Friday, September 30, 2011

friday fun finds: halloween decorations

i think that halloween is my favorite holiday to decorate for. it is fun and spooky and not everyone on the street does it. i think it is fun to be the super decorated house in the neighborhood that all the kids want to trick-or-treat at too. here are some of my favorite halloween decorations this year. enjoy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

forwards and girlfriends

i hate forwards. hate. i seldom ever read them. in fact, they generally bug me. i ignore every one from the "send it to 10 people in the next hour and your dreams will come true" to the warnings of car jackings and that everything that i own or consume will give me cancer. today i received a forward from my mom (that generally feels the same way i do about them) that made me pause and read it. 

"i just finished taking an evening class at stanford. the last lecture was on the mind-body connection - the relationship between stress and disease. the speaker (head of psychiatry at stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.

at first everyone laughed, but he was serious.

women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. physically this quality “girlfriend time" helps us to create more serotonin - a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. they rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. jobs? yes. sports? yes. cars? yes. fishing, hunting, golf? yes. but their feelings? rarely. 

women do it all of the time. we share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. he said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

there's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!

so every time you hang out with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! we are indeed very, very blessed. sooooo let's appreciate our friendship with our girlfriends. evidently it's very good for our health."

for the record, i have no idea if this is true or not....but i sure hope it is. nothing makes me feel better than time spend with girlfriends and i *love* the idea that it could actually be healthy for me.....and the equivalent of a workout?! doubtful, but sign me up! what do you think?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

fundraisers suck (guest blogger: ginger from counting caballeros

today’s guest post is from ginger caballero, author of counting caballeros.  ginger is a stay-at-home-mom and has 4 kids ages 9, 7, 4, and 3.  she has aspirations of being a *paid* author, but for now, she writes for her own enjoyment (and ours). we love her and know that you will too. 

fundraisers *suck*

it is fundraising time at my kids' school again.  crap.  so my kids came in all hyped up from the fundraising kick-off pep rally at school this afternoon ready to take on the world with their little selling kits and product flyers.  I really hated to do it, but i had to crush their little fundraising spirits.  i sat them both down and i taught them something.  the way that the school has represented this fundraiser to my kids, they believe that the world will end if they don't sell at least 10 items and that the prizes are priceless artifacts obtainable only through this contest (when you can buy them by the gross from oriental trading company).  i let them know that at the absolute most, that $12.00 item will earn the school $9.00, that the "rewards" could mostly be bought at the dollar store, and that selling things is *very* hard. (i know, i did it for a living before i had kids.)

fundraising is absolutely one of the most asinine practices in public schools today in my opinion.  there are 2 flyers -- the first one has food items ranging from the $11.00 funnel cake mix to the $18.00 for 5 frozen mini pizzas.  then they have plastic cups.  yes, plastic "tumblers" with regional sports teams on them for $15.00 each.  then on the front of the fundraising packet is a list, complete with enticing photos, of all of the "rewards" given for selling the items.  if you sell one item you get a plastic lei.  yep, ONE plastic lei.  if you sell 5 items you get a pair of neon sunglasses AND a plastic lei.  10 items will get you that lei, the sunglasses, AND a plastic LED flying toy.  20 items gets you all of that AND a light-up rubber ring and a rubber digital watch.  it goes on and on like that until you get to the 80 item level where you can get a remote control helicopter (in addition to all of the cheapo plastic crap from the previous levels).  but if you sell 100 items, you get all that AND an electric drum set.  it keeps going up to an iPad.  you have to sell 500 items to get that though.  so just out of curiosity, i did a little research and came up with the following chart and shared it with my kids to get the point across:

if you sell          worth a minimum of           we'll give you a reward worth a maximum of

     1 item                           $11.00                                                                 $0.15
     5 items                         $55.00                                                                 $0.98
   10 items                       $110.00                                                                 $1.46
   20 items                       $220.00                                                                 $2.78
   30 items                       $330.00                                                                 $4.26
   40 items                       $440.00                                                                 $8.97
   50 items                       $550.00                                                                $13.57
   60 items                       $660.00                                                                $19.96
   70 items                       $770.00                                                                $26.33
   80 items                       $880.00                                                                $58.64
  100 items                   $1,100.00                                                               $93.78
  150 items                   $1,650.00                                                               $263.77
  200 items                   $2,200.00                                                               $317.89
  500 items                   $5,500.00                                                               $816.88

does anyone else see how ridiculous this is??  even if the cost of the items that they're selling have a profit margin that makes selling them in the first place worth the effort, most people do not want the stuff your kids are selling and will gladly give you a fraction of that cost just to get you to leave them alone. i know i would.  my kids are not going to do it.  i am going to tell them that if they want to raise money for the school, they can collect money and turn it in.  i will call their relatives and say "hey, it's fundraising time.  do you want to buy some over-priced crappy food items that you don't really want or give me a $5.00 or $10.00 check per kid made out to the school?"  as far as their "incentive" program, i am going to give my kids $0.15 on the dollar that they raise, and they'll STILL come out better.  and so will the school. 

i get that offering the kids incentives gets them to sell more and that it teaches them that hard work is rewarded, but why don't we give them REAL rewards?  why don't we sell stuff that people want at prices that make sense AND make money for the school?  i think that teaching the kids the value of a dollar (yes, even at the tender age of 5 or 6), AND letting them raise money for their school would be awesome.  but for now, does anyone want some funnel cake mix for $11.00?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

getting ready for baby: what to expect at the hospital post delivery

yeah! this is our last "getting ready for baby" post. we've made it to the end and by now, you'll have the nursery stocked, your baby gear ready to go and you'll know what will happen during labor and delivery. if you missed any of our "getting ready for baby" posts, don't miss reading those.

here's what you can expect in the hospital after your sweet, little wonder arrives.

after you deliver your baby, the nurses will eventually take the baby and clean him or her up slightly and then they will start working on cleaning you up as well. the big pads they placed under you for delivery (think bed covering pads) will be replaced. you'll be rinsed off a little bit and cleaned off with some towels. eventually you'll be put back onto another big bed pad. you'll stay on this for a while until your bleeding gets under control. they will keep replacing the bed pads for the rest of your stay.

i was informed after delivering my fourth baby that you tend to have more bleeding after each delivery. for my fourth, i was told that i wasn't at the point of needing a blood transfusion but that i was close. this isn't just period bleeding...this is something much more. think crime scene photos. be prepared.

eventually you'll try to get to the bathroom again on your own. each time you go to the bathroom, you'll have a little plastic bottle to fill with warm water. you'll need to rinse yourself well after each trip to the potty. they'll then give you some super attractive disposable underwear and some monster sized pads that you'll wear and replace many times in those first hours after delivery. if you need more, ask for them. don't be afraid to use the towels to clean yourself off. this is labor and delivery. they are used to a mess. don't worry about the white towels that are sitting in the bathroom. just use them.

they'll also provide some ice packs for your va-jay-jay. these don't make your feel 100% but they do help you feel better. use them and ask for more. they are a small relief after labor and delivery and you'll be glad you have them. if they don't offer them right away, ask if you can get some.

after a short time, you'll have a lactation consultant come in to visit. if you thought your privacy was invaded during labor and delivery, just wait for this fun. these lovely ladies will come in and grab your boob with a vice grip and shove it into your baby's mouth. if the baby doesn't do it right, they'll move the baby off and try again. this will happen repeatedly during your hospital stay. good times. don't forget your lanolin at this point. it will save your boobies.

your baby will be in and out of your room at this point. they'll be taken and bathed. the pediatrician will check on the baby either in your room or in another location. there will be blood tests done on your baby through a little slice on their heel. the baby will be poked and proded during their hospital stay. they will love calm moments with you so enjoy those. when the baby is away, take advantage of that time to take care of yourself.

if the baby is out of the room, this is the perfect opportunity to use the bathroom, change your clothes, if possible, take a shower. use those moments to clean up a bit and to feel a bit more refreshed. little luxuries make a huge difference during your hospital stay.

you'll be offered pain medication during this time as well. if you need something stronger, don't be afraid to ask. if you are exhausted, don't feel bad about asking a nurse to take your baby to the nursery for an hour so you can take a nap. the nurses are trained to take care of your baby. you'll be on call 24/7 as soon as you walk out of those hospital doors. if you can get an hour of sleep in a the hospital, take it. nurses will be in and out all night long, your baby will need to eat every couple of hours all night long, hospitals are never particularly quiet. if you can get a moment of rest, don't feel guilty, take advantage.

on your last day, several things will need to happen. your baby will need a final check with the pediatrician, you'll need a final check with the ob/gyn, discharge papers will need to be completed, forms signed and your iv removed. the day you leave is always packed full of activities. be prepared for a busy last several hours there. finally, your baby will be released to you and you'll be wheeled out of the labor and delivery ward. this was always my favorite part of the process...the moment when it was all over. have your camera ready. take pictures and try to savor the little moments before you head home. your life will never be the same. try to absorb as much of it all as you can.

there are so many details of each person's experience. you'll have plenty of stories of your own. each baby brings its own excitements and hilarious moments. try to see them as hilarious intead of mortifying. they will all be worth the prize...a beautiful baby of your own. do your best to enjoy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: baked potato soup

fall is here and it makes me crave all sorts of soups. baked potato soup is my all time favorite fall recipe. it reminds me of comfort, of good times with college roomies....and it once even played a *tiny* role in a successful matchmaking/blind date of two of my friends that resulted in a 9 year marriage and 4 kids. truth. 

you can even make this recipe gluten free easily by using gluten free flour. easy peasy.


baked potato soup

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
7 cups milk 
4-6 large baking potatoes, baked cooled, peeled and cubed (about 4 cups)
12 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
1 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

(add more or less bacon, cheese or sour cream to your liking).

in a large soup kettle or pot, melt butter. stir in flour and heat and stir until smooth and blended. gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until thickened. add potatoes. bring to a boil, stirring constantly. reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. add remaining ingredients and stir until cheese is melted. top with extra crumbled bacon, cheese and green onions, if you want to get all fancy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

friday fun finds: erin condren

i am pretty much obsessed with erin condren.

with the holidays just around the corner (yikes! already?!) you will want to check out her fabulous assortment of cards. your friends and family will surely be envious of you when they find one of these in their mailbox.

her designs are simple and graphic and although i have been trying to switch over to a digital calendar i still *LOVE* having a paper version to be able to cross things off on and see what i have accomplished.

if you haven't seen her planner and family wall calendar, they are a must! my favorite thing is that they start the year on the month you order it (no more waiting until December for a new calendar) AND you get the ENTIRE year! they also include all sorts of bonuses like stickers, gift tags, etc.. the jumbo calendar is my favorite product. it is personalized and it really keeps my family in sync to have everything written in one central place for the schedule. you can tell that the designer most be a mom because she has plenty of space for including all of the soccer, tap dancing, drama and karate classes. there just might be enough space left to schedule yourself some time at the spa too!

so what are you waiting for? go on.....check them out. you will thank me. i pinkie promise.

note: erin condren did not pay me to write this post nor give us free product.....they don't even know we wrote it. we are just big fans and wanted to share the love. enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

learning to be alone again

my toddler has started a mother's morning out program. you can tell he's the fourth born. with my first born, i cried when he went off to a three year old program, wondering if i was making a mistake and worrying that i was scarring him forever by sending him off so soon. with the fourth born, i said, "congratulations, son. you are one! you get to go to school!" it's sad but true.

for the past couple of thursdays, i have had things to do, people to see, places to go. with a rainy day today, all of my plans have fallen through and i'm left with three hours to fill and a house that is way too quiet.

for the first time in eight years, i have three hours to myself and all i can think about is how quiet it is. i used to thrive in solitude. when my post college friends were still living in houses with three or four other people, i chose to find a small apartment and live alone. i have no problem seeing a movie by myself. i feel like i'm truly getting my money's worth when the entire theater is empty except for myself. once my kids came along, the adjustment to having someone around me all the time was cripplingly difficult.

now that i've become accustomed to all the noise and chaos, the transition back to solitude is equally hard. i used to ask my girlfriends who had their youngest head off to school how it felt and how the hours were filled. they always listed things they did to fill those hours...they were filled with new workout routines, new volunteer ventures, new jobs. i think i've come to the conclusion that the transition was just as hard for them as it was for me today. we are so used to so many things happening at once that the absence of it all leaves us with a desire to fill up that space again, with whatever we can find.

for me, i'm going to try to learn the art of being alone again. i'm going to try to resist the urge to fill up every minute with activity and instead learn to relish a few moments of quiet. i'm going to catch up on my reading, work on some photo albums, take a shower and turn music up while i spin around. there is no shortage of work when they are all at home. when i have three short hours in a week to myself, i feel like the work can wait. it will still be there three hours from now.

for now, i'm sitting in a starbucks, drinking a latte and typing. here at least the silence isn't quite so deafening. next week, maybe i'll tackle that book. baby steps.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

the trouble with loving little girls...

when my fourth born came along, my daughter had just turned four. she was so excited to have a new baby in the house and she could not get enough of her little brother. she got in trouble more than once for trying to pick him up or hold him on her own. we had to watch her like a hawk. it was such a relief each day when she left for preschool and i had three hours of worry free baby time.

we thought we had her under control and then she managed to surprise us all. at about two o'clock in the morning when the baby was two weeks old, i woke from my short amount of slumber to a strange sound. in my grogginess, i woke my husband and asked him if he'd heard anything. i told him it sounded like the baby was choking. he was closest to our bedroom door and hopped up to see if the baby was okay.

as soon as he hit the hallway, he headed not for our baby's room, but toward our daughter's room. her light was strangely on and he assumed that the sound i heard must have been her. he walked toward her room and saw her sitting up on her bed playing with a doll. "it's time for bed. put the doll away and go back to sleep." it was at this moment that the doll started moving and my husband discovered that it wasn't a doll she was playing with but our two week old son.

somehow she had woken up in the middle of the night, walked down to the baby's room, climbed into his crib where she grabbed him in a choke hold (thus the choking sounds), slung him over the side of the crib as she climbed out and down, carried him to her bedroom, put him on her bed and was in the process of undressing him so that she could put her doll clothes on him. awesome. never in the course of all the mommy stories that i've heard had anyone mentioned kidnapping in the middle of the night. whose kid does that?

we quickly got the baby back in his bed and put my daughter back to sleep. we locked the nursery door and kept a screwdriver on the door frame well out of four year old reach. so far we've had nothing as horrible in comparison. before i had my youngest, everyone told me what a helper my little girl would be. boy were they wrong. there is such a thing as too much of a mommy instinct.

how about you? any child stealing horrors? can anyone top this? i'd love for once to not be the measure of horror that everyone else checks and then feels good about in comparison. anyone?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

getting ready for baby: twins!

our guest post today is from mommy of twins and fabulous blogger, jennifer of flesworthy. hope that you love her as much as we do!

if you haven't had a chance to read our previous "getting ready for baby" posts, here they are:

about our guest blogger:
after four years of reproductive hardships, jennifer was blessed with twins henry and eleanor in 2007. she blogs about life as a mom, photographer wannabe, and fan of bad pop culture at her blog, flesworthy.

for those of you preparing for the arrival of twins, congratulations! twins are, in a nutshell, awesome. yes, that first year can be hectic, but you’re rewarded with the opportunity to see your twins’ wonderful bond develop. as a mom of four-year-olds, my main advice is to hang in there, it only gets better and better and better! yes, you will get to sleep through the night again.

so, what do you need for those early days with twins? some basics are the same no matter how many babies you have, which the other “getting ready for baby” posts have covered. here are some twin-specific suggestions for things that helped me wrangle my two during their first year.

membership in a multiples club
i can’t recommend multiples clubs enough. often the best advice and support comes from other parents of multiples. whether it’s navigating a NICU stay or just laughing at the silly questions you get from strangers (no, my boy/girl twins are NOT identical), it’s immensely helpful to have a network of parents that “get it.” multiples clubs often have moms’ night out, playgroups, and clothing & equipment sales. the sales are a great way to stock up on clothes and gear! you can go to the national organization of mothers of twins clubs site ( to find a club near you.

this stroller is very popular among twin parents. it’s so easy to just pop in both car seats and go. while you can’t use it after your babies outgrow their car seats, it’s still worth every penny. these suckers go fast at my twins club’s sales!

choosing a diaper bag is an individual decision; what worked for me might not work for you. but for carting around all that baby gear x 2, I LOVED my skip hop duo double. lots and lots of pockets, enough that I could carry my wallet/phone/etc in it as well. the simple style meant my husband enjoyed carrying it, too. i loved it so much that when we could finally start traveling lighter, I downgraded to the duo.

we got so much use out of our play yard, aka “baby jail.” once both of my twins started crawling, i loved having the option of a contained space for them to play in when I needed to, say, go to the bathroom or eat lunch (it’s the little things, right?). baby jail played double-duty and helped with babyproofing, too. i had friends who used theirs around the christmas tree. we put a few panels around our entertainment center.

a notebook? that’s a weird suggestion, right? but look. there’s no way to sugarcoat this—you’re going to be EXHAUSTED those first few months. life might seem like a blurry cycle of nap/feed/diaper change/repeat. this phase WILL pass, i promise, but in the meantime you might need some sort of system to remember who ate when and at what times. for us, we kept a notebook in our kitchen. we had a column for each kid, and noted when each had a bottle or a diaper change. it helped answer our “when was their last feeding?” and “did he poop today?” questions when we were sleep deprived and fuzzy-headed. actually, we got into such a habit that we kept their notebook going for their first year. we noted developmental milestones in the margin and had our families write messages in it on the twins' first birthday. it’s now a wonderful memento of how challenging but wonderful our first year with twins was.

let’s face it—feeding twins can be a challenge. the advice I wish I could go back and give my mom-to-newborns self is “do what’s best for you.” yes, obviously you want to do the very best for your babies, but your health and well-being matter, too. happy mom = happy family. if you can breastfeed, whether it’s for a week or a year, that’s fantastic. if your kids are formula-fed, that’s okay, too. a combo of breastmilk and formula? if that’s the best for your family, then go for it. breastfeeding was pretty much a disaster for me. neither twin ever mastered latching on, and my milk supply wasn’t enough for two babies. i pumped and did a combination of breast milk and formula for eight weeks. then some colic and reflux issues set in, and the added step of pumping after every feeding was driving me crazy. for my sanity, i made the difficult decision to stop pumping. honestly, I was pretty hard on myself about it; in a way i felt like i failed. But i look at my twins now—they’re healthy and happy and seemingly unaffected by all the formula they had their first year. it’s sometimes hard to see the big picture when you’re in the moment, but it will be okay. you will be okay, and your babies will, too.

let me step off my soapbox and pass along some twin feeding gear recommendations. a lot of breastfeeding moms in my twins club recommend the ez-2-nurse breastfeeding pillows

for bottles, we had the best luck with dr.brown’s (they are good for babies with reflux). if you formula feed, you’ll go through a lot—we averaged a can every 2-3 days. what worked for me was to mix up a pitcher every morning. an immersion blender helped mix everything up quickly. my babies never minded drinking cold or room temperature formula, which saved me an extra step of heating. i could just grab a bottle or two from the fridge and I was good to go.

this book by marc weissbluth gets mentioned the most by my circle of twin moms. getting both my babies on a schedule was crucial to me, and dr. weissbluth’s explanations and advice on sleep cycles helped my kids become champion sleepers. it’s the only pregnancy/childcare book i read. since I’ve had my twins, he’s even published a twin-specific book. definitely worth checking out!

so do I really need two of everything?
well, it will depend. some things are obvious—two car seats, two highchairs, two cribs (although many will share a crib for those first few months). for others? it might be best to buy one, see if both babies like it, and then add a second one if needed. for us, only my son liked the swing, so we got by with one. they both enjoyed exersaucers, so we ended up with two. we had two boppy pillows and bouncers but one bumbo seat. so don’t assume you’ll need two of everything. and if you do, those multiples club sales come in handy for cheaply picking up those second items! (and for selling them when you’re done, too.)

i hope these suggestions are helpful! raising twins has been a wild ride that I’ve been thankful for every day. those early sleep-deprived days can be a blur, though. so help me out, fellow parents of multiples. what am I forgetting? what was essential to your family?

Monday, September 19, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: easy chicken pot pie

i don't know about you but with cooler weather comes my desire to eat comfort food. chicken pot pie is one if my favorites. my mom used to make it with a can of black olives and call it "black bird pie" with the olives working as the four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. if you love olives, throw in a can. if not, this is just as good without them. enjoy!

easy chicken pot pie

rotiserrie chicken - meat pulled off of the bone and shredded

1 bag frozen onions

1 potato peeled and chopped

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups chicken stock

1 bag frozen corn, cooked per microwave directions

1 bag frozen peas, cooked per microwave directions

1 can whole olives, drained

1 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 t. thyme

1 t. garlic powder

1 refrigerated pie crust

saute the frozen onions and potatoes in the butter until translucent. add the flour and mix until the flour and butter are a creamy consistency. add the chicken stock and stir at high heat until the sauce starts to thicken. once it is thick, add all other ingredients except pie crust and mix well.

place refrigerated pie crust in a large pie pan. fill with chicken mixture and cover with top of pie crust. flute the edges of the pie crust and cut slits in the top of the crust.

bake at 425 for 35 minutes with a covering on crust edges. you can use a covering that is specific to pie crusts or you can use aluminum foil bent around the edges of the crust. remove the covering after 35 minutes and 5 minutes more without covering.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

to wii or not to wii: part 2

last week i shared my love for the wii and everything you'll need to get started with a wii obsession in your family. if you missed that post, you can find it here: to wii or not to wii.

this week, i'd love to share some of my favorite child friendly games. i'm really careful about which games my kids play. i don't want to see any blood, anyone dying, any unnecessary violence. i'd rather just have my kids have a great time. so, here's what i've found, fun for kids of all ages.

just dance kids: this is a fabulous game with great kids songs for all ages and dance moves that your kids will mimick with their wii remotes for points. so much fun and a blast to watch.

wii play: most wii gaming consoles come with this one. if yours didn't, get this for yourself. it has cow racing, skeet shooting, and others.

wii sports: this has your basics for sports: baseball, golf, boxing, and tennis.

toy story mania: if you like the ride at disneyland or disneyworld, you'll love this. it's full of carnival type cames hosted by your favorite toy story characters.

carnival games: along the same line as toy story mania but a wider variety of carnival fun.

family game night 3: this one may be a little better for older kids but we love playing this together as a family. with classics like "life", "clue", and "mousetrap", it's fun for everyone. the first two family game nights are fun as well.

wii game party: this one is great with darts, air hockey, shuffleboard and my favorite, ski ball.

i know there are countless games out there? which ones do you recommend?