two important lessons from this experience.

Melanie has learned not to climb on tables, particularly ones with wheels, and I have learned that kids can do anything.

1/2 Marathon – Week 4

Today I ran 8 miles. I have again run further than I have ever run before. I finished it in 1 hour and 37 minutes. It was certainly difficult, but I made it through. (And did I mention it was raining too?!) When I was in the last couple miles, I felt as though I was shuffling my feet and they were just hovering over the pavement, and I was hoping that I was going to get them high enough and not trip on uneven pavement.

I am discovering a greater love for my town. I ran back through some horse farms, and a couple horses came up and started to trot along next to me. I wanted to just hitch a ride for the next 7 miles, but I had to do it myself. Then as I was running further, I passed a 4-horse-drawn carriage. Where do you see that?! In Southern Pines, NC. So, I made it, and somehow I am supposed to run 10 miles next weekend. I think I will wait to tell my hamstrings because they are still upset with me from this morning. Happy Saturday!

Take a Hike

So, Mr. Phil the groundhog saw his shadow yesterday. I know it is old news, but if you live in the south the weather has been amazing! I can sure take 6 more week of this weather. Last weekend when it was 70 degrees and beautiful we went to Weymouth Woods our local park full of trails for a family hike. Melanie ran the whole trail and we carried the other two, but it was great. One thing that Jeremy and I have always loved to do is go on walks. Everywhere we have lived for our entire relationship we have just gone outside and strolled wherever our feet would take us. It is great just to be outside and leisurely spend time together. One of the most important things we ask when we pick a place to live is – Where would we walk? We live 1 mile from our quaint downtown and we love it. So, embrace the weather, go for a walk, stroll through your neighborhood , or take a hike!

Puppy Love

For Sylvia, my smart 2 year old, love is not something she just gives out. She is much more likely to give you a glare unlike any you have seen before. As one mom at preschool this week said “You don’t need a guard dog no one would enter your house and mess with that one.” It is so true. She has the sweetest smile, but you must prove yourself to her for her to give you that smile. A smile doesn’t mean love either, it means acceptance.

Sylvia has what we’ve coined her circle of love. You imagine a dart board and it’s different circles. We will work from the outer circle inward. The outer circle would be  uncles and grandparents, people who really dote on here. The next circle belongs to the immediate family, Mel Mel, Baby, Daddy, and Mommy, in the bullseye of her circle of love resides – Puppy. He is a true member of this family. He goes everywhere with us, does everything, he picked pumpkins, eats at the table, gets his hair and teeth brushed, and has even used the potty (the real one!) He may be stuffed and matted, but he is still a member of this family and last night we forgot that person in our family. Puppy slept at the gym!

It is hard for me to believe I drove all the way home before I realized I left him behind. It is impossible to explain to a mournful two year old that her puppy isn’t gone and we can have him back tomorrow. We arrived at the gym at 8:22am and she was overjoyed to see him. She told me on the way there “Go get my puppy. I want to hold him. I want hug him. I miss puppy.”

One day she is going to choose to leave little puppy at home, and then in her bed, and then put him on the dresser, and then he will inevitably move to a shelf somewhere and on that day I might shed a tear at the loss of my baby girl who cried herself to sleep because we didn’t have puppy. The one at the center of her circle of love!

Craft time: Butterflies

Sylvia with Watercolors

It has been so beautiful outside I was inspired do a springtime craft. We painted butterflies made with card stock and jumbo popsicle sticks. You just cut out the wings and antennas, paint them, and glue together when dry. The girls love to paint and even though it can be messy they really sit there and dedicate themselves to their artwork when holding a paint brush. Then the sense of pride and achievement they have make the spilled water cups worth it. This craft made possible by Crayola washable paints! Enjoy.

Melanie with regular paints

Food Fight

you want me to eat that?

Kids and food, two things that don’t seem to mix very well. Kids seem to like two kinds of food fried and sugar filled. This does not a well balanced diet make. It is also not heathy for our relationships to spend every night attempting to stuff them with broccoli.  When half the time we just give into their favorite brand of chicken nuggets.

I have a good friend who is a speech patholigist. She also works with children who have strong aversions to eating or eating certain foods. She said she has to take the parents out of the room to work with the kiddos. This is because there is so much built up anxiety between mom and child over food that it is no longer just about eating. We are at war with our kids over food! I decided to end the war, remove my emotions, and work with defined rules about food.

Food for me is multifaceted. It is so much more than simply a form of nutrition. Food brings people together. You meet people for lunch, you eat fancy food for dates, you share holiday dinners, you cook in the kitchen with your family. I want food to be about the adventure, about community, an expression of love, and not about the broccoli!

I wanted to share our rules with you. They are simple, easy, and pretty strict; however, it has taken the fighting out of meal time and that has freed us all. Food is just food and Mommy battles with band aids, not broccoli.

  1. You sit at the table for meals. (Even if you don’t want to eat.)
  2. You eat what you are given or you do not eat.
  3. If you do not eat, you do not to eat until the next meal.
  4. We do not eat dessert.
  5. We do not drink juice. (Milk, Water, or nothing.)
  6. We do not eat after 4:00pm.

Six simple sure-fire rules that work. The kids eat what I cook! It’s a miracle! One night I will cook food for them chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. Other nights dinner is lasagna or roasted chicken. I was tired of cooking two meals. I didn’t want to anymore. So, I don’t. I learned when I gave them juice they would drink, not eat. If they had milk they would eat and drink the milk with their dinner. So, no juice for dinner. It is a special treat and we really just don’t drink it anymore. We eat fruit instead.

We were bribing the kids to eat their dinner with dessert. You shouldn’t eat dinner for sweets! What kind of message is that?! You should eat because you are hungry and you should eat nutritious food. So, dessert is a special treat and we now eat our sweets for a snack and dinner is the last thing we eat in a day. Last of all you can spoil your dinner. When I handed them anything to eat after 4 they wouldn’t eat at 5:30 o 6. They aren’t hungry enough to want to eat that healthy meal and they didn’t. Now, with a long period of time between snack and dinner they are hungry, they want to eat, and they will try new foods just because it is there and they are hungry.

These rules work for us. They might not work for you, but I know that rules are liberating. They set boundaries and when they start that food fight you just pull out the rule and the battle is over.

Super Bowl for Two

If you aren’t going to a big party this year have a little one instead! Pizza is a go to for the super bowl and here is a pizza you will not soon forget. Caramelized Onion Pizza. It is sweet, salty, absolutely delicious, and pretty easy to make. I have to give credit to my mother-in-law for this recipe. I don’t know where she got it, but it has to be one of my favorite things to eat.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 onions sliced and caramelized
  • 3-4 tablespoons of goat cheese
  • 1-2 slices of prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • pizza dough
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Olive oil, for the pizza crust
  • Cornmeal, for dusting the pizza stone

Directions

You caramelize the onions, by heating a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, season with salt and pepper, and wait for them to cook down and get very golden brown in color. You can do this step ahead of time and save in a container in the fridge. I simply buy a ball of pizza dough from our local pizza place. It costs 3 dollars and is so much better and easier than making it from scratch. I then pre-heat my stone in the oven while it comes up to temperature usually about 425 degrees. You sprinkle cornmeal on the surface of the stone, toss your dough into as close of a circular shape as you can get, plop the dough on the stone, spread olive oil over the surface and pile the ingredients on top. I usually go onions, cheese, and then sprinkle on the ham. I have also used bacon in a pinch, but the prosciutto is really a flavor without a proper substitute. Cook it for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

So, give it a try. You can use it for a super bowl date night, you can take it to a party, or make it in an appetizer size by placing the topping on slices of baguette and putting those in the oven to heat up. If you are going to drink beer with it my recommendation would be Stella Artois. If you like it, and I know you will, you can thank my mother-in-law who originally made this awesome treat!

1/2 Marathon – Week 3

I am training for my first ever 1/2 marathon! It is something I have been wanting to do for the past year, but since I was pregnant and I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, I had to wait. I signed up for the first one avaliable after having our third daughter. I thought why not start 2012 off with a huge goal. The best part about this that it is just for me. I spend all day everyday taking care of my family, and it is difficult to do things that don’t benefit the whole. I wanted to be selfish and do something just for me and feel accomplished at the end.

Today I ran 6 miles! It was the first time I have ever done that kind of a run. I was scared going into it that I was just going to be stuck outside for 3 hours walking these dreaded 6 miles. I did it though, and I did it at an 11 minute mile pace! I am really proud of myself. I am happy to be getting closer to my goal of running 13.1 miles, and I am really excited that I might be able to pull it off in less than 3 hours! Not too bad at all.

Best Granola Ever

I have been eating my favorite Fage greek yogurt with granola for a long time now. It seems that the word is out about how healthy this yogurt is because I can usually buy it at Walmart or the commissary and it has been sold out recently. It certainly is really healthy (the fat free kind) here is why. In 8 ounces of this stuff there is 130 calories and 23 grams of protein! Which is perfect for rebuilding those muscles after your workouts at the gym. In one container of light Yoplait yogurt you are looking at about 100 calories, 10 grams of protein and that is in 6 oz of yogurt. If you didn’t know already that is why this yogurt is getting so popular. It really is that healthy. If you go out and buy it though you just might not like it. It tastes kind of like sour cream, it is thicker than sour cream, and there is no sugar of any kind added to it. I will tell you how I eat it and maybe you will find a love for it after all.

I was buying box and box of granola to eat with this yogurt, it is expensive, and I figured there had be a recipe out there that was at least as good as the box. I was wrong, the recipe  is 100 times better than that stuff in the box. I looked up Alton Brown and I found it. The best granola you’ve never had.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Here are my adaptations. I use half maple syrup and half honey because I don’t like things to taste to much like maple unless it is a pancake or waffle. I only use almonds to keep it a little healthier even though I am sure the cashews are delicious. I bring a handful or two of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to the party too. It is fresh, not hard and dry like some of the packaged kinds. And when you add the dried fruit it is actually moist unlike the really hard chewy pieces the other granolas call raisins . One more tip: I mix together a medley of regular raisins, golden raisins, and Craisins and keep them in a separate container so the moisture doesn’t make the granola chewy.  So, take your bowl put 1/4 cup of granola, 2 heaping spoonfuls of the thick greek yogurt, and one spoonful of mixed dried fruit and you have a healthy delicious breakfast or snack. Try it and you will never go back!

Panty Power

Potty Training the change we can’t wait for and surprisingly the change as parents we decide to drag our feet on. We don’t like change. We don’t want to be stuck in the house for 3 days. We don’t want to pressure them to grow up. The truth is we don’t want to lose our baby. And practically speaking we don’t want to clean pee off of every surface of our house. All kids are different and I have to say Sylvia is pretty impressive. She turned 2 in December and was ready to be in panties 6 months ago.  She started going potty while we were at the pool this past summer!

So, why have I been keeping this kid in diapers for half a year? I had a new baby and to be potty training another… Sigh, too much. Right?! Just excuses! So, a couple weeks ago she decided that if she was going to be in diapers she might as well use them. I can hear her little voice saying “No more potty.” I looked at her and realized I was the problem. Up to the attic I went and slapped on those Elmo panties. I think it takes that brick wall to knock some sense into us parents. I wrote my husband at work to tell him the good news. We are in panties! Of course, I picked the weekend we had friends coming in town to potty train. He responded “seriously, this weekend, okay….”

Yes, seriously, okay…! Is there ever a good time to potty train? I really don’t think so. We probably had that ideal weekend sometime in the last 6 months. We wasted it. Here we are 2 weeks later in panties! It was sad, it was messy, it was an adjustment and it was empowering! Does she look different sporting panties instead of pampers. She sure does. She is proud of herself . She gets lots of high fives. All we need now is a belt to hold up her pants. She is happy, loves it, and so do I. So here’s to Panty Power!

Puked

So, life as mom is always exciting, full of adventure, love, cuddles, all the kisses you could want, and sometimes puke. Today while sitting at Chick-fil-a eating my lunch, Sylvia climbs up on my lap, eats a crouton, starts to cough, the cough gets deeper and deeper, and then I know it is coming. I grab a stack of napkins as fast as I can and in the nick of time I catch the puke. It doesn’t matter how many times it happens puke is NEVER pretty. It always gives you the feeling that you just want to join in and expel the contents of your stomach too. But you are Mom. You must remain calm. You cannot make a scene. You act as if nothing has happened and you catch and clean. There is not a person who can prepare you for this and when you dream of that little baby you again NEVER dream of the contents of their stomach. I hope Sylvia one day learns to chew her food and stop choking, because this isn’t the first time and I fear not the last time I will frantically be reaching for that stack of napkins.