Monday, March 31, 2008


I know I'm a big downer lately, and I hate people like that. I had a sorority sister in college whom we secretly called "buzz-kill" (isn't that lovely?- such sisterly devotion) because of her incredible ability to steal the joy from a party with her conversation topics. There we were, girls in skimpy clothes, boys with too much testosterone, everyone drinking beer, dancing to loud music, and then she'd sidle up to you (and the boy you hoped would kiss you before the evening was out) and bring up partial-birth abortion. Or politics. Or how her sister's boyfriend had committed suicide.
But I just can't help myself. I have to recount this sad story from church. (Why am I always full of sad stories from church? My church is actually a very joyful place.)
I was sitting on the end of an aisle, waiting for the service to start, when a woman sitting nearby said, "Susan?"
I was thrilled to see my friend, Lisa, from my former life. (You know- the life you had before kids when you'd go out with other couples and DO things.)
Lisa and Paul were one of the fun couples we met when we were first married, and the four of us used to get together for dinner, invite each other to soirees, etc. They are one of those GREAT couples- laid-back, down-to-earth, fun. Never pretentious. Always kind and welcoming. Of course, once we all had kids we lost touch. The evenings out stopped altogether- you know how it goes. But we had been seeing them around church in the past two years, and this was a very happy surprise, because Paul had always been steadfast in his disbelief and complete disinterest in all things God. Something had changed for him, and he was attending church regularly with Lisa and their son.
Then about six months ago my DH ran into Paul after church and Paul told him how things had been tough for them lately. He said he had injured himself at work (he is a fire-fighter), that Lisa had battled breast cancer, and that he had been struggling with a drug addiction. This was all shocking news, but it was OK- Lisa was in remission. Paul had defeated the addiction and was leading a ministry for drug addicts at our church. It was exciting stuff.
So as I chatted with Lisa yesterday, I inquired, "How's Paul?"
Her expression went blank and she said, "I wouldn't know. We're divorcing."
A punch in the face would have made less of an impact on me.
"He relapsed. He's fallen back into his addiction."
I was baffled. "But I thought he was past that! I thought he was leading the addiction ministry here at church!"
She just looked sad - so sad- and said, "He was using the whole time."
Cue the music to the opening worship song, and I give her a quick hug and an "I'm so sorry."
And then I'm supposed to turn around and PRAISE THE LORD.
But I couldn't. I just stood there fighting tears and hoping she couldn't see.
Poor Lisa. Poor 8 year old son.
Poor Paul. I'll admit- I was angry with him for a little while. But who the heck am I kidding? I can't even get off caffeine!!! (Seriously- I can't.) I'm in no position to judge him.
And I'm certainly not mad at God or anything silly like that. But I am so, so sad for them.
Sorry guys. Buzz-kill.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

heavy stuff

I had decided not to write about my relationship with my mother-in-law here. It is a story that is too long, too convoluted, too reminiscent of a really bad soap opera.
But then I was talking with the play-group gals the other day and realized that bad blood between girls and their MILs is an epidemic- not my little personal problem.
I certainly didn't bring up the topic, having realized long ago that bad-mouthing my MIL was not OK, no matter how "justified" I felt. But one of the other girls brought up her mother-in-law's recent visit, and a I noticed a collective tightening of jaw muscles and small sighs (and a few eye rolls.)
I had to ask, "Does anyone here have a good relationship with your mother-in-law?"
There was silence. Finally one brave soul said, "Actually, yes. I hate to even admit it because I know that most people don't, but I'm very lucky. I just adore my MIL. She is so sweet, and such a help with the kids."
So, 1 out of 9 had something nice to say. And these AREN'T nasty women. They are a sweet, church-going group who are not catty in the least. Really lovely women.
I have to ask: Why?
Really, I want to know why this happens. I don't think any MILs start out on their sons' wedding days with a wicked chuckle, "Now, my pretty, you're in for it!"
And I don't think any of us daughters-in-law start out thinking, "He's mine now, lady. You're history."
But it happens. I know that my case has special circumstances- bipolar disorder (no, not me) is a serious and difficult mental illness- especially when the person who has it won't treat it.
But as we talked, the other moms and I made some interesting, and sad, revelations about our mothers-in-law. We didn't bitch. We didn't bash. We shared our stories, and our thoughts, and tried to puzzle out how this relationship, that should be so special, has turned so sour.
Ann talked about her husband's own strained relationship with his mom, and how she had spent years trying to mend it, even forging birthday and Mother's Day cards that he refused to sign. She told about the most recent incident when her MIL brought her sister-in-law a HUGE floral arrangement on Easter and quite pointedly gave her nothing. She said she's fed up.
Katherine said that her MIL is not so overt, but is full of thinly veiled criticisms poured on with syrup on top, "Oh, dear, that roast is SUCH an improvement over the one you made last time. You're starting to get the hang of the kitchen now!" or "Will is doing SO much better now that he goes to school. That teacher is really helping him thrive."
Lori told about the time her MIL came to "help" her after she gave birth to her twins. She said the help was not so helpful, and in the end she cooked every meal while her MIL said things like, "Dear, don't you worry about a thing- I'll watch these two (babies sleeping) so you can tidy up/ cook/ run some laundry." Lori was only 2 weeks post-delivery!!
Kendra shared that her MIL was always critical and stand-offish until finally after a disagreement about where a holiday would be spent she screamed, "You stole my son! You stole my son from me!"
And I? I told one of my earliest MIL memories. It was the first time my MIL visited our new house- we were so proud of it- and totally rearranged our furniture, and our kitchen cabinets, while we slept. No regard for the fact that this was OUR home, and OUR belongings, and OUR arrangement. She acted like she had done us the biggest favor in the world. "I just thought it looked so much better like this." Being passive-aggressive, I didn't say a word until 10 years later, though it crushed my little newly-wed feelings at the time.
We tried to identify the root of these issues. One seemed clear- often our MILs felt that we had somehow damaged their relationships with their sons. We examined that notion. A few of us felt that accusation had some truth, if you ponder the way we, as wives, do have a tendency to alter family traditions and holidays, exert our own influence over our husbands, etc. But on the whole, we all said that the mother-son relationships were damaged before our marriages. My husband told me on our first date that he had come to the South to get away from his family- especially his mom. Kendra said that from day one her husband never wanted to talk to his mom on the phone, and she always had to cover. Lori said her husband constantly rolled his eyes behind his mom's back, told her that his mom drove him nuts, dreaded visits, etc.
So part of the relational break-down seems to be occurring before the marriage even starts. I guess the wives are an easy and convenient place to lay blame.
I think a big part of this happens because we moms need to have a major shift in how we relate to our sons as our sons become men, and this is surely hard to do. Young men/men need to feel respected, not mother-henned. That's not to say that they don't still appreciate some "mothering" in the form of a home-cooked meal or a listening ear, but they don't seem to appreciate nagging, or bossing, or being fussed at. I don't look forward to making this transition with Brother, but I am determined to pull it off. I shudder to think that he would dread my phone call or visit the way my husband dreads his mother.
I have also already written a letter to him and his wife-to-be that I will present to them on the eve of their wedding. It basically says that as his mother, I emphatically believe that the most important woman in his life is his wife, and that her needs and wishes must come before mine. That applies to where to live, where to spend holidays, how to raise children, which recipe to use for spaghetti sauce, etc. It was hard to write now, and he's only 22 months old. I know it will be hard to read 20+ years from now, but I am determined to give them that freedom, rooted in Scripture, and get myself out of the way of their happiness. That is not to say that I will tell him I'm out of his life- on the contrary. My hope is that in establishing myself as #2, I will create a sense of easiness for him and my future daughter-in-law that will make them want to be in my company.

So, I'm curious. What do you think? Why does this important relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law (or mother and son) so often go sour?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

unplugged is cool

I really liked going unplugged. A lot.
I read. I cooked. I organized a massive number of toys, and ended up with 3 huge bins to sell/ give away. (That took the better part of a day.)
I played with my kids. I visited family.
I read. A book. (Two, actually.) Oh, did I already say that? Well, it bears repeating, because I REALLY enjoyed it. And I'm working on a third.
And now I'm thinking... reassessing how I spend my time.
It's not that I don't like this little blog. I do. I have really enjoyed it. But it has come at a cost.
I'm not ditching (yet.)

Hope you had a great Easter. I'm going to go catch up on YOUR blog! :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


A short post to tell you:
1- I am signing off for a long weekend because DH is going to be home tomorrow and Monday and I want to spend the time with him and the kids. I'm going "unplugged" for FOUR DAYS! Wow.
2- Happy, happy Easter. He is Risen! Hallelujah!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Major diapering violation

Last night I fell into bed about 30 minutes before the DH, utterly pooped. He came in a little before 11:00. Thus, when Brother started crying (hard) at about 11:15, I felt OK asking DH to go check on him. (I NEVER ask him to do this, but I figured he wasn't as sleep-grogged as I was, having just come to bed.) Apparently I was mistaken.
As DH walked out of our bedroom, I called, "Please check his diaper!"
Through the monitor I heard sounds of DH reassuring Brother, diaper changing sounds, and then quiet. Blessed quiet.
When DH came back, I asked, "Was he wet?"
"No," mumbled DH.

We all slept through the rest of the night. When Brother called me at 6:30 (his usual time) I went in and was overpowered by the smell of urine. I quickly realized that he was drenched- his PJs were soaked and there was a huge yellow stain on his sheet. And then I noticed that he was holding one of the little velcro thingies that holds the sides of the diaper closed.
I was befuddled. How did he get that? He can't take his PJs off yet (I don't think) and he was all zipped up- HOW did he get that?
I picked him up to change his diaper/clothes when I found the incriminating evidence. One side of Brother's diaper was MISSING a velcro thingie, and the diaper was wide open on that side.
That explained the urine leakage. I pondered how this could have happened and decided that Brother must have reached down in the night during DH's ministrations and ripped off the velcro piece without DH's knowledge. DH really must be more aware.

This evening as I was cooking dinner, I mentioned it to DH. He got a strange, smirky expression and said (in a guilty/laughing tone), "Oh. Hmmm. I thought I tucked it in tight enough."
Apparently he was QUITE aware that Brother had ripped off the velcro piece, but was TOO FREAKIN' LAZY to get another diaper and change him again. So, he did a man-job on the diaper and just "tucked" one piece into the other on the side. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I slapped him. OK- just on the arm, but I mean, SERIOUSLY! Do you find this type of diapering acceptable in a Dad of 3+ years?
I am still in disbelief. I have decided that DH should continue to change nighttime diapers until he MASTERS the skill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What do you eat?

Have you seen these images? I received them through a chain email. They are funny, fascinating, and slightly disturbing, all at once. (And often humbling.) The title of the email was "What do you eat?" and it appears to be a look at a family's food intake over a period of about a week. I'm not sure which countries are represented (though I can guess most of them.) Can you pick out the North Americans? (Look for the ones with the largest quantity of unhealthy, processed foods.)

What would be on your family's table?

I'm afraid that in spite of my new focus on healthy foods, there would still be far too much processed, boxed, sugary stuff on our table.

And if anyone knows the source of these images, please do say so! I know there must be some photographer or organization who has gotten ripped off as people have forwarded and forwarded these images without giving anyone any credit.
EDITED TO ADD: Thank you to Shannon of Some Fine Taters who knew from whence the images sprang! They are from a Time photo essay, and before that are from photographer Peter Menzel's book, Hungry Planet. (I'm buying it. First of all, I think it's a great concept, and second, I think it will be a wonderful tool to use when teaching my children about other cultures, food and nutrition, poverty and plenty, etc.) Check out the Time photo gallery- it has some other really cool shots.

Monday, March 17, 2008

the answers

In response to recent comments:

1. No, I did not know FinSlippy was BIG-TIME blogger. Duh. If there is anyone else I should be reading, please do let me know.
2. Regarding living with my brother and his family for two years, yes I would do it again. The idea actually took root in Europe. My brother and his wife both studied over there in college (Italy and Spain, respectively) and my DH and I took a 2-week trip to Northern Italy before we started having kids. Going abroad was a life-changing experience for all of us. Each of us came back to the states impressed by the way many Europeans seem to embrace family (even extended family) and often share housing. It is no big deal over there. We thought, why not? In America, when we told people what we were doing, we were met with shock (are you serious???), anxiety (but you'll all have a huge falling out and hate each other forever!)- that one mostly from other family, and ridicule (you're nuts- better you than me!). Every now and then, people were open to the idea and thought it was wise financially, would be fun, etc.
Of course, not caring what people thought, we went on with our plan and it was fun, and HOPEFULLY financially wise. There was something magical about having babies born and raised under our shared roof. (Clarification: not literally born under that roof. I'm a hospital kind of girl!) We helped each other, we encouraged each other, we laughed together and watch each other morph into parents. Naturally, there were times that it wasn't easy. I'd say lack of privacy was the biggest issue- that and differing ideas of what "clean" means. But it was definitely worth it.
OK. I'd love to think of some really poignant thing to say now. Or something really funny. But actually, I'm really tired, and Sister is sick, and I just want to crawl under the covers and turn off this computer. So... later.

Friday, March 14, 2008

ha ha ha ha ha

I am so excited. I just found an awesome blog, Finslippy, which it not new, but is new to me. As I read I realized I liked her style so much because she reminds me of Beck. So, of course I loved her. Anyway, I followed a link to this post which talks about the California homeschooling ruling.
Oh. my. goodness. I laughed so hard I cried. CRIED! Laughed and cried so hard I couldn't even read it aloud to my husband and he had to come take the laptop and read for himself.
And please know I am not disrespecting you homeschoolers. I admire you tremendously and may be one myself one day. (Undecided, there.)
But it's funny. Really funny.
PS- It doesn't get funny to the 4th paragraph, so don't get bogged down in the facts. Keep on.
Happy Saturday!

real estate stuff. kind of boring, but hey, why not read it anyway?

I have mentioned several times that we recently moved. The whole story is that we moved out of a house that we designed, built, and shared with my brother and sister-in-law for two years as a real estate investment. (When I say built, I mean that the boys acted as the contractors- we didn't literally build it.) While it was sometimes difficult to share the house (which had a normal floor-plan; one den, one kitchen, etc.) with another family, it was wonderful too. Our kids are really close (they think they're siblings) and my children, especially Sister, got a wonderful opportunity to develop a tight realationship with her aunt and uncle. It was also great because my sister-in-law (SIL) and I split the chores, cooking, etc. There's nothing quite like sitting on your fanny all afternoon and then walking into the kitchen to find a hot, delicious meal sitting on the table. I felt like a man! (I have often thought that Sigmund Freud had the "penis envy" thing all wrong. It's not the penis itself we envy *ewwww! gross!* it's all the priviledges that come with the penis! Like sitting on your fanny until dinnertime. Or laying in the bed sleeping in the middle of the night while the baby cries and mommy goes to check- "I just don't hear him as fast as you do!" Sheesh.)
Anyway, we agreed to share the house for two years and then sell it, split the profit, and go our separate ways. (Hoping to make enough money so that we each can build our own houses.) DH and I moved out because we have SO MUCH STUFF (junk) that was cluttering the house. Now that we're out of there, it looks so much nicer! We're going to rent the place we're in until we sell the house.
Of course, since we embarked on this little investment, the real estate market as tanked. Naturally. But we are staying optimistic and hope that we can still eke out some profit, considering the "sacrifice" we made. (The biggest being sharing our bedroom with Brother until he was 20 months old! That wasn't easy.)
Anyway, now we're in the process of interviewing realtors. Not exactly fun. I like meeting them, but I always feel bad because I know that when it's all over, we can only choose one and have to turn the others down. I hate stuff like that- good thing my DH handles the "call people and tell them bad news" department. It's especially hard because we have a good friend from college who is one of the realtors we interviewed, but he really just isn't as good as the others. The other realtors we've spoken to are much more dymanic, have strong marketing plans, etc. The college friend is sweet, but he's just not in the same league. So that's icky, too. This is big money- our family's financial future. As much as we'd love to give College Friend the business, we've GOT to sell this house. So... ick.
Aynway, I'll try not to bore you to death with real estate talk, but that's what's been consuming me for the last few days. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wardrobe Re-Do: Episode 1

Wardrobe Challenge: Build from a Favorite
If you are reading this, you likely read my post the other day where I whined about the current state of my wardrobe: ill-fitting, uncool, lacking in the "dressy" department, etc. So, I am going to spend the Spring doing a "wardrobe re-do." I think how you dress does say a lot about you, and certainly affects the way you feel. (At least it affects me.) But, I don't exactly have unlimited funds (!) so I'm going to have to be creative and frugal with this project. My first area of focus is to choose items (clothing, shoes, jewelry, etc.) that I already own and really like but never wear. The rule is that the item has to fit and be something I could wear if only I had the right pieces to match.

I received this necklace as a gift from my mother-in-law while I was pregnant with my daughter. It was one of the rare moments my MIL felt like being nice to me- but that is a long, sad story and not for today. Anyway, I really like the necklace and it is special to me because I associate it with my "miracle" pregnancy. (Another long story, but happy!, so I will tell that one another time.) It's strung with tiny pearls and pretty beads and the flowers are hand-blown glass. But I've never worn it because it doesn't "go" with anything I've got in terms of wardrobe. Length-wise it falls right at the bottom of my throat, so it doesn't sit on top of a shirt very nicely. It needs a lower cut or open-collar style of top, but it also needs pastels because of the colors in the necklace.
So, this necklace is my first challenge. I am going to be working on building an outfit I love around it in the next few weeks. My budget for this project is $50. (I won't usually allocate such a "big" budget but I'm thinking that this will be a "dressy" outfit- maybe even for Easter! So...) Wish me luck.
Oh- and if you want to play too, just choose something you own (and love) but never wear and do likewise! Blog about it and link a post in the comments, or just do it on your own for fun. You never know what "hidden treasures" you'll find in your closet!

Monday, March 10, 2008

prayer request

I was skimming through my blog favorites tonight and was shocked by Mary Beth's post at Salt and Chocolate. She had been off the radar for a little while and now I know why: her 16-month old son, Rainer, has been diagnosed with leukemia. So, could you:
1- Pop over there and leave her an encouraging comment?
2- Add Rainer to your prayer list?
I can only imagine how it would feel to find out that one of my children was facing such a disease- not only the fear of losing them but also the ordeal of the treatment (3 years in Rainer's case.) I know I would want everyone on the planet praying for us. So, please say a prayer for little Rainer tonight (and his parents, who probably need it even more than he does at this moment.)
Thanks, friends.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Springtime to-dos

I'm having a fit of spring cleaning. Well, I'm not actually cleaning, yet. Remember my post about my hulking mental energy? Well, I'm doing some SERIOUS mental energizing in this area. I'm making some big plans. Shall I list them for you? Yes, I shall- so you can catch a glimpse of this tremendous mental energy at work.

Things to do/accomplish/act the martyr about in the next two months:

1- Hire a yard man to come de-snake the backyard. Yes, friends. I said snake. It was black, and two feet long, and it came out and hissed at us while we were on the swingset. And I am NOT going back out there with my kids until all the dead leaves have been bagged up. (If you wonder why the man I married can't be the "yard man" it's because a) he is extremely busy with work and other things and b) he isn't exactly a "country boy." When we found the snake he tried to act like it wasn't his job to kill it. I had to remind him that he was the adult in the house with a penis, and thus responsible for all things wild-animal-related. I mean, please... it's right there on the responsibility list next to "take out smelly trash" and "lift heavy things." He was like, "You could hit it with a hoe the same as me." As if!

2- ORGANIZE THE TOYS! Oh my goodness, if I don't do this soon I'm going to lose my mind. Ever since the move, the toys have been a huge jumble spread throughout the house in a constant mess. I clean it all up every day but I think the root of the problem is that we have way too many toys out. I used to put some away and rotate them (worked beautifully) but I haven't implemented that system in the new house. We also have got sets all scrambled up, spread out, etc. The problem is that I need several (at least 3) hours without the kids in the house to accomplish the toy re-org. DH promises that over spring break he'll take them out for the morning and let me have time for this chore. I hope so, or I'm going to crack.

3- Locate my art/craft stuff in the garage and unpack! As mentioned previously, it has been tremendously frustrating not being able to access my art supplies. And in addition to wanting access to basic craft stuff (embroidery floss, adhesives, acrylic paints, etc.), I've got a bug to scrapbook again. So, getting all my stuff out is a big priority.

4- Get a grip on my wardrobe. It's time. Recently I had to attend a funeral::actually, I had to sing at the funeral- that's a tough gig, let me tell you. Anyway, I had a near break-down over what to wear. I have NOTHING nice to wear anymore. I guess it's been almost 4 years since I had to wear anything other than jeans, pants, etc. on a regular basis, and the "nice" clothes I wore in my pre-mommy days are looking dated and, ahem, somewhat tight. Thank goodness my ONE nice outfit (bless that elastic waist skirt) was black, and thus appropriate for funeral attire. Of course, I had another crisis when I realized neither of my two pairs of black shoes (Danskos, strappy black high heels) were going to be appropriate for a funeral in February. Crisis averted by my sister-in-law who loaned me a pair of her shoes (really cute black beaded pumps) but I realized that my wardrobe is in VERY BAD SHAPE! I am formulating an action plan and will discuss this in a future post.

5- Lose 10 pounds. Oh, my. There is is in black and white. I am determined to lose some weight. Specifically, 10 pounds by Memorial Day (May 31.) I don't know where the cookie dough addiction is going to fit into these plans, but I know I have GOT to get rid of the spare tire around my middle. I know the extra 10 lbs. is directly related to the frumpy wardrobe, and I've got to address both at the same time. I told my husband the plan, and his face lit up and he said, "What can I do to help?" I told him that he could help by not mentioning anything to me about what I'm eating, whether I'm exercising, etc. but that he could certainly remark if I looked thinner. I CAN'T STAND to be on a diet and have him go, "Should you be drinking that coke?" AAAAHHHHH! It makes me want to eat the most fattening thing I can think of right in front of him, for some odd reason.

6- Collect healthier recipes. This ties in with number 5. I really don't believe in diets- more in lifestyle/dietary changes that are for the long haul. I've recently started eating whole wheat bread (yes, I'm about 10 years behind the rest of the world) and am trying to eat more fresh fruits and veggies. I also need to collect more recipes that are yummy but also lower in fat, sodium, etc. It seems like most of my recipes call for heavy cream, or loads of butter and cheese, etc. If I find some good ones, I'll post them here.

So, want to help me out? I am seeking:
  • Good ideas for storing/organizing toys and ways to help small children learn to clean up
  • Healthy recipes

Thanks in advance for your help. (My DH hates when I say this- "Honey, I'm thanking you in advance because I know you're going to remember to take out the trash tonight." You can imagine the syrupy sweet smile that goes with it. Hey, it's better than nagging, right? OK- maybe it's the same as nagging.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Recipe::Santa Fe Skillet

This is a recipe I promised Jennifer after I read that she was in a (minor) cooking slump. Been there, sister. This is my favorite one-skillet meal. It's really good and actually is pretty healthy too. And, miracle of miracles, my picky eaters actually love this one!

Santa Fe Skillet (it used to be called something lame like chicken-salsa skillet but that wasn't festive enough for me)
package of boneless chicken breasts
2 cups instant rice
jar of salsa
can of chicken broth (I use low-sodium)
can of black beans (drained)
can of corn (drained)
cheddar cheese (grated- I use almost a whole block!)

1. Wash the chicken and cut it up into small bite-size pieces. Set aside.
2. Grate the cheese.
3. In a large pan, cook the chicken pieces until done. (I put a small amount of oil first.)
4. When chicken is done, add the can of chicken broth, salsa, corn, and black beans. Stir and let come to a boil.
5. When boiling, add the rice (2 cups) and stir.
6. Top with grated cheese, turn off heat, and cover with lid. Let stand for 5 minutes, covered.

This makes a really yummy, cheesy southwestern style meal. I like it with chips but my husband likes it on a tortilla with a little lettuce and sour cream. Two additional notes:
*When I'm out of instant rice, I just cook a pot of rice, only add about 1/3 the can of broth for flavor, and stir cooked rice into the mix instead of instant rice. I think it's even yummier that way, but the instant rice is fine.
* I keep threatening to shred the chicken. I don't like "chunks" in my food. Gee, I wonder where Brother gets his picky eating habits?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

more mini-swap mania

First off, thanks so much for all the great advice regarding my picky eaters. I'm going to do my best to respond personally to those of you who commented on my last post. Just knowing that others have faced the same problem and end up with healthy, non-growth-stunted children years later is a big relief.
So, would you like to see what we sent Kate and her boys for mini-swap? Yes, of course you would!
Here it is!

I went with a pirate theme. Kate told me that her boys weren't all that into pirates, but for some reason I just couldn't get the pirates idea out of my mind. I tried, but then I'd see something like a tube of plastic pirates at the craft store, or come across a bag of chocolate coins at the farmer's market, etc. So, pirates it was. First, I pulled out two plain chipboard boxes that I've had forever and painted them with pirate images. (One box for each boy.)
You can see Maurice the pubescent pirate monkey on the side of Caleb's box. I think the goatee makes him look rather dashing, don't you?
Then I worked on filling up the boxes with booty. Boody? Bounty? Whatever.

Here is a look at the contents of one of the boxes. Included were glass marbles, a scarf and felt eyepatch (for dress-up), gold chocolate coins, a ring pop, plastic pirates, a stuffed lizard, and some felt finger-puppets I made.

Now, about these finger puppets. I must say, I am a little ashamed of them because they are glued instead of sewn. They sat on my counter for almost two weeks waiting to be sewn together but I never could find my embroidery floss! Drat the disorganized garage! I haven't unpacked my crafting stuff since we moved (it's driving me nuts, but there is always something more pressing to do- like find the box of tax stuff or de-crud the pots and pans in the sink.)

So, having had a fit of rage in the garage to no avail (though I did manage to throw a piece of plywood halfway across the garage- quite impressive, I think) I ran to Wal-Mart at the last minute to buy some new floss. But as usual, that was a frustrating experience. They have stopped selling embroidery floss, as the very surly Wal-Mart employee told me after I searched for 20 minutes. I didn't have time to get to the far, far away craft store, so I had to settle with glue. Oh, well.

I also included two pirate-y shirts I found at the thrift store (ladies shirts- but very pirate-y, I must say) and two treasure bottles. I found that idea on Family Fun- here it is. You fill a clear drink bottle with rice and little treasures, such as jewels, shells, glitter, etc. We also made some pirate-themed shrinky dink charms. (Which was LOADS of fun- I love shrink plastic!!!) You'll have to look at Kate's blog to see those, as I never got a decent photo. In fact, none of my photos are decent because I only remembered to photograph it all in the dark of night as I was loading the box.
I think the best part of this swap is that I now have one of Brother's future birthday parties 85% planned. I am a multi-tasking queen.
OK, no big wrap-up to this post. Gotta go and get something done while Brother naps!

Sending out an SOS... (Imagine Sting singing it- it's better that way)

I am having some serious struggles with picky eaters in my house.
And just so you know, I have already done a lot of homework on this issue. I have read several books, talked to my pediatrician, discussed it with the playgroup mom crew, etc. And here's where I am:
I am not an overly-permissive parent (at all), but I have decided that our dinner table cannot be a battle zone. We've been down that road too many times, and I'm not up for it. My sweet husband (bushed from a day of being a principal) isn't' up for it. It's not good for our family morale. And every "expert" I talk to (or read) advises against forcing kids to eat foods they don't want. From my own childhood experience, I'd have to agree. We were made to eat vegetables as children, and now my brother and I have strong aversions to many of those same vegetables. In fact, the only way you will get a green pea in my mouth is to stuff it into my cold, dead body.
Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve my father and brother's nightly dinnertime stand-off over my brother cleaning his plate. Being the obedient, older child, one stern glance from my father would have me stuffing my entire vegetable serving into my mouth and swallowing them without chewing, chased by a big gulp of milk. But not my brother- he would sit there for a good hour having a stare-down with my dad. Dad always won, but it wasn't pretty. (And then there was the scene the night my dad found a big wad of chewed-up green beans in the bathroom trashcan.) I used to feel so sorry for my brother, but now that I'm a parent, I feel retrospective sympathy for my poor dad. There he was, after a hard day at the office, wanting only the recliner and newspaper, faced with my defiant brother and a plate of peas. He did what he thought was right, but it seems the end result was that he rasied a boy who became a man who hates vegetables.
I am determined that my children eat (mostly) healthy foods. I'm not a nut about it- some goldfish or animal crackers here and there don't stress me out, if they have been eating the healthy stuff too. But I really do want them to develop healthy habits- healthier than mine were as a child/adolescent.
I have tried to "put the healthy food on their plate and just let them choose what they want." It doesn't work very well at my house. Here is what happens. Brother (21 months) will look at a plate with tiny bites of roast beef, small pieces of fresh green bean, small pieces of whole wheat french bread, and watermelon bites. He will fuss that he wants the meat off the tray. We say something like, "It's OK. Just let it stay there." He will then proceed to eat every bite of watermelon and holler for more. We say, "Eat your other foods first!" He then says "No no!" and makes swiping motions at the beans and roast. He will half-heartedly eat a few bites of bread, drink some milk, and then ask again for watermelon.
Here's my question- what would you do next? We have tried holding the watermelon hostage until other foods are tasted. It results in a lot of crying and no more food is eaten.
We have tried making him stay in the chair until other foods are tasted. It results in a lot of crying and no more food is eaten.
We have tried keeping him from a favorite activity (watching Elmo on TV) until he tastes the other foods. It results in a lot of crying and no more food is eaten.
So, my friends, any suggestions???
Sister is getting (a little) easier now that she's 3 and 1/2 because we can reason with her a bit, hold out on sweets and snacks, etc. But the almost-2-year-old-boy is my challenge.
I would appreciate any and all advice. And if you do post a reply in the comments, check back because I may ask you a follow-up question there. Thanks!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mini-Swap Mania!

We received our mini-swap package from Kate and her boys today. In fact, the timing was perfect. The afternoon was growing long, and I was having a serious sinking spell (Southern Belle style.) Suddenly DH walked in the door and called, "You've got a package!" Immediately I knew: mini-swap!

Kate did not disappoint! In fact, her box was so full of goodies, I'm a little worried that ours will look slim to her. We opened the box to find three beautiful linen bags. I must go on about these bags for a moment: they are so pretty, and so practical, and they have ribbons sewn into the seam so you can always tie them closed. Fabulous! I know they will get much use throughout the upcoming years. In fact, I think this is a brilliant idea for "wrapping" a gift- practical, reusable, beautiful. My family might start getting presents wrapped in pretty fabric bags.

There was a bag for Sister, a bag for Brother, and a bag for them to share. Sister immediately pulled out her first gift- a Cinderella set that included a small doll with two dresses. She was in Heaven. Brother pulled out a package of Thomas the Train stickers. He screamed with delight. It was funny, because I really think had that been all there was, they would have both been totally satisfied! But Kate had done lots more than that, and before it was over, we had unwrapped a collection of books, bubbles, Play-Doh, sunglasses, stickers, coloring books with scented crayons, trains, and my personal favorite- a brownie mixture in a jar with two ADORABLE homemade aprons. Sister's was made of Disney princess fabric, and Brother's was made of Thomas fabric. They are absolutely precious! Brother loved his so much that he wore it until bedtime.

So, from our end, mini-swap was a huge success. Kate was a terrific partner and I can only hope that our package brings smiles to her boys' faces too.

Thanks, Kate! I'll swap with you again anytime!

Saturday, March 1, 2008


The other day my SIL (Sister-in-law) and I were sitting together talking about how cool we used to be in our college days. Sort of like, "I know I'm not cool now, but I used to be cool. I had really cool clothes, and I listened to cool music. Very cool..."
My brother heard us and he said, "Um, I hate to tell you this, but the fact that you're having this conversation means neither of you were ever cool."
I told him to shut up, of course. (My duty as his older sister.)
Anyway, I was thinking about my former coolness, and how it has utterly departed from me. I devised a little top ten list for your enjoyment. Do you recognize yourself in any of these items? Anything you want to add?

You know you aren’t cool anymore when…

10.You go out to eat but don’t enjoy your meal because the restaurant is “too loud.”
9. You barely watch TV anymore because all the shows are too “trashy.” You realize that the morals of your generation far surpass those of the current younger generation.
8. You order all of your clothes from catalogs you once scorned, such as L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer.
7. Teenagers are listening to music you listened to when you were a teenager because it’s “retro” and cool again.
6. Comfort has surpassed aesthetics when purchasing shoes. (I swear, my feet look like mushrooms in the Danskos I wear. Ask me if I care.)
5. You wonder why anyone would spend an evening in a crowded, noisy bar when they could be sitting at home watching “Seinfeld” reruns in their pajamas.
4. You catch yourself calling young people like the bag boy at the grocery store “honey.”
3. The check-out girl hasn’t carded you in years.
2. When a good-looking guy smiles in your direction at the grocery store, you know that a) it’s not sexual and b) you could care less.
Note: He’s actually smiling at your baby.
1. Most of your anecdotes for your top ten list seem to occur at the grocery store.

:-) Hope you all have a very cool weekend!