Tuesday, December 20, 2011

...5 days left??

Ah, the Christmas/holiday rush.  It's caused me to lose sight of a lot of things this month (like blogging), but it's also helped me prioritize and determine what's really important to me this year.  After my traumatic Thanksgiving, which involved crying in bed during dinner, I've decided to focus on three things to help me enjoy my Christmas day.  This list may sound selfish, but I see it as an attempt to be honest with myself about my wants and needs this year.  It only has 3 items on it:

1.  To make sure Big Dude, Little Dude, and my momma have a great Christmas
2.  To make sure that other family and friends are given meaningful gifts they will enjoy, and to make sure they all know I love them
3.  To make sure I can get away with doing as little as possible on Christmas day.

This list, particularly #3, wouldn't be possible without my youngest sister and her husband stepping up and agreeing to host Christmas dinner this year.  BD and I have hosted the last couple of years, and while I generally love doing it, I'm rather burned out and would enjoy a break.

To make sure I can enforce #3, and thereby devoting more time to #1 and #2, I have created a master list of what needs to be done before the big day.  It is scheduled, with certain tasks falling on certain days.  It involves cleaning, last minute cards, baking cookies, getting laundry caught up, grocery shopping, last minute gifts, and anything else I can think of.  I'm scheduled to clean one room a day, and to touch it all up on Saturday morning.  It factors in taking the LD to COSI, and going to Dayton to visit BD's family.  My list started yesterday, and I am already behind on it.  :-)  So today will likely be a fun-filled day of errands and cleaning, but that's okay, because it will all be worth it on Sunday.

I have this fantasy that I'll wake up on Christmas morning after having gone to bed at a reasonable hour, happy in the knowledge that we're all snuggled up under clean sheets, in our dust-free rooms.  Upon awaking, the pre-set coffeepot will have coffee waiting for me, and I'll be able to quickly heat a nutritious, tasty breakfast I prepped the night before.  We'll all troop into the living room (sparkling clean, of course) in our matching Christmas jammies, and watch with delight as our revered LD opens his gifts.  We'll then watch "A Christmas Story" on repeat all day until it's time to go to my sister's.  We may take a nap and a shower somewhere in there.  We'll warm up the Duchess potatoes at my sister's place (again, made in advance), stuff ourselves silly on ham, rolls, and fudge, and watch more gift opening.  Then we'll all troop home to our still-clean house and curl up in bed for a well-deserved sleep.  I guess I'm going to have to count on elves or fairies to clean up the gift wrap and breakfast dishes.

Will all this happen?  No, probably not.  I'm going to consider myself ahead of the game if I get the bathroom mirror clean.  But, if I can stick to my schedule, I might actually get to watch that Christmas Story marathon.

Regardless of how unrealistic your expectations are, I cannot emphasize enough how helpful lists are at this time of year!  Don't have all your gifts yet?  Get that list together and hit the mall!  Still need to wrap? List all the packages you have to wrap, and feel a little more accomplished with every thing you cross off.    No clue what to serve for Christmas dinner?  List your menu, break it down further to list all the ingredients you need, and make a late-night run to your local grocery store.  Less crowded that way.  Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, just take a deep breath, start writing, and then start doing the things on your list.  It'll bring order to chaos.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Short but sweet...

...we suck at writing!  Well, we do lately.  Between Bannon and myself, we have had family illness/personal illness (ouch, staph infection!)/helping a parent move/working like a boss/taking kids to therapyschoolcubscouts/crazy holiday activities/I'm sure I forgot something else.  So, yes, we've totally dropped the ball on our Christmas organizing and pantry challenge posts.  But we're going out tomorrow to Costco and then for margaritas, so at least we've got our priorities in order.  I hope you all have your shopping done, and that you're getting things wrapped!  I'm focusing on getting things really, really clean for the holidays.  Have you heard the radio commercial where you're told that Santa judges you based on how clean your baseboards are?  I totally believe it.

Also, somewhere in all the holiday rush, please take some time to enjoy the season with your family, however you choose to celebrate it.  And please consider taking the time/money to help make someone else's season a little happier.  Times are tight for everyone, but a little giving can go a long way.  Drop some money in a collection bucket, donate a toy or some food, send something to a soldier who can't be home for Christmas (hi, Rob!  Your box goes out this weekend!), bake cookies for a neighbor...there are so many ways to share.  No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, showing kindness to others is a universal good.

Also, this is the picture the Big Dude and I are putting on our Christmas cards this year.  It's pretty damn cute, even if it is my own kid.  :-)


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slipping Through My Fingers

Kerry here...I'm not even going to try to apologize for the delay in posting.  Life is hectic, it seems pretty non-stop, and there are days where I have to choose between time to shave my legs, or time for breakfast. However, I have a few minutes of blessed quiet time.  There's a great breeze coming in, the sun is shining, and my lunch of Cup-o-Soup and Dr. Pepper seems to be doing the trick.  So here I am!

Some of you know that my Little Dude is receiving speech therapy.  Tuesday was his third session, and so far he is running through with flying colors.  It's nice to go once a month-it gives me a touchstone of sorts to see his progress.  We live with it every day, and so we're used to his quirks and progress.  But when they see him, it's a celebration.  He asked for juice instead of just hauling me into the kitchen?  Hugs from the speech therapist!  He jumped with both feet together?  Applause from the physical therapist!  Look, he's using pretend play!  The OT gives everyone high fives!  I love that LD gets the extra cheers from them-The Dude and I celebrate any new achievement, but I think we forget to keep cheering after a while.  But we never stop being proud.

We also seem to work with him non-stop at home.  Parents in this program always have "homework", to keep the momentum up between monthly sessions.  It can be challenging to hold LD's attention, and it can definitely be time-consuming, but it has really paid off.  His therapy team know I blog, and they actually encouraged me to discuss what we do.  There are exercises to help him gain a greater, deeper awareness of his body.  Those exercises are what has led to learning to jump, labeling his own body parts without needing a mirror, and his sudden ability to tell us when he has to go potty.  We coach him to say "no" and "mine", which amuses me because it seems that those are viewed as bad words in toddler land.  It's hard to teach a child to share while simultaneously telling him it's okay to say "mine"!  We've taught him sign language, and we're now working on imitative play.  We repeat the same words endlessly.  And there's the "sensory diet", which is a series of five activities meant to stimulate nerves, work muscles, encourage movement of the mouth, measure fine motor skills, and to encourage a mess.  For example, we'll start by bouncing on an exercise ball while singing a song about bouncing on the ball.  Then we'll do some deep nerve stimulation by doing joint compressions.  After that, we'll blow bubbles, then stack some blocks, then end with finger painting.  And our reward is watching our son open up a little more every day.  I'm not complaining about what we have to do-we are so very lucky to have a wonderful team to teach us and help us, and we're grateful that our little guy is otherwise happy and healthy.

At this last session, as LD was playing with his therapy team, I was pulled into a meeting with Jeffrey's coordinator, his rep from the county, and a rep from our local school district.  Once LD turns three, he'll be receiving treatment from the school, assuming he still needs it by then.  He has the option to receive home therapy, or to be sent to a preschool.  This preschool is located close to home, is staffed by what sounds like a wonderful team of educators and therapists, and is in a new, modern building.  The classes have 16 children-8 with varying special needs, and 8 "peer model" children.  It would be 4 days a week, in sessions of 2.5 hours a day.  I was okay with all of this, until the school rep said that we could choose to have LD bussed.  As she was telling me about these cute little buses with special car seats and an assistant to help buckle him in, and a very patient and friendly bus driver, all I could see in my mind was my baby (who suddenly seemed very tiny) being whisked away by a bunch of strangers, potentially crying every day for Mommy, and all I could do would be to stand on the sidewalk and wave.

My internal hysteria must have shown on my face, because the rep quickly backed off the talk of buses.  She reassured me that I could drive LD if I preferred, I'd always be welcome to observe and visit, and I don't even have to do school yet.  And I know-I KNOW-that school would probably be the best bet.  LD would get some much-needed interaction with other kids.  It would be such a boost for his self-esteem.  But...all I could feel was the sensation that time was slipping away, my baby was slipping through my fingers, and that one day very soon, I'll wake up to see a kid who doesn't need Mommy as much as Mommy may want him to.  Does every mother feel this??  I know he'll grow up, that it's my job to help him grow up to be the very best person he can be, but I am not ready for this at all!

I suppose all I can do is try to work through my own hesitation and fears, and be as ready as I can be when the day comes-maybe sooner, maybe later-that I have to let my baby go.  Bannon, in true best friend style, listened to me wail, insisted that it's totally normal to wail, and promised to be with me whenever it's time to send LD off to school.  I know it's dumb, but going to school seems so...final.  Like he'll get on to the bus a toddler, and get off of the bus as some older, alien child, and my baby will be gone forever.  I know that can't be true.  My mother refers to me (still!!) as her baby, and I'm sure she'll see me that way for the rest of her life.  And it suits the two of us just fine.  So, in the meantime, I'll stop worrying about what I'm losing, and focus on the times when it's just our little family, seeing life through the eyes of our boy.

By the way, no matter how much I whine about losing my baby, I won't miss diapers at all.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm still here!

Kerry here-wow, has it really been a month since I blogged?  It's amazing how life gets away with you, and from you.  I'm sorry we haven't written!  This past month for me has been hectic, enough to prompt a friend of mine to order me to have a night out.  I haven't gotten that far yet, but I'm trying to find little ways to treat myself, and keep myself somewhat sane (sanity is relative, here).  And one of my little time-outs turned into one of my favorite moments as a parent.


Have you ever had one of those moments?  The type that, while it would ordinarily get lost in the bustle of your day, managed to burrow its way into your heart?  I had one of those this week. 

The Little Dude and I had just gotten home from running errands, and it was lunchtime.  I was trying to bribe him into going inside, but instead he made a beeline for a small pile of leaves by the sidewalk.  He immediately began to pick them up and throw them in the air, laughing and smiling like he had found the most amazing thing.  At first, I was frustrated-I like to run on a schedule, and playing outside was not on the agenda.  But I decided to give him a few minutes.  And a few more, then a few more after that.  Watching him run through the leaves simply made me happy.  He’s been hard at work on his therapy, our general schedule has been hectic, and if anyone needs some down time, it’s a two year old boy.
 
It was windy, and LD was fascinated by watching the leaves blow across the yard and into the parking lot.  He began to run headlong into the wind, arms out, face scrunched with delight as the wind blew his hair back.  The weather was perfect, sunny and just warm enough.  The sun made my baby’s hair glow with this golden light, but it couldn’t compete with the light coming from my boy.  He was happy, alive, and totally in the moment.  I couldn’t help but join him in the leaves.  We ran into the wind, threw leaves at each other, and were in the moment together. 

I know that, as time goes on, I may lose the details, but I’ll always remember the light shining on my boy’s hair, that beautiful smile of pure happiness, and how my heart swelled with joy and love.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Homemade Christmas For Those Who Aren't Martha

Bannon has abandoned us!!  Miss B. is off on a cruise, and is probably tipsy as I type this.  I'll be holding down the fort until she gets back and recuperates from her 10 day hangover.  So, without further ado...part two of Kerry's Christmas Extravaganza!

I was told the other day that there's less than 100 days left until Christmas.  Even though I've been preparing in bits and pieces since August, because I'm slightly insane, I still feel like I have more to do than I have time for.  So I began to comb through all the websites that I've bookmarked that offer homemade gift ideas, and I found a few good ideas for myself.  I also found a lot of good ideas that were too good to not share!  So here is a rundown of some of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy!  And don't worry about a skill level here-my issues with advanced crafts have been well documented.  I wouldn't ask any of you to do something that intimidates the hell out of me!

I have fallen in love with Not Martha.  As one might assume from the name, this refers to the fact that it isn't necessary to be Martha Stewart to pull off one of the crafts on the website.  There are nifty food ideas that make great gifts, such as pies and cobblers in jars.  There's a handy car kit that would be a useful gift for the newest driver in the family, instructions for homemade spa gifts (think bath bombs or lip balm), and my personal favorite, this dahlia brooch.  I think it may find it's way into my mother's stocking!

Tip Junkie has some great suggestions for younger kids.  There are ideas as simple as a homemade coloring book, or as ambitious as a homemade play kitchen that you make out of a bookshelf.  Other ideas include memory games, felt play food, a race car tote, or this adorable superhero cape and mask set that I hope to whip up for the Little Dude to go with his new Batman and Superman jammies.  And, while I don't have specific links, there are plenty of recipes available online for homemade play dough, paint, chalk, crayons, and so many things kids like.  You can never go wrong with a gift that lets a child create something new.

For tweens and teens, you do have to get a little more personal.  Some gifts are pretty gender-neutral.  A homemade fleece scarf in your teen's school/favorite sports team/Hogwart's house colors is an easy, useful gift.  A case for an iPod or iPhone tailored to a teen's tastes would also be a great gift.  But if your teen is picky, fear not!  There are tutorials out there for homemade purses, hair accessories, jewelry, wall art, blankets, journals, tote bags, and so much more.  Make google your friend.  And don't forget that kits you assemble yourself are always a good bet.  Fill a bucket of microwave popcorn with a DVD or two, and some theater candy.  A music lover might like some iTunes cards, a new set of headphone, and a t-shirt from their favorite band.  My niece is getting a cosmetics bag filled with nail polish, files, toe separators, body spray, lotion, lip gloss, and whatever else I think will tickle her fancy.  Best part is, it's inexpensive!

Something the BD and I do every year for our close friends and the adults in our family is to make a cookie and candy tray.  The one thing that we know we can count on from year to year is BD's fudge.  I know bragging on him makes me sound biased, but he makes seriously good fudge.  Perfect consistency, marvelous flavor, and it stores really well.  He found a website a couple of years ago that, while rather wordy, gives instructions on how to not screw up your fudge.  BD swears by it, and after having eaten quite a bit of fudge, I swear by it, too.  Check out Skaarup Fudge, and wow your family and friends!  And when you're ready to make some other candies, or some tasty baked goods, check out Tasty Kitchen.  It was created by my beloved Pioneer Woman, and it has yet to let me down.  And don't forget that homemade cookie or cocoa mix in a jar is always appreciated!

And, last but not least, here's a roundup of websites with lots of ideas that don't fall into one category.  Yes, even Martha made the list-she's taken pity on people like me and has some great craft and decoration ideas!
Better Homes and Gardens-this is a great general list, featuring gifts that would work for grandparents using children's art, soft toys for baby, cool desk supplies for the executive in your life, and even a little something for Fido.
Family Crafts-a lot of these would be ideal for a child who wants to make gifts, but it also has some of the classics, like the fleece blanket.  There's gifts on here for just about anyone, and if your dog wants a snuggie of it's own, you're in luck!
BHG Ornaments-if you need a gift for the office exchange, your neighbors, or for that person who seems to have it all, why not make a homemade ornament?  Easy tutorials and creative designs make for some beautiful ornaments!  We usually do a small exchange with my aunts and uncle, and I plan to make some of these to give.
A Very Martha Christmas-even though I tend to hold Martha Stewart up as some sort of unattainable pinnacle of domestic perfection, her website really does seem to have it all.  Gifts for different levels of crafters, homemade cards, decoration ideas, gift tags, and so much more.  Her site also has non-holiday specific crafts that can please even the pickiest person on your list.

So, now you're armed with ideas galore-get crafting!  I hope to post photos if I actually get to make any of these ideas of mine.  And I want to see what you're making, too!

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Special Guy

Greetings, all!  Kerry here, feeling guilty for not writing all week.  But y'all got lucky-I have a cold, and feel down enough to want to do any of the many things around here that need doing.  So I'm blogging.  Aren't you all just so lucky?

Anyhoo, I had recently posted on my FB page that my Little Dude will be starting speech therapy and early intervention therapy next week.  I got a lot of responses, and most of them were something like, "Say what?  He needs that?"  People seemed kind of surprised that I was excited about it.  After seeing all that, I realized that I had never set down the story of why this is a big step for us.

When the LD was 3 months old, our pediatrician at the time had us take him for an MRI.  His head growth was in the 99th percentile, while the rest of him was squarely at 50%.  The MRI came back showing a significant gap between skull growth and brain growth, and the pediatrician diagnosed the LD with hydrocephaly.  The pediatrician, being an older, kind of crabby gentleman, immediately gave us a worst-case scenario.  Our Little Dude would have significant speech and motor delays, requiring intensive therapy.  It would be something he would struggle with for the rest of his life, which, by the way, would likely be shortened by this.  He told me all this over the phone.  Needless to say, I was slightly hysterical.  I can remember the Big Dude and I sitting on our bed, LD laying on it between us, as we cried and tried to make sense of it.

After the initial shock wore off, we were on the phone with the pediatrician, demanding more information.  He had us come into the office after hours so he could show us the MRI.  He focused on the need for monitoring and therapy in the near future.  We would have MRIs done every 3 months.  We had a list of symptoms to watch for.  We were connected with our local Help Me Grow center, so we wouldn't have to wait for services when the predicted delays began.  He told us he suspected this was caused by a scare we had when I was in my first trimester, where I had begun to bleed and had to go to the ER to make sure everything was okay.  I don't think I've ever felt guiltier for anything in my life!  And while we did feel more positive after that visit (except for all that mommy guilt), all we could do for our son was to watch and wait.

Big head, little body, happy baby.


Our day to day lives went back to usual.  LD grew and thrived, meeting all of his developmental milestones right on time, except for lifting his head and rolling over.  That was dismissed by our neurologist as normal-how could we expect that tiny body to lift that giant noggin?  But LD was happy, and our biggest challenge at that time was finding shirts that would fit over his head.

As time went on, and we had more MRIs under our belts, the unexpected happened.  His brain growth began to catch up to his skull.  The excess fluid that was filling the gap was being harmlessly absorbed.  At first, we were told this meant a shunt to drain off the fluid wouldn't be needed.  Further consultation with the neurologists took place.  We met with a new specialist.  BD and I had our heads measured, our family histories taken, and were quizzed on Jeffrey's development.  All this resulted in a changed diagnosis-benign macrocephaly.  Or, as the specialist put it, "Congratulations!  He just has a big head!"  She then asked to use his case history for a presentation for the state's neurological society, as well as for possible future publication.  We giddily gave permission.  We knew we weren't out of the woods yet, but we were just so relieved.

Life went on, as it does.  We moved.  LD learned to walk, then jump.  We both started new jobs.  Holidays were celebrated, cars broke down.  LD colored on the windows, learned his letters and numbers, and became Murray Wiggle's number one fan.  MRIs happened, the results were always good.  As of today, the only issue he has is difficulty taking all the words he knows and using them to communicate with others.  We had him evaluated for therapy services just a few days ago, and I was almost sick with anticipation.  I was so afraid that there would be more wrong with him than we realized.  Thankfully, all they want to work on is his speech, and then give him a bit of a boost with socialization skills-it's tough to make friends when you can't communicate with them.  They told me the results, and I was just so grateful.  I feel like we've dodged a bullet with him.  And I know this all may sound shallow-compared to some of the things other children have to cope with, I feel like I'm making a fuss over a splinter-but I can't forget the fear and anguish I felt when I was told that initial diagnosis.  He's my only child, he will always be our only child, and hearing that it's just a speech delay is almost like a gift.

Next time on V3, Kerry will refrain from long, serious posts, and will discuss homemade Christmas gift ideas!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Breakfast Egg Muffins

by Bannon

One of my friends posted this recipe on Facebook a few weeks ago and I happened to have a can of crescent rolls in the fridge so that Sunday I surprised the kids with these.  Both the kids and dh raved about how great they were and they were so simple to make.



Breakfast Egg Muffins

  • One can of crescent rolls
  • eight eggs
  • eight slices of precooked bacon (or bacon bits)
  • shredded cheese
 Grease your muffin pan with butter or spray and set the oven for the temperature that is on the crescent roll package.  Separate the crescent triangles, lay one in each of the muffin cups leaving the edges to hang outside for the moment.  Crack an egg into each cup on top of the crescent dough.  Place the bacon on top along with the shredded cheese.  Fold the remainder of the dough on top of the cheese and pop into the oven for 16 minutes.  


 A few tips about these muffins: I gently stretched the triangles to make the dough fit a bit better in the cups.  I also used bacon bits because I had no bacon slices and it worked just fine.  Cooking for 16 minutes didn't completely cook the eggs, the yellow was just a bit soft in the middle.  It was suggested by the family that adding a little salt to each muffin would help with the taste.  They made a great breakfast the next day as well.



This post is linked to Twisted Thursday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pantry Challenge Update #1

by Bannon

If you recall I'm trying to stick to a strict $50 a week food/household items budget until October 1st, you can read my first post here.  I am now eleven days into this experiment and have done pretty good making do with the food already in the house.

My first week highlights:

  • Spent $5.18 on two gallons of milk.  I'm not surprised that I only spent this because I had done a fairly large shopping trip a few days before I started this so we were already pretty set in terms of food.
  • I stuck to my meal plan every night except for Thursday when I was too tired to defrost some chicken so the kids had pizza.  I do need to be more on the ball when it comes to setting meats out and prepping for dinner in advance.

This week is already half gone and I'm now getting my meal plan up.  I think that with it being Labor Day week it throws everything off.

Meal Plan week of  9/4/11

Sunday - out to dinner (with a Groupon)

Monday - brats and turkey burgers, potatoes and onions on the grill and green beans

Tuesday -  fish stix, green beans and peaches

Wednesday - chicken noodle soup and cornbread

Thursday -  hot dogs, mac and cheese, vegetable

Friday - pizza and salad for the kids, we will have dinner at a friend's house

Saturday - cold sandwiches and chips (won't be eating at home)





 


 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Weekend in Pictures


 Birthday celebration.

Garden harvest.

 Prepping tomatoes.

 Cooking salsa.

 Salsa done!

Birthday flowers and silly boys.

Yum.

Blueberry bread for breakfast this week.

Bannon


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cooking and Cleaning

Kerry here!  Today, my Dude has spoiled me by doing all the cooking.  I got to do the clean up, but I personally think I came out ahead of the game.  So, because tomorrow's a holiday, because my Little Dude gave me kisses and said, "I love!" each time, and because it's too good not to share, here's what the Dude cooked, and what I used to clean up with!

For breakfast, we had Berry Berry Pancakes with hash browns!  For the pancakes, you'll need 1 1/2 c. flour, 3 1/2 t. baking powder, 1 t. salt, 1 T. white sugar, 1 1/4 c. milk, 1 egg, 3 T. butter, melted, and 1 c. blueberries.  Take the dry ingredients and sift them together.  Make a well in the center, and pour in the milk, egg, and butter.  Mix it all until smooth.  Heat and grease your griddle or pan.  Right before you're ready to cook them, fold in the blueberries (feel free to adjust the amount of blueberries to your liking).  Pour out batter in 1/4 c. amounts onto the griddle, and cook until golden brown on both sides.  For the topping, slice enough strawberries to fill 1/3 c.  Place in a bowl with 1/4 c. whole raspberries.  Add 2-3 T. of white sugar, and gently mix.  Again, feel free to increase or decrease the amount of berries and/or sugar to meet your needs.  Butter the hot pancakes, and spoon on some of the fruit topping.  Simple, and crazy good!  For the hash browns, all the Dude did was to use the food processor to shred 2 potatoes.  He used paper towels to squeeze out the excess moisture.  Then he added 1/2 of a bell pepper and 2 small tomatoes, diced, mixed it all together, and fried it on the griddle.  For the last minute or two of cooking, he topped the hash browns with cheddar cheese.

This evening, he made homemade oatmeal cream pies, and I almost cried with joy.  He found the recipe on allrecipes.com, and while they were damn good, we think we can tweak it a bit.  I linked the recipe for anyone who wants to give it a whirl, but I'll post our version once we play with it.  I think we can make the filling a bit differently, and I want to mess with the baking instructions.  But...mmmm.  Make sure you have some milk on hand!

Now, after all that cooking, I got to clean.  I also tweaked my cleaning supply stash, and came up with what I think are some effective, safe supplies.  For my general surface cleaner, I used a large spray bottle.  I put in 3 T. baking soda, and 1/4 c. white vinegar.  There will be fizzing, so just wait it out.  Once things settle, add 1/2 t. dish liquid, then fill the bottle slowly with hot water.  Leave a little room in the bottle to swirl the contents before use.  It cut grease, cleaned up sticky surfaces, and didn't leave a weird film or odor behind.  If you wanted to, you could add 8-10 drops of your favorite essential oil.  If you do have a spot that needs more scrubbing, make a paste of baking soda and your dish soap, and use it like you would Soft Scrub.

My window cleaner got tweaked, but I think it's a lot more effective now on the LD's sticky little prints and smudges.  Use 1/2 t. dish soap, 3 T. vinegar, and 2 c. water.  Mix it in a spray bottle, shake it up, and clean your glass!  You can use newspaper on your windows  with this spray for a streak-free finish.  And, to freshen up your fabric, here's a fake-it Febreze recipe.  Use 3 T. of your favorite conditioner, and 2 T of baking soda.  Put into a spray bottle (just reuse that Febreze bottle that's laying around with a spoonful of liquid left in it), fill up to the top with hot tap water, and give it a good shake.  I ended up using a yummy ginger-scented trial sized conditioner, and it was awesome!

Happy eating/cleaning!

It's September!

You know what that means, right?

...111 days until Christmas!  Time for Kerry's guide to doing the holidays on the cheap without losing your mind in the process!  It's not particularly complex, and it's really just common sense, but it's amazing how many people leave it until the last minute.  Doing that costs you more, and not just in money.  It costs you time that you could be spending with family, it costs you in stress and anxiety, and it can even ruin your enjoyment of the holidays altogether.  Who wants to do that??  So, over the next few months, I'll be discussing a slower, kinder way of preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.

First thing on the list is making a list!  I try to have this done by September 1.  This list is the big list, and that's the list of gifts to give.  Write down everyone that you plan to give a gift to.  In my case, it's a pretty big list.  Between the Dude and I, we give gifts to 30 family members and friends, not including gifts we give to the Little Dude, or to each other.  If the dollar signs aren't popping up in front of your eyes by now, they should be.  It can be insanely expensive if I don't plan ahead.

Now that you have your list of people, start budgeting.  You can either take a fixed amount (you want to keep all gift giving below $400, for example) and divide it out among the people on your list, or you can the amount you want to gift first, then see how much you need.  How much do you want to spend on a spouse, your child, that cousin you feel obligated to give to because they send a meat and cheese box every year?  Be honest and realistic with yourself.  If you have no problem with putting it all on a credit card then paying it off with your income tax return, go for it.  But if (like me) you're on a tighter income, or you hate the idea of debt for the holidays, then be true to that.  I'll use my budget for an example again.  For the nieces, nephews, and other kids, I try to set a budget of $10 per child.  After we factor in all of the family and friends, as well as each other, our budget is usually around $400.  We also have 4 birthdays between now and the end of the year to consider, which bumps things up to around $500.

Once you know who you're buying for and how much you want to spend, think about each person.  What do they love, what interests them?  For instance, my nephews love Legos.  My mom adores going to Ohio Village for their Victorian Christmas, so we know that's her birthday gift.  Also, think outside the box.  Can you give a gift of time, or experience?  Can you make something?  Bannon, for example, makes some amazing jam every year, and gives it as gifts.  My Dude likes to make fudge and cookies, so every year he makes some to give to all of the adults on the list.  I plan to put my scrapbooking skills to use and make a framed display of the LD for his grandmas and great-grandma.  If you're tapped out on ideas, hit the internet!  A quick Google search for "homemade Christmas" will give you so many ideas, for all ages and interests.

So, now you've got your list, your budget, and you know what you need to buy.  Start shopping!  Start now, and ideally, you'll have already been doing some shopping.  I already have 2 of the LD's gifts bought, as well as gifts for 6 of the children on our list.  Shop sales and clearance aisles.  Check out Amazon and Target for daily deals and specials.  Speaking of Target, check their online coupons for discounts on clothes, household items, and toys.  Coupons.com will sometimes have printable coupons for DVDs.  Heartsy.com can have deep discounts on handcrafted items that can be wonderful gifts.  And if you have to stuff stockings, don't forget dollar stores, or Target's dollar section.  If you're lucky enough to have a Five Below in your area (Columbus readers, ours is by Easton!), check them out.  I've found Wii games, DVDs, shirts and tote bags from Hot Topic, craft kits...the list can go on, but everything in the store is $5 or less!

And since this weekend is also a holiday, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Labor day.  Enjoy the last long weekend of the summer!  The Little Dude is here to remind you to not drink and drive!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Who Knows What Got Into My Son

by Bannon

Last night I was trying to get the kids showered up and in bed.  Since it was Sunday they were both resisting going through the routine because they didn't want the weekend to come to a close.  I finally get the older one cleaned up and ready and start on the younger.  I told him to get undressed and go hop in the shower and I went back into the kitchen to clean up dinner.  

Dh comes in to say that ds2 did indeed get undressed and for some reason instead of going to the bathroom before his shower like normal he decided to pee in the laundry basket.  He didn't realize he was doing it until it was done and so he was really upset.  My poor little guy.  He told me he was so embarrassed.  I found it to be hysterically funny!



Cleaning Day!

This is Kerry-just a brief note to let you all know that we have decided to drop the initial business and use our names like big girls!  So, starting today, K and B will be known as Kerry and Bannon.  The kids and significant others will still remain anonymous, at least until one of us screws up and starts typing names.  Also, we'll start using our names at the beginning of our posts, because we (very belatedly) realized that not everyone can tell us apart.  How slick are we??  (Answer:  not very.)

I'm also going to go through the old posts and tag them with the author's name, so it'll be clearer for anyone who decides to comb through them.

I haven't forgotten that I need to post some of my recipes to let you make your own cleaning supplies.  I've tweaked and expanded on my stash, so it'll be some new stuff from before.  Bannon will be posting a lot more about her Pantry Challenge, Christmas planning should start in a few more days, and we're looking at doing a couponing tutorial.  We're excited, even if no one else is!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Second Post on Sunday!

I had a realization Friday that my house has a lot of food in it.  I went down to the freezer to put a few things in it and saw that it was bursting at the seams.  It almost didn't shut.  This is the first time in eleven years that I have had no more room for food in there.  The fridge's freezer is the same, completely full of food.  So I've decided I'm going to have a pantry challenge.  

The rules for myself are simple.  The weekly budget for the next five weeks will be $50.  I am trying to be realistic here by giving myself that much.  The price of groceries is increasing rapidly and it's outrageous how much some things cost now.  That $50 will cover fresh fruits, vegetables and other staples like milk and bread.  My goal is that I will reinforce this by reporting here on the blog what I spend, making me accountable to all of you.  (The one thing I'm not including in the weekly total is my Costco membership which will be coming up for renewal the next time I go there.  If I post my receipts then that will show up.)

When it comes to eating out I plan on using the variety of restaurant coupons that I have from the various daily deal sites, Restaurant.com and the birthday coupons I've started getting in my email.  I hope to only eat out once a week for dinner and not spend more than $15 for what remains of the bill after the discount.

I'm also going to meal plan weekly.  One of my awesome friends has shared the meal plan sheet she made for herself with me and I'm going to try really hard to stick to planning and following through on my menus.

The goal is to see how far I can go until October 1st with this plan.  Right now it seems so easy but I know as the freezer and my stockpile start getting lower it's going to get harder to do.

Meal Plan Week of 8/28

Sunday - chicken wings, baked potato and green beans

Monday - grilled cheese with tomato soup and green beans

Tuesday - pasta and sauce with fruit and salad

Wednesday - fish sticks, with veg and fruit

Thursday - teriyaki chicken, rice and veg

Friday - leftovers

Saturday - pizza for the kids, birthday dinner out for dh and I



  • B
















A Slightly Delirious Post About Cleaning

It's 6am on a Sunday, and I've been wide awake since around 4:30.  Before that, it was LOTS of tossing and turning.  I finally surrendered, and have played about 12 games of mah-jongg, caught myself up on Regretsy and Facebook, and am now considering a bowl of frosted mini-wheats.  This has been going on for a little over a week now.  Unfortunately, I made two crucial errors last night-I drank soda, and forgot my melatonin.  *le sigh*

Since I'm too loopy to remember if I'd posted this before, I've been making and using my own household cleaners.  B. got to try the homemade detergent before I did, but I have homemade fabric softener, glass cleaner, and a multi-purpose surface cleaner, as well as some baking soda for everything else.  I went on a massive cleaning kick yesterday and scrubbed the place down, and it was a great opportunity for me to really compare what I made with what I used to buy.  Guess what?  I couldn't tell a bit of difference, except for the lack of fragrance that's added to most cleaners.  But things were squeaky clean!  When I can focus a bit more, I'll post the actual blends I used.  My only complaint was that the homemade glass cleaner wasn't enough to power through the Little Dude's "artwork".  If there is a crayon and a clean window in the same building, he will find a way to make the two meet.  I should have stopped him, but my inner teacher kept chirping at me that he was exploring his environment, it's easily cleaned, I'll stifle his creativity, blah blah blah.  But my point is, why are we spending tons of money on chemicals, when we can safely make the same things at home for pennies?  Sorry, Mr. Clean, but we're breaking up.  It wasn't me, it was you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Give and Take

So, this past weekend was a doozy!  Saturday morning, the Dude and I were up bright and early to take part in a community clean-up project organized by Wild Goose Creative, and we took part along with some other members of our beloved Hudson Street Hooligans, the best Crew supporter's group out there.  I swept, picked up trash, sprayed for weeds, and painted and painted and painted.  I ended up helping some kids who were there volunteering with their parents-go figure, right?  It was great fun, I was absolutely filthy by the time I got home.  But it's for a good cause-cleaning up an abandoned lot, and making it pretty with some gorgeous artwork!  Check it out at the corner of Summit and Hudson in Columbus.  First pic has the Dude up on some scaffolding, second pic is the handiwork of Tim Lai, and was posted on the Facebook page for the HSH.



Saturday night was a rarity in my world-girl's night out!  We met for dinner and 'ritas at a local Mexican restaurant, then headed off to the Crew game.  I'm not sure everyone had the same level of enjoyment for the game that I did, but we all had a good time being together.

However, all the time outside on Saturday, combined with my forgetting to take my allergy medicine that day, left me feeling like someone stuffed rocks up my nose, then hit me in the face with a cricket bat.  However, because I am a sucker nice aunt, I kept my word to one of my nieces and spent the morning making blueberry muffins with her.  It wasn't nearly as time consuming as I had anticipated it to be, and a good time was had by all.  Here's the goods:

For muffins:
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
1 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen work; if frozen, thaw first)

For crumb topping:
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. wheat flour
1/4 c. butter, softened and cubed
1 1/2 t. cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees, either grease or line muffin cups.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder for muffins.  In separate bowl, beat egg gently, then add oil and milk to egg.  Mix slightly, then add to dry goods.  Mix together, adding a bit more milk if needed to achieve a good consistency.  Fold in blueberries.  At this point, you can either divide the batter between 12 muffin cups for smaller muffins, or fill 8 cups to the very top to get larger muffins.  For the topping, mix together all ingredients with a fork until a crumbly texture has been achieved.  Sprinkle it over the muffin tops before baking.  Bake for about 20 minutes-watch them towards the end, our batch got close to burning.  These were generally a hit with everyone, except for my junior chef, who learned a valuable lesson in mixing thoroughly.  She got a mouthful of salty muffin.  :-)


I did get some reward for all of my giving-a sympathetic sister who folded my laundry for me (woot!), and a family friend who brought us all some lunch.  I normally feel bad about taking things like that from others, but not this time!  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lovely, Love My Family

Things are settling in nicely here with the nieces being here after school.  The first week was a bit of an adjustment-testing boundaries, convincing the Little Dude that he has to share with even more kids, the usual.  But it's brought a surprising amount of love into our home, which was something I didn't really think would happen.  My nieces are very open in showing each other love, and it spills over to me, the LD, and the other boy I babysit.  They'll pull they boys onto their laps for hugs and kisses, play with them, and generally make a happy mess.  One activity we did today that the older and younger kids all had fun with was finger painting with shaving cream.  Sometimes, we'll use paper and color, but today we just spread it out onto the train table and let everyone get to it.




I knew from previous experience that I'd have to stay on my toes with activities for all the kids, and that's been a challenge for me.  Things that will engage the 2- and 3-year-olds won't do the trick for the 10 year olds.  Fortunately, they have come up with some great ideas.  The older girls are convinced that I'm going to teach them to cook!  So we've been working on some basics, as well as actually giving them some experience with an oven.  They've learned how to use a knife, how to measure, how to sift, and they've gotten a healthy dose of respect for a hot oven.  So, to let them test their skills, the 4 girls all chipped in to make homemade pizzas for a large family dinner.  For the dough, we used a recipe from Once A Month Mom.


2 3/4 c. lukewarm water
1.5 T. granulated active yeast
1.5 T. kosher salt
1 T. sugar
1/4 c. olive oil
6 1/2 c. flour.  I used whole wheat flour for the dough.  Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a large bowl.  I let my littlest niece, who is 3, pour in and stir the ingredients.  Next, mix in the flour without kneading, using a wooden spoon.  Leaving the dough in the bowl, cover with a towel and let it sit for 2 hours.  At this point, you can either use the dough immediately, or you can refrigerate it for 4 hours, then separate into individual portions (we got 3 medium pizzas out of this batch), wrap it with plastic wrap or parchment paper, place into freezer bags, and freeze them.  If you choose to use the dough immediately, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Grease your pan, press out the dough and top with whatever you choose.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust and toppings are golden.  If you want to use frozen dough, thaw it in the fridge, dust it with flour, then roll or press it for your crust.  The older girls prepared all the toppings, including chopping up tomatoes and peppers, as well as putting on the saucy pepperoni, etc.  They all really liked cooking it, and they really liked eating it!  The crust got a thumbs up from everyone involved, and it was really easy to work with.




But, more than the food, or the messy projects, I think the kids (and the parents) are enjoying our increased closeness the most.  The title seems very appropriate, especially since it's from a song by The Roots that appeared in Yo Gabba Gabba, a favorite show of my 3 youngest charges.  Enjoy!



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fun Freebies and a Big Boy

Before I start to blog, can I vent for a second?  Insight, the providers of our internet/cable/phone service, are MAKING ME CRAZY.  We just have trouble with one item or another on a fairly regular basis.  Thought we had it all fixed, then we realized we were losing our internet again.  Got that back (kind of), now the phone can't be used.  Le sigh.  We were sent three vouchers for free pay-per-view movies for our troubles, so I guess an adult movie marathon is supposed to make up for it.  :-D  I'm not sure where the breakdown is, everyone we speak to seems to be very earnest in their desire to get things fixed, but we have yet to get a long-term solution.  Anyhoo, that's been part of the reason for the lack of blogging, along with just being very busy these last couple of weeks.  But I'm back!

First, I have to brag on my big boy.  I haven't really discussed it, but the little dude has a speech delay.  He's just hit the 2 1/2 year mark, and since there hasn't been any great leaps in development, I went ahead and scheduled an evaluation for him.  Of course, now that I've done that, he's suddenly trotting out short sentences and names and a new understanding of communication.  We're still getting him evaluated, but I don't have the same worries I did before.  He's also transitioning to a real cup, instead of a sippy with a straw.  I really have to let go of my issues with him getting messy, lol.  He's been climbing like crazy, and managed to do playground equipment all by himself.  I even had to buy him fall clothes in a 3T!  I know it doesn't seem like much, but he just suddenly seems so much older to me.  The Big Dude and I were getting misty-eyed last night looking at his oddly large clothes, wondering where our baby went.  I'm even starting to entertain the notion of (whimpers) preschool.  Nothing at all wrong with preschool, of course--I taught 3's and pre-K kids for a decade--but I never thought he'd be getting old enough for it!  How did all my mom friends handle the realization that their baby isn't such a baby anymore?

As far as the fun freebies go, I have a lot to tell you about!  I've been using two sites, House Party and Vocalpoint.  House Party allows you to register to host a sponsored party for your family and friends.  I registered today for two different parties, one featuring pizza made with Johnsonville sausage, and the other one with board games!  If you're selected, you'll be sent a package with everything you need.  For example, the game party will get you two free board games, coupons for discounts on the games for your guests, recipes, napkins, drink stirrers, etc.  I've been to a few, and they were really fun!  A Fresh Wave party got me a goody bag with 6 different air fresheners, and a Breakstone party had coupons for discounts on Breakstone products, a cutting board, and some yummy food.  Best part is, it's all free!

Vocalpoint is different, no parties are required.  You'll receive different merchandise (or a coupon for the item free), and you'll be asked to fill out a survey or blog about your experience with them.  So far, I've gotten free salad, and I'm being sent the new Swiffer duster next.  As soon as I get to the store to get my salad, I probably will briefly blog about it, just because I want to keep the freebies coming.  Also, keep an eye on Suave's Facebook page, they've been talking about running the free product giveaway again!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

This past week has been a total waste for me, in the blogging/social life/general friendliness department.  I don't know what my damage was, but I just couldn't bring myself to want to go out the door.  Any words in my head would dry up the minute I tried to blog it out.  I don't think I was depressed, but I was certainly anti-social.  All I wanted to do was hide out indoors with my Dudes and watch trashy TV.  (Speaking of-Jersey Shore's back!)  I finally got over myself, just in time for us all to come down with various tummy woes.  One missed birthday party and two ruined outfits later, things are now back to normal, and I may have things to say again!

I know I had planned to post a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, but B. kind of beat me to the punch with her recipe.  So, if you want to chip it up, fold in 3/4 to 1 c. of chocolate chips right before pouring it into the pan.  I used 1 c. and thought it was a little too chocolatey, which means I really must have been out of it last week, because there is no such thing as too much chocolate.

The mini-preschool project was put on hold for the last week or so, in the name of helping my sister and her family get settled.  Things are still moving forward on it-the felt board is done, the magnetic boards have had a work out, and today's goals are homemade play dough and getting a line for drying art projects hung up.  I still need to get the chalkboards finished, but that might not happen this week-between agreeing to some extended child care for my niece today, going out of town, a Crew game, and hosting a birthday party, I'm not sure when I'll get it all done!

I was introduced to a concept today that I probably could have used this past week when my attitude was in serious need of adjustment.  It's called a "love bomb", and while it seems to mainly be recommended for use with children who are going through a traumatic time (a death, divorce, etc.) or are having behavioral issues, I think it's something that can be used any time you think the child (or adult) in your life needs a boost.  You pretty much just spoil the person in question for a day, or a few hours-spend undivided time with your child.  Play their games, do something fun, give them some treats.  The focus isn't meant to be on money spent, or how lavish you make the time together, but on making your child feel like they are important to you.  I suppose the idea sounds kind of obvious, or maybe even counterproductive-spoiling your child?  What??  But I have yet to see a child spoiled for life by one day of ice cream for dinner.  Jeffrey's getting some love bombing on Friday.  He's had a hard time dealing with suddenly having all these other kids to compete with, and he's been acting out on it.  So he gets an all-access pass to mommy and daddy for the day, along with a trip to a pretty cool children's museum, and an ice-cream parlor.  I know it's not a long-term solution for his sudden desire to smack any child that gets too close, but I'm hoping it'll help "reset" things for him before the birthday party invasion.  Besides, my chores will still be there at the end of the day, but my little boy won't always be.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday: Good, Bad and the Ugly

I'm back!  I survived a 10 hour car trip with my lovely boys alone twice this week.  We went on vacation up north to visit friends but dh couldn't go this time.  So I drove the boys and we all managed to not kill each other in the car, which is very good in my book.  Dh stayed home and worked on painting the house since there were no kids underfoot.  He got almost all of it done which makes me so happy.





My house is slowly starting to smell like banana bread that's in the oven.  I tried a new recipe this time and I hope it turns out good.  I got it from Simply Recipes and it really was easy to make.


Banana Bread Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Method

No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Yield: Makes one loaf.



The bad is that one of my son's brought back a fever with him from vacation and has now passed it on to the other kid.  We are on day three of 100+ temps for him, but he is not feeling real sick which means he is bored.  He's had to miss two birthday parties this weekend because of it so he's not thrilled at all.

And the ugly today goes to my poor friend and fellow blogger K who is home really sick with her family.  She's had a rough few days and I hope she gets well soon.

B

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Must...sleep...

K. here, holding down the fort while B. is off on vacay.  I had all sorts of nice intentions for posting this weekend-I was going to update on the homemade preschool project, and do a cooking post (with pics!).  However, the reason for no posts, and the reason for my uncontrollable yawning, is because we helped my sister and her family move over the weekend.  They're now living just 2 buildings away from us.  It's a good thing that we all get along!  I'm very happy they're up here now.  It's a fresh start that they've needed for a while.

Anyhoo, the move gave me reason to be grateful for my wee stockpile, because they needed so many basics!  Paper towels, cleaning supplies, toothpaste, shampoo, trash bags, etc., etc.  I snuck in to their apartment Friday night (well, I didn't sneak, they gave us a key.) and stocked up their cabinets.  I put post it notes saying "Open Me!" all over the place, and apparently they had a great time the next day checking out all their loot.  I spent much of Saturday either watching all 5 kids (only 1 was mine!), or fetching things.  I fetched food, drinks, RCA gender converters, light bulbs, laundry, quarters for the laundry...it was a long, sweaty day, but it was worth it.

While I was staggering around the apartment today in a sleep-deprivation haze, I realized I do have something besides cooking and kids to blog about-Christmas!  I know, I know, too soon.  But I realized this year that, by shopping early and watching sales, I could get most of my gifts on the cheap.  I'm going to try to take it a bit further, and try to plan ahead for all of it.  The cleaning, the cards, the cooking, everything.  Hopefully, assuming that my innate slacktitude doesn't kill my idea before it can take off, I'll be posting a comprehensive plan in the next couple of months, just in time for the holiday season.  But I do have two tips for early gift shopping.  First, for all the kids on your list, now is the time that Target starts to clearance out toys.  It varies from store to store, but it seems to be around the end of July.  I've picked up a few things that way-for example, a board game for $3.  But what if you want something a little offbeat to give as a gift?  Where do you go when the stores fail you?  Try Heartsy!  It's like Groupon for Etsy.  It gives you deep discounts on a wide range of products, including bath and body, jewelry, clothing, toys, home decor, and food.  I blogged a while back about a gorgeous necklace and some fabulous shower scrub I was given for my birthday, and they were from Etsy sellers that were featured on Heartsy.  Check them out, and sign up for their emails.  If you become a VIP member, you'll get even better discounts!

Hope you all had great weekends, and here's to a week of taking it easy!