Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reubens

I've had a longstanding prejudice against corned beef since childhood, but I made it last year as a St. Patrick's Day treat for Hubby...and I was hooked!  Obviously, it's too salty and fatty to enjoy all the time, but it's a nice treat.  I like it best in a Reuben, and I tried my hand at them tonight.  So good!

Reuben Sandwiches
1 pack of corned beef with seasonings, as much as you like/need
1/4c water
butter or margarine
rye bread
swiss cheese slices
sauerkraut
French dressing optional

Prep your corned beef by rubbing the seasonings on the fatty side.  Place in crockpot with 1/4c water.  Cook on low 5-8 hours.  Remove from crockpot, let cool for 5 minutes, then trim the fat and slice thinly against the grain.

Heat a skillet on medium.  Butter each slice of rye bread, as if you're making a grilled cheese.  Place the bread, buttered side down, in the skillet.  Top with swiss cheese and sauerkraut, then corned beef slices.  If you like, add the French dressing now too (I like it without).  Then top with another slice of bread.  When cheese melts, flip the sandwich carefully.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Let's get this show on the road


It's the eve before my final foster parent training class.  Hubby is currently at Kinko's, copying this stack of paperwork (and it's only Part I) before we mail it off tomorrow.  (Clearly, I'm not cut out to be a hand model like my sister!)  Wish I could hand it in at training tomorrow, but since this is the state/county we're talking about, of course everything has to go to a different office.

It's been sort of nice to be in a holding pattern; we know if a foster child is placed with us, we might not be allowed to travel out of state, and well, our entire extended family lives out of state.  If our foster child becomes adoptable, that can be a 12-24 month process, so that's a long time to be trapped at home.  So waiting has given us an opportunity to visit every branch of the family tree over the past month, without having to get the county's permission.  I've also been experiencing a zen-like feeling in our current state of 3, knowing and feeling that life will be ok and good if even if we don't have another human being join the party.  But now, I am chomping at the bit and eager to get moving again.

In adoption news, the CPS forms did indeed clear, and our homestudy is now officially, legally, and completely approved through March 2012, so while we move ahead with the foster care road, there is also a chance that we could still be chosen again through our adoption agency.

I'm trying to stop looking at a family of four as our end goal and just to marvel at how crazy this ride is.  Try as I may, I can't see the finish line, and I don't want to miss a thing on our way.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Milestone

Yesterday I woke up to the sound of the toilet flushing and little hands being washed.  I was tickled because not often does the Nugget take himself to the bathroom - usually he calls me and I take him.  I hurried to wash my face and pop in my contacts, hearing rhinos stampede above me.

I was finishing up and grabbing the clean laundry basket to bring with me upstairs when I heard little Nugget feet coming down the stairs.  I rushed to stop him, imagining his little socks slipping on the hardwood, but when I opened the door....he was fully dressed!  He'd found the stack of clothes we'd set out the night before!  Both shirt and pants were on the right way (his underpants were backwards, but I didn't discover that until later), and the pants had a zipper/slider fly that he'd managed to secure all by himself.  Socks and shoes even!  I expect this was probably a fluke and that he'll require his personal dresser today, but I am so proud of the Nugget.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

7 Layer Dip

Everyone needs this recipe.  So simple for a light dinner and a favorite for potlucks.

7 Layer Dip - adapted from Betty Crocker
1 can refried black beans (or 2 cans of Frito-Lay bean dip)
1/4 c salsa
lite sour cream
guacamole
1 c shredded cheddar or colby-jack
1 can sliced black olives
3 chopped green onions
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
shredded lettuce

Find a large platter.  Start with a layer of shredded lettuce.  Mix the salsa and refried beans to your taste (add more salsa if you like it spicy).  Spread a layer of guacamole over the beans.  Top with a layer of lite sour cream.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Then add black olives, green onions, and tomato.

If you are making this dip more than 3 hours ahead of time, omit the lettuce and add the tomato at the last minute.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Easter 2011 or "Gee, I did love that girl"


Easter means we gas up the car and head to Grammy and Grandpa's house.  Happily, Grammy did not have Easter dinner hosting duties, so that meant we had more quality time than we've had in Easters past. Some highlights:

1.  The Akron Zoo.  The Nugget claims his favorite animal was the flamingo.  I maintain his favorite part of the zoo was probably spotting a backhoe at a construction site.  He picked out a toy tractor for his souvenir.  I love that zoos have reciprocal memberships - what a great, cheap experience!  We got to meet Uncle T and his new girlfriend A.

2.  Easter Mass.  I convinced the folks that a 2-3 hour vigil might not be a positive experience with our perpetually moving child, so we headed to a late morning Mass instead, armed with approximately 5000 quiet toys and snacks.  We got SO lucky with our pew neighbors...2 ladies behind us who were smitten with the Nugget and whispered to him while he gave them stickers and demonstrated all his toys.  And a little girl in front of us who peeked at him coyly and at one point, reached out her little hand to him.  He grabbed it, eagerly and gently in his own and looked back and forth to her...to us...to her, just beaming!  They held hands like that for about 2 minutes while big sister looked on with furrowed brow before her dad whisked her  away.

At the very end of the service, the priest invited the children up to the altar, and I prayed fiercely that the Nugget would not knock over a candle and set the church on fire.  Instead, he stood facing the congregation and gave his best pageant-wave, shouting, "Hi Grammy!"  Then, he weaseled his way up to the priest, then decided there was nothing exciting happening and trotted back to us.  In the car after church, the Nugget sighed happily, "Gee, I did love that girl."

3.  Egg Hunt and Easter Party at Aunt B and Uncle G's.  Aunt B set up a very elaborate egg treasure hunt for the Nugget, and cousin M helped set up a lot of their old toys, like a tool bench, gear set, and train tracks.  Plus, the Nugget got to watch some older cousins play Wii bowling.  Afterwards, he used his new orange bath toy like a pretend Wii controller, pointing it towards the TV and yelling, "I win!"  The Nugget was in heaven and came to the table only for ham and cake.

4.  The Nugget mastered two more movie lines (he doesn't actually watch these movies, all he knows is that adults give a great reaction) and he reveled in yelling, "Ma, the meatloaf!" (sans profanity)  Also, "I caught you a delicious bass," then he would insist that the recipient of the delicious bass make munching sounds, "Eat it, please."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Open season






It's hunting season.  For eggs, that is.  I love how seriously the Nugget took the egg hunt - look at that intensity, the way he carefully stalks his prey.  It was one of those bright, cool afternoons that came as a brilliant surprise after a gray and rainy morning.  It was so bright, in fact, that I couldn't see how the pictures on the screen of my camera, so it was a real joy to find some keepers!  I also figured out how to cover up a runny nose with my editing software.  Because boogies don't really need to be captured for posterity.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gift Kits

I made several gift kits and baskets over the last few weeks and thought I'd share two of them for inspiration.  They are really fun to give, can usually be inexpensive, and you can pick up a couple items at a time if you plan in advance.  Both were packed in these cute plastic shoeboxes from Target.  For the first, I set the lid underneath and wrapped it in cello like a traditional gift basket (well, technically I had to ship to to Grammy, who wrapped it - it's good to have gifty tendencies run in the family).  The second I packed full, snapped the lid on, and tied a ribbon and tag around it to make it more of a kit.

This one was for my cousin's baby shower.  I kept the cost down by using those 20% off coupons for BRU and buying one thing at a time.  It included:
-Bumkins Super Bib - one of my favorite baby gifts because it's cute, practical, and it's used for years instead of weeks.
-Boudreaux's Butt Paste
-Rubber duck from the Michael's dollar bin
-Stick-on sun shields for the car windows
-A Richard Scarry book from the Dollar Spot
-A flannel receiving blanket - purchased in a discounted 3-pack that had ripped packaging; I split the blankets and used them in different baskets
-A 6 month terry sleeper.  I like to buy up for babies, because new babies get a lot of NB, 0-3, and 3-6 month clothes at showers/birth.  When buying upsized clothes though, it's good to get an item that can be worn no matter the season.  Terry is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, so it always works.
-Crib sheet - from the registry
-Shout wipes
-Antibacterial wipes
-Biodegradable placemats - peel and stick, then toss.

This one was for the organizer of our mom's group.  She's always digging into her own art stash so the kids can make crafts, she stays up late baking adorable tasty treats for the playdates, and passes around her own sunscreen and tissues whenever anyone needs anything.  I wanted to make her a summer survival kit so she is restocked for life on the go with her two little ones.
-2 boxes of band-aids
-Neosporin foam - such a cool, kid-friendly way to clean a wound
-Hand sanitizer
-Purse pack Kleenex
-Shout wipes
-Baby wipes
-Antibacterial wipes
-2 boxes Crystal Light on-the-go (the tubes that add to a single water bottle)
-Some toiletry essentials
-Her favorite spray-on sunscreen and the facial stick for the kids
-A Clif bar

Connection

A few folks have been asking me about it, and we are still working towards the foster care license.  Mainly, we are waiting for my final make-up class on the 30th, then we'll be able to move forward.

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile, but I'm having a hard time finding the right words.  I need to share this blog with you, because it's really changed my outlook on life.  Foster parenting scares the crap out of me.  I have fallen in love with 3 unborn babies, and each was wrenched out of my life but not my heart.  I didn't even get to meet any of them, and my heart aches for them each day.  What then, will I feel when/if a child is actually in my home, for me to love and parent the way I give myself to the Nugget...and then that bond is broken by powers out of my control?  I've been mulling over whether or not I'm strong enough for that, whether it's fair to ask the Nugget to bond with a sibling who may not be with us forever.

But when reading Kelle's words about how the unexpected and the scary has brought joy into her world, how she rose up to meet what was required of her and her family, and how they suck the marrow out of each day, something clicked for me.

Nothing in this life is guaranteed.  None of us know our expiration dates for this world.  Yet, we love and we risk anyway, because connection with others is what this life's all about.  Loss is unavoidable, and when we hide and try to protect our hearts from potential loss, we miss out on the beauty of life.  I know I can, we can, give this baby all the love in our hearts for however long we're blessed with him or her.  And we'll be heart-wrenchingly sad if/when our connection is cut or changed, but it will be worth it.  The way our marriage is worth it.  The way having a dog is worth it.  The way finding a trusted regular sitter is worth it.  The way friendship is worth it.  The way having kids is worth it.  Because our hearts are made to grow and stretch and break and heal....and grow some more.

I wanted to share this poem, because while it's meant to be about all children, I feel it has a special meaning for foster, adoptive, and birth parents.


On Children
 Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Farewell to Miss L




We've been very blessed to have a trusted sitter, Miss L, care for the Nugget once a week for about 2 years, so Hubby and I can enjoy a date night.  Miss L is just the best of the best; she's a full time nanny and an entrepreneur.  She has such a way with children, and we were super lucky to get her.  Really, we were practically her community service - we pay decently, but her time and talent is worth a mint.  She came to us when the Nugget was deep in the throes of separation anxiety and charmed him in an instant.  They have a very special bond (look at that last picture, it breaks my heart), and it pains me that this relationship must grow and change, but that's life.  Miss L is moving to Chicago for her full time work, but since she'll be back in the area for her business and extended family, we hope that the Nugget will get to take her out on the occasional date.

Last week, the Nugget treated her to an ice cream date, and tonight (her last night - sniff, sniff), she took him out to dinner.  Thank you so much, Miss L.  Good luck, and we'll miss you!

Easy Tortilla Soup

Easy Tortilla Soup - Parents Magazine
1/2 a rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bones and shredded
2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
chopped cilantro
juice from 1 lime
chopped avocado
1/2 onion, diced
garlic to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
lite sour cream
crushed tortilla chips
shredded cheddar

Saute onion and garlic with olive oil in a large pot.  Add chicken meat, broth, and spices.  Bring soup to a simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add lime juice and avocado.  Serve in large bowls and top with your choice of cheddar, crushed chips, sour cream, and cilantro.  We enjoy it with warm Jiffy corn muffins with butter and honey.

If you prefer the thicker variety of tortilla soup, check out our cousin's (technically Hubby's cousin...CIL?) food blog!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Will manipulate for gelato.

Overheard:
Oh truck, you have to go in time out.  Why?  Because you made sad choices.  Oh, ok.  Why is he in time out?  Because he didn't listen to me 1-2-3 times.  That makes me sad that my friend is in time out.  Ok, you're all done with time out now.  Do you want a hug?  Yay, ok, make happy choices now.
*************************************
At the bookstore, the Nugget made friends with the young cashier who sold us gelato and a hot pretzel.  She complimented his jacket and gave him a high five.  Before we left, he insisted he needed to go see her and tell her something.  We naively thought he was going to tell her he was going home, and her station was right by the front door, so we agreed.  Instead, he walks up and proclaims, "I am having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day."  (We're like, 'Are you serious??' because this 'bad' day included a bike ride, a big wheel ride, romping with Shamrock and pulling his wagon at the school field, stomping in puddles, and this special trip to the bookstore.)  And she totally buys it, "Aww, can I give you a sample of gelato to make you feel better?"  The Nugget nods solemnly, "Yes."  When can I sign this kid up for theater classes?
************************************
The Nugget has named his Cozy Coupe, "JamesyLou."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unseasonably Warm




The mercury hit 85 degrees this Sunday, so we spent the afternoon digging swimsuits, sandals, and beach towels out of storage for some sprinkler fun.  Little arms were slathered in sunscreen, the water was bracingly chilly, and the first popsicle (frozen apple juice) was doled out to a very eager Nugget.  We played until the sun went down and the yard was filled with mud puddles.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Air Travel with a 3.5yo



The Nugget is a really great traveler.  We don't particularly enjoy the process of traveling cross-country, but he's got the temperment and enthusiasm that makes it as easy as it can be.  I've posted air travel tips before, but here are some new-ish developments.

1.  The Nugget has outgrown the CARES harness, and now can sit with just the lap belt.  FYI, children are not allowed to use boosters on airplanes.

2.  We bought this protective bag to check the Nugget's booster seat, and we loved it!  Our local airport doesn't have the plastic bags, and we wanted a little something to protect the booster.  It has a handle, which makes carrying the booster a little less awkward.  We snapped a luggage tag onto the handle and hid a raincoat in there with the booster.  As you might have heard, you have to pay per checked bag now, but carseats/boosters are free, so a little sneaky extra storage is great.  I was concerned that the drawstring would catch on other luggage and rip the bag, so I made sure to pull it tight, then tucked it into the opening.  It folds up tiny and zips into itself for storage.  It's not padded, so unless you carry it out from your body, the booster will smack awkwardly/painfully against your legs.  I predict it will not last forever - probably 1-3 years, depending on how often you fly.

3.  We no longer travel with a stroller for the Nugget.  We have to allow a little more walking time through the airport - he's really too heavy to carry for long distances.  I highly recommend that once your kid is stroller-less, that you spend the $4 and get a Smarte Carte for your luggage.  If your hands are full of luggage and your social preschooler is free, there's a good risk of losing him in the crowd.  He loves to help push the cart, so that keeps him close.  Plus, the cart frees up our hands to snatch him out of the way should a golf cart zip by or should he spot something enticing like a pretzel stand.  How to keep him walking?  I talk to him the whole time, dangling carrots like, "We'll get to ride an escalator at the end of this path!" or "Let's look for our gate number, N16!"

4.  This was the first trip where we asked the Nugget to carry his own backpack.  In hindsight, I should have broken out his new one with padded straps, and it might have been more successful.  As it was, he carried it about 50% of the time, which was still helpful.  We packed it with his toys and snacks for the plane.  I am contemplating this one for future trips.  It can be rolled or ridden through the airport.

5.  The Nugget is finally at the age where technology is helpful on trips.  He can be trusted to watch a video on the laptop without pounding on the keyboard, and he can carefully hold and operate Daddy's iPod Touch.  He is old enough to understand that we have to turn technology off for landing, so stopping in the middle of his video isn't cause for a meltdown.  I recommend Fish School if you're looking for a educational preschool app.

6.  Although the Nugget can drink out of open containers, we don't test his skills on vacation.  Limited clothing/laundry and all that jazz.  You can't bring drinks through security, so we bring his water bottle and thermos empty, then buy beverages and fill them when we get to the gate.  I try to have at least one bottle full before we board, because our first flight is usually too short for a beverage service.  And if you're at the back of a big plane, it could be well over an hour before you'll see that cart.  Same with snacks - have some, because they can actually sell out of every snack option before they get to your row, and your preschooler is not going to handle that particular challenge with poise.

7.  The Nugget's flight wardrobe - preferably cute enough to inspire goodwill from strangers.  Security means velcro or slip-on shoes, dark socks with nonslip bottoms, and no hoodie (less to remove).  Pull-on pants, because you don't have much time/space in an airplane bathroom to deal with zippers and buttons.  You can't walk through security holding hands with a little one.  If your kiddo is on the cautious side, peel them off you, walk through first, and have them come to you (easier than prodding them towards the stranger with the giant wand).  If your kid is like mine and runs towards the stranger with the wand and proceeds to tell the FSA agent all about his morning, then tell your social butterfly that his important job is holding onto the table at the end of the x-ray machine and using his sharp eyes to watch for your backpack.  That'll buy you enough time to get through yourself before he makes a mad dash for the escalator.  Ahem.

8.  While we're on the topic of bathrooms, if you have a potty learner or recent graduate, it really helps to have familiar supplies at your destination.  Grandma and Papa bought a potty chair for the Nugget last summer and had it at their house; we carted it to our hosts' home each night.  I shipped a new potty chair and a stool to my brother ahead of time, and they can keep them for Cabbage.  (If you're in the very early stages of potty learning, your kid might be content to just take a break and use his pull-up or diaper.)  We also showed the Nugget the bathroom right away when we entered a new home and played up how cool it was (Look at the soft towel!  Ooh, the soap smells so good!), so he'd be eager to try it out when nature called.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Washington

 Cousin K and Nugget

 Museum of Flight at Boeing Field

 Nugget and Cupcake

 Papa and Nugget at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Grandma, Nugget, and Doggie Charlie

We went from Mountain Time to Pacific Time, and got to see Hubby's side of the family plus the Nugget's birthfamily.  DEN to SEA felt like a breeze after our usual cross-country flights!  Our friends M & P, who live 5 minutes from Grandma and Papa's house, graciously hosted us.

Top 10 Memories from WA (by the Nugget)
10.  Meeting lots and lots and lots of Doggies.  In order of appearance, Doggies Roxie and Charlie (German shorthair pointer), Doggie Azmar, and Doggie Charlie (Maltese).  I sure do love Doggies.  Doggies are not always so sure about me.  Mommy thinks it's my little stomping feet or my big laugh or the way I want to chase them or the way I want to give them a hug and a squeeze.  Hmm, I just can't figure it out.  Speaking of Doggies, please check out my Aunt T and Uncle A's business.  They make primo dog biscuits.
9.  I got to play the piano with Baby Cupcake and Lil' Aunt R (she's 6).  We also ran laps around Grandma and Papa's house when the sun finally came out for a few minutes.  It was awesome.
8.  Mommy's suitcase broke, and I got to go to Target and help her pick out a new one for the way home!  I tested them all out and proudly helped roll it out of the store.
7.  We visited Cousin M at her school.  She has an awesome fan in her dorm room, and she let me test it.  Her rug is purple with peace signs!  Then we got to pick up Cousin A at her school and we went out for donuts.
6.  Cousin K lent me his police toy box which included cars, policemen, and helicopters!  I used the helicopters to rescue the policemen, all week long.  They needed a lot of rescuing.
5.  Mr. P made me waffles for breakfast, and Miss M is so nice that she didn't get even a little mad when I broke one of her glasses by accident.  I got to meet Miss M's mommy too, and we pretended to be penguins together!  I want to go back to their house for sure.
4.  Grandma let me feed the fish!!!!
3.  Horsing around with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  They helped me walk on the ceiling, they gave me airplane rides, and we threw around stuffed animals.
2.  I got to go to the zoo and see animals.  The meerkats were definitely my favorite.  They run around and jump.  Then they hold up their paws.  They came right up and looked at me, because those meerkats liked me.  I also got to ride a carousel, play on the playground, feed goats, and wash my hands, and there was an automatic paper towel dispenser.
1.  Papa and Grandma took us to the Museum of Flight, where I got to sit in real airplanes (because the 5 airplanes we got to ride on this trip were definitely not enough).  And watch airplanes take off, and listen to the control tower.  And I want to move into the gift shop, please.

Footnotes from Mommy:
1.  While we felt that WA spoiled us with its mild temperatures, we realize that IN is now spoiling us with its lack of traffic.  All 3 of us felt more than a little agitated creeping on I-5, and it wasn't even rush hour.  I marveled to the Nugget that we used to make that drive all the time, and it didn't used to faze us.
2.  While this would never make the Nugget's Top 10 list, we had incredible pictures taken by Mandi McDougall.  It was raining and chilly, and the Nugget was exhausted and growing crankier by the minute, but Mandi snapped some real beauties for us.
3.  We visited the Nugget's Gammi in the hospital and we'd really appreciate any prayers/positive energy you can send to her.

Colorado

 cousins conspiring

 hamming it up for the camera

 double face plant

 finally meeting Doggie Riley

Grandpa time

We are home from our first family double-header.  We decided to combine our trips to CO and WA this year to save on air fare.  Here are just a few photos from the first leg of the trip.  We stayed with my brother, his wife, and Baby Cabbage.  My parents met us there, and my sister was in the process of moving out of CO that same weekend, so we got to see her a little bit too.

Top 10 Memories from CO (by the Nugget)
10.  Giant sandbox at the local park, complete with diggers, troughs, funnels, and moving trays.  I snuck some sand in my shoes to take home as a souvenir.
9.  Playing fetch with Doggie Riley.
8.  Riding in Grammy and Grandpa's rental car and Uncle J and Aunt K's new ride.  Now that I'm in a booster seat, the parents are more willing to let me take rides in other people's cars.
7.  Exploring Colorado.  And by Colorado, I mean Uncle J's and Aunt K's apartment.  Seriously, that's Colorado.  I'm not sure where exactly we were when we went outside.  I kept asking the parents and they kept insisting that the apartment was just a part of Colorado, but they are really confused.
6.  Helping Baby Cabbage take a bath.  With ALL of her ducks.
5.  Reading I Love You, Stinky Face with Aunt K.
4.  Taking pictures with Baby Cabbage.  She taught me this funny face plant thing that made all the grown ups laugh.  And that made us laugh more.  And face plant more.
3.  Tasting and making my own frozen yogurt treat at Spooners.  Mmm, good.
2.  Baby Cabbage's lovey, Violet.  She sang songs and taught me how to spell Cabbage's name.  Violet and I were inseparable all weekend, and before I left, Aunt K and Uncle J got me Violet's cousin, Scout!
1.  Aunt K brought me along for the new car's emissions test.  Why didn't Mommy bring the camera for the most amazing experience of my entire life?  I want to go there lots and lots.