Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My sweet boy

I'm teaching Nate to go to the bathroom by himself at night without calling for me; we're down to our last 5 night-time diapers and I figure we'll give it a shot without them. He's been without diapers during the day forever now, and I've been skipping diapers during naptime with no problem, so I figure the night-time will go pretty smoothly. Tonight's our first night going cold-turkey.

About a half hour ago, I heard him leave his room and use the bathroom but I realized he was just lingering at the top of the stairs instead of going back to his room. I headed up and walked him back to his bed, we talked for a few minutes and I tucked him back in.

As I was pulling the blanket up, I heard him say something. When I questioned him, he told me he was just talking to Bumper. I asked if he loved Bumper and he said yes. He said "I hug him like this" and he showed me how he'd tucked Bumper underneath him. Then he said "I take care of him...I protect him."

Happy New Year, everyone.

Bento gear

We've been doing Bento lunches and snacks a lot, and I finally found some silicone cupcake molds on sale at Target. I shouldn't have waited for a sale - they're so helpful for making the Bentos!

Here's just a snack Bento Nate ate at home. You can see why the silicone cups really help - we eat a lot of "finger food" so it helps keep everything in it's place (a nod to Mama's anal side!) Raw almonds, dried cranberries, and hummus for dipping.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Entertainment Book rocks!

I got my two free Entertainment Books today and I'm thrilled. They paid for themselves on the front cover - $20 off at Safeway! The savings comes in the form of four $5 off $50 coupons, which I'll absolutely use (several times over).

Even if I end up having to pay $5 for each book when I opt out of automatic renewal next year, they'll still have MORE than paid for themselves. I got a chance to skim through them today and there are at least 4 restaurants that we like in there, including $5 off of a $15 at Baja Fresh. There are also coupons for rental cars and movie tickets. Since we're very good at limiting ourselves to places we already would have gone, and not letting the coupon persuade us to spend more than we'd planned, we'll really take advantage of these deals this year.

I'm so happy with how things went that I'm going back to Cashbaq tonight to buy another 2 books!

My best helper

I spent some time last week making up a batch of homemade cleaners from the Clean House, Clean Planet book. My favorite is the daily cleaner; can't remember which one. It uses Borax, liquid soap, water, and distilled white vinegar.

It really works! Scrubbed out the fridge yesterday and it's almost as effective as the caustic stuff. The best part is that since it's in a nondescript bottle, I was able to fill an identical bottle with water and have my favorite helper "help" me clean.

Nate would help me with every task, every day, all day if he could. I'm getting better about swallowing my need to cross things off of my list and slowing down and letting Nate help with as much as I can manage. Today he helped me by putting the laundry in the washing machine

Anyway, he doesn't know cleaner from water and I don't worry about what he sprays water on. So he helped me clean the spots off of the floor, clean the front of the dishwasher and the stove, and mostly he felt good about helping and I actually got some cleaning done. And honestly in 6 months or so, he's actually going to be quite helpful around here!

Could he be any cuter?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Super-cute snack

Saw this in a magazine at the doctor's office; I have no idea which magazine or when it came out. It's got both of my son's favorite foods and was easy to pull off. Nate asks me to make him a flower every day now!

Outer layer is grape tomatoes cut in half, inner layer is whole grapes, and I used hard-boiled egg for the center (the magazine used fresh mozzarella). The magazine used a cute sprig of fresh basil on the stem for the flower stem, but I don't usually have that laying around - I just used green gel food coloring.

I love getting to make something pretty during the day, I love feeding the boys healthy snacks, and I love making my Natey smile.

Jack's Monthly Newsletter, Month Thirteen

Dear Jack,

Late, late, late. I swore I wouldn't let myself start doing this, but I guess that late's better than not-at-all.

Literally as I type these words, you are trucking back and forth our upstairs hallway with a used diaper in your hands. Gross? Yep. Disgusting, frankly. But it's all folded and bound up so the pee's on the inside, and it's a little ball of happiness to you. Clean diapers, used diapers, you love them all. You don't do anything with them, just carry them around. I try to keep the trashcans off the floor to keep you from getting at them, but you always find the ones I forgot to move. Right now you're trying to figure out how to hold onto your precious diaper and still pick other things up off the floor. Not being terribly successful, but not letting go of the diaper either.

You're not an obviously willful child, but you are quietly stubborn and I love you for it. When we move something out of your grasp, or thwart you in a project, you don't put up much of a fuss but you don't give up easily either. Best of both worlds, I think. Nobody loves a pushover, and it wouldn't stand you in good stead to be one. Keep at it, baby.

Walking is second nature now, and you're starting to step over thresholds and negotiate harder paths. You walk along with your feet turned out for stability and your butt sticking out; if I could video-tape every second you're mobile, I would. You're too cute.

You're really into music these days, swaying from side to side whenever you hear a tune on the radio or TV. Sometimes you add in a little knee-bounce, but you're best at the Stevie Wonder sway. You occasionally add in some droning, and I'm fairly sure you're actually singing in your own mind.

Did I mention that you had absolutely no interest in your birthday cake? None? You have a texture thing when it comes to food. If I try to hand you something unfamiliar or put new food on your tray, you'll draw your hands back and then very gingerly poke at the intruding food. Poke, poke, maybe a little smear, and then a tiny taste. Then you stuff your face full. Except the cake - you didn't stuff the cake. I'm truly not exaggerating when I say that you ignored it all, even after I pushed a shmear of icing through your lips so you could taste it on your tongue. You ended up eating grape tomatoes and red pepper slices, and your brother gave up after a few bites of cake and asked for more salad. Funny boys.

You do, however, love chocolate. A lot.

The last few weeks have been so tough for you with ear infections and RSV, coughing and congestion. We put the cherry on top last night when we let you fall down the basement stairs. You were totally fine; I'm still shaken. It was my fault, Jack, and I'm really sorry.

We continue to be amazed by your sweet nature, your contentment, your delight at life. You have a smile for almost everyone, even if you're ducking your head into my chest while you grin.

You are my sweetest heart, full of love-struck sighs, open-mouth kisses, and total grins of delight when you see me. I know you're going to grow and change, and you'll fall out of love with me just the way you're supposed to. I wouldn't hold you back even if I could, but all the same I'm already missing this love, this joy, this sweetness between us.

I'm so glad you were born.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset

Nate had his first sleep-over last night at the house of his beloved Sophia.

We headed over around 4 and cased the joint. I'd verbally walked him through it a few times, how he was going to have dinner with Sophia and her Mommy and Daddy, and that they'd read his bedtime stories, and that when he woke up in the morning he'd still be at Sophia's house.

I wasn't sure he understood but he was only 10 houses away and I knew they'd call if they needed me. At 11 when I went to bed, I was fairly shocked that I hadn't gotten a call yet. At 3:30 in the morning, my phone rang - Nate had woken himself up coughing and was too upset to calm down. I carried him home and got him back to sleep at home.

When he woke up this morning, I wasn't surprised to see that he was sick, probably with Jack's RSV. It's amazing, but I think if he hadn't been feeling sick he would have stayed there all night. He's a trooper, that kid of mine, and he's such a little Man now.

Friday, December 19, 2008


There is nothing sadder than hearing your baby cough and moan while he's sleeping (fitfully).

Jack's been as sick as he's ever been this past week: fever, cough, the runniest nose I've ever experienced. He's also been the saddest I've ever seen him: clingy, crabby, needy. He tried to maintain good humor, often smiling through the tears, but he was truly feeling awful. You could see it just looking at him, with his red-rimmed eyes and sad face. He's been so weak that he can't even walk very far without collapsing, sending him into fresh fits of weeping. Here's the epitome of sick for Jack: he was refusing both bottles and food. It's been hard for him to sleep because the ear infection hurt, and the congested nose meant he couldn't breathe well or suck a pacifier, so he's been extra-cranky from being so tired. A big mess.

Diagnosis: ear infection and RSV. Initially scared me to death what with all the frightening commercials about infants and RSV. Turns out that it is scary if you have an infant with RSV, but not if you have a hearty and healthy one year-old. Then it's just a cold. A really bad cold with a fever. When I was leaving the doctor on Wednesday the super-cute receptionist said "It wasn't positive for RSV, right?" and when I said it was positive she said "Oh god, you're going to have a long week." Truth in advertising!

But the fever finally broke last night and he got some sleep for a change. When he woke up at 3 am and Stewart brought him a bottle he lunged at it, drank it down, and slept the rest of the night. He was still cranky as heck this morning but he ate a hearty lunch for a change and was in much better spirits afterwards.

All I could think about all week were the parents of really sick kids. Being honest, it brought me to tears several times seeing him so miserable and out-of-sorts. I know I could do it if I had to, but the thought of watching him face something really serious, really scary, makes my heart clench. I'd do anything to make sure my kids stay safe.

From my lips to God's ears, right?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Independence Day

Nate was always an old soul, but I'm a little surprised by how fast everything has gone. He's given up Mama or Mommy for Mom some of the time, and insists on being alone in the bathroom (though he still tries to spend most of the day naked). He's taken off all the railings on his bed and hasn't yet fallen out, and would prefer to do almost everything by himself. His favorite time of day is helping me with almost any project - carrying heavy things, taking out the trash, carrying in the groceries, cooking dinner, helping with Jack.

Stewart and I were going out to a party last night while Deborah stayed with the boys. I gave Nate my little talk about using his manners, and listening to Deborah, and I asked him to help her take care of Jack. He agreed and a few minutes proudly told me "If Jack starts crying, I'll help Deborah and I'll make him happy."

The kindness and goodness in his heart is just overwhelming to me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Free Entertainment Book?

Want a free Entertainment Book?

There's a lot of buzz going around about a free Entertainment Guide book, so I took a swing at it. I think it'll work. At worst case, I'll pay $5 for each book ordered.

Wanna give it a shot? Do this:

1) Sign up for Cashbaq. It's free, so no problem there. You'll earn $5 for sighing up.

2) Click through their site to the Entertainment book in the upper right-hand corner. You'll get $10 off of each book by ordering through Cashbaq. You'll also get a $5 discount when you order a second book. When you're checking out, sign up for the auto-renew program which will give you another $5 discount on each book. They'll give you a warning next year before they ship out the next one, giving you a chance to cancel. They may charge you a $5 fee at that point, but the word on the street is that they won't.

3) In a few weeks, Cashbaq will credit you $10 for each book you order. The money's yours to use however you like - you can transfer it out to a Paypal account or ask them to send you a check.

Seems pretty simple to me. The prices vary depending on where you live, but here's how it worked for me:

Cost of first book: $30
Cost of second book: $25 (net cost of $55)

Less discount for signing up for Cashbaq: $5 (net cost of $50)
Less $10 off of each book through Cashbaq: $20 (net cost of $30)
Less $5 off of each book for auto-renew: $10 (net cost of $20)
Less $10 off of each book from Cashbaq): $20 (net cost: Free!)

I ordered 2, and may well go back for more.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Walking boy!

As I was writing Nate's last newsletter about blogging the important events in his life I realized I had entirely neglected to mention that Jack is walking! And if my addled memory cooperates, I think I even have dates for the big event.

For a while he would take one staggery step and fall into my arms; I don't really consider that walking. That went on for a month or so.

On November 24th I took him to the pediatrician in hopes that there was something fixable wrong with him that would explain the hellish previous 6 nights we'd had with him. Long story short, he was in perfect health. Drat. Anyway, while we were in the waiting room a cute little girl held out a red block to him and my sweet potato took 19 little steps across the room to her. So cute.

About 4 days ago, he graduated from the side-to-side shuffle to more of a forward step - he's getting downright confidant. Tonight I watched him step over the large threshold into the kitchen without falling down.

My big boy!

Oh, he also had his first lollipop. He was crying hysterically in the back of the car, rare for him - he usually travels wonderfully. But he was overtired and so was I, so I stuck a sacred DumDum in his mouth and the crying stopped the instant the lollipop hit his tongue. Love at first taste.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CVS week of December 7th

So very rarely does a trip to CVS go perfectly. No hitches at all, everything worked exactly the way it was supposed to. Happy sigh.

As always, I used two accounts: one for me and one for DH.

The big score:

Net cost before coupons and ECBS: $126.87
Cost to me after sales, coupons and ECBS: $1.22 (savings of 99% off sales price!)

The breakdown:

Maybelline lip colors are on sale BOGO. I had 6 coupons for $4 off any lip product from the December 7th inserts. Each lip gloss was $5.79, so I knew I needed some filler items. The Pepsi was on a sale equal to our grocery store and I was completely out. A match made in heaven.

Each transaction was 2 Maybelline lip glosses and 2 Pepsis.

2 Pepsis = $2.50
2 Maybellines = $11.58. After BOGO = $5.79 for a total of $8.29 with the Pepsis.
Used 2 $4/Maybellines = $.29 plus sales tax for a total of $.62!

So the total for 6 lip glosses and 6 Pepsi 2-liters was $1.86.

The Duracell was on sale again with an added ECB offer of 5 on a purchase of $15. I had 6 CVS coupons left for $5 off any 2 Duracell purchases. PLUS I had manufacturer coupons for $1.50 off each pack of Duracells. Sweet deal! Definitely needed some filler, and since we're gearing up for our holiday Oreo Truffles I went with Oreos.

I did 3 transactions on each account.

1 package Oreos = $3
2 package Duracells = $6
Total = $9

Minus $5 CVS coupon on Duracells = $4
Minus 2 $1.50/manufacturer Duracell coupons = $1 ($1.06 after sales tax!)
After doing that 3 times, I got 5 ECBS!

So the total for 6 packages of Oreos and 12 packages of Duracells was MAKING $3.64!

Hershey's Bliss was on sale for $3/bag, and part of a buy $20 get 10 ECBs offer. I had a lot of coupons for $2.50 off 2 bags. These will be great filler with the Oreo Truffles, and I'll melt down a bunch for the truffle coatings.

8 bags Hershey's Bliss = $24
Used 5 coupons (not sure why the register took 5 instead of 4) = $11.50
Got 10 ECBs

So my net cost for 16 bags of Hershey's Bliss was $3.00!

Have I mentioned that I love CVS?

Walgreens week of December 7th

Just two fun things for me at Walgreens this week:

Retail cost before sales and coupons: $20.90
Cost to me after sales and coupons: FREE! (paid about $1.20 in sales tax)
  • Reynolds Wrap 20 feet was on sale from $1.79 to $.99 with the insert coupon. I had 10 coupons for $1 off Reynolds wrap, making each of them free.
  • The Scotch Tape was on sale 2/$2 with a rebate this month of $2, making them both free.
Thanks to the helpful cashier today who was friendly for a change! :)

Harris Teeter last week

I just did not have the energy to post this in time for folks to take advantage and I'm sorry about that. But it was also too good to not post about, so here it is!

For a few days last week, HT was doing some fun Buy X Get Y Free sales. Combined with coupons, they were great deals! Heck, even with no coupons they were great deals.

Retail cost before sales and coupons: $161.98
My cost after sales and coupons: $47.79 (savings of 70%)
  • The Fresh Express lettuce was on sale Buy 1 Get 2 Free, and I had 6 coupons for $.75 off each bag, which double. In this case, they only doubled to the amount of each bag, which was about $1.10 after the sale. I actually bought 6 bags but we've already eaten three. Retail value - $3.75 per bag, $22.50 for 6 bags. Total cost - FREE!
  • The Smart Start was on sale Buy One Get One Free. I had 10 coupons for $1.00 off each box. The boxes sold for $4.29, so the sale price was $4.29 for 2, making the cost for each box $1.15! I bought 10 boxes.
  • The Betty Crocker cookie mix was on sale Buy One Get One Free. I had 2 internet coupons for $.75 off each bag, which double. The bags sold for $3.29, so the sale price was $3.29 for two. The coupons took off $3, making the cost for each bag fifteen cents!
  • I hadn't originally paid any attention to the Buy 2 Get 3 Free sale on the Palermo pizza, but when I was there I saw the great vegetarian varieties they had and did some math in my head. The pizzas retail for $6 each, so the cost to buy five pizzas on sale was only $2.40 per pizza! Fantastic deal for those nights where I just don't want to cook, so I bought 15 pizzas. We've already eaten 2 and they're wonderful.
This was the first HT deal I did without referring to anyone elses blog for guidance, and it felt great. I feel like I've finally got the hang of this, and I've figured out which deals are worth the time to go after and which aren't worth it even if I'm saving a few bucks. In this case, the savings were well worth it, especially since I picked up their great HT-brand gallons of organic milk and their reasonably priced organic bananas.

I still don't plan to be there every week, but for sales like this I'm definitely driving the 10 minutes to get there!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nate's Monthly Newsletter, Three Years Three Months

Dear Nate,

Three Years Three Months is a lot like Three Years Two Months. Small changes all the time, but it's not like you've gone from crawling to walking or something enormous like that. I guess the next time we'll have a big shift to talk about will be the day I realize you have facial hair, or you get engaged. Not sure I'll still be writing these letters at that point, but I promise to start up again when either of those happens.

I've been working a lot on our relationship, trying to find ways to enforce the rules and raise you in the ways I think are important without our relationship becoming too adversarial. I'm softening up the edges, slipping jokes into the discipline, focusing more on involving you in cooking and cleaning (which you love), and anticipating the frustrating scenes so that I can handle them more calmly. I'm also planning more one-on-one time now that Jack is easy for Daddy to handle. Last weekend we ditched them and went on a hike at Huntley Meadows, then hit Chuck 'E Cheese for some playtime and pizza.

I can already see shifts - you're cuddling with me more and asking me to play Legos with you. I know in my heart that I've done a lot of things right with you along the way, but now I also know how hard I'm going to have to work to make sure to tailor my parenting to your personality. The last thing I ever want is a fracture between us. We both have hard heads, and I can see a lot of standoffs in the future if I'm not careful.

One thing that I'm working on for you is teaching / encouraging you to play independently. Other than watching TV, there really isn't much you do alone. I'd always imagined you playing with your trucks, reading books, building with your do all of those things, but you never do them alone. Daddy and I are going to start setting aside "Nate time" when we're together but pursuing independent activities. I bought you a train set for your Chanukah present, and I think we'll start with that as your first independent project. Hopefully you grow into it. Please, please grow into it.

I'd always heard about the frustration of the "why?" stage, but I hadn't truly understand the massive irritation it brings. If you were asking me "why is the sky blue" or "why does my boo-boo hurt" I could totally thrive on teaching you and learning along with you. I hadn't anticipated that 95% of your "why?" questions would be absolutely inane. Example from yesterday: we're driving home from an outing and you ask me to point to which way is home. We're on the highway, so I point in the direction of our neighborhood. Your response: "Why?" Well, Nate, because that's where our house is. Seriously, I don't know what else to tell you. I could go on and on with example of NOT-WHY QUESTIONS, but I'd just drive myself crazy in my spare time and that's more than I can take.

I'd always wondered how I was supposed to know when to start working with you on new skills, but I've learned from you that you'll show me when you're ready. Overnight, you started asking about numbers and letters - asking me to identify them in books and signs. It took about five minutes for you to learn to identify numbers 1 through 5, and you've totally got them down. You like to find them everywhere we go, on signs and menus. You love to draw crazy designs in the air with your finger and then turn to me and ask, with all seriousness, "Was that a letter or a number?" Honey, that was nonsense. I have no idea what that was.

Daddy reads stories with you every night, and last night he called me into your room and you showed me that you can read the word Thomas. We both praised the heck out of you, and you were so terribly proud of yourself. I bought you a bunch of books for your Chanukah presents this year. I'm just dreaming of the day when we can read more grown-up books together: The Phantom Toolbooth, Light in the Attic, the Little House series.

What I'm really looking forward right now is when we're more like peers, when we can go places together and talk. When I'm not making sure you behave politely, use your manners, drink nicely from a cup, turn off the light in the bathroom...when I can just enjoy your company and stop being "Mom" all the time.

Last night Daddy had to work late, so I was alone with you and your brother. You woke up with a rare stomachache, so I lay in bed with you for a while to try to make you feel better. We lay face to face and cuddled and talked. You stroked my arm and said "I like your skin!" and did the same with my hair. You looked at my pajama pants and said "I love your butterflies and hearts!" You have a sweet, kind heart. I'm so proud of you, and I can't wait to see who you become.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Forward thinking

As hard as I fight to "stay in the moment" with my kids, I can't help but wonder about my boys as adults. In my darker moments I fight the dread that something will happen to them and that I'll never get a chance to see what they look like, who they are, what they love, how they treat each other.

But when I let my mind get past that I have little flashes of them, and I just can't wait to see what I'm right about and what I'm (almost certainly) wrong about.


He's going to be the straight-and-narrow one, the one who obeys the rules and wants everyone else to. He's going to be a little bit of a worrier, a little self-conscious. He'll be kind, but I don't think he'll be the hero who protects the other kids from the bully.

At circle time at preschool, he never needs to be admonished to keep his bottom on the carpet. He never needs to be told to pay attention to the teacher, or to participate like he's supposed to. Miss Bonnie is usually telling the class "The only voice I hear out there is Nate's! I need everyone to participate!" He sits straight up and doesn't get drawn into chatting even if Nikola leans into him and starts gabbing away. If I discipline another child to stop throwing a toy, or to sit still, he chimes right in after me. I gently tell him that it's a Mommy job to tell the other kids what to do, but I'm not sure he gets it. He's got a little of the goody two-shoes in him.

I haven't been able to picture what he's going to look like, but there's this new guy on Top Chef and I can kinda see it. He's got the wispy-ish hair, and he's thin but not gaunt. The nose seems the same. He's cute. Heck, what do I know, but here's his pictures:


Jack's still a tot, and there's a ton of personality still to come, but this is a fun exercise so I'll bite. So far, he's a big squishy boy with curly hair whose greatest pleasures are cuddling and dancing. He's incredibly social, smiling at everyone and trying to touch their faces. He's sweet and happy pretty much all the time.

I have this image of him as a fun-loving frat boy, nice to everyone and happy to have fun. Heart of gold. The picture that keeps coming to mind of him as an adult?