Thursday, July 29, 2010

We're Having a Party!

 Everybody's swinging. Having such a good time, dancing with my baby...*

It's just me and Ben until Saturday! Yay! I cannot even begin to explain how ecstatic I am that Daddio has taken Sam and Owen camping and fishing for two days. I was screaming for joy all morning! (Which resulted in Sam rolling his eyes and shaking his head at me-they hadn't left yet). To go from taking care of three boys to one is such a nice break! I'm reveling in the peace and quiet.

I took Ben for a walk today after his nap. I was feeling super energetic and motivated! We walked for half an hour, although I swear, I thought it was for an hour. I was feeling great when we arrived home. And then I made brownies. (I know. Super counterproductive, huh?) And licked the bowl clean. With my tongue. No, just kidding. Not with my tongue. But I did "lick" the bowl clean, something that I'm always telling the boys not to do because it will make them sick. "But Daddy does it!" Is what I always hear. "And what have I said before about some of the things that Daddy does? Sometimes Daddy does (says) things that he's not supposed to, and it doesn't make it okay for you." But this time I did something I wasn't supposed to do, and guess what? It made me sick. I had a wicked bellyache after that. Live and learn.

After I made the brownies and put them in the oven, Ben and I went upstairs to have a cleaning dance party! (Basically it's just me playing loud music on the computer and dancing like a fool while I am cleaning. Pretty self-explanatory). Ben was able to enjoy it too. He danced bounced along to a couple of songs by the Black Eyed Peas and Luke Bryan. The rest of the time he made more of a mess than what I was cleaning up. But I was still being super productive cleaning up our computer area that hasn't really been organized and put away since me moved in over a year ago! A moment came while Ben and I were dancing together when I could hear a beeping noise in the distance. At first, I thought it was my cell phone, but then I realized what it was. The brownies! It was nearly ten minutes past the timer going off on the oven! Thankfully I had set it for a few minutes shorter than the minimum time and they came out fine.

Now here's a very important question. If you are the only adult home, and therefore the only adult you have to worry about making dinner for, is it perfectly acceptable to have brownies for dinner? Just wondering...

I think that Ben must miss his brothers because I had a hell of a time getting him to sleep tonight. He had been awake since 2 o'clock, so in theory he should have been plenty tired by 7 o'clock. I was thrilled at the idea of being able to get him all settled into bed by 7 and being able to have two hours to myself (to finish cleaning) before Project Runway. But alas, my plan did not come to fruition. I didn't get him to sleep until closer to 8 and then Daddio called from their campsite. (All was going well, as well as can be expected anyway). I haven't finished my cleaning, but I still have tomorrow. Now I have 20 minutes left before Project Runway to contemplate my nagging dilemma.

Do I eat all of the brownies myself before the boys return on Saturday so no one knows that I even made them? Or do I resist that urge and leave them as is for Daddio to see just exactly how many brownies I actually ate on my own in two days? (Oink, oink).


*Took a little poetic license with those lyrics and switched them around to fit the way I was signing the song in my head!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Blueberry "Cowboy"

The boys and I were able to go blueberry picking recently, leaving me with a plethora of blueberries to bake with. In addition to some delectable muffins, I also baked a blueberry cobbler, or blueberry "cowboy" as Owen calls it. I came across the recipe on my favorite recipe site, Taste of Home, while looking for ideas as to what I could make with the berries. I had all of the ingredients on hand and it looked simple enough, so this recipe won out. Please be forewarned, that if you are on a diet, or in any way watching what you eat, this may not be the cobbler for you.


Blueberry "Cowboy"

If only mine looked this good!*
  
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided 
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Whipped cream or whipped topping**

In a saucepan, combine the berries, lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil; remove from the heat. Set aside. Place butter in a 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish; melt butter in a 350° oven.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar with flour, baking powder, salt, milk and egg. Pour over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon reserved berry mixture over batter. Do not stir.***

Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream or whipped topping. Yield: about 10-12 servings.


Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 231 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 40 mg cholesterol, 256 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein. 


*This photo is from the Taste of Home website. My camera battery died before I could get a picture of my own. 
**I did not use the whipped cream on mine.
***This sounds a little upside down/backward, but the blueberries actually sink and the crust part rises to the top. Another incentive for me to want to try out this recipe.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meet Me at the Playground

Last night before he went to bed, Owen asked me, "What we do tomorrow?" "Well what do you want to do tomorrow?" I asked him in return. "Play outside. Play inside. Play outside. Just play."

This small conversation, and Owen's simple response made me really think how innocent and carefree are the lives of children. No responsibilities, no obligations, no stress. The biggest thing that they have to worry about is whether they will be able to play outside the next day or if the rain will spoil their plans.

Oh, to be young again. How nice it would be not to have to stress over the daily annoyances that make up the life of a grown-up. How wonderful it would be to have someone else around to take care of things for me. Someone to pick out my clothes for me, to make my meals, to do my laundry and make my bed, to brush my teeth... well, maybe not brush my teeth for me; that would just be weird. But you get the idea.

This morning, as we were starting our day, I asked the boys what they wanted to do today, and again, Owen said, "Just play." Oh, you carefree, innocent children. How I envy you, I thought to myself as I took a look at my "To Do" list for the day. Then they asked me if I could take them to the playground. (Trips to the playground are usually taken with Daddio, after dinner, to give me a little break while I clean up the kitchen). I thought about my list again, trying to figure out where I could fit in a trip to the playground in my already busy schedule of baking muffins, loads of laundry, and sweeping. But then I thought, To hell with my list! (because truth be told, I probably wasn't going to do any of it today anyway. It is Sunday after all, isn't that supposed to be a day of rest?).

So I got the boys dressed, took a shower, (I refuse to go anywhere even remotely public without a shower first), put the older boys on their bikes, Ben in his stroller, and we were off to the playground! Just like that. Without scheduling it in first. (Yes, I am one of those anal people who make extensive lists and has to plan out everything for the day. If I don't, then it never gets done). And we had fun. The boys chased each other around and I got in some exercise climbing after Ben as he explored the playground. I'm considering scheduling a trip to playground before lunch every day now. The chores can wait, right?

He's having fun. Really. He is.


From a different trip. I didn't bring my camera today.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Read to Me, Please!: Bumpety Bump

One of the books that I selected for Owen from the library this week is Bumpety Bump! by Pat Hutchins. I chose this book because it centers around a boy and his grandpa as they work on the farm.


The main premise to this story is that while the little boy and his grandpa are working on the farm, a little red hen follows them wherever they go. Along the way, the boy shows the little red hen what he is able to do, things like picking berries and pulling carrots. By the end of the story, the little red hen has stopped following the boy to show him what she can do. 

For the most part, this is a delightful book. The illustrations are bright and detailed and Owen has fun pointing to each vegetable as the boy in the book shows the hen what he can do. Owen likes to say the lines "bumpety bump bump- and the little red hen keeps following us, following us around" as they are repeated throughout the story. 

Grandpa books are a common theme of selection for us as Owen is Grandpa's boy through and through. Any time we go to visit Grandma and Grandpa, he immediately wants to go outside to "work" with Grandpa. "Work" usually consists of building things in Grandpa's workshop in the garage, tending to the vegetable garden, and taking care of the chickens.



Bumpety Bump! was the perfect choice for Owen as the boy in the story is just like him. He works with his grandfather all day, tending to the vegetables and the rest of the farm. Thanks to Grandpa's chickens, Owen is now fascinated by any chickens that he sees and loves searching for the little red hen on each page. This book has become Owen's first choice of books to take with him to bed this week for "quiet" time and bedtime. As soon as he crawls into bed, he has to make sure that he has the "Grandpa" book next to him!


Friday, July 23, 2010

My Little Bookworm

As an English teacher and an avid reader, one of my greatest desires for my boys is that they will enjoy reading. So far, I have had great success with Owen, although maybe a little too much.

About 6 1/2 months old and reading already!

Owen loves to read. Even when he was younger, less than a year old, I could put him in his crib with a couple of books for some "quiet time" and he would sit there, quietly reading his books for at least 20 minutes. (Which was also a nice break for me).

He can read upside down!
No book is too big of a challenge for Owen!

He loves being read to. One of the highlights of our week is story-hour at the library. We started going when he was a little under 2 years old. Right from the beginning, I was impressed at how well he behaved and how attentive he was to Miss Library as she read to the children. In a group of 18-36 month olds, the majority of the kids were constantly wiggling around on their carpet squares and looking at what was going on around them. Owen, however, was always glued to his carpet square, eyes on Miss Library, deeply engrossed in the story.

He reads catalogs.


And the comics.

Owen is now in the habit of reading before bedtime, a habit that I admit to getting him started on. When he started rebelling against taking naps, I tricked him into having "quiet time" instead. I told him that he didn't need to go to sleep, but he DID have to lay down and read his books for a while. It worked like a charm; he almost always falls asleep.

It must have been a pretty boring book.


When Owen gets into his bed for the night, he takes a couple of books and his flashlight with him. And here is where my desire for him to love reading comes back to bite me. The kid will read forever, literally for hours, before finally falling to sleep.

A required read for anyone experiencing their Terrible Twos.

Last night I went upstairs around 9:30 and noticed that his flashlight was still on. I peeked into his room because sometimes he will fall asleep with it on. This time, however, he was still awake, intently reading a book, with a pile of more books laying next to him. This is an issue that I'm torn on how to react to. I don't want to yell at him to stop reading and go to sleep because I want to encourage, not discourage, his desire to read. But at the same time, I don't want him to think that it is acceptable to be up reading until 10 pm every night.

I chose to play the sweet mommy. I kissed him on the cheek, and told him that I really like that he loves to read so much, but it was getting really late and he needed to go to bed. I told him that he could finish the book that he was reading, but then he had to turn off his flashlight and go to bed. Very sweetly, he told me that he would.

He didn't. He was still awake and reading at 10:00 pm. And the rest of us were paying for it today as he woke up at his usual time, and emerged from bed as Cranky-Owen. Lucky us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: The Best Blueberry Muffins

(The muffins won out!)

Muffins are one of my favorite things to bake, and eat! These blueberry muffins are some of the better ones that I have made. The boys really enjoy helping me make these muffins, especially when they get to sprinkle the oats on top. I'm sure that there are probably much better recipes out there, but I'm done looking for them. This recipe is another from the same cookbook that I found "Sam's Favorite Muffins" in. They are originally called "Very Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins". I like my name better.


The Best Blueberry Muffins

6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups blueberries, washed and stems removed

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and stir in the milk and vanilla extract. In another bowl, sift* the dry ingredients. Stir them into the butter and sugar mixture, then fold in the blueberries. Fill the muffin cups almost to the top and bake for 25 minutes, or until light brown. Makes 12 muffins.


Note:  These muffins were made with our fresh blueberries from our blueberry picking experience this past weekend.

*I skip the sifting step and just mix them together.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Booooberries!

We stopped by my dad's house yesterday for what was only supposed to be a quick visit, but turned into a 5 hour one, complete with 4-wheeler rides, dinner and blueberry picking!

It turns out that they have a lot of blueberry patches on their property, so my dad's girlfriend is encouraging all visitors to pick their own blueberries. I have never picked blueberries before, so it was a new experience. Let me rephrase that; it was a long, tedious, back-aching, experience.

Blueberries, blueberries everywhere!

Four of us started out picking: myself, my dad's girlfriend, Sam, and Owen. The boys were super excited to be able to pick the blueberries. They each had their own bowl, and in the beginning, Owen was eating more than he was putting in his bowl.


"Hmmmm. Which one looks the tastiest?"



Found it! Yummy!


Both Sam and Owen enjoyed bending down to search for the blueberries and finding the ones that were ripe enough, for about 10 minutes that is. Then we lost Sam. He decided he'd rather go hang out with Daddio, Ben and Grandpa.

But Owen kept at it. For 5 more minutes. Then he got distracted looking at the deer poopies and trying to pick flowers for Mommy. He also had to pee in the trees a couple of times and felt the need to weed the blueberry patches. At some point Sam returned, but it was only to go exploring the various paths among the "woods" with Owen.

 "I need to pick this weed."

Half an hour and multiple bug bites later, we ended up with two bowls full of blueberries.

 This was only a quarter of our loot.


"Look how many I have!"         "They're all mine."        

Now all we have to do is to figure out which comes first, blueberry pancakes or blueberry muffins?





Saturday, July 17, 2010

Read to Me, Please!: Stuck in the Mud

                                                                                                                                    
Every week, I take Owen to the library for story hour and to checkout new books. After coming across a plethora of less than mediocre children's books, I have decided to review some of our favorites, and some of our not so favorites.
                                                                                                                                    


Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke

Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke is a bright and colorful story sure to delight all preschoolers.

Early in the morning, a hen wakes up to discover that one of her young chicks has run off! She is utterly distraught to find that he has gotten himself stuck in the mud! Hen tries to free him, only to end up stuck herself! Comedy ensues as one by one, the animals on the farm try to help out, only to meet with the same disastrous results as the hen. In the end, the young chick has a surprise for them all!

Clarke's repetitive, nursery-rhyme style of writing provides children with the opportunity to interact with the story. The predictable text allows children to anticipate and predict what will happen next, a necessary skill for developing readers to acquire . They will be eager to "push" and "pull" again and again as each animal struggles to help the little chick free himself from the mud.

Young children will be immediately drawn to Garry Parsons' bright and colorful illustrations in this picture book. Beyond the story itself, the pictures lend themselves to provide an interactive experience for young readers. Among the background images on each page, children will enjoy looking for all of the farm animals and watching for the farmer's wife through the farmhouse windows as she goes through her morning routine, unaware of the happenings outside.

This charming picture book is sure to become one of any child's favorite stories to read over and over again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Family VACATION?

We just returned from a "family vacation" last night around 8:00. I'm starting to wonder why people call these trips "family vacations". There was plenty of family there, but it was no vacation for me, let me tell you. An ideal vacation for a stay-at-home-mom would be a week a few days  a DAY without any kids! A day of peace and quiet and 24 hours of "me" time. But I digress.

We journeyed down to Amsterdam, NY last Friday to visit Daddio's family. His aunt, his cousin and her two kids were visiting from Pennsylvania, and his sister and her two kids were visiting from North Carolina. We hadn't seen his sister's family in a year and this was their first time meeting Ben! There were some good times, some bad times, and plenty of tears and yelling had by all.

The highlights:

*We were able to swim in a REAL pool. It wasn't an in-ground pool, but an above ground. But in my mind, anything that is not an inflatable kiddie pool is a REAL pool. The boys loved it, even Ben, which I was surprised because he is always fussing when he is in the kiddie pool. Owen had a blast playing in the pool with his cousin's mermaid Barbie. Hmmmm. Nothing wrong with that.

*We went out on the boat. On Saturday we went to a "mini" family reunion on the lake and Daddio brought his friend's boat with him. The kids had a blast riding on it, and Daddio let them drive it! Even Ben! I had my camera with me, but of course I left it in the diaper bag while we were on the boat, so I didn't get a single picture of the kids driving it! I'm hoping that someone else did.

*We went to the beach. Nothing says family vacation like a day at the beach with cousins! The kids all enjoyed swimming and playing in the sand.



Ben enjoyed eating the sand.



Owen practiced going underwater and breathing underwater with his aunt, and now I'm jealous because he can do it a lot better than Mommy! I told him that he would have to teach me how to do it.

 Higher!

*We had air conditioning! Usually we stay at Grandma's house when we're visiting, and her house is always like a sauna. But this time around, we stayed at Uncle Matt's apartment and it was air conditioned! Sooo much better.

*I had some "girlie" time. While Daddio took the three older boy cousins to the store, I played dress-up with Kaylee. We dressed up like princesses. I told her that I don't have any girls at home so I needed to make sure I got in as much dress-up time as possible with her.

Check out the bling!

*We went shopping. With just Ben. What a change that was! Granted it was only to Old Navy and Target, but it still counts! Especially since we don't have either store where we live. I was able to find three t-shirts that I actually liked, AND a pair of jeans on clearance for $7.50 at Old Navy. It was one of the best Old Navy stores that I have been to.

*We ate at Panera Bread. We don't have anything like this where we live either, so it was a nice treat! I had the Chipotle Chicken Sandwich and it was awesome! I didn't even notice that it had MUSTARD on it! Sneaky, sneaky. (And I just made the mistake of looking up the nutrition information online and recommend NOT doing that before eating it. Wow. That was probably not the healthiest choice! Who knew).

*The kids rode a motorcycle. In theory, this may not sound like a "highlight" but more like a mother's worst nightmare, but it wasn't bad. Daddio's uncle owns a motorcycle and we went over to their house for dinner one night. He took each kid (with the exception of Ben) for a little ride around the yard. They had a ball!

He remained expressionless through the whole ride. But he loved it!

*Going home. Yes, I am saying that going home was a BIG highlight. We had been there 6 days and the kids were getting tired and irritable thanks to 6 days of no naps, late nights, the hot sun and being off-schedule. Not to mention that by this time the adults (as in Daddio and his siblings), were getting sick of each other and each moment together was starting to turn into a fight session rather than something fun.


The Lowlights:

*The heat. It was hot, hot, hot.

*The sleepless nights. Owen kept waking up and crawling into bed our air mattress with us. Ben kept waking up because he was getting stuck in the top corner of the Pack 'n' Play with nowhere else to go. We were sleeping on an air mattress in a living room without any curtains. 'Nuff said.

*Teething. Ben is in the (slow) process of cutting his top two teeth. Do I really need to elaborate any further as to why this would be a bad thing?

*A motorcycle accident. As we were leaving the beach, we were about ten cars away from a fatal motorcycle accident. The driver of the motorcycle did NOT have his license and was riding near the yellow line while rounding a bend and collided head first with an on-coming car. Neither he nor his passenger survived. So sad.

*The car rides. A three hour ride with three kids is HELL! Especially with one who is teething. The boys slept for maybe one hour and cried, yelled, and made annoying noises for two. Fun, fun, fun.

*Coming home. Yup, including it here too. Nothing is worse than coming home to a hot, dirty, stinky house. At 8:00 pm. With three whiny boys. We had to unload the truck. Unpack the boys' bags. Get them ready for and in bed. The there's the loads of dirty laundry, the unpacking of the three bags of toys the boys received from Grandma, Great-Grandma, and the four aunts. (Which, while appreciated, was totally unnecessary).

Just like Mommy.

And tomorrow I get to do it all over again when we go out to my mother's house. But at least this time it will only be for a weekend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Sweet Citrus Chicken

I made this really simple chicken recipe for the first time for the boys a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised that Owen was so willing to try it. (I think it was because I told him that it had orange juice in it, a favorite beverage of his). After he tried it, he said, "Mmmmm. Yummy!" His approval automatically put it on my "make again" list.


Sweet Citrus Chicken

1-2/3 cups hot water
1 pkg. (6 oz.) stuffing mix 
6 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, (1-1/2 lb.) pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
2/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 400. Add hot water to the stuffing mix; stir just until moistened. Set aside. Place chicken in 13x9-inch baking dish. Mix juice, sugar and butter until well blended; pour over chicken. Top with prepared stuffing. Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Yield: 6 servings


Note: I was a little disappointed that the chicken did not have a really strong citrus flavor throughout the whole thing. I could only taste it on the bottom where it came in direct contact with the juice in the pan while baking. The next time I make this, I plan to marinate the chicken in the orange juice mixture prior to baking. I may also try something different on top as I am not a huge fan of packaged stuffing mix; too salty.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stair Master Ben

My little Ben is a climbing monster! From the moment he started crawling, he has been climbing.

Like any newbie crawler, his first climbing attempts were on the stairs. Our staircase has two landings on it and at first, he would only climb the two steps to the first landing. But pretty soon, that wasn't challenging enough for him; he had to master the whole entire staircase! And he did. Within the first few weeks that he had been crawling.

Extra motivation probably came from us and the attention that he received each time he crawled up the stairs. It quickly turned into a game that he plays with us. He climbs halfway up the stairs, then yells to us to make sure we know what he is doing. As soon as we see him and "yell" at him, he chuckles and scrambles up the rest of the stairs as fast as he can. Then he stops at the top, takes a seat, and turns around to laugh at us as we pick him up to bring him back down. By now, he's crawling up those stairs like an old pro. He's moved on to bigger and better things, like the ladder to the bunk beds.

I was on the computer one day and the boys were in their rooms playing. Next thing I know, Sam is telling me (with a grin) that Ben is on the top bunk. I'm all, "Noooooo. He's not on the top bunk," trying to play along with what I initially thought was a little joke that Sam was trying to pull. He calls into the bedroom, "Owen! Is Ben on the top bed with you?" Owen yells out, "Yeah!" Of course now I jump up from the computer, "He's WHAT?!?" and run into the bedroom. Sure enough, there's little Benny up on the top bunk with Owen, grinning from ear to ear.

He had climbed up there. By himself. He's only ten months old!

I pulled him down from the bunk bed and put him back on the floor. He immediately started climbing that darn ladder again. It came down the next day.

This child will climb anything. He has climbed up my body, as I sat on the floor, to get to the bottom bunk. He tries to climb out the window.

"Let me out!"

 
He has climbed up his stroller.He has climbed up his high chair. He has climbed out of the bathtub and his pool. 

"I'm not a fish, Mommy. I don't LIKE water!."


And he has even managed to climb on top of the toilet.

"But Mommy, I have a boogie!"


I do not remember Owen ever being this much of an adventurous climber. But maybe we just didn't have as many things in our apartment at the time for him to climb on. Now I'm afraid that Ben is going to turn into one of those kids that they make furniture anchors for. And wouldn't you know, of all the rooms in the house, his bedroom is the one with the wall of built-in shelves!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Read to Me, Please!: Itsy Bitsy Spider

                                                                                                                                     Every week, I take Owen to the library for story hour and to checkout new books. After coming across a plethora of less than mediocre children's books, I have decided to review some of our favorites, and some of our not so favorites.
                                                                                                                                     


Itsy Bitsy Spider by Keith Chapman

Itsy Bitsy Spider, written by Keith Chapman, the creator of Bob the Builder, does not disappoint as an enjoyable rhyming story for preschoolers.

The title of this picture book is a little misleading as one may be expecting a story based on the classic Itsy Bitsy Spider nursery rhyme. What young readers get instead, is a story about a little spider being blown around a farm by a strong gust of wind. He travels across each page, getting tangled up with various farm animals.

The writing style of this book is ideal for preschool children as the author uses rhythmic sounds through nursery rhyme-style verse. The story itself is written so it fits along with and can be sung to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider, making it even more enjoyable for preschool readers. Questions, such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider, what's he stuck on now?", are asked throughout the story, actively involving young readers. The book also introduces them to the many barnyard animals noises, providing them with the chance to mimic the sounds made by the pig, goat, cow, and many more.

Illustrated by Jack Tickle, Itsy Bitsy Spider is filled with delightful pictures throughout. Bright and colorful farm animals fill the pages and provide young readers with several opportunities for active reading and interaction with the illustrations. Children will delight in searching for where Itsy Bitsy has landed as he travels through the pages. Preschoolers can practice their colors and numbers as they locate and count the various flowers and bugs among the background images. An extra treat for children is the illustrator's use of silver glitter that outlines Itsy Bitsy's spider web throughout the entire book.

Itsy Bitsy Spider's reading level is ideal for ages 4-8, but will be enjoyed and frequently requested as a favorite bedtime story by younger children as well.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Dance, Baby, Dance

Owen is like me in so many ways. He looks like me. He stands like me. He runs into walls like me. He is a little mini-Mommy. Unfortunately, that means that he has inherited some of my shyness as well.
At home, Owen is a loud, energetic, rambunctious crazy man, but get him in public, and he turns into a shy little boy. At home, Owen, like Mommy, dances his heart out and sings at the top of his lungs, but get him in public, and he's an inanimate statue. This is never more frustrating than when we are at the library for story hour.

video
Next stop: Lion King on Broadway

I usually take Owen every week to story hour and every week they sing the same song, "The More We Get Together", complete with signing. Owen knows the song. He knows the signs. He will sing it with me at home every day, but he absolutely REFUSES to sing it at the library.

It became a game with him. He knows that Mommy and Miss Library want him to sing it each week, so each week, as soon as the song starts, he puts his hands firmly on his hips and grins at us. He knows what he is doing, refusing to play our game, refusing to perform on cue. Some days, he will tell us that he IS going to sing, but as soon as Miss Library starts, he gets that sneaky smirk on his face with his hands planted on his hips.

I am NOT singing. No way, no how.

Today, the summer program started at the library. They haven't had story hour since May. This morning, Owen told me that he was going to sing at the library. And guess what?

He did! He sang "The More We Get Together"! He did the signs! He even sang two songs about pirates!


And I missed it all.


I had decided to stay home with Ben because he can get rather antsy during story hour. So Daddio took Sam and Owen today. And I missed the moment when Owen decided that because he was a big boy now (it happens when you turn 3), he was going to start singing in public. And he was so excited and proud to tell me that he sang at the library; I almost cried. 


At least I still have this little gem of a moment to enjoy time and time again:


video
Lady Antebellum's newest backup singer.


                                                                                                          
This post was originally written on Wednesday, the REAL library day, and scheduled to be posted on Friday as I will be traveling out of town on Friday and away from my computer...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Makeover Pizza Pasta Salad

The boys and I LOVE this pasta salad! It is a favorite of mine to make for family functions. I originally found it in an issue of Light & Tasty, a cooking magazine I used to subscribe to. It can also be found here, (along with the nutritional analysis) on the Taste of Home website.


Makeover Pizza Pasta Salad

8 ounces uncooked spiral pasta
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/4 Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup sliced turkey pepperoni (about 1-1/2 ounces)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in the Parmesan cheese, vinegar, oil, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and pepper; mix well. Drain pasta; rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add pasta and dressing; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Yield: 7 servings.


Note: Instead of green onions, I substitute 1 medium green pepper, chopped. I also omit the cheddar cheese and only use mozzarella. Although the recipe says to serve chilled, I prefer this salad to be warm. The flavors seem to be stronger and it is not as dry as when it is cold.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Read to Me, Please!: Seven Scary Monsters

                                                                                                                                    
Every week, I take Owen to the library for story hour and to checkout new books. After coming across a plethora of less than mediocre children's books, I have decided to review some of our favorites, and some of our not so favorites.
                                                                                                                                    


Seven Scary Monsters by Mary Beth Lundgren

The concept of this book is a good one: a young child battles the scary monsters in his bedroom; however, the story fails to impress.

At first, Seven Scary Monsters by Mary Beth Lundgren seems as though it will be an entertaining book. At bedtime, a young boy needs to get rid of the scary monsters that have come out of hiding to cause trouble. He comes up with several creative methods of successfully doing so, with a surprise little twist at the end of the story. This story concept, relatable to all children, has the potential of being enjoyable, but unfortunately, it falls short of doing this.

Claiming to be "sprightly rhymed text", when read aloud, the story sounds awkward as it fails to maintain a consistent rhythm. The author's use of onomatopoeia, or sound words, continuously interrupts the flow of the story, making it sound clumsy. For example, "SEVEN scary monsters hiding in my room. One groans and glares- EEEEK! -sneaking closer... BOOM!"

There are, however, several good things about this book. The phrase "Rick! Rack! Wrinkleshack! Don't you dare come back!" is repeated throughout the book. Its rhyming simplicity and predictability allows young readers the chance to chant the phrase themselves. This book also lets children interact through counting. The story works its way backward from seven monsters to none, with illustrations of seven rather humorous looking monsters to count down on each page. The illustrations by Howard Fine are the best thing about the book. They are bright, colorful, and thoroughly imaginative, providing young readers with many humorous images to explore.

Unfortunately for Seven Scary Monsters, the illustrations cannot make up for the weak story and text. However, with that said, my son actually enjoys this story and doesn’t seem bothered at all by the choppiness of the text. But what does he know about the merits of a quality picture book? After all, he’s only two.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Is 3 the new 30?

I was worried that I was going to have a hard time dealing with the fact that I turned 30 this year. I thought that it was going to be some big life-changing event, the beginning of the end. I was afraid that my 30th birthday would bring tears and moments of depression when I woke up to realize that I was no longer 20-something and was entering the danger zone of REAL adulthood, the decade when teenagers start considering you to be old. But alas, I was wrong. My 30th birthday arrived just as any others have in the past. In fact, it was pretty much uneventful. No tears. No despair. No desperate feelings of old age creeping up on me. I realize now that what I really should have been preparing for this year wasn't how to deal with me turning 30, but how I was going to handle it when Owen turned three!

For whatever reason, three is turning out to be a difficult age for me to deal with. I wasn't really upset when Owen turned one; he was still my baby. And when he turned two, I was okay with that also. He was still a pudgy little toddler learning to speak. But three? Three just seems so OLD! It's that age when toddlers start transitioning into actual kids! They lose their baby fat. They develop full personalities. They become little people! It sounds crazy, I know, but it's true.

Every now and then I experience a moment of shock and heartbreak when I realize that Owen is growing up. It happens at random times as I trudge though my normal daily routine. I'll throw a quick glance at him and it suddenly hits me that he's getting older. And bigger. And more like a big boy than my little boy, my baby. And it leaves me with mixed emotions.

When did this adorable baby:

Turn into this handsome boy?
  

I am so proud of all of his little accomplishments. I smile when I hear him in the other room singing the alphabet song, and getting all of the letters correct. And he has finally figured out how to count to 20 without getting stuck in the "8, 9, 10, 11, 8, 9, 10, 11..." loop. He knows his colors and most of his shapes. But it makes me sad to know that he is growing up and will be going to school soon.

When we were potty training Owen, we kept telling him that he would never be able to go to school if he was still wearing diapers. One of the things that he really wants to do is to be able to ride the school bus. It was his extra incentive to get out of diapers (which he did). And now one of his favorite things to say to me is, "When I get bigger, me go to school, me go on school bus and make Mommy cry." Nice, huh?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Designer Diapers?


I recently came across an article on the web about some new designer diapers that Pampers is going to start selling. Apparently Cynthia Rowley, (yes, THAT Cynthia Rowley) has created 11 different designs, including these:

I wonder how much they paid her?

I think it's probably safe to assume that these are Pampers' (classier) version of Huggies' new denim diaper design:



I had some mixed reactions while reading this article. First, how on earth has it taken these companies this long to come up with a diaper design other than the usual cartoon characters? This seems like such a simple marketing concept that should have been done years ago! This is brilliant! Cha-ching! Pampers is going to make a fortune from this!

Or are they?

I then started wondering if people would actually BUY these diapers, or just admire them from afar. I certainly have no plans to buy them, for several reasons. The most important reason is the cost. These diapers cost a whopping $15.99 for a package of 24! I do not have that kind of money to waste on designer diapers. My second reason? I am a Huggies mommy through and through. I am not, and never have been, a fan of Pampers diapers. I don't like how flimsy they feel or how they fit a baby. (I will not, however, turn down a package of free Pampers diapers from the hospital. When it comes to delivery-room freebies, I do not discriminate. Load me up!).

I also started wondering what purpose, or point, there is to these diapers. I mean, they're diapers. No one is going to see them, right? As adorable as they may look in the commercials, I really don't know of too many parents who actually allow their babies to run toddle around in just their diapers. Are these supposed to be in place of pants? Start putting designer diapers on your baby and they don't have to wear pants anymore? (After all, it really IS annoying to have to keep unbuttoning or taking off pants each time you change a diaper).

They are cute and everything, and they seem like a good idea, from a marketing aspect that is. I just don't know if I get how practical they are. I imagine that the only people who would possibly consider buying these are most likely made of money and have enough to spend willy nilly on impractical items.

For the rest of us living in the real world, might I suggest the following alternatives:

 
                    Lil' Pixie Boutique                                       Swaddle in Cloth                          

                                                                    MamaSan Maternity

And for those of you who actually like the Huggies denim diapers:


I mean, if you're going to spend the money, you might as well spend it on something that is going to last longer than three hours, right?
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