Friday, December 31, 2010

The 2010 Gingerbread Competition

Last year my family decided to start an annual Christmas themed decorating competition.  See my cleverly worded blog post entitled, Competition, to view the magnificent Rice Krispies Treats Christmas houses we decorated last year.

This year's challenge was to see who could come up with the most creative Gingerbread boy and girl.

We had a huge assortment of candy to work with; colored Twizzlers, sprinkles, raisins, marshmallows and M&M's to name a few.

After two hours and 15 minutes of decorating.  I kid you not.  Here are our creations:

 Grandma's


My brother, Uncle Johnny's


Ava's


Mine
Instead of staying up North for the Holidays, my Gingerbread couple decided to get away from it all and headed down to Miami.  Unfortunately, my Gingerbread-boy was mistakenly identified by some as Baby New Year.  
Perhaps I should have honed my bathing suit making skills before deciding on my theme.

 


My Sister, Aunt Joannie's

Joanne decided to make her Gingerbread people in the likeness of our mom and dad.  There they both are in their glasses, mom in her housecoat, and dad, "the shop-a-holic", with trusty Macy's bag in hand!  




Joanne once again, was the clear-cut winner.  Well, aside from Ava that is ;)




Thursday, December 23, 2010

This Christmas

My uncle's memorial service was yesterday.  He's gone and everything has changed.  It's hard to accept so I keep focused on other things.  The Holidays and other personal events have kept my mind occupied.  When all is quiet though the sadness creeps it's way back in.  My throat is sore from the lump in it. 

My Grandmother, whose name was Filomena, and Grandfather or Pop Pop, named Joseph, had two children.  My mom and my Uncle Francis.  My uncle couldn't say Antoinette growing up so he just called her Sister.  It stuck and now my aunt and all four cousins call her sister too.  Luke calls Ava sister.  I like that.

My mom and Uncle Fran grew up in New York City until the ages of nine and six when my Pop Pop moved the family to Long Island. Their entire family lived in New York City, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and I learned yesterday that the fact that my Grandfather moved my Grandma and the kids all the way to Plainview, really pissed my Grandma's mother off. 

My Pop Pop was a kind-hearted gentleman and he made sure that he picked my Grandma's mother up every Friday night and returned her back home to the city every Sunday so she could come out to Long Island each weekend to spend time with her daughter and grandchildren.  My great-grandma refused to talk to him during those long car rides.  Not a word in either direction.  I learned that this went on for a long, long time but it never stopped my Grandfather from picking her up.  That was just the kind of guy he was.

My uncle was not the kind of guy who would stand for that but his heart was big all the same.  He'd do anything for his family and his friends. He was loved.  He was very successful and highly respected within his industry and many of his colleagues spoke at his service yesterday.   My uncle was a real jokester so it was really fun to hear about his escapades.  I remember one Christmas when I was a little girl, Uncle Fran picked out an archery set for my cousin Francis and then hand-painted a t-shirt with a bulls eye on it for my cousin Sal.  His friends shared many similar stories yesterday, and I enjoyed hearing them all.

I had never been to a memorial service before.  Been to plenty of wakes and funerals but never seen it done this way before and it was a true celebration of him and his life.  He was loved very much by so many and it was nice to hear the stories his friends and my cousins and his grandchildren shared about him.

Christmas is in a couple days and my aunt and cousins and their families will all be at my parents house to celebrate and it's all because of him.  Christmas is a big deal in our family and being Italian, Christmas Eve is just huge.  We go all out with all of the pasta and the fish sauces.  It's so much fun.  I love our traditions.  It was very important to him that the family be together at Christmas time and right before he even found out he was sick, he bought plane tickets for my cousins and their families to fly to the East coast so we could all be together at my parents house this year.  I'm grateful to him to be able to spend this Christmas with my aunt and my cousins and their families because I love them all so much.   The greatest gift we'll get this year are the memories we'll make as a family, all because of him.  Thank you Uncle Francis. Nothing will ever be the same without him though and the thought of never seeing him again, makes me incredibly sad.

There are so many thoughts swirling in my head.  So much I wanted to write.  We just went to this yearly celebration at Ava's school called Kuumba Day. Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah), is the 6th principle of Kwanzaa; Creativity, To do as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it. A couple of the Kindergarten moms are very talented musicians and they came up with the idea of adding a drum circle to the festivities.  My friend was excited to find out how well their concept for the drum circle was received and to learn the school was going to incorporate it on a yearly basis.  I thought in that moment how very cool it was that my friends idea, therefore a part of them, would remain a part of the school forever. Children attending the school, far beyond their children's years in the school, will be positively impacted and inspired by something they created.  The children will not know who was responsible for creating the drum circle, but the positive effects and the joy their creation brings, will be felt all the same.

My Uncle lives on in the recipes and techniques which inspired an industry.  He lives on in the thoughts of all of all who loved him, he lives on in our hearts. He lives on in the stories and the memories we all will share and pass on from generation to generation.

We live on in our communities. Everyone might not know our names, and we may not be easily identified in our contributions, but the fact remains that we live on in all that we touch.  In all that we share. In all that we do.  It is in the seemingly small that the greatest contributions and impacts are made. It's in the sharing of our ideas and in the support we give our community members that make a difference. It's in all that we've done to lend a helping hand, to positively impact others that make us special. 

Everyday we have the potential to touch and enhance lives we may not even be aware we are impacting.  Let's use our powers for good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sesame Cookies

Luke and I actually made these Sesame cookies together while Ava was in school one day.  I let him blend the ingredients and then he helped to roll the cookies out and dip them in the milk and sesame seeds.  It's always fun to bake with my little man.

Ingredients

¼ lb butter, softened
½ Cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
Additional milk
1 cup sesame seeds

Here’s What You Do

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar - about 3 minutes. This is a really important step. You should always, always, always cream butter for 3 minutes.  Add the egg, milk and vanilla.  Mix until well blended.  On low speed, add the flour and baking powder. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until blended.  This will be a soft dough.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls.  I use an ice cream scoop.  Dip balls in a bowl of about a 1/2 cup of milk, then in a bowl filled with sesame seeds.  This will help the seeds adhere.  Place the cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.  Gently press the tops of the cookies to flatten.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  I bake mine for 12 minutes.  Again, it depends upon your oven. Remove cookie sheets from oven. Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies from the cookie sheet onto a wire cooling rack.  Cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

These cookies are delicious and were a perfect addition to my Christmas cookie trays.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pignoli Cookies

My family loves Pignoli cookies.  What's not to love, right? I've made 4 batches already this season.  Some for us, but most have been meant for the cookie platters I've been making for family and friends.  They're always a huge hit so I always include them on my cookie trays.   

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs Almond Paste
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup Confectioners' sugar
4 egg whites
1 Cup pine nuts

Here's What You Do

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees

In an electric mixer, combine the almond paste, sugar, confectioners' sugar and egg whites on low speed until blended.  Then mix for 2 minutes on medium speed which will make the dough sticky.

Roll the dough into one inch balls.  I use an ice cream scooper and it works great!  Place the cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Using your fingers, slightly flatten the tops of the cookies and then sprinkle them with pine nuts. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  I bake mine for 15 minutes, it really depends on your oven.  

Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on parchment for easiest removal.  This is a really important step.  I forgot all about it when making my first batch this season and the cookies were really hard to remove from the silicon baking pan I used without parchment.  

When the cookies are completely cool, use a spatula to loosen them from the parchment.  

Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!!!



If you plan on making a lot of Pignoli Cookies and perhaps have a family member or friend you can split a large quantity with, I have a huge money saving tip for you...

Nutsonline.com sells nuts in bulk and therefore at a very deep discount.   My mom and I shared a 7 lb can of Almond Paste this season for Thirty Seven dollars.  This is a huge savings because in the past I've paid Ten Dollars a Pound for the Almond paste in my local supermarket.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

City Life - Apartment Facelift

I've spent most of this morning visiting the Raymour and Flanigan website trying to decide on new furniture for the apartment.  We just gave Luke's room a little face lift in the form of new awesome toy storage and now we're focusing on buying new furniture for the kitchen and living room.  We're getting rid of our big wall unit so we can move in a chaise lounge to go along with our couch.  It's really going to look great.  I'm also trying to figure out what colors I want to paint the walls which is a huge task in itself.  I can't believe how many shades of each color there are to choose from.  Decisions, decisions.  One thing for sure is that we're hiring someone to paint this time.  Neither of us have the time or patience and I know full well that not doing it ourselves is going to result in a much quicker, smoother and therefore happier apartment transformation.   It's exciting.

With Christmas coming and my electronic Amazon.com shopping cart rapidly filling with more stuff to fill our city space, I realized that it was high time to start make changing around our space - before I came back from my parents house in the burbs with all of our Christmas packages because for the past few years I've suffered from post-holiday blues derived from returning to our 3-bedroom city apartment with loads and loads of crap after a week long stay at my parents spacious home in the burbs.  I vowed not to do it to myself again this year.  It's high time that we work on making this space an awesome one so Stephen and I decided to start with Luke's room which houses the kids toys and chose two matching wooden toy storage units along with  really cute fabric drawers in various colors and designs to fill the cubbie holes.  We tossed out the big old cumbersome toy bin that the kids couldn't find their toys in to play with anyway and what a difference it has made.  The new units are adorable and I cannot believe how much space we picked up because of them.  Now every Barbie, toy truck and train has their own little home.  Completely organized!  It doesn't feel like the same space.

After we're done with the living room and kitchen and I finally buy my new Kitchen Aid, which I will finally have the counter space for, I am not going to want to ever leave this apartment.... Well, not for a while anyhow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Trees

Before I start posting more recipes, I wanted to share a project I did with Ava's Kindergarten class.  In addition to baking and cooking with the kids on a weekly basis, Ava's teacher has invited parents to come into the classroom to share their talents.  One of the moms is a very talented designer and she came in and worked on a project with the kids combining artwork and a story created by them, another mom came in to teach yoga.

Thanksgiving was approaching and I remembered a project that the students did in the preschool Ava attended.  With the help of their teachers, the kids made "Thanksgiving Trees."  The tree was a Birch Branch on which paper leaves and little tags hung.  "I am thankful for...." was written on one side of the tag and the child's response on the other.  I started around town in hopes of finding supplies for 16 trees, enough for each student in Ava's class.  I started combing the park for good branches but had little success.  The "trees" I found were just plain old sticks.  On one of our walks home from school one day, I noticed a beautiful Birch with perfect branches.  That wasn't going to work out though, as I knew I was going to have a tough time explaining to my neighbor exactly what the heck I was doing up on a ladder with my trusty sheers, cutting down the branches from his tree.  I decided to try our local florists.  The first florist would happily sell me 16 twigs for twenty bucks.  Yeah thanks, but no thanks. The second, said they couldn't get me the branches at all.  I started to wonder if I this art project was really going to happen when I decided to try a third place.                                                    
The third time was a charm and a very awesome, non-greedy and helpful florist named Frank told me not only could he get me the branches, but that he would give them to me for free!  Isn't that great?  Thanks to Frank, I am delighted to share with you the pictures of the Thanksgiving Trees created by Ava's Kindergarten class. 


The kids really enjoyed working on this project.  They happily decorated their branches with multicolored leaves and excitedly told me all that they were thankful for.  Responses ranged from their moms and dads to hot chocolate!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Pretzels

 We've been baking up a storm over here!  I have lots of great recipes to share with you but for now here are some pictures of our Christmas pretzels.  They came out great! We're planning on giving them out in decorative jars and tins and have also been using them to help decorate our cookie trays.


For instructions on how to make them, just click  here on my blog post entitled Chocolate covered M&M pretzels.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Tis the Season

The Christmas season is upon us and the kids and I have been having a lot of fun preparing for the Holidays.  As you know, we enjoy baking for our family and friends and we are off to a great start.  Our pretzels, Chocolates, Chocolate truffles, Italian Wedding and Chocolate Chip Cookies are done.  Next up on our list are the Rugelach,  Pinoli Cookies, Sesame Cookies and Coconut Macaroons. Yum! I've never made Rugelach before but I have my mom's recipe, which is delicious, so I can't wait to try them later on today. 

Ava and I went to see the New York City Ballet perform the Nutcracker last weekend in Lincoln Center.  We went to Bar Boulud beforehand for brunch, one of Daniel Boulud's restaurants that I've been dying to try, and  had an amazing time together.  We've decided to make this a yearly tradition and I'm already looking forward to next year.  She's a really funny kid and decided that it would be fun to play a combination of Top Chef, as she was really excited to find out that the chef is a guest judge on that program from time to time, and Chopped.  I enjoyed listening to her critique the food.  It was funny to hear my five year old describe her potatoes prepared by a top chef in NYC as being "overdone".

Right now, I'm sitting in the living room all alone in the quiet with nothing lighting the room other than the white lights on our Christmas tree.  The room looks beautiful.  A ceramic Santa and Mrs. Claus sits on our mantle. My Grandmother, my mom's mom, made them both.  She and my Grandfather ran a ceramics studio in their basement in Long Island.  Their garage housed two kiln and my Grandfather was in charge of pouring the molds.  I used to love painting ceramics alongside my Grandma and her friends when I was a little girl.  My Grandma made the Santa and Mrs. Claus many years ago for my Aunt Maryann, my dad's brothers wife and also my Godmother.  She was very special to me and we were very close.  Last Christmas she sent the ceramics home with my parents for me.  She wanted me to have them because they were made by my Grandma.  She knew how much I loved her and thought it was important that I have them.  Aunt Maryann passed away this past August.  All of the Holidays on my dad's side were hosted at her and my Uncle Andy's house.  Some of my fondest memories growing up were Christmas's a their home with tons of family around as well as our annual girls versus guys game of Trivial Pursuit.

My cousins asked me to do a reading at her funeral and I was honored to do so.  I remember going to her home afterwards and soaking everything in.   Waves of sadness overcame me, thinking about how much things were going to change now.  It was hard to be in her home without her there.

Another great loss this year was the recent death of my uncle. My mom's brother.  He passed away unexpectedly less than two weeks ago.  I still can't believe it. I loved him very much.  He was one of the funniest guys you'd ever meet.  Very witty and always making fun of everyone in his path.  It was all in good fun though.  Everyone enjoyed being around him.  We've spent Thanksgiving and Easter with them for many years and his absence, along with the fact that my aunt will be moving across the country as a result, has left me very sad.  Things have changed tremendously on both sides of our family this year with the loss of two very special people close to my heart.  Close to all of our hearts.

Stephen and I planned to go to the hospital to say goodbye to my uncle the day he died but we were too late.  He called me at 4:15 to say that he was leaving work and we'd go to the hospital as soon as he got home.  My sister called two minutes later to say that it was too late. On our walk back from Tae Kwon Do that afternoon, I turned to Ava and told her that I had something very important to talk to her about.  She's spent a lot of time with my aunt and uncle and adores them both.  She put her hand up and said, "Don't tell me."  She knew that something was going on and that I had been worried about him.  I pressed on and told her that it was very important that I explain something to her.  She said, "Don't tell me, I already know."

That night at dinner talk turned to how her week was at school.  Two of the class hamsters had escaped from their cages.  We knew that the baby hamster was found alive and well, but weren't sure what ever became of the older one known as Jack "Hammy" Hamster, so Stephen asked, "So Ava, what ever happened to Jack "Hammy" Hamster?"  To which she replied... "You know, the same thing that happened to Uncle Fran".

Uncle Fran's Memorial Service is next week, just a few days before Christmas.  Back in August, my uncle bought airline tickets for my cousins, their four kids, to fly to the East coast Christmas week so we could all be together at my parents house on Christmas day. It's been many years since we've all been together.  In fact, we haven't all been together for Christmas since my Grandparents were alive. I'm very grateful that we will all be together this year.  Naturally though, it will be a difficult year.  I'm going to miss him very much.  We're all going to miss him very much.

I know that as time goes on, we will all begin to heal.  Nothing is more great or merciful than the gift of time.

One last thing that I'd like to share with you is that Ava's amazing teacher lent us a book to read together in light of all that's been going on entitled, "Houdini was..."  It was written by a group of 2nd graders in honor of their class pet who died, who also happened to be a hamster.  She warned me that the last page was going to make me cry so I may want to read it alone first.

It read...

As a wise person once said..."Don't cry that it's over...be happy that it happened."

Thank you Aunt Maryann and Uncle Francis for all of the love you've given and all of the memories you've helped our families create.  You will be missed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

LOTS of Fun Feeding Others

Our local homeless shelter provides lunch to approximately 50 people everyday.  Lunch on Tuesdays (LOTS) is a special service program at Ava's school, in which the students are asked to bring in an extra brown-bagged lunch from home to help feed the neighbors at the shelter.


Ava is really happy to participate.  She was very excited to show me the picture she made on the paper bag she was given by her teacher to decorate, and delighted in telling me how she and one of her friends asked the teacher to write the exact same thing on their lunch bags... "I hope you like your lunch." 

In order to support her enthusiasm, I suggested we make a special trip to to the grocery store so she could personally choose the items that would fill the lunch bag she so happily made. She was absolutely delighted with my suggestion, and after much consideration, chose a nectarine from produce, a small bag of mini-pretzels from the chip aisle and two big bulky round rolls to hold the roast beef and Swiss that she selected at the deli counter. 

It was also very important to her that she help prepare the sandwiches this morning, as well as pack them, along with all of the other items in the bag herself.  She even decided to share one of her mini Hershey's chocolate bars.

I could tell that she really enjoyed the whole process, from choosing the lunch she'd give to preparing and packing the lunch herself, and I enjoyed it as well.  My little Kindergartner's enthusiasm was contagious and it filled my heart with joy. 



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Deceptively Delicious Doughnuts

The kids and I baked Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious doughnuts this morning for breakfast.  They were delicious!  Here is the recipe for you to try too. 

I did a couple of things differently though.  The recipe calls for you to coat the doughnut mold with non-stick cooking spray but in my experience, and from what I've read, you're not supposed to use non-stick spray on non-stick pans because it ruins the properties of the pan.  I've always found that the non-stick spray leaves a really sticky residue on pans that's very difficult to get off and it just doesn't work as well as butter.  You can use light butter though, as I did this morning. 

Also, the recipe calls for you to cook the doughnuts for 20-25 minutes, however, when using mini-doughnut or mini-muffin pans, they take only 10 minutes to bake.

Ingredients
Butter or light butter for greasing pan
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 cup skim milk
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon trans-fat-free soft tub margarine spread (I used Country Crock)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Here's what you do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat mini-doughnut mold or mini-muffin tins with butter.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, pumpkin and sweet potato purees, milk, egg white, margarine and vanilla. 

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon and mix until completely incorporated.
















Pour the batter into a gallon-sized plastic bag and cut the bottom tip off of one side of the bag.  Use a pastry bag if you have one.  Then, squeeze the batter into the doughnut or mini-muffin mold. 




Bake until the tops are lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean when inserted, about 10 minutes.  Turn the doughnuts out onto a rack to cool. Coat with confectioner's sugar when cool.


Yum!!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Time to Make the Doughnuts

"Make sure you look pretty today Mommy," were Ava's words to me yesterday morning while getting ready to take her to school.  What she meant was that in addition to a "pretty outfit," she wanted me to put my make-up on.  I look pretty without make-up you see, but WAY, WAY prettier with it on.  It was important to Ava that we all look our best, even Luke, because yesterday was a big day.

Yesterday was a big day, because her teacher invited me and Luke to come into the classroom to bake doughnuts with the kids.  Each week Ava's Kindergarten class studies a letter of the alphabet and as part of their study, cook something that corresponds with the letter of the week.  Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious Doughnuts were on the menu for yesterday and they truly were delicious. 

I originally didn't have doughnut pans but after a trial run Tuesday morning, I realized that without them, our mini-doughnuts, were truly mini-muffins. I figured the kids were too smart for me to be able to pass mini-muffins off as Munchkins, so doughnut pans were a must.  There was no way I was going to be the mommy who came in to make the doughnuts, but really made muffins.  

My neurosis intense drive so as not to embarrass myself or my daughter, resulted in a credit card purchase of $18.64 for two mini-doughnut pans from Amazon.com and an additional $19.97 to ship them overnight.  Yep, that's exactly how my anxiety-ridden mind rolls.  I can't help it, I just like things to be right.

My cute little doughnut pans arrived on schedule and with the help of two other moms, and an adorable bunch of kids, I am happy to report that the baked doughnut making process was a complete success!

I will post the recipe and pictures once Ava and I make a batch at home for ourselves.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

School Days

Delving back into school, activities and lots of park time has been an adjustment for all of us after a very lazy Summer, but Kindergarten is great and Ava's loving it.  She adores her new teacher and is enjoying her new friends. 

There's a parent mixer next Saturday at one of our local restaurants which I'm very much looking forward to.  The school is providing free babysitting service (woo hoo!) so it can be an adults only event.  I had my first PTSO (Parent Teacher Student Organization) meeting Thursday night and it was great because the school also provided free babysitting service for that.  Stephen's been working like crazy so I wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. 

I was also excited to learn that I'm going to be able to help out in the classroom and volunteer at some of the annual school/parent-run events, because it's okay to bring Luke along with me.  Before learning this, I was actually feeling sort of sad.  There are so many opportunities to help out at the school, but I didn't think I was going to be able to do anything since I don't have any day-time help for Luke.

Ava's teachers words were like music to my ears.  When I expressed to her that I wanted to be involved but didn't have someone to look after Luke, without hesitation she said to bring him along.  Luke is welcomed too, so now I can participate and I think it's fantastic, because I really want to be involved in Ava's school/education.  Now I can with ease because I don't need to find and hire a babysitter to be a part of the community.

Like I said though, getting back into the swing of things, after our long-lazy Summer has definitely been an adjustment.  For example, at dance class the other day, I saw that Ava was wearing the lone pink leotard in a sea of black.... 

Looks like mommy ordered the wrong dance uniform, as I quickly realized that I couldn't have been the only parent to get it right.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Countdown to Kindergarten Continues

There's only a little over a week left of Summer vacation.  The days of sleeping in, and spending lazy days doing whatever we please, soon will be gone. We've been having an excellent Summer spending time at the park with pre-school friends, as well as spending weeks at a time at my parents home. We took Ava to see Mary Poppins, which was a fantastic experience.  She absolutely LOVED it and wants to go again.  Maybe Santa will bring her another set of tickets.  I've also loved spending time with old friends while visitng my home town.  I wish there were more time so I could get together with everyone. It's been such a peaceful, relaxing and fun-filled Summer.

Ava's very excited to go to school and that really pleases me. She was very nervous on the day of her Kindergarten orientation back in June.  By the time it was over though, she was happy and excited to attend her new school.  It was a huge relief.  Now she's ready for the Summer to be over and to start school. We also found out that she was assigned to the teacher she wanted which just makes this transition easier on her, and then naturally, us. I hope her positive attitude continues throughout her schooling.

We've done all of her back-to-school shopping.  She's got her new backpack and lunch bags, as well as snazzy new sneakers and purple boots.  She also has an all new Fall wardrobe.  Shopping was something I was really looking forward to, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.  I was a little concerned after leaving the first store we tried because after trying on piles of clothes, we only ended up purchasing 4 items.  Ava didn't like anything.  I don't know if it was the look of the items or the fit but I was getting a little concerned.  We ended up heading to the mall.  Thankfully, The Children's Place and Gymboree were hits with Ava and we chose a lot of cute stuff for her.
We've also spent some time making lists of all of the different kinds of food she might like to bring for lunches.  That was a really cute and fun activity.  Some of the lunches she thinks she'd enjoy are strawberries with cheese and crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, baked ziti and Mac and Cheese.  I'll share Ava's lists in another blog post, as I need to run now because I promised Luke I'd take him to see the boats down at the sea wall today.

Have a great day everyone!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Countdown to Kindergarten

Our Summer break has been wonderful but it's going by way too fast.  The countdown is on, and there's only one month remaining until my little girl will be heading off to Kindergarten.

We went shopping for school supplies last week with Grandma and Ava modeled every single backpack they had in the store until she finally decided on the perfect one.  She told us she wanted to try them all on to make sure they fit!

She chose two different lunch bags and and assortment of hot/cold food accessories for the days she'd like to bring her lunch.  Both bags were so cute, and she was so excited, that we just couldn't resist.  Grandma and Ava also decided that a new change purse was in order, to carry her money on the days she'd like to buy hot lunch or purchase a milk at school.

The memory we made shopping for Kindergarten school supplies is very special to me.  It was so much fun and Ava and I are both bursting with excitement for Kindergarten!

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to miss my little buddy during the day, as Kindergarten is full-time here. When I was little, Kindergarten was only half a day.  Full-day Kindergarten makes her seem more grown up to me. 

It's interesting though, because although she's growing up so fast and that sometimes makes my heart ache, I'd rather be in the moment with her at this age, than go back to the time when she was just a little baby.  Although wouldn't it be great to be able to go back in time for a day to relive those precious moments?!

I love that she's old enough now for us to see Broadway shows together.  I love that I can take her out to all kinds of restaurants, even the fancy ones!  I love the time we spend getting mani/pedi's together for special occasions.  One will definitely be in order to celebrate her first day in Kindergarten!  Mostly, I love the conversations we have.  She's smart as a whip and she cracks me up.

I love the school she got into for Kindergarten and that's really made this process so much easier on me as a mom.  It is the absolute best fit for her and us.  By getting into the charter school, she will be reaping the benefits of both private and public school and it really doesn't get any better than this.

We have a lot to look forward to.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On Forgiveness and Change

The weaning process has been very hard on me.  Luke seems to be fine but my hormones are completely out of whack and I look forward to this time passing quickly so I can feel normal again.  My sadness is tied into the fact that he may be my last baby.  I want more kids but am scared to go through another pregnancy for fear of another loss. 

I find myself feeling out of sorts with emotions lately which have me thinking about a lot of things.  The biggest topic which keeps popping up is that of forgiveness and the issues that I have with it.

A lot of it stems from the way I was growing up.  I was a nice kid who had great friends and also had some "friends" who treated me like crap, yet I kept coming back for more.  For me, it was all of the insecurities that come from being a teen aged girl and therefore fitting in with the group.  There's always a ring leader and if you stand up to the ring leader, your on the outs of the group.  Not with the group.  On the outs of the group. The friendships within, remain secretly intact, however when it comes to social gatherings, the one who stands up to the leader wll most frequently find herself sitting at home on a Saturday night.

I was the girl who stood up to the leader and found herself sitting at home on quite a few weekends in a row, while the rest of my friends were out at the parties with the leader of the pack.  Which looking back, doesn't say very much for those friendships but that's neither here nor there.

I didn't like sitting home so I learned to smile like a jerk in the face of the leader just to be able to go to the next party. Thus, be accepted by the group.  Eventually, as I became more self assured, I broke ties with such friends and moved on.  Things haven't changed much, I'm still the same girl who stands up for herself, and who suffers the consequences because of it.  What has changed though is that I no longer smile like a jerk, in the face of one!

A lot of the issues I had growing up with always taking people's crap, had to do with my Catholic upbringing. I was taught by my parents and the church to be merciful.  To show forgiveness.  It's the right thing to do.  That's true, but I believe that forgiveness is really the right thing to do for ourselves.  The people who hurt us didn't care enough in the first place not to, so they would care very little whether they were forgiven or not.  I also believe that Jesus loves us and doesn't care to see us continually being hurt by the same person/people.  In order to love others, we must first love and I'll add respect ourselves.

I saw a lot of myself in Ava and Stephen and I began to work with her.  She had been in a Christian preschool and they had a certain protocol which they follow when kids get into altercations.  Basically, one kid does something mean to another and then the kid who is wronged then has to explain to the kid who did something mean what they did that got them so upset in order to get their apology.  If they don't use their words, they don't get the apology.  Once they do use their words, the kid who did something wrong then says that their sorry and the kid who was hurt needs to say I forgive you and move one.  Which is absolutely fantastic for the kids who care very little about the feelings of their classmates and therefore hurt them in the first place, because there are no consequences.  It kinda sucks for the nice kids though.  

Stephen and I took matters into our own hands and Ava learned a hard lesson.  If you tell someone no and they see you crying and they do something to you anyway, they are NOT your friend.  Stay away from them because they will continue to do the same things over and over again. She cried.  But, in the end it's an excellent life lesson to have learned at a young age.  People don't change.  So you need to figure out who your friends are and move on from those who are not in order to live a happy, sane life.

We ran into someone this weekend who has never been nice to me and has been down right hurtful in the past. In being hurtful to me, this person was also very hurtful to Stephen.  He was a casualty of their not caring for me. There was no congratulations when Ava and Luke were born.  There was no call or card of condolence when Isabel died.  I said very little but in the end, asked how she was doing because I know she's going through a rough time.  I'm pissed at myself now for even doing so because she hurt me and Stephen through our kids and there's no forgiveness for that.

Her response...."Do you really care?"  People like this don't really change.

Mine response....NO!  I really don't.

I may not be changed for the better, but I have been changed for GOOD!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Weaning and Cabbage Leaves

I'm a little shocked and admittedly saddened by how quickly I was able to wean Luke.  He had been nursing less and less for some time but he always turned to nursing him to calm his moods.  If he had gotten hurt, angry, or was feeling a little sleepy, he always turned to me to comfort him by demanding to be nursed.  I also must admit that I was getting tired and a little uncomfortable when he'd demand milk, say in the middle of Panera when I was having coffee with a friend. 

I became intent on stopping the nursing when my Doctor gave me meds for my back a couple weeks ago, that weren't compatible with nursing.  I had been feeling like it was time to stop but didn't have the heart to do it because Luke may very well be my last baby.  That doesn't mean I wanted to continue nursing him forever, I just needed a little more time.  I took my back ache and prescription meds as a sign that it had become time to stop.

I figured the easiest thing to do would be to cut out the daytime feedings first.  In order to help with the pain of engorgement I used a trick that I learned after Isabel was delivered.  My milk had come in, even though I didn't have my baby and it was a very difficult time.  I was home from the hospital, absolutely beside myself because I lost her and then it happened...my milk came in.  Talking about rubbing salt in a wound. 

The advice my former Dr. gave me was to try binding the breasts in a tight fitting sports bra, but that didn't work at all.  I remember telling the nurses at his office how it wasn't working.  That everytime I checked milk would squirt out.  I remember sitting in the exam room waiting for the Dr. and hearing the nurses laughing saying that if I kept squeezing my breasts, the milk's never gonna dry up.  Thanks so much for your compassion. 

I had to take matter into my own hands and began to ask around and finally found someone who knew what to do.  The answer was cabbage leaves.  I feel compelled to say that this is a very personal post for me and the only reason that I'm going into such detail is because I have a lot of readers who find me through the Babyloss Directory as well as Glow In The Woods.  If this can help someone that's going though what I have, it's worth it to me to put myself out there like this.  I wasn't so brave at first though and ended up deleting a post on this topic after publishing the first time.

So what's this about the cabbage leaves?  Well, for some reason they work like a charm at drying up breast milk.  I'm assuming there's some chemical in it but haven't done the research to back that up so if any of you know what their magical powers are, please share your knowledge with all of us by leaving a comment in the comments section.

All I did was insert cold cabbage leaves into my sports bra and once they began to wilt I replaced them with new ones.  It only took a few days to work and dry up my supply.

I decided to do that with Luke and once again it worked like a charm.  I was no longer engorged and in pain during the day so it was easy for me to resist the urge to feed him in order to relieve the pain.  If I had fed him, my supply would have remained high and naturally, it wouldn't have helped the weaning process.

I think I was holding on to nursing because somehow in my mind, it meant that Luke was still my baby.   In the end I am extremely proud that I committed to nursing him for so long.  Longer than many do and I'm going to give myself credit for that. 

Please let me know what your experiences with weaning were like. Are there any tips and tricks that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Goodbye Extra Points, I'll Miss You

Went for a follow up appointment at my Dr's today and all is well and my back is feeling better.  I'll be heading to kickboxing tomorrow morning and am very much looking forward to our playdate with some of Ava's old classmates afterwards.

I'm struggling a little with my weight due to weaning.  Nothing major, about 4 lbs, but something I need to nip in the bud.  Or is it nip in the butt?  I think it's bud.  Anyhow, I need to pay attention.  One of the great things about nursing is all the extra calories, a.k.a. Weight Watcher points you get each day.  If it were socially acceptable, I may have nursed Luke 'til he was 10 years old for all of those extra snacks!

Alas, it is not, so I did what needed to be done... I checked the no box next to are you a nursing mother on my online tracker today and said goodbye to 3 points per day.  When I was solely nursing I was having a field day with 10 extra points, then some were taken away once solids were added to Luke's diet and here I am with none.

It appears as Luke was being weaned, so was I!

I've heard it said that some women actually lose weight once their babies are weaned.  Has this happened to any of you?  Do any of you believe it's true? Or, do you think it's some old wive's tale designed to get our kids off the breast before they hit puberty?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Talking About Kindergarten

I finally went back to kickboxing this morning after a 2 week hiatus. I never miss class.  I've been going 2-3 times a week for a year and a half now.
My backs been killing me though so my Dr. told me to cool it with the kickboxing for a while.  Since my back is now aching more than it had before class, I realize I should have waited a little longer. I worked so hard to lose weight and get in shape though that the thought of spending any more time away bothered me.  I feel like I need the class to feel good and to look good and it's great therapy.  It's better to punch/kick bags than people!
 
They have childcare so Ava and Luke were excited to come along.  They really love the ladies who take care of them while I work out.  It's nice that Ava gets to come along too now that school is out.  I'm going to miss taking her there with us once school starts in September.
 
We've been going to the park on Monday and Wednesdays after class with one of my mommy friends and her son.  She takes kickboxing class with me and Ava and her son were in the same pre-k 4 class together this past year.  It's nice to be able to spend so much time together outside of school, especially since the kids won't be going to Kindergarten together.  Both kids schools are in close proximity to the same park though so I'm sure that we'll be running into all of her old classmates come September.

Kindergarten has become a huge topic for me.  I definitely will be blogging about it a lot because it's such an exciting time.  I love her new school and am so excited that she got in.  There are so many things that I'm looking forward to.  I'm excited that she'll be learning to read and write in Kindergarten, that they teach to the student, and I really love how much they want the parents to be involved.  It feels like a real community. 
 
The Director was telling a group of us at the school tour for accepted students, that she thought about going into the Peace Corps but instead, asked to be placed in the worst and roughest public school in NYC.  She worked there for many years making a difference and changing the lives of the urban poor.   I was impressed.
 
I was also impressed when she told us that there were no locks for the kids lockers at Ava's new school, however, none of the students have ever gone into someone else's locker and taken something that's not theirs.  This was refreshing to me because by the end of Ava's stint in preschool I couldn't let her bring or wear anything to school that I feared someone would admire, feel entitled to and therefore take from her.  Can I wear this necklace mommy?  No!  What about this ring?  No!  Silly Bandz?  Fine but you better not take them off!  There were two too many incidences where Ava was left crying.

The Director of Ava's new school said, the kids may not all love each other, but they respect each other.  I like it.  Actually, I love it!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mommy Read Me

Luke walked up to me this morning, handed me the book called Noisy Kisses and said, "Mommy read me."  I love it when he does this.  I'm happy that he enjoys being read to just as much as Ava does.  I'm proud that my kids love books so much.  Ava has an excellent vocabulary and I attribute that to all of the reading we've done together. Luke is repeating words and some sentences from his books.  Aside from all they're learning,  it's also important to me to take advantage of this special time we have together.  The kids are growing up so fast and it won't be long until Ava prefers reading on her own, as opposed to being read to while sitting on my lap.

I realized this while in Barnes & Noble a few months back.  I started out in the children's picture book section, and then wandered over to young readers age 5-7 to pick up the latest Ivy & Bean, when all of a sudden a wave of sadness washed over me.  It occurred to me that it won't be long until Ava outgrows the picture books altogether. 

There's still time for picture books though and my realization has made me treasure my time spent reading to them even more.

We have many many favorites.  Far too many to list them all.  However, off the top of my head, I can say that some of our very favorites are Little Red Bird by Nick Bruel, We're All In The Same Boat by Zachary R. Shapiro, The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog! by Mo Willems, Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Lilly's Big Day, Yoko and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Hankes and Ballet Kitty by Bernette Ford.

What are your favorite children's books?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crazy Misunderstood

I just got back home from a nice, relaxing and much needed massage.   I've done a number on my back.  I think the combination of kickboxing, lifting Luke who is 35 lbs, carrying him up and down stairs, and pushing him in the stroller along with Ava attached via Buggy Board all around town, has really taken its toll. 

I called for an appointment yesterday afternoon and got in for 9am this morning.  I thought for a moment that it was going to stink to have to get up early and get out of the house to go but then realized how absolutely ridiculous that was.  Yeah, God forbid I wake up a little early to go lay down for a 90 minute massage.  That sooooooooooooooo hard! At least I can make fun of myself and get when I'm being ridiculous.

My massage therapist asked about the kids and I was telling her how Ava was off to Kindergarten in September.  She asked how I felt about it expecting me to be sad but I'm really not.  It's interesting because I hated the thought of putting her in pre-k.  I was not ready to let her go at 3 years old.  Kids are still so little then.  They even still look like babies. 

It was in the Fall of 2007 that we interviewed at her pre-school.  Ava was only 2 at the time but would be entering their preschool program the following September at the age of three, if she, we, were accepted.  I was pregnant with Luke at the time.  Isabel had just been delivered a few months earlier and I was feeling so sad and scared wondering if Luke would actually come out alive.  I had little interest in Ava being anywhere away from me, and here we were interviewing to send my baby girl away. May sound absolutely ridiculous and overly dramatic to you, but that's how it felt for me.

We found out that she was accepted into the schools 3 morning program on March 3rd of 2008.  I remember because it was Stephen's Birthday.  Two months later, Luke arrived via C-Section at 35 weeks, via emergency c-section due to complications with clotting.  I realized that if I had not been at the Dr's office that day, that he would have died too and that and his short stint in the NICU due to the fact that he was having trouble breathing, had both me and Stephen completely unnerved.  We had been through a lot in a one year span.  Luke was actually meant to be delivered via c-section on June 19th, which was Isabel's delivery date.

We were both very afraid that Luke might have suffered some sort of brain damage due to the lack of oxygen at birth and once we were home we noticed that his breathing still didn't sound right.  He was making really strange sounds.  In order for me to get any sleep, my mom and sister went out and bought me one of those crib monitors for peace of mind.  I knew that if he stopped breathing, an alarm would sound.

We see now that he's a strong, healthy little boy, who is smart as a whip! We didn't know what to expect then though because when he was in the NICU the Dr. kept finding these little things wrong with him.  He ran a fever and was deficient in Vitamin C.  It was one thing after the other.  He even bares a scar on the top of his head which was caused by the IV the nurse had to put there for him to get the medications and vitamins he needed because it was the biggest vein she could find.  She put it in wrong though and it dripped and caused the scarring.

School started in September and there I was with my little 3 year old girl and 4 month old son feeling shaken but at that point, no one knew what had happened to us and what we were going through.

I knew first hand that bad things did happen and that they happened to me.

I remember being completely freaked out the day we were told that the school would be taking the kids on a walking trip to the Hudson River and I was like, seriously?  You're taking a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds to the River?!  I envisioned one of them falling in, and by one of them, I mean Ava.   

I'm pleased to report that no one fell in and all was smooth until the notice of lice in school came out 2 weeks before school was over.  Once again, I'm thinking, if anyone's kid's gonna get it, it's gonna be my kid.  I envisioned her coming home with it and passing it along to both me and Luke.  Stephen was lucky, he's bald!  There would be lice in the pillows and lice in the rugs.  Yikes!

She didn't get lice though.  Thankfully.  After the school year was over though, I heard that one of the teachers said that some of the moms were crazy and actually called the school to see if there was lice in the classroom because God forbid their little darlings (or something to that affect) get lice. 

I don't remember exactly because I was so overcome by the embarrassment at how I was being perceived.

As one of the "crazy" moms who called, was me.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On City Life, Playdates and Schooling

Summer break has been wonderful. We've been sleeping late and spending lots of time with our families and friends. We've moved on from the school that Ava was in for Pre-K, but have been having many playdates with the good friends we made while there. In fact, we have a little Birthday party to go to tomorrow morning which we are both really looking forward to.

I'd say a little over 1/2 the kids in Ava's Pre-K4 class will be staying on for Kindergarten, whereas the remainder of students are off to different schools. When Ava started Pre-K there at the age of 3, she was placed in a class of 14 which primarily consisted of second year students.  Sort of a combined Pre-K 3/Pre-K 4 class, only 10 out of the 14 students were in the Pre-K4 portion and therefore, went off to Kindergarten this past year.  Not many of the kids in her class that year stayed at the same school either though.  I think it was only 4 of the kids in that specific class whose parents chose the school for Kindergarten. 

We're still in touch with all of our friends though.

That's the great thing about living in a city like ours though.  Although our kids may be going to different schools, you still end up bumping into everyone you know all of the time, whether it's on the sidewalk, in the park, at dance class, in a restaurant or going with a very good mommy friend to a benefit and in turn, running into half the city there (boy was that fun and a story for another day). 

I've been fortunate enough to have kept in really close contact with our friends so we're constantly in contact by phone, FaceBook, E-mail, organized playdates and the best get-togethers of them all...those that consist of the moms going out on the town while the dads stay home with the kiddie kiddies.  I think some of my mommy friends and I might be trying Mario Batali's Otto next.  Looking forward to it!

I'm also happy to report that we've already had a playdate with one of Ava's new classmates.  It was great. The mom was really nice and down to earth.  The girls are the same age and so are our boys and all the kids got along perfectly.  The mom was thoughtful enough to invite us as a family to Ava's new little friends Birthday party this coming Sunday. 

It's great for the girls to spend this time together before the school year starts and we are all very excited to attend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Breastfeeding and Pediatric Dentistry

I'm still breastfeeding Luke.  Very few times a day but nonetheless, I know it's time to pull the plug.  He's a willfull kid and is not taking the reduction of feedings lying down.  He points and yells and clasps his hands together begging "cheese!" (his version of please).  After listening closer I think he may actually be saying tease!!!  But, that's neither here nor there. I have to say that he looks really cute when he does that so I want to give in but I have to be strong because I have what seems to be a pinched nerve and need to get him off the breast so I can take the medication I need to.

Part of me wants to forget the meds so I don't have to stop breastfeeding him, but in the end, I know once we're done, I'll be relieved.  The only thing that's pulling on my heartstrings is the fact that he's probably the last baby for me so I don't want to cut the nursing short.  Although, it's been 2 years and I'm tired.  I didn't nurse Ava this long. I only nursed her to about 19 months when our Pediatric Dentist told me to stop immediately because Ava had 5 cavitites and needed a cap!  That's what happens when bad genetics and nursing to sleep combine with some kids.

Speaking of Ava and teeth.  On one of the last days of school, she and this little boy collided on the playground.  She smashed into his head with her teeth.  I was told by the teacher that the little boy had a goose egg and Ava's mouth was bleeding.  When I picked her up from school that day, I noticed that one of her teeth had broken as well.  I wondered if the other kid walked away with it in his head but figured it was on the playground somewhere and would eventually be mistaken as a unique white rock by one of the other kids and they would take it home and add it to their collection.  Kids do love rocks.  Which is fine I guess, as long as they're not putting them in their mouths or sticking them up their noses.

I have to say that it was a very clean break.  Very straight.  Cosmetically she was fine and an official soft-serve ice cream test after dance class that night, proved that there was no nerve damage.  I spoke to her dentist on the phone and she said that considering her age, there was really nothing to do as long as she wasn't in pain, as she'll start losing her teeth within a couple years anyhow.  Now we've noticed though that her front tooth, not the one that broke, the one next to it, is turning gray.  Some day it's grayer than others, which I cannot explain but was talking to a mommy friend yesterday who told me the same thing happened to her son.  She said that eventually, her sons tooth turned white again.  We'll see.  Oh, by the way, in case this helps anyone, our pediatric dentist said that if Ava's tooth was loose (which it wasn't) we should put her on a soft food only diet for 2 weeks.  She said this would allow the tooth to strengthen and would then re-attach.  Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Isabel's Rose

Three years ago today I was 6 1/2 months pregnant and learned that my babies heart stopped beating.  Three years ago today, I was induced into labor and was told my baby Isabel would arrive the next day.  It would be a "normal" delivery.  Three years ago today, life as I knew it changed.

Things are ok now.  I am blessed to have my Ava and I am blessed to have my son Luke.   Still,  I wonder what Isabel would have been like.  Would her temperment have been like Luke's?  Would she have been more like Ava? 

When I held her in my arms I noticed that she looked just like me.  I'm told by my sister that Luke looks just like me now. 

I still have the cute little cranberry sweater with the teeny tiny buttons on the shoulder that I bought for her when I was pregnant , along with the cute little piggie outfit from Gymboree that I bought in hopes for her to wear once she arrived. 

Her urn still sits in our hutch.  I'm not ready to let any of it go.  The clothes that were meant for her, will remain with me.  She will too because I still can't stand the thought of burying her.

About a week after Isabel's delivery, I received a note in the mail from Gerri and Georgie, my mom's cousins, telling us that they sent a rose bush in honor of her to my parents house to be planted in her memory. 

Two years ago, but not to this day, my father gave me this picture.  It's a photo of one of the roses from Isabel's rose bush.  I hung it on my fridge alongside all of the ones I had posted of Ava.  I looked at it daily.  I looked at it everytime I fixed a meal, everytime I got a drink, and everytime I made a snack (which is a whole lot of viewings a day because you all know how much I love my snacks).

It was one year ago today that I posted this picture of Isabel's rose in honor of her on my Facebook page.  It was one year ago today that my friend Sally asked if one of the petals was really heart shaped.  I didn't know what she was talking about so I had to go back and take another look at the picture.

I couldn't believe my eyes.  There it was right in front of me all of that time and I never noticed it before. 

I asked her if she thought it was a sign and she said that she was sure of it and that she was convinced that it was Isabel sending me her love.

It was one year ago today that a friend opened my eyes to a heart shaped petal that restored a little bit of my Faith.

Tomorrow is June 19th, Isabel's delivery date.  It was also my maternal Grandfather, Joseph's Birthday.   I remember my mom telling us that it was his Birthday in the hospital while my dad was holding Isabel in his arms.  My dad immediately looked down at Isabel and smiled and said, "Filomena's got you now."  Filomena was my maternal Grandmother.  It was one of the most poignant moments in my life.

Tomorrow Stephen and I have plans to go out to dinner to celebrate Father's Day and we will celebrate because we have two little ones to be very grateful for.

Tomorrow I imagine there will also be a big celebration in Heaven.   

I'm sending them all my love.





New Beginnings

Summer break has begun and I am happy.  Last night we were invited to attend the annual end of year picnic for Ava's new school.  What a great time.  It was a pot luck picnic in the park.  Everyone brought a dish to share and people made everything from buffalo wings to salads, pizza to wraps.  As the line grew, one of the dads quickly picked up trays of food and started to pass out hot dogs and pot stickers to those waiting on line for food.  That and the many conversations going on made the line move quickly. 

We easily joined in with the other parents and set out our picnic blanket and joined in watching the rocket launchings.  Yes, the rocket launchings.  Ava's new school has a lot of after school clubs, one of which we learned yesterday is Rocket Club. The club is for the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders.  They build cool looking rockets and with the help of an adult, launch them every year at the annual picnic.  Stephen was so excited! He turned to Ava and said, "Do you want to join Rocket Club?!!!"  To which she replied, "Nope." 

That's okay, Stephen will get his chance to join Rocket Club when Luke goes to school there.

Stephen played freeze tag with the kids, we socialized with a lot of other adults, and were immediately recruited by one of the moms at the school to volunteer at an upcoming event.

Ava noticed that one of her new teachers was there and immediately jumped up saying let's say hi!"  We did.  Ava then ran around with the other kids and immediately made a new friend.

It was clear to both Stephen and I that Ava has already made the transition into her new school with ease, and so have we.

It was such a refreshing evening and we could not be happier about the change. 

Every end is a new beginning.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Segment

I was asked by my Weight Watcher leader to do a 3-4 minute segment on Mommyhood and weight loss for the open house tonight.  Still not exactly sure of what I'm going to say, but I DO like to talk about myself so I'm thinking it'll be a breeze ;)

I actually haven't lost much weight this year, have basically just been maintaining. I've been getting more compliments lately though, so I'm thinking that all of the kickboxing I do has been paying off and has made me lose inches.

Part of the standstill with the weight loss is actually a very good thing and it's that I feel so good about myself now.  I've lost a tremendous amount of weight since having Ava and clothes shopping has become a lot of fun, rather than something I dread. 

Plus, I was watching the View a couple of weeks ago and they did a segment on a new study which revealed that women carrying 10-15 lbs of extra weight are actually healthier.  Something about the extra weight warding off osteoporosis and making us all look a lot younger.  It will not surprise you to hear that I am a HUGE fan of this new study.  Kudos to the studiers is what I say!

I hope I can offer some good tips to help the other moms tonight.  I know the biggest challenges I've faced with food as a mom has a lot to do with emotional eating.  My pregnancy with Luke was so stressful after suffering the loss of Isabel, and his emergency delivery was so startling to me, that as soon as I came home from the hospital with him I started fixing myself big bowls of ice cream mixed with Entenmann's chocolate cake to soothe my nerves. I had been through a lot so I allowed myself that, for a while anyway.  But then I went back to my meetings and I am much happier and healthier for it. 

I want my kids to be proud of me.  I like it when Ava tells me I look pretty, even if she qualifies it......Direct quote..."Mommy you're pretty but you're PRETTIER with your make-up on, BUT, you look pretty without your make-up on too, BUT ,you look SOOOOO much prettier when your make-up is on."  Thanks honey.  I'll take it.

Well, I have many thoughts to organize and a 3-4 minute segment to plan.  I hope I do a good job tonight. 

Wish me luck! 

What are the challenges that you face when it comes to weight loss and mommyhood?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Changed for Good

This has been the year of the Broadway show for me and I've been loving every minute of it.   I've seen both Lion King and Wicked for the 2nd time, God of Carnage, Next to Normal, we've got tickets for A Behanding in Spokane (Stephen's pick because he's a huge Christopher Walken fan)  and we're also planning on taking Ava to see Mary Poppins as one of her Birthday gifts.

I've always loved seeing shows and have seen quite a lot of them in the past, but really hadn't visited the theatre much in recent years.  Now the kids are getting to an age where they're happy to stay with a babysitter, which is making it easier to go out.  We live minutes from the city, so it seems silly not to take advantage of all that's at our fingertips and it's been a great year so far in the sense that I'm coming back to who I am.  Doing things that I love.  I'm feeling quite fortunate.

I'm a sensistive soul though and find myself tearing up at some of the performances.  The talent is amazing and some of the songs so touching.  The following words from  the song "For Good" from Wicked really touched me and got me thinking.

"I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason bringing something we must learn, and we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them and we help them in return.  Well, I don't know if I believe that's true But I know I'm who I am today Because I knew you"..."Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good."

I sat there in the theatre and started looking back on my life.  I thought of all of those who have touched it in both positive and negative ways.  All bringing forth lessons.  All have helped me to grow, even if the lessons I learned were hard, and ones I didn't want to learn. 

I thought of Isabel too.  I was flooded with memories of her delivery.  I remembered holding her in my arms.  Measuring her tiny foot against my pinky finer.  I remembered how devastaed I was when I had to let her go...."So let me say before we part, so much of me is made of what I learned from you.  You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end. I know you have re-written mine."

Life is tough.  But, I am stronger for having her.  I am fortunate to have held her in my arms, even if it was only for one day. 

It's true that I have become tougher, I no longer just let things go.  I have less tolerance for the bullshit.  I see things and people very clearly now.  I stand up for myself.  I speak out.  Who can say if  I've been changed for the better?  I can say that I have been changed for good.

I see my daughter Ava learning tough lessons at such a young age and it breaks my heart, but they are lessons she must learn.  I see so much of myself in her.

There are those who come into our lives and lift our spirits. I received a note from a friend recently that I will hold on to forever....

One day recently, I could tell that she was having a tough day...she looked so sad, so I wanted to do something for her, to show her that I was there for her.  I knew that she liked these chocolate covered pretzels that I make so I whipped some up to give her the next day.  Not a big deal, just a little something.  In turn, she did something so kind.  She sent me a note of thanks and like I said, it's one that I will keep forever.  In it she wrote, "You have eyes that see. What a gift."  Such a simple sentence, but one that touched me so deeply and lifted me up.  Her words are those I will never forget.  

My daughter Ava is blessed with eyes that see.  She's a very empathetic, caring, and kind hearted kid.  It is my prayer for her that she has the strength to stand up for herself, to recognize who her friends are, and that life's tough lessons don't weaken her spirit, but in fact, build her up and make her even stronger.

I believe that they will.

"People come into our lives for a reason bringing something we must learn, and we are led to those who help us most to grow."

And we are changed for good.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's a Beautiful Morning

I'm back.  My Weight Watcher leader asked me to do a little 3-4 minute segment at an upcoming open house discussing weight loss and mommyhood and she suggested I mention my blog.  Thank you Julia for inspiring me to get back to it.

Spring is here and I am happy.  Poor kids have allergies though so I've kept Ava home from school for the past couple of days.  She was way worse on Monday and Tuesday but she insisted she go in.  Seems the days at school this week proved too much for her though seeing that she doesn't want to go back. Perhaps tomorrow.

I don't mind.  I like having her home with me.  It's just pre-K and I won't have the luxury of her company on weekdays once Kindergarten starts, and Kindergarten is right around the corner.  I thought I'd be sadder than I am, being that sending her to pre-k was so difficult for me, but I'm excited for her.  Naturally, I'm sure come August I will be having flashbacks of pushing my perfect baby girl in her stroller but that's par for the course as a mom.

It's going to be okay because I'm very excited about her new school.  That is definitely helping things.  As each day passes, it's revealed to me more and more how lucky we are that we've gotten this spot, and everyday I feel more and more blessed.  She'll be entering a Charter School.  Charter schools are run just like private schools, only paid for by public funds.  Jackpot!  Or, as a couple of people pointed out to me, Ava's got the golden ticket!...as there were only 12 spots open for Kindergarten and she has one of them.  God was definitely smiling down on us that day. 

Boy does it feel good to write again! I'll save more for another day though because, as you know, I have my best girl home with me today and we're going to spend some quality time together.  It's time to play Candy Land.

Perfect start to a beautiful day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cactus-Pear Margarita's

I'm not a big margarita fan but when my husband and I went to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill about a month ago, I decided to try his famed Cactus-Pear Margarita.  It was delicious!

The kids and I had planned to spend last weekend at my sisters, as she had planned a little party with some good friends of ours and I thought it would be the perfect time to try out the recipe myself. 

I went ahead and ordered the Prickly Pear syrup needed for the recipe from Cheri's Desert Harvest.  I don't care for sweet drinks very much and neither do my sister or friends, so I tweaked Bobby Flay's recipe to suit our taste. 

Here's what I did.

Ingredients (makes 2 drinks)
4 ounces white tequila
1 ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce cactus pear syrup (a.k.a. prickly pear syrup)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Ice cubes
Lime wedge
Coarse salt, optional

Here's what you do
Combine tequila, Triple Sec, cactus pear syrup, lime juice and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10 seconds.

Now, of course you can do this.


But, I prefer to use this.  It does the same thing but it's just a lot more fun!


Serve over ice in a rocks glass with or without salt rim, garnish with lime wedge.

Aaah, they're delicious and they look pretty too!