Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hookin' It!

On Baylor's first day of school I was prepared for him to be unready for the social aspect of it, I was prepared for him to be way more than ready for the academic aspect of it, but I was not prepared for him to be unready for the practical aspect of it.  As he went to hang up his backpack, jacket, and hat, he basically tossed them at the hook and turned away to go.  I had to help him all along the way, correcting him when he tried to hang up his backpack by the shoulder straps, his coat by the armpit, and his baseball cap by the bill.  (None of which worked, by the way.)

I quickly realized, as the same problems cropped up every time he had to take care of his things, that I had to work on this with him at home before he was going to get it at school.  Unfortunately, we had no hooks on which to practice.  Impulsive as I am, I thought up a plan, fixated on it for a few days, frustrated I couldn't get to work on it as quickly as I wanted to, and finally pulled it all together into one gloriously simple spot for the kiddos.  (Thank you for your help and your awesome drill, Dad!)

Introducing the hooks!

Awesome, right?  It's just a piece of trim (pre-primed composite wood) painted with black, satin spray paint, drilled into the studs, with two hooks attached.  And I LOVE IT!!  The kids are now responsible for taking care of their things!  Seriously, I really don't have to hang anything up for them anymore.  I really can't fathom why I didn't do this sooner ...

Anyhow, if you have small children, I totally recommend putting them to work taking care of their own things.  Not only does it free up time for you (in the long run, anyway), but it'll get them ready for school.  Win-win!!!

Running Again!

So, thanks to my wonderful parents (Hi, Mom and Dad!) I am running again; they have loaned me their treadmill so I can figure out if I like running inside on a machine as much as I like running outside.  It's certainly not the same, obviously.  There is no gorgeous scenery around me; the unfinished side of our basement is not what I would call "relaxing" or even "inspiring".  And the scenery doesn't even change; I am not loving staring at a giant pile of empty boxes.  (You need a lot when Christmas rolls around, okay?)  But those things are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, and I really do enjoy running, inside or outside.

So, running is good.  And I'm back at it again, which is even better.  I actually ran two miles today!  I couldn't do that in high school; eking out one mile was painful for me back then and I usually ended up on the sidelines hoping I wouldn't puke in front of my classmates and that my inhaler would just kick in already!  But now I know how to get rid of a side cramp (drink water and breathe deeply), and running feels good even without my inhaler.

Looking a gift horse in the mouth, though, (as so many of us do, right?) I wish I was in better shape.  I can run two miles as fast as this guy:

image from

That's the character Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation on NBC.  (Hilarious show, by the way!)  Last week he started to train to join the police academy, and his first goal was to run two miles in 25 minutes or less.  His first attempt:  28 minutes.  That is exactly how long it took me to run two miles today.  *sigh*  I shouldn't care, right?  I mean, I can run two miles!  That's awesome.  But I would love to be even more fit.  Also, I used the little pulse reader on the handle of the treadmill, and it said my pulse was an even 184 bpm.  That can't be good, right?  I hope it was wrong.  (And now, after looking at, I am REALLY hoping it was wrong as it shouldn't be over 120.)

So I have a little work to do.  But I am glad that I'm working on it!  Life is a journey, and getting and staying healthy is the same ... there is no end to it.  (Especially if you think about it ... I'm running on a treadmill.  I'm literally getting nowhere.)

Anyway, here's to good health!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Robinette's: Corn Maze, Jumping, and Super Spry

Last week, the kiddos and I went to Robinette's after Baylor got done with school.  It was a beautiful day, we were going to have lunch with my mom and sister there, and Baylor has been itching to do the corn maze since last year.  So, armed with my camera, a few snacks, and a tiny little map, the kids and I braved the maze.  

It would have helped a lot if Mollie had actually eaten a good breakfast that morning.  But, being the persnickety lady she can be sometimes, breakfast was sparse and she ended up getting hungry in the corn maze.  As did Baylor.  *sigh*  Thank goodness for mini boxes of raisins and a bag full of Cheerios!

Baylor, for his part, talked his way through the entire maze.

One of the rules of the maze is that you not run, which was just torture for the kiddos.  I had to repeatedly remind them not to run.

The corn maze actually ended up being a lot of fun, a lot of work but a lot of fun.

I did learn a few things though ... bring more treats that can be eaten on the run, bring water for the kiddos, wear a cross-body purse instead of a bulky shoulder bag that you really don't want to get dirty, wear athletic shoes (not your fancy boots!), and have your son go to the bathroom before you go into the maze.  (Yeah, he apparently had an accident in the maze because he knew there wasn't a bathroom around; I, of course, didn't find this out until we were almost to lunch.)

The kids and I did a lot of the maze, though not all of it as that would have taken an eternity and Mollie was breaking down quickly.  Here is the route we took across the 6.5 acre maze ... keep in mind that I carried Mollie from about Alpena to the end.  By the end, Baylor really wanted to go to the star, and even do the maze all over again, but Mollie and I were done.  We'll just have to go again some other time.

After the maze, we went on the jump, had lunch and donuts, and then went on the jump again.  And that's when it happened.  The kids were on the jump by themselves, quite noncommittal about the whole thing, when Mr. Robinette (as in the 85 year-old owner of the whole apple orchard, apple haus, maze, jump, gift barn area) came up and his son, who had let us into the jump, told his dad that he should show the kiddos how to jump.  So Mr. Robinette, at 85 years-young and totally spry, showed the kids a thing or two.

He got some really impressive jumps in before I could get my camera out, but you get the idea. He was amazing.  And totally thoughtful too, as he didn't jump so much that he'd knock over the kids.

It was an awesome trip, to be sure, and I'm really looking forward to going back again soon.  Maybe we'll see you there!

That's What He Said: The Perfect Description

Baylor:  Someone at school said no to me about magma being below the ground and lava being above the ground.
(Bryson and I, once we understood what he was saying through all the congestion from his cold, reassured him that he was right and that he shouldn't make a big deal about that kind of stuff with other kids.)
Me:  Baylor, which kid was it?
Baylor:  I don't know.
Me:  Well, what did he look like?
Baylor:  He had a shirt.

Best ... description ... EVER.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Homework? Already?!

As I read the information packet I got about preschool, I noticed that they would be sending home what amounts to be homework every Friday.  There would be a poem to read together, then there would be an activity on the back for him to complete before Monday.  I had a feeling this wouldn't go over well, so I tried to put as positive a spin on it as I could.

The first week's homework ... well, Baylor wouldn't do it.  Bryson had to sit down next to him and color with him to get him to do anything.  The assignment was to color a picture of what he likes to do at preschool.  He ended up drawing some marble works pieces and writing "games" and "eat".  

For his second week of homework, he had to circle all the "A"s and "a"s in the poem on the front, then draw a picture of someone who would like a bear hug on the back of the paper.  He decided to draw me and reluctantly did so, but apparently my hair is a hot mess that covers my face most of the time.  Oh, and he wanted to write something on it, so he added my age - a nice big "30" next to my picture - and "mom".

So we'll see how homework goes in the coming weeks.  Homework was, hands down, my least favorite part of school, but this homework is fun and easy and I'm hoping it sets up a positive association with homework for Baylor.  *Knock on wood!*

That's What They Said: The Sweet and The Silly

Here's what the kids have been chatting about these days ...

Mollie pretending her apple slices are talking to one another
Apple 1: Mollie eating us?
Apple 2: Yeah.
Apple 1: Okay.

Mollie on her illness ...
"I have beaver."  (She had a fever.)

Baylor: Mom, here's a peanut butter and jam sandwich!
Me:  Excellent!
Baylor:  Excelente!

Bryson:  Baylor, you can only go down to the water with an adult.  What is an adult?
Baylor:  Someone who takes care of kids.

Baylor:  Mollie, come here!  I have this thing I can use to take your temperature.
Me:  Baylor, it's called a thermometer.
Baylor:  Mollie, I have a thermometer.  Come over here and let me take your temperature!
Mollie:  (very cheerfully)  Okay!
Me:  Baylor, just don't actually put it in her mouth, okay?
Then I looked, and Mollie was lifting up her dress and starting to undo her diaper ... 'cuz she still gets her temp taken at that end.  *sigh*
Me:  Mollie!  Don't put anything in your tushie!  You guys, just pretend, okay?

Mollie:  I wuv Poonlickers!  (translation:  "I love Spoonlickers!" - a local frozen yogurt shop)

Baylor:  (holding the door open for me)  After you, good sir!

Baylor:  Mommy, would you like to buy a popsicle?
Me:  What kind do you have?
Baylor:  Green, white, and red.  (Like a firecracker popsicle.)
Me:  Hm ... sure.  How much is it?
Baylor:  Twenty-seven.
Me:  Twenty-seven what?
Baylor:  Bucks.
Me:  Twenty-seven bucks?!  I don't have that much money.
Baylor:  Hm ... okay.  It's free!

Blast from the Past: My Flower Girl Dress!

Twenty-eight years ago, I was a flower girl in my aunt's wedding in Maine.  My grandma made my dress for me, evidently to match my mom's matron-of-honor dress.  After I wore it, in typical mom-fashion, it got stowed away for "the future".  We are now in the future, apparently, and last night the dress was brought out along with a bunch of other "for the future" clothes my mom had saved over the years.  This one just begged to be tried on, though, as Mollie is nearly the same age I was when I wore it.  

As is the case with most dresses, Mollie loved wearing it and was more than happy to oblige when we asked her to spin around in it.  This was her face after she finished twirling.

Too cute for words!

Tired of having her picture taken, at least for the moment, she asked me to join her at the dinner table.  (This, by the way, has been in my family for generations and has endured many coats of paint.  When it was with us, I believe it was white with blue sponge painting on it.  Dad, bless his heart, recently refinished this set, as well as the accompanying hutch and stove/oven.  They look awesome!)  As we sat there, I got an idea ...

The only memory I really have of my time as a flower girl, and most likely it's because I have been told of it so much, is when a little boy at the party stole my slice of wedding cake.  There is this awesome picture of me giving him a WTF look, so I thought it would be funny to try to get Mollie to reenact it.  She did her best, for sure, but it's tough to not laugh sometimes.

In the end, she just went for the big "Cheese!".

I'll have to see if I can find that picture of me and my slice of cake being stolen.  Until then, enjoy the vintage cuteness!

UPDATE:  I found the picture!  That dude is stealing my cake!

Baylor's 4th Birthday ... Part Two!

After being postponed because of illness, we finally had Baylor's birthday on the 16th.  We lucked out with a beautiful day and were thankful that nearly everyone invited to the first party could make it to the second.

I will admit, I am not overly adept at throwing parties; most of the time I struggle just to keep the house looking moderately presentable, so throwing in decorations and extra attention to cleanliness and special food and the like is entirely overwhelming to me.  Lucky for me,  I have an amazing sister who is up for making Pinterest-worthy creations for my kids' birthday parties.  Take the cupcakes, for example ...

She made those little toppers out of candy melts, Lego molds, and a lot of patience.  She even had a whole plate of extra candies for the guests to enjoy!

Bryson got the vegetables ready, bless his heart, while I snapped a few pictures.

And Aunt Christine got to show Baylor his long-awaited birthday cupcakes.  Lemon cake with buttercream frosting, chosen by our very own little man.

With all of the children at our kids' parties getting older, we were a little worried we wouldn't have much for them to do at our mainly outdoor party.  My mom suggested having an arts and crafts project for them do to, and I thought it was a great idea.  Since most of the planning for the party occurred during the back-to-school frenzy, we picked up some inexpensive pencil boxes for the kids to decorate with foam stickers of various shapes, sizes, and colors.  Aunt Christine and Oma helped supervise, as did the kids' parents, and I think everyone really enjoyed it.

The birthday boy and his box ...

... amazingly symmetrical, isn't it?

We ordered Papa John's pizza and breadsticks for lunch, after which we opened presents.  Soon enough, it was time to enjoy the cupcakes.  As per usual, Baylor did not want to be sung to on his birthday, so he blew out a candle, made a wish, and we got down to the business of eating cupcakes.

Coming up with fun party favors for all the little kids in attendance is always a challenge as the ages range from newborn to six years-old, but I thought what we came up with this year was kind of fun.  My sister and I (but mostly my sister ...) made Lego crayons for the kiddos.  She helped me find this inexpensive mold online, figured out the best way to melt the crayons, and did most of the work of actually making them.  The mold was a little warped when we got it, but the crayons came out great anyway!

The party was, by and large, a success.  And hey, if we have another Lego-themed party next year we'll be set!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mmm ... Monday: Mini Meatloaf Cups

Lately I've been feeling like I'm stuck in a recipe rut; everything seems so been-there-done-that-just-last-week.  A lot of it is because of the whole low sodium diet thing; I am still struggling to find awesome low sodium recipes, and it's often a lot of work to turn one of my favorites into something that could be considered "low sodium".  But I'm working on it.

Anyhow, I was making a double batch of my mother-in-law's meatballs, when I thought of a recipe I had pulled out of Kraft Food & Family magazine back in 2008 for mini meatloaves.  I took another look at the recipe and realized it called for a whole box of Stove Top Stuffing Mix (a big sodium no-no), but I started to wonder if I could just use some of the meatball meat and turn it into mini meatloaves.  So I gave it a try.

I put Prego spaghetti sauce in the divot in the middle ...

... and added mozzarella cheese after baking them in the toaster oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Five minutes later ...

Voila!  They tasted pretty good, but I didn't make the center divot nearly large enough to have enough sauce in the middle.  You couldn't taste the sauce very much, but it was a pretty good first try.

So, a day or two later, I made my usual meatloaf recipe (with one adjustment ... I no longer use garlic salt in it, for obvious reasons) and put them into twelve muffin cups instead of forming into a giant oval.  I then made the divots, only this time I made them as big as I could to accommodate the maximum amount of filling possible.  For four of them I made a barbecue sauce/diced tomato mixture for the filling, and for the rest I used plain ol' salsa (mild for Mollie and medium for Bryson).

After 30 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, I put Mexican cheese on six of the salsa loaves and sharp cheddar on the remaining salsa loaves and the barbecue loaves.  Then they went back in the oven for five minutes.

And the results ...

... delicious!  I will admit, they were a little greasier than regular meatloaf, likely because the grease has nowhere to go when the meatloaf is jammed into a muffin tin.  But they were oh so good!  I liked that I didn't have to add anything to it at the table, and they were super easy to serve.

The next time I make meatballs, I plan on giving the Italian version another try.  I have a feeling it could end up being my favorite.

Anyhow, check out the original recipe and see what you think.  Tweak it to your liking and see what amazing creations you can come up with!


Haircuts: Be Like Baylor!

I had planned to get Baylor's hair cut before he went to school, or at least before his birthday on the 7th, but illness kept us at home and then school threw us off a bit.  Finally, one day after school, I pulled the trigger and took the kids to get their hair cut.  Mollie and I talked about it beforehand, since she really didn't need a cut, but she was adamant that she wanted one ... in fact, she said she wanted it cut "short".  When asked how short, she told me she wanted it like Baylor's.  *sigh*  I tried to convince her otherwise, even employing Oma to plead the case, but it was to no avail; she wanted her hair cut super short.

When we got to the salon (if you can call Snip Its a "salon"), I told the hair stylist what Mollie wanted.  The poor woman raised her eyebrows and looked a bit nervous at the thought, so we were thrilled when Baylor decided he wanted to go first and bought us a little more time to figure out what to do with Miss Mollie.  Here's the before ...

We left Baylor's hair a little longer than we had been doing in the summer; it mostly just needed to be thinned out a bit and trimmed around the edges.  So in no time at all, it was Mollie's turn.  She was still resolute in her opinion that she should get her hair cut as short as Baylor (or Grandma Paula ... she was another option), so the stylist decided to just cut off a bunch of the length and see if Mollie would be okay with that first before we started hacking away at it.

She took it all the way up to Mollie's little cheeks, and, luckily, my little lady was happy with the new length.  Yay!

Once we had a length, the stylist gave it some shape and thinned it out a lot so it would lay nicely.  With the cutting finished, Mollie got to have her hair blown dry like Aunt Christine!

Baylor, less than amused by all the antics, watched the Snip Its video.

Her little cut ended up being very cute, in my opinion, and she seemed to like well enough, though I don't think she thought it was short enough.

At home, she decided to dress up her new look a bit with some barrettes and bows.  Go big or go home, right, Amalia?

Here's Baylor's cut ... nice and clean but not too short.  I find that the shorter it gets, the more grown up he looks, and with him in school now I feel the need to keep him my little boy for as long as possible.  This will all go by so quickly as it is, no need to rush it.

I have a feeling this hair cutting experience is a little window into the future; as strong-willed as Mollie is, I foresee her having a lot of opinions on how she wants to look, whether Mommy likes it or not.  Love that little girl!  And love her easy-going brother!