Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nature Discoveries on the Home Front

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The other day the kids called me over to the mailbox before I sent them inside for dinner.  They wanted to show me this Monarch Butterfly that had been caught by a big, black, hairy spider.

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It’s too bad I didn’t capture a better picture but it was shady and I was rushing to get food down the kids’ gullets.

The next morning we were riding our bikes out front and the kids noticed the aftermath of the spider’s feast.

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Just the pretty wings were all that remained. Too bad for the butterfly but lucky for the spider. Such is life. And the kids peddled on.

Just now I was presented this toad as I sit typing and playing lifeguard.

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I told my daughter to kiss it in case it’s really a prince but she refused.  I told her she’ll probably end up kissing a lot of toads before she finds her prince. She just started at me so I told her to put it in the garden.

I wonder what our next nature moment will be…

New Celebrity Crush

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Amy’s excited face waiting to meet Chip, a.k.a “Deacon”

So last night, after a day of boating, I headed up to Janesville, WI to go to the Rock County Fair with  one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world so see a concert. I didn’t even remember who we were going to be seeing but I didn’t care because it was a me-focused day of fun without the kiddos.

While boating I looked up who was going to be performing so I wouldn’t show up totally oblivious. Turns out we were going to see Clare Bowen and Charles “Chip” Esten from the hit show Nashville. I was like, “Oh, cool. I have no idea who they are but whatever.”

So I show up to Amy’s house and she’s down right giddy. I knew right away it was going to be a fun night. I haven’t seen her that excited about meeting a country star in a long time so I made her give me the quick run-down on her Nashville crush and she introduced me to some of their music before we headed to the fair.

Charles Esten Clare Bowen

Amy had VIP tickets for the pre-show meet-and-greet and although I hadn’t previously known of Chip’s existence, by the time it was our turn to meet him, Amy’s excitement had rubbed off on me and I’m certain I was blushing as he signed our CDs and we took a picture together.

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The concert, with the lit up fair rides as the backdrop, was the definition of Summer fun. Both Clare and Chip were stunning on stage yet still came across as a little dorky and down to earth which I can appreciate and gave us spectators much to laugh at. Now I need to actually watch the past two seasons of Nashville so I can swoon a little more over Chip and find out what all the fuss over this show is about 😉 It’s a good thing I have friends to keep me in the know about hunky celebrities/actors/musicians and worthwhile TV shows while I’m busy keeping my circus running!

Beach Bums and Backyard Sleepers

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Yesterday we picked up Grandma and went to the beach. 2014-07-10 13.31.09We spent a glorious few hours soaking up the sun, playing Monkey in the Middle in the water, doing cartwheels and summersaults down the huge sand pile and failing miserably at building a sand castle worthy of any respect. It was great!

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She looks angry but was really just on a mission to get her goggles! Phew!

 

Then after piano lessons and dinner followed by more snow cones I tucked my minions into their tent for a second night of backyard camping.

This kid was bouncing off the walls but some how I finally got him settled down and ready to sleep.

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The longer you look at this picture the more it looks like I photo-shopped his head onto his body. Give it a second… See what I mean? Cracks me up.

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His sister was equally as squirrely so I issued a few threats about noise and getting out from under their covers and marching them up to their own beds which eventually got their attention.

With their lovies by their side they snuggled in.

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I kissed their faces and made a hasty exit, admiring the full moon above their tent, into the house and2014-07-10 20.55.01 upstairs to my comfy bed where I slept peacefully and uninterrupted all night long! I think their busy day at the beach must have worn them out since no one woke up with nightmares… at least none that I’m aware of, and that’s a win in my book!

Now it’s time to intervene and stop the arguing I hear outside as I type this. The kids are suppose to be cleaning out all their gear from the tent so we can put it away but this seems to be a herculean task for some reason… probably since they’re 4 and 6 year old punks.

Happy Friday, friends!

 

 

Banana-Sweet Potato Muffins

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See this contraption with the glowing light behind the bananas? Of course you do. DSC07159

It’s an indoor bug zapper and in a household where there is always a container with scrap food for the chickens, a compost collection bucket, bushels of bananas and other various produce on the counter along with children who just can’t figure out how to close doors and dogs that know how to open them it is a most welcome eye sore to my counter top.

Just for the fruit flies alone it’s been worth the $25 investment and as long as everyone rinses their dishes before placing them in the sink to await their turn in the dishwasher it works very well.

See those bananas that are getting pretty spotty? How can ya miss ’em?

I threw a few of them in a bowl with a left over sweet potato, added some other good stuff and voila! Out of the oven came some delicious muffins that are kid endorsed and mom approved.

DSC07162Here’s the recipe if you wanna give them a go. 5 out of 6 kids under the age of 7 loved them. My little girl was the snob of the group who would have preferred it if I simply gave her the sweet potato and banana in it’s true form not to mention she doesn’t really like chocolate chips. Little weirdo.

 

 

 

 

 

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This is her “These are delicious! I need a big one now!” look. Don’t get me started on her hair!!!

Banana-Sweet Potato Muffins

2 large, ripe bananas, mashed

1 sweet potato cooked, mashed

3 Tbsp maple syrup

1/2 cup applesauce, I used natural (if using original I’d reduce the sugar amount a little)

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins and spray with cooking spry (they stick to the liners a little if you don’t) or just spray the tins well without liners.

2.Combine bananas, sweet potato, applesauce, maple syrup, eggs and sugar in a bowl.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.

4. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans if using.

5. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake 20 minutes for regular sized muffins, 12 minutes for mini muffins.

Happy Baking!

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Garden Chicken Salad

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Monday I packed the kids up and headed to Chicago for a day of fun. Before we left I put together a chicken salad to bring for lunch since we were meeting my brother in Millenium Park. In person I call my new concoction “Kick-ass Chicken Salad” or “The Best Chicken Salad in the Whole Damn World” but for posting purposes I settled on “Garden Chicken Salad” since all of the fresh ingredients are growing in my garden right now. (You can scroll to the end right now for the recipe or just keep reading.) I packed up my bomb chicken salad and the kids and hit the road.

Our first stop was the Field Museum. My bro got us a family membership for the kids’ birthdays and we LOVE it! There is so much to do there. The highlight of our trip this time were the mummies, especially the child mummies which I think creeped the kids out a little. We also enjoyed looking at the man-eating lions from Tsavo and exploring the Playlab but the best part was probably purchasing these gems…
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These wax molds are what kids pine after at museums and other such places and it’s the first time I let them each get one. The kids were stoked to feed the machine their $2.00 and wait for it to poop out a little wax figurine and I enjoyed reminiscing on the times of my youth when I was allowed to do the same.

With our new toys in hand we headed to The Bean, officially called Cloud Gate, for lunch with Uncle Brenden.

DSC07139 It was a muggy day but we enjoyed it none-the-less because the rain had stopped and we were checking off an activity on our Summer bucket list, plus the location was pretty bomb, just like the chicken salad. Uncle Brenny brought some treats from Magnolia’s Bakery to round out the meal.

After lunch we headed to the Crown Fountain for a little splash time which for my girls soon turned into a drench fest and since we didn’t have swim suits they rode all the way home naked. I’m just glad I didn’t get pulled over or in an accident, that would have been awkward for my oldest!

 

 

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Below is the loose recipe for my new, kick-ass chicken salad. I usually add celery, carrot and Craisin to my chicken salad but since I was out of the usual cast of characters I had to get creative. A note about the recipe: In general I feel that people have very different chicken salad preferences so I’m just listing the ingredients I used since it’s really all about the flavor combo anyways and I have yet to actually  measure anything out.

Garden Chicken Salad

2 parts Plain Greek Yogurt to 1 part Mayonnaise

diced cucumber, seeds removed if large

diced raddish
diced sweet onion

halved cherry tomatoes

diced chicken (I made mine Sunday in the crockpot using a whole chicken, pat dry and covered in lots of fresh oregano, basil and parsley with a little salt and pepper too.)

fresh or dried dill to taste

salt and pepper to taste

*** Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and dig in!

 

Today will be my third day in a row eating it and it gets me excited for lunch time even before I eat breakfast! If you make it and have a minute, I’d love to know what you think.

Enjoy,

Colleen

 

 

It’s All Fun And Games Until Great Grammy Wins

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Our weekly visits to Great Grammy’s house typically involve lots of food and treats, coloring and bouncing on the furniture. This week the kids brought Chutes and Ladders and it was a great game for them to play with Grammy. My oldest girl won the first two games and then excused herself so someone else could win a game. My boy won the next game and was eager to play again so Grammy happily obliged. Then she won the next game and my boy turned into a butthead.

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See that scowl. It didn’t last long though because his Grammy agreed to play again for the ump-teenth time. She’s a saint.

Board games with kids can end up great or sucky but the process is usually fun and when you have a Great Grammy to divert sour moods with Jello, popcorn, goldfish, gummy bears and M&Ms the outcome of the game hardly matters!

Garden Goodies

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Its never too early in the morning to enjoy some fresh snap peas and radishes from the garden!

Last weekend I harvested 8 gallon sized Ziploc bags full of various lettuces. Thankfully we were heading to a party where I could palm them off because that’s just too much lettuce for this family! I gotta get my butt back in the garden for some serious weeding and its time to harvests bunch of rhubarb and more lettuce. Its a great garden this year and we’re all enjoying eating the spoils of our work.

We can’t wait for the peppers that will be ripe soon and all the tomatoes that are off to a good start.

Daddy Shenanigans

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The dad in this house is the instigator of fun and is the brains behind most of the crazy shenanigans in these parts.

For instance, yesterday we were at a birthday party. In the 6 hours we were there he instigated numerous water balloon attacks and encouraged a large group of swimming kids to try drowning him by roaring loudly in their faces and flexing then he repeatedly threw them into the deep end and/or dunked them to their delight. He also assembled all the kids to help attach balloons to a beer can with their signatures inside to see if it would fly and enthusiastically escalated a little goody-bag fun into a free-for-all war between both kids and adults using sticky hands and mini water guns.

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Here’s our guy in all his glory releasing the balloons and beer can.

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It was fun watching it fly away. Never mind that a wind vortex cut the flight short.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sticky hand fight lasted a solid 20 minutes.

This sticky hand fight lasted a solid 20 minutes. That’s my little nugget in the middle protecting herself from a sticky slap. Smart girl!

 

I’m so glad he’s on my team in this parenting game and in general!  I Hope you’re all having fun with your favorite dads this weekend and/or remembering some of the fun shenanigans that they were involved in if they’re no longer around.

Cheers,

Colleen

Transitions

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If you’re a parent of school-age kids you most likely understand what this post’s topic revolves around without reading anything but the title.

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Last day of Kindergarten

Transitions. Certainly everyone goes through all sorts of them but what my world is focused on right now, like thousands of others,  is the transition from school days to Summer days.

I have been fretting for weeks the coming of this day, when the structure of our daily school routines cease and I’m thrust back into the spotlight to structure the 14 or so waking hours I have with my kiddos. I think I was stressing so much because I’m now 20 weeks pregnant (half way, guys) and my patience and energy levels have suffered a bit. So in preparation of the coming apocalypse Summer vacay I wrote out a daily routine involving reading time, quiet time, play time, etc that I thought would be beneficial for both mom and kids. I scanned the park district’s Summer schedule for fun activities to possibly enroll my older two in and registered for another session of gymnastics, this time for all three of my energetic offspring. I wrote a list of some of the fun activities offered in our city that we have yet to take advantage of and I thought out a plan for how best to utilize my allotted 2 hours per day of childcare at the gym we go to.

(If you think all this forethought is a little excessive then you’re probably not a mom. I’m fairly certain most mothers (and some fathers too) have been stressing for weeks about these same issues. At least that’s what I’m telling myself to feel better about all the mental energy I have used up mulling over this transition period.)

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Monster-face photo is mandatory with this crowd

I count today as our first official day of Summer vacation since both kids are now off. However, I won’t get a healthy dose of what that really means for me and my three minions until Monday because I was gifted a mommy-freedom day today by a few of my stellar relatives who took my hoard to an amusement park, all. day. long.

It was glorious. I’m sure the kids enjoyed themselves too.

Anyways, now that the time has come where I am once again the sole ringleader of my small circus all the live long day, I must admit that I’m not feeling as spastic as before. Maybe it’s all the planning I did prior to getting to this point or the fact that I’m typing this post after the most relaxing, kid-free, husband-free day I have had in…well…who really knows! It’s probably a very good conglomeration of the two meshed with a new zen-like attitude I’ve adopted towards myself and my immediate future.

I suppose that’s another transition of late. I’ve decided (once again) to try and chill out and be more present. To enjoy my kids as fully as I can at this very moment and allow them to be kids whether that means arguing with one another without my interference, crawling in my lap for a snuggle or a story or staying up late as their ice cream sugar highs wear off. I’m trying to try to distance myself from unnecessary distractions

Cookies for soccer BBQ/pool party. We were the green Disco Ninjas and the blue Bombers.

Cookies for our soccer BBQ/pool party. We were the green Disco Ninjas and the blue Bombers.

(Have you noticed a decrease in my blogging frequency?). To take the time to rest when my body tells me it’s time (growing a baby is hard work!) and to allow myself to regularly indulge in me-time to read or whatever suits my fancy, even if the kids are around and despite the fact that I am the sole benefactor of those actions. To let my frustrations pass before reacting when my plans don’t come to fruition be them about landscaping or bed times or whatever. All this spawned from reading a pregnancy magazine given to me at my last appointment that emphasized the importance of nurturing yourself throughout your pregnancy.

I suppose it’s just the advice I needed to read after throwing one hell of an end-of-the-season soccer pool party, if I do say so myself, and feeling exhausted, bogged down with laundry and household maintenance and a bit frazzled in general

Blue Bombers with Coach Cullen. See what I mean about monster faces?

Blue Bombers with Coach Cullen. See what I mean about monster faces?

(though still very content!) With Summer vacation upon us I hope to continue fostering this feeling of contentedness and happiness by balancing a loosely planned schedule with the freedom to be spontaneous and do whatever it is we feel we want to do. I plan on reminding myself frequently that it’s not the number of activities we check off our Summer bucket list that’s important but rather the experience of doing them together, with all the arguments, tears, laughs, scrapped knees, inevitable boredom, excitement and soiled undies that come with it. It’s not like this is a new epiphany or anything, I’ve had these thoughts before, but as I get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life I feel it’s important to refocus on what’s truly important and reinforce it for myself by spelling it all out for you.

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Last game of the season. I already miss all those goons and their fun parents!

I wonder how far into the Summer I’ll make it with this zen-like attitude before acknowledging to you all I have gone into pure survival mode and started counting down the days until school starts again. It’ll happen. Probably somewhere between the time that construction on our guest master bedroom begins and we attempt potty training.

Thanks for reading my babblings!

(Um, I’m certain I just saw a huge silver fish scuttle under my couch from the corner of my eye. EWWWW!!!)

^^^ See, more babblings. This is what happens when I have too much free time.

 

Coughing Continues, Mommy Turns to Zombie

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Well… ya know how yesterday I was boasting about the chopped onion remedy for coughs? Well, now that we’re going on day two and the littlest lady of the house was up ALL NIGHT LONG coughing in my face I’ve decided that 1) they indeed have a cold and it’s not some seasonal allergy and 2) all that really helps cure a cough is time. My son is already much better and slept peacefully through the night but his cough sounds bad when he does cough so we decided he’d stay home from school again. tired

As for my daughter, she rolled around, coughing in my face while we tried sleeping tummy-to-tummy, side-by-side, her feet to my face, her feet to her dad’s face, her head on my tummy etc… We did this bed dance from 1:30am until about 5:45am when her older sister came in and confessed she had peed her bed. I audibly sighed and whimpered and sent her into the shower as I closed my eyes again and hoped the mattress cover would do its job until I could motivate myself to crawl out of bed. Then about 15 minutes later my son came in and admitted he too had peed his bed. GAH! My husband sent him into the shower to join his sister and soon the wee-one who kept me awake all night and her dad joined the other two for some humid shower time. It’s a darn good thing we have two shower heads, a large shower and a huge hot water heater! I eventually joined in, but not before stealing a quick snooze alone, and sat like a zombie on the built in bench as our new coughaholic climbed onto my lap.

Anyways, what I was meaning to tell you this morning aside from the story of my hellish night is that I’m starting to think all these cough remedies and different ways to soothe kids’ coughs are in fact just ways to keep parents busy thus making us feel helpful as our children suffer through coughing fits and their bodies heal themselves.  As far as the bowl of chopped onions on my nightstand is concerned, I’m pretty certain it had no positive effect on my daughter’s incessant coughs last night and just made me a little queasy (or was that my dog’s farts as he lay right next to my bed…) Yesterday I bought Vicks Vaporub Cough Suppressant Ointment and slathered her little chest and the bottoms of her feet (because I’ve read that helps) at 2:30am to no avail. The honey and lemon flavored cough drops don’t seem to help much nor does sucking on a Lifesaver. By now my kids are refusing to take a spoon full of honey and will only take one or two sips of warm honey and lemon water. They know what I’m up to and want no part in my shenanigans to help soothe their throats but neither are they complaining of their throats actually hurting so maybe I should take a cue from them and ignore their coughs and carry on…

Have you noticed my positivity toward home remedies and such is suffering today? That’s the lack of sleep. I’ll hop back on the happy mommy train again once I can get a nap but if today goes like yesterday no one will nap and we’ll drag through the day with the help of sugar and caffeine. There will be days like these in every household and right now it’s our turn. I think that means it’s time to break out the Playdoh, Kinetic Sand, baking soda and vinegar and/or any other messy activity that can hold the kids’ attention while I pretend to participate 🙂

If you actually made it to the end of this cough-saga, pity-party post…Thanks! You’re a trooper. We’ll move on from here together and I promise a better post in the near future! Maybe involving some of my new favorite household items I’ve been meaning to tell you about…

Happy Thursday!