Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Gingerbread - Part II

Dear Food Network,

I am writing to express my interest in competing in your 2009 Gingerbread Mansion Challenge.

Actually, my request is on behalf of my two culinary prodigy children. They have practiced hard this past year with their haunted house and Christmas Coy projects. Their most recent project is what I like to call, Fall from Candy Mountain.

This first photo is what the manufacture determined the project should look like.

You can see from my children's finished project that they add a certain je ne sais quoi to the kitchen.

And finally, I was able to capture a snapshot of the magic in action...

I think you will agree inviting our family to your set would be a truly memorable event for your staff and viewers.

We anxiously await your response!

The House of O

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

A very merry from our house to yours!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The sisterhood

One of the things that sometimes makes me want to have another baby is the fact that Mooka will never get to experience having a sister. Granted she has an amazing relationship with her brother and I love that they are so close in age. Having never had a sibling that close in age to me, I don’t know if it would be the same as having a sister. For example, I can call my sister whenever the latest celebrity gossip hits or I found a great new pair of shoes and she doesn’t question the phone call. If I called my brother for the same news breakers, he would probably ask me if I was drunk.

Sisters can bring out the best in you and the worst in you. There are so many times, when they just “get it” without either of you having to speak a word. There are also times (I think it’s isolated to the high school years) when things aren’t as rosy. I distinctly remember getting caught in the cross fire of a Barbie fight between my dear friend and her sister during a high school argument – not pretty – but today they remain the best of friends.

The magic of sisterhood was shown to me this weekend while attending my dad’s church.

After the service, an older lady came up to tell us how cute our kids are (not uncommon when you have the world’s cutest kids.) After A. and the kids had walked away she asked me to keep her in my prayers because this was going to be her first Christmas without her sister.

Open flood gates now…

She went on to say how her sister had passed away earlier in the year and how she missed her dearly. She also introduced me to her husband and mentioned how grateful she is that she is not completely alone, but it’s just not the same without her sister.

And in a flash, I thought about what my life would be like without my sister.

Standing with this complete stranger sobbing…but in that moment I felt like I was sharing in her loss.

I thought about this woman on the entire ride home and for how thankful I am to have grown up with a sister. How our bond transcends time, distance, boyfriends, whatever gets thrown our way. How there is someone out there who has seen me at my worst and brings out my best and loves me no matter what. For all of that, I am eternally grateful.

We have no plans to have anymore kids, so Mooka will never experience the sister bond. She does however, have a pretty cool little brother, who I am confident, will continue to be her best friend in the entire world.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday gingerbread project part 1

A lot of mom blogs are busy posting about their ideas for holiday projects that you can replicate in your own home.

This is not one of those posts. In fact, I am pretty sure there is no way you would ever be able to copy what went down in our dining room last night.

Exhibit A - What was supposed to happen. I once again fell victim to the retail genius' behind the pre-made gingerbread kits.

Exhibit B - Early on, we could tell that something wasn't quite right. Clearly the water to icing mix ratio described on the box was off. I think it looks a little bit like a rabid animal in this picture. "Look sweetheart! The Christmas coy fish is foaming at the mouth, it's like tiny snow filled bubbles!"

Exhibit C - Baby Bear went and grabbed the real thing for inspiration.

Exhibit D - Lightning McQueen busted after a bad run in with egg nog in Vegas. I may forward this one on to the Food Network so I can be featured next year in one of their holiday specials.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Girl time

Mooka and I began our bonding rituals at the nail salon before she was even out of the womb.

I was about 7 months into my pregnancy when I decided it would be fun to go get a mani pedi at a nail salon in the mall. It was a Saturday, so A. was able to go with me. And off we went.

There was a small wait because it was a Saturday, at the mall.

When it came time for me to get into the chair, A. helped me remove my shoes and climb up into the pedi chair.

And then it happened.

As I sat down…


That’s right, the back of my maternity shorts blew out, gave up, cried uncle.


The kind nail technicians scrambled to give me one of their aprons to cover up my backside; however, their aprons were small enough to fit their 4’11” frames and not my 5’9” 7 month pregnant Montezuma butt.

Did I mention that it was Saturday at the mall?

A. made a quick run to a store to pick up replacement pants and the chaos settled.

The next encounter we had together at a nail salon happened a couple years ago (Mooka would have been 3.5) when some very sweet co-workers gave me a gift card to again have a mani pedi. I thought it would be fun to take Mooka for a girls’ afternoon out.

Things seemed to start out okay but then crash and burn.

While I was sitting in the pedi chair, she sat nicely on my lap. Then she wanted to stick her foot in the water. Okay, no big deal. Then she started splashing her foot in the water. Then she kicked the technician in the face.

Not cool.

They moved us over to get my nails done. Mooka was sitting nicely in one of the nearby chairs until she discovered that it would spin. So she began spinning and ended up tipping the chair over. And I know I should have been the concerned mommy, but I really just wanted to lock her in a closet until the whole process was over. She again, sat on my lap for the remainder of the manicure but not without first knocking the technician in the head with the table lamp.

We’ve not ever returned to that salon.

Last night, I had promised Mooka that she could get her nails done for Christmas. So we loaded up with Baby Bear, who by the way has excellent salon manners and sat nicely on my lap the entire time though it may have something to do with the looming threat of getting his nails painted if he misbehaved.


She was excellent last night and no one got kicked or hit during the entire process. Her nails turned out super cute and they even put little snowmen on each of her thumbnails. I’m excited to have found a salon that actually invited us back!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Parenting lesson #25

"Let's take the Christmas card picture at home this year!"

Never a good idea.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cooking adventure

This past weekend, we took part in Parenting magazine's Holiday Cook and Care. It is a partnership with Young Chef's academy to help raise food for local food banks and to teach kids a few fun kitchen tips.

The Young Chef's Academy had five stations set up; pirate punch, fruit salad, gingerbread man, sugar cookie dough and pomanders. It was cool to have each station run by one of their teenage chefs. The kids had an amazing time. Their favorite station was definitely the gingerbread man.

Tonight, we created the pomanders. It was super easy and now the house has an yummy spicy citrus smell in the air.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Her acting debut

Mooka and I signed up to be in an interactive play at our church called Journey to Bethlehem. She and I are shop keepers in the village.

Last night was our first real walk through and she had a hard time wrapping her little brain around it. I explained that we are all playing pretend and that her goal is to try to sell the baskets from our shop. She did an amazing job with walking around shouting "Baskets for sale" and "Have you seen the Messiah". However, she was quite upset when no one would actually buy her baskets.

During one of the breaks, one of the other shop keepers came over to "buy" some from Mooka. When the lady asked her how much it would be, Mooka replied "Two freckles." She had heard people around us quoting prices in "shekels", so she came up with her own version. It was pretty funny.

(Another Brick Breaker fan...)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Are you there God? It's me, Baby Bear.

This weekend, I was upstairs and asked Baby Bear to run downstairs to grab a notebook for me. He came back with the phone book. I let him know that I wanted something else and as he went back downstairs, I heard the following conversation:

Dear Jesus,

She didn't want the phone book. She wanted the notebook with the yellow sticker.


I just stood still and I'm pretty sure I tilted my head to process the whole thing (kinda like the dogs do when we say 'spaghetti').

Yesterday, we were putting up the Christmas tree and he had a similar conversation:

Dear Jesus,

I'm ready to put the star on the tree, but she won't do it until last.


So, I'm not sure how to feel about the whole thing. He is three and I want to teach him the importance of prayer, but I don't want it to be his outlet for recording the issues that he has with me.

If I stop analyzing it, it is pretty cute and I love listening to his conversations!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear Santa

All we want for Christmas is another new box.

One of the stores in town is going out of business so we made a stop after church. In a total impulse buy, I got a great deal on some new lamps. Now, they are by no means huge lamps and the box they came in was fairly small as the lamps came unassembled. No sooner did I have the box emptied and the kids were grabbing their crayons excited to play Pinky Dinky Doo. They played together in their box for a good hour until the box finally split from having the two of them sandwiched inside.

This should make gift buying easy for everyone this year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

When your mind is made up...

Last weekend during a trip to Libby Lu, Mooka announced that she was ready to get her ears pierced. Once again, we did the lets-wait-until-next-weekend trick. We have been through this before and I was hoping it would just pass.

First thing Saturday morning, she started asking about it. So we gave in.

She was so funny and determined the entire time. As soon as she sat down in the chair, she put on her game face and stuck to it. I'm pretty sure the first time I went to get mine done, I chickened out.

But not Mooka...she was ALL business.

Thinking it over...

Game on...

All she said when it was done, was "Mommy hold me."

She was back to normal within about 10 minutes. She has been so excited about them all weekend and cannot wait to change into some of her new earrings.

I feel like Baby Bear has not gotten a lot of press as of late, so here are a couple of pics of him enjoying Yankee Candle Company. I am pretty sure I won't be getting any calls for him to be their new spokesman.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Moo Gabba Gabba

A long lost twin?

Mean? Maybe.

Did that stop me? Nope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Economic meltdown and kids

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the economy started to impact kids. I have always heard about school funding being in jeopardy, but never pre-schools.

My kids go to a privately owned pre-school, but approximately half of the kids at the school receive funding through the state in a program called CHASI.

I found out this morning that the state of Illinois is significantly behind on providing this funding to the schools and consequently the school will have to turn away those kids after this week. This upsets me on so many different fronts.

What will the families do who will no longer have care? Providing quality child care is one of the toughest things a parent will face. We went through two horrible experiences with home care providers and I shutter at the thought that some of these kids will be forced into similar situations. Not to mention the outrageous cost to have someone provide quality care. If an alternate cannot be found, many employers are not forgiving when it comes to having to take time off work to care for your child and I'm sure many of these moms don't have a work from home option.

How do you explain what's going on to the kids? I firmly believe in protecting a child's innocence. It's impossible to answer their questions about 'why don't I go to school anymore' or 'what happened to my friends' without compromising that opinion.

You can make your opinions on this issue known by contacting the Illinois State Representatives and the Governor's office.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Journaling with kids

I am always amused at my kids interpretation of life. When I came across a site with suggestions for journaling a child's album, I couldn't wait to ask the kids questions.

For the first round, I got Baby Bear's opinions on me...

1. How old is your Mom? 5
2. What is your Mom's favorite color? Green
3. What is your Mom's favorite food? celery (this may have been influenced by the fact that we had Wonder Pets on TV at the time as I've never brought celery into our home.)
4. How tall is your Mom?8 and a half
5. What shoe size does she wear? mommy shoes
6. What is her favorite TV show? I don't know what it's called but it has lots of music in it
7. What time does your Mom wake up in the morning? goes to the bathroom
8. What time does you Mom do while you're at preschool? works at build a bear (he only got this partially right because I have the coolest job ever in the eyes of a 3 year old - he would have had no clue at my old job)
9. What is your Mom's first name? momma tookie
10. What do you like best about your Mom? you kiss me and hug me before I go to bed (my heart melts for him)

Next, it was Mooka's turn to answer questions about Daddy. Baby Bear added his commentary as well.

1. How old is your Dad? 13
2. What is Dad's favorite sport to play? football(and softball)
3. What is Dad's favorite food? chicken on the bone(and fondue)
4. How strong is your Dad? SUPER strong
5. Where does your Dad work? with his friends(at build a bear)
6. What is Dad's favorite TV show? baseball (and football)
7. What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? lay around with him
8. How tall is your Dad? he's really tall (followed by really, really tall animated by jumping on the couch)
9. What do you like best about your Dad? gives me little snacks to eat
10. What is your Dad's first name? Andy (Poppa)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Raising a girl

It is very important to me to raise a strong independent little girl. Trust me, Mooka has had no shortage of exposure to princesses and fairy tales and all things sparkly, but she also is being raised to know that she can do anything she wants if she puts her mind to it.

There is a tremendous amount of pressure and obstacles that little girls face in today's society. I try really hard now to let my little girl express herself and encourage her in everything that she does. Some days (most days) she doesn't want to comb her hair before school and I think that is okay. I would rather her be happy with the way she looks naturally than have her grow up thinking she has to be all fussy about her appearance before she can step foot out the door.

If my little girl wants to grow up and be a stay at home mom, great, I support her.

If my little girl wants to grow up and rule the world, great, I support her. (Even though I personally like this idea much better.)

Today I found the perfect expression on this topic at Ava's Closet . It may end up being an early Christmas present.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Working at the Sal

When I was in the eighth grade, I took on a non-traditional job. I became the pianist for The Salvation Army. Most people are unaware of the fact that The Sal is a church first and an outreach organization second. So, every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, I went to my "job" playing the piano.

Over the years, my job duties increased. I helped in social services, prison outreach, nursing home and children ministries, the thrift store, bookkeeping, and eventually my first real job out of college would be at one of the divisional headquarters in disaster services.

But the one job that I held that is most vivid to me is that of bell ringer. Every year I am reminded of this position when the bell ringers come out in full force. It wasn't a paid position. I would help out when the "volunteers" did not show up for their duty or when there was just a shortage of help. I had seen first hand how the money from the bell ringing campaign was used and knew it was critical to our community support efforts.

I remember the first night I was out there ringing. At first, I thought I was going to lose my mind. The constant clang of the bell. The freezing cold wind. Virtually no one to talk to except for the occasional "thank you" and I do mean occasional. I pressed on for my three hour shift and then went home to my nice warm bed.

The next night, I started in with my clanging and went back into my trance. But this time, I started thinking about how few people that walk by actually drop money in the kettles. It was sad, maybe 1 in 20. Next, I did the math on how much money my kettle would bring in for the night if each person walking by dropped only a quarter. Just one quarter from each person that walked by that night would have made my kettle one of the top producers. But that's not what happened, I stood out there ringing away and got the occasional drop. Night after night, it was much of the same.

Now that I have kids, I want to make sure they understand the importance of giving back. Whether it be through their time (which we will do later this year), giving their toys away, or putting away some of their own money to give to someone in need.

This weekend we were out and saw the first bell ringers of the season. And this year is the first year the kids have both been old enough to truly understand what the kettles are all about. I was so proud of both of them for asking me for money to put into the kettle and even more so when they began telling me what the money would be used for.

Times are tough for all of us. I can almost guarantee that if you are reading this post you have felt the tough times. However, most of us do not know what it feels like to go to bed hungry or cold because we do not have electricity or a roof over our heads. Heck, most of us do not go a full week without ordering fast food at a drive thru. Think about that this year as you walk past those bell ringers. Dig in your purse or car seat for that extra change. Be radical and give up a meal out this week and give that money away. Somewhere, someone you will never know will receive that blessing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Please let this week end

This has been one of those dreadful weeks where you just cannot wait for the weekend and the small hope that you will be able to just pull the covers up over your head to avoid the rest of the world.

Monday started with the revelation that my already bogus drive to work would be compounded by additional road construction. What had been taking a half hour to conquer took over an hour.

Tuesday was met with Baby Bear REFUSING to use the toilet in the morning. He literally laid down, nekkid, in front of the commode and cried because he did not want to go potty. Given his history with this issue, I wasn't budging. Had it been as amusing at 6 a.m. as it is now, I would have grabbed the camera. And then there was the ever so welcome call from the school - Mrs. O? Mooka has a fever of 102, we are going to need you to come get her.

Thank God for Mom who rescued us on Wednesday to stay at home with Mooka. But the second she left me alone with them after work, Mooka broke out in the most bizarre case of hives. So of course, before my mom had even made it to the interstate, I was on the phone with her in a complete state of panic. She once again, saved the day and we were able to regain composure.

Last night, I was feeling like my head had been run over by a truck and someone was stabbing me in the throat so I hit the door and headed for bed. Only to wake up this morning and realize I had left my purse in the van. So I go out to get my purse and...

SURPRISE - someone else found my purse before I did and busted out the window on the van to get to it.

The police were so nice this morning and must have felt my pain, because they went easy on the lecture about how irresponsible it was for me to leave my purse in the car.

The kids were great and entertained themselves nicely by playing what appeared to be some underground Halloween candy poker game in the middle of the living room while I worked to clean glass from the driveway.

Next week just has to be better.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Link Share

While I'm trying to keep the focus of this blog to life with my children, I also want to be able to share fascinating sites as I find them.

Back in June, I posted about my sister marrying Uncle Ben. One of the great things about this marriage is that we gained an awesome set of extended family members. Even though we live states apart, we have been able to spend some time getting to know his family and they are extremely kind, warm hearted folks (which is a good thing because we wouldn't have sold my sister to them if they had not been.)

Uncle Ben's sister is a commissioned artist who is amazingly talented. She's also one of the best club dancers I have ever met. Take some time to check out her new website at www.laurahalley.com.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween fun

Don't I have the cutest kids in the entire world?

We enjoyed a fall festival at our church a couple days before Halloween. It was the same festival last year that introduced us to the church and we've been going every since.

Check out Baby Bear's mad golf skills (he takes after his Uncle Ben)...

Thank you Grandma with the brown hair

My mom came to my rescue this weekend, so that I could enjoy some fun times with my old work friends.

She came fully prepared with a baking projects that the kids just loved.

They made chocolate covered pretzels in the shape of little pumpkins...

They also made turkey cookies, the picture is of Baby Bear's cookies, so they are little more like modern art...

Thanks again Grandma for helping me out and leaving us some extra sweet treats!

Friday, October 31, 2008

In my spare time...

The precious commodity of free time is not something that, as a mom, I get to enjoy. However, after reading about the author Jen Lancaster on one of my favorite blogs, I have made free time for reading a priority.

I started out with her most recent book "Such a Pretty Fat." Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight should read this book. Check out the promo...

During my trip to New York, I was able to finish "Bitter is the New Black." I also highly recommend this book especially if you have ever been out of work or wondered where in the heck all of your money goes.

Check it out!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Parenting lesson #560

Children have a built-in auto responder to the question, "Do you have to go to the bathroom."

Two days in a row, I have fallen for the auto response of "No."

Two days in a row, I have had to take off Baby Bear's coat, clothes, socks, etc.; find a new outfit for him; step in a puddle of pee; clean the floor and be completely annoyed with myself for not double checking to make sure he went the bathroom before putting on his coat.

Have I mentioned how much I love my new morning routine?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun at the Farm

This weekend we made a trip to Eckert's Millstadt Farm. It is a local orchard and we have made visits to the farms a part of our family traditions several times throughout the year. In the spring, there is a massive Easter egg hunt and breakfast with the bunny. In the early fall, there is apple picking. In December, there are story times, cut your own tree and pictures with Santa.

Since the kids are a little bit older, we decided to try the haunted hayride this year in addition to our pumpkin picking. The kids had a blast! We had not been to this particular farm for this event so we did not know what to expect. Much to our surprise, they had a ton of things for us to do and we ended up spending four hours there.

They had pony and camel rides. We opted for the camel because it we had never been on a camel before.

There was a petting zoo...

Lots of things to climb and play on...

One of the features that I had not been aware of in the past, were the bonfire sites available to rent out for the night. I cannot wait until next year, so that we can get a group of friends together to roast hot dogs and make s'mores.

At the end of the night, we rode a haunted hayride and then picked up some pumpkins. Yesterday, we were able to carve our masterpieces.

The final product...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Traveling mom

With my new amazing job, I got the opportunity to travel to NYC this week. For a sheltered mid-western gal, this is a big deal. It's only my second trip ever to the city.

I desperately hate leaving the kids behind and always get a little weepy eyed when I call in to check on them. At the same time, I also love the taste of freedom that comes from traveling sans family. Part of me starts to feel bad about loving the freedom and the other part just gets giddy about not having to put anyone to bed for a solid three days.

In my free time this week, I have been able to enjoy things that I don't get to do during my normal life...

Bikram yoga: LOVE IT. Got up yesterday and went to a class at 6:30 a.m. That's right, ninety minutes of yoga in a 110 degree studio. It's amazing the energy I have when I wake up and don't have to chase around kids and dogs. I think about how in the world I would be able to incorporate this into my schedule and it's just not possible. Ninety minutes alone to do anything in my house is simply not an option.

Dinner in a nice restaurant: Bonus points with this one, conversation with a grown up that didn't involve talking about kids. Double bonus points: No one in the restaurant stared at us with the look of death because we weren't being too loud, throwing our food on the ground, spitting on each other, rubbing butter in our hair, going the bathroom every three minutes, etc.

Drinks at a piano bar following dinner: Granted we had Blossom (circa early 90's) as our waitress (complete with big hat and flower.) She kept telling us to be quiet and then at one point moved us to the back room so we could talk. And the kicker on this one, it turned out to be a gay piano bar. Somehow we didn't pick up on that little tid bit until the very end.

Point is, there were no commitments, no bed times, no cleaning up after someone and it was just nice. I feel horrible saying how much I enjoyed it, but I think sometimes you just need a break from being a parent.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Parenting lesson #238

Anything you do not want the children to repeat will become their new favorite catch phrase.

The kids have recently picked up on two phrases that I would really prefer they would just forget. They use them over and over. First thing in the morning, I get to hear it. While we're driving to school, I get to hear it.

The first phrase came about during the Olympics. Fortunately, it's not the Buzz Lightyear song. There is a cell phone commercial where a family has gone on a vacation to the beach and it turns out it's a nude beach. One of the kids in the commercial can be heard saying "Why's everybody naked?"

And so it began.

Every night like clock work, as everyone prepares for bath time high pitched toddlers shouting "why's everybody naked?" can be heard from our home. I've started shutting all of the windows so that the neighbors don't start to think we have some weird ceremony going on within our suburban home.

The second phrase was only picked up because it has the word 'poop' in it. To a child, anything involving excrement is immediately classified as hilarious. A couple of weeks ago I was getting ready to take my dog for a walk, when A. shouted "before you go for a walk you might want to grab a poop bag."


Now with this particular phrase, the kids have found a way to work it into ALL conversations.

ME: Why don't you go pick out some books to read.
BABY BEAR: Before you go for a walk, you might want to grab a poop bag.
ME: silence
BABY BEAR: complete hysterics

ME: It's time to go brush your teeth.
MOOKA: Before you go for a walk, you might want to grab a poop bag.

You get the picture.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The house of crazy

The other night during one of our twenty weekly stops at Target, we noticed this lovely Halloween gingerbread house kit. Given my love for baking and creating in the kitchen, we just had to have it.

It was nice because the house comes fully assembled, all we had to do was mix up the icing and add the candies.

Some of us just wanted to eat the icing...

Our version was not quite as manicured as the house pictured on the box. Ours looked a little more like a house of crazy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Back to normal...kinda

The drive still sucks.

My body also went into a state of protest late last week and started to get sick. So for the weekend the family got to deal with an overly grumpy, short on patience, generally unpleasant- to-be-around Mommy.

We did manage to sneak in a quick craft this weekend. Mooka has an odd fascination with mummies right now. I think it is because she finds it hilarious that Mummy and Mommy sound so similar. For the past few weeks, she will say "Hey Mummy" and when I respond she says "what, I wasn't talking to you." Ah, five year old humor.

We made mummy pumpkins. We used some plastic pumpkins from the store, gauze and googly eyes.

Everyone wrapped their mummies.

And voila!

But, because everything is just more fabulous with sparkle, we bedazzled them out.