Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wish Me Luck!

Monday we are leaving on our first "family" vacation!  Typically to me, a vacation means boutique hotels, expensive restaurants, massages, wine, lots of laying around.  This is my idea of fun.  But this year, we are biting the bullet and inviting the kids along.  As a matter of fact, we are having a decidely "kid's" trip.  This means chain hotels, theme parks, and probably no fine dining.  I'm excited but a little bit terrified!

I've done my research and think I have a pretty good plan.  We booked a hotel right outside of Sea World with a free trolly, so no $15 to park in a ginormous lot 1/2 mile from the gate.  Hotel will have full breakfast every morning, and lots of pools for the kiddos to play in.  We also got a suite, my splurge as I do NOT want to sleep in the same room as my children.  I know, cold-hearted mother...I need my sleep!  We have purchased our park tickets online; one bad reviewer said they stood in line for 1 1/2 hours just to buy tickets.  This would probably not fly with Hubby.  He believes in an analysis of his time versus the perceived outcome or some accounting class jibberish like that.  So, glad I dodged that bullet!  The Sea World San Antonio reviews are a pretty mixed bag so I'm not really sure what to expect.  We went several times to the one in Orlando when I was a child and it seemed so magical, I just want my children to have some of that same experience.  We will see.

This is a just mini vacay, a toe in the water of traveling with kids.  If this works out, maybe we will actually try more.  If not, it's back to Grammie and Grandpa's house for the rugrats while Hubby and I hit the road (or air) on our own!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Let's Go the the Movies...

Last year, some friends told me about this awesomely awesome summer kids' movie series that many theaters do.  It sounded grea but sadly, I had a baby and our one attempt at seeing a movie last year (Shrek 4), consisted of me driving a crying baby around for two hours while my mother stayed in the theater with my daughter, niece, and nephew.  Soooo, this year by gosh we are going to the movies!

Our local theater is awesome (The Warren Theater).  It really brings to mind the old-Hollywood glamour when going to the movies was an event, and a luxury.  Of course, with today's prices, going to the movies pretty much IS a luxury.  The children's movie series is such a great idea, and a good deal.  I tend to be a little cheap, and it's hard for me to fork over nearly $20 for two children's matinee tickets when I know I can get the movie for free in a couple of months at my local library.  But, all summer long, my kids can watch (not new) movies on Tuesdays and Thursday's for just $2 each.  And kids under 2 and apparently parents are free, because they only charged me for my pre-schooler!  So, here's the schedule for our theater:  http://www.warrentheatres.com/moorekidsshows.pdf.  Check your local theater and see if they do something similar.

Of course, we still didn't make it all of the way through the movie.  Somewhere past the hour mark, I ran out of purse snacks and my son started trying to escape and doing that oh-so-cute thing where he randomly screams words like "No!" "Down!" and "I done!"  Hmmm...very cryptic.  And even though the place was packed with day-care groups, we suddenly became the most obnoxious people in the theater.  Granted, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a bit scarier on a 30 foot screen with state-of-the-art surround sound!  I still thought it was a success.  For $2 my kids had a fun activity and we tried something new.  I can't wait until July for Megamind!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stepping Stone Project

For my daughter's birthday last October, a friend of mine gave her a make-your-own stepping stone kit.  Well, we finally made the stone this last weekend.  It was such fun, messy, messy fun!  Both of my kids had fun stirring the sloopy mixture and pouring it into the mold.  Then, we put those little baby tootsies in the mold.  I'm glad we didn't wait much longer to do this project, their little feet just barely fit together inside the circle.  As a side not, the mixture hardens quickly, especially on top, so don't wait to long to make your hand/foot impression.

We let the stone dry for the rest of that day and then painted the next day.  This was the really fun part!  My daughter was so excited to have actual, real paint (her first time).  She methodically chose each color and where it would go.  She even graciously let brother paint a couple of small areas, with lots of shouted directions on her part.  Then, it was time for glitter.  Ah glitter, the thrill of every child and the nemesis of every mommy!  Either way, she was thrilled with the outcome of the whole thing.  She kept saying "Oh, I love it so.  I so love it mommy!"  Here is the final product:

You can't see the little tootsies very well, but they are there.  I love the size difference!  I think I will do something similar every year.  What a cute and creative gift idea, I love this!  I love it so.  I so love it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Activity Week!

So, I didn't want to over-schedule my children this summer and I decided to limit our "official" activities to just two.  Smart, right?  Well, it turns out that those two activities are both happening this week!  Not so smart, right?  This week our day consists of waking up, spending an hour or two at home, getting ready, going to swim class, coming home for lunch, nap, then getting ready for gymnastics camp, going to gymnastics camp, coming home and oh wait, it's almost dinner time.  Whew, this is going to be a looooonnnnnnggggg week!  And don't even get me started thinking about the days this week when I have to be at work at 5 after all of this madness.  You know, "work" because clearly I spend my time at home painting my nails and eating chocolate.

Okay, so they are both really enjoying swim class.  And I think my daughter is really going to enjoy gymnastics camp.  I, however am not going to enjoy spending 45 minutes of my day chasing my son around a stinky gym, dragging him off of the mats, retrieving small toys from the filthy floor under the bleachers, and generally shushing and wrangling him as best I can.  Hello, terrible twos!   On the plus side, we are having good naps and no fussing at bedtime.  You know, that good old "wear 'em out" trick!  And I realize that two activities in one day is not the madness that some poor mommies must face every day.  Maybe if my son was not such a fearless little monkey, or maybe if it wasn't so dang hot every day, it wouldn't seem like so much work dragging them around town all day.  But, unfortunately my son IS a fearless monkey and it IS so dang hot!  I see a couple of extra glasses of wine in my week and I'm not afraid to admit it.  One day down, four more to go....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tropical Fish Dinner

My family consists of two reluctant fish eaters and two happy fish eaters.  This means that I have to dress up fish, and not make it very often, in order for it to go over well.  This recipe was a complete success:

Mango Black Bean Salsa

3 Green onions, sliced
Handful flat-leaf parsley (cilantro if your family allows, mine does not), chopped
Juice of 4-5 key limes, or 1-2 regular limes
1 Mango, cubed
1 Can black beans, drained and rinsed
1T Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(Corn, chopped red pepper, or a jalapeno would all be wonderful as well in this salsa that's really a salad.)

Combine all salsa ingredients a few hours before dinner and let it sit for flavors to "marry."
For fish:
2-4 Medium filets tilapia, patted dry
1 T each olive oil and butter
Juice of 1 more key lime
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat large skillet with butter and oil.  Season fish with salt and pepper and squeeze lime over them.  Saute in skillet until opaque, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove to paper towel-lined plate.

Tomato Bread:
1/2 baguette, halved length-wise

Broil in hot oven until lightly toasted

Rub hot bread with the cut side if 1/2 clove of garlic, do the same with a 1/2 tomato.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Mmmm.....you can't believe how simple and fabulous this is!  I can't take credit for this, I got the idea from my good friend Rachael Ray.  Of course, she didn't invent it either.  Those amazing Spanish have apparently been doing this forever.  Oh, it's so yummy, I could eat it every day!  

Beautiful, healthy, and everybody ate it!  You can't beat that!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recipe: Fiesta Chicken Casserole

Nearly two years ago (which blows my mind by the way), my son was born.  A good friend of mine brought us a truly yummy concoction of chicken, veggies, black beans, and rice.  Every so often it pops into my head and I keep intending to ask her for the recipe but of course, I always forget.  Tonight is a work night for me, which means dinner needs to be simple and hopefully assembled ahead of time.  So here I am, chicken and rice, chicken and rice, what to make, what to make...Voila!  Here is my interpretation of that tasty and thoughtful meal, which of course reminds me of the snugly, sleepy newborn that came into our lives two years ago.

Fiesta Chicken Casserole

1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed, patted dry and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 cups brown instant rice
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
4-5 small or 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as small as possible (the better to hide from picky eaters)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
3-4 green onions, sliced
1-2 cups cheese of choice

Season chicken as desired (I used black pepper, paprika, cumin, and coriander).  Brown in 1T olive oil in medium skillet.  Remove chicken from pan and drain on paper towels.  Add veggies to pan and saute 5-10 minutes.  Add beans and tomatoes and cook through.  While chicken and veggies are cooking, prepare rice according to package directions.
Stir veggie/chicken mixture and rice together in large casserole dish.  Stir in some raw green onion slices, like the white parts.  Scatter with choice of cheese.

I intended to use Queso Fresco and Pepper Jack, but thought I should play it safe since there are spicy chilies in the dish as well.  My daughter does not exactly love Mexican flavorings and I thought I would be better able to trick (um, I mean encourage) her to eat it if I hid it under "regular orange cheese."  If you haven't tried Queso Fresco before, I encourage it.  It is sort of like solidified cottage cheese or ricotta, just very creamy and mild.  And, like Feta, it doesn't melt and I like the texture it has when cooked.

Oh, back to the recipe: top with the green onion tops, if desired.  I love green onions, love them!  Between the green onions and the black beans, this little baby  has two of my top favs in it.  Mmmm....check out this hunk a, hunk a, burning pot of love!  And it's not even cooked yet.  I don't know if this is exactly my friend's recipe, but it looks good to me and I am appreciative of the inspiration!
When it is time to eat, I will pop this little beauty in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through.  Come on dinner time!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mom-a-fessions

Last week I realized that my driver's license had expired.  By about eight months.  Which meant that I had to have my mom bring up my birth certificate so that I could verify my identity.  So, this afternoon I went to the tag agency with my children to get my new license.  Thank goodness they didn't make me take the test again; I can't park to save my life!

Anyway, it turns out that the tag agency late on a Monday afternoon (the first Monday of the month) is full of people, FULL!  Also, it is about 100 degrees right now where I live.  So, there I am with my kiddos, crowded into a small, hot room with a bunch of strangers (emphasis on the word strange).  Like the smart kids that they are, mine quickly realize that mommy is trapped and distracted.  Perfect opportunity to start running, screaming, needling for snacks, playing with the signs in the window, anything they can do to be as obnoxious, aggravating, and distracting as possible.  For extra fun, my son took to throwing tantrums on the floor when I tried to make him sit.  Have you ever tried to drag a screaming toddler off of the floor, while wearing a dress, in an overheated room full of strangers.  There is no modest way to do that.

My kids are good kids, but they have their moments and today was a perfect storm of bad decisions on all of our parts.  So, finally after nearly an hour of torture, I drag my sweaty babies back into the car and try to head for our next stop, a small grocery run.  My daughter is in the back seat shouting demands of me over and over.  My son has taken his shoe off and is shrieking at the top of  his lungs to have it put back on.  Somewhere on a residential street, I did something that I have thus far never done as a mother.  I put the car in park, turned around and screamed "Shut up!!!"  And maybe again...and again.  We then actually drove in silence for a few minutes to our next stop.  I did apologize when we got to the store but I made sure that they apologized to me as well.  I don't know if they really got it, but it made me feel better.  I was horrified by this behavior, my own and theirs.  Ugh, this motherhood thing is so stinkin' hard sometimes!  But, I have learned a small lesson...get the errands done in the morning (particularly in the summer), when kids and mommies are still a little fresh and energetic, not an hour before dinner time when everyone is becoming tired and cranky.

This little episode did make me think though.  My kids are loved, wanted and well cared for.  My husband and I are married college graduates, homeowners with supportive families, great friends, and money to pay our bills.  Consider the single parent, the teen parent, the unemployed parent, the grandparent on their second round of this madness.  Parenthood is hard and we all make mistakes.  I am embarrassed by my behavior towards my children today but I chose to share hoping that it will help us all remember to show our fellow hard-working, well-meaning parents a little support and understanding.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Garage Sales...Jury is Still Out

So, I had a garage sale this weekend.  I've been threatening to do it for years.  I can't stand clutter, mess, too much stuff.  Periodically I get a wild hair and go about the house, shoving unnecessary things into a box and labeling it "garage sale" for husband to shove into the attic.  Well, it turns out that if you do that enough, you eventually pretty much have to have a garage sale.  In the past, when I  have mentioned this idea to husband, he has groused and rolled his eyes, not thrilled at all with the idea.  This time, he went into the attic and hauled down approximately 30 large boxes of baby clothes, toys, old dishes, never used wedding gifts, old electronics, you get the drift.

So, off I went to the local newspaper to get my permit and place my ad.  I spent the better part of my evenings last week assembling the garage sale in my garage (go figure) after exhausting my friends of their stockpile of folding tables large and small.  When the big day arrived, I was ready, with $40 in small bills and change stored in as wooden box, my mother to run interference on my kids, and a NookBook pre-loaded.  Then nothing. And more nothing.  Then, car after car after car of people picking through my stuff.  Then nothing.  This went on for two days and the final tally was about $250.  Sound pretty good, right?  Unless you count the fact that I could have made approximately that same amount working 16 hours at my part-time job, and I spent way more than 16 hours on this madness.  Then there is the fact that my mother cleaned out an entire closet from my grandma's house and brought it here as her "donation" to the sale, and about 85% of it didn't sell.  So, now I have an entire closet in my house dedicated to barely used grandma-esque Dillards clothes (she has a credit card and she's not afraid to use it, people).

Tomorrow, I make a call to Goodwill and hope they will come make the final step in de-garage sell-ing my house.  It was a good learning experience and a little fun to realize that I pretty much has a couple hundred dollars in cash sitting around my house.  But, it was a lot of work, and a little bit strange trying to sell little bits of my life, however small and insignificant.  Will I do it again?  Probably.  I mean, that's the thing with life, we keep growing and leaving the old stuff behind.  If you can follow the three R's of green living (reduce, reuse, recycle), garage sales make perfect sense.  Even if they are a ridonculous pain in the arse!

PS-If you are a softie like me, chances are you will spend a great deal of your garage sale time collecting and re-boxing those "special" items that you just can't sell.  Christmas dresses, first feety pj's, a favorite toy, newborn clothes, particularly cute outfits and so on.  This will mean that you will end up with a (hopefully smaller) pile of boxes labeled "keep" that you have to convince husband to haul back into the attic.  Good luck with that!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Free Range Summer...For a Week or So

I love the beginning of summer.  Those long, lazy days of roaming and relaxing.  Nowhere to go, nothing to do.  It's spectacular...for about a week.  Then I go crazy and need to get back into activity mode.  So, this week is our "free range" week.  It's also our garage sale week...more about that later.  So, here's what we have done this week:  chased ducks at our local pond; gone on long neighborhood walks (well, long for a three-year-old); checked out a snake; ventured to the playground in the adjacent neighborhood (instead of the one across the street); gone to a friend's house for play; made smoothie Popsicles; picked wildflowers; gone swimming; colored with markers (markers, people!); met friends for dinner and play at the temple of pre-school eating, Chick Fil A.
 
These are just a few fun and lazy summer activities.  It's been great, but also a little mind-numbing.  I'm more of a "get out and do things" kind of mom, hence the title of my blog.  But, the kids have had so much fun just roaming around our neighborhood (and yes, watching tv) and for me it was an important reminder to take time to relax and just let my kids set the tone.  And, it's a good thing we took this week 'cuz next Monday starts about 4 weeks of classes, camps, trips, and other "structured" activities!  It's a balance, this mommy-hood thing.  But, the "off" week is absolutely something I am going to try and work into the routine every now and then.

Here's my fabulous berry smoothie recipe, turned into a Popsicle...yum!

1 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used fresh blueberries and frozen raspberries)
8 oz. plain or vanilla low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 fresh banana
1/2 cup orange juice
1-2 T agave nectar or honey
handful of ice

Blend until smooth-ish.  Enjoy fresh or pour into Popsicle molds.  Freeze several hours and enjoy, preferably outside.  I mean, come on, Popsicles and outside just go together!  Take time to relax this summer.