Sunday, November 30, 2008

How NOT to bake a pecan pie

Any time you see a needle nose pliers as part of a story about baking pies, you just have to know it can't be good.

To be clear, Jeff is totally innocent in this fiasco, except for daring me to tell the story on my blog.

So let me begin by saying, I don't even like pecan pie. But Jeff and my Dad do, so every year I make one for Thanksgiving dinner. And every year I learn a little more about how to perfect the pie that I don't eat. For instance, I learned early on to let the syrup mixture cool before mixing it in with the eggs, otherwise, the eggs scramble. This year, I tried wrapping tinfoil strips around the rim of the crust to keep it from burning.

Using pecans that were hand-picked by Jeff's Dad in Texas, this pie had potential to be the best one ever. Until I tried putting it in the oven while not wearing oven mitts. As I slid the pie in, my finger touched the shelf. Not long enough to burn myself, just long enough for me to over react and fling my hand away, bumping the pie, which was still pushed only half way into the oven.

As if in slow motion, the pie started to tip. I tried to save it, but could grab only a strip of the stupid tinfoil. Thick, gooey, sticky maple syrup poured out onto the oven door, and through the hinged opening at the bottom. It then cascaded down my cupboard doors, before pooling onto the floor, which of course I had just finished washing about 30 minutes earlier. The eggs - you know, the ones I didn't mix in until after the syrup mixture had cooled - scrambled on the hot oven door. Of course the pecans also were part of this delightfully messy mixture, working their way into the hinged opening, which is where Jeff was trying to pluck them from in the above photo.

I salvaged the pie crust, but other than that had to start over. Luckily, Bill had sent us lots of pecans. Unfortunately, I'd used the last of the maple syrup in the first failed attempt. So the second version uses regular Aunt Jemima.

And no, it's not a coincidence that I waited until after the pie had been consumed to mention this "little spill".

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The anticipation builds

In the mind of a preschooler, Halloween is really cool, with all the candy and costumes. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is just sort of the necessary evil holiday that's been added to the calendar to torment those who would much prefer to simply cut to the chase and celebrate the big one - Christmas!

While snuggling at bedtime on Thursday, his Thanksgiving meal barely digested, AJ had clearly drawn the conclusion that it was now okay to look foward to the next holiday. He announced, "This is going to be the best Christmas ever!"

This being his fourth Christmas, I realize he has so many to which he can compare it. But I have to agree. With the kids at the ages they are, I think it's going to be my favorite Christmas to date, as well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Here, Maggie...

It was a bountiful feast for everyone this Thanksgiving, including Maggie.

When it came time to feed her, I scooped up a cup of dogfood, then asked Sydney if she'd like to give it to Maggie. Sydney was more than happy to help, so I handed her the cup and off she trotted. A few seconds later, I heard the sound of the food being poured into the bowl, so I turned my attention to other things.

And then I heard the sound of more food being poured in Maggie's bowl. I should have known. We'd recently filled the dogfood bin, which meant food was close enough to the top for Sydney to reach it. She'd reverted back to that old routine of picking up the food with her hand, placing it in the cup, and then dumping the cup into the bowl, all the while calling out, "Ma-gee! Ma-gee!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Counting my blessings

What am I thankful for this year?

I could just let this picture speak a thousand words.

But I need to say more than that. Between work and some freelance writing projects, I've spent the last week somewhat immersed in the world of non-profits. And so after visits to places like Goodwill and the CHUM foodshelf/emergency shelter, I've been reminded of just how blessed I am.

I am thankful to have two happy children who are mentally and physically healthy. I am thankful that I can give them the food they need and put them to bed in a warm, safe house. I am thankful for my wonderful husband, my best friend, who loves me as much as I love him, and who helps me create a loving atmosphere in our home. I am thankful for our parents and family who taught us the important values and love of Christ that we are now doing our best to pass on to our kids. Likewise, I'm thankful to have been instilled with a work ethic, love of learning, understanding of money and sense of service. I am thankful for my "Mommy" friends: the ones who are at a similar point in life as I am so that our kids can have such fun together (while we have fun, too), and the ones who are a few years ahead, who inspire me with stories of their children's success.

Oh yes, and I am thankful that my kids let me sleep until 8:30 this morning. Life is good!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this and are among those I'm so thankful to have in my life.

New words

I'm a few days late in marking Sydney's latest verbal accomplishments. At 17 months, she's added a whole bunch of new words to her vocabulary. Unfortunately, only a few of them are understandable. Among the ones I can make out:

  • Mine! (of course, she had to learn that one)
  • Wow!
  • Mow (mouse)
  • Mook (milk)
  • Duck
  • Shoe
  • Uh oh!

I wrote an article earlier this week about early literacy. One of the statistics I learned is that reading to your child 20 minutes a day, exposes them to about a million more words each year.

Having been asked to read "That's not my puppy" and "Hello Blueberry" about 5,000 times in the last few days, I wonder how many of those million words are simply the same words read over and over and over and over....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The three band-aid boo boo

AJ had a learning experience this weekend. While climbing and goofing around on the coffee table, he forgot to pay attention to how close he was to the edge.

From the kitchen, I heard a loud thud, followed by a crying preschooler. Note that I did not hear whimpers or whines. This was a full fledged cry, as in, he really hurt himself.

Somehow, despite starting out on top of the table, by the time everything hit the floor, AJ's finger ended up underneath the table. I'm sure there's a law of physics to explain this, but as a journalism major, I never had to pay attention to those laws. I picked him up and let him have a good cry.

"The table hurt my finger," he wailed. He had a slight cut, though not bad enough to bleed.
When the cries gave way to fakier whimpers, I asked, "Do you need a bandaid?"
"Yes," he quickly answered.
That's when Mommy learned an important lesson: always check the band-aid supply before offering one to a child.
Later in the day, while shopping, I picked up a box of Spiderman band-aids. Seeing them in the cart reminded AJ of his great wound. So when we got home, I let him have a band-aid. It lasted about 20 minutes before AJ pulled it off and announced, "Mommy, my finger isn't peeling." (It took me a while to figure out he meant that his finger hadn't heeled yet.)
The next day, he managed to scam both Jeff and me into giving him a new band-aid. It was about the time that I realized he was wearing two band-aids, including one on a finger that wasn't hurt, that I instituted a three band-aid limit for injuries of this (lack of) magnitude.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In touch with her inner cat?

The child who can go through several ketchup packets eating one french fry, now has a new quirky eating habit. Sydney suddenly wants a lot of milk on her cereal, and frequent refills of that milk.
For a child who is still far from mastering dexterity with a spoon, it's actually quite impressive to watch her drink the milk and leave the cereal behind. I hadn't paid attention the first time, and so gave her more, just to watch the process.
She begins by using her spoon somewhat like a ladle to drink some of the milk. She then tips up the bowl to drink the rest. She ends up spilling some of the cereal, but almost none of the milk.
I just can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Triangles everywhere!

It's no secret that AJ has inherited his Grandpa David's "messy hair" gene. Normally it's no big deal because we remember to comb it, and - if we don't - he doesn't really mind, anyway.

That changed for some reason on Friday. In our haste to head out the door, I forgot to try and make sense of the blonde mop, and AJ suddenly started to care.

It was in the car, on the way to McDonald's for lunch, that AJ suddenly wailed, "Oh no, I still have messy hair. The kids will laugh at me."

Trying to calm him, I reasoned, "No one's going to laugh at you. Have you ever laughed at anyone for having messy hair?"

"Yes," was his honest answer.

So much for that idea.

He must have caught sight of his shadow, because he next wailed. "I look like a triangle! I look like a stegosaurus!"

You know it must be serious when the thought of looking like a dinosaur doesn't improve the situation.

These photos, by the way, were taken later in the afternoon, so the "triangles" had been flattened a bit by his hood.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rude awakening

Oh, what a night! It was the kind that makes me wonder, "Do these kinds of things happen to anyone else?"

Sydney woke up a little after midnight. I lifted her from her crib, intending to snuggle with her on the couch until she fell back asleep. I could immediately tell she felt very warm, but since she'd been fine all day, I figured it was the result of being entangled in a blanket while wearing a sleeper.

The couch idea didn't work. Sydney wanted to lay next to me, not on top of me, which makes for a tight squeeze. Plus, the blanket that's normally out there, wasn't, so without my little human radiator on my chest, I was freezing.

I next tried bringing her into bed. While I'd been on the couch, Jeff had shifted to the middle of the bed, so I tried nudging him to move over. He sleepily mumbled, "Sydney's not here."

"Sydney is here," I patiently replied, "which is why you need to move over."

He shifted a bit, so I tried to settle in with Sydney. For more than an hour, she tossed and turned, alternating between wanting to sleep as absolutely close to me as possible, and wanting to not touch me at all. I finally nudged Jeff and said, "I need your help. I need Baby Tylenol and a glass of milk. Do you want to get it? Or can you hang on to her while I go get it?"
Jeff chose to get it, and a few minutes later he returned. In the dark, he handed me a glass of milk. It wasn't until I tipped it back for Sydney that we discovered that he hadn't secured the top tightly. Ice cold milk came pouring out, all over Sydney and me. She let out a scream. I let out a scream. Milk drenched both us and the bed. Flipping on the lights, I stripped off her sleeper and my shirt. I next started pulling sheets before the milk could soak the mattress.
About this time, Sydney discovered her now-empty glass of milk. This prompted another scream of outrage from her. It was empty and she was thirsty! So we headed into the kitchen and got her more milk.
Suddenly, life was good, at least for her. The little turkey actually started dancing around with delight. Wearing a onesie and a diaper, with a full glass of milk in hand, Sydney decided it was time to play. At 2:30 a.m.
I think it was about a half hour later before we finally fell back asleep. Zzzzzzzz.....

P.S. Whatever fever she had, is now gone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Baking - redefined

You've got to love the convenience of modern food products. But I'm wondering if I should feel guilty that my son - after spending approximately two minutes pulling the little Ready to Bake pre-decorated cookie dough circles out of the package and placing them on the tray - announced, "I'm a real cooker."

Start to finish, including the time it takes to preheat the oven, it takes less than 20 minutes to produce two dozen of these awesome little sugar cookies. The kitchen is left with that wonderful scent of fresh baked cookies. The only dishes to wash are two cookie trays and a spatula. I love the geniuses at Pillsbury!

As I pulled the tray from the oven, AJ grabbed the camera to capture the excitement of his baking masterpiece reaching completion. He snapped the photo, then looked at the camera's display to see the picture. Showing it to me he said, "Mommy, your forehead is missing."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Perfect man in training

He likes to cook and clean up afterward? Some day this kid is going to make a great husband. Just look at the way he's rolled up his sleeves to help wash dishes. The expression on his face clearly shows he's having fun.
I just need to make sure his wife understands one key thing. Don't call it a scrub brush. As long as AJ can pretend he's using a sword, he'll do anything.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The future filibuster-er

Here's the latest from the child who can talk at length about anything.

"Mommy, why is Christmas so far away?"
"Because it's still November. You have to wait another month."
"It's NOT November," he insisted. "I don't like November."
I couldn't resist asking, "Why don't you like November?"
"Because I don't like Thanksgiving. I don't like turkey and smashed potatoes."
"You like turkey," I reminded him. "And Thanksgiving also has pie."
He was silent for a moment, then: "This year, I want to spend Thanksgiving at home."
That surprised me, so I questioned, "You don't want to see Grandpa and Grandma at Thanksgiving? Or Jonathon and Jessica?"
Finally, a squeal of delight. "I was just kidding. I like Thanksgiving."
A little later he returned to the topic, "Mommy, I like smashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is your son's favorite!"

This kid isn't going to be just any politician. He's destined for the U.S. Senate. No one can use conversation as a stall tactic quite like AJ.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh where, oh where...

...did her little shoes go?
Oh where, oh where could they be?
With the velcro straps and cute Pooh on the sides.
Oh where, oh where could they be?

Logic tells me that shoes can't just walk away on their own. Yet these little suckers seem to disapear every time I turn my back. Two days in a row, I've ended up spending at least five minutes in search of the blessed footware.

I have no excuse for losing them the first time. They were sitting next to her changing table where they should be, never really lost. I just managed to overlook them during my search. But the next day they ultimately turned up suspiciously close to the toy box, and I know I didn't put them there.

I've heard of remote control ringers you can attach to key chains and other items that tend to get misplaced. Perhaps I could stick one on each shoe.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Score 1 for the onions

AJ was so excited to help me cook dinner. We tried a new recipe that included four different kinds of diced up vegetables. AJ was having a ball helping me chop them all - until the onions fought back.

Before I realized what was happening, AJ's eyes started to water. Making it worse, he rubbed them, putting his onion-scented hands in even closer contact. I took off his glasses, washed his hands and showed him how to fan them in front of his eyes. That did the trick, and soon he was back in action, taking out his aggression on the food chopper and remaining chunks of onion.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, the new recipe did not live up to expections. Not only did it not taste good, it was a major effort to prepare. Who wants to cook something in a crock pot that requires about a half hour of prep time?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Non-verbal cues

What is it that you want Sydney? I'm not quite sure I'm understanding you.

Little Miss Sure-of-Herself quite casually walked over to the cupboard and pulled out a bowl and spoon. She then walked over to the cupboard where cereal is stored and stood there grunting to get my attention.
Thinking this was cute, I quickly grabbed the camera off the counter. This clearly did not fit Sydney's desired timeline for getting a snack. She twirled back around before I could snap a picture and yanked the cupboard door open. Then, while still holding the bowl and spoon, she grabbed a container of Trix and marched back over to me, shrieking, "Yeah!"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A wardrobe milestone

It took two tries to get the underwear on in the right direction. (And multiple reminders that the tag goes in the back.) The long-sleeved shirt still ended up backwards. And he needed help with the socks. But other than that...

AJ dressed himself this morning. Hooray! Or, as he seems to be saying in the photo , "Ta da!" (He's really just trying to balance himself on the side of the truck chair.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sydney's style tips

"And this is how I become a redhead..."

Could it be that Sydney is bored with her blonde locks, or just with her spaghettios? Whatever the case, she managed to smear an amazing amount of her lunch through her hair. And she wonders why we give her such frequent baths.

On the topic of cleanliness, Sydney loves holding her hands under the running faucet. She doesn't seem to understand that the purpose is to wash her hands. She just likes the process. A few days ago, while she was taking a bath, I took a moment to wash my hands in the sink. Sydney stood up in the tub, holding her hands out and squealing, not realizing that she was already surrounded by more than enough water to wash the grime off her little paws.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Work it... work it...

I was taking pictures recently, when AJ grabbed the camera and announced he wanted to take a picture of me.

With camera in hand, he first instructed me to say "cheese". That must not have given him the look he wanted because he then started rattling off some new directions.
"Say, 'I love you'."
"Say, 'Date with Daddy'."
"Say, 'pa-sgetti'."

This kid could have a future in photography because he sure knew what to say to make me smile.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A day with Daddy

I'm a day late in saying thank you to any veterans who may be reading this. I did manage, however, to coach AJ to greet Jeff yesterday with a hug, saying, "Thank you for being a brave soldier."

Jeff had the day off from work, and so spent the day doing the most exhausting work of all - being Mr. Mom. Our angelic preschooler must have sensed an opportunity to test Daddy every step of the way.

As Daddy tells it:
While exchanging an empty propane tank at Walmart, AJ - out of the blue - felt compelled to tell Jeff, in front of the clerk, "Daddy, don't let my friends touch your guns."

AJ also earned two time-outs: once for shoving Sydney when she grabbed a toy he was playing with, and later for spitting! On Jeff! They'd been playing soccer in the basement, and AJ apparently got so frustrated when he couldn't score on Jeff, that he spit. Not a wise move, AJ!

Clearly, this day off from "school" was filled with learning experiences for AJ and for Daddy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Read any good books lately?

Sydney loves books. And most of the time she actually looks at them right side up. Her favorite is the Peak-a-boo book you see her pulling from the shelf. It's an interesting coincidence that Go Maisy Go on the bottom shelf happened to make picture. That was AJ's favorite. I just might have it memorized.

On Sunday, still dressed up from church, Sydney grabbed her favorite book and plopped down in the corner for some reading time.
Peak-a-boo covers all the bases for a great toddler reading experience: flaps to lift, textured places to feel, pictures of babies and - best of all - pictures of ducks.

Or, as Sydney says over and over again in her high pitched squeal, "duck-ies".

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pudding face

There's nothing like a bowl of chocolate pudding to inspire a photo opportunity. After emptying her bowl, Sydney proclaimed, "All done."

True, sort of. The dish may be empty, but there's still plenty left on her face, bib and tray.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Police duties - simplified

AJ has figured out what he wants to be when he grows up, and what that means he'll be doing. (This was another fun "car" conversation.)

"When I grow up and I'm the tallest, I'm going to be a police man. And I'm going to have tickets in my pocket. And if you get in an accident, I'll give you a ticket. And it will say, 'You're in trouble!'."

You can't make it much clearer than that.

A quick note about the photo: can you tell who just finished watching Peter Pan? AJ kept the sword for himself, then offered the red lacrosse stick to Jeff saying, "Here, you be Captain Hook."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crash the rollercoaster

What is it about certain toys that inspire such love and devotion from a toddler, while inspiring thoughts of destruction from said toddler's parents?

This blessed/blasted red gorilla was a gift to AJ several years ago from some dear friends who don't read this blog, so I feel safe in asking, "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?" It's an ugly little red gorilla that – when you press it's foot – wiggles around and sings "Love Rollercoaster". I'm sure I'd heard the song before. Now, I absolutely hate it.

"Your love is like a rollercoaster baby, baby" AAAHHHH... get me some lighter fluid.

AJ never felt any particular attachment to this toy. Sydney, however, discovered it a few weeks back and loves it. She's fascinated with being able to make it do something, and she likes hugging it while it wiggles around.

So back to the original question – was it the 15th time, the 50th time or perhaps the 942nd time that I had to endure "Rollercoaster... of love. Say what? Rollercoaster... why don't you ride child?" At some point I switched from being a Mom who would do anything for her child... to being a Mom who smiles at the thought of throwing a little red gorilla under the tracks of a rollercoaster.

Friday, November 7, 2008

KWF Raw!

For best effect, clear your throat and read in your best nitro-announcer voice...

Welcome to the Kazel Wresting Federation Thursday night event! In this corner: It's the dynamic duo of Super AJ and TNT (Tough as Nails Toddler). Facing off against the big... the bad... the Monster Daddy!

Unfortunately for Super AJ, his tag team partner TNT has the attention span of a toddler, leaving him to battle on his own.

Monster Daddy quickly sensed an opportunity and proceeded to tie Super AJ in his trademark "Figure 4" leg lock.

Undaunted, Super AJ twisted free and went on the offensive, sticking a wet finger in Monster Daddy's ear.

Clearly outraged, Monster Daddy asked, "Where do you learn to do a wet willy?"

And that's when my wrestling prodigy sold me out. "From Mommy."

The battle continued for a few minutes longer, but clearly Monster Daddy had the upper hand. That left Super AJ with no other choice than to pounce with his best move of all. Wrapping his arms around Monster Daddy's neck, he gave him a kiss and said, "I love you, Daddy!"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reaching new heights

Oh, just look what can do now.

Little Miss Busy has enjoyed climbing for as long as she's been able. But suddenly, she's discovered new places to explore and new means to get there. The kitchen stool is one favorite. The coffee table is another - especially if Jeff or I are on the couch, so she can dive to us.
A variation of that is in our bathroom. She loves climbing the two steps to the ledge around our bathtub. She then turns and lunges to me. The challenge for me, because I was trying to curl my hair at the time, was to time it so that I could get a curl done, catch her, and then set her down far enough from the tub so that I'd have time to do another curl before she was ready to leap.
Maybe I could make Sydney's job easier. Instead of curling my hair, I'll just spray it gray.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A landmark day

There's been so much talk of change as a result of yesterday's election. But I have to say it was an event exactly a decade ago that changed the course of my life as much as any other. It was ten years ago today that Jeff asked me to marry him.

Risking public humiliation had I said no, Jeff surprised me on air and popped the big question. I'm still amazed at how many people at WDIO were in on the secret and helped coordinate the surprise, and I had no clue it was coming.

Last night, I popped the video into the VCR to capture a screen shot. We ended up playing the "Mommy and Daddy" movie for AJ and Sydney. AJ giggled most of the time. He thought it was really cool to see us on TV. He wanted us to re-play the part where I ran down the hall to find Jeff in the studio. Sydney, meanwhile, just kept pointing at the screen, exclaiming, "Daddy. Mom. Daddy. Mom."

As amazing as the last ten years have been. I can't wait to experience the next ten.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Outsmarting the picky eater

With AJ, I am spoiled. He eats anything. He may not like it, but by the time he started showing any signs of pickiness, he was old enough to understand that if he wants to get down from the table, wants a bedtime treat, wants to watch TV later, wants to (fill in your favorite threat here), then he needs to clean his plate.

Sydney is a different story. She has refused babyfood for months, even though she doesn't have the molars to eat tougher foods, like meat. She occasionally likes peas, and she loves french fries. That's her vegetable list. Fruit, milk and carbs: those would make up her ideal diet.

So I had high hopes that the sweet potatoes and apples I roasted along with a pork tenderloin just might be a hit. Wrong. That's when I turned to Plan B. Blending them all up in our Magic Bullet, I smeared them like a paste on some bread and gave Sydney a sandwich. The princess happily gobbled it up.

AJ, who also wasn't too thrilled with the meal, immediately wanted a sandwich, too, so I did the same for him. I believe his comment was, "this isn't very good."

That's when we went back to Plan A. "Just eat it, or you're going to be sitting there all night."

Monday, November 3, 2008

The early morning wake-up call

Just a quick observation.

Whoever associates the start of daylight savings time with getting an extra hour of sleep, clearly doesn't have young children. I don't care what time you adjust the clock on the wall to say. Their internal clocks don't change a bit.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

In search of Spider Man

I think we are finally done with Halloween for the year. On Saturday, AJ had a chance to wear his costume for one more official function - the "Pumpkin Patch Carnival" at the local school.

As excited as AJ was to go to it, getting him to focus enough to leave was a challenge. While I dressed Sydney, I sent AJ into the living room to find his costume. When I came out a few minutes later, this is what I found:

From his seat inside the blue toy box, where he was busy playing with toys, AJ announced in all seriousness, "Spiderman's not in here."

Ya think?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Come on in, the water's fine...

Did you hear that splash? It's the sound of my mother-of-the-year award slipping away again!

It's apparently not enough to simply watch your children while they're taking a bath. You also must keep an eagle eye on them from the moment you start filling the tub.

Thursday night was supposed to be pumpkin carving night. But a certain little monster was way too tired and grumpy and clingy. And filthy. So I decided, for the sake of sanity, to give her a bath and put her to bed. I started the water, then ran into the kitchen to take photos of AJ and Jeff scooping out the pumpkin's gooey innards. LESS THAN A MINUTE LATER, I turned back, and this is what I saw. Ironically, Sydney was in a fantastic mood from this point forward.

A wise news photographer once told me that when covering a story about a fire, the best pictures often come when you turn your back to the fire and capture what the onlookers are doing. Apparently the same is true with pumpkin-carving stories.