Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

Such a boring title, I know, but accurate.

Halloween weekend kicked off this year when we woke up to this Saturday morning:

Yes, friends, it snowed BEFORE Halloween.  I haven't seen this since I moved out of Michigan 10 years ago.  I cordially invite Mother Nature to bite me.

Since it was disgusting outside that day we stayed in and I did the Great Toy Purge of 2011.  We had a lot of junk in this house that was either trash or could be donated.  I sorted through ALL the toys and did a major toss of junk, amassed a huge heap of donateable toys, and rearranged the kids' rooms.  Liam, in particular, was completely ruthless with the divesting of junk.  Good use of a nasty snowy day in late October.  We still have a lot of junk in this house but they're not junk toys at least.

Sunday morning we took the kids to Coffee Buddha (a local coffee shop) who was having Halloween specials all day, costumes encouraged.  Liam wore his Jedi costume and brought a light saber but Jamie was having NONE of that business.  

I'd rather lay on the coffee shop floor and read Vonnegut, Mom.

We met up with some friends while we were there and had a really nice time chatting, drinking coffee, and herding our kids.  Thanks, Coffee Buddha!

Today was The Big Day.  Liam had his Halloween parade and party at school - according to reports, everything was very fun - and then we had trick-or-treating this evening.  The weather was decent most of the day today, gray but not frigid, and precisely at 6 pm it began to rain in earnest. 

Oh joy.

But, we made the best of it anyway.

I really wanted to carve those pumpkins this year but my schedule is a harsh mistress and I simply ran out of time.  Luckily, Granddad had bought the kids kits to decorate pumpkins with and there was plenty for everyone to choose from.  Next year.  Next year I'll carve, dammit.

Jamie: Curious George
Liam: A Star Wars Bounty Hunter named Pre Vizsla

Liam's costume came with a helmet and toy guns but he chose to leave those behind at the house in an effort to streamline the candy acquisition process.  Good thought, as it was raining and gross out.  The quicker we got through trick-or-treating, the drier we would be.

Jamie was the polar opposite of his brother at this age.  Liam was completely uninterested in trick-or-treating when he was 2.  It was like pulling teeth to get him to go out and we just gave up.  Jamie?  He practically tripped over those floppy George feet while trying to keep up with the big kids.  He dug the whole concept.  He learned how to say "Trick or Treat!" and when I reminded him to say thank you, he blew kisses.  I kept asking him if he was getting tired and wanted to go home and every time I asked he responded with a growled "NO!"

It was Liam who finally said that he had enough candy and was ready to go home.  We hit a lot fewer houses than I expected but he was happy so I wasn't going to complain about it.  It was getting wetter by the minute.  So, we headed home, got the kids undressed, let them have some candy and then chucked them into bed.

The aftermath.  Jamie's costume came home DISGUSTING.

Happy Halloween to one an all!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ew, Ew, EW!

"What is that on the back of your head, Liam?  Is that some kind of skin tag or something?"

We were sitting at dinner and Scot noticed this on the back of Liam's head.  Scot looked at me.

"Honey, did you know about this skin tag?"

I got up to go take a look, "What skin tag?"

He pulled up the hair on the back of Liam's head, I got a quick glimpse, and nearly jumped out of my skin.

"That's not a skin tag, that's A TICK!" I shrieked.  Then I started doing the I'm-so-skeeved-out-I-can't-sit-still dance.

We didn't have a clue how to get the damn thing off his head without leaving behind bug parts, we didn't know how long it had been there (best guess: 4 days), and we didn't know if there was any sort of medication protocol in these instances.

So, off we whisked him to Urgent Care to let the experts deal with it.  Which they did in very short order, told us he didn't need meds but to watch him for the next several weeks, and then sent us on our way.

No fuss, no muss.  For them, at least.

My skin is still crawling.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I mentioned that last week was the week from hell and I wasn't lying.  I don't think I've looked forward to a Monday morning more than I looked forward to this one.

It started last Sunday night when Scot was hit very fast and very hard with the worst migraine of his life.  He has had problems with migraines for several years now and the short explanation is that he's been to many doctors, tried many treatments (most of which are a serious problem for him), and come out the other side no better than when he started.  His headache Sunday night was a bad one and despite all medications we had to treat it at home, it was not going away.  He ended up going to the ER to have it treated.

As ER trips go, it was fairly low stress.  They gave him with the medications we know will work, broke the headache and sent him on his way.  Not such a bit deal, really.  (I'm sure you're wondering how a 'low-stress' ER visit figures into this story of ongoing stress.  Stay with me.)

Monday he worked from home because the medications he'd been given combined with the severity of the headache left him feeling pretty hung-over.  This is how it came to be that he was home in the afternoon.

Now, Scot had a procedure of a personal nature about 3 weeks ago.  It went fine.  On Monday afternoon, I was herding Liam through the process of getting ready to go to TKD when I heard a high-pitched yelp.  I actually thought it was Liam from another room but when I looked up Liam was right there.  However, Jamie had been upstairs with Scot.

Oh no.

Scot took an injury of a personal nature courtesy of Jamie's knee.  Unfortunately, I couldn't stay around to chat because I had to take Liam to TKD.  While I was at the dojang, Scot and I were exchanging text messages and then phone calls about the situation.  The upshot was that he was in enough pain that he had to be seen by a doctor, it was after hours, and the doctor that did the procedure told him to go to the ER.

The same ER he'd been at just 24 hours before.

This time I went with him.  We made emergency arrangements for childcare (Thank you, Ann!) and when I got home with Liam from TKD, I shoved down some dinner and then took Scot to the ER.  It was not as painless a visit as the night before but he did get the same attending.  Also, the nurse thought I was Scot's daughter, not his wife.  Considering this injury, this was both funny and weird.

Luckily, there didn't appear to be any damage done so he was sent home with painkillers and told to take it easy. And to stay away from the toddler's knee.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were fairly normal if hectic.  As usual, I had a crap ton to do and not enough time to do it in.  This is nothing new.

Friday night was the kicker.  That night just about did me in.

We got to the end of the day and it was time to start bath/bedtime routine.  I took the kids upstairs to and convinced them to get in the tub together to save me extra work.  Meanwhile, Scot and I kept saying "who farted?" and "what's that smell?" and "is Jamie's diaper dirty?" I got the kids in the tub and ran down to the basement to check things out.  Hit the furnace/laundry room.


I went running for the stairs, yell at Scot to call his parents so we can get the kids out, shut off the furnace, and go running for the bathroom to bathe the kids, get them out, and get them dressed.  Scot calls his parents then calls the fire department.  Smart man, because I was all "BUG OUT!  BUG OUT!  MASH 4077, BUG OUT!"

So, he goes to wait outside for the nice burly firemen to show up while I run around like a crazy person getting Jamie dressed (Liam can dress himself), gathering toiletries, clothes, pillows, blankies, and stuffed animals and throwing it all together in an overnight bag.  All the while I'm wondering "What the hell are we going to do with the dog?!"

By this time the firemen have arrived (who, by the way showed up with the lights and trucks and whatnot - Jamie was FASCINATED as, I'm sure, were the neighbors) so I can't get out of my driveway.  I went down to check on things and find out if I needed to whisk the kids away.  Guess what?  IT'S POO GAS.  Yep, a back burp of sewer gas from the main house drain.

Yes, go ahead.  I'm laughing at myself, too.  

But, you know, just to be safe, the burly firemen are running around with their little gas reading equipment.  There were no leaks on the furnace - good, it's practically brand new - but he stuck the meter in the dryer, turned the dryer on and that meter lit up like a damn Christmas tree.  Gas leak in or around the dryer.

They shut off the gas supply to the dryer and I had to call a repairman today (they are coming out tomorrow).  Meanwhile, the 6 year old was freaking out that it's not safe in the house and the 2 yr old was shrieking about all the "SHRUCKS!" in front of the house.

It was A Night and almost immediately upon getting the kids calmed down and in bed the phone rang.  It was the neighbors wanting to know what the hell was going on.  Oh joy.

The weekend was crisis-free but not aggravation free.  Everyone was on everyone else's nerves and we were all cranky.  Not even a couple of family outings seemed to soothe our savageness.

So here it is, the start of a brand-new week, and I am praying that it will be calmer and that I will be able to get all of my domestic chores done without a bunch of crazy crises throwing monkey wrenches into things.  Considering I've got two TKD classes, a class field trip I'm chaperoning, a plumber coming in to repair the dryer, taking the car for inspection, Liam's Lego class, and speech therapy all on the docket this week I need things to run smoothly.

My thoughts exactly, Jamie.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Trip To Phipps

This week has been incredibly stressful and difficult.  I feel like I've lived through 3 months worth of crises in the space of seven days and, frankly, I don't like it very much.  Neither does anyone else in the house and we're all pretty cranky.

So, this morning we took the kids and went to Phipps.  We haven't been in several months and this is usually a very relaxing family outing for us.  It wasn't so awesome this morning (if you saw a woman carrying a yelling, screaming red-headed demon toward the exit, that would have been me) but we did our best to enjoy it regardless.

The fall flower shower is in full swing and the place is stuffed to the gills with mums - all colors, shapes, sizes, and statures.  The main room off the rotunda has been turned into a massive train display.

This was Jamie's favorite room.  Hence the screaming when informed it was time to leave.


As usual, the display designers at Phipps have left their unique twist on things. Left amidst the idyllic scenes of farms, the country store, and outdoor activities we find a barn...

...with dinosaurs.  RAWR!

And oh, the colors!  Reds! Oranges! Yellows!

If this isn't the definition of fall, I don't know what is.

As we left, a quintessential Pittsburgh scene greeted us.

The Cathedral of Learning against a perfect sky

The most exciting part of our visit (for me) was that I took my very first fully manual picture on my DSLR.  I wanted to get a picture of one of the waterfalls in the Tropical Room and I wanted to slow the shutter speed down enough to get some nice blur on the water.  

I did it!

It might not be the most interesting or most perfectly composed shot ever but I used the full manual function and I got the camera to do what I was hoping to make the camera do.  Holy cats, I'm not a complete camera imbecile!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Hard Evidence

I've been posting on this blog for months now about Jamie's improving ability to speak.  I've been meaning to get some of it on video for everyone to hear for themselves and I finally got some today.  He's Chatty Charlie at all other times unless he his asleep but the second I picked up the video camera he didn't want to cooperate.

So, this is the best I could do.

Bear with me when you hear me say "dump truck" and "back hoe" about 40 kajillion times.  They're two of his best and most favorite words so I was trying to get him interested in talking by getting him to say those two words.

Without further ado, I give you Jamie the (Finally!) Talking Toddler.

As always, he still has a long way to go but he's come so very, very far already.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Burgeoning Romance

Today I had to pick Liam up at school.  He's been taking a Lego class after school on Thursdays so instead of taking the bus home, I pick him up at 4:30.

Jamie and I got there a bit early and hung out waiting for class to be done.  When it was over, Liam approached us with his backpack on and no coat.  I asked him if he had everything (he said yes), I said "where's your coat?" and he answered with a giant sigh and "I forgot it."

Since we hadn't left yet we strolled down to his classroom to pick up his coat before we headed home.  As we approached the door to the classroom I stopped dead in the hall when I spotted this:

"My name is Leah and I like Liam."

Of course I whipped out my phone and took a quick picture.  Liam had completely ignored my little detour and gone into his classroom to find his coat.

Now, there was one of these little declarations for each of the students.  Some of them said that the kid like video games or Barbie.  So, the next thing I did was start looking for Liam's.

Guess what I found when I did?

"My name is Liam and I like Leah."

Not Star Wars.  Not Legos.  Not Tae Kwon-Do.  Leah.

Well, well, well.

Liam informs me that they had to choose something to like that began with the first letter of their first name.  Still, you'd think that Liam would automatically think of Legos.

It begins so much earlier than I thought.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Color

I took a drive the other day hoping to get some fall color shots.  While there were a lot of leaves already on the ground, I did manage to get a few I wanted to share.  I hate cleaning up those leaves once they fall but I sure do love the colors they bring before they do.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Budding Artiste

From the time he could pick up a crayon and set it to paper Liam has loved art.  The art corner in his room is filled to the brim with coloring books, markers, colored pencils, paper of all varieties and colors, glitter glue, and other supplies.  When it comes time to clean his room, that corner is always the most onerous task for him because he has so much of it.

Lately he's really been on a drawing kick.  He got some Ed Emberley books out of the library and he's been churning out sketches like a chipmunk of meth.  The books seemed to really spark a fire in him.

While the following examples didn't come from the Ed Emberely books (I'll save those for another post), they do contain his other favorite thing in life: Star Wars.  He drew all of the beloved characters from memory and I have to admit that they look like they should.  I mean, Han and Leia really look like Han and Leia.

Luke and the Droids

Han and Leia


I'm almost positive I couldn't draw like that when I was 6.  Impressive.  Most impressive.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All Smiles In The Big Boy Bed

Several months back, Jamie moved out of the crib and into a bed.  Since he was new the world of beds without bars, we put it on the floor so that it was more at his level and less intimidating.  It's been that way ever since even though we had a bed frame ready to go for him.

I've been meaning to get the frame out and get him into an honest to goodness bed but I just didn't get around to it.  I wanted to give him a few months of the on-the-floor set up to get used to the whole thing and a few months turned into 6 months.

Today I finally hauled it out, cleaned it up, carried it upstairs, and set up the bed.  This was my bed when I was a kid and aside from the fact that I misplaced the bed knobs (I assume they'll turn up eventually, I know I've seen them), the bed is still in great shape.  Jamie was thrilled.

Climbing up...

On top of the world looking down on creation...

Happiest kid on the block

Lifting his 36 lb bulk out of bed each morning just got a whole lot easier.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Starting Over

I'm stalled out on this weight loss thing.  I lost about 15 pounds and then just parked it there.  I'd go up, I'd go down, I'd inch a little bit further down and then it all went straight to hell.

I've had a bad few weeks with Weight Watchers.  Much of it is my own fault.  I've gone for weigh-in but not stayed for meeting or just skipped altogether.  I haven't been following the program as diligently as I should - I haven't been putting me first enough to do it.  I spend my down time on my ass instead of getting a little exercise first.

As far as the food goes?  Oh dear.  It's not good.  My stress level has been high for a number of reasons and I find myself eating all kinds of thing I shouldn't.  Donuts keep appearing in my house.  No, I'm not buying them but they sneak in and I have a very hard time saying no - especially at the end of a long, stressful day when all I want to do is eat carbs until I pop.  Yummy, delicious carbs.

In short, I'm slacking.

So, I went to weigh-in this last night and I stayed for meeting.  I gained 2 pounds but that was actually a victory because I expected it to be at least three.  Meeting helped me to recenter myself about what I need to be doing and I realized that I'm putting everything else ahead of this one thing I'm trying to do for myself.  It's just as important as doing the dishes or cleaning up the toys or supervising homework.

With that in mind, I started today with a new attitude, a new outlook, and a determination to be stronger than my cravings.

Today was a good day.

I tracked every single thing I ate.  I even had lunch with a friend and the food was point-heavy but delicious.  I took that into account and ate a much lighter dinner.  Also, because Thursdays are one of my days without kids, I took a 2.42 mile walk after I got home from lunch.  The weather was perfect and I couldn't resist getting out in it.  I pushed myself farther than I normally do and it felt great.

Between exercise and careful points management, I ate my exact daily points target today without touching my extra weekly points (which I'll probably dip into while watching a bit of TV).  I got all my fruits and vegetables in as well all my dairy and all my water.  I ate a very balanced diet today.

I'm starting over and it feels good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Got some bananas getting old?  Want a tasty way to use them that's easy on your diet?  Read on, friends.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 TBSP. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. mini chocolate chips
1 large egg
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. skim milk
2 large bananas
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place bananas in a bowl and mash.
3. In a separate bowl, measure and add dry ingredients (flour through chocolate chips).  Stir to mix.  Add egg, oil, milk, bananas, and vanilla.  Stir well to mix.
4.  Spray a mini-muffin pan with Baker's Pam and fill cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake 9 to 10 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Repeat process until batter is gone.

Makes approx. 48 mini-muffins.

The best parts about this recipe are a) my kids love them and gobble them up and b) they are only 1 Weight Watchers point per muffin.  So, you can scale your serving size based on your points allowance.

Also, they're delicious.

You can certainly make this in a regular or even jumbo sized muffin tin, just bake them longer - keep checking to make sure you don't burn them.  I just like the mini ones because they're kid sized and they help me keep my portions under control.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blue Belt

It's the time again folks - time for belt test.

This time around Liam was testing for his blue belt.  As with previous tests he was well prepared with knowing his pattern.

Then, sparring (Liam on the left):

And finally, after all the questions, answers, demonstrations, and speeches from the Master, he was awarded his belt.

Way to go, kiddo!  Keep it up!

I Wore The Dress

Several months ago I blogged about a dress that I bought. It's been months and progress has been slow but I can finally wear that dress.

Last night Scot and I went out to dinner for our anniversary and I donned my flippy blue dress for the occasion.  I don't look like a dress form so it doesn't fit me like it fits a dress form.  But it does fit.

So here's the proof:

I swear I didn't look that frumpy in person.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Ten years ago today I married Scot.

Every time I think about it, this comes to mind:

Ten years have flown past.  When we first got married, we talked about our 10th anniversary as if it were the distant future.  Now, it's here and our wedding does not seem like the distant past.  But somehow, we've gone from this:

To this:

We have two wonderful, gorgeous, amazing kids that make our lives both crazy and awesome (awesomely crazy?).  Our family seems "just right" because of them.

We have each other.  It's where we started this journey and it's ultimately where we'll end up after the kids are grown.  There isn't anyone else I'd rather take the journey with.  

I love you, Scot.  Happy Anniversary.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Kids Keep Growing Up

Yeah, I get it, kids grow up.  It's what they're supposed to do.  Lately, it seems like I turn around they've changed hugely without any warning at all.

I've mentioned before that Liam has eating issues.  Since the institution of his menu, things haven't really changed too much.  He eats the things on the menu and not much else.  He loves snack foods and sweets but those are doled out in a limited fashion.

Imagine my surprise when he tried not one but THREE new foods in one night.

I don't know what made me do it, but I had cooked a nice meal for the rest of us and before fixing Liam any food I told him that he had to have one bite of everything I'd made.  I made breaded/baked chicken and served it over orzo with pesto over the top and broccoli on the side.  Liam was given three small bites to try - one of each thing.  What shocked me was that he sat down and tried everything without any nasty words, no tantrums, no crying, no gagging - NONE of the things that we've seen happen in the past.  He didn't like a single thing he put in his mouth but he ate it anyway.

Then, I made him a peanut butter sandwich.

Then, a week or so ago, he came off the bus from school and the first words out of his mouth were "Mom!  I tried red apples at school today and they were SO GOOD!  I love them!"

I could only reply, "What?"

This kid was adamantly anti-fresh apples.  He'll eat apple sauce but don't ask him to eat a hunk of raw apple.  It just won't happen.  Somehow his teacher at school got him to try both red and green apples (he didn't like the green.)  Later that same week the kids made applesauce at school and came home with the recipe.  Liam said "It was so good, Mom!  We have to make it!"  He has never in his life been willing to eat my homemade applesauce.  He was only willing to eat Mott's.

We still have the occasional battle over food with him but he's starting to realize that every new food is not his enemy.  He's growing up.

Jamie just keeps getting bigger.  I pulled out fall/winter clothes for him since the weather has finally mostly turned.  I thought I might still get some use out of last year's 2T's but it's not working out.  The pants are long enough but not big enough in the waist and his shirts are just barely covering the diaper peeking out of the top of his pants.  So, I moved him up to 3T's figuring that a little big was better than a little small.

Except they're not really big.  They fit him.  I have to roll up the pants a bit but otherwise, they're pretty perfect.

Liam was tiny at this age.  He was always at least a year behind in sizes - especially with pants - and this was the age when I started getting multiple years use out of clothing for him.  So, it's more than a little odd to see Jamie wearing clothes at the age of 2.5 that Liam was wearing at the age of four.  Actually, not odd, freaky.  Where did this giant kid come from?!  How is it possible that he's big enough for this?!

Add to this the fact that Jamie is really racing with his language these days.  His therapist told me that if he'd been where he is now back when he was first evaluated, he wouldn't have qualified for services.  He's picking up new words so fast that I can't keep up with it anymore.  I say something, he says it back - no prompting, no processing, no working hard.  He just does it.  He still has A LOT of work to do on enunciation and articulation but the words are coming out now.  He never shuts up unless he's asleep and I suddenly have a truck detector in the back seat.  Everywhere I go, he yells "TRUCK!  TRUCK!" every time he sees one.

These two things taken together have really knocked it into my head in stunning fashion that Jamie isn't  a baby anymore.  When he was so speech-delayed that he wasn't really talking it was easy to forget that he was two.  In fact, I had to remind myself regularly that he was plenty old enough to behave himself properly, have rudimentary manners, and start learning the concept of sharing.  With his language so "baby-like" it was too easy for me to forget that he wasn't a baby.  The advent of real language has brought it home how old he's getting - with the force of a sledgehammer.  He's growing up, too.  I can't wait to see how Jamie's personality shows itself when it comes to language.

I find myself realizing that I'm exiting the incredibly hard early years and things are beginning to ease up for me in a way I longed for when Jamie was a baby.  I'm looking forward to new adventures.