Tuesday, September 30, 2008

First Cookie (WordFUL Wednesday)

Sorry to be doing yet another Wednesday post of Mia with food on her face, but it truly is the best thing I have to offer right now.

This was Mia's first "cookie." I got her some organic, maple flavored biter biscuits.

Needless to say, she really enjoyed this first.

Every time she would drop it and couldn't get it herself, she would cry until I helped her pick it up again.

I have to admit, they smell really good. Kind of like that smell that comes right when you pour warm maple syrup on freshly made pancakes.

No wonder she likes them so much!

Hosted by Angie at:

Tasty Tuesday (White Chicken Chili)

White Chicken Chili

3 lbs. cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chilies
4 (15 oz) cans great northern or other white beans, undrained
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp (plus more as topping) chopped fresh cilantro

sour cream
shredded monterey jack or mild white cheddar

1. In a large dutch oven or other stew pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent and tender. Add chicken and chilies and saute for a couple more minutes to combine flavors.
2. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil (amount added depends on how soupy versus stewy you like your chili). Add cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, cilantro and 3 cans of beans. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or longer. Add fourth can of beans depending on how thick you want it.
3. Serve with sour cream, cheese and more chopped cilantro.
4. Enjoy!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Fair Day

Recently, we went to a large country fair near where my sister-in-law is in college. We figured we would knock out two birds with one stone and visit her while we enjoyed some fair time.

We don't have anything like this in our area, so we were excited about going. There is just something about a fair. There are foods you pretty much can't get anywhere else.

There are overpriced rides you can't "enjoy" anywhere else. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the people, the events, all seem to be wrapped up in the unique experience of a country fair.

As soon as we arrived, Austin was thrilled because he saw tractors. Lots of tractors! There were at least five tractors in the parking lot, pulling tram cars that would carry people to and from their cars to the main gate. We had been in the car for more than two hours and I knew Austin would not make it to bathroom without an accident, so I convinced him to "water" the grass by telling him we couldn't ride on the tractor train until he did. He immediately peed. Unfortunately, every tram that came near us was full, so we walked and he waved to the people on the tractor tram.

Once we entered there was a very large tractor exhibit and he had a great time walking around looking at the tractors and even sitting on some. After that we decided to head for the kiddie rides area. I was not prepared for the exorbitant amount of money they were charging for tickets, but then again I have never taken a child to a fair. I have only been the child at the fair. Every ride was three tickets and each ticket was $1.25. Most rides lasted no more than two minutes. But, we were already there and we didn't want to rob him of at least some ride fun. The swings were by far his favorite thing. He rode them twice and would have ridden them 10 times if we would have let him. He also really enjoyed the roller coaster, known to him as the train. He rode that with his Aunt Lauren.

After all the riding fun, we headed toward the animals. Austin was set on seeing some pigs. We looked for pigs for at least an hour, but never did find them. We did however see all sorts of live poultry, an assortment of rabbits including some very large double chinned rabbits and some very long haired rabbits, horses of all kinds, and lots of cows. Apparently, there were sheep and pigs, but we missed those.

After that we decided it was time to eat. We had walked by no less than two hundred food stands and I am not exaggerating in the least. The options seemed endless, but we all agreed we wanted fair food. We decided on sausage and pepper sandwiches, onion rings, rough cut fries, and birch beer. It was delicious!!! Dessert was a no brainer. Funnel cake!!! Fairs have really gotten creative in the last few years with their fried desserts. We weren't interested in their newest experiments of fried oreos, fried Snicker bars and fried Milky Way bars. The only other fried dessert I saw that did sound good was deep fried chocolate covered cheesecake. Sounded like a little slice of deep fried heaven! (Mouth is watering...must move on.)

After hours of walking, full stomachs, two tired kids and six tired adults we all agreed it was time to go. The sun was starting to set and the crowd was getting thick with the evening fair folk, fresh for a night of music, food and fun. That night Bucky Covington a former American Idol contestant, turned country music star, was performing.

We headed out of the fair and toward the waiting area for a tractor tram to the car. We had promised Austin we would ride it on the way out. When the first one arrived, we hopped on and after getting settled and sitting for a couple minutes while people loaded on, the driver made the announcement that the tram was not headed for the main parking lot, but a side parking lot somewhere. So, we unloaded and waited for the next one. Several minutes later the next one showed up and now that the crowd was growing larger, we quickly jumped on. Again, after being on for a couple minutes the driver turned around and said that we needed to get off because they were taking the tractor to be serviced. Are you kidding me? So, we waited and waited and waited some more. We could have walked to the car several times over with the amount of time we stood there, but we had promised Austin he could ride. Finally, another tractor showed up and this time we didn't have to get off. He smiled all the way to the car. It was worth it in the end.
We had quite a fair day!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Beauty of Cooler Air

One of the highlights of the cooler temperatures that come with fall is the reemergence of hot air balloons. As long as the skies are clear and the winds aren't too high, we get a chance to see them almost every afternoon/evening.

There is nothing like a hot air balloon. I love the way the colors contrast against the sky and how they float with such grace and beauty.

They come really close to our home and sometimes even land in our development.

One time last fall I was running around the house getting ready for a night out with my friends. Mark had put Austin in his highchair to eat his dinner and he was in the kitchen getting himself something to eat. Austin started shouting what sounded like, "a moon, a moon." Mark said, "Yeah, buddy, that's nice", but Austin didn't let up.

I was upstairs and wondered why he was so adamantly and excitedly shouting his repetitive phrase. It was about then that I heard the very distinct sound of a balloon firing. I looked out my bedroom window and the balloon was right there.

We ran out onto the deck and the balloon was so close that we were able to talk to the occupants. They were about to land in the field behind our house. Needless to say, it was the highlight of Austin's month, maybe even fall.
He has become quite an expert in finding them in the sky around our home. It is so much fun to see his simple excitement about these beauties.

**He is actually sitting here as I type this post begging to go outside and find a balloon. So cute!**

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

First Flecks of Fall

Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day.

The temperatures are getting cooler, the sky is a crisp, clear blue and though the leaves aren't changing yet, fall is in the air.

I took the kids to the park to enjoy what felt like a perfect day.

We weren't the only ones with such a great idea.

I put a quilt down in the grass, under a tree with beautiful sunlight filtering through the leaves, and laid Mia down to drink her bottle.

Austin played with some of the other kids and I enjoyed the beauty that surrounded me.

It was not just the beauty of the season I was enjoying, but also the beauty of my life.

I have two beautiful, healthy, happy kids, a husband who adores me and family and friends who surround me with love and support.

I am blessed and I don't take that for granted at all.

(Sorry for the sappiness, but the changing of seasons deeply affects me for some reason.)

After Mia finished her bottle I decided that it was time that she try a swing for the first time.

She loved it!
She was really mostly hanging there, but her smile was nearly constant.

I could stare at that happy face all day.

I sure wish I could bottle days like yesterday so that when the dark, cold, dreary days of winter hit, I could open them up and enjoy the perfection!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Box Arrived!!!

Today was a great day.
The weather was gorgeous.
Clear, sunny skies, about 70 degrees and a nice cool breeze

It certainly didn't hurt that I knew my Favorite Things Swap box was arriving today.
You see Summer, my swap partner, and I both made the mistake of not including our explanation letters and had to communicate about what to do when the boxes arrived. I sent her an attachment in an email with my explanation and she posted her on her blog.

I was like a kid on Christmas morning waiting for my package to arrive. Time was going too slowly and so I took the kids to the park to waste time and enjoy the beautiful day.

When I got home the mail still hadn't come. What? My mail lady is usually there by noon at the latest and it was nearly 1. So I took the kids inside to get them ready for their naps. I put Mia down and as I was closing the curtains in Austin's room I saw the substitute mailman (that explains the tardiness) walking up to my door with THE box. Yes!!

Not only was the box finally here, but I got to open it and enjoy its contents ALONE.

I put Austin in his bed and practically ran downstairs, retrieved the box and grabbed the scissors on the way to the dining room table. I carefully cut the tape. Inside, surrounded in bright pink bubble wrap, was all of this great stuff.

I could not believe it! First was four different kinds of chocolate. Hello...totally one of my favorite things in this world. I am so hiding those goods!
Fruity lip stuff. I rarely apply any actual lipstick, but I always wear chapstick or lip gloss. I will have to hide it from Austin who is always asking for "lips" so he can be like Mommy. Actually, he just likes the taste.
Sudoku puzzles. As Mark says, I am a sudoku maniac. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to send a book of Sudoku puzzles to Summer, but they are one of my favorite things to do. I almost downloaded Platinum Sudoku games to my cell phone the other day, but figured that might be a bad thing.
Better than Buillion beef base. I LOVE to cook and actually just ran out of this so it is absolutely perfect timing. Now I can cross that off my grocery list.
Vanilla Chai scented deodorant. I had no idea this even existed. Every once in awhile you just need to smell like something really yummy. Mmmmm, it smells so good. Mark is going to want to lick me. (Did I really just type that?)
Last but not least, Diva Girl Mad Libs. Seriously, I need to exercise the Diva in me a little more often. And humor...I can always use more of that. When I start taking life too seriously no one is happy.

Thanks Summer!!!

Doing this swap was so much fun. Thanks Wendi for hosting such a fun event!

I actually learned some really valuable things from this swapping experience.

First, I learned that most of my truly favorite things don't fit in a box and can't be sent away because they are uniquely mine. My most favorite things are Mark, Austin and Mia. Then there are my family and friends, the view from my deck, my camera and all the moments I capture with it, my quiet times, the feeling I get when I see my kids learn or do something for the first time, dates with my husband (though they don't happen often enough) and so many other things that bring a smile to my life.

Second, I realized that a lot of my favorite things revolve around my kids. Not that that is a bad thing necessarily, but it made me realize that I need to do a little more for Mommy. I need to make the time to feed my non-Mommy side, because though I love my kids with every fiber of my being, I am so much more than just a Mommy.

Summer received her package today too and I can't wait to hear what she thinks of my favorite things. I had so much fun sharing a little bit of me with a relative stranger. Right away we discovered we had at least one thing in common, we both have daughters named Mia. How random is that?

Feeding Time (Word-FUL Wednesday)

Last week, on a night when Mark was out of town, I had a friend coming for dinner. She was minutes from arriving and the one thing that I really wanted to get done before she came was vacuuming the basement.

That morning Austin had been snacking on fruity cheerios while I was doing other housework and he had not only spilled some, but also stepped on them. There were little crumbs everywhere!

I was feeding Mia dinner and Austin came over and started playing with her and her highchair toy. I decided that since she was distracted I could run downstairs and quickly get the vacuuming done. I put her bowl of cereal on the table, away from her highchair, and retreated downstairs.

I was down there about 4 minutes. When I turned off the vacuum and headed upstairs, Austin was on his way down. He looked at me and said, "I help Mia eat cereal!" He showed me that he had some on his finger that he wanted wiped off.

I came upstairs to find Mia in the above state. She gave me a "Is this what you intended?" look.
Thankfully she was probably so stunned at his attempts to feed her that she did not make a mess of the bowl that he left on her tray. I couldn't help but laugh as I grabbed the camera.

He certainly is my little helper!

For more Word-FUL Wednesday posts visit Angie at:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is There Anything Sweeter?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting this little beauty.
She belongs to my good friend Abby.
She was 10 days old yesterday, and honestly, she is just the sweetest thing.

This is Abby's first baby and she is just overflowing with wonder and love for this little girl.
It was such a joy to be there and reminisce about those early days of being a first time parent.
She and her wonderful husband are going to be fantastic parents.

It is going to be so much fun to watch this precious child grow up.
I hope she will be friends with Mia.
(She will have to because her Mommy and I are going to hang out regardless.)

There is just nothing sweeter than a newborn baby.
That smell.
Those delicate features.
Those cheeks.
The peacefulness of their sleep.
What a marvelous gift from God!

Monday, September 22, 2008

From the World of Austin

Austin is getting to that age where he is full of funnies.

Here are a few from the last couple weeks.

**The most common route from our house has a road that goes through a large corn field. One day we were traveling through and Austin kept saying something in the back seat that I was desperately trying to decipher. It sounded like, "butt-a-on-et." I looked back at him to see if I could figure out what he was saying and noticed that he was looking out the window at the corn. That is when I asked him, "Are you saying, butter on it?"
"Yes Mommy! Butta on it...corn...mmmmm...so good!"

**When we were at the beach in August, Austin had a great time finding and collecting little clams that would be exposed when the water would retreat back after a wave. As they would start to dig back into the sand we would grab them and put them in his sand filled bucket. He loved them, and even when we would return to the house he was obsessed with going to check on them in his bucket. He would stir up the sand with his shovel and watch them dig back down. I was cooking the other day and had just peeled a few cloves of garlic and put them on the cutting board to chop them when Austin grabbed his stool and came over to see what I was doing. When he saw the garlic he excitedly said, "Look Mommy, clammies! Hi clammies!"

**Austin loves to "read" books and have books read to him. He loves to talk along with the parts of the story he knows. One part of every story that he enthusiastically exclaims is, "P end." He also applies "p end" to anything else that he finishes or sees as done.

**I guess that after nearly 33 months of me praising Austin for his accomplishments and such, he has decided that Mommy needs a little positive feedback. He has recently resorted to saying, "Good job Mommy!!!" (Thanks Austin!)

**When Austin wants to convince me or Mark, or anyone for that matter, to do something that he wants to do, he says, "Come on Mommy, it's fuuuuuunnnn!"

**Okay, you know how at the beginning of a movie they "advertise" the production company? Well, Austin's latest movie obsession is Surf's Up which is produced by Columbia Pictures. Columbia pictures has the pastel colored skyline in the background with the mostly gold female statue. The first time we watched it he noticed and said, "Wooooowww! It's bootiful. Look Mommy she's bee-u-tifull." He now points out the "beautiful" Columbia statue every time...with the same awe as the first time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

They Like to do What???

**Warning this post is about poop and only poop. If poop offends you don't read on. If you find poop humorous see here and here and here.**

If you are a regular around here you know that Saturday we entered the challenging world of potty training. Immediately the peeing was going great, but pooping (always the biggest challenge) was much tougher. After two days of Austin pooping in his underwear, I asked all of you to give me advice on how to get him to poop on the potty. Most of you were at a loss and advised encouragement and a careful eye to catch him before he had another accident.

That night I pondered the issue. As a teacher I decided to evaluate my "student" for his ideal learning situations. What I came up with was that Austin responds and learns best from humor and a visual.

So, I thought about how I could make this whole pooping on the potty thing a humorous yet motivating activity. And here is what I came up with.

The next morning I was talking to Austin about pooping on the potty and I began to tell him a story.

"Austin, did you know that poopies like to swim?"

(Austin looks at me with a "huh?" look on his face.)

"Yes. Your poopies really like to swim and they will be so happy if you will sit on the potty and let them 'plop, plop' right into the water. They will have so much fun swimming in there. Then you can flush them and they will get to go to a really big pool where they will have even more fun."

(Austin staring at me and listening carefully to every word that I am saying.)

"And you know what else? If you bend over a little bit while you are on the potty you will be able to see them dive out of your hiney and into the potty to go swimming."

"Yeah," he said very matter of factly.

I had a feeling it was going to work, but had to wait for his need to poop to find out.

We went to a friend's house to play that morning and when we came home he was at the table eating lunch when he said, "I needa go potty Mommy." We hurried to the bathroom and I put him on the potty. He immediately bent almost in half to look into the potty. Then he looked up at me and said, "No Mommy! You close the door." I closed the door just enough to see in, but he again firmly asked me to close the door. I did as instructed and listened closely. Within 20 seconds I hear, "Look Mommy! My poopies ARE swimming!!!"

He was so excited and got down off the toilet to really observe the swimming poopy. Then he flushed and said, "Go swimming poopies!"

I can't remember the last time I was that excited about any bodily function...probably never.

I was so excited I almost hopped on the computer to blog to the world about this wonderful new development. But, I hesitated because I knew that it was possible that seeing the poopies swim one time and getting a little chocolate race car might be enough to make him happy for awhile.

However, I am happy to report that he has been excited to see his poopies swim for three straight days. In fact, this morning I was upstairs gathering things for a day at Grandma's house and he was in the basement watching TV. He came upstairs and told me he needed to go poopies. Yay!!

He has now gotten in the habit of telling me instead of me having to ask him. He has only had one pee-pee accident in the last five days and that was today. He was outside riding on a new vehicle that Grandma got him and he was trying to tell my sister-in-law that he needed to go pee-pee but she was too far away to hear him. I happened to come out while he was saying it and grabbing himself with gusto. As he moved toward me to go inside he lost control. He was sad, but I assured him that it was okay and it was only an accident.

He is doing great and I am so proud of him! I have not been putting a diaper or pull-up on him at nap time either and he has stayed dry everyday, even when he naps for three hours. In the morning, even though he has a diaper on from overnight, he will not pee in the diaper and starts yelling, "Mommy I have to go pee-pee right now!"

He has also done fine peeing in places other than home. He has gone in a grocery store bathroom, a friend's house, Grandma's house, and in a nasty public park bathroom. What a trooper!

I swear I am beaming with pride and joy over....well...pee-pee....and swimming poopies!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Than a Best Friend

This is Pancho.
He is the love of my little sister, Amy's, life.
He has been her loyal companion, friend, son and comforter for years.

He is a beautiful dog with a great personality.
He is a snuggler, a player, a walker, a snacker and a so much more.
That makes the news my beautiful sister received this week so much harder.
After a couple weeks of Pancho just not being himself and going through a series of treatments, an MRI was done and revealed that he has a cancerous tumor in his spine.
Amy is devastated.
Her life and schedule revolve around Pancho.
She expected to have more time with him.
She can't imagine what life will be like without him.

This is unbelievably hard.
She needs your prayers.
Pancho needs your prayers.

Some dogs become more than just friends to their owners.
They become members of the family.
That is Pancho!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Other Side (Word-FUL Wednesday)

I am pretty much "the" photographer in the family.

It is not very often that I end up on the other side of the camera.

My husband, Mark, is trying to pick up the camera a little more and capture moments of me with the kids.

I love him for it.

Here is one of the shots he managed to catch recently.

It makes me smile every time I see it.

For more Word-FUL Wednesdays visit Angie's place:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Mark has been a part of this community for awhile and has on occasion gently prodded me to join.

I don't know what was truly keeping me away.

But, I finally jumped in....head first.


I joined on Saturday.

I have already connected with dozens of people that I haven't seen for years.

I love it!

I had so many great friends in college that over the years I just lost touch with.

Now, I am perusing pictures of their beautiful children or fabulous travels.

I have a permanent smile on my face lately.

It is exhilarating to be reunited with great people that I have such wonderful memories with.

What was I waiting for?

So, excuse my shorter or more absent posting lately.

I am catching up with old friends and loving every minute of it.

I still love all my bloggy friends though.

Oh, and the potty training is going great. No accidents today!!! (No pooping either.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Potty Talk and a Question

I just finished the second full day of potty training with Austin.

I am happy to report that yesterday he only had one accident of each kind (#1 & #2).
He continued to get really excited about his successes and I honestly think at one point he was making himself pee so that he could get another M&M.
(Who could blame the kid right?)

Today was even better!
I figured today would be the real test.
This weekend we didn't leave the house once since we were all sick, but today we HAD to get out and get some things done or Mommy was going to go stir crazy.
We HAD to go to Target and get some more underwear because 6 pair is certainly not enough.

(By the way, inquiring minds want to know. Why is underwear referred to as "a pair" of underwear? It is not like there are two like "a pair of socks.")
Sorry...got a little side tracked there, but I really am curious.

In addition to Target, it was also grocery store day.
So, I was about to embark on taking a potty trainer on not one but two errands that would take me no less than an hour and a half to complete.
I left the house stocked with extra clothes, underwear, wipes and, of course, M&M's.
Austin had peed right before we left, but I knew the likelihood of having to take him to a public bathroom for the first time was pretty good.
First stop, Target.
Austin chose Ironman (which he knows nothing about) and Madagascar underwear.
We also got some fun, foamy, green soap for washing hands after going potty.
I asked him no less than 10 times if he needed to go potty while we were there. Obsess much!
In and out we went with no accidents...yeah!

Next stop, the grocery store.
I asked him when we got there if he needed to go potty and he said, "Yes! I needa go potty."
We breezed into the store and right into the bathroom.
I put him on the potty, he sat for a few seconds and said, "I can't Mommy."
"If you need to go potty, then just say pee-pee come out now."
He repeated after me in his sweet little voice and I heard a giggle in the next stall.
Still he either didn't have to go or he was getting public bathroom stage fright.
So, for the rest of the shopping trip I was a nervous wreck that he would pee all over my groceries and make a mess in the store.
But, my little potty trainer did awesome!
We headed home.
After nearly two hours of errand running my kid was completely dry!

But, I knew the inevitable was coming.
He almost always poops sometime before he takes his afternoon nap.
I had been asking him all morning about pooping and he just kept saying, "Nope, nope, nope. I don't have poopies."
He always sort of hides when he needs to poop, so I figured I would catch him.
However, I didn't catch him on Sunday when he snuck into Mark's office while I was getting laundry out of the dryer.
Anyway, shortly after we got home he had finished his lunch and I was feeding Mia her lunch. He started to walk upstairs and I asked him where he was going.
I suspected he was about to "hide."
He said he was going to look out his window at the "big truck" that was parked in front of our neighbor's house delivering something.
I told him NOT to do any poopies up there.
I just had that feeling, but I had to finish feeding Mia who was growing crankier by the second.
My fears were realized when I went up a few minutes later.
Thankfully it was fairly solid and easy to clean up. (Sorry about that detail.)

I put him down for his nap and he slept for two and a half hours without peeing.
The rest of the day was accident free.

So, my question for all of you potty training pros or at least seasoned veterans, what are your suggestions for me about the pooping.
I know it is always the most difficult part, but help me out here.
He understands that there will be a larger reward for pooping.
He understands that it is yucky to go poopy in the underwear.
What else can I say or do to help or encourage him with the pooping aspect of the training?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fall Recipe: Smoked Sausage Chowder

Last Tuesday, the kids got a nasty cold. By Friday, Mark and I had it too. It is STILL hanging on!
So, on Saturday, when we were supposed to be at a family birthday party for dinner, we (I) had to come up with a plan.
Sure we could have ordered out since we were all sick, but that is not what we wanted.

Sick = soup

So, I searched through the freezer and refrigerator to see what I could come up with.
Chicken noodle or any derivation was out of the question because I had very little chicken, no celery, no carrots, etc.
The following recipe is what I came up with and I'm posting it because it turned out really good.
If you try it and don't think it is really good, then please chalk it up to the fact that I was sick.

Thank you!

Smoked Sausage Chowder

3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 large onion, chopped (I used red onion)
2 red bell peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato (about 3/4 lb.), cut into bite sized pieces
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
1 can cream corn (or you put regular corn in the food processor)
1 can whole kernel corn (or frozen)
1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup half and half or cream
1/2 milk
salt to taste

  1. In a dutch oven (or whatever you have), melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, pepper and garlic and saute until tender. Add flour, stirring constantly, until a roux forms. (If you don't know what that is, just stir until the flour is well mixed into the butter and vegetables and begins to slightly turn darker...like beige.)
  2. Add chicken broth and scrape up bits from bottom of pot. Add sweet potato, cumin, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  3. Uncover, increase heat to medium low, add sausage, corns, cream and milk. Simmer for 20 - 30 minutes more. Add salt to taste.
  4. Serve with a nice, crusty bread. Mmmmm....enjoy!
(Serves 6)

What we liked most about this was the contrast of the smoky sausage and cumin with the sweetness of the corn and sweet potato. The red pepper and thyme added were great compliments to these flavors. And best of all was that it was colorful and pretty. Remember, the eyes "eat" first!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Potty Talk

One day last week I decided it was time to give potty training a try.
Austin has been "interested" in all things potty for awhile, just not when it pertains to him.
He has actually been known to cry when someone won't let him follow them into the bathroom.
If he does manage to follow you into the bathroom he is very helpful. He will get you toilet paper (though sometime too much), flush the toilet for you (closing the lid of course), and even remind you to wash your hands.
He has the routine down.

A couple weeks ago we went to Target and picked out underwear. He was so excited he tried to take off his pants in the store so he could put them on "right now."
However, when we got home and we put them on he said, "too tight...off...I want a diaper."
We were just trying them on for size, but it seemed to me that this was not going to be happy transition.

So, last week I starting talking to him about it one day and he agreed to wear the underwear.
Until he saw them that is.
At that point he said, "Nope, nope, nope. I'm good! I wear a diaper." (He really said that.)
So, being the good and fair mommy that I am, I bribed him.
I told him I would give him ONE M&M if he would wear the underwear.
He agreed!
So, then I told him that I would give him TWO M&M's if he would go pee-pee on the potty.
He agreed!
So I went about my mommy duties and about 5 minutes later he came into the kitchen and said, "Mommy, I go pee pee in my un-duh-way-uh."
Sure enough.
So I asked him where he went pee-pee, because it sure didn't stay in the underwear.
"Down duh stairs"
"You went pee-pee downstairs?"
"Where downstairs?"
"Down duh stairs."
"Show Mommy."
We begin walking down the carpeted stairs to the basement, and he points.
Sure enough, he peed "down duh stairs."
As in, from one step down the riser to the other step.
Now that is one tough place to clean up pee-pee.
He begged for a diaper and I caved because I wasn't sure that I was ready for potty training.

That brings us to today. Austin was supposed to have playdate with his friend Gavin this week and we had to cancel because Mia was sick. He has been asking about playing with Gavin ever since.
Mark mentioned to Austin today that Gavin was a big boy and didn't wear diapers anymore, he wore underwear.
Austin said, "I wear underwear too!" and proceeded to walk himself upstairs to get them.
Mark followed him, and so began our impromptu beginning to potty training.

He put the Diego underwear on and Mark gave him his first M&M.
He went to the basement with Daddy to play.
15 minutes later he starts coming up the stairs to the kitchen saying, "Mommy, I pee-pee on my chair." (His cloth Pottery Barn chair of course!)
So, Mark took him upstairs, cleaned him up and put on another pair of underwear.
We explained the process to him again and decided that we needed to maybe ask him a little more often if he needed to go.
Every 15 minutes we asked him.
He finally said he needed to go.
But he didn't.
Then about 30 minutes later he told Mark he needed to go pee-pee.
He earned his first M&M for going potty and suddenly he was a pro.
30 minutes later he told me he had to go again.
I took him to the bathroom, helped him on the toilet and he asked me to close the door, which I did.
But, I had misunderstood.
He wanted me OUT of the bathroom.
Privacy...I don't get privacy.
So, I peeked through the crack in the door and watch my baby go potty for the first time.
I could not have imagined how my heart would swell with joy and pride about pee-pee.
I opened the door when he was done and clapped my hands.
He was so proud of himself.
He finished his bathroom routine with a huge smile on his face and got his second pee-pee M&M.
He didn't have another accident all day.
Could this really be happening?
I know tomorrow is another day.
But, today my oldest child was potty trained!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


"Psssst!! Hey... Susan's laptop."

"Yes, Mark's laptop, what's up?"

"Do you think Mark and Susan are going to do their regular movie night tonight?"

"I don't know. Honestly, why do they even bother. I mean, you know what it is like."

"Tell me about it. They put in their weekly Netflix DVD, sit down on the couch and open US up."

"Right! The movie starts, they watch for a few moments and then from there, they are barely even paying attention."

"Do they realize that they could watch a movie much faster if they would just watch it? Seriously! They stop and rewind at least a handful of times in every movie because they realize they have missed something integral to the plot line."

"What does Mark do with you while he is supposedly watching the movie?"

"It varies really. Sometimes he is working, sometimes he is browsing information on his dream cars, sometimes he is playing solitaire, but the best is when he is watching You Tube videos. How does he think he can reasonably watch two videos at one time? What does Susan do with you?"

"Well, she is usually about all things blogging. Reading blogs, commenting on blogs, writing posts and editing pictures for future posts. I am convinced she really only listens to the movie."

"It is ridiculous isn't it? They need help. Some kind of intervention or something."

"I'm flattered by all the attention I get from Susan, but I really do think she might be addicted to using me."

"I wish there was something more we could do for them. It is just sad to see them this way!"

"Well, we could crash or something drastic."

"Bite your space bar!"

"You're right. Let them keep pretending to have their special movie night. We can always..."

"Shhh! Here they come. Sleep mode now!"

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

That Day....

We were a few days into the school year and I already knew many challenges lay ahead. Prior to school starting the father of one of my students hung himself in their garage. The mother of the child thought that it may have been possible that her son saw what had happened before the police arrived to take him down. My homeroom mom had been battling stage 4 ovarian cancer for over a year and was in remission. She was eager to do as much with and for her daughter as she could while she was feeling well, but the doctors weren't optimistic about her prognosis. In addition, I had a handful of student with challenges ranging from bipolar disorder to Autism. However, I was prepared for the challenges and eager to get the school year started on a good note.

School started at 9:00 am. After morning announcements, another teacher popped his head into my classroom and announced that a plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers if I was interested in turning on my classroom TV. Of course, my fourth graders were intrigued and begged me to let them see what was going on. We were leaving for gym class in less than five minutes so I agreed to let them see the "current event" news coverage while they went about their morning routine. I remember wondering how something like that could happen when those towers are certainly large enough to avoid if you were flying a plane and found them suddenly in your sight. After seeing the building on fire, most of the students lost interest and went about their business. After a couple minutes I instructed them to line up for gym class. As they were all standing in line to leave, with their backs to the television, I watched the second plane strike the other tower. I gasped loudly and some of the kids turned around. I quickly grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. I was visibly shaken and a few observant children asked me what happened. I told them I wasn't sure and I would find out and let them know after gym class. As we walked down the steps and halls to the gym it was all I could do to hold it together. I KNEW something wasn't right and I was nauseous contemplating what I had just seen. I dropped off my students and headed back to my classroom to get an explanation for what I had just seen.

When I turned on the news, I was stunned. It took me several minutes to even let the reality sink in. Why? Why would someone do something so awful? I continued to watch the coverage as tears rolled down my cheeks. I had work to do, but I could hardly concentrate. About the time I told myself that I needed to pull it together, flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. We were under attack and I couldn't remember a time that I had felt so vulnerable and unsafe. What was I going to say to my students when I picked them up in five short minutes? They would know something was very wrong. Most children are perceptive and they had already seen some of the early coverage of the tragedy in NY. I didn't want them to worry or be scared. I wiped the tears from my face and tried to look as normal as possible. Pull it together Susan. You can do this!
As I walked, I rehearsed what I would say. I would downplay the situation and tell them as little as possible. It was the only way. As soon as I opened the door to the gym, they bombarded me with questions. I told them we would discuss it when we got upstairs. As we walked down the hall we passed several other teachers who made comments to me about what was going on. It was more than I wanted the kids to hear and I knew specific questions would be coming. I was right. We hadn't even crossed the threshold to the classroom before the rapid fire of questions began. I gathered the kids in the front of the classroom on the rug and told them that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. I explained that the buildings were on fire because of the crashes and that many firefighters and police were trying to help the people who worked there. Suddenly, I noticed a panicky look on the face of one of the boys. He was a confident, athletic boy and not the type to cry in front of his friends, but he looked like he was about to do just that. I kept my eye on him as I continued to talk and answer questions. It wasn't long before his hand went up and with a broken voice he asked, "Do you know where those planes were coming from? Because my dad is a pilot and he was flying this morning." I figured it was safe to tell him that the flights had come from the New England area, thinking that his father had flown out of Philadelphia. As luck would have it, I was wrong and his dad had in fact been flying from somewhere up north. He started to cry. That is when things began to fall apart. Another boy started to cry because his grandma lived in NYC and he was worried about her. Others began to cry because they saw the others crying, or because they sensed or knew that something was very wrong.

About that time the principal came on the intercom and asked all teachers to immediately check their voice mail for an important message. That did not ease the fears of my students. I went to the phone and checked the message to hear him inform us of the events of the morning, including the new information that one of the towers had collapsed. Then he advised us to give the children no information and go about our regular day. Too late! No regular day was going to happen in my classroom. In fact, things were quickly deteriorating. The children were scared.
I called the principal and told him we had a situation in my room and I could use the counselor if she was available. He asked me what the kids knew and was relieved that they were fairly uninformed. He commended me on my choices so far and asked me to try my best to hold it together. The counselor came up and tried her best to reassure the students, some of who by now were milking the situation to keep from having to do work. It was only 10:30 in the morning and we had to recover from this and go on with the day. As I attempted to recover some sort of normalcy, teachers would come in here and there to whisper to me about the latest. "A plane has crashed somewhere here in Pennsylvania." "The other tower has fallen." The minutes were hours and focusing on my job was nearly impossible. Soon my classroom phone rang and it was my sister calling from California. My mom was worried sick because the only information that the media was reporting about flight 93 was that it had crashed "somewhere" in Pennsylvania. My mom had been trying to get through to me on both my cell phone and my classroom phone but apparently all lines were busy. That only made her panic more.

Around 11:30 the phone rang again. It was the mother of the student whose father was a pilot. She asked to speak to her son. My heart sank. I expected the worst. I called him to the phone and as he approached, tears filled his eyes. I will never forget the beauty of what happened next. The student who had just lost his father to suicide, who was not a close friend of this boy, got up from his seat and followed him to the phone. As the pilot's boy took the receiver from my hand, the other boy stood behind him with his hand on his shoulder for support. Because, if he was about to hear that he had lost his father, he certainly understood. Fortunately, the news was good, and his father's flight had been grounded by the FAA along with all other flights.

The rest of the school day was mostly a blur. For me it was all about getting it over with so that I could finally release the flood of emotion welling up inside me. Without a doubt it was my most difficult day as a teacher so far. Some parents, just wanting to be with their children and know that they were safe, came and picked them up early. We sent home a letter from the superintendent advising parents to be very cautious about how much, if any, coverage they let their children watch. Unfortunately, what one child hears and sees is often communicated to the masses at recess, and so for days we were dealing with questions and issues.

When I left the school that day, I sobbed like never before. I don't know if it was more because the emotions had been pent up, because my feeling of security in this land I love was gone with the towers, or because I mourned for the thousands who were truly suffering. Suffering loss, suffering pain....suffering.

I wish I could say that the impact ended there. Again, not the case. Eight of the girls in my class lost their soccer coach that day. He was one of the pilots on the second plane that hit the Trade Centers. His two children attended a neighboring elementary school in our district and many of the girls were friends with his daughter and the family. Many people in our community lost relatives and friends that day. It wasn't the start to the school year that I had hoped for. But, it was the start of a very special bond between my students and me. We went through a lot together that year. During the winter we lost our homeroom mother to the cancer that had been in remission. Our class pet, Cinnamon, the hamster, also went to heaven. Personally, I had a friend from college who was murdered. But, through it all we were there for each other and it is a year I will never forget. I learned so many lessons about resilience, love, hope, faith, support and community. I was always mindful of those who lost loved ones that day in September. My year was easy in comparison.

At the beginning of the next school year an oddly wonderful thing happened. It was almost like a rainbow, a sign from God that everything would be better that year. I met my future husband and he had worked, months before, at the World Trade Center. He wasn't working there on September 11th, but regardless I was thankful that God had spared him just for me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mommy's Helper (Wordful Wednesday)

Last week, when Mia woke up from a nap and I was busy with something, I asked Austin to go into her room and talk to her while I finished. He has done this for me before and I actually love listening to him. On this particular day he went in and went through his usual routine.
"Hi, big gill!"
"Hi, pretty gill!"
"Oh, Meeeeyah!"
And then there was a rustling that I couldn't place, followed by more sweet talk.
When I went in, this is what I found.

Yep, he climbed in the crib with her and had turned on her mobile. He also determined that she needed medicine and was trying diligently to open the tylenol and give her some. Thank God for safety caps!
This is now his new fun thing. He loves it so much that he has gotten overeager on a couple occasions and woken her up. Mommy does not appreciate that! However, I know there won't always be this much helpfulness and love expressed toward Mia, so I am soaking in the sweetness while I can.

More Wordful Wednesdays at:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Excuse me, can you read???

(Sorry for the grainy cell phone picture!)

On Mondays I do my grocery shopping. I shop at a fabulous grocery store called Wegman's. If there is one near you and you have never been there, you REALLY need to give it a shot.

Anyway, Wegman's cares about its customers. Their customer service is superb. One of my favorite parts of this great service is the way they try to make things easier on us moms who have to shop with our little kids. If the weather is bad, you can go and get your car, load your kids and pull up to the curb where the "helping hands" attendants will load your groceries for you. Anytime you need help getting to your car with your groceries they will help out, and most of the time they suggest it. You don't even have to ask! They have plenty of carts with special features for holding more than one child. And, in the parking lot, there are 10 parking spots just for those of us who are lugging along our small children.

Now, before I hop on my soapbox let me say this. There are three entrances to the store. The w/child spaces are spread out between these entrances. It is a huge store, with a huge parking lot and there are plenty of spaces near the doors that are neither handicapped or w/child spaces.

SO, why is it that people with no children at their side park in these spaces. Just about every time I go, there is someone parked in one of these spaces with no car seats in their car. Two seat Mercedes...no car seat in there. Motorcycle...no car seat there.

Do they just have no idea how hard it is to take little kids to the grocery store with you? Do they not care? Do they have kids, but are disgruntled because there were no such spaces when their kids were little and think that moms today have it too easy? Do they have kids, but have forgotten what it is like? I WANT to know.

Sure it is nice to get to park at the front of the store, but if you gave me the option of taking my kids and parking at the front of the store or going alone and hiking from the farthest spot in the lot, I would DEFINITELY choose the latter.

I have seen some of these people when they park. They aren't injured or crippled or feeble. They usually appear in a hurry and hop out of their vehicles and dart into the store. Why??? Probably to rush in and get lunch from the immense section of prepared foods and various take-out "stands." Listen, I know they are in a hurry and only have so much time to get their lunch, but for goodness sakes please just park a little farther away and get some exercise.
I am certainly getting mine by carrying a 15 pound baby in a 13 pound car seat while holding tightly to a squirming toddler.

....stepping down from the soapbox now.