Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fly to Your Heart (or something like that)

I have taken some CUTE vids lately and have remembered how to upload them. This one is easiest because it doesn't go with a long post like the others, but I will get to them.

Ginger is in a ballet/tap class, and their recital number is to the song from the Tinkerbell movie, "Fly to Your Heart." Whatever that means. The girls have been practicing the number for 3 months. The recital is in 2 months. Some of the other moms and I have realized they're never going to make it, so we have all brought in our video cameras to record the teacher, and see if we can learn it and help out at home a bit. It's a perfect little 4-year-old ballet song, and age-appropriate choreography. I can even probably learn it. But I still don't think they're going to make it. Bless their hearts.

The teacher said the kids usually get to know the songs so well they tend to sing along, which she strictly forbids so they can focus on dancing. But, she said, she thinks this time she will just let it go because they are so darn cute singing along. See for yourself. (Ginger is second from the right, with the criss-cross back.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Awesome House: Poppy's Room

With Poppy's 1st birthday creeping up, I thought it might be a good time to show her room. Also since I just cleaned it and it doesn't stay that way for long.

Our first year in the house, this was a storage/guest room; basically, the dumping ground for stuff we didn't want to deal with. It was nice, and a pain when we had to face the boxes. I also loved the color - Sherwin Williams "waterscape." But it was dingy, so before we moved her in, we repainted the whole thing - ceiling, walls, trim, but kept the color. My perfect blue.

Let me take you on a tour. It's a small room.

Dresser and paper vase lamp - IKEA
Quilt - my Mom
Laura Ashley laundry hamper - Marshall's $7.99

Alphabet picture cards - Ida Pearle
Glider (Dutalier) - We don't love the faded denim, but that was the only fabric it came in six years ago when my parents bought it for us at Hazel's birth - at that time it was our most expensive piece of furniture. Worth every penny, even if we had paid for it. So smooth, so comfortable. It has seen a lot of mileage.
Quilt - personalized PBK crib quilt from Ed's aunt
Screen - $20 from Craigslist. Behind it in that nook are the remnants of baby-storage-junk that still needs to be gone through.
Rug - I knew I wanted a round rug for the room but was not looking forward to the $200+ price tag nor the rigorous search for the "right" one. Problem solved when I went to my favorite semi-annual consignment sale and found this one for $30. Stain-free and gender-neutral pattern. Fine.

Pillar lamp - IKEA
Crib - $99 (incl mattress) from ebay in New York. It was a purchase of budget and convenience and it's a fine crib. Never did get our "dream" nursery set, but who needs it? I'd rather get a nice couch.
Swallows Mobile by Flensted - check out all their beautiful creations! If I was having another baby I might get this one. And if it was a boy I'd probably get him this one! Though I really don't know how you'd decide.
(And here's the final corner - not much to tell...)
So that's our little nursery. First time we've ever had one, since we were in a 1-bedroom apt with Hazel and a 2-bedroom apt with Ginger and in both cases the baby slept in our room until at least 18 months. It's a dream having a separate room for her, although it's up a flight of stairs, and that is painful at 3am. But I'll take it. My House Is Awesome.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh My...

It's amazing what sounds vulgar coming out of a little kid's mouth. So when Hazel recently adopted the habit of saying, "Oh my gosh" every 5 seconds I had to prohibit it, even though I say it all the time. And when Ginger recently exclaimed, "Oh my heck!" I was a bit dumbfounded and asked her where she heard it. Aiden at school. (I thought, did his parents go to BYU? 'Cause that's the last place I heard that.) Bathroom words and body part words are out, too, at least for entertainment purposes.

Anyway, I'm curbing my own slang more than ever these days and I'm just wondering, what do you let your kids say and not say (at least around you)? They've got to be human, but holy crap, they're kinda young to be slanging!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


"Mom, I wish that I could be a Jelly Monster. And that everything I could have is made out of jelly - jelly soup, everything! And that everything in the world was made out of jelly - trees, houses, even our bodies! I just LOVE jelly! But only berry jelly.

And whenever you want jelly, just get some bread, grab some jelly, and spread the jelly and pop it in your mouth, that's all you have to do! "

(HQ = Hazel Quote)

Friday, March 11, 2011

4th Annual Easter Basket Exchange

It's that time again. I know it usually seems like the year has flown by, but this time, at least for me, it has been a looong year. And I'm ready for a great EBX.

A brief history: The last three years on DMTotW we did an Easter basket exchange because the truth is most husbands (or other loved ones) cannot be relied upon to do justice to the best candy holiday of the year. Not only do they stink at making, or remembering, or caring about, baskets; they also don't always appreciate the painstaking measures we go to to put together something awesome for them. So here we have the chance for a satisfying get-and-give basket experience

Who Can Participate

1. As with last year, you do not have to be a mother, married, female or Christian. You can fit pretty much any demographic as long as you qualify under #2 and #3. You can even be one of the poor unfortunates who knew about the exchange in past years and chose not to participate.

2. But you do have to live in the continental U.S. or have an APO address.

3. And I do have to know you personally or be connected to you through someone, somehow (like you are a friend/relative of my friend/relative. Or you know my kid's preschool teacher's neighbor's realtor. Or you love Johnny Depp. Or Mark Wahlberg.) Just include in your comment or email how I'm supposed to know you.

How It Works

Things will go similar to last year, with a few changes.

1. Leave a comment to this post or email me directly (kyounc at yahoo dot com) to say you want to participate. Make sure I have your email address!!! The deadline to sign up is Wednesday, March 30, which gives you plenty of time to sign up, two and a half weeks to put your basket together, and a week to get it to the recipient.

2. I'll email you a questionnaire to fill out; this will be forwarded to your giver to give her a little info and direction. On March 31 I will make the assignments and you can get started on your basket!

3. Based on your person's questionnaire answers, and your own awesomeness, put together the funnest, coolest, most amazing Easter basket ever for her. Make it her (or your) dream basket. Spending cap is $30, not including shipping. The one requirement for everyone is that you must include quality chocolate, and I mean good quality chocolate. Other than that, run with it.

4. Put your basket/package together and mail it to your person so s/he will receive it by Easter. Please ship Priority Mail - this will insure it arriving within a week. I usually like to use a flat rate box, available in various sizes from the post office, so I'm not limited by weight.

5. Wake up Easter morning and have an awesome time opening your package! Email me a picture for the blog, and send your sender a thank you card.

That's it! Post a comment (with your email address) or shoot me an email to get started!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Favorite Marinara

A few months ago I got sick, the throwing-up kind. And unfortunately that night we had had spaghetti with my long-time favorite marinara sauce from Trader Joe's. And when I throw something up I can't eat it again for a long, long time. Like when I got food poisoning on Thai food in 1998; I am just coming around to it again. We can't really wait that long for spaghetti sauce around here, so I had to do some thinking. Painful, but possible.

I remembered a homemade marinara I used to make in New York. I guess I just forgot about it, that happens when you have kids and move a couple times. So I got out Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis and tried it again. Wow, no wonder I used to make it. So, so good; I love it. And so do my kids, even Poppy. I like to add a smidgeon more salt, some rosemary or Italian seasoning, and some crushed red pepper for a tiny bit of heat.

It's not a lot of work, no more than homemade soup. Just some chopping and simmering. Really lovely and nice to freeze for later, too. Currently we love it on rigatoni - nice chewy pasta tubes that everyone can get on their fork and Poppy can pick up when cut into 3 or 4 rings. But it's great for spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, whatever.

My Favorite Marinara Sauce
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste (and other seasonings, if desired.) The sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead - cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.

Recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Best. Package. Ever. (since the world began)

Today I got the best package ever since the dawn of time. It was from my brother Dave, a late birthday/early Easter package. He has been living in England for the last 3 years and will move back to Virginia this summer. There are a lot of tangents I could go off on in this post. Like how awesome Dave is, how we used to speak our own "twin language" (we are not twins really), how he revels in package-making as much as, or maybe even more than, I do. But there's a lot of ground to cover as is, so I'll attempt to minimize digression.

Dave has been calling, not every day, but still, to find out if it has come yet. He was so excited for me to get it, he couldn't stand it. Here's my answer to his anticipation.
First, it came in a pet food box, a fact we both find giggly. If for no other reason, because Dave does not have a pet, but we had cats growing up and both hate the smell of cat food.
We open, and there is bubble-popping galore. Perfect for keeping the girls occupied while I inspect the booty.
The card - naturally that is me on the front. The handwritten note inside promised, "You won't get this much cool euro-stuff next year but I might be at your party!" A fair trade.

1. A twin-pack of Hotel Chocolat drinking chocolate. I'll be trying this as soon as I'm done writing here. And while the kids are still napping.

2. Jamie's 30-Minute Meals. Love that guy. Love 30-minute meals. Note: We've tried a few and used a few more as templates for substitution with pretty good success. Dave is much more culinarily experimental, and successful, than I am. Just give me recipes to follow. I love cookbooks! Plus Jamie has a daughter named Poppy. And it's even cuter with a British accent.

3. I was actually just thinking to do a post about Cadbury Creme Eggs. Here's the mini version: I used to love spring, my favorite season. Now I don't because I get torturous allergies, especially the itchy eyes, I can't stand it. Plus it means hot humid endless summer is just around the corner, which I hate even more than allergies. The one redeeming bright spot in spring is Easter candy, and specifically Cadbury Creme Eggs. My favorite commercial candy anywhere, anytime. Along with dark Snickers. Easily the best and happiest part of spring for me.

So imagine my thrill at getting THESE MANY Cadbury Creme Eggs, and from England, where they are available year round and taste better than American. Dave's the best.
(Notice Poppy's little hand snatching them from me. They learn the good stuff early in my house.)

4. MORE chocolate from Hotel Chocolat. A bark sampler - Rocky Road, Milk & White Fusion, Caramel Road and Vanilla with yummy bean specks. Also not for sharing.
5. Do you know the book The Gruffalo? It's hilarious with excellent pacing and a great opportunity for dramatic reading. We brought it with us when we visited England two years ago, and discovered Uncle Dave had a flair for reading it, with an inimitable voice for the Gruffalo. While we were there, I saw the book in a shop and bought it for their family. Turns out it's rather popular in England, so Dave got me some treats:
Mouse's Survivial Kit...
...and a Gruffalo Breakfast Set complete with a plate, bowl, egg cup and mug. "What's an egg cup?" Ginger asked me. Maybe it will get her to like eggs! Note: Got this at a science museum in Bristol. Not sure I see the connection... Nevertheless, my gain!

6. Tights, size 1.5 to 2 years. Note: Discovered I had bought these for H without checking the size. I guess now they're for Poppy. We always need tights around here, and with butterflies no less!

7. An external hard drive holding monumental amounts of kids shows, mostly British - a back-up device for their family, on loan until they return and need the shows they can't get anymore. I haven't delved into this yet but it's sure to hold a wealth untold.

8. A player with which to watch said digital shows on our TV. Very well-timed as Ed and I have decided to, and just need to work up the nerve to, cancel our cable.
Can you believe that package? Best ever, most amazing ever, and now I have lots to eat, read, cook and watch, the four fundamental activities in our family!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Disco Mom Takes on Gift Lists and More

A few times over the years I've posted some gift ideas, gift lists, baby lists, etc. But as I find new things, or my kids get a year older, I never go back to update them, and they drift off to the lost city of "archives."

But seriously, the lists aren't just for entertainment. I use them, I need them. If I had to buy a birthday present for a 2-year-old right now I'd have to think hard because I don't have a 2-year-old this minute, and it's just hard to remember. So instead of trying to post a bunch of stuff over time, and keep track of all the posts, I have gone hog-wild over at Amazon and made a zillion Listmania! lists. 'Cause I like lists.

So first I made favorite gift idea lists for every age we've had so far. And I will continuously update them as we see/receive/give new delights. Many items span several years so I had to just pick an age to put it with, but if you are looking for ideas, scan more than one list.

Do you keep lists like this? Either in a folder, spreadsheet, Listmania, post-it, mental, etc? If you have favorite go-to gifts for a certain age, please share and I will add them! As I said, these lists are for my own reference more than anything!

And while I was making those, I thought of some other lists I wanted to make. So I did. Because making lists is easy and fun and clears my mind. And I can use all the clearance I can get.

Chapter Books I loved as a Child - What's on your list?

Picture Books about Grandparents - I'm super proud of this list. I love books about grandparents. The first fourteen I came up with on my own. Then I started searching and getting more from the library; I only added them to the list if they were worthy of recommendation.

Children's Picture Books about Baking
- I've been working on this for awhile; maybe you've seen it from the VGP. But I've added a few so go take another look. My new favorite is Thunder Cake. It also happens to be on the grandparents' book list.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Let's Talk about Sex

There. I said it. Sex sex sex. I wonder how many porn spammers I will get for that.

When I was 8 years old I learned about sex from my friends at a slumber party. Needless to say, their half-informed explanations were full of shock-value and slim on age-appropriateness or context. I was deeply disturbed. A few years later my parents signed the permission form for me to participate in the school's sex ed program, telling me to come to them if I had any questions. Beyond embarrassing; I never went to them. And that was the extent of my education until high school, when my friends started experimenting and my church leaders danced around the topic, some coming more to the point than others. Then I grew up and learned a little more from married friends and some well-recommended books. And that was that.

I'd like to do a little better for my own girls. With Hazel starting school this year, this has been weighing on my mind for several months. We all know how playground talk goes - kids with older siblings or unfiltered parents learn shocking words and start throwing them around, either inferring or inventing meanings for them. Then other kids start repeating them, and no one knows what they're talking about except that they are dirty, taboo or funny in some way. It starts with "bathroom talk." And quickly escalates from there.

Just the other day, Hazel told me over dinner, "Mom, 'balls' is another word for bottom."

Ah. "Who told you that and what exactly did they say?"

"Genny* told me. She just said, 'Balls is another word for bottom.'"

Aha. Genny has an older brother. Well I couldn't let it go at that, and I certainly wasn't going to ignore or negativize the topic. But, as usual, I am navigating uncharted waters, so I just delved in and explained as matter-of-factly as possible what it really means. Though we are without brothers, the girls are familiar with boy anatomy from cousin babies so we started there and concluded with the explanation that while "balls" is not a bad word, it's not polite to talk about people's private parts except in our family, so she shouldn't repeat whatever Genny was saying.

One conversation down, infinity to go.

A few weeks ago I saw a Real Families, Real Answers episode about pornography. In it, Rick Schatz of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families said, regarding talking to children about sex/internet safety/pornography:
Decide what you think is the right age to talk about it. Then subtract three years, and you'll only be one year late.

Which only confirms what I already knew, which is that with her 6th birthday coming up, it's time to begin and maintain an open dialogue about sex with Hazel. I don't think it's hard. At this age, it is not embarrassing or even very detailed. In fact, a few years ago when she asked about babies, I told her everything in a true but simple way. But it's been awhile. And, with her away from me most days, around numerous adults I don't know, I also need to talk to her about what is and isn't OK for adults to do. Heaven forbid someone tries to touch her inappropriately, and it will most likely never happen, but shame on me if it does and I haven't talked to her about it. I hesitate because who wants to put suspicion in a 5-year-old's mind, and suggest she can't trust her teachers? Who wants to tell her some adults are bad, and they might be ones in her life? Not me, but who wants their child left unprotected, even in the name of innocence? Like I said, this has been weighing on me.

And while they are young now, 10 years goes fast, and I need to establish openness, honesty, expectations, and moral principles way, way earlier than they may need them. Which means now. Which means saying the "S" word. And even more that I rarely say out loud. I find this, this and this helpful, for starters. If anyone has a good book on the topic, please recommend it.

I'm just beginning this road, or rather, this one lane on the mega-wide highway of parenting. And although it's not as urgent right now as dealing with tantrums, power struggles, and mealtimes, with its far-reaching implications, it is even more crucial.

And don't even get me started on slumber parties.

(*Her name's not really Genny.)
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