Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer Is For Reading (Just Like Every Other Season)

I should have posted this post a month ago.
But I've been reading.
And I'm sure you don't really care that much about what I'm reading.
Quite frankly, I like doing these reading posts because I enjoy seeing all my books lined up nicely on the screen.
(OCD much?)
I'm just going to list the books and add a link so you can go read what they're about for yourself if you're interested.
When I finish one I'll post briefly about it.
(I've already finished 3 so look out. There are favorite quote posts heading your way...)
And for the record, this list will likely take me the year rather than the summer.
(Specifically, those 6 volumes of Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series...)
When it comes to books, I always get carried away...

(Free pdf download here.)

(Free at Ambleside Online.)

The Gym: My Favorite Vacation

Going to the gym with more than one kid is an Olympic event.

After waking up and making breakfast for Jacob and myself, I usually spend 20 minutes trying to convince myself to go. I finally commit and check the clock. Hmm, the spin class I like starts in 1.5 hours. I have JUST ENOUGH TIME to get there.

First, I feed and change Ryan. This alone takes at least 30 minutes. While getting him dressed I remember I need an extra outfit for his diaper bag. I don't know for sure if he actually NEEDS an extra outfit each time we go or if the people in the childwatch center just like to play house and dress him like a doll. Without fail, he is always wearing a different outfit when I pick him up. I reach my hand inside the mountainous pile of clean laundry in my bedroom and pull out the first thing that feels like a baby outfit. One day I'm going to throw everyone for a loop and accidentally pack some lingerie. I can just see their faces now....

I walk to the livingroom and see Jacob in his pajamas. "Jacob. Get dressed, we're going to the Y."

I change out of my "unacceptable-for-public-viewing" yoga pants and change into my "acceptable" yoga pants. The difference between these is usually just the amount of spit up caked onto each one. Let's face it, these days, my wardrobe decisions are pretty simple: yoga pants, or yoga pants? Is it more socially acceptable to wear yoga pants when they cost $60 and are from Nordstrom? Or am I just kidding myself?

After I get dressed, I pack my workout bag. I throw in some shorts. A tank top. Clean undergarments-usually if I forget this particular item, I am ok with rewearing an old pair inside out. But today they are essential because but I totally DRAW THE LINE of using this trick after a sweaty spin class.

I come back out to the living room and see that Jacob is half naked. "Jacob, you need pants!"

"Why?" Jacob asks. "What happens if I go to the Y without pants?"

"Everyone will see you and scream, 'Hey! that guy has no pants on!'" I respond.

"But I want people to say that." He says with a grin.

"Pants. Now."

I buckle Ryan into his carseat and check my bags. Dang, I forgot my towel. I run and get it. Oh and shampoo. I throw both items into my work out bag.

Jacob comes out of his room appropriately dressed.

"Go get your shoes on." I say as I search the cabinets frantically for my water bottle. I find it hiding in the most logical spot- somewhere I never would have put it.

Then I pack Ryan's diaper bag. I spend the next 10 minutes tracking down and grabbing the following items: a pre-made bottle, diapers, wipes, binky, extra bib, burpcloth, butt cream, nursing pads, nursing cover, baby sweater in case the weather changes. Hmm, I think that's everything.

"Mommy, can I bring a toy?" Jacob asks me.

"Only if you can share with the other kids." I respond, knowing full well that he will either lose the toy or that he will cry when other kids want to play with it. Jacob spends 3 minutes sorting through all his toys and selecting two very special cars, one for each hand. Finally, it looks like we're ready.

I open the door and let Jacob out ahead of me while I put my shoes on. On my way out, I grab an extra jacket for myself and Jacob. I then make my first trip to the car to load the diaper and gym bags. Then I come back for Ryan. As I walk out the door, I see a stack of baby diapers lying on the floor. Oh no! Disaster averted! I grab the diapers and carry them out to the car as I lock up behind me.

Jacob is in his carseat, kicking his legs against the passenger seat. I suddenly remember that they won't let him into the sports class if he's wearing crocs. I get Ryan into the car and run back into the house and grab Jacob's sneakers. He'll have to change when we get there because my spin class is starting soon.

I plop into the driver's seat and do a quick mental checklist.  That's when I notice that my water bottle is not in it's usual compartment. UGH! I run BACK into the house and search for it frantically. There it is, on a kitchen counter. I grab it and run back outside, locking the door.

I go two steps further before it occurs to me that I should bring a sweat rag. I sweated so much during my first spin class that liquid was pouring down my forehead, running along the ridge of my nose, and pooling on the floor in front of me. I grab my keys out of my pocket, unlock the door AGAIN, and make a mad dash to grab whatever rag I can find. I get back to my car, hoping that my kids are still there.

Jacob is sitting patiently in his carseat, kicking his legs, and singing the chorus of my favorite Taylor Swift song (score one for mommy!), and Ryan is scowling from his carseat as if to say, "Are you ready YET?!"

We finally get to the Y with three minutes to spare before my class starts. Days like today, when it takes me 60 minutes to get everyone out the door for my 60 minute class, I sometimes feel like it's not worth it. But then I unload my kids and all their stuff at the Childwatch center and the most amazing feeling rushes over me. The feeling of being FREE. For the next 60 minutes, I don't have to worry about anyone else. I can focus on just myself...and the tight biker shorts on the guy riding the bike in front of me.

Before I had two kids, I never in a million years would have saw the gym as a mini-vacation. I could tell people that I go to the Y everyday because I'm training for a half marathon or working to rebuild my abs. But honestly, I go to the Y everyday so that I can have conversations with other adults --conversations that don't revolve around poop. So that, after my spin class, I can take a 20 minute shower BY MYSELF without hearing a baby cry or a toddler ask me for juice five thousand times in a row.

Basically, I go to the Y so that, for even just a short period of time, I can feel like a normal human.  Even if I'm just pretending.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lil' Cowpoke Room

This week over at Kelly's Korner's Show Us Your Life - Home Tours it's all about kids' rooms

Welcome to our oldest little cowboy, Keeler’s room!  Keeler will be four in July.  
It is so hard to believe that my baby will be four years old!
 Keeler’s bedroom is still one my very favorite rooms of our house. I love the wall color, BenjaminMoore’s pistachio ice cream.  It is such a calming and fresh color.  This room might also seem so calm and relaxing since his room is where we spend our special time reading before bedtime and where he sleeps.  He doesn't hardly ever play in his room.  He typically drags toys from the playroom to the living room to be with us.  Who else has a playroom that never gets used?!

This dresser is from Target.  I decoupaged the drawers with bandana scrapbook paper to tie it in with the western theme, which I think gives it a fun finishing touch.

 Again, I decoupaged wooden letters from Hobby Lobby for his name above his bed.  This is an easy and inexpensive project.

My sister-in-law gave us Keeler’s name made out of rope.  It has always been one of my favorite pieces in his room.  You can find them at

The “imagine” in his room is the same gift that we gave all the hostesses at Keeler’s baby shower.  The word "Imagine" is so fitting for children...imagine where life will take them!    

This little mirror is hung low so Keeler can look at himself before he heads off to school.  Every kid loves to look in the mirror!  The backpack was another special gift for Keeler.  It was given to him by my cousin Ashley when he was a ring bearer in her wedding.

I bought this little cow print hanger for Keeler when I was pregnant, even before we knew if he was going to be a boy.  My cousin Ashley was with me and talked me into it.  I guess she knew that my life would be full of little cowboys before we even did :)  
The little chaps hanging are a gift from Keeler's uncle Troy.  He had them specially made for Keeler when he turned 2.  They are even marked with Keeler's own brand, "KB"!  I just love seeing him all deck out in his cowboy gear!  The good thing is when he outgrows them they can be passed down to Kallahan.
Kallahan, cowboy Keeler & Brynlee
Here is a picture of Keeler’s nursery when he was an infant at our old house.  The crib bedding was custom and our one splurge once we knew baby was a little cowboy.  The bedding became the inspiration for the entire room which we carried over to the new house.  Oh how I miss the hardwood floors!  Hopefully our plan of switching out the carpet to hardwood this winter actually occurs.

If you would also like to check out our youngest little cowboy’s nursery jump over to this post!  I went with bright colors for this happy baby.  
Thanks for stopping by! 
Have a wonderful weekend.

May this Home  be blessed with Laughter of children, 
the Warmth of close family, Hope for the future, 
and fond Memories of the past.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Drunken Chicken, Monsoon Style

Last weekend, we ate at Monsoon, a delicious Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle. All the dishes we tried were great. But my absolute favorite was the most popular dish on their menu- drunken chicken. It was so good that it's all I've thought about this past week. I wondered if I could recreate it- or at least come slightly close.

Apparently, there are many versions of drunken chicken. At least this is what I discovered from my google searching. The traditional Chinese dish is marinated overnight in a rice wine sauce and served cold. There is also a version in which the chicken is coated in a beer batter. But I was craving the drunken chicken that I had at Monsoon. It was an american take on the Chinese version. The chicken was deep fried and served with a rice wine sauce.

To make the dish, I started with a traditional Chinese recipe that I found and changed it up a bit. I took the rice wine marinade (an internet source told me I could use dry sherry instead of rice wine) tinkered just a little bit, and reduced it into a yummy sauce. Then I fried the chicken pieces (the Chiense version calls for poaching the chicken) and drizzled the sauce on top.

My first try didn't work so well. But my second try did! The result was fantastic. Of course, it's not JUST like the restaurant (which I HIGHLY recommend) but it's close, at least according to my memory.

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 cups sherry
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp juice from one ginger
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp sugar
Cooked rice
Green onions for garnish

1. First tackle the sauce so that the alcohol has enough time to burn off. To get the juice out of the ginger, peel the ginger and shred it. Take the shavings and squeeze them over a bowl. Fresh ginger is pretty juicy! Be careful not to stick to the 1.5 teaspoons of ginger and not use too much. Fresh ginger has a very potent flavor, which I learned the hard way.

2. Combine the sherry, water, soy sauce, ginger, salt and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Bring it to a boil then turn the heat down to let it simmer. Simmer until the alcohol burns off- you have to keep tasting it to know for sure when it's done. It should eventually be sweet with a taste of ginger. The sauce won't really thicken but it tastes fantastic anyway! If I recall correctly, the restaurant's sauce wasn't very thick either.

3. Beat your eggs into a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and whisk until it all combines. The mixture should be thick enough to stick to the chicken.

4. Dip chicken pieces into the coating and drop them into a deep fryer (or you can pan fry them over the stove but you will have to turn them over halfway through).

4. When chicken pieces are golden brown, remove from fryer and let them cool on a stack of paper towels. Place the chicken on a dish and drizzle the sauce on top. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions!

Ryan Says

Project Vegetable Garden

This is our first year with a real garden.
Matt's parents were kind enough to construct a garden box for us as well as provide us with all the necessary ingredients for filling it.
My little Pipe is interested and has a green thumb.
(Yay for grandparents who are happy to invest in their grandkids' education!)
Project Vegetable Garden here we come!
Ah, the excitement!
Problem is, depending on my little green thumb only goes so far.
She knows what a weed looks like about as much as I do!
(ie. No idea...)
So instead of entertaining you with a post filled with beautiful garden pictures a la Heather, I'm putting you to work!

1. Weed or plant??

2. Beet or weed??

3. Carrot or weed??

4. Thin the lettuce?
Yes or no?

5. Swiss chard ready to pick or let it grow some more??

6. Is this a bad sign for our tomato plants or normal?

7. Did I thin the cucumber enough??

I know.
You're laughing your bum off at me now.
But I am really getting into this whole gardening thing.
I might even be considered hardcore....

That's right.
I was out pulling weeds in the rain yesterday.
Hubby thought a pic in my rainy gardening attire would be fun.

And even though I don't know a whole lot about gardening, I'm enjoying learning together with my girls!
Piper was right out there pulling weeds with me.

Plus I know that these are good signs that we must be doing something right!
(And my attempt to be like Heather, my gardening hero...I can hear her comments as I type this. Hahaha! But seriously, check out her blog! It is tres cool!)

"If you plant seeds with love, love will surely grow."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poopy Mail, Hostage Candy, And Free Grocery Store Childcare

The thought of keeping up a blog about my kids was really daunting at first. I kept thinking- "What happens if I run out of things to say? What happens if there are no more weird or funny stories?" No need to worry at ALL. I seriously couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Who knew having two kids created so much craziness.

This morning, Jacob was full of questions:

"This is fascinating!... What does 'fascinating' mean?"

"Mommy, what does 'pain in the neck' mean?"

"Am I supposed to wear my swimsuit in the pool? What happens if I don't? Grandma Cathy let's me be naked in her pool."

When I needed a break from playing teacher, I announced that I was going to get the mail. When I opened the door, Jacob began to giggle. I wondered what he was giggling about but didn't give it too much thought. I stepped outside and smiled at the sun on my way to the mailbox. I soon discovered EXACTLY what was so funny:

Jacob had stuck Ryan's sopping wet, overnight diaper in the mailbox. Ew. I pulled it out by pinching the very edge of it with my fingers (but not before running inside to grab a camera). I really hope he put it in there AFTER the mailman had already come by.

We spent the rest of the morning hanging out and talking to Ryan until he got tired. Ryan has stopped falling asleep in his swing. My electronic babysitter is failing me (NOOOOO!). So I broke my back rocking him to sleep several times. But every time I put him down, he startled himself awake and began to scream. So I picked him up and rocked him again. This has become our new sleep-time routine and it's getting really old. I do not believe in sleep training methods, especially the "Cry It Out" method. But even if I wanted to do one, Ryan is way too young. So, I just chant my mantra of "enjoy the rough times" and remind myself to take pleasure in the fact that I have a kid that actually WANTS to be held.

Fast forward to when Ryan is finally sleeping. This is when I endured a brand new form of torture. Mommy torture: being stuck at home with two crabby boys, KNOWING that there is an entire container of chocolate covered almonds somewhere in the house but not being able to find it because your husband hid it from you!!

Text Messages:

Me: "Where are the chocolate covered almonds?"

Husband: "I hid them from abusive eaters."

Me: "I NEED them. Tell me where they are."

 -- No response--


-- Still no response--


I started tearing apart the kitchen trying to find the secret hiding spot. Unfortunately, all I found was stale, unwrapped Pez candies and a mini chocolate santa.

I glanced down at Jacob's train table...and I saw it! There, glistening atop a wooden train track, was one lonely and forgotten chocolate almond. You have no idea how happy this made me. Finally, a taste! Just a TASTE of chocolate! I scooped it up and realized it was just one of Jacob's polished rocks. My shoulders slumped and I nearly cried in disappointment.

After more text-begging, I still had no response from my husband. So I packed up both kids- even sleeping Ryan- and dragged them all downtown under the pretext of going to the park. This park just happens to be two blocks from an ice cream shop.

It ended up being a great day to visit the park. It was warm out and the fountains had attracted a number of families to splash around in the water. Both kids enjoyed the fresh air. It was awesome. But not as awesome as the ice cream we ate afterwards.

I'm not c-c-cold!

My handsome guy enjoying from a distance.

Because I still hadn't learned my lesson about choosing grocery delivery, I stopped at the grocery store on our way home. Ryan started to fuss as soon as we walked in the door but I was determined to get what I needed for the dinner I had planned in my head. I headed for the produce aisle first. To calm Ryan's cries, everytime I had to stop to pick out an item, I jiggled the cart back and forth while "shushing" him. I know I looked weird but I stopped caring about looking cool at the grocery store long ago.

Eventually, Ryan was done with my pathetic attempts to soothe him. He began to wail. I quickly ran to the baby aisle and picked up the Most Amazing Thing Ever:

Ready-made baby bottles full of formula. A lazy/travelling mom's savior!

I looked around me to see if anyone was watching, then I ripped the package open. I plopped a bottle straight into Ryan's mouth and he was immediately soothed.

But right at that moment, Jacob exclaimed, "I have to pee!"

"You have to hold it for one minute" I said.

"I CAN'T!" He cried dancing up and down holding his crotch.

"Fine. You have to go by yourself then." I said desperately as I shooed him towards the bathroom doors. Just then, one of the grocery checkers stopped by to admire Ryan, who still had a bottle in his mouth. I was really embarrassed about the opened-but-not-paid-for package of bottles sitting right there in the cart but the grocery store employee didn't seem to mind. We chatted for a couple minutes when I realized that Jacob had still not returned.

"My three year old went to the bathroom and he's not back yet." I said, not knowing what to do.

"I'll feed your baby while you go get him." The checker offered.

"OK. Thanks SO MUCH!" I yelled back at the cart as I made a mad dash towards the bathrooms. Really? I just left my two month old (and my wallet) with a random grocery store employee? Mom of the Year Award?

I was just about to enter the Women's bathroom when an older man walks out of the Men's room. "Are you Jacob's mommy?" He asked.

"Yes." I replied, almost out of breath.

"There's a little boy in there who can't reach the sink to wash his hands. He told me his mommy was out here waiting." At that moment, I didn't know whether to be proud that I had instilled such a strong habit of handwashing in my son or frustrated that he couldn't just come out and tell me himself.

"You can go in there," the older gentlemen says, "the Men's room is empty now."

And, for not the first time in my life, heck, not even the first time THIS YEAR, I opened the door to the Men's bathroom and walked right in. (Someday I'll tell you about the time I strutted into a men's bathroom and didn't realize it was the men's bathroom until I walked out of the stall and saw three pairs of puzzled MALE eyes staring me down). I walked into the Men's bathroom, the smell of pee overwhelming, and I saw Jacob standing by the tall bathroom counter, looking helpless. When he saw me, his eyes lit up.

"Mommy! I went into THE.....(he paused for drum-roll effect) BOY'S BATHROOM!"

"Yeah, I know Jake. Here I'll help you reach."

"Can Moms come in here when they need to help boys named Jacob wash their hands?"

"Yes, Jake." I plopped some soap in his hands and helped him scrub.

"Mommy, where's Ry?"

Oh crap! Good question. "Come on, we gotta go!" I grabbed Jacob who was in mid-wipe with a paper towel and whisked him out of the bathroom. Ryan was still there, thank goodness. He was cooing away at the grocery store employee.

"Thank you SO MUCH." I tell her. "For not being a serial killer or pedophile" I added in my head.

Having had enough adventure for one trip, we finished up and paid for groceries. It wasn't until I unloaded the car back at home that I noticed Ryan had picked up a new bad habit. My little petty thief:

Sorry grocery store. We owe you $2.49.

Also, I noticed that my husband had beat us home AND that the container of chocolate covered almonds had mysteriously returned to their rightful place in the pantry.