Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

I'm not usually prone to impulsive grocery store check-out purchases, but when I saw this Halloween Pillsbury magazine while waiting in line a few weeks ago, I just couldn't resist. Since then, Dylan and Caitlyn have enjoyed perusing it at their leisure, bookmarking ideas they wanted to include in our own little Halloween party. So, tonights menu included a "Scarecrow Taco Dip" and "Bite-Size Bugs with Bug-Catching Dip", selected by Dylan and Caitlyn, and some "Eyeball Eggs" and "Magic Potion" that I chose to include just for fun. We also made some more caramel apples today.

Here's how it all turned out:

Dylan and Caitlyn loved it, and I'm already thinking about all the fun things I might try next year!

Earlier today we made some trick or treat containers using empty milk jugs. We still have the plastic pumpkins Dylan and Caitlyn used last year but I thought these would be a fun activity for them to enjoy today. (I still fondly remember making some when I was a kid, along with my brothers and our neighborhood friends.) These were so simple, yet they had so much fun making them!

We all really enjoyed going out trick or treating in our neighborhood tonight. I wanted to get some pictures of the kids in their costumes, but Meghan was not the least bit cooperative! At one point I finally decided, rather smugly, that if I simply held her she would settle down and have her picture taken. Wrong! But here, at least, is a rarity: a photo of me and all three of my adorable children!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Waiting for Tomorrow

My kids have been so looking forward to Halloween this year. We've been decorating our house and planning our party menu for several days now, and I was thinking of making this cake and decorating it like a Jack-O-Lantern. But after watching "Spookley the Square Pumpkin" this morning with Dylan and Caitlyn, I decided to try something else instead. Same recipe, but a completely different look!

Dylan has known for a while now that he wants to dress as Buzz Lightyear for Halloween, but he is having a bit more difficulty deciding how he wants to dress his favorite bear, who he has determined will be trick-or-treating with us this year. He's narrowed it down to a mummy or a skeleton. (I think I'm partial to the skeleton...maybe because I just adore the little sidekick ghost):

Yesterday afternoon, Darren helped the kids carve pumpkins. Lots of pumpkins. Almost enough to rival the Bean family! (Well, maybe not. But we did go a little crazy at the pumpkin patch on Saturday!) The kids had a blast "gutting" their pumpkins. Dylan was all boy with his approach--both hands, elbow deep, in the wonderful, slippery goop. Caitlyn was much more dainty about the whole process, preferring a spoon to carefully scoop out the seeds from her pumpkin. Meghan thought we were all a little silly and really enjoyed watching her brother and sister make such a mess!

We all agreed that the final products were well worth the effort!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Picture Post

We took full advantage of today's beautiful weather (clear blue skies and a comfortable 70 degrees for the afternoon high) by visiting our favorite pumpkin patch. It sits adjacent to the "U-Pick Garden" we've been frequenting and which I wrote about last month.

I'm not sure who had more fun today...Dylan and Caitlyn enjoying all the amazing activities, or Darren and I watching their happy playing!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The upside...

...of Dylan's not-quite-successful attempt to refill the ice cube trays?

My kitchen floor was treated to an impromptu, very thorough, and much needed mopping!

Who could fault a boy for being so "helpful"?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I couldn't have said it better myself!

I just finished reading a wonderful post (written by one of my favorite bloggers!) regarding family size and the things children really "need".

Kudos to the happy family!

It takes so little...

...to make me so very happy:

~Mr. Squirrel has apparently found a friend! The two of them put on quite a show for the kids and I while we ate our lunch today. They were so cute, chasing each other around the backyard, through the play fort, under the slide, over the wall, and back again.

~I have a date! A play date, that is. One of the neighbors I met recently came over yesterday morning with her three kids: a five year old son, a two and a half year old daughter, and an adorable six month old baby boy. They are a home schooling family who lives just a few houses down and I couldn't be more thrilled! We're getting together next week for lunch at her house. My kids can hardly wait!

~I just found out that my brother's family will be visiting in a few weeks for five whole days. I am indescribably giddy! I haven't even told my kids yet, because if I do, they will be asking me every single day until then if it's time yet to see their cousins.

~Earlier today Dylan sat down and read aloud to us an entire book. I've been hesitant to venture away from the Bob books he's been doing so well with, but he stepped eagerly up to the challenge and did an amazing job! I am so proud of him.

~Sara Lee Pumpkin Cheesecake. Pumpkin. Cheesecake. Need I say more?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

THIS is boredom

Subtitle: Darren's out of town and all my kids are sleeping.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Joy Ride

There's something about looking into my rear view mirror and seeing a police car directly behind me that makes me instantly nervous. No matter if I've been following every rule of traffic, I feel guilty just the same. It's totally irrational, seeing as how I've never been in any trouble with the law and have only received one ticket in the nearly fifteen years I've been driving. And strangely, I'm not bothered in the least when my best friend, who actually is a police officer, is riding in the car with me.

Ordinarily, I'm a very cautious driver, but today while driving home from my mom's house, Caitlyn cheerfully requested that I drive the way she "drives the Tigger boat"...by which she meant that she wanted me to steer the wheel back and forth, back and forth, the way she does on one of the kiddie rides at Walmart. Since we weren't on a highly traveled road, I indulged her. Fits of laughter erupted from the backseat as Dylan and Caitlyn cheered me on. "Again!" they'd beg, and I'd relent, each time with the promise that "this is the last time!" So imagine my surprise when I glanced into my rear view mirror and saw, of course...a police car. I have no idea how long it had been behind me, but I know exactly how long it stayed behind me--all the way until I turned off onto our own street. Once I saw it drive on, I finally exhaled and then laughed to imagine what I might have said had I actually been pulled over. "Sorry, officer, I'm just driving the way my three year old does with Tigger." Somehow, I don't think they would have been as amused by it as we were.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ten Random Facts Meme

Jennifer has tagged me for a Ten Random Facts Meme.

This should be fun! Let's see...
  1. I attended a Presidential inauguration when I was in high school. It wasn't for someone I would have actually voted for had I been old enough, but pretty amazing nonetheless.

  2. I've tried twice to learn piano. Both times my instructor dismissed me as hopeless. Granted, he is my little brother... :) I'm hoping to learn along with my kids when they're older. Maybe he'll give me a third chance.

  3. I hate being alone overnight when Darren's out of town. I've been known to bribe the above mentioned brother to stay here on a few occasions in the past. (Usually all it takes is the promise of good food and beer.)

  4. I am painfully shy. Seriously. To the point that when we have pizza delivered, I make Darren call to place the order.

  5. I am somewhat fluent in Spanish. Dylan and Caitlyn don't like when I speak it at home, but it really comes in handy at work.

  6. I cry easily and often.

  7. I love reading sad books. Sometimes more than once.

  8. When I was seven I cut the tip of my left index finger off by slamming it in the bathroom door. I now enforce a very strict door slamming policy with my own kids.

  9. I once changed a tire on the shoulder of a very busy highway. I was riding in a van with a priest and a handful of old ladies to a church in Mexico when we had a blowout. Not a fun experience! Amazing what you can remember from driver's ed when the need arises!

  10. Yesterday I made caramel apples for the very first time. I'm sure it won't be the last!

Now, I tag: He who wears the most black wins, Mom to Almost Four, and Blair.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I was just about Caitlyn's age when I met my best girl friend. Her family lived next door to mine and I spent as much time over there as I did at my own home. One of her sisters was approximately the same age as my little brother, and so were the kids who lived two houses down. They'd all play together, even before they could walk. The family across the street from us had a swimming pool, and many summer days would find most of us neighborhood kids splashing happily while our moms watched from the shade. The "grownups" enjoyed each others company as much as we did. The sense of community I felt growing up was something I think I took for granted and never fully appreciated until well after I had left the comfortable and familiar home of my childhood.

When Darren and I bought our current home, it was with hopeful expectations on my part of a life for our family much like the one I used to know. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. Families here have come and gone and we haven't really had the opportunity to form lasting bonds with many of them. Several families have moved just as we were finally getting to know each other. There are, however, some very seemingly nice people around here that we just haven't gotten to know very well yet. Today was gorgeous, a beautiful fall day, and the perfect time, I figured, to get to know some of them a little better.

So we spent the afternoon baking a double batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and then wrapped them into pretty packages which we tied with a little card wishing the recipients a happy fall. (It is, after all, my favorite time of year!) We signed all of our names and then together, as a family, delivered them to some of our dear neighbors who we do know and love as well as some that we'd like to know more. I'm so glad we did!

The smiles we got were priceless. The families we met were wonderful. Hopefully, this was just the beginning of many more happy interactions between our family and those we visited today!

Friday, October 20, 2006

One Sure Cure

There are some days (like today) that just find me feeling down.

Sometimes a good cry helps. (Today it didn't.)

Sometimes a scoop of chocolate ice cream topped with extra crunchy peanut butter does the trick. (No such luck today.)

But I've found that one of the best remedies to beat these blues are Meghan's big, slobbery, open mouthed kisses. They work like a charm...every single time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Because I am his proud wife...

...I am shamelessly promoting my hubby's new blog! I particularly love his most recent post.

Take a look! Feel free to leave comments!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's a Start

We have an incredible used book store downtown that I absolutely love. I could spend hours there, quite happily. (In fact, it's where I first encountered Darren. Oh, how I loved to watch him shelve those books!) They have a wonderful system of trade credit, and so we frequently come away with bags of books and movies for, literally, pocket change. The downfall, however, is that we have accumulated far more movies than I'd like. And so today, feeling inspired by Celeste's recent power surge, I decided the time had finally come to wrangle those movies back into some semblance of order. I don't have a "before" picture to share with you, but trust me, it was not a pretty sight. Luckily I did have one adorable assistant who was more than willing to "help":

Dylan and Caitlyn weren't quite as enthusiastic about my little project, but I was proud of how well they cooperated and I'm happy to report that 13 VHS tapes and 5 DVDs will be finding new homes. And now, when we open the doors to our video storage area (which is conveniently located in the base of our 55 gallon aquarium, right next to the entertainment center), this is what we'll see: videos we can actually find!

(Next up on my to-do list: Dylan's bookshelf. Unfortunately, books are much more difficult for me to part with!)

Daddy's Girl

Overheard while Darren was brushing Caitlyn's hair during their special bedtime routine last night:

Darren: We have to comb your pretty curls every night before before bed, right, Cait?

Caitlyn: Yep! And watch FOX News!

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Animal Expert

As a mom who thinks barnyard animals are among some of the cutest things ever (especially the Fisher Price Little People farm animals...could they be any sweeter?), I've never been exactly forthcoming with my kids about where we get our meat. So I was a little perplexed at the turn this silly, nonsense conversation took this morning:

Me: Hey, Cait! Did you know pigs give us milk?

Caitlyn: No they don't!

Me: Sure they do! Oh, wait, you're right...chickens give us milk.

Dylan: No, no, no mom! You have it all wrong! Cows give us milk. Chickens lay eggs. And pigs give us meat!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, Caitlyn!

We all had a wonderful time celebrating your third birthday today! You were so happy this morning to have chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and you were an absolute angel at Mass, where lots of people wished you a happy birthday and where you got to hear your Uncle Robby sing some of our favorite songs. You got to open the first of your presents when we stopped by Grandpa's house on the way home, and then, just as you requested, we had chicken nuggets and french fries for lunch with Nonny! You told us a few weeks ago that you wanted everything Pooh Bear for your birthday party, and so, my sweet girl, that's exactly what you had:

This was the first year that Dylan helped wrap your presents, and he was so excited for you to open them! He couldn't wait for you to see the dress up Cinderella outfit we got you, and he loved playing "Prince Charming" (Pooh ears and all!)

Happy birthday, beautiful Princess. We love you so much!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Signs of Love

I didn't think anything could be sweeter than the sight of Meghan sleepily waving at me before finally drifting off as I nurse her...or watching her wave excitedly at us as soon as she wakes up in the morning, so happy to see us again each new day. But I witnessed something far sweeter on Wednesday night when Darren walked in the door after being gone for three days. Meghan was just beside herself the moment she saw him, waving enthusiastically over and over again, smiling and babbling and bopping up and down in my arms. She couldn't get to him fast enough! She'd briefly lay her head against him before pulling back to smile and wave at him some more, as though she couldn't believe that he was finally home. It was hilarious to watch her, waving, "talking", then waving some more! I think it may have been the final nudge I needed to finally jump on board the Signing Time bandwagon. I'd really love to see what else she has to say!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You Know You're A Mom...

...when you can serve dinner, eat a meal, load the dishwasher, take out the garbage, start some laundry, and help your two year old into her pajamas--all while holding your fussy, clingy, 17 pound nine month old on one hip.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Rainy Day

Today began dark and dreary, with a steady rain accompanied by lightning and thunder. Indoors, our spirits weren't a whole lot brighter. Darren left again this morning for another three day business trip, and all three of the kids are sick with nasty colds. We were sad. We were restless. So we did what we do best during times like these...we baked. And baked. A batch of yummy chocolate chip cookies was our first priority, as Caitlyn has been asking so sweetly for the last few days if we could "please make some cookies". While they baked, we snuggled on the sofa and read some of our favorite fall and Halloween books. Meghan was fussy, and tired, but wouldn't sleep for very long unless I was holding her. After yet another unsuccessful attempt to help her settle down to sleep in her crib, I brought her into the kitchen with me, snuggling her and rubbing her back.

"Poor thing", I said. "Little Meggie isn't feeling very good".

"MOM", Dylan corrected me. "Meghan is not a THING! She's our baby!"

Ever the protective big brother, always concerned about his little sisters. Sometimes he makes me want to just cry.

The rain continued as the day progressed, but our dispositions were increasingly sunnier, especially after Caitlyn, coming into the kitchen from the living room, stopped dead in her tracks and shouted with an excited gasp, "Look outside, it's a rainbow!"

Oh, yes, it was...a beautiful, breathtaking rainbow, forming a complete, unbroken arch against the dark afternoon sky. I ran inside to get the camera, and even as I snapped a few pictures it began to fade. I'm so glad she noticed it when she did, or we would have missed it completely:

Later, when I realized I actually had all the necessary ingredients on hand, we tried a recipe for an apple cake that I've been wanting to try...just the thing, I figured, to finish off our day.

It didn't come out quite as pretty as the oh-so-lovely Rachel Ray's, but it tasted delicious. (And I'm thinking we'll even have some for breakfast in the morning!)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Evolution of an Artist

When Dylan was little, we'd sometimes let him play with the paint program on our computer. That was about the extent of his technical expertise, but now that he's older, he's become much more proficient in navigating a broader range of computer applications. He loves writing stories in Microsoft Word. He can Google anything. He really enjoys the interactive websites of PBS Kids and Playhouse Disney. He gets a real kick out of creating virtual zoo experiences with his Daddy. But recently he rediscovered his first love: paint. Here is a picture he did when he was around two years old. When we saw it again this afternoon, he asked me, "Mommy, what was I trying to draw?" I have no idea, but I do remember thinking at the time that it was surely the most inspired masterpiece I had ever seen:

He's been quite industrious the past couple of days, creating holiday "paintings" which he then asks me to e-mail to his cousins. Here are a few that I just adore:

Clearly, he's made considerable progress in his artistic achievements. But to me, his first early scribbles will always be some of his most precious work.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Shine On Harvest Moon

A sure sign they're from the desert

Dylan and Caitlyn were watching "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" earlier this evening (the original, not the re-make) and when Charlie opened his birthday gift, a handsome hand knit scarf, they asked simultaneously as he wrapped it around his neck:

"What is that?!"

Crunchy Cuisine

We've had, for some time now, a little rock squirrel living just over our back wall. The kids have dubbed him "Mr. Squirrel", and once in a while, we'll see him hop into our yard and dash furtively from bush to bush. He's cute, but shy. He won't come down from the wall if there is so much as a bird nearby! Yesterday, Dylan had the idea to put some of the seed and nuts remaining from our birdfeeders into a dish for Mr. Squirrel. All day long we'd peer expectantly out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of our little friend, and finally, he appeared: at precisely the same time that one of our pet turtles meandered over to investigate what was in the dish. It was quite the funny sight, actually! One lazy turtle, taking his sweet time, poking his weathered, wrinkly neck out to sample the new treat...and one eager squirrel, nervously darting back and forth across the top of the wall, all the while eyeing the bounty below. He finally gave up, much to our disappointment. We were all really rooting for him!

Today was so busy that I hardly gave him a second thought. Late this afternoon, though, as I stood at the kitchen counter pouring some drinks for the kids, I caught a flash of movement out in the yard. "Hey, guys!" I said in a loud whisper. "Come see!"

There sat Mr. Squirrel, munching happily until he'd had his fill. Then, with a few quick moves, he scampered back up onto the wall, perched for a moment to peer around, and was gone.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

To Honor Saint Francis

Recently, with cooler evenings and enough daylight remaining after dinner, we've been enjoying taking our kids for walks around our neighborhood, during which time they delight in "collecting" anything that catches their interest--sticks, rocks, pinecones...lots and lots of pinecones, which I've been saving in a sack in the garage on the off chance that we might actually some day need them!

Yesterday, inspired yet again by Danielle, I was actually cleaning out the garage when I came upon this sack of forgotten treasures. But rather than tossing them out, as I might have otherwise been inclined to do, I was struck instead with an idea that I thought Dylan and Caitlyn might really enjoy. Since today is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, and since he has long been one of my very favorite saints, I really wanted to do something special to celebrate with the kids, especially now that they are old enough to understand and appreciate the lives of the saints. So this morning we gathered three of those pinecones (one each for Dylan, Caitlyn, and Meghan) and we transformed them into some cute little bird feeders which we hung from the tree outside our dining room window. The kids really enjoyed it, and they loved being little "helpers" to Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beautiful Beginning

On this day ten years ago, I was a giddy nineteen year old eagerly anticipating a first date with the handsome guy who for months I had been pseudo-stalking around town: in and around the bookstore where he worked, on campus, off campus--I created any excuse I could to see or be near him. And at long last, after finally mustering every bit of courage I had just to say "hi", I finally had a date!

I remember the excited phone call I made to my mom, from a public phone in one of the lecture halls at school, immediately after talking to him for the first time. "MOM!" I fairly shouted. "You will never guess who I just talked to! Sandy-haired-guy! And he has a name! Darren. And...he asked me out!" A bit dramatic, I'm sure, but this was big. My entire family knew of my infatuation with him and, at times, even found themselves entrapped in one of my many fanciful plots to gain his attention. I couldn't have been more thrilled!

The night of our first date--October 4, 1996-- was every bit as romantic as a fairy tale, but I never could have imagined just how wonderful our "happily ever after" would be. I know that from the very beginning, God played his hand in it all--by bringing Darren here, to the place I have lived all my life, in a very round-about way, with many detours and delays but finally, here, to me. There is nobody else in the world with whom I would rather navigate this life, this beautiful journey on which we embarked with a simple first date all those years ago. I am still so very much in love with my handsome prince charming, and filled with such gratitude for all the blessings that have been bestowed on us these past ten years. I can only hope and wonder what the next ten years may bring!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Happiness Is...

...sleeping with your sweet baby until nine o'clock in the morning.

...discovering when you finally get up out of bed that your dear sweet husband has swept and mopped the entire kitchen and dining room floors.

...having chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.

...enjoying Mass with three reasonably well behaved children and one perfect soul-mate.

...excitedly retrieving all your Halloween decorations from their storage space in the garage and spending the afternoon finding just the right spots for them throughout your home.

...the smell of cookies baking in the oven.

...creating your own little Oktoberfest to which your dad and brother are invited.

...receiving a phone call on your way to work asking if you'd like to stay home "on call".

...and finally, knowing that even lacking all of these things, you would still be so richly blessed just to share your life with these amazing people who you love more than anything else in the world.