Here comes the sun

Don't know if I've mentioned it or not, but the weather here the past few weeks has pretty much sucked. As a life-long Californian now living in Oregon, I still have a tough time adjusting to the differences in weather between here and there. I mean, in California the sun's been out for months. Here in Oregon, though, it's been pretty damn cold. Oh, and then there's the rain. You have heard that about the amount of rain we get here, right? So for weeks now we've been searching for some sign that the sunny weather is on its way and, if this weekend is any indication, it has arrived. Friday was hot and yesterday was even hotter. And even though Will is still getting over the croup and cold he had last week (poor kiddo), we spent a few hours out at the pool yesterday and today. The kids had an awesome time splashing and swimming around and we all enjoyed getting out of the house and soaking up the sun. Now we're just counting down the days until the official start of summer. Look out summer 'cause here we come...


Impress yourself (and your mom)

Okay, so I'm a pretty hardcore baker and usually I make everything from scratch, but sometimes I just want something simple and easy. The following recipe couldn't be any easier if I came to your house and made them for you and it yields delicious results. These are guaranteed to be a smash hit with anyone, but why not make Mother's Day a little extra special and whip up a batch of these?

Choco-Chunk Cookies

1 box of Devils Food Cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines)
½ Cup Canola Oil
2 Jumbo Eggs
½ (6 oz.) package White Chocolate Chips = ½ cup
½ (6 oz.) package Milk Chocolate Chips = ½ cup
½ Cup Toasted Pecans – (OPTIONAL)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.
Beat eggs, oil and cake mix in a medium bowl with whisk. With a wooden spoon, mix in chocolate and nuts. Drop giant spoonfuls with large eating spoon onto a cookie sheet that has been lines with parchment paper or a Silpat (silicone baking sheet to prevent cookies from sticking to cookie sheet).
Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack… or plate to cool completely. Makes 4 dozen cookies or 3 dozen monster size cookies.


Silly rabbit, parks are for kids

Yesterday the kids and I ventured out a to new park, one we'd driven by, but never visited. It's in a part of town with which I'm not very familiar, but change is good, yes? We were all very excited (okay, maybe some more than others) as we piled out of the car and headed toward the playground. After playing for a while, Will discovered a sculpture on the hill that he wanted to check out so Brody and I followed after him. While we were up there I noticed a couple of cops on bikes stopped on the corner, but couldn't really see what they were doing. A few minutes later, one of them started up the hill in our direction. Wouldn't you know that he came to say hi to my kids? How sweet, I thought. As it turns out, though, he had an ulterior motive: to tell me to run, not walk, away from said park.

I should probably back up and tell you that I was little apprehensive about some of the people hanging around the park when we got there, but the park is plenty big and I can certainly take care of myself, so I shrugged off my misgivings. Bad idea. He and his partner? They were attempting to rouse a drunk sleeping on the lawn in the corner of the park. And those sketchy people riding their bikes around the park? Druggies and drug dealers. In fact, I'm almost certain that at one point I saw a drug deal going down. Sweet. Now I grew up in the Bay Area and have spent plenty of time in Golden Gate Park; there's not much I haven't seen in terms of nefarious park activities. However, I've never been with my kids and seen that kind of stuff...it was back in my high school and college days. So the kids and I hauled tail back to the car and headed for another park across town.

The funny thing is, we've got a park right here in our neighborhood that we can walk to in about ten minutes. That park, though, has some of the strangest play equipment I've ever seen and doesn't really work for kids under the age of 6. Usually we head that way to ride scooters or look for frogs in the marshes, but there's not much my kids can do there when it comes to the equipment.

Oh and that first park we went to? When I spoke with a few friends later in the day they were more than happy to share with me all of the sordid tales of sex and drugs that take place there. There's even a website dedicated to exposing all of the stuff that goes on there. Google the Monroe St. Park Whore Watch if you're interested. Good times.


Please and thank you

It occurred to me earlier this week that while we taught Will the importance of saying "please" and "thank you" and some other basic manners, we haven't exactly schooled him in the art of etiquette (my apologies to Emily Post). Now, that doesn't mean that he's a an unruly child (most of the time) or that he doesn't have some sense of how to behave like a civilized human being, but lately his table manners have been less than perfect. And actually, if I'm being completely honest with you, eating a meal with Will sometimes ranks right up there with having a tooth pulled sans anesthetic or standing in front of a fast-moving train. In fact, there have been plenty of nights where I've sat with the kids during the dinner, but opted to eat after they go to bed just so that I can actually relax and enjoy my food (rather than having it sit in my throat for the next three hours). Also, we used to take Will out to restaurants quite a bit before Brody was born, but that has changed since he pretty much refuses to sit down and eat his meal without getting up a million times for one reason or another. Well we're finally at a point with Brody where it might actually be enjoyable to take the two of them out to eat, but since I absolutely refuse to take Will out in this current state, it's time for Manners 101. Here's the syllabus for the course:

-Take a seat on your seat: Sit on your bottom on your chair with your legs in front of you.

-Pass it on: Do not reach across the table for anything. Instead, ask politely for what you would like and someone will gladly pass it to you.

-Utensils are our friends: Please use the forks, spoons and knives placed in front of you to eat your food. Unless the food is specifically designated as "finger food," you may not use your fingers to eat it.

-Licking fingers is not finger-licking good: The napkin set to the left of your plate is there for a reason--use it. Do not lick your fingers or wipe your dirty hands on your clothes. For that matter, please do not wipe your dirty mouth or nose on your clothes.

-Excuse me?: Mealtime is not an active sport, so stay in your seat until the end.If you would like to leave the table once you have finished eating, please ask and wait to be excused.

So that doesn't seem to difficult, right? We're not asking for much, just some basic manners and civility. Will's reward for improving his table manner? We will, as a family, go to a restaurant of his choosing to enjoy a nice meal. Personally, I'm hoping he picks sushi, but my biggest hope, of course, is that his manners improve and family meals become enjoyable again.


The Sweetest Thing

Whoever came up with the moniker "terrible twos" clearly never went on to have a three- or four-year old. For us, two was easy. It was three, and now four, that threw us for a loop. That's not to say that Will isn't a great kid, but trust me when I say that we have our days. Those days usually end with threats of selling said child to the circus, the gypsies, or simply the highest bidder (kidding, of course). But really, those are the days when I sit in wild wonder--where did this child come from and when will my sweet, mild-mannered, well-behaved child be returned to me? That said, he is a wonderful little boy, full of imagination and spunk and always willing to give hugs and kisses. So today as we exited the Costco parking lot and I heard that sweet voice of his say, "Mommy?" I had no idea what was going to follow. Imagine my surprise and the melting of my heart when he continued with, "I love you." Now we've always been a pretty lovey-dovey family, full of public displays of affection and proclamations of love. It's rare, however, for Will to say it on his own, rather than as a response to someone else. So today, despite a hiccup here or there, is a good day in my book.


Long time, no see

It's been forever since I last had the time (or energy or sound mind) to write. Between the flu, a stomach bug, Brody's 1st birthday (and birthday party), a somewhat spotaneous trip to L.A. and, of course, all of the minutiae that seems to suck up the majority of my life, it's been kind of busy around here. That said, here are a few things I've had rolling around in my mind and am just now getting a chance to write about:

-A couple of weeks ago, Will asked when he could grow a beard. I have no idea what prompted such an inquiry, but he was quite adamant that he be able to grow a beard very soon. Needless to say, he was none too pleased to hear that it be quite a while before he would even have the ability to sport facial hair.

-On the same note, Will would also like to be bald. We were in Los Angeles visiting my uncles last week and my Uncle Keith is now bald. It's not really by choice as he is undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer (another post for another time), but nonetheless, he is bald. This intrigues Will (as does the whole idea of cancer...not something that's very easy to explain to a young child, regardless of how precocious and wise they might be) who wonders if he can take a medicine to make his hair fall out.

-Brody's first birthday and his accompanying party was a smashing success. It's hard to believe my little guy is now one-year old, but we had the party and the cake to prove it. Brody was completely unphased by the whole thing and when, after realizing that the camcorder wasn't turned on the first time, we had to sing "Happy Birthday" again, he acted as though this was an everyday occurrence in our house. And when it was time to eat cake? Yeah, he was far more interested in smooshing it around in his hands and trying to get other people to eat the resulting mess (no one took him up on that offer). Once the fun and games of that wore off, he moved on to trying to eat the plate. It's safe to say that he didn't take more than a single bite of the cake.

-Taking two kids on an airplane is a daunting task, but our kids did surprisingly well. Will was perfectly content to sit and watch movies on his DVD player, while Brody spent most of both flights being passed back and forth between myself and Jason. Surprisingly, neither flight we took was even half-full and we were able to stretch out a bit as a result. That said, it's not all that easy trying to contain a squirmy baby for 2 1/2 hours. Luckily, he did fall asleep on both flights.

-While we're on the subject on our airplane adventures, can I just say how much Delta rocks? The snacks on our flights were amazing--SunChips, Quaker granola bars, cheese and crackers, Biscoff biscuits--nothing like the pack of 6 peanuts most airlines toss at you. Oh, there were peanuts to be had, but they were of the gourmet sort and there was actually a full serving to be had. Thanks Delta!

-Speaking of birthday parties, we are in the midst of planning Will's 4th. We've already switched the location once, but the theme has been settled--Backyardigans. For a while it looked like we might have a bit of a struggle since Will is really into superheroes right now (and I'm not), but Pablo and his multi-talented buddies won out in the end. Stay tuned for more details on the birthday party with the ever-growing invite list.

-In honor of Brody's first birthday he received his first haircut. My grandma had this superstition about not cutting a child's hair before their first birthday (something about them never talking), so we waited until after the big day. The plan was to get it done down in L.A., but our time there was so short that we waited until we got home. Can I just say what an awesome job he did? Will's first haircut left us both traumatized (as did the next 10 or 12), but Brody sat there still as a statue and let the barber do her thing. Luckily a friend of ours was getting his hair cut at the same time and took some pictures for us.

-Jason is in Reno with his friends right now for their annual March Madness trip. Um yeah. I love my husband dearly, but really, so glad I'm not on that trip. Did I mention that they drove to Reno? Again, glad to be home.

-And last, but certainly not least, during the last few weeks we've been able to spend quite a bit of time with my side of family, all of whom live in California. My parents and brother came up for Brody's birthday party and the day after that, we flew down to L.A. to see my uncles. The first night we were there, we were lucky enough to stay with my cousins (who, in Will's book, as the coolest kids ever since they have Hulk hands). And despite the fact that they were just here two weeks ago, my parents are driving up again tomorrow to spend the weekend with us. Will's thrilled to see them, but mostly I think he's excited to go see Porton Hears a Who with them (yes, I know it's Horton Hears a Who, but Will insists on calling him Porton...take it up with him).
So I think we're mostly caught up now. At some point I plan on posting a picture of the "not a Valentine's Day present" that my dear, sweet husband bought me. But since it's upstairs and I'm downstairs, that will have to wait for another time.