Give em’ pumpkins; they make pies

A neighbor friend of mine had written up a sweet blog post about her two girls and their fascination with the mini pumpkins. She talked about how they would carry the pumpkins around, line them up, organize them, make them into imaginary families, etc. I thought this was something my kids might actually be capable of doing. What a great idea: local produce turned into toys. What could be more “green” than that?

Upon our exit of Cox Farms yesterday, I purchased four mini pumpkins on top of the three smallish ones that were provided. My kids were stoked. I’m thinking, “rock on” we have a great activity ahead of us. They clutched their pumpkins on the way home as if they were prized possessions. We talked about pumpkins and where they come from and what we do with them during the fall season.

After arriving home with their new “toys” in hand, I watched as my monkeys proceeded to make pumpkins into pumpkin pies. Instead of sorting, stacking, and organizing, they decided to play with them true-to-form-Alex style. They were hurled from the back door onto the deck to see whose could fly the farthest. They were rolled into the street to see which one could hit the acorns. They were dropped from the sofa to see how loud they could sound. Finally, they were used as bowling balls down the steps. I should have let them continue, and I would have had my pumpkin mush for pie. But I kind of felt sorry for these poor pumpkins. Perhaps we’ll just paint them instead.


Virginia's Cox Farms: Worth every penny and a return visit

I don’t know how we’ve been here a year and never been to Cox Farms in Centerville, Virginia. Knowing the temperature would probably be better today after the rain, we made the short drive to the Cox Fall Festival. This was by far, one of the most fun activities we’ve done here, as well as one of the most imaginative Halloween festivals for children I’ve seen. In fact, not intending to bash Northern Virginia, (which I think really lacks in creative things for kids) this was one of the best things I’ve seen since we’ve been here.

We were greeted by one of the most enthusiastic workers I have ever seen. She was excited to see us and told us it was a beautiful day for the farm. She was right. There were bales of hay strategically arranged for kids to climb and crawl through, slides made of cool materials that become slipperier in the sun, wooden structures and ladders to climb, castles to crawl in, volcanoes to explore and a play area with goats running around. My kids loved the rope swings best of all. Even my 2-year old managed to hold on and drop into the pit of hay-looking foam.

We took a hayride around the farm, through the corn fields, big giant puddles, back in the woods—all with fun characters and scenes for the kids. The driver seemed thrilled to be there as well and was excited about her journey around the farm. You have to really look when you go through because some made me laugh. The Three Little Pigs in a house next to a stack of hay and a blown over screen door. It’s hard to notice fun stuff like that when kids are talking about the spaceman they just saw. Yep, there’s one of those too--a countdown to blastoff and an alien comes out to dance for you. The hayride concluded with a “scary” barn party complete with ghost sounds and polka music.

I’m afraid to say what I felt about this for fear of hearing everyone sigh….it was actually a bit Swedish.

If that’s not enough, there were pigs, chicks, and some cows to see and pet. You could even help milk the cow during certain times of the day. Food and drink is there to purchase, but a little pricey considering the entrance fee. We luckily brought a picnic to help offset the cost. Upon leaving, every ticketed visitor got a free pumpkin to take home. I think my kids thought that was the best part. Of course now the pumpkins have been confiscated since they were being used as bowling balls down the steps.

My only complaint, beside the cost of the food, is that I don’t think kids under age three should be charged. My two-year old played pretty well on most of the stuff, but she only did it because Alex did it. I think if my two-year old had been there alone, I would have felt robbed paying the full-price ticket for her. But it’s a local farm that had great festival so I’m willing to suck it up and pay the money for all of us.


Thursday’s Dish: Pasta w/ Roasted Vegetables

Unfortunately this week, all attempted dishes were a big thumbs down with the kids. So, as promised, I will only post recipes that all members of my family will eat. This recipe came from Cary in my mom’s group. My kids will not necessarily eat all the veggies, but once in a while someone will at least try some, depending on what I do throw in there. This makes a lot of leftovers as well.

Pasta w/ Roasted Vegetables
1 eggplant
1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 yellow pepper
1 package of mushrooms
1 box small pasta like penne or orzo
2 lemons
1 package of the crumbled feta
olive oil
handful of chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts (optional)
Chicken or shrimp is optional.

Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Place them on baking/cookie sheets and toss w/ olive oil and salt and pepper (so they won't stick). Cook at 400 for about 20 min (watch them-you want them tender but not too soft). Feel free to substitute vegetables. Asparagus is also good in there.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and place in large pasta bowl. Dump the cooked vegetables, the feta, nuts, basil and juice of two lemons in and toss. Add about 1/4c. of olive oil...enough to get the flavors to meld together. Add salt/pepper as needed.

It's good hot or cold.

Please drive through . . . Safeway?

One of the other things I miss about Sweden is small markets. I used to stop on the way home from somewhere at our local (very small grocery store) corner market, jump out, grab a dozen eggs/carton of milk/veggies and dash out. No big parking lots, no big lines and easy to navigate--just your typical European corner market. The clincher on this one that made it even easier sometimes…..I could leave my kids in the car. [Gasp] I know moms around the country are ready to just call in right now and report me to Child Protective Services. And, no, I have not done this here, believe me, my husband warned me about that before we came back. But in our little suburb in Stockholm we could do this. Just leave the kids strapped in the car and dash in for a few items. It was great for a mom of two under two. In fact, you could even leave them outside the shop sleeping in a pram and run in and shop. Crazy, huh? I think a Danish woman in NYC was arrested for this.

This is why I think some inventive grocery store needs to come up with a drive-through window. No, it’s not that I’m lazy. I often do walk to our grocery store. But sometimes on the way home from somewhere, you just need a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread to hold you over until morning. With two little ones, it is hellish to unload kids, wrestle them into the cart , run in the store, stand in line and reload everyone into carseats for just one item.

I would love to go somewhere that has a drive through where you call ahead, give them your name and you just pick it up your item(s) without unloading the kids. It would have to be 5 items or less, and you’d have to not be picky about the brand, but I think it could work. If grocery stores like Wegmans (see Reston Baby related blog post) can come up with child care for grocery stores, surely someone can make a drive-through window.


Idiocracy at Dairy Queen

If you haven’t seen the movie Idiocracy, you should. It really should be required viewing for everyone on what this world may turn out to be if we’re not careful. Yesterday, I came face-to-face with my own scene from this movie at Dairy Queen. Now I’m not going to say anything about Dairy Queen and its workers because I’m sure many people out there have held high school summer jobs at places like this, but this was pretty bad so I thought it needed telling.

After our shopping trip to Safeway, we stopped off at the nearby Dairy Queen. It was hot. The kids had been good so I thought a cold treat might help with the walk home. We walk in and I ask if they have kid size cones and/or cups. My kids don’t need a full serving of ice cream and most of it ends up on them anyway so it seems silly to pay a bunch of money ice cream on their pants. The 16-year old worker looks at me dumbfounded by my request. I explain that they will lose ½ the ice cream and could he somehow give me a smaller version of their “small.” Again, he just stares at me. He shows me the small cone. I say, fine, but can you fill it just a bit and charge me a little less than $2 for the cone for only a droplet of ice cream. Apparently this cannot be done. (You’ll understand why in a minute.) Alex is insisting that he can eat the whole thing and that he’ll be fine. So I order a small cup for Anna and a small regular cone for Alex. The total comes to $4.18 which I believe is highway robbery for ice cream for kids, but by this point I was tired of Dairy Queen. I give the man $5.18. He looks stunned. Asks me if the change I gave him was 18 cents. I said, yes. He then turned to his friggin’ calculator and proceeded to subtract!!! I started laughing. (I know, bad mommy manners.) So I tell him, “My change is a dollar. I get a dollar back.” He does the calculation and says, “Your change is a dollar, you’re right.” Oh….my….God! Is this guy for real?

This supposed high school kid (same one who couldn’t do the change) puts the ice cream in the cone. Alex’s eyes pop out of his head, as do mine. The soft serve ice cream is piled so high that it’s actually bigger than the cone itself AND tilted to one side. I guess after the whole money thing clogged his brain he didn’t remember that the discussion was about my kids not needing tons of ice cream. I rolled my eyes, stared at him in disbelief then asked for a spoon and a cup and did what I should have done from the beginning: put half of the ice cream in the cup and gave it to Anna. The guy looked shocked that I had come up with this solution.

The funny thing is, this isn’t the first time this has happen. The other dialogues haven’t been quite as ridiculous as this. But I will say that most of the ice cream places have a hard time negotiating around the concept of “kid sized” for our wee ones. Ben and Jerry’s did agree to split the one scoop into two cups, but that will put you back about $3-4. Whoa! Baskin Robbins does do a mini kid cup. For future trips, I would recommend to anyone else that encounters scenes from Idiocracy at the ice cream shop to get the smallest size and just splitting it into two cups for the kids. Live and learn.


Making a come back from babydom

The baby cycle can be harsh for some of us. I have friends who seem to bounce back from “Babydom” so quickly that I’m convinced not only are their bodies made for babies, but so are their souls. While I love my kids more than words can possibly express, I have a bit of a selfish streak in me that wants parts of my former life back from BK (before kids) in order to feel myself again.

Now, I know that things will never be as they were because my kids have changed me forever. Parenthood has made me a completely different woman. But there seems to be cycle for some moms of integrating back into society after babies.

Well, for those of us with babies two years apart or less sometimes that’s a bit difficult to ever complete the cycle. By the time you have slimmed down enough to fit into anything other than jogging pants, grown back the hair that was lost from post-partum hormone changes, and hesitantly found your way back to some exercise, then BAM you’re pregnant again!

My youngest is now 2 and I finally accomplished one of the last things I needed to do in order to reintegrate back into something other than babies all the time. That big moment was to read a few books that were not parenting books. For many this is an easy task. For me, reading means having segments of time during the day to dedicate to a story. I prefer to use those blocks of time to write, play computer or craft. I’m sure everyone’s “recovery” from baby is different, but I did laugh when I actually wrote it out and saw how much had to do with jeans and weight. Why is that?

My post-partum routine goes something like this:

1. Baby is born. (Whew, glad that is over with)
2. Eat and drink all the stuff I couldn’t while pregnant. (Wine and wine sometimes this is even before I leave the hospital.)
3. Get back into non pregnancy clothes
4. Get back into any pair of jeans
5. Get back into MY old pair of jeans
6. Get myself to the gym (This is when I found out I was pregnant with Anna) 7. Find a wardrobe that fits new lifestyle with baby
8. Find a babysitter who can sit with my kids so I can go out once in a while
9. Think about something besides babies and kids
10. Read anything besides something about babies and kids (this includes a newspaper)
11. Get back into a hobby
12. Get myself back into real shape (Not just walking on the treadmill) But I'm trying to get there still. . . .
13. Converse with people, including other moms, about something other than kids
14. Start reading real books. (Bingo! I have read 5 books in 2 months)

So this is a big deal for me. This I consider my full recovery from babydom. I hear my friends talking about having third and fourth babies, and all I can think is, ‘I’ve just come back. I need some time to enjoy life before I dive back in to the cycle again.’


Real strawberries and apples

We are now into week 8 of our pantry overhaul. Not one Goldfish has taken up residence in our house in almost 2 months. Whoa! Even I can’t believe that. My kids have learned to accept that at-home snacks consist of fruits, raisins, cheese, cereal, crackers, yogurt, homemade baked goods, etc. We’re really trying to get rid of the snacky snack foods at home since I know they get them elsewhere.

But what I also want them to develop is a sense of adventure with food. Yes, apples are great, but sometimes apples mixed in things are OK too. It’s fun to experiment with foods. Anna is a bit more game for this than Alex. Yesterday it started with a special treat of strawberry yogurt. Believe it or not, my kids both love plain yogurt. No flavors, just the yogurt. But Anna loves strawberry as well. So I bought a few little ones. She devoured hers in seconds. Alex starts to eat it and makes a face. “What’s this mommy?” I explain it’s strawberries in the yogurt. Both things that he loves: strawberries and yogurt. “Eeww, I don’t like strawberries in here. I only like real strawberries.” Later upon serving him the apple cake I made from our fresh farm-picked apples, he managed to pick out all the apples (which he also eats) and listened to him tell me about how apples shouldn’t be in cake. There is cake and there are apples, apparently. I could go on with a million examples, but you get the idea. My son is a purist with food. No adventure. No experimenting.

Anna is no stranger to this game either. A week ago I took her to Target for a rather long shopping trip. I bribed her full on with a muffin from Starbucks. She picked out the muffin which happened to be Pumpkin Cream Cheese. She yummied it down as fast as she could until she go to the cream cheese part.

“No like the banana, mommy,” she says. I explain that it’s not banana (which she does eat) but it’s cream cheese (which she also eats). She reinforced yet again that she didn’t like the banana in the muffin and could I eat it for her. We go round and round with this until she gives up. Crumbles the rest of the muffin her hand. Cries about the mess on her hands and dress. Cries that the muffin is gone. Throws her head back and hits the back of the seat and cries because she’s hurt. Lucky for me I got a bite of the muffin before we got to this point. It was really good, especially the cream cheese. Next time, though, I think I might buy Goldfish.


Boy, Girl, Girl, Boy

I am always interested in birth order and gender roles since my oldest is a rough ‘n tough boy and my daughter is, well, let’s just say, she can hold her own. I was reminded of this today when we were outside playing with the neighbors. Alex and four other boys were running their identical Tonka trucks around the parking lot of our townhouse community. (Yes, I know, terrible mom lets her kid play in the street.) Anna immediately gravitated to the four much older girls playing dolls. Though, I will give Anna some credit, she found her own way to cross over to the 'boy side' by grabbing the Big Wheel and pushing it around with the boys as if it was a Tonka truck. Isn’t that just like a girl to think outside the box?

Anna, while very sweet, would never be mistaken for a timid little thing. She climbs like a 4-year old, scaling playground equipment like a mountain climber. I even had one neighbor remark several times on her ability. My response is always, “have you seen her brother climb?” Yesterday, she grabbed both of the foam swords, handed one to Alex and said, “let’s fight.” My sweet 2-year-old daughter is suggesting a duel. Ugh.

I bought a playhouse a few months ago, put it up and watched the kids play. Did they play house? Absolutely not. Instead, Alex suggested a game of running towards the house and falling with all their might into it and playing “hugs.” (aka his version of wrestling.)

When left to her own devices, Anna will make herself a nice cup of tea/coffee and sit down with her dolls to play in the house. Alex will only stand for this for a few moments when the tea party is suddenly interrupted by a body slam.

Our house is almost 100% boy even though we have a girl. I wonder what it’s like for those with a girl as the oldest. Do the boys act a little more reserved if they have an older sister? Is body slamming involved in tea parties? Will the girls participate in Medieval knight duels? My brother is three years younger than I am. I remember making GI Joe and Barbie ride in the jeep together, but other than that, I wanted very little to do with his kind of play. Every once in a while I asked to be Princess Leia in his Star Wars adventure. I suppose that ages me right there, huh?

I’m curious about your own experiences of gender roles mixed with birth order. Please share some stories if you will.

Apple Pickin’

One of the fun things about having four seasons in Virginia (vs. our native Texas where they have two: hot and hotter) is the changing of the foods with each season. It’s officially fall and that means apples! Fortunately, for me, my kids love apples—apple juice, apple sauce, apple slices and just plain whole-with-the-skin-on apples. I’m guessing the reaction to “pick your own” might have been different if I said let’s go pick radishes or lettuce. But they were totally on board with this activity.
Andrew’s sister, the kids and I hauled ourselves out to Purcellville, VA, to the Crooked Run Orchard. It was about a half-hour commute to the farm. There was no gimmicky fest that went with this orchard. You drive out, drive into the driveway, you’re handed a bucket and you pick. My kid’s couldn’t have been more delighted by this outing. Ok, well, Anna was less than thrilled with the walk to the trees, but after eating an apple she was fine. We had our pick of a half dozen or so types of apples and at 75 cents a pound I figured we’d take all we could carry back in the two buckets.

Once they figured out their contribution was 100% in this project—Ellen and I just stood there and facilitated (you know, don’t get the ones on the ground, get the big ones, don’t get mushy ones, etc)—anyway, once they figured out this was all about them, they loved it. The buckets were full after 15 minutes. Anna looked at me with her half-eaten apple in her hand and said, “all done, let’s go home.”

I rolled my eyes a bit since we had driven 30 minutes out here for 15 minutes of work, but the walk to the trees was a good one and walk back, as well. They stopped to play at a creek for a good bit of time so all in all, we were there about an hour. I had packed a full picnic before leaving, but we were waylaid by the Golden Arches on the way home—making the trip truly a perfect journey for the kids.

I am now the proud owner of 18 pounds of apples, all of them too tart to eat raw so needless to say I’m open to great recipes that use lots of apples.

All in all, a good kid activity for good priced, locally grown food. I figured it’s never too early to teach your children about where the food we eat comes from either. Alex was ready to take them home and make apple cake, which I will be doing this afternoon.


Bat Cat Discovered

Referencing my earlier Halloween post: After lots of questioning, I have discovered Bat Cat is part of one of the Charlie and Lola stories on DVD that Alex watches. Somehow the description of Batcat flying up the building and coming out with a hairbrush seemed so much more imaginative when I thought he had made it up himself. Apparently, it's one of Lola's favorite comic book characters. Stupid TV.


Boys and their toys

This week my son brought home his first stick-figure drawing. I was so proud that he finally mastered some kind of art. Alex excels at many things, but art is not one of them. So in the car we were talking about the drawing, which also has his name at the bottom. (See picture) He informed me this was a picture of him holding a gun. What???

Shocked by this statement. I had to interrogate him some more. Apparently, he was drawing himself, shooting a bad guy. (See 'bad guy' on the left). I asked if he had told his teacher this, and he said he had. Great, now I’m the mom of the kid who’s talking about guns. Scandalized by this, I called my husband. His reaction was not quite as severe as mine. He reassured me that he was a three-year-old boy, and his artwork did not reflect poorly on us or him. He was just a boy.

Where talk of guns once was boys being boys, now it’s a teacher’s reason to suspect something crazy. A friend of my husband, a former marine, has a school-aged son. He was drawing pictures of army guys and guns during art class. A note came home with the boy instructing that he no longer draw these kinds of pictures at school or he would be expelled.

When is it just boys being boys? When is it OK for kids to express themselves? When it is not OK? I’m guessing at three probably most things are harmless. Alex hangs around older kids who do lots of “hunting the bad guys” so I surmise this came from them. We don’t talk about guns at home, even if my husband is a card-carrying member of the NRA. We don’t have TV where my kids could be exposed to this, and the DVDs they do watched are highly censored by mom and dad. But I’m trying not to react too much to this or he may draw more of these pictures. Ugh. (Why do I know this won't be the last time?)

But in recent days, I’ve seen slippage of guns into Alex’s play. One day the PB&J sandwich was formed into a gun shaped, followed by “pchew pchew” sounds from Alex. Another day, he turned a bathtub boat around to make it look like a gun. He told me he was playing and shooting bad guys. He asked if Anna was the bad guy. I said no. He asked if I was. I said no. So he turned and shot the wall. This morning, he turned his toy wrench into a gun by putting a sock over it. Again, he was chasing bad guys. Perhaps my question to him should be “who are these bad guys he needs to shoot.” But we have noticed a difference in him exploring good vs. evil in many different contexts so perhaps this is where the verbiage comes from.

I’m hoping this is all part of some ingrained male behavior. You know, the whole fighter/hunter thing. In contrast, my daughter is really into dolls and playing kitchen. Should I react to that as well? For now, I’ll just be proud of my kid’s artwork which looks somewhat recognizable. :-)


Thursday’s Dish: Turkey Breast Milanese

I saw this while watching the Today Show last week. I can’t take credit for it. I did, however, make it from memory so I altered it a bit on lack of memory. It was a winner. My kids ate the meat and Andrew and I enjoyed the whole thing. The directions make it look harder than it is. Basically, it's a large turkey nugget on top of salad. The salad is for us the nugget for the kids.

Turkey Breast Milanese
Serves 4
You can prepare and fry up the turkey in the morning, refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve, and reheat it in the oven for 5 minutes. Accompany — or, more traditionally, top — the turkey with a lemony salad of mesclun, sliced cherry tomatoes, torn basil leaves, Parmesan shavings, capers and green olives.

• Boneless turkey breast fillets
• 3 large eggs
• Kosher salt
• 7 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 1-pound loaf country bread (Lots of bread crumbs if you don’t have time to make your own)
• 2 lemons
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes or other tomatoes
• Basil leaves
• 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
• 1 bag of mixed greens
• 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained well
• 1⁄4 cup chopped green olives or kalamata olives (I prefer those)
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (skip this if you have store vinaigrette)

One at a time, place each fillet between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet until about 1/4 inch thick. (I use a measuring cup for this.) In a large shallow bowl, beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the flour in another large shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. One at a time, place each fillet in the flour, dusting it well, then place in the egg mixture. Transfer to a platter and let the fillets stand for 1 hour, refrigerated. ( I didn’t marinate. It was fine.)

Meanwhile, remove the crust from the bread and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Put the bread in a food processor and process to fine crumbs. Place the crumbs in a 2-quart zipper-lock plastic bag or a paper bag. (Or buy breadcrumbs)

Juice the lemons; set the juice aside. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves in half. Transfer 1 fillet to the bag with the bread crumbs, close the bag, and shake well to coat the fillet thoroughly. Place on a clean platter and repeat with the remaining 3 fillets.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the mixture is golden brown, add as many of the fillets as will fit in a single layer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on the first side. Gently turn over each fillet. Cook for 3 more minutes, or until cooked through. Fry the remaining fillets, using 1 more tablespoon olive oil and 1 more tablespoon butter. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss together the greens, tomatoes, basil, capers and olives.
Make a simple vinaigrette by whisking together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, and salt to taste in a small bowl. (I used store bought dressing.)

When the turkey is cooked, transfer the fillets to a platter. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet. Add the lemon juice and heat, stirring. Pour the lemon-butter mixture over the fillets. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and serve it beside or on top of each fillet.


Tired of the playground potty emergency

I have refrained from talking about my kid’s bathroom habit long enough. You knew eventually it would have to come up. But I felt as if I had to mention it due to yesterday’s playground emergency.

Back when we were potty training Alex, which was almost exactly a year ago, I was a bit more forgivable about the sudden outburst and potty dances in the middle of the grocery store, the playground, school, the museum, etc. But now, he knows his body more and I’m better tuned in on making him go before we leave the house. I must admit I am at fault at being one of those moms who lets her kid pee by the side of a tree. C’mon, he’s three and a boy.

Well, today, like most days that we hit one of many of the local playgrounds, we had a poopy emergency. Even though I asked many times about the bathroom before we left the house, within 5 minutes of arriving at the playgroup we had Alex crying that he had “to go poo poo.” I looked around and thought, this is going to be a tough one as there is no porta potty here and no place as far as I know that we can dash to. I said apologetically that he was going to have to hold it for a bit since we just got the playground and there was no potty. He reminded me there was one at the nearby pool, which was, of course, closed due to it being almost fall. The more he whimpered, the more irritated I got.

I know, I’m a horrible mom. But this happens 1 out of every 3 times we go to any playground. We go to a playground about five times a week. You do the math on that. It doesn’t matter if he’s already gone that day, he always has to go. We’re fortunate that at most of the Fairfax County playgrounds there are nearby bathrooms. One time we even have to sprint to the Home Depot across the street. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it.

So yesterday, he held it for all of three minutes before he begged to go home. So we loaded everyone in the car and headed for the nearby church. Sprinted in without being spotted and used their facilities. The story never ends here. Alex must detect my irritation and these bathroom sprints always, always turn into mini musical sessions. He sits there singing and asking question about the most random things. Anna on the other hand spends the time obsessing about washing her hands or touching everything in the bathroom while we wait for him to finish. A few weeks ago, our emergency led us to the closest 7-11 where we had to go actually use their bathroom twice. Perhaps I should throw one of the two little potties we have in the back of the car with a roll of toilet paper and a bag to help eliminate (pun intended) these mini emergencies and my mommy frustration. The good news is I’m getting pretty good at scoping out the nearest bathroom to nearly every playground in town!


No Halloween until October

The arrival of Halloween paraphernalia at every store in town has led us to begin the Halloween costume discussion. I’m still not convinced that it’s necessary to have witches and pumpkins out at the end of August, but I am a slave to American commercialism as much as I attempt to dodge it. (One of the perks we had living overseas away from this nonsense.) Blinking lights and spooky ghost sounds call my kids to that corner of Target, and the next thing I know, I’m having to explain why we’re not buying a Spiderman costume the first week of September.

So, instead of ignoring it, I did, ultimately, ask the question: What do you want to be for Halloween? Last year, Alex emphatically said a giraffe. So I as a good little mommy, after trying to find a costume online, I made his giraffe costume as best I could without sewing. (I don’t sew.) I had so much fun making his costume last year, I decided I would try to hand make both kids’ costumes for as long as I could until they wanted to be things like ‘scary man,’ ‘biker chick,’ or ‘man with arm coming off.’ Though I think I could make those too, but by then, I’m sure they won’t want me to come near them with ideas. I digress.

We’ve gone round and round with ideas for this year. I’m not ready for commercialized costumes since I try hard to bring as little Dora, Backyardigans, Elmo, Disney etc. in this as house as I can. But the kids’ responses on Halloween was something like this.

Mom: What do you want to be for Halloween?
Alex: A batcat.
Mom: What’s a batcat.
Alex: A batcat. You know it climbs a building.
Mom: No, I don’t know. Is it a bat or is it a cat? What color is it?
Alex: Mom, it’s a batcat. You know?
Mom: Ok, mommy doesn’t know how to make a batcat costume. Let’s think of something else.
Alex: [thinking for a while] How about Diego (from Dora the Explorer)? How about a hero? Yes, I want to be a hero.
Mom: Ok, what kind of hero.
Alex: I don’t know maybe Spiderman or Batman.
Mom: OK, we can do that.
Alex: No, maybe not.

We’ve had the conversation a few times. He always starts with batcat. What the hell is that? Then we have moved on to a giraffe, a hippo, a fireman and now of all things, he wants to be a ladybug. I wasn’t too stressed about this because my best friend’s little boy, also 3 ½ decided he wanted to be a ladybug. Keep in mind these boys don’t really talk much since she lives far away. So we’re working to figure out a way to make the most masculine lady bug costume possible.

If this isn’t silly enough, here is my conversation with Anna today when this whole thing started up again.

Mom: What do you want to be for Halloween?
Anna: Batcat
Mom: Really, do you know what that is?
Anna: Bat (pause) cat
Mom: OK, let’s think of something else.
Anna: A cat.
Mom: Ok, a cat sounds good. We’ll do that.
Anna: No, I be a dog.
Mom: Which one? A dog or a cat?
Anna: I be a one.
Mom: Oh, OK, you want to be a one.
Anna: No, I want to be a bee. Bzzzzzzz

Next time, I’m not going to ask. Halloween should be left for October. I’m not discussing this again until then.


Better than Benadryl

Foggy came to live with us before Alex was even born. He was a gift from Grandma Edie though I often think he may have been a gift from God. Froggy isn’t very big, and I’m sure he wasn’t expensive. Froggy used to be green and white, but if you ask Alex he’ll say he’s grey and yellow. (Yes, he’s dirtied and faded just that much even after weekly washings.) Froggy doesn’t leave the house except for doctor visits or trips out of town. And every time he does make it out for an airing we pray that he returns home safely.

Today Alex was stung by a bee on his toe. He screamed in so much pain from the sting. Really cried. Not the fake crying that we usually hear. After I cuddled him for a bit, he begged for Froggy. We had to leave the playdate and drive home, crying and sobbing the whole way. I carried him into the house because he insisted his toe hurt too much to walk. We walked in the door and handed him Froggy. Immediately, you could see his pain melt away. Sometimes I truly believe that Froggy must absorb pain, sadness or fear. Perhaps that’s why he’s so discolored. I didn’t hear another word about the bee sting for the rest of the night except Alex deciding that he didn’t like bees anymore.


Marking time with naps

For a stay-at-home mom, naptime can be the most sacred of times, even more so than after the kids go to bed. That half hour to sometimes three hours, can be so much for a mom. I think partly it’s because most husbands are not home on weekdays so when the kids sleep, that time can be ours.

Many days I choose not to spend the whole naptime folding the laundry, cleaning up the dishes, unloading the dishwasher or sweeping the floor. Although, I have figured out that I can pretty much clean my entire downstairs in the hour my kids sleep. (Forgive me as I have a teeny tiny house, one of the few perks to that.)

Last night at my mom’s group Cooking Club, we were explaining the recipes we made and how long they took to prepare, and the time was measured “in naptimes.” Such as: “I chopped the veggies during nap and finished it up during dinner; I was able to make the whole cake during naptime; I prepared the everything during naptime and cooked it right before I got here.” We laughed at how everyone measured time in increments of ‘how long our children slept.’

One of the perks to having kids less than two years apart, was once my youngest was on a nap schedule (about 4 months, my son was 20 months), I had a lot of time when people were sleeping during the day to take care of things. Some afternoons, I would have two and half hours with no children awake. I am lucky that Alex (3 ½) and Anna (2) still do take very regular naps, and everyday I can usually count on a full hour to myself. I mark my time during the day with before nap and after nap. That during naptime is totally my time and I know exactly how many activities, projects, etc. can be done during that time. I’m a little afraid of what will happen when the naps end. I might find myself lost looking for a some kind of unit to measure and mark the day.


Does not play well with others

When I picked up Anna yesterday on her second day of class, I asked how she did at school. I was surprised by the teacher’s reaction when she leaned in and said quietly, “We had a little incident today. She scratched a child.” OK, that’s not good. Then she proceeds to tell me, “If you could please talk this over with her at home that would be great.” I look at her and say, “Um, she’s 2.” I’m thinking to myself, how do you discuss something that happened an hour ago with a two-year old. When I asked the teacher about their discipline policy, she says they use positive reinforcement, but no time outs at the school. So, I sigh and get Anna and we go on our way.

As we’re waiting in the lobby for Alex’s class to finish up, I see another mom whose boy is in Anna’s class. I say hello and explain they must be in the same class and introduce Anna and myself. I ask how the boy’s first week was and she says, “Good, although, he got a little beat up today.”

My first thought is, crap, I bet it’s my kid who did it. So I say, very nicely, “Man, I’m so sorry. What happened? Did he fall or get hit or something?”

She says, “No he was scratched by another child.” Great. Lovely.

So I smile and chuckle and say, “Oh, I am so sorry. That was Anna. I apologize. I didn’t hear what happened, but she tends to be a bit aggressive since she has an older brother. They play pretty rough sometimes.”

She smiles back and says, “Yeah, he has an older brother too and tends to play on the rough side as well. I was worried about him beating up other kids.” So we kind of chuckle about the situation and that’s it.

This was my biggest fear with her starting school--not being beat up, but doing the beating up. Anna, as sweet and loveable as she is, plays like her older brother.

Then later that evening at Parent’s Night, I hear mother talking to the teacher about the incident. Apparently, Anna and her son fight over who plays in the kitchen. You know, the whole “mine” phase of every two-year old as I know. The teacher explains that she’ll keep a better eye on the children when they’re in the kitchen and try to break up the fights before they happen. While I agree my daughter does need to work on her temper and be better about sharing, I recall my son doing something similar at this age. His teachers would say the same thing. He went to school and learned if you did this, there were repercussions to your actions and possibly even a beating by a fellow classmate who wasn’t going to let you take the truck. School at this age is about learning to socialize and play well with others. Yikes! (This may come back to haunt her during an employee performance review.)

As we’re leaving for the evening, the mom comes up to me and says, “I don’t want you to worry about this. We will work through it.” Andrew looked a bit shocked at her statement, and I had to explain who she was and what Anna did.

This morning, we cut her fingernails.


Thursday's Dish: A recipe for all

Let’s face it. As moms, we spend a good deal of our daytime hours in the kitchen. I’m not sure why that is, but is seems pretty universal that kids eat most of the day and if we’re not cooking, we’re preparing or cleaning up. So I thought I’d devote one day a week to talking about food and/or meals.

When my neighbors and I gather outside in the remaining hours before dinnertime, without a doubt, the one question that always comes up is “what are you making for dinner?” Then we stand there, causally swap recipes and quickly think how we could alter that to accommodate our particular family’s eating habits and/or the items we already have stocked in the frig.

In my former life, before kids (BK), I used to be a gourmet. I would buy cookbooks and watching cooking shows and experiment with strange ingredients. Obviously I don’t buy cookbooks anymore or watch cooking shows or experiment with anything beyond basil or onions. I don’t even think my kids will eat those. In an effort to resurrect myself after almost three years of being short order cook for kids less than two years apart, I have made a commitment that my children will try to eat normal grown up food that we eat. Yes, we still do chicken nuggets, pizza, meatballs and mac and cheese on those nights I can’t get dinner on the table fast enough, but I will teach my kids to eat normal food somehow. My plan is to make dishes where I know each child will like something on their plate. Even it if means I have to throw carrot sticks on there to satisfy our veggie quota for the week. (If Alex dislikes dinner, he will eat a million carrots in lieu of dinner, which is fine by me.)

My first recipe is one I believe I got from my mom and my mother in law. I think they each make a different version of it. It’s one everyone will eat most of or parts of, makes good leftovers, and takes less than 30 minutes.

Quick Sausage and Spinach Pasta
(Don’t let the spinach throw you off this one, my kids will eat around it and even occasionally try it.)

1 pound of any kind of pasta
1 package of sausage (we like the Garlic and Cheese ones from Trader Joes, but anything that’s not too spicy will do)
1 bag of baby spinach leaves
1 carton of cherry tomatoes (I’ve even used canned in a pinch or regular tomatoes)
Pine nuts are optional
Parmesan Cheese

Boil pasta. Cook sausage until done. Cut up tomatoes or slice cherry ones in half. Once the pasta is done, drain quickly. Once the sausage is done, slice. Put everything back in the pot that you boiled the pasta in—pasta, sliced sausage, tomatoes, and spinach. (Add in a little oil or some of the juices from the sausage.) The steam from the pasta will “cook” the spinach and just wilt it. If you like, you can cook the tomatoes and spinach in the same skillet as the sausage for just a minute or two to wilt them both a bit. Right before serving add cheese and pine nuts, if desired.

(Note: This makes a lot. My daughter inhales the pasta and some of the spinach and a few bites of sausage. My son will eat the sausage, a few bites of pasta and if we’re lucky will eat a bit or two of spinach. Feel free to add more to this, zucchini might be good too.)


An evening activity for three

Ok, so perhaps this is exploiting my children and turning them into massage slaves at the age of 3 ½ and 2. But our evenings here are long. My husband usually gets home after the kids go to bed so during the ever-popular “witching hour,” we’ve had dinner, watched a show, read some books, done some dress up, taken a bath, done a craft (PlayDoh, paint, stickers, take your pick), played Bingo, etc. After a very long day of whining from both my kids, I decided after their bath, it was my turn. I filled up the tub with hot water and poured in the bubble bath, got in and grabbed a magazine. My kids, with teeth brushed and fully PJed were listening to The Wiggles in their room and playing with Mr. Potato Head.

Alex rushes in and grabs a cup. He loves to pour water into water or water on me so I agreed he could play while I read my magazine. He stood there happy scooping up sudsy water and pouring it over my shoulder and down my back. Anna runs in and sees the water. She, in the early stages of OCD, loves to wash her hands—all day long. Any passing of a bathroom reminds her to “wash heends in da bafroom.” So she digs into the bubbles and starts rubbing them on my shoulder and back. What started as handwashing turned into a gentle massage from a 2-year old, followed by a thorough rinse from her brother. This went on for 15-20 minutes. Of course, by then I had put my magazine down and seized the moment to connect with my kids turning this into a nice memory. If only I’d had my wine with me . . . nah, that would have been a little cruel. I figure as long as we stop this potential evening ritual by the time my oldest starts kindergarten, I should be OK, right? Nothing like pampering from your preschoolers.


Plastic bottles pose risk to babies

I opened up my newspaper this morning to see this headline staring back at me “Plastic Baby Bottles Pose Risks.” What?!!!

I had heard about clear plastics and the leaching of chemicals, but I never gave bottles much thought. So I go on to read that heating plastic bottles can cause chemical breakdowns where these nasty toxins leach into the liquid to cause an array of fun things such as: reproductive disorders, early puberty, early stage breast cancer, decreased sperm count or attention and developmental disorders and brain damage. Apparently, even small amounts can have an affect.

So, what’s a mom to do? Both my kids took a bottle, collectively, for more than three years. I remember hearing my husband, who hates microwaves for this reason, saying to me “don’t heat those bottles in the microwave.” But I was afraid to put hot water from the tap in the formula for fear of leftover lead in the pipes. So my solution was to heat in a pot of boiling water. (Which he also disagreed with, he says.)

Can you undo the potential harm already done? According to the article, the answer is no. I know now for future babies to use a different bottle. Apparently Medela, Born Free and Adiri Natural Nurser may be better since they are made with ploypropylene, which does not contain the harmful BPA. Avent, the one both my kids used, apparently has a high leaching rate of BPA since it's made from polycarbonate. Great. I walked through Right Start this morning and glanced at the Born Free bottles sitting right next to the Avent line.

How’s a mom to feel about this? I figure people all over the world bottle feed at some point Don’t they heat the bottle too? As parents we do all we can to protect our little ones. We do the best we can with the knowledge we have and to read something like this just breaks my heart. In their smallest, most innocent phase of life, I unknowingly, did something to cause my kid damage later on in life.

Here are a few other blogs I found talking about this if you want more info:

Julie’s Heath Club (also the author of the article)
Musings from the Boob Juice Factory
Baby Safe Direct


First Day of School Report Card: Half Success

I was singing while cleaning up the dishes last night. I had an extra spring in my step on the way to bed. Today is the first day of school for both my kids. Granted they only were set to go for an hour and 15 minutes each for a “phase in” period, but it didn’t matter because today was the day!

Fooled again. This morning after we got the kids dressed, took the obligatory first-day-of-school pictures, Alex complains of his tummy hurting while Andrew is reading him a book. I feel his head. He’s hot! Take his temperature. It’s 101 degrees. It’s like in movie when the moment comes to a screeching halt with the scratching of a vinyl record. “No way,” I say. “He’s acting fine. He’s going to school.” After Andrew and I argue for a while over this, I make the dreaded call to school explaining that I get the prize since I have the first kid who is home sick. Score! Immediately, as I hung up the phone, Alex begins to cry about how he wants to go to school and see his teachers, play with the water table and do dress up. Then as the morning progresses, he’s jumping on the bed, playing as usual, screaming at his sister. Business as usual, as far as I can see. Where did this fever come from?

Anna, however, did make it to school today. She had her abbreviated school day. This is Anna’s first time at school, and she was ready for the day sometime last year. We worked to pack up her bag last (spare change of clothes, diapers, etc.). This morning after a good breakfast, we pulled into the parking lot. She said “Hi school. Bye Alex. See you later.” We walked into her classroom. She immediately darted to the easel with paints set up. I talked to the teacher for about a minute. Looked at Anna and explained I would be leaving and would return soon. She looks up from her painting project, smiled and said, “Bye bye Mommy. See you later.”

When I went to pick her up, she didn’t run to me or cry like she does when I drop her at the gym. She waved hello as she was painting. (Seriously, I don’t think she left the easel the whole time I was gone.) But she seemed happy to see me and happy to go home, too. The report from Ms. Charisma was she had a fabulous time.

Hopefully, Alex will be well for his Wednesday class, and Thursday they both can go together. First day report: Half success.


The Rules of the Playground

One of the biggest culture shocks upon reentry into American life after three years abroad, was following the rules of the playground. I remember my first playground trip in Austin, Texas. I stood there perplexed by the actions of moms and the looks I got by not “abiding by” whatever inferred rules there were. Things were a bit better when I arrived in Reston, Virginia. But today, upon visiting a new playground in McLean, I was remembering the days a year ago when I just stood in the mulch wondering how I missed the memo.

First of all, my only experiences, up until a year ago were overseas. In Qatar, the rules were, there were no rules. Kids ran around and if you were lucky you might find a mom or caregiver somewhere within 20 yards. In Sweden, the play was more organized free play. Kids seem to know what was acceptable and moms sat out of the way of play, but within good sprinting distance to save a child or break up a fight. Generally, kids were left to climb, play, swing, run around, argue, etc. on their own with little interference from mom or dad. I find this to be the best rule of playground play.

It’s a playground and kids are there to, well, play. Telling kids to not jump, climb or yell seems to defeat the purpose of going to the playground. Well, today in McLean, I watched not one, but five parents run interference with their kids so much that I was annoyed to be there. Little Susie was praised for not only walking up the steps so beautifully (she was about 2), but for playing very well on the train. Twin boys Peter and John, also two, had dad within arm distance narrating every move they made and making them do what he instructed. Another dad kept insisting that his son stop yelling “choo choo” on the train. This irritated me, so we left.

Suggested playground rules:

Kids should be able to run and jump and climb on whatever is safe for their age and ability.

If kids have squabbles, they should be able to work it out for themselves (throwing mulch, etc.) Let them at least try to work it out.

It is OK for kids to climb up the slide if no one else is on it. I don’t under why parents insist this is a no-no.

Kid may yell or scream if they want to.

No pushing or biting other kids.

Moms should be allowed to sit and rest on the park bench or chat with friends at least 10 feet from their kids if the kids are able on the equipment. Moms need a break when the kids play.


Worth my time with Funny Meatballs

I don’t know why my kids have developed this affinity for meatballs, but they have. Alex started eating them at a very early age in Qatar. They were of course Halal ones (special Islamic blessed food) no less. When we moved to Sweden, I thought he’d nearly faint when he found out he, in theory, could eat meatballs everyday. Swedish Meatballs are in fact served at street side cafes, by street vendors and it’s always the kid’s platter at a restaurant (think Sweden’s chicken nuggets.)

Upon arriving home to the U.S., Alex would ask for meatballs at every restaurant, and every time I would have to explain that was not a choice. Too bad because they are a much healthier choice to chicken nuggets. We have found comfort in the Trader Joe’s meatballs or even the Swedish ones from Ikea. This past weekend, I had some left over meat and decided to try my Swedish meatball recipe. I spent almost two hours mixing, balling and frying to have every meatball come out looking like a meat patty instead of a ball. I vowed never to do this again until….not only do both my kids eat the entire batch and ask for more. But a few days later, Alex very sweetly asks for “mommy’s funny meatballs.” When I asked what he was talking about his response: “Funny meatballs are the ones you made. They’re funny because they were oval. I like the oval ones. They were yummy funny meatballs.”

Here is the recipe I have for those that asked:

    Meatballs (Kottbullar)

    1/2 cup Fresh Bread Crumbs (Would advise having more on hand as I had to use more)

    1 cup of milk (I would use much less as I had trouble. Recommend 1/2 cup)

    1 onion minced

    Butter or oil

    10 oz ground beef

    4 oz of ground pork

    1 egg

    Salt, pepper, allspice to taste.

    Soak breadcrumbs in milk. Brown onion in butter. Combine ground meat, bread mixture, onion and egg. Season with salt and petter and allspice. Mix lightly adding water if necessary. Make small balls with wet hand and spoon. Fry meatballs in butter. Shake pan frequently so they stay round.

    Sauce if you're interested. 2TBLS of butter; 2 TBLS of flour; 1 1/4 cup beef stock; 1/2 beer. Brown butter in a pan whisk in flour. Whisk in stock and beer. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes until flour disappears.


Back to school: C’mon it’s preschool!

Unfortunately for us, ‘Back to School’ doesn’t start until next week, but today we had our “meet the teacher” for both Anna and Alex. Since this is Alex’s 4th preschool (2 Swedish schools and Frying Pan Park Preschool), I wasn’t too nervous for him. Basically, they play, read, sing some songs and have a snack. As long as he’s having fun and behaving himself, then I’m not too concerned. He has crazy advanced verbal skills so I don’t worry about communication issues and he’s extremely social so I don’t worry about socialization issues—other than the pushing and hitting. But I was a bit nervous before meeting Anna’s teacher since this is Anna’s first experience with school. Even though, Anna was ready for school last year when we took Alex twice a week. Luckily, her teacher, who has both a 3- and 1-year old seemed fairly capable of facilitating playing, reading, singing and eating snack.

One mom sat and asked about million questions about the schedule. For me, I only want to find out when and how long recess is and when and how long open play is. C’mon it’s preschool. My three-year old can write his name with much effort so if they can teach him to hold a pencil correctly all the time and have him at least get the letters going in the left-to-right direction then I’m good! (He likes to write them right to left which my husband keeps telling him is the Arabic way of writing A-L-E-X). And if Anna can keep from biting every boy in school, then we have ourselves a winning year.


Out and about with the monkeys

It has finally gotten easier. Yesterday, with the kids, we managed a series of outings which included: the gym for mommy to workout, buying new school shoes for both kids (OK, it was Payless), going to the grocery store, coming home for nap, going back out for Anna to get a haircut, going back to the grocery store because I forgot the milk and the library. The only one that was a major flop was the library. Two-year olds should not go to the library. Anna spent the whole time at the computer trying “check the email.” Apparently mommy spends far too much time on the computer, but I digress.

If you had told me two years ago that I’d be able to manage this many outings with both kids, I would have laughed in your face and then sat down to cry because I was only ever able to manage one outing a day and usually that didn’t go well.

In addition to this little triumph yesterday, it was validation for me after running across this email I had sent out almost 2 years ago after just moving to Sweden. Enjoy!

    From October 2005 (Alex 19 months and Anna 3 months)
    "We had run out of veggies and wine.....two staples of the Kerr household that must always be stocked. I decided to make a mid-week run to the big grocery store. I had my list all ready and everyone's feedings timed. However, I was out of the cookies I use to bribe Alex to sit quietly in the cart through the store. This could prove to be a problem.

    We arrive at the store. I park far away as my husband has instructed me to do so as not to ding the new Volvo wagon. (I love you, honey.) There are usually various corrals for the carts throughout the parking lot. The MO usually goes....get a cart (paying my 5 SEK deposit since they are apparently afraid people will run off with the carts), load up Alex in the cart, load up Anna in the Bjorn and hurry before people get fussy. Today, I went to the nearest place to get a cart and there were no carts. Annoyed, I tried the next one, also out. Apparently someone invested their lifesavings and DID run off with every cart in the parking lot. Frustrated, I got Alex out of the car and made him wait next to me while I loaded up Anna in the Bjorn. Alex started to walk with me through the parking lot. He won't hold my hand so I have to guide him kind of. He wanted to stop at each car and try to open the door. I finally had to grab his hand as cars were coming, but his favorite thing to do is make you hold him by his hand so he's hanging. Nice mom, huh?

    Once we get to the carts, he screams about going into the seat. (Mind you, I’m lifting him in with Anna still in the Bjorn killing my arms/chest.) I had seen other toddlers riding in the cart part and thought since my list was short, I'd let him do that. He enjoyed it for about 10 minutes. We zipped through the store as quickly as possible, all the while telling Alex to sit down. As each item was placed in the cart, he tried to open it.....peppers, rice, chicken, diapers (oh, wait, he threw those out of the cart). Then Anna started to scream. Usually her MO when we get to the checkout, but she decided to start early this time. Then we pick up Alex's cookies and I tried to hide them from him, but he spotted them and I had to listen to "cookie cookie" through the whole store. Luckily, we were almost done. We get to the cashier and though it is 10:30 a.m. there is ONE cashier open. So we wait. I hear cookie cookie and Anna crying. As I load up the groceries onto the belt, he cries each time I take one away from him. Rice....boo hoo hoo.....chicken....boo hoo hoo. Then Anna luckily passes out. We make it to the car, finally. I load up the groceries and take him out of the cart. We needed to stop and get wine which is sold next door. So we bring back the cart and I get my 5 SEK back. We walk to the liquor store to get their cart....wait, there's no place for Alex to sit in that cart. So we have to walk back and get another grocery cart to take in with us. This time he's screaming about sitting in the chair. Now he has his cookies so he's OK for a bit. We zip through the store. Then Alex needs his water and he's screaming at the top of his lungs for water. (Something not done by Swedish children) We went to the car, where I promptly forgot to locate the water, but woke up Anna while putting her back in the car. She screamed, Alex made faces at her and I was sweating. Returned the cart, loaded up the wine (which I now felt I needed some of) and drove home. All the while Anna screaming at the top of her lungs and Alex asking for water which I couldn’t locate. We pulled into the drive and she continued to scream, he got out of the car and fell and cried. Everyone crying....including almost mommy. So I plopped Alex in his high chair to watch his Baby Einstein DVD and fed Anna, totally forgetting that I left all the car doors open when we made our quick entry into the house. Man, I'm beat. It's only 1 p.m.!!!!!!"

The funny thing, upon reading this now, is that this stuff stills happens. I have just learned to ignore some of it and plan a bit more. What would I have done differently now? Taken the double stroller and an extra bag to fill with groceries. Gotten the cookies first to bribe and prayed for the best. Live and learn, huh?


Killing time with the kids

My best friend Cara (coauthor of our forthcoming book about 2 kids less than 2 years apart) and I were talking about “killing time” with the kids. She explained that since she works part time, she rarely has the problem of having to kill time with her children, who are the same age as Alex and Anna.

She had run into a friend who was killing time in a grocery store, and this concept was completely foreign to her. “Why would you purposely take both your kids to the worst place you could take two kids?” she asked me. I explained to her that the drive to the store, the ride in the car cart, and the prospect of getting some kind of treat and the ride home again could kill a good 45 minutes to an hour.

As a mom who is fully an expert in killing time—yes, we do the important educational trips here and there, but sometimes you have an hour to kill before dinner, nap, bedtime, or in between errands—I have a mental list of places to go during the day which can accommodate both my monkeys and the area of town. How prepared is that?? I can’t admit that they all work 100% of the time, but generally, they are good for the allotted space.

This list, of course, differs by the time of day, attitude of children, day of the week, and area of town.

(In no particular order)
Target: Something for everyone and nine times out of ten I actually need something there. It might involved a bribe during the trip, but sometimes we can make a game of it.

Trader Joes: Again, most of the time I need milk, eggs, bread, etc. Trader Joes is kid friend, with snacks, stickers and balloons. And wine is $3 so, you know. . . .

Any local fountain: My kids are obsessed with fountains. I have scouted them all out to see what food establishments are nearby. Fountains can take us 30 minutes sometimes if they can actually play in/with the water.

Playgrounds: Always an easy time killer. I know which ones are frequented at which times, as well as their shadiness during the day.

Frying Pan Park Farm: I’m not sure of other cities in the country, but we are fortunate enough to live within minutes of a small, working farm. (Actually where Alex went to preschool). There are tons of animals, rocks, a playground, and even a Farmer’s market. Animals always perk the kids up.

Toy stores/book stores: It’s amazing how much time a Thomas the Train table can take. At Barnes and Noble, the train table + a muffin buys me a good half hour.

Local lake: Again, my kids are into water. We can stop off at a nearby lake and play on the boat ramp for quite some time. This is throwing rocks and sticks in or pretending to fish.

Home Depot/Lowes: I hate to even admit this. My kids love to go through home improvement stores. They pick out their favorite paint color and pick up a paint stirrer which doubles as a sword later. Then we move on to appliances, bathrooms, kitchens, lawn mowers, etc. This tends to work better with just one kid, but I’ve been known to take both.

Best Buy: Need I say more. The most horrid store on the planet is a great source of entertainment for my kids.

Nature Walk: We do these closer to home. Walking through our nearby wood, fields, we collect flowers, leaves, sticks, rocks in bags, buckets and pails to bring home and show dad.


My monkeys at the zoo

We concluded summer vacation with a trip to the National Zoo yesterday. With Andrew out of town again, we were looking for an activity which would take a good part of the morning. We arrived at 9 a.m. (yes, I realize that is bloody early, but when kids wake at 6:30 it’s no issue to get them out of the house.) The zoo is actually open from sunrise to sunset so the morning joggers definitely beat us there. But we managed to get a good viewing of many of the animals who were out enjoying the cooler morning temps. Like the Giant Panda was who was doing a performance for onlookers and photographers.

Of course, the most interesting things to my monkeys were not necessarily the monkeys themselves or the pandas or the elephants or even the octopus. They enjoyed each and every water fountain, a few coke machines, the ice cream vendors, and the statues. I’m so glad we drove the 40 minutes into DC for these rare sightings. Kids.

They like to run to the areas where the animals couldn’t be seen and wait and call out for the missing animal. Alex was convinced if we stood long enough at the empty hippo pond sooner or later there might be a hippo. So we waited and waited and waited some more until I finally explained that the hippo was inside and that was the only way we were going to spot him. Anna spent a great deal of time yelling at the animals—at the panda bear sleeping in the rock she yelled, “wake up bear” about 20 times; at the octopus for being “eww gross;” at the monkeys for being “too loud.”

Overall, despite the fact that snack/lunch and every other item in the zoo other than the animals was the main attraction, the kids had a marvelous time. The crisp September morning was better than we could ask for, and it was a wonderful way to end the summer months.


The government is into our breasts?

In Friday’s Washington Post, a front page article talked about the Department of Health and Human Services toning down ads about breastfeeding. Besides the fact that this was front page ABOVE THE FOLD (clearly a slow news day), I started to think why is it the government’s business as to how many people are breastfeeding babies?

Let me start out by saying that before my children were born, I was super gung ho about breastfeeding until they could get up and get their own cup of milk. My efforts with my first child proved difficult, and we ending up supplementing early even though I struggled to nurse until he was five months old. With my daughter, we had a much easier go, even after a early bout of mastitis, but she wanted to eat in total quiet. Alex (who was 16-21 months at the time) would have nothing to do with quiet. So at five months, I packed them in and pulled out the formula.

The article talks about how the federal government commissioned ad agencies to run these attention grabbing ads encouraging (more like scaring) moms into breastfeeding. The formula companies were a bit irate, as you can imagine. Their reason for the ad campaign was that the U.S. breastfeeding rate “lags behind the rate in many European countries.” Well, duh! Why do you think that is? Maybe it’s because many European countries give moms a year maternity leave. Wouldn’t that foster a better system for breastfeeding more than ads? While I am one of the fortunate ones who can stay at home with my kids, there are many out there who don’t due to money or career. Adding the pressure of breastfeeding or sitting in a bathroom to pump milk during the day at work, on top of a new baby is a bit ridiculous.

Breast is best for babies. I will not deny that at all. I didn’t enjoy it the first time around, but really did with my second. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Do I encourage other moms to? You bet. Do I scorn those who don’t do it? No way. Every mom is different; every baby is different; and every situation is different.

In Sweden (you all know how I love Sweden), the majority of moms breastfeed until 6 months or a year. It’s more of a culture expectation and while some moms don’t do it, you’ll see moms hanging out at the mall, in a restaurant, at a park breastfeeding in the open. Our society is not quite ready for boobs flying here and there although by the time I breastfed my second, they were and I didn’t even look up to see if anyone cared. I feel like until people in the U.S, are fine with public breastfeeding and until moms have better set up for being home with their kids until 6 months of age at least (all very huge cultural shifts for us), not much will change. I don’t think any decision from our men at the top that has to do with “new advertising” to push breastfeeding is going to be the answer.