Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Wrapup

The kids all had fun at camp.

Little Man is making serious progress on the eating front.

Little Reader is swimming for real now. Early in the summer she could swim a few strokes before needing to put her feet down. Now she's confident and going further.

We had a good visit with the inlaws.

One of my goals for the month was to start running again. I started in the middle of the heat wave and have already reached a couple of my original goals - running 3 miles in under 30 min and running 5K in under 30 min. I need to set some new goals for August.

I am waaaay behind on my weekly projects but hopefully my lack of interest in the Olympics will give me some time to catch up. Also there are some organizing things that I need to buy stuff for to truly tackle the problem and I'm trying not to spend unnecessary money.

All in all, a good month with good outings and good family time. Time to gear up for August.

Morton Arboretum

Yesterday I took the kids to the Morton Arboretum. We became members for the first time last year and our membership expires today. While we got our money's worth with the membership, I wanted to go one last time before it ran out.

It was a little hot (low 90s) but I wanted to see the Tree Houses. While I had read about them in our newsletter I forgot about them until I read this post from Two Moms a Little Time and a Keyboard.

When we got there I asked for directions and was told to follow the signs behind the lake, and that it was approximately a 4 block walk? I thought that was a weird way to describe a walk at an arboretum which has no blocks but I guess they get so many cityfolk, they need to speak their language. Anyway, it wasn't far from the main entrance.

The kids had fun playing in the different houses - pirate ship and log cabin being the favorite. After playing for a while, we headed back to our car and drove to Crabapple Lake for a picnic. Everyone was pretty hungry so we chose one of the first lakes on the East side. It wasn't the prettiest view as it was close to the lower border of the Arboretum (along the highway), but still shady.

After eating, we drove a bit further to a spot called Bulb Meadow. There were no flowers this time of year, but a nice climbing tree right by the road. The kids had fun climbing it, although Little Reader had a little trouble getting down the first time. Then we followed a path into a wooded area (which would be great for a picnic another time).

Little Man was tired from all the walking and the heat so we didn't walk too much.  As we were heading back to our car my kids pretended to be will-o-wisps from Brave guiding me down the path back to our car.  As I got close to each one they would giggle and run to a new spot.  

Our last stop before heading home was the Children's Garden. We didn't venture all the way up to the wading pool and river, as I was afraid Little Man would make me carry him all the way back to the car.  Instead we compromised and they played for a while at the small fountain and the little playground (which they renamed "fairyland").  All in all a good day.

We will probably renew our membership as there are still many more places to explore.  We never made it there last fall, but I would love to see the leaves changing, and I'd like to see the Big Rock.  I'm not sure how far the walk is from the parking area.  The path is paved so stroller friendly although I feel like Little Man is too big for a stroller these days.  I figure if we go on a cooler day it wouldn't be a big deal.

I'd also like to go on one of those warmer winter days when there is still snow on the ground but it's not bitterly cold.  I figure we could go for lunch somewhere else, and do a drive through and take short walks around some of the smaller areas.  Stay tuned.

Grandparent visit wrapup

I didn't get a chance to write much while my in-laws were in town as I thought it would be rude to ignore them to blog, so here's the wrapup of their visit.

Thursday my husband took the day off to hang out with his parents.

I took the kids to camp and had a good run and reached my first mini goal - 3 miles in under 30 minutes. I know to a serious runner that's a horrible time, but it's been a while since I ran regularly so I'm happy. Next goal actually run the full three miles (right now I alternate running a mile and then walk about .15-.25 mile).

Little Man's feeding therapist came and she was really excited when we told her of his progress this week. She had him work on eating a sandwich - this time turkey, Havarti and lettuce on white bread. It took a while, but he did well with it.

After lunch my husband took all the kids to the driving range. His parents went to watch so I had a quiet house to myself for a couple of hours to read. It was great.

That night we went to see Poison and Def Leppard. We had a quick dinner at Chilis beforehand. We only caught the last two songs by Lita Ford but it was, "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close Your Eyes" so that worked out well.

Poison was next and they were fun. Bret Michaels did make a couple of shameless plugs for the Apprentice, but at least he didn't try to promote his new line of pet toys at Pet Smart ;)

I had realized earlier that day that the reason for the tour was the 25th anniversary of the release of Hysteria. Wow. I'm not old, just older ;)

Def Leppard played a great set. There were a couple of songs I didn't know but they played everything I wanted to hear.  My husband took a few pictures at the show, as we had pretty good floor seats.  I've given up watching concerts from behind a camera lens and prefer to watch the show.

Friday we went to a playground for about an hour and a half and then that evening we went out to dinner with my inlaws. We went to Cafe Touché in Edison Park and then went to Curragh after for a couple of beers.

Saturday was our big outing. Little Man had been asking me for a long time when we could take a train downtown. We finally did. We took the train to Northwestern Station, Little Man thought it was very cool to see all the trains lined up when we arrived at the station. We took the water taxi from the Loop to Navy Pier. It took us a while to find the dock even though it's basically at the base of the Sears Tower. It's a pricey trip $8 per adult and $5 per kid, 3 and under are free. But it's about a 15 minute ride and a nice view of the city. The kids thought it was really cool.

We had a quick lunch at the food court and then took the kids on the ferris wheel. Little Hugger (who used to be our daredevil) is getting a little more nervous. It was her first ferris wheel ride and it is a big one. We took pictures of the kids but she got a little nervous when we had them shift around within our little carriage.  After that my husband took Little Reader on the wave swinger while I took the other two on the carousel.

After that we had to head back. Another $42 water taxi ride, back to the station and on the train. This time my father in law asked the captain if Little Man could blow the horn. Once we were out in a good spot on the water, he picked him up and let him. It was hard for him to push the button,so the captain helped him. He sat back down with a big smile on his face. When we got off, the captain asked his "first mate" for a high five. He gladly did and said thank you (as I had told him he should).

My husband and daughters had an Indian Princess pool party to go to when we got back and the rest of us just stayed home. It was supposed to be from 3 to 6, they got home at 9. Tired but they had had fun.

Overall a pretty expensive couple of days but fun.  Sunday we took it easy, Monday I treated everyone to Brave.  It was Little Man's first movie.  I luckily had a bunch of free movie/drink/popcorn vouchers so only had to pay for one ticket and one candy.

Overall it was a good movie, although I hadn't realized that it was rated PG.  My daughters and the rest of us enjoyed it but Little Man got a little scared.  I won't review the movie beyond saying that for really little kids there is a quick scene with a witch and a fairly long bearfight that scared Little Man.  We managed to miss most of it as he conveniently had to go to the bathroom at the beginning of it, and we returned at the conclusion.  After the movie I asked my daughters if they had gotten at all scared and they both answered that while they did get a little scared they kept telling themselves that Disney movies always have happy endings. :)  There wasn't quite as much comic relief as recent Disney movies, although Merida has some mischievous little brothers.

It had a good message - just because you hear what someone is saying, doesn't mean you're really listening.  Something that we've discussed a bit since we left, and I admit I need to work harder on. 

Tuesday morning they left and I've slowly been getting back to our regular routine.  Overall it was a good visit and we took advantage of having extra adults in the house (free babysitting the night of the concert), I was able to go running without having to plan far in advance, etc.  The kids enjoyed having more people to play with, and are looking forward to them returning for the holidays.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Week 31 Menu

Sunday -pizza
Monday - Ginger Shrimp - new recipe from my friend at Curvy Girls
Tuesday - Shaved Parmesan Chicken
Wednesday - Italian Sausage Rigatoni
Thursday - Chinese Food
Friday - Chicken Cordon Bleu
Saturday -??

I've Got Your Number

I needed some fluff after the last few books, and Sophie Kinsella is always good for that. I enjoy her humor and her characters.

This is the story of Poppy a bride to be who leaves her bridal shower tea due to a fire alarm and and discovers her engagement ring is missing.  As she is standing outside ready to make calls to her friends to see who has her ring, her phone is stolen.

She starts to go in the direction of the thief when she sees a phone tossed in a garbage can. She picks it up thinking it is hers. She quickly realizes it's not but rationalizes that she needs a phone and since this one is in the trash it's fair game.

Turns out the phone belonged to Violet - PA of an executive at a consulting firm. She walked off the job in the middle of a big conference. Her boss, Simon, is desperate to get the phone back but Poppy refuses, insisting that she needs the phone until her ring is returned. She promises to forward messages etc to Simon in return.  He reluctantly agrees.

Poppy has a tense relationship with her academic in-laws. She thinks they think she is inferior to them and not good enough for their son, Magnus. She is a physical therapist, Magnus is an academic like his parents.

She is scheduled to go to dinner at their house after she loses the ring and knows she can't show up not wearing it as it is a family heirloom. She comes up with a plan for the ring, but the evening is still as tense as any other of their meetings.

Poppy has an utterly useless wedding planner named Lucinda, who is constantly making excuses for all the things she lets slip through the cracks (which Poppy usually ends up taking care of herself). As the story continues, the reason for Lucinda's purposeful incompetence comes to light.

As the story unfolds, Poppy digs deeper into the emails and texts on Violet's old phone and sends messages on Simon's behalf without telling him. She has good intentions as she feels as though he is ignoring certain people and issues that need to be addressed. In most cases her actions were totally opposite to what Simon would have done and the results are entertaining.

Poppy's fiancé Magnus is a pretty flat character. Poppy receives anonymous texts about Magnus being unfaithful, just as she's in the middle of handling a big to-do for Simon that she probably shouldn't have been involved in in the first place. However her view as an outsider and a few more strange messages on her phone actually are helpful in handling a scandal the firm becomes accused of.

I won't give anymore away, except to say I was satisfied with the ending. I read this in about 24 hours. As most of her books they are quick reads.

It was also the first book I read on the Kindle app for the iPad. My mother-in-law loves her Kindle but I still think I want to stick with real books. I thought this would be a good test, but forgot that Kinsella often puts little side-bar comments in footnotes at the end of the chapter. Although they were set up so you just tap on the number to get the footnote and tap again to go back, I found myself skipping pretty much all of them as I found it kind of annoying. At this point I think I'll still continue reading real paper books, but maybe try this again for travel or once kids are back in activities again, and I want to have something with me while I wait. My library has a fair number of books for Kindle and the download was easy enough.

I think the main thing I didn't like about it though was it was too easy for the kids to come up, touch the screen and make me lose my page. Also when I'm getting tired sometimes I like to know how many pages in the next chapter before continuing - easier to do with a real book. Also afraid of dropping the damn thing if I doze off reading as I often do. Still that's the kind of stuff that comes with getting used to any new thing.

If I did use it more I would need a case for it. When I took the kids to the library, I wrapped it in a microfiber towel - lame I know, but I didn't want the screen getting scratched. I found two cool ideas for DIY cases on Pinterest that I may try to combine to make something that would work for me. At this point we hardly ever use the iPad but I would like to use it more.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Last night I went to bed all excited to run in the morning. My husband was planning on sleeping in, as he was taking a day off (although ended up scheduling a 1030 case anyway). I had forgotten to bring the trash down, but figured that was no big deal as I'd be up before the garbage men arrived at 8.

Unfortunately, Little Man had a nightmare. At about 230 I heard him calling for me. Normally he just has night terrors. I go in and rub his back til he stops crying and settles back down. Tonight he had a nightmare about bats flying our our kitchen while we were eating.

I calmed him down gave him some books to look at, and tucked him back in. A few minutes later, he was calling for me again. Apparently once he closed his eyes again he started thinking about the bats again.

I found him an animal picture book with cute photos of puppies and kittens. That worked for a couple of minutes.

I probably had to tuck him back in about 5 more times before he finally settled in.

Around 8 I heard the garbage trucks rolling down the street. My husband asked if I was going running, and I told him about Little Man's nightmares. He thinks the bats were probably from one of the previews before Brave. I had assumed the movie itself was G as every other Disney movie. Turned out it was PG, so some of the PG rated movie previews were a bit much for Little Man. Oops.

Now after playing catch up this morning, time to take the kids for the first round of back to school shopping.
We still have a couple of weeks but I like to get the good deals (rather than buying the overpriced prepackaged pack the PTO promotes.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Week 30 Menu

Sunday - Burgers on the grill
Monday - Ribeyes with Grilled Asparagus and Baked Potatoes
Tuesday - Korean Stirfry
Wednesday - Garlicky Baked Shrimp
Thursday - Creamy Ranch Chicken
Friday - Tortellini Alfredo with Prosciutto and Peas
Saturday - ??

Week 29 Menu

Sunday - Baked Chicken Parmesan
Monday - Spaghetti & Meatballs with sauce - this is a mix of two recipes - Rachael Rays meatballs and BHG bolognese sauce minus the ground beef (and cream) since I had meatballs.  Worked well, but I need to type up both recipes on one page.
Tuesday - Ham, Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus
Wednesday - Weeknight Lasagna Toss
Thursday - out
Friday - out
Saturday - Chicken Dijon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Korean Stirfry

2 tbsp oil (I use wok oil as it has garlic infused in it)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves of minced garlic
3-4 tsp ginger
1-1/2-2 tbsp sugar
black pepper to taste

1 lb diced chicken breast

Make marinade. Add chicken and allow to marinate at least 20 minutes. Stir-fry chicken until just starting to brown. Add vegetables (I usually use diced bell peppers, water chestnuts, baby corn, carrots) and Stir-fry until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through (just a couple of minutes). Serve over rice.

The Language of Threads

This is the sequel to Women of the Silk which I finished just before reading this.  Women of the Silk left me unsatisfied and I was eager to continue learning more about Pei's story.

The Language of Threads picks up right where Women of the Silk left off.  Pei is on the ferry coming into Hong Kong, unsure of her future and how she will be able to take care of Ji Shen when she doesn't know how she will take care of herself.  She was told that another former silk sister Song Lee has been living in Hong Kong for a long time and will take care of getting them accommodations and a job for Pei.

When they dock in Hong Kong they are met by various rickshaw drivers eager to take them to their destination.  There is a teenage boy named Quan who is particularly persistent, and finally Pei agrees to let him take them to Song Lee.  He makes sure they get in safely and checks up on them from time to time as they get settled.

Pei ends up getting a job cleaning for the Chens, an affluent Chinese couple.  She is nervous as she has never held this kind of position before, but works hard.  Unfortunately they do not let her bring Ji Shen along, so Ji Shen stays with Song Lee and goes to school.  They see each other about once a month.  The Chens have a full staff, some of whom are very nice to Pei, but there is one manipulative woman who ends up setting a trap that gets Pei fired.

She goes back to Song Lee and is given a job working for an Englishwoman, Caroline Finch.  She is nervous at first as she speaks no English and never worked as a cleaning person before.  Mrs. Finch is a widower who has lived in Hong Kong a long time and speaks Mandarin well.  She agrees to take Ji Shen in as well.  The three take good care of each other.

When the Japanese take over Hong Kong, British citizens are rounded up and brought to internment camps.  Once again Pei and Ji Shen need to fend for themselves.

I'll stop there so as not to spoil any of the rest.  I enjoyed this book much more than the first.  I think you could easily read it without first reading Women of the Silk, as there are enough flashbacks of relevant information.  It was the kind of book that when I got to certain points in the story I purposely put it down.  It's silly but I do this sometimes when I'm reading a book where the characters are going through a lot of hard times.  When they get to a happy part of their lives, I want them (and me) to be able to linger there for a while.
While I will take a little break before the next one, I will definitely read something else by this author in the future.

I've got a guest post today over at The Grant Life as part of the Labor of Love series Kelley has been doing. Please stop by and take a look around her blog while you're there.  She's got some great recipes, craft ideas and blogging tips.

I'm trying to get back on track after having the in-laws visiting for the past week. Kids are all done with camp now so the next 4 weeks will be a little crazy until school starts again.  I hope to come up with some sort of routine between now and then so we don't all go crazy. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Leather Pants and Big Hair

I'm the first to admit that my musical tastes are basically stuck in the 80s. Everything from Bryan Adams (my first concert) to the hair bands to the harder metal. My husband and I hardly ever go to movies anymore but we did go see Rock of Ages opening weekend. I loved it for it's ridiculous 80s cheesiness. Great cast, decent covers of classic songs.

Along with the movie and the success of the musical that inspired the movie, there is a Rock of Ages tour this summer. No it's not some cheesy reproduction of the movie where they run through the songs on a regular stage (like the Glee concert). This is Lita Ford opening up for Poison and Def Leppard!!! Ok, now you think I'm a total dork. It's true while in the 80s I played Hysteria to death, and I had the cassette single of Lita Ford's duet with Ozzy Osborne. At the time I would not have admitted to listening to Poison, and remember making fun of a close friend who had their cassette. Yet, I still know every word to Every Rose has it's Thorn. There's no way I'm missing this show.

Normally I don't dress up for concerts. I mean why would I? Is the band really going to see me, and if they do do they care? Of course not.

But this is different, in order to get back to that 80s cheese I will be dusting off the black leather pants and teasing and curling my hair. Should be a fun night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bloggers Coast to Coast

I recently read about Bloggers Coast to Coast and thought it's a cool idea so decided to spread the word. Shane at Whispering Sweet Nothings is putting together a geographic blog directory.  All you have to do is fill out some basic info about you and your blog and she'll add you to a Google Map.  You can use it to find other bloggers in your area.  Cool idea.

This would have been really helpful when I was planning our road trip last year, could have contacted bloggers for tips about their home turf.  

I have her button on my sidebar so you can check it out there too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Women of the Silk

A friend of mine recommended Gail Tsukiyama's books when I was looking for a good summer read. She said her style was similar to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan which I did enjoy. I got two of her books from the library ( this one and the sequel - The Language of Threads).

I wasn't real impressed with the first one, yet still want to read the second one. Weird, huh?

Women of the Silk is the story of Pei, a Chinese girl who lives in a rural village with her family in 1920s-30s China. She has a sister, and as girls are not of much value in China, she is sold to a silk factory in a city nearby as a young girl (maybe 8 years old). Her parents do not give her any advance notice, her father takes her on a trip one day and leaves her at the factory. She is dumbfounded and heartbroken.

As would be expected the demands on her in the silk factory are tough, but she is befriended some of the older more experienced workers. She forms a special bond with an older girl from a previously wealthy and powerful family named Lin. As the bond deepens, they decide to participate in a hairdressing ceremony as a symbol of their friendship to each other and their commitment never to marry.

At this point the story slows down a bit to develop the characters and their relationships. The women The Sino-Japanese War is starting to develop, but mostly in the background. As time goes on the factory is closed and the women of the factory are forced to

leave their village. Just before they leave a young girl arrives at the sister's house after her family was killed by the Japanese. They journey to Hong Kong which is where the story ends.

The book was relatively short, so despite my mild interest in the first one, I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the second. When I finished it I actually wondered why it was two books and not one, but then noticed that the sequel was published about 9 years later. I guess the author needed some time to figure out where to take the story next.

My criticisms of the book have a lot to do with the weak character development. With most books I usually have a pretty clear picture of the characters (at least the main ones), that was not the case with this book. I read a couple of reviews of the book after I finished it, and I thought it was interesting that many characterize Pei as a courageous person. I don't really see that. She puts up with a lot of hardship, but I don't see that as courage. Maybe in the next book as she becomes something of a mentor to Ji Shen, that may change.

Despite not feeling a strong draw to Pei in the first book, I am interested to see what awaits her in Hong Kong.

Monday, July 16, 2012

He Finally Ate a Sandwich !!!!

It's been a while since I've posted about Little Man's feeding issues.

When he turned 3 in May, he declared that big boys don't eat baby food. Great!! Only problem was he was living on yobabys and graham crackers for the past two months.

He stopped going to his feeding group. He was doing well after 8 weeks, and since there is only one level of group therapy, I didn't see any reason to continue. His feeding therapist has still been coming to our house once a week to work with him, and he'd have some weeks where he would do well and others where he would refuse to eat. We both agreed that the potty training and feeding therapy at the same time may have been a lot for him to handle.

Now that he's basically toilet trained he's more willing to try new foods. He eats hummus (licks it off carrots), has had grilled cheese, likes those little cracker sandwiches with cheese or peanut butter in the middle, took a couple of nibbles of pizza the other day, ordered and had a few bites of cheese quesadillas at our local Mexican restaurant but the biggest step was today when he actually ate a peanut butter sandwich!!!!

It was only a quarter and it took him a while, but he ate it, and only left the crust. The best part was at snack time, he asked for another one.

We went ahead and added a sandwich to the "Big Boy Fridge" his therapist gave him. I took a little video of him putting it in, and sent it to her. She responded that she was very proud of him.

We've still got a ways to go, but I'm hoping he'll progress faster now. A while back I asked his therapist his long she usually works with kids like him. She said it usually takes a year (sometimes two). The goal is to have him eating a combo of 10 proteins, 10 fruits/vegetables, and 10 carbs. At this point she's been working with him for about 5 months.

I'm hoping that with a little more progress over the next few weeks, he'll be ok for snack time at school (the school provides the snacks, unlike camp where he brings his own). I think at that point the peer pressure will help get him to try new things too, and he'll get those 30 things in his little fridge.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Labor of Love

Saturday, March 13, 2004

My Mom had arrived a week before my due date and we'd spent the past week buying and prepping the final touches before our first daughter was born.

Way back in August my husband and I had bought tickets to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Handel's Messiah. At that point I didn't realize I was pregnant. When I found out my due date was March 14, I figured the chances of having the baby (especially my first) on time were small.

I had been to the OB the day before, 0% dilated, 0% effaced. I told her we had tickets to the symphony the next day. She said, "you should be fine, but these kids make liars of us all the time."

My husband and I were looking forward to one last night out pre-baby and had made a reservation at a restaurant we hadn't tried before. My husband was post-call and resting, my Mom and I were hanging out in the kitchen struggling with the Saturday crossword, when I had to go to the bathroom. Something felt different, and instead of pee it was clear. Since this was my first time, I wasn't really sure, but went in to where my husband was and told him I thought my water had just broken.

We called the OB, and she suggested I come in just to be sure. On the ride to the hospital we called a couple of friends to see if they wanted the tickets to the symphony but at 4pm for an 8pm concert it was pretty last minute. We called the Symphony and donated them to last minute sales.

We got to L&D and sure enough my water had broken, but I was still not effaced or dilated. They hooked me up to a fetal heart rate monitor and gave me some Pitocin to speed things along.

The hospital I delivered at was a teaching hospital, so I had nurses, students, residents and attendings checking on me. Since my husband is a doctor and I know they all need to get their training somewhere I figured it was fine, although I got a little annoyed at repetitious questions.

I had told my doctor early on that I knew I wanted an epidural, and when I started feeling some contractions they gave me a muscle relaxer first which made me kind of loopy. I was still progressing very slowly despite lots of checks, so they decided to let me rest for a while (ie the OB wants a good night's sleep and will see me in the am). I tried, but around midnight the nurses came in and said that the fetal monitor was registering a little bit of irregularity so they thought I might be lying on the cord. They suggested I switch to sleeping on my left side, and sure enough the heart rate slowed down. They also gave me an O2 mask in case the baby's oxygen had been compromised.  At first I was a little nervous about that, but the nurses made it seem like it was not uncommon, so no need to worry.  Unfortunately the sofa my husband was resting in was on my right side so now we couldn't really see each other or talk easily. 

They continued to monitor me through the night, and at some point the Pitocin really kicked in and I started having what felt like severe menstrual cramps, and I called for the epidural. Luckily it was a quiet night and the anesthesiologist came pretty quickly.  Once the epidural kicked in, I felt pretty good and went back to sleep with people checking on me occasionally. Finally around 7 am, they told me that I was good to go and the OB would be in shortly to deliver me.

At this point we called my Mom, so she could cab it to the hospital to be there when her granddaughter arrived. 

By 7:30, everything was set up, the room was transformed from a "on-deck" room to a delivery room, the OB came in, and asked me to start pushing. Unfortunately (and I didn't realize this at the time) the anesthesiologist had given me a higher dosage of the epidural than I needed and I couldn't feel a thing below my waist line. I thought this was normal, so didn't say anything.  While I'm glad I couldn't feel pain, it's very hard to push when you can't even feel pressure. When the doctor or nurses would see a contraction coming they would tell me to push, and I could move my upper body, but had no idea what was going on below. After a really good push, they would tell me to do the same thing again, and I had no idea what I had just done.

Because of this the actual delivery went pretty slowly.  I didn't realize I was slow, but my husband (having done OB as part of his training) had enough insight to ask the nurses to find my Mom in the waiting room and tell her everything was fine, just slow.

I ended up pushing for a while, and at one point the OB (not my regular), asked my husband what his line of work was. Upon learning he was also a doctor, she started asking about his specialty (general surgery) and their focus (bariatric). I purposely did not deliver at one of the hospitals he is on staff at (in case they tried to call him away). He got annoyed and admittedly a little curt with the OB as she continued asking him bout his practice.  Obviously she was killing time between contractions, but as he puts it, " here I am at one of the most important moments of my life, the birth of my first child, and she's asking for my CV".

In the end after 2 1/2 hours of pushing, our little girl was born at 10:03am on her due date (only 15% of babies are). To this day she is punctual to a fault, and a budding classical music aficionado.  She bit the doctor on the way out.  I think that was payback for making small talk earlier and not focusing on the delivery ; ) 

We joke that we expect her to someday treat us to a CSO performance of Handel's Messiah. Of course the second part of that joke is that thank goodness my water didn't break in the middle of the Hallelujah chorus. Our punctual daughter is also considerate ;)

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Getting ready to go home.  Despite being full term she was tiny.  6.0 lbs.  We had to go to Babies R Us the next day to get her some preemie clothes as everything else was too big. We used the crib from day one but ended up putting the Moses basket inside the crib and then she slept in that.

Everyone (myself included had bought lots of 3-6 month clothes as everyone always advises you to do.  The fleece is supposed to be a jacket not a nightgown : ) 

Friday, July 13, 2012

How Can it Be So Hard to Find a Plane at O'Hare?

I often have to drag Little Man on errands with me while his sisters are in school (or in this case camp). Usually he's a good sport about it, so when I can I try to do something that he will enjoy too.

Today we went to the car wash (which he enjoys) and then the Target near O'Hare. The store is right under one of the landing flight paths, so you can see planes making their final approach when you stand in the parking lot. Once we were done with our shopping I asked him if he wanted to go to the airport and watch the planes, take off and land.   Didn't have to ask him twice.  He loved that idea.

While we always see planes crossing the highway I wanted to find a place where we could sit for a while.  We drove around the perimeter of the airport and never found a good spot.  The area where planes were taking off from was far removed from the road and behind small hills of construction.

Following my GPS I drove down all the little access roads and we finally found this - the destruction of an old United Cargo terminal.  Lots of excavators, big jackhammers, etc.  He loved it.  We sat there for a good 10 minutes just looking out the window.

Still, I was determined to find planes taking off.  We drove further around the airport until we had made a complete circle.  In about 30 minutes, we only saw 1 plane taking off anywhere near where we were.  Oh well, he still enjoyed it.  We did manage to get a closer look of the old planes the fire department practices extinguishing plane fires.  We saw a big fire at O'Hare when driving down I-90 a few weeks ago, made me nervous but after finding nothing n the local news, I figured out it was just a drill.

All in all we had a decent little adventure even if we never found our goal.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The In-Laws are Coming

Nothing like impending house guests to force you to get your act together. Yesterday, I went to Home Depot to finally get a new towel rod to replace the one in the guest bathroom my husband bent over a year ago. I also got a new towel ring to replace the one that had annoyed me for years. If you tugged too hard on the towel, the ring fell off. It clipped back on pretty easily so I'd lived with it for a while. $20 at Home Depot and a few minutes with a screwdriver, both replaced.

Cleaned out my fridge and freezer this morning and finished putting my chalkboard labels in there.

Since we never get spur of the moment guests, we converted our guest room to a play room, now we just need to to convert it back. It's not super hard as we just need to get the toys out and put the bed back in. The dresser is already in there. Hopefully I can get the kids to purge some toys in the process.

The kids have helped me come up with a menu plan.

Now I just have to finish cleaning (I'm trying to do a little everyday so I can still enjoy the weekend), get the car washed - loooong overdue, and come up with a plan for outings while they are here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Magic Eraser

I'm trying to use fewer chemicals when I clean but I kept reading about Mr Clean's Magic Eraser on a bunch of different blogs.

I got a coupon for one a while back and finally decided to try it when I saw some pencil scribble on our basement baseboards. Not sure how long it had been there or who the guilty party was (although I have my suspicions), but I wanted it gone.

I wet the Eraser and squeezed out the extra water as instructed, after a few swipes the pencil was gone!! Then I went around and easily wiped off all of the grubby fingerprints off the various walls. It was working so well I decided to try it on a mark that has bugged me since we moved in to this house - crayons scribble inside my daughter's closet door. It's been there since before we had kids, so it must have been the "artwork" of the previous residents. Again success. It did dry the wood a little bit, so I wiped it down with Murphy's spray when I was done.

The weird thing about the Magic Eraser is that it is meant to be disposable and slowly disintegrates as you use it. Still I was able handle all the things I wanted to clean with just one.

From now on I'll keep a couple of these with my cleaning supplies. If you are one of the ones who blogged about these things, thank you.  If you haven't tried them yet, you should.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doing Something For Me

I'm at my target weight as I eat fairly healthy. I'm not a health food nut as you can see by checking out my menus, but I don't eat a lot of junk. Yes, I have a jar of Nutella hidden in the pantry just for me, don't judge ;)

Still despite all that I'm not in very good shape. Now that we're finally in a good routine with camp, I'm getting back into running. I was never a serious runner 4-5 miles was usually my max. Still I would much rather go for a good run outside than take a class in a gym. I get to pick the music (currently a kickass Bon Jovi playlist) my mind can wander a little bit as I pound the pavement, Endomondo helps me track my stats (which are already improving) and it's something I do just for me.

So far the timing has been perfect, I drop the kids off at camp, run around my son's camp, stretch out on their field, head home for a quick shower and usually even have sometime in a quiet house before I have to go pick them all up.

Of course next week is the last week of camp and then we have no activities scheduled. The challenge will be to keep this good thing going with the kids at home since they're not old enough to be home by themselves yet.
I may actually have to get up early to run before my husband leaves for work. Yuck. It would be rough to get my ass out of bed at 615. I am not a morning person.

Still I feel great the rest of the day after having exercised, so hopefully knowing that will be enough, we'll see.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 28 Menu

This week is pretty light, as we ate out on Sunday and our town is having their annual food festival this weekend.  I decided to keep it super easy with a bunch of kid friendly meals.

Sunday - out
Monday - Bacon Sloppy Joes
Tuesday - Mac & Cheese
Wednesday - Chicken Penne
Thursday - Grilled 4 Cheese Sandwiches with soup
Friday - out
Saturday - out

Weekend Wrapup

Saturday morning I made blueberry pancakes with Little Hugger. We used a new recipe that I found on Pinterest and they were very good.

We went to the pool to beat the heat. It was surprisingly uncrowded. I think some people thought it would just be too hot. We stayed about 4 hours camped out by the kiddie pool, with my husband taking the kids one at a time over to the big pool to work on real swimming.

Sunday morning I made banana chocolate chip muffins with Little Reader from a recipe she got from her baking class. They were really good and very easy.

Since it had cooled down a bit I went for a run while my husband watched Wimbledon. I made it further than earlier in the week, since it was about 10 degrees cooler. Unfortunately there were only a couple of people running their sprinklers - running through them is a great way to cool off along the way. Still, I managed to get a good run and felt good after. This was the first time I had everything working - Endomondo, my playlist, my heart rate monitor.

Later that day I got all our grocery shopping done and then we headed to the beach. Unfortunately the water was closed due to rip currents, but the kids still had fun. They played at the playground and my husband and I took turns watching them, or soaking up the sun and listening to the waves. 

After volleyball we went to dinner at Hackneys with our friends. I ordered a grilled cheese for Little Man (the first time I've gotten him a restaurant meal). He took a couple of tiny nibbles, but swore he wasn't hungry. Despite that he ate all of the comp ice cream the waitress brought ;)

We got home pretty late, got the sandy dirty kids straight to bed, watched Newsroom and then went to bed ourselves.  A good weekend, but it's amazing how draining it is just to be out in the sun, even when you're not doing anything.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Upside to a Heatwave

It's been over 100 with the heat index for the past few days. It's been pretty brutal, too hot for kids to play outside, Little Man wilting after a short walk at the mall and begging to be carried (no way kid, at 32 lbs you're too big to be carried).

The upside is that I had a very productive day at home. With everyone stuck at home, I got caught up on laundry, paid bills, vacuumed up the dust bunnies, organized my pins on Pinterest, and linked up to a couple of blog hops.

Not the most exciting day but productive. Hopefully the weekend will be more fun.

Mom Calendar

As much as I live by my iPhone, and the Cozi calendar app, I still like to have a paper month at a glance calendar for recording recipes to help with menu planning, and to be able to see what we have planned for the month.

I used to use regular calendars with the little one inch square boxes, but there wasn't a lot of room to write stuff. This calendar is soooo much better. Every month gets two pages (so each day is bigger).

But the best part is that there are line dividing each day so you can break up each day however works best for your family.

In our case each of the five of us has a line, and I use the top space to write what we ate for dinner.

The calendar comes with a bunch of stickers and I use most of them, but to make this calendar really work I also made some of my own using Avery return address labels - library books due, dinner out, meeting, and golf (for my husband).

I don't use stickers for weekly activities like dance and piano lessons as those things are so burned in my brain I don't forget, but maybe as time goes on I will.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Coat Closet Transformation is Finally Complete

This has been an ongoing project and it bugged me for a while, but now is finally done, largely thanks to Costco.

We don't have a mudroom so the coatcloset in our kitchen is used for lots of different things. Our recycling is in there, our tool box is in there, shoes, my command center, small kid stuff (like sunglasses and new containers of bubble stuff), seasonal stuff is in the hanging organizer from IKEA (sunscreen/bug spray etc), and of course coats.

Someday I may do a whole elfa closet system from my other favorite store - the Container Store, but for now that's more than I want to spend.

We have two recycling bins from the Container Store - one for papers, one with a trash bag liner for everything else. They are kind of small, but that's on purpose. The smaller they are the more often I have to dump them in to our bin outside and keep a handle on them.
Last year I got a shoe rack from Costco with the idea that it would work if each of only kept one pair of shoes in the closet at a time. It worked in the winter when we pretty much live in boots, but now that we're alternating among flip flops, sandals, sneakers, etc, it became a pile of shoes, and hard to close the door. Yesterday I picked up these bins at Costco. They're perfect.

Each kid gets their own bin, and they were very excited about the designs.  They are nylon so should clean out easier than some of the fabric ones.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough room for my husband and I to each have our own bin, but that's ok since we keep most of our shoes in our closet upstairs.  Little Man was surprisingly excited about the new system and actually got his slippers and rain boats out of the closet in his room, and brought them to his bin.  

I'm super excited to finally have this all organized.  In case you're wondering I didn't get any of this stuff free and was not asked to review it.  I only include the names of the stores as I have seen cute/cool things on other peoples blogs but can't find the shopping info it can be hard to find stuff.

Menu Planning

A friend of mine recently asked me about my menu planning process so I figured I'd write a post on it.  There are a ton of different ways to do it, but after a few months, I've found this is what works best for me.

Check Your Calendar
When it's time to sit down and plan my menu for the week (I can't do a month at a time, that's just too much for me), I look at my calendar and figure out what nights there are evening activities, or my husband has a dinner out or is on call.  Busy evenings call for a quick meal or crockpot (although my kids aren't fans of the crockpot). I make a hot meal every night as my kids don't get hot lunches at school and my husband is running around so much during the day, there are quite a few days when he doesn't eat anything.

Check Recipes for New Things to Try
Once I know what our week looks like I look through new recipes in my binder (or on Pinterest) to see what I want to try - I try to do one new recipe a week.

Mix It Up
When I first started cooking I made a lot of pasta and chicken as they are cheap and easy.  But as versatile as they both are, it gets boring.  Now, I try to mix my choices with one chicken, one pasta, one beef or pork, one seafood.  Yes that's only 4 meals, see Involve the Family below.

I have a recipe binder with a copy of my "menu" in the front pocket.  The menu is the list of recipes I have tried that worked.  The inside is divided into two main parts.  Recipes to Try in the front (grouped by type) and then Tried and True recipes in the back (again grouped by type).  I used to have it reversed, but then would forget to try some new stuff.  This way I see new recipes first and am more likely to try them.

Keep Track of What You Ate
Every day I mark on my calendar what we had that night for dinner, this gives me an easy month at a glance of what we have had.  Also even though I plan my week, sometimes plans change, so I like to have a true list of what we ate rather than just relying on the menu plan
I try to not repeat meals within a month and that's where tracking meals on the calendar comes in handy. My husband recently suggested that now that we've tracked it for a while just pick a prior week/month and repeat it. Makes sense, but for now I kind of like making a new one each week.

I look at menu and try to find things we haven't had in a while.  When I get some ideas, I check the calendar, and if it has been awhile (at least a month), I add it to the plan for that week.

Finally there are some recipes I make that use prepackaged fresh ingredients I don't use much - like mushrooms or asparagus.  If I am planning on making one of those meals, I make sure to pick a second meal that uses that ingredient for later in the week.  For example if I buy mushrooms for stroganoff one night, I'll use the rest in a stirfry later that week.

Involve the Family
The kids and my husband each get a night every week that they pick the meal. Makes it easier to enforce that everyone eats the same thing for dinner, if they are involved in the decision process.  

List Making
I go through the weekly circulars for the 3 stores I shop at and see what is on sale of other stuff we may need.  They usually arrive in the mail on Wednesday so I go through them before Sunday and make a list of the good specials at each store.  Usually it's just staples so this hardly ever changes my menu.  I know some people plan their menu based on the circulars but I hardly ever do.  I don't plan breakfast and lunch as I don't have time to make a big meal before school, and lunches are pretty basic around here.  I don't mind cooking, but I don't love it, so I usually don't make a huge effort for breakfast and lunch.

I use the Our Groceries app for my shopping list.  It's not perfect (no way to flag an item you have a coupon for) but it's the best I've found so far.

Once I have the items from our menu plan entered, I add the other things we may need, add what I have coupons for, and head off to the stores.  No matter how hard I try I usually have to go to three stores.  One that is cheap but doesn't have good produce or meat, another that is more of an ethnic market that has good meat and produce but not always the basics, and finally a third stop at the big chain (with the big prices) for wine and anything I couldn't find at the other two.  The whole thing usually takes me a couple of hours on a Sunday, but overall it saves me time as I can go without the kids, so I'm much faster.

I much prefer it to my old way of going to the store daily or trying to figure out at 600pm what to make only to realize I hardly had any ingredients to make anything. 

Post the Menu
I post my menu on here, so I have it at a glance and try to add links to any of the recipes I have.  Lately I've been using my iPad more in the kitchen.  If I'm trying a new recipe that I pinned, I open up the link and put the iPad in my cookbook holder so it doesn't get splattered.  Works pretty well so far.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!!!!

Our town held fireworks last night (as they always do, don't ask me why). We were considering skipping them this year as it was so hot with temps in the 100s all day and past sunset.

We can't go tonight as my husband is on call (and the temps aren't going to be a whole lot better)

The kids were disappointed when we talked about skipping it, so we came up with a compromise. Dinner at home (instead of a picnic). Head out to the firework site around 8 (rather than our usual 4pm or so). Usually the kids play with friends before the show.

We found a good spot and set up camp. We got the kids some Chipwiches and bought water from some enterprising homeowners across from the football field who were selling cold water and soda for $1 each. The kids were sitting on our big towel while my husband and I were in the folding chairs. Shortly after the first fireworks went off, Little Man climbed up in my chair. He was still watching all the fireworks and not crying, but every few minutes would ask when we were going to leave :(

The show lasted about 20 minutes and as soon as the 1812 Overture was over we were out of there. We zigzagged our way back to our car (which luckily my husband remembered where was cause I didn't). On the way back everyone talked about their favorite fireworks, including Little Man. So overall a successful night.

Today we're just going to take it easy. As I said my husband is working, and we decided to skip the kids parade our town puts on every year as it starts at 9am and we wanted to sleep in. I was actually a little bummed we couldn't make it work given that this years theme is Support the Troops, and I know my kids would have done a good job decorating our wagon, but I was not looking forward to pulling it for about 3 miles to and from town and around the route with about 100 lbs of kids in this heat.

We still haven't heard back from the Marine we sent our care package to, back in the beginning of June. He said in his initial post that he would respond to every package received, so I'm hoping it was just delayed a little and that when he does receive it, it finds him well.

As you all are out at barbecues and watching fireworks (and maybe taking advantage of the sales), take a moment to think about the soldiers past and present who fought for and protect our Independence.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week 27 Menu

Sunday - Creamy Ranch Chicken  Made this for the first time and it was quick and easy.  Next time I may add some veggies into the sauce, we just had carrots and peppers on the side.
Monday - Spaghetti in Garlic Gravy with Herbs and Lemon - another new recipe, I'm trying to go through a lot of my Pinterest pins
Tuesday - Picnic at the fireworks
Wednesday - Beef with Garlic Sherry Sauce I usually serve this with rice, but will probably make mashed potatoes this time.
Thursday - Cajun Chicken with Linguine
Friday - Cheesy Pasta Bake
Saturday - Curried Rice with Shrimp - My kids don't like curry, but they love shrimp.  I may have to make a separate batch of white rice for them.

The Expats

Kate Moore lives in DC with her husband and two sons. Her husband is an IT guy who doesn't make a ton of money but they get by.

One night he comes home and tells her that they need to move to Luxembourg for a lucrative job for him. She is caught off guard and suspicious. He convinces her that the job and the move are legit but she's still wary. In order to move, Kate has to leave her own job, with The Company - aka CIA. While she has been with them since before she met her husband he doesn't know who she works for. She decides it'll be easier to quit her job than to cover what she's doing while living in Europe.

As they settle in to their new life in Luxembourg, they are soon befriended by another American couple. Again, Kate starts to suspect something is wrong with this relationship. For a while she tries to dismiss her suspicions thinking her time with The Company have made her paranoid, but too many things seem to confirm her suspicions

Finally she feels she has to go with her gut and check up on her husband and new friends.

I'll stop there so as not to spoil it. I've read a bunch of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum's and it's refreshing to have a female spy be the main character. The book goes back and forth between present day and Kate's past (in part to illustrate the things she did, and the secrets she kept from her husband). Her initial reason for not wanting to question him, is that she's afraid she'll have to come clean about her own past.

It's a fast paced book, with a plausible ending. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys spy novels/mysteries. Unlike Ludlum and Clancy there isn't a lot of technical jargon to prove that the authors did their research, so it's a quick read. While the flashbacks threw me a little in the beginning, but as usual it all
made sense in the end.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June Wrapup

School ended the first week of June and the first session of summerschool started the following Tuesday. First session is now over.

Little Reader took a writing class and a baking class. In the writing class they wrote stories, including one that they typed up on the computer and brought home to illustrate. She liked it, but preferred the baking class. They made different stuff each day including donut muffins (which we made together this morning), mozzarella sticks, cookies , fudge, etc. A couple of times she brought things home for the rest of us to try, but usually she ended up eating them there. At the end of the session, she brought home copies of all the recipes including a few they didn't get around too. She's excited to make some of them as the summer goes on.

Little Hugger took a Fun With Numbers class where they worked on basic math and also made things with pattern blocks (which was her favorite). Still she did better than I thought she would with the basic math, now if I can just get her to write her numbers correctly (half the time she writes them backwards). She also took a class called Read it and Eat It. So they would read a story and then their snack would be something related to the book. They tended to be sweets but she also came home with a bunch of recipes that she wants to make this summer.

Little Man is loving camp. He missed the first week because he wasn't potty trained yet, but then got motivated when I mentioned I would maybe just cancel it. It's basically 3 hours of free play with a bunch of other 3 year olds. They set up mini pools and sprinklers for when they play outside. They have story time and bring their own snacks. He says he's making friends, but doesn't seem to know anyone's name (typical for this age of course). He proudly shows off his craft, but I think the part he likes the most is that since I have to pick up his sisters first, all three of us are there to pick him up, and hear about what he did that day.

He's doing really well with the potty but I hope to have him truly toilet trained by school. Right now he uses a portable seat whenever we leave the house, and the counseled don't seem to like having to help him with it, but too bad - it's not against the rules, and he's only had one accident and that was outside.

I had my husband show him how to pee standing up a couple of weeks ago, but Little Man just thought it was silly and giggled a lot.

Of course the best part of him going to camp is I have more time for myself. I've been able to do things some of the things that I want to do that I don't have time for normally. It may only be a couple of hours, but it still has done wonders for me. I feel more relaxed and happier.

As for the Get out of a Rut Challenge, I did pretty well with the clothing/appearance part. I started actually wearing skirts on occasion and people noticed and complimented me on my appearance. I picked up some new clothes at Nordstroms which I really like but are mostly tops for going out, not everyday stuff.

There were a couple of times where people asked where I was going since I was all dressed up - a solid color tshirt, old navy skirt, sandals, a little bit of jewelry and basic makeup and all of a sudden, I'm all dressed up. I guess I really did look like a slob before ;) The main thing was that it really didn't take me that much longer to get ready in the morning, and I felt better about myself, so that's worth continuing.

Don't ask about the second part (getting our finances in order, cause it didn't happen). That'll be July's challenge.