Still Catching Up...

I wish I could devote more time to blogging these days, but the best I can do is to post when I can.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Second Coat: Room Redo, Part 2

Do-it-Yourself Lesson #2 - Rushing only makes the process longer

Well, as much as I had hoped that one coat of paint in the Dandelion's room would be enough, I was wrong. It probably would have been enough if I had done a better job the first time, but I was pressed for time and missed a few spots. So this afternoon I had to re-tape everything and put a second coat of paint on the two big walls. This set back the clean up process several hours, but before the Dandelion went to bed tonight we were able to move everything back into his room.



The room looks a little plain right now, but there are many more changes to come. The wallpaper removal and painting part of the project is finally done and that was by far the most disruptive.

The Nutcracker

The Tumbleweed and I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Boston Ballet Nutcracker last night when Auntie invited us to join her during one of the performances she was working at.

The Tumbleweed was super excited about the whole experience - taking the train to Boston, seeing the ballet, going backstage and staying up very late - and it did not disappoint. Auntie met us at the T and took us right in the back door, walked us past the costumes and dancers, and snuck us onto the stage before the show! Such a neat experience for both of us. Thanks Auntie!


The Tumbleweed on the stage in front of the sled used in the show

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dedication & Determination

This morning I set out early for one of my favorite days of the year... Black Friday. I got up well before the break of dawn to be in line @ 3:40. Some years the Eagle & I go together, but today the best strategy was to split up - so while I got in my car and turned on 103.3 and sang along to Feliz Navidad at 3:05am, the Eagle "slept in" until 3:35 before heading in a different direction, and probably not listening to Christmas music.

As has been the tradition in recent years (the ones with kids), my first stop is Kohl's. I love Kohl's when they are having a sale - and I loved it even more this year because they sent me a coupon for an additional 15% off my entire purchase. Now, at regular price most things at Kohl's cost more than they do elsewhere, but when they have a sale they have some good deals. I checked lots of things off my list - Imaginext Toys, Leapster Games & clothes for the kids and gifts for several of my other family members (who are able to read and I don't want to blow the surprise). Awesome deals and an additional discount and Kohl's Cash to spend next week --- what could be better?!?

Better - the Eagle's success at Target. We will now have in-car entertainment again! We have been waiting for several months to replace our portable DVD player, and today the opportunity presented itself. Thankfully for me the Eagle was rewarded for his time standing in line in the rain with a unit or I might never have convinced him to go out on Black Friday again. And to sweeten the success a little more, I had an additional 10% off coupon off our entire purchase and Target gave us a $10 gift card and a free reusable shopping bag. And it was only 6:30am.

By the time I wrapped up at 9:30, I had heard Feliz Navidad on the radio 4 separate times while driving from store to store, purchased flannel sheets for Cameron's new bed, gotten new pants and a free watch for myself at NY & Company, bought the kids their annual matching sweaters at the 25% off sale at Children's Place, saved 25% off stocking stuffers at Michael's and braved Toys R Us and Walmart. I only missed out on a couple of "nice to have" deals by going to Toys R Us and Walmart after 8:00am, but otherwise I got everything else I had intended to - from Christmas presents to classmate birthday gifts to household items.

I would definitely say it was a good day for competitive bargain hunting. Ah, the thrill of a good deal!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Too Quick

Two months ago I reported on the Dandelion's first day of Pre-Pre-school. We found a great toddler program which allowed him to be dropped off for an hour and a half each week for "school". Most of the time was free play, but there was also craft time, snack & story which allowed the kids to experience what preschool will be like - without parents.

The Dandelion did great. All but one or two times he allowed us to leave without incident, and even those times he only cried at the door for a couple of minutes. He never had a bad report from the teacher. He sat for snack and even drank out of a regular cup without spilling. He loved finger painting and came home with messy shirts almost every time. He enjoyed riding the tricycles, jumping on trampolines and playing with Gordon (from Thomas the Tank Engine), in fact we started calling it "Gordon School" every week on our way there.

Sadly, the school, which opened in May, is closing at the end of November. Today was the Dandelion's last class. He has come so far in the past two months, I am disappointed that he won't get to continue. Plus, we will miss our friends at Bounce, especially Miss Dina and Miss Heather.


"I had fun at 'cool"

"C is for Cookie"

I finally got a portion of the Dandelion singing "C is for Cookie". I am still working on getting a recording of "Grand Old Flag" but he only seems to do it when the camera is no where in sight.

video

Monday, November 23, 2009

Best Laid Plans: Room Redo, Part 1

Do-It-Yourself Lesson #1: Your project will take longer than planned.

Home Depot should have a flashing neon sign at their front door with these words, because it is always true and always a surprise. So as usual we planned out our wallpaper stripping & painting project timeline with lots of cushion.

Plan A (written Friday)

Sat AM-PM: Use steamer to remove wall paper
Sat after dinner: sand rough spots, tape
Sunday, first thing: prime
Sunday, after lunch: paint
Sunday, after dinner: move all furniture back, project completed.


Yup, that seemed good. Plenty of extra time, right? Well, not exactly. Our major flaw was not allowing for time to remove the excess glue. The steamer did a good job taking the wallpaper off, but it still left behind little bits of paper & glue, which took us the entire day Sunday to wash off with vinegar & water.

We also had a little snag when the thermostat in the Dandelion's room stopped working and the heat wouldn't shut off (we think due to the steamer). So in the middle of the project we had to replace the thermostat. Yet another thing we hadn't planned on.

So after a weekend of hard work, the Dandelion's room is still not primed or painted and most of his things are in the living room. Our new goal: to finish before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rochester Sunday

Despite the lack of progress on the Dandelion's room, we all took a break this afternoon for an outing to Abbott's in Needham. This had been the plan for getting the kids some naps (assuming that we had painted and didn't want the Dandelion to nap in paint fumes), as well as treating ourselves for some hard work.

Before we left, I dug out some Rochester shirts for myself and the Tumbleweed because they were doing a promotion where you got a free Turtle if you wore a hometown shirt. Both kids took their much needed naps on the way there (both had been up until 10pm while the Eagle finished stripping the wallpaper and tried to fix the Dandelion's broken thermostat). Actually, the Dandelion slept on the Eagle's shoulder the entire time we were there.

Then we had a few "what was I thinking" moments...

First, I let the Tumbleweed order gum as her topping. She'd never even had gum before, but liked that it was all kinds of bright colors. After we'd gone over the instructions that you chew gum and don't swallow it she said "So, I should stand next to the garbage so I can spit into it?"

Second, we let the Dandelion eat his custard the car. Actually, it was his second dish because the Eagle ate his first one when he wouldn't wake up in Abbott's. Of course as soon as we put him back in the carseat he woke up crying for ice cream.

Third, I didn't take a single picture. Can you imagine?


Anyway, the custard was delicious and I can't wait to eat our free turtles!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tis better to forget...

Today I learned the hard way that it is better for a preschool child to forget about a birthday invitation than to tell them that they can't go to the party and why, even when why is something they really want to do.

I'm sure this will be long forgotten soon, but for now I am persona non grata in the Tumbleweed's mind.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Nursery

Once again it is time for a milestone... well, in about a month. We are preparing to move the Dandelion into a "Big Boy Bed". Of course, this is not a simple process - what would be the fun in that?!? We are overhauling his room, including pulling down decade-old wallpaper, and turning it into a little boy room. As I jump into the wall paper stripping process I thought I would reflect on the different phases of the nursery over the past 4 1/2 years.

March 2005: Baby Tumbleweed Comes Home


May 2006: Farewell Old Apartment


June 2006: Hello New House

March 2007: The Tumbleweed's Last Night

July 2007: Baby Dandelion's New Room


October 2009: A Toddler's Room


New things are coming in January 2010!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jingle Bell Rock

Well, we have come to that time of the year again... you know, the "Halloween is over so we better get ready for Christmas ASAP" part of the year. It's a little over a week until Thanksgiving but the decorations are up at the mall, the music is playing & Santa has arrived. I know people gripe & complain about this but frankly, I kind of like it.

Last year I posted about how I started playing Christmas music on November 13th. I think I started during the first week of November this year... not all the time, just one of the 6 CDs in the car... although as soon as I have time to dig out a few more CDs I'll probably up that to 3 or 4. Knowing how much the kids have been enjoying (unintentionally) making up funny lyrics in the car, I am looking forward to hearing some kid renditions of the Christmas tunes.

I have gotten started with my shopping. Mostly stuff for the kids so far (since toy shopping is fun no matter how old you are!), but I have a few other things taken care of and a plan for almost everyone else on my list. And as I have for the last 10 years, I am planning to go out shopping on Black Friday. This year I have found a cool site that posts the Black Friday Ads early, which will totally streamline the planning process on Thanksgiving Day.

This December is going to be totally crazy - even before we add in the inevitable snow days and sick days - so I need to go into December with most things already taken care of. So, I am glad that Christmas season has extended to include November, it gives me so much more time to get everything done!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Going Solo

It is the beginning of a different era: the Tumbleweed went to her first birthday party where parents didn't stay. Of course I did not know this when I arrived. All of the other birthday parties we have been to have been the kind where parents stay, either to help the children or to socialize on the "sidelines".

So, imagine my surprise when we showed up to today's party and none of the other parents were staying. Since the Tumbleweed isn't timid I didn't think that she would mind, I was just worried that she wouldn't behave appropriately. Add to that, I didn't really know the parents (met mom last week at another child's party) and they were going to be driving all of the kids to the local police station for a tour. [Note to self - wash the crumb and glitter covered carseat ASAP!]

Since she was okay with the idea, off I went with 2 hours of freedom. Hmmm.... what to do? Well, I called home and it sounded like a trip to the grocery store was in order, so that's where I went. I can't recall the last time I went to the store by myself, or the last time I went on the weekend. I'm not really sure it was better. I may not have had the kids, but man was the store crowded. I think it will be a long time before I shop on a weekend again - even with the kids it is a lot more pleasant to shop when there are small/no lines.

And the birthday party seemed to go well. It was a small group of kids from her class (mostly boys) and the tour of the police station at the end of the party was pretty cool from all accounts - and according to the mom the tour was free! Neither the parents or the Tumbleweed reported any problems so if there were any, I guess I'll never know.

Another step toward independence!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas



Need some gift ideas for the holidays? Today we had a Homemade Gift Idea Playgroup where everyone shared their ideas for things to make for friends and family this Christmas.

From sewing projects like aprons and pillowcases to keepsakes like framed photos and photo books, everyone got some great ideas. Thanks to House Party and Kodak Gallery I had some great samples to show them. I made a fabulous photobook of our Disney Trip. I know, what about the scrapbook? Well, the photobook was so easy to put together and is so easy to make duplicates of (good when you have 3 other families who went on the trip!) that it really saved me a lot of time. But if you know me - I have always been a fan of Kodak :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Encore

I have to add the version of "God Bless America" that the Dandelion just sang, while not actually listening to the music I might add, just in case I decide to do a scrapbook page on all the funny singing...


"[from the mountains] to the hairies*, to the oceans, wah wah waaaah

Goh best a mericle**, [long pause], my sweeeeeh heart"


*sometimes fairies or prairies
**sometimes marigold

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"I on the grand ole flag"

The Tumbleweed's school has been teaching the kids various traditional patriotic songs this year and to help her learn, we have had the "Yankee Doodle Mickey" CD on in the car (not all the time, just one of the 6). The Dandelion has even started to request "I on the grand ole flag", otherwise know as "Grand Old Flag", and has joined the Tumbleweed in singing it during parts of the chorus.

The CD has brought me some good laughs in the car as the Tumbleweed sings along to "This is My Country", "God Bless America" and the National Anthem. Here are some of my favorite lines (that I can remember - there are a lot more)

"from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, quite with foam."

"your the emblem of the land I love, the home of the three and the gray"


and of course the Dandelion's best line...

[following "stuck a feather in his cap and"] "call it peckeroni" (his word for pepperoni).

My final patriotic favorite snip-it comes from the Pledge of Allegiance, which the kids have been learning since the first day of school. The Tumbleweed has it down completely except one word. I can't tell if that is her change, or if the school is avoiding the "God" issue. Anyway, her pledge now ends with..

"One nation, under guard, with liberty and justice for all"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Leaves, Leaves & More Leaves

The yard it full of them. Every year the extent of the leaf removal process seems to take us by surprise. The first year we were here we had to hire a crew in the spring to clear the leaves. Each year has improved a little, and this year I think we have done pretty well. Actually Mike did most of the work with the leaf blower, but the kids and I did get out and help (somewhat) as well.























I was also pleased we were able to get some other weekend chores done (like cleaning out my car!) while the kids played with the BounceBack Racer and rode bikes in the garage. I was really pleased with how well the kids played with other (most of the time), saying "Excuse me" and "Sorry" when they bumped into each other. They were not so happy when garage/outside playtime ended, but I guess that just means they enjoyed it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Adventures in Cooking - Mangoes

So I just looked back at the last Adventures in Cooking post and it was dated July 30th. Well, I guess that is because there haven't really been many adventures in cooking lately. I can't really say what happened in August, but since school started I have been scrambling to get dinner on the table most days. Sometimes it is because we get home late, sometimes it is because I haven't had time to grocery shop or forgotten an ingredient and sometimes I just take the easy road and make food I know everyone likes.

Well, I finally picked up a recent issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray to get a little inspiration. The Tumbleweed has been on a Mango kick lately (since the Eagle brought home freeze-dried mangoes) so the article with Mango recipes caught my eye. I decided to give the Teriyaki Pork-and-Mango Stir-Fry a try. With a few minor modifications (see recipe below), it turned out well. Okay, the Eagle and I liked it - the Tumbleweed ate all of the mangoes (and some pork when we said she had to) and the Dandelion wouldn't touch the mangoes, but ate the pork. Neither ate more than a trial bite of the bean sprouts. Overall a success, considering both the kids ate something!

Teriyaki Pork-and-Mango Stir-Fry
Everyday with Rachael Ray - Nov 2009

1 lb boneless pork chops, cut into 1/4" x 1/4" strips
1/2 c flour
2 t. salt (I used a little less)
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 small head of Boston lettuce (sub. for Napa Cabbage) thinly sliced.
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
3 T of Teriyaki sauce (we used La Choy)
2 mangoes, cut into matchsticks
2 c bean sprouts (I don't think we used that much)

Directions
1- mix salt & flour in bowl, and toss pork with mixture
2- heat 3 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Shake off excess flour from pork and cook in a single layer in skillet. Cook until browned and crisp on one side (about 3 min), turn and cook until browned all over (another 2-3 min). Remove from skillet
3- add remaining oil to skillet and cook cabbage* until it begins to brown (2-3 min), add in garlic and stir for about 30 sec. Stir in teriyaki sauce then toss with pork and mangoes. Remove from heat. *if using a crunchy lettuce, put lettuce and garlic in at the same time and cook for about 30 sec.
4- put servings on a plate and top with bean sprouts.

Overall the prep time is the most time consuming part (cutting pork, lettuce & mangoes), the cook time is less than 10 minutes!

Friday, November 6, 2009

From their Lips

Two quick stories so I don't forget!
___

Tumbleweed: "Mommy, smell my lips"

[I know where this is going... she found her chapstick.]

I smell, "Yummy"

Tumbleweed: "I put chapstick on, and then I botted [blotted] with this tissue so there wouldn't be too much. We wouldn't want that, would we?"
____

The Dandelion is riding toy car at Wiggle, Giggle & Sing class in the gym at the Y. He sees the open door and heads straight for it. I run to catch him, and block the door way...

"Where do you think you are going, buddy?"

Dandelion: "I drivin' to Quiznos"

[More impressive because we haven't been to Quiznos for a couple of weeks.]
____

They grow up so fast... pretty soon it will be real make-up and real trips to Quiznos.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Blog Links & Sesame Street

I wanted to point out that I have added a couple of blog links to my sidebar, if you are interested...

For things going on for families in Massachusetts:
Baystate Parent Magazine Blog
For ways to share science with your preschoolers:
Messy Fingers Blog
For tips on organizing your life:
We Organize You Blog


Then I thought I would treat you to a few fun tidbits from classic Sesame Street - celebrating 40 years this year!.

The Dandelion's current favorite song. If I can ever get him to do it when I have the video camera on, I will share him singing it :)


Another Childhood Favorite of mine.


And one more in honor of the ladybugs that are taking over the house.



OK - if you had fun with those check out "Telephone Rock", "Letter B", "Thinking of U" and "The Alphabet Song"... then try "People in your Neighborhood" for a good laugh at the many hairstyles of Bob. I'm still playing around on YouTube :) Does anyone know if there is a DVD with just the classic Sesame Street stuff (ie - pre-Elmo)?

Frayed

Phew. I am glad Halloween is done. With all of the different activities, playgroups and parties, the Tumbleweed wore her costume 7 times and the Dandelion wore his 6 times. I was starting to wonder if they would last. I look an "official" photo after the school PumpkinFest (event #2) just in case!


Tinkerbell and Captain Hook after PumpkinFest (Oct. 25th)

The costumes survived through playgroups and school and two more Halloween parties, and made it to the big day. By mid-afternoon on Halloween everyone was exhausted, so everyone except me took naps. I used the time to finally put up a few decorations and prepare for pumpkin decorating (that's right, we still hadn't decorated our pumpkins).


The Tumbleweed with our two "PumpkinHeads"

As darkness approached we put an extra layer under the costumes and practiced ringing the doorbell. The Tumbleweed even pretended to hand out candy so the Dandelion would understand better. Instead he got mad that she didn't have any candy. Oh well.


The Trick-or-Treaters headed out into the neighborhood

This year they made it a lot further than they have in the past. After about 45 minutes they came back past the house for "halftime" (empty candy bags and have some dinner). After that the Dandelion only went back out to go to the neighbor's house, before joining me at home to hand out candy (not a tough job - we only had 10 kids come in 3 groups.)


The haul

Upon their return I realized that since we live on a street that isn't really a hot-spot of Trick-or-Treating all of the neighbors seem to give out giant handfuls. I think this results in way more candy than going to more houses in a cul-de-sac neighborhood where there are lots of kids.

This year, since the Tumbleweed is working on sorting & tallying, I had her sort her candy and make a bar graph of the different types & colors. Once she had all of the candy sorted, and counted, she used it to "purchase" some toys from my Halloween store. For the third year, each kid got a few Halloween-themed toys I had bought on clearance last year in exchange for most of their candy. So far the kids have not given me a hard time about giving away their candy, especially when I remind them that the toys will last a long time and candy does not.


Good-bye candy, hello toys!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finally.

The soccer season is finally over. I say "finally", because as the coach's wife and the mother of a toddler who hated being on the sidelines the season was painful. It was mostly painful because the weather didn't cooperate - resulting in numerous canceled or wet practices and 4 of our 8 games were rescheduled or canceled. I spent more time paying attention to the weather from Thursday - Saturday than I ever want to again.

But, aside from all of the "details" the Tumbleweed had a great soccer season. She was on the U6 Pink Team (U6 = kids ages 3 to 6) with lots of her MOMS Club friends (which was nice for me too - I had support on the sidelines when I needed it, and when I wasn't able to go to practice and the Tumbleweed arrived with no coat/mittens, my friends dressed her appropriately!).


This was her third season, and she seems to still really like soccer. This year her ball handling skills seemed to really improve as she was able to take balls away from the other team, and keep them. Towards the end of the season she was working hard at taking shots on goal as well as passing the ball to her teammates. She had several assists and 4-5 goals (I think), but most of all she had a good time.

Here are some shots from the season...