Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Road Trip

Growing up, we would take an extended family vacation every other year. We'd pack up our dark blue Chevy van (with interior mood lighting) and head out for 2-3 weeks. Most of the time we went west - to visit relatives in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and California - stopping at National Parks and places of interest along the way. Staying in a hotel was a rare treat. Instead, we stayed overnight at campgrounds where my two sisters and I would share a dome tent and sleep in sleeping bags while our parents stayed in the van. If we didn't camp, that meant we were probably staying with a relative.

We had a box of dry food (chips, crackers, cereal) and a cooler of perishables (sandwich meat, cheese, milk). Lunches would be sandwiches at roadside parks or rest stops. We could snack while on the road and my sisters and I would argue about who got the back seat, who got the floor in the back and who had to sit in the captain's chair in the middle (the last choice because it meant we couldn't lie down and read/nap/listen to our walkman as easily).

I can say through those vacations, and some trips of my own or with the hub in later years, I've been to (or at least passed through) roughly 41 of the 50 states. And I've had the privilege of seeing some major natural attractions with my own eyes.

Mount Rushmore - check
Grand Canyon - check
Yellowstone - check
Washington DC - check
and numerous others...

I'm sure I'm using selective memory about how great these vacations were (maybe I should ask my parents how much fun it was to travel with three girls for weeks on end) but I remember them as wonderful family road trips. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but a wonderful experience and a way to see things I might not have gotten a chance to otherwise.

Even now I enjoy taking long road trips. I like watching the scenery change as we go from state to state and seeing the road stretch out in front of me. We haven't had the chance to go on many trips with the kiddos, but both the hub and I hope to be able to do some similar vacations when the kiddos get older.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mmm.... toes

It always cracks me up to see babies discover their feet. It's like they've discovered the new world or something. Which, I guess they have in a way.

The kidlet has known about her feet for a while, and her favorite past time seems to be munching on her toes. The first thing she does when we set her on the changing table is grab her feet and point them to her mouth.

What, can't a girl get some privacy with her toes?

I guess it's okay.

Oh Daddy, you're so silly! (aside: note the fabulous smoochable baby chub. Sigh.)

Here I go!

Mission accomplished. Mmmm.... toes....

Like mother like daughter, though. I was the same way, see:

Poor girl. I fear she's inherited my ginormous size 10 feet. You know, there just aren't enough cute shoes for gals with big feet. Especially gals who still like to wear heels even though they're 5'10" already.

And how did I have so much hair when I was a baby, with curls to boot? Both my sisters were baldies, both my kids were/are baldies. Heck, I don't even think I have that much hair now, and it certainly doesn't curl like that! Hmph.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I would walk 500 miles

I have a fairly personal post brewing in my head right now and I'm trying to decide if I really want to post it or not.

But in the meantime, while I mull over that, I'll share about our totally awesome new double jogging stroller.

I've mentioned my love for walking before. Seriously, it's my drug of choice. Even though I did the Couch to 5K program two years ago, and will do it again this year (and hopefully convince my sister to run a 5K with me), I prefer walking over everything else. Especially walking outside.

With the kiddo, it was super easy to just pop him in the stroller, grab the dog, and go. Now that we have two kiddos, it's not that convenient. I either have to wait until the kiddo is taking a nap so that I can take the kidlet alone or have the hub stay with the kidlet while I take the kiddo out on a walk (and then I can't use my iPod like I normally do because the kiddo is constantly peppering me with questions: "Mommy? See that bird? What's that mommy? Are we going on a walk? Is Ripley (our dog) pooping? Mommy? Mommy?").

A few times we did successfully get the entire family out by having one of us wear the kidlet in a carrier, but that was not the most comfortable of solutions.

I'd wanted a double stroller, and once we got our tax refund, we finally sat down, did some research and decided to order one. We ended up buying the Baby Jogger Summit 360 double (in a smashing red color, even though the kiddo wanted blue. Sorry bub, but mommy gets the ultimate say.)

This thing is AWESOME! We took it for a test drive tonight as it was the only time in the next 5 days that would 1) be above 40 degrees and 2) not raining/snowing. Both kids (even the 40", 43-lb 3-year-old kiddo) fit in it with plenty of room to spare and it drove like a dream. You could hardly feel the bumps through the tires (and we have some pretty bumpy sidewalks) and you barely had to push it to get it moving. I am going to LOVE walking with this during the summer.

And I can't wait to see what my arms will look like after pushing around 60+ pounds of kiddos for the next five months. Hello biceps!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I hate dishes

Even though our current house has loads of charm and character, 10' ceilings and hardwood floors, it seriously lacks in the kitchen department.

The kitchen is small. It has an old, questionable refrigerator (that the hub likes because it has the freezer on the bottom), a microwave that we bought used because the original microwave went on the fritz (shorted when the handle -- which was held on by duct tape -- came off when I was trying to open it mid-nuke), and ugly linoleum with gouges and cigarette burns from the previous owner.

But the biggest downfall? No dishwasher.

I realize in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal. There are only 4 of us and, outside of bottles, we don't dirty that many dishes. But it's still annoying. I've gotten into the habit of doing the dishes right after supper because I hate coming down to a sink full of nasty, crusty dishes left over from the night before.

Just once, I'd like to be able to go back downstairs from putting the kids to bed and just sit and veg in front of the couch. I don't want to spend 20-30 minutes putting away the dry dishes from the night before and washing the dirty dishes from that night's supper. The hub is good at helping a fair amount, but I'm the one generally responsible for them. He does the majority of the laundry, though, so I guess that's a wash. Heh heh, get it? Wash...

We often talk about Someday. Someday we'll have our house in the country. Someday we'll have our garden. Someday we'll have a working fireplace. Well, Someday, I'll have a big kitchen with new appliances and a big island with butcher block countertops and a Dishwasher. That is my dream. That and non dishpan hands.

Hello, Spring?

It was so lovely this past weekend. Highs of 60-70, sunny with a nice breeze. Spring! At last!

And then Mother Nature had to yank it away from us, again. I don't think it's topped 40 yet today. I'm not really surprised. I'm used to it, actually, but that doesn't stop me from complaining about it.

I love living in a part of the country where we have four distinct seasons. And I love each and every one of them. Sure, I whine and moan when it's -15 in the middle of January or 95 with 95% humidity in August, but I love them just the same.

I am so ready for spring, though!

The plants are ready, too. Our yard is starting to show patches of green, the green-red spikes of the tulip leaves are coming out in droves on the east and south side of the house, as are the pale green iris. Even the neglected chives that are stuck in a terra cotta pot are getting tiny green shoots on them. Aside: one of my favorite snacks growing up was to take a big scoop of cottage cheese and then go out and yank some fresh chive from the side of the house. Yum!

I'm ready to open the windows and let the stale air blow from the house.

I'm ready to let the stun stream in and warm our wood floors.

I'm ready to go on long walks with the kiddos. (Our double stroller arrived today, hooray!)

I'm ready for all my plants to sprout and bloom.

I'm ready for warm weather and flip flops (not shorts, though. I can do without shorts. But I will take a good pedicure).

So come on Spring! We are more than ready.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Favorite

I've lost almost 20 lbs since the beginning of January, thanks to my iPod boyfriend and the LoseIt! app.

I know that's good. That's really good.

Only I have one weakness.

I have the biggest sweet tooth known to man.

I mean, I like vegetables and fruit. I like them a lot, actually. But when it comes down to it, if I had a choice to eat broccoli or chocolate, chocolate will win every time.

That's why today's Friday Favorite are 100 calorie snacks.


Current favorites include Reese's 100 calorie bars, York Peppermint Patty 100 calorie bars, and 100 calorie Oreo cakesters. They're the perfect way to satisfy my sweet tooth without completely breaking my calories for the day. The Reese's ones taste almost exactly like Reese's Sticks, which are heaven on earth in chocolate/peanut butter/wafer form.

I know, ideally, I should be completely changing my eating habits to include more whole-grain complex carbs, more fruits and veggies, fewer refined sugars and flours and fewer artificial ingredients (as I sit here drinking my 32oz Diet Coke). And I'm getting there. But it's a slow process, and it's not always easy to retrain your thinking, and eating, to incorporate those things while on a budget. Eating natural/organic food isn't always cheap!

Thankfully, it's also finally getting warm enough to walk more outside with the dog and/or kids. I don't feel quite as guilty about indulging my sweet tooth if I get a good amount of exercise in.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Slainte!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

(I know there should be an accent over the "a" in the subject, but I can't ever figure out how to make it work.)

Despite not having any Irish ancestry (both the hub and I are almost all German, with a bit of Scottish, English and Bohemian thrown in on my mother's side), I've always enjoyed St. Patrick's Day.

I had a chance to visit Ireland the summer I lived in London. I took a four-day bus tour around the southern part of the country with Paddywagon Tours and it was easily the most enjoyable trip I've taken by myself.

The land is gorgeous, the people friendly and the beer delicious (even though I wasn't much of a beer drinker back then, I stuck to cider when I lived across the pond).

Here I am kissing the Blarney Stone:
(I'm wearing a Guinness fleece pullover I had to buy on the ferry over to Ireland because I didn't pack anything warm enough - it was July! I still have that pullover and even wore it this weekend.)

I'd love to go back there someday, and do a more extensive tour. I'm sure the hub would enjoy it, too, if only for the beer.

Our city always has a St. Patrick's Day parade and it's supposed to be 75 and gorgeous for it today. I think the hub is bringing me corned beef and cabbage for lunch (made at a restaurant in Czech Village) and we may even enjoy a beer tonight, though it probably won't be green, and listen to some Flogging Molly. Slainte!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Favorite

I got this book for my birthday this year from the hub:
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression


I had checked it out from our local library earlier last year (before our library got completely flooded out) and really enjoyed it, so I asked for it for my birthday.

Now, my experiences growing up on a farm were nothing like this book (we had running water and electricity), but I still feel I can relate to many of the things the author writes about. The sense of responsibility, the closeness of family, the ideals of the "simple farm life."

The book is a wonderful snapshot of a lifestyle that's all but forgotten in our fast-paced, I-want-it-now cutlure. The author includes interesting facts and recipes strewn throughout the book, some of which I'd really like to try some day. Some are extremely similar to ones that I grew up with (the apple pie is almost exactly like what my grandma used to make.)

Every day I am grateful for the experience I had growing up on a farm in a rural Midwest community. And I'd really like to be able to offer a similar experience to my children. We're working on getting there. It'll mean some adjustments, but I'm sure we'll make it. I really want to, anyway.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A taste from my youth

When I was around 7 years old, my paternal grandparents moved from the farm they'd been living on for the past 17 or so years (when my parents moved onto the "home" farm south of town) into town.

Though they were now "city folk" my grandparents still kept up some of their "farm habits" - including planting a large garden.

One of the things I distinctly remember eating when I was at their house were ground cherries.
They looked like small (grape-sized) yellow tomatoes encased in a thin papery husk and they were delicious! I would eat them by the handful. Even now, I can still almost taste the sharp tang of the fruit.

One of my favorite books (look for it tomorrow as my Friday Favorite) brought back the memory of eating ground cherries at grandma and grandpa's house.

So I mentioned it to the hub, who looked at me strangely and said "we always thought those were weeds when I was growing up."

Blasphemy! How any self-respecting farm boy could grow up without tasting ground cherries is beyond me. Granted, the hub also didn't like tomatoes for the longest time, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised, considering they're in the same family of fruits.

The hub and I always talk about what kinds of things we'll grow in our garden when we finally move out to the country. The list includes rhubarb (from the generations-old plants at his family farm), heirloom tomatoes, green beans and peppers. I think I'll add ground cherries to that list.

I don't know when we'll have time to plant or take care of this mythical garden, but it makes us feel good to plant it in our heads, so we do. Anything that brings us one step closer to the country.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sick

I'd managed to go through almost the entire winter without really getting sick (despite having two kids with constant coughs and runny noses), so when I started to get the tell-tale scratchy throat last Friday, I knew my time was up.

In about 24 hours it had gone from a scratchy throat to sinus drainage, hacking cough, sore throat and laryngitis. Sweet.

After we got home from the big birthday party on Saturday, the hub and I put the kids to bed, unpacked the few things we'd brought along and then he let me rest on the couch while he made me tea.

Sunday was more of the same - sleeping in until after 11 (he watched both the kids!) and then soup and tea. He even did the grocery shopping Sunday night with success -- although I did have to make the list extremely detailed. When I write down rice, I know what I want, but for him I have to specify brand, style and size of box. Otherwise, who knows what we'll end up with. But he did a good job; maybe even a little better than me because I'm prone to wandering and coming home with a few extraneous things that we really don't need (Cadbury Mini Eggs anyone?)

I even stayed home from work yesterday. I can't remember the last time I was home sick from work for myself. Usually it's with one of the kids. Unless I'm vomiting (or can't talk like yesterday), I suck it up and go in.

Can I just tell you how lovely it was to have the house all to myself? Lovely. I didn't get out of bed until after 1pm. Ate some lunch, did a few things around the house (it really needed to be vacuumed!) and then took a nice, long bath before the quietness was invaded by the dulcet sounds of a 3-year-old and 5-month-old.

I'm back at work today, though. The guilt was too much for me to take off today, too. Besides, I can talk today, even if I do sound like a 80-year-old chain smoker.

Monday, March 9, 2009

You say it's your birthday!

The kiddo turned three on Saturday. It's hard to believe he's three already! It just seems like yesterday I was lounging in the hospital bed watching The Princess Bride waiting until I was fully dilated.

But he's three and we had a lovely family birthday party at my sister's house.

She did a fabulous job with the cake, as always:
(can you guess what the theme was?)

Here he is enjoying birthday pizza (on Thomas plates while wearing a Thomas hat and shirt)
And opening his presents, many of which were Thomas-related.
We had scored a great deal on a bunch of NIB, post-recall trains on eBay. He was thrilled.

I'm sure we went a little overboard on the Thomas stuff, but that's what he likes. And you're only 3 once, right? It was worth it to hear his exclamations after he opened each present: "Thomas!" "Thomas books!" "Thomas towel!" "Gordon!" (who is actually his favorite train, because he's the biggest and strongest, don't you know...)

For reasons unknown to me, the kiddo has decided to start channeling Gene Simmons from KISS:
That's what he does know when we ask him to smile. Goofy kid.

This is a great age. He can converse with us, he's showing us his personality (goofy, caring), he has opinions (maybe a bit too much?) and is just so much fun. He's not so good on the listening part, but what 3-year-old is?