Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Black and White Wednesday: Back in Time

Yep, I took that.  And no, it was last week, not decades ago.  Crazy, right?  We were driving through this little podunk town (well, one in a series of podunk towns, really) between the coast of Virginia and our destination in Tennessee when we spotted trains randomly parked in a field beside the highway.  We saw a sign that read "Train Museum" and hit the breaks, nearly flipping our minivan to pull into the driveway.  Okay, so that didn't happen exactly, but we stopped pretty quickly since our Jack has to be one of the most locomotive-obsessed little people in the universe.  By chance, the museum was open and we got to poke around and actually go up into the cab of this beautiful old steam engine.  You bet yer britches (see, I've been in the country recently) we're going to plan our whole entire trip out to Tennessee when we move at the end of the month around being in Crewe, Virginia during business hours.

And yes, I realize this is BLACK and WHITE Wednesday, not SEPIA Wednesday, but I really like this edit too... I even made a poster out of it for the aforementioned trainophile.  Which one do YOU like better?

Enjoy the other photos or join in with your own at The Long Road to China!

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Heart Faces: Dramatic Black and White

This is my Papa.  My mom's dad and my hero.

I snapped this photo with a point-and-shoot camera a couple years ago and I did a bit of editing.  He's a gritty man with a dramatic personality.  I adore him and admire him and I would give just about anything to live closer to him. 

My Papa.  God, I love him.  I miss him.  I didn't even really do a great job editing the photo because it hurt to look at his face - to look into his weathered face and see his wise smile and know that I'm on the east coast and he's in Colorado.  It's so far away.  Sigh. 

He's a hell of a guy, my Papa.

So, though this photo is my entry for this week's photo challenge, it's not really about the contest... it's about me missing my Papa. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For Your (Kate's) Information...

Dear Readers (Kate),

I regret to inform you that I might take a week off of posting as I need to travel to a different state to find a house for us to occupy when we un-occupy the collossial p.o.s. dump in which we currently reside.

I will strive to write some junk ahead of time to post while I'm gone, but packing for 5 people with 4 sick people in the family AND cleaning the house (because I cannot leave a dirty house behind) takes a HUGE chunk of time, so I can't guarantee anything.

I promise (Kate) that I will be back in action very soon and I will miss you all more than you will miss me, I'm sure!

Tell you what... while I'm gone, you all get to cook up some questions for me to answer in a post when I return.  Go ahead - ask anything!  It can be about food, twins, me, Navy-wifehood - anything!  Just be warned: a non-PG question will receive a non-PG answer (I'm very honest, folks) and if you don't want to hear the answer to something, don't ask it! 

So, comment away and ask your questions and I'll work on that while I'm gone - mmmm kay? (Kate?)


Monday, March 22, 2010

Mom 'n Me Monday

This is Jordan... She's my youngest baby (by 9 minutes) and has been a pain in my rear the whole time - from her painful kicks to her forceps delivery (ouch!) to her goofy nursing technique and the ear-splitting reflux cry... But despite all of that, my little JoBug soothes the aches and pains she causes with her bright-eyed, impish smile and infectious giggle.  Her skin is softer than any baby's skin I've ever felt and sometimes doesn't seem real.  I am addicted to kissing her, even though true snuggles with her are hard to come by.

These photos are certainly not perfect as I used the self-timer on my camera and hoped it would work.
I also haven't done a whole lot to edit them.  I wish I could get some of my scraggly hairs out of the pictures.  Oh well.  She had decided not to sleep one day during nap time, so while big brother and big sister slept, Jordan and I took advantage of the alone time and spent a couple hours playing... and smooching.
I truly, truly, truly adore her.  I see such a giant personality in her little self... she is one of the funniest people I've ever met and she only has 3 words.  All the time I'm clinging to her babyhood, I'm also looking forward to hours of laughter with her as she grows older.
You can read more about her on the Exhibits page...
.. But these photos are really a better way of seeing who she is.
The most incredible thing about Jordan is that she daily challenges me to be a better mom.  Some days I do better than others, but more than anything, she forces me to think outside the box (sometimes WAY outside the box!) and makes sure I'm always pushing myself to work harder and do more for them all.
Thanks, Baby Girl, for being you and for being mine for a little while.  (Here's a smooch for the road before she headed off to find something to get into...)

Want more adorable photos of Mommies with their kiddos?  Head over to The Peanut Gallery to check them out or to play along yourself!  Happy Monday!
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(By the way, the earrings you see in the photos are the infamous earrings from the dryer-dissection escapade from this post, in case you were curious.  I have not, in fact, removed them SINCE that episode.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The 48 Hours That Felt Like A Year

I don't often write about my life as a military spouse.  It doesn't really define me; it's just a part of who I am and there are days I love it and days I hate it.  One of the things I have to deal with, as a wife to a husband in the line of work in which mine is employed is a "Duty Day" wherein he works overnight and I'm lucky if I get a text from him.  I'll say goodbye to him at some ungodly pre-dawn hour on a Monday and won't see him again until some time near dinner on Tuesday.  It's a total bummer.  Other women in my position (like Tanya!) jokingly (but not really) call them "Single Married Mom Days" because we're really totally on our own... they're like little mini-deployments and things have a tendency to go awry during them.

Now, my Single Married Mom Day began on Wednesday (Happy St. Patty's, anyone?) when I had to take all 3 kids to the doctor for their well-child visits.  Though the appointments went smoothly enough, it's still a 3-hour plus ordeal when you count the time it takes to load everyone up and the time spent waiting for and getting their immunizations.  It also entailed not only missing morning nap for the girls, skipping a nursing session, but also receiving the boosters that I (oops) skipped at their 6-month visit.  So we left the medical center in less than super moods.

And everything went down hill from there.

I got the girls down for naps well enough, but Jordan only slept for about 30 minutes and woke with a horribly runny nose and corresponding bad attitude plus two very sore thighs from her shots.  The rest of the evening was a caccophany of crying wherein at any given time 2 of 3 children at minimum were in tears.  It ensued until 4:30 am with Jordan crying almost the whole time.  I was so strung out by the time she fell asleep that my head was pounding from my own sobbing.

My alarm (Jordan) started in on the day at 6 on Thursday and I was so exhausted I could barely see.  But I needed to function to get all the kids up and get Jack off to school.  So I chugged some coffee and went outside to set up the stroller to haul the kids to school.  I was waiting for a call so I took my cell with me.  On the bottom porch step, I stumbled and, like an ass, reached my hand (holding my cell) out to stop my fall.  If I hadn't, I'd have probably bruised my (significantly padded) rump.  As it was, however, my fist came down on the edge of one of the steps, and I caught the space between the knuckle of my middle and ring fingers on my right hand.  Ouch.  Very ouch.  My hand is either broken or very badly bruised but it's not awesome, either way.

Also didn't do much for my exhaustion.  For the rest of the day I was essentially in one-handed crisis-resolution mode.  Not preventing them, just solving them.

I was totally fuzzy-headed all day and minimally functioning.  Observe:

 I started the water in the sink because I neglected to take dinner out of the freezer until afternoon, and I forgot that I had turned it on, then wandered off to do something (?) else.  I went back to get more coffee and saw the water had reached this level and quickly turned it off before it overflowed... barely.

 While I was pouring that cup of coffee, Jack took it upon himself to modify my lunch of ramen noodles to create a noodle/Dr. Pepper soup for me.  Note that the brown broth from my original soup is the same color as the Dr. Pepper.  Well, as I was not thinking clearly, I didn't notice the bowl-swap and took a nice big bite and nearly barfed, much to Jack's utter delight.  I would have been thrilled with him and his awesome sense of humor if I hadn't been so exhausted.  I took a photo of him doing it again because it wouldn't have made sense without a picture.  Instead of laughing, though, I started crying... which set this off:

*sigh* I just couldn't win.

Oh well, many people have much bigger problems. I just need a damned nap... but it isn't going to happen, as the babies are up early again today.  Oy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Heart Faces: Bundled Up

I love to take pictures.

And look at other people's pictures.

And I love trying to make myself better at taking pictures trying to make it look like I know what I'm doing like so many of the talented photographers out there.

(And I'm a little shocked, right now, when I realize how photograph-heavy my blog has become.  I had no idea this was the direction it would take when I started it.  Huh.  Do you like it or should I dial it back a bit?)

So anyway, this photo of Jordan being adorably excited to get bundled up and venture out into the cold early in the morning to take Jack to school is my entry in this week's challenge: Bundled Up.

She's so cute and so bright-eyed and enthusiastic about everything... it's infectious and delightful.  I love her.  And that pink coat she's wearing?  We call that The Puffy and when the girls are wearing them they're like big, warm, sweet-smelling teddy bears that hug you back and rub noses with you.  I folded them and put them on the top shelf of their closet this morning and cried a little bit.

Delicious.  Like a ball of cotton candy.  Sigh.

Head over to I Heart Faces Photography and check out the other more talented people's entries!

Mom 'n Me Monday

Julie over at The Peanut Gallery is trying to insist this isn't a meme, but I'm pretty sure it actually is.  Even if it's not, it's a really cool thing for us to try.  By "us" I mean: anyone with kids, a camera and a blog. 

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We take lots of pictures (too many, in my case) but are in very, very few.  And maybe that's fine.  I'm happy in my comfort zone behind the lens... but will I regret not busting out of that mold more often later down the road when my kids are grown and all I've got are memories and photographs, and if the first fails, just photographs?  Yeah, I probably will.  Of course now I look at pictures of me with the kids and critique the bags under my eyes and wonder why my mascara is clumped or think I look pudgy or have a weird smile.  I want to crop myself out and focus on the cute babies.

But one of these days, I know that those photographs - no matter how tired or frumpy I look - will mean the world to me. 

So I'm going to challenge myself to be on the other side of the camera more often.  At least once a week, even.  For Mommy and Me Mondays. 

Admittedly, this week is a bit of a cheat.  It's a picture of Jack and me on his third birthday, just before bed.  I think it's in another post, but I didn't have a chance to get my act together with the camera this week or have my hubby help me out.  So I grabbed something meaningful, even if it isn't new. It isn't the best photo - it's impromptu at the end of a looooooooong day in the middle of a hectic vacation in a hotel with less than gorgeous lighting and a less than gorgeous couch in the background, but you know what? I was right where I wanted to be in that moment and those smiles are as real as they get.

I'm also going to really try to take more pictures of the kids with their Daddy, but that's more a function of number of hours in a day since his work schedule is so demanding and when he gets home, no one is really in the, "Oooh, take my picture!" mood (except Jack who is always in that mood) and Hubs doesn't love having pictures of him in uniform splashed across the internet.  So I'll work on it.  He's easier on the eyes than me anyway.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let's Talk About Socks, Baby, Let's Talk About You and Me...

I'm going to preface this whole post with this: I love my son.  I love his quirks.  I would not trade a single aspect of his personality for anything.  However, he is a total and complete weirdo. 

I mean, he's got a list of idiosyncrasies that would make your brain hurt.  I could write and write and write about the strange crap that Jack does.  But in the interest of preserving your sanity, I'm only going to focus on one of those:  his inane obsession with wearing socks.

The whole absurd thing started 4 or 5 months ago when he got an owie on his toe but wouldn't let me put anything on it to make it feel better and the miracle of the magic mommy kiss wore off every time he looked down and saw the teeny red mark.  So, to preserve (silly me, in retrospect) the illusion that his foot was fine once I put a kiss on it, I talked him into putting a sock on to hold the kiss in place (and hide the owie from sight).  My fix helped him that evening and the next and I figured myself for some kind of genius until I tried to take the socks off for a bath and he wigged the hell out on  me.  Like, dude needed a straight jacket.  So I left his socks on and  he happily got into the tub and we did the whole thing just fine until he got out and I had to take the wet socks off.  He would not allow me to remove the wet sock until I proved to him that I had a dry sock ready to go.

The owie has LONG since healed.

The socks remain.

I ask him periodically if we can take them off but no, he will not let me.  There is still some mystery owie that needs to heal beneath these all-powerful socks. 

I desperately need to get him over this thing before summer because the idea of rolling around town with my son rocking socks and sandals makes me a little queasy.  (Fashionista I am not, but even someone like me has standards.)

Jack's sockophilia even causes marriage issues for us.  I mean, nothing serious, but periodically over the last 4 or 5 months the "sock or no sock" argument rears its nasty head and Justin gets it in his noggin that Jack absolutely should no longer wear socks and I insist that it does not, in the grand scheme, matter.  Things ensue as follows: Justin takes off everyone's socks and bellows about how there is no owie, Jack wails in misery befitting a crude amputation of his leg and I throw my hands up and holler at the two of them for fighting about socks.


My husband and I rarely argue, but the sock issue never fails to spark a tiff.

Freaking socks.

I've never understood all the inner workings of the Jack mind, nor will I ever, I'm sure.  Just once, though, I'd like to get this.  If only to say to Justin, "Pipe down, it's only a bit longer," in attempts to assuage his frustration and ease my fashion nightmares. 


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Finger-Foods: Make Ahead of Time and Freeze!

Because I've got all this disposable time on my hands, it's no object, of course, to prepare a meal for the adults, one for the picky toddler, and one for the babies every single evening.  Right? 

Uh, no. 

Ideally, soon, I can just prepare a meal for 5 and cut up whatever we're having and that's the end of it.  We're close, but not there yet.  And I already find myself having to put way too much thought into food for Jack that I don't really love scouring the kitchen for things that constitute a well-rounded but mashable meal for those with 4 or fewer teeth.  I mean, when I have 3 plates and 2 high chair trays lined up on the counter and I'm plopping different food selections on each, I can imagine I'm just one hair-net short of a cafeteria worker. 

Not my idea of a good time.  So, I pioneered (well, probably not, but I don't think I've seen or heard much about it before) a way of preparing this stuff ahead of time and freezing it just like the purees.

I started out just tossing a bunch of steamed, diced chunks of food into a container and putting it into the freezer.  What resulted was a mass of food that either needed to be reheated as an entire lump (and thus defeating the purpose of the endeavor) or I had to chip off a suitable chunk which resulted in mangling the food and making it much closer to the puree than the girls wanted.

So, I went back to (my) basics: food, ice cube tray, freezer.  I found that freezing the food pieces in the trays was okay, but I had to leave them in the trays and again, defrost en masse.  So, I added water to the trays.  VoilĂ !  I also tried nixing the trays and making little food packets with Glad Press 'n Seal (which is fabulous stuff if you haven't tried it) but that worked better for on-the-go situations and had a little too much waste in terms of packaging for my tastes, but it's not a bad way to go if you don't mind buying the Press 'n Seal.

This is what I did:

Step 1: Prepare your food according to your preferred method.  In this case, sweet potatoes, steamed.

Step 2: Dice your food (if the pieces aren't small enough already) and fill ice-cube trays with the pieces.  In my case, I found that it worked best to cut the sweet potatoes a bit larger for steaming and then cut them down to a smaller size after cooking and cooling as they seemed to hold their shape a little better.

I also prepared peas but cooked them a TINY bit longer than for the puree to make them just a little softer for mashing.

Step 3: After foods have cooled to room temperature, fill the tray with water and put in the freezer.  The water binds the pieces of food together and makes it possible to pop the individual servings out of the tray and into a plastic baggie for storage and easy thawing. 

For this alternate method of storing, I just made piles of diced food on a sheet of Press 'n Seal with the sticky side of the plastic facing up.

Then I simply put another (slightly larger) sheet over the top and sealed the seams, creating little food packs.  I later cut them into strips and put them in the freezer and was able to take out a strip of 2 or 3 pockets and toss it in a bag for lunch on the go.

See?  A frozen pea cube.  Perfect!  I found that each girlie would consume one cube worth of peas and between 1 1/2 and  2 cubes of sweet potatoes at a time.  I just took out whatever  I was going to feed them for dinner at lunch-time and put it in a bowl on the counter to thaw, then drained off the excess water and served - no reheating necessary so as to preserve as many nutrients as possible! 

My happy customer.

Mmm - Goldfish, tofu and sweet potatoes for lunch.  Addie loves to eat.

Nearing the end of a meal... playing with the food is always a good sign that she's full.

Jordan's happy fat kid face.

I tried this for sweet potatoes, peas, beans, cooked pears, peaches, apples, blueberries, and butternut squash.  I don't recommend cooked blueberries as a finger food - it was a royal mess.  Instead I just bought fresh blueberries and cut them into quarters.  It was way better.  If you do cook the fruit, don't cook it for as long as you would for purees - about 15 minutes in a 350 or 375 oven will be enough to soften the fruit and start to break down the sugars without making them too soft for inexperienced fingers to pluck off a tray, likewise with the squash.  

I hope this helps you save a little of your valuable time and sanity - like with the pureed baby foods, it certainly saves money instead of buying the jarred Gerber Graduates type "meals" and cuts down on your prep time significantly on a day-to-day basis.  Just remember to keep all of your surfaces clean and germ-free during the entire process.  

Have fun!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baby-food: Moving to Finger Foods

NOTE: This is only what has worked for US after we've made sure the girls are ready.  You should evaluate what's right for your child or children and always be mindful of potential allergy and choking hazards associated with introducing new foods.

Okay all that nonsense aside, introducing finger foods is one of my favorite things in the world... I'm an eater.  I love watching them taste new stuff and experience new sensations and I love that they get to fit in with us while we eat.  (And, in the spirit of honesty, I love that a handful of Cherrios can now buy me a few minutes of sanity here and there throughout the day.)  Jack is also a big fan of getting to share the things HE eats with his little sisters and they delight in partaking in family meals and snack time.  Basically, it rocks.

Now, we've been at this for awhile.  We started with Gerber Puffs, which I love as a first finger food because they dissolve in contact with saliva so I can be a little less paranoid about choking.  Shortly after I can watch them tackle puffs with dexterity, I start branching out a little.

The next couple of foods are similar to the purees, but instead of pureeing, I cut them into little pieces, often adding wheat germ or crushed cereal to give stuff a little extra traction.  Here's what falls under this next "phase" for us: sweet potatoes, cooked pears, cooked peaches, cooked apples, bananas, avocados, steamed peas and steamed beans.

Sometimes, admittedly, that's a lot of work to deal with.  So, if you stay tuned for another post in the next couple of days, I'll show you the method I've come up with for preparing these foods ahead of time and freezing - like with the purees - individual portions to ease meal times.

I also cheat occasionally buy buying canned pear halves or peach slices (always making sure to buy fruit "in 100% juice" instead of any kind of syrup).  I see no shame in that. 

When those foods prove to work out well - and it's just a matter of making sure the girls can mash them well and are enjoying the textures since we're already introduced those foods as purees - I move into the next "phase".  I cube whole-wheat bread, offer whole-grain Ritz crackers, and Cherrios and Kix and the like.  This is also when I add what has become Addie's favorite food: tofu. 

Oh that girl loves her some tofu.

I buy the firm tofu and cube it up and Addie adores it.

Now they eat cheese (soft cheese or shredded cheese) and the occasional french-fry, and I feel good offering Fig Newtons and Nutrigrain bars (cut up) and sometimes well-cooked pasta.

They devour food with intensity and enthusiasm.  I love it. 

The other night I made beef stew with carrots, celery, onions, beans, peas, corn and barley.  I strained the broth and took out the beef cubes and put a pile of the veggies on their trays and they contentedly ate every last morsel.  And asked for more.  So I gave them more. 

They're nearly 10 months old.  I'm not too worried anymore about food allergies and I've even heard that the AAP has changed their recommendations recently to indicate that delaying the introduction of allergy-inducing foods doesn't seem to keep children from developing allergies.  (Note: I am not speaking FOR the American Academy of Pediatrics, and again, please discuss any questions with your pediatrician before making decisions for your family.)  That being said, I usually give the girls a little bit of what we're eating and a some of the things they're used to. 

And you know what?  They eat everything.  Well, except for spinach.  Addie touched spinach and had a panic attack so I took it away.  Now she won't even look at it.  So they eat NEARLY everything. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Black and White Wednesday

I took this picture of Jordan at the end of November... It's so sweet and innocent and I just love it.

The problem is, I wasn't paying attention to my ISO setting and it's WAY too high... like, 1600.  Eeew - grainy!  Since I was shooting in JPEG and not RAW, there wasn't much I could do except soften it to get some of the graininess to smooth out.  I'm bummed because there's really not many opportunities to take a picture of Jordan looking so... calm.  It's not the greatest composition with the chair in the background (it was before I got my f/1.4 lens) but it's still a cute pose.

So, I softened it a bit and increased the contrast a little before converting it to black and white and adding a blue filter.  I don't know why blue, but it worked.  I'm not good enough to have all of the knowledge as to WHY I did something beyond enjoying the result...

Again, I'm not going to pretend I'm a photographer.

I just have cute kids.

You can join in too, or just check out all the other great shots at The Long Road to China!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Picky Toddler Food: Octopus

Well, the picky eater issue is still a daily struggle for us and I'm still trying to come up with new and creative things to feed him and ways to present food so that it's appealing to his irrational unique little brain.

When we were traveling, this was no less of a problem.  In fact, at times, it was MORE of a problem because we were limited in the selection of food we could have on-hand for meals and snacks at any given time since we were staying in a hotel room.

One evening in particular stands out, and will for the rest of eternity: we took the kids to a Japanese steakhouse with Jack's Pawpaw, Uncle Jon and his lady, Amy.  Jack has, in the past, enjoyed the show of the hibachi chef, the presentation of the food, the chance to practice his chopstick skills, and even the taste of the grilled chicken and even, on occasion, a disguised chunk of shrimp.  However, on this night, Pawpaw (my father-in-law) ordered an appetizer of some sushi combo that included raw octopus.

Gag me. 

(I'm not a huge sushi fan. I know; very uncool of me.)

Next thing I know, Pawpaw's presenting Jack with a big, slimy chunk of purple-edged tentacle meat.  I raised an eyebrow, waiting for the squeal of disgust and nearly swallowed my tongue when I watched my son pinch it with his chopsticks and shove it in his mouth with no hesitation.  He chewed it with zest and gusto normally reserved for Tonka fruit snacks before demanding another piece.

I know.  I don't get it either.  Apparently I've not been thinking far enough outside the box.

So my picky-eater tip for the day: try octopus.

Come on; I know you've all got some hanging out in the back of your fridge just begging you to use it, right?  Yeah, just like I've got a hibachi grill built into MY dining room table and the balls to flip knives around like a ninja. 

Octopus.  Seriously?  When McDonalds puts octopus in Happy Meals, maybe I'll make it part of our menu.  Till then, we stick to corn-flake baked chicken nuggets.

Smell My Butt...

Gross, eh?  That's what Jack said to me last night at the dinner table.  He had just climbed into my lap to share some snuggles while we waited for the girlies to finish chasing pear chunks around their trays with pudgy pincer grasps.

"Mama, smell my butt!"

"What? Why?"

"Smell my butt I farted!"

"That's gross, Dude."

"I know! I'm gonna poop."

"Well get off my lap then!"

Runs to bathroom laughing.  Husband hyperventilating. Me shaking my head. Babies horking down pears.

Remind me again why I should assume I deserve any dignity at all?


Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Cake.

Three layers frosted (I cheated with canned frosting!)... I had to freeze it between layers to make it nice and sturdy and make it easier to trim.
Smoothed icing... well, smoothish.
The "pegs"... it was  a whole sheet cake.  I have lots of leftovers to make cake balls!

The "pegs" attached and iced... again, smoothish.
The mess... My counter-tops are tiled so I have to use the table to roll anything out.  Very annoying.

Bad photo, but my skin is STILL blue... It looks like I eviscerated a Smurf with my bare hands.

TA-DA! I don't know if you're supposed to, but I brushed it with a mixture of corn syrup and water to give it a sheen like plastic would have.

With candles...

Big Jack was excited!

Apparently Jordan wanted chocolate cake... Sorry, Doll.

Addie wanted MORE cake.

Jack's sweet friends Kaia and Jarron playing with the decorative Legos.

Jack opening presents while the adults enjoyed the cake.

Happy Birthday, Little Man!  Love you!

(Here's last year's cake:)
 THIS one was all from scratch, including the buttercream icing.  Well, the two cars in the back were store-bought pound cakes, so that's a lie.  But it was mostly from scratch.  And yes, the tracks are chocolate icing.  I'm all about details.


My happy 2-year old.

(And this was his first birthday cake*:) 

*I was not very good at fondant then.  I am still not, but I'm a little better.
 The piping left something to be desired, but it was my first foray into cake decorating.

 It was white-cake from scratch with a raspberry filling.  It was SO YUMMY!



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