Thursday, February 26, 2015

Still a Lunchbox Staple - YoBaby for My Elementary School Children

I despise packing school lunches, but Connor and Helen won't regularly eat the school lunch (and to be fair, I wouldn't eat very many of them as a child, and the vegetarian selections are quite limited). It's probably in their blood not to like them. Lucky for me, Ed has scored morning duties most days, so he packs most of the lunches. Helen has been amenable to bringing hot lunches from home (which is awesome, because she'll have leftovers from the night before), but Connor is a little less interested in this route (though getting better)!

Ed and I prefer to vary our diet, so it's hard for us to imagine eating the same thing for lunch all of the time, but I guess Connor doesn't mind it. We still switch him up a bit, but have basically settled on:

  • Jelly sandwiches, frozen shrimp (which thaw by lunchtime), and smoked salmon for mains.

We top the box off with yogurt (either YoKids Squeezers or YoBaby), cucumbers, and fruit. Helen has upped her game by adding granola to her YoBaby, which she has decided is a very decadent treat.

I cannot believe I still get away with sending YoBaby, but Connor and Helen both love the smooth texture of the yogurt and it's just the right amount to help them get filled up at lunch, can be eaten in its entirety, and isn't that messy!

Sadly, the very cold weather we're having has kept me from gifting this super cute hat and bib Stonyfield gifted to me to a friend of mine who just had a child. Photo forthcoming when we finally meet up!


Disclosure: Thank you for the baby items, Stonyfield! Can't wait to post a photo of my friend's baby sporting the hat and bib. Thanks also for the coupons! I was not required to write about Stonyfield; my children love your yogurt and eat it almost daily!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Science Fair

Last night, the elementary school hosted their second annual Science Fair. Students could participate alone or in groups - or not at all. Helen and Connor both decided to participate. Helen chose an individual project and Connor opted to work with a friend of his.

When Helen and I started preparing for the science fair several weeks ago, I asked her what she'd like to do. She said she would like to see what kind of tree grows the fastest. I told her maybe if she started now, she'd have quite a project by the time fifth grade rolled around. So she kept thinking. She likes nature, so wanted something to do with that. At some point, she remembered when we tried to make rock candy and totally failed - so she decided we should do that.

Her question - do different kinds of sugar form crystals, or just white sugar? I helped her test brown sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar, and maple syrup. For each, we added about 3 parts sugar to 1 part water. Helen recorded her observations daily, and was very excited when she started seeing crystals.

She was incredibly excited to share her display, and kept telling me how many comments she had received. She returned the comment love by writing "awesome" or "cool" on pretty much every science project she stopped to check out.

Connor and a friend folded paper airplanes to see which one flew the furthest. He was a little more low-key about the whole affair, probably because he'd spent his early release day bouncing from one set of friends to the next, and was tired by the time evening came around.

His project did present a nice opportunity to discuss measurement error and Ed was very close to discussing standard errors, but opted to hold that lesson for another day.

This whole thing was basically started by one motivated mom at Connor and Helen's school. She rocks! (And no, it is not me!!)


PS - a few students decided to do experiments involving mentos and soda, which of course reminded me of this day, and made me laugh again about the whole thing.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Club: The Matheny Manifesto: Spring Sports

The backpacks are once again filling up with information about spring sports. Helen plans to play softball for another season and Connor will go back to baseball, after taking last fall off to play soccer. I'll take my usual place among the other parents on the bench, and I'll probably hit about 2/3 of each child's games. If I'm lucky, I'll get to mess around with my camera at their games, which has become a little hobby of mine.

And that hobby is a good thing, because it keeps me quieter than I would otherwise be. I love sitting at a Big League game cheering on a team, and it seems only natural to do the same when my children are playing. But I'm becoming convinced it's not a good idea. What feel like supportive words of encouragement may be being received as pressure, which isn't what I want my children to remember. After all, my fondest memory of my softball career is the Country Time lemonade that my mom would bring, because I didn't drink soda and she wanted me to be able to have a drink when all the other kids were popping their Shastas open. That was good living, I assure you!

Mike Matheny, former Cardinals manager, spells out his theories on kids and baseball in his book "The Matheny Manifesto". He details his time coaching his sons in Little League, and insisting that all the parents butt out. There were some other messages in the book, too, which reminded me of how lucky my children have had it with sports. Both of their coaches encourage the kids to try new things, teach them to treat the other teams with dignity, and in Connor's case - let all the boys who want to try pitching give it a go - rather than just letting the few really hot pitchers have the ball. Connor hasn't wanted to pitch, but I think it's nice to be on a team where he could pitch, if he wanted. The coach sets the tone, and on our teams, it would just be unacceptable for a parent to yell at an ump or get too upset, but it is still absolutely allowed to cheer wildly for all of the boys. I'm going to do my best to keep it down, even when I'm not behind my lens.

I'll never be a Cardinals fan - my Royal Blue Blood just can't do it, but I agree with Matheny that sports ought to be fun for kids, and whatever can be done to reduce the pressure kids feel seems like a good thing to me.

Now - let's play ball!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book "The Matheny Manifesto" as a member of the online book club From Left To Write.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Valentine's Cookie Warm-Up with Walkers Shortbread

Helen opted to take cake decorating as an after-school activity this semester. I'm very eager to see the results of this effort. I'm hoping I can hand over all household cake decorating duties to her at some point. She certainly seems eager for the task!

On Wednesday, after one of her sessions, she came home with a partial bag of icing. Not one to let something go to waste, I hooked her and Connor up with a bag of Walkers Shortbread, which are delicious butter cookies.

Connor and Helen worked their magic, and turned the little round cookies into these babies, many of which I quickly gobbled down!

This was just a test batch. We're planning on decorating more for the neighbors this weekend. We haven't brought cookies around lately, and Valentine's Day marks the perfect excuse for an impromptu visit. And since time is tight, using cookies that have been baked for me seems like a good strategy.

Happy Valentine's Day, All! And thank you, Walkers, for the yummy cookies. They were delicious even before Helen and Connor got to them with the extra icing.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thank you, other mom

There is a mom in Helen's class that volunteers to help children with their handwriting and reading once a week. She's a consistent presence in the class, and I know Helen loves her. Helen is one of those children who - at least at the start of the year - needed a fair amount of extra attention.

When the mom works with Helen, she never tells me about how Helen's letters are getting more legible or any other academic comment. What she says to me is this - and she's said it on a number of occasions - "I just love Helen. She is always so nice to every other child in the class. She is just a joy."

And every time she says it, I almost cry, because I am so stinkin' proud of that kid.

Thank you, other mom, you have brought me more joy this year than you will ever know.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Daddy - Daughter Dance

The Girls Scouts host an annual Daddy-Daughter dance. There is an afternoon dance, attended by mostly younger scouts and an early evening dance attended by the older girls. Helen was thrilled to get tickets to a ball - and as expected, Ed was a fantastic sport.

First, of course, Helen needed to select just the right dress. At first she was planning on wearing her Elsa Halloween costume, but at the last minute, she decided to go with my pink dress, that my mother made me when I was a little older than Helen. That pink dress has seen a lot of twirling, and I'm sure it got at least a little bit of a workout at the dance.She did add a silver crown for good measure. Anything less would've been a little mundane for Helen.

Ed was willing to wear the tuxedo he got married in, but after selecting a pink dress, Helen thought his blue suit looked better. She selected a colorful tie to go with the suit - and they were off!

The dance was held a few blocks from our home, the parking can be difficult, and the weather was not great - so I volunteered to be the lovely couple's driver. It was an absolute hoot, with Ed opting to sit in the back seat while I pretended to have never met either of them before.

Ed reported that Helen was a bit shy when she got there, but she had a great time. Afterwards, Ed took Helen across the street to the mall to purchase her two Taylor Swift CDs, which Helen is quickly falling love with.

Most dapper couple at the ball, I assure you!


Friday, January 30, 2015

We Went Off Roading in a Jeep at the Washington Car Show

Nobody in my family is terribly into cars - or so I thought. It turns out, if let loose on the floor at the Washington Auto Show, Helen and Connor are quite into cars. I haven't seen them both this enthused for something they know almost nothing about in a long time.

After receiving an invitation from Jeep to go off-roading, I decided to take the little people downtown to check it out. We were all intrigued, and assumed it would be some sort of simulator game. NOT SO!

Jeep has turned a rather large part of the show-room into an obstacle course, and visitors get to ride with a professional driver to check it out. Not only would they not let me drive, there is no way I could've safely maneuvered through the course. The drive had my whole family howling in minutes.

I was super excited for the ride, Connor was a little nervous, and Helen thought perhaps this wasn't the safest choice she had made all day.

During the ride, Helen and Connor fell in love with the Jeep, wondered why their parents drive such lame cars, and immediately begged to purchase one on the spot, volunteering to help out with the cost by contributing their allowances. I told them that typically before we spend about $20K - $30K, we at least give it a night's worth of thought.

The course takes you over a bunch of logs (which don't hurt the Jeep because there's a steel plate underneath the car to protect all its parts, up a very steep hill (35 degree angle), down that same hill, and then you take a turn where it feels like only two wheels are on the ground. Finally, you drive up another hill which seems like it would just not be possible for a car to do, and yet - the Jeep had no trouble.

It was cool. It's going to hard to resist getting a better car if and when my old Altima bites the dust. I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world. (The car even had seat heaters, which is rather impressive especially in light of the fact that the heater in my car broke this past week.)

We also scurried around the auto show checking out all sorts of fancy cars, sitting in many of them, and leaving one with its hazards blinking because Helen couldn't figure out how she turned them on. The car attendant was super nice when I told him what we'd done.

I wouldn't have guessed this would be a winning trip for both kids, but it absolutely was. Thank you, Jeep, for letting me know about it!


Details for those in town:

What:             Camp Jeep® Trail Rated Test Trac
Where:           Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mount Vernon Place, Northwest
Washington D.C., DC 20001
When:             Camp Jeep Hours of Operation:                     
Thursday, January 22                                                  12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Friday, January 23                                                      12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 24                                                  10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.         
Sunday, January 25                                                     10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Monday, January 26 – Thursday, January 29             12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Friday, January 30                                                      12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.         
Saturday, January 31                                                  10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 1                                                     10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Showing More Maturity Than Most Adults I Know

Two nights ago, dinner was very frustrating for both Connor and me. I won't air our dirty laundry, but I walked away from dinner with a real appreciation for why people yell. Connor was pushing my buttons in every possible way, and although I didn't yell - I wanted to, badly. I have not felt that emotional surge of anger in a long time. It ended with me telling him an early bedtime was in order, which I later overturned after he agreed to behave as I asked.

Connor was angry, possibly embarrassed, and really struggling. But he also did not lose his cool, as he tried tactic after tactic to avert the issue at hand.

We don't often get mad at each other, but we were mad that night.

Last night though? Connor came to the dinner table and apologized - in front of the whole family - for the previous night. In doing so, Ed correctly commented later that night that Connor had shown more maturity than most adults muster. I thanked Connor for his apology. I told him I was glad we were going to have a better dinner. Mistakes happen. We move on.

And we did. Dinner bordered on delightful.

In the end, I think Connor just needed to push on me and find security in knowing I wasn't going to budge, and he learned the next day that I wasn't holding on to any of it.

Thank you again, Connor. It was a difficult situation and I'm glad it's behind us. You have wisdom beyond your years.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Zoo with the Nieces

I have been gifted with two amazing nieces (more, actually, but this post is about my sister's kids). They are teens now, which means they could decide at any moment they are just too cool for me. And I would totally understand. But luckily, they have not. They're still willing to let me hop in their Jeep and cruise around, which is an absolute hoot. Almost grown-ups!

They could also easily decide that hanging with Connor and Helen is not something they want to do. But they don't. Instead, my sister finds outings that everyone can enjoy, and we all have a blast in our own way.

Over Christmas break, we went to the KC Zoo, a place we often visit. Top of our list were visits to see the baby penguins and the polar bears - two things we don't (and probably won't ever) have at the National Zoo.

My sister has been a mom for longer than me, so we never leave the house without a little snack in hand and an escape plan. This visit was executed pretty close to flawlessly.

Usually, we also find ourselves at a big indoor swim park, but after struggling through the flu a few days earlier, that sort of outing seemed unwise.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Marathon training - we're all in it together

    Marathon training is in full tilt at this point. And it's becoming increasingly obvious that it involves a lot more than just me. I decided to train for a Spring marathon because our lives are generally quieter in the winter, so being gone for 3 hour stretches on a weekend morning are less intrusive than in other seasons. But what I didn't realize is that my friends would get pulled in at midnight!

    Last Friday, I traded children with a friend of mine. She took Connor, I took a younger child of hers. Normally, she would be getting the better deal of the exchange (we trade off, and I was due to have the littles). On this particular night, she did not get the better deal.

    Around 11:00, Connor woke up puking. From what I can tell, her husband cleaned everything up - which is no small feat since they live in an apartment and their laundry facility is located several floors beneath their living space. The puking continued for well over an hour, and at that point, I received a phone call letting me know what was going on, and that my friend would be driving him home. Connor was in a lot of pain at this point. I know my friend was thinking about muscle-ing through the awful night, but Connor wanted to be home. I am so thankful Connor came home, because it did not get better and being up all night with a child that is not even yours is infinitely worse than being up with your own ill child.

    I offered to come get Connor, but my friend said she would bring him home, and I eventually decided that the fastest way to get Connor home would be for her to bring him. When she arrived, she apologized profusely, commenting "I know you're planning on running 20 miles tomorrow - I'm really sorry to have awakened you".

    And so there it is. Even my friend is helping me get through this training period, which is intense - even though I have intentionally decreased the number of days I run.

    Thank you, friends. As I've told you before, I am really sorry this happened!