Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009, Hello 2010!

We are leaving 2009 behind us.




And looking forward to 2010.



We've come a long way.



And with a little help from each other...




We'll go even further in the coming year.


Happy New Year from all of us to all of you.

Thanks for being part of our journey.

Stay tuned for more chaos and laughs in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Us

Today is my birthday. It is a celebration I have always been fortunate enough to share with my twin sister Cathy.

Me and my twin sister Cathy ~ November 2008.


My clearly fraternal twin sister Cathy.

Here we are about age 2. Cu-ute!

Of course, I didn't always see it as my good fortune that I shared my birthday, and pretty much everything else with my twin. Luckily, age brings wisdom and understanding, too!

Cathy is four minutes older than me, and we were different from the second we were born: She with a head full of dark hair and me with a few gingery wisps. She with an easygoing nature and me a colicky baby.

We are in many ways polar opposites. She's as quiet as I am talkative, as reserved as I am outgoing. Cathy is a registered nurse who works with severely disabled kids, most of whom can't communicate at all. And I spent my pre-SAHM days working in communications and PR. We wouldn't do each other's jobs for all the tea in China.

Our differences extended all the way to our birthday cake preferences. I always requested chocolate devils food with chocolate frosting and Cathy always wanted angel food cake with no frosting. (Let's not read too much into that, shall we?)

So every year my mom baked two birthday cakes. Five days after Christmas. When the last thing anyone wanted (other then the birthday girls!) was another sweet thing in the house. I never thought much about it at the time, but now I appreciate that she went to the trouble of making sure we each had our own cake and it was exactly what we wanted.

Doesn't every birthday girl and boy deserve that? Even if they share their birthday? I think so.

Though for right now no one has a cake preference, so cupcakes will probably do the trick for the first couple of years. I know the boys will be delighted with the birthday cupcakes we'll all be sharing after supper tonight. But as they get older, I fully intend to bake three cakes, just as I would if the boys didn't share a birthday.

I am glad that my triplets are fraternal, since that's my own experience as a multiple. Most people don't even believe that Cathy and I are sisters, let alone twins. It was an advantage to not look alike, because we never had trouble being seen as individuals, instead of as "the twins." I think my boys will find the same is true for them.

I'm sure I'll make just as many mistakes with my boys as any mom, despite being a multiple myself, but it does give me a little extra insight. I watch my boys play together and remember playing with Cathy in the same ways from early, early on. And I know firsthand the importance of individual pictures, getting your own birthday cake and gift, and not being always lumped together.

I also know that not taking my kids to the grocery store because it's too much work won't scar them for life. Somehow they will figure that out despite being deprived of grocery store trips as a toddler. I did. And I know that I should expend my effort and energy (and some things we do require massive amounts of both!) for the things they need and the trips that will create lifelong memories, not the mundane.

I know that growing up with someone who shares ALL of your childhood experiences, from playing with Barbie dolls to going on family vacations, is a unique experience and creates a special bond.

Cathy is probably the only other person in the world who remembers that we had one lone male Ken doll, who had only one arm by the time we inherited him, and possessed just one outfit: a Tarzan-esque leopard skin. We never bothered to get him other clothes. I'm not sure why. Without her I'd be alone in that weird memory.

I also know that it can feel restricting to share so much at times, because sometimes it seems that nothing belongs solely to you. We shared a room (good), toys and books (often not so good), classes in high school (good and bad), friends (also good and bad). But we got to do our own things, too, though we just shared our experiences with each other as soon as we were together again.

But every year on my birthday, I am reminded that despite all the times I bemoaned that I HAD to share with Cathy, I am very lucky because I GOT to share so much with her. Tarzan Ken dolls and all.

Happy birthday, sis. Remember, we're not another year older, but another year brighter!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Assembly Required

On Christmas morning, Jeff and I learned an important lesson: After the kids unwrap, the parents have to unwrap. And by unwrap, I mean, of course, wrestle the toys from their packaging.

Seriously, who decided that toy packaging should withstand hurricane-force winds?

Forget scissors. What you really need is a blowtorch and a chainsaw to break those things out. Is there some concern that the Wonder Pets Mega Blocks will go off on an adventure by themselves? Or the Learning Snail will crawl off on its own? For all the shrink wrap and twist ties, you'd think someone was trying to prevent the toys from escaping.

Jeff and I have vowed that next year we'll buy early so we have a month to dissect the packaging. Maybe we'd better make that two months.

Fisher Price gets some points for their easy-open packaging. Though the term "easy-open" is relative. Basically it's the difference between breaking into Ft. Knox or cracking the safe at your local bank branch. I did appreciate the perforations in the cardboard though. They were a nice marker for where to cut with the hacksaw.

I don't know who was more delighted when we finally released the toys from their plastic prisons -- us or the kids. Judging from the squeals of delight, I'm pretty sure it was us.

But sadly our victory celebration was cut short by three little words: "Some assembly required."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sam and His Baby

Amelia recently decided to share a bunch of her stuffed animals and baby dolls with the boys. The boys love them, and will happily go get you a bear if you ask for one.

Sam, though, has really taken to one of Amelia's old baby dolls. He quickly learned to say "baby" and will run to find his baby if you ask where it is.

Sam shows off his baby.


Hugs for the baby!

Could he be any cuter? I think not.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas (Un)Wrap Up

It was a very merry Christmas in our house. The day started surprisingly late, since Amelia didn't get up until 8 a.m. I'm sure that won't happen again next year!

Amelia was excited to see if Santa had come, so first we checked the stockings. Then we checked on the cookies and carrots. As it turned out, Santa ate the cookies, but the reindeer must have been full because, much to Amelia's surprise, they didn't eat all of the carrots!


Amelia was surprised to find the reindeer didn't finish their carrots.

After some debate about the best way the protect the boys and the Christmas tree, we decided to put the boys in their high chairs to open gifts. It worked well. They were entertained enough by all the wrapping paper and excitement to not mind being trapped in their chairs. We'll be wishing we could do this in the future, I suspect!

Dad helps Sam open one of his presents while Alex and Isaac wait their turns.

Amelia, of course, needed no help at all with her presents. She was already thrilled with Christmas by the time she opened her stocking, so the presents under the tree were just the icing on the cake. Oh to be three years old again!

Amelia opens Hungry Hippos. I had forgotten how loud that game is!


The boys' big gift was an activity school bus. It's large enough for all three of them to play with at once, though it does have a critical flaw: only one steering wheel. And, of course, more than anything they love to climb on it. Perhaps we should have just bought them monkey bars!

Christmas 2009 ~ Isaac, Alex, Amelia and Sam

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas as much as we enjoyed ours!

Christy

Saturday, December 26, 2009

An English Tradition: Boxing Day

As my faithful readers know, when Jeff and I were first married we lived in Canterbury, England for a year and a half. We celebrated some pretty memorable holidays there, including Thanksgiving and Boxing Day.

While we imported Thanksgiving as an excuse for a party, Boxing Day is a traditional English holiday. Boxing Day was traditionally a day for giving gifts to people who work for you (laborers and servants) or for making charitable gifts. But, it has become a day for visiting friends and neighbors, often to give a small sweet or gift.

We did not know this.

So, we spent Christmas hosting a friend from the States who was studying in Spain and a fellow student of mine who was from Belarus (a former Soviet state). I made a big Christmas dinner and Sergei brought as his gift four bottles of vodka and the world's worst cake, which he purchased. I don't remember eating the cake, but I do remember drinking the vodka. And drinking and drinking...

Sergei never seemed to run out of things to toast. At some point I started to throw my shots over my shoulder so I wouldn't have to drink any more. The evening ended with the hostess laying down saying, "Turn the lights out when you leave, would you?"

Sergei left as if he'd never had a drop, but the rest of us were a little less steady. No one was in any shape to clean up, so we left the place a total wreck and went to bed.

Sometime late the next morning we recovered enough to drag ourselves from our beds. Chris, our friend from the States, and Jeff went down into town so Chris could see some of the sights and take some pictures. After they left I debated whether to go back to bed or to clean up.

Now you have to understand that our place was tiny. As in 12x12 tiny. We had one room for sleeping, eating and studying. It was tight quarters! We shared a kitchen and a bathroom down the hall. So when I say the place was a complete mess, I mean the WHOLE place. There wasn't a door to close or a neat room where we could go.

And yet, thanks to our Belarusian friend's hospitality, I almost laid back down in the middle of the mess and went to sleep.

But, I just couldn't do it. I washed all the dishes, threw out the empty bottles, scrubbed the carpet, ran the vacuum, tackled the kitchen and finally took a shower myself. I had just finished getting dressed when the bell rang. I ran downstairs, thinking that Jeff and Chris had forgotten the key.

And there on my doorstep was Jeff's professor John and his lovely wife Mavis, come to visit for Boxing Day. Of course the only polite thing to do was to invite them in and offer tea. But I may have had a series of small strokes when I thought about how awful this could have been had I not cleaned up.

Now John and Mavis are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and I am certain that they would have politely and graciously ignored the mess. But I'm sure glad I didn't have to leave them on my doorstep while I threw dirty dishes into my closet.

Shortly after I prepared tea for our guests, I heard Jeff on the stairs. I met him in the hallway. He had heard our voices and had a look of absolute horror on his face.

"John and Mavis are here," I said.

He could hardly speak. "In our apartment?"

"Yes, and you owe me one," I said as I opened the door to an immaculate room and a nice tea set out on the table.

We enjoyed a pleasant hour with our company, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they left.

I'm sure there's a lesson here about always being prepared. Or not overindulging. Or at least knowing the local customs. Or possibly about not drinking with a Russian.

Not that I learned any of those lessons, except possibly the one about local customs.

I actually like the idea of Boxing Day as a day to visit with your friends and neighbors. So come on over.

Just be prepared to take a booster seat off your chair, ignore the fact that the floor in Highchair Alley needs to be scrubbed, and step over a couple dozen My Little Pony pieces when you get here.

Maybe if you're lucky, I'll serve vodka.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Splashing Around At Christmas

Whew! I'm back. The presents are all unwrapped, the pieces scattered hither and yon already. Christmas dinner is in the oven, and my expert potato masher is standing by to help. So now it's time for to me to catch up here quick.

Our Christmas started early this week when Grandma and Grandpa D. and Uncle Jacob came to visit. We took the kiddos to an indoor water park where everyone had a blast! The boys and Amelia showed much more stamina than the rest of us.


Sam, Amelia, Isaac and Alex

Everyone loves the water, so we had a blast with the kids. Sam freaked out when we first got there, but I think it was the noise, not the water, that bothered him.

Amelia - Love those "wobble goggles!"


Sam looks waterlogged already.

Isaac checks out the water.

Alex goes for the big splash.

Of course we had to open a few presents before the grandparents and Uncle Jacob headed back to the Frozen North. Amelia thought that opening presents early was the best idea EVER. She is now in My Little Pony heaven, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa.

Jeff and I, however, find ourselves desperately cramming for the ongoing My Little Pony quiz: "What's this one's name?" "Which one is Toolaroola?" "What color is Sweetie Belle?" I had college classes that were easier than this.

The boys are enjoying their new toys, too. We enjoy that we haven't had to create a cheat sheet for ourselves to answer their questions!

As for the story of today's Christmas celebration, well it will have to wait. Right now Amelia and I have potatoes to mash.

Hope you had a very merry Christmas!


Christy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Isaac The Fearless Visits The ER

Well, Isaac the Fearless was the first to make a visit to the emergency room. He split his chin, and while it clearly wasn't really bad, we still needed a doctor to take a look. Since we couldn't get into the doctor's office today, we headed to the emergency room.

Isaac had a 1 cm cut that left a nice little gap, even though it wasn't very deep. The docs put him back together with a little super glue (Dermabond) and pronounced him good as new.

Isaac shows off his repaired wound. Please ignore the supper on his chin.

Isaac wasn't even acting like a daredevil when the accident happened. We *think* he cut his chin on the panel door of our built-in cabinets in the family room after he slipped on some toys. I say think because there's always a lot going on in the playroom, so we didn't really see everything. In fact, it didn't bleed all that much, and Grandpa D. was the one who really noticed it was more than a little bump a short while after the crying had ended.

Our trip to the ER was pretty uneventful. The ER was very quiet, so Isaac enjoyed walking up and down the hallways and watching cartoons while we waited. He HATED the life-sized dancing Santa Claus they had in the hall, and gave it a very wide berth after one of the nurses turned it on for him.

Of course, Isaac was hollering mad after the docs glued him back together. I had to help hold him so they could do their job, and boy was he upset with me. Seriously. He wouldn't even let me pick him up. He sat on the bed and screamed. Then when I tried to pick him up he gave me a very mad look and screamed even harder. Eventually we made up, thanks to a peace offering of a bottle.

Personally, I consider it a minor miracle that we made it to almost 15 months before we had to take one of the boys to the ER. And I'm glad it was for a pretty minor injury. I just worry that we're being warmed up for bigger things to come, though I certainly hope not!

Tomorrow we'll move on to happier things when I can post the photos of our visit with Grandma and Grandpa D. and Uncle Jacob.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Water Parks and Breakfast Casseroles

So what do water parks and breakfast casseroles have to do with each other? Not much, really, it's just that I had planned a completely different post full of pictures from our afternoon playing at the indoor water park with Grandma and Grandpa D. and Uncle Jacob.

But, I left the camera at the hotel, so that post will have to wait. At least the camera still works, unlike the cell phone I dropped in my apron pocket yesterday...and then washed. UGH.

So, in lieu of fun pictures of everyone splashing around, here's what's for brunch at my house tomorrow before we celebrate an early Christmas with the grands and Uncle Jacob. (Amelia, by the way, thinks celebrating more than once is the best idea EVER.)

This is my all-time favorite breakfast casserole. I love that the potato crowns never get mushy like bread sometimes can. And don't skip the mustard, even if you don't think you like mustard. Trust me, it's what puts this over the top. Here's the recipe:

Ham and Potato Strata
1/2 package potato crowns (think flat tater tots)
1 16-oz package frozen cut broccoli
1 cup chopped ham
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Grease a 13x9" baking dish. Arrange frozen broccoli evenly over bottom, and sprinkle evenly with ham.

Cover with a layer of potato crowns.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk and mustard until smooth. Please don't skip the mustard, I beg you! It's what makes the dish, and I say that as someone who doesn't really like mustard. If you don't have ground mustard, you can substitute 1 tablespoon of prepared mustard. Pour egg mixture evenly over the potato mix in your baking dish.

Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Uncover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Perfect by itself! Add a little fresh fruit and coffee cake or muffins, and you've got a very nice brunch fit for celebrating the holidays with family and friends or just for treating yourself.

Tomorrow, pictures of the water bugs. In the meantime, enjoy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

There's Still Time To Make Christmas Toffee!

We are five days away from Christmas, but there's still time to make a little candy to add to your holiday goodie plates.

Don't worry, no candy thermometers or dipping in chocolate here. This recipe is easy. All you need are three ingredients, a little stamina and some guts.

The three ingredients are butter, sugar and plain Hershey bars. The stamina is required for stirring CONSTANTLY. The guts? Well, you've got to cook the butter and sugar together on HIGH heat until the sugar caramelizes. You can't wimp out and turn down the heat.

Ready?

Take a deep breath and go for it! You can make it with or without nuts.

Chocolate-covered Toffee

Butter a cookie sheet and sprinkle evenly with walnut or pecan pieces, if using.

Unwrap 4-5 plain Hershey bars, depending on how much chocolate you like on your toffee. You can omit the chocolate if you want to, but why would you want to?

In a large heavy-bottomed kettle (this stuff really expands!) cook together over HIGH heat, stirring CONSTANTLY:
2 C. white sugar
2 C. butter

Do NOT chicken out by turning the burner down. If it smokes, turn on the fan. Keep stirring.

Cook until the mixture turns a nice caramel brown color, like dark brown sugar. Then take it off the heat and quickly pour it evenly into buttered pan. If it continues to cook, it will burn.

Use a spatula to spread the toffee out, if necessary. Place Hershey bars on top. Spread chocolate evenly after it melts.

Refrigerate to cool, and then break into pieces.

A half recipe makes a pie tin or an 8x8 pan of slightly thicker toffee.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Look, It's Santa Claus!

Since Santa's elves have their own to-do lists, we've been busy here trying to get our list accomplished before Christmas. On our list Tuesday was Amelia's preschool party.

The party was at a local play area full of bouncy houses, slides, mazes and more. Amelia had a blast! There was pizza, but she happily skipped the food in favor of more playtime.

We took the boys and they played for a little while in the baby area, but they weren't too sure what to think of it. Isaac, our fearless one, was the first to dive in. Alex was OK, and Sam wailed. Eventually Sam warmed up to the idea and was laughing as he bounced. But by then, Isaac was running out of steam and getting unhappy. They all probably enjoyed running around that big place more than being on the any of the rides, though the slide was a pretty big hit with everyone.

When we got to the party, Santa was already there. This is the first time the boys have seen Santa since they were just ten weeks old at Christmas last year and they had the chicken pox.

Reactions were...mixed.

Alex: It's good. This guy gave me food!

Isaac: Are you sure we should be doing this?


Sam: Get me outta here!

Amelia wouldn't get near Santa last year, barely conceding to let me hold her (away from Santa, mind you) for a picture. This year she wasn't any more excited about seeing the big guy.

Actually, Amelia talked a big game beforehand, but once Santa was there in person she got very shy and scared. She did stand next to me and tell Santa what she wanted, and she was very willing to sit on Daddy's lap for a family photo with Santa.


Christmas 2009

Not bad at all! Don't we look like a family that's been very good this year?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Amelia's New Baby Jesus

We've been talking a lot about the Baby Jesus as we get ready for Christmas. We have our nativity set up on the mantel, well out of reach of little hands, and Amelia has this very cute soft nativity that she can handle as much as she wants.

She's been playing with all the pieces, asking which is Jesus' mom and which is his dad, marching the camel and donkey around the room, and flapping the wings right off the angel.

Today she asked me for a Band-aid for Baby Jesus. "She has an owie."

I went and got a Band-aid, expecting her to present me with the Baby Jesus from her nativity set to patch up. Instead she presented me with the baby doll she got for Christmas last year.

I asked, "Where's the Baby Jesus?"

"Right here," said Amelia. "She has an owie." (Yep. SHE.)

I took her baby doll, previously only known as Baby, from her. "This baby?"

"Yes," said Amelia emphatically. "Baby Jesus. Say 'Gee-zuss.' Isn't that a good name, Mom?"

Chuckling, I agreed that it was.

Amelia, like most kids, has a pretty good collection of stuffed animals and dolls. But very, very few of them have names. For the longest time just two stuffed dogs had names. One was a bright yellow poodle pup that Amelia got right after we kept a friend's puppy for the weekend. The live puppy was Bella, so the stuffed puppy became Bella. The other came from our neighbors, who gave Amelia a stuffed pup that looked just like their dog. Their dog is named Carmel, so naturally, the stuffed pup became Carmel, too.

In the last month, another stuffed dog has gotten a name: Peanut. Now, apparently we have a new addition to the Named status. Baby has been officially named Baby Jesus.

I can't wait to see if this one lasts. And I have a sneaking suspicion it will lead to more church stories (like the ones about Samuel and the Pledge of Allegiance and the nuns) down the road.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Recipe From My Baking Coma

This weekend was a flurry of Christmas baking. I made raspberry jam thumbprint cookies, walnut crescents, fudge, toffee, and a yummy and super-easy mock turtle candy.

Once I come out of my current sugar-butter-induced coma, I'll finish up with sugar cookies, caramels and spritz. My best-ever baking helper, Amelia, will enjoy the sugar cookies and spritz since they require sprinkles -- her favorite part of any baking project!

Amelia was a little disappointed when Saturday morning's cookie dough became jam thumbprints, not chocolate chip cookies. She really wanted a cookie, and finally tried the jam cookies, but decided she didn't like them. (Not a problem. More for me!) Luckily, I had some chocolate chip cookies in the freezer, so she got one warm from the microwave and all was right with the world again.

When I posted my recipe for walnut crescents I promised you a few more of my Christmas favorites. So from the depths of my baking coma, here's an easy one.

Mock Turtles

48 mini pretzel twists or square snaps
48 Rolo candies
48 pecan halves

1. Place the pretzels on cookie sheets. I usually do two pans of 24 each, so the pretzels aren't too crowded together. This is important for step four.

2. Unwrap the Rolos and place one on top of each pretzel. Kids love to do this. Just don't count on having 48 Rolos when they are done! Husbands can also be recruited, for the price of a few Rolos.

3. Put your cookie sheets full of pretzels and Rolos into a 200 degree oven. Watch them carefully and remove from the oven when the chocolate on the Rolos starts to look melted, about 2-3 minutes. I almost always go a full 3 minutes. It makes the next step a little easier. But don't let the melting get out of hand or you'll have a big mess.

4. After you remove your pretzels from the oven, quickly use pecan halve to press the melting Rolos down over the pretzel. Don't worry too much if you break a few pretzels. The melted chocolate and caramel will almost always hold things together. If the Rolos start to harden back up, you can pop the pans back in the oven for a minute. (But remove your finished candies first, please!) Let cool and remove from pans.

That's it. You've got caramel, chocolate, pecans, and my fave -- something salty to go with the sweet. These Mock Turtles are fast and easy to make, and always seem to disappear quickly. Of course, the number that I eat by myself may have something to do with that...

Ah well, swimsuit season is a long way off. Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Who Needs Toys? We've Got Tupperware!

The other day the boys were fighting over a Tupperware lid, so I gave them each one. They had so much fun I wondered why they even needed toys.

Here's the video. You might want to make sure that your sound isn't turned up too loud for this one!



Maybe Santa will bring them containers to go with their lids!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

14 Months Old and Three and A Half

Warning: Long post ahead. The kids are changing so fast that if I don't write it down now, it will be gone forever.
Yesterday the boys turned 14 months old. It's amazing what a difference a year makes, for them, for Amelia, and for us, too.

Amelia and Daddy read to the brothers last year.


Amelia, Daddy and the boys: Isaac, Sam and Alex ~ Dec. 2009

Amelia

At 3/12, Amelia is proving to be a very imaginative girl. She still has her imaginary kitty, and somewhere along the line we added an imaginary puppy, too. They are not around as much as they used to be, though, and learned to behave pretty well after I threatened to mail kitty to Grandma Alice if it wasn't good.

Amelia loves to play tea party and dress up and, of course, cook. We play a lot of hide-and-seek these days, but Amelia always hides in the same spot--the cupboard next to the stove. At least that makes it easy for her mom and dad!

The girl has got more words than I can begin to count, and it's funny to hear her repeat grownup things we say. Things like: "You have to be responsible," and "What's wrong, sweet pea?" (when she's talking to her brothers), and "Be careful, that's fragile." It's less funny to hear her repeat other grownup things we say, but a good reminder that she's always listening.

Amelia is a very good big sister, and enjoys her brothers now that they can play together better. She loves to get "in the cage" with the boys and play tag or throw the balls around. She does NOT love it when they pull her hair, and recently told us she didn't like one of her brothers, who shall remain anonymous, because he pulled her hair. After we talked, she decided she still loved him even when she didn't like him.

Jokes are new on the scene with Amelia. She's busy trying to figure out what a joke is, and is starting to get it when we tell a joke. Grandma Alice sent her a Christmas ornament that says, "Dear Santa, Leave the gifts. Take my brothers."

Amelia was immediately upset. "Mom! I don't want him to take my brothers!" After I explained it was a joke, she got it, but still checked in with me later to make sure Santa wouldn't take her brothers. She points out the ornament to everyone who comes to the house and informs them that it's just a joke.

Amelia recognizes most of her letters and is good at counting. She loves to be creative, especially if she can cut something with her scissors. We've had many a talk about how we only use scissors to cut paper or things mom or dad give us. I realize that I'm only forestalling the inevitable. Wonder which boy she'll get first.

Sam

I don't have up-to-the-minute weights on the boys, but Sam is definitely the heaviest. He's a real tank. If that boy comes running at me from across the room, I have to brace for impact.

Sam was the first to master walking backwards, and is starting to sign more frequently now that he's figured out it's a way to get more food and milk. He was the first to use some of the signs in a different context than we taught them. For example, we taught them "more" using food, but Sam started signing "more" to get us to play more.

Our curly redhead is a real sweetheart, but he does show his temper from time to time. He stomps his feet and wails, especially when one of his brothers takes a toy away or won't give him a toy he wants. Lately he's even laid down dramatically on the floor to wail.

He offsets his fits by giving kisses and doing "noggins," which Jeff taught all the boys. It's supposed to be a gentle touching of the foreheads, but look out. Sometimes it's more like a head butt, especially from Sam.

While he's usually the first to wail, Sam is always the first to laugh. He's got a belly laugh that makes us laugh whenever we hear it, which is often! If you've been following the blog for a while, you've seen the videos of Sam giggling on the swing (which he still loves), laughing while playing ball with Daddy, and in fits of hysteria over his sister's sneezing antics. If you haven't seen the videos, pick one and watch it. They are sure to brighten your day.

Sam and Isaac are both pretty good nighttime sleepers, but Sam is almost always the first guy up from any nap. I think he enjoys being an only child for a little while. He's still a joy to get out of the crib. Usually he's a happy camper at wake-up time, but even if he's hollering to get your attention he almost always stops and gives you a big grin the second you walk into the room.

Isaac

Isaac is still the smallest of the three boys, but luckily he's also the fastest. He is fearless, and while they all climb, Isaac is the biggest climber. Before he was a year old he figured out how to hook his toes in the openings and scale the plastic play yard we used outside this summer. When we turn the boys loose in the kitchen we have to get all the chairs up tight to the kitchen table, or Isaac will be standing on it before we blink.

A pretty even-tempered boy, Isaac is the most likely to walk away if one of his brothers takes his toy. It's not always the case, but more often than for Sam or Alex. Often he moves on to something else and watches for his chance to get his toy back when his brothers finish with it.

Isaac is always paying attention. He loves to figure things out, from toys to the Diaper Champ, nothing is safe from exploration with Isaac around. He is destined to be our escape artist, I'm afraid, as he always watches the buckling and unbuckling process very carefully.

Isaac loves music, and will often dance when he hears a song, even if it's just a commercial. He's got some great moves, though Jeff says he dances like George Jefferson (for those of you old enough to remember The Jeffersons sitcom). Maybe his moves will improve as he gets older.

The Peter Pan crow is still with us, though we don't hear it as much as we used to. And Isaac remains the most attached to his blankie. He's not as interested in the paci, but that blankie is already a necessity for sleeping.

Isaac was the first to give kisses, and gives the best baby hugs. Anytime you pick him up he wraps his arms around your neck and holds on tight. He also was the first, and so far the only boy, to get a haircut. Don't worry, we made sure he got a baby cut and doesn't look like a big boy.

Alex

This boy's a charmer. He is the biggest flirt of the group, and doesn't know a stranger. He is forever mugging for the camera. And he's notorious for giving us a big smile and shaking his head as we tell him "No." It's both cute and worrisome at the same time.

Alex probably has the most words, though all of the boys are talking. We don't know exactly when everyone started. The three of them "talk" to each other and in general make a lot of noise, so it's been a little tough to pick up on those first words. I'm pretty sure everyone's first word came right around Halloween and was "uh-oh." Let's try not to read too much into that, OK? No one says "mama" or "dada" yet. Though that's not for lack of effort on our part!

Alex's vocabulary includes uh-oh, more, done, tickle, bye-bye, ball, go, banana, shhh and some others I'm sure we haven't caught yet. His proficiency at talking just furthers our early theory that he's going to be the one who tries to talk the three of them out of trouble.

No question that Alex is the loudest of the boys, BY FAR. Everything he does is loud. When he's upset he wails. When he's excited he screams. When he's talking it's almost always as loud as he can. When he laughs he laughs out loud. No little giggles for this boy. That's probably why one of his words is "shhh," complete with the finger to the lips. He hears it often enough!

For as charming as he can be, Alex is a bit of a bully. He takes toys from his brothers, and thinks nothing of tackling one of them. He thinks it's great fun, but Sam and Isaac don't always agree. Since he doesn't know his own strength, he can be pretty rough on whoever he's playing with, all the while squealing with delight.

Alex still loves his food. Blueberries are still the biggest hit with him, but he also loves cheese, bananas, peas, mandarin oranges and pasta with red sauce. And he's the biggest pacifier fan. Alex would have that thing in his mouth 24/7 if we'd let him. He protests very loudly when we take it out and leave it in his bed.

Ever since his rough stretch of not sleeping back in June, Alex has been getting physical therapy and craniosacral therapy about every two weeks. What a world of difference! He still wakes up once or twice almost every night, but now it's almost always because he's lost the paci. So a quick visit to the nursery usually does the trick. He still gets exiled to crib in the family room from time to time, because when he hollers it's so loud!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snow Day

We woke up this morning to find about an inch of snow of the ground. Jeff and I were bewildered, since we apparently missed that weather report completely. Amelia was delighted!



As soon as the boys went down for their morning nap, Amelia suited up and we headed out for a little fun in the snow.

I taught her how to play Fox and Goose, and then she made some snow angels.


Amelia had so much fun that she didn't even want to come inside when she got cold. Maybe she's got a little of that Frozen North blood running through her veins after all!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rock-a-bye Big Girl

A couple weeks ago I took a very tired Amelia to her room for bedtime. She had a little cold and was just plain worn out after a long day and a short nap.

Amelia went to pick out books and came back with "Winnie-the-Pooh, Return to the Hundred Acre Woods." It's a great book, but it's definitely over her three-year-old head. Still, it is perfect for reading out loud because it is well written and has a nice rhythm and cadence to it.

While we usually read books sitting on her bed these days, Amelia asked if we could read in the rocking chair. We used to read there all the time, but as she's gotten bigger, it's gotten less comfortable for all of us. And, once she left her crib behind it was just easier to sit on her bed together.

She snuggled up on my lap with her paci and her blankie and I covered us both up with a cozy blanket. Then I started to read.

Amelia was sound asleep by the third page.

I just kept reading and rocking her, relishing the moment. Burning it into my memory. Locking it away in my heart.

At 3 1/2 ("Almost 4!" Amelia would say.) she's already such a big girl.


So I savored this small step back into babyhood. Because I know pretty soon she'll be six and insist she's too big to be rocked. Then she'll be 11 and won't even want me to come into her room for bedtime. Another blink of the eye and she'll be 16, and I'll be lucky to get a "G'night, Mom," instead of the hugs and kisses we cherish now.

When those moments come, I'll go back in my heart and my mind to that night. That night when she was big, but yet, still little. When she curled up in my lap and fell peacefully asleep to the sound of my voice. When she let me savor her little girl ways one more time.

And I will remember that no matter how big Amelia gets she'll always be my baby.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Walnut Crescent Cookies

I've recently bought enough butter to keep a small dairy in business.

(You're welcome, Gretchen & Brian!)

"Why?" you ask?

Because it's Christmas time, and for me that means an all-out, guilt-free, real ingredients-only baking fest. If I'm going to take the time to bake, I'm using the good stuff, baby! Nothing puts me in the holiday mood like 15 pounds of butter, enough sugar and flour to cover my lawn, and chocolate galore!

The smells emanating from my oven are heavenly. Mouth watering. Glorious.

And in the Christmas spirit, I'm going to share some of my favorite recipes with you!

Today's recipe is for Walnut Crescents. These little beauties are similar to Mexican Wedding Cakes, and are buttery, crumbly goodness.

One of the things I love about these cookies is that they are simple. No frosting or decorating required. Yes, you do have to roll the dough in long ropes and cut it, but that's as easy as playing with play-do. If you have kids, they will love helping with that step.

I also love that the recipe does not include any chocolate. I know, I know. I have professed my love of chocolate in the past, and I'm not changing my stance that it should be a major food group. But, variety is nice, and these crescents will round out your cookie plate nicely.

So without further ado, here is the recipe:

Walnut Crescents
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. Crisco (Save yourself the hassle and buy the sticks.)
1/3 C. sugar
2 tsp. cold water
2 tsp. vanilla (Buy the real stuff. It's more expensive, but better tasting and better for you.)
2 C. flour
1/2 C. finely chopped walnuts (You can use black walnuts, which have a stronger flavor.)
Powdered sugar

Cream butter, Crisco and sugar. Mix in water, vanilla and then flour and nuts. Chill for 3-4 hours. Form dough into long rolls, a half inch across. Cut in 3-inch lengths and shape into crescents.

If your dough ropes start to fall apart just stick them back together. We're not after perfection here, and the powdered sugar coating will hide some of those flaws. If all else fails, put your dough back in the fridge for another 15-20 minutes.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheets in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes. Do NOT brown. Remove, cool slightly, and roll in powdered sugar.

Makes 4 dozen.

Bake them. Enjoy them. Share them if you have any left.

Stay tuned for more. Amelia's apron will be getting a real workout this season!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dear Santa, My Name Is Mommy...

Dear Santa,

My name is Mommy. Well, actually, it's Christy, but these days I mostly go by "Mama," "Mommy," or "Maaaaaaa!" The last version usually accompanied by tears and screaming. I realize that I'm a few years older than your usual correspondent, but I hope you don't mind me sending you my Christmas list, too.

I'm not looking for any toys, jewelry or clothes. I won't ask for elves to help with the decorating, shopping and wrapping. (Though if you want to spare a couple, I promise to feed them really, really well.) I'm leaving my requests for peace on earth and my family's continued blessings to God. What I want from you are the following:

1. Three full nights of undisturbed sleep. No interruptions. No crying children. No wails for a pacifier. No getting out of bed because of monsters. Minimum of 8 hours, preferably from 10-6, though I'm willing to negotiate times.

2. An entire day filled only with good smells. Cookies, flowers, chicken noodle soup, chocolate. No sour milk or spit up. Poopy diapers that are unscented. Hands that smell like my nice lotion instead of diaper cream.

3. And if I may add one material item to my list, I would love to have a Diaper Genie that does what a genie should: Disposes of the dirty diapers completely -- without me changing the bag -- then restocks with fresh clean diapers so I never have to go shopping only for diapers. That's just depressing.

I understand how hard your job must be -- all the shopping and wrapping, the millions of children asking nonstop for things, the deadlines. But I have been a very good girl this year, so please do your best to surprise me with a gift from my list.

Merry Christmas and thanks,

Christy

Mama to Amelia (3 1/2) and Sam, Isaac and Alex (14 months)

This post is part of Writer's Workshop. Hosted by Mama Kat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Worthy Of A Re-post

This is the first time I've ever re-posted old content, but the other day I realized that a year ago at this time the first of my three, six-week-old boys started the chicken pox.

And the infamous Gucci handbag incident took place in the doctor's office. Who knew vomit and haute couture could be so funny?

If you missed it the first time, here's my original post in full:

Dec. 2, 2008

Yesterday I mentioned that I witnessed a moment of cosmic justice that will keep me laughing for months. Here's the story.

Isaac and I and a gazillion other people were in the pediatrician's office at 4:45 waiting to be squeezed in. It was the Monday after the holiday weekend, so most of us had enjoyed the holidays with our sick children. The general atmosphere was one of deep despair and there was much wailing (children) and gnashing of teeth (parents).

Into this pit of misery walks a super-put-together mom with her freshly manicured nails, her Prada head scarf, her skinny jeans and her Gucci handbag. (If it was from Target, like mine, I'd call it a purse. But, as it was Gucci, "handbag" seems more appropriate.)

Now I have nothing against people who are stylish. OK, I do, especially when I'm sitting in the waiting room trying to remember when I last had a shower, and then feeling even worse when I realize it was that morning, and I just couldn't remember.

But Mrs. Put-Together looks at all of us and cops the attitude. With a sniff she directs her child, who was also completely put together in a cute little sweater vest and expensive little shoes, to "sit over there in the corner away from all these sick people."

I'm thinking, "Look lady, these are the doctors' sick appointment hours, so you wouldn't be here if your kid wasn't sick. It's not like we have the plague." Then I looked at poor, little spotted Isaac and thought, "OK, maybe my kid has the plague, but not everyone's does."

She settled into her seat with a flounce and her cell phone started to ring. As she's digging in her Gucci handbag for the phone (shouldn't a bag that fancy have a pocket just for your cell?) her kid turns around to face her and says, "Mama!"

She's too busy digging for her phone to see it, but we all saw it coming.

As she snapped, "What!" the kid threw up all over her and right into the Gucci handbag. We all suppressed our laughter as her phone gave a few last pathetic, gasping rings and died in the pool of vomit that was now gracing the bottom of her bag.

It was truly a moment of cosmic justice, karmic payback, a little chuckle from God -- take your pick. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see how the drama ended because Isaac and I finally got called back, but I did enjoy the beaming smiles on the faces of all the other parents in the waiting room as I followed the nurse to the back.

It was not the mom's put-togetherness (I can make up words. I'm hardly sleeping here.) that bugged me, it was her attitude. And it was satisfying to see that attitude so richly rewarded. Judge ill of me if you want, but I figure I did my part in not enjoying the moment too much by not laughing out loud when it happened.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Haircut *sniff*

After Isaac had more bedhead than I could stand and one too many wild hair days like this...


I broke down and got his hair cut.

*Sniff!*

There's something about that first haircut that just breaks a mother's heart a little bit. It's another step in watching your babies grow up. And while that's what they are supposed to do, I just don't want to see it happen too fast!

I was adamant that Brooke not turn my little boy into a little man. Leave those clippers on the shelf! I asked her to just trim the back and the bangs a little.

Isaac wasn't very thrilled about it.


Don't worry, buddy. You'll still have more hair than Alex!

OK. He was really, REALLY not thrilled with getting his hair cut.

Real tears and everything!


The end result was just right. Brooke cleaned him up, but left him still looking like my baby.



Too bad she couldn't do anything about those cowlicks he inherited from his mother!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Amelia's Beauty Parlor

The other night as the boys were eating supper Amelia decided to play beauty parlor.

Amelia and her beauty parlor clients: Isaac, Alex and Sam

I, of course, grabbed the camera instead of discouraging her. A couple bows in their hair won't hurt them. And, the boys will undoubtedly want Amelia to do a few things she doesn't much like down the road.

It seemed to me that Sam, Isaac and Alex enjoyed the attention, even if they will hate these pictures some day!

Sam shows his curly locks.

Isaac strikes a pose.


Alex takes it all in stride.

Someday when Amelia's brothers make her do something she doesn't want to do, we'll pull out these pictures and tell her that turnabout it fair play!

From The Mouths of Babes

Yesterday morning Amelia walked into the kitchen where I was unloading the dishwasher.

"Mom, when I grow up I want to be a daddy."

I almost corrected her, telling her that girls become mommies and boys become daddies. But I was curious where this was headed.

"Oh? A daddy?" I said.

"Yes," Amelia nodded seriously. "They have less chores than mommies." And she ran off to play.

Smart girl.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Belly Up, Boys!

We pulled Sam, Isaac and Alex up to the table for snack time the other day. It was the first time they sat at the table instead of in "Highchair Alley." They sure thought they were big boys!

The three of them giggled and grinned, and then this chain reaction happened:

video

No, we don't need a drum set or three, thank you very much. The boys can make plenty of noise without one, as you can see.

I know this is a harbinger of things to come. Because I'm sure that over the years there will be much more egging each other on that takes place around the dinner table!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Couple of Turkeys

I'm finally coming out of my tryptophan-induced coma to post. And this post is still Thanksgiving related.
Thursday as I was making the gravy and getting a few other things ready for our feast, I looked up to find trouble a'brewin' in the family room.
The boys had somehow gotten ahold of a brand-new, FULL container of baby powder and pried the top off.

Yikes!

The two culprits were rolling in the baby powder, having a great time. The third party was rocketing across the floor to get in on the action until I intercepted him.

Sam, Alex and Isaac: JAILED!

The boys thought it was good fun!

Isaac: "But, Mom!"

Alex: "Let's do it again!"

Jeff vacuumed both the carpet and the boys. They found the getting clean less fun than the getting dirty. I blame this distraction for the fact that Amelia and I forgot to put the sugar in the pumpkin pie.

On the plus side, the carpet sure smells nice now.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Long Ago and Far Away

When Jeff and I were first married we lived in Canterbury, England while I did my Master's degree. My class of 25 students from all over the world -- Japan, Norway, Greece, Italy, France, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, England and America -- decided to have a Thanksgiving feast, even though it's not an English holiday.

What the heck. Any excuse for a party.

So we planned. Who would go in to buy the turkey. Who would bring the mashed potatoes. Who would make the stuffing, the green beans, the salad, the cranberry relish. My job was apple pie. Appropriate for the American in the group.

As I was making my pies I looked at Jeff and said, "No one was told to bring wine. We'd better bring a couple bottles."

Well apparently great minds think alike, because ALL 25 of us, plus our two professors, brought wine. It worked out to be more than two bottles of wine per person.

And, of course, we drank it all. We were young. And apparently, not too bright.

My liver hurts just thinking about it.

Consequently, some of the details of the evening are a little hazy. But I do know that we all had a great time.

The Americans in the group told the story of the first Thanksgiving and we all said what it was we were grateful for. My classmates embraced the traditions wholeheartedly, and I hope they remember the celebration as fondly as I do.

But the wine. Oh, the wine! I have to take a couple of aspirin just to write this.

I remember clearly that one of our professors left the party early, probably by 8 p.m. Wet blanket that he was, he admonished us as he left, reminding us that we were all expected to appear for our morning seminar bright and early the next morning.

We smiled and nodded and toasted his departure heartily after the door closed.

We drank and drank and drank. In the wee hours of the morning one of my classmates, who wisely quit drinking early in the evening, drove several of us home. I swear he had a blue car. I later found out it was red.

Did I mention there was a little wine there? And that writing this is bringing back a monstrous headache?

But the next morning at 8:30 a.m. we were all at seminar. Bleary eyes. Pounding heads. Coffee cups in hand. Barely sentient. But there.

I would have felt sorry for our presenter, but I couldn't muster the strength.

As we were about to start the head of the department came in with an announcement.

He informed us that our other professor, who stuck with us until the bitter end, would not be in the office that day.

"He has informed me that after last night's party he feels as if he's been hit by a bus."

Only in England would an professor offer that excuse to his boss. And only in England would his boss chuckle and repeat it to his students.

It was a great Thanksgiving. Because even though we were far from home, we had friends to celebrate with, and we made memories that far outlasted the hangover.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Best Holiday of Them All

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

There are no presents to buy. No scratching your head to figure out what to get for your friends and family. No wrapping and shipping and fighting the lines at the post office.

The decorating can be simple. A nice tablecloth on the table takes care of it. No lights, no hauling boxes of ornaments and garland out of basements and attics.

Thanksgiving is all about the food and gathering with family and friends. It's about enjoying each other's company and celebrating all of our blessings.

And even if you're in charge of the feast, the food is pretty easy to prepare. Throw that turkey in a roasting bag, mash some taters, make a little gravy and put a little something green on the table (roasted asparagus is one of my favorites). Throw in a pumpkin pie and bada bing bada boom. You've got Thanksgiving covered.

Mmmm...we do love our mashed potatoes around here!

Of course you can go all out, but your guests will appreciate even a simple meal. And if you do screw it up -- and you have a sense of humor -- you and your family and friends will have a story to chuckle over for years to come.

My favorite Thanksgiving story came from a former colleague of mine. She loved to tell about the year she bought a new covered roaster before Thanksgiving. It happened to be a beautiful shade of blue. She washed it up, popped in her bird and when she took the cover off her roaster to check the bird it was blue.

Not slightly blue. Vividly blue. Like a pair of denim jeans.

And not just the outside. No siree. That bird was blue through and through. Her kids thought it was the funniest thing ever. So they all had a good laugh and every year they repeat the story.

So see? Something good can come out of even the most disastrous Thanksgiving meal!

Of course, if you're still feeling a bit overwhelmed, you can always call in reinforcements to help with the meal prep.

I just happen to be lucky enough to have a fairy on hand...

...and she's always happy to help make mashed potatoes!

Wishing you a Thanksgiving full of good food, laughter with family and friends, and, of course, mashed potatoes!

Christy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Things Moms Say

The other day I sent out a quick Tweet:


I immediately got back several replies, including this one:

Others responded with:
  • Stop licking the van!
  • Don't hit your brother/sister so hard.
  • Don't touch the poop.
  • That's not a hat. That's a sandwich.

And our Christmas cheer entry:

  • Quit eating Jesus!

When I became a mom I figured I'd hear myself saying all the standard-issue mom things. "Keep your fingers out of your nose." "Don't run in the house." "No jumping on the bed." You know, typical things.

But then I found out that this job isn't standard issue at all. I found myself saying, "Keep the play-do out of your nose!" and "We don't bang on the walls with our baby dolls." and "We don't play in the sandbox naked." And that was with just one child!

Then the triplets came along and added a whole new level of bizarre to the parenting, and consequently, to the things I say. At nine months there was, "Don't pants your brother!" At 11 months, "Don't chew your food and give it to your brother." At one year, "Don't make your brother eat the sand." "Don't play in your brother's snot." And tonight, "Peeing in the bathtub isn't funny."

Except it is funny. And I can't wait to hear what comes out of my mouth down the road.

What about you? What's on your list of things you never thought you'd say?