Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sushi bento

I made sushi for dinner last night and decided to see if I could get it to "keep" overnight for lunches today. After I made each roll I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap; this morning I took them out, sliced them (thin for Nate) and put some soy sauce on the side. They were cold but the rice was still tender; I'll quiz Stewart about how it tastes after it's had a chance to come to room temperature by lunchtime.


Snack: "Mommy Mix" (aka: a bunch of things from the snack drawer mixed together)
Lunch: sushi (one roll with veggie burger & cucumber inside and one roll with veggie hotdog and cucumber inside), snap peas, M&Ms.
Snack: cucumber slices and cherries


Lunch: Avocado & cucumber sushi, cherries, snap peas, and cucumber slices.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Funny conversations

I've been jotting down funny things that Nate has said to me over the last year or so; I keep meaning to work them into a post. Seeing as how they're building up I thought I'd just make one post of them so I don't forget or lose them. Without further ado...

Ages ago, I asked Nate something about his brother; probably what he liked to do with Jack and he told me "I love him and I kiss him and I push him" which was about right, and still is.

Last week I was starting the bath, sitting on the edge of the tub, and watched Nate head into the hallway towards Jack. Sensing something, I peeked through the gap between the door and the wall and saw him take Jack's arm and push him backwards. I came around the door and growled "We do not push Jack" and Nate's started response was "But you didn't see me!" (My response? "I see everything.")

Another ages ago: Nate was asking for a snack and I asked him "What about Goldfish?" and he said "What about NO?"

Six months ago? We were driving home from Charlottesville and Nate was pointing everything out, like he always does. I usually respond with some nonsensical "Hi truck!" or "Hi house!" and this time I said the requisite "Hi star!" and had Nate respond "It's not a talking star, it's a night star!"

A few months ago Nate took Jack's ball away from him and I made him give it back. Nate told me "Then I don't love you anymore." I swallowed hard and casually told him "That's okay, I love you enough for both of us." Later we had a little talk about how words like that can make people feel sad and he told me "Well I still love you a little bit.

And lastly a not particularly funny but super-cute one:

Nate: "We all have jobs, right?"
Leah: "We do!"
Nate: "What's Daddy's job?"
Leah: "He helps people fix their computers. What's your job?"
Nate thinks for a while...
Nate: "My job is to be a good brother to Jack."
Leah: "Yes, and to be a good boy for us."
Nate: "What's Jack's job?"
Leah: "He's so little, he doesn't really have one yet."
Nate: "I know! His job is to take care of pink doll."

Is my kid the sweetest or what?

Quickie Bento

Tons to do tonight; quick post on tomorrow's Bentos. Nate's camp goes on field trips on Mondays so I have to pack in disposable gear.


Snack: carrots & snap peas
Lunch: veggie burger wrap w/peanut sauce, mandarin orange, cucumber slices, M&Ms
Snack: chex mix with raw almonds mixed in


Lunch: Veggie burger wrap with peanut sauce, avocado, and lettuce. Sugar snaps, carrots, cucumber slices, raw almonds, letter cookies, and M&Ms. Yum!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


My family took a trip to King's Dominion, or occasionally another amusement park, at least once a year. It was a blast and it was one of the first traditions I planned for "when I have kids."

On Thursday my sister and I took Nate to Sesame Place for the first of what will surely be many trips to the amusement park.

There was much playing and running and climbing:

He's perfected his "camera smile" - here with Deborah on Big Birds Balloon Race:

He met super-heroes:

and was spoiled rotten by Aunt Deborah with large sugary treats:

We saw Big Bird marching next to the Big Bird float in the big parade:

and stood in his foot prints on the way out of the park:

Mom and Nate together before we left:

and Nate so tired on the way home that when we stopped for dinner he slept while I put him in the stroller and slept all the way through the meal. Tired boy:

Nate was pretty brave; he balked at the roller coaster and after Deborah and I rode it we were thrilled that he'd skipped it - it was pretty intense. He dove head-first into all the kid rides and recovered nicely from a scary experience on a waterslide. Next year he'll be a whole different kid and I think it'll be time for King's Dominion and all of the kiddie rides there. And the year after we'll bring Jack along for the fun!

I love Trader Joes

This is the first in a series called "Why I love Trader Joes more than just about anything." I'll randomly feature two items when the mood strikes.

Today's first fabulous item is the Melange a Trois:

This item is a one-pound bag of frozen bell pepper strips. It costs $1.69, which is less than you'd pay for the whole peppers at the grocery store. They don't cheap out and use mostly green peppers which I appreciate. It's frozen, so you can whip it out anytime and add it to whatever you're cooking. I use it with pierogies, enchiladas, in soups, stir-fries, and anywhere else I can stuff them. For you meat-eaters I could see them in ground beef for tacos or hamburger helper, or sauteed with veggies over chicken. Heck, add them to whatever you want - it's $1.69 for the bag! Wish they were organic, but you can't have everything. I bought six bags today.

Our next featured item is a bag of raw almonds:

It's a whole pound of raw almonds for $4.49. So healthy for the kids, easy for snacks, travels well...need I say more?

So that's today's installment of "Why Trader Joes rocks and I love it so much." Stay tuned to see what's next!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Two days of Bento plus some Nate

Things have been a little crazy around here; I took Nate to Sesame Place yesterday which threw off our whole schedule.

Here's the Bentos from Wednesday (Stewart was conveniently too busy to eat it that day so he used it yesterday while we were at Sesame Place):


Snack: Raw almonds, pretzels, veggie sticks
Lunch: veggie hotdog rollup, snap peas, cherries, pole beans, mandarin oranges, M&Ms
Snack: pretzels filled with PB, dried apricots, dried cranberries


Lunch: Salad with lettuce from the garden, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, edamame, blueberries, and raw almonds. On the side are cherries, a few dried apricots, M&Ms, and salad dressing.

Here's a picture from Sesame Place just for fun:

And here's the Bento I sent off with Nate this morning. Stewart took the day off (it's our anniversary) so we'll eat together at home.

Snack: raw almonds, pretzels, letter cookies, and veggie sticks
Lunch: pasta with indian-spinach sauce, carrots, and tomatoes cooked in. Snap peas, mandarin orange, and blueberries on the side. I forgot the M&Ms - we'll see how that goes!
Snack: cherries, dried apricots, and dried cranberries

Now I"m off to pack for a weekend away without the boys. If you were planning on calling, don't - I'll be sleeping for the next 48 hours.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden update!

It's been a while since I talked about the garden, huh? I've been taking some photos but just haven't figured out a way to tie the whole post together so I think I'll just put the photos out there and let them speak for themselves.

Everything has been going great except that I have early blight on the tomatoes. The little guys have been ripening; I hope to get at least some big ones ripened before the plants die off. According to what I've read I'll just have to take a break from tomatoes for 2-3 years. Last year that would have really upset me but now that I've grown so many other vegetables I feel good about all of the other things I can grow.


Green beans! Never grown those before. These were the bush beans; the pole beans haven't beaned yet.

Tomatoes! The little guys are ripening; no action on the big guys yet.

Yesterday's harvest:

Lettuce in the "ground":

Lettuce in the bowl just before it became dinner:

Progression shots:

May 21st:

May 26th:

June 12th:

June 21st:

Today's moment of Bento

Just didn't have the energy to do Stewart's today so he's left to fend for himself on the mean streets of DC.

Since Nate can't take $10 and go get himself a sandwich and some chips, I obviously made his lunch:

Snack 1: Raw almonds, veggie sticks, pretzels
Snack 2: apple slices and edamame (I just love how they look together!)
Lunch: fake-chicken patty in ww wrap, cucumber slices, mandarin, carrots, green beans from the garden, and the obvious pack of M&Ms

Wish I fed myself the way I feed my kids!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Healthy is as healthy does

I get a lot of e-mails about the healthy lunches, and it's true that they are. I'm pretty conscious about what the kids eat but I try not to take it too far. It makes me feel good to be taking care of them in this way, and I hope I'm laying a good foundation for them to eat well and to enjoy all sorts of flavors and dishes.

The key to the healthy meals, for me, is prepping the food ahead of when I need them. In my fridge right now is a big bowl of washed cherries, another of washed blueberries, and yet another of cubed watermelon. I have sandwich bags with chopped celery and sliced cucumbers and cooked shelled edamame. All of the snacks and dried fruits are in zip-lock bags so I can grab them, serve them, and put them away faster.

One key strategy is washing the produce as soon as I unpack it. When I'm putting the groceries away I'll just leave the apples, celery, peppers, and the rest on the counter. Then as I go about my business in the kitchen I can see what I need to wash, chop, and prep before putting it away. The celery gets chopped into short lengths, washed, and bagged. Apples are washed and de-stickered (those things are annoying!). Blueberries are washed and put into a bowl - I pad the bowl with a few paper towels to keep the berries on the bottom from going bad too quickly.

I do a lot of the prep work while I'm already in the kitchen so I don't have to spend a lot of extra time on this kind of stuff. If I'm already cooking dinner I'll throw an extra pot of water on to boil and cook a bag of edamame to keep on-hand. If I'm chopping onions for dinner I'll slice up a cucumber and bag it for snacks. Any time I open a new bag of almonds or raisins or veggie sticks I'll pour the whole thing into a zip-lock bag and store it that way.

The other easy way to get this kind of work done is working when I'm on the phone. My friend Kara called a few nights ago and while we gossipped I chopped up and entire watermelon and stored it in two bowls in the fridge. The boys and I have been enjoying the heck out of that watermelon ever since.

Today we decided to meet up with my folks and go watch my sister play softball. I was able to throw together snacks in about 10 minutes:

So that's all good and healthy and proper, right? But...

My general thinking is that if 2/3 of what they eat is healthy then I'm not going to sweat the rest. It really frees me up when they grab cookies at a party or eat nothing but doritos at our neighbor's house. In fact last night we were hanging around and I got a yen from my childhood: Nate and I hit the grocery store and got all the fixings for ice-cream sundaes and that was dinner for them last night. Big scoops of ice cream, bananas, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and all the sprinkles Nate could sprinkle. It was a fun night.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lunch blog

On Mondays Nate's camp takes field trips so we have to pack lunches in disposable containers. I wasn't sure what would hold up so I went with an easy lunch:

Snack: apple slices and shelled edamame
Snack: pretzels and raw almonds
Lunch: veggie hotdog rollup and a bag of cherries

I didn't cook much this weekend so I didn't have an obvious main course for Stewart's lunch. I pulled this out of my hat and I've got to admit I'm pretty proud of it:

Lunch: Two whole-wheat tortillas wrapped in wax paper; I included a bunch of hummus and cucumber slices so he can make two wraps. Apple slices, shelled edamame, cherries, and a fun-pack of M&Ms tucked in.


My special guys

Today we went out for lunch with my sister and parents, and a few of my sister's friends. It was a normal lunch and we had a nice time. On the way out one of my sister's friends came up to me and said "I just want to tell you how well behaved your kids are. I'm a teacher, and I can't believe how great they were." It made my day.

Nate helps out in little ways all the time, too. He gets Jack's shoes for me, brings the newspaper to the table, carries groceries from the car, hauls bags to the car...he's just a great helper kid.

And in-between his sometimes-moodiness and grumpiness, Nate is the most incredibly caring and giving brother and son. He never ceases to amaze me. He's always giving Jack some of his juice, bites off of his plate, and toys. If Jack's upset, he runs to find Pink Doll or a pacifier. At lunch today he was handing bites of his spaghetti, and sips of his OJ, all around the table. He and Jack are just starting to be able to play together and boy is the cuteness making me want another baby. But that's a different post for a different day, right?

But seriously, who wouldn't want more of this around?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's bento!

So I opened up Nate's lunchbox yesterday to clean it out and this is what I found:

For a minute I seriously wondered if I'd forgotten to actually put his lunch in there. There's honestly not a crumb left. That's a great feeling!

Here's what they went off with today:


Snack 1: pretzels and raw almonds
Snack 2: blueberries, sugar snaps, and a mandarin orange
Lunch: veggie burger wrap, carrots, apple slices, and one square of dark chocolate


Lunch: brown rice, tofu/chickpea curry, sugar snaps, mandarin orange, and 2 squares of dark chocolate

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 4!

Didn't post this last night because I didn't finish until this morning. Poor Jack has been so sick the last two nights and Stewart and I have gotten very little sleep. He's napping peacefully now - thank goodness for Motrin!


Snack 1: dried apricots, raisins, and fresh (from frozen) edamame
Snack 2: veggie sticks (Trader Joe's) and pretzels filled with peanut butter (also TJs)
Lunch: veggie hot-dog wrap, sugar snaps, tiny mandarin orange, cucumber slices, and the ubiquitous M&Ms


Lunch: pizza-flavored veggie burger wraps (with tomato sauce for dipping / spreading), blueberries, mandarin orange, and veggies with hummus for dipping. M&Ms hidden under the blueberries.

So far Stewart's only comment about today's lunch is to [pretend] whine that I didn't peel his orange like I did yesterday. :-)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 3!

Still trucking along! I can see a pattern emerging with Nate's two snacks. Those cute little dividers to keep things separated can't hold up to a preschooler flinging his lunchbox all about. Thus, one "wet" snack and one "dry" snack and no soggy yuckiness to clean up at the end of the day.


Snack 1: Pretzels and "letter" cookies (from Trader Joe's)
Snack 2: Fruitabu fruit roll-up, edamame, tiny mandarin orange
Lunch: Last of the pasta salad from yesterday, sugar snaps, carrots, and hidden pack of M&Ms


Lunch: Pierogies (from tonight's dinner - sauteed with peppers and onions and drizzled with "crack" dip (thusly called because it's horribly addictive salad dressing from Giant)), edamame, tiny mandarin orange, letter cookies, and a hidden pack of M&Ms.

Now it's time for an early turn-in and a less-tired Mama tomorrow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First day of camp!

Nate had his first day of camp today and it truly could not have gone better.

On the way over I talked to him about whether or not he wanted me to stay with him and he decided that he didn't (I planned to stick around for a bit regardless). We made our way to the community center and opened the door to the room - Nate shrunk against me and said really quickly "I want you to stay." It took about 4 minutes for him to start playing with the toys in the room and about 15 for him to peel off and hit the big, huge, fabulous playground. I tried to say goodbye but he was too interested in playing - I got a half-hearted hug before he tore off back to the swings.

And that was it! Camp was supposed to go until 5 but I headed over around 2:45 to check on him. He was crashed out sound asleep on his bedroll (they do rest time from 1:30 to 3). I let Jack play in the playground while I peeked in and watched the wonderful aide, Miss Raquel, gently try over and over to wake Nate up. She was so sweet and kind and ended up cradling him like a baby while he came back to life. Then they started Snack #2 and I went in and crashed the party. He was a little grumpy from having his nap aborted but couldn't have cared less about having his first full-day away from me. He's just tough as nails.

I'm thoroughly thrilled with the facility and the teachers. They are so kind and warm and genuinely happy to be there with the kids. The classroom is tiny but they have access to an enormous fenced-in playground and lots of other play areas. They take a field-trip every Monday, sometimes to a pool (with a kiddie pool). All of this for $100 for each two-week session! Thrilled.

Tomorrow I'll leave him until 4 and see how it goes. I feel so foot-loose and fancy-free!

Day 2!

Bentos were a big hit today - here are the ones for tomorrow:

I made some whole wheat noodles to go along with tonight's dinner; I used the rest to work out a yummy lunch using my favorite peanut noodle recipe.


Snack 1: tiny mandarin orange, apple slices, shelled edamame
Snack 2: chex mix (free from Target!) with raw almonds mixed in
Lunch: peanut noodles with corn and peas mixed in (and a tiny square of chocolate (free from Target!) hidden underneath)


Lunch: peanut noodles with corn and peas mixed in, cucumber slices, edamame, and two squares of chocolate (free from Target!)


Snack: cucumber slices, mandarin oranges, apple slices, and shelled edamame
Lunch: peanut noodles

Today went so smoothly and easily due to the prep-work ahead of time; I just hope I can keep it up! It feels so relaxing to know how much is already taken care of for tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Quick update

I know, I know - I missed another Nate newsletter. We're just so busy with buying the house, getting Nate ready to start camp tomorrow (!) and regular life that I just had to let it go.

Jack had his 18-month checkup last week and the doctor is very happy with his progress. She said if he came in as a new patient she wouldn't have any concerns about his speech or development. He has about 16 words that he uses totally independently now and several more that he repeats. He's now trying Please ("peeeeee!") and All Done. He's cruising along, and my concerns are by the wayside. I'm so grateful that this sweet boy of mine is okay.

Here are his stats from the appointment:

Height: 33.5 inches (75-90th percentile)
Weight 26.2 pounds (50-75th percentile)
Head circumference: 50 cm (95th percentile - thank goodness he didn't come out the old fashioned way!)

So Nate starts camp tomorrow and it'll be the first time he goes full-day (the hours are 9-5 but I'll probably head over around 3:30 or 4). I'm very aware that this is a major turning-point in Nate's life and in mine, too. I feel like we're at the top of the hill and he's about to head down the other side - I can see him starting slowly and picking up speed as he moves towards his life, and away from life with me.

I know I've made mistakes with him. It's just in the last weeks that I've found a middle-ground where I'm still enforcing the discipline but taking the edge off so we're getting through the days with a lot more laughter and fun. I wish I'd found it sooner. I regret so many days I could have lighten the mood, played a little more, worked a little less.

But I also know I must have done okay because he still wants me around, he still asks me to play, he wants to hug me when I'm sad, and he's got the greatest heart I've ever seen. He's giving and loving and kind, and if he's also sassy and grumpy sometimes I'll take him exactly the way he is.

Any minute he's going to grow up - I've already seen it happen with his friends. They're already concerned with how they look, what they say - they already don't want Mom around. Nate's not there yet and I promise to savor all of this little-boy time we have left. I'm so grateful for him, for his spirit, for his fun, for his sweetness.

Love you Natey.

First day!

Nate starts camp tomorrow for the first time, and he'll be going all-day for the first time. I admit these past two weeks, with no school and no camp yet, have been a little rough but we've also gotten a lot closer - I'm going to miss him! I also admit that I'm looking forward to it a lot. I have all sorts of fantasies about how much I'll get done during the day. Probably I'll just shop online for more Bento boxes, but at least I'll do it without feeling guilty that I'm neglecting him by not building the 173rd Lego tower of the day with him.

I have to send him, each day, with two snacks and a lunch. I already have the Lock & Locks for the food and yesterday I picked him up two lunchboxes at Target and let him choose. One was super-cute and non-character with a neat thermos attached. The other was a Transformers one. Guess which one he picked? Yup, Transformers. I hate the character thing, but I saw it and I knew he'd love it and I had to let him make the choice. That's what the first day of camp is all about, right?

Here's what I packed for his big first day:

Snack 1: cucumber/hummus sandwiches and pretzels filled with peanut butter
Snack 2: raw almonds, dried cranberries, and veggie sticks (Trader Joes)
Lunch: Veggie hotdog wrap, mandarins, sugar snap peas, carrots, and a little fun-pack of M&Ms hidden underneath.

As long as I'm packing Nate's lunch I figured I'd start packing Stewart's lunch:

Salad (with lettuce from the garden!) with mandarins, dried cranberries, and avocado. Cucumber/hummus sandwiches and carrots, and a fun-pack of M&Ms hidden under the dressing.

And as long as I had everything out, I figured I'd prep Jack's snack and lunch to make my day even smoother tomorrow:

Snack: veggie sticks, pretzels filled with peanut butter, cucumber slices
Lunch: veggie hotdog chunks, mandarins, avocado slices, dried cranberries, and raw almonds

It took me about 30 minutes to put these all together. I'm going to try to use the same ingredients for the lunches, even if the end product isn't the same (for example, the foods from the kids snacks were the toppings for Stewart's salad.) I'll work leftovers in as much as I can, though I haven't been cooking at night much these days (we scrounge a lot).

Do you guys like seeing these? Should I try to keep up the bento posting?