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Friday, September 26, 2008

Brownies on a Rainy Day

Today it rained and rained and rained. Much to Owen's delight, as he is always looking for an excuse to wear is goulashes and splash in puddles! I was looking forward to today all week...I had scheduled a facial to combat the horrid hormone happenings on my face from this first trimester. Okay, so it's not horrid, but I honestly can't remember the last time I experienced the wonderfully relaxing child free zone of a day spa. And it was fabulous! I almost didn't mind the burning sensation caused by the initial application of the "mint mask." (To be honest, I was nearly asleep, so it probably just startled me.)

After the facial and school, it was time for some sort of indoor activity. I decided on making brownies. Owen is a very good helper in the kitchen. He neatly sorts the silverware in the caddy when we're unloading the dishwasher, and he LOVES to pour and measure. Caroline is more of a "I need to be in the middle of everything, and my fingers need to be in everything" sort of girl. So we donned the aprons and began our baking. It was wonderful! Although I don't know if next time will go as well...Caroline had never before tasted the ooey gooey yumminess of chocolate brownie batter, so she wasn't as interested in the batter as she was in flexibility of the rubber spatula (yes, separate spatulas for the kiddos for sure.) Once she sampled the batter, she was hooked. Her eyes widened as big as the mixing bowl, and she clamoured for another taste. (Who could blame her??!) And she learned to say "brownie" almost as fast as she had learned to say "cookie" (about 5 nanoseconds after tasting them.)
We looked for worms for our worm garden (it's more of a compost, but Owen loves worms) and read books until the oven timer rang....the kids thoroughly enjoyed the brownies, but I have to say, I can hardly eat anything sweeter than a banana since this pregnancy. (I'm actually ashamed to admit membership from "Chocoholics Anonymous" should be revoked.) But I'll take it as a freebie for next trimester when I down a whole batch in one afternoon : )

Just in case you're looking for an easy, healthier brownie recipe, this one is excellent:

Black Bean Brownies (don't wrinkle your nose...try them first!)

These sound strange, but there is NO trace of black bean taste or texture. They are moist and fudgy, high in fiber, low in fat, and much lower in calories than traditional brownies. (One note of caution: if your body's not used to lots of fiber and you eat more than 4 of these in one sitting, you may be sitting somewhere else in a hurry.)

1 Box brownie mix (any kind)
1 can black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 cup water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 8x8 brownie pan with nonstick cook spray. In a blender (or Magic Bullet), blend black beans with 1/2 cup of water (add more water if needed) until smooth but thick. Add black bean puree to brownie mix and add an additional 1/2 to 1 cup water. Mix until batter is wet. Stir in chocolate chips, or press into the top of the batter once poured into the pan. Bake 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Brownies will look "wet." Remove from the oven and let cool /finish baking for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Makes 16.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apple Picking Party

Today was a glorious day! After I picked up Owen from school we ventured with some friends to Lawrence Farms, near the Beacon Bridge. Besides the acres of apples, grapes, pumpkins, and gobs of vegetables, they have hay rides (sleigh rides in winter), a duck pond, apple cider, freshly made apple spice doughnuts, AND a miniature town of about 8 kid sized buildings for the kids to run free and explore. We planned to first enjoy our picnic lunch, let the kids play a bit, and then find some tasty apples to pick and take home.

I hit the first snag 3 minutes into the drive. Being the super thoughtful mommy I am, I had packed a very nutritious and exciting picnic for the kids. However, I was so concerned the grapes would still be cold at lunch time that I neglected to pack the lunch bag in the car. The worst part was that I had grilled my panini at the last minute (scrummy goat cheese and roasted pepper, BTW), that I grabbed MY lunch and freshly brewed green tea. I did try and give the flat bread to Caroline on the car ride there, but she wasn't too interested. Luckily, Lawrence Farms has a small food line with super healthy items such as doughnuts, french fries, cookies, hot dogs, and pizza. The kids were actually quite happy with the pizza and apple cider (yum!) but I had that mommy guilt until every crumb of that pizza was swallowed.

The kids ran themselves silly in the little play town. Who wouldn't love a mini-sized firehouse with pole and slide, or a jail house with real cells??!!! I think they were ready to drop, but we moms were ready for our mission to find exquisite apples AND get some cute fall pictures of the kids picking apples. We rented a wagon and ventured out to the apple trees.

I think the farm has 12 different types of apples, and the Fuji (my favorite) are virtually on the farthest corner of the farm...and since the boys were already exhausted, there would be no Fujis for me today. No worries! We had a blast. First we started in the vineyards, where the kids thoroughly enjoyed peering through the vines to find the grape clusters. Owen is a natural at this, as he practices the art of "peering and peeking" every time we visit a clothing store (fun for me!) The grapes were juicy and I could vividly imagine how fab the wine would be....maybe in 8 months I"ll taste the real thing. We were ready to pick apples...however, the first rows of trees we walked had no apples within our reach (much less the kids.) So THAT'S why they have those handy apple pickers! It looks like a long rake, only the end resembles more of a "claw" with a small basket to catch the apple before it falls among the rotted ones on the ground. The boys thought it was the best super hero weapon they'd ever seen! Needless to say, we walked away with probably 10 pounds of apples.

I highly recommend Lawrence Farms if you're in the Newburgh area. (They even have birthday party packages- what a great idea!) I also found a link that lists all the Apple Orchards in New York State in case you're interested:

Tumbling Tuesdays

In our house, Tuesdays are "tumbling Tuesdays." It's a plan that I devised to teach Owen the days of the week. (I thought I was soooo clever, until he came home the first day of school singing the days of the week to the tune of "Macarena." Oh well.) It's also a handy tool to pull him away from bikes and buddies playing outside when I really want him in for dinner. However, to Owen, it sounds a little more like this:"Owen, Tumbling Tuesday! Time to tumble!!!!" It usually works like a charm.

Today we didn't quite get there. This was because Owen is attempting to avoid afternoon naps and he's way too grumpy by dinner time to be conducive to my scheeming. I have meticulously worked out our daily schedule so that both Caroline and Owen nap at the same time. (Okay, so I admit preggie me also naps daily now too.) When I am my "on the ball" self, I'm able to do quite a few chores and have email time and make dinner- all while they're napping. However, this whole "I'm not napping" thing is killing me. Two weeks ago Owen decided he was done resting after 45 minutes and walked out the front door to ride bikes with friends. Let me just say that my child is not yet 4. What is going on in his head??!!! Apparently the deadbolt is no deterrent, but thankfully our storm door is very loud when it shuts, so I was awakened in time to catch him before he rode off into the sunset. It was a little hard to react. Not because I was still groggy and could hardly open both eyelids, but because I really shouldn't be "sleeping on the job." Caroline is still in the crib, so she can't escape. But since Owen has mastered the "master lock," I really am up a creek! Ug.

I suppose I either have to give up my napping or get a security system (in other words, there is no way I'm allowing him to give up his naps!) Of course, you know what they say about parenting: "Never say never and never say always!" Oops.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday Monday

PR's gone this week. So that means I start at least one or two new projects. I've decided this week to work on the kids' Halloween costumes and make valences for my bedroom windows (but I'm NOT committed to hang them, let's not go overboard!)

Owen's decided he wants to be Peter Pan. Excellent! We already have a Peter Pan hat and shirt costume thing...but OCD me want it to be a complete matching I'm researching costumes on ebay. And Caroline, by default, will be Tinkerbell. I've seen quite a few cute costumes from the Disney Store...but has no one thought about the poor souls who live in places where it is pretty darn chilly by Halloween? Yes, I've seen those Old Navy fuzzy fleecy costumes that look like the kid's wearing a sleeping bag. But they don't have a Peter Pan or Tinkerbell version, so I'm having to use my super creative skills. Do I start from scratch and try and make one that includes a turtleneck and warm pants, or do I buy the cheap nylon over commercialized costumes and put three layers on underneath??! Ug. I'm determined to figure out a way to make Tinkerbell cute, even in 40 degree weather.

As far as the valences go, I have the fabric and my sewing machine just came back from it's annual "check up." (I call it this because for $100, I hope they did more than just clean the fuzz out of it. ) I am just missing one key ingredient to getting the job done: motivation.

But have no fear, I have two days left in the week! (PS. Monday is really not thought about in this house until Tuesday night at I'm technically into Wednesday already. Darnit!!!)

Sunday is Homemade Pizza Night!

Our family has a tradition on Sunday evenings. We call it our "Pizza and a Movie" night. Original, huh? It's nothing fancy, but I generally make two or three small home made pizzas and we watch a movie of Owen's choosing, complete with buttered popcorn. My kids are actually pretty flexible on what they eat, so I'm able to experiment a bit with pizza (can you imagine how fun it would be to eat cheese and only cheese pizza??!!) I've also found a great pizza dough recipe I thought I'd pass along. The best part about it is it only requires 15 minutes to rest, so it's quick and easy. I'll also share our favorite pizzas : )

Pizza Dough
1 packet rapid rise active yeast
1 cup hot water (not boiling)
2 1/2 cups flour (I use a combination of whole wheat and bread flour)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tbsp evoo ( use 1 tbsp to cut down on fat and it tastes fine)

Dissolve yeast in water with a whisk. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until dough moves as a ball (rather than sticky consistency.) Set aside 15 minutes. Roll onto floured surface to desired thickness. Place on pizza stone that has been rubbed with corn meal and poke generously with a fork. Bake in a 425 degree oven 3-4 minutes and remove. Add sauce (if desired) and toppings and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Spinach Feta Pizza (our fav)
1 pizza crust
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2/3 cup spinach, chopped
1 medium roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup mushrooms, diced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tsp Italian seasoning)
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup marinara

Heat saucepan to medium high and add a swirl of evoo. Add spinach garlic and rosemary, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and stir for additional 3-4 minutes. Spread marinara evenly over pizza crust, top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle spinach and feta on top and bake until cheese is brown on the edges.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza (our second fav)
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Heat small saucepan over medium and add a swirl of evoo. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook an additional 6-10 minutes until onions are limp and opaque. Sprinkle cheese on top of pizza crust (no sauce.) Add onions and goat cheese and bake until done, 8-10 minutes. (Roasted red peppers can be added, too.)

BBQ Chicken Pizza - super easy!
1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 cup BBQ sauce, plus 1/2 cup for chicken

Combine 1/2 cup BBQ sauce and cooked chicken and let marinade for 15 minutes (at least.) Spread BBQ sauce on top of pizza crust, sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Evenly distribute chicken, onion, and cilantro on pizza and bake until cheese is melted.


Friday: Fort Montgomery

PR has this weird schedule where he ends up working on weekends, and then gets a weekday Friday was his day off, and we decided to embrace the Hudson Valley history and visit Fort Montgomery. The Fort remains lay in a scenic hillside grassland, near Bear Mountain. You actually walk along a gravel path where the excavated Fort foundation lies. On October 6, 1777 the Fort was attacked and, because General Clinton and his soldiers were vastly outnumbered 7 to 1, completely devastated. The relics found are quite amazing, though. The most remarkable are a pair of buttons with "Liberty" inscribed.

The views from the grounds are amazing, especially now with the vibrant colors of fall. There is a nice little hike to a small pedestrian bridge as well. The Fort has a museum of artifacts and the staff performed a musket demonstration (Owen was a big fan of this....little boy, loud noises and guns...what could be better?)

If anyone is in the area, this Saturday, September 27th there will be a big event at Fort Montgomery, 11am to 6pm. Reenactments and more. Check it out if you have the opportunity!

We spent the latter part of the afternoon at West Point. PR had a doctor's appointment, so the kids enjoyed some time at the playground. I was AMAZED at Owen's compassion towards Caroline. He asked if she wanted to join him on the slide, and she climbed into his lap, he wrapped his arms around her, and they zoomed down- probably 15 times before she decided she was ready for a new feat. There could be hope for the jealous big brother after all!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Working out with Cathe

This morning I dragged my lazy body from bed downstairs in time for the 7 am Fit TV Cathe workout. Have you tried this before? The woman seems innocent enough, she's petite and she favors 80's Madonna music for her warm ups. However, five minutes into the routine, she's jumping and lunging and twirling and mamboing and sashaying all around her step like a Jack Russel that hasn't been out to tinkle yet. Worse yet, on her "weight training days" she picks up a body bar with 65 pounds and pumps out 22 squats without breaking a sweat. Needless to say, it's an awesome workout (even if I end up winging it as the choreography gets too tricky.) I always thought I was quite coordinated. I've done step and kickboxing and all those aerobic classes without a hitch. But this woman has you whirling and jumping in so many directions, I personally feel that it is virtually impossible for the non-bionic human to ape her moves. I will only stop complaining long enough to say that it's a great workout, she does have quite a bit of variety each day of the week (weights one day, step another, then balance or hi lo or something), AND your workout is done by 8 am!

If I miss her workout and it's not a "gym" day, I do like the "In Shape" with Sharon Mann. She is a little too smiley, but I think that's her shtick. I have no idea how any person can smile like that while lunging or kickboxing or balancing on her head (okay, I made that up...but she really is very crafty!) She has one woman working on her "team" behind her named Sparky who's even worse. She does the high intensity version of the workout...she must chug the Red Bull before the workout or something, because most of the time she's just flailing her body around like a toddler playing with a rag doll. Boy am I critical today! The show is overall challenging, even if it is only 30 minutes. As far as the over excited-extra-happy face goes, she is Canadian. I've never met a Canadian that wasn't friendly and easy going, so perhaps that's the reason for the permasmile.

Or maybe she's just really really happy. I guess I'd be pretty ecstatic, too if I had three kids and still had washboard abs and perky DDs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bunko baby!

Tonight was Bunko, which is much bigger in the south than here...every month our group eeks by with 7 or 8. What's the deal? It requires absolutely no skill- maybe multitasking, if you want to munch or sip wine or chat while you throw the dice. I'm actually pretty terrible, the Irish in me has blessed me with zero luck. Pooo! But it's still a fun night out- no kids, no dishes, and munchies- how can you beat that?! Anyway, I guess some people aren't "game people."

I LOVE games. Well, some games. Trivial Pursuit is not on my fav list...but that's because PR kicks my butt in every subject except entertainment (that's the pink one) and whatever the brown topic is. The man studied maps for FUN when he was a kid, so how can I compete with that? Plus I'm terrible with sports trivia. I am much better at those "think quickly on your feet games" like Scategories and Scrabble and Gestures and favorite is Scrabble. Not because I have a remarkable vocabulary or stellar spelling skills (if it weren't for spell check, I'd be in serious trouble.) For some reason, I just love trying to get 31 points from a four letter word. Unfortunately, PR refuses to play with me (because he can't even win when he cheats.)

I've been campaigning for a "family game night" on Sunday (it's currently "Homemade Pizza and a Movie Night" but I can only watch Toy Story so many times...) Doesn't that sound cool? Granted, there are a limited selection of games you can play with two children under 5, but Owen goes wild for Hullabaloo and those other kids Cranium games. I had a friend growing up whose family played spades on Sunday nights and I always thought that was a cool tradition. As an only child, we didn't really have any traditions...we just went with the flow. I will continue to cheer on my game night idea....even IF the Hollywood types stole it from me. I read Salma Hyak and Demi Moore play monopoly or dominoes or something. Hmph.

PS. Also tried a recipe for PF Chang's lettuce wraps. I'd share the recipe, but I'm sad to report, they were not as good as the real thing. I did do a search for the actual PF Chang's recipe (or wannabe version) and found one that had 65 ingredients. I made it once, a few years back, before kids. It was okay but totally not worth the effort. Why can't we live by a big city that has all these yummy scrummy food options? I'm stuck with diners and Dunkin' Doughnuts. Ick.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Go Greek!

Last week I reverted back to my super brilliant idea of weekly menu planning. Because I am, um, well...a bit OCD. I like to make sure my meals have coordinating side dishes and even sometimes crudites. I'm also determined to try new recipes from my thousands of cookbooks (okay 57 to be exact, but isn't that still a little much?!) For some reason, about half of my cookbooks do not have pictures. I need to see the picture. So these sad little cookbooks sit in the dark, rarely opened. No more! I will be flexible! I will mentally picture a culinary masterpiece! But I will do it maybe one or two new recipes a month. This month, I decided upon something Greek.

We have zero Greek restaurants near us, which is quite disappointing. (When I say near us, I mean from here to NYC...and I'm not taking the kiddos into the city for a gyro!) Last week I came across a recipe for pita bread and was immediately inspired! I know, it's nothing too fancy, and I only made falafel sandwiches with a Greek salad and some hummus and sliced yellow peppers....but it was delicious! So, I'm sharing the recipe for any other Greek starved readers:

4 minute Pita
1 pkg quick rise yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
dash of sugar
1 cup bread flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water and whisk to blend. Add salt, wheat flour, and sugar and mix using a wooden spoon until well combined. Gradually add the bread flour until dough becomes smooth. Knead on floured surface, 5 min. Divide into 8 portions and stretch into rounds, about 6 inches in diameter. Place on pizza stones that have been sprayed with butter non-stick spray, flipping once to coat. Let rise 20-30 min and bake for 4- 6 min in a preheated 500 degree oven. Serve immediately.

Tatziki Sauce
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
2 cloves pressed garlic
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup peeled and diced cucumber

Combine ingredients and return to the fridge for 1 hour before serving.

Falafel Sandwiches
6 pita rounds, warm
18 pan sauteed falafel balls, 2 inches in diameter
prepared tatziki sauce
thinly sliced cucumber
thinly sliced tomatoes
1/8 cup red onion slivers

Assemble sandwiches so each pita has 3 pieces of falafel. Fold pita in half and serve warm with hummus and veggie sticks.

(Confession: my falafel was a box mix. Shhh!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fight on Trojans and yeah me!

This weekend was a sleeper, but I do have two exciting bits of news to report.

1. Lazy pregnant girl did the 5K with the marines! Shhh! I know, a 5K is only 3 miles. But this was a doozie, as it was either uphill or downhill the entire run (mostly uphill.) Also, I'm pretty out of shape, running wise. However, I really couldn't complain because PR was pushing the kids in the double jogger, which pretty much weighs 70 lbs....and the little lima bean in me weighs what, 2 oz??! Needless to say, I did finish and I only needed a three hour nap that afternoon to recover.

2. Second piece of news. I was able to sit through an entire USC football game without interruption! For the most part, it's tough being on the east coast when your team plays on west coast time (if you're an early to bed girl like the preggie version of me OR if you'd like to watch the game with friends but can't because it's past the kiddos bedtime and who wants to pay a sitter when you're two doors down and they're fast asleep??)

My last attempt at watching the game was over Labor Day weekend, when we were in a house FULL of people. I'm talking the four of us plus PR's Aunt and Uncle plus a cousin plus PR's brother and sister-in-law and their six kids....BTW, this is a three bedroom A frame. (Fun times, but it definitely takes a week to recover.) So, I completely got outnumbered when it came to which game we watched. It didn't help that SC was kicking booty and we had a few Virginie fans(Virginia didn't have a chance) but also there were quite a few other games that we "had to" shuffle back and forth watching, which drove me nuts.

So, Saturday I was determined to watch and enjoy. And I did. It was actually almost painful, as in the beginning Ohio had a tough time completing anything, and there were so many penalties called. Our neighbors are Buckeyes and challenged the greatness of SC earlier in the day, don't you just love competition?! I resisted calling them at half time.

Today (Monday) was actually pretty great. I'm finally starting to feel better, got up and went to the gym, and even returned home in time to jog to Owen's school to pick him up...this is all part of my "no waddle" plan for pregnancy. I absolutely refuse to gain 70 lbs and waddle like a duck. Plus, I'm already starting to feel the tightness of my shorts at the waist and this little one growing inside me is only the size of a lima bean. Not off to a good start, missy!

Weekend laze and laundry woes

I absolutely love Fridays. Fridays just have so much potential- the whole weekend is ahead of you, and your options are wide open. Do we make a long list of things to accomplish, take a road trip, or just lounge? This weekend we were extremely lazy. Partly because it was HOT. I'm talking kids run in the sprinklers hot. (And in September!) But mostly because I've been exhausted and uncomfortable. This third pregnancy is killing me!

I'm usually so ambitious with each day, starting with a workout, then morning and school routine, then chores and errands, nap time for the kids, and having dinner started so we can go out and enjoy the afternoon before dinner. However, for the last 4 weeks, I've been struggling through exercise workouts, sleeping every chance I get (including taking an afternoon nap as well as hitting the sack by 8:30) and avoiding most all household duties that I otherwise feel is essential for the day progress.

Take, for instance, the laundry. Wednesdays are laundry days in my house. My theory on laundry is that if you don't choose one day to take on the task, it is unending and will take over all other aspects of your life. If I start Wednesday and do all the laundry in waiting, I can actually fold and put it away and feel some sense of accomplishment (if only until dinner time and the food splashed bib is placed in the bottom of the hamper.) Well, the laundry has been calling me, but I've been quite successful in ignoring it. I figure, we all have clean underoos and socks, so it can just sit and wait until I have more energy and motivation. Though I was able to withstand the calls from the whites and darks, my husband was not so strong. So, for the last three days, PR has been diligently doing the laundry AND folding! He really is very good with this chore, I think he's not so hot on cleaning up, but for some reason the laundry is his thing.

I only wish that he would put the dang clothes away. Instead, he neatly stacks them along the hallway or atop of our dresser. A few months ago, I expressed concern about the tower of clothing falling from the top of the stairs and becoming a serious safety hazard, and PR explained that he just couldn't put them away because he didn't know where anything went. Offhandedly, he suggested that I label the drawers. Well, I just couldn't pass up that opportunity. A couple months later he was travelling for ten days or so (that's when I start my "projects") and I was feeling so crazy OCD that I decided to actually label things. I started with the dresser drawers in our room (how does he not know where his own clothes go??!!) and moved to the kids, then worked my way to the linen closet. I was SO proud of myself, in a slightly over organized, anal, sort of way.

Do you think it worked? Nope. He didn't even notice the labels until I pointed them out a few weeks later. Umph!

Friday, September 12, 2008

This week in retrospect (Part III): Caroline's first trip to the dentist

Just a reminder, we're still pretending I'm punctual and get this blog done within the same day as the events on which I am reporting. (Today is Thursday.)
I knew today would not be a breeze when I remembered the impending dentist appointment for both kids. Every mother who has an "active" child knows the pain I felt today. Probably even Pediatric Dentist knows this pain- and worse- has to live it several times each day. But, I put on my brave hat and was so very thankful when my husband offered to join us at today's appointment. PR is such a trooper, always up for the adventure of taking the kids out and (honestly) trying his best to help me with keeping the kids from disrupting or destroying our surroundings.

My first child, Owen, is (and has been since infancy) obedient and "go with the flow." He will sit and play quietly, walk slowly and use his whisper voice, and adhere to most requests by doctors and dentists. No squirming, no whining, no wriggling, no running away or squealing (my very least favorite talent of children.) We thought we totally had this parenting thing down before our second child was born. Silly us.

My daughter Caroline is quite the opposite in personality. She has a charming smile and these darling little curls...but ask her to do something that's not on her "fun" list, or discipline her when she's tired or determined, and it's all over- she will turn on the tears, the squealing, and the wriggling. I sometimes call it the crocodile role, because she is quite talented at slipping through our arms and escaping freely from the grasp of our fingertips.

As we walk in to the Dentist's office, I sigh a great relief to see a play area packed with toys. This will help break down her guard. She will not suspect we are in a medical office! Maybe she will have had such fun playing that she's puckered out and lays still while the dentist counts and cleans her teeth! Maybe not.

We are called in and we proceed into the exam room. A TV! Excellent. My children do not watch much TV, so it's completely captivating for my son. The walls have animals and the borders that every pediatrician's office has- movie and TV characters, zoo animals, and ballerinas. "OOOO!" Caroline says as she surveys the room. There are even stuffed animals for the kids to hold. This dentist has thought of everything!

As Owen crawls into the dentist's chair, his mouth gapes open as he becomes completely entranced in the "Diego" cartoon. His eyes glaze over, and he's offered some "cool dude" sun glasses as the exam light is illuminated. Owen just nods. He sits limp in the chair, barely blinking, as the dentist goes to work. She tries to ask him questions about his brushing, but he is a zombie. Caroline watches inquisitively with wide eyes as the cleaning attachment is turned on and starts zooming through Owen's mouth. His exam ends with some x-rays, and throughout the exam the Dentist and her assistant comment on how well behaved Owen is and how proud they are of him. (Of course, all he can hear is Diego and his friends, but we won't get into that.) Now it's Caroline's turn.

On a side not, Caroline is almost 18 months and it's true that some pediatricians (and even some dentists) suggest the first dentist visit to be around 4. But if you talk to a Pediatric Dentist, the recommendation is really as soon as the child has teeth- mostly to look for any possible dental problems. I prefer to be on the safe side, so I was excited Dr. Walman has this philosophy AND was in my dental plan network! (I think most dentists will not see children under 5 because it's a lot more work and a tiny little mouth- and because most kids are like my little Caroline in the dentist's chair.)

Caroline only about 6 teeth, so how hard could it be? Let me answer that. To start, PR had to hold her in an upside down twisted position, as that was the only position she would tolerate. (Wasn't it nice of me to volunteer PR to hold her? Well, I had a perfect excuse, I had to take pictures to document the event!) The squirming started. The crying followed, complete with giant crocodile tears. PR patiently tried to reposition her as we were talking to her and singing to her and pointing at all the exciting animals on the walls, playing peek-a-boo, and trying to fill her hands with little trinkets. But she continued, unhappy and letting everyone know.

The exam lasted less than 10 minutes. The poor dentist somehow managed to finish, and even clean her 6 little teeth, without getting a bite from Caroline's angry jaws. But it was painful for all of us. However, I highly recommend our dentist and her office for anyone in the area.

Did I mention we're supposed to go back in 6 months?

Dr. Geri-Lynn Waldman
Dolson Avenue Dental
75 Dolson Ave
Middletown, NY

This week in retrospect (Part II) Welcome to the PTO!

Again, we're pretending (okay, I'm pretending) that I had enough energy to write this on the same day as the events occurred. It's now Wednesday, and tonight I have my first PTO meeting. Yes, my child is only in preschool, so it's more than likely that the bulk of the information in the meeting has absolutely no bearing on my life. But my child just started school two weeks ago, and I still have the fighting chance of being an "on the ball" mommy, so of course I'm going to the meeting tonight.

I was surprised, after all the teachers gave their little introductions in the school auditorium, the principal instructed the parents of preschoolers to go to the preschool classroom for a presentation. Woo hoo! I will get super important information tonight! As we file down the hallway, I notice the most adorable self portraits. I recognize a few names of his classmates, so of course I have to find Owen's picture. Upon discovery, I'm gazing at the art and actually pretty impressed. The eyes are perfect little blue circles, and the matching nose (also blue) is placed just between and below his eyes...the mouth is an upturned smile- and red! His hair is one thick yellow swipe from the brush, and his head a a near perfect oval. What a genius! All the pictures are darling, only one or two Picassos and even those are cute. Already the night is a success in my book.

The rest of the night we get a packet of more papers (the kid brings home about 20 sheets of paper a day), however one has a list of the daily activities. Wow! I actually get to see what my child does during his brief 2 1/2 hour stay. I say this because rarely does Owen divulge one morsel of information about his day at school. Though the rest of the meeting is really just reading off papers, I'm very happy with the evening. And, to top it off, I also got a rock start parking spot!! Can't ask for much more. Ug, I thought of one. Why didn't I take a picture of the portrait? I only hope it makes it home in one piece, because I will sooooo treasure that forever!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This week in retrospect- Tuesday at Washington's Headquarters

Where has the week gone??! Let's pretend I'm on the ball and came home from our outing to report on our day. Tuesday PR had off from work, so we went to downtown Newburgh, NY to visit Washington's Headquarters. It's hard to imagine that in this tiny stone house, General Washington announced the cease fire and created the Purple Heart award. (Why, you ask, is it called the "Purple Heart?" I asked that same question and was embarrassed to find out the obvious reason, because the award was purple and heart shaped.)

The grounds are smack dab in the middle of a less than safe area, completely run down row homes and literally no charm...with only a tiny sign to indicate any significance of the grounds. Granted, the residence majestically overlooks the Hudson River and I can see why the spot was chosen to secure the waterway from the Brits trying to weasel their way up the coast and take control of the trade and supplies of the east coast. However, the room that Gen. Washington used as his office did not have a window facing toward the water, and when I asked our tour guide why, she explained that the outhouses lined that perimeter of the house (as it was on the down slope), and so the River view was completely blocked. Hmm. Okay. So much for waterfront!!

Needless to say, it was a lovely day. Other than Owen ooohing and ahhing over a few rifle relics ("Guns to shoot the bad guys!!"), the kids were more interested in picking dandelions than any part of the tour. The sun was shining, it was a pleasant 75 degrees, and I actually did get some fun pictures of the kids outside. And to top it off, we stopped for ice creams on the way home! All in all, it was a very good day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

PR has a day off from work!

Well, the weekend was a bit of a bust as far as my new resolutions go. However, I am proud to report that I DID make some homemade marinara that was quite tasty! I found some Goliath tomatoes that were grown locally and had to make something wonderful. My basil plant- one of the few survivors from our garden- is determined to seed, so I was eager to include a generous helping of leaves. The recipe is extremely simple, you just need an hour or so to roast the tomatoes. The recipe is listed below.

Here's a question: why is it so impossible to successfully grow cilantro? Could it be that I am a terrible gardener, or is it truly a difficult task? When we first moved to New York last year, we visited a fantastic family run farm, complete with apple orchards and you-pick vegetables. So, I was eager to plant our own garden. Soon, my idea was severly thwarted when a neighbor revealed our new home had been built upon old homes filled with asbestos- fun! However, my darling husband dug a huge trench and carted 800 pounds of (asbestos free) soil from Lowe's so that I could plant my dream garden. (See pictures of May, June, and July growth.)

I started with carrots, peppers, cucumber, broccoli, and squash. Then I added some plants in case the seeds decided not to sprout- basil, dill, cilantro, corn, and tomatoes. The first victim was the cilantro- boo! I just love mexican and asian and indian food, so that cilantro would have come in handy. The basil's done pretty well, and we use that quite a bit (homemade pizza night every Sunday.) I have yet to use the dill- what do I season other than fish? We do eat fish at least once a week, but I really only do dill salmon, so that poor little plant just sits there neglected.

The squash and cukes were most hearty- I think we got three large squash and 6 or 7 big fat cucumbers. I never saw the peppers. The carrots are still growing and just last month we got about 7 ears of corn- teeny tiny ears, but we'll see if they get bigger or we have duds. My broccoli plants grew HUGE but we only harvested one florette. I only got one tomato before some dang pest ate one of my plants and the other tomato plant looks good but is completely barren. Anyway, I'm very disappointed in my cilantro, and almost everyone else I've talked to who has a garden harvested about ten times more squash and it hopeless, or should I just be happy that I got anything at all??!

PS. I hope this garden in no way reflects on my children's potential...I'm going out to water those plants right now!

Roasted Tomato Marinara makes 36oz

8-10 large tomatoes (plum, or assorted)
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 c EVOO (as Rachel Ray would say)
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped (or 1/8c dried)
1/4 c frsh basil, chopped

Wash and cut the tomatoes, removing the stem. Slice in half and place in foil lined pan. Mix remaining ingredients into a paste and rub or brush on top of each tomato. Roast for 60-70 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Remove and let cool. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and discard. Combine tomatoes in a food processor on pulse, so sauce remains chunky. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Voila!

Friday, September 5, 2008

I'm in the loop!

Okay, so I've been completely out of the technology loop since the whole texting, IMing, and blogging thing began. My mom actually taught ME how to text, which is extremely embarassing. It was at that point that I came to realize I needed to get in the groove. So here I am. Now what??!

I've been busy having babies, I guess. I know, that's no excuse. But it's been my excuse the last four years. My time has been filled with reading parenting books instead of reading novels, organizing books and toys rather than organizing my thoughts, making spinach brownies instead of sushi (but I DO love that Deceptively Delicious cookbook!!!!), and exercising my play dough sculpting skills in lieu of my graduate degree. I'm not the least bit bitter or regretful, I'm actually quite thankful for the opportunity to raise my children with our family values and see all of their firsts.

My husband is in the military and travels often, so of course the best thing is for our children to have at least one stable parent who is home. However, I have been neglecting "me time," so that whole stable thing is not so true. Thankfully, I do not compromise my daily workouts. I am completely dedicated to exercising- it's the source of my sanity, as it relieves my stress and makes up for the lack of sleep that is inevitible at this time in my life. (Plus, it helps balance out my craze for chocolate. )

Tons of caretakers are so gifted at doing it all- juggling work, kids, husband, sports, friends, religion, community service. I am in awe of these men and women. Clearly, I am not one of them. I am one of those OCD type moms that focuses on ridiculous tasks like completly finishing the laundry, having every toy and book categorized or alphetized, and ensuring there is not a trace of crumb or dish in the sink or on the counter. Clearly not realistic goals for moms with toddlers (especially mine.) While I struggle for total organization and control of the household (and my children), I have noticed that my husband and many others actually can survive in a world where there is a bit of clutter and maybe some chaos every now and then.

Maybe this alternative life is one where I can live too! So this month is a trial to see if I can handle living with a little less control and a lot more flexibility. I'm blogging to see if anyone else out there has my same crazy control issues, and maybe there are some helpful suggestions to the balancing act that most every busy mom does every day. (Also, if this relaxed state doesn't work for me, I have proof for my mother who has limitless "suggestions" and husband who doesn't know stress that I actually did make an attempt to be normal.)

To start, I'm reserving a little time every day to a) read a non-parenting book or the newspaper (not just the headlines), b) leave the house without the children, c) work on one of my ambitious craft projects, or d) take a bath. (Okay, so maybe it's a little too "structured" for achieving that relaxed state, but I really do work best with lists.)

How hard can that be, right? Well, today's shot....I guess I'll have to start tomorrow.