Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our Month of Fun Things

I have a beautiful and blessed life. I love my life. I just have to share what our month has been like, because it amazes me what we've had come up the past few weeks. 

First of all, in April I broke my ankle when a line drive hit me at a softball game. But didn't know it was broken, so limped around on it for three weeks in pain before finding out: The x-ray didn't show the break, but the MRI did.

Calvin has had the most remarkable month of all, though: He...

  • Fell out of a tree, ripping up his chin, and cutting up his eyebrow and mouth and knocking out his tooth: needed a stitch and antibiotics for the tooth.
  • Got a horrible case of poison ivy all over his face-- swollen almost beyond recognition, the day before      his field trip. That lasted about a week and a half.
  • Got lice and consequently a shaved head-- thankfully this seems to have been taken care of quickly (fingers crossed).
  • Has a very sore throat that might be strep
  • Has had almost all of his baseball games cancelled due to rain.

    The kid is holding up remarkably well, even though he made several questionable decisions in the baseball game he played the day after his stitched up eyebrow and skinned up chin: slid headfirst twice. He rationalized it by the fact that he was safe. I'm not sure why sliding headfirst was necessary, but that is a debate I don't want to get into again.
Meanwhile, Teddy's eczema flared up and resulted in a staph infection, and then steroid cream, antibiotics and lots of baths. He also got lice. I could not bring myself to shave his head, so I'm guessing it might take a little longer to cure, though it's looking good so far.

I found out that my ankle was broken and cannot put weight on it-- this has been for the last week and a half. I have at least two more weeks to go without weight-bearing. Then I got lice. Thank you, first grade.
Clark joined in on the party by also getting lice. Though aside from that and a few baseball rainouts and a particularly bad flip into the boards in a hockey game, he's had a relatively smooth month.

Brian hurt his back and neck somehow, so he's had a hard time doing normal things as well. Since we've had record amount of rain this spring, we've barely gotten any baseball games or practices in, which has been frustrating for him as a coach especially. But he has risen to the many challenges and been great about picking up the slack around the house, and scheduling make-up scrimmages so the kids can have a bit more baseball this spring.

I started this blog as an outlet for myself to write, and especially to record parenting things that might seem frustrating at the time, but in which I could see the humor by writing about them and sharing them with readers. This month seems to fit the bill. I'm still in the midst of hobbling around doing 47 loads of laundry and combing hair with lice combs and trying to do normal household things with one leg, but writing this has made it seem less exasperating and a little more comical. I'm also buried in a super messy house while ironically maintaining a blog about a clean and less cluttered house. I know it will pass, but I still feel a little fake about it. 

I've been shown once again how amazing our friends and family are with all the help that they've generously given us. I couldn't have survived without them.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Seven Years My Boys

I just want to document today real quickly before I forget it.

Today Calvin and Clark turned seven years old. Celebration started last night with a Hungarian cake that Brian made for them. It was his favorite cake growing up and this year he made one for the first time, with his mom's expert, Hungarian help. We had cake with Gammy and Poppy and the boys opened their gift from us-- roller blades! They are naturals, though it's a good thing we bought the extra pads for their hands. They're used to ice hockey and having a bit more protection when they fall. They roller bladed until dark.


Eight little cakes

Teddy helps open

Tearing up the cul de sac

This morning Calvin woke up without his other front tooth! It fell out in the night and we still haven't found it.

For breakfast we had crepes on their request, with Nutella. Gammy brought over their favorite Izze-- blackberry-- and they had sausage. I stuck candles in their crepes and we sang happy birthday to them. They opened a little gift from Gammy-- a set of Minecraft handbooks. They are quite obsessed over the game, even though they're barely actually played it. They love to talk about it.

Crepes, sausage, Izze, and Minecraft books
Teddy and I went to school with them and I lead the community art project that we have once a month. This month we did little projects with patterned paper and learned about Eric Carle. Ted and I stayed for lunch and the first part of recess.


Cafeteria lunch
All the girls love Teddy
After school we met them with a frizzbee and candy from Grandma and Papa. We played with the frizzbee at the playground. When we got home I gave the boys my birthday poems, which I've been writing for them almost every year since they were born. They were unimpressed and pretended not to like them. I think one day they will. They opened another gift and card, I made them a smoothie, and they headed to hockey practice.

When they got home we grilled up the steak Brian had marinated for them, had some sweet potato fries and veggies. Calvin loves to talk about how much he loves steak. He ate a very large amount of steak tonight.

We had to chase them to bed. They all three wanted to sleep in the same bed, but we were able to convince Cal to sleep on the top bunk, but Teddy and Clark cuddled on the trundle, leaving the bottom bunk open.

I can't believe it's been seven years of these wonderful boys. I feel blessed to spend my days with them.


Impossible to take a normal picture of them

Cal reading his poem that was "Ok, but weird"

Friday, January 15, 2016

Another Morning

We are a quiet trickle
marching gently
There is bacon in my teeth
We flow from side streets
falling into line
bunched in twos and threes

Familiar good mornings to
the dad with the always-bundled baby
the mom with the screen in her stroller-boy's face
the tall woman clutching her NPR travel mug,
awkward next to the young man in kitchen pants
leaning on the bus stop sign
The 552 is late

It's kisses, it's there's egg on your lip, it's clip your gloves together, it's mommy did you take your medicine

Airplanes weave patterns in the wide blue
Holly bushes shine silver dollars of sunshine
back to me
The bacon is gone from my teeth

That old New Jersey jeep hiccups,
White puffs disappear behind it
The steering wheel shakes
like always

Garbage trucks beep and clang and
slow motion drop this week's scraps inside

carpet installers
hoist a tight roll on their shoulders
aiming at an open door
nodding good morning

I smile into my vest, thinking of mornings
and family and cities and
open the door
to my full coffee pot

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My $2 Homemade Thomas the Train Costume

Teddy loves Thomas the Train. I love making costumes. Halloween was approaching. We had a bunch of recycling piling up. It all came together for a perfect storm.

My materials:

1 diaper box
1 box of milk cartons three-pack, cut in half
1 empty tub of Greek yogurt
1 empty tub of broccoli cheddar soup (same size as yogurt tub)
3 dessert-size paper plates
1 dinner-size paper plate
strips of cardboard
4 feet-ish of thick ribbon
1 can blue spray paint
1 can black spray paint
red acrylic paint
yellow acrylic paint
black sharpie
hot glue gun
picture of Thomas or Thomas toy to look at

The only things I had to buy were the blue spray paint and the ribbon because I wanted ribbon cuter than what I had, It totaled roughly $2, and that's rounding up.

The funnest part about the costume was that I made the funnel be the place where the candy goes. That way he didn't need to carry a bucket or bag for candy. Here's what I did. Maybe it will be helpful to someone out there who likes to throw cheap stuff together for costumes. :)

Started cutting a diaper box

Found this in the recycling

Cut a hole in a box flap and hot glued the container to it-- a spot
for candy!

Later I cut a trap door into this so the candy could be taken out easier.

So the top looked like this and I cut the hole at the bottom a little bigger
for his feet to walk.

Attached the other box-half with hot glue and spray painted it all blue
Spray painted the next container black for the funnel, and glued it around the hole

Cut slits and glued the ribbon down

Painted red lines and let Cal help attach spray-painted paper plates 

I had also spray painted these blue cardboard strips and then
glued them on top of the wheels

Painted my yellow "1" on the sides, drew a face on a trimmed dinner plate with
a sharpie, and BAM. Thomas.

Teddy approved
And so did his Wizard-Brothers

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Fall for Books: Seasonal Suggestions

We've been reading all kinds of fall and Halloween books lately. It helps that our library children's section just got a face-lift and that Teddy is recently easier to handle in the library. I've always loved the children's section, but last week we visited and found that they have even more tables and chairs and stools and bins and display shelves.

Teddy's favorite spot is on the giant Teddy Bear's lap.

Books organized by character-- we always have to run to the Thomas bin
first and then the Berenstain Bears bin.
This is my favorite new piece of furniture. It's a book bar for kids!

Anyway, on to the seasonal books we've found. Some were appealing to Teddy, some more appealing to Cal and Clark, and some I liked better. Here are most of the books about fall and Halloween that we've read lately. (Yes, I'm the annoying mom who puts a bunch of seasonal books on hold at the library all at once, and requests review copies for my blog whenever offered.)

The first pile of books about autumn and Halloween 

 Our top books and honorable mentions:

Hoot Owl

I will admit that when I first read Hoot Owl I thought it was weird, though I chuckled a little. The boys also thought it was weird. Then we read it again and laughed more. And again. And now they want to read it all the time and say it's awesome. We love that little Hoot Owl! I was trying to think of what is unique about this book and I think it is that it's a little sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, but in an optimistic and child-like way. It's not your average children's book, and includes some excellent words and metaphors, that prompted great discussion for the twins and me. Teddy (two years-old) doesn't get much out of it yet, but I highly recommend it for kids maybe ages 3-7. Give it a chance to grow on you.

Monster Needs a Costume

Another favorite of the boys is about a creative, yet distracted monster. The illustrations are great and the concept is soooo familiar, as mom of specifically one indecisive child.

My First Book of Football

My First Book of Football is a brand new one from Sports Illustrated for Kids and Cal and Clark absolutely adore it. It breaks down football into easy-to-read and understand concepts and also has pictures of all the NFL stars. There's a little guy in there with thought bubbles that makes them laugh. That one's a big hit.

Here's a poor quality picture of a couple pages. 

Cal and Clark also liked reading Olivia Loves Halloween, though they'd probably not admit it to you, since she's a girl. It's cute with a cute little moral and I like that.

Ghost in the House

This one is more Teddy's speed. Ghost in the House has super cute illustrations and flaps to open and close. It is a counting book with a great cadence and rhyme with a silly ending. Who is really afraid of whom?! The boys (age 6) enjoyed reading it and Teddy (age 2) also liked listening to it and of course lifting the flaps is always a fun way to get them engaged.

Teddy also loved the Thomas the train book Ghost on the Track, because he loves everything that is Thomas. There are a couple counting ones that Teddy likes, but his favorite is the counting down one called 10 Trick-or-Treaters. He likes looking at the kids' costumes, but mostly at the school bus on a couple pages, and he loves countdowns.

My favorite two are The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger, and Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead. The Little Yellow Leaf is whimsical and friendly and Bear Has a Story to Tell is just adorable. Cal and Clark enjoy it as well. Calvin and I got to meet the husband and wife author and illustrator for this book a few years ago at the National Book Festival, and they are such peaceful, sweet people that I just love them. They live in a barn in Michigan...which is weird but somehow cool, and the charming story of Bear is perfect.

Another good one is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. This comes with a cool story. My grandmother used to do storytime for the kids at the library when she worked there many years ago. She just this year sent us a copy of the book that she used to read to her kids at storytime around Halloween. The kids loved it any I can see why.

The other books we read weren't much to write about, but I thought I'd share these recommendations with you. Thanks to Candlewick Press and Sports Illustrated for Kids for prompting me to review some books!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's Autumn Again

We are already two and a half months deep into first grade! Which means...Halloween costume conspiracies are thick and heated. A few months ago the twins were definitely going to be Star Wars characters. But now they are obsessed with Harry Potter. Teddy's biggest obsession to date has been garbage trucks, so we were thinking of making him into a garbage truck. Though just today he climbed into an oatmeal box and called himself a train, so I think we'll go with making Teddy a train costume from old cardboard. He also loves water fountains, which might be more straightforward.
We only have a little over a week, but I think we'll pull something together.

Just as a recap of Halloweens past, here are some of our former Halloween costume links for you to enjoy:

That time I made the boys into ceiling fans
When they were astronauts
The epic dinosaur costumes

Here are some other fall-ish things we've been up to around here.

Cubs baseball

Our fall baseball team this year is the Cubs! It's perfect because the real Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs right now. In fact, they are currently in the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets (who I am still mad at for beating the Nationals), and last weekend our Little Cubs played the Little Mets, which was cute.

Teddy preps the field

Good game, Cubs and Mets!
Snack time: the highlight of the experience
Outside time

We've had marvelous fall weather and have been able to spend quite a bit of time outside, doing predictably fall activities like collecting leaves and acorns, and the less common feeding of Sun Chips to fish, and casting spells on everyone with our Harry Potter wands that we made from chopsticks and hot glue.

My grand plan was to have the boys paint acorns and put them in a glass vase and use them to decorate the mantle. We didn't quite get to the painting phase, but we did have a spirited acorn-collecting competition and I put the best ones in a vase on the mantle. I'm sure it is just a matter of hours before they are blasted off the mantle and scattered all over the living room, but for now they feel festive to me.

We've been to our favorite local spot to enjoy nature, Popcorn Ponds. It's just down our street. We collected leaves, saw a giant toad, turtles, and spiders, threw countless seedpods into the water, and fed chips to an exuberant school of fish.

Tree ate Ted's shoe


Cal and Clark have been biking. We'd always felt deficient as parents when we watched them try to pedal bikes of any sort. We just don't have the space to store bikes and we don't live in a place that is conducive to learning to ride a bike. But my sister is a bike gal, having worked at a bike shop for quite awhile, and she helped us find good quality second hand bikes, and my in-laws generously are letting us store them in their garage a few miles away. The boys are already riding them! Instead of training wheels they rode around on bikes that were too small for them for a few days and then tackled the big ones. No sweat. Bikers. Bam. Just like that.

More outside fun...

This is probably the first selfie I've pulled off with all of our faces in it.


Our fall would not be complete without a visit to Hartland Orchards, our favorite farm ever, to get pumpkins and eat caramel apples and kettle corn. We went last weekend.

Out of the whole pumpkin field, Teddy found the one little
green one, and that's what he wanted more than anything else.

We got some normal ones too.

Watching the caramel apples being made...

Just add nuts

We got to bring Aunt Bean this year!

Teddy was not into the whole caramel apple idea.

Cal gets Clark's feet in his face when he tries to catch him going down the

Teddy went down as many times as we let him and all by himself.

A good day for us all

On Brian's birthday I made caramel apple martinis as well as butter beer, which, I trust all of you know, is from Harry Potter. I found various recipes on Pinterest and sort of combined them. Both drinks were extremely sweet, but amazing. I made a version of the martini not so sweet by using half regular vodka and half caramel vodka.

Here's the butter beer.

Butter beer: I didn't exactly measure it, but I put a bunch of ice cream in the blender with a bunch of cream soda, a couple squirts of butterscotch topping, and some ice. Put it in a cold glass from the freezer to make it seem especially Hogsmeade-ish. 

Tip: Make sure you don't fill the blender too full and be sure to give the mixture air as it mixes so the cream soda doesn't explode the lid off. I have good reason to believe it will. To give it some over-21-kick add a couple ounces of butterscotch schnapps.

The boys drank all the butter beer they could get their hands on.

Caramel Apple Martini: 2 oz. apple cider, 2 oz. caramel vodka,
1 oz butterscotch schnapps, shake with ice, pour glass rimmed 
with caramel sauce, garnish with apple slice.

Fall Snack Experimenting

Today I made apple pie granola bars. I have a recipe that I've used for straight-up granola bars with brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla. But, being inspired by fall flavors and such, this time I decreased the sugar and honey and added applesauce, caramel dip, all-spice, nutmeg, and finely chopped and peeled apples. They turned out well, though I doubt anyone would call them apple pie flavored unless they knew the ingredients. They also didn't harden as well as I hoped, but they will be a staple of the lunch boxes this week.

Cutting straight and/or even lines: not in my skill set


Brian has been reading Harry Potter to the boys and they are beyond obsessed with the books. They are always talking about the books or acting out scenes from the books and their own scenes, loosely based on the books. We have to draw a line and cut them off from Harry Potter talk occasionally. The boys have started real homework! So they're reading even more than usual these days, which is great.

We've read a bunch of fall and Halloween-inspired books as well, but as this post is getting long and tedious already, I'll save my book reviews for the next entry-- which I promise will be soon.

Until then...go play in the leaves or something.

Clark, in full hockey gear, reading to Teddy
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