Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just Checking In...

Just want to check in and say that I recognize the posting has gotten a little spotty around here lately.

Spring's a busy time for us, with birthdays and celebrations galore, and trips to see family always popping up. In the last month we've been to Pennsylvania, Cleveland and St. Louis to help mark milestones in our niece and nephews' lives (birthday, 1st communion and confirmation!). Add to it that O. is playing soccer again, and we're on our way to being a family with far too many time commitments.

Also, if I'm honest, being pregnant and trying to keep up with the blog is kicking my butt. Every time I have a free moment to sit down to post, I find myself just trying to keep my eyes open and my DVR from overflowing instead. I've been taping a Gilmore Girls episode every day on ABC Family to catch up on the few episodes I've never seen, and it's gotten to be a bit much. And oh no, here comes sweeps week!

Never fear, J. is traveling a lot in May, and with that always comes some insomnia, so I'm sure I'll have some good opportunities to share some more thoughtful thoughts with you soon!

Oh, and just to make this post something other than an apology, I'm making lasagna for O's family birthday party on Saturday, and I'm never happy with how mine turns out. Lasagna was the first thing I ever cooked for J., and he still raves about it (it was the standard Betty Crocker cookbook recipe), and comments that it's never tasted the same since then. I blame it on the fact that he was pretty buzzed when he ate it, after a day of hanging out with his buddies playing Golden Tee. Or maybe he was just drunk with love. Whichever, I think I need to try a new recipe. I've printed out The Pioneer Woman's "Best Lasagna Ever" to try, but am also open to YOUR suggestions. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Listening Habits

I'm starting to think the built-in DVD player in our van has become a problem. The policy used to be "shows only on long trips," but somewhere along the way it's pretty much just become a given that if you're in Mommy's car, you get to watch a show.
The kids ride along in their own little world, earphones on and DVD from the library playing, and I either listen to NPR or my iPod.
As soon as N. gets buckled in, she starts asking for "see-phones, please" (I'm still not sure if this is just a mispronunciation, or if she truly gets seeing and hearing confused).
Don't get me wrong, we are certainly not a "no TV" household. My kids are more than familiar with the Nick Jr. and PBS oeuvre. We've probably seen every On Demand children's show Time Warner has to offer at least twice, and my DVR is currently home to the every episode of Dinosaur Train. But the point is, they get enough screen time at home. Do they really need to watch more every time we get in the car? It's gotten to the point that they complain if we're going to be going somewhere in J's car, because that means no "show." Not to mention the potential future hearing loss from being constantly plugged in to wireless headphones.
I've been trying to break the habit a little at a time, turning off the DVDs sometimes so that it doesn't become such a given. N., especially does not like this turn of events. Not too long ago, she yelled the entire way to O's school, even after O. calmly told her "Mommy's not going to change her mind, so you should just stop crying."
I try to distract them with music, and therein lies my dilemma. I simply don't have a large selection of kid friendly music to offer them. We have Kindermusik CD's, which N. enjoys but O. could live without. There's always Raffi, but even though I love him, I can only handle so much before I'm humming "we're going to the zoo tomorrow" in my sleep.
I'd love to be one of those parents who has cultivated an interest in and love for music in my kids from an early age. I'm always amazed (and a little suspect) when I read about or hear other people talk about their kids liking certain new hip bands, or being really into classic rock.
I've mentioned before that my own iPod playlist is a little lacking. I used to consider myself relatively 'cool' on the music front. Went to decent concerts, had my own pet bands and distinct opinions about which albums of which artists were any good, all of that. My interests could have been described as "alternative/alt-country rock/singer/songwriter." However, I probably have not bought new music in over five years, and even before that, I was slow to adopt anything new, preferring to stay with old favorites. I think I've mentioned, I'm a little starved for intellectual stimulation, so when I have a choice between music or a podcast/audiobook, the tunes hardly ever win.
I'd hate to become one of those parents that becomes so hopelessly out of touch with what's going on in the music scene that I start complaining that my children's music is "too loud" or "just noise." I'd like to join in with them in discovering some new and interesting stuff.
I'd like to actually get what the fuss is all about on Yo Gabba Gabba, and why cool musicians seem to want to have guest appearances on it. Instead I just feel old and lame when it comes to music. So, I'm asking: What should the kids and I be listening to? What can I introduce them to that they will love to listen to in the car, and won't make my own ears bleed?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's a Wash

One of the best names of a blog I have ever heard is "There's More To Life Than Laundry" (I'm not a regular reader, but do love the title). Feels like a mantra I should repeat to myself at least several times a day. This week, in particular.
It started last week when I plowed through even more loads than normal. I try to stay on top of things by doing at least a load a day, though I do get backlogged on the putting clothes away front, so sometimes a load sits where it shouldn't for longer than it should (the washer, the dryer, the baskets that litter my family room).
There were maternity clothes to be sorted through and washed, new clothes for the kids to celebrate spring, plus the clothes that came out of suitcases from the little trip the kids and I took to visit family.
When it finally seemed like I was about to see the floor of my laundry room again, it happened. A load of darks came out looking funky. At first, I thought I was just dealing with an missed stain on J's shirt, some yellow splotches that looked a lot like the fertilizer he had sprayed all over himself in the yard.
Then I noticed yellow splotches on everything. A black maternity shirt borrowed from my cousin. O's new dinosaur t-shirt. Two pairs of jeans. New black leggings. N's new hot pink shirt. And on and on.
J. first got the blame. "That fertilizer is all over everything!! And it's already been through the dryer, so who knows if it's going to come out!!"
I sprayed everything with Shout and threw it back in the washer. As I was going about the rest of the morning, I thought there were some strange sounds coming from the washing machine, but tried to ignore it. Later, I checked the clothes and the stains, realized they were still there, and grew even more annoyed with J. My annoyance kept me from paying too much attention to the fact that the clothes were not only stained, but also sopping wet. I sprayed on more Shout, rubbed the yellow spots with a toothbrush, and threw them all back the washer for another try.
Then, as I was frantically scooping little ponies and plastic animals up off the carpet in a desperate attempt to get my house cleaned up a little before we left for the weekend, I found some incriminating evidence. Next to the laundry basket where I had last folded clothes was the wrapper to a yellow crayon. Yes. A yellow crayon. Before you go blaming the kids, I must admit it was my very own fault. I picked up a broken yellow crayon, stuck it in my pocket until I was near a trash can, and promptly forgot all about it. So yes. Sorry for the fertilizer blaming, J. And did I mention that these clothes had already been through the dryer??
We've had this problem before. Only not at my own house. O's "misplacement" of a green crayon nearly ruined my mother-in-law's dryer. Thank goodness for magic erasers.
Figured this was as good a time as any to check on the clothes again. That's when I noticed, really noticed, the ridiculous churning sound coming from the washing machine. Open the lid, and there was absolutely no movement coming from the agitator. So yes. Now I not only have a load of ruined clothes, but also a broken washing machine. And aI have no interest in putting the clothes back in the dryer to make the stains worse. So, I did what you all would have done. Closed the lid and left them there for the weekend.
Come Monday, I did some googling, and arranged for an appt. to have the washer checked out, and also found a last ditch solution for the crayon clothes. Here's the recipe:

2 caps laundry detergent
1 cup Oxiclean
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup borax
1 cup Shout

I mixed this all together in a big rubbermaid tote, added hot water, then stuck the whole thing with the clothes to soak in my garage. I fully expected them to sit there for a week while we waited for a new washing machine to arrive once the repairman announced our old machine dead.
Then I started to twiddle my thumbs, because what else do you do when you've returned from out of town and you can't wash all the stuff in your suitcases??
I am amazed to tell you that this story actually has a happy ending. The washer was fixed relatively easily, needing some sort of coupler or something. And lo and behold, the weird concoction actually took the melted crayon out of EVERYTHING.
So, save yourself the google search and jot this little remedy down right now. Because chances are, you'll soon be the one whose husband finds you with your fanny hanging out of the dryer as you try to scrape wax off the drum.
What laundry mishaps have you survived??

Monday, April 5, 2010

Our small family

Back when I was pregnant with O., I discovered the books of Lois Lenski. I was shopping in Home Goods for some things for the nursery, and found this book in amongst the odd assortment of children's books they always have on the shelves there. Most of my readers know that the title of this blog is more than a simple descriptor of the fact that my life is overrun by small children. It also happens to refer to our last name. We are, quite literally, the Small family.
I was just delighted to find this book, along with companion titles Cowboy Small and Policeman Small. I bought them, wrapped them up, and gave them to J. the Christmas before O. was born, and I'm pretty sure it was his favorite present that year. Each book is a little story about a day in the life of the title character, and always ends with the line something like, "And that's all, about Cowboy Small."

I recently learned that Lois Lenski was born in Springfield, Ohio, a town not far from where I grew up, and went to Ohio State University. She was popular in the fifties, and was well known for illustrating the Betsy-Tacy books (which I enjoyed as a tween before we were called tweens). Her mid-twentieth century Midwestern values come shining through in her books. Sometimes I feel a little awkward about loving these books as I do, since they are humorously dated, and problematic from a feminist perspective, such as when Mama Small does the dishes while Papa Small takes a rest after dinner. However, on Saturday, Papa Small is out mowing the lawn while Mama Small puts her feet up on the front porch.

The Fireman Small title is my favorite for comic relief, as fire safety rules are woefully misrepresented when all the furniture is hauled out of the house before someone is rescued from the top floor. And when the fire is out, Fireman Small tells everyone "All right, move right back in!" For some reason, the world presented in these books is more comforting and heartwarming than off-putting.

My kids love the fact that their name is in a whole series of books, and enjoy the colorful, simple illustrations. I could recite the entire text of The Little Train in my sleep. "Bang! Bumpity Bump! Three cars are hitched behind."; "Engineer Small will sleep in the city all night and take the little train back to Tinytown in the morning."

When it came time to design a header for this blog, I called on Nap Warden to come to my rescue. I knew I wanted to call to mind Lois Lenski's art, and she did a fantastic job of making my vision a reality.

There's just one thing. Whenever we read Papa Small at our house, and hear about the adventures of Papa, Mama, Paul, Polly and Baby Small, my kids have always recognized that this family is not quite like our own. "But we don't have a Baby Small at our house," says O.

Well.

Come late September, the real Small family will indeed have a Baby Small, and we will truly match that illustration you see above. Just don't count on me to be wearing a red shirtdress and heels anytime soon. J. is seriously considering the bow tie, though.