Saturday, November 29, 2008

My very first drama-free Thanksgiving!

It finally happened. A Thanksgiving without any drama. No drama, whatsoever! I think I might have dreamed it but alas I have pinched myself many a time and I'm sure it was real.

Originally, we weren't sure what we were going to do for the holiday. Tim's brother and his wife had invited the whole family over plus some family friends to celebrate Thanksgiving early (last Sunday) since they were going to be away from home on the actual day of Thanksgiving. So we figured that was our holiday celebration with Tim's family. My sister always has her in-laws over and it just gets too crowded, especially with our 4 kids added to the mix. We decided against going there. My mom and step-dad decided to go to San Francisco for the day, rather than spend the holiday with us. What grandparent doesn't want to spend a holiday with their grandchildren?! Enough said.

So it was just going to be the 6 of us here at home....a nice, quiet Thanksgiving. Tim was fine with it. I was okay with it too but I was a little sad that we have family so close to us yet no one was coming over for the holiday. It says a lot about my family. I kept saying to Tim, "I'm just sad that Thanksgiving will be just like any other day for in the kitchen cooking a meal that no one will probably eat and chasing after kids while trying to keep them entertained, changing diapers, cleaning messes....". I'm sure he got tired of hearing it but there was nothing he could really do or say to snap me out of my bad attitude so he would just roll his eyes every time I would start in. I envied all my friends who were getting together with their huge, loving families to celebrate the day.

The one good thing about not having family around was there would be no drama. There's always at least 3 people in my family who aren't talking to other family members and it's awkward and tense. In Tim's family, there's always some kind of needless drama that gets thrown in at the last minute, making everyone dread the holiday.

When we found out that Tim's parents were just planning on staying home, I asked Tim to invite them over. Why not? My MIL and I aren't exactly the best of friends but surely I felt we could both make the best of it for the sake of the kids, who deserved to have a fun, happy Thanksgiving. At the last minute, I got nervous because I wanted to make a really delicious meal that would impress them. I guess I was afraid I would be compared to my SIL, whose meal last Sunday was out of this world.

Thursday came and I had everything in the kitchen ready to go by the time they arrived. I planned on staying in the kitchen most of the time to avoid any possible drama that may happen or any unfriendly, unsolicited comments that might have been said. To my amazement, everything went well. I did stay in the kitchen most of the time chopping, slicing, dicing, arranging and cooking. And my MIL would come in from time to time to offer to help or to have some light conversation with me. My IL's helped so much with the kids, keeping them out of the kitchen and keeping them happy and entertained.

I did the same turkey recipe I did last year (Alton Brown's recipe from Food Network....SO yummy and juicy!) and I made real mashed potatoes (not the powdered kind that my MIL thought would have been easier), real stuffing (not Stovetop), fresh green beans with garlic and bacon, and my FIL made the gravy. It was probably one of the best meals I've ever made. The turkey was just oozing juice everywhere as Tim carved into it. The skin was crisp and a nice shade of brown and the meat turned out perfect. It was so beautiful and I wish now I had taken a picture of it!! Everyone seemed to be impressed, which made me happy, except for Tim who never seems to be generous with his compliments. "So, Tim, what do you think of dinner?"...."it was okay...I didn't like the sausage in the stuffing". Whatever. When he started in with the fact that I was using real bacon in the green beans instead of the fake stuff, his mother finally said, "will you just stop? Your wife is trying to make a nice meal. She's putting in a lot of could say something nice". At this point, I was starting to see her more as my ally and my husband as the enemy.

Needless to say, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving, much to my surprise. For once, I wasn't left in tears after a holiday meal with my family or Tim's family. I can only pray that Christmas turns out as nice!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Mommy, unicorns don't like Halloween"

My kids are my latest source of entertainment. I don't need TV, I don't need the music on my iPod. All I need is to watch and listen and I end up completely entertained. Here's some of the silly things they've done or said recently:

Bella has a habit of just coming up with random comments at any given time. For instance, the other morning, she had climbed in bed with me somewhere around 4:30 am. She woke up at 6:30 am, woke me up by nudging me and as soon as I opened my eyes and groggily asked, "what?", she said, "On Soaring over California, we had to wear seat belts. But you and Daddy didn't". Huh?? I had to think for a minute, given I had just woken up...what was she talking about? Oh, the ride at Disneyland that we went on over two months ago. Obviously, this was still weighing heavily on her mind. And then a couple days ago, she was helping me make dinner and I was explaining to her how we make minestrone soup in the crockpot. Out of nowhere, she says, "Mommy, unicorns don't like Halloween". Okay, that was sooooo out of left field that it left me wondering if she had eaten some mushrooms that had grown in our backyard. The conversation went like this, "So, we cut up all these veggies and then we throw them in the crockpot and stir"..."Mommy, unicorns don't like Halloween". I just stared at her and she shrugged and said, "well, they DON'T".
We've finally done away with pull-ups at night for Cole and Bella. I know they are capable of going a whole night without peeing in their beds so we put them to the test. The first night, Bella did have an accident but Cole didn't. However, she insisted she did not pee in her jammies. When I asked her what happened, she said, "Cole peed in the potty and then he took a bunch of the pee water and spilled it on my bed and my jammies". Now how creative is that??!! Cole kept saying "Nuh-uh, she's lying". Of course, I knew she was lying but I was pretty darn impressed with the creativity behind that one!
Today, I had to take Cole to the surgeon for a consult about the surgical procedure for his umbilical hernia. Bella wanted to come too (of course). As we were waiting in the waiting room, she said, "Cole, are you gonna be okay?" and he said "yeah, I'm fine"....then Bella said, "I'm worried about you". Cole asked "why?" and she said "because the dr is gonna cut a big hole inside of you and take some babies out of your belly". The look on his face was priceless....before he could say anything I said "NOOOO, no one's taking babies out of anyone's belly....the dr is just gonna look at Cole's belly button and talk to us about how he's gonna push it back in". Then Bella said, "Cole, I just want to tell you that I love you" to which he replied, "I love you too Bella". They hugged and just when I thought I was gonna get a little teary-eyed watching this exchange of words and display of affection, Bella pushed him away and said, "Now leave me're bothering me".
Cole was also trying to convince me that they were due for a visit to Chuck E Cheese, even though I swore up and down I'd never set foot in CEC as long as I live. And I told him as much and he said, "Mommy, don't worry about worry too's not a problem". I said, "it is a problem because you guys always end up sick after going there, whether it's from all the germs or the greasy, disgusting pizza, someone always ends up no, we are not going there". He continued to argue, "But Mommy, pizza is good for your heart and we won't touch anything, we'll just look". Yeah, that's as big a lie as "the check's in the mail". And then Bella piped in with "Mommy, unicorns like apples and rainbows aren't real".
Garrett and Landon are also good for entertainment value, as well. Garrett is into giving kisses big time. And he's very dramatic about it. He has to pucker up and say "mmmwwwwaaaaa" as he's giving a kiss. A kiss from him just isn't the same without the sound effects. He also gives us this horribly evil angry face when he's upset about something. He puckers his lips, bends his head down and glares. I can't help but laugh when he does this because he's SO dramatic about it. And then he always ends up laughing and then repeating the "angry face" over and over until we're finally so sick of it and begging him to stop.
Landon has decided that he has no use for words and just simply nods his head "yes" and shakes his head "no". I was starting to think he really didn't understand the meaning of yes and no, but when I asked him a series of questions, he responded appropriately. "Would you like some crackers?" Nods head yes. "Do you want to go to bed now?" Shakes head no. "Let's go change your diaper". Shakes head no (he'd rather remove it himself and run around the house naked). "Would you like to go for a walk?" Nods head yes. "Do unicorns like Halloween?" Shakes head no. Who knew?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kate Gosselin, you are no longer my hero!

I'm addicted to all those TLC and Discovery Health shows, especially the ones that have been featured recently about "amazing families". They recently did a show on the pregnant man (which, I'm sorry, still kinda freaks me out everytime I see pictures of his naked pregnant belly...AND he's pregnant AGAIN!), a female couple who have 2 sets of twins together and then, of course, there's always the Jon and Kate, Plus 8 shows that I can't help but watch.

I watch Kate Gosselin sometimes in complete awe...and sometimes she makes me feel encouraged and reminds me that children are a blessing, no matter how many you have (or how many came to you at one time!!). And sometimes I watch her as she cooks organic meals from scratch for her family (although it's been rumored that she has a personal chef who cooks for the family) and I feel completely inadequate, thinking to myself, "If she can cook organic meals from scratch for her EIGHT children, I should be able to do it for my FOUR children". Personally, I kind of like when she has meltdowns on the show or when she gets mad because one of the kids got paint on their shirt because it makes me realize that she is human. She's not perfect, as much as the tv shows sometimes reflects her to be.

The other night, there was a show on TLC called "Twins, Twins and Sextuplets". It was to air right after Jon and Kate, Plus 8 and I kept thinking it had to be a story about 3 different families. But was about Eric and Betty Hayes who have 2 sets of twins and sextuplets. I can't imagine why I've never heard of them before....apparently, they've been all over the news and on major shows, like Oprah and Good Morning America.

Of course I had to watch it and I was immediately enamored with this family. Not only are all the kids fun-loving and adorable, but the parents have such a great sense of humor. They showed the family just hanging out at home and also running errands, like to the grocery store. They just seemed so....well, normal. Even with 10 kids....3 sets of multiples....they seemed so calm and in control. In the beginning, the mother talks about how she transitioned from having 2 sets of twins to having sextuplets and she said something like, "I just figured we had already done it really wasn't that bad". She never complained and she was able to make light of her situation, even during the stressful times. Her husband, at one point, said "shoot me" in a joking manner.

What really impressed me is that the father works outside the home while the mother stays home with the 10 kids. Some are in school and she spends that time during the day doing tons of laundry and cleaning...she said it's never ending. She seems very organized and makes it actually look kind of easy. I don't know if she has any outside help but they didn't mention any, except for the volunteers that came over initially and helped with feedings when the sextuplets had just been born.

Now, Kate Gosselin is pretty awesome in her own right but I somehow feel inadequate when comparing myself to her, which I know I shouldn't do. I think most mothers compare themselves to's a way of testing ourselves to make sure we are measuring up, doing the best we can for our kids and not missing out on anything. I had to keep reminding myself that Kate Gosselin has tons of help...someone helping her with laundry, volunteers to help with the kids, someone to travel with them on vacations, and her husband now stays home and helps her because they are reportedly getting paid something like $65,000 per episode.

I guess, in the end, I could identify more with Betty Hayes than Kate Gosselin. Kate always seems to have an attitude, seems to have a "I'm better than you" quality about her. Maybe she's not like that in real life but they certainly portray her that way on the show.

As I watched the Hayes family go grocery shopping, and shoe shopping with all 10 kids, and all the while Betty is quizzing them in the car about what the colors of the traffic lights mean (instead of yelling at them to be quiet), they had earned my respect and admiration. From one fellow mom of multiple multiples to another (even though she outnumbers me by sextuplets...I could NOT even imagine what they must have felt when they found out they were having 6 more kids all at once), Betty Hayes is my new hero!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This is what big brothers and sisters are for....

"Come on, little guy....pull can do it"

"I'm trying...I'm really trying....I may need some help"

When the going gets tough, big brother is quick to the rescue....

And when the going gets even tougher, big sister also comes to the rescue...

Monday, November 17, 2008

What to do with all this leftover butternut squash??

There's nothing more I dislike than wasted food, especially with the economy being the way it is. I really want the kids to start eating more veggies and fruits but I hesitate to buy something new at the store, out of fear that it will go to waste. Like avocados, navel oranges, honeydew melon, papayas, kiwis, eggplant and kale. However, they did like plums, pears, cauliflower and mushrooms. So not too much money wasted I suppose.
Last time I went shopping, I took Cole and Bella with me and I asked them to pick out something new that they would like to try. They decided on a nice, firm butternut squash. I happen to love squash...all kinds of squash....but since I'm the only one who generally eats it, I end up eating squash for days on end and then even I get a little sick of it. So it turns out that neither of them like butternut squash and I was left with a whole bunch of squash....what to do? what to do? I threw some of it in some macaroni and cheese, which the kids raved about. Made me laugh in an evil kind of way..."hahahaha, I put butternut squash in the mac-n-cheese and you all are eating it...hahaaaa". But that left me with another cup of squash.
That got me to thinking..."hmmmm, butternut squash kinda reminds me of pumpkin" so what about making butternut squash muffins. I figured the kids would totally go for that. What kid doesn't like muffins? But, at the same time, I wanted to make healthy muffins, if there is such a thing. And if the kids wanted to help me, would they turn their noses up at all the healthy substitutions? I guess there was only one way to find out.

I gathered up all the ingredients and placed them on the counter....and yelled out to the kids, "who wants to help me make some really yummy muffins?"

So we had skim milk, oat bran, flour, baking powder, eggs (only the whites), pureed butternut squash, sugar, salt, canola oil, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg. The Wellbutrin in the medicine bottle in the background is not included in the recipe, though I suspect if I crushed up a few and threw them in, I'd be feeling mighty fine after about 2 muffins.

Oh and two 4-year olds who had obviously started to play with the flour....

After preheating the oven to 400 degrees and spraying some Pam in the muffin pan, we got started. First we mixed all the dry ingredients into one bowl (used half oat bran and half regular white flour....could probably use whole wheat flour instead but I wasn't sure if it would make the texture too heavy) and mixed well, as demonstrated by one of my lovely assistants.

Then we mixed all the wet ingredients (used 2 egg whites as substitution for 1 whole egg, and used canola oil instead of butter) in a separate bowl, as demonstrated by my other lovely assistant.

Once all those ingredients are mixed together, we put in the pureed butternut squash. Cole asked, "yuck, what is that stuff?" and I said "it's my secret makes the muffins really sweet". Bella asked, "what's it called?" and I said "it's a secret...that's the whole point of a not tell anyone". I knew at any mention of squash, they'd run for the hills and even if the muffins did look delicious, they would refuse to touch them so I had to come up with something. When they had questioned me about the ground flaxseed, I explained to them that it's something that helps them grow taller. They were okay with that so I told them that the secret ingredient not only would make the muffins extra sweet but it would also help them grow. They gave me their approval, as I dumped the squash into the bowl of wet ingredients.

Then we mixed the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. While it smelled heavenly, it looked pretty nasty. This is when Cole pretended to gag over the bowl, as he said, "Hey Bella, watch this...." and then he pointed to the contents of the bowl and said "I puked...hahahaha". Nice. Boys will be boys.

Then we poured the mix into the muffin pan and my lovely assistants coerced me into sprinkling the tops of the muffins with some brown sugar and cinnamon. I did have to admit it sounded pretty good.

And then my lovely assistants dug their fingers into the empty bowl and scooped up whatever batter they could find left and licked their fingers cleaned. The mom in me wanted to scream out "NOOOO, don't do that....there's raw egg in there, you could die of salmonella poisoning" but the kid in me said "oh, what the hell....they're little kids" and I prayed like a crazy woman that I wouldn't be visiting the ER later this evening with 2 sick kids.

The muffins baked for 20 minutes and they were done. The house smelled so wonderful, like a combination of pumpkin pie and cinammon. Once they were semi-cooled down, I cut one in half for them and put a dab of Promise Active spread on it because what is a warm muffin without the melted butter??

So yummy!!! The kids loved them....even the little twins, who are pickier than the older two, believe it or not. I had to laugh as Cole said, in between bites, "I think it's the secret ingredient that makes them so good" and Bella agreed. I laughed to myself, thinking these were the same kids who last night swore up and down that butternut squash had to have been created by the devil, it was THAT horrible tasting to them. Here's Bella, eating a muffin after dinner, giving me the "thumbs up"....she approves. Tim ate one after dinner, too, and agreed that they were pretty darn good. High-five for Mom for not letting any butternut squash go to waste!!

Here's the recipe in case anyone wants to give it a whirl:
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup oat bran
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar (I normally would use Splenda but I didn't have any left)
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 tsp ground cinammon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 cup pureed butternut squash
3/4 cup milk (I used skim milk but you could use soy milk or rice milk)
2 egg whites
1 tbsp canola oil
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin pan.
2) In a large bowl, mix together flour, oat bran, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmet and flaxseed.
3) In separate bowl, mix together milk, canola oil and egg whites. Stir in squash. Then pour this in with the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened (don't just want to make sure all the ingredients are combined well)
4) Pour the batter into the greased muffin pan. You can sprinkle the tops with a light mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon if you'd like. And then bake for 20 minutes and test for doneness by sticking a knife in the middle of one of the muffins. If it comes out clean, the muffins are done. Let them cool and then snack away....yum! This is a fun baking project to do with the kids, especially on a rainy day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I. just. can't. stop.

Cleaning. Usually my cleaning routine involves the basics....clean the toilet bowls, sweep and mop the floors, vacuum the carpets, clean the counters, dust the knick-knacks. Oh and let's not forget laundry....oh God, the laundry. It never ends...I have this bad habit of letting it pile up because I dread doing it and then on Friday night, I end up doing like 5-6 loads of laundry and then I spend hours on the weekend sorting, folding, and putting away clothes and towels. I keep reading wonderful and organized cleaning schedules posted by other bloggers or from friends and I feel such deep envy...why can't I be that organized? Why can't I stick to a cleaning schedule? It certainly would make my life so much easier.

This morning, I started off by finally sorting, folding and putting away the 5-6 loads of laundry I finished washing/drying last night. It took 2 hours. I wish I was kidding but I'm not. Then this afternoon, Tim took the kids to his parents' house. Most sane moms would take full advantage of getting a break from the husband and the kids....they'd lay on the sofa with a good book, a cup of tea, a warm cozy blanket covering their bare feet....but not me. Nope, I use these rare moments to clean the hidden, forgotten places that have gone months (or years....keep reading) without being cleaned or organized.

I would love to say I took before pictures but honestly I didn't expect for this to become an all-day project. I figured I'd organize all my spices and baking supplies and leave it at that. I just got so sick and tired of trying to find spices amongst the huge mess in my pantry that I vowed to organize it. But then, wouldn't you know it? I just couldn't stop. Instead of leaving the spices where they had been (in a lower part of the pantry which killed my back every time I had to bend down to find something....not to mention all the little hands that would go diving into the cabinet the minute it was open), I cleaned out another cabinet and moved my spices over there.

Just look at how organized it is....I love it!! I really wish I had taken "before" pictures because it was such a mess!

Then of course the cabinet shelf where I had my spices was now empty so I decided to organize all my cookbooks and recipes I've collected over the years....then that lead to another empty cabinet shelf. So I moved some of the paper products we use every once in while to that shelf (because it was overflowing in the cabinet where they had been, leaving me to have to dig out my crockpot everytime I want to use it). And this continued for at least 2 hours....the more I'd clean and organize, the more I wanted to keep going. I ended up going through our entire pantry, cleaning it out and organizing.

I gasped when I started pulling out things that had been buried in the very back of the cabinets....things from 2003 that had been opened and then forgotten about. Who on earth still has food from 2003 in their pantry???!!! Oh, it gets better....I discovered that we have a rotisserie cooker!! When did I get that thing? I have no was buried behind a bunch of junk in the bottom of the pantry. I may have used it once I think....can't remember. My memories have been clouded having 4 kids. I also found a juicer, which was a wedding present from one of Tim's high school buddies. I know it was a wedding present (from 2002) because it still had some wrapping paper on it, with the friend's name written on it by me in preparation for sending out thank-you notes....and it had never been used....or opened, for that matter.

So now my kitchen pantry looks like this:

And the beauty of it is now I know exactly what we have so I don't need to keep buying cans of pinto beans, thinking we don't have any....or oatmeal. Who needs 5 boxes of oatmeal, for crying out loud?
I ended up with 4 garbage bags full of expired foods (including foods/candy from the kids' Easter baskets from 2005 and 2006, some Halloween candy I must have hidden so well from 2007 that even I had forgotten about it, supplements galore from each time Tim and I got on a health kick and items from gift baskets I had received over the years, like nuts, coffee, etc) gross is that? That just goes to show how long my pantry has been neglected.

It's almost 5:00 pm and I'm exhausted. NOW I'm gonna go grab a book and cuddle up on the sofa and try to enjoy the silence of the house before Tim and the kids come home! Nothing like a huge project to make you feel accomplished!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm so glad I'm not one of "those" moms....

I took the kids to the park the other day and it was swarming with kids, which was good because then I wouldn't have to listen to Cole and Bella whine, "Mommy, there's no friends for us to play with". I always respond with "well, you have each other...why don't you play together with one another?" and they both look at me like "huh?" Yeah, why would they want to play together when they're together ALL THE TIME? My bad.

I soon figured out that a bunch of the moms and kids had met there for a playgroup because there were about 8 moms huddled together, literally in a tight circle, as if to say to others, "don't even think about joining our little clique because we're tighter than tight".

I was standing in front of the play structure, watching my kids play. Cole and Bella had found a friend to play with, a little boy also named Cole who is at the park frequently. Everyone was happily playing when Bella ran over to the swings and wanted me to push her. Garrett and Landon were on the play structure but I felt they'd be fine if I took my eyes off them for just a second to give her a good push to get her started on the swings. And of course, just as I took my eyes off of them, that's when Garrett fell and got stuck on one of the bars so he was maybe 2-3 feet from the ground, if that. He didn't cry but he did scream out to me..."" and I ran over to him as quickly as I could but not before one of "those" moms could reach him. She was nice enough to help him get down since she happened to be standing closer to him than I was .

I smiled at her, somewhat embarrassed, and said "thank you for helping him....he has no fear....he thinks he can climb higher than he really can". I suppose I expected her to smile or chuckle along with me and say "Oh I kids are the same way" or "No problem...I'm just glad I could get there quickly enough to help him" . But no....the look on her face was one of total judgement. She had a scowl on her face and said, "you should probably keep a closer eye on him then". I was completely taken aback by this...I mean, it's not like I was far away, not watching him for a lengthy period of time. I was literally a few feet away pushing my daughter on the swing. I fully intended to walk back over to him within a few seconds after giving Bella a push. It's just as I turned my back to walk over to her, that's when he decided to test the waters.

I decided to keep my mouth shut at that point. I didn't owe her any explanations and she obviously wasn't very forgiving. While I did appreciate her being so closeby and being willing to get to Garrett before I could, I didn't appreciate her snotty, rude attitude about it.

I have 4 kids, all very energetic and all very independent at times....sometimes one of them will run off as I'm attending to another one. It happens...but none of them have ever been hit by a car, none of them have been kidnapped, none of them have ever been injured (not seriously anyway). I was offended by her comment....I mean, even if she thought I was a horrible mom, she could've used a nicer tone.

What I don't understand is why some mothers are like this...why do they sit in judgement of other mothers, without having a full understanding of the situation? We all have different situations, we all come from different backgrounds but we're all mothers, who love our children and want nothing but the best for our children, including to always be safe. There have been many times I've been at the park and I've seen another child fall or get sand in their eyes and maybe the mother either didn't see it happen or wasn't close enough to get to the child immediately, so I would help the child until the mother could come over. It's always been appreciated and usually it ends up turning into a lengthy conversation with just another mom, who's also feeling overwhelmed and split up into a million directions.

After all, aren't we supposed to be a sisterhood? Aren't we supposed to have each other's backs? If anyone can understand the ups and downs and the challenges of being a mother, it's another mother, right? We should be lifting each other up, encouraging and supporting one another, even if we're perfect strangers. Not sitting in judgement of one another or being critical....oh, sure there's a such thing as constructive criticism....but downright snotty, rude, judgemental attitudes? What's up with that?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My little mini-me...but a director, she ain't!

Bella is going through a stage right now where she wants to dress exactly the same way as me. Yesterday, she had on a perfectly nice outfit but as soon as she came into my room while I was getting dressed and saw what I had on, she started stripping. "Mommy, I want to dress like you"....I said, "Bella, your outfit looks nice...why don't you just keep it on?". Nope, she wouldn't hear of it...she started stripping right there and insisted that I go with her into her room and put together an outfit for her, exactly like the one I had on.

I happened to be wearing a plain white-t-shirt, blue Nike sweatpants, and a powder-blue light sweatshirt zipped up over the t-shirt. I'm being very detailed here because it was very important to her that she match me exactly! I managed to find something in her closet that was close enough...she was thrilled beyond words and all day long, she kept saying, "Mommy, we're twins".

Today, she came into my room and said, "I want to wear what you're wearing". I had on a red long-sleeved shirt with a white tanktop underneath, jeans, and white tennis shoes. So off we went into her room to find her the same exact oufit. Only she wanted to wear her new black shoes and I was more comfy in tennis shoes so she battled with me on this..."But Mommy, we have to look alike or we won't be twins". She also insisted on wearing her hair like mine, which I had partly pulled back in a barrette. Her hair is very thin and out of control so she had to settle for a ponytail. She also gave up the fight on the shoes and settled on her black shoes and ALLOWED me to continue wearing my tennis shoes. Although while we were at the dr's office today, a man in the elevator pointed out that we were dressed alike except for our shoes. She shot me one of those looks and said to the guy, "I told her to wear black shoes but she wouldn't...she just won't listen to me" and she sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. The guy laughed and as he walked off the elevator, he said to me, "You've got your hands full with this one"....yeah, I know.

While we were playing in the backyard today, I had my camera out so I could get some videos of the kids going down the slide, mainly Garrett who goes so fast down it that he literally flies off the slide at the bottom, landing on his butt. Bella asked Cole to get some pics of us because "we're dressed like twins".

Just ignore the huge trash pile in the corner. That's Tim's "I'll get to it someday" pile.
Then Bella wanted to make a short little video so I was trying to tell her how to do it, while entertaining my other 3 kiddos. She's no Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg, let's just put it that way. If you've been drinking any alcoholic beverages, you may wanna avoid watching may end up dizzy and puking your guts up. Well, actually, no matter what you've consumed before watching this, you will probably end up dizzy and puking your guts up.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I really was prepared...I was, I was, I was!

Today, I piled all the kids into the mini-van for yet another fun adventure to the mall's play area (why on earth is the preschool closed the DAY BEFORE Veteran's Day and the actual holiday itself?! When the teacher told me this on Friday, as she smiled and said 'I get to sleep in for 4 days straight', I wanted to cry). As I was about to put the mini-van into reverse, a piece of green paper caught my happened to be on the floor of the passenger side. I picked it up and it was the list I had made for Tim, almost 22 months ago, of the things I needed him to pack for me, should I go on hospital bedrest when I was pregnant with Garrett and Landon. I remember taking the time to make the list and hand it to him, making him promise me he'd keep it in a safe place just in case on one of my twice weekly dr's appts, I got sent to the hospital.

And, as it turned out, towards the end of my pregnancy, I was sent to the hospital quite a bit by my OB after appts or after non-stress tests (which actually caused me to have more stress). Each time, I'd call Tim and ask him if he had the list so he could bring me my stuff. And each time, he'd say "no, you didn't give me a list". I'd say, "Oh yes I certainly did....I handed it to you and said for you to put it in a safe place". He'd just sigh and say "well, I don't remember having what do you want me to bring you?". As if I'm supposed to remember all 20 things off the top of my head during a very stressful time?? So I'd sputter off some things I could remember and inevitably he'd bring maybe 4 or 5 things (sometimes one of the things wasn't even anything I had requested). I remember calling him one morning after staying overnight in the hospital and screaming at him, "Do you know how hard it was for me to sleep last night without my beloved pillow....without having any chapstick for my extremely dry lips....are you sure you can't remember where you put the list?". Again, he'd swear I never gave him any such list.

So now I have proof....such a list did exist and he had placed it in the mini-van somewhere so well-hidden that even HE didn't remember where it was. I happened to find the damn list 22 months later. It must have ended up on the floor of the car when one of the kids was rummaging through either the glove compartment or the driver's console. I laughed to myself when I saw the list, thinking how much more comfortable and happy I would've been if he had remembered the list. Things like chapstick, my pillow, hairbrush, dental floss, toothbrush and toothpaste, nail clippers, magazines, crossword puzzles, my laptop, anti-persperant, tweezers and a mirror (I have no idea why I put that, except I must have figured that tweezing my eyebrows would kill some time while on bedrest), my cellphone charger and hair scrunchies. I also put the camera and the video camera on the list so we'd have it there ready to go should I be whisked off suddenly to deliver our surprise miracle twins.

Each time I was in the hospital, I was put on bedrest. Not allowed to get up, unless I had to use the bathroom, which was to be a very quick trip. And on a couple occasions, they took away my bathroom privileges and I was treated to using a little porta-potty next to my bed. But I guess that beats having a catheter shoved up into my bladder....I was saving that fun experience for the absolute last thing right before my c-section.

The same thing happened when I was pregnant with Cole and Bella. I actually had a bag packed...well, semi-packed...with a list IN THE BAG of the other things Tim was supposed to pack and bring to the hospital. Again, I was admitted to the hospital after a routine visit and I never got that bag delivered to me. Everyday he'd visit and slap his forehead and say "Oh I forgot the bag". Then they finally released me after a week and I said to myself, "I'm gonna pack that damn bag myself and put it in the car"....but after being home for 7 hours, my water broke and I could hardly think straight, let alone remember to pack the rest of the bag and bring it with me. I called the hospital to let them know we would be coming right back and the nurse said, "okay, calm probably have some time to pack your bag and take a shower if you'd like" but I was convinced that my babies were gonna suffocate without any amniotic fluid or that I would suddenly dilate and they'd fall out of me while in the shower and I'd be on one of those Discovery Health Channel specials called "Women who Delivered their own the Shower". We did remember the camera....I'm not sure how we remembered to bring that but we did. Good thing too, because I ended up having a c-section 4 hours later.

After being in the hospital for at least 24 hours before I had Garrett and Landon 6 weeks early, the doctors kept going back and forth on whether to keep me or release me. The nurse finally told Tim he probably had enough time to go home and get something to eat, PACK MY BAG (I had been fortunate enough that he had delivered a few things to me during the 24 hours I had been there, including my magazines and a canister of nuts...huh? why nuts? I have no idea), and then come back. During this time, the dr came back in, after reviewing the blood flow study that had just been done by an u/s tech, and said "we have to get these babies out as soon as possible...", as it turned out that Garrett (Baby A)'s umbilical cord appeared to have some problems and the dr wasn't sure if his blood and oxygen supply were being compromised and for how long it had been, if that were the case. So of course I'm freaking out....crying....trying to hold it together....and Tim isn't there. All because he hadn't remembered MY FREAKIN HOSPITAL BAG. He barely made it back to the hospital, camera in hand...and that was it, nothing else. No freakin chapstick STILL.

Garrett and Landon were delivered and thankfully, even though they were 6 weeks early, they were okay, especially Garrett. At that point, I didn't give a rat's ass about the hospital bag. I mean, who really cares about chapstick and hairbrushes when my insides have just been torn open, having had 2 human beings ripped out from my uterus, and my boobs are aching but I can't get the least bit of breastmilk to come out?? And I couldn't cough or bend over without feeling like my insides would explode out of my body through my incision, which the nurse ensured me would never happen in a million years....yeah, apparently she's never watched those DHC specials because I'll bet my life on it that someone in this world has done that.

In closing, I now have proof that I was prepared....that I did write that hospital bag list and I must have given it to Tim and he put it in the mini-van and totally forgot about it. Someday, I'll forgive him, for forgetting about the list...yet, being thoughtful enough to bring me a can of nuts. Because doesn't every woman want a can of nuts to munch on while on hospital bedrest??

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bella was kissed by an angel and that makes her extra special....

I took Bella for her surgery consult yesterday to discuss the removal of her hemangioma scar. It was an informative appointment but also one which left me feeling anxious and unsure, initially.

Here's some history....Bella was born with a hemangioma on right arm. It grew rapidly and by the time she was 2 months old, it had ulcerated so deeply that muscle tissue was becoming exposed. It would bleed profusely for no apparent reason, which was extremely frightening.

Thankfully, her pediatrician was also a dermatologist and he gave us his home number for emergencies....there were plenty. He met us at his office many, many nights and even spent Christmas day 2004 away from his family for a few hours to help us stop the bleeding that had started in the middle of the night, which we could no longer control on our own.

The worst part was that the ulcer was so incredibly painful for her that she would cry endlessly, which would reduce us to tears just seeing her in so much pain. We tried every topical cream we could think of to help with the pain and even dosed her up on tylenol with codeine at certain points to help manage the pain. She endured painful steroid injections, laser treatments and cauterizations....we sought several professional opinions as well.

At this point, we were more concerned with the profuse bleeding than anything else.  There were times we were frightened that she'd bleed to the death right there in our kitchen, as we tried desperately to control it.  We had to find a way to get that under control and our doctor had tried just about everything he could think of.

Someone I knew on a message board happened to do medical research as her job and she forwarded me an article on something called Gel-Foam, which was similar to styrofoam. We could cut it to fit her hemangioma and it would end up absorbing the blood.

Along with this, we used Regranex...another miracle drug (in our eyes), which was typically used to heal ulcers on diabetic patients. Between these two things, we were able to get things back under control and we were finally starting to see some healing.

Around this time, we consulted with a doctor down in Beverly Hills (Dr John Reinisch) who has a vast amount of experience with surgical removals of hemangiomas. I spoke with him one night on the phone and I was so impressed with the information he shared with me that I felt strongly that we should pursue surgical removal of Bella's hemangioma.

Even though it was healing, it was still in horrible shape and we weren't sure what the outcome would be. We met him in person while he was here in Northern CA and once he took a look at her arm and saw how well it was healing, he advised us to just let nature take its course. He said it would continue to heal but she would probably be left with extensive scarring and plastic surgery would be a more realistic option at that point, around the age of 4-5.

Here's a link to the album where we've kept her pictures of her hemangioma at various stages....some of the pictures are graphic so I don't want to post them directly on the blog in case anyone would prefer to not look at them.

Anyway, so here we are in present day, and the plastic surgeon we saw on Friday examined her arm and then discussed the process she would have to endure to have reconstructive surgery. I was relieved to learn that he didn't think her muscle tissue had been too damaged to cause her to not have proper function of her arm. He had her lift her arm and bend it and he seemed to think that she has perfect functioning, thankfully. So that was one thing out of the way.

The process, as he explained it for the reconstruction, would include putting tissue expanders under the skin in the back of her arm to stretch out her skin. This would involve a surgical procedure to put the expanders in, plus several visits to increase the expanders, and then another procedure to have the expander removed.

Once there was sufficient skin to cover the scar, he would cut the scar out and pull the new skin forward over where the scar had been. He said it would be a lengthy process, with risks, of course. She's never been under anesthesia so we're not sure how she'd react.

 At her age, his concern was how she would deal with the expanders. She wouldn't be allowed to engage in certain activities that might pose a risk of interfering with them...and of course the process is not very comfortable.

The biggest factor, however, is that he didn't feel her arm would look any better after reconstructive surgery. She'd still be left with some scarring, more specifically an H-shape scar which would cover her bicep. He said her arm will never look perfect....but I'm not expecting perfect.

He did say that the extra saggy skin that she has in the crook of her elbow could easily be removed and that's what he would suggest. I asked him about skin grafting from another part of her body and he didn't feel that was any better of an option.

Ultimately, he said the decision was up to us. He just wanted to be honest in saying that he doesn't think surgery will necessarily improve the look of her arm. He suggested we might be better off waiting until she's older and can make an informed decision for herself.

I noticed Bella hadn't said much since we left his office. When I asked her what she thought, she said, "I don't want him to cut my scar off. I like it."

 I asked, "Does it bother you that your right arm doesn't look like your left arm?" and what she said brought tears to my eyes...."No, it doesn't bother me...I think it's pretty and I like it. I want to keep my scar. It makes me special".

 It brought me back to a time awhile ago when some kids wouldn't play with her at the park, saying her arm was "ugly". She had cried. And that's when I had told her that her arm is what makes her extra special and that is where she had been kissed by an angel before she was sent to us. I was so happy that she had remembered that and, most importantly, believed that....she felt special because of it and it's a part of her and she wants to keep it.

But there was a nagging part of me that felt that she may feel this way now but what about a few years from now when she's 10 and she starts becoming more self-conscious about her looks....or when she's 15  and outer appearances start to become even more important. I suppose I can't worry about that right now.

Obviously, it's not bothering her as much as I thought it might have been...and if she wants to keep this part of her, then who am I to argue with her. Maybe in a few years, if it is bothering her, we can pursue reconstructive surgery at that time. It'll be her decision.

And in the meantime, all I can do is keep encouraging her positive attitude....I'm beyond thrilled that when she looks in the mirror, she likes what she sees.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why have PB&J when you can have a toddler sandwich?

The best part of having 4 kids is watching them interact with one another. Well, when they're being nice to one another, of course. Lately, they've all been into hugging each other. Here's a picture I managed to get the other day when both Cole and Bella decided to hug Garrett at the same time....

They actually have him lifted off the ground, which cracked me up. He thought it was all fun and games until they kept picking him up repeatedly and squeezing him between the two of them. Awww, good times....

I had parent/teacher conferences with Cole and Bella's preschool teacher on Wednesday. Seems like they are both on target with where they should be for 4 year olds. I was impressed with how well they're both writing their names now compared to back in August when they started there. The teacher also showed me their done in August and one done last month...and there was also a huge difference. Cole now has a face and legs while Bella is just a big circle with legs.

The one thing the teacher did say Cole needs to work on is his confidence level, which didn't surprise me. We often hear from him "I can't" or "I don't know how" and as much as we encourage him to try, he'll either refuse or just start crying. Maybe he's a perfectionist and he's afraid of making a mistake....or maybe he doesn't have enough confidence in himself to even want to try. So we talked about ways we could boost his self-esteem and his confidence level in trying new things. Overall, I was happy to hear they're both doing really well and the teacher feels they'll be more than ready for kindergarten come next fall. Yikes...kindergarten already??!!

Yesterday, I had a developmental assessment for Garrett (Landon will have his next week). The hospital where they were born follows premature babies through the first 2 years of life to make sure they are developing on track and to line up services, should they need it. The nurse who did the assessment was one of the nurses who had taken care of Garrett and Landon when they were born and she was amazed at how much he'd grown. I was amazed with how well Garrett did during the assessment. Not at his behavior so much because he was pissy as usual...making angry faces when he wasn't happy about something and having major attitude problems if he didn't like something he was asked to do. But I was amazed at how well he completed some of the activities she had him do, like doing shapes puzzles...he actually put the squares where the squares go and the circles where the circles go. Then she had him do this thing where he had to put little pegs into holes and he did them over and over without any problem. He also pointed out pictures to her in a book when she asked where certain things were. This is when I had my "aha" moment and realized that all my reading to him wasn't in vain. He was absorbing every little thing even if he didn't act like it when I "quizzed" him. He was also very good at problem solving, which surprised me because at this young age, you just don't expect that. For instance, the nurse asked him to put 10 little square pieces into a coffee mug. As he was doing it, the nurse said to me, "this is always an interesting one because most kids aren't able to do it but it's interesting to watch them try it and see how they problem solve". Garrett sat for a good 5 minutes (which is long in toddler-time) trying to figure out how to get all 10 of those squares in the mug. And he never got frustrated...he tried several different ways and then finally he just started stacking the cubes on top of each other to get them all "in" the mug. Needless to say, the nurse and I just sat there in staring at was so much fun to watch him figure things out. He's a smart little booger....high-maintenance, whiny and head-strong but definitely very smart. At the end of the testing, the nurse said the only thing he's behind on his expressive language, which I knew. We have a speech evalation next week for both him and Landon. It'll be interesting to see how Landon does with his developmental assessment next week.

Revamping the food around here...successfully!

Since I found out about Bella's weight issues, as well as her high cholesterol, I've been revamping the food around here. I told the kids once all the "unhealthy" foods were gone, that I would not be replacing them....that included the frozen french toast sticks, the boxed mac-n-cheese, the bagel bites (those are actually Tim's but the kids like to eat them when he has some) and the frozen chicken nuggets. I was actually most worried about the chicken nuggets because the only ones they'll eat are the Dino Nuggets. They claim to be all white meat chicken with no trans fat but I know if I made chicken nuggets myself, they could be a whole lot healthier. I also told Tim that I would not be replacing his crappy sugar cereals....the top of our refrigerator looks like one of the shelves at the grocery store....Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops, Cap'n Crunch, Corn name it, we have it. I have a box of Kashi Go Lean Crunch that I keep for myself (and incidentally I gave some to Cole and Bella the other day and they liked it, with the exception of the sliced almonds). And I have Cheerios and Kix for the little twins. And no sodas either....that man goes through Coke like no one else I've ever seen before. His body will probably go through withdrawals and he'll be shaking and twitching all day long. He can have all his crap food away from home...nothing gets me angrier than when he has a soda and the kids ask if they can have some and he lets them! Especially the little twins...the first time I saw him giving them a sip of his Coke, I flipped out. He couldn't understand why I was so angry and he actually said, "what's the big's not like they're gonna be addicted to it or anything" which I countered back with, "oh really? Says the man who can't go an hour without having a Coke?"

So back to the food...boy, I sure did get off on a rampage about Tim's eating habits....on Sunday morning, I told the kids that I'd make them french toast. Their little eyes bugged out and they asked, "but Mommy, do you know how to make french toast?"....this is when I had to explain that Mommy has been very lazy about feeding them healthier foods and that as I popped kids out of my body, left and right, I got lazier and lazier and suddenly it seemed that the most convenient thing to do, esp on busy weekday mornings, was to reach for the frozen french toast and slap that on their plates. This excuse may have worked well for me when they were toddlers and the little twins had just been born and I was so freakin sleep deprived and overtaken by PPD that they were lucky they even got fed, even if it was crap, but now there's just no excuse...I need to make time to make healthier meals for my children.

For the french toast, I used whole grain bread (which Tim told me would be absolutely horrible for french if he's Emeril Lagasse?) and instead of using all whole eggs, I used only 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, mixed in a little fat-free milk, a splash of vanilla and a couple dashes of cinnamon and got started. Bella wanted to help and I figured if she helped, maybe she'd be more into eating something different. It smelled really good while they were cooking so I hoped they'd taste as yummy as they smelled. So.....the little twins wouldn't touch them but Cole and Bella loved them. In fact, they each asked for another piece!!! Which then posed another problem for me....they shouldn't really be having seconds on the french toast. I offered them more fruit but they both turned that down. Okay, so yet another hurdle to get over but I'm making progress....

Then came for the revamp of the chicken nuggets. The dino nuggets had been used up the other day and so I had nothing to fall back on. I found a recipe online for baked chicken nuggets and it looked pretty good. I mean, how can you screw up chicken nuggets?? Well, I guess if anyone can, it would be me. But these actually turned out super yummy in fact that Tim raved about them and said "hey, when you make these next time, you should cut some into long strips so we can have them on sandwiches". Cole and Bella asked if they could have some for lunch tomorrow but I had only made a small amount just in case they didn't like them, which would leave me on the hunt for another recipe. I told them I'd take some time in the next few days to make a huge batch of chicken nuggets and french toast to freeze so we could have them on hand, ready to go.

I also revamped the meatballs I make with spagetti. I'm using ground turkey and instead of putting bread crumbs in, I use rolled oats. And I also throw in some grated carrot and zucchini, along with the other typical meatball ingredients. Instead of using regular spagetti, I switched to whole grain spagetti. Yet another successful meal....the kids loved it and actually requested the leftover meatballs for lunch the next day. No more ground beef for anything anymore....I'm using all ground turkey for my meatloafs, meatballs, in place of italian sausage in some of my other recipes. And no one seems to be the wiser. No more shake-n-bake on the chicken....I started using Panko crumbs, which actually tastes better and seems lighter in taste.

My biggest challenge has been switching to fat-free things, esp dairy. They do eat fat-free yogurt but the cheese is gonna be a hard switch. Same with ranch dressing, which they sometimes like to dip their veggies in. Bella actually doesn't mind the fat-free dressing but Cole won't touch it. And I can't say I blame them....after being so used to eating the light versions of these things, the fat-free items taste horrible. It's a work in progress....

So far, so good....I think it's the little changes here and there that will make a huge difference. Just cutting out the frozen chicken nuggets and the frozen french toast, substituting ground beef with ground turkey, throwing extra veggies into things like meatloaf, meatballs and soups, and going with fat-free versions of some of the light items they've been eating, as well as sprinkling ground flaxseed into a lot of the things I've been making, should pay off. Also, cutting out the bedtime glass of milk with a light snack should make a difference too.

We're supposed to go back in 2 months to have Bella's cholesterol checked again and I'm praying we see a significant drop in her numbers. We'll be meeting with a nutrionist next week, who will monitor her weight and give me some suggestions and feedback on other changes we can make. I feel like we're headed in the right direction and it's been much easier than I anticipated!!

Edited to Add: Some people have asked me to post the recipe for the chicken it is with a couple revisions....Baked Chicken Nuggets:

I made some changes based on the reviews. To cut down on the fat, instead of using butter to dip the chicken in, you can use low-fat buttermilk. I didn't have any on hand so I used 1 cup skim milk with 2-3 tsp of white vinegar mixed in (essentially buttermilk after you let it sit for a few minutes). I didn't have any stale whole grain bread to make breadcrumbs with so I just used store-bought breadcrumbs. I didn't add any additional salt like the recipe calls for because I figured between the parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs, it would have enough of a salty taste. To kick up the protein and fiber, I added some ground flaxseed and oat bran to the bread crumb mixture (no one will even notice!). After the chicken nuggets are coated, put them on any type of cooking rack (like a cooling rack or a broiling rack so they are not laying flat on the baking sheet), and then put them on a foiled-line baking sheet. This will allow the nuggets to get nice and crisp....don't worry about turning them over. If you cook them on the rack, they will get crisp all over. I cooked them like the recipe said for about 15-20 minutes and then I broiled them for about 5 minutes to get them browned.

You can serve them with any kind of dipping sauce. They are yummy! My kids have been asking for these everyday for lunch since I discovered this recipe!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hide and Go Seek = Time off for Mommy

It was pouring rain yesterday afternoon. The sky was all gray and gloomy and I just didn't have it in me to drag all the kids to the gym. I really need to ask the manager at the gym to consider giving us moms with a handful of kids some priority parking spaces in front. As it is now, the parking lot is a madhouse and I usually have to park way out yonder and then run the kids through the parking lot, with the hopes that one of them doesn't get run over by some crazy guy on steroids. So, yeah, the idea of going through all that and getting soaked in the rain PRIOR to working out just wasn't my idea of fun.

So here I was stuck indoors with 4 extremely energetic kids...what to do, what to do. Well, first we made Jello Jigglers, which are actually quite gross if you ask me. I used to love Jello when I was younger but now the stuff just makes me feel sick. Figured that was the wrong choice of snack when Cole ate some of the jigglers and then started running around the room as if he were the Tazmanian Devil.....on crack. That'll teach me to stray from our usual carrots with yogurt dip.

Then we played a question/answer game where the kids would all stand at the top of the stairs and answer various questions I would ask them....well, Cole and Bella, anyway. The little twins just stood on the stairs, giggling the whole time as if I were the best stand-up comedian ever (guess the Jello jigglers hit them a little hard too). Whoever called out the right answer first, got to move down one step....until they got to the bottom of the stairs and that person was the winner. And I agreed to sing "We Are The Champions" for the winner and/or the Rocky theme, depending on which one the winner chose. Good God, the things I do to entertain my children.

They answered questions like "what did we have for dinner last night?", "what's Mommy's first name?", "who drops off presents for you if you've been good at Christmas time?", "what does the Easter bunny leave for you on Easter?", and "Who is God's son?"....they actually did really well. And they had fun with it...that's most important, that THEY had fun! Even if I did sound like a complete idiot singing the Rocky theme. Somewhere in my head, I could hear Simon Cowell saying, "that was just dreadful...absolutely horrible...don't quit your day job".

I was getting tired by this point and I looked at the clock and....I could NOT believe my eyes....only 15 minutes had passed!! Huh?? That 15 minutes felt like an hour. I was so sure I'd look at the clock and it would be 5:15 pm and I'd hear Tim's key in the door, ready to rescue me so I could make dinner without 4 kids hanging on my legs. Darn it....what was I supposed to do then??

I said, "Hey, let's play hide and go seek"....okay, cool, they were into it! I explained to them that Mommy would stand in the corner of the family room with my eyes shut and count to 10 very loudly. When I got to 10, I'd start looking for them. So off they went while I counted. By the time I got to 10 and said "ready or not, here I come", the house was silent. Not a peep, not a giggle, not a footstep...and I thought "what am I....high?? I'm gonna sit down for a few minutes and let them think I'm looking for them". So I sat down in the rocking chair and said things like "oh wow, you guys did such a good job hiding...I can't find you anywhere....where are my kids??" while I flipped through the People magazine I got 2 weeks ago....Madonna and Guy are divorcing?! Where have I been? Oh yeah, entertaining my kids. I'm so out of the loop on what all the celebs are up to these days. Finally, after 6 minutes, I think the kids were getting antsy so I actually did search for them and I found them all hiding in the coat closet in the living room.

They giggled at the thought of outsmarting me. Cole said, "Mommy, it took you forever to find us...we're good, huh". Oh yes, son, you're awesome at hide and go hide again so Mommy can pour herself a tall, chilled glass of wine while she "looks" for you all. So off they went to hide and I counted and then sat my butt down again, flipped through my magazine some more and decided against the wine and drank some apple juice instead. I figured I might actually fall asleep and forget about them completely if I had some wine.

We did this a couple more times and then finally Bella suggested "Mommy, why don't you hide and we'll look for you?"....oh great, now where was my down time??!! Being the evil mother that I am, while they had their little hands over their unsuspecting eyes as they counted, I grabbed my People magazine, went upstairs and sat in my shower. I figured they'd never look there and I'd still be able to hear them to make sure they were safe (and not leaving the house!) I actually got to read most of my magazine before I heard Cole come into my room for the 5th time and say "Okay, Mommy, we give up...where are you?" and I popped out from the shower and Cole and Bella screamed...."aaaagggghhhh, you scared us".

Cole said, "Wow, Mommy, you're really good at this game"....yes, son, I am, and thank you for noticing. Last night, after the kids were in bed, I came online to look at the weather report, praying that there will be rain again tomorrow. Rainy days aren't so bad after all....

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's all about the Happy Points....

In my quest to improve my mothering skills, I read every parenting magazine I can get my hands on. The magazines are full of great tips, recipes, advice on how to handle certain behaviors, take care of yourself as a mom and how to nurture your marriage.

My biggest challenge with Cole and Bella remains the same....getting them to do the things I want them to do without having to nag. And I'm not talking about difficult, impossible things for a 4 yr old to do, like wash the family car by themselves or mow the lawn. I'm talking about things that are expected of any child, like using good manners, communicating appropriately with one another, bringing me their dishes after they're done with a meal, cleaning up their toys without having to be asked, etc. I've done them a huge disservice by always doing some of those things for them, like cleaning up their toys because I can do it faster and I'm tired of fighting with them about it. They find every excuse in the book to avoid helping or doing something they should be doing...."but Cole's not helping", "I didn't make that mess, someone else did", "my leg hurts so I need to rest", "but it's Thursday" (I have no idea how they think that even comes close to qualifying as a valid excuse....I counter back with "well, God made Sunday as a day of rest, not Thursday, so please go pick your toys up").

I was reading one of these parenting magazines a few weeks ago and one mom shared an idea she was using with her children to encourage more positive behaviors...a sticker chart! But she called it a happy chart or something like that. Her child would earn 1 happy point (in the form of a sticker) for every time she did something positive. Once her child had 20 happy points (20 stickers) on the chart, she would take her child to the store to pick out a small toy. And she also solved the "I want's" by telling her child everytime she was in a store and said "I want that", the mother would say "once you have 20 points, we'll come back and get that". That's the other problem I have with Cole and Bella...their sense of entitlement. They want everything they see and they want it now. It gets so tiring....

So I decided to borrow this woman's idea because it just seemed so clever....well, and not having to fight with the kids over every little thing was enticing too. I told them about my plan and they were all for it. We sat down and made our happy charts...they both got to pick out which color they wanted for their chart and they got to color it and write their name on it. Bella decided she wanted Princess stickers to use for her points and Cole wanted Spiderman stickers.

From that point on, every time I saw them doing something positive, I told them they had just earned a happy point. After awhile, they were finally starting to get the idea....they were totally buying it! And what was even greater was I didn't have to nag anymore....if they didn't do what I asked the first time, I'd just say "it's too bad you don't want to clean your toys up because this would be a wonderful opportunity for you to earn another happy point". I almost died of shock the other day when that worked!!

Now I'm hearing things like, "Mommy, can I please have some more ketchup? Did you notice I used my manners? Do I get a happy point for that?" or "Mommy, I'm bringing my dishes to the sink...can I have a happy point?"

But there are still some things we need to work on, like Bella sleeping in her own bed at night, instead of climbing into our bed and getting them to stop fighting like cats and dogs. That's the ONE thing I really wish would've/could've been resolved with this system. I know siblings fight but these two go at it every minute of the day. And most of it's silly things...."Cole's sitting on my part of the sofa" (I didn't realize we had assigned seating on the sofas), "Bella's looking at me" (perhaps if I blind-folded her that would prevent this problem), "Cole's breathing again" (when Bella complained about this to me, I asked her "and your problem with him breathing is....?", she replied, "I just don't like it when he breathes"....oh, okay, well, let's put on time-out for breathing then).

Oh well, we'll do this in baby steps I suppose. I must be appreciative of the things they've accomplished so far using this Happy Points system. They are being more helpful and using manners, even if it isn't with one another. I wonder if this system would work with would a grown man respond to getting Happy Points for putting his own clothes in the laundry basket and not on the floor, putting his dishes in the sink, and not leaving his stuff all over the house for me to pick up?? And what on earth would I give him as a reward for earning 20 Happy Points? I have a feeling he and I would be on entirely different pages in answering that question. Maybe he'd settle for me cooking his favorite dinner of baby back ribs and corn on the cob....that's got to be as good as sex, right?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween present...

It was 2:45 pm and Cole and Bella had already asked me 20 times "can we put on our costumes yet?". I swear, it was the longest afternoon on my life. And it didn't help that the weather was kinda crummy so I kept all 4 of them indoors so I can't blame them for being completely bored.

At 6:00 pm, Tim and I got the kids dressed into their costumes. Cole and Bella were SO excited and they totally got into it. Cole was Spiderman and I didn't think he'd really wear the mask but he did. He looked pretty darn cool. Bella was Supergirl and she just melted my heart. She looked so adorable!

Now, if you were in danger and in desperate need of being rescued, wouldn't you want those two to come to your rescue??

As for Garrett and Landon, I totally underestimated them. Landon is usually our happy-go-luck, always-smiling baby. Garrett is usually our high maintenance Mama's boy. They were polar opposites last night. Garrett went as Superman and Landon was Batman. Garrett had a blast...he loved his costume! Landon freaked out the whole time and refused to even let me get a picture of him. I didn't get a pic of all 4 of them posing nicely in their bummer....maybe next year? At some point, Tim snuck Landon off into the kitchen and stood him up on the counter and he managed to get a pic of him with his cell phone.

An unmasked Batman....but doesn't he just look SO cute??

So after everyone was dressed and ready to go, we headed out for our first trick-or-treating adventure as a family of 6. We brought the double stroller for the little twins, expecting they'd just want to sit the whole time. But Garrett refused to sit in the stroller...he wanted to walk right alongside Cole and Bella.

It was funny to watch him because, at first, he just didn't get the whole trick-or-treat concept. The person would throw some candy into his bucket and he'd look at it, grab it and then give it back to the person! I kept trying to put the candy back in his bucket but he would freak out so we just kept letting him give the candy back. After awhile, I think it started to sink in, this whole concept of "free candy that I get to keep", even though he doesn't even like candy, he started to reach into the treat bowls being offered by people who opened their doors and put the candy in his bucket. But then he wanted to plop himself down right there on the spot and pull the candy back out of the bucket and examine it. Each time I tried to get him to stand back up again and move on, he would freak out in pure toddler fashion....screaming, stomping his feet, giving me the "evil eye". This whole time Landon just sat in the stroller, completely comfortable with letting Cole take his bucket up to every door while Cole said "can I please have some candy for my lazy brother?" But I guess he got tired of sitting on his behind in the stroller while everyone else had a good time and he managed to walk up to a few houses on his own.

At one point, it started to rain and we started to head back home but then it stopped raining and the kids wanted to continue going around. Even Garrett, who by now was into the whole trick-or-treating concept full swing. He was even starting to run up to the doors before Cole and Bella could get there!

The other thing about Garrett that was so funny was that every time someone would say to him, "Who are you supposed to be?", he'd throw his hand over the "S" on his costume and say "uh, uh, uh"....I'd translate for him, "I'm Superman and aren't I just about the cutest Superman you've ever seen?"

Here are some more pictures:

I love this pic of Cole and Garrett walking together. They both look like such big boys!

I was so proud of all of them at this house. Each of them took a box of raisins instead of candy, without any prodding or coaxing from me!! The lady was very impressed that they chose a healthy snack over junk!

Overall, this year was a very fun Halloween! I can hardly wait until next year's Halloween!!!

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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