Monday, August 31, 2009

All Things Girly and a Preschool Preview

This post should have been up on Friday but atlas I was swamped with work so here it goes:

With Joe out of town and Jake at school most of the day, Jadyn and I have had a lot of alone time this week. We have been productive - I have been walking at the park in the mornings after dropping Jake off, we went grocery shopping, ran errands and did some housework. But I also had a special treat for Jadyn who has had to endure so much fuss over Jake starting kindergarten.

Recently over the last several months Jadyn has really stepped up the girly play. She has magnetic dolls that she likes to dress and is obsessed with the Disney princesses. She received this super cute Cinderella set for her birthday that came with little rubber dresses so you can change the princess into various outfits and although she still needs help doing it, she loves to dress and undress the little figurine. This is on top of her taking her dress-up chest and making herself a princess on pretty much a daily basis. The time had come.

You see when I was little (although probably not as young as Jadyn) I was VERY into Barbie dolls. When I got older and it was time to put the Barbie dolls away, I decided to save them for when and if I ever had a daughter, an idea I had gotten from my best friend Lisa's mom. I thought it was the coolest thing to play with her moms' barbies, clothes and accessories she had saved from growing up in the 60's. What makes it even more special is that my Grandma March used to crochet custom dresses for my barbies and I kept every single one of those dresses. And on Monday, those barbies with their dresses and all the cute little accessories I had accumulated over my childhood came out of storage for Jadyn and I to play with. She was in awe and I had a great time reminiscing over all the treasured items, right down to the metal Band-Aid box that my mom had covered with wrapping paper so that my barbies could have a hamper. Oh the memories!

Here is Jadyn exploring the barbies when I first showed them to her:

Posing with a barbie wearing one of my Grandma's custom designs:

All the little accessories I collected over the years - Barbie sized tea set and books amongst my favorite:


Then on Thursday, Jadyn had her preschool open-house hours so she could go and visit the preschool and get to know the teachers (of which she is already familiar since it is the same preschool Jake attended for 2 years). She asked on several occasions if I was going to leave her there and I explained to her that while I was not leaving her this time, when she started school the following week I would be. Therefore she was not nervous at all and happily played with the toys while I chatted with her teachers. However, when the teachers tried to talk to her she clammed up. I really wonder how long it will take her to warm up to them when I am not there. At any rate, after leaving we talked in the car on the way home and she told me point blank that she would talk to her teachers and fellow classmates when she started school on Tuesday and had her backpack. Apparently, the backpack is the magic ingredient so I guess we shall soon see how she does.

Before leaving for the open-house:

Shutting down when the teachers tried to talk to her (LOL!):

Playing peek-a-boo with the puppet booth smiling and happy once again:


I know how ready she is for preschool and I know I have talked about it for awhile now but even though she is much more verbal than Jake at this age there is something about her being my second and last child that makes me think she cannot not possibly already be at this stage of going to preschool. If I stop and think about it for too long, it literally blows my mind. Where has the last 3 years gone?

My little baby girl isn't quite so little anymore.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Freckle Face

"A girl without freckles is like a night without stars"



*Note - if you click on the photo while viewing my blog, you get the full effect of the photo.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jake's Academic Debut

Yes that's right folks, the big day has arrived. Jake's first day of kindergarten has come and gone and I would have to consider it a roaring success. The only tears of the day came not from a mostly excited but somewhat apprehension 5-year old who was about to start his academic career at a public elementary school (save the eye rolls, I know I am being overly dramatic). The tears were also not the ownership of a very nervous-nelly mom who was feeling very sentimental over the fact that her son was reaching this milestone so quickly, feeling as though it had to have been only yesterday that she was swaddling her newborn and hearing those first angelic coos. No, the tears came from the 3-year old little sister, who in a brief moment of panic couldn't find her mom in the crowds of parents, students and teachers. As it turns out, I was only 6 feet away giving Jake a last good-bye hug and wishing him well on his first day.

Sunday night we packed up Jake's Lightening McQueen backpack and Star Wars lunchbag and ensured that we all got a good night's rest. Jake had no trouble getting up and ready on the first morning of our new routine and he even managed to eat a good breakfast beforehand, which was one of the things I had been nervous about since he generally is not a wake up and eat type of guy.

Here he is before departure complaining that his backpack was too heavy:



As we drove to school, I showed him the bus that he would ride should he change his mind. Once we arrived at school, I could definitely tell that Jake was nervous but he was trying his best to conceal it. Again as we crossed the front parking lot, I pointed to the bus that he would arrive on should he change his mind to which he replied, "Mom, I am not going to change my mind!" This little remark will come into play a little later, just wait and see.

Once at the front of the school, we immediately found his teacher and his buddy Sam who he knows from his spring t-ball team. Suddenly, the nerves gave way to mostly excitement and I was most grateful that Jake knew at least one person to share his first day of school experience with:


Like many of the parents on the first day, we stayed as the teacher kept the children in a line waiting for the last of the buses to arrive:

Here Jake gave me a look as if to say, "Okay Mom, that's enough with the pictures!"


We stayed right up to the moment when the class marched into the school courtyard and out of sight toward their classroom. There he goes, sniff, sniff:


I wish I could give you a play-by-play of what happened next and during the next 5 hours while Jake was in school but instead I will present you with what I was able to extract from Jake when I picked him up from school in the afternoon:

The first words out of his mouth were, "I want to ride the bus. Can I ride the bus tomorrow?" Talk about change of heart! We compromised and I will continue to take him for this week and then let him ride the bus should he still desire to starting next week.

The second words out of his mouth were, "I was there a long time!" True, going from 3 hours a day to 5 is going to be a huge adjustment.

He then proceeded to tell me he learned a new saying from one of the kids. My first thoughts were great, I wonder what curse word I am about to hear. He then proceeded to say, "I was just kidding". Not that he learned a new saying but that is the new saying. I figure at least now it can break the monotony of his other new saying, "That's not funny".

About his day he said he sang two songs he already knew; the ABC song and the Hokey Pokey, only the later was a little different than what he knows. He also said he started to learn a few new songs as well. He said he didn't have time to eat his whole lunch but I know for certain he has 30 minutes and LOTS of distractions eating in a cafeteria full of 5-year olds so we will work on that. He did eat a banana and half of his lunchable, leaving both cookies to my surprise. He also said he made a few new friends but he doesn't know there names and he doesn't want to know their names. I thought that was odd.

And basically that was it. I am hoping to get more tidbits as the week progresses and will see for myself next Tuesday, when I start volunteering in his classroom once a week. I definitely think it will take time for Jake to adjust to being at school 5 hours a day, 5 days a week and the fact that it is much more academic in nature in comparison to preschool (for example when he saw the classroom last Friday he looked at me confused and asked, "Where are all the toys?") but it just means we have to make the most of our free time in the afternoons. The rest of the day went by SO fast and before I even realized, it was time to put the little tykes to bed, not to mention the fact that I was exhausted as well.

So that's all she wrote folks. The tale of Jake hitting yet another milestone, his first day of Kindergarten has come and gone and Mommy can try and breathe a big sigh of relief that it went off without a hitch.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The last days of summer

The last days of summer were spent at the pool, in our pool, at the park, at the park again, at the splash park and visiting cousins Madison and Ethan with our big finish on Friday when the kids spent the night with Scottie and Ali (more on that at a later date) so Joe and I could celebrate our anniversary (what could be better than an evening of shopping, dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and catching a late night showing of the hilarious summer hit "The Hangover"?)

Thursday the kids and I decided to check out the new splash park on the military base. For some reason it was a much more successful outing than when we visit the one out in town and I cannot figure out why. The kids insisted on wearing their goggles so the water could splash them in the face without getting in their eyes.









Friday was Jake's Kindergarten orientation when we got to meet his teacher and see his school and classroom. Jake was very outgoing, social and talkative, almost to a fault. I know he was excited but he kept interrupting his teacher to tell her things like, "I can read words", "I can spell - stop is spelled S-T-O-P", "coyotes live in the desert and they stay up at night so we keep our cats inside". Even more surprising was that when the teacher asked the students to sit down on a rug and listen to a story and sing a few songs, Jadyn decided to join them and was almost as outgoing as Jake was. She may not know it, but she is definitely ready to start preschool next week! The orientation was exactly what I need to help calm my nerves.

Here Jake is at the entrance of the school posing with the class lists and bus schedules:


The other big news this last week is that Jaydn started swimming short stretches underwater. It makes me a little sad that with summer ending, she won't have too much more pool time to improve this budding skill but I am so proud of how much both have accomplished in the water this year.

So stay tuned because I have a post about Jake's first day of school on deck for tomorrow. And if you are just too impatient to wait and see our little guy on his first day, you can look me up on Facebook. Until then.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mommy Nerves

Okay, so I had this whole Funny Nose Friday planned with all things cute that the kids have been saying but this has been boiling up inside of me and I just have to get this off my chest. I am going to allow myself to be neurotic once again. I am freaking out here people!

I just cannot seem to grasp that Jake starts Kindergarten on Monday. I have been talking about it for ages now and I knew the day was coming. I have tried to be prepared and I know Jake is fully ready and mostly excited to be going. I keep thinking that his meet-n-greet later this afternoon is somehow going to calm my nerves, meeting his teacher, seeing his classroom, interacting with other parents, getting all my questions answered but I seriously doubt it. I am so worried. Worried that I am going to miss him like crazy now that he will be in school for 25 hours a week. I know sooner or later every mom goes through this, unless of course they home-school, which I did consider and have immense respect for. Unfortunately, Jake doesn't concentrate or learn as well from me. But that is beside the point. The point is that every mother goes through this so I know I am not alone but I just can't help but feel silly for how worked up I am over this. I am really nervous.

And by the way, although this bothers me much more than Jake, I just wanted to warn you before you see the pictures for yourself on his first day of school. We took him the barber so he would have a clean haircut for the first day of school (his regular hairdresser was out of town) and due to a miscommunication (to put it politely, it was really an error on her part I am quite sure) Jake now has a shaved head. Well that might be a little dramatic - it is more like a closely shaved buzz cut but he definitely doesn't have much hair on top. Thankfully his hair grow quickly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Balboa Park

We have taken several trips to the Pendleton area since living in the desert. On one of those said trips when Jake was 3 and Jadyn not quite 18 months, we took the kids to a model railroad museum down in San Diego and Jake loved the interactive displays. So with the mild weather and cool pacific ocean water during our recent trip, Jake started asking if I would take him back to this museum. The thing is, however, that the train museum is located in the nation's largest urban cultural parks, home to over 15 museums, numerous preforming arts venues, beautiful gardens and the world famous San Diego Zoo. While this can be a positive (tons to do and see) and a negative (crowded, potentially expensive, time-consuming,traffic to and from, parking, etc. etc), I happen to love Balboa Park and on Friday,I finally conceited to Jake's request. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.

First up, the model train museum where the kids ran around, oohed and awed at all the cool displays of miniature landscape, various locomotives and the aforementioned interactive display where they could control the trains:



Next we strolled past the vast Spanish revival architecture to the entrance of the zoo where we rode a miniature train and vintage carousel.



We then wandered over to the far end of the museums where a massive water fountain not only provided ample entertainment but a refreshing break from the heat (which apparently is not hot enough to warrant traipsing in the ocean waves, but the fountain was deemed acceptable).

We strolled past the Mingei International Museum where Jake enjoyed climbing on this cool sculpture:
Finally we stopped at a park favorite, the lily pond in front of the botanical building where I took my favorite picture of our trip:


I have VERY fond memories of this spot, as when Joe returned from his deployment to Iraq and I was first pregnant with Jake (in fact we might not even have known I was pregnant yet), we went on a date to Balboa Park to watch their movies in the park series in this very garden. They were showing one of my all time favorite movies, Dangerous Liaisons. It was a magical evening, even more so because I knew it was not Joe's cup of tea and he did it for me anyway because he knew how much it would mean to me and now 6 years later, it means the world to have that memory. And since it is our 11th wedding anniversary tomorrow, I cannot think of a better way to end this post than by thanking Joe for the last 13 years, 11 of them in wedded bliss, 5 as a mommy and 3 as the complete family we are now. I couldn't nor wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thoughtful Cookie

Although Jake and Jadyn still have their fair share of sibling squabbling, some days I am just in utter amazement at how thoughtful and protective Jake is of his little sister.

The kids will often share a Lunchable for lunch. It is a great and easy lunch, especially for a meal on the go. For those not familiar, a typical Lunchable contains a stack of lunch meat (turkey, bologna or ham), a stack of cheese, a stack of crackers and often 2 cookies for dessert. The kids know that they have to finish everything else before they can eat the cookies. When we are at home, Jake will take the cookies out of the container and set them on the kitchen counter for safe keeping until they are ready to be eaten. On many occasion, he has eaten a Lunchable by himself while Jadyn is napping but instead of eating both cookies, he still saves one of them to give to Jadyn when she wakes up.

He did a similar thing yesterday when Jadyn and I went to the pool in the early afternoon. Upon arriving home, Jake excitedly ran over to the counter and produced a cookie to give to Jadyn. Since Lunchables are something I plan to pack for my picky eater in his school lunches, I asked Jake if he was going to start eating both cookies when he brought them to school for lunch to which he quickly replied no. He fully plans to keep that second cookie in his lunch bag and bring it home to little sister.

Isn't that a thoughtful cookie?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Magoomba Monday #17

1) Let's talk about the weather for a moment. We have had a very mild summer for the southwest desert of California. Sure we have had our share of heatwaves with temps easily reaching 110 and beyond but normally there is little break from this in July or August at all. This year, however we have had two cooling trends giving us temps well under 100 for stretches lasting up to a week and this was after the coolest June in 29 Palms history (or maybe at least just in the 6 years we have lived here). Add to that the fact that we are entering the later portion of August and have yet to have any summer rainstorms, something which has come as an immense disappointment to the kids. Weird. It makes me wonder what the fall and winter are going to be like.

2) I know I sound like a broken record when I mention that as much as I love the coast, I can do without the cool temps, high cost of living and overcrowding but this last trip really made me realize something. Over the last 6 years, we have truly come to love the Morongo Basin. I simply cannot deal with the crazy drivers and constant traffic throughout most of Southern California, not to mention the high number of rude people who are always in a hurry and quick to assume their business is more important than yours. I like the slower pace of the desert. I love that we don't even have regular traffic reports on the radio. Say what you want about 29 Palms, but at least we are not crowded.

3) One thing I did love about our beach trip was that I finally got to connect with a friend and former colleague from the real estate company I worked out when we lived down at Pendleton. We shared a fabulous dinner with Jim and Melanie at one of my favorite restaurants, Sonny's Pizza and Pasta. The only thing was that Melanie and I had so much to talk about, it was hard to decide between indulging in great conversation or great food and our time together went by too fast. We will definitely have to get together again the next time we are down that way.

4) Also while down at the beach this last week I got most of the kids back to school shopping done. While it was nice to have everything within a short driving distance, I again could not get over how crowded everything was. Whoever says our economy is tight and consumers are not spending certainly wasn't in Old Navy with me Saturday when the line went all the way to the back of the store!

5) Can I also just say that I simply cannot get used to hearing people "talking to themselves" while walking on the street or roaming around Kohl's? I realize everyone has a bluetooth nowadays but is this some form of multi-tasking or a status symbol to show how busy and popular you are? I have friends but I don't feel the need to chat with them about random gossip while I am shopping for bath linens.

6) This trip also made me realize what desert/river rats the kids have become when exclaiming the beach too cold to go swimming. All they wanted to do was climb the rock jetties. I can't wait for it to cool down here so we can hit up Joshua Tree again this year. It's going to be so much fun. I kept saying we were going to the beach and in the 4 days we were there, we only spent 2 hours at the beach and maybe another hour in the hotel pool. Any other time I mentioned water activities to the kids, they claimed it was too cold. Secretly I was glad because I happened to agree. Here are the only two decent pics I got of us at the beach.

Jadyn and I after digging in the sand:


Jake on top of the rock jetty:


And I have to throw in this one of the kids in the hotel room. I thought it was cute that they had the WHOLE couch and had to sit right next to each other. Is it because they love each other so or because they both wanted access to the Cheez-Its on the table? You decide:


7) I know I have been talking about back to school for awhile now but this is our last week of summer. Despite the fact that on many levels, I am glad we will be able to get back into a routine, I am also mourning the loss of freedom that school implies. At least when Jake was in preschool we still had a few weekdays to do as we pleased. I loved being able to take the kids to the zoo or hiking or shopping on days that are less crowded. Obviously now that will no longer be an option because Jake will be in school 5 days a week. I fear I am going to miss him being gone so often. Does that make me sound like one of those crazy smothering moms?

8) So this is a big week for us. Thursday is Joe and I's 11th anniversary. On Friday to mark the occasion the kids are going to stay overnight with Scottie and Ali so we can go out on a proper date. Jake has only spent one night away from us and that was when we were in the hospital having Jadyn and this will definitely be a first for her. I know they will do just fine and am quite looking forward to Joe and I having a night to ourselves. Also on Friday, in the afternoon, Jake has his Kindergarten orientation and we will get to meet his teacher and fellow classmates and see his classroom and help him get acquainted. Should be interesting.


And although I know he seldom if ever reads my blog, best wishes to Grandpa Bob, my father in-law who celebrates his birthday today.

Hope everyone's week is off to a productive start!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Few of my Favorite (Newer) Recipes

I have never been much of a cook. I do not necessarily enjoy preparing food. However, I have a few recipes that I really wanted to share, the majority of them are fairly healthy and work well with the South Beach lifestyle.

Anyone who has ever been on the South Beach Diet knows how much this meal plan relies on salads and frankly, after awhile you get pretty sick of salads. In an effort to liven up my consumption of mixed greens, I created a strawberry-walnut salad using mixed spring greens, sliced up strawberries, reduced fat feta cheese, chopped walnuts, diced green onions and a light rasberry-vingerette dressing (6 grams of sugar, which I think technically it should be more like 3 grams). It tastes like something you order from a restuarant and has revived my love of salads. I absolutely love it!

One of my favorite South Beach friendly desserts is something I have dubbed the Chilled Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. You take 2 no sugar added fudcicles, microwave them for 15 seconds and then scrap them off the sticks into a bowl. Then you mix in 2 spoonfuls of light cool whip and 1 heaping tablespoon of natural peanut butter. Not only does it satisfy your sweet tooth for ice cream and chocoloate but because of the peanut butter, it is actually quite filling.

Yet another South Beach friendly recipe can be used for breakfast, snack or dessert. You take a serving of cottage cheese and mix 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, some chopped pecans and artificial sweetener to taste (which I omit). Unless you have just ate the real thing, it taste almost like a cinnamon roll but without all the carbs and sugar. This has been dubbed the Cinabon (found this on a SB forum awhile back but cannot find the link now to give proper credit).

My friend Rose made this delicious pasta salad and I modified to be more South Beach friendly -

1 package of whole wheat rotini ( I love Stater Bros. Full Circle Organic)
Reduced fat feta cheese
Chopped red onion
Chopped red pepper
Sliced grape tomatoes
Italian parsley
Garbanzo beans
Paul Newman's Own Light Italian Dressing (or Italian dressing of your choice)

Mix together using as much or as little as you like. I love to add turkey pepperonis to make it more of an entree. Great for gatherings.

I also have to share this no-bake cheesecake recipe I found on recipezar.com. This brings back very fond memories of my Grandma March who perfected the no-bake cheesecake. While it is not SB friendly, we all have to indulge sometimes. This cheesecake is so ridiculously easy it is downright dangerous and the flavor is not overly sweet. I did use all light dairy products and have thought about trying it with Splenda but so far have only made it with good ole fashion sugar.

Finally, my friend Ali turned me on to this simple caramel apple dip whereby you take 8 ounces of cream cheese softened, a half cup of brown sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla and blend well. Use it as a dipping sauce for Granny Smiths and it is oh so very yummy. This one I did try with not only light cream cheese but Splenda's brown sugar substitute as well and I could hardly tell the difference. I have to save this recipe for gatherings only though because otherwise I could eat the whole bowl.

One of my goals for fall is to start cooking more and experiment with some more recipes for dinner. Ultimately they would have to be fairly easy, not too expensive, without red meat, sugar or processed white flour (in other words something with chicken, ground turkey and whole wheat bread, pasta or tortillas) and liked by the whole family. This is a VERY tall order but I am open to suggestions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Magoomba Monday #16

1) First of all I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to my novel of a post last week. Between blogger comments, Facebook comments and private emails I had an outpouring of support and it really, really meant a lot to me so thanks again.

2) In regard to my post about feeling like I wasn't constructive enough with my summer, I do feel like I need to make one thing clear. Although we do keep busy (and occasionally are busier than we would like), I am not one of those moms who feels the need to fill up every minute of our days and weeks with structured activities. Despite how it might appear on my blog, we actually enjoy a decent amount of down time in which the kids are engaged in unstructured play. It just isn't always as interesting to photograph and blog about, even if it is equally if not more important than the other things we do. This fall, each of the kids will be in school and be involved in one extracurricular activity. Right now that will be soccer for Jake and maybe tumbling for Jadyn (who really wants to do Kindermusik but it is no longer available, BOO!). We might also have the kids start an AWANA program once a week but that still has yet to be decided (and this would make much more sense if I ever publish my post on religion/faith). Yes are schedule will most likely be busy, but downtime and family time are also a must.

3) This last week in particular we seemed to have a lot of downtime. This is despite the fact that we had two playdates, two baseball games, went to the drive in to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (during which both kids fell asleep), attended a birthday party and went to Scottie and Ali's to *watch* the UFC fight. Funny how when I write it out like that is seems like a lot, but it really wasn't.

4) And speaking of baseball, Jake had his last game and end of the season ceremony for the summer training league in Joshua Tree on Thursday. Why does it seem like the season just started and now it is already over? At any rate, Jake had his best hit of the season, which was deemed a homerun and on his second at-bat, he slid into home plate to avoid being tagged. He was a pretty proud little guy.

His homerun:

Sliding to avoid the tag:

Celebrating after the game with his best bud Adan:


5) The countdown begins - Jake will start Kindergarten in exactly 2 weeks, Jadyn's preschool is T-minus 3 weeks and New Moon the movie will be out in theaters in a mere 101 days (I just had to throw that in there, LOL!).

6) Finally, we are preparing to join Joe down in North County San Diego for the week, as he has to go there for work and I hate the pass up the opportunity for a free end-of-the-summer vacation at the beach. We certainly have spent a lot of time in and by the water the summer, that is for sure. While we are down there, I plan to tackle the kids back to school shopping too. The beach AND shopping. Sounds like heaven to me. But have no fears, I have scheduled a few blog posts to keep everyone entertained (all 10 of my public followers) while we are gone.

Hope everyone's week is off to a productive and great start.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reading Reviews and Reality

I have been reading a lot lately, and I mean a lot. It made me realize that I am squandering WAY too much time watching TV during the season when most shows are first run. So I have made a big decision.

This is an open letter to ALL docudrama reality shows. You are hearby given notice that I am not longer going to invest my time in watching what happens in your lives. PC - I could care less whether or not you are bisexual or whether your scheme to help Taylor climb the" NYC Prep" school social ladder succeeds. Jenna and Vicky from the "Real Housewives of Orange County" - I no longer care whether or not you get any more plastic surgery or eventually learn that money does not buy you happiness. To the cast of "The Hills" - with Lauren gone, I would not have watched you anyway. I could care less what happens to Spidey. Whitney - please take solace in the fact that you were the hardest for me to let go but I no longer care whether you make it in "The City". And if any of you don't believe me, remember that after being a faithful viewer of "The Bachelor" for some 13 seasons, I abandoned this reality show for well, lack of reality and the same goes for these other docudramas that become more and more a scripted cast of characters all with a hidden agenda to use the genre to turn their 15 minutes of fame into something long-lasting. Good luck and good-bye!

As for the more talent/competition type reality shows that I watch, for now I am going to give myself permission to continue watching them. This includes Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and the Amazing Race.

As for what I have been reading - first off Joe and I finally climbed on board the Harry Potter train. I have seen all the movies (which I usually try to read the books first but it just didn't happen that way) and am currently on year 3 at Hogwarts. I won't bother with a review - either you are on the train with us or you are not but what I love about this series is that for the first time EVER, Joe and I are both reading the same books and the kids love the movies too so it is an obsession we can share together unlike oh say a certain vampire/werewolf love triangle known as the Twilight Series. The only problem is that Joe and I are both trying to read the same copy of Prisoner of Azkaban at the same time.

I also recently read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I am not sure they were the best books to read so close together since both deal with how family, and parents in particular deal with serious illness and/or the death of a child (no spoilers here, just read a synopsis of either novel). With both novels there were times that I felt myself haunted and disturbed and yet utterly engrossed at the same time. I immensely enjoyed both books but was not happy with their conclusions, which would lead me to be lukewarm at best about recommending them. Trust me I am not the kind of person that needs a neat happy ending or even a complete resolution of the plot. Some of my favorite stories of all time (either book, movie or both) should obviously be proof enough - think Wuthering Heights, The Age of Innocence, The English Patient and Dangerous Liaisons. With these two books however, I was just left feeling unsatisfied. The endings both felt disjointed from the rest of the story.So if you have read them, I'd like to know if you felt the same and if you haven't read them, proceed at your own risk.

Finally after not being too impressed with "Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box", I still found myself needing a good parenting book that might be of some help, particularly right now with the current stage that Jadyn is in. After hearing about "Your 3-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy" on both LauraC and Joanna's blog, I decided to give it a whirl. Since our library did not have a copy, I was happy to find it on http://www.half.ebay.com/ for less that $5 with shipping and am now even more happy that I have my own copy to highlight and doggy-ear because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the insight and practical advice this books gives - in fact I am promptly going to be ordering the books of the same series for 4, 5 and 6 year olds just so I can be better informed and prepared.

The following excerpt is going to become my mantra as Jadyn is clearly already in this three and half year old developmental stage, "First of all, accept the fact that at this age the child's big emotional struggle is with his mother. She is the one who matters supremely to him. She is the one he needs to conquer. Almost any young child is at his best but also at his worst with his own mother. Never more so than now"

I used some of the practical advice and techniques and in just in one day, I noticed a difference with Jadyn's demeanor. Some of it is pure common sense that I simply needed to be reminded of - like the fact that she needs individual one-on-one time with me (which she is used to but not getting as much of during the summer since Jake is not in school) and making sure to heap praise on good behavior and using distraction whenever possible. It also suggests using phrases like "Let's", "How about" and "Maybe we could" so that I am not making demands that she can turn into a battle. Another great technique is that when she is being uncooperative and pretending to be a dog or cat, I can play along and ask her to "give me her paw" while bathing her or trying to help her get dressed. I cannot describe the look of sheer shock and joy, not to mention compliance she showed when I tried this out yesterday. Simple and yet effective. Can I reiterate this book is well worth the read!

So I have kind of turned this blog post into a novel all of its own, but my point was that I have been reading a lot - around 2100 pages since I first read Testimony by Anita Shreve at the beginning of the summer. Not bad for a work-at-home mom in a little over a month. And I have a line of books just waiting - Hogwarts years 4-7, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and a re-read of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins in anticipation of the next installment "Catching Fire" (another absolutely fabulous YA series that I highly recommend), which comes out in early September. Then of course I will need to refresh my Twilight memory with either the whole series or the very least New Moon before the movie comes out November 20th. Come to think of it, the kids are playing quietly in there rooms as we speak. I better go sneak a chapter or two in while I can!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship with Summer and Why I Heart Fall

I haven't been blogging much lately but it has been on my mind. In fact, I have several posts saved as drafts that I either need to finish or decide whether or not I want to publish. There is the one I wrote about religion that makes me feel exposed for the whole world to judge. Too deep. There is the one I wrote about all the anxieties I have about Jake starting Kindergarten in three weeks that is probably not only boring but makes me sound whiny and ungrateful like this is all I have to worry about in life. Then there is the one about my feelings towards all the books I have been reading, the movies we have been watching and contemplating giving up a significant amount of TV watching this Fall in order to make sure that my passion for other forms of media can continue but that just seems, well again boring not to mention self-centered and superficial. So I have been trudging along, writing about what we have been doing this summer and posting tons of pictures. It just doesn't seem to scratch the surface of what I want to say, not to mention what I want my children to look back on and remember about this summer.

I have mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with summer. I love the warm weather. I love the water - going to the beach, going to the river, taking the kids swimming. I love the freedom of summer with very few regular commitments. The days where it can be noon before you realize you are still in your PJs, discovering toys and games and togetherness as a family that so often gets overlooked during a hectic school year. I had high hopes for this summer and when it comes to summer fun those expectations were far exceeded. But I also had hopes that between the river trips and swim lessons, I would be working with both the kids on a regular basis - Jake on his reading and math, Jadyn on her counting and writing skills, spending time frequently doing arts and crafts and singing songs so that by summer's end I would feel like I accomplished something constructive. I am really torn about those expectations. On the one hand, I feel like they don't call it summer break for nothing - it is supposed to be a break. On the other hand I feel like I failed as a mom for not using all this free time constructively.

The extreme heat of the desert can start to wear on you after awhile and the lack of a routine can become quite daunting, especially to someone like me who thrives on consistency and organization. And that is why right now I am longing for fall. Why I have always loved "back to school" both when I was a child in school and even when no one in our family was technically going back to start with. For me, September is as good as New Year's - a time to start fresh and anew and get back on track with goals. Right now I am busily spring cleaning for the fall - going through drawers and closets,cleaning and organizing to my little heart's content, making lists and filling calendars, shopping for cold weather clothes in the new sizes the kids have grown into and getting the kids their school supplies. Who does not love the smell of a brand new pack of Crayola crayons? To give you an idea of how far ahead I plan, last week I starting shopping on the internet for Jadyn's Halloween costume. Joe just about had a coronary. I kid you not.

In the end, maybe I am being too hard on myself for what I did not accomplish this summer. I read "Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box" when it was going around our little blog circle and while it made some valid points and had some good suggestions, I found myself disagreeing with a lot of what it had to say. I know when I could have done better as a parent or better managed my time and no one can tell me different. Then again, I can and should and am trying to focus on the positive. We have had an AMAZING summer. I loved all of our little adventures and the extra down time. I am just ready for it to be over. Call me freak but it basically happens every summer.

I am tempted to hit the "save now" button on this post and let it sit there with my drafts about religion, recipes, kindergarten and books/movies. I feel that everything I felt was wrong with those posts has only been magnified in this one - boring, whiny, self-indulgent. But I am not going to do that this time. I am going to publish this post because it is me being honest and in the long run, those are the posts that I cherish above all else. Just like I cherish my summers and look forward to fall.