Tag Archives: Home

Backyard Fun: Make a Balance Beam

photo(5)If my backyard could talk, it would shout “Oh boy oh boy!”  You may ask “why?”  Basically because it is all set up for boys to have adventures.  With trees for climbing, bushes for hiding and lawn for running, the backyard is fully equipped.   But even I wanted to add some more features to this playful paradise.

So, some days the boys and I will build impromptu teepees, fairy villages and volcanoes.  But the other day, my husband had an idea.  He built something totally fabulous for the boys.  With three pieces of wood and a few nails, our backyard now boasts a balance beam!  This new feature is simply fabulous in every way.  It’s good for about ten minutes of active play, but heck, the boys have so much fun stepping on it, off of it and trying to balance.  Who knew three pieces of wood would prove to be so useful!

What are your favorite ways for sprucing up the backyard for kid play?  I’d love to hear!

Foolproof tips for a Fabulously Fun Bday Bash

With two boys, my oldest being 4, I have now figured out the recipe for a fabulously fun birthday bash.  It seems there are a few ingredients that are key for the wee ones.

First, there’s the theme.  For the toddler years, my husband and I picked the themes based on the boys’ interests (trains, brown bear, race cars).  Now, in the preschool years, Bobby is able to pick his theme.  This year it was superheros.  So, everything from the food to the activities tied back into the theme.  Thank you to Tattered and Ink for permission to use her fabulous superhero themed labels!2013092895102817

Second,  age appropriate activities.  For my son’s, third birthday which was pirate themed the kids went on a treasure hunt and dug up ole pirate Davy Jones in the sandbox.  For the fourth birthday, I (well truth be told, my husband) turned the backyard into a superhero training area.  With balance beams, buildings (i.e. wrapped boxes decorated like buildings) to climb on around the yard, and target practice (water guns and balloons with villains taped on them), there were things for the active kiddos to do.

Third, have fun with decorations!  A birthday party is an excuse to get creative and to engage the kids.   There are tons of ideas online for things to do and easy ways to decorate.  The best part is adapting these ideas to your own tastes.  For example, for the superhero theme, tons of blogs show the idea of making a skyline.  With numerous ways to do it, I decided to do it with supplies I had on hand. Plain brown packaging paper saved the day. The food table had the backdrop of a sky that my boys and I had painted (on the brown paper), signs of words (pop, bang, wham) that were also painted by the boys and Superman suspended by fishing line soared through the sky.  And, then the buildings were wrapped boxes that would have just gone to be recycled.  photo(3)

A themed centerpiece works as well.  For the pirate party, there was an ocean of jello upon which pirate ships made of rice krispy treats boasting paper sails set sail.  The superhero party had sheets of kryptonite made from rock candy surrounded by villains.  (Thank you to Sugarhero for the base recipe).

Fourth, a simple menu. To make things easier on game day, a simple menu cuts down on prep.  For a light lunch, sandwiches, fruit, a couple of salads and a kid friendly snack work well.  In photo(4)addition, kid sized snack holders are a hit! Whether it’s a bowl of crackers with tiny dixie cup cups for scooping or paper cones filled with treats, kids love have fun carrying around their own booty.

Fifth, a fantabulous dessert. Being a self proclaimed sugar addictIMG_2388, this is one thing that I love to make.  Figuring out how to make a cakes look like a race track, baby bear or batman symbol has been quite the experience.  Luckily there are tons of ideas on-line. and, it makes me wonder how our mothers’ did this without the internet.  For the batman cake, I ventured into the realm of fondant.  Yes, I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering how it would turn out.  But at the same time I was completely stoked to have the chance to make something that looked absolutely professional.  And, it worked!  Here’s the recipe I used.

Lastly, flexibility is key.  Accept the fact that not everything will go as planned.  I could give you story after story of things that didn’t go as planned like a balloon drop that didn’t drop.  At the end of the day, these things don’t matter as all that matters is your birthday star has a wonderful day surrounded by those who adore him or her.

Bobby’s Banana Crunch Bliss

ice cream!My Bobby is quite a little chef. He’s always adding things to traditional recipes, like chamomile tea to banana bread. If you’ve been following my blog, then Bobby’s creativity isn’t new to you as I detailed the chamomile tea incident in my Mommy Manifesto post.

In any event, the recent weather has been another excuse to challenge Bobby’s creativity. It’s been hot out here in Sonoma. The 90 degree days mean something other than breaking out the kiddie pool. They also mean it’s time to break out the ice cream maker. Last year, I experimented with basic vanilla and chocolate creams. This year, I’m doing something different.

That difference is that Bobby is now in charge of picking the flavors. Our first batch of the season was banana cream ice cream. For our second batch, Bobby wanted to add ice cream cones and other goodies to the mix. So, we made a new flavor which we call banana crunch bliss. Basically it was the banana base plus a bunch of delicious toppings – sugar cones, marshmallows and chocolate shavings. Sound good? You can make it too!

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 super ripe room temp bananas
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • mixings ( 1/2 cup marshmallows, 3 mashed sugar cones, 1/4 c chocolate shavings)

Mix the eggs with a fork for a bit. Slowly add the sugar. Mix until blended. Add the cream and milk. Chill the mixture for a few hours. Then, freeze per the instructions of your ice cream maker. Mash the bananas. Do this right before you add them to the mix otherwise they’ll brown. After the ice cream firms, add the bananas, then the toppings. If too soft, then freeze.

If you’re like my boys, then this batch won’t last long in your freezer. So, get ready to get creative with the next one!

this recipe is adapted from the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cookbook.

20130626-191204.jpg

Mommy Manifesto: Embracing Muddy Puddles & Chamomile Infused Banana Bread

photo(25) The struggle between pursing a career and mothering is intense.  For neither seem to be able to be accomplished with perfection simultaneously.  I personally decided to ease up on the career to dedicate myself to nurturing my two boys.  Working in a different capacity has enabled me to spend more time with my boys.  However, the cost of doing is definitely a detour from the traditional career path for women lawyers.  Although I own up to this decision, doing so hasn’t eliminated the tug of war between the two.

As the case may be, when the tug of war seems to lean towards career or when I question my decision, one of my boys will do something that reminds me of why this decision was so important.  The goal of maximizing my time with my boys always wins out.  But what I do with that time, and what I’m trying to cultivate with my boys is so important.  My mommy manifesto is to:

  • raise them with love, support and compassion
  • nurture their interests
  • let them explore
  • foster their natural curiosity
  • make them appreciate the world around them
  • photo(26)teach a respect for other living creatures
  • build confidence
  • let them feel free to discover their wings and fly as they wish
  • let them feel secure
  • help them connect to the world around them
  • experience beauty, music, sports, art
  • raise them with a goal of independence and independent thinking
  • teach them to embrace their weaknesses
  • appreciate their differences and learn that being different is a strength
  • try not to coddle
  • be accepting of messes, for what brings more fun than a muddy puddle? or a sandbox
  • seek environments for them that align with the above and minimize their exposure to environments that don’t

I’m not saying that doing the above is easy or that it happens everyday.  Take an example from the other day.  Bobby wanted to cook.  So, we decided to make banana bread.  As I turned my back, he dumped in some of his chamomile tea.  I really had no idea how much tea he dumped in, nor did it really matter. The fact that he did so, really irked me.  I was angry that he didn’t follow directions.

Then, I stepped back, took a breath.  Asking myself two questions put everything in perspective:  1) who cares, and 2) what does it matter.  After all, does it really matter how the bread turned out?  And could being a stickler in this instance stifle his creativity?  Who was I to judge? Maybe he was onto something.  Maybe chamomile tea would add an extra special element to banana bread.  Who was I to stop his creative process?  In the end, the bread was a little dry as it took longer to cook, but everyone loved it anyways.

So, I’ve learned my lesson.  Next time we do cooking experiments, I’ll be making two batters.  One for Bobby and one for me.

What’s your mommy manifesto?

Just five minutes for me and a cozy cup of chai tea

photo(23)

Sorry that it’s been awhile since my last post.  Life threw me a bit of a curve-ball and I’ve been reorganizing.  All is good, but I’ve needed to find some reinforcements to help with the kids so I can create time to work.

With my husband gone from before the kids get up until after they are in bed, I have gained a whole new appreciation for single moms.  Managing a house and the boys schedules alone seems to be a full time job.  Then add in work, and it’s total chaos.

Instantly, the little moments of “me time” whether it was grocery shopping solo or getting a pedicure totally evaporated into oblivion.  Where did “me time” go?

The other day, however, I got a little glimpse.  A cozy cup of chai tea, beautifully decorated with foam.  A warm spring morning.  A beautiful garden patio.  The sound of water dancing over a fountain.  And, the smell of spring in the air.  Just experiencing that moment was bliss.

With both of my boys off at their respective schools, Bobby at preschool and CJ at his playcare, before I dove into work, I took five minutes.  With every ounce of my being pulling me to occupy my time, it was totally and completely against my nature to step back and just be.  Five minutes to be present, to experience the patio, enjoy the chai, and breathe in the air.  It was heaven. And, the chai was spicy.

If you haven’t done it lately, I implore you to and before the kids go to bed.  Taking five at the end of the day when you are totally exhausted is totally different than sometime in the beginning when the day is fresh and new.  Try it out, you won’t be disappointed.

What’s your favorite way to take 5, I’d love to hear.

The Mommy Diet

Today, my husband surprised me by coming home with a lovely lunch from my favorite taqueria. Although we had a talk about avoiding carbs, the smell of fresh tortilla chips and fresh tacos was too much to resist. That subtle crunch of the chips yet the light almost creamy flavor of the tortillas contrasted with the spicy grilled chicken and fresh salsa. Add salt and there is a symphony of delight! So much for my efforts to limit carbs!

Why is it that whenever I start dieting, I end up gaining weight? Clearly, it’s due to lunches like today. So I’m not a fan of dieting, maybe that’s why I’m eternally a size 10 (a generous size 10). There’s just something about snacking on peppers, celery and asparagus that’s not completely satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh fruit and veggies, but they just don’t compare to my comfort foods — freshly made thick tortilla chips, dark chocolate or rich ice cream.

There’s something about the end of the day. After dealing with two rascally weasels, indulgent foods seem even more decadent. They call to me. It’s as if they soothe the soul.

Then the justification comes in. Well, if I walked for forty minutes and did a Pilates class, then a few crispy chips shouldn’t hurt right? Oops, make that a few handfuls. And if I ran XX miles, then can’t I have all of my favorite foods?

In my book the mommy diet has to allow for some sort of indulgence. Maybe not everyday, but from time to time. Sure there are theories like Body for Life, which allows for one day off, or more strict regimes like South Beach, but what works long term? I’m now looking for a diet that allows cheese, chocolate and occasional tortilla chips. Any suggestions?

What’s your trick? I’d love to hear.

Pat Benatar Had it all Wrong – Birth is a Battlefield

birth is a battlefieldAfter months of anticipation, and ages of waiting, motherhood arrives.  Whether it is a scheduled C-Section, induced or natural labor, after all of the waddling it is here.   An intense journey that fully pushes us to our limits and shows us that we can do things we had no idea we could, we meet our prize.  Intrigue, love, wonder, amazement at the process and the joy.

The process is physically and mentally taxing.  At times, I think that Mother Nature is cruel to place so many physical requirements on the mother.   The pregnancy, the birth, and then the physical care of the newborn.   Add to that the physical requirements of a postpartum body, needing simultaneously to recover, restore and supply for a baby.  The entire process is nothing short of amazing and draining.

This may sound like a bit of a rant.  To be honest, it is.  There is a point to it.  There are things us moms can do to take care of ourselves and prepare ourselves for this journey.   As moms we often forget about ourselves.  In a life where getting a shower is a luxury, can we really take care of ourselves? Well, maybe not to a level we did pre-kids, but there are things we can do to get off on the right foot.

Before having the baby, plan & prepare.  Stock your freezer with prepared or purchased meals.  Collect lists from your favorite take out restaurants.  Make lists of things that folks can do to help you when they visit.  Plan help – friends, family, neighbors.  And, check out my article on the gear to have on hand.

Get back up.  Plan who is going to help you when you get home from the hospital.  Don’t end up like me after my second child.  My first day home, my husband was back at work and I was taking care of both boys.  My older son was in the process of weaning off a medication that caused him to have uncontrollable crazy tantrums.  Sometimes they’d last for over an hour.  No joke.  Anyways, by the end of that day, I was so exhausted physically and mentally.  A friend came by and brought dinner.  I was so grateful and thankful for the mere presence of my friend, but embarrassed that my house was a mess, my son was having a tantrum and the baby was screaming.  That said, her being there was a gift.  Later that week, I asked another friend to come by to help with bathtime.  Again, I was grateful beyond belief.

My point is simple – secure help.  If you don’t have family in the area or if they were like mine unavailable, then call upon friends to come help or if you are in a position to hire help, then hire as much as you can afford.

When you are in the hospital, get all the help you can.  There are tons of resources while you are in the hospital.  From lactation consultants to the nursery, there is a huge support network there to help you recover.  My biggest advice is to utilize the professional babysitters and get some sleep.  It could be months or years until you’ll get to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time.  I’m sure Dr. Sears, the proponent of attachment parenting would disagree with me, but seriously, adjusting to life with a newborn and taking care of one is so difficult.  Why not get some sleep?

With my first son, I kept him in the room with me the entire time.  I felt a duty to care for him every minute (and I still do).  But with my second son, I still feel this connection but knew that I’d be going home to taking care of two boys.  So, I took advantage of the newborn nursery.  The first time I sent him, I was a little hesitant.  But as soon as he was wheeled out, I crashed.  He was brought back in three hours later.  And, then after a bit he went back.  I crashed again.

Use a lactation consultant – Another huge resource at the hospital are the lactation consultants. Before I tried nursing, I had friends who made it look so easy.   It was like something out of a movie – the baby  calmly and happily latched on.  Mom had a conversation while nursing.  Then baby detached in a happy milk coma.  With my first son, I had major issues getting him to latch properly.  Nursing was a bloody and painful experience.  Who knew it didn’t have to be that way? I sure didn’t.  With my second son, it was much easier, which I attribute to the refresher course given by the lactation consultant while I was in the hospital.  Whether you’re a veteran nursing mom, or not, using a lactation consultants is totally worth your while.

Going Home

No one talks about it.  So here goes – You go from being able to control your schedule to having to spend endless sitting on the couch, laying in bed or rocking in a chair feeding baby.  When you’re not feeding the baby, if you have a fussy baby, you are soothing the baby.  With my first son, this meant spending hours bouncing him on an exercise ball. The ball was fabulous at first as it made him so happy, but as the months went on, I began to loathe that ball. It was a bit like a prison, but the only thing that made him happy.  So, anyone who came to visit took a turn on the ball.

How do you make this easier?  Well, why not have books downloaded on your kindle or smartphone so that you can easily access them during those late night feedings.  You’ll eel more connected anyway.  In addition, like I said above, plan for help.  One of my girlfriends put it best when she said get all the help you can afford.  Whether you hire a nanny or swap I owe yous with your girlfriends, there are tons of creative ways to make it work.

Well, thanks for reading.  I appreciate having this platform to share tips from the trenches.  I’d also love to hear yours.