Monday, April 30, 2012

Memory Making

Fish at the Virginia Beach Aquarium - photo taken by my then 6 year old!
One of our favorite things to do with the kids, whether we are on vacation, or just on a day trip, is to give them a turn with the camera.  This does several things. It makes them feel important; what they want to take a picture of matters - many times it is of their brother or sister making a funny face, but that is okay - it is a memory of our special trip.   This allows them to capture their memories and most favorite things.  It is also very cool.  My kids always end up taking pictures of things that I might not have noticed and easily overlooked. They can be silly, and out of focus, and have the camera pointed the "wrong" way, but hey, my pictures are too!  When the kid has the camera there is no right or wrong. This helps me, as a parent, to understand what is important to them and what their interests are.  Makes for excellent dinner table conversation too!

Light House Stairs, Virginia Beach - photo taken by my then 6 year old!

When we get back home from wherever we have been, the pictures just don't stop there!  It is important to print them out so the kids have them.  Get the kids involved with this step too!  We have done a few different things with some of our favorite vacation pictures.  There are so many great on-line sites that can help you out with this too!  We have taken favorite pictures and put them on mugs, Christmas ornaments and mouse pads.  We have also taken pictures from our entire trip and put together small flip books.  These books are sized just right for tiny hands.  You can pay an additional fee to get a coating on the pages so they can be wiped clean.  My little ones will carry around their special books and spend hours looking at the pictures and showing them to everyone they can find!  We have also used the pictures for school projects.  Last week my five year old at her Art Show at school.  Her project was to make a family flower.  We printed out some pictures from our recent trip to Hilton Head on computer paper.  She chose her favorite one, cut it out and glued it to the center of her flower.  It looked great!

New Bracelet
Silly TV Show

 Have a great day!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Yesterday started out to be a very rainy day here in Northern Virginia.  When you are a kid, nothing is quite worse than not being able to go outside to play.  Especially during the warmer weather months, when my kids are used to playing outside pretty much everyday, it can be hard to keep them entertained indoors and still keep the TV turned off.  In order to beat these rainy day blues and help this mom stay sane, I started a surprize cabinet.

This is basically a cabinet in the basement where I have a secret stash of prizes.  These are items that I have picked up at the dollar store or on deep discount clearance and put away.  These are also items that my kids have received either for Christmas or their birthday that I am able to put away as well.  I know that sounds a little "mommie dearest", but three of my kids have birthday's in January and we have a pretty big family.  My children are very good about donating toys, and participating in service projects on their own and through school & church (my five year old currently has a coin box that she is saving to send to Malawi through her Vacation Bible School Mission Project and once a year my son picks out some items to take to the Peds floor at a local hospital where he was a patient a few summers back) but we still seem to have a surplus.  This is great for rainy days when you need something "to do". It also works out better for us, instead of giving the twins 20 new toys at once (I am exaggerating here!), just to give them a few presents that they will actually play with.  Also, it is excellent for those last minute birthday party gifts - this way you don't have to stop at Target on the way to the party and wrap in the car! (come on, we have all done that!).

Currently in my cabinet, I have coloring books, story books, a train, a small Lego kit, puzzles, games and stickers.  Yesterday afternoon I was able to pull out a set of matchbox cars and a barbie doll set.  It kept all four kids entertained and I was able to cook dinner in peace.  My five year old is currently playing with the car set now.  My oldest helped her construct ramps out of wooden blocks and all of the kids had fun with this!

There are other variations on this idea that I know work as well.  A friend of mine as a Prize Closet.  Pretty much the same principals as mine, but she doles out toys and tokens on a reward system.  When my oldest was a toddler I had a mystery box.  Basically a plastic shoe box that I would fill with coloring stuff and small trinkets.  This was a box that I would pull out when I needed to make a phone call or even use the restroom and have him occupied for a few minutes!  I would constantly rotate the items out so the contents were always a mystery!

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pain in the neck!

I have a pain in the neck and this time it is not my kids, my husband or any family member!  The doctor said I have a cervical sprain.  Basically, I pulled something in my neck and need to follow R.I.C.E. to get it to heal.

R = rest - not much chance of this happening
I = ice - this I can do
C = compression, the doctor gave me a lovely cervical collar to wear. Right off the runway!  Iti s beige and goes with everything! The purpose of the collar is to limit movement and compress my neck.  I see this turning up in some sort of Halloween Costume down the road!  My five year old daughter points out several times a day that this collar is "embarrassing" and I'm not to wear it: taking her to school, picking her up from school, to the bus stop or to the mailbox.  I should only wear it in a dark room - preferably my closet and just stay upstairs!
E = elevation.  Really?  I need to elevate my neck higher than my heart?  Doesn't it do that on its own?  My response to the doc when she told me I needed to keep it elevated!

How I manged to do this, I don't know. Just twisted or moved the wrong way.  What this really means to me:

-No tennis until next week (I'm hoping I will be able to play tomorrow!)
-Not being able to pick up my kids (I'm not supposed to lift anything over 20lbs)
-Not being able to move my head - this is getting better - Monday I looked like Quasimodo - today I can turn my head with only a small wince.  Makes backing up tricky.
-Very uncomfortable sleeping positions

I did get some lovely muscle relaxers - but I can only take them at night, once my husband is home to watch the kids.  I  couldn't get any good pain relievers due to allergies - I need to stick to extra strength Tylenol.

Have you ever had this type of injury?  Any tips for a speedy recovery?

Have a great day!


If you haven't already done so, please be sure to check out the Spring issue of Muliplicity Magazine.

In addition to the wonderful article on page 14 (this one is mine!), there are some other great articles in there!

Please use this link to access:

Have a great day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

No More Diapers!

I have been changing diapers consecutively since January 13, 2005.  That is 7 years, 3 months, 10 days and I'm not sure how many hours! Over the years,  I have no idea how many diapers that I have changed.  In addition to the diapers of my four children, I have also changed a few nieces during that time.

At one time, I had three children in diapers.  When my twins were born, my oldest daughter was 27 months and I could not even think about potty training her. We were in Survival Mode.    Right now I only have one child in pull ups.  My Baby B.  My baby girl twin who turned 3 years old on January 19, 2012.  Her twin brother was a piece of cake to train.  Just decided one day that he was "big" and didn't want to wear pull ups.  Now, he has also decided that he "won't wear no underwear" but that is a post for a different day, and he stays dry all night and during naps!  His twin has no interest in the potty.  We have tried stickers, candy, rewards, applause, singing, dancing and plenty of praise.  No interest whatsoever.  She will use it occasionally, but not on a regular basis and only on HER terms.  She does not mind sitting in a soiled pull up and has been known to even go and change herself.  Now, if a kid can change themselves, they should be able to go on the potty, right?!  I know it is about control and each child goes at their own pace.  We never force the issue.  We have encouraged her to be like her sister and brothers and use the potty.  I have my three little ones line and up to "go" just like they do at the twins' preschool. Every time we are at the store we offer (and usually purchase) "big girl underpants".  We let her pick out her own potty and potty books.  She just does not care.

I am getting ready to up the ante.  I am so tired of changing diapers and hauling the diaper bag around.  Most times I can get by with throwing a spare pull up or two in my person, but really, I'm ready to be diaper bag free.  We are going on a family cruise in July.  It is the cruise ship's policy children who are not fully toilet trained be allowed in the pool on board the ship.  I really do not want to be on a cruise in July staring at the pool!  I would love to take a trip without packing a week's worth of pull ups and wipes.  I have approximately 2 months and 1 week to get this kid on the Potty Train.  I'm considering pulling out the big guns.....the American Girl Catalog!  Two months of pull ups and wipes cost more than one Bitty Baby Doll. 

Now, this could be considered a bribe or a reward, like a bonus, for a job well done.  I'm ready to give it a try!

Have a great afternoon!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Morning Dread

Each morning my three "little" kids (5 year old & 3 year old twins) are left unattended for about 10-15 minutes while I take a super fast shower and get dressed.  The bathroom door is open the entire time,  and most mornings they do play nicely on the floor of my bedroom.  But then there are the other days when the don't!  During this time, my stomach hurts, my head hurts.  I just don't know what I am going to find!

I have tried taking my shower at night or waiting until later in the day.  But that just doesn't work for me.  I am a morning shower-er.  I am one of those people that will take a shower before going to the beach, pool or playing tennis etc.  I got my hair cut a few weeks ago and it is not long enough for a ponytail anymore and my very curly curls just look better when they are washed each morning. I also feel better too.  The shower also helps me to wake up and come on, who doesn't like starting their day with a shower! (except maybe my 7 year old son!).   Many, many years ago I worked with a very funny lady. One year, we did Race for the Cure together and she had me in stitches the entire morning as we were herded together with the other runners and she said - "sweat on a clean body, sure smells a lot better than sweat on a dirty body".  Maybe this just stuck with me!

Before I go into the bathroom, the kids have all been fed, washed up and dressed.  Carefully selected toys and/or games are left out for them.  This morning I left them playing a nice game of memory.  When I came out they were sitting nicely in a row watching TV.  My five year old can turn the TV on by herself and punch in the channel for Disney Junior!  A little TV, not so bad.  But again, this does not always go as planned.  Yesterday, I discovered my three angels downstairs sitting nicely around the kitchen table.  They set the table and everything.  They also opened up an entire warehouse store sized box of cereal bars.  Opened as in unwrapped every single one to get ready for their "party".  They also took little mouse sized bites out of almost every single bar! They did color some decorations for the party and spilled an entire pitcher of water.  Not the end of the world, they have caused more damage before and I am sure they will again!

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Simply Homemade

There used to be a show on the Food Network a few years back called Simply Homemade.  The hostess was a little too perky for me, but she often had good ideas and tips on taking basic pantry staples and turning them into a homemade meal or using them as a starting point for a homemade meal.  I also liked watching the holiday shows for tips on what she called "tablescapes".  I don't think this show is still on the air, but the concept is something that is definitely alive and well in our household!  While we do always try to use local and fresh ingredients and offer a variety of foods to the kids and not rely on "kid food".  Sometimes, that is just not possible and you need to use what you have on hand.

This afternoon, my three little ones and I made a chocolate cake.  We started with a regular box mix and added in some chocolate chips.  We were going to also add in the zest of a fresh orange, but were all out!  We substituted with a cap of orange extract.  We also decided to use a bundt pan instead of a layer cake - saving on the sugar and calories in icing!  My girls also liked the pretty pan!  It is in the oven now and I will let you know how it comes out! (I'm looking forward to my oldest coming home from school to the house smelling like baked goods - it is chilly and rainy here today!)

Monday night for dinner we also made a simply homemade-ish recipe: Pizza Dip!  We used refrigerator dough to make bread sticks.  For the dip, we layered in a small casserole dish: softened cream cheese, tomato sauce, turkey pepperoni (regular is fine, too), mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes - until the cheese is all gooey and bubbly.  This is something that my kids love and I usually have the ingredients on hand. It is quick and easy to make.  The best part is that my kids can help with the preparation and enjoy eating it.  Also, when they are not looking, I can sneak some extra veggies into the tomato sauce!  Please try this recipe out and let me know what you think!

Let me go check on my cake and figure out what to make for dinner tonight!

Please be sure to check out the Spring Issue of Multiplicity Magazine at and read my article on page 14!

Have a great afternoon!

Happy Reading!

Please be sure to check out the Spring Issue of Multiplicity Magazine!

Read the article on page 14: "Road Trip: Spring Break Bound"!

My first ever article has been published!!!!

Thanks & have a great day!

Monday, April 16, 2012


My oldest child is now seven.  When he was a baby and toddler I would take him on a regular basis to the "picture place" at the mall or Walmart to have his pictures done and I was always certain to take his picture on his weekly, then monthly birthdays and document any major milestone with both the regular camera and cam-corder.    When my daughter was born 21 months later, I still took pictures at home, but not so many videos and we went to have professional pictures done quarterly.  Once the twins arrived (27 months later) I mainly would take pictures on my phone and now go once a year to a professional photographer to have the kids' pictures done.  My oldest is the only one of my four children to have a completed scrapbook!  I know that this is very common and it makes me really sad.

 I was looking at a friend's pictures on Facebook today.  She also has twins and has posted all of these great pictures of herself holding both her babies and her mother holding both babies.  I am rarely in any pictures with my kids (I'm always behind the camera or "herding cats" to get together for the picture!) and realized after looking at these pictures that I have NO pictures of me holding my two babies. (for my friends reading today, if you have one, please send it to me!).

Here is your homework - go take some pictures of your kids and go get in the pictures with your kids.  Ten, fifteen years from now, it will be nice for the kids to see what they looked like when they were little, but more importantly, it will be so nice for the kids to have a picture from when they were little with their Mom (or dad! - we do have some dad followers too!). 

The mall places or big box stores are fine for having pictures done.  But I really like going to a "real" photographer.  You can definitely see the difference in the quality of the work and the paper the photos are printed on.  We have a wonderful photographer right in our neighborhood and she always manages to capture my children's true spirit and personality on film.  I think it is definitely worth the investment. Be sure to let the photographer know prior your session what your expectations are and any particular shots or poses that you would like to see taken. While we were on Spring Break earlier this month in Hilton Head, I did make arrangements to have some Beach photos done.  I did extensive research on the area photographers and had at length phone conversations with several.  After careful selection, I went with one.  We had our plan for shots all laid out before hand and unfortunately it just didn't work out during our session time.  We are going to try again next year and hopefully we will get the perfect family photo that I have envisioned.

Go grab your camera and have a great afternoon!

Friday, April 13, 2012


I was on the phone the other night with one of my friends.  She does not have any children of her own, but works with special needs children.  She gave me an excellent tip that I do want to share, but I have also been pondering about this over the last few days....

My friend knows that I:
a) am home full time with my four kids (who are all very, very close in age)
b) work part time from home (I have a "regular job" that I spend about 2-3 hours on each day on and in addition, do project/freelance type work)
c) am with my kids 24/7
d) volunteer extensively with my kids activities
e) am often stressed out

Her tip is to have a "safe word".  Mud pie, Rutabaga,  whatever I want.  This is a word that is to be shared between me and husband.  Whenever I invoke the "safe word" I will get an automatic break.  A Mommy Time Out.  Now, there needs to be some rules with the safe word.  It can only be invoked in dire situations (not for a mani/pedi, but when you are truly on the edge and need a break!) and cannot be abused.  I like this idea.  Just saying Rutabaga five times in a row makes me giggle (why, I don't know!). 

I have been questioning, why do I need a safe word?  My husband knows (and after 12 years he should know!) when he walks in the door at 7pm if it has been a good day or a bad day or if I am not feeling well and need a break.  I have also been questioning why I am stressing myself out so much.  I have friends that do this too. I know this past week there has also been an article floating around facebook on this. We are the new breed of stay at home mom's.  Since we do not work outside the home, we feel like we have to over compensate for everything.  Have our home's look like a Toll Brother's Model (mine is far from it!), be the class mom, the team mom, the ballet mom, and overextend ourselves so much that there is no time left for anything else.  I am guilty of this.  Are the kids suffering or missing out because of this, I do not know.  Sometimes the teachers and coaches are guilty of this too - call Mrs. SoandSo, she doesn't work and can volunteer.   It seems like my friends who work full time actually have a better work-life balance.  They know what they can commit to and don't bite off more than they can chew. They also don't feel guilty (or let on that they feel guilty) about saying No.

Now, this is just my opinion. Let me know what you think.  I am going to continue to think about this and see how I can re-structure my time and de-stress a little!  I will still say Rutabaga, because it is fun!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Great Sock Caper

Socks are a mystery in our house.  Either the washing machine is eating them or we have some sort of sock troll that comes out in the middle of the night and steals them all.  I think it is a little bit of both!  No matter how many loads of laundry I do (which since vacation I am WAY behind on! More on this later!).  We still never seem to have enough clean socks!  I know that sometimes people lose one sock out of the pair, we have entire pairs missing!  My five year old and three year old boy twin (Baby A) wear the same size shoe, and the same size sock.  This helps.  This morning my daughter went to school wearing gray "boy socks".  Luckily, she thought it was funny and didn't really care.  What I want to know is what happened to the pretty pink socks that I put out last night on top of her outfit?!  The outfit was there this morning, but no socks anywhere in sight!  What also helps is that my seven year old is very tall for his age and has pretty big feet.  In a pinch, I have been known to take his socks and wear them.  But don't tell anyone!

My mother recently gave me an excellent tip on socks: only buy one brand/type of socks and only buy white socks.  This way, you can bleach them and if one of the pair goes missing, you have an instant match!  Well,  I did this with my oldest son.  Just bought him a brand new 6-pack of socks that we opened up this week, and it isn't quite working out.  He has had three days of school so far, (wearing one pair each day) so there should be three pairs left in his bin.  I went in there this morning to grab a pair for myself and no socks left.  What happened to the other three pair??!  It is a mystery.

On to the laundry.....  When we go on vacation for extended periods of time, one of the things that is crucial to me is to have a washer and dryer in our unit.  We have stayed in hotels/condos where there is a coin operated laundry room in the building or down the hall, but you cannot beat the convenience of having a washer and dryer in the next room.  It is less expensive and saves time. You can throw a load or two in each day and you do not need to pack as much.   Also, it can be very hard to find rolls of quarters when you are on vacation, if you are not at a hotel property with a front desk!  When we were in Hilton Head last week for Spring Break we stayed at a wonderful time share villa.  We did have the washer and dryer in our unit and it was perfect for the bathing suits, beach towels and taking care of immediate stains!  We did throw a load in here and there, but I came back with bags and bags of dirty laundry.  I normally like to avoid this.  There is nothing better than returning from vacation with a suitcase full of clean clothes that just needs to be put away.  We had such beautiful weather and spent so much time by the beach and pool (which is a good thing) that my laundry just didn't get done!  I currently have three baskets of clothes that need to be folded and I need to go wash some socks!

Have a great day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Aftermath

Wrappers, empty plastic eggs & Easter grass EVERYWHERE!

No Bunny Is Safe - not even the nut free ones

It looks like Easter exploded in my house.  I am finding Easter Grass from the Baskets and decapitated bunnies everywhere.  I have been trying to contain it to one room of the house, but not having much luck.  Yesterday was an interesting day for our family.  The kids were super excited about the Easter Bunny paying a visit and went to bed without being asked on Saturday night.  Saturday night I was up way too late. It was close to midnight - putting together baskets and making homemade Easter Lollipops and Candy. This started out as a project that the kids and I were going to do together, after we colored our eggs.  But after having my hand burned and a step stool stepped on into my foot, I thought this was a project I should tackle on my own. (I was very close to the edge and still covered in blue dye after the egg coloring project!).

On Sunday morning, my oldest two were up before 5am and, of course, woke up the twins. The kids could not wait to see what the Bunny brought and get their hands in their baskets! It was very hard to get up with the kids - but they were so excited  - and that is part of the mommy job requirement, right?  We had reservations to go to brunch with extended family at 11am.  By the time that rolled around we had already been up for 6+ hours and the kids were starting to crash from their sugar high.  Not one of our finest moments at a restaurant!

What do you do in your house to ensure that your kids have the best possible Holiday, but that you also relax and enjoy yourself as well?  Is it possible to even have both of these happen at that same time?  Do you buy pre-made baskets?  Do you do your baskets in advance?  Do you just spend the holiday with your spouse & kids and do family visits another time?

Last night I was sitting on the couch reading (just finally finished Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - very good read!) and my 5 year old came up to me and said: "you know Mom, Easter is about more than baskets and candy. It is really about Jesus. He died for us and has Risen." That put it all in perspective and the rest doesn't really matter.

While Chocolate Bunnies were injured, no bunnies were staged!

In 2013 - No Easter Grass Allowed!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Toes In The Water

Well, we returned from vacation.  A little tired, a little sunburned and a little sandy.  But, with many happy memories.  We had three solid, consecutive "perfect days".  On these days, we were down to the pool around 8am, splashed around, then headed down the path to the beach.  Stay on the beach, then back to the pool to cool off, then back to the beach.  Repeat until it is time to get cleaned up for dinner!

Now that my twins are three years old, going to the beach is much, much easier.  No need to worry about naps, sandy diapers, kids eating sand or bottles/sippie cups dropping in the sand.  The twins will fall asleep wherever and whenever. (I attribute this that we never followed the rule to be quiet when the babies were sleeping - we ran the vacuum, had on TVs and most days the twins would sleep in the middle of the room with the circus going on around their little heads.)  I am also very fortunate that my kids all love the sun, sand and surf.  We have several friends who have children that are afraid of the ocean or don't like the sand - not my four.  Whenever they get to the beach for the first time of the season, they all drop down as soon as their little toes hit the sand and role around in it.  They have been doing this as long as I can remember.  You can see the joy on their little faces, sort of a homecoming.

This was the first beach trip that the kids all played really well together too.  Digging in the sand and coming up with little games to play.  They always dig their big giant hole - looking for pirate treasure and China!  The highlight this trip was finding a real live Hermit Crab, that my daughter called Hermie.  Hermie spent the morning with us on the beach.  The kids fixed up a little animal habitat for him (a bucket filled with water with some sand on the bottom and some sea grass!) and even did a little creature report Octonaut-style about him on the beach!

Our ride home was much easier than the ride down.  While in Hilton Head we got together with our good friends the "H" family.  They have a similar ride and we followed their "method" home:

-no more than one stop per hour
-if you don't use the bathroom when we stop, you wait
-no eating at places (take out only)
-stops should not take more than 15 minutes

We were successful with applying this method! The ride home took 9.5 hours and we only made three stops.  Three stops with four kids is a miracle!  We are already planning our trip for next year back to Hilton Head and I'm just as excited as the kids!

Wishing you and your family Easter Blessings!  Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In My Mind I'm Going to Carolina

Greetings from the Low Country!  We arrived at our destination on Saturday, approximately 24 hours after leaving our house!  This included many, many, many stops.  Stops for food, fuel, potty, spiders and one over night hotel stay.  I stocked up on car trip snacks, yet it didn't seem enough for my four.  Every time we passed a blue sign, inevitably someone would be starving. Like chew their ankle off starving. Car rides were much easier before the kids could read.  Even the three year old's were able to point out the McDonald's Logo on the Blue Rest stop signs!

Heavy rain and traffic made it slow going for us on 95 South.  Our goal was to go a little more than 1/2 way on Friday, stop for the night, then have about a 3 hour ride on Saturday.  It didn't quite go as planned.  What should have been a 6-7 hour ride on Friday, turned into an almost 10 hour ride with my gang.  What made it even slower was 4 kids needing to use the potty!  We would ask everyone to "try" at each stop, but it didn't work.  The highlight of our road trip on Friday night was our spider stop. This happened about 10 minutes after we packed everyone up from a really, really bad roadside diner.  All four kids, screaming "bloody murder" (as my mother would say!) while a spider descended on it's web from the movie screen down into the back of the van.  This was a first for us and needed to be addressed immediately.

We were all quite relieved when we pulled into our hotel very late Friday night.  A recently renovated Hampton Inn in Fayeteville, NC.  Room was fine - not what we booked - but we made it work.  The kids liked that it was the type of hotel that "you parked right outside your room"!  The highlight of our stay was Ms. Paulette the "breakfast lady".  She made us feel very welcome and was so pleased to meet my "Blessings" as she called the kids.  She made us at home and the kids fell in love with her.

Here are some lessons learned from the first part of our trip -

Plan ahead - make a hotel reservation in advance - don't take your chance pulling off the side of the road.  We saw two couples turned away at the hotel because it was sold out.  no one wants to go hotel to hotel in a thunderstorm looking for a room - you also end up paying a higher rate this way.

Pack smart - I packed in small bags, so things were easy to reach.  One small tote bag for things that I needed for the hotel, one small bag of extra things for the car.

Bring a bucket - I keep a bucket in the car.  People may make fun of it - but it is great.  It can be used to collect trash, leaking juice boxes, excellent for car sickness and can be used as an emergency potty in a pinch!

Pack extra snacks!!!

The last two day's on the beach made the road trip worthwhile!  Sunday it was in the 80's and Sunny.  Monday it was in the 90's and Sunny.  Looking forward to another beautiful Carolina Day today!

I hope that you are enjoying your spring break - wherever you are!