Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Charity Talk

One of our goals as parents is to instill the value of generosity in our three children. This is such a tough thing to do in our materialistic and consumer-oriented culture! Thanks to the DVR, they don't see a whole lot of commercials so we don't often get the "Can I have that?" or "Will you buy me that?" questions. And we already do the basics: take the time to talk about what the church does with our monthly tithe money, have the kids write thank-you notes for gifts, etc. But this year, we're taking it even further.

We took the time to talk to Sydney about the earthquake in Haiti and even let her watch the news just so she could see the extent of the devastation. I could tell that the pictures of the hurt and orphaned children really affected her because she asked about them several days later. I wanted her to physically be able to do something to help the orphans so I bought the supplies for each of our kids to put together an UMCOR Health Kit and that seemed to ease her mind a bit.

We've also started her on Dave Ramsey's plan for kids. Every week, she gets a $3 allowance for doing her chores. One dollar goes in her piggy bank for savings. Another one goes in her wallet for spending money. The third dollar goes in a glass jar marked "Charity." At the end of the year, all of the money in the jar will go to a charity of Sydney's choosing.

Thankfully, I think some of what we're doing is sinking in. The other day, she found a dime on the ground and asked me where she should put it; I told her she could put it in any of her three "money zones." She put it in the charity jar because "it's nicer to give to needy people than to buy something for ourselves."

Our next big family project is choosing a monthly charitable donation. I can't decide whether we should support a soldier, "adopt" a child through Save the Children or buy someone a cow through Heifer International. Anyone donate to one of these organizations? Positives? Negatives? Any other suggestions?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Houdini Reincarnated

You know how when you're a kid you like to know what famous people share your birthday? Well, I always thought it was interesting that I shared a birthday with Harry Houdini. (I also share a birthday with Star Jones but I don't find her to be all that impressive.)

Houdini was known for his ability to escape from odd places and while I don't really believe in reincarnation, the fact that my three year old seems to be channeling Houdini with his potential escape artist skills is a bit unnerving. In the past several months, Liam has:

* broken a refrigerator lock.
* figured out the second refrigerator lock rendering it completely useless.
* unlocked and exited the front door to run after the garbage men.
* unlocked and exited the front door to run after the tree trimming man who was walking around our house.**
* stood on the window sill (a good two feet off the ground), unlocked and opened a living room window.
* climbed onto our entertainment center (a good three feet off the ground) to get the TV remote, open the cabinet with our Wii paraphernalia and open the cabinet with our office supplies.
* climbed onto our entertainment center so that he could reach the fireplace mantle next to it. Finding your child playing with the fireplace gas key and the little clicker flame device you use to light the fireplace (and used to keep on the mantle) is more than scary.

And to top it all off, Evan has figured out how to unfasten the oven lock. Two Houdinis in one house. Yikes.

** We've since learned to lock the glass storm door in addition to the front door. He hasn't figured out how to unlock it. Yet.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Dog or Not to Dog

When I was little, if I missed the school bus in the morning, I had to make a lonely walk down to the end of the street to catch it on it's way back through the neighborhood. Normally, this was no big deal. But one morning, when I was about eight years old, I was making my way down the street when a neighbor's Doberman began to chase me. I threw my lunch at it and screamed bloody murder until another neighbor came to help me. Ever since that day, I've disliked dogs.

And then last spring, as we were all walking down the street to Sydney's bus stop, a neighbor's annoying Beagle chased poor Sydney down the sidewalk and into the path of an oncoming car. Luckily, the car was able to stop a good three feet from a terrified and screaming Sydney. However, the experience traumatized both her and Liam and they both freak out if they see dogs, even small and friendly ones.

As much as we dislike them, I know we're in the minority. In the past couple of weeks we've been to several houses with dogs and while the owners have (mostly) been accommodating by putting their dogs in the garage/backyard, I know this won't happen everywhere the kids go. They have to to learn to be around dogs. And as a non-dog person, I have no idea how to do this for them.

Should I just give in and get a family dog? Surely the kids would get over their fears of them if we got one, right?

The problem is, I really don't want one. I don't want to have to bathe it. I don't want to have to entertain it. And Ryan has informed me that he really doesn't want to have to pick up poop.

So, my internet friends, what do we do? How do we get our kids to stop fearing dogs without actually having to get one? Is that even possible?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Now you say, "Polo!" because it's:


I have a site meter at the bottom of my blog and every now and then I check it to see who's reading me. Guess what? There's about 20 to 25 of you out there who read me regularly (which sounds pitiful compared to someone like Swistle who has about ten times that many), but I rarely get more than 2-3 comments per post.

So....who's out there? Drop me a comment to say hi. Or if you need an actual purpose for commenting, tell me what you're having for dinner this evening. I can always use new dinner ideas!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Own Personal "Twilight Zone" Episode

In one of my psych courses in college, we studied the whole "nature vs. nurture" thing by reading about identical twins who were separated at birth. I found it fascinating that two identical middle-aged women who were raised 2000 miles apart would grow up to go into similar professions, marry men with the same names and have the exact same hobbies. I always thought it would be cool to have someone like that in my life. It turns out that I kinda do.

My sister and I are five years apart and until we'd both grown up and gone to college, we didn't really have much to say to one another. We didn't really fight a lot growing up, but we didn't really have a whole lot in common, either.

We're beginning to discover just how much we have in common now that we're adults with families of our own and it's really freaking us out. For example:

* We unknowingly bought our parents the exact same anniversary card this year. Seriously, of the hundreds of different anniversary cards that are out there, we went to two separate stores and bought the same one.
* When I mentioned that I was thinking of getting the kids a Little People Nativity Set for Christmas, she told me not to because she'd already bought one for them.
* She invited us to have dinner with her family this past weekend and asked if we liked spaghetti squash. I replied that we did, but I had just bought one and was planning to prepare it for dinner in the next few days. Instead of the squash, she prepared pork, corn casserole and broccoli slaw. Guess what I have on my menu for later this week? Pork, corn casserole and broccoli slaw.
* And today, I picked up the phone to call our mom and instead of hearing the phone ring through the receiver, I heard my sister's voice. She had just called me to ask me something and I happened to pick up the phone at the exact same time.

Seriously, we're a little weirded out by it all. Wouldn't you be?

Have you ever had a connection like this with someone in your life? Is it normal or should we submit ourselves for psychological testing?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Teeth, Talking and Tinkling, Oh My!

My posting had been a bit sporadic of late thanks to the holidays and the busyness of life, so here's a quick update on the kids:

...lost one of her top teeth while we were in New Orleans. The Tooth Fairy thankfully found her there and she looks adorable when she smiles.
...earned the honor of "Student of the Month" at her gymnastics gym. She's blowing everyone away with her abilities, especially on the bars. While we're happy that she's doing so well and loves it so much, I don't know how we're going to react when the coaches inevitably approach us about her joining "the team."

Evan... now speaking in two and three word phrases. He says something new everyday and repeats absolutely everything. Just the other day I heard him tell Liam to "Stop it!" when he was tired of being sat upon. We're totally amazed at his verbal abilities. just a few pounds shy of weighing as much as Liam. He is a stocky little guy with a big 'ole belly. He's a cutie and we love him to pieces.

...failed his school district speech evaluation with flying colors today so we'll be taking advantage of speech therapy services with Sydney's elementary school. He has no issues with understanding words and his level of vocabulary is right on target, but his pronunciation lags behind his peers. I am so excited that he'll be getting help, especially since it's at no cost to us (as compared to the expensive private tutoring we had him in last summer). now in big boy underwear full time!!! We spent New Year's weekend working with him and I actually witnessed his little light bulb moment when he finally got it. We're still working on getting him to go #2 consistently on the potty, but I'll take any milestone I can get. Hurray!!

I hope I didn't bore you too much...I'll be back to my irregularly scheduled blogging later this week.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Never Want to Grow Old

Reading about your culinary mess-ups made me feel a lot better about my own kitchen disasters, so thank you so much for your comments on yesterday's post. I'm glad to know ours is not the only household lacking a Martha Stewartesque matriarch.

Over the holidays, we traveled to New Orleans to visit Ryan's dad and stepmom. And, as always, we had to make the rounds of visiting all of the various relatives who live in the area. We went to lunch with two of Ryan's elderly great-aunts (Aunt E and Aunt J) and an even more elderly great-uncle (Uncle T). Since Ryan and I had to sit next to the boys to help them through the meal, poor Sydney was stuck sitting between Aunt E and Uncle T.

She was attempting to fill in the Mad Lib game on the children's menu when she got stumped with the word prompt beneath one of the blanks.

Sydney: Aunt E, what does this word say?

Aunt E: Let me see there, Sweetheart. Hmmm....I can't read that. J! Let me borrow your glasses.

Aunt J: What, E? I can't hear you!

Aunt E: Your glasses. I need to borrow them to help Sydney with her puzzle. (Glasses are passed down the table.) OK....hmmmm....I still can't read it.

Sydney: Mommy, what does e-m-o- (I can't hear anything) spell?

Me: Sorry, Sweetheart, I can't hear you over the boys.

Sydney: Nevermind.


At the end of the meal, we were thanking the elderly relatives for the meal when poor Sydney, who'd just been beaten in a game of tic-tac-toe by a semi-confused Uncle T, tried her hardest to be thankful, too.

Sydney: Uncle T, thank you for lunch.

No response.

Sydney: (Louder) Uncle T, thank you for lunch.

Uncle T: What, Sweetheart?


Uncle T: For what?


Ryan: Sydney!

Sydney: Sorry.

Poor thing. We didn't scold her for what she said to Uncle T, because frankly, she handled it all better than most kids twice her age would have. I just hope our trip to the aquarium the next day made up for the fact that she had to spend an entire lunch either bored or exasperated. Honestly, it was one time I was thankful to have to sit next to a toddler and help him with his meal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stupid Beans

I've cooked a lot of meals over the years. Thousands of them. After a few years of living on my own and nine years of marriage, amazingly, I've only had a few major screw-ups. You know, the kind of meal that once it's done, you take one look at it (or taste of it) and you've got the pizza guy on the line before the disposal has had time to grind up the culinary travesty you attempted to prepare.

My first big screw up was in college. I attempted to make fried rice on the little hot plate I (illegally) had in my dorm room. It turned into a big pile of gooey rice with undercooked vegetables mixed in. We didn't even taste it before it hit the trash can and we visited our favorite Chinese joint.

My second mess-up meal came just after we got married. I thought I'd be all domestic and make fried chicken. I guess I had the heat on a little too high, because when Ryan saw the chicken cooling on a paper towel, he asked me why I made brownies. Yikes.

My third big screw came a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to have slow cooker roast with pinto beans for dinner one evening which means I was supposed to soak the beans overnight. I woke up at 3 am the morning of roast day with the realization that I'd forgotten to soak the beans, but I had the bright idea to soak them all morning, boil them for a an hour or so and then proceed with the recipe. Wrong. The meat was nice and tender after five hours in the pot, but the beans? Still crunchy. So, after a little celebratory dance from Sydney, we went out. Determined to not waste food, I put the beans back in the slow cooker the next afternoon and cooked them for five more hours, put the now refrigerated but tender roast back in for another hour and we were good to go.

Lesson learned: Always soak the beans.

Wanna help me feel better about my culinary failure? Tell me your worst mealtime screw-up!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Everyone seems to be posting their New Year's Resolutions. I don't have any this year. Yes, I'd like to eat healthier. Yes, I'd like to exercise more. Yes, I'd like to spend more quality time with the kids (not yelling, scolding or potty training). Blah, blah, blah. I say the same things year after year and while I do work on them, repeating them yet again makes me feel a bit like a broken record (sadly, I've recently discovered that this is a metaphor that my six year old will never understand, but that's neither here nor there), so I will not repeat them this year.

Instead, Ryan and I have a goal to work on our finances this year. We're not in dire straights by any means, but we'd like to be more organized. Our church is offering Dave Ramsey's money management course this spring so I think we'll take advantage of that just to raise our financial IQ a bit.

We've also decided to cut some expenses by doing things ourselves this year. We already do quite a few things that a lot of other middle class Americans pay others to do: clean our house, mow our lawn, fix our food (we only eat out once a month or so). I paint my own toenails. Ryan cuts his own hair (a buzz cut on a balding man is not all that hard). We do our own laundry and ironing. When our carpet needs cleaning, we rent a machine and do it ourselves. You get the picture.

But we've decided to take it even further. Yesterday, Ryan changed the oil in our cars. He's always known how to do this, but we've become accustomed to taking them in for oil changes. At $40 a pop, though? No, thank you - we'll do it ourselves. We also cut the boys' hair ourselves yesterday. I've watched the lady at the salon do it and since we have all the equipment (see above regarding Ryan cutting his own hair), I decided that we could save about $15 a kid by doing it ourselves. It turned out a bit shorter than we like, but it'll grow back and we'll know how to do it better next time, right? Besides, the boys' friends aren't the kind that are going to make fun of them for having their hair cut at home. Not yet, anyway.

We've decided that when our satellite contract is up in a few months, we're going to cancel it and go back to good 'ole antenna TV. We might get a Netflix subscription to supplement, but that's still a heck of a lot cheaper than the $100 a month we're currently spending to stare at a screen.

Oh sure, there are things that we absolutely need to have done by someone else. We haven't quite figured out how to trim the trees in our yard or completely rid our kitchen of the ants that call it home, but I can honestly say we've tried. And when I figure out how to teach my daughter gymnastics or piano, I'll let you know. But I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

So, anyone have some more money saving tips for us? Anything you've found that you can do just as good as the professionals? I'd love to hear about them!