Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

**Disclaimer: No young children were harmed in the creation of this post...although the second picture appears to depict a strangulation hold, it is actually a hug. No less than 67 photos were taken to bring these quality images to you. And, bribes in the form of M&M's and Christmas Cookies were used throughout the duration of the photographic session.**

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Allie's Christmas Program

On Tuesday night we had the opportunity to attend Allie's preschool Christmas program. Allie was so excited to be able to perform for all of us and was especially excited that Grandma and Grandpa were there. I'm sure this just marks the very first of many Christmas programs in our family's future.

Here's Allie singing/ringing Jingle Bells:


I believe this shot is when she realized she could see us (we had almost front-row seats) really well from the stage:


And, what good would a preschool Christmas program be without sufficient hand motions to almost every word of every song?


The best part of the program? The fact that Allie graciously applauded along with the audience after every single song:


Afterwards, Allie received a special ornament from her teachers and we enjoyed Christmas cookies together in the preschool's gym. What a fun night...and if I do say so myself, I believe we have a star in the making!
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Claus

I think it is kind of funny how out-of-touch our kids are with Santa Claus. In addition to both Allie and Zach thinking that his true name must be "Santa-Claw," they are bewildered by the fact that he shows up as a real person in every single mall and also makes numerous appearances as a glowing, inflatable lawn ornament in several of our surrounding neighborhoods' light displays.
~

One morning, a few weeks ago while Allie was at preschool, I took Zach to the mall and as we walked by the real-life Santa atop his magnificent throne I could tell Zach was curious. So, we stopped to take a closer look at the whole North Pole set up complete with Mrs. Claus, several elves, and a Christmas train. Since there wasn't a long line of kids I asked Zach if he would like to go sit on Santa's lap. He looked at me like I was a lunatic and responded curtly, "NO." Then, he ran over to take a closer look at the choo-choo train before losing interest completely and running the opposite direction toward the pet store.
~

Although I'm sure Allie would have jumped at the opportunity to sit on the lap of a white-bearded, completely unfamiliar old man (we're still working through the whole issue of stranger awareness because, at this point, I'm positive that Allie believes everyone in the entire world is her best friend), I have yet to give her the opportunity (not because I'm withholding, but due to the fact that she really hasn't been with me when I have been at the mall). However, when she is posed with the question, "What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?" Allie often responds factually with something to the effect of, "I don't know. Mommy and Daddy already got me all my presents and they are under the tree. Santa doesn't bring me my presents." And, then, almost always, I can anticipate the cringe followed by the audible gasp and the complete look of disgust on the inquirer's face...like I must be some sort of Christmas scrooge for not adequately explaining the idea of Santa Claus to my kids.
~

I would like to take a moment to elaborate on the fact that my lack of providing a Santa Claus explanation to my kids is definitely not due to my dislike of the jolly fellow. I have nothing but great memories from when I was a child at Christmas regarding the rotund elderly fellow from the northern most parts of the world: we always anticipated leaving cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve, we were delighted by waking up on Christmas morning to a full stocking, and we couldn't wait to rip open the one biggest and best gift that was brought especially for us by Santa.
~

In fact, I figured we'd do the same for our kids, but now we're approaching our 5th Christmas with a child in our home and we still haven't really decided whether or not we are going to "do" Santa Claus or not. Maybe it's more out of laziness than indecision, but since we've never quite taken the initiative to be creative about how to do Santa, it seems Santa has never really gotten "done" around here. And while we've spent the past five Christmas waffling over the whole Santa thing, it looks like our kids have already made the decision for us.
~

So, call me the Grinch if you like, but it appears that with each passing year, Santa will continue to fall even more negligently to the wayside of our family Christmas celebration.
~
However, I'm thinking it may be a good idea, at some point in the very near future, to remind our kids that it is indeed Santa Claus...with an s...not Santa Claw.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Allie's Slumber Party

This past Friday finally marked the day of Allie's long awaited sleepover in celebration of her birthday. It was previously scheduled for the end of November, but had to be postponed due to both of the girls being sick.
~
Allie could hardly contain her excitement over her very first slumber party. Well, technically this would mark her second sleepover (her first being the night she spent with Rachel and her family when she was almost two years old while we were busy bringing her brother into the world), but seeing as this will most likely be the first she actually remembers, we'll count it as such.
~
In addition to lots of dress up and princess play, I planned a few activities for the girls. And, since Grandma offered to take Zach for most of the day and overnight, I was able to give undivided attention to the girls and their crafts.
~
First up: Gingerbread houses made with graham crackers. The girls were pleasantly surprised to discover that besides decorating their houses with frosting and candies, they were also allowed to consume as much of that candy and frosting as their little hearts desired. Let's just say I've never seen two such little girls consume so much sugar in one sitting!




After the massive sugar feast both girls cuddled up on the couch for a Veggie Tale movie (Queen Esther, to be exact).
Before heading out for pizza and some Christmas light viewing in our neighborhood, we beaded and decorated princess necklaces. All in all, it proved to be a fun night for both girls! Believe it or not, there was actually sleep involved, even beginning at a reasonable time. And, when both girls awoke at 3:30 am, slightly confused by the fact that it wasn't morning yet, they quickly fell back asleep until 7:00 am.
~
Here's one last shot of the bathing beauties... Just look at the excitement on both of their faces! I believe they are already in the process of planning their next slumber party.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Food Jags"

So, is it just me or does anyone else go through what I will hereto for label a "food jag?"

Since I began my weight loss effort last January, I've realized that there are certain foods I eat over and over again for a fairly long period of time. I not only crave the taste of whatever particular item is dominating my present "food jag", but I come to look forward to its appearance on my plate. And then, just as quickly as that particular item became my #1 food, it disappears to make way for the next "food jag."

In the interest of clarification, I will provide you with some of the "food jags" I've gone through over the past few months. Be prepared, some of them are actually kind of weird (so much so that my husband is often relieved when they do finally make their disappearance...well, at least until the next "food jag" shows up and it is even more bizarre than the previous one).

  1. Low-fat, Microwave Popcorn. I think I literally ate popcorn every single day for more than a month.
  2. Low-fat String Cheese. It dominated my breakfast for at least 6 months.
  3. Sweet Potatoes. Yum. I am still currently in the manifestation of this "food jag." I'm actually having one with dinner tonight.
  4. Low-fat Caramel Corn (like Cracker Jacks) or Caramel Corn Rice Cakes. I believe this followed the microwave popcorn infatuation.
  5. Weight Watchers Cherry Cheesecake Yogurt. Still currently consuming 1 every. single. day.
  6. Low-fat Tortilla with ham, low fat cream cheese, and cucumbers. I ate this for lunch for at least a solid month.
  7. Kashi Golden Sunshine cereal mixed with vanilla low-fat yogurt and a banana. This was at least 3 month's worth of breakfasts for me.
  8. Wendy's Chili...still my favorite fast food item.
  9. Salads with apples in them. If I can get a green salad with an apple in it, I'm totally sold...still.
  10. Parmesan Breaded Pork Chops. I think my family is getting sick of this meal. I think I try to work it into the meal plan at least 3 times a month.

Ok, so now that we are all on the same page with the definition of a "food jag," I would like to share with you my newest obsession. Well, I've actually divulged it on the blog before, but I'll take the time to remind you.

PEANUT BUTTER

And, yes, it is completely possible to consume peanut butter and still maintain or even lose weight. Like anything food related, you just can't go completely nutso and consume an entire jar in one sitting (not that I have done that or anything...seriously, I haven't....it is quite entirely possible that I have eaten more than one serving, but I have yet to finish off an entire jar...I said, yet).

So, peanut butter has made it's appearance as my newest "food jag" primarily at breakfast in the form of a Low-fat, high fiber English muffin, topped with peanut butter and bananas. Simply divine. And completely filling. Try it. I never would have thought, but honestly, I don't even think about food again until it is almost time to make lunch. It really does stick with you.

And just when I thought the world of peanut butter could not get any better than Reduced Fat Jif, I spotted an entire row of flavored peanut butters at the grocery store this past week. Thinking that there was no way I could caloricaly (is "caloricaly" even a word?) afford to consume Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, I reluctantly picked up the jar to check out the nutritional information and discovered....drumroll, please....it has FEWER calories and LESS fat than my beloved Jif. Plus, unlike Jif whose second and third ingredients respectively are corn syrup and sugar, Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams variety boasts sweeteners from evaporated cane juice and contains absolutely no high fructose corn syrup.

I was so excited that I grabbed not only their Dark Chocolate Dreams variety, but also their Cinnamon Raisin Swirl blend. It was very difficult for me to turn down their White Chocolate mix, but I did escape with at least an ounce of self control left (I seriously can't wait to finish one of the jars so I can go back and get the white chocolate one!).

I had my first taste test with my English muffin/banana breakfast "food jag" this past Monday and I was stunned. Delicious. Especially the chocolate PB. So, so yummy.

You can visit the Peanut Butter & Co. website by clicking on this sentence.

They actually have a ton of different things to offer (besides peanut butter) and several good recipes too! And, if I ever make it to NYC, I am definitely making a stop at their sandwich shop.

And, here's a comparison of calories, fat, ingredients between Jif Reduced Fat and PB & Co. based on a 2 Tablespoon serving amount:

Jif Reduced Fat

Calories: 190, Calories from Fat: 110, Total Fat: 12 g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Ingredients: basically peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, and a whole lot of other stuff that I have never heard of including hydrogenated oils which I guess are supposed to be bad.

Peanut Butter & Co Cinnamon Raisin Swirl

Calories: 160, Calories from Fat: 100, Total Fat: 11g, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Ingredients: Peanuts, evaporated cane juice, raisins, cinnamon, palm fruit oil, salt.

Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate Dreams

Calories: 170, Calories from Fat: 110, Total Fat: 13 g, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Ingredients: Peanuts, evaporated cane juice, cocoa, cocoa butter, palm fruit oil, vanilla, lecithin (from sunflowers), salt.

Thanks for letting me share my newest "food jag" with you. Now, come on, let me know what yours are....I can't be the only one, can I??

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nap Time

I have always looked forward to nap time since the kids were teeny babies. No matter how rough the morning, how many poopy diapers or onesies I changed, how much screaming and whining and crying I had to endure (and, unfortunately, not all that screaming, whining, and crying belonged to the kids), I could always count on a small portion of our afternoon being set aside for rest. Even if the kids refused to sleep, nap time was (and still is) sacred in this household and is strictly observed whether you decide to sleep or not.
In the early baby days (if you are a mom, this can be translated to mean "the weeks where you spent 90% of every 24 hour period either feeding or calming your newborn, 5% changing poopy diapers and clothing laden with spit up, 3% attempting to do laundry, and the remaining 2% watching your peaceful, sleeping babe while barely being able to contain your emotional composure as your heart beams with love while simultaneously coming to the realization that the secret fear you've been harboring regarding the sudden awakening of your little angel at a moment's notice with absolutely no warning other than the deafening screams that are about to emit from his/her mouth, is just about to come true..."), nap time was almost always spent together.
This nap time together arrangement was mostly out of necessity due to the fact that I could not possibly make it through one 24-hour period without that 2-hour respite, complete with much needed sleep, in the middle of the afternoon and more often than not, the only way my kids would take good, long, afternoon naps was with me. So, after a hearty lunch, I would lie on my back on our couch, babe positioned on his or her tummy (on my tummy) and we would sleep the afternoon away together. In those early days when I could count how many times my kids took good, long naps in their cribs on one hand, the mommy/babe couch nap was a definite way to ensure much needed sleep for all.
I'm not quite sure when napping together ceased...probably around 5 or 6 months when we were finally able to establish a more stable schedule, the babes got more used to their cribs (and were also sleeping through the night), and the necessity of my own sleep during nap time fell to the wayside in favor of completing household chores or whatnot (ok...so in all honesty, blogging, photo editing, reading, and watching TV all make the top of that list as well).
Anyway, as difficult as those early weeks of infancy often are (for mommy and baby alike), I will always remember those afternoon nap times, cuddled up with my cute little babes, with absolute fondness and joy.
So, as you can imagine, this past Sunday after Zach's much-too-abbreviated afternoon nap (we've been having some issues with him falling asleep for nap times lately), I pleasantly welcomed him onto the couch for a little cuddle time to help him wake up. Only, he didn't wake up.
And, momentarily I was whisked back in time, remembering what it was like to hold my babe on the couch while we slept the afternoon away. I am sure these times will only become fewer and farther in between, but I will take all that I can get.

How did he wake up? Well, my biggest baby decided she wanted in on the cuddle action as well. And, all peace and quiet went steadily downhill from there.

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Here, here to the afternoon nap!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Biding Time While Sick

Two weeks ago when we were quarantined at home because of two sick kids, I relied upon my creativity to keep us occupied for one of our afternoons. Behold.... I am actually quite surprised with what can be crafted given the help of some construction paper, cardboard, cotton, raffia, scissors, and one desperate mommy.

Although Zach wasn't as into the projects as his sister (who spent almost 2 hours straight working on her Christmas creations),
he didn't stop us girls from having some crafty fun.
The only problem: Allie is currently on day 3 of another fever, Zach just spiked his own this morning, and with chills and aches myself, I admit I'm feeling pretty crummy. So, although 2 weeks ago my brain was functioning creatively enough to produce entertaining works of art like pictured below,

today my brain has only been barely lucid enough to provide breakfast to the starving children and throw in a couple DVDs. Here's to hoping we're getting all this crummy sickness out of our systems so we can enjoy a healthy Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Photo Op

The other day I asked Zach if he would stand by the Christmas tree so that I could take his picture. He immediately walked toward the Christmas tree and, in shock that he actually chose to follow directions without any objection, I held the camera up as quickly as possible to capture the moment. Then, as I'm sure the thought crossed his mind that he was actually about to do something that his mom requested of him without complaint, he suddenly veared past the tree and climbed directly on top of the coffee table where he enthusiastically proclaimed "cheese" and posed for his photo. I only have one thing to say, buddy.... It sure is a good thing that you are cute.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When It's Too Cold to Go Out In The Snow...

Bring the snow in to you!Then, (because we all know that white snow is just plain boring) add a little food coloring and water complete with mini-turkey baster applicators for over an hour's worth of fun.

Benefits of playing inside with technicolor snow:

  1. It's free.
  2. It's fun.
  3. It's educational ("Look! When you mix red and blue, you get purple snow!").
  4. It's practically mess-free for mom (when it melts or spills all over the floor, you just mop it up with a towel), but has the appearance of being super messy to the kids. And, we all know that kids love anything messy.
  5. It sure beats frostbite.
Now, just for the record, I'm not against playing outside in the snow...it's just that when it is so windy that a small child has difficulty standing upright and can barely see 2 inches in front of their face due to being pelted with massive amounts of blowing snow, an alternative to outside snow play becomes a necessity. Here's hoping we'll have a couple warm days (and by warm, I'm talking anything NOT in the single digits) in the near future so we can enjoy the snow in its full glory.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let It Snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the smell of homemade Christmas cookies is so delightful,
And since we have two more batches to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
~
Although the snow is now actually stopping,
We still have gingerbread men that need a-frosting,
With our aprons tied on just so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
~
When we finally kiss goodnight,
Let's eat one last cookie before ending our song,
Then we'll freeze the rest in containers air-tight,

To enjoy them for all December long!

~
Now the pilot-light in the gas oven is slowly dying,
And parting with so many delicious cookies can be a bit trying,
But as long as you love Christmas cookies so,
We'll make more the very next time that it snows!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

LOST:

One easy going, mellow, roll-with-the-punches, non-argumentative, non-objectionable, care-free, compliant 2 year old little boy. If found, please return as soon as possible in exchange for the 2 year old little boy who has seemingly discovered his own will overnight and has taken up residence in our home. While still cute and endearing at times, this particular boy has been known to drive his mother and father to the brinks of insanity with the following antics:
  • A dramatic refusal to wear any sort of winter attire. Despite the air temperature being no less than snot-freeze cold, this boy will scream bloody murder at the mere mention of his winter hat or mittens. He is also not afraid to make this view known in the public arena and does so with audible and physical gusto. It is probably not advisable to return to the neighborhood Home Depot after his most recent display this past Saturday.
  • A dramatic refusal to hold any one's hand while crossing the street or while navigating through a crowded, public place. While this objection is performed silently, it is no less frustrating for the caregiver. The boy--standing completely statuesque in one place, refusing to move a muscle, gluing his feet firmly to the ground--will stare intently in your direction with one of the most disgusted expressions that a 2 year old can muster, provide absolutely no acknowledgement that he has heard any of your one thousand frantic pleas coaxing him into cooperation, and will not surrender his charade until you sling him over your shoulder like a 32 pound sack of potatoes and lug him to your desired location.
  • A sudden dramatic refusal to eat anything that is offered to him other than cookies, crackers, mac and cheese, fruit snacks, ice cream, yogurt, or string cheese. If a food item that is green, organic, or not laden with sugar and carbohydrates should happen to make an appearance on his plate, the boy's response will be no less than a full-fledged melt down as he pushes his plate as far away as possible and mounts a temporary fast. The only known solution is to continue offering him the same exact plate of food whenever he expresses hunger. Despite the fact that it may take over 3.5 hours, he will eventually give in to his growling stomach and clean the entire plate.
  • An obsession with acquiring every single item that his sister shows even remote interest in. This includes, but is not limited to: a pink toothbrush, Disney princess stickers, all 8 Disney princess Barbie Dolls, the baby doll stroller, a camera, Disney princess tableware, and an H1N1 vaccination.
  • A refusal to allow anyone to change his diaper. Even though the entire population within a 3 mile radius of our home is painfully aware of the stench that often emits from his pants, the boy is happier to let the rancid mess squish between his buttocks than endure the necessary diaper change. A seemingly obvious solution to this problem would be toilet training. However, the boy has all of a sudden decided he does not want to sit on the potty, let alone do his business there.

Although at first this may not seem like a fair exchange, please be advised that you will momentarily forget all offenses when the boy requests "Map and Cheese" for dinner and says "Dank you, Mommy" when it makes an appearance on his plate or when he proclaims "MOMMY PUT YOU TO BED!" after his nightly bath and subsequently wriggles his way out of Daddy's arms into your own and refuses to let go. Also, his rendition of "Little Drummer Boy" is quite endearing. Lastly, he shows completely angelic behavior for approximately 11 hours each day....between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.....when he is sound asleep.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Operation Weight Maintenance Update

Well, I figure it's probably about time for another weight-maintenance update...especially since I survived Allie's birthday and Thanksgiving and am miraculously still within my desired weight range.
~
The only reason possible for my not gaining weight over the past week must be due to my continued neurotic obsession with the treadmill. I mean, how else can you explain eating a German Chocolate Doughnut the size of a small child's head, snitching several bites of all the other doughnut varieties available, consuming 2 homemade chocolate chip cookies, indulging in way more sweet potatoes than one should ever be allowed to consume in a single sitting, stuffing myself even more full with apple laced corn bread stuffing, and topping it off with a pumpkin pie bar and two very generously portioned homemade apple slices...all within a 24-hour period?
~
I'll tell you how....
~
You arrive home on Thanksgiving night and insanely run 7 miles on your treadmill until you are so sick to your stomach that even the thought of that heavenly pecan-praline topping on the sweet potato souffle makes you want to hurl, your knees are so sore that they feel like they are literally going to split in two, and there is so much sweat pouring off every surface of your body that your husband asks you if you just got out of the shower.
~
Then, you vow that you will never eat that much fat-laden, sugary food ever again because it made you feel so sick and was completely not worth the torture you inflicted upon yourself.
~
But, then you wake up the next day (completely choosing to forget about the previous days' sins) and finish off the rest of Allie's cupcakes before imposing yet another insanely wicked run on the treadmill for continued poor food behavior.
~
It was definitely a rough couple days, but I promise I'm back on the straight and narrow again. It helps that the Thanksgiving leftovers are not at my house and that I have refrained from purchasing anything sugary or laden with carbohydrates...or chocolate...or fat...or cheese...for that matter.
~
I have, however, become a bit bored with my lunchtime routine of a cold-cut sandwich on a sandwich thin, so I purchased these:

Now, I've never been a fan of the all vegetarian, meat-alternative patty (and I'm about the furthest away from a vegetarian as you can become), but these are honestly REALLY GOOD. I topped mine with low fat mozzarella cheese and a little pizza sauce and had an incredibly tasty warm sandwich for lunch. With only 70 calories, 1.5 g of fat, and 3.5 g of fiber, I'm an instant fan of the Boca Bruschetta Veggie Patty.

Also, since I'll always have a love affair with sugar and apparently my newfound obsession with peanut butter is just continuing to intensify, the kids and I made some tasty Double Peanut Cereal Bars today. At first, I thought these wouldn't be that good, but they are really tasty and definitely curb my sweet tooth. So, to end my post, I'll pass the recipe along to you:

Double Peanut Bars

  • 1-1/2 cups Wheaties (I used Fiber One Flakes with Honey Clusters)
  • 1 cup Multi Grain Cheerios
  • 1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried mixed fruit
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter

1. In a bowl, combine the cereals, peanuts, and mixed fruit. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, and peanut butter. Cook and stir until brown sugar and peanut butter are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over cereal mixture; gently stir to coat evenly.

2. Transfer to an 8-inch square dish coated with cooking spray; gently press down. Cool (I put mine in the fridge because they can get quite sticky) and cut into 12 bars. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts: 1 bar = 151 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g fiber, Weight Watchers Points Value = 3

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Allie's Fabulous Fourth Birthday Celebration

With pink balloons and festive decorations fit for a true princess......and sparkling birthday presents suitable for royalty.... ...not even the swine flu......could ruin this happy four-year-old princess' birthday. After an early morning trip with Daddy to the doctor (just to make sure the 4-day, 102.7 degree fever was caused by nothing more than the H1N1 virus).......her royal highness enthusiastically tore through every single birthday present...
...and played happily with her new kids' digital camera, spiral-graph set, paint set, new markers, and coloring books until she requested a whimsical birthday lunch of Mac&Peas with a side of applesauce. The birthday princess' mom had a parent/teacher conference to attend where she learned that the birthday girl is one of the most joyful, well-behaved, and talkative little girls in her preschool class. As a special surprise, pink princess birthday balloons were purchased following the conference...

...and Princess Allie generously bestowed one solitary pink heart balloon to her baby brother.

Since it goes without saying that all good princesses need their beauty rest, the birthday princess took a much needed afternoon nap before Grandma and Grandpa came over to share their birthday present and eat princess cupcakes. After discovering that she was the proud new owner of every single Disney Princess Barbie-sized doll (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa!), Princess Allie was more than eager to dig into her birthday treats.
Don't worry...we had separate cupcakes for those of us that did not want to consume the ones spewed with H1N1 virus after the candles were completely blown out.

The cake was divine, but her royal majesty preferred to lick the frosting and pick off all the M&M's.
Her brother also took no time at all to shove every bit of sugary goodness into his face.
All in all, it was a marvelous birthday!