Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet Spot

I'm posting this largely so I can look at it in the middle of February and be reminded that there are so many lovely times of year here, and winter won't last forever!

We've hit the seasonal sweet spot here in MN. It's a stunningly bright and beautiful day, with just a few wispy clouds in the sky. Most of the trees are still green, but there is a particular variety, like the one below, that are absolutely ablaze with color. Short sleeves are comfortable, but no need to get the shorts back out at 70 degrees.

It's dark out by the time the kids go to bed, but light when we need to get up in the morning. The air is fresh and slightly crisp, and every day that it's warm enough to play outside comfortably is a bonus from here. We have Halloween to look forward to, and a birthday season, and then the holidays and a visit from relatives.

Days like this, I feel like I've hit the jackpot.

(Note to self in February: Winter will end. Winter will end. WINTER WILL END)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Sunday morning we were discussing what chores we needed to get done and negotiating how much football was going to be watched when Chris suggested we see if there were any cheap tickets available for that day's Vikings game. I'm usually the naysayer for these sort of spontaneous activities, but the weather was gorgeous, I was itching to get out of the house and I hadn't been to see a game in quite awhile (and never a Vikings game). So I agreed and, once he'd picked his jaw up off the floor, Chris made short work of finding us tickets online.

We ended up having a really fun time, and the kids did surprisingly well. Well, actually it's only surprising that Brighton behaved ok, as football is probably Pacey's favorite pastime (just ahead of jumping off of things). I've been to Qualcomm Stadium a few times to see the Chargers play, but as I said this was my first Vikings game. They do put on a heck of a show, but it was a little weird to be under the dome. Also, kind of smelly. Someone near me was having some intestinal issues and there was a distinct lack of fresh air to dilute the stench.

Still, awesome day and successful spontaneous outing which is not easy to come by with two small kids. The title of this post references the fact that we were all decked out in Vikings gear despite my husband and son's undying love for the San Diego Chargers.

One other funny story - at one point the Jumbotron (is that a real word?) flashed up with the question "Jennifer, will you marry me?"We giggled at the thought that there were probably about 30 hopeful Jennifers in the crown whose boyfriends were feeling a little hot under the collar...

Big and Little

Yes, that's totally a giant Viking horn. Jealous?

My secret weapon to keep Brighton entertained

Couldn't quite tell who this guy was rooting for...

"Yoooook Mama! Dancing!!" She was rather taken with the
cheerleaders (over my dead body)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Food Friday - Fall Baking

One of my very favorite things about fall is baking. I love to bake anyway, but it's so much more satisfying when it's chilly enough outside that turning on the oven is a comforting act, rather than one of torture. I am a big fan of what I consider to be the fall spices as well...cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.

So, since I was hosting a meeting at my house last night I took the opportunity to try a new recipe: Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze. I found the recipe on one of the food blogs I like to read, Food Lush, this summer and bookmarked it for just such an evening as this.

The cake was really easy to make, incredibly moist and not too sweet. The glaze adds a nice contrast of sweetness and a deeper flavor. I followed the recipe exactly for the first run through, and the only thing I might do differently is to boil the caramel a bit longer to get a slightly more robust flavor. All in all though, this one gets a 10 out of 10. Judging by the empty plates I cleared up, my guests would agree.

I might or might not be eating a piece for breakfast...

Find the recipe here. Drool-inducing photos below.


I love the extra fancy-factor of bundt cakes

I had to work hard not to eat the extra glaze
with a spoon. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Run, Walk, Collapse

About three and a half years ago, a close friend of my sister's passed away the day after she gave birth to her daughter. Her husband had the unimaginable experience of becoming a father for the first time and then losing his wife directly thereafter. He's an incredibly strong man and appears to be doing a really excellent job of raising his little girl. He maintains a blog about their lives and also wrote a book about the experience, entitled Two Kisses for Maddy (buy it here).

In addition to all of that, he started the Liz Logelin Foundation, which provides grants to young families who have lost a spouse or life-partner. Like I said, he's an amazing guy. One of the events that has been designed to raise money for the foundation is an annual 5K run/walk here in Minneapolis (Matt and Liz are both originally from this area). I wanted to do the run last year but we'd just moved and were still getting settled in. I was determined to do it this year, and signed myself, Chris and our current visiting relative, Jane, up for the event.

Anyway, the big day was last Saturday morning, which dawned horribly grey and chilly. Not actually raining, but the temperature was hovering in the 40s (despite having been in the mid-80s the week prior). Chris had just gotten back from another business trip and was exhausted and not entirely excited (read: incredibly grumpy) about joining us. I threw everyone in the car with breakfast to go and we made our way to the event venue, a park about 30 minutes from here.

As soon as we got to the park, we discovered that the jogging stroller had a flat. We asked around, but no one had a tire pump we could use. We stood there for the next 20 minutes debating our best course of action. I will confess I tend to get a little stubborn in these situations and was determined to see it through. So, we made our way to the starting line, got ourselves lined up and sprinted off at a nice 8-minute-mile pace, kids grinning from ear to ear.

Oh, haha, as if. In reality, we'd spent so long deciding to go ahead with the race that it started before we even got to the line. Both kids refused to walk so much as a step, so we set off carrying them, as we would for the next 3.2 miles. Now, I have to interject here that had we had the stroller in working order, Brighton (and possibly Pacey) would have absolutely insisted upon walking. There would have been back-arching, screaming tantrums resulting in eventually giving in and letting them walk. Since we wanted them to walk? No dice.

Chris and I learned that day exactly how heavy 35- and 28-pounds can be when held as dead weights for approximately one hour. It was...not the most fun I have ever had. Still, we helped raise funds for a very good cause, got to see Matt and the lovely Maddy, and got our strength/endurance training in for the day (I'm pretty sure we came in dead last). Jane was an incredibly good sport about the whole thing and hey - things can only be better next year. It might take me a full 12 months to get the nerve up to sign up again though...

Keeping warm before the race

Can you see the enthusiasm radiating from my husband?

With about a mile to go

With Matt and Maddy

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More than Just a Food-Chiller

I love looking at people's fridges. To me, a cluttered fridge door tells a story and epitomizes the concept of home. It kind of drives my husband nuts. He had an idea that when we moved into this house we would cast off the shackles of fridge decor and adopt a sleek, unadorned look. Needless to say, he was outvoted. Or, rather, his idea was vetoed (seeing as technically, the vote was a tie)

I try not to keep too much crap on the fridge, but I consider it a place to display a little of our family personality as well as keep track of important things. The fridge is located right next to the door to the laundry room, which leads to the garage. Therefore, it's a great place to glance as I leave the house and make sure I'm not forgetting something important.

So, since the majority of people who may read this blog aren't in a position to come over and have a look at my fridge, I'll show it to you!

This full-length shot is really only intended to show the fact that only the upper third of the fridge is usable real estate at this point, unless I want all my bits and pieces removed and spread through the house by the Redistribution Elves. Also - despite the fact we went with the faux stainless steel in order to get the magnetic properties, it is still nearly always covered in finger prints and other unidentified smears.

And now the close up:

Starting with the left side, we have, going clockwise from top left, photos of me with each of my babies (these are rare, and both were taken by a good friend from California and given to me - the best kind of gift), two ticket stubs from Pacey's first Twins game, our fall chores To Do List, a weekly calendar describing Brighton's activities (underneath is a stack of recipes, waiting ever hopefully to be used), business card/magnets for the place where Pacey has his speech therapy, Papa Murphy's, the pediatrician (responsible parent here) and poison control. And in the middle, a heart with Pacey's name of unknown origin.

And on the right side, a couple of Boxer magnets, a photo of my sister and my nephew, a photo of Brighton and her preschool teachers, a birth announcement for my cousin's daughter, a photo of Chris's father's wedding in France (stuck there because I kept finding the kids with it and just needed it out of the way), and a business card for the local MG garage.

I have to point out that you can just see an assortment of cereals/cookies/snacks on the top of the fridge. That, more than any of the other fridge clutter drives my poor husband insane. We're kind of limited on pantry space though, and it's a habit I can't break so there they stay.

And the side view. We have two fingerpaintings executed by the kids that shall be displayed forevermore, due to the fact I plan to never do fingerpainting in this household again (come on, that's what I pay preschool tuition for: finger paint and glitter!), a set of singing alphabet magnets foolishly purchased while I was pregnant with Pacey and had no idea how insanely irritating all Leapfrog toys are,  a list of numbers for the power company (clearly, I have a hard time throwing away "useful" magnets), and our White Board for Important Things We Need. Currently listing Branston pickle and fire starting devices, because every house needs fire and strange, chunky sandwich spreads.

What's on your fridge?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It's only Tuesday and this already feels like a long week! It's our first week with both kids' school schedules in full swing and I haven't quite figured out how to make everything run smoothly yet.

Drop off seems to be getting harder rather than easier for Brighton. This morning she clung to me with surprisingly strong arms and nothing could distract her enough to ease the transition. Finally I disentangled myself and handed her, howling, to her teacher, and then Pacey plopped himself down in the classroom and refused to leave. I hauled him out of there and left, nerves jangling.

Brighton was, of course, just fine when I came to pick her up. We had to get home and eat a quick lunch in time to get Pacey to school for the afternoon. Another change in our routine. We got Pacey installed in his classroom (no separation issues there!!) and as we left B launched into one of her epic tantrums, wailing for Pacey, refusing to let me buckle her in, etc. She sobbed the whole way home, repeating "where Pacey go?" over and over. Argh.

She's now asleep in her bed - thank heavens - and I feel like a stiff drink. I think that tends to be frowned upon at 1:30 in the afternoon so I guess I'll just go empty the dishwasher.

Parenting: not for the fainthearted.

On the bright side:

This kid couldn't have been more excited to go to school :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beating the Weekend Funk

Sometimes I have a hard time with the weekends. I've spent the week orbiting around the house and a few other destinations, feeding, clothing, cleaning and generally taking care of my home and my family. Come the weekend, my husband is home and wants some much-needed down time. I, on the other hand, am eager for a companion to join me in taking the kids a little further afield and getting a change of scenery while sharing the kid-load. Staying at home full-time means that weekends can really just feel like more of the same.

This weekend Chris had a charity golf tournament on the calendar, so Saturday was feeling very much like just another day. I recalled, however, that I'd seen an insert in the paper last weekend advertising a Children's Book Festival. Although the kids are older now and require less *stuff* for an outing, they can still be a handful when it's just me and the two of them. I decided to suck it up, however, and just go.

I'm so glad I did! The festival was sponsored by Target and was just one of the amazingly well-planned family-friendly events happening in the Twin Cities every single weekend. There is ALWAYS something to do here. Admission was free, there was ample parking, and even golf carts with friendly guys ferrying all the families to and from the parking lots. I saw one young guy even hold a mom's baby for her while she collapsed her stroller. So nice.

The event was held in a huge park so, although there were a ton of people, it didn't feel crowded. I was a little worried that it was going to be mostly a book sale, but in fact there was only one tent actually selling books. There was an enormous Book Nook, with rocking chairs, kid-sized armchairs, beanbags and floor pillows and a TON of books for the kids to read. It was so neat seeing all these parents reading to their kids. At one point there was an eight-year-old girl reading to my kids and I was reading to another little girl sitting near by.

The Children's Museum was there with a hands-on foam block area that the kids could build with. A local kids' theatre company had a ton of dress-up clothes and a mirror. That was such a huge hit with Brighton! A nature center that rescues owls had a neat display of all things owl-related, and there was a booth with hundred of bubble wands and bubbles literally everywhere. There were indoor toilets as well as plenty of porta-potties, free face painting booths, food stalls that had some relatively healthy options and a visitors center for cooling off. I saw parents everywhere sharing sunscreen with each other, the weather being unexpectedly warm.

All in all, it was a truly fantastic day. I shed my Type-A skin for a day and ignored the coming and going of lunchtime and the time we'd have needed to leave to get home for regular napping. I didn't even bring a stroller and had not one complaint from a kid not wanting to walk. There was a main stage with musical performers and I danced like an idiot with the kids, not caring for once who was watching.

And finally, as we were winding down, I sat there with two kids in my lap, sweaty, smeared with face paint and approaching grumpiness, and I felt so damn lucky. Being a mom is relentless, sometimes not particularly gratifying work but these moments...these moments more than make up for it. I wanted to come right home and write it down, so I can reference entries like this on the tougher days.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Food Friday

I'm in a food rut lately. I'm not a huge eater at the best of times, and I'm a really picky eater. Lately, though, I've had a really hard time thinking of ANYTHING that sounds good to eat. I'm bored with my usual rotation, but not feeling adventurous enough to try new recipes. Plus, Chris is traveling almost nonstop for work for the next couple of months and it's pretty hard to get motivated to cook proper meals just for me. The kids are both in pretty limited eating phases (which I totally get, but some days I would rather stick my head in the oven than microwave one. more. chicken. nugget) so it's really a matter of cooking just for me.

I haven't figured out the cure for this yet, but I have decided to start doing some sort of food post on Fridays. Maybe just thinking about food will help me get past this funk.

Somewhat ironically, I am going to post my recipe for chili which, containing lots of meat and spiciness, I don't actually eat. It's one of my favorite things to make though, and it's the time of year when people are looking for new chili recipes to make for football-filled Sunday evenings.

Chili for Carnivores, by a Vegetarian

I started making chili for Chris not long after we started living together (properly) in 2002. I can't remember why, but I decided that I wanted to make a dish that would wow my father-in-law (who, as I mentioned before, didn't understand my decision not to eat meat AT ALL). Anyway, this recipe has sort of evolved over time. My favorite time to make it is Sunday afternoons, and Chris will often use it as the sauce for our traditional Sunday night homemade pizza (I can't share that recipe - we all need a few secrets).

A little side story about using chili on a pizza: Last year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, my friend Sharda and her husband came over for homemade pizza. I made one using chili as the sauce and Chris offered a slice to Sharda, who was about 39 weeks pregnant. He warned her about the spice level in the chili, recalling the heartburn I suffered even smelling spice during my pregnancies. We all had a good laugh about her water breaking and she helped herself to a slice. Fast forward to her drive home and - you guessed it - her water broke!! The pizza was thenceforth known as the Water Breaker. Make at your own risk.

2 large cans crushed tomatoes (28 oz each I think)
2-3 medium onions
1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 lb leanest ground beef you can find
Fresh or pickled chilis of your choice, finely chopped (I use two pickled habaneros)
2 cans chili beans, with sauce
2 -3 cans of other beans of your choice, drained and rinsed (cuts down on sodium)
1 T sugar
1 T oregano
1 tsp beef boullion (or 1 cube)
Cayenne pepper to taste (for a seriously spicy chili I use about 1 T)
2 T chili powder
1 12 oz can/bottle of beer

Pour tomatoes into a large stock pot and turn on to simmer. Add sugar, oregano, boullion, chili powder and cayenne. In a large frying pan, saute onions until soft. Add to pot. Brown the turkey and beef one at a time, adding the chopped chilies to one of them. Add to pot. Add beans and beer. Stir together and cook over a low heat for 2-3 hours (the longer the better). Let cool completely and then package into freezer Ziplocs. This recipe usually makes a good 8 or so large portions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I feel like it's been awhile since I wrote anything specifically about Pacey. He's pretty averse to having his photograph taken these days, so I have to sneak up on him if I want to get a good shot. He's also had a less...I'm trying to think of the right word...momentous? few months. He's good and potty trained, his speech is coming along slowly and steadily and he's kind of outgrown the years of constant change and milestone achievements. Still, he amazes and frustrates and confounds me every single day so I thought I'd gather a few tidbits about him.  

He does not let short stature prevent him
from getting his mitts on whatever he pleases
* I took Pacey to the Down syndrome clinic at the Children's Hospital and learned that he is not only in the 50th percentile for height and weight on the Ds curve, he is actually ON the typical curve. Not bad for a kid that weighed three pounds when he was born. He's finally wearing 3T (and even some 4T!!!) clothing and his feet grew, enabling me to fulfill my shoe fetish and purchase him some new kicks. He's definitely still smaller than most kids his age, but the gap is less noticeable.

* He absolutely cannot WAIT to go back to school. I have never known a kid that loved school more than Pacey does. It was awful watching his devastation on Tuesday when we dropped Brighton off at school and he realized he wasn't staying. He's always been the one to be dropped off so it was new for him. Since he's in afternoon preschool this year he'll have to get used to it...

* Although he has his moments of being a bratty older brother, he is amazingly kind and gentle with younger kids. He almost always goes up to toddlers and gives them hugs, and although I try to keep his grubby boy hands off tiny babies, he loves to gently rub their heads. I love seeing the expressions on other parents' faces when he treats their kids so nicely.

* He's also completely in awe of older boys. He doesn't generally try to tag along with them, but he does watch what they're doing so he can imitate it later. This is a little worrisome as he sees much older kids doing some fairly dangerous things at times, but for the most part he's aware of his own limitations in play. I'm constantly surprised by how much he watches some of the games older kids play and, frankly, how well he is able to emulate them.
Getting a ride from Papa in his wheelbarrow

* He is extremely generous at heart. I used to worry that he was too complacent and would just let other kids take from him because he didn't know how to stand up for himself. Now, though, I know he is totally capable of standing up for himself and he really doesn't mind sharing most of the time. When he comes up from the playroom to request a snack or drink, he always asks for one for Brighton as well (and in the case of snacks, he always gives her her share). I will say that he has been known to stealthily help himself to his sister's plate if she's not eating her chicken nuggets fast enough :)
I think Pacey's all-time favorite activity is

* He's pretty good at getting me to do things for him by pretending he can't do them himself. For instance, if I am standing there while he gets undressed for the bath, he'll give up on taking his clothes off almost immediately and refuse to try unless I help him. I have a really hard time allowing him to experience frustration and try/fail at things so I generally step in pretty quickly and help. HOWEVER, nearly every single day when I get this kid up from his quiet time he is either buck naked or dressed in a completely different outfit (often swimwear). Not only can he undress himself, but he is perfectly capable of dressing as well!! I will have to be aware of not letting him pull the wool over my eyes with this sort of thing in future.

* He not only figured out point-and-click technology, but Chris and I watched him the other day as he woke the computer out of sleep mode, opened a browser and navigated to the website he plays games on. I know every parent experiences moments of amazement when they discover a new ability or skill in their child - it's one of the coolest things about being a parent. But when you've been prepped all through your kid's early childhood for all the ways they may NOT meet typical expectations, these achievements are that much more mind-blowing.

I always feel like it's impossible to paint a picture of Pacey with words...only to know him is to fully appreciate his magic. He's infuriating at times, but can charm almost anyone with an open mind. I can't wait to sit back and see how he'll grow this school year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


About a month ago I did a search for toddler bedding on Amazon and let Brighton pick which bedding she wanted for her new Big Girl Bed. To my delight she declined the Disney princess option I thought she'd go for and selected a cute Elmo set (ok, well, it does bug me a little that now she has Elmo bedding and a Cinderella pillow, but not enough to steer her towards the princess sheets). The bedding arrived shortly thereafter, I put it in the wash and then promptly lost my nerve and stuck it in the kids' bathroom closet. I absolutely knew that Brighton was ready for the bed - I just wasn't yet ready myself. We've been really, really lucky in that our kids are good sleepers and for the most part, we put them to bed at 7:30 or 8:00 and that's where they stay until 7:30 the following morning. Pacey's really reliable in this respect, but B is a bit more of a wild card in general.

Anyway, yesterday was the day and Chris reluctantly dismantled the crib and hauled up the toddler bed. I made it with the new bedding and called B up for a look. She went NUTS. Both kids spent the next hour or so running in and out of her room, trying out the new bed. Following her bath, she barely waited to say goodnight to Pacey before she hopped into the bed, pulled the covers up to her chin, listened to a story and said goodnight. And...that was it. She was just waking up when I went in to get her this morning and hopped out of bed, so pleased with herself. I've just put her down for her first nap in the bed and so far, so good. We'll see if it lasts after the novelty wears off!

Today was also her first day of preschool. We went for an orientation last week so she'd met her teacher and some of the kids already. She was a little hesitant at drop-off this morning but once she spied the dollhouse she was off without a backward glance. Her daily report says that she was "happy, chatty and independent." Couldn't ask for a better first day.

I did get stuck behind the neighborhood school bus doing its pick-ups this morning. I watched family after family take photos and wave their kids off to the first day of school and damn if I didn't cry the entire time. How weird is that? Dropped my own kid off no problem but watching other families experience this rite of passage made me cry like a baby. Of course, my own first time putting my "baby" on the bus hasn't happened yet...and today doesn't bode well for how I will feel about it! Pacey couldn't be more excited - in fact, the worst part about Brighton starting school today was his devastation at having to wait another week to go himself. Still, we had a nice morning together and it feels so great to get our fall schedule underway. Full steam ahead!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Apples to Apples

Well, since I'm pining for fall, how about some pictures from our trip to the apple orchard while my parents were here?

We visited Minnetonka Orchards, which is about 30 minutes from where we live. I love the location of our city - 15 minutes in one direction and you're in downtown Minneapolis, and 15 minutes in the other direction and you're in the middle of corn fields. I knew we were probably too early for a lot of what the orchard offers later in the fall, but figured it would be fun to go, hang out and see if it's somewhere we want to go picking later in the season.

It was awesome! Very casual and laid back - essentially the opportunity to wander around and observe the apple growing/grading/selling process. Picking hadn't really gotten underway yet; the Zestar variety was the only type ready for picking and by the time we asked someone about it the kids were too tired and uncooperative to trek back out to the orchard to pick.

We checked out the apples, said hello to the animals that live at the orchard and played on the fun wooden train and swingset they have for kids. It was a really beautiful day and because we were just about the only people there, it was very peaceful. I suspect it probably gets really busy later in the season so it was a real luxury to experience it like this.

Some pictures from our day:

Who doesn't plow fields in a tutu?

Uhhhh, I think there's someone under there...

Does this look familiar?

Hey kids, here's some old rusty farm equipment

Guardian llamas. Apparently they send out an alarm if an
unfriendly dog is threatening the other animals. Also,
Brighton is now obsessed with "yamas."

Swingin' with Papa

Maintaining her princess composure even while jumping

What a dude

Nana arming Brighton with a large branch (great for poking
out eyes)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Looking Ahead

September 1st today. I'm feeling a little unsettled, kind of stuck in limbo. It's supposed to be 95 degrees today...I feel like I should take the kids to do something awesome and summery outside, but honestly? I'm kind of over it. The kids' summer shoes look grubby and worn out and I'm tired of their shorts. Although school is starting for both of them, we're not yet at the age to need long lists of school supplies so no trips to Target necessary (well, who am I kidding, Target is ALWAYS necessary). The house needs cleaning, there's the ever-present laundry piles, there are toys in absolutely every corner. I just don't feel like doing any of it.

It's been a really great summer, full of visiting family and friends, beautiful weather and lots of fun activities. I'm just ready to move on I guess. I'm not exactly anxious for winter to come, but I'm itching to replace the flip flops and swimsuits with sweatshirts and rainboots. Ready to hose down the outdoor toys and store them away in the garage where we will look longingly at them in January.  Pacey's been asking about school with increasing frequency and we met his bus driver (!!) the other day. We're's just not time yet.

Fall is my favorite season. I love wearing sweaters and making soup. I prefer the playground when it's a little cooler and the kids are more inspired to run around. I love fall flavors - pumpkin and apple and spices. I love the way outdoor photos look in the autumn light. And, let's face it, I love school.

I guess it feels like I'm waiting for the right moment to shift focus. I have a long list of tasks to accomplish before winter is upon us again but it just doesn't feel like it's TIME yet. Perhaps this long weekend will be the turning point. We'll be dismantling a crib and setting up a toddler bed so perhaps that change will be a jumping off point.

Speaking of points - there really isn't one to this post, but I've managed to avoid the house-cleaning, laundry, toys for awhile...