"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Friday, January 30, 2009

Parenting for Dummies

It's pretty easy to judge other people. Then all of a sudden it's you and everything changes.

Things I'm always shocked to see other people do:
  • feed their babies, toddlers and preschools juice from a bottle
I'm not really sure how this happens. My babies and toddlers rarely get juice. But in a bottle?!? You have to be living under a rock to not know how mad that is for a kid's teeth, etc. I was shocked a few years ago when someone I grew up with, who I consider to be a very smart, educated person, had their 2 -3 year old sucking juice out of a bottle. I couldn't believe it.

  • letting their small kids sit in the front seat of a car.
I understand that the new carseat/booster seat laws seem a bit extreme. I don't understand the small first graders in my daughter's class at school whose parents have them sit in the front passenger seat of their car. They aren't old cars from before the days of airbags. They aren't pick-up trucks with no back seats and so an airbag turn off option. It's the front seat of a car. I didn't think anyone still allowed a kid to sit up there and then I saw two different kids in a week get into the front seat of their car.


Here's where I'm slacking. With my first two kids I had them off of a bottle and formula right around a year old. I started introducing whole milk in a sippy cup to Baby X about a month ago. It hasn't gone over well. And then he got sick and was barely eating at all and I forgot all about getting him off formula and a bottle... I just wanted something going in his belly. So he's over a year and still has a bottle. I realize there are far worst things in the world, but in some sort of twisted way, it makes me feel smart and intelligent to be able to know and follow the basics of how to raise a baby and follow the pediatricians advice without second guessing them because I'm smarter (or something, why do people second guess their doctors? I guess because they know their kids best.?)

Also, with my other kids I turned their carseats around to face forward about a week before their first birthday (they've always been way over 20 lbs.). With Baby X it was too cold to venture outside for any unnecessary reason. So Jed, being the kind husband and dad that he is, turned the carseat last night. It was the highlight of Princess Sparkley and Buddy's day (and maybe a little bit Baby X's) to have his seat facing forward. Very fun.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Webkinz


PS's Webkinz Rooms
click to enlarge

Princess Sparkley got two Webkinz for Christmas. A pink poodle she named Lavender (because according to Fancy Nancy, Lavender is a fancy word for purple) and an orange, white and black alley cat she named Tiara (since Tiaras are also fancy). They are super fun. It's possible that I enjoy it more than she does, but probably not... she does love it. I earn them tons of money playing arcade games and then we buy new stuff for their Webkinz. Today we bought them a stove and a cookbook. Now we are busily watching "The Secret Chef" on her cat's tv so we can find recipes to make. And I make fun of people with avatars.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

3 Pukers

So this weekend was fun and eventful. Friday night Buddy puked in the wee hours of Saturday morning. It's interesting to see how illness affects each of my kids. Buddy gets hit hard for about 24 hours and bounces right back.

Saturday night (or the wee hours of Sunday morning) Baby X puked. His puking has continued off and on. He's still eating very little but other than being a little grumpy, and a little more wobbley on his feet than normal, he's acting normal.

Tuesday afternoon, at school (meaning she's so embarrassed she may never go back), Princess Sparkley puked. She is usually sickly for awhile, sleeps a lot but after a few hours demands food. She started demanding food first thing this morning. I haven't given in yet. We learned our lesson with her a couple of years ago when she decided that once she was all the way better she wanted IHOP for dinner (her favorite restaurant at the time). So enough time had passed, and she had been eating a little and hadn't puked so we celebrated her wellness at IHOP. We walked in the door of our house and she procedded to puke up her entire meal. Not happening again.

So, that's what I've been up to. Loads and loads of laundry. Trips to the store for Gatorade and Pedialyte (or whatever the baby Gatorade is). Trips up and down the stairs each time a bell rings and someone is thirsty, etc. At least it didn't hit them all at once, but dragging it out over a week isn't much better.

Book Review: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson



image from amazon.com

Laurie Halse Anderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite young adult authors. I'm amazed with the wide range of subject matters of her books. The first book I read of hers, Speak, made her famous and dealt with teenage rape. A serious subject that she handled very well. Since then I've read some more typical teen lit from her. Then this book, Chains, it's historical fiction. I can imagine in my mind someday tackling the writing of a teen novel. No where can I imagine tackling historical fiction. She does a marvelous job of it. Her characters are endearing (well, the ones who are supposed to be, some are also very easy to hate), it made me cry, and I learned a lot about slavery and the American Revolution and slaveries part in the American Revolution, if that makes sense.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Baby Turns One

Baby X turns one today. Here are some shots from his "party" last night.



Happy First Birthday, Baby X!

He threw up in the wee hours of yesterday morning and again this morning... so this is what he really felt like, although the little champ made it through all the celebrations.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tricking Your Kids


*
Buddy and Princess Sparkley have never been good at going to bed a night. Well, I take that back. Buddy was an angel until he graduated from his crib to a toddler bed and that was the end of his good sleeping habits. Princess Sparkley just requires less sleep than a normal kid, and inherits her inability to fall asleep at night from her dad who continually mocks me for being asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Hey, I'm a tired person.

So the other night they both wandered into our bedroom way past bedtime. First one, then the other, complaining that their feet hurt. Excuses. I told them to go put socks on. This wasn't enough. So I told them to get some lotion and then a sock. They happily sat in the hallway smearing lotion on their feet and putting socks on top.

What does this do, you might wonder? Nothing. I don't even remember when I came up with it. I think it was when PS was a toddler and I could get her to go back to sleep if I had a cure for her sore foot (which I assume is growing pains, or pins and needles because the foot has fallen asleep). I rub lotion on their foot and cover it with a sock. Cured. It's totally psychological, although maybe it does help some.

What crazy things do you make up for your kids?

*PS at about 2 1/2 slept with a hat on her head for awhile because I convinced her it would make the cricket noises quieter and not so scary. That kid really hated the sound of crickets at night.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Birthday Presents for a Baby Boy

Baby X turns 1 next week. I KNOW... ONE. Crazy. And since he needs absolutely nothing, but I feel like I need to get him at least something, I've been shopping around online (unfortunately it's only for ideas since nothing will get shipped here in time for the actual birthday celebration).

Here's what I've found that would be really cool (for any little boy).


found here, here and here at toysrus.com for $12.99 each
(I was thinking that $12.99 was a good deal, my husband thought it seemed expensive. Then I noticed that they are referred to as Mini Fire Engine, Mini Police Car and Mini Dumpster truck and I thought that is pricey if they are really just the size of a matchbox car, but the description doesn't give any dimensions.)




(So this is way down the road for Baby X, but still pretty cool. $44.95)

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

My sister-in-law shared her favorite part of Martin Luther King Jr's. famous speech on her blog:

I have a dream that little white boys and girls
and little black boys and girls will join hands
as brothers and sisters....


Martin Luther King Jr's. dream is a reality in our family and we're very happy.


Here are my niece and nephew with my kids a couple of years ago. I didn't have a more recent picture of just the four of them except this one, and besides being goofy, it isn't even the last time we were all together:


Friday, January 16, 2009

Photographing My Kids

Since I have the new camera and I have kids, this guest post on Make and Takes was perfect for me when I read it today. So, having read that post, while Baby X was napping, I went out in the freezing cold to take some pictures of Princess Sparkley and Buddy playing in the snow that fell last night.

These, if not perfect, were my favorites:


slightly crooked angling making the shot interesting



getting down on her level


focusing on his eyes (or 1 1/2 eyes)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Review: Footfree and Fancy Loose by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Faine


images from Amazon.com
*

Footfree and FancyLoose is the second book (out of two so far) about four best friends- Becca, Harper, Kate and Sophie. In the first book, Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, Harper finds out that she wasn't admitted to NYU, the only school she's applied to. Instead of being honest with her three best friends, she comes up with a story about how she's decided to take a year off to fulfill her dream of writing the next Great American Novel and go to NYU next year. She feels horrible when the speech she delivers to her friends is so good that they all decide to take a year to work on their life dreams as well. Sophie's dream is to move to California and become an actress. Kate, puts off Harvard, which is her parents' dream, and decides to travel the world and find out what she wants to do with her life. Becca actually goes along with her original plan since attending the college she's planning on going to and skiing on their ski team is her dream, but she adds to it, fall in love. And Harper, sticks around at home (in Boulder, CO), living in her parents' basement, working at a coffee shop, lusting after her high school English teacher, and writing the next Great American Novel. The book jumps around from one girls' story to the next showing us how their year of dreams is going.

The second book picks up where the first leaves off. Harper has come clean with her friends and is surprised when they forgive her. The books finishes up with the end of the year of dreams with each girl making plans for the next year.

I really enjoyed these books. They are a bit like Ann Brashares Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but a bit more grown-up (which I don't necessarily approve of for a young adult book). I still live in an idealistic world where swearing and sex aren't part of a teenage life. I realize I'm wrong, but I have little kids and I don't even want to imagine what the teenage years will be like for them when I can remember high school and am pretty sure it's only gotten worse. These books have a lot of bad language. There is also a lot of sex. In a way, they depict sex in a more realistic way. It isn't glorified. It's a lot more honest about how a teenage girl will feel after the act than all positive and wonderful.

*I still haven't figured out why the book is about four best friends but only three appear on the cover of both books.

Notes for Next Christmas

1. Make sure to get gift receipts (to help other people out, and also for the presents that you purchase because you may never locate the regular receipt again).

2. Don't cross out the price of the present on the present. I couldn't return a book to Borders because of this.

3. Buddy and Princess Sparkley are almost two years apart in age, but as they are getting older, their interests are pretty similar. So next year, if Princess Sparkley wants something that Buddy might also be interested in, get it for him as well. (Case in point, this year, Webkinz).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pasta and Vegetable Soup

I got this recipe out of a Kraft Food magazine (I think) several years ago. It's quick, yummy and even my kids (well, one of them) will eat it.


Picture with my new camera.
Bread decoration, complete with bites taken out of it courtesy of Jed.


Pasta and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:
1 9 oz. pkg. Buitoni refrigerated 3 cheese torellini (cook according to package directions)
1 container (15 oz.) Buitoni Refrigerated marinara sauce
1 14.5 oz. can low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup carrot slices*
1/2 cup broccoli florets*
1/2 cup sliced and quartered zucchini*
Grated Mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Combine sauce and broth in large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add vegetables; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook for 10-12 minutes*. Stir in pasta; heat through. Top with Mozzarella Cheese. Makes 4 servings.

*The recipe actually calls for a 16 oz. pkg. of frozen vegetables, but I'm not really a frozen veggie kind of person. I usually steam my fresh veggies before adding them to the marinara/broth mixture so the cooking time there can be reduced.

Stolen


image from Pampered Chef

I may sound a bit like my dad* when I say this, but someone has stolen my Pampered Chef ice cream dipper. There's no other explanation. I have a tiny kitchen and there are only so many places it could be and it's in none of them. There is the chance that Princess Sparkley has carted it off to her bedroom (she tends to do that with shiny things or trash that she thinks is neat).

*This was a joke in my family growing up because my dad would always accuse stuff that he couldn't find as being stolen.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Camera

I've been wanting this camera:


But it retails for just under $500, and I don't even think that's including the lens. I was saving up for it, but something more important to spend the money on kept coming along. So when my parents sent some money for me for Christmas this year I decided to add a bit to it and buy myself a better camera,if not my dream camera. Meet my new camera:


Nikon Coolpix S210 (in plum)
What you can't tell from this picture is how incredibly thin it is. .71 inches.


Here are the few sample shots from my exciting day at home unpacking and doing laundry from our weekend trip to St. Louis:


Baby X looking cute.


All three kids posing for a test picture.


Me. A picture of me I don't even hate.


Buddy.


Princess Sparkley

Friday, January 09, 2009

Nothing to Say

I don't really have anything to say... I just feel like I'm failing as a blogger with my not much to say.

I finally packed up all of my Christmas decorations. But they are still in a corner of my living room waiting to be taken to storage.

I finally made the orange roll recipe in my church cookbook that I've been wanting to try so I could compare it to my brother-in-law's recipe. My brother-in-law's recipe is still the best, although his has a glaze and this one had a cream cheese frosting that was quite yummy. There's extra and I keep dipping my finger into the bowl and having a yummy lick.

I've finally decided that while I'm not in the position financially to buy my dream camera, I should still get a new digital camera since mine is older than Buddy who is coming up on five and it only has 3 mega-pixels (did you know that there are digital cameras with 14.5 mega-pixels now? When I bought my camera five years ago, I think that 5 was the most you could get... at least what I was looking at but not willing to pay for). So now I'm shopping, and trying to not be impulsive about it.

That's about it... oh, and I'm reading Footfree and Fancyloose by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. I read the first one, Bassawkwards and Belly Up... it was pretty good. If you liked the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, this is similar.*

*I remembered that these books have a lot of bad language (but forgot to mention that here) but totally forgot until I finished this one that there's also a lot of sex. I'll write up a proper review this week and let you know the gist of it all.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Cell Phones

We only have cell phones, no land line. It's been over a year and a half and I think I've forgotten what the sound of a regular phone ringing sounds like... I know my kids are clueless because whenever we're out and about and someone has one of those real rings on their phone (as opposed to music) my kids ask what it is. In order for my husband and I to talk as frequently as we like, to each other, for free, we had to get a family plan. The cheapest one gives us 700 minutes a month, plus unlimited nights, weekends and calls to other cell phones with the same carrier (which unfortunately, is only my husband's brother and his wife... not that we don't want to talk to them for free, just that we wish more of our family was on the same plan). 700 minutes a month seems like a monstrous amount of time to talk to people besides my husband. We've never even come close... until now. I'm blaming it on the holidays, but I only have 25 free minutes until 9 PM tonight. And then I have free nights, and tomorrow, our next billing period starts and we begin fresh. How did we talk for over 700 minutes this month? Who were we talking to? I don't even like talking on the phone that much.

Chick Lit

I have a weakness for romantic comedies, teen movies, and chick lit*. I think I will always love romantic comedies. There are still some good teen movies being made. But chick lit... chick lit is starting to make me want to gouge my own eyes out.

Almost all chick lit includes the following:

a single woman
she's usually in her twenties, approaching 30
she lives in New York (or London)
she works in publishing (or advertising)
she has a group of friends (usually two, she makes three)
one of these is sometimes a gay man
there are references to Jane Austen, more specifically Pride and Prejudice or Mr. Darcy
there are two love interests
she's "poor" but she still wears designer clothes and eats out a lot
there's a family member she's close with (usually a sister)
Etc.



This article, specifically these paragraphs, sum up my thoughts pretty well:

But the genre also is riddled with one-hit wonders and books that some say should never have been published. Blame that in part on overeager publishers.

"Publishers nailed it in a way no one had ever done before," says Liate Stehlik of Avon Books. "Like anything, when something is successful, it explodes, and there are a million things like it. Some are really good, and some are subpar." Stehlik compares the genre's history to the glut of reality TV shows the past several years.

But readers also are seeking fresh experiences "and not just copycats of what is working," she says.


*Each of my chick lit links is to a different article explaining, defining and/or listing chick lit.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Reviews

When reviewing a product, please please please refrain from starting a review with: "I haven't used this yet, but...." I read a lot of customer reviews online when I'm shopping for something new and I can't even begin to tell you how many people are reviewing a product they've never used. I especially hate the reviews that tell me about how it looks. Looking at it (even if it's just a picture) is all a person can do when shopping online. I want to know if it works. How it works. If you like it based on more than it arriving in the mail. Not that you like it because it looked nice when you pulled it out of the box.

Pink and White Animal Cookies are Saved!

Thanks, Jamie, for sending me this link. I blogged here about Mother's cookies going bankrupt... but now they've been saved by Kellogg's. Hoorah!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Buying Books

Here's the thing... I love books. I love buying books. But since Jed has been back in school, and our bookshelves have always been filled to capacity, we've become great patrons of our local library. It used to be that we'd go on a date to Borders and spend a bunch of money. Now that we don't buy books (and we have three kids that don't let us leave the kids' section) I use Borders as my jumping off point for what to check out from the library. OR, I use my Borders Rewards coupons and get 20-40% a purchase. Right now I have two $5 of a $5 purchase coupons, $5 I earned in Borders rewards AND a Borders gift card I got for Christmas. And I have this huge dilemma... I don't know what to buy. I just keep thinking things like, "yeah, but I can just check that out from the library." I never thought I'd have a hard time buying a book. Any recommendations for a book I'll definitely want to own when I'm done reading it?

Anonymous Thank You

Thank you to the man in his PJ pants and Jayhawk shirt at the Walmart recycling center who not only saw me embarrass myself by chasing after a plastic bag that the wind blew out of the back of my car (you can't exactly litter at a recycling center, you know) and then saw me frantically peeking through all the windows of my car trying to figure out where my keys were and then who found them laying in the dirt near his car (from when I'd gone on my bag chasing expedition) and brought them over to me. Thank you thank you thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.
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