Long Day. Kids with colds. Lotsa activties.
So yeah, I love days when we all stay in pajamas, like today. Well, except for Josh cause he went to out this morning. And, I guess, except for the boys because one went along when the other needed to go for a throat culture this morning. And now that I think about, the two year old got dressed to go play in the backyard. Hmmm. And if you want to get technical, the baby doesnt really count because she pretty much lives in a stretchie, so I guess that just leaves, um, me. Okay fine, you got me, maybe I was the only one to stay in pajamas all day. Like I said, I love days like these.
At about 8:30 this morning, Josh left for a couple of hours and at exactly the same time, Curious George ended on TV. The kids, en masse, turned to look at me. Hmm, I hadn't yet planned our crafty day. It was time to improvise. So I don't know where my mom found these stencils but I had put them away for a rainy day and while it wasn't technically raining outside, it was definitly raining dirty tissues in my house so out came the stencils. They're big, colorful and filled with the letters of the alphabet. These babies are fantastic. There were enough of them so the kids didn't fight and all they wanted to do was line them up on the living room floor. And they're educational too!
About thirty minutes later, we stopped for a second breakfast and then broke out these Hebrew ABC blocks that our primer teacher lent us for the weekend. We have been having some trouble remembering the difference between some of the letters so this incredibly sweet teacher sent home these two boxes of blocks to play with. More educational toys and today is still Sunday! I am impressed with us (me). We spent about an hour, all playing with these blocks, spelling the names of every single person we knew. And fun was had by all.
After a quick trip to the doctor (no strept!), we reconvened back in the living room looking for our next project. So we took out some ABC stickers (have you noticed the theme of the day yet?), fun little happy face stampers, and markers. And paper. And the kids went to town - I couldnt believe it. It really occupied them for the better part of the afternoon. Yes, their little bodies are covered in happy-face stamps, but that's ok, because the little faces are happy. Yes, their teachers will think (again) that these children don't bathe, but the ink really wasn't coming off. Really.
Oh, and we made pipe cleaner crowns.
And then finally, the kids went to bed.
Just as a postscript, this afternoon Josh went out and bought two jumbo bags of KitKats for all the trick or treaters (2 for $5 and a $1 off coupon). We turned on the porch light. We were pumped. After an hour, we even made sure the doorbell worked. And no one came. Why not? Did we give out bad candy last year? Maybe we did, I think we had Butterfingers. But I only bought those because I dont like them and I didnt want to eat the leftovers. Darn, now no one wants our candy and we have good stuff this year. And now we have two delicious looking bags of chocolates just sitting on the dining room table. Oh, what to do? What to do?
This post takes the road less traveled, bringing with it a picnic basket filled with maternal guilt for lunch. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow.
My son's kindergarten class held a mock wedding today in honor of Parshat Chayei Sarah. And my child volunteered to be the rabbi. This, mind you, is a child who spent the entire year of nursery glued to his red chair, with his coat, backpack and watch on, always ready to go home, never quite knowing what time it was. He did not speak to anyone in his class the entire year and once in a while would utter a word to the teacher if he absolutely had to. Otherwise, as he learned very quickly, pantomiming the need to go to the bathroom got his message across just fine.
So I was astounded, and a little worried, when he came home with an invitation to the mock wedding in his backpack, along with a note saying he was to be the rabbi. The note informed us that he needed to dress up as a rabbi, bring a snack for 16 kids and be prepared to make the bracha on some grape juice. Ahh, so that was it, the grape juice.
When I questioned him, he confirmed my suspicions.
Me: "Did you really say you wanted to be the rabbi?"
Me: "Home come?"
Him: "There's grape juice."
If I had to peg my kid as anything at this mock wedding it would have been your standard shmorg-loving guest. Maybe a shmorg-loving guest who hangs out against the wall with his buddies, eating and minding his own business. But nope, he heard the magical words "grape" and "juice" and his hand shot up.
So today was the day - he went to school looking fantastic in his fancy clothes that he wore to his cousin's bar mitzvah, all ready to be the rabbi. And apparently, he actually was fantastic. He marched down the aisle with the rest of the kids, made his bracha and proceeded to drink the entire cup of grape juice instead of sharing it with the bride and groom like he was supposed to. Well, you know what, good for him! He must have been thirsty, all that pressure. After all, he was the only one with a speaking part.
A mother's pride knows no bounds. I am just so freakin proud of him and I told him exactly why at least ten times this afternoon - and he ate it up. He played his part of the rabbi with no crying, no whimpering, no backing out at the last minute, all standard shtick pulled regularly in this family. He did what he had to do and he got some grape juice as a reward.
Later, while we were having dinner, his teacher called to tell me how proud she was of him, and what a good job he did.
And then it all went to pot.
My love, my son, had left the room for a few minutes during dinner and came back with marker on his face.
Me: "What'd you do with the marker?"
Me: "What did you do with the marker?"
Him: "I wrote on the curtains."
Me: "You what?! Show me."
And he does show me. And there's nothing on the curtains and I'm begining to think maybe he just wrote on his face and made the whole curtain thing up, cause that's what he does. I sat down on the couch for a second, looked to my left for no reason and saw it. He had written all over the wall with the marker. Strike one.
A little while later I came into the kitchen to get a bottle for the baby and there he is, up to his eyeballs in the garbage can, looking for nothing, "just looking, mommy." Uh-huh. Strike two.
And then, right before we were going upstairs to read stories, he asked if he could have a piece of challah. We had made challah this afternoon and they were sitting on the counter. I explained that the challahs were for shabbos, we already had dinner and we were done eating for the day, so no. And not two seconds later, as I am changing someone's diaper, he saunters (not walked, the boy actually sauntered) out of the kitchen with a piece of challah in his mouth, looking like he not only swallowed a canary but was still chewing it. Strike three.
Bedtime is was.
All the praise, all the hoorays, must have been too much for him. It was almost like he needed to create mayhem to deflect from what he accomplished today. Is that a boy thing? A four-year-old thing? A second child thing? Not being any of those things, I have no idea. But I do know that being four is not easy. And being a second kid is not easy. And being a boy is probably not easy either.
I can just hope he understands that I am so proud of him everyday, not just on days when he performs for a free cup of grape juice.
A few weeks ago we went pumpkin picking and as usually happens when we do these kinds of semi-unstructured activities, we wound up with too many whatevers - apples, blueberries, leaves, twigs, socks belonging to other children, you get the idea. In this case, it was pumpkins.
So we culled the herd early on and sent each school-going child to school with a pumpkin or three. Let the teachers sort it out.
That left us with several at home. One went on the front stoop, because even though we don't celebrate Halloween, we didn't want our front steps to be left out of all the fun the other front steps on the block were having. Although now that I think about it, we should be honest, we do kind of semi-celebrate Halloween - we happily eat the candy that's on a fantastic sale everywhere, we give out treats to any kids who come to the door and we buy (hoard) the costumes on November 1st when the half-off sales start. So okay, maybe we don't celebrate in the strictest sense of the word, but we do benefit, so hooray America!
Enough philosophizing. So there is one pumpkin, for a reason that I still do not understand, sitting on the TV stand. I was told I was not allowed to move it so I didn't. I dusted around it. Are you laughing? Cause I am. I can't even type that with a straight face. I don't dust. Just add it to the list.
And then there was one last little pumpkin sitting on the kitchen counter just begging to be crafted with. The only problem was, I had no idea how what to do with it. I don't know how to carve a pumpkin - and anyway that didn't seem too safe with the little kiddies twirling around my feet so I moved on. I considered cooking it and pureeing it so we could bake muffins, but i couldn't do that either. That little pumpkin sitting on the counter had become like a small orange member of the family and cooking it didn't seem to be the loving way to go, so that was out.
And then while I was trying to make dinner the other day, and I had an unhappy two-year-old looking for something to do, it came to me. We didn't need to maim or otherwise hurt our pumpkin, we could just decorate it. So as the onions sauteed and the meat browned in the big frying pan so the Sloppy Joes could do their thing, we sat down with the pumpkin and the box of macaroni that was going to accompany the Sloppy Joes.
This turned out to be a great project for a two-year-old; she didn't even need that much help. First, she started by painting the noodles with blue and silver paint.
While those dried, we got out some scraps of scrapbook paper and cut out hearts because, as my baby said, "The pumpkin loves me". While I finished cooking (check out how cool the smoke looks coming out of the pan), she glued, all by herself, the noodles and the hearts to the pumpkin.
When she was done, we went over the whole thing with silver sparkly paint because "that is the pumpkin's favorite color" and let the whole gluey mess dry.
Good thing Elmer's glue dries clear because that was a new bottle of glue and now it is empty.
And now her pretty pumpkin that she says hello to every time we leave the house is sitting outside on the front steps. All by it's lonesome self. Yeah, I know there was another pumpkin outside when this whole story started. Where did it go? Beats me. Maybe it went to have fun with the other pumpkins across the street. I just hope the little guy is happy.
Now that we have gotten into a groove with the Homework Box, homework time has become almost second nature to all of us. Almost. It's all very exciting. And we also implemented the shoe bin, where the kids dump their shoes as soon as they walk into the house - and they have totally gotten the hang of that too. So since things in boxes seems to be working so well, I have taken it a step farther and made The Kippah Box.
Putting on their kippahs is probably the most stressfull part of my boys' (and mine, Josh's, you name it) morning routine. They can never ever remember where they took off their kippahs the day before and there is no way in the world they have any clue where the kippah clips are because how silly would it be to actually clip the clip back on to the kippah when you take it off.
Josh tried to remedy the kippah clip problem this past summer by ordering, I kid you not, 1000 clips on Ebay. Three months later, we are down to about 100 clips. If I am doing my math correctly, that means we have been losing kippah clips at the rate of 10 per day. That is not only insane, it is unacceptable.
And so enter The Kippah Box. This was not so much a craft project as it was me dumping out the contents of a small box into a ziploc bag, putting stickers on the box that spell out "Kippah Box" and placing said box on the credenza in the porch, the last room we see before we leave in the morning and the first we see when we come home. I suppose that means that this is more of an organizing post than a crafting post, but if it helps anyone with a similair kippah crisis, then so be it.
The goal was for the box to live in the porch and for the boys to deposit their kippahs there when they came home from school. Yes, yes, I am well aware that my boys should be wearing their kippahs from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed, but seriously people, baby steps here, baby steps.
At this point, the box only works sometimes - as in when the box is actually in the porch. For some reason though, it seems that the box is always everywhere except where it should be. Really. I am constantly knocking it off the kitchen counter or tripping over it in the dining room. I have yet to figure out a way to keep it in its place. I considered hot-gluing it to my credenza but I like the credenza too much. My next idea is velcro, but I am not sure if the box would sit straight with velcro under it.
All I know is that I will not give up until I make this Kippah Box work. Because at this rate, in another ten days, we will have no clips left at all.
This will work. It has too. It's a box and it has stickers on it. Seriously, what's the problem? Maybe it's because I didn't decoupage it. Oh, lord.
This was a quick and fun project that we did outside on a warm fall day. Over the summer, I had bought a pack of four canvases so the kids could paint them and keep themselves busy for at least ten minutes on the super-long day of Tishav-B'av. The kids had a blast doing their canvases, they were busy for a good hour (yahoo!) and it was so interesting to see how they each decided to do something different.
If I was a psychologist, I am sure I would sit and stare at the canvases for hours, unlocking the mysteries of each child's personality. As it is, last night while I was watching some pictures of the kids upload to the computer, I said to Josh, "Wouldn't you just love to live in each one of their heads for just a day?"
Do you think I might be a little too involved? Nah, me neither. You know you would love to be a fly on the wall of your kids' heads too. You don't have to admit it. I admit it freely and so does my good friend Miriam - and we're not embarrassed to say it outloud.
Anyway, so there was one canvas left over from the pack as the baby was a little too little to paint one.
What to do with one canvas? They couldn't share it. And then wait, they could!
We picked a sunny day so we could do our project outside. We headed to the backyard with our canvas, paints, some brushes and a Sharpie marker. And snacks. Always snacks.
I painted each kid's hands with whatever color they chose and they pressed their hands onto the canvas.
Once we had eight little hands cleaned off and dried, one of the boys painted a flower pot on the bottom of the canvas and the other little boy used the Sharpie marker to draw stems for the flowers and write each kid's name next to their flower hands. Use the Sharpie to date the project and you're done.
The canvas dried so nicely and it's, I think, a really sweet way, years from now, to remember how little their hands were. And the kids love looking at the picture. They take such pride in their work, which is so refreshing in itself. Adults just don't do that. Every time we walk by the picture, my two year old turns to me, smiles, and says, "We made that'. I love it.
Our happy little canvas has been sitting on the landing of the upstairs steps for a couple of weeks now, right under the spot where it will eventually hang. It's slated to be hung up in the next wave of hammer wielding and nail banging. Whenever that is.
equals the easiest dinner ever.
And all you add is water. No oil, no eggs, no mess.
And if everyone is really hungry or you need to actually feed a husband, just add scrambled eggs and an Israeli salad and yum! Everyone ate it. Everyone.
This pancake mix is awesome.
We’ve been through a bunch and this one is the clear winner.
Besides toting a truck load of fiber in each serving, they are pretty darn good all by themselves. But then, if on the advice of your two-year-old who has been walking around with a box of vanilla pudding mix for days, you add said box of pudding mix to the batter – man, oh man, pancake heaven. The pancakes tasted like the Duncan Heinz Fairy kissed them.
The entire cooking process, including washing the dishes (eat on paper tonight) won’t take more than 20 minutes. Really. It’s only 7:30pm and I am not in the kitchen anymore – that never happens.
This dinner is a keeper. Maybe even a once a week keeper.
Ooooh. That means we have homemade pizza one night and pancakes and stuff another. I just need two more keepers and we have ourselves a weekly school night menu! I know, I know, I dream big dreams. It's never really gonna happen.
I just turned on the TV and automatically changed it to channel 13, wondering if Clifford was on. Then I looked around and realized it was 9pm and all the kids were asleep. Needless to say, I need to get out more.
But that was not the point of my story. That was just a little anecdote for your reading pleasure.
Today’s topic is framing pictures. Up until we bought this house, we had always rented and I didn’t really give much thought to the artwork on my walls. We usually just hung posters to cover up the nail holes from previous tenants.
And then one day, the sweetest woman named Naomi, a colleague of my husband, gave us a beautiful painting that she had done herself. The second I laid eyes on it, I knew that we had to hang it in our (future) dining room, right behind where Josh would sit for to make kiddush on Friday nights. The painting, among other things, depicts the words of kiddush, the blessing made over a cup of wine.
I was in love. I saved this painting, unframed for three years. It lived in a garbage bag between two pieces of cardboard behind the couch. I didn’t frame it because I didn’t want to mat it in a color that would not match my imaginary dining room in my make-believe house.
And then we bought our home and I needed to frame that picture like I need to eat a frozen brownie(s) from the back of the freezer after the kids go to bed.
I took the painting to Michaels (or AC Moore or any framing store – this is an equal opportunity maligning here) and brought it to the framing desk. The framing guy and I, we chatted, flirted a little and after a half an hour, the price for the cheapest mat and frame was still $178 (plus tax), and that was after the “50% off framing” coupon. And it would take two weeks to do the job.
Very annoyed, I thanked my new boyfriend (manners, ladies, manners) and off I went to the framing aisle. And there I found a white frame that was too big for my picture, but you know what, it was on sale and it was going into my shopping cart. Then I bought a piece of some sort of paper, not quite oaktag but not quite a picture mat either. They happened to have it in the same size as my frame and in the same gorgeous grey-blue color as one of the dominant colors in the painting. Into the cart it went as well.
After my “40% off coupon”, the whole thing cost me $23.69. I’m no math whiz, but that seems to be less than $178 plus tax.
Long story slightly less long, I brought those babies home and laid them all out on the folding table that we, at that point, made pretend was a dining room table. I measured, I drew lines, I erased and I measured again. Then I asked Josh to do it. When he was done, I used my Exacto knife to cut a shape in the “not quite oaktag” paper that was slightly smaller than the painting, and presto, a mat for my beloved picture.
Josh hung it up and I have to say that it looks totally professional. I tell people this story when they are in my dining room and they don’t believe me when I say that I did it myself. Like I always say to my kids, “Aren’t you proud of yourself?” You betcha.
p.s. I realize you really didn’t need a third picture of the painting, but the point of the picture above was to highlight my beloved (and child-friendly) cordless shades that I bought for my oddly-shaped dining room windows at (drum roll here) Target! And, wait for it, they were only $20 each. I know! That whole wall costs me less than 70 bucks.
"Pick your own what, Mommy? Your nose? My nose? Hahahaha!"
That's how the conversation started when we told the kids we were going to a Pick-Your-Own farm the other Sunday.
Fortunately, the day went up from there. (I mean, seriously, did it have anywhere else to go?)
We went to Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ, which is quite possibly the best P-Y-O farm we have ever been to, and the flattest one - perfect for pushing a double stroller when you are totally out of shape. I'm just saying.
We went early in the morning, before naptime, and we were back in time to catch the 3pm showing of Arthur in our living room.
The kids had a blast – besides for apple orchards and pick-your-own flowers and pumpkin patches, this farm has a huge haystack for the kids to climb, a corn maze and a stacked hay tunnel that even our two year old could walk through alone. Of course, if you ask the kids, they will say that the best part was buying ice cream in the marketplace. Roll your eyes if you must, but they do sell good ice cream. And cherry tomatoes. Orange ones. Deeelicious.
Oh wait, I was wrong. I just asked the kids what the best part was and they said the bathrooms. There was a long row of port-a-potties and they visited each one “just to make sure mommy.”
I made these letters for my kids ages ago but I only recently got around to hanging them up. Or back up, I should say. The ones in the boys’ room had been hanging but since we painted recently (I say recently to make myself feel better but the one year anniversary of the Painting Week From Hell passed by in a blur this past July), I didn’t have a chance to rehang them. And then even more "recently" (like seven months ago) I made the letters for my girls’ names.
I started with the names of my boys, mostly because the girls weren’t born when I started this project. I tell you this so you can shake your head when you see how long this super-simple project took me.
I bought the letters in AC Moore, along with some green paint and those small wooden cut outs that are already painted (!) and are only about 79 cents each. In both AC Moore and Michaels, these cutouts can be found in the same aisle as the letters are found. Super simple.
Once home, I decided that I was so proud of myself for getting the kids and the bag into the house, that I deserved an oreo cookie.
Why, you ask, would a grown woman be proud of herself for buying one bag of crafts supplies?
Because you asked so nicely, I’ll tell you. So the week before, I had taken both boys to Target, bought diapers, wipes and the most adorable bins for their toys that actually matched my living room. Back in the parking lot, I was so intent on getting both boys back in the car and buckled up that when that was done, I drove away, leaving all my diapers, wipes and bins on the bottom section of the shopping cart. Of course I called Josh, hysterically crying, he called Target, they told him they couldn’t help (Target isn’t in the nicest of neighborhoods around here) and by the time he got there to take a look around, it was gone. So yeah, this time I deserved a cookie and possibly a pat on the back. And three years later, I am still traumatized when I think about my pretty bins that were meant to organize my house. Hey, maybe that’s why we’re still not organized?
However, I digress. I, eventually, painted the letters and glued the already painted (hooray) wooden pieces on the letters. As you can see, I used a “safari” theme, with lions, elephants and giraffes. Some months later, Josh hung them up and I smiled.
Some time later, I decided that my girls needed their names above their cribs as well. But by that time, I had already become best friends with modge podge. So for the girls, I bought pretty scrapbook paper. I traced the letters onto the back of the scrapbook paper, cut each letter super carefully and applied modge podge to the paper, not the wooden letter. For some reason, it seems to work better that way. And so pretty! My girls have letters. Of course, they don’t match each other because they weren’t made at the same time and I couldn’t find the same paper again, but as my grandmother would say, nu nu, it’s all good.
So three years after that first expedition to AC Moore, the letters are all officially hung up - even though none of the kids are still sleeping in the same place where their name hangs. Whatever. I’m not moving them again.
Tears, stamping feet and whining have been our dinner side dishes lately. And that’s just me. You should hear the kids.
They just don’t seem to like whatever it is that I have been making for dinner. Wait, that’s not true. One kid always likes it; who that is changes with the wind. So I seem to be making three or four different dinners each night. Josh tells me to just offer a jelly sandwich to anyone who isn’t happy – but when I made salmon burgers and the kids actually ate it, he was the one making a face at the alternative jelly sandwich and rummaging through the fridge, so I feel like if it’s not a good alternative for my love, it’s not a good enough one for the kids.
And then I hit on a recipe that made everyone happy. Homemade pizza. And not just sauce and cheese on pita bread, even though I find that to be quite yummy. This is real pizza dough, takes all of five minutes to throw together and making it is an activity for the kids too. It’s been such a huge hit with all the kids and Josh. And one recipe makes so much that I pack the leftovers for lunch the next day. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Here’s the awesome recipe from my aunt Susie, who gave it to me years and years ago, like when I was 12. I just never used it until now. I have no idea where she got it from, but thank you to whoever made it up!
2 packets of dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ cup warm water
¾ cup warm water
¼ cup oil
1 tsp salt
3 and ½ cups flour
Pour the yeast and sugar into the bowl of a mixer and add the ½ cup water. Let the yeast proof. Add the rest of the water, oil and salt and start the mixer. Add one cup of flour at a time until the dough has formed a ball. Stop the mixer and dump the whole thing into a Ziploc bag and throw it in the fridge until you are ready to make dinner.
If you make this right before dinner, you obviously don’t need to stick it in the fridge. I do that because I try to prep dinner in the morning.
If you have a pizza stone (lucky you!), use it to bake the pizza. If you don’t and all you have for baking dairy things is a sad little jelly roll pan, then you preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray your pan.
Roll out half the dough (that is how much fits on a jelly roll pan) on a floured surface and try to transfer it to the pan. Roll it out again because it broke on the way to the pan. Add sauce and cheese and bake for about 6 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is light brown.
Be sure not to overcook it, it will burn quickly.
I learned that the hard way. I heard the timer beep and I didn’t run to shut the oven as quickly as I should have. The smoke alarm went off and my five-year-old looks up from watching TV (a minor miracle right there) and says, “Again, Mommy? Again? You have to be more responsible when you cook.” Sheesh.
Update 11/1/10: According to my aunt who gave me this recipe, it is actually from her good friend and quite possibly the best teacher and one of the coolest women I have ever met, Lisa Kermaeier. So thank you Mrs. Kermeier! We LOVE you pizza :)