Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Curried Shrimp with Rice

Adapted from Real Simple magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 diced bell pepper (I use red for contrast)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup white rice
kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/2 cup fresh basil (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic, peppers and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the rest of the garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pan and cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes. Fold in the basil. Serve over rice.

My kids usually don't like curry dishes but this one is very mild, and they loved it.

Chicken Piazza (sort of)

I took this from Mr Food Cooks Pasta but changed it so much he probably wouldn't even recognize it (but would hopefully appreciate my improvisations:)

1 1/2 pounds chunks of chicken
2 cloves garlic
3 diced bell peppers (I used yellow and orange)
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Heat olive oil in skillet. Cook the cubed chicken until no longer pink on outside. Remove chicken, add garlic and peppers and heat for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken broth, wine, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add chicken and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve over pasta. 

iPhone and Mommy apps

For a long time I put off getting an iPhone because I loved my Palm Centro. It wasn't fancy and didn't really have any apps but it was really sturdy and withstood a ton of abuse from my kids before it finally died. Last spring I made the switch to the iPhone 4 and now I wonder why I waited as long as I did. I am a list lover at heart and can't live without this wonderful device that I occasionally use to make actual phone calls :)

I don't have any games on my phone as I don't want my kids playing with it too much (I don't want them to break it) but I have a lot of apps that make being a Mom much easier. I use the Blogger app a lot, to write on the go and then I edit or add links from my home computer.

Cozi is my new favorite. Last year I would complain to my husband that I never was able to take time to myself as I didn't have access to his calendar. Now we have a family calendar on Cozi and he puts any evening or weekend appointments on it. I've added a couple of "Mom's Day Off" to it, and plan to try for at least one a month.

SplashShopper is a good grocery list app, but it was better when it was on the Palm. Still it saves all the items you have bought in the past so you can just check off items as needed instead of having to rewrite it every time.

Pinterest is a new favorite.  It's great for recipes, crafts, decorating ideas, things to do with the kids, and just something fun and inspiring to look at when waiting for kids at pick up.

I'm always on the lookout for new apps and wish I knew how to program because I have an idea for one that would make life easier.  I would call it "onestopshop" or something like that. My kids are pretty good about coming with me to run errands but their patience wears thin the more times they have to get in and out of the car (as does mine with all the buckling and unbuckling). With this app you would enter your errands, and then it would find the strip mall where you could do the most (or all) of your errands in one place. For example, if you need to go to Target, the supermarket, Bestbuy and a bookstore - would you rather drive to 4 different places or go to one place get one cart and hit all the stores in one go and be done with it. I'd even be willing to drive further if it would make me more efficient.  At this point I know what stores are at most of the strip malls around me, but it took a few years to figure it out.

Off to a good start

This week's project is Super Bowl party prep. Ok, maybe that's cheating a little but I figure some parts of the house will get organized as a result. Case in point I took my husband's board certificate to be reframed today and will pick it up tomorrow - cross that off week 11.

I did my monthly Costco run and picked up some things at Bed & Bath, and took my son for a much needed haircut.

After picking up my daughter at school I did a load of laundry while the kids played. While my son took his nap, I did some cleaning - the kids bathroom top to bottom, and dusted and vacuumed kids rooms and our bedroom. All in a little over an hour. Not too bad. I figure if I wash all the floors upstairs tomorrow and do a quick clean of our bathroom I'll be done up there and can focus on the areas where people will actually be for the party.

The best part after all that boring stuff was I had time to sit with my daughter and talk about her day and help her with her homework will my son napped.

It was pretty warm today so the kids played outside for a little while before it got too dark.  I took this picture while standing out there.  It was actually a crescent moon, but I guess the iPhone camera does have its limits :)

Finally after the kids were in bed, my husband and I watched Alcatraz.  I'm not a fan of science fiction or JJ Abrams but this has a pretty basic concept.  When Alcatraz closed in the 60s and all the prisoners were transferred to other facilities, but the premise on this show is that they actually disappeared without a trace and are now reappearing in the present.  Once you buy into that concept the rest of the show is kind of like Journeyman which I used to like but was cancelled after one season.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hamburger Stroganoff

I've tried lots of stroganoff recipes using regular meat but it always ends up too dry.  This version using ground beef is always good.

From 365 Great 20 Minute Recipes

2 tbsp butter
1 medium chopped onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 lb ground sirloin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
1 1/4 cup beef broth
1 1/2 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
2/3 cup sour cream

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms, and cook stirring frequently until onion wilts and mushrooms give off liquid and are lightly browned, about 5 minutes

Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring frequently, until meat loses pink color, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over meat mixture, raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes to cook flour. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Season with Worchestershire.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring, until sour cream is just warmed through, about 30 seconds. Do not boil or sauce may curdle. Sprinkle with dill before serving. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.



3 pound lean ground beef
2 small chopped onions
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 small cans diced jalapeno peppers (hot)
3- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
3- 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained
3- 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 tablepoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 tsp garlic powder
4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp Bobs Big Boy Seasoning Salt

Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Dairy sour cream (optional)


1. In a 3-quart saucepan cook and stir ground beef, jalapenos, chopped onion, and the garlic over medium heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.

2. Stir in tomato sauce, drained beans, undrained tomatoes, chili powder, basil, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Bobs Big Boy Seasoning salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. To serve, ladle chili into bowls. If desired, top each serving with cheese, and/or sour cream. Makes 12 main-dish servings.

This is based on the Better Homes and Gardens recipe, but we've changed it quite a bit. We make this every year for our Super Bowl party and it has evolved quite a lot since the first year.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Busy weekend

Friday I went with my oldest daughter to her Brownie meeting and ice skate. I had to get a sitter for the younger two since my husband was on call but since I don't get a lot of one on one time with her it was worth it.

They had pizza at the rink and then one of the Moms gave a presentation on Greece.  They learn about different countries at each meeting and have previously learned about Jordan and Japan. One of the Moms is Greek gave a quick presentation and then they all got to write their names in Greek.

Only 2 of the troop leaders had skates and I was the only Mom who came to skate that was not a leader. I took another woman's daughter for one lap around while she got her skates on, and then a girl who is friends with my daughter asked if she could join us as her parents had just dropped her off. She was a little better than my daughter but not so much that it mattered. It made a little harder for me to coach my daughter since I had to watch the other girl too, but they both had fun. She hadn't skated in almost a year so was a bit unsteady in the beginning but was doing better by the end. There were a couple of girls who were really good, one of them was a total show off though which bugged me. She's someone who my daughter has said is pretty bossy in school and I totally see it. My daughter was probably in the middle in terms of abilities, better than some, not as good as others. We stayed about an hour and a half and were on the ice almost the whole time. We only fell once and that was because she started to stumble right when someone distracted me, but we were both fine.

Saturday morning my husband took my daughters on their overnight to the water park along with their Indian Princess tribe. I took my son to Firezone to go play. It was our first time there and it was smaller than I had expected but good for an hour (which is the length of the drop off time). The kids get a little firefighter coat to wear and there is a full size fire truck and ambulance to climb on, a firepole, a dispatch center, a couple of ladders they can pull up and down and a little house where they have a smoke machine blowing smoke and the kids use the hose attached to the hydrant outside to put out the fire. They have a firefighter there who does a little presentation at the end putting on all his gear do the kids can see it all up close. As we left he got a little fire badge sticker to wear.

We had lunch at Jason's deli and then headed home. I had already decided that he and I would watch a movie before he went to bed and for the past couple of days he had said he wanted to watch Cars. Then today he decided that since he had already seen Cars he wanted to watch Nemo instead. So after a quick dinner and a bath, we settled in to watch the movie. At first he was sitting in his chair and I was on the sofa, then it got to the part where Marlin and Dory meet Bruce the shark and he started to get a little scared, so I told him he could sit with me which he did, all snuggled up for the rest of the movie :) I think quite a bit of it was over his head, but he still seemed to like it.

After reading a quick story I put him to bed and then I finished the curtain for the storage closet. It looks pretty good for a temporary fix.. I watched Green Zone and went through our Super Bowl party supplies to see what I need to get and then gave myself a quick pedicure since all the polish was chipped off anyway.

So all together I tended quite a few of my trees the past two days :)
- quality one on one time with 2 of the 3 kids, I'll paint with my younger daughter Monday afternoon
- finished one weekly project right on time, so started the next a day early
- took care of myself with the pedicure and movie that I wanted to see

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Catching up

The appraiser came today to evaluate our house for the refi. Luckily he was scheduled to come at 12, so I was able to do some cleaning before he arrived. I vacuumed all of the second floor and the kitchen and dining room before he arrived. He was a nice guy and took lots of pictures, he said he'd look up the comps this weekend and have the appraisal ready by Monday. Unfortunately he came right at lunch time so I wasn't really able to have my son clear his dishes from lunch (he did do it later at snack and dinner time though).

Since the kids were slow cleaning up the other day, I put some of their toys in "time out". Today my son came to me and asked for one of the toys back, I told him that he needed to earn them back. I told him that he needed to help his sisters clean up the toys tonight of he wanted it back. He agreed and put his hands behind his back and sulked off doing his little granddad walk. Very cute.

After the appraiser left I cranked some tunes and did a top down cleaning of the powder room, guest bath and master bath. I timed myself and the powder room only took about 5 minutes, the guest bath took 20 minutes and the master took 30. Not bad. I figure if I take care of the kids bath and the kitchen tomorrow I'll be back in track.

After school and my daughter's piano lesson we all had a snack and got out the Crispix and Ritz for some food play. I started with having the kids smush the crackers and cereal, and he was fine with that. He even licked one of the Crispix and held it in his mouth no problem. He even picked up one of the Ritz and had us all pretend we were pirates by using it as an eyepatch. After a bit of that, I brought out some of the wet stuff and tried to get him to put some on his Ritz. He wouldn't do it. Finally I put some on for him, and then he sprinkled dome of the dry on top. Meanwhile my daughters were getting into it, pretending they were making pies with frosting and sprinkles. Again I had to slow them down and explain that we need to take small steps. Although at this point, he's doing well with the dry stuff, he just needs to get comfortable with wet stuff. Hopefully we'll get to that part soon.

For dinner tonight I made shaved Parmesan chicken and rice pilaf. It was a recipe I found on Jules's Diner and for the first time ever both kids asked for more chicken. Usually they fill up on the carbs and grumble about eating the rest. Tonight it was the reverse, they complained about the nuts in the pilaf and asked for more chicken.

Tonight I met with a neighbor to coordinate the activities for our school's Screen Free Week. We've got some good ideas for each night, just need to do some coordinating. Ideally, the PTO would like us to have most of the details nailed down before spring break.

I ironed and pinned the long sides of the curtain for the storage room, so can hopefully finish that tomorrow night.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Occupational Therapist

She spent about 45 minutes at our house. She did some of the same tests the developmental therapist had done (puzzles, coloring, stacking blocks, threading a necklace, having him copy what she built out of blocks, etc).

Then she wanted to see him eat. Unfortunately he had just eaten before she arrived so wasn't really hungry but finally agreed to have some "wildebeest" :) She could see that he was fine with that too so then asked that I get a plate and some crackers to see him play with the food.

She had him spoon some of the bananas on to the plate and then try to stand the crackers up in it. He very carefully put the crackers in the bananas but didn't want to touch them so didn't really stand them up, just kind of put them close and let go. She tried to get him to scoop up the bananas using the crackers but he didn't really like that since they were mostly coated in bananas.

Bottom line, she didn't think he needs full occupational therapy but recommends that we join the feeding group which will start in a couple of weeks (which she helps lead). She also recommended that since he does so well with eating the things he does like to start putting his food on real plates and then also put some regular finger food (or small bites of whatever we are eating) on it too. The idea being the more he is exposed to it, the quicker he should develop a tolerance. She also recommended that once the meal is over he clean up the bite size items by putting them in one if the throw away cups and clearing the table. Again the more he feels like he is doing what everyone else does the quicker he will progress.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'll start tomorrow, I swear

I spent the weekend figuring out the best plan of attack for the cleaning schedule and had great intentions for starting today. I was supposed to dust the whole house and clean the two bathrooms upstairs. What did I do? None of it.

But, I did make some progress on my project of the week. I got some fabric at Joanns for the storage closet "door". I also finished entering my list of weekly projects into this blog and then I updated the layout of the blog itself, moved some stuff around. Overall it think it looks much better, still basic, but that's fine.

My daughter had her first Junior Great Books meeting today. It's an optional lunch time book club that meets once a week for 8 weeks. They are assigned a little extra reading and some homework every week. The classes are taught by parents (sometimes former teachers, but also just parents who want to be involved somehow with the school). They read and discussed the Princess and the Frog (the original version not the Disnefied one). There are only 3 other kids in it, all from pm kindergarten so she didn't know them well but still had fun.

My son is still obsessed with the Lion King and insists that he is Kiara or Simba and my role changes from Nala and Rafiki. He likes to make me Rafiki so I can pick him up and "present" him to the rest of the animals like Rafiki does in the movie with baby Simba. He has taken to referring to our house as Pride Rock :) He even refers to his food as wildebeest (bananas), zebra (berry banana) and antelope (pear squash).

I love that he has such a great imagination, but I have to admit I am getting tired of him getting upset with me when I call him by his proper name and not whatever character he is playing.

Tomorrow an occupational therapist to evaluate our little man. We'll see how that goes. I'm kind of hoping that they say that he doesn't also need that kind of therapy. I know this stuff is all important but I miss my long days to do errands and other things (or even just stay home and play).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicken Dijon

I used to have a recipe I liked from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Unfortunately when I bought a newer edition and tossed my old one (which had fallen apart) I didn't realize this recipe wasn't in it.

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine
1/2 cup light cream (or milk with a bit more butter added)
chicken broth , plus pan juices to make one cup
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup white wine (or extra stock)

1 Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the onion powder, lemon pepper and salt.

2 Sauté the chicken in the butter for about 20 min, or till cooked through and tender. Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm.

3 Measure the pan juices and enough chicken broth to make 1 cup liquid. Return the stock mixture to the pan and add the wine.

4 Stir together the light cream and the flour till smooth. Add to the broth, cook and stir till smooth, thickened and bubbly.

5 Stir in the Dijon mustard , stir till smooth.

6 Return the chicken to the pan, or serve the sauce separately.

Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/chicken-dijon-429009#ixzz1kEYhRPNM


It's official I'm hooked. I knew I would be which is why I put off signing up, but I see now how it can also keep you organized and save time.

I used to be the type who when I get a magazine I would read it cover to cover and rip out any articles or ads I wanted to remember instead of keeping the whole thing. My Mom has piles of magazines everywhere that she saves just for one page, it bugs me (not sure why, it just does). The problem was that aside from recipes (which I do have a good system for) those ripped out pages never had a good home, and I would end forgetting about or losing them.

Bookmarks are great but I had bookmarks on my phone, two computers and the iPad. Not very practical. I tried using a page on this blog for keeping track of recipes I want to try but since the mobile version of blogger doesn't make it easy to add links, that didn't really work either. Anything I wanted to link I had to do from a real computer. I hope they fix that feature soon.

I was very happy when I got the pinning bookmarklet downloaded to my phone yesterday. Now I can capture anything I see on a website that I want to keep.

Also, if I see something in a magazine I just go to that company's website and pin whatever it is. I'm already at the point that I get annoyed if companies don't make things pinable. For example, yesterday I found a craft I thought would be fun for the kids in Parents magazine. I went to their website and tried to find it and couldn't. So instead I just took a picture of the craft and the instructions with my phone and uploaded it. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

At this point I'm only following a couple of people and haven't added much just repinned. I have to figure out how to watermark my pictures so I can start uploading my own stuff.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fun in the Snow

Since yesterday ended up being not a very fun day for the kids, today we went out and played in the snow.  They would have liked to go to the big sledding hill and use their toboggans but since my husband was working it's a little hard to do by myself, so we bundled up and went in the backyard and pulled each other around on their sleds and made snow angels. 


Yes there really are kids in there.  If you look closely you can see a nose on the top one :)  

While they played I took some snow shots.  I always love the way snow looks when it falls/clings on different surfaces.....

Snow Day

Well, sort of...the snow only started after I dropped my daughters off at school. We drove so I could do a couple of quick errands before going home. Then at 1045 I got a call from the school. My oldest wasn't feeling well. She said her tummy hurt and the nurse had her in the bathroom in case she threw up.

I bundled up my son and went and picked her up. She was sitting on the bed in the nurse's office looking all kinds of pathetic. She had not thrown up but said around 930 she had started feeling bad and her teacher sent her to the nurses office. On the way out I saw my youngest daughter's teacher who asked if we wanted to me her too so I wouldn't have to come back (especially since it had just started snowing and she only had 45 min left anyway). So we did.

We got everyone home and my oldest up to bed. She didn't have a fever but also told me that before she went to the nurses office her ears started ringing. I asked her if she had gotten light headed. She didn't know the term but once I told her what it meant she agreed, that her vision had gotten blurry and dark. I told her what to do next time.

She was home about 30 minutes before she did actually throw up, and spent most of the afternoon resting in her bed. So it was good she came home.

My son got a nice long nap that afternoon since I didn't have to leave for pickup. I did do a bit of shoveling and snow blowing, before it got dark . About 4 inches at that point and still falling. I unplugged the Christmas lights :( Admittedly we were among the last in town to have them turned on, and it does cost a lot in electricity to keep them on.

Back inside I had a beer and played Jenga for a while. First with my youngest daughter and then the older one came down to join us. Resting had made her feel better but it got kind of boring once she read all the new books she had in her room. She just finished the new Magic Tree House book about Abe Lincoln so was telling us all sorts of facts about him.

Dinner was tortellini with Alfredo sauce for my husband and I, plain for my daughter and a couple of chicken nuggets for the sick one.

As I was cleaning up, I saw that I had received an invite to Pinterest and started setting up the account in my phone. For some reason you have to do the initial setup from a FB or Twitter account (I guess to facilitate the following) but I didn't want to do it that way, since it's more to link to this blog that I want it. I unfollowed any names I recognized and then played around with it after the kids were in bed. I can definitely see how it can get addicting. I found some cool kid crafts, a couple of recipes, and some home organization/cleaning tips in a fairly short time. Those last ones will come in handy since I had to let our cleaning lady go today. She's been great and I hated doing it, but it's hard to justify $100 every other week when we have $90000 in debt. I kept trying to rationalize having her come one last time to give me a base line clean before I implement whatever new cleaning plan I come up with, but again that doesn't make sense either. So I figure this weekend I'll come up with/start the plan. Hopefully I can give the kids a couple of more useful chores too.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Feeding Therapy session #2

The high chair has been packed away and replaced by the booster seat. my son has been sitting at the table with the rest of us for the past week. He loves the electric toothbrush I got - Thomas, of course. I started by lightly rubbing it on his hand, then cheeks, and around his face, then lips and finally inside his mouth. First on his teeth but also gums, tongue and inside of cheeks. He had no problem with any of it, and pretty quickly asked to do it himself. In fact, I had to take it away as he was walking all over with it, and I'm always afraid that he'll trip while it's in his mouth and get hurt.

Yesterday, I set him and his sisters up to play with food. I gave each of them a plate with some Cheerios on it. First I had them line them up to make a road, then train tracks. Once I saw he was fine with touching the dry ones, I had them each smush a couple of Cheerios. We pretended it was sand and then I added a little of his left over baby food to be the water at the beach. We took some of the whole Cheerios and used them as people and had them "dive" in to the water by pushing them in. The idea being to start with just touching something dry, then smushing it to change the texture, play with the texture, and then combine the dry with the wet to get comfortable with the wet texture. He did pretty well with all of it and played along. My daughters of course want to speed things along and asked if we could use cheese or bananas instead. I tried to explain that even though those are soft, that's not the direction we are going in yet. Lots of baby steps before we actually get to the real food.

This morning after his drop off class and a quick lunch the therapist came back. She started in our family room, first using the same brush as last time rubbing it all over his body to get him used to different sensations. He giggled through most of it. Then aw did the monster faces and wiggling his lips. Then she does a thing where she rubs her fingers all around the inside of his mouth pretending she's looking for an animal. She never does find it as the sneaky thing goes down his throat to his belly :)

Then she got a kind of hard rubbery toothbrush and dipped it in Pixy Stick powder and rubbed it around his lips, mouth and his tongue, and had him bite on it. She does everything 5 times, and he was fine with it the first couple of times and seemed to like the flavor, but by the 3rd time he was getting tired of it. But again she did a total of 5 times. Then she let him play with a puzzle - he chose one of the fishing puzzles with the little fishing pole. Then it was time to get in the kitchen and play.

He climbed up in his chair and we got out Ritz crackers, Cheerios, apple sauce, and vanilla yogurt. We started with the Ritz, first rolling it around on the plate, then smushing them with our fingers and then crushing them with a palm or fist. She had him take one of the whole ones and put it on his cheeks, head, nose to get used to the feel. Then she had him balance it on his nose and then pretend to sneeze and look down real fast to try and get it to land on the plate. He did fine with that.

Then she had him try and hold the Ritz in his mouth. It took a little encouragement to get him to do it, but he finally did and then spit it out. The second time he tried, he used his teeth instead of his lips and accidentally but off a small piece. He started to get scared and cry and she told him it was ok to spit it out, which he did. After calming down a little she had him do it again and he was fine. Then we held the Ritz in our mouths and then balanced some Cheerios on it, before dropping them down on the plate the next time again he bit off s little and got more scared and stared to cry. She had him look up and that got him to spit it out.  While he did rub off what was on his face, he never picked out the piece of cracker that had gotten in his mouth, so he must have swallowed it. She had him do it one more time, so that his final memory of the exercise wasn't a negative one.  She also explained to me that if he starts to gag on something it's best to startle him a little to for him to spit it out. It's a fine line though cause as my daughter said when I told her that later, sometimes if you get rally startled you inhale really fast and that would maybe make him swallow hard/choke.

As a little reward for his efforts, she let him play with a puzzle while we set up some more stuff.  Time to play with wet things too.  She put some vanilla yogurt and apple sauce on her plate, and had him scoop some on his. She drew a circle in hers with a spoon and asked him to do the same. She picked up some of the smushed crackers and sprinkled them on top.  Still he played along. Finally she asked him to mix up the crackers into the yogurt or applesauce. He hesitated quite a bit but finally agreed to do it together with her. Once he does something wet that he doesn't like, she quickly wipes it off and says, "No big deal". The idea being you don't want to torment the poor kid by forcing them to keep it on their fingers if they don't like the sensation, and teaching them that they can just wipe it off if they feel like.

At that point her had pretty much had enough, and our hour was up any. The Early Intervention group is also sending a Occupational Therapist to our house on Tuesday to evaluate him, and I asked her about that.  I feel like he's fine when it comes to motor skills, it's just the sensation he doesn't like and I guess it's more of a behavioral problem than a developmental. She said that most times, she works hand in hand with an occupational therapist as they work with him to get comfortable with different textures of non- food items, as a parallel therapy. They both follow something called Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Feeding therapy. More on that after she comes on Tuesday.

She asked me to do more of the same activities with him before she comes back next week, and was pretty happy with his progress so far. The dry foods no longer freak him out. It's now the wet stuff he needs encouragement on. She recommended sneaking a little hard stuff in his food (ground up Cheerios in yobaby for example), and increasing the amount as he tolerates it. The first time, so little that he can't see it, but maybe tastes it, and then increase it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Skimming the Treetops, Hoping We Don't Crash and Burn

While my kids were organizing the mess in the basement, I spent time getting our budget typed up into an excel spreadsheet so my husband and I could have the dreaded money talk that night. I put all our bills in one column with due dates.  Once you add all that up we have $242 left for the month. At this point we would not have eaten, or spent money on anything other than bills. He has received his first paycheck of the year but since we just submitted the withholding allowance change two days before that I am hoping that the adjustment hadn't been made yet and the subsequent checks will give us a little more in pocket.

We agreed that trying a refi is the best bet to lower our biggest monthly payments and then have more money to put to other things - like food :) I am meeting with the bank on Thursday to find out what we qualify for.  I'm hoping we will be able to cash out some so that we can make a lump payment to a credit card, but based on what a friend who is a realtor said about comp values around us, I'm not real hopeful.

Coupling the refi with a possible loan from his 401k to pay off the credit cards with the highest interest rates are definitely the way to go. We can't pay it all in one fell swoop since our total credit card debt is $90,000.  And I realize that taking a loan is just a way of converting the debt to a lower interest rate, but with lower minimum payments and a lower interest rate we will be able to actually break even each month (which we are not doing now). In past years we've received a pretty sizeable tax refund, but I know we can't count on that this year. I have already scheduled our meeting with our accountant so that we will know what that number is ASAP. Hopefully it's enough that we can set up a little emergency fund (both of our cars are getting older and his is overdue for maintenance, mine is due in 2000 miles) and pay a little off one of the cards.

As my husband said at this point our little airplane hasn't crashed yet, but we are definitely skimming the treetops. We were lucky that his senior partner gave him an advance at the end of the year which is basically keeping us aloft right now, but that will most likely run out at the end of February.

Still scary but I do feel better that everything is now out in the open, he is aware of all the stresses I've been hiding from him - stupidly cause look where it got us. He has been surprisingly calm about it all, as much as I know it pains him. I do feel especially bad because at this point I can't do anything to bring in any extra money to help. With my limited skill set there aren't a lot of jobs I can do, and the ones I can would require me getting child care for my son. By the time I pay for that, it would defeat the purpose. Hopefully once he's in pre-school next year, I'll be able to figure out something.  I need to go back and look at those freelance job sites I found before Christmas and see if there are any good fits. It's just hard as I would need to find something that I would be able to do after the kids are in bed.

Boring but productive day

We finally got snow last week and we were hoping to take the kids sledding this past weekend.  Unfortunately, Saturday was too cold and then Sunday my husband had to do an alumni interview at 1pm, so we didn't get to do it.  The kids did still end up playing in our backyard for over an hour.

Since they had a day off from school I had hoped that we could go yesterday but didn't promise anything as we had a plumber coming at 815 to fix lots of things around the house - replace the powder room faucet (about time after having no hot water for about 2 years in the bathroom we use most), fix two running toilets and figure out why the guest toilet overflows so easily.  The first things didn't take him too long, the last one took a while as he started by trying to rod the toilet, then the drain pipe by the boiler (which overflowed at one point with stinky sewage, but luckily didn't reach the carpet) and then finally the line to the sewer.  He kept coming in with bigger and longer rods, and finally had to call a co-worker to bring a rod big enough for the sewer line. After 5.5 hours and $1000 all our plumbing issues are fixed. Unfortunately the toilet was clogged with panty liners, makeup remover towelettes and other things that the manufacturers may say are flush-able but are not. I'll have to talk to my parents and in-laws to let them know that whatever they flushed is not ok.

I want to come up with some little sign to put up before our Super Bowl party so that it doesn't happen again.  I googled it and found one that said "Clogging our toilet is a serious issue, please do not flush ANYTHING but toilet tissue".  I figure if I type it up in a fun font, and put it in a frame, people may actually notice, and hopefully heed the warning. I also read on a bunch of different sites that you are actually not supposed to flush tampons. Never knew that, the manufacturers always make it seem like you can.

Since he didn't leave til just before 2 it was too late to go sledding. Since we had had to move most of the toys out of the way so the plumber could get to the sewer access, my oldest daughter decided today would be a great day to organize the toys. She's totally on board with the one project a week :)

We got the big things put back where they belonged, and then they went through the dressup bin, only got rid of a couple of things, but enough that when they folded the rest of the stuff to put it back, the lid actually fits and closes :)

Then they emptied the toy chest so they could sort through what they want to keep and what can go to Kids Sale. Again, they didn't get rid of a lot, but they did get everything organized and the lid closes :). The only thing left to tackle is the game closet which really isn't that bad, just a couple of games that don't fit on shelves. We can tackle that another time. I feel bad that we didn't do anything fun, so promised that this weekend we will do something fun.

New recipes

This weekend was all about new recipes. Saturdays are my husband's night to choose dinner. Usually he doesn't bother and I end up picking something I know he likes, but this week he decided he wanted to try a chili recipe that his Dad had given him ages ago that we had never tried. It's the recipe from Chasen's restaurant in Los Angeles and supposedly was Liz Taylor's favorite (for whatever that's worth). There are a few different versions available on line - none of which are the version I have - so I'll add it here later. The actual recipe called for 3.5 lbs of ground meat (mix of beef and pork). Since our kids don't like chili we decided to cut the recipe in half. Unfortunately my husband forgot to cut the salt in half. He tried to fix it by adding more of other spices, putting cheddar cheese and sour cream on the final product, which helped. It definitely has potential but I haven't decided yet which we're going to use for the Super Bowl party.

While he was making the chili I tried out the Dad's Favorite Fudge recipe. It didn't turn out as creamy and chocolatey as promised or as I had hoped but that was probably my fault. Next time I'll get a candy thermometer and use the soft ball rest. Still it wasn't bad, I mean it is chocolate after all.

I also made this ridiculously cheesy and very good Charleston Cheese Dip.  It was a big hit.  Of course, being cheese topped with bacon how could it not be?  I'll definitely be making it for the Super Bowl.

So one winner, and two that are worth a second try while paying a little more attention.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Early Intervention - Feeding Therapist

The feeding specialist came to our house for the first time on Thursday. Since she was scheduled to arrive at 1145 and she is a feeding therapist, I purposely didn't feed my son before she arrived. Apparently I should have. Oops. For her purposes at this stage, building tolerance is about play not actually eating. Eating will happen once he has developed a comfort level with the feel and smell of the foods.

While she got settled I gave him a container of bananas as she was interested in seeing how he eats. She noticed that he does suckle on the food (looks kind of like chewing but not really since it's all puréed). I told her of his recent progress with the Hershey bar and licking spills off his fingers, which she agreed were good signs.

Then she did some muscle stretches with him. One she called "monster faces" and she wants me to do with him, to help build up his cheek muscles. I hope that doesn't mean he's going to lose his soft squishy cheeks:( You put your hands on either side of their face starting with the bottom of your hand by their ears and slowly and firmly move the hands forward, squeezing gently the whole way until your fingertips touch by their mouth. Then she did something where she moved her fingers around his mouth inside and outside his lips.

She encouraged that I get him an electric toothbrush and use that on his checks lips and inside his mouth to get him used to the sensation of different things in his mouth.

He has been sitting in a high chair which after three kids the seat back is a little loose so often falls back and is more reclined than it should be even at its most upright position. She suggested getting him in a booster at the table as your body should be at 90 degree angles when you eat (ie back straight, knees bent in front of you and feet flat on the floor) Obviously that last one is tough for him, but once she left I did put the booster in an extra sets. Also if he's actually sitting at the table then he feels more like part of the family at meal times and may feel more inclined to joining us in eating what we are.

Then it was time to get messy and play with food. She asked for some Cheerios and used some of his puréed bananas and came up with different games to get him to touch them. She had him build a wall using Cheerios as bricks and the banana as glue. Then she made a little puddle of the bananas and then put tried to get him to push the Cheerios in it (fish jumping into the ocean). Then when she could tell he didn't really like getting sticky fingers anymore she took some plain Cheerios and had him lift them like a crane and drop them into her hand or his hand. Then since so much of children accepting things has to do with lateral thinking, she asked me if I had any other round crackers. I found some Sesame Street crackers in the cabinet that are small circles a little smaller than a quarter Elmo faces and Big Bird faces. She used them to go through the bananas and try to get him to squish them. He did for a little while, but then she and I could tell he had had enough. Overall she was there for about an hour.

She gave me a shopping list for next week and asked that his sisters and I play with food with him at least once before she comes back next Thursday, (along with getting the toothbrush). She also gave me some papers to read about feeding therapy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Just the 5 of us again

We had parents visiting from November 9th through January 11th with a two week break in the beginning of December (which I barely remember due to the holiday prep craziness and worrying that we wouldn't have a Christmas this year.)

Overall it was good to have them here, but it's nice to be back to just our little family. My husband and I both get along well with our parents and each others which definitely helps. It was great with the holiday chaos to have an adult in the house keeping an eye on the kids when I needed to run errands. While I did do some shopping with both sets, it was definitely easier to go solo. The kids enjoy spending time with their grandparents even if it is getting harder for all of them to keep up with the energy level of young kids.

Thankfully, none of the grandparents expected much in terms of activities. They were happy to just stay home. In fact at one point I felt guilty when I realized that since I had been leaving my inlaws at home when I ran errands my mother in law had not left the house in a week. I mentioned it to her, and she said it was fine, she was enjoying just being with the kids. Ok. Great, cause I gotta go out again :) My FIL got a little stir crazy so did come with me a few times.

I'm so used to getting up, getting everyone fed and dressed and doing whatever we need, I kind of forgot that unless I let people the grandparents know the plan the night before we may not leave the house till 11am which made it tough to get my son down for his nap by 130. Both Moms are the type that don't wash their hair every day so when they do it's a time consuming process of washing, drying and hot rollers. Being a wash and go girl, I don't get this, maybe some day I will but there were a couple of days when I had a plan for the day only to find out it was hair washing day. Alright, see ya, I'm going out.

It was interesting watching my MIL and my Mom interact with the kids. If I asked one of the kids to do something and my MIL heard she would immediately repeat what I had asked but in a slightly sterner voice. I know she was trying to help so I never said anything and neither did my kids, but in most cases my request was not a drop what you're doing and do what I asked kind of thing. It was more, when you finish your craft can you set the table?On the flip side, my Mom is always very concerned that she's going to step on toes or intervene when it's not her place to and there were times when I would wish she would speak up and back me up, but she would keep quiet.

The Dad's are very different too. My FIL is very hands on, loves to play with the kids, tell jokes and stories. My Dad is much more quiet and doesn't play with them at all. This totally bugs my sister as her inlaws are pretty hands on and active with her kids too. I've just accepted that this is the way he is.

So as much as I miss their company, being able to let my son nap as long as he needs because there was always an adult in the house, or not having to bring any or all kids with me if I had to run out, it's kind of nice to just be back to our own thing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012



Legos are just for boys?

Absolutely not!!!!

A few days ago I read a post by someone about girl vs boy toys and why does there need to be a difference? I can't remember who wrote it or where I found it, but the author commented on the Lego aisle at most toy stores and how there were lots of sets that would be considered "boyish" - Cars, Pirates, vehicles, etc and the girls are stuck with basic sets that included pink bricks but didn't have a theme. My oldest daughter wished for (and got) one of the pirate sets for Christmas last year and loved it.

My younger daughter is more interested in things that are traditionally girlie and wishes they would bring back the Belleville Legos. I just got the new catalog and there are some more "Friends" sets in there this time around. I'll probably get her the Heartlake Vet or Tree House for her birthday. Admittedly some of the other sets are a little too girlie for my taste but at least there is an Invention Workshop which would have been perfect for my oldest last year (she had a science birthday party) They also have a dinosaur series that I bet my oldest would love, it's never too early to buy the birthday presents, especially since I have a coupon that expires at the end of the month.

The other day she was playing with duplos with her younger brother. When it was time for his nap, he asked her to build him a beach. She said she would work on it while he was napping and he could play with it when he woke up.  I put him down for a nap and a little while later she brought me this. 

The details that she came up with crack me up.  Just to explain a little bit.  The blue is obviously the water.  The fences are to mark off the areas where kids are allowed to swim.  The red and white gate marks the deep area so kids can't go past that.  She is the little girl standing in the shallow end and the little boy holding on to one of the gates is her little brother who is practicing kicking as he wants to learn to swim.  Above him is a diving board. Bob the Builder is sitting in the lifeguard tower and he has his tools with him as sometimes the diving board breaks. In front of Bob is a small area for babies to play in the sand (she had a name for it, I don't remember).  Behind Bob on the beach are my husband and I sitting in beach chairs. 

I think it's pretty cool and they've been playing with it for a couple of days now.  

The grade school has a Lego Club and both my daughters are in it.  They meet once a month after school and the leader gives them a theme and they build stuff and at the end show their creations to the other kids.  I dropped them off the other day and bumped into a neighbor and his father on the way home.  The neighbor asked where my kids were and I told them that I had just dropped them at Lego Club.  He then introduced me to his Dad saying my two daughters go to the same school as his son.  The father then questioned why my daughters were at Lego Club.  "Is that bisexual?" he asked.  Ok, I know he meant unisex, so I didn't correct him, except to respond, "Absolutely not, all my kids love Legos". He has three grandchildren, one grandson plays with Legos all day, his sister has never been interested so he assumed Legos were a boy thing. I said I always played with Legos as a kid too, but as we were already at my house at this point, I didn't tell him that one of the Lego bins we have is one that I bought for myself long before I had kids when the Lego stores first opened in Chicago.  I would come home from work and build things. So not only are they for girls and boys there is no age limit :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Menu Planning

I started planning our meals a week at a time for many of the usual reasons

1. saving time and money by making one big trip to the store rather than daily trips
2. having more variety in our meals
3. finally forcing myself to try all those recipes I've ripped out of magazines or printed off the Internet
4. I give each member of the family one night every week where they pick the meal.

The last reason serves two purposes. I only have to come up with 4 meal ideas a week instead of 7. But more importantly, I only make one dinner each night and everyone eats it. If you don't like it, too bad, I'm not heating up chicken nuggets, just cause they don't like coq au vin. Eat the pasta and the salad and at the very least try everything on your plate. My oldest daughter has discovered that pretty much anything is edible if she sprinkles some garlic salt on it. My youngest is still finicky but once in a while surprises me. She says she doesn't like creamy sauces but cleaned her plate of hamburger stroganoff the other day.

The rules are that you have to pick a protein, a starch and a vegetable (or a meal that includes all 3). No repeating something we already had that week, or repeating what you picked the week prior. The kid choices can be a little tricky especially for my youngest daughter. When we first started this she would pick chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and carrots. She pretty much goes through a rotation of tortellini, baked ziti, and tacos, but sometimes she surprises me. This week she has asked for Bee Bim Bop.

Before menu planning we ate chicken almost every night because it's quick and easy, and most nights I wouldn't think about what to make for dinner until I opened the fridge to start making it. Since I'm not a very creative cook and still rely heavily on cookbooks, we had a lot of repeated or very similar meals.

I keep track of what we ate on my calendar which has the added benefit that if I have leftovers in the fridge, it's very easy to figure out how old they are, just check the calendar.

Monday, January 9, 2012

De Christmasing and Back to school

We spent most of the weekend packing up Christmas. Never fun but at least my Mom was here to help. My little man helped too packing away some of the non fragile ornaments.

We took the tree out last night so it can be chipped up with all the others on garbage day.

This morning was the first day back at school and we all got back to the routine pretty easily. Even my son who hasn't had a good nap in a few days (so I thought would be extra tired) got up without complaint. He even insisted on coming with me to drop off his sisters even though my parents are still in town and he could have stayed home and played.

The temperature has definitely started to dip and there was frost on the ground when we walked to school, but then when I walked my daughter home at lunch time we saw 3 robins in one tree. Seems way too early, I guess they're just as confused by the weather as the rest of us.

Girl Scout Cookies

I was never a Girl Scout and am probably the only person in America who doesn't like Girl Scout cookies. However, my daughter is a Girl Scout and selling cookies for the second time, so I will support her.

I will not have my husband sell on her behalf at his office. Even she agrees that's not fair, since she's not the one selling.

Last year she set a personal goal of 40 boxes and ended up selling 63. Her troop didn't have a group goal in mind but the girl who sold the most sold 103 boxes.

This year she raised her goal to 75 boxes and after just one weekend of selling, she has sold 119 boxes, and still wants to try a few more houses that we didn't have time for. Our neighbor also gave us her mother's phone number and suggested she call her to sell a few boxes to her so we'll probably do that this afternoon. Luckily the weather has been really good so we were able to spend about 4 hours walking around our neighborhood ringing doorbells.

Her new goal is 150 boxes (she would earn a new alarm clock). I'm not sure if she'll make it, but I'm willing to help her try. And if she gets close I would be willing to buy a couple of boxes to make up the difference.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


My son has been making small strides in getting closer to eating real food. If he spills I have had him wipe up the spill. If he spills on his fingers he has started licking it off instead of asking me to wipe it clean.

Last night was the real breakthrough though. I was cleaning up Christmas stuff in the afternoon and he saw me throw away his advent calendar. He asked if he could have a piece of chocolate but they were all gone (as he had given them all to us). He asked if he could have a different piece of chocolate after dinner, so I found a Hershey bar and told him he could have that.

While we were eating dinner I asked him if he wanted chocolate and he said yes. I broke off a small piece and gave it to him. First he just put it on his tray, then he started touching it and holding it. Of course it started to melt in his hand a little but instead of getting upset he just licked it off. He realized it tasted pretty good so got more on his hands do he could lick it off. He also licked the piece a couple of times. True he never actually put the piece in his mouth and chewed but this is still progress, and I'll take whatever I can get.

The feeding therapist is scheduled to come to our house for the first time on Thursday for an hour so hopefully he'll make some more progress before then.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January in Chicago

We've had hardly any snow this year and the past few days have gotten up to the 50s, so today after lunch and a couple of errands with my Mom, I made the kids go outside. We ended up spending about 2 hours outside riding bikes, scooters and Big Wheels and took a walk around the block. By the end the kids had all taken off their jackets and my little guy was just in a Tshirt and pants.

My oldest daughter is really getting the hang of riding a two wheeler and was bummed when the chain came off the smaller bike and I couldn't get it back on.

She became very determined that she was going to master the bigger bike, which is actually the right size for her since she can only touch the ground with her toes, but it makes her nervous as she's still learning. After a few tries she got it and went up and down the block quite a few times. Typical bad luck on the last time I figured she was doing so well I would just sit down and look through the mail but still be able watch her instead of walking next to her. Then I looked up and saw a neighbor pushing her bike and walking her back.

Turns out when she went by their house their dog (some little drop kick dog) jumped up and nipped her. He apologized and I didn't see any holes or blood on her pants so I didn't make much fuss and took her home.

Turns out there was a little hole and some blood but looks more like a scratch than a bite. I cleaned it up with some hydrogen peroxide and gave her a Lion King bandaid wiped her tears and she ran off to play with her siblings.

All is well now. Tomorrow is supposed to be a little cooler but not much which is great as it's the kick off for Girl Scout cookie sales. Last year we had to bundle up, this year we'll be able to go door to door for a while so hitting her new goal of 75 boxes should be no problem.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Productive Day yesterday (and hopefully today)

We didn't leave the house til almost 11 but once we hit the road we got a lot done. Container Store for a new pencil box for my oldest, new boxes for craft supplies at home, a container for my china bowls, and a couple of things my Mom needed.

Then off to the mall for lunch and a stop at Nordstroms to look at a bag my Mom wanted to see (and after much hemming and hawing bought). I would have bought one too if I didn't still need to use backpacks. It's hard to hold kids hands or push a stroller with a shoulder bag. Hopefully that phase will end soon. Then one last stop at LLBean to pick up slippers for my parents.

I dropped my parents and one daughter at home, took my oldest to her piano lesson while my son snoozed in the car.

I also talked to the loan officer at Chase about our mortgage. Unfortunately we don't qualify for the HARP program since we have a jumbo, but he told me what papers I need to bring in to file the application so will get that together and meet with him on Friday hopefully.

I also got a response from our accountant about withholdings and she said we could definitely increase by 1 or 2 allowances so need to figure that out today too. Another reason to find the tax returns.

My oldest is going to a friend's house this afternoon and then I'll take everyone else on a Costco run plus a stop at Carter's for socks, as they have all outgrown, worn down or lost the matches for their socks.

Also just got a call from our Park District that a spot opened up in the class I wanted for my son, so he gets to be with his friends again. :)

Not a super exciting day, but little by little things are getting done. Hopefully Friday I can get to Lowes and find a new faucet for our powder room.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years Day

After getting home at 130 from our New Years party I was hoping the kids would sleep in. As usual my daughter was up around 730 but I managed to get her to stay in my bed and snuggle for a little while before we got up.

Once everyone was up I wrapped the last of the Christmas gifts (to/from my parents). They arrived on the 27th but we delayed the gifts as one of the sweaters I ordered on their behalf didn't arrive til the 28th and I needed to find something for my Dad, who like most Dads is hard to shop for.

The kids all got new sweaters and slippers and then a Lincoln Log set for my youngest daughter and a Lego set for my oldest and a Duplo Cars set for my son.

I got a book and a hair towel for my Mom and the new Tom Clancy and a Double Shutter game for my Dad. I was hoping he hadn't read the Tom Clancy since he usually gets books as soon as they come out. Turns out it had just come out that week, and he had just seen it in the NYT Book Review and wanted to get it.

The kids spent most of the rest of the day playing with their new toys.

After getting the kids to bed, we opened a bottle of Champagne with my parents and watched the Vienna Philharmonic New Years concert. As always a great concert. None of us were familiar with the conductor. One of the pieces they played was by a Danish composer called HC Lundbye and it was composed to sound like a train. They even had the percussionists wear conductors hat, and instead of the usual ballet dancers they showed shots of an old fashioned steam engine (maybe the oldest) winding its way through the Austrian countryside.

Overall it was a good performance and I've enjoyed that that this has become a tradition of ours. The only downside was that when it was all over my Dad said that he was upset that he had forgotten about the performance, and I didn't understand what he meant at first. Turns out that until I told him we had recorded it and suggested we watch it, he had forgotten that the concert even happened. This is something he has watched every year for a long time, and this year he had forgotten all about it. Not sure if that's another symptom of Alzheimer's or what, but it made me sad to see him sad.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

I usually don't make resolutions, but since overall 2011 wasn't that great a year, I feel it's worth making an effort to make 2012 better. Continuing the way I have been won't work, I'll be back in a funk in no time.

So priority one, getting our finances in order. It's true money doesn't buy happiness but not having money causes a lot of stress. While I feel a little better that my husband is no aware of our situation and so understands and shares my stress, it's time to fix it.

There are also a ton of rainy day projects that I always mean to get around too but never do (often because I felt like if I had the time to complete some project I should have been working on our finances so ended up doing neither. So I'm going to take a cue from another blog I saw, but some personal organizer and make a list of things I want to accomplish this year and break them into 1 week tasks. Some may be quicker than that, but since I'm a horrible procrastinator, I think mapping out a plan will help.

Some weeks will be easier than others but the overall goal is to stop ignoring what needs to be done and stay on task, for the greater goal of getting rid of a lot of the stresses in my life by dealing with them instead of ignoring them. I know in the end it'll make me happier and let me be more present with my kids and let me enjoy the things I want to enjoy. Here's to a happy 2012