Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Day Baking

My mom's neighbor coined a phrase this morning that perfectly describes our current experience: we are "slushed-in"! West St. Paul is usually right on top of things when it comes to plowing, but I guess they decided it wasn't really worth it today. Our alley hasn't even been touched, and that's usually the first to be cleared! So it turned into a nice, quiet day at home, watching the pretty flakes fall... and then melt as they land... turning into messy slop on the roads. Well, at least the trees are beautiful!

One of my new favorite morning activities to do with the boys is baking. I love baked goods, and the boys love getting their hands dirty. Win-win. This morning, we decided on cinnamon-vanilla scones with vanilla glaze. (drooooool...) I gathered the ingredients and utensils on the kitchen table, and we went to town! Max has become quite a good little helper, and Lucian... well... he tries. As Max carefully measured flour into the bowl, Lucian scooped it right back out with a wooden spoon. After Max whisked an egg in a measuring cup, Lucian promptly knocked the cup over, spilling egg all over the table!

I tried to include him as much as I could, but it's a little bit of a wonder our batter turned out at all. I was helping him measure a teaspoon of baking powder, but he got so frustrated that I wouldn't let him do it himself that he flung the teaspoon up in the air, half of the powder landing in our already-measured flour and sugar. I estimated the correct amounts from there and attempted to keep him at arms length until the kneading began. That he was able to do just fine! The boys "smooshed" and "lumped" the dough, and I formed and cut it. We let the scones bake, glazed them, and my oh my were they good!

In case you want to try these yourself, we found the super easy recipe here. The glaze I added was just 1 cup of powdered sugar mixed with a couple tablespoons of milk (keep adding until it's the right consistency) and a splash of vanilla. We drizzled the scones with glaze after they cooled. Honestly, that was the hardest part of the whole process: waiting for the darn things to cool. But patience is a virtue... and they were worth the wait!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent for Little Ones

The season of Lent has officially begun, and we are all in! We began our Lenten journey with Ash Wednesday Mass and some tuna noodle casserole. (of course.) Lent has brought with it an interesting new challenge this year- I have a four year old son who asks questions about everything. I find myself fielding a continuous stream of "Why?" questions from the time he wakes up to the time he closes his eyes. Lots of his questions are easy, many of them are great, some are so silly I just fire them right back at him. Often he comes up with some pretty creative answers to his own questions.

But when it comes to questions of the faith, I try my very best to give straightforward answers that he can digest. NOT an easy task! And in a season that focuses on the suffering and death of our Savior, simple answers are even harder to come by. When he asks me, "Why did the soldiers put a crown of thorns on Jesus' head?" where do I even start? How do I explain sin and evil to a boy who still doesn't think anyone would ever purposely harm anyone?

So I'm putting it in God's hands, and I'm tossing up lots of quick prayers to the Holy Spirit for wisdom in those moments. And instead of focusing only on the pain and suffering that Jesus endured for us, we are focusing on the little things we can do to relieve His pain.

That's where this craft comes in. Together we made a Crown of Thorns, an idea that I first heard from some Catholic friends a few years ago and was reintroduced to just a few days ago. The baking directions I used are found here, and it was a simple project that both boys could be totally involved in. The idea is this: we made a braided crown out of salt dough, covered it in "thorns" (toothpicks), and baked it. Surprisingly (or maybe not...) I was the only one who managed to stab myself with a toothpick!

Throughout Lent, whenever the boys do something kind for someone or make a small sacrifice, they can remove a thorn from the crown. By Easter, we hope the thorns will all be removed, and we plan to paint the crown gold and decorate it with jewels to represent Jesus' triumph! Max is, of course, already stoked about this crown becoming a real King's crown, and every time he sees the crown he asks me for ideas of how to remove another thorn.

It's looking to be a very fruitful Lent!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Big Reveal

I know you've all been dying to see it... the new, improved guest room and entryway! During the process of remodeling, we disconnected our computer and thus had no internet access, so I'm very sorry for the long wait. But I promise you, it's worth it! If you can't stand the suspense, feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page and ogle the pics a bit before reading my ramblings, but no home improvement project would be truly complete without giving the play-by-play! (I'll try not to go overboard)

It all started about a month ago, when my friend Jess and her husband decided to organize their kids' toys into a cool cube bookshelf with pull-out drawers. I decided right then and there that I wanted to be a copycat, so I started mentioning the bookshelf idea to Paul. He said it sounded like a nice idea, but our conversations never went beyond that. Finally, after a couple of weeks of no action, I told him that I wanted to go out hunting for a book shelf organizer for our toys. I was going to take action! All of a sudden, it was as if I had opened the floodgates...

It turns out that Paul's hesitation in buying any new furniture for our living room stemmed from a desire to finish and reorganize our guest room. Until we finished the guest room, we wouldn't know for sure which furniture would remain in our living room, and how much space we would have for a bookshelf. "So," I asked him, "What do we need to do in order for me to get my bookshelf?" (which was all I really wanted to begin with) Turns out, the answer was carpet! Not only in the guest room, but the stairs and hallway as well!

So we got some estimates, signed papers on Friday, planned the install for Tuesday... and then like any sane person would do, decided that as long as the carpet would be ripped out, we should paint! We hightailed it to Menards, chose our paint colors, and spent the entire long weekend prepping and painting the house before the installers arrived Tuesday morning. My dear, amazing, wonderful husband did the brunt of the prep work while I was off at a women's retreat Friday and Saturday... managing most of it with kids underfoot! Sunday we did as much as we could while the kids were awake, then we broke out the paint after bedtime... finishing the trim work at 1:00 am. Ouch.

On Monday, I took the kids down to my parents' house to get them out of the way while Paul painted all by his lonesome, all day. I came home, put the kids to bed, and got down to work. I did the best I could, but crashed sometime between 12:30 and 1:00... I don't really remember going to bed. Paul never told me what time he finished the last of it; I'm not sure I want to know. Oh and did I mention we both had terrible colds? And, oh yeah, I'm pregnant? Talk about the will to succeed! (talk about running on fumes...)

The installers came Tuesday and did a beautiful job. Now I no longer care if I get my toy shelf; I'm too busy basking in the glow of a fully finished bedroom and a beautiful new entryway! Ready for it? (or did you cheat?) Our latest home improvements!

Before (Doesn't do justice to the icky hue of brown paint on the banister):

After (Oooohhhh):

Before (you can't see the hideous unfinished floor or baseboards):

After (Aaahhh):

Thursday, February 16, 2012


"Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?"

Right around his second birthday, Louie's language skills started to explode! However, you might not really notice it unless you're around him as much as I am, because most of his words are basically incomprehensible. I think they're adorable, I just hope he's not still talking like this as a teenager. Some of the most common new words and phrases are as follows:

mo! = no!
guk = milk
wups = grapes
eh-wul = cereal
eh-woah! = hello!
eh-go, Mama! = here you go, Mama!
ehhh-bee... = heavy
bupper = diaper
bup = bum/bottom
bop! = stop! (or 'go away!' or 'move!'... usually directed at Max)

Many of these words are used so often, they've started to creep into our daily language. Phrases like, "Do you want water or guk, Louie?" and "Let's go change your bupper!" have become commonplace. Even Max gets in on the fun, preferring to say "Mo!" instead of "No!" and "Bop!" whenever Lucian comes near his stuff.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Max's nickname has evolved from Mackie to Gax. For some reason, that is what Lucian has decided to call him, and it has stuck! He can say "Mama" and "Dada" clear as a bell, but his big brother's name is firmly ingrained as "Gax". And himself, he has dubbed  "Yay-Yay". Close enough, right?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Squishy Art

My mom found a really cool pack of art project cards at Unique Thrift Store (one of my favorite places on the planet) and gave them to Max for Valentine's Day. We had to dig in right away and try some of them out, they all looked so fun! I'm sure I'll be posting results from many of these super simple home activities in the weeks to come, but our first attempt was called "Zipdraw", chosen because all of the supplies were on hand and it was completely mess-free!

I hole-punched the cards and put a ring through them... otherwise half would be missing by tomorrow!
The premise is this: squirt ketchup or mustard into a Ziploc bag, seal the bag shut and spread the "paint" smooth within the bag. Then you can draw on the bag with your fingers and create designs. It's like finger painting minus the cleanup. Admittedly, the fun was more in squishing the bags than in the actual designs... but there's nothing wrong with that!

After drawing and squishing for awhile, Max asked if we could mix the colors together. Why not? We scooped some mustard into the ketchup bag and vice-versa, and the kids had a fun time swirling the colors together until both bags contained varying shades of orange.

I would like to try this with paints next time; it would be a great hands-on way to introduce color mixing. "What happens when we smush red and blue together? Blue and yellow?" Oh the possibilities! And with cleanup taking less than thirty seconds, what's not to love about this activity?

Baby Girl!!

Much to our (and everyone's) surprise, we found out last week that we are going to have a girl! Max has been right all along, unwavering in his certainty since the day we told him he was gaining another sibling. I know, it's really 50/50 no matter what our history is, but after four grandsons in a row it was starting to look like Grandma might never be able to buy little pink dresses. 

Now it's all going to change. My mom and aunt are already planning their summer garage sale trips, with a whole new world of possibilities ahead of them. No offense to Max or Lucian, but it sure is going to be more fun to go clothes shopping for a little girl! 

Before we found out, many people asked me if I was hoping for a boy or girl. I've never been sure what I think of that question in general, because to me it sounds as if one gender would make me happier, or that I would have been disappointed with a certain result. However, I did know that my reaction to the news would be very different depending on what we heard. Had it been another boy, the excitement would involve visions of him tumbling around the house with his two big brothers, being the proud mom of three handsome young men, and oh, having an immediate use for those bins upon bins of clothing in the basement.

But (sigh) a girl... now my mind can wander freely to daydreams of tea parties, horses, ribbons and bows, dance class, and no longer being the only girl in our house! My only hope is that she has more hair than her brothers, or I'll be taping bows to her head for years to come! 

Profile shot- isn't she adorable?
Look at those perfectly formed legs and feet!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I've been waiting for this since Lucian was born- they boys are becoming real, true friends. I know Louie's only two and he can't do half of the things Max wants to do, but he imitates him and follows him around like he is the coolest thing ever to live on the face of the earth. If Max starts singing a song, Lucian is there dancing along and throwing out a word here or there. If Max is sitting at the table coloring, Lucian needs a crayon in hand and a piece of paper. Just a few days ago, I was upstairs getting the boys their clothes for the day. When I turned around the corner to walk down the stairs, my heart melted! There they were, flipping through books together at the foot of the steps. 

Yes, they still have their fair share of spats, and I know they always will. Lucian will knock down Max's towers, Max will take toys from his little brother, and as they grow older the arguments will probably get more intense. But I am starting to get glimpses of the lasting friendship that is forming before my eyes! There really is no other relationship like that of a sibling, and I am so glad that they have each other!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Real Pirates

Coming next weekend, the Science Museum is opening a Real Pirates exhibit! I had a few friends alert me to this news months ago, so we've had it on our calendar forever. But just last weekend, I accidentally stumbled across an event that happened today at the Red Balloon Bookstore in St. Paul- a 'Welcome the Pirates' party! Of course there was no way we could miss this!

When we arrived at the Red Balloon, Pirate Anne Bonney was reading a pirate storybook to a room stuffed full of kids and parents. Max took his place right down front and center, curved his finger like a hook, and yelled "Arrr!" when things got too quiet for his liking. After storytime, the workers handed out bags and the kids got to go on a treasure hunt around the store. On all of the bookshelves were piles of plastic "treasure" - gold coins perfect for any four-year-old pirate.

Then we brought Max over to introduce him to the "real pirates" and get his picture with them. He was, I think, a little star-struck, but he put on his hook and a brave face and posed for some pictures. Between moments of uncharacteristic shyness, Max chatted a little with the pirates, telling them his name was Max Salty and showing them the proper way to walk with a peg leg. I think they were quite entertained by him!

Paul waited with Max in line for face painting while I read books with Louie. When I brought him over to snap a picture of Max getting his face painted, he suddenly realized what he was missing! He threw a fit when another little girl sat in the chair before he could. So after a little time to settle down, Louie got his own face painted too! I was really surprised by how well he did, but as soon as the woman said "All done!" he responded with his own "Ah-Dah!" as he wiped his hand across his cheek. So much for that!

After having a piece of cake (yes it was only 11:00 in the morning... but hey! We're pirates!) and decorating a paper eyepatch with glitter (which will be in Max's hair for a year), we decided the boys were partied out and we went home for a relaxing afternoon (read: after lunch, Mom took a 2 hour nap). What a fun way to welcome the pirates to St. Paul!

Monday, February 6, 2012


So I've clipped the occasional extra-long hair above Lucian's ears before, but today was his very first official haircut! What? Isn't it completely normal that a child wouldn't need his hair cut until after his second birthday? No? Oh, that's right, Lucian has my hair... that wispy, nearly-nonexistent baby fuzz that I had for the first few years of life. My mom used to tape bows on my head when I was a baby so people would quit asking if I was a boy or girl! Yes, tape them. Because there wasn't enough hair there to attach a bow to. 

So Louie is following in my footsteps, but man-oh-man is he darn cute with his newly shorn locks! Don't you think?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Out of the Woods

Deeeeep breath...

The sneezing has finally settled to a dull roar, and I'm no longer frantically diving for a tissue every five minutes. Beginning on Lucian's birthday, the boys have been dealing with the worst cold I have ever seen! We've barely left the house in days, as the cold transitioned from low fever to sneezing to hacking. The cough is still working its way out, but the fevers are gone, the noses are (mostly) clear, and my boys have bright eyes again!

Being basically homebound and dealing with the uber-crabbiness that comes along with illness has made this the longest week that I can remember. Praise God it's Friday! We actually did get out of the house to the library today, but of course Max had a coughing fit right in some kid's face after we'd been there for 15 minutes. I, of course, was mortified, but thankfully the mom just said, "Oh, that's no fun. We just got over that cold in our house... at least I hope it's the same one!" It could have been worse.

So here's to a healthy weekend, one in which I can regenerate my stores of patience that were utterly depleted this week.