June 20, 2007

The WhyFamily spent Father’s Day together, just being ourselves.  We had a relaxing morning alternating eating, playing, and eating again.  We made plans for a family barbecue in the evening.  We called Granddad and Paw-Paw and wished them Happy Father’s Day.

Then we all jumped in the car and went to go spend a few hours at a farm in the suburbs.  The kids napped on the drive, Whymommy hopped out for a quick errand while Whydaddy drove around to give the kids just a few more minutes of naptime, and then we arrived at the farm.  Just in time for the last few minutes of strawberry picking season.

It was lovely.

There weren’t many fruits left on the plants, but we filled our bellies and then bought baked goods and a pie at the farm store.  Oh, and we picked sweet peas, and Widget discovered the delight of eating fresh peas right out of the pod.  He’s been doing it ever since.  It makes me smile and remember long summer days sitting on my grandmother’s porch eating freshly shelled peas right out of the pod, and temporarily putting the pods in an old wooden bowl she kept in her kitchen.  Widget and I put the peas in that same bowl when we got home on Sunday, and we have been nibbling at the peas ever since.

But my WFMW tip is for enjoying those very last strawberries from the fields, or the slightly less-appetizing imported ones that fill the grocery store shelves year-round.  My mom-in-law taught me last week a fantastic way to prepare strawberries quickly for toddlers too young to eat around the stems — just take a disposable plastic straw, insert it into the tip of the strawberry, and aim for the green stem.  Push the straw all the way through, and presto!  The strawberry is cored!  No more icky white parts, and no green stem!  I cut the strawberry in half first, to waste less and make smaller, less-chokable pieces … but I loved her tip and thought of you all immediately!  Works for me!


Mmmmmmm…. Gramma’s shortcake was delicious too.


An Unexpected Solution

June 11, 2007

After over an hour of trying to comfort our screaming baby in the car on the drive home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house last night, we tried something initially counterintuitive:  we played music REALLY LOUD.

Daddy rocked out.

Mommy sang along.

Widget played air guitar.

And the baby, God bless the baby, fell asleep.

Works for me!

Edited to add:  One problem solved.  Now, about that chocolate treat I ate at MOMS Club this morning … somehow I conveniently “forgot” that chocolate contains dairy … the (milk-intolerant) baby has been screaming ever since.  Anyone have any mom-calming solutions to suggest?  I’m ready to climb the walls.

Edited again, to add:  Quick recipe for that sweet and salty treat:  Spread 1″ square lattice type pretzels on a cookie sheet.  Top each with an unwrapped hershey’s kiss.  Place in preheated oven and cook for 5-6 minutes at 200′.  Remove, top each treat with a single m&m, and let cool.  This is a quick and easy playdate treat that will have the moms coming back for more!

Mucking around

June 6, 2007

Perhaps my favorite summertime activity with the kids is working in our garden — and just generally mucking around in the yard.  I’ve loved growing fruits and veggies since I was a kid, tending our family garden with my mom, walking through Grandma’s garden in the summers, and I imagine I’ll be THAT old lady mucking about in her garden when I’m 80.

Lucky for me, the kids (and by kids, I mean Widget) love it too.  So far this year, we’ve planted cherry tomatoes, minature yellow pear tomatoes, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic chives, bell peppers, jalapenos, cucumbers, and zucchini.  And when I say, zucchini, I mean, like one plant.  Because who really needs more than one zucchini plant?

But my new favorite plants in the garden are the blackberry and blueberry bushes over against the wall.  They produce FABULOUS fruit, and they’re so very easy to tend.  Really, all you have to do is prune them at the end of each season, make sure they don’t die of thirst, and they produce yummy yummy snacks all summer long.  Starting in late June, we’ll have a dozen or two blueberries every day, and then in July there will be at least as many blackberries. 

Widget loves his fruit, and now, in the garden, he’s learning where it comes from.

Works for me!


Now that I’m home, I prefer THIS kind of blackberry….

Heloise Moment

May 15, 2007

Our house has a small bathroom that steams up quickly with a hot shower.  Since there is no ceiling fan, and I don’t always remember to open the window, the steam often condenses onto the walls and ceiling.  Cleaning it is really annoying … but this week, I stumbled onto an idea that makes it tons easier.

How to effectively scrub the ceiling without balancing precariously on a chair or dragging a ladder upstairs?  Easy — just wrap two Lysol wipes around each side of a Swiffer sweeper, turn it upside down, and Swiffer the ceiling! 

It made me laugh, but it works for me!

Perfectly Good

May 9, 2007

Step away from the laundry.  Put down the dishrag.  Drop the mop.

Oh, and while you’re at it, walk away from the Brainy Baby Einstein DVDs and take the baby out of his Little Gymani.  Peel yourself out of the minivan for a morning, and give yourself a break from testing little Ella for Fancy Preschool. 

Hand out the sippy cups, take the kids outside to play, and settle in for a few minutes with a good book — like the recently released Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, by Ann Dunnewold.  I recently received a copy of this book from Parent Bloggers Network, and, frankly, it was just what I needed.

Too often we get caught up in overachieving in our lives, and it is really hard to step away and get perspective. When I worked in an office, this was certainly true.  I was so determined, and so dedicated to living that dream, that I lost sense of what else was important in my life.  I was so single-minded in the pursuit of success that the rest of my life was falling by the wayside.

Every now and then  I’d step back and realize that I was pouring my whole self into work and stressing myself out trying to achieve the impossible. 

Now that I’m home with the kids and consulting when I can, I should be enjoying myself, delighting in their every coo and cry, and laughing along with my toddler at newly-discovered worms in the garden.  Right?  Right?  Well, most of the time I do.  But sometimes I still get stressed out.  About the house.  About the laundry.  About the lawn that needs to be cut and the hair that needs to be trimmed and the baby that just does. not. stop. nursing.  There’s so much to do, and it’s so hard to do it all perfectly.

That’s where this book comes in.  Dunnewold has written a book that may just be a survival guide to parenthood.  She discusses the recent spate of Perfect Parenting books, as well as the Slacker Mom rebuttals, and reminds the reader that it wasn’t always thus.  Back in June Cleaver’s day, although the house may have been perfectly clean and Wally and the Beav mostly washed and well-fed, were things really as perfect as they seemed?

Did you ever see June Cleaver down on the floor, playing with her kids?

I didn’t.  Although her kids were older when the sitcom was filmed (hello – this should have been a major clue), I just didn’t see her out with the boys much, enjoying them.  She was almost always shown in the kitchen, cooking, or sitting in the den with their father after dinner.  Enjoying herself?  Perhaps.  But she wasn’t perfect.  And we don’t have to be perfect either.

Ann Dunnewold is a practicing therapist who encourages her clients to cut themselves some slack in their relentless pursuit of being a good mom, a good wife, a good worker, and a good person.  Not the perfect mother.  A perfectly good mother. 

I’ve toted this book up and down stairs over the past few weeks, reading the lessons over and over in between playing Little People and washing raspberries for yet another snacktime, trying to convince myself that it’s okay sometimes to let things go.  To take a day off from the laundry, and picking up after the whirlwind that is Widget.  It’s hard.  I want things to be perfect.  I want to feel that I left work for a reason, and that I’ve got everything under control at home.  But perfection is impossible.  And that’s why we need to let it go, and concentrate on the things that make a difference, and just do what we can on the rest of it.  I’m not convinced yet.  But I am intrigued.  And I’m going to keep reading this book and thinking about how I’m “doing motherhood” until I’m at peace about it.

This review has also been posted at Review Planet and highlighted at Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

We (heart) Wallies!

May 1, 2007

Looking for an easy and fun way to decorate that first “big-kid” room?  We decided to make it a family project to paint and decorate Widget’s new room when he moved out of the nursery, just before his baby brother’s birth day.  First, we painted the walls a deep sky blue.  Then we broke out the Wallies and just had fun!

Wallies are prepasted wallpaper cutouts that affix to any porus surface in minutes.  Pop open the package, soak each piece for 1-3 minutes in a shallow pan of water, place it on the wall, and smooth out the bubbles.  Done!  Easy to apply, and so much fun to do together.  We pasted the entire solar system up on Widget’s East wall!


Airplanes dance across the West wall, the top of his closets, and the door…


and five little trains run around the baseboards.

tiny train

Choo-choo!  Presto, a transportation fantasy room!  And since we bought the Wallies online for just $10 a set ($19 for the entire solar system), it was an easy and inexpensive project to complete.  Works for me!

(The planet decals paid off, by the way — at 31 months, Widget is fascinated by the planets.  He names them before bed and tonight pointed to the farthest one and asked me to tell him a story about Pluto.  Ah, but not just any story about Pluto.  A story about his friends”Sam. Jack. Quinn!“on Pluto!  Too cute!)

Toy Storage

April 17, 2007

I see posts all the time looking for a new (or easy, or inexpensive) way to store all those toys and books that our toddlers seem to accumulate.  Today I’d like to suggest the following homemade solution.  You will need:

* one old (or inexpensive) bookshelf, preferably five or six shelves and about six feet high;

* wall anchor straps (available at Target or Babies R Us); and

* brightly colored, pastel, or coordinating bins (optional).

Here’s the trick.  Take the bookshelf unit — and yes, one of those particle-board numbers from your college dorm room or first apartment will work perfectly well — and turn it on its side.  We’re now going to take the shelves out and put them back in in a pleasing, yet utilitarian arrangement.  Before you turn the shelf, mentally label each shelf, top to bottom, as A, B, C, D, and E (just like Ikea probably did originally….).

Remove the top shelf (A) and the two bottom shelves (D and E) from the unit.  (Here’s where the particle-board or prefab units are actually advantageous, as all you have to do is take out the little tabs that support them!)  Is shelf B already firmly fixed in place using glue and/or screws?  If so, set shelf A aside; this is the only shelf that you will need to cut. 

With a friend, rotate the bookshelf so that it is lying on its side.  The bookshelf should still be facing you, but it now appears to be about 6 feet long and 30 inches tall.  Fixed shelf B is now a vertical support. 

Lay shelf D down flat and slide it down to the end of the piece, at the bottom left corner.  Using this as a measurement, place shelf C snugly up against it and secure it firmly in place using drywall screws and an electric drill (or whatever you have on hand that will work).  Make sure that it is snug up against the shelf and nice and square if you can, using the same measurement for both the top and bottom of this piece.  Once C is secure, slide shelf D up about 2/3 of the way and screw it in securely.  The screws should go into the top/left side of shelf C and the bottom/right side of what used to be the very bottom of the bookshelf.  Now slide shelf E into the space below shelf D, about 1/3 of the way up, and secure it.

Now, the only sawing that you will probably need to do will be to shorten shelf A so that it fits snugly between the top/left side of the bookshelf and shelf B.  Measure, cut, slide it in at a pleasing height, and secure it.

To complete the look, slide in your favorite brightly colored, pastel, or coordinating bins, or use wicker baskets to hide the legions of action figures and teams of race cars that used to live under the couch.

Overachieving moms may want to touch up the top and sides of the unit with dabs of white paint where the screws went.  If you do, please don’t tell us.

For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer!


Widget’s bookshelf; the idea works just as well for all those little toys and cars in the playroom!