Thursday, December 31, 2009


Fun little shop this morning at Giant. Please note that some coupons I used may have been expired - I never check and Giant doesn't seem to care.

  • The Corn Flakes were $8 for 3 huge boxes, plus I got the 12-pack of Pop Tarts free. I had three $1/off coupons for the Corn Flakes, so the total cost for the cereal & Pop Tarts was $5.
  • The soups were B1G1 (at $2.50) and I had 4 coupons for $.50/2. So the total cost for each can was 75 cents.
  • The Healthy Choice meals were on sale for $3 (from $3.70) and I saw coupons on another aisle for $1.50 off each! So each one cost $1.50, and on the days where Stewart uses one for lunch instead of hitting Chipotle we save at least $5 that day!
  • The Honey Bunches of Oats were B1G1 (at $3.49) and I had coupons for $1/2, so each box cost $1.25.
  • I also had a coupon for $3 off the whole shop that I got randomly last time I rocked the coupons at Giant, so I used it today.
The whole shop cost $72.16; after Bonus Card and coupons was a net cost of $21.68. I LOVE COUPONS.

Monday, December 21, 2009

When Jack is tired...

he's like a drunken frat boy. Some kids turn into monsters when they're tired, fussy and irritable. Jack gets wasted. He's smiley, goofy, stumble-ey, stagger-ey, giggly...

He's in bed for the night right now but hoping for a reprieve. He knows to go for the sucker: Daddy, but keeps getting Mommy. When I just walked in he was standing at the crib rail, smiling at me. I walked towards him to help settle him and he plopped backwards onto his bottom, looked at me, grinned, and said "fell down!"

Wasted baby.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Jack's been having a terrible time with sleep for the last few months - ear infections started it up, then he figured out we'd come when he called, and that power has gone straight to his head. We're trying to do a gentle sleep-training to get him back to where he was before; it's somewhat successful. Let's just say that a good night means he only wakes up once and goes back down without a fight.

At night when I put him to bed I ask him if he wants to sit together in the chair for a minute; we rock and I sing to him. A few nights ago he was sobbing after I put him down. When I went in to him, he was doing that gasping, crying, talking thing and when I finally figured out what he was saying my heart broke a little bit: "Chair minute?" He was asking to sit in the chair with me. I broke my own rules and pulled him out of the crib for a cuddle.

Tonight he wasn't crying, just calling to me to have me come back in. My rule is to go in, give him back his paci and doll, cover him back up, and leave. I went through the plan fine the first time, but as I'm tucking him in the second time he looks at me and says "hug?"

There was hugging.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Super-cheap pizza - this is why I love the internet!

I am so grateful to the other frugal bloggers out there - deals like this make my life easier and cheaper. Time and money are some of the best gifts a Mom can get!

Right now you can take-out a large, one topping pizza AND a dessert of Cinnastix for $5.99. That's an incredible deal and I'll probably take advantage of it tonight (today is gymnastics day and I'm running around the whole day!) I already checked it out and it's working just as advertised.

Thanks to Moneywise Moms!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What do you guys think?

I was thinking about spending one full month shopping only from Trader Joes and blogging about the daily meals and snacks that I can make from there. Does this sound at all interesting to anyone other than me? Goodness knows it would add to the work-load around here, but it's hard for me to resist a challenge...

Thoughts? Opinions?

Nate update

Not a formal newsletter but a little update on my sweet Nate.

We're enjoying the bounty of Chanukah right now and Nate's thrilled with his gifts. His favorite are the Backugan I got him and the little carrying case to keep them organized. He loves the Captain Underpants stories from Grandma, the police legos from Aunt Drebba, and the dinosaur from our neighbors David & David. Surprisingly, he's really into Hi-Ho-Cherry-O which is really fun for me.

School is going amazingly well. I'm thrilled with their program (right now they're doing a 6-week unit on "Solids, Liquids, and Gasses") and Nate's still heading out happily each morning. We should be getting his first-ever report card soon and I'm excited to hear what they have to say. He had his first field-trip last week, to see the Terra Cotta Warriors at the National Geographic Museum, and I got to chaperon which was a hoot. I definitely learned more than they did.

Today when I picked him up from school he told me that "Today was the best best best day ever, better than the other days I told you that!" They mixed some kind of powder with water and got to play with the results. The time that was best best before this time was because they got to do painting on a long sheet of paper that everyone painted on together. I am so grateful and glad that Nate loves to learn, and that he's in a school that encourages it and brings out the best in him.

He's still an absolutely amazing brother, almost always sweet to Jack - bringing him favorite toys when he's upset, sharing his Chanukah presents, trying to include him in play. He loves to be helpful, and he usually is. It's hilarious to listen to him try to "translate" Jack for me - if I can't understand Jack, Nate chimes in with "He says X" and he's almost always totally wrong. But it's fun.

Tonight his Chanukah present was the Tag reading system and he liked it a lot more than I was worried he would. He played with it alone for at least 15 minutes (a bit of a miracle from my "play with me" boy!) and we played with it in bed tonight instead of "regular" reading. I showed him how he could try sounding words out himself and then use the pen to check himself. I absolutely could not believe it when he correctly sounded out, otherwise known as READ, several words: books, look, cup, milk, cat, and hat. I actually teared up after the fourth word; I am so amazed and proud of him.

A few weeks ago when I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up (a frequent question) he told me that he wanted to be a McDonalds guy and also go into outer space. Roger.

Tonight he tried to play me for the first time: he wandered into the kitchen with a sly smile on his face and said "Since you're such a nice Mom, I know you'll let us watch a TV show..." I gave him full credit for the effort. TV denied.

He is absolutely amazing, frustrating, brilliant, sensitive, and fabulous.


(First snow)

So Jack has exploded all over the place. The talking is just too cute. He's repeating almost everything we say. There's a little ritual every time I tell him a new word:

(Reading an animal book)

Mama: What's that Jack? (pointing at a snail)
Jack: Bug
Mama: It's a snail. Snnnaaillll...
Jack: Snail???
Mama: Snail.
Jack: Snail.

He always repeats the word as a question first, then really decisively the second time. He still has weird accents and speech things ("Yes" is still "ess" though he threw in a "yeah" this morning) but the content is really diverse now, and he's using phrases.

In no particular order:

  • "Watch dis, Mama!"
  • (Looking at the camera: "Picture Jack!")
  • "Hear dat?"
  • "Have it" when he wants something, or "Hold it"
  • When he's saying goodbye, he often follows it with "Soon!" for "see you soon!"
  • "Taller"
  • "Chocolate", "Chocolate milk"
  • "Downstairs"
  • "Under"
  • "Dinosaurs" (pronounced "dino-saur-US")
  • "Heavy"
  • "HUGE truck!" (or bus, or car, or dinosaurUS)
This morning he recognized and named a triangle when we were doing puzzles. He's still completely clueless on colors - everything is "blue." My most favorite thing is when he's asking for something like milk but forgets the "please" - I tell him to ask me nicely and he looks at me sweetly and says "nicely?"

Couldn't be cuter.

If you're going to be buying booze anyway...

Ran across an unexpected rebate offer in the Washington Post this morning. It's a great deal if you're a DC resident and planning on buying booze anyway.

Beer & Wine:

Receive $15 when you buy any six packs of 8 beers or more, or wines (750ml or larger), out of the following options:
  • Sterling Vintner's Collection Wine
  • BV Coastal Estates Wine
  • Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee
  • Guinness Draught
  • Smirnoff Ice Premium Flavored Malt Beverages
  • Parrot Bay Tropical Flavored Malt Beverages
Spirits (aka: "the good stuff"):

Receive $15 off 3 bottles or $35 off 6 bottles (750ml or larger) out of the following options (I'm including a selection; there are more offers listed). I assume you can only buy one of each bottle for the rebate.
  • Smirnoff Vodka (any flavor)
  • Crown Royal Blended Canadian Whiskey
  • Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
  • Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila (Gold or Silver)
  • Smirnoff Cocktails (any flavor)
  • Johnnie Walker Red Label

Check page A11 of the December 14th post. This offer is valid 12/13/09 through 1/17/10 and is limit one offer per household. Another easy way to save some money if you were planning on stocking up for the holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another great deal from another great blogger!

I used Money Saving Methods to learn all about online offers. I give her all the credit - she walks you through everything and has tons of links available to find great offers.

Today I found another great post from her showing me how to get three free Bluetooth headsets.

I love free!

(And if you get one of these for a Chanukah gift, forget you ever saw this!)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Simple ways to save

Sometimes saving money is a hassle; I'm always working to make sure that the savings I'm getting are worth the time I'm expending doing it. I'm just not driving to four different stores to save $4. I've talked about this balance ad nauseum so I won't start preaching about it again.

One of my favorite, easiest ways to save money is with coupon codes. It usually takes less than a minute for me to save 5, 10, or even 25% off an online order I was already going to make.

Today I was able to do something similar. Our dishwasher is officially broken and I simply can't live without one. (Okay, I won't live without one, but it's almost the same) So I headed to Sears today to look at the Kenmore ones in person (our previous Kenmore lasted 9 years and was a workhorse!) Found a reasonably priced one at $375 target=blank target=blank that had all of the bells I needed and none of the whistles that I didn't (who needs a stainless steel interior?)

I'm about to check out when I remember reading a blog post yesterday about a VIP sale they're having - I thought it was today but it's actually tomorrow. The guy happily took my name and credit card info and said he'd just ring it through tomorrow instead of today. For a two minute conversation, and the time it took me to read that blog post, I'm saving 10% off my order - $37.50. That's a pretty good hourly wage, tax free!

I don't enter the codes from diaper boxes, I don't save Pepsi caps, I refuse to order freebie samples to come in the mail - it's nickles and dimes and just not worth the time to me. But to save $37.50 for 2 minutes of work, that's more than worth it.

Thank you to all the frugal bloggers who help me find these deals! I couldn't be doing this without you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nate vs. Jack

Jack's Monthly Newsletter, Two Years!

Dear Jack,

My poor sweet boy. Here I am late with yet another newsletter! Does it count that I am here, doing it, trying? I hope so.'re two! Good job! We had your checkup and everything went swimmingly. You did have yet another ear infection, but that's par for the course. Your stats were:

Height: 34.5 (50-75th percentile)
Weight: 27.5 (75-90th percentile)
Head circumfrence: 95th percentile

I don't know what's up with that big head of yours but they seem entirely uninterested in it. They're also totally unphased by your language anymore, as are Daddy and I. I think the doctor was far more concerned with my sanity when I presented her with a list I'd made of your words...alphabetized. In my defense, it was only alphabetized because I needed a way to weed out duplicate entries (banana was on there three times). Anyway, as of that visit the list was over 80 words and I know for sure there were some missing.

But since that visit goodness your language has made that "explosion" that everyone talks about. You're just adding words left and right, and taking it to a whole new level besides basic nouns. My personal favorite is "thee-uns" where you're pointing at something you want or need - these ones. You're also saying "see..." to point something out to us. When you want something someone else has you're tacking "too" on the end - "cookie too" and such. You were saying "aye" for yes for weeks, which we adored, but now it's just "esss." You picked up "watch this!" when you were jumping on the bed with Nate, and my other favorite - "okay" which is almost always followed by Mama, so I hear "okay Mama" all day and it just makes me happy. You also say "no tanks" now which made Deborah offer you something you didn't want, over and over, just to hear you say it again and again. Yesterday Kari told you "Don't do that!" and you've been saying "no do that!" ever since.

Oh my goodness. Did I seriously get this far through this letter without mentioning the abysmal mood you've been in for the past month? It started October 31st; we got you your H1N1 shot in the morning and then you burned the dickens out of your hand that afternoon at a Halloween party. You were obviously testy that day, and the next, but literally a month later and things have only marginally improved. I have picture after picture of you that looks like this:

and this

and although it's cute and funny in a way, it's getting really old. Seriously old. There's a lot of whining, clinging, scrabbling, fussing, and generally being a grumpy demanding pain in the ass. When you don't like something, you shout "no!" and punch whatever it is away from you. When I offer you some snack on a plate or in a bag, you try to force me, loudly and incessantly, to give you the whole darn bag to hold. You've gotten to that cliche point where you want everything you want the way you want it.

If memory serves, Nate started with the "terrible twos" around 18 months so I was thinking I was in the clear with you. But I think, as in every other department, you're catching right up. I'm glad you're advancing and progressing and all, but maybe in this one area you could let things slide a little?

But really truly none of that matters. Not an ounce. When we're out in public you snake an arm around my thigh, reach for my hand, ask to be held, or find some other way to stay touching me. I'll sit down somewhere in the house while you play only to have you come find me, lay yourself over my lap, and sigh "Mama..." at me. When we lay in bed together you've taken to snaking one hand under my neck and one over and pulling my head into yours. We murmur back and forth "Love you, Jack"..."Luh you Mama"..."Love you baby"..."Luh you Mama" and I count every single blessing that you are to me. You are the most loving boy I've ever known and I'm so grateful for you. We are lucky beyond measure to have you in our lives.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

City farming

My old friend e-mailed me this link this morning. Very neat ideas; check it out if you want to garden in a small space!

Window Farms

Sunday, November 29, 2009

(Almost) free batteries!

I love a good battery deal. Paying for them online (and having your husband pick them up on his way home from work) makes it even sweeter.

I could type it out, but I simply did exactly what Life as Mom did. Details, directly from Staples, are here.

Each week from now through December 26th, I'll get $26 worth of batteries for a grand total of $1.56 in tax. Love it.

Edit to add: I've read this through several times and the offer is valid for each Staples Reward customer - I can't find any prohibition on multiple family members doing the deal. So I just signed Stewart up and did it again - wheeee!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Target fun!

Printed out a million coupons and headed to Target for a little more fun:

All forty (!) of those wipes were $.97 each, so paired with the Target $1/off coupon they were free (I can't tell if I paid sales tax on them; the receipt is downright confusing).

The Chinet plates were $4.74 each, and were on a "buy 2 get a $5 gift card" promotion. I did two transactions and used 2 coupons (from here and here). After the value of the gift cards, I paid $1.24 for each pack of 32 plates. We don't use paper plates often (usually only when a bunch of people are here for a meal and I don't want to waste time cleaning) but they're awfully nice to have handy.

The Glade deal rocked and will rock more when I submit the receipts for the Johnson Rebate deal afterwards. See all the details here at! To make my deal even sweeter, I used 2 "Buy 2 refills get 1 free" coupons that I found in a recent insert; my cashier was happy to take them in addition to all of the others.

So in total, I spent:

* 40 packages of wipes: zilch (savings of $38.80)
* Chinet plates - $1.24/pack (savings of $14)
* Glade candles and refills - earned $2 and will submit to SC Johnson for $10 back (savings of $27)

Net cost: earned $7.04 after SC Johnson rebate
Net savings: $79.80

*Smooch!* Love you Target!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nate's smart little mouth

So a few weekends ago Stewart took the boys to Charlottesville to celebrate Peepa's 78th birthday (I had a prior commitment). I was talking to them on the phone on Saturday and having a choppy speaker-phone "conversation" with Nate. At one point we were talking over each other, then a long pause, and Nate asks me what I was going to say. I told him "I was going to say that I love you and I miss you!" Another long pause, and he replies: "So say it!"

He wasn't trying to be smart, but it had Stewart and I howling.

As a side note, every time we read one of the Thomas the Train books, Jack gets to the page with Sir Topham Hatt and exclaims "Peepa!" I've given up trying to explain. Now Sir Topham Hatt is Peepa. Fine with me.

There was a second thing but for the life of me I've already forgotten it. So I'll go on to write about how it looks like Nate might actually be really smart. It's worrying us. We weren't anticipating it. But Nate keeps stuffing it in our faces, over and over, and we're getting to the point where we just can't ignore it anymore.

In the car a few days ago we were spelling words, one of his favorite things to do. We obviously spelled out Nate and then he asked me to spell out Shane with him (our friend Kari's son who stayed the weekend with us). We did, and then I asked him "What is the only letter from your name that isn't in Shane's name." He thought for a while, and then said "T!" Right on, baby.

Stewart took him on an errand walk yesterday and they were talking about the color of the leaves and Stewart told him that they turn from red to orange to yellow, then die and fall off the tree. Nate totally called him on that nonsense by pointing out the red leaves lying on the ground - that they hadn't turned to any other colors, just red. Genius boy. (He followed this conversation up by narc-ing the leaf-color nonsense out to me and giving me the chance to debunk it.)

He also used a Sesame Street alphabet book to figure out the names of the characters he didn't know - he was able to use the first letter of their names to figure it out (like using "G" to figure out that it was Grover, and "T" to figure out that it was Telly).

And a few days ago he read the word "start." He sounded out all five letters perfectly; he just failed at squshing them together to figure out what the word really said. Progress.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Almost free games from Toys 'r Us

Another fun deal today!

Toys 'R Us has all of these preschool games on sale from $8.99 to $3.99 right now, and they're also offering a $10 gift card when you buy $25 worth of games. You can make the deal even sweeter by pairing it with a rebate offer from Hasbro giving you $2 back on each game!

So it works like this:

* Buy 7 preschool games at $3.99 each (cost with tax in Maryland: $29.61).
* Get a $10 gift card to bring the net cost down to $19.61.
* Submit for the rebate (cost $.42 to mail it off) and get $14 back from Hasbro.
* Net cost for all seven games: $6.03! (Price with tax before sales, gift cards, and rebate: $66.71)

So nice, I made my Mom do it right along with me. I honestly have no idea what I'm doing with all of these games, but with all these kids around and their friends I'm confidant they'll be put to good use.

Easy deal at Target

There are some good deals at Target right now but my two favorite (and easy replicated) are these:

Use the Target coupon here to print out as many coupons as you want for $1 off the new Target brand (Up and Up) wipes. The boxes of wipes were $1.57, so they cost me 57 cents after coupon, and the toddler flushable wipes were $.97 so they were free after the coupon. You can bet I'm going back for more.

I wanted to get Nate the Leapster Tag system for his "big" Chanukah present, so I bided my time until I found this great deal:

Target just reduced the price from $49.99 to $39.99. I paired it up with a Target coupon for $10 off (in the Target holiday coupon book in the stores an in the newspaper last weekend), and a manufacturer coupon for $10 off found here. Voila: $19.99!

I love coupons so so much.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jack's Monthly Newsletter, One Year Eleven Months

Dear Jack,

I'm about to write this newsletter and mention what an amazing turn-around you've made in your sleep habits, and as I'm trying to find the words you're completely resisting your nap for the first time in months. I type a few words, go into your room, give you back your pink doll and paci, tuck you in, come back to the computer, get my thoughts together, and you start yelling "Mom! Mom! Mom!" again.

On the whole, though, you're a sleeping miracle. You go to bed at 7:30 pm and wake up around 7:30 am. We take Nate to school, come home, play for a while, read some books, and you go down for a nap around 11. Most days you wake at 2 or even 2:30! And when you're home, you're easy as pie: you putter, read books, play with the train set, dismantle the kitchen, zoom airplanes around the house. Sometimes I have to intentionally play with you because otherwise it's so easy for me to work the whole time you're awake. You really are the easiest baby.

And I know you're not a baby, Jack. You're turning 2 next month, but I can't process it. When Nate was your age, he seemed like a little boy to me. You still seem like my sweet baby and it's hard for me to switch my thinking around. Your language is coming along now; I think that'll help you seem more like a little boy. (Gratuitous shot of you fingerpainting with chocolate pudding:)

You have your 2-year checkup in a month so I'm making list of your words as I notice them. This morning I added nuts, NOW!, why, and sleeping to the list for a total of 70 words and I'm sure there are a few others I haven't pinned down. You've also started regularly using 2 words together - this morning you asked for "juice please Mom." You've asked me to "open banana" for you, requested the "train book", slid off the carousel with an "all done horsie" and clutched numerous toys to your chest while chanting "mine phone (or mine train or mine whatever)". These days "mine" is ranking as favorite word #1.

You remain the bad influence in this house, Jack. Your poor brother never bit, hit, pushed, or kicked until you came along and started whacking at him all the time. For a while he was hitting (or pushig or biting) you back but now he just calls to me in a resigned voice: "Mom, Jack just hit me one time (or two times or lots of times)" and I come along and sternly tell you "NO HITTING!" at which point you grin at me and take another swing at Nate. I've tried time-out but you truly don't understand it at all so I'm left with getting more and more frustrated and pulling you away and talking sharply which also doesn't seem to be helping at all. Shocking, right?

On the flip side, you're incredibly loving and affectionate. You pull at me to pick you up and then rest your head on my shoulder murmering "Mama...mama...mama". You sigh with love. When Daddy comes home you run to him squealing. You look at Nate with love and hug him tight. During the day you sometimes gather up Pink Doll, paci, and your big yellow blanket and stumble towards me with them all in your arms; I pick you up and we settle in on the green recliner for a little snuggle time. You and Deborah had a good cuddle on the train on the way to Boston:

Last week we were emptying out of the car after picking Nate up at school and I saw Sophia and her Mommy down the street in front of their house. It was almost 2 blocks away and I only knew it was them because 1) it was outside of their house, 2) one was tall and one was short, and 3) they were white. You looked up and saw them and took off running, yelling "Hi!". I got you safely across the street and you ran the rest of the way to them, stopped in front of Sophia, and wrapped your arms around her middle. I could have died of love. I was also astounded at your amazing eyesight - you get that from your Daddy!

You are the sweetest thing going, Jack, and I would happily freeze you in time if I could. You're about as perfect as a boy could be and I don't know what good thing I did in a past life to deserve you, but I'm enjoying every second of it. I'm so glad you're you.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baking-day round-up

The motivation lasted through 8 pm last night (don't ask me about today) and I was able to finish my baking-day plans (with an extra item thrown in!)

Made a quadruple batch of my favorite peanut noodle sauce and froze it in small plastic cups so I can grab one or two any time I want one. I usually put it on whole wheat noodles with whatever veggies are in the fridge/freezer.

It starts off like this:

then thickens to this:

and then I drink it on the spot. I want to, anyway. Froze it like this (see the one on the right, how easily it pops out of the cup? Plus the cups help protect from freezer burn.)

Froze up the pasta sauce (I blend up cans of beans, pepper slices, and spinach and combine with pre-made jarred pasta sauce):

Then I got inspired and decided we'd make a double-batch of those delicious Fake It Samosas - we had some for dinner and froze the rest after baking. I plan to throw them in the oven as needed.

So anyway, this is what I ended up with at the end:

I think this cold weather is making me "nest." I wonder what I'll make next!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A small "baking day"

I totally admire Crystal for her baking days (especially now that she has three little ones at home!) I came back from our mini-vacation at Bethany with more motivation than I've had in a while and got inspired to do a little freeze-ahead work today.

First, the easy one: a bunch of rice for the freezer for lunches for Stewart and evenings when I don't cook (this is the second batch):

Breakfast is the most annoying meal of the day for me (we normally eat in the car on the way to Nate's school), so I decided to try these muffins that I read about on, where else, Money Saving Mom. I made a double batch and froze them. I tested one by microwaving it for 30 seconds (someone has to do the dirty work) and it heated up beautifully. I love this recipe! Bananas, applesauce, peanut-butter, and only one egg!

Last, I made some refried bean roll-ups - I combined 2 cans of refried beans, a baggie of brown rice, a can of diced tomatoes, and some seasonings, and used half of a whole-wheat tortilla for each one. I did use a tiny sprinkle of cheese on each one (less than a teaspoon on each one) so not a vegan recipe, but a good hand-held size for the boys. Froze them, too!

I don't know if it'll be tomorrow, but this week I plan to make up a batch of healthy pasta sauce and a huge batch of my favorite peanut noodle sauce. I made some last week and tried freezing it in large spoonfuls; it defrosted beautifully - I can throw it on whole wheat noodles with peas and corn and have a really easy good dinner for the boys. If it happens, I'll make sure to photograph it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Parent-teacher conference

This morning I had my first-ever parent-teacher conference. You'd think this, at last, would convince me of my grown-up-ed-ness but, well, no. Still doesn't compute.

Anyway, back to Nate.

Meeting was just me, the lead English teacher (Ms. Amy), and the lead Chinese teacher (Wang Laoshur (teacher)). Stewart wasn't able to make it out of work, unfortunately.

The first question they had for me was if I had any questions for them. I told them that since I drop Nate off out front of the school each morning, and pick him up out front, and aren't really allowed to sit in class (it's so distracting for the kids), we are so curious about what Nate's doing all day! Obviously we know a lot about the schedule of his day, and what they're working on, because they're so good at communicating with us. But in terms of how Nate is specifically doing, the only clues I had were that he doesn't mind going to school, doesn't mind Chinese days, and has made one really good friend named Leo. So my guess was that things are going well for him, but I was really looking forward to the meeting for more details.

Best day ever.

They said that Nate is doing great. They said he's listening well and really participating in class and class projects. That he's doing well socially, getting along with everyone, interacting eagerly, and that he's happy. They thought his grasp of written letters, and school in general, was really "mature" and stressed how unusual that is in a boy his age (they said they rarely get to say that about anyone, especially a boy). They showed me an assessment they do the first day of each month where they give every kid a long piece of paper and ask them to write their Names, write all the letters they know, write all the numbers they know, and draw a pretty picture on the back. They don't give them any guidance with it. Nate's first had his name, ABCDE, scribbles for numbers, and his picture on the front of the page. His second had his name in a little more concise fashion, less letters, but it had 12345 and the picture on the back of the page. Seemed like a wash to me, but they seemed to be pleased with the progress.

The last step was for me to share our goals for Nate (one for each parent) and they would share theirs. They pulled out a totally blank piece of paper and told me that they were having a really hard time figuring out any goals for Nate, that he was already doing everything he was supposed to be doing. The best they could come up with, each of them, was that his fine motor control is okay but not great. My goal is for him to learn to enjoy playing by himself a little: playing with trains or building with blocks or something that doesn't involve direct parental involvement. So we wrote down our goals (Stewart's was just a boost in his reading ability) and the teachers are going to come up with an individual plan for him and then have an official "meeting" alone with Nate to go over the goals and get his thoughts on how he thinks they can work towards meeting the goals. That school kills me, they are so great!

So that was my amazing day. It's weird: I'm so thrilled and proud of him, but I just don't feel really responsible for any of it. Nate is exactly who is because he was born that way. He's been a rule-follower his whole life. He's been really adaptable to new situations since he was 2 years old. He's just who he is.

But I intend to enjoy the feeling. The only other assessments I've ever had have all been on Jack, and talked about what he should be doing that he isn't. It's a real joy to hear that all is well and good with Nate. He's just the best.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nate's Monthly Newsletter, Four Years One Month

Dear Nate,

I'm here, I promise. I'm sorry I've missed so many newsletters but I'm trying to get back into the swing of things.

So, you're four! You're quite pleased about it, but doing a lot of thinking already about when you're five (and Jack will be three and Leo will be six and Sophia will be seven). You love to play with numbers that way; you're always announcing that there are two boys and two girls in the room (if Deborah is over), or that all three people are wearing flip-flops, or that three people got one thing for dinner and only one person got something different. You remind me of your Grandpa and your cousin Simon with your aptitude. We work on addition when we're driving (if you have two apples and you get one more, how many do you have? I encourage you to use your fingers to help with the concept - I may come to regret that "teaching tool.")

It also gives a glimpse into how incredibly observant (and sweet) you are. I picked you up at school a few days ago and you immediately exclaimed "I like your new necklace!" You don't miss a thing.

You are constantly surprised when I know something you've done (or not done, in the case of washing your hands after you use the bathroom). When I talk to you about it, you're constantly asking me "How do you know that?!" I just tell you how smart I am, and how Mommies know everything.

As an aside, we've taken to telling each other stories at night instead of reading books. The one I tell is always a variation on "Nate was doing something and then he jumped up and he FLEW! and here's all the stuff he saw and did."

So last week I amazed you by knowing what you did at school (there was a note from your teachers about what you did at school that day) and you were, as always, incredulous that I knew about it. This time I explained it with a longer story: the day Nate was born, I became a Mommy and the hospital gave me the big Mommy book that all Mommies have. It tells the Mommies everything about everything, so they can always know all the answers and be able to help their kids.

So this morning we were talking on the way to school and you asked me a question about something inane (superheroes or some other such incredibly boring nonsense). I tried to thoughtfully tell you that I just didn't know the answer to whatever it was, and heard you ask me "What about your book?" My what? You clarified: "Remember your everything book?"

Seriously, how did you remember that? It took me a good 10 seconds for me to just figure out what you were talking about! You have a seriously amazing memory.

Nate, this parenthood thing is tough. I've really worked on how we get along, and learned so much from your Daddy about making you laugh when you get pouty. But it's still so frustrating when we have a really great day, and then right at the end I get snappy or you throw a tantrum or something else that puts a little blight on the day.

But tonight I lay in bed with you and told you stories, and rubbed your back, and kissed you too many times. I hope you remember those things more than the little slips and blips in our days. I promise to do my best to do the same.

Love you like crazy, Natey.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Could he be any cuter?

There's no other pretext for this post: Jack could not be any cuter, in looks, in personality, in any way.

Supporting evidence:

Literally smelling the flowers:

Case closed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nate turned four!

Nate's big birthday bash was a few weeks ago and Stewart got some wonderful photos!

We had the event at Pump It Up and it was perfect from beginning to end. I didn't have to worry about anything but bouncing with the kids, talking with the other parents, and eating some halfway decent pizza.

Nate had a wonderful time. Yesterday when we were driving to school, out of nowhere, he said "I wish I could live at Pump It Up forever."

Then Nate's friends got to pay him homage while he sat on his throne and ate:

Alison made fart noises to get them all to smile at the same time:

And the ride home: