Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tip of the Day - Keeping a Handle on Plastic Bags

My Mom actually got this one from Real Simple, so all you organizing junkies who probably already read Real Simple probably already know this, but here's a great way to reuse two different things - empty tissue boxes and plastic grocery bags.

I'm a huge fan of the fabric tote bags for groceries and use them whenever I do my shopping. Despite that, I still end up with quite a few plastic bags. Rather than bring them back to the store to recycle them, I use them as garbage bags for our small garbage cans. I know that's nothing new, but since we have 4 bathrooms each with their own can, and one by the laundry machines, I needed a good way to keep the bags organized.

That's where the tissue box came in. I put the empty bags in the empty tissue box and put one tissue box in each room. I would refill them as I brought purchases to those rooms. The problem was sometimes I'd end up with an empty box and no bags. So now I have a 6th box in my kitchen cupboard. Now when I unpack things when I get home, I just add the plastic bags to the 6th box. As one box runs out, I swap it with the box from the kitchen, and start refilling the empty one. Problem solved.

Again this may not be the most exciting/enlightening tip ever, but definitely made my life easier once I thought of it. Since I've found so many, "why did I never think of that before?" tips on other blogs, I like to return the favor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I love getting rid of things. I don't know what it is, I'm not into Feng Shui or anything like that, and I don't have an extreme minimalist house, but whenever I can get rid of something we no longer need it just makes me happy. Recently we've gotten rid of a lot of things - changing pad and Diaper Champ now that Little Man only wears diapers at night, the extra toddler mattress - since Little Hugger does not roll out of her bed, and of course the big one - the crib.

Ok, I didn't entirely get rid of it. I kept the springs to use as a pin board (like this one I found on Pinterest from I kept one of the sides to hang fabric on after I've ironed it in case I have to stop working on a project. I would have loved to have made a crafting desk for the kids like this one (here's the original site) but I don't have the room. A friend of mine cried the entire time she was taking apart an hauling away her sons' crib when they were done with it. I don't get that. I understand it's a symbol of a part of their life that has passed and never to return again, but it's also a sign of the beginning of a new stage of life.

It's not that I'm not sentimental. I do keep things that the kids make for me (but not every one). I keep cards, have a ton of photo albums. Tons of the songs on my iPod bring back
memories of one kind of another. I just don't feel the need to keep a lot of stuff.

Little Reader is like me. She often asks me to help her organize her stuff and she weeds through papers and things on a regular basis. Actually her room is neater than mine was when I was a kid.

Little Hugger definitely is more of a hoarder. She'll keep little scraps of paper for a craft she has in mind, but often never gets to. Whenever I ask her to organize her stuff and throw some away she often ends in tears. We finally came up with a compromise. She has binders with sheet protectors in them that she can store her assorted crafts and drawings in. Anything too big (or something that is slightly less important but she still wants to remember, I take a picture of it and we put it in a photo album she has.

Twice a year I have them go through their stuff (toys, clothes, books) to find things we can sell at Kid's Sale. If they outgrow things at other times we put it in a bin in the basement until the next sale. It's become such a habit now, even Little Man came up to me with a baseball hat yesterday that no longer fits and asked me to put it in the bin for Kids Sale.

I'm not going to lie and say my house is devoid of clutter, but it's in pretty good shape, and unlike a lot of my friends homes, things have a place and even my junk drawers are pretty well organized.

Chalk Markers

I have been on a quest to find these markers since I discovered chalkboard labels on Pinterest about two months ago. I tried office supply stores, Michaels (as suggested by a blogger), Target (as suggested by another blogger), Archivers, and finally found them at Hobby Lobby (as suggested by a salesperson at Archivers).

It was getting ridiculous and yes, I could have ordered them on line but didn't want to spend $5 to ship something that cost $7 (I had a 40% coupon, so didn't pay the $11.99 price). I probably spent more in gas than that, but like I said, it had become a quest, and when I'm on a quest, I'm not always rational.

I was starting to worry that once I found them, they wouldn't live up to my expectations, but I'm happy to say, they were worth the effort.

So far I have used them to rewrite my chalkboard labels in my fridge (before I just used chalk and it wiped off too easily, and it's hard to write neatly with chalk), and to label the little whiteboard labels on my hanging organizer in the coat closet (previously done with dry erase markers - same problem with rubbing off easily).

The one thing I have noticed with the markers is that they do take a while to dry, but once the ink is dry they are pretty well set. The first ones I made smudged cause I touched them too soon, but once I let them dry they were fine. My daughter accidentally spilled milk in the fridge and got a couple wet, so those rubbed off, so I know they can be wet and rewritten.

Now I'm trying to think of other things I can do use them for, as I really like the way they look.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week 26 Menu

S BBQ Chicken
M Salmon Penne
T Hamburger Stroganoff
W Pool - Pizza
T Garlicky Baked Shrimp
F Chicken Cordon Bleu
S Out?

I never got around to making the Salmon Penne last week, so will make it this week instead.  

Good Weekend

Saturday morning I took the kids to the library to hand in their folders for the summer reading club. The club started June 8th and Little Reader and Little Hugger were supposed to read 600 minutes and 400 minutes respectively. They were already done. I don't think the librarians really believed they had done it, but then again most kids going into 1st grade aren't already reading chapter books, and most kids don't bring books with them every time we go in the car. Those two things combined, plus story time at night add up to lots of minutes.They were very excited to get their book of coupons for treats from local businesses, and raffle tickets for prizes. 

We went home for lunch and midafternoon went to a friend's house for her 5 year old's birthday party. There were 22 kids and a bounce house, water balloon toss, pizza and brownies. Once the school friends had been picked up (after the usual 2 hour time frame) the rest of us opened up the adult beverages, and lingered another couple of hours before heading home. My husband was on call for the weekend so and had to resort to fast food for dinner since we had already eaten. I figured the least we could do us go home and hang out with him.

After getting the kids to bed, we just relaxed - him watching TV and me reading my latest book - the Expats - which is pretty good so far.

Sunday we slept in, all the kids came in to snuggle for a bit before breakfast.

We spent the rest of morning organizing Little Reader's room. Since we had gone through bookshelves the other day, she felt inspired to organize the rest of her room. She got rid of a few more things (which always makes me happy).

We headed to the beach around 2. My husband plays in a volleyball league with some friends in the summertime. It's every Sunday for 8 weeks, but the best part is that it gives us the right to use a beach that is normally only for that town's residents. It's on the North Shore of Chicago so has nice facilities, is never very crowded and gives the kids a chance to play at the beach (something we never had access to before he joined the league). Even though he was on call I took the kids to the beach to play. We actually left before our game started (and the rest of our friends arrived), but they never check. The kids had fun. As usually Little Reader wanted to spend most of her time in the water, Little Hugger stayed mostly on the sand looking for shells and building sand castles (or today "muck soup"). Little Man stayed mostly in the sand, but dipped his toes in a few times, but it was too cold to really play in the water.

We had dinner with my husband, Popsicles on the deck, and got everyone cleaned up and off to bed before settling in to watch Aaron Sorkin's new show. I've been missing well-written dramas (that are not cop or sci-fi shows). The West Wing is still one of my favorite shows and this is very similar. The pacing and dialogue is typical Sorkin. Unlike Studio 60, I think this should have a good run since it's easier to come up with good story lines when the show is based on a news station - good "ripped from the headlines" stuff. The premiere was about the BP rig that exploded in the Gulf. As usual Sorkin doesn't hold your hand, you have to pay attention and keep up. He throws industry vernacular at you, but doesn't dumb down to the audience by explaining it at each step. In the West Wing, Donna and Charlie were the ones who usually had things explained to them (and therefore clarified to the audience).  In this case he offers a recent college grad who was newly promoted from intern to the newscasters assistant. Any questions you may have are usually explained as she figures things out.

Once that was all done I decided to make a carrying bag for our beach umbrella. It's in two parts and it's a pain to carry to the beach as it is too long to fit in our big tote bag, and kept falling out. Even with the kids carrying stuff, I dropped it probably five times on the way to the parking lot (almost hitting my son with it a couple of time).

I found some leftover curtain fabric (I wanted something strong) gave it a drawstring and attached a strap from an old CD case. Now I just need to find the little squeezie thing that keeps the drawstring tight.

Overall a good weekend. Would've been better had my husband not been on call, then he could have enjoyed it with us, but he's off the next few weekends, so it all balances out.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Busy & Fun Weekend

Saturday Little Reader had a birthday party at a friend's house. It was scheduled to be a 2 hour party according to the invite, but when I rang the doorbell at the pick up time, my daughter told me that they hadn't had cake yet do asked if she could stay. The birthday girl told me that they were waiting for her father to get home before they had the cake, and he wasn't supposed to get home for another half hour. So I left and told her to call me when she wanted me to pick her up. 45 minutes later, I still hadn't heard from her, so I went to go get her. Party still didn't seem to be over but a couple of the girls had left so my daughter was ok to leave.

Later that night, my husband went out to see Rock of Ages. We hadn't been to a movie in ages but our main reason for going out was our neighbor's son's CD release party, and since they weren't going to be going on until 1045 we had plenty of time to kill before then.

The movie was a lot of fun. Any fan of 80s hair bands should see it. The plot is pretty thin, just something to tie the songs together and it basically works. The main characters are unknowns (at least to me), but the supporting cast was great. As much as I think Tom Cruise is a wacko, he was great as Stacie Jaxx - an over the top washed up rock star.  Catherine Zeta-Jones was great too as the conservative wife of the LA mayor.

After the movie we cabbed it over to the bar to see the band play. There was another duo playing when we got there, who weren't very good, and we talked to our neighbors until their son went on. They played for about an hour and it was a good set. They have two guitarists, a drummer and a standup bass player. Overall they have a cool sound, old school rock, with a folk influence. We bought their EP after their set and headed home.

Sunday of course was Father's Day. The kids came in around 8 with their present for Dad - a version of this that I found on Pinterest. 
It turned out pretty cute. I had them write their own signs (well except for Little Man since he can't write yet). We also got him this wireless meat thermometer for the grill that one of his friends had told him about.

Once everyone was dressed we headed out for breakfast which we haven't done in a while, then to the pool since it was so hot. The kids had a great time splashing around and despite the heat the pool wasn't that crowded. We left mid afternoon as my husband wanted to watch the end of the US Open.

He wanted to try out his new grill thermometer so we grilled some Greek Chicken. The recipe wasn't that great but the chicken was cooked perfectly. It's a pretty cool gadget.

But the best part of the whole weekend was that Little Man FINALLY pooped on the potty (I think I already mentioned that in a previous post, but obviously I'm excited)

Bond Girl

This book was exactly what I expected it would be. A Nanny Diaries/Devil Wears Prada style book about the financial world. The author did work in finance so the story is believable and is probably based on her experiences (although it's not meant to be a veiled expose like Devil).

I enjoyed it. It was a very quick read and well written. Alex's Dad was in the Business and growing up she always knew she wanted a job in finance. She takes a job at a bond desk at a prestigious financial services firm. She is one of few women there who are not admin staff. There is one older woman on her team but she is very bitter and not the least bit supportive of Alex. The rest of the team is all type A men most with egos to match their large wallets. Her boss is chauvinistic yet privately supportive of her. He often assigns Alex ridiculous tasks as tests, and despite some grumbling, she usually pulls it off. She is determined to prove to herself and the guys she works with that she can excel as an analyst just as well as they can.

Despite warnings from her boss not to date anyone from the firm, Alex's flirting with a colleague inevitably leads to something more serious. As time goes on she wishes she had heeded his advice. Along with that relationship she is being pursued by a client (a married hedge fund manager who is not used to being told no, and is increasingly turned on by Alex avoiding him).

Overall a fun read, which seems to paint a pretty accurate picture of the absurd world of finance.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Page It Forward 2.0 Book Drive

This week the United Way of Lake County kicked off their second annual summer long Page it Forward Book Drive. Last year they were able to collect over 154,000 books for kids from low-income families. 
United Way of Lake County’s kindergarten readiness assessment of incoming kindergartners’ skills in Waukegan found that 76 percent of Waukegan 6-year-olds had no knowledge of books.  I don't really know what they mean by no knowledge of books.  Does that mean that they never read/touched a book/ had a story read to them?  Whatever it means, it's depressing. 

We've read to all our kids pretty much from Day One.  They each have a ton of books on their bookshelves and we go to the library about once a month.  As bloggy Moms we all appreciate the written word, so it's fair to assume that you all read to/provide books for your kids.

This year's goal is 200,000 books.  

We recently went through my kids book shelves and of the books they have we found about 30 that they were willing to part with. Now I just have to figure out when I'm going to drop them off. It's only about a half hour drive for me to any of the locations, but I just want to combine it with something else.

If you are in the Chicagoland area, please consider going through your kids' old books and see if you can find a few to donate. There are dropoff locations all around Lake County, check the website for listing
United Way website. If not, please like their FB page.  Every like gets a donation from their corporate sponsor.  You can also text a $10 donation. All the details are listed on the website and FB page

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ryan's Banana Split Party

I don't know how much this story has made it around yet, but a friend of mine posted it on Facebook today and I decided we should join in the fun.

The basic back story is that Ryan Roberts is a 21 month old who has Down Syndrome and a heart defect. After multiple surgeries, his parents recently signed a DNR for him.  He is not expected to live beyond his toddler years. His family has been offered support from a lot of different people, and her response was,"just go create a memory with your kids. Just go put a banana split down in front of your kids for dinner and watch their faces light up. No chicken, rice and broccoli tonight, just ice cream. They're going to remember that forever.”

Obviously the banana split comment may have been an off the cuff suggestion for creating a fun moment but it's become a literal thing and the Banana Split Party has a FB group to help spread the word.

I read about it when we were out running errands and after what should have been our last stop I told my kids we had to make one more stop - to the supermarket to get stuff for dinner. My daughter was surprised, normally I do all my shopping on Sunday and plan for the week. I told them the whole story, and off we went to pick out ice cream and toppings.

As excited as they were about the whole idea (I'm usually pretty strict about eating balanced meals), they also did talk about how sad it must be for Ryan and his family to know that he will not reach most of the milestones the rest of us take for granted, and how while there are plenty of rules we all need to live by, we also need to enjoy life.

So last night to kick off the official start of summer, my kids splashed around in their little pool and had banana splits for dinner (well, I guess technically they are ice cream sundaes, but I don't have the special banana split bowls).

If you're hearing about this for the first time, don't worry, any night is a good night for a banana split dinner, so why not tonight?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Summer Vacation Began Today

The kids have been out of school since the first week of June. My daughters started camp the following Monday. Little Man was supposed to start camp the next day, but needed to be toilet trained. He'd been doing well with peeing on the potty or toilet at home or out, but refused to poop.

We promised all sorts of incentives, but still he held on, literally. I didn't feel comfortable sending him to camp that first week in case he had an accident so I called him in sick. On Saturday I checked the camp cancellation policy and was planning a phone call Monday as we

Finally on Sunday, he pooped in the potty. We all made a big deal out of it (he even had his sisters come and look - and to their credit they did run into the bathroom cheering and looked in the potty and gave him high-fives and hugs). After all the jubilation, he asked if he could now go to camp. Yes, Little Man, you can. This morning I dropped him off, pretty anxious as he hadn't pooped again on Monday and again I was afraid he'd have an accident. I spent my 2 1/2 hours leisurely running errands and catching up on some little chores around the house, even had time to read a little before picking up my daughters.

I was on pin and needles the whole time, expecting a call from the camp that he'd had an accident and I'd need to come by and deal with it. Didn't happen. Although, when I did pick him up, the kid at the door did say that Little Man, "had wet himself so we had to change him, and they told me to tell you that." I feigned surprise, but later found out that they were outside when it happened and since they had "water days" (playing with sprinklers and slip and slides) after they cleaned him up and changed his clothes, they told him he could still play outside, just not go in the pool. Fair enough.

Once we got home he pooped about 4 different times (only once at my urging). Bottom line, I think now that he's been to camp and seen how fun it is he wants to be potty trained so he can go. I feel totally comfortable sending him back on Thursday which means I will now have 6 hours to myself every week for the next 5 weeks. It may not sound like much, but I know it'll do wonders for my sanity. As much as I love and enjoy my kids, I need more daytime breaks than I get.

What am I going to do with my time? Read, call some friends on the phone who I never get to talk to cause the kids are always around, start running again, blog, catch up on stuff around the house, and yes probably some boring cleaning stuff too as it will be much easier without a little person following me around (especially when I would much rather play than clean). Either way, I'm excited for the the new found independence (his and mine).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week 25 Menu

Sunday - Greek Chicken - tried a recipe I found on Pinterest but it was pretty bland, so I won't bother linking it.
Monday - Barilla Rigatoni - I'm being lazy.  My husband is going out for a business dinner, and the kids have been invited over to a friend's house to try samples for a potential hot lunch program for next year.
Tuesday - Best Ever Pork Chops
Wednesday - Salmon Penne
Thursday - Wiener Schnitzel
Friday - Tortellini Pesto
Saturday - Out

Friday, June 15, 2012

Week 24 Menu

I've been slacking lately on posting my menus, which is especially lame this week as I only cooked three times

Sunday - Chinese Take Out
Monday - Brown Sugar Chicken I made this for the first time, it got mixed reviews. 2 of us liked it, 2 not so much.  It tastes very similar to BBQ chicken but a bit sweeter
Tuesday - Shrimp Scampi
Wednesday - Pizza
Thursday - Out
Friday - Chicken Tarragon with Rice
Saturday - Out

Fire Department Open House

This past weekend one of the local fire houses hosted an Open House. We've been to these kinds of events before, but never to this particular one, and it was by far the best I've been to. It was the 100th anniversary of the Niles firehouse so they may have purposely made it a bigger event.

Little Man loves firefighters and fire trucks, so we kept this a surprise for him. I thought about dressing him up in his firefighter costume, but it was really hot and that probably would have given it away. As we drove up, he saw all the different rescue vehicles parked out on the street, and got very excited about it.

We headed in and they had the usual fire trucks and engines and ambulances that the kids could climb in and see all the equipment. But the thing that made this different was that they also had a firepole that they let the kids slide down (all 3 did that a bunch of times).  They had free ice cream and goodie bags and fire hats for all the kids.

They had a little obstacle course where you put on a firefighter uniform, picked a stuffed animal to "save" and zigzag through cones, get low and go through a tunnel and finally spray a hose on a little wooden house that had little wooden flaps with fire painted on them. Little Man loved that. 

They had three demonstrations (of which we saw 2). For one they had built two little rooms with furniture, curtains, TV etc. One had sprinklers in the ceiling, the other did not. They set fire to the one without sprinklers first by igniting the curtains. The fire spread really quickly and the TV exploded. After putting it out, they lit up the one with sprinklers. The fire barely had a chance to get started before it was out. The firefighters didn't really have to do much in terms of extinguishing. Adults were all impressed what a difference the sprinklers make, and the kids were all upset that the TV didn't explode this time.

The second demonstration was an auto extrication - they cut and broke doors off of cars to show how they get victims out after a car accident.  It was a little slow so the kids didn't enjoy that one as much, but the adults all thought it was pretty interesting. At that point we were all hot and tired so we headed home, but it was a fun day, and best of all it was free. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In the Kingdom of Men

I can't remember where I first heard of this book, but I have to say I was pretty disappointed. I usually love books about people who are experiencing a new society and the way it effects them. In a well-researched novel, I learn a lot about places that I've never been or sometimes learn new things about places I have. Either way, as someone who loves to travel and whose parents were expats for most of their careers, I can usually relate to these kinds of characters.

That was not the case with this book.  Gin Mitchell is a shy girl from Oklahoma who had a rough upbringing due to various family tragedies, and ends up marrying a guy from her high school who takes a job with an oil company and they get shipped off to Saudi Arabia.

I felt like her back story was a bit rushed to get to the meat of the story, but also most of it was unnecessary.  I think the important bits could have been told in flashbacks or other ways to show her character development, as it got pretty repetitive.

I don't know if the author ever actually lived in Saudi Arabia, but somehow it doesn't seem like it.  Even though I never have been to the Middle East some parts seemed implausible.  (Sidenote - In the 1990s my parents were slated to be moved to Riyadh, and for the only time in my Dad's career, my Mom refused, so they ended up going to the Philippines instead).

Gin is still shy and uncomfortable in her new foreign surroundings.  Her husband works on an oil rig and is often gone.  Gin forms a close relationship with her houseboy (closer than I felt was plausible).  She ends up being befriended by one of the other oil company wives.  Ruthie takes her under her wing, and introduces her around to the other members of the gated community they live in, and also takes her outside the walls - some adventures more exciting/risky than others. 

Gin starts writing for the American newspaper and then starts to take an interest in photography, taking pictures that in most cases can never be printed due to censors.  Gin's husband Mason was brought to Saudi Arabia to replace a man who left fairly abruptly and while their departure is questioned early on, it is only explained at the very end.  Really, most of the action in this book is in the last 50 pages, the beginning is mostly character development.  All of this makes for a choppy story.

I read a few reviews of this after I finished it, a couple that billed it as Mad Men goes to Saudi Arabia.  I know Mad Men is extremely popular (I have only seen a couple of episodes and didn't get sucked in), but I don't think this is an accurate representation - aside from a fair amount of alcohol consumption (but that's as much a part of the expat society as it is the 1960s).

Bottom line - skip this book. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Make Your Own Astringent

I've found a lot of great cleaning tips and recipes on various blogs, so I thought I'd share one of my DIY concoctions. Actually my dermatologist gave me the "recipe" about 5 years ago, but I've been using it and saving money ever since.

Equal parts rubbing alcohol, witch hazel and regular water. Pour each one in the bottle of your choice (I still use my old Clinique pump), and give it a little shake to mix everything. Done. This works well for normal to oily skin, but may be a bit harsh for sensitive skin.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer To Dos

School's out and I've been thinking about our summer plans. The kids will be in camp the first half of the summer until lunchtime. The second half we have nothing planned and I did that on purpose. My inlaws will be coming in for a week, but we don't have a trip planned. I'd like to do a short road trip as we haven't really explored the area with the kids yet. Door County Starved Rock, Galena, Indianapolis to check out what is supposedly the country's largest kids museum.

While our schedule of activities during the school year isn't super crazy, I am looking forward to some unscheduled time, and not having to drag the other two with me to the other kid's activity (although for the next 6 weeks my pickup/dropoffs will be a little crazy.

So here's the work in progress summer to do list.  I have the kids adding their options as well, my ideas are below.

Go berry picking - we go apple picking every year but have never gone berry picking
Catch fireflies
Ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier
Take the train downtown - my son's request
Ride the Water Taxi - 14 years in Chicago and even I've never done this
Go to the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute
Picnic lunch at the park
Picnic dinner at the park
Go to a baseball game
Go to the zoo
Go to the Arboretum
Watch the Olympics
Watch fireworks
Roast marshmallows

Teach the kids how to play tennis
Teach the kids Danish
Teach them geography in a fun way
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Take them somewhere to sketch

Little Hugger wanted to make a paper chain link to count the days of summer similar to ones the had made at school to count other things. I suggested that she also write on each link one fun thing that happened that day on each link. At the end of summer we'll have a fun chain of memories.

Rather than adding a link each day, she wanted to make a full chain at the beginning and countdown and write the fun things we did each day on a link. Either way works for me although it is a little trickier to write on the links when they are already attached.

It's a little hard to read the "Kindergarten spelling" but I'd rather they write it themselves. In this case the first link was "Fireplace" aka the Fire Department Open House.

While I do have a few outings planned I hope that there will be a bit of the lazy days of summer fun included - Popsicles in the backyard, playing with friends etc.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bye Bye Crib

8 years and 3 kids later, our little crib went out with the trash Friday morning. We happened to walk out the door just as the garbage truck was coming by to pick it up.  Little Man thought it was very cool to hear his crib getting crunched up by the garbage truck.

Land of Nod delivered Little Hugger's new bed Thursday morning and the toddler bed is now in Little Man's room.

The kids were playing in the basement when the truck arrived. Since the delivery guys just knocked instead of ringing the doorbell, the kids didn't even hear them come in. They were extremely quick setting it up. Once they were done, I rearranged everything, and made the beds in each room.

Finally I went down to the basement and Little Reader asked when the delivery men were coming? I told her they already had come and gone and she quickly spread the word. Little Hugger and Little Man looked stunned and I asked if they wanted to see their new rooms. They all scampered up the two flights of stairs squealing with delight. It was like the big reveals on those HGTV shows. They were both very happy with their new set up, even if there is still more work to be done (a new coat of paint, wall decals and a rug for Little Man, a night stand and reading lamp for Little Hugger). 

 The only problem was at the point we still didn't have a duvet or a fitted sheet for Little Hugger. After lunch we headed out. Yesterday I had looked everywhere for fitted twin sheets that were not part of a set to no avail. Finally, I appealed to my Facebook friends for advice. A couple of good suggestions came through but the only successful one was Wal-mart. Ugh. I hate Wal-mart. But in the end they had exactly what I needed - twin fitted sheets in bright colors to go with the IKEA duvet covers that are sold separate from a set and at $5 each, well can't beat that.

After Wal-mart, we went to two different places for the duvet, no luck. She's been using one of our guest duvets and although Friday we went to IKEA and got another one for her. Yes, she could technically use the guest one til Christmas when we have all 4 parents visit as we have 4 (well now 3) guest duvets), but this is Little Hugger we're dealing with, my middle child, who apparently has read the manual on how middle kids are supposed to act. If I have her use this one until December, she'll feel like she's somehow less important because it's a guest one and not her own. Spinning Plates yet again ;)

The excitement of the new beds has made bedtime take a little longer the past couple of nights, but Little Hugger loves that we have been reading bed time stories in her room as there was finally room for everyone.

As I tucked them both in Thursday night, I was told by 2 kids I am the best Mommy in the Universe.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spinning Plates

Parenting is a balancing act. Not just schedules, and needs but you also need to deal with a variety of different personalities. When conflict arises you need to try to find a solution that makes everyone happy (or at the very least minimizes the unhappiness).

This is the hardest part about parenting for me. Little Reader is a very smart kid, but she is really hard on herself. She is a perfectionist and gets really down on herself if she makes a mistake. If she realizes the mistake, she'll brood for a while, but will eventually get over it. If I give her any negative critique (and I tread as gently as I can), she gets upset, calls herself stupid, and has a hard time moving on.

Little Hugger (as you probably guessed) gives lots of love. She tells me multiple times a day that I am the best Mommy in the universe. While I appreciate that, especially on the days that I feel I may have been too hard on her, I feel like the more I respond that she is the best little girl in the universe, it somehow diminishes the sentiment. I know I'm over thinking it, she just needs to feel loved, and as I told her a long time ago when she was upset that I hadn't hugged her yet (we had gotten up 5 minutes before on that particular day) if you want a hug, the best way is to give a hug. Hence if she wants to feel loved, now she gives love. The hard part though is when I'm in the middle of something and she gloms onto me, declaring I'm the best in the universe. I feel like I have to say it so quick again the sentiment is lost.

My Little Man is for the most part easy going, but is also reaching that 3 year old stage of "I can do it myself". I appreciate that and when we have all the time in the world go for it, but when it's pouring down rain and I'm standing in a parking lot waiting for him to climb into his carseat so I can buckle him and he starts climbing in the 3rd row or finding a forgotten toy I may lose it a little. If I yell at him, he gets this stunned look in his face and then starts to cry. It's downright pitiful.

Then there's my husband. He works long hours and often times by the time he gets home, we're both so tired that after the kids are in bed he vegs out in front of the TV, and I finish whatever I didn't get to earlier in the day or if I'm lucky read a book (which I much prefer to most of the crap on TV these days) He sometimes feels insulted when he's watching TV and I leave the room to read. But sometimes the background noise is too much and I can't concentrate. Other times I just want quiet after a busy day (my restorative niche, I guess). It's not personal, but sometimes he takes it that way.

He complains that we don't go out enough just the two of us. It's true and part of that had been due to finances, but now that that is slowly improving we'll be able to have more time for us. We joked when we had those brief sessions with a therapist that people always say marriage is hard work, and we both thought that was ridiculous. If you love someone how can it be work? But it is. Especially when you have little people vying for your attention too.

And if that weren't enough it seems whenever I try to focus on making one happy, the others start clamoring for attention.

Back to the title of this post. I feel like my little party of five is like those old circus acts with the guys spinning plates. Each person (including me) is a plate and needs to be taken care of. You have to take care of each one in their own way at their own time, but if you spend too much time on one, the others fall. Ideally everyone gets the amount of attention they need and deserve and everyone is happily spinning.

Get Out of Rut Challenge

I've been feeling pretty good about my progress with my weekly projects. Each time I get something organized I feel like a weight has been lifted. I don't adhere to feng shui but I do feel calmer when things are organized and when I have decluttered.

Nothing makes me happier than to get rid of things we no longer need. As much as possible I donate things we no longer need, but even recycling/throwing things out makes me happy.

Having said all that, my appearance doesn't reflect that. While my house is getting organized, quite honestly, most of the time I look like crap. Part of it was guilt about buying new things when we were so deep in debt, but when all my jeans had holes in them, many of my tshirts had stains and my favorite jacket to is falling apart, it is time to action before the fashion police mount an intervention.

I stumbled upon this get out of a rut challenge on the Weekend Blog Walk and figured it was the perfect jump start. I know enough about myself to to know that I'm more likely to follow through with things if I publicize them. So here goes.....

I have two goals for June
1. Make more of an effort with my appearance. Wear an outfit not just clothes. Put on a little makeup and wear some of all the jewelry I have and love.
I tend to dress like a guy, grabbing whatever is clean rather than putting together an outfit. I have all sorts of rationalizations of why I do this - no time, if I'm planning on cleaning, why bother dressing up, etc. But really it comes down to laziness.

2. Get our finances in order. The first 5 months of this year we were in the red. Now we finally have a positive cash flow again. The surplus isn't huge so I still need to be careful about not overspending. Time to start actually using the account I started ages ago but would neglect as I found it depressing.

Anyone else up for the challenge? It's easy, no rules, just post your challenge to yourself on the Divvy Spot and touch base at the end of the month with your progress.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week 22 Menu

This was a pretty easy week cooking wise but still very satisfying :)

Sunday - Peppered Beef Sirloin Kebabs with Dijon Cream
Monday - Steak Tacos at a friend's house
Tuesday - leftover kebabs
Wednesday - Spring Picnic at school
Thursday - Chicken Quesadilla - premarinated chicken from our local supermarket so no real recipe for this
Friday - Tortellini Alfredo
Saturday - Burgers on the grill

Peppered Beef Sirloin Kebabs with Dijon Cream Sauce

1 tbsp four color mixed peppercorn
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 lbs top sirloin, about 1 1/4 in thick, cut into cubes
2 medium zucchini - cut lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2 in pieces
2 large bell peppers - cut into 1 1/4 in sqaures

1/2 cup creme fraiche or Greek yogurt (the recipe actually lists sour cream as an alternative but I think Greek yogurt works better if you can't find creme fraiche)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450-550 degrees).  If using bamboo skewers soak for 30 minutes prior to preparing kebabs
Coarsely grind the peppercorns.  Mix in  1 1/2 tsp salt and cumin.  Place the meat in a large bowl with the spices and add enough oil to coat the cubes lightly; toss to coat evenly.  In another bowl lightly coat the zucchini and bell peppers with oil and season evenly with salt. Thread the skewers alternately with zucchini, meat and bell pepper
In a small bowl whisk the cream ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
Brush the cooking grates clean.  Grill the kabobs over direct high heat with the lid closed as much as possible, until the veggies are crisp tender and the meat is cooked to your desired doneness - 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare, turning occasionally.  Remove the skewers from the grill and serve warm with the cream

From Weber's Time to Grill cookbook

Week 23 Menu

Sunday - Salmon Sliders with Spicy Ginger Sauce  - This was an ambitious recipe, but it turned out really well.  Next time we'll skip the suggested pickled veggies but the sliders and sauce were awesome
Monday - Korean Stirfry - wanted to use up the ginger
Tuesday - Kid Food.  My husband has a business dinner so it'll just be mac and cheese/chicken nuggets and soup
Wednesday - Weeknight Lasagna Toss
Thursday - Chicken Marsala
Friday - Chicken Cordon Bleu
Saturday - Out

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Good Day

Kids slept in til 830 and came in for morning snuggle.

Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast

70 degrees perfect for Little Hugger's soccer game which they won (first time this season I think - they don't officially keep score in Kindergarten)

Stopped by the post office to mail our package to Sgt Michael (the soldier we picked off

Lunch on my own with a book at Jason's Deli

Solo shopping day including.....

Two new pairs of jeans. (including one pair on clearance)

New Clinique stuff including a bonus

Two new tops from Nordstroms semi-annual sale.

Cute dog sighting in Nordstroms (a very sweet looking yellow lab service dog)

Tickets to Def Leppard/Poison for July are bought

Yummy fro-yo concoction (raspberry pomegranate/blueberry acai swirl with raspberries blueberries and white chocolate chips for a mid day snack)

Saw another sweet therapy dog at the supermarket

Took some time to sit and read

Hamburgers and banana boats on the deck for dinner

Would have been a perfect day if Little Hugger hadn't tripped and scraped her knee just as we set off for an after dinner walk (canceling the walk), and Little Man hadn't had 2 accidents (still potty training)