Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Road to Kindergarten: Part 3

Catching up on our road to kindergarten?  Read part one and part two!

So, we're about a month into kindergarten and some of it's been easy and some parts of have been oh so very hard.  Like, harder than I imagined they would be. 

The easy parts: no more tears when he goes to leave the house like he had on the first day, woohoo!  Homework so far has not been a fight; in fact, he seems excited to do it every night, and proud of himself when he finishes it all by himself.  (Liam joins in the fun every night by getting a notebook and crayon and "doing his homework" at the table beside Jake)  He seems to have had a pretty easy time making friends, and he often talks about playing games with friends and talking to them at lunch.  He's branched out to buying lunches from the cafeteria a few times, which makes me insanely happy.  5+ years of packing lunches every.single.day is right up at the top of my list of "biggest first-world problems that affect me".

Now...the hard parts.  Let's see, where to start....the attitude, the poor choices in the evening when it comes to behavior, etc...etc....you get the picture. I should back-track a bit here and say that it's not all bad....and not every night is like this.  But when it is?  Oh boy, watch out!  Sometimes the "off" days seem to start as soon as I pick him up from school, other days we'll go all evening and have a great time, then all of a sudden, POOF!  A switch goes off and it's like a Jekyll/Hyde situation out of nowhere.

It's been trying, for sure.  And we are doing our best to be patient, while rocking back and forth in the fetal position repeating the phrase, "this too shall pass, this too shall pass".  When we're not doing that, we're talking about what's happening and trying to come up with a game plan.  Positive reinforcement for good behavior, appropriate consequences for negative behavior...but who knows if we're doing it right?  Where is that foolproof manual when you need it??

I hate to end on a negative note, so I'll throw this out there: when he first started school, there was another kid who was hitting everyone.  He was acting out in class, and just being generally disruptive.  We were assured that the situation was being handled, and sure enough, Jake eventually said that this kid had stopped hitting in class.  Just this past weekend, I asked Jake to name some of his new friends at school, and one of the names was that kid.  I let him finish talking, then said "I'm so glad to hear that (insert kid name here) is your friend now, do you like to play with him?" and his response was, "Yeah, mommy.  I talked to him one day when he was by himself...I think he had such a hard time at the beginning because he just needed a friend.  I'm his friend now"

So, for as much as I feel like I'm screwing it up a lot of the time, moments like that assure me that I'm doing something right.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Seven years: some things never change.

Happy Anniversary, Brian!! Today is our 7 year anniversary, and looking back through our wedding pictures makes me realize that some things never change.

You can still make me ugly cry:

We still think Heinz Chapel is the prettiest place to get married, no competition:

We still give our marriage 2 thumbs-up:

We still like to be goofy together:

We still like to have our cake and eat it, too:

We still get sad when fun things come to an end:

We are still walking through life together.  Always.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hitting the running wall

So...running.  Yeah, summer was not my friend.  I hate being hot, I hate sweating, so there was essentially nothing about running in the warmer weather that was appealing to me.  My mother-in-law was kind enough to give me her old treadmill that she no longer used, but I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  I had visions of watching some episodes of the Real Housewives, while gleefully running in my nicely air conditioned basement and simultaneously shouting at the TV about Theresa's latest antics in NJ.  The reality was that the treadmill hurt my body, the air conditioning wasn't even that refreshing when there's no air blowing against you while running, and it was distracting trying to watch TV and not fall backwards off the treadmill, all at the same time. 

Aside from that, I was also growing frustrated with the fact that running was not helping the entire reason I started doing it in the first place (which is because I have high blood pressure); what happened instead was that my blood pressure has started to increase since running.  What a ripoff! I felt betrayed by the medical community! Liars.

I will take any chance I get to use lines from Austin Powers in every day life.

I know, I know.  There is obviously not a direct correlation there...I know that my blood pressure did not go up because I started running.  But it is such a slap in the face to see absolutely no improvement (at this point, I'd even take it just staying the same over going up!)  So that got me down, it really did.  I won't insert a self-pity party here, but it definitely played into my lack of motivation to get out there in the month of August.  

So, as you saw in my last post, I muddled through that 5K.  It wasn't pretty, but I did it.  Now the problem is, that I haven't done it since then. Zip. Zilch.  Nada.  Not a single step of running have I done.  Between feeling defeated by my blood pressure, Jake starting school, and having some busy weekends, it just hasn't happened.  But, it stops here.  I'm back in the saddle as of this week.  I went out last night and did 2 miles without stopping, which was better than I had anticipated considering it's been 2.5 weeks of sedentary behavior.  I hope to get out at least one other time this week, hopefully 3, since the weather is supposed to continue to be cool. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Steelers 5K and Kids' Kickoff Event

Working a bit backwards catching up on posts here, but a few weeks ago I ran a 5K with my friend, Brett (the father of Jake's on-again, off-again girlfriend Maddie from preschool) and immediately following the 5K, the kids participated in a 40 yard dash on Heinz Field. 

Leading up to this race, I had been struggling a bit with running and my interest/motivation in continuing to do so.  But that's a separate post for another time. Back to the race. Despite a few kid illnesses, I've been pretty healthy for the past few months then, of course, OF COURSE, I managed to get some type of wicked head cold/sinus infection that week.  What started out as annoying mid-week escalated to full-blown miserable by Friday night.  I even contacted someone from the race to see if Brian could run in my place the next morning if I couldn't make it.  He could have done that, but of course, that morning, I was stubborn and convinced myself that once I got there and got going, I would feel much better.
My smile here is totally for the sake of the kids.

Yeah, that never really happened.  It didn't help that it was about 72 degrees at 9am and 95% humidity.  It is astounding the difference that the humidity can make, I felt like I couldn't breathe between being stuffy from the cold and having a cough and the humidity weighing down my lungs.

But---we finished!!  In just over 35 minutes, and that's with stopping to walk briefly 3 times (2 walk breaks on hills, one because I was having a coughing fit and had to stop for a minute to work that out) 

Brian was manning both of our kids and Maddie, here are some pics of them being cute in and around the stadium while Brett and I ran:

 I was in a bad mood by the time we finished if we're being honest; I was mad at myself for being so stubborn and insisting on running and mad at myself that I had to stop and walk those few times.  Then I found a tray of cookies being passed out and felt a bit better.  Then, it was time for the kids event and any amount of foul mood I had was gone in an instant.  The whole day was worth it to see those kids on the field, it was absurdly adorable. 

unfortunately blurry, but that's Jake slightly to the right in the jersey
Then, just when I thought we had already achieved maximum levels of cuteness, I was alerted to the fact that Liam had become an overnight celebrity: his pictures were featured on the steelers site!! You can actually see them here, pictures 23 and 24 and here they are as well:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Belated birthday celebrations at the ball game!

For their birthdays this year, I got Brian & my dad tickets to a Pirates game this past weekend (and Jake got to tag along, too!).  Thanks to my awesome neighbor, they received a MAJOR ticket upgrade into a luxury box!  Livin' large at PNC Park!  The seats were amazing and they had a great time, I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Jake & Pappy, walking the bridge to the stadium
awesome, right??
love that smile.

And then, to make things even a bit better, the pirate parrot came to their section and this happened:

The game continued, and more fun was had....

some footage of Jake cheering on the pirates and practicing his own baseball skills in the suite (while watching the big screen---how will this kid ever go back to regular seats??)

And last, but not least, the game ended with the kids getting to run the bases (running starts around the 40-second mark of the video):

Sweet moves, man.

Master Moves Mickey provides a lot of entertainment in our house!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Disney Countdowns for the kiddos

 As you know, I've been enjoying planning all things related to our trip to Disney World.  I've found a few cute countdown ideas to start doing with the kids, and figured I'd share on here.  All countdowns found on (where else?) pinterest.

This free printable ,courtesy of the Designs by Nicolina blog:

Individual countdown cards found here.

Another calendar idea from the Capturing the Magic blog:

And this adorable (but let's be honest, probably more work than I'm willing to do) countdown paper chain from the Grey Luster Girl blog:

Does your family do any fun countdowns to get excited about holidays or vacations? Share them in the comments!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Description from amazon.com: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My review: I couldn't put this book down, the writing was witty, funny, and fast-paced.  It's written in the form of various pieces of communication, all strung together to tell the story (emails, faxes, interviews, etc...)  I've read books written in that form before that have irritated me, but I enjoyed that format of this particular book.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Recipe: Simply Lasagna

 I can't take any credit for it, since it's from the Kraft foods site, but I wanted to share since I've been making it for years and it's so delicious!  You can get quite a few servings out of it (we easily get 2 dinners) and freezes well. 

image courtesy of kraft.com

Simply Lasagna

1 lb.  ground beef***
2-1/2 cups  Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1container  (15 oz.) Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1/4 cup  chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 jar  (24 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 cup  water
12 lasagna noodles (oven ready), uncooked
***The past few times I've made this, I substituted spinach for the ground beef and it was just as good, if not better! Use 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach for the browned ground beef. Thaw spinach; squeeze out excess liquid. Prepare as directed, covering each ricotta layer with 1/3 of the spinach.
  • HEAT oven to 350°F.
  • BROWN meat in large skillet on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, mix 1-1/4 cups mozzarella, ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, parsley and egg until blended.

  • DRAIN meat; return to skillet. Stir in spaghetti sauce. Add 1 cup water to empty sauce jar; cover with lid and shake well. Add to meat mixture; stir until blended. Spread 1 cup meat sauce onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish; top with layers of 3 lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup meat sauce. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining noodles, meat sauce and cheeses. Cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

  • BAKE 1 hour or until heated through, removing foil after 45 min. Let stand 15 min. before cutting to serve. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Road to Kindergarten: Part 2

When we last left off, I was feeling a teensy bit better about this whole kindergarten thing, having gone through parents orientation AND Jake's orientation.  Jake seemed to be feeling better, too; prior to that, he was nervous, and had a million questions (who will I sit with at lunch?  how will I find my desk?  What if I can't find my way around the school?  When will I get to go to gym class?)

The big day rolled around, and we all felt confident and ready.  Jake was looking devastatingly handsome (if I do say so myself) in his outfit that I painstakingly selected.  He had his backpack ready and stocked with supplies (in a surprising turn of events, he didn't want a new backpack and kept his superhero one that he had carried to preschool) and his lunch was packed in his awesome new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunchbox.  (WHEN WILL I EVER BE ABLE TO STOP PACKING LUNCHES?!?) Everything seemed to be going well, we were right on schedule....time to take the mandatory back to school pictures!!  *cue the hysterical crying here*

Yep, he went from calm, cool, and collected to hysterical, just like that.  I don't know if the reality sunk in for him or what, but whatever it was, he was not a happy camper.  He was sobbing that he didn't want to go, he would miss me, he wanted to go back to preschool, he missed his friends....ugh!  as if this morning wasn't hard enough for me as it was, I was barely holding it together before he started crying.  Somehow, I managed to keep from crying myself and telling him I'd just homeschool him.  What ended up saving the day was a water bottle, of all things.  I had bought him a new Superman water bottle to take in his lunch box and had forgotten to show it to him; I remembered this, told him I had a surprise and busted it out for him.  Sobs turned to sniffles within seconds....crisis averted.  Picture time!!!

That adorable first day of kindergarten sign can be found here.  (thank you, pinterest!)

We got through the trauma of getting Jake's meltdown only to face another meltdown: Liam!!  As I suspected, Liam had a terrible time with his brother's departure.  Liam is completely obsessed with Jake, and at daycare they would often tell me how excited Liam would be to spot Jake during the day, or how much they loved it if they were doing a whole-center activity and got to play together.  I knew it wasn't going to be easy on the little guy, yet somehow, it was worse than I expected.  He was literally sobbing, "No Jakey!  Don't leave me!  Don't go!"  There I was at the bus stop, trying to hold it all together for the sake of everyone, telling my first baby goodbye and trying to keep my second baby from having a nervous breakdown over the whole thing.

Brian then took Liam into daycare; I had the day off and a million errands to run, but I gave myself a time-out at home first.  I cried, looked at some pictures of Jake when he was a baby (that didn't help matters, just for the record), then tried to not fall down the rabbit hole. Letting your kids go is  one of those things as a mother where you start to feel like you're Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  Today it's kindergarten, next it's middle school, then high school, what if he gets a concussion playing sports?,  then they're going to prom and OMG what if his date isn't nice?,  and then college, then they're getting married, and so on and so forth.  Everyone does this right?  Right?

But he was ready for kindergarten.  And he'll be ready for all of that other stuff, too.  But I'm trying to not worry about that right now.  Right now, he is in kindergarten, and he still misses me when he leaves.  Right now, he's in kindergarten and he was the most excited kid in the world when I surprised him with a trip to the ice cream shop after picking him up on his first day.

He's in kindergarten, and he still brings home things like this to me:

He's in kindergarten, and we're so proud of the little boy he's becoming.

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