Sunday, July 15, 2007

Our "Just Okay" Trip to the Minnesota Zoo

As I stated in a previous post, I took the kids to the Minnesota Zoo to check out a couple of exhibits that recently opened. The new Minnesota Trail, though crowded that day, was very nice, and the butterfly garden was simply extraordinary.

This Fisher was extremely social and gave the kids a good show.

Alex was fascinated with the Chrysalis exhibit in the butterfly garden.

Annika was in heaven in the butterfly garden. We had to walk through it twice, at her insistence, so that she could fully take in all of the colors, scents, and sounds.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I Don't Know What's Worse

The fact that I'm trying to potty train two boys who refuse to poop in anything besides Power Rangers underwear...

That they could care less if this happens and are content running around the house letting it drip onto the carpet...

That both of them chose the same moment to have such an accident...

That I am left trying to clean up the carpet with a machine that only appears to work if you tip the hose just so...

That I exhaust myself taking these same children on a day trip to the zoo (in underwear no less), only to have them tell me that "it was okay" but that they didn't really have that much fun...

That when I try to call my husband for a little support, he's too busy to talk...

Or that when I glanced into the bathroom mirror just now, I found a piece of fresh poop in my hair.


Yeah, it's kind of a toss-up, don't ya think?

I know that some of you well-meaning people out there may feel compelled to share a little tried and true wisdom about potties and training and mm's and stickers and all of that. Please don't. Reading that will make me combust. Seriously.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

If My Life was Animated, This Would Be One of The Scenes

My kids were doing this to me yesterday until my brain literally exploded.

(thanks to my brother for posting this on his blog and dedicating it to me last month. He knows my family all too well.)

Monday, July 9, 2007


Annika, witnessing Owen misbehaving while we were at the library last week:

Owen, I hope you know that Santa Claus is watching you right now.


Annika, looking quite disappointed after using a crystal kit she had purchased from the dollar store:

Man, these aren't even REAL! They're not hard or's like they just wanted me to buy this. What a rip-off!


Annika, responding to Alex, who was doing her best to irritate her:

Alex, you're really ticking me out. I mean it! I'm ticked out!


Annika, in the kitchen with Kurt, deep in debate over whether Kurt should pay her for drying some dishes:

Oh, oh sounds like we're gonna get into an argue.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

How Lucky Were We?

Was it just a coincidence that on the luckiest day in years we had the opportunity to go boating on the Mississippi? And, with Rochester topping at a sultry 91 degrees, we were indeed lucky to spend our day cooling off in the water.

Oh, and did I mention how much I adore my good friend Kate and her husband Matt? They have 3 kids the same ages as ours, and even though together our families look like we're running a daycare, we always have an awesome time. Yeah, they totally rock.

Annika was not quite as thrilled with the "bumps" and speed as the other kids, but she remained a trooper throughout the 9-hour excursion.

She did enjoy the two beaches we visited and managed to find Sally, a large caterpillar that she ended up bringing home.

One of the highlights of our trip was traveling through one of the locks on the Mississippi. This one was located in Alma, Wisconsin.

Of all of the kids, Alex seemed to enjoy boating the most. He definitely has his sea legs.

Owen preferred to drive.

Here's one of the many large vessels we saw traveling on the river. We also saw no less that 10 trains traveling along the banks -- the boys were in Heaven! And I have to admit, I was too.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Day In The Life

We had a very pleasant fourth of July: lots of sun, yummy grilled foods eaten out on our deck, and hours of kiddie pool games. It was the perfect way to celebrate our country's independence.

Today, things are back to normal. (sigh!) And because I have no photos of fireworks to share with all of you, I thought I'd record the activities from a typical day in our household. This is strictly for posterity, so please forgive me in advance if my post seems a bit tedious or long-winded. It is, after all, just an ordinary day in my life.


6:10 a.m. -- The boys awaken us from our slumber. Kurt rouses first and encourages them to come downstairs so he can "show them something".

7:00 a.m. -- I awaken to the sound of cabinets opening and cereal boxes shuffling. Owen shouts "Good Morning Mom!" and volunteers that Daddy is going to make them some breakfast.

7:30 a.m. -- I'm now showered and dressed, the kids are downstairs watching Toy Story for the umpteenth time on a larger-size television (thanks Ellen!), and Kurt is preparing to make his exit for the day. I pull out his lunch (leftovers from last night's BBQ) and give him a run-down of my day as I pack a morning snack, water bottles, and a picnic lunch for the rest of us.

8:30 a.m. -- I help the kids get dressed, assist Ellen with directions to our local cable office over the phone, brush teeth/wash faces/comb hair, and herd the kids into the van.

9:10 a.m. -- I workout at the YMCA while the kids enjoy some time playing at the KidsCare facility there. Today was a good, complete workout -- 30 minutes of elliptical, 20 minutes of rowing, and 10 minutes of upper body strength training -- minus a couple minutes I was summoned back to KidsCare to help Alex put his diaper back on (he claimed he wanted to use the potty).

10:25 a.m. -- I pick the kids up and we head to the van. On the way, Annika and Owen inform me of the dramatic events that unfolded while I was busy working out. In breathy, excited voices, they told me about a boy who chased Owen and threw him on the mat in the gym, which made him cry, until Annika ran over to the boy and shouted "Hey, that's my brother and you can't do that!" Alex, hopping along beside me while we make our way to the parking lot, keeps repeating that a boy chased Owen. I tell them that it's good that they all stick together, and I then file away this information for further analysis. I'm not so sure KidsCare is a good fit for my children anymore, but I vow not to overreact, buckle all of the children and pass out snacks (Chex Mix and My Little Pony fruit snacks).

11:00 a.m. -- We arrive at Oxbow, a county park that houses a small zoo and has lots of picnic areas and trails (our summer fun activity for the day). It's sunny and warm, and I lament the fact that I was unable to locate any sunscreen this morning. Luckily, we mainly stay in the shade to observe the wildlife. Annika gets her Butterscotch fill, and the boys enjoy watching a Black Bear concentrating on eating an apple.

11:45 a.m. -- We decide it's time for lunch so we quickly make a restroom stop to wash all of the "wildlife" off our hands and head back to the car. We drive a very short distance to a lovely picnic area and enjoy our PB&Js, Baked Lays, plums, and juice boxes. Nobody eats much, and all three refuse to touch the chips (I know, I know, my kids are weird!) but I can't blame them. It's hard to have much of an appetite when it's so hot.

12:30 p.m. -- We arrive home. Although both Alex and Owen fell asleep in the van, they make no objections as I carry them to their room for a nap. It was Alex's turn to sleep in the tent, and Owen opts to curl up in Alex's bed. I promptly get online and notice an email from a friend asking me to bring the kids' swimsuits to a playdate she'd arranged at her home this afternoon. I gasp -- I had completely forgotten. I breathe a sigh of relief that I had taken the time to check my mail, then quickly throw a load of towels and suits into the washing machine and head upstairs.

1:15 p.m. -- I clean my kitchen while I make a couple of phone calls (one to inquire about vacation Bible school at our neighborhood church, the other to my friend Kate). I offer to pay Annika a quarter to sweep the leaves off the deck, and she agrees. Fifteen minutes later, I hand her a coin and tell her she can open the crystal kit she had purchased at the dollar store a few days ago (another summer fun activity). She proceeds to spend a large chunk of time experimenting with all of the different color combinations.

2:00 p.m. -- As I read an excerpt from Steinbeck's The Red Pony to Annika, Kurt comes home. He needs to return some large tables we had borrowed for the birthday party, so he puts the boosters into the Camry and loads up the van. A few minutes later, he was on his way to the post office to mail a birthday package and pick up a carpet cleaner (our downstairs carpet is in serious need of some steam cleaning).

2:55 p.m. -- While I fold the towels and gather swimsuits together, Annika attempts to wake the boys up from their nap. I quickly make a phone call to my buddy Heather to see if she has an extra swim diaper that I can use, grab some fruit for the kids, and hustle them into the car for our playdate. In my haste, I neglect to bring swim trunks for the boys (sigh!).

3:15 p.m. -- We arrive at our Heather's, and the kids hop out of the car and immediately start playing with their friends. The boys spend most of the time running around the cool beach ball sprinkler and begging for snacks, while Annika and her friends explored the wonders of Heather's beautiful forest backyard. They manage to catch a moth, discover a small frog, and get a good start on a fort.

4:41 p.m. -- We head home, chatting about the many things we did at Heather's and gushing over the "woods" where she lives.

4:55 p.m. -- I start dinner while the children sit at the table and enjoy their frozen pops (yesterday's summer fun activity). As I begin scrambling eggs for my fried rice, they ask if they can finish watching Over the Hedge. For both time and sanity's sake, I oblige.

5:13 p.m. -- Kurt returns home from work carrying in a steam cleaner, grumbling about the price to rent it. He kisses me and heads downstairs to see the kids.

5:30 p.m. -- We eat our supper of pork fried rice, egg drop soup, peaches, peas, and a frozen strawberry dessert left over from yesterday. Again, the kids eat next to nothing. I eye their untouched plates and contemplate how they can survive on so little food.

5:45 p.m. -- Kurt takes the boys out with him to run some errands (he volunteered to water some houseplants for a friend on vacation and he had to return a set of keys someone gave him by mistake when he rented the cleaner). Annika decides to stay home. She briefly complains of a stomach ache and lounges on the sofa with her blanket. As I clear the table, she pleads with me to read to her a little. I stack the dishes on the counter and sit down to read an chapter from The Wizard of Oz. Heather stops by to collect a coupon I'd clipped for her. We discuss her kids' upcoming birthday party, and I marvel at the number of kids that are planning to attend.

6:10 p.m. -- I run Annika a bath and attempt to wash dishes (our dishwasher is not working properly) while she frolicks in the tub. I eventually return to Annika to wash her hair and help her ready for bed.

6:40 p.m. -- Kurt and the boys come home after an unsuccessful attempt to water the plants (keys didn't fit in the lock). He takes over bathing duties for the boys while I revisit the dishes. Dressed in pajamas, the kids all wait patiently to choose tomorrow's summer fun activity. Alex draws "Visit Oxbow." Hmm...since we visited that very park today, I make the executive decision that he should draw again. "Swimming tomorrow". I smile. I've been waiting to take them swimming at the new waterpark at our "Y." Tomorrow it is.

7:25 p.m. -- Almost bedtime, but Kurt first decides to run the carpet cleaner through the kids' rooms before they call it a night. Annika composes a song on the piano, and the boys chase each other around and wrestle.

7:50 p.m. -- It's bedtime for everyone under the age of 6, which means my night is just beginning! Let the party begin -- Woo Hoo!

7:51 p.m. -- I finish typing this post and head upstairs to peruse the newspaper. While Kurt begins to clean the carpets, I debate whether I should assist him (Nah!) . As I settle down for the evening, childless, I begin to think about what tomorrow will bring and begin to prepare myself for another day in the life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tips from Your Friendly Dieter

I've lost one of my boys.

Not literally, of course. But it occurred to me yesterday as I stood on my scale, waiting for the moment of truth, that I have lost the equivalency of a preschooler. Alex, to be exact, since he now weighs 35 pounds.

It's a great feeling, and I can honestly say that it has been easy tolerable. Seriously. I never feel hungry, and I don't feel deprived.

As I've posted my losses each week in my sidebar, a couple of you have asked me what my secrets are. Well, I don't really have any. I follow what the good people at Weight Watchers tell me to do, and it works. I have, however, learned some things in the three months since I've initiated this lifestyle change.

So here, in no particular order, are some tips for those of you looking to drop a couple (or like me, more than a couple) of pounds.

Eat With Purpose

I cannot stress this enough. The biggest change I had to make was to change my outlook on HOW I eat. Before I started dieting, I ate a lot of food. And the food I ate was not particularly good for me. It was easy for me to thoughtlessly eat snacks, especially at night when I felt I deserved treats for being a good mom (and yes, I actually told myself that to justify the calories).
Nowadays, I still think about food, but I plan my day out and really consider what it is I'm eating. I know it sounds crazy, but once I stopped eating those junky/greasy/sugary foods, I stopped craving them. Seriously. Try it out for a week. When you feel a hunger pang or snack attack coming on, reach for a piece of fruit or a serving of low-fat cheese instead of chips or a cookie. Not only will you feel satisfied for longer, you won't miss the junk food. I promise. Oh, and not having the junk food in the house is half the battle. I've found that it's sooo much easier when I don't have a package of Oreos staring me in the face every time I open my pantry.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm still a big fan of the junky/greasy/sugary concoctions. And I still eat them. But I don't eat them often, and I eat a proper portion. Which leads me to my next tip....

Invest in a Food Scale

Before I started this program, I never owned one. Heck, I never bothered to even glance at what a serving size was, much less measure the food out. But once I started doing just that, I was floored. I was amazed at what an actual serving size of ice cream is, and how many calories are packed into that one serving. The bowl of cereal I poured each morning was about twice the recommended serving size. This was true of MOST of the foods I ate. Scary, huh?

Now, I weigh just about everything that goes into my mouth (and the kids' too). And, surprisingly, most portions that appear small are actually quite filling.

Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!

I cannot stress this enough. In order to make weight loss healthy and permanent, exercise must be included in the diet plan.

Exercise is exercise, whether it's running, walking, gardening, or playing with the kids outside. I myself have found that a membership at the YMCA was absolutely necessary because 1) I'm paying for it so I feel obligated to go multiple times per week and 2) I'm forced to leave the confines of my house so I HAVE to exercise.

Do whatever gets the heart pumping, but trust me on this one -- doing just one or the other will not result in optimal weight loss. Oh, and that rumor that exercise will make you hungry and result in more weight gain? I exercise four times a week and have never found that to be true. If anything, exercise has curbed a lot of my cravings.

Choose Good Food

There's a LOT of diet foods on the market right now, but I gotta tell you, I'm not a big fan. In my experience, most foods marketed as "diet" are not very tasty, have a lot of processed stuff in them, and upon closer inspection, are not that much different calorie-wise from the regular stuff. I think it's much better to buy a lot of fresh produce and vegetables and use that scale to indulge in the proper portions of packaged foods.

However, I have found some foods that are especially tasty and won't kill your diet.

Al Fresco Chicken Sausages -- These are an absolute MUST for the summer BBQ. We've served them multiple times, and I swear they taste better than brats (less grease/more flavor)! Plus, they're organic and have no preservatives AND are comparable in price to other packaged brats. They're on the menu for our fourth of July feast, and I know they'll be a hit once again. And with only 6 grams of fat per serving (a regular brat has 22-24 grams) they really are awesome.

Kemps 100 calorie Ice Cream Sandwiches -- Perfect for an ice cream craving, and they're just the right size for kids (and your waistline). Plus, they're the real stuff, just a smaller portion, so they don't taste like ice cream-like flavoring between two pieces of cardboard.

Baked Cheetos -- What can I say? Sometimes you've just gotta have that unnaturally cheesy crunchy goodness only a Cheeto can provide. But here's a little secret: the baked ones actually taste better! And (shhh!) you can have more of them without feeling guilty. Plus, your kids won't taste a difference.

Popcorn -- Get out the air popper because popcorn is about the perfect diet food! Of course, if you're truly dieting you'll nix the butter, but a little won't hurt you, either. You can eat about 4 CUPS of this stuff with very few calories, plus it's filling.

That's it. Diet tips from a girl just trying to get healthy. I hope it helped, and I'd love to know others' tips and ideas that will help me on my journey.

Monday, July 2, 2007

How Is It?

I can have 3 different conversations with 3 kids simultaneously while checking my email and thinking about what I'll make for dinner that night...

but I draw a complete bank when I'm asked to enter my pin number at the ATM?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Splish Spash Birthday Party Bash!

I feel great.

Is there any better feeling than when a party goes off without a hitch? For three-year-olds, nonetheless?


Celebrating that birthday party on a gorgeous summer day with some delicious food and great friends.

Kurt played the role of lifeguard to direct people to the party. Against my wishes, he refused to wear the flippers. On a side note, we think we'll probably retain the whistle...the shrill sound tends to stop the kids in their tracks.

Here's one of the many awesome gifts we received. It's a Splash Rocket that will shoot about 20 feet up into the air when its fired by the controller. The kids were fascinated, but I think the Dads got an even bigger kick out of it and spent a chunk of time "testing" it out.

The boys received swim goggles, and it would be an understatement to say they liked them. Alex went to sleep tonight wearing his.

Happy Birthday boys.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I've Got A Future PETA member in training

Annika has always had a soft spot for all creatures great and small.

I've talked at length about her fascination with horses, real and fake, and many of you know she is very fond of her dead friends, also known as the dead bug collection.

Herein lies a problem.

You see, I don't mind the insect friends, just so long as they remain the dead kind. And with this being June, we've had a a lot of the very living kind amongst us. Our annual influx of Earwigs, those nasty little brown bugs with the pincers on their tails, have invaded our lower level and made themselves very much at home these past two weeks. They're harmless really, but nasty-looking all the same.

At first, Annika was scared to be in the room with one. At least once a day she'd run out of her bedroom, shrieking about the "pincer" bug in her room, begging me to stop whatever it was I was doing to go and get it. So I would. I'd grab whatever was handy, usually a tissue or piece of toilet paper, scoop it up, and send it swimming down the toilet. Problem solved.

But recently all of that changed.

No, yesterday, Annika discovered that she likes Earwigs, that they are her friends and are "cute little things." And not only that, but she has discovered that she has a whole slew of buddies living right inside our house, just waiting to become her little pets.

This morning Kurt found one of these pals. As he placed it into the bowl and sent it on its merry way with a flush, Annika came streaking into the bathroom.

"What are you doing???" She yelled indignantly. "Can't you read the sign?"

Kurt looked. There was indeed a new sign posted. By my daughter.

Upon closer inspection, we were informed of a new house rule.

That would be a toilet next to a "pincer" bug, with a large slash through it, indicating we are to no longer flush her friends.

What can I say? We have received notice.

I just hope none of Annika's new friends decide to gang up on us. I don't think I have enough insecticide, and I certainly don't have the energy to argue with my little activist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Time and the Livin' is Easy

Earlier in the spring, I dreamed of lazy summer days spent in our backyard and a calendar free of appointments. But just one week into summer, we're still cramming playdates, swim lessons, family vacations, and summer fun activities into our very busy days.

One way we've found to slow down and beat the heat is to make homemade popsicles. They're easy, inexpensive, and oh so refreshing! Try this recipe out the next time you're looking for a fun activity for the kids. All three had a blast mixing and measuring the ingredients and they gave these rave reviews! Plus, you'll swear they're tastier than anything you can purchase in a box.


2 cups boiling water
1 package (4-serving size) Jello, any flavor
1 envelope Kool-aid (try to match the flavor to the Jello)
1 cup sugar
2 cups cold water

Stir boiling water into the Jello, Kool-Aid, and sugar mixture for 2 minutes or until dissolved. Stir in cold water. Pour into molds. Freeze until almost firm, then push in handles. Freeze at least 8 hours or overnight.

NOTE: This recipe makes a LARGE amount of popsicles. I used 2 molds that held 8 popsicles and still had a ton left over. Oh, and if you don't have popsicle containers, it's all good. Just use ice cube trays. Wrap the tops with plastic wrap and stick toothpicks through the wrap. Voila! Instant mini-pops!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Our Birthday Trip To Waupaca

Swimming and frolicking in the sand, Bay Beach, the requisite visit to Lambeau Stadium/Packer Pro Schop and a doggie birthday cake, all in 3 days. Is there any better way to spend a 3rd birthday?

Here's the cottage we stayed in at this Bed & Breakfast. Very affordable and extremely comfortable for our (ahem!) active family. Below was our kitchen, which by the way is MUCH larger than the one we have at home.

What a difference a year makes...

last year, Owen refused to leave the comforts of our NeatSheet due to his sand phobia. This year he was covered in sand from head to foot by the time we left.

Annika and the boys enjoyed a game of bowling with their Grandpa Bob. Their scores? Alex -- 51; Annika -- 61; Owen--108.

Alex surprised us this year by riding all the rides at the amusement park. It's nice to have some photos with all of the kids enjoying themselves. Oh, and it happened to be "Kid's Day" all over Green Bay, so we were treated to free rides all day at the park.

The nice ladies who run the Bed&Breakfast were nice enough to make the boys this homemade birthday cake that looks like a little dalmation. Man, I love small towns!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

On Monday My Baby Boys Will Turn Three

Where has all the time gone?

Happy Birthday, O-Man and Big Al. We love you both very, very much!

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Knew The Exact Moment My Brain Had Been Fried to a Crisp

4:17 p.m. I'm driving along in the van with the kids.

Owen: Mom! Mommmmmmmmmmm!!!

Me: Yes Owen?

Owen: Alex pinched meeeee!

Alex: I did not Oh-Wen!

Owen, accentuating each individual word with a scream: YOU DID TOO!

Annika, in her best mom imitation: Alex, what did you do?

Alex: I do this.

Alex leans over and pinches Owen, causing Owen to start screaming again.

Annika: Alex! You need to apologize to Owen. (slight pause. Silence) Hey Owen, guess what?

She continues, now switching to a sing-song voice: Owen likes to shave llamas! Owen likes to shave llamas!

Owen: I do not Annika! I doooooo notttttttttttttttttttttttt!

Annika: Okay, then. Mommy likes to shave llamas! Mommy smells like llamas! (giggling) Mommy smells like horse poop!

Annika, catching my disapproving eye in the rear view mirror: I actually like the smell the horse poop. (nervous giggle, followed by same sing-song voice) Mommy smells like angel kisses...Mommy smells like angel kisses....

Bad Blogger, Bad Blogger!

I confess.

Lately, I've been a slacker. Not only have I not posted daily for awhile, but quite a few of my posts have been (ahem!) heavy on the photos and a little light on the reflective commentary.

But here's the thing. We're leaving on a trip in a couple of days to visit Kurt's Dad, and although I've done absolutely nothing to prepare for it, I've spent PLENTY of time stressing about the impending packing, planning, and worrying the accompanies our family vacations. I do have good reason. The last time we ventured out on a similar trip, we forgot to put shoes on my daughter.

Oh, and the boys officially turn 3 on Monday. So in addition to planning for their party, which started out as a "small gathering" but has now ballooned to about 25 guests, I've been in my usual birthday funk. Don't get me wrong. I love my kids, I love birthdays, and I revel in planning themed parties. I just hate it that each birthday means my children are growing up. I know I'm a complete freak when I say this, and I try not to think about it, really. But for me, each birthday that I celebrate, whether it be mine, the kids' or Kurt's, is a real reminder time goes on whether I want it to or not. Children grow, things change, and each birthday celebration reminds me that it is one less birthday that I will spend with them, and that sort of depresses me.

And if I wasn't already feeling old enough...

This week at the grocery store something happened to me that has never happened before. The kids and I were shopping when we spotted the daughter of one of my neighbor's bagging groceries. We approached her to say hello, and as we did, I could see her visibly change. She looked at me really politely, smiled and said hello, and answered my questions about her summer was going with polite one-and-two word answers.

Then the crushing blow came: She referred to me as a "Mrs." when introducing me to the other cashier.

Not that big of a deal, right? I mean, I've gotten the obligatory "Ma'am" comments in the past, but I've always brushed those off because I felt young, hip, in touch with today's generation. Heck, I still get carded every time I set foot in a liquor establishment. But this was different.

This girl, who is a junior in high school, treated me the way I used to treat the elderly women in my church. You know that drill? You smile politely, answer questions cautiously, and give those little elderly people the utmost respect.

I shouldn't be surprised. I mean, there I was, some 35-year old in an old college t-shirt with 3 kids in tow, trying to act hip but looking pretty pathetic to a 17-year old who babysits my kids once in a while.

But the whole situation still stung. Because I expect that behavior from my preschooler's generation, or even a elementary-aged child's friends -- to those ages I AM old. But up until that eye-opening exchange, I still felt connected to the teenage/college aged group of kids. I felt like one of them, not one of their mom's friends.

It's all good though. I'm not going to dwell on it because I have too many things on my plate right now, like stuffing a sun-shaped pinata and baking a cake that's supposed to resemble a beach.

Umm, wow. I have become one of my friend's moms....