Car Seats and Preschoolers

I was never quite as anal as my friend about car seat installation. With babies born overseas, we didn't have the opportunity to stop at 'car seat check locations,' especially since in Qatar babies weren't even in car seats most of the time. They used to ride up front with the goats (no, I'm not kidding) or dad would hold the baby up against the steering while while he plowed through a deadly roundabout. Seriously.

But both my kids had their appropriate car seats, and they were installed to the best of my ability. As they got older and were able to climb in and even fasten it on their own, I admit to being a bit lackadaisical about checking the fit--too loose, too high, too low, twisted strap, etc. This is certainly a failure on my part, and I should be better about it.

This past weekend we had a car seat scare. This is the third time it has happened, but never has it made me sick to my stomach. On our way to Richmond, we pulled up to the toll booth and the arm didn't go up. My husband slammed on the brake and my daughter--strapped into her car seat--flew forward, seat and all, hitting her head on the back of the driver seat. Actually, she hit the DVD player screen. Turns out while she was fastened in, but the car seat was not. My kids had played in the car earlier that day and someone must have unhooked the car seat (our Britax Roundabout no longer has the LATCH on it so we have to buckle it in 'old school'). This is the third time her car seat has been undone, but the previous two times I found it before we left the house.

Needless to say, I was grateful for the guardian angel who gave us the head's up on Anna's seat. Braking at five miles an hour is a lot less painful than braking or being hit at highway speed.

Lesson learned: Be more judicious with the car seat inspection before driving. Life is precious.


Terrible Tuesdays

We are a routine family. I like structure, routine and predictability and so do our kids. They wake up at the same time, take a nap everyday around the same time and definitely go to bed at the same time. Part of it is for them, but most of it is for me.

When my both my kids started preschool in September three mornings a week, I thought we had a the perfect balance--three days of school and structure, two days of freedom to do whatever we want. However, since the school year started we have struggled every single Tuesday. My kids get up and ask "What are we doing today? What's the plan?" Have I gotten them so acclimated to routine that they can't handle one day off?

It seems only to be on the Tuesday after we've had the crazy not structure of the weekend and then a full Monday of routine. "What about Friday?" people ask. Well, Friday has a whole different feel to it because it's Friday and I'm joyously celebrating the impending weekend.

So to solve my Terrible Tuesday troubles, I signed my oldest up for a soccer class at 9 a.m. (How suburban mom am I?) I was sure this would solve our Tuesday issue. Now, six weeks into our soccer class, ever Tuesday still proves to be a giant cluster for our family.

Today we attempted soccer, a hair cut for my daughter and a VERY brief trip to Target--with bribes, mind you, and by the time we were home, I needed children in rooms so I could take a deep breath. Perhaps it's that we're doing too much on Tuesday to make up for the lack of structure. Perhaps it's that I expect a Terrible Tuesday every Tuesday so expectations are preset. Perhaps it's that Tuesday is just silly day. Thank goodness next year someone will be in school on Tuesday.


More on Vaccines

My mom's group has been buzzing again lately about vaccines. A friend of mine mentioned that her doctor gave her a hard time about delaying vaccines to space them out a bit. The doctor's response to her request was to have her sign a waiver and comment, "So that when you come in here when your son comes down with meningitis our insurance company doesn't wonder what we're doing." Apparently the practice is known for telling moms not to believe everything they read in the media.

Really, is this your response? Is this what a new parent of a two-month old needs to hear from her child's pediatrician? No mom wants to be bullied into anything they do related to their child, especially by their pediatrician.

The argument about vaccines and autism may be waning a bit, but some moms are starting to request vaccines be spaced out. [Translation: Baby may not need to have all shots at one visit.] Perhaps giving three at one visit and three more later would better suit a parent and a child. While I know that a pediatrician should know what's best in the kid's medical world, Dr. Sears, a leading expert on 'many things baby' and author of The Vaccine Book, even admits that doctors are not well versed in this subject. They simply pass along what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports to them.

I'm not trying to bad mouth my doctor, because in truth, I love my doctor's office. (Plug for Farrell Pediatrics.) But I will even admit they sometimes can be pushy on the vaccines. They have been more than willing to agree, without a grudge, on my own schedule. (My son's schedule is included in the comments section.) Here is the current AAP schedule:

Birth - Hep B
1 month - Hep B
2 months - DTaP, HIB, Pc, Rotavirus, Polio
4 months - DTaP HIB, Pc, Rotavirus, Polio
6 months - DTaP, HIB, Pc, Rotavirus, Hep B, Flu (if in season)
1 year - MMR, Chickenpox, Hep A
15 months - HIB, Pc
18 months - DTaP, Polio, Hep A, Flu (if in season)
2 years - Flu
3 years - Flu
4 years - Flu
5 years - DTaP, Polio, MMR, Chickenpox, Flu

I will tell you right now we didn't follow this schedule with either of our kids. We were living overseas at the time and the vaccinations were given out at the embassy. After talking to the nurse there, decided we would space it out since it only meant a trip into the embassy. My kids never got more than three at one time and never had much of a reaction to anything. I'm not sure if it was a connection or not.

Now, when my son went to his four year visit, they told me he needed FOUR shots. Do you see four shots on this list at four years? No...I had already researched this prior to my visit. I decided we would give Alex the Polio vaccine at his appointment and spread out the rest until he starts kindergarten, which is the requirement (unless you sign a waiver.) One of the doctor's in the practice did say felt it wasn't necessary to space them out, but couldn't explain why. She agreed to do whatever I felt comfortable with and said her main goal was to get kids vaccinated. If moms want to do it on their own schedule, that was their choice and they were fine to support it. Not the best answer, but one that works for me.

But knowing this now, I will probably opt to get Anna caught up on her boosters starting at her three-year appointment so we're ahead of the game.

I'm not sure the link between what the AAP says and what doctors have to quote. Three years ago, AAP said no bottles after a year, and my doctors came down hard on me about that. Now, they are a bit more lenient and say up to 16 months. The numbers and the data on everything from breastfeeding to solid foods and bottles to pacifiers changes all the time. Isn't it quite possible things will change even for the number of shots during one doctor's visit?


Time Out from Kids

Love the kids, needed a break. It's been almost a year since my husband and I had 24 hours without the kids. We took ours this weekend. Funny what we do with 24 hours now that we have kids. How much has changed in four years! Last year, we attempted New York City for two nights without the kids.

My idea of a great time without the kids is to walk at my own pace. No stopping to pick up sippy cups or to break up fights. No sprinting to catch people who attempt to dart across the street. No carrying people on my shoulders because they got tired. I want to stroll at my own pace once in a while and stop and see sights and watch people. My husband's idea of a great time was to read. Yes, New York City probably wasn't the best choice of places to visit for just sitting and reading.

This year we conferred before planning the trip, and decided to drop the kids in Richmond with my parents and just stay in Richmond--do a little shopping and walking for me and a little reading for him. And that's just what we did: a two-hour walk around the James River, shopping and lunch in Carytown where my husband sat and read, a trip to the mall (you can't do this with kids), dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and sleeping in until 8 a.m. (I know, but when your kids wake before the sun, this is sleeping in.) Loved it!


Parenting, Inc.: Reverting to Simpler Times

Our generation is such a sensory generation. We don't buy to survive, like perhaps our parents' or grandparents' generations. We are easily marketed to and often tend to buy things which make us feel good.

This, of course, transpires to what we buy for our children. Baby products have become a $240 million industry with product names like Bugaboo, Svan, and Stokke replacing household favorites like Evenflo, Graco and Fisher Price. Where we used to be wary of "new" companies in the baby world, now we're more excited about it than ever. Baby products and classes are no longer about what our kids like and enjoy, but what makes us feel good when they play with the toys or take the class.

I recently read Pamela Paul's new book Parenting, Inc. This insightful book talks about many of the effects of the crazy expensive organized classes for babies, high-priced baby gear and clothes, and "educational" toys and DVDs all for our precious little ones. And these are just some of the topics. Pamela provides an eye-opening account, as well as a rather lengthy list, of all the baby things we have bought into over the past five or so years. [Guilt!] My son was born right around when things really started to take off. I remember enviously eyeing the few people in town who had the first Bugaboos (because they were so cool) and thought, 'Who would pay $800 for a stroller?' If I could've, I would've.

I'm going to just address a few things that hit a chord with me. Pamela devotes a whole chapter to classes, which I find interesting. My son took his first music class when he was five months old. I remember signing him up and being so excited about doing the "mom thing" with other moms. Truth be told, he hated every minute of it. And he wasn't the only one. All the kids under age 2 in the class seemed less than thrilled with being there and would have rather just wandered around the room instead of being expected to sit and listen to the music. We never took another "organized" class after than until my son was 3. I was most relieved to read in Parenting, Inc. that my children were the norm.

"We thrust our babies into this kind of commotion, yet are afraid to just let our kids do their own thing at home, in a safe and nurturing environment. We have allowed ourselves to be robbed of confidence as parents and to deprive ourselves of one of our most ordinary and--often quite easy--roles."

While Pamela doesn't spend the book preaching about simplifying, she does allude to the simple life of yesterday. It's hard for parents to screen out messages we receive on what is good for our kids. For example, I absolutely hate the Leap Frog toys. They "market" these as educational toys, but I have yet to see one kid who actually is learning any more from these noisy toys, what a book, conversation or quieter game wouldn't teach.

And here's the problem:

"What they don't screen out can actually make things worse. Once baby becomes accustomed to overprocessed toys, spontaneously lighting up and emitting noises, toys that "do nothing" seem boring by comparison. The child never learns that he's the one who's supposed to provide the action.

This is why children have trouble making their own fun these days and lacking the ability to pretend and make believe. It's not just about TV or video games, it starts as early as infanthood. Hey, don't get my wrong, my kids lived in the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Bouncy seat. I remember my husband calling it the ADD chair. Nothing like starting them out at three months addicted to noise and lights. Don't I feel bad now? Perhaps there's something to the Svan bouncy seat.

Then, of course, I loved reading the commentary on TV in the Let Us Edutain You chapter. As someone who doesn't have TV in her home, I was happy to read I'm not that out there for skipping this media all together. I was a bit floored to read the excerpt about Baby Einstein's Day at the Farm--which was one of my son's favorites. "In a twenty-second segment, the scene changes six times. It's about the most wearily day on a farm imaginable." Unfortunately, as a Baby Bunching mom, something had to give in those early years of tending to two babies.

So what's a mom to do? Well, Pamela's book doesn't really give you the direct answer. I think any thinking mom would know what to do. Do your research about what products you do buy for your kids, the classes you take, the things you do "for your kids," and possibly revert back to the way things used to be done. Perhaps when grandma starts out with "in my day . . . ", she was right. Maybe babies sleeping in dresser drawers really was a better option to cribs with lights, music and vibrations.

As Pamela suggests, we are smart shoppers and we have the internet at our disposal. We should use it! Just because there are 25 potty seats on the market, some that even play music and make flushing sound (note: I would buy a potty seat that potty trained my kid!) doesn't mean we need to own them all. I learned a very important lesson from the worst potty seat out there. Just because it looks like a good idea, doesn't mean it is. Luckily, I was only out $15, but I didn't do my research, didn't ask around and as a result had a stupid potty seat neither kid would sit on for 2 years in my house. I found out when I tried to pass it along to someone else, every review on Amazon was a terrible one.

No one needs an $800 stroller or a Soothing Center. If you have the money for it and you love it, then I guess that's your call. If the baby classes out there are for you, then take a few now and then to expose your kids to new environments and you new friends. But in the end, know you're a target for a $221 million a year industry.

Definitely a recommended book for all moms and moms-to-be of young children.


At Play Cafe: Great Idea, Small Space

Let me start off by saying that I was the first to be SO excited about At Play Cafe. I wanted to be the first one at the door, but with Alex's strep throat the week they opened, we had to wait. Waiting meant I got the preliminary reports from friends. The reviews were mixed. Most loved the concept of sitting and talking with friends while their kids played-- and supervised by staff. Truth be told, I just loved having any place to take them during yucky weather.

So, we went today to meet some friends and try it out. When we arrived it was chaotic, due to some local entertainment which had just finished. The play structure is fabulous and fun for kids up to about age 4 would be my guess. Both my kids seemed interested in it enough for a while. The place was clean and the staff very friendly. They do have babysitters on hand to "watch" the kids, but when it gets crowded, two adults can't possibly handle that much commotion.

I'm glad to see a place where moms can take their older (but still young children) to play safely while nursing the other one. How wonderful to see so many moms who were literally walking around with boobs hanging out. I also love that someone has finally addressed a niche which needed to be filled. Like these two place in Richmond: The Playroom and Chat and Play Cafe.

My only complaint, at this time, is the layout. My kids didn't want to stay in the gated area because they could see me. They kept popping up over the short wall asking for snacks, drinks, etc. I'm like, 'We didn't come here to snack.' Which tends to be my standard response at places like the museum, the pool, the park. The staff doesn't really like the kids coming in and out because that leaves room for other kids "escaping." The parents' area is also small and bring in a few strollers and it's madness!

Then after that, it was my son throwing a tantrum because of the sandwich I bought him--the $6 Whole Foods sandwiches they have available. Which are pretty yummy. Thanks to the man who made me the grilled cheese, even though I wasn't a regular customer.

I wish I had some great tips for the owner, who seems like a great guy really willing to make this establishment work, but I don't. The space is difficult manage, and they will probably need to either expand or move to a larger space in order to give parents the space they need to visit and justify the $8 cost for kids to play.

Perhaps it's just that my kids aren't best suited for this place. I can't take them to story hour and organzied classes like music, sports and dance were off limits for a while. Perhaps, my kids are just better for great big open fields and playgrounds. So it's hard to have a place for every kid out there. I think the place is intended for children walking up to age 2 1/2 or maybe 3.

My only other thought would be it might be better if they opened it up a bit more and had the gated area be most of the facility and have tables/chairs inside the gate to allow moms to come in and visit where they can still get to their kids. As a mother of a biter, I can't leave her unattended anywhere for too long. But that's just my kid and my one situation.

With a bit of parent input and a more space (for the kids and moms), this place has a chance. I think they should scrap the idea of story time or music or classes at this point, unless they are going to limit the number attending and possibly the age of the kids.

We will give it another go one day during the afternoon when less kids are probably there, but we will always make sure we come with friends.

For others in area who have gone, let me know what tips you might have to make this place even better. I feel like they're about 75% of the way there.

Earth Day: It's Not Easy Being Green

It's hard to be green, especially with kids. In the past few years, I have actually ignored "green." We are a terrible example of green family. Our neighborhood has a very lax trash policy, where they will throw anything and everything away--and as much as we want. The recycling pick up is strange and varied sometimes.

But with kids, naturally comes excess--disposable diapers, water bottles, snack packs, and just general build up of junk.

We are trying to change our ways here. It's hard for me as mom. We're already a no preservative, organic eating family. I have to be diligent on that front. We are a no TV viewing, do lots outside family. We are a read, feed your brain good stuff family. Doing the green thing just seems to be one more "thing" I have to coordinate. But after I saw a picture in the paper a few weeks back of many, many bottles lined up on the street something inside me weakened.

So our family (ahem, mainly me) is turning over a new leaf.

--We are recycling. I figured out when the recycling people come and what they take. The rest I take over every week to the recycling center which is--2 minutes from my house.

--I am bringing bags to the grocery store. I started out with buying one from Harris Teeter. Cheapy thing broke after 2 weeks. So now I've hauled out the canvas ones we used in Sweden. Yes, I've done this whole gig before. Actually, in Europe they charge you for shopping bags. They may only be 25 cents, but it is incentive to make you bring your own. Now, I've just started reusing my Trader Joes and Whole Foods paper bags. They seem to last a long time!

--We are being smarter about our driving. We try, very hard, to limit our outings and do everything all at once so we're not doing excess driving and wasting gas.

--Walking when we can. We can walk to the grocery store in about 10-15 minutes so we're trying to do more of this.

--Using "greener" cleaning products.

But as you can see, this is hard with kids, even harder when I had two under two. It's easier to throw them in the car (where they are strapped in and confined) and drive. When you're remembering snacks, water, change of clothes, school bags, it's hard to remember to pack the grocery bags or the recycling to take along. I was lucky just to remember all the kids in the early days.

But I am trying, and as the kids get older, this like most things, is getting easier. I really get sick when I think about all the waste from our house alone that I realized we might look like a scene from Idiocracy if we keep doing it. Yuck.


Busy, Busy

I'm blogging over at the Washington Post today on the topic of Baby Bunching (our book topic) and over at DC Metro Moms about TV Turn Off Week.

Check it out I'm getting around.


What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

I am what I am--a full time SAHM (stay at home mom) who writes in her free time (read: when kids are sleeping, in school or "exploring the basement.") What will I be when my kids go back to school and I go back to work?

Before Kids (BK) I worked in journalism, public relations and employee communications. But the clock is ticking because when my youngest goes to kindergarten in 2010, I'm heading back to work.

Well, here's the thing. I haven't done the tradition office gig in six years and haven't worked full time in five. Could I go back to handle the cut throat environment of a PR agency or corporate office. I loved the years I worked from home--in my pajamas and workout clothes.

So, while it's not yet the dawn a of a new era, it's close enough to get me thinking: What will I do next?

I have a few options, most which will take some research and planning far enough in advance.

1. Go back to doing exactly what I was doing before I "opted out. Boring!

2. Hope our book sells millions and I can make a career freelancing off of that. Good idea, not sure how viable it is at this point. Definitely worth exploring.

3. Take advantage of living in the nations capital and pick up a nice government job where I can surf the net and be home to pick up my kids. Good, but boring. Been there done that on government jobs.

4. Find a nice non profit job where I will make little money just so I can do something good for society instead of trying to sell high tech products. Good idea, but the main reason to go back to work is for the double income. Not sure non profit will get us there.

5. Explore a whole new career. What would I do if I could start all over again? This is an interesting topic for me to think about, but I think I have decided. If I did it all over again, I would go back to school to study Traditional Chinese Medicine and become a licensed acupuncturist. [Gasp] I can hear you all saying "What? Who is this freaky girl?" I bore my friends and family with talk of how acupuncture fixed my allergies, sinus infections and sore throats. Who needs modern medicine for the common cold when acupuncture and some herbs can fix it? But I always thought it would be fun to do acupuncture--specifically for female issues. Ah, alas.

Even while this last option is probably the most exciting to explore, by the time I spent the time and money to get where I'd need to be, I might as well go into non profit.

For other SAHMs or even though working from home part time, have you thought about what you'll do once your kids go back to school? How you will jump back into the rat race and doing what?

Backyard Playgroup

I am lucky! I live in a townhouse neighborhood. While I do miss the luxury of a big back yard, privacy and not hearing my neighbors TV, I love that my community is full of small children and neighbors who are willing to venture outside.

While we only have a small deck, it opens into a grassy common area. In the winter we use it for sledding and in the nicer weather, the neighbors bring their BBQs, tables, chairs and toys and we congregate back there for fun.

Last week, I hosted a playgroup for my mom's group + a few neighbors and we used the basketball court for outside "art" (aka chalk and sidewalk paint). It turned out to be a pretty decent turn out of about 15 or so moms and their kids. Throw in some food and Sangria and you have instant fun for everyone!

I'm bummed I didn't take any pictures of the event. Besides one little girl stuck up in a tree, it seemmed to be on of the more free playgroups where moms could relax and kids could do what kids are supposed to do....just run and play.


DAY 6 Food Challenge: The Mushrooms are Gone

Threw the mushrooms in with the eggs this morning, mixed with some cheese and the last bit of bread as toast. Yay me! The last few tortillas are gone as well. I never worry about tortillas as we eat those almost every few days. I wrap everything in tortallas.

This afternoon the plan is to get rid of some yogurt and strawberries. That should make good snacks for everyone. This evening we're heading out to dinner on a date so not much more food will be eaten this evening, but perhaps the rest for tomorrow.

The lesson so far on this: Plan ahead and only buy what I need.


DAY 5 Food Challenge: Open spaces in the frig

My challenge this week, was to finish most of the stuff in the frig--the things that go bad first. Our pantry is still pretty stocked with usuals, but I tend to not stock up on those much during the week. I buy a little here and there, but always keep sauces, stock, a few cans of beans and tomatoes and then the usual baking items along with an assortment of healthy snacks, crackers and cereals. But our frig, I'm happy to say looks a bit bare.

My good-sized gathering with some mommy friend today got rid of a lot. I tried to feed people from frig stuff first, but had a few items in the freezer just in case. The apples are gone. The oranges are gone. All the veggies except the carrots and lettuce are gone. There's a little cheese left and quite a bit of yogurt. I think tomorrow we'll be pushing the yogurt and the strawberries! That won't be a difficult task. Yes, the mushrooms are still there.

Must empty out before Sunday's shopping trip.


It Happened Again

My dear not-so-sweet daughter did it again and again and again this week. I am the not-so-proud mom of the biter child.

She started when she was about one, using her teeth to defend herself and prized posessions from her brother. Here we are almost TWO years later (she'll be three in July) and I'm still diving to save a 'succulent' toddler arm or apologzing again to my neighbor.

We were having a good run for a while--just a few instances here and there--but we're offically back as the trio you don't want at your playgroup. Which royally sucks because I'm about to have 15 moms over tomorrow afternoon to play. Sorry guys.

I have talked about the situation and they assured me she's not doing this at school, yet today when I picked her up, I got the dreaded news that she bit one of her classmates--the same one from earlier in the year. Ugh.

We're trying to find a way to discpline her and nothing seems to be working. Our latest plot is to actually take her completely out of game and make her go home for every bite she takes. It's taking quite a bit of effort on my part to watch her like a hawk AND be ready to go at a moment's notice. But clearly something has to be done because if not both she and I will be left with no friends at all.

DAY 4 Food Challenge: Where'd Those Apples Come From?

My day started out eating a banana from yesterday that my daughter peeled and then changed her mind on. I at least was smart enough to get it into the frig. I mixed it with some cottage cheese this morning. Yum. Cottage cheese gone!

I managed to get rid of a few veggies by making some pico de gallo/salsa like thing for a gathering tomorrow afternoon. But the bacon and mushrooms are still there. I think I'll make an omelet with them.

But the most startling thing is discovering how so many apples got in our fruit drawer. This is what comes from two people shopping during the week. I never know what's been purchased. I thought we were out of apples and my husband had just bought a new bag. I guess I'll be making an apple-cheese casserole tomorrow as well. By Friday evening, my frig should be looking pretty good and ready for restock by Sunday!


DAY 3 Food Challenge: More stuff to eat up

The mushrooms are calling to me. They need to be eaten. I hate mushrooms raw. I don't know if even my husband knows this but I really feel they need to be cooked at least a little bit. Hmmm....what to do with them. Not motivated to do much with it today.

Moving on....I used the one zucchini to make some cookies. Throw in some chocolate chips and you have magical cookies. My kids asked me, "Mommy, what's this green stuff?" I thought about lying and making up some story about it being mint. But I figured they were old enough to hear the truth so I told them. Alex's answer was, "Hmmm...zucchini in cookies. Man, that's pretty good, mom." Then Anna went out to point out where each green speck was and proceeded to eat the whole thing. If you're coming to my playgroup party on Friday. We will be serving them.

I managed to get rid of the shrimp in the freezer, along with some arugula and parsley. Kids ate that. Well, not the green stuff, just the shrimp. I had two bunches of broccoli. My husband dared me it wouldn't get used. It did. My kids ate it. Hey, I'm as amazed as you are! Kept pushing the grapes. We're almost there!

Good think I had to make dinner for a new mom today. Julie got the remains of a red pepper, red onion, more arugula and a few other items in the chicken orzo dish.

Tomorrow, the cottage cheese, bacon and mushrooms must go. Still the mushrooms. I have a pantry full of stuff that can keep, but no way will I be throwing out produce. I think I might make use of the 'shrooms with some chicken.


DAY 2 Food Challenge: Eating Leftovers

I'm lucky my family will eat leftovers. Even cold ones. I really am the only one who feels to the need to reheat and it's hard since we don't have a microwave. Yes, I know, we're primitive. Don't get me started on it. My husband has a general dislike of microwaves so even as much as I beg, I can't get him to bend. Something about it taking the Chi out of our food.

But my kids will eat them cold so there's no problem. Today we worked on finishing up the salad and leftovers from the weekend. I pushed the grapes which have been sitting there for some time and managed to get the half of cucumber into my kids with lunch--without salad dressing. That was a red letter day right there!

Tomorrow I must find something to do with the mushrooms, bacon and zucchini. Or else they're going to go bad!


DAY 1 Food Challenge: When you have bad bananas, make bread

This morning when my husband surveyed the refrigerator, he sighed at my "lack of diligence" to push the leftovers. Already yesterday he had to throw out some old veggies and a significant amount of raisins left in a bowl and this morning, it was the leftover fish, which was well....fishy smelling. "Push these leftovers," he tells me. "I hate to waste it all."

After I groan and grunt about how I am not only having to feed everyone, but remind them to eat the leftovers. I thought OK, I can do this. I will use up what we have. I sent him to the store for our usual list of necessary items like: milk, bread, yogurt, eggs, etc. But this week, I challenge myself to use what we have so by Saturday, Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard is bare.

You'll have to follow up daily on what crazy things I make (or make my kids eat) in order to get rid of our leftovers. We're trying to be green and not waste food.

So today I used up three browning (yes, very brown) bananas for my favorite banana bread recipe. Threw in a handful of leftover chocolate chips, which had been bought for cookies, but broken into for just plain eating. After taking some blue cheese out of the freezer for a recipe (it was in the freezer when someone bought more than I needed) I ended up not using the blue cheese, knowing it would go back, I made a blue cheese salad dressing out of the leftovers.


We Call Her the An-na-droid

An android is a robot designed to resemble a human, usually both in appearance and behavior--like C3PO.

This is my daughter! You laugh, but it's true. The girl needs little to no sleep and can run on empty a good part of the day. We were amazed when she was an infant how she slept less than the other babies and could wake at 5 a.m. for the day and be...well, fine. Besides two ear infections before she was six months old, this child never gets sick for more than 24 hours.

She can go to bed late and wake up early and plow right through naptime without so much as a blink. She is a machine. We can't figure out how or why. But we love her...our own little android...ahem, I mean Annadroid.


How To Deal with Sick Kids?

I have no answer to this question! I love both my kids. They are each special in their own way and when they are sick, I do my best to help. But God knows (as well as my husband), that I am not a nurse. Nursemaid should not be part of my job description. I have a TERRIBLE bedside manner. I have done well with Alex's strep throat until today. I felt myself losing my cool many times today as the whining increased a bit from Alex and the demand for companionship increased from Anna. My time is split.

What to do? One is asking me to take her outside, the other is asking me to sit with him. I try to take advantage of the neighbors offering up help, and believe me, I do, but one can only ask for so many favors. He needs me to be there with him. She wants me there to play. He doesn't want me to play with her because it makes him sad that he's not playing. She wants to be in his face to play, but he's annoyed by this--rightly so. I'm breaking up fights, splitting my time, nursing a very sick boy, running around outside to make her tired, finding ways to make him take that awful pink medicine. That was a 30-minute activity right there. No amount of cajoling seemed to work on a sick kid--no treats, no bribes, no sweets, no kisses. No pink medicine would touch his lips. I even got a shoulder full of vomit to prove it.

Please, tell me, how do you deal with sick kids?

Rules of the Road: Red Light Green Light

My kids have quite the imagination. I love to hear them play together, especially from the monitor. They will come up with the most creative things, and I'm always amazed!

Their new favorite game is Red Light Green Light. But this is no ordinary game of Red Light Green Light. They have new colors added to the traffic light spectrum. Yesterday afternoon, I was outside with Anna, while Alex was sick on the couch and she and I played together. But first I had to be given the code:

Red Light: Stop
Green Light: Go--with a funky attitude
Yellow Light: Go in slow motion
Black Light: Run as fast as you can
Orange Light: Walk backwards
Purple Light: Jump
Pink Light: Twirl Around
Blue Light: Stop and make a funny face

The best part about this is they have the code down pat and can call it and move with changing colors at a speed that impressed me. Green Light, Black Light, Orange Light, Purple Light, Red Light. She didn't even flinch. Surely this is healthy play!

More to come on our creative neighbors who empower this kind of play...


We've Been Quarantined

My kids don't get sick often. But when they do, they are down! Alex more so than Anna. When he's sick, he gets very sick, complete with high temps and chills and everything. This fall we were blessed with the full-blown flu for both kids and now we're the family with strep. I have no idea where he got it from, but was a bit relieved that his illness could at least be remedies with meds. I always hate the "it's just a virus" response, where the pediatricians send you home tail between your legs.

I should have picked up on this quicker as Alex complained about a sore throat long before he showed the high fever symptoms. He complained of a head ache and a tummy ache. I have been so conditioned to "viral" symptoms that I just assumed this was another one. After a night of no sleep for him (and me) and a fever spiking 103.3, I figured a call was warranted to the doctor.

The doctor took one look down his throat and made a horrible face. "Ewww, that's a nasty looking throat." A positive strep test mixed the with "strep throat stench," a smell an embassy nurse educated me on years ago that is a sure sign of a bacterial infection, left us with prescription in hand.

We're home watching DVD after DVD to keep him rested. All he does is sit and cry about being sick, missing school and not going out to play. Poor little guy.


Celebrating 10,000

I'm celebrating today as I reached the 10,000 mark on blog hits, which I started less than a year ago. I know many blogs probably get that many hits in a day, but I feel so honored that people actually read what I write even if it takes me nine months to get there. Thanks everyone!


Birthday Party Politics: Continued

So we wrapped up Alex's birthday and continued on with three more the following week. We are officially birthday partied out. They were three very different parties. One held at a playground, one was a joint crafting type party and one was a full on outdoor safari, complete with adult beverages and a full lunch for the moms!

All the preschool-aged parties came with their own stress (weather, invites, unaccompanied children, etc.), but each had one thing in common--no presents were opened.

Since Alex's first birthday, we knew this was the protocol. But why? At a younger age, he enthusiasm in gift opening would wane as the party went on. He was tired and just getting him worked up over presents would be a bad idea. But for some kids, the presents are where it's at. This year, was the first year, Alex opened each gifts after the party and showed general excitement about the gift. He would open it, talk about it and play with it. Instead of the usual tossing aside to get to the next. I was sad that he wasn't able to open it in front of his guests--many whom I know probably helped pick out the present.

So, my question is, at what age is it OK to move on to opening presents at a party? Can I plan for this next year? I think when they get to be this age and my kids are actually helping to pick out the present, they want to see their friends actually open it as well.

Please.....tell me what the protocol is on this.

A SAHM’s shopping excursion: budgets, blinders, bargains

I'm writing over at DC Metro Moms today about my shopping trip this week to Tyson's Corner. Come check it out.


Mom's Hours of Operation: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I think moms need a 'Moms Hours of Operation' clause in our contracts. I will certainly fix boo boos, make three meals + snacks, read books, attend to needs/issues/complaints, etc. But this cannot always extend into the early morning or late night hours. There have to be some limitations. No mom has that much patience and bandwidth. My kids are old enough now (4 and 2 1/2) to understand that mommy needs a break too. Yet sometimes I don't seem to be getting through.

My hours of operation in this house are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with hopefully an hour of quiet time to myself. Although many times I regretfully don't get this hour. That's approximately 12 hours of kids, if you subtract the lunch hour. Twelve hours of She Hit Me, Where Are You?, He Painted on the Table, Where Are you Taking Us Now?, Can you Read Me a Book?, I Need a Snack, I Need More Ketchup, I Spilled My Water, I PeePeed on the Floor. You get the idea. You know the routine.

I think a 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. gig is fair enough. I do take into consideration potty training, illness, etc. that perhaps will take us into the wee hours of the night. But for the most part I'm a 13-hour gal. They don't even ask pilots to fly that distance and then wake up and do it all over again. Right?

Is it so much to ask that at 5:30 a.m. I'm not asked to make breakfast, chase away snakes or read a book? Another early morning for us today. I'm beat.


Mommy You're Mean!

What do you say when your child yells this at you? Tuesday was a rough day for us. I think it was because it started far too early. When Anna danced in at 6:02 a.m., I rolled over and said to my husband, "I can tell this is not the right start to our day. It's going to be a long day." And it was. We did soccer and the mall. By the end of the mall excursion, I was yelling. Alex asked me, "Mommy, why are you so mean today?"

Like a knife in my heart. I tried to collect myself, but by then all the damage had been done. The day just spiraled from there. Crying. Whining. Disobeying. You get off to a bad start and it is hard as hell to turn it around.

At 7:30 p.m., I called my husband and said, "Please tell me you're almost home." His response, "No I just left work." He knew immediately and remarked, "Wow, it's been a long time since I've gotten a call like this." I plopped everyone in bed before 8 p.m. and Alex asked me, "Mommy can you please be nicer to me tomorrow."

Ugh.....yes, I will.

Two Under Two is Hard: Yes, It Can Even Suck

When a friend of mine recently delivered her second baby...within two years, she said to me, "If someone told me how this was, I would tell them it sucked and not do it!" So says most moms of two under two. Which is why, my friend and I are writing a book on this topic. (It's been at the publishers now for five weeks. My agent swears we should hear in about two.)

I could see her struggling, just as I did at this point when Anna was born.

• Half-buckling your infant into the car seat at the mall, only to realize that your toddler has left your side and darted into the parking lot.

• Arriving at your toddler’s much loved and anticipated weekly gymnastics class, only to have your infant’s dirty diaper leak all over him, you and the Baby Bjorn. So much for spotting your toddler on Little Gym equipment.

• Emerging from a much needed bathroom break—your first all day, in fact—to find your toddler shoving his peanut butter sandwich in your infant’s mouth.

These are daily occurrences in the life of those of us with kids less than two years apart. As they get older, it gets easier. It even becomes fun. But for those first 18 months...that's right, 18 months...it can be a foggy haze for moms. The good news is that neither your toddler nor your baby will remember this chaotic time.

As I was listening my friend's stories--her oh-so-familiar stories--I wondered what advice I could give to her for those early weeks. Here are a few: (If I give you too many, than you won't buy the book.)

1. Get a sling. If you start early with baby, you can get him used to the sling and they will possibly sleep, eat and hang out while you multitask.

2. Get help from someone--babysitter, friend, mom, grandmother, aunt. Someone to help you make meals, do the laundry, watch your toddler, etc.

3. Don't worry about the mess. Two kids is hard, but when your oldest hardly talks or listens, getting him to clean up toys or keep food on the table is impossible. Have low expectations for cleanliness and embrace organized chaos (aka: lots o' bins to hide the mess).

4. Pick one room that you keep organized so that you can escape the mess during the day.

5. Do laundry on set days. This advice from another mom saved me. I used to do laundry all week long. She suggested I pick only two days to all my laundry. This way I didn't feel I was spending my whole week folding clothes.

6. In the first few weeks or even couple of months, the tone should be survival. Do what you have to do to get everyone asleep and fed, including you.

7. Babies can cry. Try to get around the fact that your little one will cry. You need to tend to your toddler first if you can. Your baby, unfortunately, will learn to wait.

8. Nothing about the first few months of two under two is fun. But I swear it will become fun when your kids are new best buddies early on.

If you are a new mom to 'two under two,' congratulations and welcome to the wonderful world of chaos. It's a fun ride!


Yes, It Was April Fool's

Please....do you really think I'd give my son a gun?

Solution to the Gun Problem

As I mentioned last week my son is obsessed with guns--every stick, toy, and piece of paper is turned into an imaginary gun with which he shoots trees, walls, and other things (we've trained him not to shoot at people).

After some thought, my husband and I decided the best thing to do with this interest is channel it in the right direction, and make sure everything is done as safely and responsibly as possible. We discussed it with Alex, who was fully on board, so my husband took Alex to a gun store yesterday where he picked out a nice Glock 9mm handgun. My husband bought it for him, and Alex's first trip to the range was a success! Here's Alex's first target:

Of course, he has some trouble holding the pistol still, but c'mon, he's only four--I think he's a future marksman.

We're happy with the way this is turning out, and Alex is looking forward to his fifth birthday, when he says he wants to upgrade to an assault rifle.