Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Meal Planning Sheet

You know, I love to try new things, but sometimes I just want to have a list of things we usually have for dinner.  When I'm in the store or making up the meal calendar for the week, it's sometimes hard to remember.  So I looked through the meal calendar for 2010 and concocted this list.  For dinner, I try to at least have a protein, starch, and fruit/vegetable, so I've organized the list that way.  This list is mostly for me, but if you find it useful in planning your meals, great!  :-)

Plan-a-Dinner Sheet

You know, I thought we ate a lot of different things, but this list is not that big . . . :-/

Is it too late for a Christmas post?

Wow, we enjoyed our Christmas vacation so much I totally forgot to write anything about it. 

Here's a few things I don't want to forget:

1) Best Homemade Present I Received - Quartz gave me some papers stapled together and wrote on it "A Book For Makeng A Book".  We made a story together about the police catching some motorcycle thieves.

2) Best Homemade Present Overall - Definitely the knitted stuffed animals from Aunt Susan - an armadillo, loch ness monster (though Quartz insists it's a plesiosaur), hammerhead shark, and doll-sized horse!  This has stepped outside the realm of cool and into the realm of awesome.

3) Most Fought-Over Present - Sapphire's Duplo house.  Everyone wanted to build it at the same time.

 4) Most Popular Activity - Building Legos.  There were days when it was eat-sleep-legos all day long.  :-)
 5) Person Whose Picture Is Most Likely To Be Posted For No Other Reason Than Being Cute - that would be Sapphire. 

6) Person Most Likely To Ask to Have His Picture Taken - Quartz!  Here he is with a backdrop he painted and his Atlantis Legos -- pretend it's under the ocean.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Airwear Lenses Review

Hold on to your seats!  I have shocking news.  I. Wear. Glasses.


I know.  I don't wear them in my photos because I generally wear contacts, but a girl has to rest her eyes sometimes.  Sometimes contacts just aren't all that fun to have in.  So, I pull out my clunky old glasses and place that heavy prescription across my face.  Ugh.  Ok, so glasses aren't all they're cracked up to be either.

But, then, I was on Twitter one day and saw Airwear Lenses offering review opportunities.  Hmmm...this could be interesting.  I've been wearing them since the fifth grade. I'd say I'm pretty much an expert by now, right? 

Let's start from step one.  I receive my form to fill out prescription information and call up my doctor.  As we chat about how my blogging is going, I tell him about the review and explain the need for some info.  "Airwear?" he asks. "From Essilor?"

"Why, yes!" I exclaim, intrigued at his sudden interest.  He goes on to tell me that he is very happy in dealing with them.  They have a great product and an even better work ethic. 

Score one for Airwear.

I send out my info and my glasses arrive quickly.  With a strong prescription, the lighter the lenses, the better.  And these really earn their name.  Airwear Lenses are a polycarbonite plastic.

A what?

Polycarbonite.  In regular people terms it means lighter, stronger, better.  It's great for its scratch resistance, durability, impact resistance and it's lightweight, too.  So, when I drop them, sit on them, or neglect to place them delicately on the counter, they are less likely to crack, break or scratch.  Another fantastic feature...ultraviolet protection.  We all need that.  Because if you wear glasses, sun protection can be a hassle.

Score another for Airwear.

Ok, now for my favorite part.  I've been doing my best to be as green as possible.  I recycle.  I turn off all the lights and put bricks in my toilet tank.  I know, I'm on my way to a Nobel Prize.  Maybe not, but I'm trying to do what I can and help others to do the same.  It's a process. 

But I digress...

Airwear Lenses are totally eco-friendly!  Check out this list of green-ities:
  • 100% of the waste from the manufacturing process of Airwear is recycled
  • They are manufactured using 100% recycled water, conserving millions of gallons per year
  • All lenses are packaged in 100% recyclable cardboard
  • Their choice in packaging eliminates more than 460,000 lbs of plastic waste per year
Another score for Airwear. 

Honestly, with all of these benefits, how can you not want to race to your optometrist and get a pair of Airwear Lenses?  They are all the wonderful you need to finally make you LOVE to wear your glasses.

**I was not paid for this review, I did however receive a free pair of lenses to try. My opinion of this product is not being compensated for. I found out about this trial from the wonderful Beth Aldrich, @realmomsluv2eat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 Christmas Letter

2010 Christmas Letter

In case you didn't receive this earlier, here's our Christmas letter:

 How do we measure a year such as 2010?  “Days” are too coarse, too commonplace.  We could measure it in trips to work or school, or bowls of cereal consumed (or cleaned off the floor), but I would rather measure it in new words Sapphire has learned, LEGO creations the boys have made, hugs from Quartz after a hard day at kindergarten, or from Onyx before an easy day at preschool, books read, games played, goodnight kisses, date nights, and days spent with those we love. 

We hope your year is full of not just life,
but of all the things that we live for.

The Landakers

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chick Magnets and Clothes Pins

Sorry.  It's been a while.  I've been busy.  I don't mean sort of busy; I'm talking knock yourself unconscious and wake up in a bathrobe in the fetal position covered in microwave popcorn wondering what happened to your life busy.

  My uncle died last week.  He had struggled with juvenile diabetes since the early 1950's.  It would have been a pretty somber funeral if not for my mom putting the moves on a much younger man.  I'm not even kidding. 

And she had help.  She and my aunt Lynn double teamed him.  He was 6'10 and he had good hair.  My mom and Lynn would argue that Adonis himself had attended the funeral, but I assure you homeboy was a mere mortal and also a divorcee with a 3-year-old.  Clearly far too much for two middle-aged women to handle.   

However, he was more than gracious, because at one point my mother did tell him TO HIS FACE that he was, and I quote, a "chick magnet."

And my dad and uncle were both in earshot. (To clarify, my dad has two brothers.  One was being celebrated, the other was standing slack-jawed with my dad as they watched their wives go weak in the knees over Too-Tall Timmy)

All's well that end's well though, because at the end of the day we could all take comfort in knowing that Uncle Mike probably got the biggest laugh of all at the antics of the women in our family.

And speaking of antics, Coach and I went to the movies so that I could get my Reese Witherspoon fix.  The previews started and the next thing I knew Brooklyn Decker was bouncing across the screen.  It was evident that the focal point of the shot was supposed to be her scantily-clad chest.  Her very young, pre-childbirth/nursing, gravity-defying chest.

Coach said, "Well, that's not subtle is it?  Holy Cow."

And I replied, " Oh give me a break.  I can look like that too; I just need some duct tape and a couple of clothes pins."

And y'all.  He was speechless.  SPEECHLESS.

So anyway, I'm still hunting for the clothespins.  I'll let you know how it goes.

See y'all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eavesdropping Results

Eavesdropping Results:

Onyx: "That LEGO thing is very cool, but not that cool.  I want to buy it."
Sapphire: "I do it by self.  I want help mommy!  I DO IT SELF!" ::stamps feet::  "Mommy Helping Me!"
Andrea: "Let's pretend that I'm your mom that you love, and talk to me about that again."
Wes: "Flamingos are cute, and flamingos are pink, but the real question is, would one fit on the grill?"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'll Be Brief

I swear I'll be back one day soon. It's like Gallagher said, "I don't know why they put Christmas in the middle of the holidays when everyone is so busy." Except Christmas isn't my problem; my problem is exams. I gave mine today. I'll be back in the land of the living by Saturday.

In the meantime, I have a question. If you had to guess, would you say a man or a woman created these?

Friends, I present to you the Terramar Men's Nugear Wind Brief.  It provides wind protection.  And prevents chafing.

I guess a better question to ask is this: is wind protection in this particular area really a concern?

Just something for you to ponder until I return. 

See y'all!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

At Christmas time, I love to make cookies.  Ok, I'm lying...I will gladly make cookies any time.  They are one of my favorite snacks to make.  A few days before Christmas, the kids and I make five or six types of cookies and pack them in tins for family and friends.  The cookie I probably love to make the most are Peanut Butter Kiss cookies. 

1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick butter softened (4 oz)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bag Hershey's Kisses

Preheat oven to 350°F

In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, brown sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt and beat in gradually until dough is smooth, scraping sides of the bowl with a spatula frequently.

Instead of using a teaspoon to drop it on the cookie sheet, I like to roll it into one inch, or slightly larger, balls.  I line them up on a cookie sheet three by six.  Then I flatten them, only slightly.  Just enough so they are still pretty thick in height. 

Bake for 8 minutes.  While they're baking, remove the foil wrappers from the kisses.  Remove the tray of cookies, leaving the oven on.  Place a kiss on top of each cookie pressing in just enough to set into the dough.  Return the tray to the oven and bake 2 to 4 minutes more.  They're done when they are golden brown.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Listen, I am not going to even try to pretend that I have a handle on things.  I'm so excited about Christmas break that my head is about to blow off.  It's my favorite time of the year, except for the cold.  I'm not a fan of the cold.  It's 21 here.  Relatively, you may say that's not cold, but for the South, that's darn cold.  And I'm a wimp about the cold. 

Turns out, it's Mack's favorite time of the year too.  He's a fan of baked goods.  I made Puppy Chow this weekend- NOT the kind that you actually feed puppies, but the kind that creates hail damage on your hips.  My mom thought I had actually taken time out to make homemade dog food for the dogs. 

I love 'em, but I don't love them like that.  I'm a big fan of all things Purina.  Anyway, Mack enjoys Christmas goodies.

I made 9 cups of Puppy Chow on Saturday afternoon.  By Sunday evening almost half of it was gone.  I couldn't figure out who was eating it.


Guilty as charged...

Coach, who incidentally was secretly appalled when we met because I kissed and hugged my dog, has started spoiling ole Mack.

He has no shame.

Neither does Mack.

And don't even get me started about this...

Can you believe that this is the same person who almost stroked out the first time I let the dog in the house?

And can you believe that after all I've done for him, he goes and cuddles up with Coach on the couch?

Little twerps.

I'm in the middle of a grading, exam writing, Christmas project frenzy.  I'll be back to myself by the end of the week.

See y'all!

Anthropological Surveillance Notes

Our cultural observation of the Landaker household continues.  I can now surmise with some certainty each person's role in this small society.

Sapphire, The Town Crier - Tells in a loud voice what everyone is doing; repeats until acknowledged, e.g., "Quartz wearing that shirt!"  "Mommy carrying me up the stairs!"  "Onyx putting Legos on head!"  "I doing this!"

Onyx, The Creator - Often hides away in his basement laboratory and emerges with a new creation, e.g,  "This is the king's castle!  It has two drawbridges with chains and a catapult, but not a portcullis.  This is the jester.  He's in jail because he was taking apart the castle."

Quartz, The Police Officer - Notices rules infractions; reports to the Mayor and Sheriff, e.g, "Mom, Onyx is dropping Legos on the floor" or "No, Sapphire, the small fork is not for dad!  It's a kid's fork!"

Circle Time Activities

I spent 3 years working at a daycare and it was the best job I have ever had.  Because of that job, I learned a lot about preparing my kids for school.  One of the greatest activities I took with me was Circle Time.

It can be tough keeping the little nuggets occupied during the day.  My daughter is 3, and a little spitfire to boot.  She needs attention.  She CRAVES it.  When I started sitting down with her to have "lessons", she was in her glory.  I knew she needed a steady routine to keep her going, so every morning after she's had breakfast and some playtime, we sit down together. 

Her favorite circle time activity is using her calendar.  We sing a song and then talk about the day, month, year, season and the weather.  It's a simple way for her to learn by putting up the velcro tags herself.

Our song is to the tune of Oh My Darlin' Clementine:

There are 7 days, there are 7 days,
There are 7 days in a week
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Then we work on reviewing a packet that I add to every day.  We have pages with shapes of different colors.  Once she knows them all, I add another.  After a few days, I add another.  The gradual progression allows her to remember what she already knows and build on it.  At three years old, she can identify a parallelogram.  (Don't worry...we are far off from geometry lessons.)

We have one page with numbers up to twenty.  Every day, she points at each number and tells me what it is.  And because she loves Dora, she knows one through ten in Spanish. 

The next pages are letters.  We started with a page that has the whole alphabet and learned how to identify.  Once I thought she knew them well, I would point to them in different order.  Mixing it up assures they know the letter rather than remembering them in their order. 

Just like with the shapes, I added something new each day.  We started with the letter A.  I write the letter at the top of the page in capital and lowercase form.  Then we talk about the sounds it makes while we list different words that start with "A".  Once she understands, we even list a few words that have the letter in them, but do not start with it.  The next day, we reviewed "A" and added "B" in the same manner.  Each day we review the previous letters and add the next one.

While my daughter loves this routine, you might find you need to tweak things to your child's needs.  Try reading books that teach the basics.  Some of my favorites are Bear In A Square and Elmo's Big Lift and Look Book.  Reading these books together can be a great start for circle time activities.

As your child gets older, you can also purchase activity books to help them learn how to write.

Most importantly, remember to praise your child for every success.  The more excited you are, the more excited they will be.

*For more information about how important it is to prepare your kids for school, check out Nickelodeon's program "Beyond the Backpack".


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Getting Our Game On

So, we turkey-trotted on Thanksgiving. 3.1 miles to be exact. Coach and G ran more like gazelles and subsequently both beat personal records. AC and I ran; AC ran an extra half mile because she got so far ahead of me I had to make her run a loop twice so I didn't lose sight of her.

And then I did. Lose sight of her. Again. So, I prayed that God would either give me the strength and gumption to catch her or that he would deliver her safely to Coach and the finish.

Let's just say, to my absolute dismay, He did the latter, and I found myself gasping for breath along with the elderly and a man running "commando in velour lounge wear."

To be clear, those were his words, not mine.

All I'll tell you is that by mile 2 he had some significant chafing issues which significantly changed his running gait. You can visualize as you see fit.

It took me about a half mile, but I did manage to pass him in the end.

Then we ate Thanksgiving dinner. Twice. In one day. We ate twice in one day.

And I had cheesecake for breakfast on Friday.

And then on Tuesday? Coach was finally able to return to Weight Watchers with me. He hasn't been since July because of football. He lost 50 in 5 months, and he managed to maintain that throughout football season.

I anticipated a weight-related disaster. I wore leggings and Crocs out in public (seriously, do have any idea how light Crocs actually are? So what if I looked like a smurf?) And while I did manage to lose 2 pounds during the Thanksgiving week, I can only attribute it to a mild case of the trots (not of the turkey variety) and night sweats.

But whatever. If mild stomach upset and raging hormones are what it takes to lose weight, then so be it. I'm okay with that. Oddly, those two things in addition to a new Weight Watchers program have motivated me to once again shoot for Rock Star status. (The person with the most weight loss at our WW meeting on Tuesdays gets the Rock Star Award. It's cut throat.)

Coach is also setting his sights on the Rock Star Award.

It's an epic battle: Testosterone vs. Estrogen. Strength vs Strain (colon strain). Determination vs. Diverticulitis. Me vs. Coach.

I'd appreciate your prayers, thoughts, and any ideas for sabotage you might have.

See y'all!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Someone Beat Us to the Punch

If you're new, you need to read this and this in order for the remainder of this post to make sense. 

I didn't make my Christmas card deadline this year.  I wasn't first.  I wasn't even third.  I was going to let it ride.


I realized someone stole our idea...

They did not, however, include nunchucks or throwing stars.


See y'all!

Admitting Fear in the Land of the Brave

Several years ago I met a woman who is amazing… the type of woman you hear Oprah describe as fearless.  The type that you stand back in awe and wonder, “How does she do it?”  The type of woman you admire.  The type of woman you may want to be.  Not just Wonder Woman, but Wonder Mom!  A breast-feeding-run–my-own-business-with-one-hand-tied-behind-my-back-mom.  Nicchi’s is a natural parenting expert, an advocate, a coach for healthy lifestyles and (drum roll please) she admits to being scared.    What?  Gasp!  Scared?
What is it about our society that admitting we are frightened is just not okay?  We can scream at our kids, slam down the receiver on a telemarketer, drive like a maniac and act crazy, angry at our spouse for minor infractions of our self-imposed rules.  Admit we are ever scared?  No way!
What’s there to be scared of?  Global warming?  Thankfully--not happening here today in 30 degree Minnesota.  Cyber bullying?  Only if your child has access to a phone, computer or iTouch.  Oops, maybe no problem.  Terrorism?  No job?  Crime?  ARGH!!!!  Maybe we have something to fear, but is it fear itself?  Author and therapist, John Friel, PhD has said that beneath the surface of all that communal and personal anger is much more: shame, guilt, hurt and yes, fear. 
As parents, I’m convinced we are given an extra helping of child-related fear.  Am I really that mad the sixteen year old hasn’t cleaned her room?  Perhaps underneath the annoyance is the hurt that they didn’t listen (insert: appreciate our efforts), and FEAR that we have given birth to the next star  of Hoarders.  Do I really care that they hate my vegan, organic basil cookies, or do I fear that my secret Milk Duds and PopTart addiction will soon be found out by my every-so-healthy friends?  Is the anger really about the college kid driving my car on icy roads at all hours?  Do I care about a dented fender, or do I fear a dented offspring?  Am I afraid I am going to come up short as a parent/ daughter/ friend/ worker/ wife, or am I just in a monthly bad mood?
I’m supposed to be the optimistic one.  Looking on the bright side has its benefit, but you can get burned from too much sunshine without a cloud of realism.  Sometimes, it’s OK to be afraid.  There are scary things out in the big, bad world and we fear for the child in ourselves and those we have birthed.  So, I look to Nicchi’s blog and reflect that yes, I can look fear in the eye, acknowledge it and leave my “crabby” on the shelf.  Wow!  I do feel better!
  what i did this week that  scared  me...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        By Nicchi Hirsch
1-was more generous than usual
3-asked for help
4-trusted my Faith
5-showed up
6-followed through
7-asked for humility
8-stepped in
9-faced it
10-and as a result, felt So.  Much.  Better.

And you?  What did you do this week that scared you?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Embracing Our Family Differences

Please take a moment to reflect on the article below from Saumya Arya Haas from the Huntington Post.  As a first generation European American married to another first generation Indian American, the thoughts she shares really spoke to me. Our household had a get-together the night before Thanksgiving jokingly referred to as the real Indians and Pilgrims: Bollywood songs, veg and non-veg dishes and an eclectic group of friends trying to beat one another in the latest board game. Such a mix of food music, culture and experience would have rarely been found twenty years ago. What a loss! Thankfully, this is the new America! This is the new family normal. This is wonderful. I hope you enjoy Saumya's thoughts as much as I did, and forgive me for continuing with the Thanksgiving theme!

A Hindu Ameican's Thanksgiving

I have an immigrant's dream: a Better Homes and Gardens Thanksgiving dinner. One perfectly choreographed meal of American bounty and perfection. This photogenic fantasy meal represents something else: proof of my worth. Although I was born here, I used to feel I came up short on this most American of holidays. I am vegetarian. I am American, but there is no turkey on my table.

What I really want on Thanksgiving is to be accepted, embraced and appreciated: by my family, and more vaguely, by my country. Cooking my heart out may or may not be part of that.

It's ironic, since this is an immigrant's celebration. All I know about Thanksgiving is the primary-school, construction-paper-Pilgrim-hat and beneficent-Indian version. That's the other kind of Indian, a point which caused no end of confusion to my childhood. As with most things, I am woefully ignorant of the historical truth (if there even is a truth at all), so I've cobbled together my own present-day version -- a Hindu Thanksgiving. But I'm Hindu in an American way, so it's really a Hindu-American version, which of course, is really just American.

We create the community that we want to be accepted into. It is already there, before us, if we can just pause and let ourselves see it.

I grew up in a Hindu home that was open to any and everyone in our Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood-at-large. At Thanksgiving, my house today is as confusing, chaotic and lively as my childhood. But it's not "turkey day." Traditionally, we make lasagna. I'm not sure how that started. But it's perfect: an Italian dish, a Hindu cook, an American table.

I also make the whole, expected, shebang: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, about four different kinds of pie and chai. My family would rebel if there was no chai.

My family experience of being Hindu is deeply rooted in inclusiveness, social equity and community service. Chai-party values, if you like. Giving is part of being thankful: We acknowledge our own bounty and share with those who have less. This year I am achingly aware of those who have less, those who struggle to put everyday food on the table. I can't imagine the anxiety that Thanksgiving, with all its demands of abundance, must bring to those who have no abundance. I am shamed by my shallow vision of perfection.

Bounty is not only the material: it is the strength of our hearts, the power of our intellect, the wisdom of our traditions, the poetry of our being. Community is the communion of sharing these things. Sharing means giving as well as receiving. We are intertwined; our actions reverberate and echo and come around again. No one only gives or only receives.

Everyone brings something to the table.

On Thanksgiving, I have been surprised by unanticipated guests, interesting food, odd drinks, badly-behaved pets, talented teenagers, amazing stories and conversations both warm and contentious. More than anything, I have been surprised by the thrill of the unexpected amid the familiarity of ritual. My expectations are always challenged.

I have to surrender my image of perfection. The reality is far messier, but it is warm and real, unpredictable and delicious. It is the abundance at my table.

There's pumpkin pie on the table and chai on the stove. This is America, after all. We create our own truth, if there even is a truth at all. We are all poor in something. We share with those who have less. Everyone brings something. We are imperfect, real, enriched

The article in it's entirely can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saumya-arya-haas/a-hindus-thanksgiving_b_788237.html

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm Bored: Well Have I Got Ideas For You!

I don’t know about you, but am really feeling like a lump after the Thanksgiving feeding frenzy.  Am wondering how to avoid the Black Friday craziness at the malls, but still find something fun to do with my family over the next three days.  Came up with a few ideas to share with you.  They don’t cost much, if anything, and beats hearing “I’m bored.”  Enjoy!
1.    Bake cookies, or take the fast and easy way out and add frosting and sprinkles to purchased ones.  You can also have the kids decide what’s for dinner and let them help cook.
2.    Go to an indoor playground.  Invite the other parent, have coffee and TALK! The Eagles Nest in New Brighton, Maple Grove Community Center and Edinborough Park in Edina are all great Twin Cities Metro options.
3.    Call a friend and meet at a park.  Even babies in strollers are fine, if bundled up, if the temp is above zero.
4.    Go rollerblading or strollerblading.  If it’s not too icy, you can go around the Twin Cities lakes, or try out the Metrodome for an indoor option.
5.    Try bumper bowling.  There are coupons online and in the Happenings/Entertainment books that make this a cheap fun option for ages five and up.  I love the bumpers, because then even I can look like a pro!
6.    Explore your local wildlife park.  In the northern Minneapolis suburbs Springbrook Nature Center and Silverwood are great options.
7.    Go to the zoo.  The Como and Minnesota zoo have indoor and outdoor choices.   
8.    Grab your bike helmets and go for a bike ride.  You can even do this in the winter if the streets have been cleared and it’s not icy.
9.    Organize a Kid-Swap with friends. They take your kids for a morning and you take theirs for an afternoon.
10.  Go to a local museum.  The Minnesota History Center or Gibbs Museum is a great to show the kids how things use to be.  The Minneapolis Art Institute is free and is next to the Children’s Theatre.  Rush tickets are half price and if the kids aren’t too tired after the museum, it’s a perfect add-on.  Get in line a half an hour before the show!
11.  Go ice-skating at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis.
12.  Have a movie afternoon. Rent a couple of good kid’s shows, make some popcorn and snuggle up with blankets and enjoy.
13.  Stop down at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.  They are open until Christmas and even have hot coffee and cocoa.
14.  Cut your own tree at a Christmas tree farm. 
15.  Try Horseback riding or a sleigh/wagon ride.  For an easy short option, try the Forepaugh’s area in St. Paul or down by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
16.  Visit a farm and see all the farm animals, you maybe be able to feed and pat some of the tamer ones.  Emma Krumbees in Belle Plain has a nice one that is perfect for smaller kids.
17.  Take a day trip to a historic town.  Red Wing, Afton and Stillwater are fun year round!
18.  Try winter camping at Baker Park.  They also have fun family classes and year round campfires.  You can even try a campfire in your own back yard!
19.  Have an indoor picnic lunch.  Let the kids help pack their own, break out the picnic basket and spread out a blanket.  We have even put on shorts and sunglasses.
20.  Smile! Get out the digital camera, let the kids take some pictures, download them and create a slide show.  You can also give them the video camera, and have your own Oscar-winning production.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Did You Have To Go Up a Size?

Note to self, husband. There are certain things better left unsaid, especially to a young woman! I don't know why, but keeping a foot out of your mouth with family can sometimes be near impossible. Let's add in hormones, holidays, personalities, and good intentions: a recipe for major up-to-the-ankle insertion.

Daughter number two, back from college, is on the couch cuffing her jeans in the latest (I think) style. Small talk is flying, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is blaring in the background and my husband and child are bonding.

Husband: "That's the new look huh?"

Child #2: "Yep."

Husband: "Cool. Maybe I should try it." Conversation is going well. He's showing engaged interest. They've established eye contact. Wow!

Husband (now confident): "So, did you have to go up a size?" WHAT?

Child #2 two stares. Smiles fade. Husband not sure why, but like a cornered animal senses danger.

"What? Thanks a lot for noticing I needed a bigger size."

Husband (Man who has given impassioned and applauded speeches before crowds of hundreds begins stuttering): "No I only meant, um, uh, to roll them…um…up." Gulp. "I didn't mean you had gotten fat. Just thought you needed a bigger size."

Oh please quit while you're ahead. Just stop talking. Like they said in When Harry Met Sally, it's already out there. Duck, cover and run! Husband senses my thoughts via the marital mind-meld.

Child #2 standing up and stalking out of the room: "Fine. I know what you meant."

Conversation over.

He meant well, but risking sounding like a sexist, I think it's a guy thing. Blessed with little cultural crap about dimpled thighs and pouching tummy fears, for him weight is just a fact. Like eye color, a middle name and his eternal hope for the Vikings: what you weigh JUST IS! Reminiscent of the year he joyfully gave me a 3x sweater for Christmas, or the time he insisted I needed to go to the club more, he just doesn't get it. If you love me, pretend I am a size 2.

I don't know if it's a gender thing, a family thing, or a culture thing. We all have our sore spots. We assume if our family loves us, they'd know our insecurities and avoid them. In family there is no balding head, directionally challenged outing, or burnt pasta. All is good in happy family land and kind denial rules. So as we head over the river and through the woods for the Thanksgiving meal at Mom's, am preparing for a bit of gravy and salt with the inevitable foot that comes with extended family love fests. Remembering to step lovingly over the landmines of self-doubt, I always can follow it up with a piece of humble pie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Choose a Kindergarten; The Lazy Post for a Pre-Thanksgiving Day!

The house isn't clean.  Dogs bark.  Child in wetsuit, snowshoes and a face mask is ready to hit the frozen tundra for his next adventure.  Child number three is at high school, paying less attention to the teachers than the iTouch hidden in her uniform pocket.  Offspring one and two are working and finishing up exams. 

The freezing rain is on its way, and I have fifty people showing up in seven hours for a party of the Pilgrims and the real Indians (you'll get it if you check out my last name!)  So, am taking the easy way out and posting an oldie but goodie article I wrote in March.  It was carried in three local papers, including the Asian American Press:  How to Choose a Kindergarten Program.  Enjoy and get that house cleaned-pack up the children-load the car-make the turkey for the holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tips to choose a kindergarten program

Columbia Heights, Minn. (March 4, 2010) – Spring is nearing and now is the time that parents must begin to register their 4 or 5 year-old for school. Kindergarten is often a student’s first step into the world of formal learning, so finding the right program for a child is an important decision. With private schools, public schools, half-day and full-day programs, how can a parent decide which kindergarten is the right for their child?

Mrs. Cara Miller, a kindergarten teacher from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Columbia Heights, provides several tips for parents.

“Based on research from top educators, we know a kindergarten should be age appropriate, encourage self-esteem, cultural identity, individual strengths and independence,” states Miller. She continued by saying that teachers with a background in early childhood education and child development can best provide a child what they need. Additionally, research shows more consistent, positive, long-term, academic outcomes for children enrolled in all-day kindergarten. “It’s clear that these kids in all-day kindergartens do better throughout their entire school career,” she added.

According to Miller and The National Association for the Education of Young Children, here are 10 signs of a good kindergarten program:
• Children are playing or working on projects with other students. They are not forced to sit quietly for a long time or merely wandering the classroom.
• Children have many different things to do throughout the day (i.e. singing, reading, coloring, and puzzles). All children may not be all doing the same thing at the same time.
• At times teachers teach individual students, small groups, and the whole class.  Instruction is not limited to the entire class all at the same time.  The class size is small enough that children receive individual attention.
• The classroom is decorated with children’s work and brightly colored materials.
• Children learn in the course of their regular class activities. Reading books, taking attendance, and serving snack are all meaningful learning experiences.  Enrichment programs such as computers, music, art and foreign languages are offered.
• Children work on projects and have long periods of time to explore subjects. Filling out worksheets is not the main educational activity.
• Children have an opportunity to play outside every day that weather permits.
• Teachers read books to children throughout the day.
• Curriculum is adapted to the ability of each child.
• Children look forward to school. Parents feel safe sending their child to kindergarten. The care before and after school, if used, is safe and comfortable for the child as well.
While there are numerous kindergarten programs available in the northern suburbs, it’s important to explore a family’s options.  Private schools may offer tuition assistance, so income is not a barrier to many area schools.  For example, Immaculate Conception Catholic School waives registration fees for new students and offers generous tuition assistance to many school families.  Parents who do not attend a kindergarten open-house event should ask to visit a school and kindergarten program during the day.  Schools that embrace the philosophy of individualized teaching, a calm, safe environment and offer an all-day program can often provide the best opportunities for your kindergarten-aged child.
Cara Miller teaches at Immaculate Conception Catholic School.  Immaculate Conception Catholic School is a private Catholic school located near 40th and Central Avenues at 4030 Jackson Street Northeast in Columbia Heights, educating students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. Located ten minutes from downtown, ICS offers affordable tuition, extended-day morning and afternoon child care, tuition assistance, fine arts, athletics and Spanish language instruction.  Free busing is available for families residing in the Columbia Heights School District. The school is currently accepting enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year.  Mrs. Cara Miller is a former preschool teacher, and current director of the kindergarten program at Immaculate Conception Catholic School. She received her degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Saint Catherine’s University in St. Paul.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Turkey Trots

Great!  Back again to being the late one. 

You know what I am talking about.  The parent who gets the date- event-time-location wrong, or is caught in traffic- lost- stuck in a meeting- keys locked in the car- ALWAYS LATE.  You either ARE that parent, or have watched with pity (subtext: disgust) as that certain person slinks in the side door.  You don't know, but we slink because we're  praying no one notices the tardiness, especially our own lovely kid!  Well he noticed.  They all noticed.  Unfortunately, my husband was in tow and noticed as well.

Eight minutes late for the first grader's two minute Thanksgiving play.  Although I walk into the hall, excited to see all the parents still lined up, I realize within seconds that the time was magically changed.  Unfortunately, husband and I were only one of two families that didn't read the teacher's new memo.  Enter the 6 year old wearing a crumpled construction paper turkey perched on his head. One look at the LATE ONES and he bursts into tears. Another couple tries to ease our embarrassment with, "It was on our fridge for 2:45 too!"  Thanks, but neither the hubster nor the kid is buying that one. 

So, today I get to face up to the fact that even with a lot of time and practice, sometimes I stink at the job of motherhood.  I make kids cry, I lie about seeing every moment of their sporting event, and I have been known to doze off during a dance recital.  You know, as parents we have been given the oldest "practice child" to screw up.   Some how, I had always hoped that by number 4 I'd get it right.  Well the boy with the speech about the turkey waddle will tell ya:  it just ain't so, and he's the fourth practice model.

As I stood wiping first grade tears with the sleeve of my coat, I realized something.  Even though times are changing  I still haven't caught up.  We are all just works in progress and for that I am thankful.  So for today I can be nicer to myself and realize I'm not the only one under construction.   So, counting my blessings gets easier, and I still can say with a straight face, "Better late than never!" 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone out there in blog-land, and take a minute to be thankful for what we are becoming, and remember you're never too late.

Onyx's Imaginary Friend

Sometimes Onyx, as the middle child, doesn't get as much attention as Quartz or Sapphire.  So here is a post entirely about dear Onyx.

Onyx has an imaginary friend named Atrillion.  He is sometimes accompanied by his friend Eviss.  They are Star Wars guys.  Atrillion and Eviss get to do all the things Onyx wishes he could do.  If Onyx sees a Lego toy that he likes that is very expensive, he says, "Atrillion has that.  He bought if from a store that is only for Star Wars guys and it costed one dollar".  If Onyx has to wear his seatbelt, he says, "Atrillion never wears a seatbelt.  He rides on top of the car and never falls off."  If Onyx wishes he could have a birthday more often, he says, "Every day is Atrillion's birthday except school days."  Atrillion has a space ship called the "Sign Catcher", and he eats cake for every meal.

Here is a story Onyx told me about Atrillion, transcribed exactly.

"There was a sea monster.  It had lots of tentacles.  It killed Atrillion's hand.  It was trying to get Atrillion but it did not.  Then Eviss was on the sea monster and then he tried to kill it but he did not and Atrillion fell in the lava pit and then they pulled the little stick with a hole in it and then they saw his hand.  Then they got him out.  Then the sea monster got smaller until it turned into a not very big dolphin, and then the crane picked it up and put it in the lava pit."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do You Know How to Read to Your Children?

Do you read to your kids every day? 

Are you aware of all the benefits? 

  • The bonding and closeness of cuddling up on the sofa creates a strong relationship. 
  • It helps develop their vocabulary, comprehension and listening skills.
  • They are more likely to read more on their own as they grow up.
  • Once in school, they will be more prepared to learn.
  • Encourages curiosity and creativity.
So, is reading a book before bedtime every night a good idea?  Of course, but the real question to ask here is do you know HOW to read to your kids? 

Yes, I know you can read.  If you couldn't you wouldn't be here on my blog.  Duh. 

I'm talking about active reading with your child.  When you read a book, you might be telling a story, but the best way for your child to learn is for you to really display what the story is about.  I'll give you a few examples so you get the idea.

Let's start with an alphabet book.  At a young age, these are usually books that simply show each letter and a picture that begins with it.  An A would have an apple next to it, and so forth.  The way to turn this into an actual learning experience is to spend a moment on each page talking about what you see.  Help your child trace the letter with his finger.  Point to the letter where it's found in the word.  What other words start with "A"?  Talk about the color of the apple.  Where can you find apples?  At the store?  In a tree?  This is also a great technique for making the book have a different story every time you read it.

How about a book with a moral?  The Berenstein Bears and the Little Critter books are some of our favorites that usually tell a tale that ends in some sort of lesson.  As you read, take the time to find out if your child understands what is happening.  Ask if a character is mad, sad or happy and why.  Point to different parts of the pictures to discuss what is going on.  Ask if your child knows what will happen next or what the character should have done.  This is great for instilling good morals and decision making.

Another category of books to read, my personal favorite, are Dr. Seuss books.  Any silly, funny, nonsense type story that may not appear to have a lesson can still help your child learn.  Name colors in the pictures.  Ask your child if she thinks that could really happen.  Have them repeat a word or phrase that seems silly for a good laugh and a great lesson in pronunciation.  (Fox in Socks is superb for this one!) 

Learning doesn't start at school, it starts in your home.  When you build a strong foundation before sending them off to school, they are much more likely to succeed. If you feel like life is too busy to sit down and read, make sure to at least do it at bedtime.   A bedtime routine helps your child settle down and fall asleep easier each night.  They will even be less likely to put up a fight when it's time to get their pajamas on because they know it means some quality time with mom or dad.

A Grown-Up Christmas List

Let me start by telling you that Coach doesn't do Christmas lists...usually.  As long as I've known him it's always been the same old thing- just khaki pants, Carhartt pants, and long sleeve t-shirts.  That's it.  Every. Single. Year.

It's frustrating.  There's all the pressure of finding just the right gift because oh my word what if he doesn't like what I get him?  And if you think I'm buying another pair of khakis or Carhartts you're just wrong.  We have two closets full. 

So anyway, he doesn't do lists.  With two exceptions.

Two years ago he asked for a very large hunting knife, a flint, a compass, and a tent (in addition to the khaki pants and the Carhartts, of course).

I was convinced he was going to gut me and make a grand escape into the woods to live out some sort of twisted Red Dawn fantasy of his.

And this year.

This year, the list is a bit longer and far more unnerving than the crazy murder list of 2008.  It came in the form of an e-mail.  It was numbered.  20 items.  Not since the Sears Catalog days have I seen a 20 item Christmas list. In consideration of your sanity I left off the normal items (shirts, ties, etc.)  But the others are just another exhibit of the crazy that lives at our house.

It should be noted that, as he states at #14, he is rambling.  It should also be noted that he obviously has some sort of fitness theme going here.  And finally, I'd also like it noted that I have no idea how gymnastic rings and Lacrosse balls made the list, but I'm intrigued.

The List:
3. Body Science recovery tights – L

4. Abmat – againfaster.com

5. 20lb. med ball – againfaster.com

6. Jump rope – againfaster.com

7. Running shorts – not the short kind but something not as floppy as bball shorts. Size?

8. Anything we need for the house that may need to take the place of anything on this list.

9. Foam roller for recovery – like ones on againfaster.com (running stores may have)

10. Gymnastic rings – againfaster.com

11. Any shirts like the two Columbia shirts Traci got me (she knows what type)

14. I am rambling

15. 3 lacrosse balls – don’t ask!

16. Pull-up bar for garage – againfaster.com

17. Recovery bands for stretching – like ones in our weight room

18. INOV-8 shoes – 11 black or blue – againfaster.com

19. Anything to keep me warm now that I have become cold-blooded

20. Any camping gear – lantern, etc.

See y'all!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Sporting Life

So our boys won another game and now we're getting ready to play in the semi-finals for the state championship.  It's kind of big.  We play in the most difficult division in all of Tennessee, and we play teams that are nationally ranked each year. 

Soooooo.  We have to travel to Chattanooga Friday for the game.  Originally I had planned on trying to meet up with LP- The Southern Drama Queen.  We haven't had an adventure since the cupcake tryst back in the summer. 

But today my principal asked me if I'd mind chaperoning the pep bus for the 8th, 9th, and 10th graders. 

 I can't think of anything I'd rather do. 

In theory, it's actually a great idea.  Since G is in 8th grade, it would provide me with a means to make sure he didn't get into any sort of Greyhound nonsense.  I still have vivid memories of some unfortunate drama on a bus trip to Washington D.C. when I was in 4th grade.  Anyway, like I said, chaperoning the pep bus is a great idea.

In theory.

The reality?  The reality is that I am going to get on a bus with fifty 14-16-year-olds who are all currently in a  deodorant no-man's land somewhere between novelty and necessity.  You know the kids- the one's who are still using that first stick of Right Guard that Santa put in their stockings when they were 10?  And while the boys play fast and loose with hormones and body odor, the girls have all just discovered Bath and Body Works.

So, I'll spend 4 hours of my Friday in a bus that smells of feet, arm pits, and Tranquil Mint Body Lotion.

And no, the irony of that sentence was not lost on me.

It's a pretty good deal.  In exchange for my chaperoning duties I get a free ride to Chattanooga, a hamburger, and hopefully a ticket to witness a little football history at our school.

And then I should probably get up and run on Saturday. 

Probably is a key word in that sentence.  I signed us all up to run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  I planned on resurrecting my running last week.  AC went with me.  I thought it would be disastrous.  I thought she would cry and flail and feign some sort of medical ailment to avoid running.

She didn't.  As a matter of fact, she ran without stopping for two miles.  She also talked without stopping for two miles.  And she didn't get tired.  Or winded.

I didn't fair as well.

So, while I say I should get up on Saturday to run, the reality is that I won't.  I'm going to go with a "man up and put your big girl britches on" approach.  If that doesn't work, I'll trip AC, bring her to tears, and make it look like I'm holding back in the name of love and good sportsmanship.

See y'all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Butt That Buddy Built

Here is some pertinent information you'll need in order to make "hide nor hair" of what I'm a bout to tell you.  I don't know what "hide nor hair" means, nor do I even know if I spelled it right, because I don't know if I'm talking about the hair on my head or a hare that scampers about my yard trying to avoid Ivy the Huntress. 

Incidentally, Ivy caught the devil squirrel yesterday.  The devil squirrel has been taunting her since spring.  Yesterday she reigned victorious.  She brought me her booty.  That's the second squirrel I've been given in the last two weeks.  Although, the first gift was actually just a squirrel head sans skull and eyeballs.  One of my students gave it to me as a gift after I talked to him at length about his love for hunting.  He told me I could use it as a key chain. 

I think that's weird.

Anyway.  All of that is to say that I am not up to snuff on my southern sayings and don't know if hide nor hair is spelled correctly, but my mom says it all the time, so there. 

Also, you need to know that I called my grandmother Buddy.

Her real name was Daisy Wynelle.  I was in high school before I knew that.  She was always just "Buddy."

The second thing you need to know is that my rear-end, though not huge by cultural standards, is larger than it once was.

I blame Buddy.  She liked to cook.  And read magazines.  And get stuff in the mail.  I laugh every time a magazine comes to my house because I'm addicted to them, and I get a few monthly reminders about the cloth from which I'm cut. 

I'm frighteningly like Buddy.  Sometimes that aggravates my parents.  Sometimes they find it endearing.  All I know is I'm like her.  And I'm like my aunt Kitty.  And apparently also like my sister-in-law Shelley because my mother calls me Kitty and my brother calls me Shelley, and my kids call me mom (and occasionally Woman when they are feeling brave and humorous and I am unconscious or out of arm's length), and Coach calls me Babe or Hey. 

At this point my real name is superfluous and only complicates things.

Sorry for the rambling.  It's been a while.  The important things to remember are 1) I called my grandmother Buddy and 2) My butt is bigger than it used to be  3) I blame that on Buddy  4)  Buddy died in 1994, and it needs to be noted that my butt was minuscule at the time
I have forgotten why I started writing this post.

I think it had to do with Cranberry Sauce and Jam Cake.

I'm pretty sure that was it.

So, how about I go on about my day and try to remember where I was going with this post.  Tonight I'll post Buddy's recipes for Cranberry Sauce, Butterscotch Cookies, and Jam Cake (all the things that make the holidays the holidays) and maybe by then I'll have remembered what I was going to tell you.

I think it was going to be sweet and sentimental.  As you can see, my mood is not sweet, nor is it sentimental right now.  In the meantime I'll just say hi!


See y'all tonight!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

When Halloween and Thanksgiving come around, my family always looks forward to all the pumpkin goodies.  Pumpkin lattes, cookies, ice cream and pie are the most obvious favorites.  While we drool over most of these at the store, I have one recipe I love to use that can double as a great party pleaser. 

You will need:
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups canned pumpkin (about 16 ounces)
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 & 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger

Preheat the oven to 375.

Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl.  Stir in the oil, sugar, pumpkin and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves and ginger together.  Then add to the pumpkin mixture gradually until well blended.  It should be thick and well mixed like cake batter.

Oooo....lookin' good

Make sure you have greased two loaf pans thoroughly.

See? WELL greased

Pour the mixture into the pans as evenly as you can.  You don't need to measure exactly.  Do the ol' Rachael Ray with it....you know..."eyeball it".  Go ahead.  I trust you.

Then bake them together, side by side is fine, in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes.  The original recipe said to bake at 1 hour, but my oven is an overachiever and was done in 45.  I'm not sure how old the recipe is, I got it from Mom. (Thanks, Mom!)  However, ovens today run a bit hotter, it seems, so it's best to know your oven and check on the bread at about 45 minutes.

I'm not much of a cook, but I love to bake.  If you don't know the tricks to being able to tell when something is done, a toothpick inserted in the middle is a great tester.  If it comes out clean, you're good to go.  Another telltale sign is if you can see the sides of the bread pulling away from the pan.  You can get them out before those edges start getting dark.

When all is said and done, you should have two gorgeous little loafs of holiday goodness that look like this: