"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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Readjusting

School is out. Mostly. We still have 4 phonics lessons and another unit and a half of math for Princess Sparkley's homeschooling year to be done... but otherwise, she and Jed are done with school. Now we readjust our lives.

Jed is home earlier, so we eat dinner at a normal time again. I have all three kids all day, so there are no quick trips to the store with just the two boys while PS is at regular school for art, PE, music, etc. And it's a Saturday today, and Jed isn't busy worrying about everything he needs to do... well, there's still lots to do, it's just different.*

I'm at home, trying to make brownies for a church activity tonight, and my two entertainers are with Daddy, so Baby X is watching Elmo. I'm not sure he likes it. He's only seen it a couple of times before. But then he fell in love with Signing Time, unfortunately I returned all our our Signing Time dvds to the library and forgot to replace them. We'll see if these brownies get made.

*For instance, we're moving in two months. We keep talking about what we should start doing, (go through stuff in our storage unit and get rid of what we're going to throw out, pack up books, toys, other non-essentials, etc.) but we're not actually doing any of that. Jed took the two big kids with him to buy a cool print of the University of Kansas since we sort of collect pictures and frame them on our walls of the places we've lived. I also need to hunt down a cool picture of wheat fields and a barn or something that is Kansas.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Desserts

As much as I love making desserts, we aren't one of those families that has dessert after dinner every night. There was a period where we were using ice cream as bribery for something and we were eating ice cream most nights. But we don't clear the dinner table and pass out brownies or cookies. Yet my kids have gotten it into their minds that we should eat dessert every night. It's not just wishful thinking. They are fairly certain that it is something we do, like saying prayers before bedtime. They also think this about something they like to call "morning movies" and Buddy's favorite "night time snack." These things happen occasionally, but our kids see them as regular occurrences and are then distraught when they don't happen.

Since we're trying to be healthier in our eating, I'm also trying to cut back on my dessert making (boo hoo) and focus my baking/cooking interests on actual meal recipes. Last night I made homemade tortillas to have with our taco salad (me), tacos (Jed, Buddy and Princess Sparkley), or just tortillas (Baby X). For "dessert," we had tortillas rolled up with butter and cinnamon sugar. This was a childhood favorite snack of mine, and my kids love it too. They call it a Cinnamon Express.* And, I tricked them into thinking it was dessert somehow. Yea!


*Growing up, Jed's uncle or cousin or someone invented what is basically a peanut butter and honey sandwich, but rolled up in a tortilla. He named them Double X 105s. So our kids have those occassionally as Jed indulges in a childhood food and when we started feeding them the cinnamon sugar variety, it needed a name. Thus, Cinnamon Expresses were born.

Pirates


image from imdb.com


I know I'm way behind on this, but I really enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean movie... the first one. For some reason, neither Jed or I ever had a desire to see this movie, so we didn't. Over the weekend, in St. Louis at his parents, we decided to watch a movie with Jed's little brother and his brother's wife. It was between Dodgeball and Pirates of the Caribbean and they were all fairly certain that I would not enjoy Dodgeball (they were probably right). I thought Johnny Depp was awesome. He made the movie totally worth it. I was laughing so much every time he was on screen and when Orlando Bloom mimics him... HIlarious!! I haven't seen him in a movie since Cry Baby* and had written him off as a bit of a nut (I'm not sure where I got that... were there crazy tabloid stories about him at some point? Or just the crazy characters he plays.)

*After reading Depp's wikipedia page, I've actually seen a lot of his movies since Cry Baby.
Just not any of the big money maker successes like Pirates, until now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Love Baby Animals

We make a point to visit zoos when we travel. Partly because it's something we know our kids will enjoy, but also because I enjoy zoos and I think Jed does as well. We've gone to the zoo in St. Louis (free!!) just about each time we've visited Jed's parents. We never shell out the extra money for train rides, but had promised our kids that someday we would. Since this is possibly our last fun trip to St. Louis we went to the zoo and shelled out money for the train ride (WAY overpriced) and the sting ray exhibit. The sting rays were pretty cool, but my favorite part is always the baby animals. Here are two of the babies we saw... a camel!!! and a giraffe (although I don't think this is a baby giraffe, more like a tween giraffe).



Thanks Jed for the mad camera skills.


I love giraffes.


Buddy assured me he would never touch a sting ray but he'd like to see them. He ended up touching a bunch.


Princess Sparkley went in braver but I had to really coax her into sticking her hand further than an inch into the water.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Or, maybe this...


image from here (Target.com)


I posted about a kitchen gadget on my future wish list here, a griddle pan. But then last night, I learned how to make homemade tortillas and I'm having second thoughts. Maybe I should get an electric griddle pan instead of one that goes on the stove. Thoughts? What do you use? Prefer?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dream Kitchen


image from here


Someday I'd like one of these. I think it will make my breakfast for dinner preparations flow more smoothly. But here's the problem. There are SO MANY specialized kitchen gadgets, and I want them all (or at least most of them) so I end up needing a kitchen the size of a warehouse in order to house all of my gadgets.

I thought I should post some links to my dream kitchens... but I don't even want to start looking because it would be never ending. Basically, the Pottery Barn catalog kitchens. All the kitchens featured in Taste of Home that aren't too country-y. Clean. Neutral. Big. With lots of space. I do, however love Pioneer Woman's kitchen, but I can't find the post where she give you a tour.

This* is a more realistic dream kitchen. Peabody's, from Culinary Concotions by Peabody.


*Scroll down, hers is the second kitchen featured.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wall Clock


I saw this here and then here.

You could also frame photos for the clock "numbers." I know Jed will hate this. He's against both too many clocks and too many family photos. But I thought it was a cool idea. And a fairly inexpensive way (if you made it yourself), to take up a lot of wall space, creatively.

Diet



Here's a new diet idea for you. Store all of your refrigerator/freezer items in the empty townhome next door. That's what we've been doing for the past couple of days and it has cut down on my late night bowls of ice cream, or frozen cookie dough nibbles because I don't want to go outside into an empty apartment when it's all dark and scary. Who would? But, today the part came in to fix our fridge and hopefully it's up and working again, or my popsicles are getting all melty. And no one wants that.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Travel Pillows. Check.


Princess Sparkley modeling her new Hannah Montana car neck pillow.



Buddy modeling his new firetruck car neck pillow.



I blogged here about my next sewing projects to get ready for all of our long trips this summer. Here are the first two projects, completed.

And, I bought pinking shears yesterday as my late Mother's Day present so I can make the seat pockets. Jed thought it was a pretty lame Mother's Day present, like a gardening trow. I told him it was an accessory to a hobby of mine. He told me never to buy him a gardening trow for anything. But gardening isn't currently one of his hobbies, so I think we're safe.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Projects

Here are the new projects that are taking over my life (and helping me procrastinate more important things):

1. Pillows for Princess Sparkley and Buddy to have in the car for our long trips. I'm going to sew some like these which are basically undersized, softer Boppy Pillows.

We already picked out the fabric... I'm pretty sure Buddy might like fabric stores just as much as I do. He picked out firetruck fabric (but it was a toss up between Nascar, race car, American flag, hockey, sports, fire hoses, police caution tape, and many other fun fabrics he enjoyed).

We went trying to find some Fancy Nancy fabric for Princess Sparkley and unfortunately they didn't have any, so we came home with Hannah Montana fabric. At least she's never really seen the show (just part of an episode while Grandma was babysitting), she knows some songs, but just likes the idea of being a rock star girl more so than she likes Hannah Montana. I can't blame her, I was a punk rocker for 3 Halloweens in a row when I was a little older than she is.


2. Car seat back organizers. I should probably just spend the money buying this one, but I want it to be cute. And, I think that if I save up my Hancock Fabric coupons*, I'll be able to make this for about the same price, maybe less. And it's definitely less expensive than the cute ones at etsy.com.

*Although now that I actually have a plan for the Hancock Fabric coupons that seem to come so frequently, none are going to show up in my mailbox.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sticky Mosaics

image from The Orb Factory



I'm super excited about these little art projects that I came across recently. I'm not excited about their price, but as soon as I can find them somewhere cheaper, or just the "minis" so we can try them out, I'm going to get some. They're called Sticky Mosaics by The Orb Factory. It's the little foam stickers with a paint by numbers sort of art mat to stick them to, creating these really cool mosaics. Fun! I might even share with my kids.

Going Off Candy Diet

I know you are all dying for an update on how my candy consumption or candy ban is going. I took a long introspective look at myself and figured out I couldn't do this cold turkey. So I'm not buying candy almost ever, but if it's around, I'll still have some. And I have bought some candy, namely, I bought myself a Cadbury Boost since I had to mail one to Angela for her birthday and if I was going to go all the way downtown to the specialty Bristish store and buy a Boost for Angela, I was going to get one for me too. And I currently have a small stockpile of candy in order to make (don't peek, Jed, it's a surprise) these for Jed's graduation party next weekend. But I'm being really good about not eating them. Really, I am. Part of that is my mother-in-law gave us 2 boxes of Russell Stover's reject outlet chocolate over the weekend, and even though I hate most boxed chocolate (I just pick out the chocolate covered caramel ones) and I really don't like the taste of Russell Stover's chocolate, I've still eaten WAY TOO MANY. So I've cut them all in half to make sure I'm not wasting any caramel ones, and I'm throwing the rest away. Good riddance.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Showing Niceness to Big Families

After writing about the weird look I got when I was buying Preggie Pops with three kids already in tow, I felt bad because I haven't documented all the nice reactions I've gotten from people when I have all my "helpers" with me.

Usually the nice comments I get are from older people, grandmas and grandpas who say stuff like:

What I nice bunch you have there!
or
You sure have a lot of great helpers!

For the most part, I don't get negative comments or looks, which is nice. But, included in this should be the fact that I do most of my errands during the short period of the day when Princess Sparkley is at regular school and I only have two helpers, because, let me tell you, those two oldest helpers, when they are together at the store... they aren't very helpful.

I also haven't gotten many people telling me that if I have three I have to have four, which my sister got all the time before she had her fourth (and then fifth).

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Car Sick

We have 3 big trips this summer:

Kansas to Utah (17 hours)
Utah to Kansas (17 hours)
Kansas to Virginia (18 hours)

And Princess Sparkley gets car sick. Not every time we are in the car. Just on our last huge trip when we drove to Virginia for Spring Break a couple of years ago and the hills and curves of western Virginia did her tummy in. We're not looking forward to a repeat and Colorado and Utah and hilly, mountainy and curvy.



I've been reading up on treatment for motion sickness and here's what I've found:

  1. Make her keep her eye on the straight line of the road. (This was my parents' cure.)
  2. Don't read.
  3. A spray bottle filled with water and a dash of peppermint extract sprayed in the car occasionally.
  4. Eating crystalized ginger or dried ginger tablets.*
  5. Bonine for kids (sort of like Dramamine, but w/o the drowsiness).
  6. Eating protein, not carbohydrates. So snacking on nuts.
  7. Wearing those Sea-Bands wristbands.
  8. Queasy Pops, the motion sickness, kid version of Preggie Pops that help pregnant women control their nausea.

4-7 are from the May 2009 Family Fun magazine.


Have any of these worked for you, or do you have better remedies???

Big Families

I'll start this by saying I'm not pregnant.

Now I can tell my story. Princess Sparkley gets carsick, so I'm trying to figure out how I can help her on our big car trips this summer. Some of the remedies are easiest to find online, but when I put them in my "cart," the shipping was going to be $7. I couldn't bring myself to pay that, so I did some investigating around town yesterday. I ended up at a local health food store. Unfortunately, they didn't have Queasy Pops, for kids with motion sickness, but they did have Preggie Pops, for expecting moms with morning sickness. I asked a girl working there if they had the Queasy Pops variety, she said no but that PS could probably just eat the Preggie Pops. They are all natural and drug free. I read the ingredients and agreed. Then I found myself at the check out, with two kids fighting over the tiny grocery cart, Baby X struggling in my arms and Preggie Pops. My checker gave me a look. That's what made me realize I had three kids in tow and was buying something that indicated I was pregnant with #4. That made me a bit self-conscious and I wasn't even pregnant, but I know that there's a pretty good chance that someday there will be a #4. If Jed has his way, #4 will be twins.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Traveling with kids

We have some major road trips planned for this summer. Our first consists of driving from Kansas to southern Utah. This is 17 hours and over 1000 miles. We will stop twice on the way there and once on the way home.

Then we make the big move from Kansas to Virginia. Jed will be driving a moving truck. I'll be driving our car with three bored, loud, sick of being in the car kids. This is an 18 hour drive (not adding time due to the slowness of a heavy truck) and again, over 1000 miles.

Basically, we're driving from ocean to ocean (except we're stopping in Utah and not going all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

How do you entertain your kids in the car for that long?

We're already on our second portable dvd player and it's crapping out. Our experience has been so horrible with both of them that we'll probably never buy another. We'll just continue to tell our kids that when we went on family car trips as kids, we had one game we had to share with our two siblings and the only music to listen to was our parents tapes. You know, like the [insert old craggy voice here] when I was a kid, I had to walk uphill in snow both ways to get to school.

About two years ago we had to drive from Kansas to Pittsburgh, PA (14 hours) for my husband's grandma's funeral. We did this on a regular weekend having to work until Friday afternoon and needing to get back to work and school on Monday morning. Yuck. My friend Tiffany, who married a boy from Scotland and thus travels on planes a lot WITH KIDS, made us a little travel kit. So sweet and such a great idea. I've used it again when we've gone on longer road trips.

This is the travel kit. She wrapped up a bunch of snacks, candies, activities and on the wrapping paper was a rule for when we could open it. Here are some examples of rules you could use:

Spot license plates from 5 states.
Spot license plates from 15 states.
Enter a new state.
See a truck with three trailers.
Cross a river.
Someone in the car is sleepy.
Someone in the car says they are bored.
Recite the ABCs backwards.
See a train.
Someone asks how much longer.

So I've gathered a number of activities, workbooks, coloring books and toys to wrap up. And I plan to check out a huge amount of books for Princess Sparkley because she reads like crazy. And we'll get some kid books on cd from the library. What else can we do?

Sign Language

A few Sundays ago we were watching old family movies with the kids. They decided they wanted to see Princess Sparkley at Baby X's age, about 15 or 16 months. I was amazed at how much she talked. Was it a first kid thing that she was so smart? Or a girl thing that she spoke so early? I don't know. Part of what made it so shocking is that Buddy had delayed speech (I wrote about it here) and spoke so late that it seemed impossible to me that PS, or any little kid, could talk at such a young age. I can tell that Baby X is on the same path of delayed speech that Buddy was. I'm not going to worry, since Buddy now talks up a storm. And, according to my mom, he is easier to understand on the phone now than PS since she talks too fast (where could she get that from?).

We taught Princess Sparkley a few signs as a baby because my sister had taught her little girl who was older and it was cute. It's helpful for the baby to have a way to communicate before they can speak. We taught PS a bunch of signs, but the main ones were: please, more, all done, all gone and milk. She learned them because she was a baby prodigy, but for the most part, she was able to speak as soon as she was able to learn the signs so it wasn't really needed.

Buddy didn't really do much aside from the occassional "words" and a lot of grunting until he was two. Signs were great for him. One of my favorite videos of him is when he's about 14 months old standing at the fridge frantically signing "please" (rubbing your hand on your chest) because he knew the blueberries were in there.

Knowing how well sign language worked for Buddy, and since we were planning on using it with all of our kids a little bit, even before we decided Baby X had delayed speech as well, we started trying to teach Baby X signs. He wouldn't learn them. He's been really quick at things like rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing, walking, but smaller motor skills like waving and clapping, he was slow on. He just barely started waving regularly a month ago. So we've been super excited this week and last as he's finally started to sign to us. He knows please (rubbing your hand on your chest), more (knocking your pinching fingers together), all done (raising hands in the air like the call for touchdown-- although I don't think this is technically ASL) and, unrelated, he'll finally point to his nose when I ask him where his nose is. Hooray!




Well, this entire post was really just to tell you about these great signing helps. We love these videos. Even my two older kids really enjoy them. Buddy, especially comes running if he hears the theme song. The videos mix sign language with music and songs. For those of you in the loop as far as LDS things go, Rachel Coleman, who started these videos with her sister, is LDS and the daughter of Lex de Azevedo who has done a lot in church music for EFY and such, I believe.* In the behind the scenes part of the dvd, she talks about how sign language can be effective for any child, not just a deaf child because it enables them to communicate before they can talk preventing tantrums and fits. Even with Baby X he grunts and grunts with these long stories and I can tell he's frustrated that he can't just tell us.

You can check out some of the videos here.



These board books are great. We have four of them: My First Baby Signs, Baby Signs for Mealtime, Baby Signs for Animals and Baby Signs for Bedtime.




Sign with your Baby by Joseph Garcia

I use this book mainly for its glossary of signs in the back.


*Plus, for a personal connection, the two kids in the video are Leah, Rachel's deaf daughter, and Alex, her hearing nephew. Alex's dad grew up with my sister and sister-in-law and when Jed and I were first married, we were in Alex's grandparents' ward. My kids think this is awesome.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ahhh... spider!

It's officially warm. I just killed the first giant spider of the spring/summer. I've killed a few little ones here and there. And lots of silver fish and ants. But just now I had to squish a spider the size of a quarter. Yuck. Does anyone know if there are brown recluses and black widows in Virginia??

I was thinking Virginia would be perfect... we'll escape the earthquakes of California (our old home state) and the tornadoes of Kansas (our current home state). We'll gain hurricanes, but will be far enough inland that it'll just be a huge storm. I forgot about looking into things on the bug front in Virginia. When we first moved to Kansas, I was a bit freaked out by the bugs here. I guess we'll find out.

Monday, May 04, 2009

My Concert List

Last weekend I added to my list of concerts I've been to. Here's how it looks:

Neil Diamond (Los Angeles, with my family,1980s)

The Beach Boys (L.A., after a USC football game with my family, late 1980s)

Sixpence None The Richer (in London, w/ friends from BYU London Theatre Study Abroad, Spring 1999)

Tori Amos (Salt Lake City, w/ friends , October 1999)

Weezer (Las Vegas, w/Jed, Angela and our friend Kelly, 2001)

The Killers (Kansas City- or, technically Bonner Springs, KS, with Jed, 2009)

*
Weezer (College Park, MD at the University of Maryland, with Jed, 4/30/10)**




* We almost went to another Weezer concert in February or March, but the closest they got to us was Minnesota, which, actually isn't very close to Kansas at all. AND, we almost went to see Franz Ferdinand earlier in the week, but, it was a week night, we were already going to The Killers concert, and we'd booked and had cancel so many babysitters for Saturday night that it seemed impossible that we'd be able to find another
babysitter at all, let alone for a school night.
**Added later.
What's on your concert list?

Currently Driving Me Crazy

For Buddy's Christmas present he got a Thomas the Tank Engine that is battery-powered and because my mother-in-law thinks ahead, he also got 2 rechargeable double A batteries and a charger. Over the next few months I bought more rechargeable batteries figuring it would save us money on things like the kids flashlights, Leapster, etc. And as I put the batteries in their electronic homes, I remember thinking that I should write down where I was putting them so I wouldn't lose track of them. I didn't. I guess I figured I was putting them in those electronic devices where I'd constantly be replacing them. Now I'm going crazy trying to figure out where they are. I can account for 7 or the 10 rechargeable batteries that we own. Those other three are haunting me. I realize I am a bit crazy. But seriously, it's driving me crazy.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Baby Baths


image from msnbc.com


When I brought to your attention the bath pods I saw on amazon.com I received a lot of comments. It's still one of the top reasons random internet searchers land on my blog. When I saw this article today, I knew I had to share it with you. Enjoy.
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