Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend 2011





The Nugget noticed that I give an involuntary, "Oof!" everytime his 45 pound frame plops into my lap for storytime.  Now he requests, "Mommy, say 'Oof' when I sit on you, ok?"  As if I could stop myself.

Our Memorial Day weekend was lovely.  Friends invited us for lunch on Saturday.  On Sunday, we went to church and played at a park, then had to scoot home for a tornado warning.  We passed the time in the basement watching Reading Rainbow on YouTube.  Today, we went to a parade then a state park.  This park is only 20 minutes from our house, and it's a treasure!  I'm so glad we tried it - we only did the beach this time, but there are playgrounds, boat rentals, campgrounds, and hiking trails.  We can't wait to go back for more.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Party Prep

In lieu of a big birthday party, I told the Nugget that this year, he could invite a few friends to join us at  the local childrens' waterpark.  It's going to be a small, low-budget event, but I think that way, it will be mellow and fun.  I found a really cute Submarine invitation on Shutterfly, so I'm drawing the theme and colors (shades of blue, yellow, and orange) from the invite.  Creating children's favors might be my favorite thing to do.  Here's a sneak peek.


I copied the basic sub shape from the invitation by hand and cut it out of yellow cardstock.  I used a circle punch to make the window and hand cut a 4 from the scrap circle.  The 4 was glued onto a circle of blue cardstock, and the whole sub shape was glued onto a kraft gift bag.  Trying to decide if I should leave it as is for a clean mod look or embellish it with "rivets" of glitter glue or foil.


The manila tags, bags, and ribbon were leftovers from my basket biz.  I wanted to use a blue stamp pad for the sea star (Michael's dollar bin) rubber stamp, but my blue pad had dried out.  Instead of buying a new pad, I colored the stamp with a Crayola washable marker and it worked like a charm.  The double-faced satin anchor ribbon is by Midori.  They don't make it in this color combo anymore, but here's a similar ribbon.



I spotted the Magic Grow Capsules at our local grocery store and immediately knew I wanted to include them in the favor bags.  But the package was ugly and had way too many per child.  So I split them up and repackaged with into small cello bags.  I punched scalloped circles of orange cardstock and wrote instructions with the same Crayola marker.  I folded a piece of yellow cardstock to make a "hang tag" for each bag.  I don't like to use staples for little children, so I used a mini hole punch and aqua ribbon to secure the tag to the bag.


I cut strips of striped scrapbook paper, folded and notched them to make tiny banners.  I used a little Elmer's school glue to secure them around toothpicks, and voila, cheap cupcake toppers!  The Nugget has already put in an order for vanilla cupcakes.  I have some yellow cupcake papers and will sprinkle the frosting with orange sugar leftover from Halloween.

I'm really pleased about how everything is coming together and that I've been able to create pretty little things from supplies already in my stash.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saying grace


We say a very informal grace before dinner.  Each of us takes a turn naming something for which we are thankful.  It's been really fun now that the Nugget joins in giving thanks.  Here's how grace has been going lately.

N:  I am thankful Grammy and Grandpa and Grandma and Papa and Mommy and Daddy and me.  And for airplanes that fly in Noctover (this is from our cancelled trip to CO in October 2010) and Spring.  (He sings the word spriiiiinnnnngggg.)

The Nugget used to belt out, "A-Men," like a Baptist preacher.  Now he prefers that we count in unison, then say it twice.  He has lobbied for a count to 20, but usually we are too hungry to comply.

N:  Are you ready?  1-2-3, Amen, Amen!
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At bedtime, I used to recite the poem from Night-Night, Little Pookie, but he's decided that he prefers a bedtime high five.  So we do a high five, a pound it, and then he yells, "Bye!"  Tonight he added, "Sweet dreams!" as we walked down the steps.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Papa's Sizzlelini Pasta

We have a local Italian joint that serves a delicious sizzling pasta skillet that includes hot Italian sausage, green peppers, and onions.  My FIL (Papa) tried it and immediately concocted a knock-off version in his kitchen.  He generously shared the recipe with us, and here is our version with just a few tweaks.  It's a really nice summer pasta - light and fresh.

Papa's Sizzlelini Pasta
whole wheat thin spaghetti
chicken Italian sausage - I like the Archer Farms "mild, no casing" version
green bell pepper, sliced
red bell pepper, sliced
Vidalia onion, sliced
garlic, minced
1/2 c white wine*
olive oil
fresh grated Parmesan
Italian parsley, roughly chopped (optional)

Prepare the sausage according to the package instructions.  Let rest 5 minutes, then slice diagonally.  Set aside.  While you boil the pasta, saute the onion with olive oil, over medium heat.  If you can't find a Vidalia (sweet) onion, add a pinch of sugar to help it caramelize.  When onion is softened, return the sausage slices to the pan, add peppers and garlic, saute for another minute.  Add white wine to the pan, lower heat and simmer.  When pasta is al dente, drain and combine with the meat-veggie mixture.  Add a little olive oil, about twice around the pot.  Toss to combine.  Top with parmesan and parsley, and let your family add salt and pepper to their taste.

*I stock mini bottles of white and red wine in my pantry for cooking.  Often you can find them on special 4 for $5, so a recipe with a smidgen of wine doesn't put you over budget for the week.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Lazy Housekeeper - Dishwashing for Dummies Edition

The next in my series for my fellow housekeeping-impaired friends!  If you were a Family and Consumer Sciences major at BYU, just stop reading now, so you don't double over with horror/laughing cramps.

Yes, I could throw everything in the dishwasher.  But sometimes I want something right away and the dishwasher isn't full yet.  And many of my kitchen tools are marked not-dishwasher safe.  Also my dishwasher is pretty wimpy and quivers in fear at things like a smear of peanut butter or melted cheese; it prefers to fuse these items onto the dishes instead of removing them.  So without further adieu, here is the next installment of the Lazy Housekeeper.

How do I wash this thing?!
1.  Box Grater - I shredded about 3 sponges and 2 fingers before I though to reach for a bottle brush!
2.  Straight straws - we are big fans of the Foogo Straw Bottle, and for awhile, I just bought replacement straws when they got too grody.  Finally, my friend AP took pity on me and taught me how to make a super long Q-tip.  Take a bamboo skewer (the kind you use for kebabs) and a pinch from a cotton ball, wrap the cotton around the non-pointy end of the skewer, squirt a drop of dish soap on the tip, then go to town.  This also works to clean crevices in the highchair and car seat.  Toss the used bit of cotton ball instead of a $3.50 straw replacement.  I keep a skewer and a cotton ball on the windowsill above the sink just to increase my laziness quotient.
3.  Twisty straws - pipe cleaners...they're not just for crafts!  Find them in the aisle with the crayons and googly eyes.
4.  Non-stick pans - Ok, I knew I wasn't supposed to use the green side of the sponge, but the soft side takes so much elbow grease, I could never resist flipping it over to the dark side.  No worries, it was already scratched with my cheap-o metal tongs, so no biggie, right?  What's the worst that can happen, something will stick in that little scratch?  Oh what?  You say tiny bits of Teflon and possible carcinogens will flake off into my family's food?  (Cue to me imagining this scene from A Christmas Story, but replace Ralphie with the Nugget and replace "soap" with Teflon.)  Now that I've replaced my battered old pan with this allegedly eco-friendly guy, I also upgraded to silicone wrapped tongs and a nifty non-scratch scrubber made just for non-stick pans.

One of my favorite hostess gifts for fellow mamas is a fancy dish soap.  A new scent makes it more fun to wash a sinkful of dirty dishes, and it's a way to get aromatherapy without the dangerous combination of children and candles.  Right now, I'm enjoying method's Clementine and Caldrea for Target's Saffron Quince (purchased on clearance by the Easter Bunny).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last Day of School

 last day of school 2011


first day of school 2010

Look how much the Nugget has grown!  Here he is before heading off to his final day in the 3's room, and one picture from his first day for comparison.  You can tell the Nugget is an aviation enthusiast (thanks for the helicopter shirt, Miss L).

End of Year Teacher Gifts

Today is the last day of the Nugget's school year.  I've been slowly assembling these gift bags for the Nugget's teachers.  Teacher gifts are tough, because you want to give something thoughtful, yet most families have multiple teachers to thank within a small budget.  I like to give teachers "consumables" (not necessarily food, but something practical that gets used up), because I know they have a ton of mugs and apple ornaments.

The bags themselves are reusable nylon shopping bags that fold up and fasten with a snap, so they can be tucked in a glove compartment or carried in your purse.  I snagged them from Bath and Bodyworks' post-Christmas sale for 75 cents each.  Most of the items were purchased at Target with printable coupons (from their homepage, click see more and select "coupons") plus my 5% off with my Target card.

Inside, each bag contains:
-Pack of gum
-Handmade soy wax votive candle - left over from my gift basket business
-Lip balm
-Notepad from the Target Dollar Spot
-Hand sanitizer
-Gift card to a local gourmet ice cream shop
-A handmade card from the Nugget

We gave the Gym Bus teacher a gift card to Jamba Juice since I wasn't sure if the kids' fitness guru would appreciate a splurge of ice cream or not ;)  We gave the secretaries some fresh baked cookies.

I wish we could give them a winning lotto ticket for all the patience, dedication, energy, enthusiasm, and kindness they pour into the children.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing

I love my crockpot, especially when during the summer.  It doesn't make the house hot like the oven does, but it's a do-ahead option that lets me eke a little more family time out of the evenings.

This meal is not pretty, I mean it's possibly the ugliest entree I've ever enjoyed...so don't make it for company.  But it's very tasty!

Crockpot Chicken and Stuffing - adapted from AllRecipes
2-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
6 slices swiss cheese
1 can Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c milk
2 c dry stuffing mix
1-4 tbsp butter (we use 1, I think the original recipe called for a whole stick, but it's not necessary)

Grease crockpot with cooking spray.  Lay in chicken, cover with cheese.  Top with soup and milk, then stuffing mix and butter.  Cook on low for 5-8 hours.  You'll want to give this one a little stir around the last hour or so, so the stuffing will cook evenly.  Enjoy with steamed asparagus or cauliflower.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bowen and Cinda

I asked the Nugget to please remove a dried boogie from his cheek.  We were in a parking lot, and I didn't have a tissue handy, so I told him to just drop it on the ground.  He paused thoughtfully and stated confidently, "Yeah, I think a squirrel will like to eat it."
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As any educator knows, the "correct" way to inquire about the blob doodled by a child is to say, "Tell me about your picture!"  The Nugget recently answered, "This is a fishy that goes around and around and squirts water out of YOUR mouth.  You can do that if your tummy is sick.  Or in your house."  So it seems he drew the fish totem of vomiting.  It actually makes a pretty picture.
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The Nugget and Daddy were sitting down to a game of Memory, and the Nugget found the 2 matching fish.
N:  What are those fishies' names?
D:  I don't know.  You could name them!  What would you like to call them?
N:  Bowen and Cinda.
{Those are not the names of any of the Nugget's friends or book/video characters, but names he came up with completely on his own!  And they kind of sound legit, don't they?}
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N:  My tummy is hurting.
Me:  Oh no!  Do you need to go potty?  Do you feel sick?  Are you very hungry?
N:  Well, I think my tummy is hurting because it needs chocolate.  Can I have a chocolate please?
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Pictured:  We skipped the Nugget's naptime to take him on a special trip to the Shedd Aquarium.  A little after his normal naptime, the Nugget was one of the two dozen gift shops and decided to test out a pillow pet.  His "tired tell" is a little drumming/kneading with his finger tips, and he cuddled and drummed the penguin for a few minutes before he got up the strength to head up the steps.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Table Talk

The Nugget commonly converses with his food.  Here's one conversation he had with his asparagus.
Aspargus:  Oh no!  I'm afraid!  I'm afraid of the teeth.  The teeth are going to bite me.
Nugget:  Nom nom nom.  Now you're at the party in my tummy.

I caught the Nugget sprinkling crumbs from his placemat (have I mentioned I'm not the best housekeeper?!) into his cereal bowl.  He looked at me proudly and said, "I'm adding some seasoning."

N:  Did you hear that?  *slurping milk*
Me:  Yes.
N:  That was an old sound.

N:  Stand up, Dad!
D:  What?
N:  Stand up, please.
D:  Why?
N:  So I can take things (iPod Touch) out of your pocket.

N:  This grape is Miss K.  This one is Nucas, and this one is Dawa.  They're going to the party.
Me:  Um, ok.  (Note to self - conduct internet search re: Is it normal for preschoolers to pretend to be cannibals?)
N:  K & K are there too!  And some milk is there too.

It's a bright, bright sun-shiny day






60's are giving way to 80's.  The grinding sound of plastic big wheel tires on pavement is music to my ears.  Little swim trunks are drying on the line.  New sandals have been furnished, to a whimpering Nugget who dislikes the strappy feel of them at the beginning of each summer.  But by September, he'll be wiping away tears when we tuck them away in the closet, knowing that sandals = water play.

The Nugget watered our carrot seeds with a squirt bottle.  He plucked a perfect yellow dandelion, "It's for Grammy."

There is a plastic tray that collects dust on top of the fridge all winter.  I wiped it down and used it to carry our lunch outside to the Nugget's picnic table.  I blew a tiny spider off his shoulder, and instead of screaming or squirming, we both laughed about how the spider must have thought he was a tree and needed a lift down to the ground.

I blew air into the inflatable wading pool while the Nugget reveled in jumping through the sprinkler, and turning the faucet to make the streams spray higher...and lower...and higher again.

Then back into our cool house for naptime (after living in this beautiful old little bungalow with plaster walls that keep us from having to use the a/c until it hits 90, I wonder why builders ever switched to drywall).  I forgot to rub his little legs down with baby powder, so there will surely be sand in the sheets.  I had got to sweep up a giant pile of dirt and sand from the floors from all the in and out traffic this morning...of dirty dog paws, gritty Nugget sandal-ed feet, and fresh-from-weeding-the-garden Mama feet.

The backup corduroy pants and long sleeve shirt have been swapped out of the diaper bag and replaced with clean shorts and his least-favorite tee.  We met friends at a park for a Bubble Date.  The children galloped, skipped, and ran across new brilliant grass and decorated bald dirt patches with their footprints.  Little brows got sweaty, little cheeks got red, little hands eagerly grasped for water bottles.  Each child went home coated with dried bubble solution, like those sponges that come infused with soap, primed for warm baths.

We tucked the Nugget into his bed with the ceiling fan whirling overhead, his Giraffe clutched at his side, his shortie jammas on for the first time this year, looking so different now over big boy underpants instead of a bulky night diaper.

It was the kind of day I'd like to keep in a jar.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Homestudy, check!

Our licenser came to the house today for our homestudy.  (For those keeping track, this is the 3rd professional social worker who has come to survey our home since we started the adoption/foster process.)

I've been worrying much more about the foster homestudy, because the state requirements seemed much higher than private adoption requirements.  (It's all about liability.)  We passed, despite the fact that I housekeeping-impaired, and our licenser will write up our homestudy documentation this week.  We meet her next week to review and sign the document.

In other "hoop" news, criminal checks for WA are done.  I took my online fostering assessment today, and Hubby needs to take one too.

Waiting for:
1. WA CPS checks to clear.
2. References to be turned into the licenser.  I know at least 2 of our references received their forms and are working on them already.  Really thankful for all friends and family who have served us as references along the way.  We could not have done this without you.

Still to do (before or after placement):
1.  Adoption/Permanency Training
2.  Handbook Training

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tortoise



There is a tortoise statue at our local zoo that gets a lot of love.  Every spring/summer, thousands of children scramble onto its back and parents get their cameras ready.  I wish it could talk...either it would have misty-eyed recollections of watching children grow up over the years...or it would be a crusty curmudgeon who'd yell something like, "You kids get off my lawn!"  I like to think it would be the former.

Here's the Nugget with our tortoise friend, from his first ride in 2009 and his latest in 2011.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cheesy Potatoes

Every woman on Grammy's side of the family has her own version of this yummy, prep-ahead side dish.  It will be part of my Mother's Day dinner; all Hubby will have to do is throw it in the oven.  The crunchy topping can be breadcrumbs, French's onions, crushed potato chips, Special K, cornflakes, or anything you can imagine!  Perfect with burgers, sandwiches, an egg dish, or ham.

Cheesy Potatoes - my version
1 bag frozen cubed hashbrowns
2 c shredded cheddar
1 c lite sour cream
1 can Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
1/4 c melted butter
a crunchy topping
onion powder
garlic powder
fresh ground pepper

Grease a 9x13 spray with oil, butter, or cooking spray.  Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and season to taste.  Spread the potato mixture evenly in the dish and add your favorite crunchy topping.  Cover and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until hot and bubbly and topping is lightly browned.

Baked Brie

I tried a new recipe for baked brie tonight, and it's a winner for sure.

Baked Brie - adapted from All Recipes
Small wheel of brie (I used the Presidente brand in the small wood box)
5 sheets Phyllo dough, thawed - find it in the freezer section near the frozen pies
Pepper Jelly - I used the Tastefully Simple Jalapeno Pepper Jelly but I think raspberry jam or Harry and David's Pepper and Onion Relish would be yummy too.
Olive oil

Lay out a single sheet of phyllo on a cutting board.  Brush with olive oil.  Top with another sheet of phyllo and repeat.  When you get to the final sheet, instead of brushing it, center your wheel of brie on top.  Spread a light layer of jelly on top of the brie.  Wrap the sides of the phyllo up and around the cheese.  Brush the top with olive oil and bake at 350 F for 15-18 minutes until phyllo is crunchy and light golden brown at the edges.

We enjoyed it on whole wheat crackers with thinly sliced apples on top, but I think pears, grapes, pecans, and fresh baked bread would be other nice additions.

Unfortunately, I have a ton of thawed phyllo now and no way to use it.  Guess I'll be searching for more recipes!

Friday, May 6, 2011

May I have it in a sentence, please?


I have 2 new vocabulary words, complete with definitions, straight from the mouth of the Nugget.

Blass goss:  something you use to ride a horse and a cow (I think he means a saddle)

Bamber:  like a waterfall made of milk; a milkfall
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"A has lots of curly hair, because she braided it lots and lots at the supermarket when she was born-ned."
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We have a new sitter, Miss A.  For the first night she was here with the Nugget, we wanted to make it special, so she brought her Curious George movie with her for them to watch together.  He watched it solemnly.  When it was over, she asked, "How did you like the movie?"  The Nugget responded, "I didn't like it because George made sad choices."
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Pictured:  The Nugget's new circus act.  He goes from standing to upside down in half a second.  So beware if he takes both of your hands...this is what he has in mind.  Hold on tight!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bubbles





I remember blowing bubbles for a Baby Nugget.  He was a summer baby, and we didn't have a/c in our WA house.  There were a couple weeks where it would be 10 degrees hotter inside the house than outside.  I'd put a blanket or beach towel down on the prickly dead lawn and blow scented bubbles from the Dollar Tree, and a sweaty, cranky baby boy would startle, then focus calmly on the translucent orbs floating up in the sky.  Only for a few minutes, because I couldn't put sunscreen on his brand new skin.

The next year, we'd pack them up and take them with us to a park, the bubbles always in risk of leaking on the Gerber puffs in my overstuffed diaper bag.  A handsy Nugget would take a few seconds to coo and grab at the bubbles but then make a clumsy yet persistent swipe for the bottle in my hands.

The following summer was his first in the Midwest.  I'd hold the bottle and let him try to blow, but he'd only dip the wand into his mouth again and again.  Sputtering and dribbling soapy drool down his chin.  It would attract sand to his face like a gritty goatee.

Our second summer here, we discovered the no-spill bubble tumblers, and bubbles would become a more independent outdoor activity.  Last summer, the Nugget would blow and blow in frustration, and after a few weeks, he mastered the slow gentle breaths that yielded beautiful bubbles.  Only for a moment, then he would tire of the activity and toss them to the ground in search of new fun.  Or he would shake and shake the tumblers until the soap foamed and lost its ability to make a satisfying bubble.

This year, we pulled out the tumblers and refilled them with fresh solution from a giant neon yellow bottle.  All but one have lost their decorative decals and they are scuffed from being dropped on the cement.  Thanks to Daddy's diligent hunting, they still each have a wand.  The Nugget ran right to them, and created what is, for me, the harbinger of summer.  Behold, the bubbles.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Move along

Got an unexpected call today!  Our licenser is busy, but luckily she has a co-worker who is going to take on our foster parent homestudy.  She gave me a short to-do list of missing forms, which I completed this afternoon and will mail to her tomorrow.  She is going to call us to schedule our homestudy right away.

Back to the missing forms; she needed a city, county, and state background check from WA since we lived there in the past 5 years.  One thing that was great though - WA has just one central criminal history record for the entire state, so they were condensed in a single check!  Our home state now keeps those 3 criminal records totally separate, so if you were an offender booked by the county, the state might not have the record of your crime and vice versa.  Does this make a lick of sense, especially in this digital age?  I don't get it.

Spring Carnival





This week, a couple of dorms at our local university put together a free spring carnival for children in the community.  Daddy finished up work early and joined us for the following:

1 ball thrown at the dunk tank before dissolving into worried tears about the dunkee
1 pony ride
1 preschool friend spotted and hugged repeatedly
2 treats (sno-cone and cotton candy) begged for, received, and rejected after a single bite (good thing they were free!)
1 baseball painted on cheek
10 runs through the inflatable obstacle course
2 turns in the bouncy house
30 minutes waiting in line for the inflatables
1 hotdog, consumed only after having the chargrilled outer layer "peeled off"
2.5 hours of fun
2 exhausted parents