Friday, March 28, 2008

Cereal Mess

I was unloading groceries a little while ago and managed to spill an ENTIRE box of Cheerios (actually, they were the generic kind) on the floor. Like 1000 of them. Luckily, we have a dog that is part dog, part pig; she eats anything and everything. She managed to clean up a good portion of them but I had to finally get the vacuum cleaner out to clean-up the rest. (I wanted to take a picture to post but I couldn't find the camera. I did however, find the video camera, which has been missing for about 2 months.) So I started vacuuming. And once I finished the kitchen, I figured I might as well vacuum the rest of the downstairs. So off I went, oblivious to my surroundings as I vacuumed.

When I turned the vacuum off I saw the answering machine flashing. So I listened to the message. It was the school principal (of all calls to miss!). Apparently my oldest daughter was involved in a disagreement with her seatmates today on the bus. (She is on the bus for less than 5 minutes in the morning, what could have happened in that time?!) Apparently it has been going on for a while. (I do recall her telling me something about it a few weeks ago but I thought it was resolved . . .) In any case, the principal said that my daughter was "caught in the middle" but he brought all 3 girls into his office for a "talking to". I'm sure it scared her to have to go to the Principals' Office. It will be interesting to see how much she tells me when she gets home later today.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Building Bridges

This is what my house looks like on a rainy day:


The boys decided to "build a bridge" for their matchbox cars. They took all the cushions off the couch and took wood from an old shelving unit and created lots of bridges. It's been keeping them busy for about 2 hours.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Old Lady


This is our sweet, old dog, Lady. She turned 13 a couple days ago. I think 13 is pretty old for a Golden.

She is the sweetest dog, so gentle and kind. She loves being part of the family; so much a part of the family that she has a dog bed upstairs and downstairs. But she is not so good with steps now days. She can get up them just fine (although she is huffing and puffing by the time she gets to the top); she just can't get down. She can't see very well and is mostly deaf. However, she REALLY wants to be upstairs with us and used to sleep upstairs every night. Then she went through a period where she would fall down the steps almost daily. And then she started sleeping downstairs once in a while, I guess her old bones were too tired to go upstairs. But now she is afraid to come down the steps. She will sit at the top of the steps and cry and yip and bark. She'll try to come down, hesitate, and then lay down again. She will do this for HOURS. And I do mean HOURS. Like 8, 10, 12 hours. Some days I can lure her down with her leash and the promise of a walk. Other days I have to lure her down cheese or meat. And other days, she won't come down AT ALL. She will wait until my husband comes home and then she will come down for him.

This has been breaking my heart. So we started closing the child-gate at night on the steps so that she can't come up. Some nights she is ok with this; other nights, she will lay at the bottom of the steps and cry. On those nights, my husband goes downstairs and sleeps on the couch so that she has company. This will calm her down and she will go to sleep.

Although she is old, she is clever. Last night my husband closed the gate, but didn't latch it. Lady nudged it open in the middle of the night and made her way upstairs in the dark! She just wants to be with her family. The problem is, she is spending her days upstairs crying to get down or her nights downstairs, crying to get up.

Although I am strong, I don't think I can safely carry a 100 pound dog down 14 steps.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Super Easter


We had a super Easter. We started the day with Easter baskets and an egg hunt. Chocolate bunny for breakfast, anyone? (Remember how satisfying it was to bite off the bunny's ear?)



I got cute, custom t-shirts for the kids. I ordered them "just because" but they happened to arrive in the mail yesterday, just in time to be put into their Easter baskets. The boys LOVE their shirts, they think they are super heroes, just like Super Why.
(photos removed)

We finished our day by having friends over for dinner and then playing at the park. A good day was had by all.

Back to school tomorrow.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Self Portraits



I was looking for the camera so I can have it on hand tomorrow when the kids hunt for eggs and see the goodies in their Easter baskets. Well, I found the camera. And a ton of pictures taken by my kiddos. Some were self-portraits, others were taken by an eager sibling. I'll let you figure out which is which.

CHOCOLATE FACE


SAY "A-HHH"


I guess he decided to eat the candy, wrapper and all.


Pretty cool effect, although not intentional. Maybe one of my kids will grow up to be a photographer?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We All Scream for Ice Cream


We love ice cream. Especially me. My favorite job EVER was working at Baskin-Robbins. This was a dream-come-true for me because my favorite place to go when I was a kid was . . . Baskin-Robbins! I LOVED their uniforms as much as their ice cream. It was the 70s and the uniforms were hot-pink, orange and brown striped. Anyway, when I started working there in high school (it was the 80s and by this time their uniforms were NOT cool) I liked ice cream. But by the time I went off to college, I was addicted to ice cream. Literally. If I did not have ice cream daily, I would have dreams about it. Anyway, my ice cream obsession continues, 20+ years later.


When Ben & Jerry's developed their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was a Special Edition flavor. So I had a pint every day for about a week. One day I even ate 2 pints. And then it was gone. They stopped making it. So I wrote a letter to the company asking, no begging them to make it a regular flavor (in the days before email, I actually had to use my typewriter to write the letter!) So you get the picture: I LOVE ice cream.


So this week's Best Of is dedicated to ice cream.

Best Store Brand:
Hands-down, the award goes to Ben & Jerry's. We love Cookie Dough, Dublin Mudslide and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Their special edition flavors rock too. We hardly ever let the kids eat B&J though, it is way too expensive. They are easily fooled by some vanilla ice cream with Oreos on top. They don't care what brand they are eating, as long as it looks and tastes like ice cream.

Best Mix-ins:
Dairy Queen. I do like Cold Stone but it is too expensive and the ice cream is too thick. DQ is basic, vanilla, and kids like it. Throw in some M&Ms or Oreos and they are thrilled. (My favorite is a Kit Kat Blizzard with peanut butter. Yum.)

Best Value:
Wendy's Frosty. A Junior is only 69 cents. I bring my own M&Ms for the kids to mix in. And if you buy their coupon value pack, you get 10 Junior Frostys for $1. Can't beat that.

Best EVER:
Handel's. This ice cream is the BEST I have EVER tasted. Truly. If you have never eaten Handel's ice cream then you MUST get to one ASAP. You will be forever changed. I mean it. Their coconut cream pie flavor is amazing! Every flavor is amazing, actually. And they have really cute kid sundaes that have worms and nerds on them. My secret: I buy 2 sundaes and 2 bowls of ice cream. Then I divide up the worms and nerds so that it looks like I bought 4 sundaes. I save money, the kids have no clue and everyone is happy. Lucky for me, Handel's is a 20 minute drive or else I would be there weekly. Or daily. Or twice daily.

(NOTE: the ice cream pics were taken in Ireland. The kids are eating a cone called a "99". It is really smooth and creamy vanilla ice cream with a yummy chocolate Flake pushed into the ice cream. It is called a 99 because it used to cost 99 pence. But now, with the exchange rate, each one costs about 2.50 Euros, which is nearly $4 for a cone!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Little Bit Crabby


I bought these adorable crab salt and pepper shakers at Target. They are too cute. I have been looking for unique salt/pepper shakers for a while . . . I wasn't sure I would like the crabs . . . they don't exactly go with my kitchen . . . but they are SO CUTE. I smile every time I walk into the kitchen and see them. It's as if they are smiling and waving back at me.

They are both filled with sugar, not salt or pepper. An unintended consequence of not allowing my kids to eat sugary cereal is that they have been adding their own sugar to their cereal, thus draining the sugar bowl several times each week. (I know, there is probably less sugar in Lucky Charms than my kids were adding to their own bowls of plain cereal every morning.) So I decided to get these shakers and fill them with sugar. I am sure this will cut down on the sugar consumption. Even if they shake 20x, they will be getting less sugar than they would spooning from the sugar bowl. (Besides, I think they will get bored after 5 shakes.) And the crabs are the perfect size for little hands. And they are so cute. I don't even like crabs (to eat) but I sure like these little guys. I never knew how much they would brighten my day.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Luck o' the Irish

Someone once told my children that if you leave your shoes out on the evening of March 16, you will wake up in the morning on St. Patrick's Day to a shoe-full of candy, left by leprechauns, of course. So guess who has to run out to the store once they are in bed to get the candy? For some reason I never remember to do it ahead of time. Maybe its because I never participated in this ritual as a kid, so its not something I think about? Anyway, last year I put a candy bar in each kids' shoe. My husband put his shoes out too (or maybe the kids put his shoes out). Well, when we got up on St. Patrick's Day, the only thing left was a couple of empty candy wrappers. Our dog had eaten EVERY candy bar and most of the wrappers too! I have heard that chocolate can be bad for dogs, but it did not phase our dog AT ALL. She never even got sick! (Of course she is about 100 pounds). So this year we strategically placed the shoes so that our dog would not be able to eat the candy. My girls wrote notes to the leprechaun. I laughed so hard when I saw the note from my oldest. (NOTE: this will be funny to you only if you watch The Office):

(photo removed)

She wrote the notes on Post-it notes that say I "heart" Jim, referring to the character Jim (John Krasinski) from The Office. Her note says:

"Dear lepercon, Can you please leaf candy in both shoes? Thank you. By the way, I do love Jim. He is funny. Dwight he is not funny. Well sometimes."

She cracks me up.

P.S. For those of you who are wondering why we aren't in Pittsburgh as planned . . . My 4 year old is sick (and so is my nephew who was supposed to go with us) so we are stuck at home instead. I am not looking forward to being stuck in the house all week; the kids are home from school for Spring Break; my son has been sick since Thursday; and I am sure someone else will fall ill momentarily.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Now it all makes sense . . .

Today as I was packing my girls' lunches, my younger daughter casually commented, "I don't have any more money in my account."

School lunches are now run on an account, similar to a credit card. I put $25/school year into each girl's account; that way they can buy lunch on pizza day and/or when things are too hectic for me to pack their lunches. A school lunch costs $1.75. That means that each child can buy lunch approximately 14 times/school year. Last year my oldest daughter carried over money to this school year and she has $12 in her account presently. Despite the fact that this system encourages kids to "charge" and not really hand over money for their food, it does allow me, the parent, to log-on and see what they are purchasing. So I did. I got the details of their purchases for the last 30 days. Here is what Daughter #2 purchased:

2/19 soft pretzel
2/21 soft pretzel
2/25 chips
2/26 chips
2/27 chips
2/28 soft pretzel
2/29 ice cream
3/3 soft pretzel
3/5 chips
3/5 fruit
3/7 ice cream
3/10 ice cream
3/11 chips
3/12 fruit

No wonder she is not eating her lunch! I had no idea that she was buying a snack nearly every day. Notice that she purchased fruit 2x. I questioned her about this, since I pack her fruit (or carrots, but usually fruit) EVERY DAY. She said she bought fruit on the days she didn't like the fruit I packed, i.e., kiwi.

I was seriously annoyed to find out that she has spent ALL the money in her account ON SNACKS. But this is an easy one to solve -- I won't deposit any more money, and therefore she will not be able to buy any more snacks. FOR THE REST OF THE SCHOOL YEAR.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lunch

Last night I opened up my girls' lunch boxes in order to pack them lunch for today. Here is what was left, UNTOUCHED in their lunch boxes: a bagel with cream cheese, apple slices (I even sprinkle a little lemon juice on them so that they don't turn brown), and a drink. So that means the ONLY thing that was eaten was an Oreo. I was not happy.

I try really hard to pack them yummy and interesting lunches. I pack something different each day so that they don't get bored. I pack a little treat each day and sometimes pack 2 treats so that they can share with a friend. Some days I make their favorite mac and cheese and pack it in a thermos. Other days I make homemade guacamole. Homemade cookies. I try really, really hard to make their lunches exciting! I even bought one of my daughters one of these cool lunch boxes. So why won't they eat?

When I was a kid, I had worst lunch at the lunch table. My mom was a health-food fanatic and would bake her own wheat bread. The slices were so thick that I could hardly get my mouth around them. And then when I did, the crust would scrape the roof of my mouth leaving me feeling like I had a pizza-burn in my mouth. Or some days she would pack me a hard-boiled egg and a mushy banana. I rarely had any "goodies" in my lunch. By the time I got to middle school, it was my turn to pack lunch for everyone: 2 sandwiches for my dad; 1 for my brother; 1 each for my sister and myself. I hated this job. By the time I got to high school, the job had been passed on to my sister. And I stopped eating lunch. I would rather not eat than eat something that was Yuck. So I would take a raw carrot to school and that was all I would eat. (I did eat a good breakfast though, I've never been one to go without breakfast food.) I am telling you this so that you will understand WHY I go to such lengths to pack nutritious and tasty lunches for my girls. I view it as an Act of Service. It is not something I enjoy but I work hard at it as a way to show them how much I love them. And they don't even touch what I pack.

The other thing that is frustrating is that my oldest daughter is on Focalin for ADD. The medicine suppresses her appetite and she is tiny for her age so we are working with a nutritionist to get extra calories into her. She used to drink water at lunch but we have switched to whole milk/yogurt products in order to increase her caloric intake. She prefers Yo Baby yogurt drink. But for 2 months I could not find Yo Baby. So I had to buy something similar but she didn't like it as much. She said there were too many "fruit pieces" in it. So I started straining the drink each day to get the fruit pieces out (like I have time for this!) But still she wouldn't drink it. We have switched back to Yo Baby but she is still not drinking it. I am wasting $1/day on her drinks that she is not drinking! I had a talk with her last night and told her that I was going to start making her pay me $1/day out of her babysitting money for each day that she doesn't drink her yogurt. I don't know if this will work or not.

So I am playing hardball now. No fun snacks. No extra food. Today's lunch consisted of a yogurt drink along with cheese and crackers. That's it. If they start eating what I pack then I'll add the fruit/vegetable back in and then will start giving them a treat now and then. I cannot believe I am having to do this. I would have paid money as a kid for the kind of lunches I pack for my girls.

Maybe I should just make them buy school lunches for a while. Or, worse yet, have my mom pack lunches for them!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Favorite Restaurants

I love love love food. I also love dining out. Here are my (our) favorite places to eat:

Favorite Family Restaurant: Bugaboo Creek Steak House
I don't even like steak but I LOVE Bugaboo! The restaurant is decorated like a Canadian Lodge. There are lots of things to keep the kiddos interested: a talking moose, a life-sized grizzly who moves, raccoons that pop out of barrels . . . every 5 minutes there is something new for the kids to look at. And the food is GREAT.

Favorite Mexican Restaurant: On The Border
I love their Guacamole Live! They prepare your guacamole right in front of you and it is perfection. I don't eat anything else. Just a giant bowl of fresh guacamole. This restaurant is also nicely themed. However, the kids are not too crazy about the kiddie menu, ie, they do not serve mac and cheese. Oh, and they have yummy frozen margaritas too.

Favorite Fast Food: Wendy's. Have said enough about this.

Favorite Grown-up Restaurant: Gilmore's
Special occasions only, it's way too expensive otherwise but is definitely worth the splurge now and then. Definitely NOT a place to take the kids.

Favorite Pizza: ????
I live in a town that has at least 20 different pizza shops yet I still have not found the Perfect Pizza. I really like Bertucci's but it's too far away to go regularly and thus too far for take-out. (The kids really like going there. They each get a blob of dough to play with and they can watch the pizzas going into the ovens.)

If anyone has a suggestion for FANTASTIC pizza, leave your suggestion in Comments.

OK, with all this talk of food, I am getting hungry so I am going to log-off and make dinner.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wet Weekend

Although it was extremely rainy this past weekend, we had a great weekend getaway, sans children. We stayed at a lovely inn called The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michael's, MD. The harbor town is quaint and it was very quiet, being off-season. But it was perfect. We got up Friday morning and went for a run (together!) and then had breakfast by the water. Next I went to the spa where I had a transforming facial -- my face felt like it belonged to someone else by the time the facial was finished. (Or maybe that is how my face felt when I was 20?) After lunch we went into town to check out some of the shops but it started to rain so we headed back to the inn. For the rest of the afternoon we sat in front of a roaring fire and read. For hours. It was heavenly.

Later that evening we had a nice dinner in front of a fire . . . but it seems that my husband got food poisoning, or maybe had an allergic reaction to crab meat . . . because he started throwing up around midnight Friday night and is still not feeling completely better, almost 3 days later.

Apparently my children missed us terribly (even though we were away for less than 48 hours) because my daughter felt the need to call at 7:35am on our first morning away. I had to remind her of the policy: Do not call me on my cell phone when I am away from home unless it is an emergency. (I had to institute this policy because I literally had 12 phone calls from my children in ONE afternoon back in December. My husband was home with the kids but claimed he had no idea that they were calling me.) So after I reminded my daughter of The Policy, she said, "Well Grammy told me I could call you." (At 7:35am!!!! What was my mother thinking????) I informed my daughter that if she continued to call, I would not answer the phone. She didn't call again for over 24 hours but then called 3x while we were driving home. I guess she just can't live without us, although she says she didn't miss us at all.

Oh, and my children created LOTS of paintings while we were gone. And when they were finished painting, they put the wet artwork on the DINING ROOM CHAIRS to dry! So now I have their artwork stuck to my chairs. Really lovely. I can only hope that one of them becomes a famous artist and I can sell the whole dining room set as art.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Milestone

Today I registered my son for Kindergarten. The process is cumbersome and not well organized and there are about 15 papers to fill out. Then you have to meet with the nurse. And then with the secretary. And then you can go home and contact your dentist and doctor for 3 more forms (in addition to the 15 that you already filled out) that you need to turn in so that your child can actually attend school.

When it was my turn to meet with the nurse, she started taking my son's information and she said, "Wait . . . Langan . . . don't you already have children in this school?" And I said, "Yes. You know my daughters, the Lice Magnets? Remember them?" She laughed and told me that my girls were not the only lice magnets in the school. Then she told me that lice is a problem at one of the other elementary schools right now. I am going to start the Listerine treatments again tonight.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Four Year Olds: Frustrating & Fascinating

I have lamented in previous postings about the frustrations of having a 4 year old. However, it seems that we have moved on to a new developmental stage and it's fascinating.

For months on end, my son refused to get dressed. Now he is not only dressing himself EVERY DAY but he is also brushing his own teeth and hair! Our mornings are MUCH easier now that he has decided to cooperate on these matters. However, I should mention that he insists on wearing size 3T pants so they are 2 inches too short. His clothing does not match. Ever. And he soaks his head with detangler as he beautifies himself in front of the mirror. (I just came up with a new rule today: if you are 4 years old then you are allowed to squirt the detangler 4 times. He was fine with this but is looking forward to turning 5 so that he can have 5 squirts.)

Also, for months on end my son would tell me that he wanted to stay a little boy forever and that he did NOT want to grow up. But that is changing too. The other day he was in tears and I asked him what was wrong and he said, "I am NEVER going to be a big, strong daddy!" I asked why and he said, "Because I can't do ANYTHING!!!!" I don't know what prompted the tears but I started to remind him of all the things he has learned to do that he couldn't do before: he knows his letters, he can write his name (a least he thinks so), he can get himself dressed . . . as I talked, he started to perk up and smile and say, "Yeah. That's right. I CAN do that!"

My son obviously looks up to my husband (not one of my kids has ever said anything about wanting to be a nurturing and selfless mom when they grow up). This was evident again the other day when I asked him to carry 2 stools from the kitchen to the mudroom. He carried them both at the same time and was VERY PROUD and announced to me, "Mom. Someday I am going to make a really big and strong husband." How cute. I keep telling my husband what a good job he is doing and how lucky he is that his boys want to grow up to be just like him.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Best

In an effort to post more frequently, I decided to start a Best Of posting each week. Today's list is The Best Places to Eat for Under $20. This would mean feeding a family of 6 for less than $20. Keep in mind that my children do not eat very much.

1. Wendy's. Of course. We are regular (weekly customers). I heard a news report today about a crazy gunman who opened fire at a Wendy's in Palm Beach, FL. Yikes. The next time I go to Wendy's I will definitely be scoping out a place to take cover should that happen at my Wendy's.

2. Peace A Pizza. We get a large cheese pizza, large drink and a salad all for $19.99. Great deal. As they say, "Parents Want Peace. Kids Want Pizza. We have both." My kids LOVE to eat there and we love how tired out they become as they run all the way there AND all the way home.

3. Jimmy John's. This is a fantastic hot dog joint that is retro; not in a good way, but cool nonetheless. It is a GREAT place for boys because they have electric trains all over the place. My kids could spend an hour feeding quarters to the trains and watching them run. Also a great place for kid birthday parties, only $5/kid which includes a roll of quarters for the trains, food for the kids AND your child's name on the sign outside.

4. Wegman's. Yes, the supermarket. They have a Market Cafe attached to the store. Each person can choose his/her cuisine and then you can all sit down and eat together. And grocery shop when you are finished.

5. Wawa. Wawa makes really yummy subs. When we are in a rush AND hungry or hungry AND too tired to cook, a stop at Wawa is in order. Their chicken salad subs are the grown-up favorite while the kids prefer the meatball subs. Throw in a bag of chips and some ice cream and you still come in under $20.

Check in next Monday to find out the next Best Of topic.

P.S. Hey Jenn, I knew it was you in the comment section. You type just like you talk. I keep meaning to call you about getting together when we're in the Burg. Will call soon.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Long time, no post

I realize I have not been posting very much . . . It's not for lack of material . . . I guess it is just for lack of enthusiasm. I am tired of winter. I find January-February-March to be BLAH and so that is my attitude towards most things this time of year (including the blog, the gym, cooking, laundry, etc.). However, since we are going to be moving the clocks forward next week, I will try to get into a Spring-like mood and post some sunny thoughts.

So to catch you up on what has been happening around here:
  • We are finished with diapers!!! I don't think it is normal for a 2 1/2 year old boy to sleep through the night without a diaper and without wetting the bed (my 4 year old has just barely mastered this skill) but he does! I think it is because he is the youngest of 4 and is desperate to be a Big Boy.
  • Only 80+/- days until we go to Disney!
  • My husband and I are going away for 2 nights this weekend! 2 NIGHTS!!!!! When he made the reservation he said they asked if this was a "special occasion". He said no; but I think that having 4 kids and getting away for 2 nights is a MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT and it is a Special Occasion in my book!
  • We are looking forward to Spring Break and heading to Pittsburgh for a few days to visit my parents. My poor husband will be all alone on St. Patrick's Day (he is not going to Pittsburgh) so he will have to celebrate solo. He was born and raised in Ireland so he really looks forward to March 17. (Although in Ireland, St. Paddy's Day is a holy day of obligation and has more to do with going to church than drinking green beer.) I'm not sure if he is disappointed that he will be all alone or if he is looking at it as a gift to get to do what he wants to SPD without having to pay a sitter.
  • I am hoping that Spring comes along with Spring Break. We had 3 Snow Days in February. I thought I wanted a huge snowstorm; I kept wishing for one. But after spending 15 minutes cleaning ice and snow off my car last week, I am more than happy to say good-bye to winter and "Hello!" to spring.
  • I am trying to convince my husband that we should get another dog. He thinks we should wait 10 years to get a new dog; I think we should get one this summer. Time will tell.
That's all, folks!