Ithaca – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Before I get into the semi-regularly-scheduled post, I just want to say SQUEEEEEAAAAL and best wishes to my sister, Mary, and her family on the birth of their second little one today! I’m so happy that we’ll get to be there to meet him or her. 🙂 Lots of joy in this family right now!

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I’ve been around the block enough times to know that E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is unpredictable when a toddler/preschooler is involved. As a family, we have learned to plan excessively, adapt accordingly, and remain flexible at all times. Also, as with all things in life, it’s important to take the good with the bad (and be grateful for it all).

So, when we planned our recent day trip to Ithaca, NY (a little over two hours away), I went into it with the usual well-planned day with a hint of “this could change at any moment” thrown in.

Dave was there for a day-long comic book convention to chat with folks and sell issues of his hilarious comic book series, Holidaze. So, after we dropped him off at the college, Hadman and I were on our own. I was totally ready for the day.

Only, I wasn’t. After the long-ish drive, a coffee and tons of water, I was in dire need of a bathroom. Like, crying in the parking lot, not knowing where I even was, with a toddler insisting that we go some place (ANY place!). Finally, as my teeth floated and my eyes watered, I looked up the closest grocery store – less than 5 minutes away. Whew. Upon pulling into the parking lot, I spotted a nearby Barnes and Noble. Even better! Hadley’s favorite place on Earth.

After the potty break, we hit up the Thomas train set and grabbed a book for Hadley’s soon-to-be-born cousin with only two very loud meltdowns before leaving. Score.

Finally! Off to the main event for the day. The Sciencenter was everything we had hoped for and more. We spent the entire morning exploring animals, shadows, lights, mirrors, our senses, sand (one of the sand tables actually displayed a contour map on top, which took me right back to Mr. Buckley’s Earth Science class), and an awesome toddler toy area with a water table. Outside was a discovery jungle gym-type thing with more sand and water tables, a music center…seriously, the list goes on and on.

He was a VERY good boy and got a rubber snake for his troubles. I wonder where we put that thing…

For lunch, we fought the traffic outside and sat together at Ithaca Bakery. I had brought a PBJ sandwich and snacks for him but grabbed a turkey wrap for myself. This marked the first time he has sat in a restaurant without a high chair (or booster, which we don’t normally use anyway) with no wiggling or walking around. We talked and enjoyed our meals, and it was one of the best lunch dates ever.

Here’s where things get a little ugh. I had planned to take the little guy over to a parking garage then push him around the Commons in his stroller in hopes of getting a nap out of him and getting some writing done, myself. Welp, construction. The whole thing was torn up. We visited a couple of stores, but the whole point of the thing was killed. Back to the car we went.

I decided to drive back up to the college to find a spot to park (and hopefully let the little guy sleep). I was able to get a little writing done, but he kept waking (noisy college kids, of course), so while he did nap a bit, it made for a grouchy afternoon.

Yeah. That’s my finger. Oops. Added dose of embarrassment? He drooled SO MUCH. Hee hee.

Before picking up Dave, I took the little guy back down the hill a bit to a playground I had spotted, which worked wonderfully…until it was time to head back up to campus. Meltdown #3 (or 4 or 5…I’ve lost count).

This is where the “ugly” comes in. Back at Ithaca College, I knew the parking lot we were supposed to use as “visitors” to the convention (I had dropped Dave in a closer lot used just by vendors and probably should’ve tried to park there again). Instead, I followed the rules and buckled Had back into a stroller. After trying to cross through the inside of a building (as advised by Ithacon’s website), I discovered just how stroller (and handicapped) inaccessible the campus is. Oh. My. God. After exiting the building and meandering around the sidewalks, I reached our destination completely beat, looking like a mess, and feeling like a raging bull.

When Dave asked if I wanted to walk around (and, namely, meet one of our favorite authors, Bruce Coville), he knew immediately that I wasn’t moving from the chair I had claimed. I was a wreck, but after some water and time to cool down, we were able to retrieve the car, pack up, and head out.

Given my state, we decided to break our “take-out” rule (kind of…this wasn’t REALLY fast food) with a trip to A&W. We got to order, wait, and eat in our car just like the 1950s, which was pretty darn cool. And better control over the little guy is always a plus.

So, there we have it. Ultimately, the trip was actually a really fun, memorable one. I’m already able to laugh at the ridiculous things that threw the plans out the window, and am kind of relieved that most of the issues weren’t caused by a raucous little guy, but by the unknown situations that were thrown at us.

It already has my brain darting around planning our summertime getaway(s). 

Summer 2015

It’s equal parts being an over-planner and getting excited for some fun family activities, but every year since Hadman was old enough to have fun (in 2012, he was a newborn, so we didn’t do much of anything that summer!), I’ve made a list of fun summer ideas. In 2013, it was as much about my goals as it was the family. In 2014, we simplified quite a bit. While this year I’m still planning to get some personal goals accomplished (at least one book is written, so I’d like to get it sent out to publishers and work on other ideas) and we’re always puttering away at the house (and may be finding a new one! Eek!!), I’d ultimately like to keep it family-oriented. 

Heck, I’ve been so excited about summer that I dropped in with a wishlist in January! But, now that we’re getting closer, I thought I’d fine tune things a bit. So, I give you some dreams for THIS summer (along with some family favorite repeats from years gone by) – 


1. Birthday Party 3.0 – Had’s birthday is in July, so I always like to get my creative juices flowing so that I at least know a theme or what have you for the big day. This year, my sister will have a brand new baby (in May!) and my sister-in-law is having her first little one (due early July, so it’s anyone’s guess as to when!). So, it might be a smaller event this year, which is totally fine. However, given that every time I’ve asked him in the last several months what type of party he’d like, he’s given me the exact same answer, I at least know what type of party it’ll be. Even if we only have, like, 5 people there. 😉

2. Walks – We didn’t take nearly as many walks as I would’ve liked last year. Call it my own laziness, I suppose, but this year I’d like to take several a week. Whether it’s a quick up-and-down the street or around the neighborhood, we’ve gotta get movin’! (And, yes, I’m already exhausted thinking about it.)

3. Zoo – This was a HUGE hit last year, so we’re planning to re-up our family membership to the Utica Zoo this year. With the price that it is, we don’t mind just going for the morning, eating lunch, then heading home for a nap (or staying the whole day, if we so choose). We particularly love that the animals they have on “display” are part of their focus on conservation, habitat preservation, and species survival. It’s the absolutely perfectly-sized zoo for a toddler/preschooler (with a great playground area) and H talks all the time about the animals he’s seen (and even some he thinks he’s seen ;-)). It’s definitely a big part in our raising an animal lover. Plus, there are reciprocal zoos that we could get in during any trips at a discount or free with our membership.

4. Trips! – We’re planning on taking a couple of day trips (like, within 3 hours from home) plus one 2-3 day trip similar to our Massachusetts trip last year. Still working out the details. You’d be amazed at how many places you search for that are “toddler friendly” that simply babysit the kids for the parents to have alone time all day. Not our bag; we like a FAMILY vacation, not a vacation FROM our family. 🙂 We’re also pretty loose, enjoying things like museums and hands-on play places to relaxing on the beach (not the whole time) to discovering local history and culture, so our ideas are all over the place.

5. Sandy Feet – Whether we get to a beach during our “bigger” vacation or not, I’m really hoping to get to the beach one or twice in our area. We’ve got some awesome state-protected lakes with family-friendly beaches in the area, and H is at a “love to run and play” age now, so it just seems perfect. Plus, I’d love to do the same. 🙂

6. “Potted” Garden & CSA – Between the prospect of possibly moving and the fact that our friendly neighborhood cats have taken over our gardening space, I’m hoping to just get some small plants going this year. I’ve tried in years past and had crappy-to-moderate success (I think watering is my downfall, maybe?), but am determined to at least grow a tomato plant, some herbs, and maybe something else that might catch my eye. I’d love to be able to use our back deck for this purpose, but have had issues there in the past. More research ahead! 

Oh, and we’ve finally found a CSA that has us super excited to sign up. We’re still discussing between a full share (May through October) or the summer share (May through August) due to cost and our willingness/ability to keep up with meal planning come the new school year. But, we hope to figure that out this week and get our check mailed to hold our spot quickly. I’ll chat more about that once we get our first share!

7. Library – We haven’t utilized our local library much at all. It’s a pathetic state of affairs given that I’m a school librarian. We’re not huge fans of our town’s library, quite honestly (it’s always surrounded by riff raff, so kind of intimidating to bring a toddler into), but we should at least give it a shot. I’m going to look into whether or not they have a story time (their website says they do, but it hasn’t been updated since November). If not, I’ve seen that another local library has storytime and other events, so hopefully we can start getting used to *QUIET* spaces and interacting with other littles a bit.

8. Kindermusik – Here’s the opposite of quiet time! We noticed awhile back that seem to have Kindermusik classes available about a half hour away. I’d like to try a month of classes (4) to see how he likes them. If he does, it’d be cool to continue; if not, it was a good learning experience. I’m also eyeing some swim classes (that we would take with him). Again, this all might add to the “crazy” of the summer and with the idea of maaaaybe finding (and selling) a house and two new family babies coming, it might be shooting for the moon.

9. Baby Help – Speaking of which, I’m hoping to offer up my help as much as possible to Dave’s brother and SIL, and my sister and her family. Whether they’ll take it or not is totally up to them! That said, if anyone has some yummy, healthy meals I could make for their freezers, let me know in the comments! 😉 


So, what about you guys? What are you looking forward to the most this summer? This week is a dreary, rainy mess of a spring week (last week was gorgeous and spoiled us with borderline summer-like weather), so my mind is definitely wandering!
  

A Dog Named Jasper

I’m totally reminded of that horrible Nickelodeon show from back in the day when I say this, but it’s true. We totally have a cat that is part cat/part dog. Dogcat. Catdog. Weird but totally how he is.

Dave and I were dog people from the start. I had to give up a kitten as a little girl due to severe allergies (which, apparently, come out depending on the type of cat.) We both owned and adored our family dogs and always figured that we’d follow in the same footsteps. And we still may, some day.

But, then Beardslee came into our lives and it was a slippery slope from there. Winston was just begging to be our “second (in his mind ONLY) cat.” Then, Jasper just showed up on our doorstep on my birthday and our trio was complete.

The cool thing about Jasper is that I had always wanted a lap cat. Someone to snuggle with, to allow the use of my lap for a nap, who wouldn’t mind being picked up. He totally fit the bill, 100%. 

As time went on, though, I realized that he was so much more than just a snuggle buddy; he was the family dog.

Since it’ll probably (okay, definitely) be a challenge to handle Hadley + 3 very “unique” cats + any pups, it looks like the part of canine will be played by Jasper for the foreseeable future. And we’re totally fine with that. He’s freaking awesome. 

He’s got total dog tendencies. Here’s just a few:

– He chases his tail. Seriously. Catches it, then does it again. Falls down the stairs trying to catch that darn thing. (The sick joke? His tail is by far shorter than his two brethren. Winston stares at him like “That’s not hard. I could do that. I just don’t want to.”)

– He seems to think what Ricky Gervais (and many others, I’m sure) says that dogs think: Everything humans do is WONDERFUL. His huge eyes show a constant amazement at how awesome we are. The other two? Meh. Big deal, Mom. You made dinner. Whatever. Jasper? In awe.

– He lays underfoot. I’m sure other people have cats that do this, too, but Winston and Beardslee have a tendency to lay where they won’t be bothered; ie not in the middle of the room. JJ, however, tends to lay on his side, comfortably watching me put dishes away and prep food. He’s always nearby. Must. Know. Everything.

 Y’know that dumb stare? Totally a dog thing. The others have stares but they either mean that they’re juuuuuust about to doze off or are plotting evil revenge. Jasper’s stare is completely, utterly blank. Devoid of any thoughts whatsoever. Total “dumb dog.” (Remember: I love dogs! Dumb can be an awesome trait. And, no, not all dogs are dumb. But Jasper is totally a dumb dog.)

– He gets low grades for natural cat behavior. Jasper just isn’t great at BEING a cat, the poor thing. He has mastered going to the bathroom in the right spot (um, most of the time) and TRIES to cover it up, but he really…sucks at it. Beardslee used to sit by him as he went just so that he could hop in afterwards and give it a proper cleaning. And clawing at stuff? Definitely does it wrong. Oh, and he’s not skittish AT ALL. Two-year-old kid running straight at him? Doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t move. Just lets it happen.

– Food beggar. He doesn’t always do this, but when it’s a food item that he adores, he’s ON it. When my father-in-law comes, he always sits nearby in hopes that he’ll get some table scraps. No kidding. He’ll also eat pretty much anything you hand over. (That said, Winston loves Chinese. So, the one-to-two times a year we get it, he comes running.)

What about you? Do you have a pet that has some “weird” behavior? Does it make you love them all the more? Or just scratch your head?

Five Yummy Treats for Your Easter Basket

Monday, I shared with you guys what fun stuff the Easter Bunny likes to stuff H-man’s basket with. Today, I thought I’d mention the “other” goodies he sometimes gets.

Yup. The food!

As I mentioned Monday, we don’t go overboard on candy. He gets a little from other family members, so we try to maintain that whole “moderation” thing. If he’s going to be getting a buttload from either Grandma (or even aunts or uncles who like to make him up a little bag), he doesn’t need a lot at our house.

But, that bunny’s gotta bring SOMETHING, right? Here are some of our favorites to include:


YumEarth Organics Gummy Bears – The ONLY things H has mentioned the Easter Bunny bringing are “fake eggs” (the plastic that we reuse every year; he’s still a bit too messy for real coloring) and “real gummies”. That’d be these! I can attest, too. They’re delicious.


Annie’s Homegrown Bunnies Baked Snack Crackers – We’re not usual Annie’s buyers anymore. Ever since their buy-out, we’ve decided to stop eating cheesy crackers. But, since this is a special occasion (and bunnies are PERFECT for Easter!), we make an exception. I’ll buy little baggies to put these in so that he gets basket-sized treats. (Also works for Christmas stockings!)
Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans – Dave’s a jellybean guy, so I’ll probably grab a few bags of these for a communal bowl of yummies. We’re so lucky that these are carried at our local grocery store! (I’ve written a couple of articles for this company, so I get pretty proud seeing their products locally.)

Annie’s Homegrown Chocolate Bunny Grahams – Just like with the cheesy ones, these bunnies are perfect for celebrating the holiday. They’re whole grain and may not be organic, but have far less “junk” in them. 

Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – Our little man isn’t a big chocolate guy, so I’ll get these to see how he feels (if they have milk chocolate, I’ll get those). And if he doesn’t eat them? Well, you know I’ll be happy to help out. 😉

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I just read a blog post that makes me think about today’s topic, so I just thought I’d put my two cents in. The blogger pretty much thumbed her nose at people who “make” their kids eat fruits and vegetables, among other things. (We actually provide the food and if he eats it, great; if not, he won’t die.) By no means do I think that everyone needs to eat this way. We’re far from healthy (today’s list is all processed foods!) and definitely don’t go out of our way to change people’s minds. I’m not here to brag about all we’re doing or guilt-trip you for choosing traditional candies.

Heck, I look forward to grabbing one or two of the traditional snacks at my mom’s Easter shindig (but it’s just not worth it to buy an entire BAG if we’re not going to eat more than a couple).

What’s right for us may not be right for you. So, if your family loves Reese’s peanut butter eggs, regular jellybeans, and chocolate bunnies, go for it and enjoy! Just sharing what we’ll probably be including in our basket this year. 🙂

On another note, what are your plans for Easter? Staying home with the family? Having extended family over? Going to an egg hunt? Can’t wait to hear!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. All this means is that if you make any purchase through Amazon links above, I make a tiny percentage of the sale. Thanks for supporting us!

Today’s Tip – Actively Fun

This is part of a new series that I’m calling “Today’s Tip.” I hope to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain that might be helpful.
 
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Hey, guys! Raise your hand if you’re feeling a bit sluggish lately. I know I am! Thanks, Obama winter weather. It’s to the point where we have so much snow piled up, it’s not at a “let’s have fun in it” stage. It’s more at the “sink down, can’t move” phase. It’s fine, we’ll deal.

But, I feel like the little guy needs to get some more physical activity. He’s a bundle of energy, and between sleeping better and acting better, getting physical only helps him enjoy his fun little life. So, I recently decided to try some “let’s get moving” games with him.

Here are a few things that I tried, which not only got me active as well, but made me realize that he’s reached a new level of “little boy, not little toddler.” His hand-eye coordination and ability to follow directions is way better than I expected! Call me proud (and a touch sad).

Mama Says – H isn’t quite ready for “Simon Says” since the “Simon didn’t say” rule evades him. But, he had been having issues with following directions, so this is my far the best activity for a 2 1/2-year-old. Just say, “Mama says…” and fill in the rest with whatever you think your little one can do. Touch your head/nose/knees/toes; act like a monkey; stand on one foot (he couldn’t do it for long, but boy was he proud that he could do it at all!); turn around three times; hop like a frog. This goes as long as your imagination can hold out.

Let’s Stretch! – You can start your “exercises” off or end them this way. There are lots of stretches that you can do, so keep them as simple as “touch your toes” or as complicated as downward dog. It’s also a fun way to practice counting. “Bend over and touch your toes for five seconds, count with me – one, two, three, four, five!” Simple, fun…and totally made me realize how inflexible I’d gotten! 

Dance With Me! – Dance party time! Turn on Pandora or your favorite workout mix and get a-movin’! You’ll see your little one start on day one using one swaying dance motion, then building up an arsenal of hilarious self expression. Our guy has been saying “oh, yeaaaah! Oh, yeaaaah!” while he does some helicoptering arm motions lately. Very Kool-Aid Man. Very awesome.

Tumble Together – One of my favorite memories as a kid was doing somersaults, rolls, leg lifts, and tumbles in our living room with my sister. Sure, it’s not always safe, but when Mom gets into it with you, you’ll at least have a spotter. Pile the pillows and jump or use the ottoman to roll on your stomach (used to do that at my grandparents’ and adored it). Just get silly and remember: horse play isn’t always a bad thing.

What indoor activities do you do to get the blood flowing and energy out? I’d love to hear!

Cat Relationships Be Weird, Yo

A vast majority of the time, our cats ignore each other. Sure, they full-on live with each other and at rare times even make eye contact. But, for the most part, they keep to themselves and seem to pretend that maybe, just for a mere second, they’re the “only cat.” And they’re each happy with that.

But what strange, subtle relationships exist. Staring ahead blankly while your brother cat licks your butt for five minutes straight. Sleeping on the opposite ends of a bed for literally the entire day (or sometimes even curled up near each other…merely for the heat source, of course, Mama; no affection intended here). Bathing each other without actually acknowledging each other. It takes a lot of talent to act that complacent.

Other times, they use each other as a means of getting food. Lately, we are incapable of sleeping past 5am (sometimes far earlier) without one of them becoming a wildcat due to an empty belly. Wildcat is code word for bully, but as we all learned in the school yard, “if someone hits ya, hit ’em right back.” {I, for one, disagree with that logic. My cats do not.} So, we have to hiss or stomp or spray them, which only keeps them apart for juuuuust enough time to snuggle back into our warm bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Once fed, they go back to living in their own worlds.

Yet, we know. We know that, while he lives for the moments when his tiger brothers are napping away the day so that he can rub all over us and be the little-do-they-know kiss-up of the group, Winston adores his brothers. He especially loves Hadley. He’s almost always nearby, either watching Hadley play (partly with caution, partly as if to say, “Whatchya doin’?”) or curled up near his bedroom to keep an eye on things. Highly intelligent, I think he appreciates and relates to Hadley’s innate mischievous nature. 

Beardslee watches over him, too, but in a slightly more detached way. Actually, that’s pretty much his role in the house. He’s the boss supreme. Winston may be the brains of the operation, Beardslee has control and power. While he sleeps about 90% of the day away, he’s clearly king. If you pick him up (or do anything he doesn’t prefer), he’s got enough force in his body to push an adult human on their butt. Strong. But, he’s also the soulful, kind orange tabby that reminds us, daily, that our hearts would break without his constant presence. I cry just thinking about the day that he’s no longer with us.

Jasper, on the other hand, has always worn his heart on his sleeve. He loudly springboards into the crib and sometimes shares the end of the bed (or even lays ON the little guy’s legs and belly, much as he does with Dave) for entire naps. He instantly starts to purr when he is paid the least bit of attention. It’s so easy for Winston to goad Jasper into fights; you can just look at the boy and he’ll hop over to know what he can do for you. Craves love, the poor thing. The fact that he’s not the smartest of creatures makes him seem like a foreigner who sometimes doesn’t understand what you’re saying, but who lives life with a great passion. Where Beardslee’s the soul, Jasper’s the heart of the house.

While I know that Dave and I have changed, particularly in our life priorities and life choices, since having Hadley, I am incredibly proud that we haven’t changed in our opinions of our first “babies.” Over time, we’ve either heard stories or been told that “things would be different when we had our own” child. Kind of funny, but we always balked (and were offended) at the thought. No, we wouldn’t love them or treat them any differently. And, boy, am I happy to report that we were true to our word. We spend tons of time with Hadley and try to have fun and let him know how much we cherish him, but we still steal special time with each fur boy, in the form that they each enjoy – solo time [often “naked time” after a shower for Winston (he’s very European)], simple petting and praise for Boo, and cuddling in bed every night with Jasper.

And here I always thought I was a dog person who just happened to have three super special cats (which is true). Turns out, I’m just an animal person. Dave and I can’t wait to continue raising the next generation of animal lovers. 🙂 

In Defense of Daniel

No matter what boundaries we parents swore we’d set (or still attempt to enforce), kids do an awful lot of TV watching. So, as parents to toddlers, we also ingest a ton of the stuff. Some of it’s awesome. Some of it’s pointless. Some of it’s downright stupid. Then, there’s “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”. 

There seems to be a clearly-drawn line between parents who hate-hate-hate “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and those who truly love it. I’ve seen fights erupt online (I’m not kidding) over whether the songs are the “most annoying things EVER” or if they’re useful tools to help our children learn, grow and understand how to deal with life’s little challenges. I’m usually put at ease, at least, by the fact that everyone agrees that we all miss Mr. Rogers, himself and the original show.

Image courtesy of PBS Kids

For those of you who don’t have little ones in your house (and presumably don’t have the opportunity to partake in the PBS Kids’ fare), “Daniel” is a cartoon-based show that loosely utilizes some of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe characters from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” to teach the new generation a plethora of positive life lessons. Daniel, himself, is actually the son of Daniel Striped Tiger (the original adorable puppet character) and is about pre-K aged. His friends are the children of other known characters – O the Owl (lives with his uncle, X), Katerina Pussycat (Henrietta’s daughter), Miss Elaina (the daughter of Music Man Stan and Lady Elaine Fairchilde), and Prince Wednesday (whose old brother is Prince Tuesday, and parents are King Friday and Queen Sara).

The story lines are simple but incredibly realistic. So many of the topics – potty time, feeling left out, a new sibling, bath time, and many more – are ones that I either see firsthand with our own son or have seen over the years with my younger students.  

As a passionate fan of Mr. Rogers (the man AND the show), I was immediately skeptical a couple years back when Dave happened upon that familiar trolley sound, accompanied by unfamiliar cartoon characters. The questions arose: “Wait, are those the same characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, or…they’re their kids. Lady Elaine’s not a b**** anymore? Get out!” and “What would Fred think?” and “There’s something way too basic yet not at all pandering about this…” So. Many. Questions.

But, after awhile, the questions died down and we all found ourselves truly enjoying the thing. Yes, most of the songs are definite earworms that we find ourselves humming while doing dishes, but that’s the charm. They’re so simple yet so memorable that they fit perfectly into our lives, good for calming down both child and parent when an emotionally-charged moment could be turning out badly. And the GET kids. Like, really GET them. (One reason we’ve finally, after a long-felt annoyance over Caillou, given in. We like it because it’s exactly the stuff a young child goes through, said the exact way a child would.)

Plus, the show is actually produced by the Fred Rogers Company (which is also partly responsible for “Peg + Cat”, which we LOVE; that one’s just as enjoyable for the parents, if not more so). Not only is it funding the project, but it’s letting viewers know that, yes, Fred Rogers would appreciate this and encourage its use. If we can’t have Fred, Daniel’s the next best thing.

In fact, I like to think that Daniel’s “neighborhood” is actually an actualization of the world Mr. Rogers hoped to create. The kids on the show (be they animal or otherwise) are the next generation to reap the benefits of those raised on his ideals of love, acceptance, specialness and patience (among others); just as we were raised with these warm thoughts, we can pass them on through Daniel (as well as through the innate lessons we learned from him). The fact that every adult seems to universally know the exact same song for potty use may seem ridiculous to us as adults, but in fact it’s showing an environment filled with adults who all completely love, support and nurture the children in the neighborhood, giving them the ultimate sense of security. It’s idealistic, but if one can’t have some ideals, one can’t have a future worth looking forward to.

So, sure. We’re Daniel fans. We love that he’s still young enough to have his insecure, need-your-parents moments yet gaining his independence in leaps and bounds. We love that Miss Elaina wears backwards clothes and is boisterous. We love that O the Owl is highly literal and far more into books than playing pretend. We even love the ridiculousness that Prince Wednesday’s brother, although an heir to the throne, works as a babysitter and waiter. It’s all good.

And we’re sure that Hadley’s gaining from that good, in turn.

Our Kid is Healthier Than We Are

Much like my post of yore about our earth-friendly cats (just one kitty at the time of writing), it’s time to fess up about our toddler boy: he eats better than we do.


Well, for the most part. I mean, he’d still live on pickles, PBJ, mac ‘n cheese, pizza and pancakes if we’d let him, but as far as a diverse and well-rounded diet? I think he’s got us beat.

And, yes, I get the irony of the thing. I’m the one making these healthy choices for him, after all. I mean, we often ask him his opinion between two healthy options (or ask him which “meal” he wants and stick in fruits/veg as a side), but we’re also pretty lucky that he’s not a super picky little guy.

When I sit down to eat a lunch with him, I occasionally find myself thinking, “Hmm. How is his healthier than mine? Maybe I should skip the chips for an apple…” And, while Dave is a salad fiend, he’s probably the pickiest eater in the house (sorry, hon! At least you eat tomatoes!), so I find myself having a difficult time finding new recipes to try that we’ll ALL enjoy.

So, while we’re not working towards a weight-loss resolution this January 1st, one of my hopes is to get healthier as a family. As I mentioned in my “intentional New Year” post, we’re researching our CSA options (but that won’t take effect until late spring) and work towards purchasing more fresh fruits/veg and breaking our processed food habit. We’ve fallen off the farmers’ market bandwagon (we only went a few times this year), so hope to start hitting up the couple of winter market options. Soon.

The funny thing is that, while a lot of people use this time of year to focus on weight-loss and health, I find that my body starts to actually crave lighter foods. After the glut of sugar (and, believe me, I’m downright addicted to sugar), fat and generally heavy meals during the holidays, there’s nothing I want more than a nice salad or roasted vegetables. I’m hoping, also, to find a few nice vegetarian main meal recipes to throw in the mix.

Anyhoo, here’s some of Had’s advice (paraphrased) for you —

* If you love something, it’s delicious, even if it’s good for you. (Find what those delicious healthy things are and enjoy. He eats fruit and yogurt or pure applesauce as voraciously as he does a slice of pizza.)

* Try everything, at least once. (He will get three or four mouthfuls of something before he realizes that maybe, just maybe it sucks. By then, I can convince him to finish. ;-))

* Share! (I’ll often split an apple with him since he doesn’t generally eat an entire one on his own. I have to remember this when I choose to eat a pickle with a sandwich; he WILL see it and he WILL want one, too.)

* Mix-and-match. (Don’t just try to eat boring, good-for-you stuff. A sandwich or wrap is okay if it’s made with minimally-processed bread and healthy toppings, especially extra veggies. Hadman will even eat a complete salad if we drizzle a tiny bit of natural, organic ranch dressing on. Don’t beat yourself up over the “bad” on your plate; pat yourself on the back for upping your intake of the “good.”)

* Don’t drink soda. (I’m sure he would if he could…but I won’t allow it. Ain’t nobody got time for that crap. As it is, I’m trying to ween him down from the watered-down juice. Gah.)

* Treats are treats. (You’re not entitled to them — and, crap, neither am I. Hadley’s “treat” is all-fruit, all-natural fruit “gummies.” He gets them maaaaaybe once a week. Lately, he’s also been getting my gingerbread cookies a little bit, but he still knows they’re treats and that it’s a BIG deal to get them.)

   
I think it’ll be easier, in all, to remember our monkey’s relatively stellar diet the next time I start to choose a bagel over fruit and yogurt.

Christmas 2014 Recap

Holiday greetings, all! I’ve been in denial about Christmas being over; gotta ease into it like a cold pool, y’know? So, while working hard at avoiding the letdown (let’s face it; it’s depressing) and getting very little done otherwise, I thought I’d share a quick recap of our holiday this year.

Our actual get-togethers were awesome, and we were extremely lucky that gifts were kept in check (and what we did get were so thoughtful, sweet, and useful). By other “green mama” standards, we personally went overboard, I’m sure. By the standards of other parents, we probably did too little. But, for our purposes, it was perfect.

Here are some of the year’s superlatives as far as gifts (although it’s clearly NOT about the presents, but…y’know)…

Best “Free” Present – Dave and I agreed to “get” each other a free gift this year. Mine ended up being a few “gift certificate” type things (like purging/organizing/zen-ifying the office), which are fine but kind of lame. HE, however, made me stationery. Not just normal stationery, though. Included are envelopes and sheets of paper specifically to write Hadley letters, to be opened at special days (or not-so-special) throughout his life. Talk about a tear or two (or a dozen). So. Darn. Sweet. So, yeah. Dave won by a mile.

Hadley’s Gifts – We also ask Hadley what he’d like to get each of us (um, separately…in secret), which is fun. His suggestions for Dave changed daily, although he always went back to, “A car. A real one. Big. For him to drive.” Uh, no. Apparently he suggested the same to Dave for me. (A toy one wouldn’t do.) Finally, he landed on tools, which we picked up individually at Lowe’s, along with a couple of framed pictures for Dave’s desk. Dave proudly bought exactly what Hadley had told him – every day – to get me: red socks and apple pie (a Hostess, which we normally wouldn’t get). It was the sweetest gift, guys, seriously.

Most Successful Toys – Our little guy’s not hard to please. I grabbed some last-minute wooden train tracks to add to his collection (which he’s been using constantly) and any of the Lego sets he received are a huge hit. But, honestly, he seemed to enjoy absolutely everything (even some of the clothes) and is learning the “appreciation” part of the season.

Oh, and I love that he finally has a play knife (and wooden fruit that he can cut), some pie (um, I made more felt food as his “handmade from Mama” annual gift) and Santa’s felt board. I’d do a tutorial for the board, but it’s so simple I’d feel silly. I ended up using my upholstery stapler to staple the background felt on, then cut out simple shapes (you do NOT have to be artistic to do this!) You can even just do shapes; kids don’t care!

“Made” the Holiday Present – I guess this could be considered a “free” present, too, but the best part of the holiday this year was walking into my mother’s house on Christmas Day to find our out-of-town brother had traveled home to surprise ALL of us (our mom included). I immediately cried. It was insane and perfect. The fact that Hadley is still talking about the family members he now has much stronger connections to (especially Uncle Ryan, the relative that likes to rough house) is heartwarming.

The Grown-Ups’ Favorites – So much of this year was about awesome experiences, I feel guilty picking my favorite gifts. I got an eco-friendly pot from my sister (which was equally touching that she thought about what I’d like rather than just getting another pot) and  renewal to Ancestry.com from my mother-in-law, but generally all those practical things (and the books from Dave) touched my heart. Oh, and “turkey joints” (a local candy) is always a super special treat. Oh, and if I had to pick for Dave, I’m pretty sure his set of Batman (the entire 1960s show) was his absolute favorite.


From our family to yours, we truly hope that you had a glorious holiday full of new and happy memories. I do hope to get myself motivated this week (I’m actually feeling a little rundown, so hope that I can keep it at bay), but if it doesn’t happen until later in January, so be it. Is anyone else feeling like that this holiday season?

Wordless Wednesday

What better day than Christmas Eve to share a Wordless Wednesday? Here are a few moments from around our house lately…


Sharing our cookie…

Making gingerbread boys ‘n girls…

This last shot is one of two handmade projects for Hadman’s Christmas. I decided not to kill myself over them and chose just ONE type of felt food — he requested “pie” for Christmas, so of course I took him quasi-literally — and a felt board, which I’ll show in the future. Oh, and Santa’s giving the felt board. I’ve given him fake felt food in the past, so it’s clearly a “parent gift.” It’s also pretty cool that we can keep adding to his collection depending on his interests. Oh, and the textured one is apple and the other is blueberry (or use your imagination, really). 🙂


And, last but not least, our wish to you all. Thanks for reading, and we truly hope that you have a joyful holiday season.


How’re things with you guys? Ready for Christmas? I’ve got a little last-minute wrapping and one quick project to finish, aside from a couple of recipes and probably one or two “oops, forgot that!” loose ends to tie up. We’ll also drop off a neighbor gift and a treat and coffee at the police station before joining one of our family celebrations tonight. Let the fun begin!