Thursday, January 31, 2013

Resolution update #1

On January 1st, I posted my resolutions for this year. In order to keep myself accountable and to attempt to make more progress on my personal goals, I plan to update monthly with my progress on each.

Let's see how things have been going...

1) Lose the 15-20 lbs of baby weight that refuse to disappear nicely on their own! 
So far, not too much progress on this one. I've been fluctuating up and down the same 2 lbs this whole month. Until they seem permanently gone, I won't count them! I have been to the gym a few times though, and Baby A seems to be acclimating well to the childcare there, so hopefully I'll be able to put in more time in the coming months.

2)  Read 25 books. 
I'm doing better on this one. So far I have read 5 books, so I'm on track to meet (or perhaps even exceed) this goal.

1. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
2. The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo
3. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
I read the Jo Nesbo's The Redbreast in paperback during my last book challenge and was excited to see that some of his later novels are now available for the kindle. I love these Norwegian mysteries featuring the flawed police detective Harry Hole. The characters are complex and the story lines always have many twists and turns. I always think I know "whodunit" but then a few pages later realize that actually I have no idea! I love mysteries that keep me guessing. There are two more books in the series currently available for the Kindle. It was difficult to put the series down, but I figured it would be good to change gears and save some for later!

4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Yes, this is a kids book, but C really wanted to read this series since many of his friends are reading these books. While I know all the boys love them because "they're so funny, Mom!", I've heard mixed reviews from parents since the main characters really are not well behaved. Rather than telling him he couldn't read them, I read the book as well so C and I could have a discussion about all the things he should not emulate from these characters. He's already moved on to books 2 and 3. I guess I should flip through those too.

5. The Dark Monk: A Hangman's Daughter Tale by Oliver Potzsch
This is the sequel of another book that I read during my 50 book challenge in 2010. Revisiting these familiar characters has been really fun, and it's definitely helping me stay motivated to read. I would classify this as a historical fiction/mystery, loosely based on the author's ancestors who were hangmen in Bavaria in the 1600s. The story is a very easy read, and I also enjoyed the authors notes at the end where he described some of his research into his own family tree and his travels in Bavaria for inspiration.

I am really enjoying reading more again!!

3) Explore a new hobby and take more pictures. 
I have worked my way through the camera manual and have also started reading a book about photography that many people seem to recommend highly, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I am still using the auto mode on my camera, but I am working on finding the times with the best light so I can take flash free photos. I had fun taking a few "artsy" shots of Baby A and his favorite Thomas. Hopefully as the year goes on, I'll be able to move to more manual settings.

 4) Blog more.
This month I wrote 9 posts (including this one). That's not bad, considering that I only posted 23 times in 2012. Here's hoping I can keep it up!

And of course...Be more patient and loving. Spend more time playing and less time yelling.
Well...this one is always a work in progress!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TV time

All three boys crammed onto the ottoman to watch one of their new favorite shows: Wheel of Fortune! I love it when they all get along!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our Dairy Free Favorites

When C was diagnosed with an allergy to milk seven years ago, we were totally confused and overwhelmed. We basically had to learn a whole new way to cook and eat. Since everything that C eats must be completely dairy free, I've spent a lot of time poring over ingredient lists and trying to figure out where I can stock up on safe foods. I'm not sure if he'll ever outgrow this allergy. I hope he does for his sake. Sitting on the side, eating his own snack while everyone else is gorging on cake and pizza, is C's norm at birthday parties. While I hate that he has to do this, I am grateful for all the milk-free foods that exist.  Here's a list of some of our favorite brands; my ode to the foods that make our dairy free life possible! While some of these products can be found in regular grocery stores, we do make special trips to Whole Foods to buy several of them.

1) Silk vanilla soymilk. While they will drink other soy milks, my boys think this is the best tasting variety out there! This is what they drink daily and also what we substitute for cow's milk in recipes. It definitely helps that we can buy a 3 pack for a reasonable price at Costco since dairy free/vegan food is typically much more expensive.

2) Earth Balance natural buttery spread. Despite the name, this is a completely dairy free vegan margarine. Before C was diagnosed with a milk allergy, I had no idea that most margarines actually contain milk. This one tastes great and comes in both tub and stick form, making it super easy to substitute into recipes. Our fridge is always well stocked with this.

3) Whole Soy & Co yogurts. Like with margarine, I was shocked to find out that many "soy" yogurts, including those made by Stonyfield farms and other major brands actually contain milk protein, and are unsafe for people with milk allergies. These yogurts have become our favorites, with great flavors like apricot-mango and key lime as well as all the standard ones.

4) Cherrybrook Kitchen cake & frosting mixes. I cannot say enough about these mixes!!! I use these cake and frosting mixes to make all of our birthday cakes and they honestly taste delicious! People have no idea that it is a dairy free cake. And these mixes are free of eggs and nuts as well, so they are also great for birthday party cupcakes where there may be kids with multiple other allergies. I try to always have a few boxes of these in the pantry because I cannot always find them in stores. This fall, I actually ordered a case of our favorite chocolate cake mix directly from the company to be sure I would have enough for all the upcoming birthdays. That's how much we love these products!

5) Daiya cheese. This vegan cheese is a relatively new discovery for us. As is the running theme of this post, many "soy" cheeses actually contain milk protein to make the cheese melt and stretch more like dairy cheese. So for a long time we avoided soy cheese altogether. I eventually discovered some vegan cheese slices, but Daiya was the first shredded cheese we ever found. This is definitely one of the better vegan cheeses out there because it does melt well. We use it to make homemade macaroni & cheese and pizza. It has a sweeter taste than dairy cheese, but the boys still love it. And it's so nice to be able to let C enjoy some of these classic childhood favorites in a safe way.

6) Tyson & Kirkland brand chicken nuggets. Most chicken nuggets have milk in the breading, but these two typically do not. I buy big bags of these at Costco. Even kids with allergies love everything in nugget form!  Not the healthiest food of course, but these are great to microwave up and serve with veggies for a quick dinner.  Since most prepared & frozen foods have milk, butter, or cheese in them, having a quick cook staple in the freezer is essential!

7) Tofutti ice creams. My boys love these soy ice cream sandwiches and cones and they are one of our favorite warm weather treats. We've tried their "Better than cream cheese" spread on bagels and that is quite tasty too.

8) Amy's kitchen no cheese and vegan margherita pizza. My boys love to eat pizza, and these are a nice staple to have in the freezer for nights where I don't feel like cooking. Again, one has to carefully check the ingredients of all of these pizzas, as the Amy's kitchen soy cheese pizza does contain milk. But the vegan pizza is actually made with Daiya cheese so that and the no cheese variety are both dairy free.

9) Kashi cereal bars. Granola/cereal bars are another staple childhood snack, but most of them contain milk. I was so happy when I discovered these! I try to always keep a box in the car since they are perfect for on the go snacks.

10) Oreos, Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Snyders mini Pretzels. These are some easy to find dairy free snacks that can be bought almost anywhere.

****I always read ingredient labels each time I shop and then again each time I open a package at home, even for these products that I buy regularly.  For serious food allergies, this is the safest method, since product ingredients can change at any time.****

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


While carrying Baby A back to the car after kindergarten dropoff...

Me: "You're getting so big! Who's such a big boy?!"

Baby A: "Baby!"

Me: "That's right! You're getting to be such a big boy! And you're getting heavy to carry!
Who's getting so heavy?"

Baby A: "Mama."

Baby speaks the truth...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I have a dream....

O has a monthly calendar of brief daily assignments to complete for kindergarten. In honor of the upcoming Martin Luther King Day, one of this week's assignments was "Talk about Martin Luther King. What is a dream that you have?" After we discussed the MLK video they had watched in class, I asked O about his dreams.

O's initial response: "To play Super Mario!"

Me: "OK. But do you have any bigger dreams than that? Maybe something about everyone? Or about the world? Not just about you and videogames?"

After a thoughtful pause, O said:  "I dream that people would stop polluting the oceans, to save the sea animals! So all the sea animals would be happy!"

C, who is studying water availability and conservation in second grade, chimed in: "I dream that everyone would have clean drinking water without having to walk more than 2 miles to get it!"

Now that's more like it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Well Loved Thomas

Scraped and scuffed, but still his favorite!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013


Hubby and I have wondered about O's vision on and off over the last year or so. We noticed that he seemed to lean closer to the computer and books than his brothers did. But he knows how to read well, could easily spot signs on the road, and seemed comfortable watching TV from the couch like the rest of us. I brought up my concerns about O's vision at his 5 year checkup last spring but he passed the pediatrician's vision screen and I was reassured.  Hubby and I are both nearsighted and got glasses in late elementary school, so I assumed that while all our boys will probably need glasses eventually, for now everything was ok. So I was caught off guard when I got a letter from his school nurse last month informing me that O had failed the kindergarten vision screen and needed a full evaluation. We took him to an ophthalmologist over winter break and found out that while his overall vision wasn't terrible, he has significant astigmatism and is starting to get a lazy eye, so he does indeed need glasses. O cried hysterically and exclaimed over and over that "I don't need glasses! I can see just fine!" Until he put his new glasses on. Since then he hasn't complained about wearing them one bit. It seems he can really tell a difference..."Mom, before everything was a little bit smudgy. But now it's not!"

Despite feeling comfortable in his glasses at home, O was really nervous about returning to school because none of his classmates have glasses. He worried that the other kids would make fun of him. He even said that he was sure his friends wouldn't want to play with him anymore. Hubby tried to reassure O that his friends like him because of his fun personality, and that that wouldn't change just because he has glasses. But O remained unconvinced. So I was thrilled to hear that his first day back to school went well. His teacher, who typically wears contacts, wore his glasses that day so O wouldn't be the only one. And O said only one of his friends asked him why he was wearing glasses. When O replied "because they help me see better!", the friend said "ok" and that was the end of it. He even created a new Mii for the Wii that shows him wearing glasses. Here's hoping his love of glasses continues, and that the glasses help his lazy eye improve so we can avoid patching!

Who wouldn't want to be friends with this guy?!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


It's that time of year again.

In general, I don't do too well with resolutions. I have a lot of energy for them in January and then things get busy and my attention wanders and come December, I am making the same resolutions again. Lose weight. Get more exercise. Read more. These same ideas keep cropping up over and over and over, in various permutations. But a common thread in all of them is to do something for myself. To make me feel better about me. It's so easy for me to spend all my time and effort on the boys, and then late at night, when it's finally my time, all I have the energy for is watching TV. I'd like to do more than that. And be more than that. Because success in those areas gives me the extra oomph I need to achieve the other resolutions that I always make. Be more patient and loving with my family. Spend more time playing and less time yelling.

The one time I was really successful with a resolution was when I challenged myself to read 50 books in one year and I documented it on this blog. At the time I wasn't sure I could do it, but coming here and writing about it kept me motivated and indeed, I did it! But that was 2010. With the addition of Baby A, life got even busier. So I guess it's understandable that some things fell by the wayside. Now it's time to focus. I'm hoping that if I challenge myself and blog about my resolutions again, I'll have the same kind of success in 2013.

So here goes...

This year I would like to:

1) Lose the 15-20 lbs of baby weight that refuse to disappear nicely on their own! My baby is almost 2 so really, the time for excuses is over. Another motivator: my size 0 sister-in-law is getting married in September, and I would love to be slimmer by then. No one wants to be the one chubby bridesmaid. As part of this resolution, I want to take more advantage of my gym membership and its free childcare. I joined this new gym with the best intentions this fall, but haven't gone there much. If Baby A and I can get there a couple times a week, that would be a good start. It's also time to dust off the stack of fitness DVDs that I've acquired over the years.

2)  Read 25 books. While I would love to read 50 books again this year, I think that is probably unrealistic. 25 books is more reasonable. Two books a month is still way more than I have been reading lately. And if I can read more than that...even better!

3) Explore a new hobby and take more pictures.  After contemplating updating our camera for a while now,  Hubby & I finally took advantage of the Black Friday sales and picked up an older model Nikon DSLR as a Christmas present to ourselves. I've been having a lot of fun playing around with it and would like to learn even more. I have a couple instructional DVDs that came with the camera so I'll start there. Here's hoping some great pictures of the kids will follow!

4) Blog more. I keep saying that I want to write more, and then I never do. 2010 was the year I posted the most, and it was also the year that I was the most successful with my other resolutions. I think that just the act of carving out a few minutes for myself here helped me focus in other parts of my life too. So maybe this resolution will be the one that helps tie all the others together.

And of course...Be more patient and loving. Spend more time playing and less time yelling.

I'm ready to start fresh in the New Year. Who's with me?