Monday, January 31, 2011

'Tween Report

That's right, I'm just gonna call it: he's a 'tween. I don't care if some people think this is an invented phenomenon, I swear there is some sort of hormonal shift that has happened in Luke in the past four months, a shift that makes him care about what he wears, care about his image, try to be "cool" and not "babyish." He doesn't watch commercials, nor does he watch television geared at his age group, so I don't believe that this is some sort of media-invented thing.

But I got a bee in my bonnet recently about school, and about how at least half of this recent attitude is coming from a bad fit with his teacher and the influence of his peers. And so when he said that he didn't feel good this morning, I let him stay home, even though I thought he was faking it--he had a sub anyway and his project that was supposed to be due today was postponed until tomorrow, so I figured it might be a slow day in his class.

We had an awesome day. We made a schedule, and we mostly stuck to it. He did some sudoku puzzles, then he baked cornbread all on his own--his first solo baking job, which turned out a little strange but pretty tasty. Then he put the finishing touches on his poster project on Egypt, and then he read aloud to me. After we picked Henry up from school, they ate lunch and watched a documentary on ancient Egypt. Then I read him some chapters from the book we are reading together, and he did his chores. When we began to bundle up for some outdoor time, he asked if he could stay inside since he felt dizzy.

Guess what? He's running a fever.

I don't know if we had such a pleasant day because he needed a day off, or because he was subdued due to illness, or because Henry wasn't home. It was probably a combination of all of it. But I needed a good day with my first born. It was lovely.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Babies

Silas, Henry and Luke. Go read my friend M-L's beautiful post about her babies growing older, since I don't have the brain power to write anything nearly as lovely today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cash Budget Menus

So with our new cash budget, I'm trying to push myself to spend less, but it is a fine balance with food, I'm finding. Since we are basically not going out to eat on the new budget--I suppose we could once per month, but we are using that to buy cheap pizza a few times per month rather than go out at this point--the meals at home can't be too austere. We eat a lot of beans anyway, but I find myself doing things like not buying vanilla. I don't use it that much, and do the kids really need vanilla in their oatmeal cookies? Craig is now cooking dinners on Sunday, so that is turning out to be our "special" dinner night. Here's this week's menu:

Monday: rice and bean tacos
Tuesday: chili and cornbread
Wednesday: homemade veggie burgers
Thursday: shepherd's pie (farmer's pie? I'm using local, grass-fed ground beef)
Friday: homemade cheese/veggie pizza
Saturday: bean and veggie soup and homemade bread
Sunday: risotto and brie stuffed chicken (brie was marked down to 99 cents!)

We usually eat dinner with steamed brocolli, cauliflower, or green beans, with carrot sticks or frozen corn now and then. I do salads for myself for lunch since the kids don't like them.

And a note on lunch: I made the best cheap lunch yesterday. I cooked up a batch of black eyed peas and a batch of quinoa to have in the fridge (I added them to Silas's muffins to ramp up the nutritional value since he's on a carb kick; I will use them for the veggie burgers) so I took a scoop of that and leftover brocolli and diced sweet potato and heated it in the microwave. Then I made a quick peanut sauce and drizzled it on top. So wonderful, and something I would have paid $9 for at Northstar.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I Like to Walk Henry to School

I've found that walking with my children makes them particularly chatty. As they grow older and talk to me less, I plan on trying to walk more and more with them. Something about being bored and not looking directly at me makes them really open up. This morning on the way to school, Henry was full of questions.

"Mom, is getting married a once in a lifetime chance?" he asked.

"Well, no, you might have a lot of chances to get married, but you try to only choose one person to marry that you want to spend the rest of your life with," I answered.

"Oh, so you just want to spend lots of time with the man or woman you marry?"


"Okay. I think kids can learn about anything they are interested in, right?" he went on.

"You mean that kids can ask their parents about anything?" I clarified.

"Yes, like even inappropriate things," he said.

"Yes, you can ask me anything," I said, "but sometimes you shouldn't talk about things that we talk about at school or with other kids," I went on.

"Okay, like we can talk about sex, right?" he asked.

"Yes, you can ask me anything you want," I repeated.

"Well, I know everything about sex," he said, "Except I don't know how elephants have sex."

"Probably the way humans do," I said.

"But can elephants lay down?" he asked.

"Well, I don't know, but I bet they can have sex standing up," I answered.

We also talked about why you can't have sex with your brother or sister. It is a little difficult explaining social taboo and genetics to a five year old, especially before eight in the morning, but what are you going to do? Kids should be allowed to learn about anything they are interested in.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Here and Now: Henry

Henry drank a bottle of flouride rinse this week. True, it was only a sample-sized bottle from the dentist, but it was enough to scare me. I called poison control. They told me that he might vomit and would surely have diarrhea, but he had no symptoms. The next morning he "only tasted" his hand sanitizer. It seems that my people pleaser, my rule follower, is expanding his horizons. As one friend suggested, it might be time to put the liquor cabinet under lock and key.

Henry is still my space cadet. He forgets words. He says things like, "Remember those little candies that were like jawbreakers but they were soft? They had a taste? I got them at that store? Remember?" He searches for words. Sometimes he goes into a room alone in order to try to remember something.

He has been having "inappropriate dreams" lately. I have utterly no idea what he means by this, but for several mornings in a row he woke up and told me, "I had ANOTHER inappropriate dream!" I ask him what they are, but he declines to expand.

Henry spends about a quarter of his day standing on his head. He is really, really good at it. His shoulder muscles are getting defined, although he is still a string bean.

He is growing his hair out, although he cut a chunk out of the center of his hair about two weeks ago. With his wavy hair, he has a huge rat's nest at the back of his head most of the time.

Henry still has a gentle soul, although he is getting rougher around the edges. He plays nicely with almost everyone. He has a whole flock of younger kids that adore him. A couple of days ago at the library, a one year old baby was obsessed with following him around because he had been so sweet and funny with her for a few minutes.

Sweet, funny, messy, wiry, athletic, spacey--this is my Henry at five and a half.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Cash Budget

Craig and I have never really had a budget. We were always extrememely frugal in our first years of marriage, and seemed to live well on very little money. It was only once the kids came along that we seemed to start spending too much money. Still, we never had much of a problem. As time has gone on, though, our money just hasn't seemed to go as far, and we have found ourselves living, for the most part, paycheck to paycheck. The problem is always our credit card bill. We have always used the credit card for everything in order to earn points; however, it has become problematic in that we can't seem to figure out why the bills are so high.

After trying to write out a compartmentalized budget and stick to it last year, we realized that we are disorganized and this is too difficult for us. So, starting at the beginning of January, we are using a cash budget for everything but the major bills/payments that we have on auto-pay with the bank. My budget covers the family groceries, gas for my van, household items for things I deal with (not home projects that Craig is in charge of, for example, but batteries, toilet paper, diapers, etc.) and fun. I put cash in four envelopes at the beginning of the month, and it seems that I will make it to the end of the month on what we designated as my budget--apart from the extra $50 that Craig gave me from his budget so that I could take the boys roller skating and buy some fancy grocery items that Craig wanted to make dinner with. So here is what I have realized, nearly three weeks out:

There is always going to be something "extra." This month it was paying for the boys classes for the next couple of months, break dancing and magic. That right there was $170. But I am sure it is always going to be something.

I have come to rely upon spending money as a way of entertaining the children. We go to Target to buy toilet paper, but we buy fun snacks and a toy from the dollar section, too. We go get ice cream. We walk to downtown and stop at the candy shop. We go out to eat. We go to the dollar store. We rent a movie and buy pizza. None of this is extravagant, but it adds up. I've felt a little trapped this month trying not to spend this kind of money.

I engage in recreational spending. I go to Target for diapers and buy myself some new yoga pants and earrings. I throw a new outfit for Silas into the cart. Even at the grocery store I will buy "fun" items or new beauty products to try out.

I've done really well this month looking for free or super cheap entertainment (family night at the community center, the dollar movie house) and avoiding extra expenses at the grocery store. It is hard, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'll report what our menus have been and how much we are saving at some point here. When I told my sister about this, she said, "You've always liked a challenge." And I guess she's right.

Monday, January 17, 2011

For My Mama's Birthday, Five Days Late

Since I have become a mama myself, I am often confused, late, forgetful. And so I was last week for my own Mom's birthday. At the beginning of the week, I thought to myself, "I know my Mom's birthday is soon and I can't forget it AGAIN." You see, last year she was staying at our house on her birthday, and she (gently) informed us that it was her birthday on that day. I had just given birth to Silas a few weeks before, so I had an excuse of sorts, but it was still kind of humbling. So at the beginning of last week I went onto Facebook to try to figure out my own mother's birthday. Such is the life of the confused modern mom.

But my mom hadn't listed her birthday on Facebook--way to go being cautious on Facebook, Mom!--so I resolved to call her. But I forgot. And so I put in a panicked call on Friday, only to find out that her birthday had been the day before. Of course, she was most gracious, informing me that it was "perfect" that I call her on that day since she was celebrating with her friends later that afternoon, and that it didn't matter that I didn't send her anything since my call was the best gift in the world. So sweet.

This is all a long and rambling introduction to the real blog post for today: my letter to my mom, with which I intend to supplement the "perfect gift" of last week's phone call.

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday! I know that you often mention your shortcomings as a mom, that you didn't stand up for us when Dad was overreacting, that you didn't give us music lessons, that you yelled too much. But honestly, I don't remember any of those things.

I remember that you laughed a lot with us. I remember lying in bed with you one night that Dad was out of town and laughing hysterically at some nonsense that I now don't understand: a "mole hut." I was laughing so much, and you just laughed along with me, even though you didn't understand and it was late. You didn't do what I would likely do with my boys now, and say "That is ENOUGH! Go to sleep or you will need to go to your own bed!"

Your humor is earthy and perfect for children--and immature adults like myself. I have always loved that you could laugh at a good poop joke. I remember going camping with you and singing the diarrhea song. That was when I was, ahem, in college. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Although you are probably blushing at that last paragraph, and although some people might describe you as quiet--you were named "most shy" in your yearbook, after all--you are very brave in many ways. This is perhaps superficial, but I will never forget the camping trip (the same one where we sang the song) when you jumped off the dam into the lake. It was so high, and the water was so cold. I refused to jump. But I will never forget you yelling some silly word and jumping.

This letter doesn't really even begin to describe everything that I love about you, but as a mom, you will understand that I am tired and forgetful. But know this: you have influenced me in so many wonderful ways, and you are the best friend I could ever want. You have done an amazing job as a mother and as a grandmother. If I could do it as well as you have done--and are doing--I could die proud of myself. Thank you for everything.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Final Christmas Thoughts

I didn't post yesterday, so I guess I've already failed in my resolution. But I'll keep trying to post on weekdays. This is my last Christmas recap post, and it is really just for myself. This is what I want to remember from the holiday season this year.

Henry saying, "Christmas is the best time of the year because of all the presents and all the love."

Macaroni and cheese with blue cheese and bacon is really delicious with turkey.

Spiced nuts and nut brittle are good homemade gifts.

Luke and Henry hugging with great sincerity after exchanging presents (legos of course).

The antique store is a great place to find gifts.

Our drive to see Christmas lights the day after Christmas for Silas's birthday.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Luke's Essay: Our Christmas Traditions

These are some of my favorite holiday traditions I do every year. My favorite is the Christmas party at Jacks. First me and my Dad drive up to Jack's to get things set up. Next the rest of the guests arrive. Then the kids play Wii and games. Then we have dinner and watch a movie. Then we have dessert and play downstairs. Afterwards we go caroling, play outside, look for Santa on the radar, and go home. It's so fun!

Every year we go the a tree farm. We go on a trolley up the hill to cut down our Christmas tree. After that we go back down and have something to eat at the indoor cafe. Then we go talk to Santa. It's really fun.

Every year we set up a nativity set. It comes with every guy in the story and a really big shed. Me and my brother take turns setting up guys. Baby Jesus appears on Christmas day because that is His birthday. I have fun. These are very fun Christmas traditions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dear Silas,

You turned one the day after Christmas. I cannot believe that you have been around for a whole year. Life with you has gotten considerably more chaotic, but it feels like you were meant to join our family. The "Luke vs. Henry" dynamic is still present, but they both love you like crazy. And I'm sure you will take your place in their drama soon.

You bellow when you want something. It isn't charming. It is disturbing. But kind of funny. We try not to laugh because it is a bad, bad habit.

You get scared of things like your older brothers never did. You cry at scary movies. You wimper when Curious George loses the bunny in one of your favorite books. You scream in terror at Henry's flying monkey.

You run now. You climb on things. You love to play outside, even when it is super cold.

Your first birthday was wonderful. You stuffed cake in your mouth and got a lot of new books. We went out on a drive to see the Christmas lights and turned your carseat around to forward facing to celebrate what an old guy you are becoming.

Today at the gym my feet were sliding around and someone told me that I needed to replace my shoes. "But I just bought these!" I thought to myself. And then I remembered that I bought them right after you were born. I hope life with you slows down a little, because it is flying by, little baby who is becoming a little boy. Flying by way too fast.

Monday, January 10, 2011


This is not an auspicious beginning to my regular blogging resolution: the children are home from school today. It has been a complete and total barf-o-rama around here, with kids (and husbands) falling like dominos over the last five days. I think just about every blanket, sheet and towel that we own has been covered with something gross. The washing machine may never recover.

And my computer just totally froze up and I had to shut it down and re-start it.

But darn it, I'm going to blog!

I didn't post at all over Christmas, which is why I'm going to catch up in the next few days. We had a really nice holiday. The kids were very sweet and thankful for their gifts. I guess I've discovered the secret to well-behaved children: shower them lavishly with gifts! Indulge their desires! Actually, I think what I can take from it is that the children do well when they get a bit more attention. You know, like if I get off the computer (ahem) and focus on them for a bit. Which is what I should do right now.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A New Year

Oh my. I'm not doing very well with the blogging these days, am I? That is one of my New Year's resolutions, actually: to blog more regularly. A lot more regularly. Like, Monday through Friday. This sounds crazy, since I've been posting about once a month for the last couple of years, but I have decided to cut myself a lot of slack. A short post is fine, a status update, if you will. Perhaps just a picture. So for starters, I'm going to post my New Year's resolutions.

First of all, I would like to blog five days per week. I'm saying it again to make it more official.

Secondly, I would like to read more books about emotional eating. I would like to work more on understanding why I overeat. I'm not going to try to lose weight (although I wouldn't mind if a little of that happened) but I'm tired of overeating and feeling bad about it later.

Third, I want to complete the Warrior Dash. I'm registered with some women from the neighborhood. I basically want to work on my strength training and sprinting until then. I usually favor long, steady-state cardio workouts, so this will be good for me. And the race sounds really fun and perhaps a bit insane. And the beer is an added bonus.

Additionally, I want to work on photo books for my boys. I have tons of digital photos, and for Henry's last birthday I made a photo book of the first five years of his life. I would like to make these for the boys regularly--ideally for every birthday--but first I have to catch up for Luke and Silas.

Finally, I want to do something each month to prepare for next Christmas. This year felt really overwhelming, both financially and time-wise, so I would like to either make or buy at least one thing each month until next Christmas. For my January contribution, I bought a few Christmas clearance items at Target.

So there you have it. Expect to hear a whole lot more from me in the near future.