Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowy Zoo Trip 2014

Mollie and I needed to go to our local zoo to sign her and Baylor up for some summer classes, but once we were finished with our official business we decided to take advantage of our errand and pay the actual zoo a visit.

One of the bald eagles was actually out of its nest, something I had never seen before in all my years of going to the zoo.  

There weren't any ducks in the duck pond area, which had been completely drained of water, but there were ducks swimming in the salmon pond.  Mollie was, of course, delighted.

The otters were out and enjoying the snow left on the ground, rolling around in it with vigor.

Then they saw some visitors up above and decided to check them out.

Both of the bears were sleeping during our visit, which seemed appropriate given the chilly weather.

The mountain lion, on the other hand, was up and about, prowling around his pen.

And ironically enough, the snow leopard, who I was sure would be awake and enjoying the cold, was sound asleep up on the rocks.

The chimpanzees were all inside; some were resting, some were eating, and some were just ... grooming.  The far one in this picture was picking stuff out of his ears and eating it, which Mollie found infinitely funny.

The tropics house was a busy place, and it was nice to see all the spider monkeys up close.

The komodo dragon was just chilling out, and Mollie found it fascinating that he had two balls in his enclosure to play with.

Quite a few of the exhibits were closed for the season, so our trip was much shorter than usual.  But it was nice to see some of the animals without all the crowds and without the sweltering heat of the summer.  Plus, as we were leaving, Mollie got the gnu drum all to herself!

And, unlike during summer visits, it wasn't too hot to touch!  Bonus!

We had a great little trip to the zoo, and it has definitely made me want to go back before the weather really heats up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie from Scratch

This recipe comes from Prevention magazine by way of my mom, and it is one of my new favorites.  The kids balked at it at first and now won't eat chicken pot pie, so we call this one "chicken casserole" at home.  Either way, it's delicious!

Chicken Pot Pie
serves 6 (according to the recipe ...)

4 oz. butter
1 onion, finely chopped (we use a white one)
1 1/2 cups flour, divided
2 cups chicken broth (I used unsalted chicken stock, and it worked out just fine.)
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
salt and pepper (We didn't add any salt but made sure to use a hearty sprinkling of pepper.)
3 cups chopped roasted chicken (Rotisserie chicken is perfect for this!)
2 cups thawed frozen veggies (I cut up almost a cup of raw carrots and put them in water with a heaping cup of frozen corn and peas and boiled them all until nearly cooked.)
thyme, sprinkle (I would use a pretty heavy "sprinkle".)
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs (if you want to do an egg wash)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a medium pan, melt 4 Tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook until clear, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in 1/2 cup flour; cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Whisk in broth until smooth, then add 2 cups milk. Bring to a rapid simmer, whisking, then cook for 5 minutes; season.  (I have found that, after 5 minutes, the roux is never very thick at this point, so I often add some more flour and cook it down a bit until it's more creamy and less runny.  But that's just how I roll.)  Stir in chicken, veggies, and thyme.  Divide into six 8-oz. ramekins or spoon into a 2-qt. baking dish.  (We have also used Fiestaware individual casserole dishes for this with great success.  For our little family, we fill two of the aforementioned dishes and then as many ramekins as possible; we cook two of the ramekins and put the rest in the fridge, uncooked, to have as leftovers.  So far this has worked very well.)

In a bowl, whisk remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cut remaining 4 Tbsp. butter into flour mixture until crumbly.  Add remaining 1/2 cup milk; stir to combine.  Spoon batter onto filling; egg wash if desired.  (This amount of topping will really only cover the 2-qt. baking dish or the four dishes we usually use; it gets a bit thin if you do much more than that.)

Bake until tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.  (Though, if you don't do the egg wash - which I don't - they won't ever get really golden ... just a little browning here and there will tell you it's done.)   Let rest 5 minutes before eating.

For the leftovers, I have cooked up a crescent roll and a Parkerhouse roll and have eaten it with that.  Both were delicious.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

That's What They Said: The Amalia-at-3-Years-and-364-Days-Edition

Me:  Amalia, what do you think we should have for dinner tonight?  I was thinking maybe chili and grilled cheese ... does that sound good?
Amalia:  No.  How about grilled cheese and ... tortellini?!
Me:  Well, no.  We had ravioli last night, so we're not having tortellini today.
Amalia:  (annoyed)  Moooom, tortellini is NOT ravioli.  They are not the same thing!
Me:  Yes, they basically are.  They are just different shapes.
Amalia:  Oh.  Well, we could have Baylor's favorite food instead!
Me:  Isn't Baylor's favorite food tortellini?
Amalia:  (thinking)  No, it's some other kind of pasta.  What is it?  What is it?  Hm ...
Me:  I mean, I thought it was tortellini ...
Amalia:  (excitedly)  That's it!  Tortellini!  Baylor's favorite food is tortellini!  We should have that tonight for dinner!  (proud of herself for solving the riddle and finding a dinner solution)
Me:  *sigh*

(While my back was to her as I was washing a dish ...)
Amalia:  Mom!  Mom!  Where did my other hand go?!  Ahhh!
Me:  (after turning around)  Umm ...

Amalia:  I mean, it used to be right here, and now it's gone!  (gesticulates with her other hand the airspace where the missing hand used to be)
Me:  (playing along)  Geez, I don't know.
Amalia:  Did you check my back?

Me:  (after walking around her)  Ah!  There it is!
Amalia:  Yay!  There it is!  And it has my other grape!

Happy 4th Birthday, Ms. Amalia Jean!

Happy birthday to my dear, darling daughter, Amalia!  We spend a lot of time together these days, just you and I, and I love getting to watch you change a little bit every day, becoming more and more of the little girl you're destined to be.  You are so very smart, kind, caring, witty, silly, funny, and beautiful, both inside and out, and I am incredibly lucky to be your mama.  Thank you for keeping me on my toes and always pushing me to be better and do better.  

I love you so much, sweetie, and I hope this birthday is all you had hoped it would be and more!  

(As an aside: this is her sleep sheep these days.  It's a bit on the rough side, so much so that she sometimes  uses it to scratch an itch on her face or arm, and a few "bald" spots are staring to show.  But he has been well-loved ... here's what he used to look like, to give you an idea just how much he has been snuggled into his current state.  He's her favorite sleepy time pal by far.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

That's What They Said: Misunderstandings

Me:  Mollie, what would you like for breakfast?
Amalia:  Um ... (thinks for a second)
Me:  Would you like some peanut butter toast?
Amalia:  What?  What did you say?
Me:  (enunciating)  I asked if you'd like some peanut butter toast.
Amalia:  (matter-of-factly)  Oh, I thought you said, "Asparagus."

Baylor:  (in his extra sweet voice) Mommy, I want to be like you.
Me:  Aww, buddy!  Really?!
Baylor:  Yeah, will you help me?  Will you help me be a better kid ... at ... FRACTIONS.
Me:  (smiling) Sure.
(Little does he know, fractions aren't my strong suit.)

(In the morning, Mollie had on a short-sleeved dress, so while she and I were talking I helped her put on a sweatshirt over top of that.  Usually she doesn't like to put sweatshirts or sweaters over clothes she is excited to wear, but she didn't balk so I plowed ahead.  We went through the entire day with her snug and warm in the sweatshirt over her dress.  As she was getting undressed, though ...)
Amalia:  (in hysterics)  Who did this?!  Who did this to me?!  Who put this on me?!?!
Bryson:  (completely confused at the sudden mood shift)  What?  What is going on, sweetie?
Amalia:  (even more upset)  WHO DID THIS TO ME?!  WHO PUT THIS ON ME?!
Me:  (hearing the commotion and sprinting up the stairs)  What's wrong?!
Bryson:  I have no idea.
Amalia:  (sobbing and tugging at the sweatshirt)  WHO PUT THIS ON ME?!?!
Me:  (chuckling and smiling)  Oh, sweetie, it was me.  I put it on you ... this morning.  Don't you remember?  (She shook her head as I took it off her.)
Bryson:  (under his breath to me)  Are you serious?
Me:  (under my breath to him)  I didn't think she had noticed.  I guess I was right.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014!

It's St. Patrick's Day, so you know what that means ... Shamrock Shakes!  Yup, the kids and I went out for shakes after school, Shamrock for Baylor and I and strawberry for Mollie.  Just look at that swirly goodness!

I got the kids all situated with their shakes then ran out to get my shake, my purse, and the mail.  When I came back in, Mollie told me matter-of-factly that she had found a hard thing in her cherry but had just spit it out, no problem.  Since when are there pits in maraschino cherries?

Mollie only drank about a quarter of hers, but that's about what I expected as she isn't a huge fan of sweets.

Baylor, sweet-toothed boy that he is, finished two-thirds of his.

I may have spoiled dinner for the three of us, but it's a special once-a-year after school treat that I just can't pass up.

Happy St. Patty's Day, everyone!

Monday, March 3, 2014

That's What They Said: Quotes and Pictures!

Baylor:  (randomly during dinner)  There's something weird about Uranus.

Baylor:  Mollie, can I read that book now, please?  (points to the one she's holding)
Amalia:  Awww, that's very sweet, Baylor, but no.  Not right now.

Baylor:  Mollie, five year-olds are stronger than three year-olds, so I'm stronger than you.
(Later ...)
Baylor:  I am stronger than you.  Five year-olds are really strong.  How old are you?
Amalia:  I'm five!
Baylor:  (excitedly)  Wow!  You're really strong!  We could be buddies!

I thought I'd include this ... it's written, not so much said, but this is my blog so I can rewrite the rules a bit.  Baylor made this at school last month:

It's Abraham Lincoln, and it reads, "He was the 16th president, but 2nd important."  When asked who the most important president was, he responded, "George Washington!  You know, because he helped win the Revolutionary War."

Here is the homework Baylor is going to turn in today.  He was asked to write down three topics on which he is an "expert".  If you have read, "Coins, Kennedy, Java Gym", you have read correctly.  When asked what "Kennedy" meant, he replied, "You know?  JFK ... the president?"  *sigh*  Oh, the things they say!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Bump to the Noggin

Last Wednesday, on Baylor's 100th day of school, I got a call from his principal around 2:00.  He gently told me that Baylor had fallen and hit his head on the floor during gym class and had a nasty goose egg as a result, but also that he was okay.  Still, Mr. K thought it would be wise if I went to school to check it out, so after waking Mollie and scooping up all our Wednesday bags, we made the quick drive over to Baylor's school.  By the time I got there he was back in class, but the ladies in the office who had helped him with icing it said that it was quite a doozy of a bump but that he had insisted on going to class.  They also filled in what had happened; apparently during a lively game of freeze tag, Baylor went to tag the biggest girl in his class and basically ended up running into her and falling down.  She was fine, not a scratch on her, but Baylor had a knot atop his noggin.  They reassured me that he had been very brave and that he seemed okay, but they still thought I should go take a look at him.

So Mollie and I walked on to his room and caught our first glimpse of the wounded little man ...

These pictures don't do it justice.  It was huge, HUGE and apparently it had already gone down a ton by the time I made it to school.  Bless the office secretaries' hearts, they stalled Baylor in the office for quite a while, alternating who held ice on his head and managed to reduce the swelling a decent amount by the time he scurried back to class.

He was a little upset when he saw me and recounted his injury, but he was more upset at the thought of missing math so he finished out the day and walked to the car with Mollie and I when the bell rang.  

The next day, all the swelling had gone away, but the bruise was much more black and blue

Mollie, not wanting to be left out of the picture-taking extravaganza, asked me to take a picture of her brand new ponytail!  She's decided that she wants to grow her hair out as long as Princess Leia so she can do her hair in buns like that.  *sigh*  We'll see how long she lasts.

The morning after the incident we did have to take Baylor to the doctor; after the collision, he fell, hit his head, then tried to get up ... and in doing so strained his right thumb.  It was all swollen and bruised, though not nearly as bad as his head, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't broken, which it wasn't.

Now, over a week later, his bruise has turned a lovely shade of yellow and his thumb is completely back to normal.  I'm so glad this was as mild an injury as it was!  (And not nearly as gruesome-looking as his first!)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Buddy, You Are Braver Than You Believe ...

Today was a big day for Baylor.  With a new change in school policy, I was going to have to sign in and pick up a badge every morning to walk him to his classroom through the school, and knowing how late we usually run I knew this would only make us more late (and me feel even more guilty for being just a little behind every day).  So, we decided that he was going to need to start walking himself to his classroom.  When I first brought this up last week he was very, VERY resistant to the idea; he was just sure he wasn't brave enough or that he was going to walk into a wall and get hurt.  We talked about it over the weekend, though, and worked out a reward system to get him started on it.  This morning we went over the plan, that he would get a star for each day he walked to his class by himself and after five stars I would buy him a treat at swim school after his lesson, not making him pay me back for it ... which he really hates doing.  On the way to school, he asked if we could make it less than five stars since he was really nervous about it and it was really new to him, and I agreed that that was a good idea.  So after two stars, he'll get a prize of some sort, then after three he'll get his swim school treat, then he'll need five next week to get the same treat.

Still, I wondered if he was going to be able to do it, if his courage would come through.  I knew the motivation was good enough and his smiles told me that he really wanted to.  But, nerves being what they are, he started to get upset a bit when we got inside the school.  I walked him past the gym and just in front of the office for our little send off. I told him I'd be waiting right there until he got to the end of the hallway and had to turn.  And wait we did.  He slowly, slowly sidled his way down the hallway, sliding his right arm along the wall to ground himself now that he was alone.  When he came to the opening for another hallway, he darted across with parents admonishing him to get to class, the bell had rung.  He slid along the wall a little more then scuttled a bit, cutting the corner before the library.  His principal was watching with me, happy to see the little man getting a little bit more independent, and he said he'd go make sure Baylor got to class alright.  Then he bounded off as we saw Baylor hesitantly round the corner out of my sight.

I will say that not getting to walk him to class was a little hard on me, much more so than I thought it would be.  That extra bit of independence takes him one step farther from the little baby I cared for, the little toddler whose hand I held, and I felt almost a little bit of a loss today as I watched him trek off alone.  I know that the future only holds more of these moments, so I'm bracing myself for more floods of memories and accompanying feelings.  And I don't know if it will be more difficult because I'll likely have to force his hand a bit, pushing him toward the independence that so many kids are more than happy to embrace, all the while wishing I had a little more time to hold that hand, stand nearby for that extra hug.  I just have to hope that he knows I'll always be there for him, ready with a hug or a smile whenever he needs it.

Ultimately, I'm so proud of my little guy for doing something he was so scared to do; he hates the idea of being more independent and really likes having someone familiar nearby when he is venturing out, even if it is some place he's been many times before.  This is a huge step for him, one I've been hoping for since the first day of school, and I hope he felt proud of himself for his efforts.  I know I certainly am.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Do You Want To Build a Snowman?

Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Marty ... this one's for you!

Today, surprisingly, ended up being a snow day for the little man, so he was added to our plans at the last minute.  Since we didn't have very intricate plans, this was very easy to do and he fell right into our stay-in-for-the-morning-then-go-to-Oma's-house routine.  What did NOT fit into our plans well was the township snow plow coming through and messing up the end of our driveway.  Thinking/hoping it wasn't as bad as it looked, we piled into the car and I made an attempt to gun it out of the driveway (when I knew traffic was clear, of course).  Much to my chagrin, it turns out that the snow pile was actually much worse than it looked, and the kids and I got stuck right on top of it in our beleaguered minivan.  *sigh*

As luck would have it, though, we have some most amazing neighbors who, without even asking, came over and just started to help me dig us out.  It took a lot of tries and a couple of my neighbor's car mats ... and his teenage stepson ... but they dug and pushed me out of the mess I got us into, and I cannot even tell you how grateful I am that they were there and helped me so willingly.  It's so great to know that there are such good people living nearby.

After we finally made it over to my mom's house and got some lunch, Mollie, Mom, and I went out to rake their roof and shovel their sidewalk, and then Baylor joined us to build this season's first snowman!  

We didn't have a hat handy, so our snowman was sporting some awesome grass hair.  And his eyes, carrot nose, pipe, scarf, and purple buttons came from none other than GG!  She gave them to Mollie for Christmas, and ever since Mollie has been chomping at the bit to use them.  We really couldn't have timed it more perfectly either; all winter the snow has been too light and fluffy for packing into a snowman, then we did this right after lunch, and by dinner time our poor snowman was slumped over, taken down by the increasing temperature.

He was certainly adorable while he lasted!

After we built our snowman, we hurried to the front yard to make a "skeleton" track to sled down.  It took a lot of effort ... and so much snow in my boot ... and he barely used it, but it was neat to try something new.

As sick as I am of this winter, something that has never really happened to me before, I was happy to get to spend time playing in the snow with my kids and mom today, and it almost made up for the mess of a morning we had.

Okay, okay, it did.  But I am still done with all this snow.  Done, I tell you!