Thursday, March 31, 2011

HELP! I can't work in these conditions!

My [Pink Dell] laptop is not working as of yesterday morning. It starts up & does fine until you open a browser (any browser: Chrome, Firefox, IE). Then it freezes and nothing else happens until you hold the power key down to do a hard shutdown.

It totally sucks.

I guess I'm glad that Roger happens to have a [free] Google Chrome netbook so I can at least satisfy my facebook cravings... (Facebook isn't working on my phone. It opens then shuts down. The remedy should be to sync my phone, but my laptop isn't working. You see where this is going.)

He's testing out this netbook and will, apparently, be asked at some point what his opinion is. Well here's my opinion: I think netbooks are dumb...for me anyway. (I'm sure they are great for some people.)

With this machine I can't do anything with pictures. No downloading, no uploading, no creating with Photoshop. No posting to Twitter. No pictures on the blog... Yes, I could take and use only photos from my phone and upload them to Pixelpipe, then embed them here, but man that's a lot of work. And not very good pictures because the iPhone 3g has a crappy camera.

Aside from the picture thing... the keyboard is terrible. The keys are spaced really far apart (compared to my dell.) There is no END key, no HOME key, no DELETE key. I don't know how much you use those keys, but I use them all the time (apparently) because I'm losing my mind without them. The backspace key is still on the keyboard, but the dear Chrome Netbook people decided to put the backslash button in between enter and backspace. So now, when I make a mistake, my hand pops over to hit backspace (not delete!) and I accidentally hit \ and now I have 2 mistakes. So my hand goes for backspace and hits \ again. Now I have 3 mistakes and in a fit of rage I madly hit back space three times: \\\. Dangit!

To end this little rant about my laptop, I'd like to tell you that I'm sorry there are no pictures here today. And feel free to tell me how to fix my laptop. Or email Roger with a solution. Or tweet us. Or Facebook us. Or whatever. If you know what my dear laptop's problem is, I want to talk to you. ASAP.

Updated to add: I've just been informed the keyboard things are specific to this KIND of netbook. Good to know.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is Your Brain... On Kids.

Do you remember those public service announcements? The frying pan...the eggs..."This is your brain. This is your brain...on drugs."

That's how I feel a lot of the time. My brain is totally fried. It's not drugs, though. It's kids.

I went to Alfred Angelo today to pick up a bridesmaid dress for my sister. They asked me the name of the bride. I stood there, totally wracking my brain. I couldn't remember it. A name I've heard a hundred times. The name of the girl who I sat next to in the very same store a month ago while my sister picked out said dress. I couldn't even conjure up a first name. It was embarrassing.

It happens to me so often that I have pretty much accepted it as my life right now. And the fact of the matter is I don't really know if I will get my mind back or not! Have you ever heard the expression, "The brains go out with the breast milk?" This is "Mommy Brain."

For me, it started when I was pregnant with Ian. I just felt my mind getting a little fuzzy on the little things. It didn't go away after he was here, though... it got much worse. Then I wasn't just breastfeeding Ian. I was also pregnant with Aaron and it got bad.

"Roger, Have you seen my cell phone?"
"It's in your hand."

Things like that happened all the time. Now, I'm not just taking care of Ian and and Aaron. I am breastfeeding Lauren and it is really bad.

I have to keep a calendar now. I used to just be able to make appointments and remember them. Dentist in 3 weeks? Great! I'm there. Doctor's appointment in June? No problem. Earlier today I made a hair appointment and I wasn't at home to put it on my calendar. By the time I got home, I'd forgotten entirely what time the appointment was for and I had to call my hair lady back and ask. I'm constantly calling doctors offices to verify appointment days and times. (But don't they even give you a little handwritten reminder card? Yes. And I lose them.)

I never used to make a grocery list. I just had a mental list going and for the most part, it totally worked. We rarely ran out of things like sugar (which we did, last week.) and toothpaste. I was just so much more on top of things. It's probably because I spend most of my time now playing Clue .

I think I hit an all-time low a couple weeks ago when I was dropping Ian off at preschool. Aaron asked to go play with the trains for a minute and I said he could play while I got Ian situated. So he did. Then, I walked out the door, Lauren in my arms, and got most of the way through the parking lot before I realized that I was missing someone. I left Aaron in the preschool classroom! I forgot him! I mean, it's not like he was in danger and it wasn't a big deal at all (Ian's teachers hadn't taken roll yet and didn't realize that they had an extra little blonde head on the carpet.) In my defense, on Wednesdays I leave both boys there, so at least once a week I do walk out with only Lauren. But it was kinda a big deal to me. I forgot one of my kids. My mind is so shot that I actually, truly, honestly walked right out of somewhere without him when he was supposed to be with me.

Rock bottom for mommy brain.

In recent days I've become quite paranoid about things that I should be remembering. As I'm driving down the road I suddenly look in the rear-view mirror to verify that all the babes' buckles are fastened. I double check the door locks. I check and re-check that I have my keys with me. I go to Target to buy drapes and find I left my wallet at home. I can't come up with words to finish my sentences. I'm totally losing it.

What I really want to know is if it is ever coming back. Do I need to do those brain exercise things? Is it just because I'm tired? (Because I'm really tired.) When the breast milk is gone do the brains return? Am I destined to have 1/3 the brain I had before I had three kids? What is your best mommy brain story? (And if you're not a mommy, what's your best "I'm losing my mind!" moment?)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Colonel Mustard with the Rope in the Billiard Room

In my life as a mother of three children under the age of four (for a couple more weeks), I feel like I'm constantly playing one long, tiring game of Clue.

Instead of Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet and the gang, though, I'm investigating culprits named Ian, Aaron, and Lauren.

Seems that after each trip to the Conservatory, Library, or Lounge we're dealing with another mystery. Not the rope, revolver, candlestick, wrench, etc., but the fever, viruses, bacteria and so on.

You get the idea. (I didn't even need to look up the details of the game, either, I've apparently played it so many times that I can recall them at the drop of a hat.)

I am forever trying to solve one mystery or another.

Who pooped? Who left this wrapper on the floor? Why is everyone so quiet? What is this strange puddle...pee or juice? Is this runny nose a contagious bug or just allergies? Are you having a face-melter because you're hungry or are you getting sick? Is it better to let you nap in the car or risk waking you to take you to your bed? Why is the doorknob sticky? What caused this diaper rash? Who left the refrigerator open? Where in tar-nation are your shoes?

I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. I make educated guesses and sometimes I'm totally wrong! It seems that in my almost-four-years of parenting I've only gotten marginally better at the detective work. I'm a one-lady-CSI unit. It's exhausting.

Do you feel like parenting is a constant effort to solve mysteries and play whodunit? How do you cope? What are your detective strategies?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We Live in Our Van

5 years ago if you asked me if I'd ever drive a mini-van, I would have told you "no way!" But here I am, the proud driver of one. There is definitely something to the "mom-mobile" thing. I happen to love driving the van. It is hard to switch with Roger and drive his sedan...even for one day.

Why do I love driving our mini van?

There's a lot of space.

We have 3 car seats, a least one stroller (usually more), a complete change of clothes for all five of us, extra diapers, wipes, drinks, toys, baby carriers, a travel potty, etc. And we don't need to unload any of that to go to the grocery store!

In the summer, I buy a case of 100% Juice boxes* and some bottled water* from Sam's Club and leave them in the back. No matter where we go or how long we're gone, there's always a drink to satisfy our thirst after playing! We also keep swimming suits, towels, diapers, shoes, & toys ready for a stop off at any pool or splash pad.

*Before you shake your head about how wasteful bottled water and juice might be, I want you to know that for the most part, we pack reusable drink containers. In the summer, though, we're often gone long enough in the hot weather that we need a refill! It's more economical for us to keep our just-in-case stash than to have to buy a drink from a vending machine or drink stand.

In the winter, we keep our shelf-stable milk in the van along with coats, hats, mittens, blankets, boots, etc. We leave the coats in the car all the time so we always have them.

It takes forever to clean it, but I love being able to have pretty much everything we need while we are out having adventures! It makes the adventures much more fun when you don't have to worry about getting your clothes wet or not having pajamas if you end up staying later than you thought.

So next time you see us out and about, don't look inside our wheels. It's a mess. It's full of all kinds of crazy stuff. It's exactly what works for us, though. We just... live in our van.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nursery Design: Lauren's Pink Room

The "little" bedroom in our home has taken on its fourth identity in 6 years. Before we moved here, we painted it brick red and cream with the hopes of making it into a "cowboy" guest room. We had these grand design ideas to have a cow-print comforter on the guest bed and rope as a border. We moved in and the room sat unfinished, paint tape still on the walls and curtainless for over a year. We never even opened the door.

Its second identity was a re-vamp of the cowboy guest room idea. We turned it into an "Americana" nursery. I loved our red-white-and-blue baby boy's room

We decided we wanted to move to another part of Pittsburgh so Roger wouldn't have to sit on the Parking Lot Parkway East in traffic twice a day. Our "little" bedroom took on its third identity at the recommendation of our Realtor. We tore down the Stars and Stripes border [sigh] and painted white over the brick red [double sigh]. 

I'm happy to announce that the little bedroom is once again full of color! Lauren's bedroom is complete (minus a dresser, but we're waiting until a super steal comes along) and I like it! 

The total cost of the renovation was a little higher than the boy's room because I bought new curtains. I'm estimating the total cost as $60. The little pegged rack was only $3.97 at our local craft store! At the end of this post is the last touch on the boys' room: a pegged rack for them too. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Product Review: Buddy Fruits & Super Sprowtz

One of our local specialty food stores recently contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review a couple of products on my blog. Specifically, McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores asked us to try Buddy Fruits fruit purees for kids and to read the Super Sprowtz children's books. 

Why? McGinnis Sisters is considering selling these products in their stores in the Pittsburgh area and wanted some real-life kids' opinions! ...and I volunteered to be a reviewer!

The Buddy Fruits, as you can see, are little pouches of flavored fruit purees. Each pouch contains one full serving of fruit, no added sugar and no artificial ingredients. The pouches are resealable and they come in bright, fun colors and flavors. They have an expiration date, but are shelf stable for several months, usually. We tried the Apple-Banana, Apple-Strawberry, and Apple-Cinnamon flavors. 

Not surprising to me, Aaron was reluctant to try it. On my prodding & Ian's peer pressure, Aaron did try, but was not a fan. He doesn't like applesauce or pureed foods so we'll just chock his disapproval up to personal preference. I think he probably would eat it if we were off running at the zoo or something, though, so I haven't entirely given up hope. 

Ian tried the Apple-Strawberry first and said it was too sour. I asked him to give it one more try and the resulting face occurred: 

I guess that one is pretty sour. He asked to try the Apple-Cinnamon flavor and proceeded to suck the pouch dry in less than a minute. Ian really liked that flavor. I asked him if I should buy more of the Apple-Cinnamon flavor and he said "Yes!"

Lauren tried the Apple-Banana. When I opened the pouch for her the banana was the only thing I could smell. I handed it to her and the first thing she did was squeeze it all over the place. After we successfully got it in her mouth, she liked it. 

It was quite difficult for her to maneuver, though. I don't think Buddy Fruits are meant for babies. The fruit inside is perfect for them, but it isn't a portable snack for an 8 month old. Way too messy. When I feed it to her again it will be with a spoon from a dish! 

 The Super Sprowtz books are really cute! Ian was the most excited about them. His almost-four-years-old  mind was really curious about the story and the characters. He thought the pictures were very entertaining. Several hours after we read the two books, I heard Ian pretend playing with Colby Carrot. He was also really excited that there was a recipe in the big book for vegetable pizza. He wanted to make it right away. (We didn't make it yesterday because we don't have all of the ingredients.)

On the Super Sprowtz website, they recommend you try reading these books at the dinner table to make eating vegetables more fun. I absolutely think this would work! We try all kinds of crazy things at our dinner table to encourage healthy eating habits and we will definitely try reading these books too. Ian, Aaron, and Lauren are all excellent veggie eaters, so getting them to eat broccoli, carrots, peas, spinach, etc. isn't that hard. I am certain, though, that when we try eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatoes, we'll read these books.

When I was reading the books to the kids, I didn't think Aaron was very interested. I asked Roger to read the books again at bedtime and in his opinion, Aaron was more interested than Ian during the second reading.  I guess the bottom line is that both age groups (Toddler and Preschooler) are interested in them as long as the timing is right.


Overall I think Buddy Fruits are a good product. I really appreciate how fun they are and how portable they make pure fruit purees. I think I will probably only buy them if I know we are going on an adventure that I will not be able to take perishable fruit. I really think the packaging lends itself to tossing into the diaper bag for on the go healthy snacking! At home, though, I think we'll stick to fresh fruits. I would also be really interested in a line of fruit-veggie purees like carrot-apple or pumpkin-pear.

The Super Sprowtz books are very cute and I think I might start buying them as gifts for the preschoolers I know. If these books were sitting in the produce section next to the vegetables that are in the book, I think a lot of moms (or dads, or grandparents) would be interested in buying the book and the vegetables to give it a try. In our case, it seems now Ian has heard about the Super Sprowtz, he wants to experience them in the flesh. I think the Super Sprowtz concept is great and the little voice in my head is saying, "It can't hurt can it?"

A big thank you to Noreen at McGinnis Sisters for asking us to do a review of these products. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We love McGinnis Sisters Food Stores and are proud to have the opportunity to work with them!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Your Kids' Names Aren't Good Enough

Source : Kaatjevervoort Flickr : When I was approaching 3rd grade, my parents bought a Scottish Terrier and I was put in charge of naming him. This proved to be a daunting task for someone under ten. This is the name the dog would live with for the rest of his life. I had to make sure his name didn't rhyme with anything that could be construed as an insult. It had to be professional, but also fun. And of course it had to promote his Scottish heritage.

The name I conjured up : Duncan.

Duncan used to ride in the back seat of the car and place his front paws on the shoulder of the driver and passenger seats. From this perch, he would stare intently through the windshield at the quickly approaching scenery -- reminiscent of some kind of canine Captain Kirk. In fact, this stance earned him a nickname -- "Captain Boffo". I don't recall the etymology of the name, but it stuck.

Over time, this nickname evolved from "Captain Boffo" into "Boffo", and then to "Boofy". At that point, we called him "Boofy" pretty much exclusively. Why did we do this ? Was his original name not good enough ? Not fun enough ?

Fast forward several years and I find us doing the same thing with our children.
Here are the nicknames we use :

"Bean" (because his ultrasound looked like a bean)
"Ian Be-an"
"Eener Beaner"
"Beaner Bopper"

"Aaron Baron"
"Air Bear"
"Erroneous Bear-oneous" (yes, we say that)
umm.... "A-wad" (we're trying to phase out this one !)

"Elle Belle"
"Ellie Belly"
umm.... "Lauren Borin' " (...also phasing this one out)
Lorna Doone

It's obviously just in good fun. We are very happy with the names we've chosen, despite how difficult it was to agree on each one. Their names, so far, fit them very well.

...but I'm curious how many more nicknames we'll come up with before they are adults.

... and don't worry, your kids' names are probably just fine. As long as they're not on this list

Let us know in the comments some of the funny nicknames you give to your kids.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy 8 Months, Baby Girl!

I'll never remember to post at 8:45pm tonight so here's your 8-month birthday wish from mama!

I could not get her to smile for her pictures! 

At 8 months, Lauren is:

  • Army crawling around the house as fast as she can.
  • Eating mostly finger foods and has tried most of the "common" fruits and veggies- avoiding citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, and corn specifically. 
  • Can feed herself the finger foods.
  • Is eating yogurt, but not yet cheese or other dairy products. (No eggs yet either, due to Aaron's allergy.)
  • Has not tried meat of any kind.
  • Is babbling "ba ba ba" and "da da da" but not yet "ma ma ma"
  • Is still nursing a lot.
  • Has her very own room where she takes most naps and sleeps the first stretch of night. Still wakes several times a night, but is quickly calmed by her binky or nursing. 
  • Still crying in her car seat quite a bit.
  • Adores her daddy and brothers
  • Enjoys being outside.
  • Favorite place is in the Ergo carrier on mommy's tummy. 
  • Knows how to use her voice to get what she wants/needs. (Read: screams like a banshee.)
  • Is wearing size 9 months clothes. Weighed 17 pounds 5 oz at the doctor's last week. Is the smallest of the Vandervort kids at 8 months old. (Photos of Aaron at 8 months & Ian at 8 months)

Lauren is just an incredible little peach. We love her so much! As I reflect on my surprise babies (Aaron & Lauren) I'm so glad God had this planned for me! Lauren adds a whole new meaning to chaos in our family. It is difficult managing all three of these crazy children, but it is incredibly rewarding. I'm so very aware of my countless blessings. I continue to try to live a life that reflects my gratitude for these little ones.

I cannot believe she is 8 months old. I was reading cake blogs the other day and came across the cake I'm going to make for her first birthday. That's really only four months away? Really?

In related news, Roger saw a sign at Best Buy wishing "Super Mario" a happy 25th birthday. Holy moly. Are we seriously that old already?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dentist Time

A Pac-Man game in the waiting room & a bunch of other toys, games, puzzles, & books!

Aaron helping by holding the toothpaste

Ian picked orange fluoride. I would have picked marshmallow, personally.

Aaron's turn!

Ian & Aaron had their first trip to the dentist this morning. We chose a Pediatric Dentist that came highly recommended by several different families. He was great! His staff was also excellent and the whole visit proved to me exactly why I'd heard such great things. The hygienist sang to them.

The kids were awesome, too. We got praise from everyone about their behavior. I didn't have to intervene at all. Both Ian and Aaron took their turn in the chair, laid back opened and closed as asked and didn't bat an eyelash at the experience. Dare I say they may even have enjoyed it?

I should probably mention that they both got good reports and have "very nice" teeth. Apparently Aaron chipped his top front tooth at some point, but I'm not sure when or if that is true! Ian got a fluoride treatment (ew, I *hated* those as a kid!) and I got a lesson in how to manipulate Ian's mouth for more effective brushing.

Prizes and new toothbrushes and high fives for everyone and we were on our way!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the path

Aaron & Ian walking at Community Park on 3/18

Aaron's bed converted from a crib to toddler size.

Aaron made it to 28 months old before he figured out he could climb over the crib rail and get out. Once he realized he could do this, he did it 6 times in less than a day. So we decided it was (unfortunately) time to convert his crib. So here's Aaron in his "new" bed. He did NOT roll out the first night!

Friday, March 18, 2011

From Great to Crap in Minutes

Today my "life" got hacked. My gmail account, my Facebook account, my yahoomail account. (That I know of! Egads!)

When the person hacked those things, they set up a phony yahoo email account that was similar to my REAL account. Then changed ALL the setting to forward everything to the phony account and delete the messages both incoming and outgoing from my REAL accounts.

I didn't immediately realize what was going on (at a glance I didn't notice the phony email account.)

I'm literally ill about this and it's taking me a LONG time to even regain control of my accounts. I've already cried a dozen times. I'm sweating. I have a headache. I almost lost my lunch.

PLEASE, PLEASE be careful.

I noticed something was amiss before the "spam" started going out from my email and facebook, but I wasn't at home and I couldn't stop it soon enough.

Now everyone in the whole universe is calling, emailing, facebook messaging etc. to me to tell me it happened. (I'm not mad about this, it is just REALLY frustrating when I'm trying to deal with the whole problem and get it straightened out.)

Now I have no idea what is safe and what isn't. I imagine this a little bit like an actual home invasion. My trust and feeling of safety is gone. I've been "hacked" before but never to this degree. And it was only my email. And the victim isn't just me, it's all of my contacts and friends. People who do this kind of scamming are disgusting. Beyond disgusting.

So that's the story. I'm sorry if any of you got the spam from my accounts! I certainly didn't mean for any of this to happen.

*updated to add: And I have antivirus, antispyware, and a firewall on my computer.


This is what we were doing while some butthead was hijacking me:

Thinking Ahead Toward Summer

The warmer air blowing in our open windows today got me thinking of all the things I want to do this summer. I definitely want to repeat some of the things we did last summer.

Some things, I blogged about:
Strawberry picking at Simmons Farm

Feeding the ducks, spray park, and a cook-out at Round Hill Farm Park

Petting goats at Round Hill Farm Park

Blueberry picking at Soergel's Orchard

Hiking the Yough River Trail at Ohiopyle State Park

Riding the Kiski Junction Railroad

Spending the day doing Old-timey things at Old Economy Village

Some things, I didn't blog about:
Pittsburgh Zoo
Troy Hill Spray Park
Idlewild Park
Free Summer Concerts at the Tall Trees Amphitheater in Monroeville
The Monroeville Jazz Festival
A Pirates Game
Picnics and Playgrounds at Beechwood, Frick, Schenley, Boyce, Heritage, Evergreen, Ferndale, Hawkeye, Highland, McConnell's Mill, Brady's Bend and Squaw Valley Parks (I'm pretty sure I forgot some.)
Walking the Riverwalk and the Eliza Furnace Trail

As I'm recalling last summer, half of which I spent really pregnant, and have of which I spent recovering from pregnancy and toting around a newborn, I'm amazed at how many things we did! I hit most of the parks for morning playdates with my girlfriends and their kids, but we also went to quite a few as a family. We try to do as many free things as possible and in the coming weeks I hope to outline some of the most entertaining and exciting, free* things that we've done in greater Pittsburgh. When you have three young kids, going too far from home isn't really that feasible, but you do learn how awesome your city is! I can't wait to share with you all the things we've learned about "Pittsburgh with Kids" in the last four years.

*or very low cost, especially for big(ish) families

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It Takes A Whole Village to:

Inspect a car.

Yesterday I had to have my car inspected. In order to get it done, though, it required a whole bunch of orchestrating. Since we were driving up to Mercer County to have it done and had to be there by 8:30am I asked Roger to go into work a little later than normal so he could help me get the kids up and into the car in "the middle of nighttime," as Ian described it.

After we got up North, my dad took the van to the mechanic for me so I didn't have to drag the kids there. We hung out at Emily's house so we could play and visit. Ian, Aaron, & Asher played really nice together. Lauren, who is apparently having a really difficult time getting her first teeth, was pretty fussy all day and didn't want to miss any of the she was boycotting nursing and napping.

We stayed after Isaac got home from school so he would get a chance to visit too.

My dad made dinner.

Adam helped me with the kids at the dinner table. Then Adam and my dad both helped me load the kids in the car after Ian totally lost his mind out of sheer exhaustion.

Roger and I did bedtime together.

When you have three kids all under 4 years old, you realized that a mostly simple task of getting your car inspected turns into an all-day, many-hands-on affair. The fact of the matter is I simply can't do that kind of stuff by myself. When you have three car seats in your vehicle and three kids sitting in those seats you can't just drop it off! It's those kinds of difficulties that I never, ever imagined when I didn't have children.

It takes a whole village to raise a child*. Definitely.

*I just looked up that phrase, which I first heard in middle school when our music teacher made us sing along to a song with those words. Apparently it is an ancient African proverb.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2 years ago

This is what my boys looked like!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Go-to Dinners

Before we make our meal list for the week (and ideally we do this before each shopping trip) we sit down open up our spreadsheet called "V's Meal List." It's not an exclusive list. We try new things as often as we can get away with it.We use this list to remind ourselves what dinners we love so we don't get stuck in a rut. I try not to serve the same type of meat two nights in a row. We have a vegetable with dinner every night and sometimes a fruit, too. So without further ado, here's our meal list:

  • Lime chicken on rice 
  • Beef tips on rice 
  • Cream dried beef on toast
  • Grilled chicken plain 
  • Pasta w/ meat sauce
  • Pork chops and stuffing
  • Hamburgers / Cheeseburgers
  • Turkey burgers
  • Meatloaf
  • Porcupine balls
  • Tacos
  • Pizza
  • French bread pizza
  • Lasagna
  • Stew
  • Pulled Pork
  • Italian Beef Soup
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Kielbasa & Rice
  • Baked Mac n Cheese
  • Stroganoff
  • Corned Beef Cassarole
  • Baked Fish
  • Grilled Meat and Potato wedges
  • Roast Beef and Potatoes
  • Beef and Barley
  • Fajitas
  • Corned Beef and Potatoes
  • Scalloped Potatoes & Ham
  • Meatball Subs
  • Roast Turkey & fixin's
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Lime beef tips on rice
  • Chili
  • Turkey Chili
  • Swiss Steak  
  • Cheater chicken parmesan
  • homemade chicken tenders
  • Rigatoni Lasagna
  • Pineapple Pork

Favorite Toys

What are you children's favorite toys right now?

Ian, (almost-four): Lego Duplos , jigsaw puzzles, & our iPhones
LEGO Duplo Building Set-71 pieces (5506)Melissa & Doug 60 Piece Land of Dinosaurs Jigsaw Puzzle

Aaron, (almost two and a half): Thomas take-n-play and duplos.

Thomas the Train: Take-n-Play Cranky at the Docks PlaysetThomas the Train: Take-n-Play Tidmouth Sheds

Lauren, (almost eight months): mommy & daddy, the jumperoo

Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo

*I'm testing out Amazon Associates with this post*

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lunch Time

This is Part II of my series answering questions about what we eat. (you can read Part I here.)

On most week days I'm in charge of the midday meal for myself, Ian, Aaron, and Lauren. Lunch is a very low-key meal in this house. (So is breakfast, but that's a different post.) Since I don't seem to have eaters of huge lunches, we keep it simple. The most complex it ever gets is toasted cheese sandwiches or macaroni and cheese. (Yep, like I said, we keep it simple.) Most days I don't even turn on the oven or microwave.

We usually have any combo of the following:


  • Ham
  • Salami
  • Leftover beef, chicken or pork from dinner
  • Hickory Farms beef summer sausage
  • Peanut or Almond butter
  • bread
  • tortillas
  • noodles/macaroni
  • Yogurt
  • Hard cheese like cheddar or swiss cut into cubes or shredded
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
I really like serving what I call "Parisian Lunch." We all really like it! What's a Parisian Lunch? Fresh fruit or berries, crusty bread (with or without butter, but usually without) and salami or ham (really any deli meat.) Why do I call it a Parisian lunch? When I was studying in Paris, it is pretty much what I ate for lunch every day: fresh berries, part of a baguette, and a thick slice of deli meat. Delicious. 

When we don't have fresh berries or fruit (because we ate it all and we need to go shopping!) we usually have something even more simple: peanut butter & jam. 

Lots of days Ian and Aaron just have a couple slices of salami (or ham), some chips, crackers or goldfish, and a cup of milk. Sometimes just apple slices and pretzels and some peanut butter to dip.

Yesterday Ian had 2 full-size stalks of celery and a little cup of Ranch dressing to dip. That is all he had. That's all he wanted. I asked and offered several other things, but he said he only wanted his celery and he wasn't hungry for anything else! 

(P.S. Dipping so *so* fun for a 4 year old! And I think they're much more willing to try different foods if they have something to dip!)

I know it sounds crazy, but I don't pressure the kids at all with lunch. I don't really care if they eat much as long as what they do it isn't full of sugar. If Aaron just wants a go-gurt and his cup of milk for lunch? That's fine! If they both want three servings of macaroni with Parmesan cheese on it? Great! If Aaron wants to help me eat the leftover meatballs from the night before? Hop on up, little man, share with me! 

The best thing about the kinds of lunch we eat is that it is totally portable. I pack our lunch almost every time we go on an adventure and the kids are perfectly happy with it because it's the same thing we eat at home! 

I feel like I need to mention that the year between the 2nd and 3rd birthdays has been the most difficult for lunchtime eating for our kids. I had the hardest time figuring out what to feed Ian for lunch when he was between 2 and 3 years old. After 3 he started eating more "typical" lunch foods and now he's great about it. Aaron, however, is smack-dab in the middle of 2 and 3 years old and there are many days when I spend an hour trying to "find something" he'll eat for lunch. And there are lots of days when Aaron leaves a practically untouched plate and goes for his nap having just had a cup (or 2) of milk. 

Eh. I choose my battles... lunch isn't really one I'm willing to fight. 

Lauren is now almost 8 months old (can you even BELIEVE that?!) and she's starting to get more solids for lunch. She will eat a tablespoon of apple or pear sauce or yogurt and a handful of "cheerios" (for lack of a better word for the organic, only oat "O" shaped cereal that we buy for our babies to snack on). 

So that's what we do for lunch. Stay tuned for our go-to dinner list! 

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Is it just their ages or are we losing our touch?

The shirt I put on this morning, clean, is now dotted with pumpkin baby food, tears, snot, pizza sauce, spit up, breast milk, cow's milk, lemonade, and blood. There might even be urine on it, but I'm really trying not to think about it. 'Tis the life of a mom of 3 under 4.

Blood you say?

Yep. Blood. Tonight, Ian and Aaron were rough-housing and Aaron got hurt. He fell down and bumped his nose on the floor. And it bled.


In the last 3 weeks we've had 3 incidents that involved blood coming from the nose or mouth. (Or both.) The under 5 crowd isn't fairing too well.

I'm starting to wonder if I am losing my touch on mothering. I know I'm not really a bad mother... turning on the nightly news for a night just reminds me of that fact. But when we have so many injuries in such a short time I really start to question my abilities.

Am I not watching close enough? (In one case, no... I wasn't. I left Lauren asleep on my bed at naptime and she rolled off. That was a bad decision and I know it.) In the other two recent incidents, though, there isn't much I could've done even if I had been right there. In fact, tonight, Roger was right there and he still couldn't keep Aaron's nose from bumping the floor.

Are we just prone to injuries? Is it just the way life is for families with several young children? It seems like someone is always hurt.

I'm also thinking about the next few years. Are we destined to get a frequent flyer card at Children's hospital?

I guess what I want is someone to tell me that this is normal... getting blood on my shirt on a random Saturday is normal. Is it?

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A friend asked me recently to tell her what's on our regular grocery list and what I feed the kids for meals. (Actually, come to think of it, two different friends have asked me about groceries recently... flattering to know that people wonder how I do things!)  So here goes... We usually do a "big" grocery trip every 2 weeks, but I'm going to list what we buy each month keeping in mind that we only "refresh" our pantry items when we need to: we don't buy more than one or two boxes of pasta at a time, rice only when we've used the last, the canned goods only when we're out, etc. You get the idea. We buy a lot of our meat at Sam's Club, but I buy our chicken at McGinnis Sisters whenever possible.

A typical trip to the store for us includes:

Fresh Foods:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Spring Mix
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Berries (whatever is on sale-blue, black razz, straw, etc.)
  • Grapes (if no berries are on sale)
  • Melon (if it is on sale)
  • Asparagus*
  • Broccoli*
  • Potatoes
*if there are not any veggies on sale, we buy frozen.

  • Salami
  • Pepperoni
Pantry Goods:
  • Natural Peanut Butter (big jar)
  • Bisquick (big box lasts us several months)
  • Unbleached white flour (5 lb bag unless it's on sale, then I stock up with several bags)
  • Whole wheat flour (1-5lb bag at a time because it can get rancid)
  • Fleishmann's Yeast (jar)
  • Corn Meal
  • Crisco (sticks)
  • Pure Extra Virgin Olive Oil (lasts us 6 months or so)
  • Canola Oil
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • White sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Local Honey
  • White Rice (10 lbs-buy it every 3 months or so)
  • Brown Rice (as big a bag as I can find, usually 3 lbs)
  • Pasta Shapes (Thin Ronzoni spaghetti & elbows usually)
  • Plain store-brand Tomato Sauce (15 oz cans, at least 8)
  • Plain store-brand Tomato Paste (little can, at least 4)
  • Honey Bunches of Oats w/ Almonds cereal
  • Organic Oat cereal (like Cheerios, but with only OAT flour)
Fresh Meat:
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (Big package- use some fresh, freeze the rest)
  • Ground Beef (80/20)
  • Beef Roast (I process it at home into stew chunks & strips for stir-fry)
  • Whole Pork Loin (I process it at home into roasts, chunks, & chops)
  • Whole Fryer/Roaster Chicken *usually it's the cheapest meat in the store at less than $.99/lb
  • Whole Ham/Turkey/Corned Beef Roast when they are on sale
  • McCain's "Smile" fries
  • Veggies (including "mixed," broccoli cuts, green beans, sweet peas
  • 2 % milk (at least 5 gallons in one month, usually 2 per trip to the store)
  • Yogurt (Ian likes the Breyer's mix-ins kind right now & they both like the Simply Go-gurt, for Lauren, plain, whole milk yogurt)
  • Cheddar cheese (brick)
  • Mozzarella cheese (brick)
  • Parmesan cheese (chunk)
  • store-brand 2% American singles
  • Pasteurized Eggs
  • Cream Cheese (store brand, 1/3 less fat)
  • Ricotta (LaMagna brand, "lite")
  • Raisins (in the teeny boxes)
  • Craisins (in 100 calorie packs)
  • Goldfish
  • Cheez-its (reduced fat)
  • Oyster Crackers
  • Animal crackers
  • Graham Crackers
  • Raspberry Seltzer water
  • Buzz & Woody Berry flavored 100% juice

After reading the ridiculously long list, I'm sure you noticed some things:

We do not buy soda pop unless we're having a party. If we have it in the house we drink we just don't buy it. 

As a rule, we don't buy candy. We buy a couple bags at holiday times when it is on sale and don't eat it very often. (Except Dum-Dum lollipops... which we use as bribes when we're going places.)

We buy ice cream maybe once a month. *same reason as pop. If it's here, we eat it...

We don't buy bread. I make almost all of the bread we eat, including buns. I also use our "getting old" bread & make our stuffing cubes and bread crumbs.

We don't typically eat anything labeled/marketed as "fat free." I'm absolutely of the opinion that the "real deal" is better tasting and better for moderation. We do eat "light" things or "less fat" foods, but only if the ingredients list doesn't change much. I refuse to eat something marketed as "light" that has more sodium or artificial sweetner instead of sugar. I'd rather just eat less, better tasting ice cream, less often than eat the kind that is full of high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors.

We don't buy frozen foods like chicken nuggets, French fries, frozen dinners, frozen snacks. When I do buy those things, I use them as a "crutch" instead of actually making meals, so I just don't buy them. It's been so long that the kids (namely Ian) don't miss those things for lunch and I don't miss making them. 

With regard to the cheese we eat, I buy bricks. I shred it by hand. I think it tastes better and it is cheaper this way. I buy whatever brand is on sale...sometimes Kraft is cheaper than store brand and I think it pretty much all tastes the same. I buy a huge (like $15) chunk of Parmesan and we grate it fresh over our pasta and into Italian recipes. It's SO much tastier (and cheaper) than the stuff in the green canister. One $15 brick of Parmesan lasts up to 4 months for us. 

Of course, just like everything else, I understand why people do buy a lot of those things. There are also many nights when I wish we had a box of hamburger helper to stir together. I like the way those foods taste and how quick they are to cook. I just prefer to make meals from scratch and since I have the time, that's what I do. There are also nights when we just order pizza or go out to our local Mexican place for tacos just because I didn't feel like cooking. We try really hard to make good choices as an everyday lifestyle so we feel just fine about eating not-so-healthy foods every once in awhile. 

This post was supposed to include sample lunches that I serve to the kids and our go-to dinners, but it got really long. I guess we all know what I'm going to post tomorrow!

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Friday, March 11, 2011

I Buy Baby Food


I do what?

I buy baby food purees.

If we're just being honest here, I'm telling you that I buy Lauren's baby food purees. And I bought Ian's and Aaron's too.

Not all of them. I made pumpkin and squash baby food when they were in season and I froze them for later. I also make our applesauce (or let my mom, dad, & sister make it for us.) I made all the pureed meat I ever fed to Ian. (With Aaron & Lauren we'll skip that step entirely.) For the majority of the purees, I buy them.

My kids don't seem to like pureed baby food. Once they're in a high chair at the table, they seem to be far more interested in self-feeding finger foods. So the baby at our table usually skips most of the purees in the name of eating whatever fruit or vegetable or starch that we're eating for dinner. If we're having rice with dinner (I usually do a 50-50 combo of white and brown) then baby gets rice grains for dinner. She seems to enjoy trying to pick the individual pieces of rice up with her fingers and expresses great joy when she has success getting it all the way to her mouth. (And don't forget how much fine motor skill practice this exercise is!)

If we're having peas, she gets peas to play with pick up and eat.

Green beans, carrots, white potatoes? I slice them long ways then into tiny pieces.

Pasta? I leave some plain. (Un-sauced or spiced.)

In another couple of months we'll add in sauced pasta and maybe even meat. Tiny pieces, not purees.

When I offer pureed food, it is Earth's Best brand pureed combinations like Spinach and Potatoes, Peach Banana Oatmeal, Apples and Blueberries, Apricots, etc.

It's more cost effective for us because she eats such a small amount of the pureed foods and I am confident that Earth's Best is doing a good job making healthy foods for my baby to try. Since she only eats a tiny bit, it seems to be a waste of my time to make it. Especially since she is already so good at eating finger foods. I also really get annoyed when I make baby food (like sweet potato) and freeze it in individual servings etc. only to find that they give her a tummy ache! It's frustrating, so I avoid it.

I think there is definitely value in making your own baby food. If your baby loves purees, then by all means, you should make your own! It will probably save you a lot of money in the long run and you'll feel great about feeding your baby the food you made her. If you don't have time, though, or if your baby doesn't love purees like my baby, I think it's perfectly fine to buy them.

And there are lots of crafts to do with your toddler using cleaned baby food jars!

**If this is the first time you've visited 'Burgher Tots since we moved from the VFB, please take a minute to read our welcome tab! We'd love for you to follow us using Google Friend Connect (on the sidebar) and to update your Feed subscriptions and bookmarks! Thanks!**

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome to 'Burgher Tots!

It's been in the works for awhile, but I finally had the push to get this website going yesterday. Almost all of the content from our family blog is here. If you notice something missing that you loved, please tell me.

What won't you see as much? Posts with intensely personal material.
What will you see more? Posts about out adventures in Pittsburgh, parenting, cooking/baking, & healthy living.

What would you like to read here? Is there anything you've been wondering or that I've mentioned that you'd like to read more about? Leave your suggestions in the comments, please!

Would you kindly follow us by clicking on the Google Friend Connect button over in the sidebar?

I'm thinking about a "Launch Party" giveaway, too! (I'm still reading up on how to legally do a giveaway. Any tips?)

Getting Up & Out the Door

How is it that I used to be able to get up, get washed and dressed, and get out the door in a matter of minutes?

With each additional child, our "prep time" for getting out of the house has drastically increased. I was still pretty good when it was just Ian and I on the weekdays, but now? It takes a full two hours to get out the door.

So what's our process? We usually have to be at school by 9:00am.

I set my alarm for 7:00am, but usually the little dears are awake before that time. It seems that Ian needs quite a bit of wake-up-time so he spends 30-45 minutes just hanging out, watching cartoons and playing. He will also eat his breakfast. Aaron does the same thing during this time, but doesn't pay much attention to the tv. I make coffee and drink it, eat breakfast, and check my email. Sometimes Lauren nurses, sometimes she plays.

Around 7:50, I take a shower. (Lauren comes in the bathroom in the excersaucer.) The boys continue playing.

At 8:15, The children start getting dressed. Ian dresses himself, I help Aaron & Lauren. We also put on socks and shoes. I make sure everyone has eaten at least something (not huge breakfast eaters here) and had something to drink (usually milk.)

At 8:45 we head downstairs to the garage to get coats on, get buckled into car seats, make sure we have back packs & hats, and head out.

We're almost always a few minutes early.

I find that having a pretty rigid schedule in the morning is essential to getting out the door mostly happy and efficiently. It also depends highly on how tired Ian is and what we're actually leaving to do. Going to school? no problem. Going to the doctor? you bet he's dragging his feet.

I'm also not going to pretend everything is all sunshine and rainbows. It isn't. Getting out the door in the morning is the most stressful time of the whole day for me. Sometimes I'm sweating before I'm finished delivering Ian to school. It's frustrating.

My sister started a "get out the door successfully" reward chart for her son, who is in Kindergarten this year and it seems to be working well.

What do you do that seems  to really help you get the kids moving in the morning?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Baby's Bonnet

(disclaimer: there will be a post about Ian coming very soon!)

My baby girl's bonnet is from an Etsy shop. For the life of me I can't remember the name... and can't find the email either.

We get compliments on it continuously.

I think it's just the pinnacle of girly-girl. I love playing with my boys, but I love dressing up my girl!