Friday, October 31, 2008

Beggar's Night + Halloween

Last night we participated in Beggar's Night (an Iowa tradition). Our sweet friends, the Mons, invited us to their neighborhood, and we thoroughly enjoyed the treats both during and after the trick-or-treating.

Big Sis was Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Big J was a cowboy.


(Notice the badge? He wasn't just a cowboy, he was a Texas Ranger)


This was just before Trunk or Treat tonight - yes, she got DOUBLE the candy.

I think we brought home as much candy as we gave out! Good thing Mama and Daddy will "inspect" it closely before she's allowed to have any.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome to Fall

This is what we woke up to yesterday morning.
What's that?
It's our overturned grill + propane tank, which was blown 5 feet from it's normal home on our porch. Chicago may be the Windy City, but Des Moines gets it's fair share of stiff breezes, and Sunday and Monday brought high winds with gusts up to 68 miles per hour.
This morning, we woke to morning temperatures of a balmy 22. I think Fall is here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crazy Eights

Eight TV Shows I Like to Watch:
  1. Project Runway
  2. The Office
  3. CBS News Sunday Morning
  4. How I Met Your Mother
  5. Big Bang Theory
  6. Mad Men
  7. The Mighty B (yes, I have kids)
  8. The Soup

Eight Restaurants I Like to Eat At:

  1. PF Chang's
  2. In-n-Out
  3. Jack in the Box
  4. Alberto's
  5. Broadway Cafe
  6. Big Town Hero
  7. California Pizza Kitchen
  8. Pastini

Eight Things That Happened Today:

  1. Woke up
  2. Took some Motrin
  3. Got Big J up
  4. Changed his diaper
  5. Turned on Tom & Jerry for Big J
  6. Checked my email
  7. Checked ebay
  8. Checked blog (sorry it's not more exciting - we've only been up for 30 minutes!)

Eight Things I Am Looking Forward To:

  1. Halloween
  2. Thanksgiving & possibly going to Minneapolis
  3. Going to Oregon in December
  4. Rotation lottery in January
  5. Birthday celebrations in January, February & March
  6. Trying out my new coat
  7. The first fire of the season (in our fireplace)
  8. Drinking a hot apple cider

Eight Things On My Wishlist:

  1. Shampoo & conditioner
  2. To rent a house with a non-flooding basement & fenced backyard
  3. A dog
  4. A family trip to Disney World
  5. For Big J to start sleeping through the night with a minimum of crying (and no paci)
  6. An In-n-Out Burger
  7. Flannel sheets
  8. New running shoes

I tag: Robyn, Sara P., Chrissy, Rebecca, Ashley, Hilary, Suzie, and Kelly.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Race Day

I was too nervous and excited to sleep much, and woke throughout the night, afraid I would sleep through my alarm (not that it's ever happened before but there's a first time for everything). I popped out of bed at 7 am, and began the job of waking up myself and the rest of the family. In the midst of the chaos I checked my email and was thrilled to discover that a last minute pledge met my total donation goal of $500! Big Sis was also the recipient of $80 in pledges. That got my adrenaline pumping, and I sailed through the rest of the morning.

We bundled up, and were in the car by 8 (a little behind my desired schedule, but still with plenty of time to spare). Big Daddy was a little skeptical of my claims regarding 20,000 people coming out for the Race. Once he saw the traffic, and especially the back up at the Capitol exit, he quickly conceded that I might be right about the number of people we were about to face. We parked and walked, and I was really overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies out there. I jumped into the mass around the 13:00 mile mark, and tried to mentally prepare for the 3.1 miles I was about to face.



The race began, and we all watched the competitive runners surge forward. It was at least 5 minutes before my group approached the starting gate, and it was several more minutes before I could separate myself enough to actually run. I spent the next few minutes after that dodging walkers (seriously people, you were not going to hit a 13:00 mile at that strolling pace) before I could get a little space around me and settle into a rhythm. I had my special Race playlist on my iPod, and it was a good motivator to keep going (and people say the Spice Girls are worthless - Ha!). It was a beautiful cold, sunny day and the course wound around downtown. There were no mile markers, which for me was a bonus, as I think it might have been more disheartening than helpful. It was hard to be passed, but it was a mental boost to pass people. The most difficult bit was the last 1/2 mile - up the hill to the Capitol building. It wasn't Mt. Everest, but a slow and steady pace helped get me through it.


Almost to the finish line!

I achieved both my goals - to raise $500 in donations, and to run the whole race. I don't even know what my pace was, but we estimate it around 30:00 total. Not bad, considering I wasn't even running 2 months ago.

I am grateful to all of those who supported me through donations, training advice, and just by asking how things were going.

I am thankful for my sweet husband who supported my by watching the kids so I could run on my own and who woke up early on a Saturday to hang out in the 40 degree weather with 2 semi-cranky kids while I ran this Race.

I am honored that Big Sis and Big J were there, and that I can try to be a good example to them by being active and philanthropic at the same time. (I do love to multi-task!).

I am amazed to see so many people come out for the Race - whether they were runners or walkers, pushing strollers, racing a 5:00 mile, or rolling in their wheelchairs, for a few hours we were all united in a common goal - to support Komen for the Cure and to raise money to work towards stamping out breast cancer. Almost 5% of the population of the Des Moines metro area came out for this event. That's incredible!

I am motivated to keep going. My running may have to go indoors for a while, but I am hopeful that I can keep a consistent workout schedule and continue doing 5K's and more.


Big Sis before her race.

Big Sis did great, too. The Kids' Race was chaotic, but she crossed the 50 yard finish line like a champ!

Big J all bundled up for a cold morning outdoors!

Thanks again to everyone who pledged money to support us. Words can't express how grateful we are for your monetary vote of confidence and for all the support we received.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Better Day

Today was a better day. Despite the bad weather and the fact that we once again had to cancel the pumpkin patch, I am getting a little more in the Fall/ Halloween spirit. And of course I have new pictures of my kiddos, and that always makes me smile.

Brother and sister hanging out. Now that he is doing more, she's getting more interested in him.

A few weeks ago I bought a couple of DIY Halloween decorations. Combined with Martha Stewart glitter from Wal-Mart, they are sparkle-tastic! She loves ANYTHING with glitter.

It turned out cute. Plus, it's glittery, so it's all good. Love that Martha Stewart!

Big J took the bottle for the first time today. I'm not sure if I starved him into it, or if he just realized it was the same stuff in a different delivery system. Regardless, he sucked down 2 oz. in about 2 minutes, and I was so happy. I hope it wasn't a one time trick.

Race day is tomorrow. Here's to wishing for clear weather, strong legs, and a good night's sleep tonight.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And there you have it.

I just got a huge boost from a friend. I am now only $50 away from meeting my pledge goal for the Race for the Cure (this Saturday), thanks to my sweet friend Stephanie. I have known Stephanie since our college days in Arizona. We don't often keep in touch, but I think about her all the time. She works in geriatric care, managing long-term care facilities in Arizona (Steph, if this is wrong, I apologize). She has a big brain and an even bigger heart, and is one of the smartest, wittiest, most dedicated, most caring, most beautiful people I know. Steph, thank you so much for believing in me.

Struggling

It's been a bummer of a week. I think it's been a post-vacation funk. While I should be re-focusing myself on Christmas, it's hard to get excited about 2 weeks in someone else's house. My in-laws are very, very nice people, but I would be lying if I said that I was eager to spend 2 weeks without my own bed, food, TV, car, or routine.

We're also in the midst of weaning Big J. And it's not going well. He is utterly rejecting the bottle and the sippy cup. He acts like I am feeding him arsenic. I finally tried pumping today and he seemed less repelled by the bottle (and yes, I've tried multiple bottles, nipples, and sippy cups). I hope that starting fresh tomorrow he may be a little better if it tastes more familiar than formula. I remember Big Sis taking several weeks to warm up to the bottle, but J is just over the top about it. I have to go out of town next month, so he's just gotta get used to it. He's GOTTA. Oh yeah, and he's still a terrible sleeper. My sincerest wish right now is that I will be able to wean him in less than a month and that he'll then actually sleep through the night before he's a year old. See - it can't be all that bad if I can still hang on to such a pipe dream.

And finally, I had an argument with a neighbor. I feel ridiculous typing that, as last time I checked, I am no longer in Middle School. But, yes, I had a verbal altercation with a neighbor. Thankfully, she has moved out, no one was physically harmed, and I feel like I won the argument. Good Night, maybe I still am in Middle School.

So, do you have any sure-fire ways to pump up my day? A no-fail recipe? A favorite place for a delicious, fudgy dessert?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Whaddya Think?

I'm in a cantankerous mood right now, and made the mistake of searching for new blog backgrounds to lively things up. The one I wanted came with 10 additional steps of kooky fixes you had to put in place. So I settled on this. It's a bit more formal than I currently view myself, but I do enjoy the black and white.

Also, in an effort to lift my own spirits, I'm going to share a little love with y'all.

Chocolate Cream Frosting
(It's smooth, it's thick, and it's so good cold.
Recipe courtesy of Jan Cannon-Engle)
2 Tbs. Butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 egg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt chocolate and butter in the top of a large double boiler over hot, not boiling water; beat in sugar and egg until smooth.

Place top of double boiler over ice in a large bowl. Beat gradually, adding cream. Beat 3 to 4 minutes, or until fluffy thick. Stir in vanilla. Keep frosting over ice as you work. Chill cake before frosting. Keep in refrigerator.

** I never have ice in the house, so I put my Kitchenaid bowl in the freezer, transferred the chocolate mix to the frozen bowl, and then used the mixer to beat the cream in.

Here's another fave. If you're in the mood for brownies, this is a good 'un. I usually have all the ingredients in the house, so these get made on a whim. I think they're better than the box, and the fact that the pan is gone within 24 hours means that I am not the only one who thinks that.

Easy Brownies
(courtesy of epicurious)
1 cup hot chocolate drink mix
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten to blend
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine first 4 ingredients in medium bowl and stir until well blended. Mix in eggs, butter and vanilla. Mix in chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool brownies in pan before serving.

FYI - I am not a believer of nuts in brownies. I like a nice chocolate chip cookie with pecans or walnuts, but my brownies need to be nut-free. I also never, ever frost my brownies. It just seems wrong.

To Make or To Buy? That is the question...

I've become a little more crafty in the past year, and have really begun to enjoy sewing now that I have a new, non-jamming sewing machine. I have yet to make an actual outfit for either of the kids, but the idea has been rolling around in the back of my mind. And of course, with Halloween drawing near, I always face the internal dilemma of: Make or Buy a costume? I have yet to make a costume for a number of reasons. First, Big Sis tends to be more than a little indecisive, and nailing down a single costume has been difficult. If I were to sit her down with a pattern book, I think her head might pop off. Next, I've been busy with vacation, planning my Christmas projects, managing the house, and attempting to work, too. And finally, I just don't get that into Halloween. Oh sure, I love dressing up the kids, love going to Trunk or Treat and seeing everyone in their costumes, but I don't decorate the house, and I don't dress up myself. I'd be irritated if I put all the time and energy into making an awesome costume and it only got worn once.

So net/net, we're going with purchased costumes this year. Big Sis is going to be Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I bought the costume before Halloween last year, but she didn't wear it - she was adamant about being Tinkerbelle. I wasn't too bummed as I knew she'd wear it eventually, and because it was already half off when I purchased it (thanks to Disney for putting all your costumes on sale before Halloween!). The dress still fits her and with some heavy white tights and her black sparkly shoes she'll be an adorable Alice. Big J is going to be a cowboy. I found a costume on ebay for him, and when I was passing through Dallas I picked up a Texas Ranger badge with his name on it. Complete with hat and brown booties, he'll be a cutie.

Do you love Halloween? Do you dress up, too? Are you dressing up your kids? I was talking to someone on Saturday, and she said she wasn't going to dress up her son until she absolutely had to. Wha? What's cuter than babies in costume??? And don't say dressing up your dog.....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Our Vacation

The back side of Tahoe & the Sierra Nevadas - view from the front yard.
Lake Tahoe is just a 20 minute drive up the mountain.
Warning: Super long blog posting. Lots to catch up on.

It certainly does not seem like we were gone for 10 days, and no wonder - we were on the go almost the entire time. A very kind friend drove us to the airport on Monday afternoon, and after wrangling 2 bags, a stroller, a diaper bag and 2 kids into the terminal, we were off. We immediately ran into trouble in Minneapolis when our plane to Salt Lake was delayed. We finally made it to SLC, and missed our plane to Reno by 3 MINUTES! Picture an exhausted me running through the terminal with Big J strapped to my chest, pushing the stroller and trailing Big Sis behind me while dragging her Hello Kitty rolling backpack. As frustrated as I was with Delta for not bothering to hold that plane for 3 more minutes, at least they did the right thing by putting us up in a decent hotel & giving us a plethora of meal vouchers. I am so glad that I thought ahead and at least packed extra clothes for the kids in our carry-in bag. Of course I did NOT think to pack my glasses or contact case, so it was extra good times to sleep in my contacts and peel my scratchy eyes open the next morning.

We were back at the airport bright and early on Tuesday morning, and after fueling up on orange juice, decaf, and croissants courtesy of Delta, I gave the rest of our meal vouchers to the Elders and boarded our plane to Reno. We spent the next few days resting, hiking, cooking, watching movies, taking long walks, playing games, reading, and drinking hot chocolate. It actually snowed that Friday, and it was fun to cozy up to the wood stove and watch the snow flurries come down. It was all melted and gone by that afternoon, but stayed cold for a few more days.

Picking raspberries with Grandma Jan.

Hanging out, watching movies together.

Grandpa and his boy.

One of our many walks down a country road.

Sunday morning found Big J and I back at the airport (and oh boy, it was 17 degrees when we left the house!!), boarding another plane on our way to Dallas. I was there to prep for the Dallas Toy Show, and it was definitely a test of endurance. I was unaware of this, but children under 12 are strictly prohibited from entering the building (the Dallas Mart - a trade only building which holds showrooms for various sales reps and major retailers), and Big J and I caused a huge ruckus by showing up. I managed to get us into the building and up to the 13th floor where our showroom was being put together, but had to do a lot of fast talking and pleading to get us to stay. I think Big J's winning smile was what did the trick, and we managed to keep ourselves out of the way and get the job done. He did have a rough day, refusing to sleep until I put him in the Baby Bjorn and carried him around. By the time the big boss arrived he was in a fine mood after having slept, ate, and been changed, and he charmed everyone who came by. We flew back to Reno that night, and were exhausted.

There was just one last day of vacation before we once again spent an entire day flying to get home. Why on earth Delta flew us to Cincinnati just to turn around and fly back to Des Moines - I will never know. I shouldn't complain - on our last leg to Des Moines there was a woman and her 2 year old son who were just flying back from Egypt. I can't imagine how long it took them.

Good things about the trip:
  • The Baby Bjorn was a lifesaver. While in transit I pushed the stroller and wore Big J. Perfect for getting through security, wrangling a 4 year old and still keeping at least one hand free.

  • Everyone was very helpful, always offering to lend a hand with our bags, stroller, or whatever was needed. There is still kindness out there!

  • I actually read a book! The Shack by William Young. Thought provoking.

  • I came home with a KILLER recipe for chocolate frosting. I won't post it until I am sure I can recreate it, but it was unbelievable.

  • My kids are great travellers. Yes, there were rough times with Big J on our many flights, but overall he was a rock star. Though after saying that, I am so glad that Big Daddy is going to be with us on our next trip!

  • I brought the Bumbo with us, and am so glad I did. It allowed him to eat easily and to sit on the counter while we cooked or ate lunch at the kitchen island. A huge space suck in our luggage, but still worth it.

Lessons learned:

  • I thought I would be smart and use a scarf as a belt so I wouldn't have to try and unbuckle myself while wearing Big J and trying to get through security. Great in theory until I realized that I packed no belt at all. I spent the entire trip hitching my pants up every 3 minutes.

  • This has thrown Big J's schedule off completely. Couple that with 3 more teeth coming in and a stuffy nose, and he's been a grumpy boy. He's never been a good sleeper, but now he doesn't know which way is up.

  • I packed well for the kids, but apparently lost my ability to think clearly when packing for myself. Not only did I forget to pack PJ's (good thing that workout clothes will do in a pinch), but I only packed 2 pairs of pants for myself - including the pair I wore to travel in. It gave 'packing light' a whole new meaning.

  • Starting in November United is upping its luggage fees. It will be $125 to check a 2nd bag!! For that much you can UPS all your clothes wherever you're going!

  • I didn't exercise at all while gone. I did a few squats and lunges and such, but no running, no real cardio. I am freaked out at how difficult tomorrow's run will be, but honestly I think I needed the break.

Here's the 10 flights in 10 days I alluded to:

Monday: Des Moines-Minneapolis-Salt Lake
Tuesday: Salt Lake-Reno
Sunday: Reno-Denver-Dallas
Monday: Dallas-Denver-Reno
Wednesday: Reno-Salt Lake-Cincinnati-Des Moines



In other news: Big J is cutting 3 more teeth! He's been drooling up a storm, and his top 2 front teeth are about to break through and so is the one right next to his front left chopper. I know his mouth is hurting him, but he's still been in generally good spirits.

I hesitate to blog about this next subject, as I almost feel like I am going to jinx myself. But here goes: Before we left on our trip, we decided to break in our Y membership and go swimming. While finishing up in the Family changing room, I spied a scale. First I put Big Sis up there - all 33 lbs. of her - then I took a deep breath and stepped on myself. I'm down 14 lbs. from my pre-pregnancy weight. There, I said it. For so long, I felt like I would never be able to get myself back into shape, but it looks like it's actually happening. Only 30 more lbs. to go! That's a little tongue in cheek - I no longer have a specific goal weight. My real goal is to keep being active, and set fitness goals for myself. After the Race on the 25th, there's the Jingle Jam 5K in December, and then if I am still healthy and keeping active in the winter, I may start to train for even longer distances. And then I'll have to buy a few more belts to hold up my saggy pants.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Home Again

We're back from our all-too-brief vacation, and trying to return to the routine of being at home. Big J came home with a stuffed up nose which inhibits his ability to breathe while nursing or sucking on the paci. It's probably a result of the 10 flights in 10 days that he and I took (more on that later). He's still in pretty good spirits, and is drooling up a storm (more teeth a-coming?). Big Sis is already missing her grandma and grandpa.

I love that we came back to an Iowa in full Fall mode. I even had to turn the heat on today! (only because Big J is under the weather).

Next up on the agenda: apple orchard, pumpkin patch (any recommendations??), Race for the Cure, Picture Day at preschool, Beggar's Night, Halloween, lots of apple canning, and (drum roll please.....) BABY WEANING. Good Times for all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

'Bye for Now

Vacation starts tomorrow. Our plane doesn't leave until almost 3 pm, but as we're not packed yet, I will spend all morning alternating between executing tiny little jigs of excitement with minor anxiety attacks over the very likely possibility of forgetting pacifiers, favorite animals, treasured books, baby socks, baby hats, baby loveys, blankies, underwear, sneakers, and probably my mind. It's only 7 hours and 3 flights - what could possibly go wrong??? Right? RIGHT??? I wish Big Daddy had prescribing rights because I think I'm going to need a Valium before tomorrow is over. Ha ha. At a minimum, I wish I could at least have a Diet Coke....

So, while I practice my deep breathing and make an endless to-do list, this will be my last blog entry for a while. Ciao for now.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

#6

My handsome hub (I'm really the lucky one)

Happy Anniversary to us! Hard to believe it's been 6 years since we said 'I do'.
6 - Years of wedded bliss

5- Awesome vacations (Alaska, Cruise, Disneyland, New York, Hawaii)

4 - States we've lived in

3 - Years of school to go

2 - Beautiful children

1 - House bought & sold
We've lived in countless apartments, moved cross country several times, had both of us change careers, finished two degrees and started a third, had two children, bought and sold a house, been deep in debt and paid it off, been debt free and then back into debt, had adventures big and small, and it's ONLY been 6 years! I can't wait to see what the next 6, 16, and maybe even 60 years brings to us. Every day we are together, I am grateful to be Big Daddy's wife, partner and friend. We make a great team!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Weekly update (not much happening)

Thanks to those of you who responded to my plea for a sure-fire recipe. I haven't done much cooking in the last few days, but I will be sure to try all the recipe suggestions. And yes, the crock pot cake was from c-jane. After hearing that I am not the only one to end up with a burnt mess, I half suspect that vixen jinxed her recipe to keep the chocolate-y goodness to herself. Evil.

I have been unusually sore over this week, and I'm not sure what that's about, but it's affecting my morale. I still made it to Baby Bootcamp twice this week and have run twice, but I've really had to push myself to get it done. I guess you can't always enjoy exercise - sometimes you just gotta do it. Next week my training program turns to all running. Oh joy. The one bright spot is that I ran without the stroller tonight and it was MUCH easier. I can actually visualize myself running the whole race - and I feel so stupid writing that, after hearing people talk about their marathons last night. Some day I'd like to run the Nike Women's Half Marathon, but I'm going to have to work up to that one. Any race that involves chocolate, pedicures, the all-important race t-shirt AND a Tiffany's necklace at the end has my name written ALL over it! Check it out here: Nike Women's Marathon

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bummer

I tried another new recipe today, and it was ANOTHER flop. It was a Crockpot Cake Recipe, and it totally burned. The entire house smells like acrid, smoky, burnt chocolate. So Gross.

I don't know what's going on. Am I losing my touch? Did I mis-read the recipe? Do I own the world's hottest crock pot? I cooked it on the 10 hour setting, so I'm not sure what else I could have done to turn the heat down.

Does anyone out there have a sure-fire, kick-a recipe they can share with me and help rebuild my cooking confidence?

Blech. I don't even think a Yankee Candle is going to kill that smell. Good thing it's been cool enough to keep the windows open all night and try to air things out. I gotta go wash that smell right outta my hair......