Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kids in School: A Kindergartener

This has been a big Fall for us as we had not one, but two kids start their first years of school. Our oldest began his first year of Kindergarten and boy was he nervous. All summer he had talked about going to school and all the things he was going to learn and do. But, when it came time for orientation, butterflies got the best of him. Although he curiously took in everything about his school and classroom, he refused to speak to his teacher and retreated into this little shell of nerves. On the first day he nervously chewed on his fingernails all the way to school and gripped my hand tightly as we walked to his class. He was terrified. Luckily his teacher was prepared for first day jitters and had placed a sort of welcome package at each seat. It's hard for a kid to remember why they're so scared when they have Play Doh to distract them. There were no tears as we kissed him goodbye and began walking out of the room. He turned around once to watch us, gave us a hesitant little wave, then went back to his Play Doh.

He has now been in school for a month and likes it. He comes home every day with something new to tell us about his day, his new friends or something they did in school. A practice fire drill was a big cause of excitement. In the beginning, he'd talk about "this boy in my class" or "the girl who sits next to me. As the month has gone on it's become "My friend...". One day he proudly announced "I gave "C" she's my friend, my phone number." Five years old and passing out his number to girls already. I may be in some trouble with this one. ;-)

School changes kids. Sometimes it's for the better and they learn great things and habits. But, sometimes the change is not so welcome. For my son, his attitude and behavior at home has changed. I won't lie, he has always been a bit attitude prone, but these days he sometimes leaves me staring and absolutely flabbergasted, rendered speechless by his words and actions. I don't know if is suffering some delusion that makes him think because he's in school he's 'too big' for Mommy now, if he's maybe picking up some things from other kids, maybe he's acting out at home after being 'confined' in school all day...I just don't know. This is all new territory for me, but don't worry, the behavior is being addressed. My hope is that eventually, hopefully soon,  when the novelty and newness of school has worn off a bit more he will settle down, especially when he realizes  this behavior is okay. Honestly, at first this embarrassed me. At first I wondered where I've gone so horribly wrong as a parent. Ok, I started wondering if maybe I was a bad parent. But, you know what? After talking to other moms about this, I realized I am not alone! Other kids do this too! And some of those moms are absolutely awesome parents. I've realized this is not a parenting fail. A parenting fail would be to let the behavior continue unchecked and no doubt get worse. Kids will test their boundaries as they grow, that's normal, maddening at times but normal. As parents, we have to teach them what's ok and what isn't and guide them back to those boundaries when they blow by them. That's just as important as their academic education. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Visit to Egypt Continued

My experience as an American visiting Egypt is very different from a typical tourist, simply because my husband is Egyptian and my in-laws live there. This makes it easy to know where to go, where to avoid and other inside info. We stay with family when in Egypt so in a way, I get pretty absorbed into every day Egyptian life. At the same time, I'm very obviously not Egyptian and it does affect how people react to me. Oddly enough, most people are intrigued that I'm American and are very nice. If we go to a restaurant servers tend to be extra friendly and several of them proudly used whatever English they knew with me. Someone once told me they just think they'll get a better tip out of the American. I really don't think that's it, but even if it was, good service deserves a good tip. Of course on the flip side there's always one or two people that shoot me dirty looks. Strangely enough, it's almost always a woman. I was told that it's very likely they see me as a kind of thief for marrying (or in their eyes stealing) an Egyptian man. Ah well, can't please everyone. Children are very amusing in their reaction to me. For some, I'm probably the very first white person they see up close and their reactions are divided. Many of them smile broadly at me or even wave. Others regard me as if they're unsure whether or not I'm going to gobble them up. The relief on their faces when I simply smile at them is priceless.

That brings me to another point, how Egyptians treat children. Children are very valued in Egypt and treated quite differently than in the US. The 'Children should be seen and not heard' mentality doesn't really exist there. And there isn't a lot of 'Children can't go here, shouldn't go there' either. Children go where their parents go for the most part. No one thinks twice about a child being in a coffee shop because everyone goes. Some coffee shops even have playgrounds and things for the kids to do while their parents sip tea and coffee and indulge in shisha. I lost count of how many people talked to, played with or complimented my kids. A hair ruffle here, a handshake there, even an occasional outstretching of arms. A stop at a bakery never failed to net the kids a complimentary treat or two. One baker became so enamored with my daughter he gave her enough kunifa, basbousa and cookies to last her a month. And if it wasn't strangers supplying them with treats, it was happy to spoil them relatives. My kids loved the seemingly unlimited array of treats of course. Mommy, not so much.

One thing that is hard for me is street children. It's heart breaking to see them dirty and begging on the streets. And I can't quite find the words to describe how I felt watching a particular pair attempt to pick pocket people passing by. The kids, a boy and a girl, couldn't have been more than 5 and 8, yet there they were. A favored trick is to grab onto a person's hand and pull off their rings or bracelets as the person tries to pull away. It's sad and appalling. But it's also a reality. There are other street children who go around peddling tissues and other wares, either with their mothers or for some sort of 'boss'. There was one particular boy that I will never forget. We were sitting in a street side coffee shop in Alexandria when he appeared. He was maybe 6 or 7 at most dirty and skinny with huge brown eyes and a mop of curly dark hair. He was selling tissues and eyed us hopefully as he stopped at our table. He stood there for a minute peering at me uncertainly until I smiled at him. His face literally lit up and he smiled the sweetest smile. I don't know what it was about him in particular over all the other street children I had seen, but something about this little boy touched me. He seemed more innocent somehow. The mother in me wanted to scoop him up and take him home, but the most I could do was give him some money and hope it was used to feed him. As I type this I'm tearing up and wondering where he is now and how he is. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Visit to Egypt

As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent 6 weeks in Egypt over the summer. Let me tell you, that's a long trip with three kids. Luckily we were able to leave at night so the kids slept most of the way to our connecting flight in London. The flight from London to Cairo was filled with "Are we there yet?" and "How much longer?" but was otherwise a decent trip as well. Once we landed, and finally made it through customs and luggage claim, we were greeted by nearly half of my husband's family. No, seriously. It felt very much like a homecoming. As soon as we stepped through the doors we were greeted by cheers and whoops of delight as my brothers-in-law swooped in to pluck my sons right over the ropes. We were all passed from relative to relative with handshakes or hugs and kisses on both cheeks. My boys grinned from ear to ear through it all as my daughter, who was meeting her relatives for the first time, eyed everyone suspiciously. Once the bags were loaded, we were off into the city, my boys climbing into the car with their uncles with barely a wave. I was seated in the potentially intimidating position of right between the woman who for all intents and purposes is my mother-in-law and my husband's third mother/Aunt. And then began the attempt at conversation. Despite my best efforts, my Arabic is really lacking. I can understand quite a bit but just can't convince me mouth and tongue to form the words. This is a problem when most of your in-laws have limited English. There are a lot of smiles, hand gestures and simple one word answers in a conversation like this. But we managed mostly.

As for Cairo itself, it's as alive in the evening as ever. There are people and cars everywhere. Daring pedestrians take their lives into their hands and dart across streets as cars zip by without slowing a bit. Cars battle for position, turning two lane streets into six, horns blaring all the while. Did I mention traffic laws in Cairo are pretty nonexistent? On every corner there's someone selling something. As we stopped to pick up food, more street hawkers and pedestrians strolled, toddled or streamed by as people went about their business. In the scorching heat of summer in the desert, most people only venture out at night. As we continued driving, I stared out the windows taking in the familiar landmarks. Even in the dark of night it's easy to see that some things have changed since the revolution, a fact that would become more clear as the trip went on.

As I mentioned, the heat of the desert is brutal in the summer months, especially during the day. It felt very much like stepping into an oven set to broil. And being a Muslim country, there are no shorts and tanks allowed for women. That was a hard adjustment. The evenings, although still very hot, usually cooled off enough that you didn't feel like you were suffocating. Mostly. I would say I don't know how Egyptians stand it, but in reality they're used to it. If it dips below say 85 they think it's getting cold. It takes some getting used to. We did venture to the beaches of Mamoura in Alexandria for several days and it was noticeably cooler there.

Although I didn't feel unsafe in Cairo on either trip, before or after the revolution, there are obvious changes. People seem to be more cautious now. People in Cairo have always had their worries, but before the revolution, in general, the feeling was more relaxed and happier. Now, there's a feeling of people being on the edge and uncertain of their future and the future of their country. Which is really understandable. Despite being more subdued, life does seem to go on as normal in most of Cairo. Tahrir Square, the main sight of the protests, is still active, although calmer than before.

This is Tahrir Square at night. 

There was some damage during the revolution that can still be seen on some buildings such as the one below.

The rumor is that this building was burned by one of former president Mubarak's sons. Directly behind this building is The Egyptian Museum. There's some damage to the side of the museum (the side that houses the mummies) as well. Luckily, it's very minor.


In Alexandria it was a bit more relaxed. The city has a large tourist and visitor population so many people are there on vacation. We stayed in the private beach area of Mamoura right on the ocean. I literally spent hours sitting on the balcony, enjoying the breeze and watching the waves and passersby on Mamoura's version of the boardwalk. 

This is the view from our balcony just before dawn.

And a Mamoura sunset.

Another view from the balcony. I'm not sure of the exact story for this building. I was told it was a castle for a former King of Egypt but I do not know the details.

Early morning fisherman working just off the beach. 

We were in Mamoura for the start of Ramadan. In America, people put up lights to celebrate Christmas. In Egypt lights are put up for Ramadan. 



We didn't venture to any of the usual tourist attractions around Cairo during this trip, but I managed to get some quick pictures as we passed by. 

A view of the pyramids at Giza. 

Another look. Most people don't realize that the pyramids are actually in the city. Most pictures only show them in the desert. There is desert on two sides, but on the other two sides there are buildings and roads. 

This is Cairo Tower. Trust me, it is very very high. Venturing to the top once was enough for me. 


There is more I would like to say about being an American visiting Egypt, but I'll save that for a future post. Stay tuned for Part 2. 













Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Resurrection Of A Blog

My blog kinda died over the last few months as you may have noticed. It was a busy, eventful summer and blogging got pushed to the side. We spent 6 weeks in Egypt where a good internet connection isn't guaranteed. Upon returning my four year old underwent three evaluations for speech and development and has been placed in a special education preschool program. My five year old started Kindergarten. My daughter is fast approaching two and is always on the go. And let's see...what else has been going on? Oh yeah! I'm expecting baby number four. (I'll expand on all those things in upcoming posts)  As I said, busy busy busy. But, now that both boys are in school I'm hopefully going to have a bit more time on my hands to blog. Hopefully.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dear neglected blog, I haven't forgotten you!

Seriously, I haven't. May was a CRAZY month! We had something going on every single week and June hasn't been much calmer. And it won't be calming down yet. What's keeping me so busy you ask? Or maybe you didn't. Either way I'm going to tell you. Well, my middle child turned 4 so there was a fun "Cap'n Jack Spawo" party. We had some guests for a several days two weeks in a row. We made a business/fun family trip to Ocean City and topped that off with a visit to family. There's been doctor appointments, dentist visits, everyday crazy life with three kids and a dog... And let's see...what else? Oh yeah! Getting ready to go to Egypt. Yep. We're going to Egypt.

There has been concern expressed about visiting Cairo right now, but up until today our friends and family have assured us it's just fine, even with the approaching election. Today, there's been a new ruling by the courts which essentially dissolved Parliament. Apparently it's a bit crazy around the courthouse in Cairo right now.  At this point I'm not concerned really. We won't be staying in that area of Cairo and it's easy enough to avoid it completely if need be. Aside from that, we're all very excited. And wishing we could avoid that plane ride somehow. But, as teleporting is not yet an option, we'll be boarding a flight and praying all three kids behave themselves. We were smart enough to book a night time flight so our little cherubs would sleep as we soar across the Atlantic. We hope. We built in a long layover in London on our return so we will get to see a little bit there. I'm pretty excited about that as well and hoping it isn't absolutely insane. So, look forward to me spamming you with pictures from Egypt and London in the future. I know you'll be anxiously waiting to view them. Or not. Either way, they'll be here. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Cereal Bandit

So there I was at the table minding my own business, munching on my Kashi Blueberry Clusters. Suddenly I was approached by a rather short person of the female variety. She looked up at me with big brown eyes and a sweet innocent smile and lifted her little arms. I must admit I couldn't resist such a precious little face and in a moment of weakness I lifted her onto my lap. I should have known better! Oh she began innocently enough, leaning towards my bowl and opening her mouth for a bite. And, again, I was weak and spooned a bit of cereal into her mouth. It was a mistake! Before I knew it this sweet little child had robbed me blind! Or at least cereal-less. With my spoon clutched tightly in those little baby fingers she gleefully helped herself to my breakfast until alas there was but a few soggy morsels floating in a milky sea. Then with one last big grin and a milky kiss for restitution the little thief scampered off to play. And my tummy rumbled.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

TV In The Office


Posted by Darwin Garza

It seems to me like adults these days cannot go five minutes without having access to a television or at least television programming. If the TV at home is not on then probably most of the family is on their laptops surfing the internet and watching some television programming online. Sometimes I get annoyed by this. The other day I went to an appointment at a business where they were a very conservative and formal. In the person’s office they had a flat screen television on the wall with Sports Center and stock market programming split screened. The whole time I was having the meeting with this person they were half listening to me and half watching what was going on over my head. I was in this meeting talking to this business professional looking at spending a large amount of money with his firm and he didn’t even have the common decency to pretend that he was as interested in what were talking about as he was the TV. If you want TV in your office and have enough sense to pay attention in a meeting check out http://www.directstartv.com/ for more information.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jesse The German Shepherd: An Update

A while back I wrote about adding a four legged family member named Jesse. I just thought I'd update you on how she's faring. As any dog owner knows there's an adjustment period when you bring a new dog home. They're trying to get used to new people, a new place, new rules and new potty locations. You're trying to decipher their personality and potty cues. I must say this went pretty well with Jesse. Our only issue, aside from the usual puppy lessons, was a delay in potty training due to some intestinal issues she had. Once she recovered from that, she did very well learning where to go.

Jesse is a smart dog and picks up commands pretty easily. Funny story, my 15 month old daughter decided that she was going to tell Jesse what to do. So, she balled up her little fist, pointed her little finger at Jesse and in the sweetest little voice commanded "Seet! Seet Jesse!" That's sit, in case you don't speak toddler. Once Jesse sat, my daughter decided to take her own advice and sat on Jesse. Our good girl didn't even bat an eye at being used for a chair. Jesse loves the kids and considers herself one of them. And of course the kids love her, especially my daughter who is convinced Jesse is HER dog and she merely allows everyone else to play with her. She has to be the one to feed Jesse and has a fit when anyone else tries. She's also very generous about sharing her own meals with Jesse and will smile innocently at us as she drops food from her highchair. My boys love having a dog that they can race with and who won't break if they wrestle a bit. Oh and she makes the perfect Perry when they're pretending to be Phineas and Ferb and a great Koopa when it's pretend to be the Mario Brothers time.

Jesse has a couple of problems though. I suspect she may eventually need rehab for her ice addiction. Ok, I'm kidding about doggie rehab. Mostly. But seriously, she can hear a glass click against the ice maker from a mile away and is right there before the first cube falls. She loves to chase the cubes as they skid across the hardwood floor. And when she's decided its term as a hockey puck is up, she gobbles it down as if it's the best tasting thing in her world. Hey, cheap toy and treat all in one right? In addition to her ice habit, she also has developed an obsession with balls. Or anything that resembles a ball. Or anything slightly spherical that can be used like a ball. My husband once expressed a desire for a dog who would fetch. He most definitely got his wish as the only thing Jesse likes more than her balls is ice. And before I get any shocked and angry comments, no, I don't actually consider these things problems.

We recently traveled out of town to visit family and of course Jesse went along. Despite being in strange places with new people, she did really well. She was a bit excited but that's to be expected. Jesse is the kind of dog who likes everyone and fully expects everyone to like her so she had no problem making friends with everyone. My uncle quickly became one of her favorite people when he snuck her pizza crust and chips then topped it off by rubbing her belly. She also encountered her first cat. It was kind of comical to watch my big German Shepherd cautiously creeping closer to this cat who was about 1/6 of her size. The cat, by the way, was unimpressed.

All in all things are going great. Jesse is sweet, smart, energetic and sometimes goofy and she fits into our family perfectly.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Easy Stuffed French Toast

Anyone else love delectable, and nearly sinful, stuffed french toast? Yeah, me too. Does just thinking about the calories and fat in this little dish of yummyness make you cringe? Yeah, me too. Is there a super healthy way to make this warm and delicious treat? I don't know. But, I do have a way that's probably a little healthier than a breakfast joint's version. Probably. Maybe. Anyway, it's easy enough that anyone can make it at home and that's a plus right? And even better, it's yummy.

Ingredients
  • A loaf of sliced bread
  • 1 container of cream cheese
  • Your favorite jelly/jam/preserves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar

Heat a frying pan and coat with cooking spray. In a decent sized but shallow bowl or dish, whisk together the eggs, milk and cinnamon.Grab a slice of bread and spread on a layer of cream cheese. You want it thick enough to be noticeable but not too thick. Next grab a spoon and spread some of your favorite jelly/jam/preserves on top of the cream cheese. I'll leave the amount up to you as the jelly is really what determines the sweetness of the dish. Grab another slice of bread and place it on top. Dip the entire sandwich in the egg mixture then fry until golden brown. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Smoothie Pops

It's getting warmer and that means the temptation for cool treats is growing. I'm not above letting us all have a yummy DQ treat and we've been known to flag down the ice cream truck too. But, as a mom I'm always looking for healthy options as well. The selection in the grocery store freezer can often be displeasing. If you do find something kinda healthy, it usually costs a pretty penny. But one day while making my kids a smoothie inspiration struck. Why not turn their beloved smoothies into beloved popsicles? So, I did. And they loved them. Here's what I used:

Ingredients

  • 1 small container of vanilla yogurt
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup frozen Maine blueberries (they're sweeter than the bigger berries)
  • 2 cups of milk  
Toss everything in the blender and blend. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until frozen.  

Easy peasy right?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chickpea Salad

The other day I ran across a recipe for chickpea sandwich stuffing on allrecipes.com. It called for celery which I am not a fan of but I figured I could leave that out. But, instead of following the listed recipe I was inspired to create my very own chickpea salad.

You need:
  • 1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup of sweet onion finely diced
  • 1/2 of a cucumber, peeled, sliced and then quartered
  • 1/2 of a green pepper finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of mayo
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of dried dill
  • salt
  • pepper
 Combine all ingredients and mix well. You can serve this as is or atop lettuce. I put it over lettuce and added tuna for some extra protein.  Hope you enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beyond The Wedding Rings

Seven years ago today I woke up leisurely, my eyes opened wide and I saw my wedding dress hanging up, just waiting for me to put it on. I sat and daydreamed for a minute in the quiet envisioning what married life would be like. This morning I was drug from precious slumber by a three year old's foot to my knee, a five year old effectively paralyzing my legs by laying across my shins and the hungry mouth of a one year old who wanted her early morning cuppa breastmilk straight from the tap. And through the haze of half opened tired eyes I could almost see my husband far away on the other side of this mound of children. My how things change, eh?

It's funny how your perception of marriage, really life in general, changes. Before they get married most people are pretty optimistic about their future of wedded bliss.You know, the cuddles and kisses and chirpy happy I love you pookie wookies and copious amounts of sunshine and rainbows. Pardon me while I laugh for a moment. :-) Many people don't anticipate the time when you no longer jump out of bed to gargle the morning breath away and brush your crazy bedhead hair before your partner wakes up. They don't realize that there will eventually be times when they actually won't want to kiss and cuddle. Yes, I was one of them. Were you?

The truth is, sure marriage can be awesome, if you've chosen the right partner of course. But, marriage is also work, and I know it's been said a million times but it's very very true. Loving someone is relatively easy and it's obviously very important. But the hard part is meshing your lives, learning to compromise, learning when to give and when to take, knowing when to give in and let it go and when to fight. Yes I said fight. Because it's going to happen. Call it a fight, an argument, a disagreement, a discussion, whatever you'd like, but it will happen. Some disagreements of course are really minor while others might make you wonder exactly why you got married at all. Good news! It's normal!

Marriage changes as life changes. Kids are a HUGE change. Suddenly you're not focused just on each other but on these tiny and very needy people as well. And with kids comes more compromises and disagreements. Does he support her desire to breastfeed? What to do about a nursery theme when he wants sports and she wants cuddly little animals? Will he/she change diapers? How will you discipline and what type of actions warrant said discipline? Is Mommy going to get mad if Daddy gives his little princess a cookie before breakfast? Is Daddy going to mind if Mommy paints her boys' nails? Sure, most of these seem pretty minor right? But they are very common disagreements among parents. And yes, my husband and I have had a few of those discussions. ;-)

Throughout life jobs may change, friends come and go, people pass and new babies are born and the family dynamics change. Life events change us individually so of course they cause changes within a marriage. You either adjust or you don't. Sometimes people can work through changes but sometimes events turn them into very different people and they just grow apart. Some people can do their best and work through it but sometimes it doesn't work. That's life and marriage.

My point being that marriage doesn't stay the same and neither do you. That's fine and it's normal. Marriage may not be exactly what you expect when you're sitting there on your wedding day daydreaming about the future but it is what you make of it. There's no specific formula for the perfect marriage. What works for one couple isn't going to work for everyone. The important thing is that BOTH people are trying to make it through all those changes and adjustments. If both people aren't willing to try, then you've got a big problem.

I'll admit my marriage has been through ups and downs but I think it's rare that a marriage is all smooth sailing. There are going to be bumps. It's how you handle them that matters. To give you insight on the state of my marriage today, here's a scene from my kitchen this morning. As my husband wrapped his arms around my waist, I put my arms around his neck and smiled. Then I sweetly whispered "Happy what the f*ck were we thinking day!". My husband just laughed and replied. "I like that. Happy what the f*ck were we thinking day to you too." That may have been followed by some of those kisses and cuddles.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chocolatey Peanut Butter Cheerios Cookies

We recently tried the new PB Cheerios and although I wouldn't like them in a bowl of milk, I thought they would be yummy in a trail mix or perhaps a cookie. So, I created such a cookie. These cookies are very chocolatey which is always a plus in my family's opinion. Enjoy!

You Need:

  • 2 cups pb cheerios 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 11.5 oz bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. You need to crush the pb Cheerios. This works well in a food processor but if you don't have one, crush them by hand. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a large bowl and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and blend. Spray a cookie sheet with baking spray then drop dough by the tablespoon onto the tray. These cookies don't spread much so you can easily fit a dozen on one tray. Bake at 250 for 12 - 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks then enjoy!


Photographs

Some pictures I have recently taken at the National Zoo in D.C.












Sunday, February 12, 2012

Delicious Zucchini Muffins

I enjoy zucchini bread but I've had a hard time finding a recipe everyone likes so I haven't made any in a while. But this morning I found myself with extra zucchini in my fridge and a craving. So I decided to create my own recipe for zucchini muffins. My 4 year old and husband immediately turned up their noses while my 3 year old snuck a finger into the batter and smiled. Once the muffins were done, however, those upturned noses disappeared in a blink as plates were virtually licked clean. So, I decided to share. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

You need:

- 1/2 cup of white sugar
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 2 tablespoons of cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups of flour
- 1/3 cup of milk
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup of finely grated zucchini

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cream together sugars and eggs. Add oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and baking powder and mix well. Add flour, milk and salt and mix well again. Add the zucchini and mix until combined. Prepare muffin cups then fill 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Adventures in Crockpot Cooking

<p>I considered the purchase of a Crockpot for months. I had several concerns like would I really use it enough to justify having one, what can you really do with a Crockpot and how does it really turn out. So, I did my research. Meaning I asked other busy Moms and looked at recipes.

I was somewhat surprised at the enthusiasm other Moms had for their Crockpots. With a few exceptions every Mom I talked to loved her Crockpot. They cited things like the time it saves, the ease of using it and tons of yummy recipes. I was intrigued. I decided to shop around for one. I looked at the club stores, at the department stores until I found an amazing deal at Walmart. $15 for a 6 quart Crockpot. It was on sale simply because it's red. I like red.
I proudly carted my new gadget home and eagerly looked forward to using it the next day. For my first ever Crockpot meal I made chicken burritos. I added boneless chicken, onions, green peppers, red peppers and seasonings. Later when my amazing smelling meal was nearing completion, I added rice and canned  black beans. Add the mixture to a tortilla, add some Frank's and your preferred topping and Nom! They were so good. The rice got a little too soft but other than that it was yummy.

The next day I tried my hand at Crockpot chilli. I will never make it on the stove again. It was delicious. My oldest son doesn't like the texture of ground beef (or onions or a million other things) normally but making it in the Crockpot softened the meat and once he realized this  he cleaned his bowl. Mom's Crockpot chilli 1, picky child 0. Whoohoo!

I understand now why people love these things so much. It takes a lot of the dinner time burden off. Just toss some ingredients in the Crockpot and by dinner time you've got a hot meal all ready. And the clean up is easier and there's less dirty dishes! Yay for making life a little easier right?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I handled it

<p>&lt;p&gt;Yesterday we made the trek to the mall. On a Saturday. Yeah, craziness, but my ever growing eldest child was in desperate need of new shoes. It started out okay, parking was relatively easy, we got into the mall ok. Then we headed to the shoe store. Once inside the baby very loudly protested being put in the stroller. But it was okay, I handled it. In my mom genius I had brought along a much beloved package of Mum mums. As my daughter happily chowed on her baby rice cake I perused the shelves in search of suitable shoes for two young, yet very opinionated, boys. Of course, being young boys, they wanted character shoes. I have no issue with character shoes as long as they are well made and won't fall apart by the third wearing. On this particular expedition they both had their little hearts set on Lightening McQueen shoes. So I search the selection for shoes featuring the red number 95 car. And they don't appear to have the ones my 3 year old wants in his size. Uh oh. And the baby starts crying for more Mum mums. Deep breath. I hand the baby another portion of her snack and scour through the shelves once more for the elusive shoes. And... Eureka! There's one last pair hiding behind the disguise of a superhero shoe box. Great! I grab those shoes and the two other backup pairs in case the first pair doesn't work. The baby whines. More Mum mums for her and I get my son to sit down and try on the shoes. Luckily my oldest son had been assisted by his father and had already settled on his shoes. And yay! My middle child's shoes of choice fit! Great, now we can get out of the shoe store. We get in line and it happens. That wiggling, jiggling, bouncing and rocking movement that clearly screams "I've gotta go potty RIGHT NOW!" that my 3 year old has down pat. I grab his hand, leave my other kids with their father and dash for the restroom. Now any woman knows mall bathrooms are often hit or miss as far as cleanliness. Check the first stall, gross! No go. The second stall is apparently having a flushing malfunction. The third stall's the charm. We get inside and he utters the words every mother dreads hearing in a public bathroom. "Mommy, I need to poop!" After an indulgent sigh I layer the not so sparkling clean potty (is there such a thing as a sparkling clean public toilet?) with toilet paper. I lift him up to set him on top so he doesn't scoot on and slide my carefully constructed hiney protector off. He sits. And forgets to aim his boy parts down. Miraculously the stream misses him. Hooray! But it hits me. Boo! I grab t.p. clean off my arm, scrub at my jeans. And silently curse that now I'm going to smell of pee. Leaving the mall isn't really an option. I've still got things to do and any woman knows how hard it is to get kids and a spouse to the mall. Easier for us all just to suck it up. But aha! I've got great smelling hand sanitizer in my bag of tricks, also known as my purse. I rub some over the wet spots, get us cleaned up and head for the door. Yeah, I handled it despite the empty towel dispenser.

You know that song "Sexy and I Know It"? I jokingly set that as my husband's ring tone. So as we're walking across the restroom from the depths of my purse I suddenly hear "I'm sexy and I know it...wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah!" And although I can clearly and loudly hear my phone, of course I can't locate it. And the lady who has just come in to clean the bathroom is looking at my like I'm completely nuts. I had to laugh. We walk out of the restroom and there stands my husband laughing his butt off. Of course he'd done it on purpose.

When you have kids you rarely make it through an outing without hearing "I'm hungry! Can we eat?". And there is inevitably someone who doesn't want to eat what the rest of the family agrees on. In this case it was my 4 year old. He wanted McDonalds and at first refused to eat what we had chosen. But, I'm a mom and I handled it. He ate his food and even enjoyed it once he actually tasted it.

On to the next store! Halfway through the baby decides she needs to nurse to sleep immediately. So she does. And my 4 year old suddenly asks if I can be arrested for brestfeeding the baby in the store. No idea where he got that from and I was surprised considering he's used to seeing my nurse anywhere and everywhere. But, I happily reply "Nope!" and he's satisfied.

Then came the Disney Store and the expected requests to go look. I debated but they had been good so in we went. When you walk into these kind of stores you mentally brace yourself for the "Can I have"s and prepare yourself to say "No" a few hundred times. But again, I handled it and we made it out without tears on either side.

Eventually we made our way to the new, much needed and awesome play area. The very crowded, very busy, very hectic play area. I watched closely to see if my 3 year old would interact with or cringe away from the other kids. And I held my breath as my eldest daredevil took a tumble from atop a scale model of some important building. Luckily the floor is padded and the important building is made of some genius material that's firm enough to climb on but not hard enough to split a head open.

We finally made it out of the mall with pretzel treats in hand. Unfortunately, we discovered the temperature, which hadn't been toasty to begin with, had dropped and it was now raining and sleeting to boot. Cue mad dash through the parking lot and frantic hurry to get three kids buckled into their seats. We made it home safely only to repeat the mad dash into the house. Phew! Three deep breaths and a diaper change and it's time for dinner. After a brief not so calm and quiet respite, so began the bedtime fight, err I mean routine.  Nearly an hour later I finally made it to my own bed thinking it had been a long day. But I'm the Mom and I handled it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flying With Fly Lady

I admit that I struggle with housework. It seems that every time I start something, I get interrupted by a kid, a dog or a husband. Feeling like I never really get to finish anything can be pretty discouraging but I struggled to find a way to fix it. Then I joined Fly Lady. The premise behind Fly Lady is genious, the encouragement is wonderful as is the non judgemental approach. And it works! Essentially the premise is to take things one step at a time, start with something small and work your way up and not to spend so much time on something that you get overwhelmed and give up.

I know to some people that sounds really simple and obvious. Other people will be wondering how that really helps you. Well, let's use my experience as an example. The first thing Fly Lady says to do is shine your sink. I know what you're thinking, but stay with me. So, even though I doubted shining my sink would really make a big difference I set out to do it anyway. In order to shine the sink, I had to empty it. So, the dishes got done. Then I shined the sink. And looking at my sparkling clean sink I realized that I couldn't have a shining sink and not as shiney counter tops. So, my counters got cleaned off and scrubbed as well. And you can't have sparkling counters and a sink without making your floors sparkle as well right? It's a chain reaction. And once I deep cleaned it all and got into a routine the upkeep is much faster and easier. So, I carried the same chain reaction concept into the master bedroom. I made the bed and went from there.

When you start with Fly Lady, there's a guide that tells you a new thing to do for the first 30 days. As you read it, you're going to have doubts about whether it really makes a difference. Stick with it anyway. It does help. There's lots of helpful information, tips, advice etc on the Fly Lady websie as well. To sign up visit  http://www.flylady.net/.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Life Lately

Hello readers. I know one of my resolutions was to get better at this blogging thing and I know I've kinda sucked at it so far. Not that I'm making excuses, but I do have some excuses. I caught the flu. Seriously. And it sucked. It essentially put me out of commission for nearly a week. Once I recovered, my house needed some serious recovery as well.

Then, my three year old needed some serious dental work. Apparently he has soft enamel which makes him very susceptible to cavities. Also, at 18 months he fell and damaged his front teeth. A previous dentist told us she had fixed them. She hadn't. Upon x-ray his new, and wonderful, dentist announced the teeth were abscessed and shot. So, my baby boy had to have his front teeth taken out. The dentist will be putting in false teeth so he won't be without front teeth for years, thankfully. I'm proud to say that my boy handled it all like a champ.  I have to brag that his new dentist said he's one of the best patients she has ever seen. I have to brag because his old dentist swore up and down he wouldn't hold still for a procedure and wanted to put him under general anesthesia. I'm so so so glad we switched dentists.

My daughter was diagnosed with a heart murmur this past week. Apparently they are very common in children but it's still scary for a parent to hear. We took her to a cardiologist but will be getting a second opinion as neither my husband or I were impressed with or confident in the doctor she saw or his staff. And our daughter hated them and screamed, flailed and fought the entire time leaving us to doubt the dr's office really got an accurate assessment of her at all. At this point it's believed to be an innocent murmur, thankfully, but as I said we'll be getting  a second opinion to make sure. Some people might think we're being too picky or too critical or whatever. But they can shove it. I'm not going to blindly trust a doctor that I don't feel confident in, especially not when it comes to my kid and a vital organ. Plus, with a strong family history of heart problems, it's just smart to make sure.

My 4 year old is healthy, growing and will soon be turning 5. Eek! He's excitedly planning his birthday party and is already excited about going to school this fall. He's been working hard to learn the ABC's and numbers and loves to show off his newly discovered knowledge. He has started asking  me how to spell everything. There's the end of  me spelling things I don't want him to understand. *sigh* They grow too fast.

We also got a new dog. The boys decided her name should be Jesse like the cowgirl from Toy Story. She's 4 months old and is an AKC registered German Shepherd, my dream dog. I had planned to go through a rescue or animal shelter and was under the impression that we were indeed on our way to the shelter when my husband made a detour and returned to the car with Jesse. He's a sneaky one and had the whole thing planned for days. But I must say it feels like Jesse is made for us. She's super sweet and smart and follows me everywhere. And she and the kids are head over heels for each other. The baby quickly learned the pup's name and now runs through the house calling 'Je-tee! Je-tee!'. German Shepherds are big active dogs so we were obviously concerned that she get enough exercise. We shouldn't have worried. She and the kids love to chase each other through the house and Jesse is almost always the first one to need a nap. Exercise will not be a problem for this pup. :-) 


On My Own

Guest post written by Jeramy Sparks

What’s better than getting your first job? Getting your first place by yourself! And what makes getting your first place better; having your landlord include all of the utilities in your rent, even direct TV. Now to understand my excitement, you must know where I’m moving from and what my other options were. Because my parents are divorced and neither one of them could afford to send me to college, I had to take out student loans and do it all on my own. To be able to get my degree as cheap as possible, I was forced to live on campus all 4 years of college. That’s right, I was 1 of maybe 5 seniors still living on campus. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but I was also a RA, which means I get to answer all the questions that the clueless freshmen could possibly think of and break up more parties than I can even count. After graduation, I could either find my own place, move in with my mom or move in with my dad. Seeing as how my mom is dating an extremely overbearing, arrogant man whom she just so happened to have moved into her house 2 weeks ago, I decided that living with her was not going to work. And after breaking up all those parties, moving in with an alcoholic father seemed less than ideal too. So, here I am, all out on my own!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Turkey Bacon Egg & Cheese Muffins

While surfing Pintrest I stumbled across several different versions of a bacon and egg cup. It sounded yummy but none of them quite fit my family's needs/tastes. So, I made my own. 

You need:

2 cups of Bisquick
1 cup of milk
6 slices of cooked turkey bacon
7 eggs
1 cup of shredded cheese
Salt
Pepper

Mix the Bisquick and milk. You may have to tweak the amounts until it reaches the consistency of biscuit dough. Prepare a 12 count muffin pan with liners, making sure to spray the liners. Place about 1 tablespoon of dough in each cup and press down. Break turkey bacon into 4 pieces and place 2 pieces in each cup. Press turkey bacon down into the dough a bit. In a bowl, whisk the 7 eggs as though you are making scrambled eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the egg mixture among the 12 muffin cups. Drop 1 tablespoon of biscuit dough on top of the cups. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Enjoy!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Eggs On A Stick

I'm frequently searching for new and/or creative ways to make food that my picky son and everyone else will eat. This morning I came up with the idea to combine string cheese and eggs. It's so simple, yet the kids loved it. All you do is prepare eggs as though you are making an omelet, throwing in whatever toppings you like. Halfway through cooking, place one string cheese stick in the middle of the eggs. When the eggs are done, the cheese stick will not be fully melted. Wrap the edges of the eggs around the cheese stick like you would fold an enchilada and serve. Kids get cheesy surprise inside their eggs. :-)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Movie Review: "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark"

We rented "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" yesterday. I was so excited because I had heard that it's so scary and such a good movie. It wasn't. The movie is about a couple who are restoring an old mansion. the man's daughter comes to live with them and they discover an unknown and boarded over basement. The girl, as kids will do, becomes curious and ventures into the basement alone to explore. She ends up opening the gateway for creepy gnome crossed with rat looking creatures to escape and terrorize her. The creatures don't like the light and attack in the dark. Sounds ok right? The premise is decent but the movie just failed to hold my attention. There was a bit of a creepy factor but nothing that's going to make me nervous about venturing into a dark room alone. All in all, if you're a real fan of scary movies, you won't be impressed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Journey To A Healthier Me

I mentioned that one of my goals for 2012 is to get my jiggly wiggly self in shape. That includes dropping a few pounds. Now, I'm not a huge person and I don't have a specific goal weight in mind. How I feel is more important than an actual number. I'm going about this in the way that has worked well for me in the past and a way I know I can stick to with a little determination.

First, I've gotta get moving. I've chosen to do Zumba as my main workout for now. It's a fun dance based workout for those who aren't familiar with it. I love to dance so it's a great choice for me. I purchased Zumba 2 for Wii which allows me a lot of flexibility. I can just pop it in and shake it around my living room whenever I have time. There's no trying to find the time to go to the gym. I can also choose the length and intensity of the workout. This way I can start slowly at a pace I can keep up with so I don't get discouraged. Once I have that mastered, I can move up. And, if I have trouble with a move and look a little silly, well there are no judgemental strangers around to see. :-)

In addition to my main workout, I dance around the house all the time. I dance in the kitchen while cooking. I dance around my bedroom while I get ready. I grab the kids and we have a mini dance party in the living room. Whenever and wherever I can. Having some great music on hand makes this much easier and more fun.

Obviously all the dancing in the world isn't going to benefit me if I'm stuffing myself like a pig all the time. But, I don't do diets. The only diet I have ever been able to stick to for more than a short span was the Gestational Diabetes diet and that one I HAD to stick to. Fear for your unborn children is a great motivator. Aside from that, I'm not a dieter. I find most diet plans to be too restrictive which makes the temptation to cave harder to resist. My will power sucks sometimes.

I personally believe that moderation is key. I try my best to make healthier food choices but I don't deny myself somethig I really want either. For example, last night at dinner the sides were homemade mac & cheese and a veggie mix. Instead of denying myself the mac & cheese (as if that would happen) I took a smaller portion of that and a larger portion of the veggies. Not so hard right? If we go to our favorite pizza buffet, it's not so hard to replace a slice or two with a salad. Making changes like that are much easier for me than sticking to some strict diet plan that leaves me feeling unsatisfied. When it comes to desserts and sweets, although I do enjoy them, they aren't something I eat every day, I can't. But, if I get a craving for a cupcake, I'm going to have A cupcake. If I want a brownie, I will have A brownie. Allowing myself to have these things in moderation makes it easy for me not to go overboard and eat enough sweets to feed a small village.

* Disclaimer*  Obviously, this is just what I know works for me. I'm in no way an expert nor am I attempting to give anyone else advice.*

Now, are you ready for some brutal honesty? That's right, a woman is about to reveal her actual weight. I currently weigh in at 139 lbs at 5'5".  As I said, not huge. But also not in shape. I'm going to post pics of my current body shape and that's taking a lot of nerve for me. So be nice!




So, now that you've all seen my before pics, I have to work really hard so I can show you some amazing after pics, right? Wish me luck!

My Resolutions

Tis that time of year folks. You know, when we sit down and think of a few resolutions that sound good when we say them aloud but that we usually don't stick to past day 2. But this year will be different for me. Yeah, yeah, everyone says that. But I mean it. I'm determined to stick to them this year. They're not impossible goals, which I think is the key. Of course people are going to give up easily on unrealistic  resolutions. But, this year I have very realistic goals. Want to hear them? I thought you might.

1. Get in shape. Yes, losing weight and getting is shape is probably the most common resolution there is. But, it's also important. I'm determined to see it through this year. I didn't focus much on losing the baby weight last year because I was nursing a new infant and her health and nutrition was more important than me dropping the lbs quickly. But, she's 1 now and although she's still going strong with nursing, she's also eating solid foods so I am no longer her sole source of nutrition. Which makes me feel safer about losing weight.

2. Be a better blogger. I enjoy blogging, it's a great outlet. I just need to get better about it.

3. Practice and become a better photographer. I have a deep passion for photography and I'm determined to get as good at it as I possibly can.

4. BE HAPPY!

See? Easily attainable goals right? And if I even think about giving up, well I'll just have to remember this post as I plan on keeping you all updated on how they're all going. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself  disappoint everyone by not meeting my goals. ;-)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Now that I have time to breathe

December was a crazy busy month for me. My daughter got sick from bad mousaka at a restaurant we won't be returning to. Then she turned one and we had people in for her party. Then all three kids caught a stomach virus which put a stop to the world for a few days. Then there was the holiday rush, decorating,  buying, wrapping, baking, preparing for guests. And then our guests arrived and we were very fortunate to spend nearly a week with two very special people whom we love dearly.  Then they left and the next day more guests arrived.  Actually they're still here but leaving later today. So, as I said, crazy. And my poor blog got neglected. But, things should slow down now and I'm making it a resolution to get better about this blogging business.