Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Resolution Check Up

It's January 31st at 10:20 pm, have you kept your New Year's resolutions going for one whole month?  

I never officially made resolutions for 2012 but there are certain things I wanted to improve on during this year. 

In 2012 I want to keep up with this blogging thing. 

 So far so good.  

In 2012 I want to work out. 

 I don't want to work out to lose weight, although losing weight is nice,  I want to work out because working out makes me happy.  Very happy!  After a nice long sweat session at the gym I'm floating on cloud nine.  I have twice the energy I had before going to the gym and it's just the boost I need to get me through the long afternoons once the kids get home from school.  I've burned off any negative energy I've been harboring and I'm able to keep my temper in check.  

Because I've been working out I've lost just about all the baby weight I put on during pregnancy.  (No one was home to take a picture of me so I had to try myself.)  The variety of activities you can do while holding a baby should be a competitive sport.  I'd excel. 

I've lost more than just weight at the gym.  Recently I lost the ability to walk without pain.  I don't want to go into details but a very smart person gave me some discouraging news today and it looks like I'll be taking it easy for a while.  

In 2012 I want to ditch the negative self talk and be a little more forgiving of myself.  

Why is it that we're harder on ourselves than we are on other people?  I will repeat this as much as I need to..."It's ok that I can't run three miles tomorrow...It's's's ok." My mother may disagree, but it's ok to leave the load of laundry in the dryer.  I want to read to Carter and Evan before bed tonight.  It's ok that we ate Subway sandwiches for dinner on Sunday night.  We ate together as a family. 

He says, "It's not ok, that I'm in this Bumbo seat again.  He says, "I want you to hold me and type with one hand."  If I can't train for a marathon I CAN train for competitive typing while holding a baby. 

In 2012 I want to finish a project before starting a new one.  

I started knitting Carter a scarf at the end of December.  I'm not very good at knitting.  I wanted to give up, but I didn't.  Carter now is the proud owner of a scarf that varies in widths, has a few holes from dropped stitches, and isn't quite the right size for an eight year old's neck.  

I finished it though.

sigh.....Evan wants a scarf now.

Resolution number three...


No....not just beans.  

In 2012 I want to make more things in my kitchen from scratch.

 I love convenience foods, but you can't beat the price of dried beans over canned beans.  With my new pressure cooker making beans is easy so I'll stick to making huge batches and freezing them.  So far I've made my own teriyaki sauce and my own barbecue sauce.  Pretty soon I hope to be making Jonah baby food.  It's important for me to do the very best job I can to nourish my family daily.  For me, it's worth the extra effort. 

It's easy to start something new at the beginning of January but hard to continue through the rest of the year.  Is it because our schedules get too busy or is it because we're too scared to push ourselves?  Are our standards too high and we talk ourselves out of making change because we think whatever we do won't be good enough? Can we really make a change in 2012?

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Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lengths We Go

Jonah has started laughing. 

Baby laughter that bubbles up from their bellies is one of the sweetest and most joyful sounds on Earth.  I'm speaking from memory because I haven't actually heard Jonah laugh yet.  One time he came really close to laughing during bath time, but it didn't last long enough to satisfy my need for baby laughter.  

Others have heard him laugh.  My mother heard him laugh.  Some friends at church heard him laugh - a lot apparently.  Shawn heard him just this morning.  Not I though....not I!  

It's certainly not for lack of effort though.  I spend a lot of time holding him up in the air making goofy noises and faces that require me to throw all self consciousness out the window.  I've tried singing silly songs.  Apparently the surprise "POP" in pop goes the weasel isn't that funny after all.  The reaction I normally get is a look from Jonah that says, "what's this lady thinking?" 

Have you been there?  Are you with me?  Do you make the most ridiculous faces and voices in an attempt to make a baby laugh?  It's a good thing I'm not a comedian because if I had to get paid in laughter I'd be flat broke!
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Evan's After School Routine

 Each and every day after school Evan rushes into the house so he can be first on the piano.  He may not be a musical genius yet, but he's certainly working on it.  

After 20+ years of teaching piano lessons Shawn has finally decided to start writing his own piano method.  It will include a lot of American folk songs and some original tunes.  The most unique part of his method will be that he includes instructional videos (something he does well) that correlate with the written music.  Featured in the videos will be Carter and Evan.  Carter thinks he's going to be famous.

It's fun for me to help brainstorm how to distribute the videos and files but beyond that I can't be of much assistance.  I'm no musical genius....I also don't practice. 

I had to throw this picture of Jonah into the post just because he's so darn cute!  This is his Joey from Friends, "How you doin?" look.  

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mom Acne and a Solution

I hate to admit it but I don't have soft silky skin like this sweet little 3 month old.

I have skin like a 14 year old....boy!

I've heard stories from my mom and a few of my aunts and yeah...I don't think my skin is going to get better over the next 25 years.  

During Christmas break my cousin's perfect-skinned girlfriend gave me a tip for an inexpensive acne fix.  

Baking Soda and Cetaphil.  So far, it seems to be working pretty well.  All you have to do is sprinkle a little Baking Soda onto one squirt of Cetaphil.  Rub together and massage on your face then rinse clean.  For one thing, it feels GREAT on your skin and after you're done your cheeks will feel a lot like this...

...silky, smooth, and baby soft.

I was reading the back of the Baking Soda label and it's good for way more than smoothing your skin and clearing mild acne.  

You can....
remove dirt, wax, and residue from hard-skinned fruits and vegetables, and
clean burnt pots and pans.

I also didn't know this but you could clean stainless steel with Baking Soda.

You can sprinkle baking soda in the baby's bath water to help cure bad diaper rash and it can make baked goods, like my special oatmeal cookies, rise. 

What it doesn't do, is wipe the scared look off Jonah's face when he sees a giant zit on his mother's chin.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Weekend

This weekend we...

went shooting at Gran & Gramps' house.
(Photo not from this weekend but it's a picture of Evan holding a gun...I thought it worked well enough.)

I went from having long hair to having very short hair.

I took a spin class at the a result I can't sit on any hard surfaces.

We took basketball pictures.

We played basketball.

(Photo courtesy of Shawn's camera.)

We took basketball pictures - round two.

We played basketball - round two.

We signed up for Little League baseball.

We had a baby play date at an old friend's new house. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Special Oatmeal Cookies

What could be so special about oatmeal cookies?  When you add orange zest and a whole bag of white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips they go from ordinary to something special.

It's a cookie you can't walk away from.  If you're a one cookie for dessert type of person think again.  These are too good to walk away from after only one.  You'll feel the need to eat them until your stomach hurts.    

These cookies are also special because it's just about the only cookie recipe I ever make.  They're so good no one complains about the lack of variety.

Orange zest is one of those ingredients that elevates a dish and heightens the flavor of other ingredients in a recipe.  Chocolate for example goes well with orange zest.  At Thanksgiving I found out that orange zest goes great with sweet potatoes too.  

If you have a canister of Quaker Oats you have the basic recipe for these cookies.  Add a few extra ingredients and take out the raisins (yuck, who wants raisins in a cookie?) and you have something special to share with friends. (...Or you can bake the cookies on a day when no one is home and eat them all by yourself.)

Special Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Quaker Oats

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
the zest of 1 orange
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (this is an optional ingredient, but I never skip the salt)
3 cups oats, quick cook or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 bag good quality white chocolate chips
1 bag good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on the medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. (I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer).  While your mixer is running add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and orange zest.  Beat until smooth and creamy.  This should resemble something similar to a thick icing.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Add to your wet ingredients in thirds with your mixer on low.  Mix just until combined.  Scrape down edges and mix quickly once more.  Add oats and mix until just combined.  Remove from mixer and add white and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Mix with a wooden spoon.  (I've gone through several spoons with plastic handles that have snapped in half trying to mix this batter.) 

Use a small ice-cream scoop to make even sized cookies.  Drop on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cook on the middle rack of your oven for 10 minutes.  Let them cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack. 

These cookies freeze great (if they last that long.)

My kitchen counters are good for cookie baking and baby bathing.  

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

10 True Confessions

I'm going to tell on myself in this post.

If you're feeling like a slacker mom just compare yourself to me then pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

1. I don't clean my own house.  True story.  I pick things up. (But don't look in my closet.)  I organize (Oh yeah...don't look in our game closet.)  I haven't mopped the floors or vacuumed the whole house in over a year.  Before you freak out and think I live in the dirtiest house in America....I've hired someone to clean.  She does the dirty work.  I feel for her on occasion when she has to clean Carter and Evan's bathroom.

2. I haven't cleaned out the vegetable drawer in my fridge since before Christmas.  At this point I'm a little scared to.  There is a bag of grapes in there that has probably grown arms and legs and is planning a rebellion.

3. I just pulled a load of laundry from the dryer.  It's been there since last Tuesday.  If you see me at the grocery store next week I'll most likely have a wrinkled shirt on.

4. I was late to both boys basketball games today.  I was feeding Jonah but still, I could have started five minutes earlier I guess.

5. There are some soiled pants belonging to Jonah soaking in my kitchen sink.  I don't feel like dealing with them yet. (That's why I'm blogging.)

6. Wait for it.....wait for it....MY CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS ARE STILL OUT!

7. I watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

8.  I'm pretty sure Jonah was watching it last night too.

9. Everyone in my house can work any Apple product you put in front of them but can't change the toilet paper roll when it runs out.  Myself included.

(I feel good that Shawn is the only one with a cup of coffee. Carter on coffee....yikes.)

10. I had chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes for dinner.  Then two hours later I ate a bowl of cereal.

The one thing I feel good about today....

I'm glad I could help you feel good about your skills as a wife and mother.

Jonah turned 3 months old today.  I can't believe 3 months has gone by.  Can't it slow down just a little?  This is why I don't nap.  I'm afraid if I close my eyes for just a minute I'll wake up and Jonah will be 6 years old like my last baby.

I also don't nap because I am really grouchy when I wake up.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Swaddling :: One of the Best Tricks I Know

There are several products out there to help you soothe your baby when they get a little out of control and need to calm down.  Here at the Cheek house we use a baby straight jacket.  They're really hard to find here in the U.S. but are widely sold on Russian websites.  

Just kidding!

I don't really use a baby straight jacket (or shop on Russian websites).  I do however swaddle my baby so tight that you could compare it to a straight jacket.  I received the SwaddleMe for a baby gift this time around and the greatest flaw is I only have one.  Jonah will spit up on it and it will end up in the laundry basket.  Now, if I only knew how to use the SwaddleMe I'd be up a creek.  Alas, when Carter was born I learned how to swaddle the old fashioned way and used the same technic with Evan.  We use a regular square blanket and it seems to work just as well...almost better because in the middle of the night I couldn't handle the velcro on the SwaddleMe sticking to everything it came in contact with.

If you have a baby, are about to have a baby, and don't do a lot laundry like me here's a tutorial on how to swaddle your baby the old fashioned way. 

Step 1:
Find the perfect swaddling blanket.  My favorite one is a handmade blanket a past piano student gave me.  It's the perfect weight and stiffness.  When the handmade blanket is dirty, I like muslin blankets. I like to double up the muslin blankets to give extra weight to the fabric. Plus, it's harder for the baby to wiggle out of two blankets.

Step 2:
Lay your blanket out flat and fold down one corner.  Tip: If your baby falls asleep feeding like mine does make sure your blanket is already spread out and folded somewhere so it's ready to lay him down.  I like to have mine ready in the crib so I don't have to transfer him a second time.

Step 3:
Center your baby with his head just above the fold.  Make sure they are done stretching and have relaxed their arms.  Some babies like their hands down by their sides and some like them across their bellies.  It can take a few tries to find out just what your baby prefers.  Now, fold one side over his body, tucking it behind his back.  It's ok to roll them slightly to one side so you can smooth out the blanket underneath them.  They won't stay asleep with a big uncomfortable wrinkle under their back.

Step 4:
Take the bottom corner of your blanket and bring it up to his shoulder.  I like to tuck the bottom corner under Jonah's shoulder so he's less likely to unwrap himself. 

Step 5:
Take the last corner and fold it across his body and tuck under his back. Usually this is enough to keep them warm and comfy.  If it's chilly or you think your baby needs the comfort of extra weight have another blanket handy to place on top.  

You're finished and you're welcome.  This is the solution to not being able to place them on their tummies for bed time anymore. 

I tell ya, this works every time, and it was one of the most useful things I learned when Carter was a baby.   Would you believe me if I said Jonah fell right asleep after I wrapped him up?

**If you need a closer look at each step click on the picture to view a gallery of the photos from this post.**
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Evan Says, "Let's Be Honest"

Yesterday morning I made a very tasty yet healthy breakfast.  The recipe made exactly 10 mini frittatas.  Evan ate four.  He added enough picante sauce to make most six year olds cry then scarfed them down.  He also ate two slices of turkey bacon, a Cutie orange, and drank two glasses of milk.  I said, "I'm glad you like this very healthy meal Evan." Evan said, "Let's be honest, when you make a healthy meal we like I'll eat a whole lot.  When you make a healthy meal I don't like...I just eat candy." 

I know he has a candy stash...I just have to find it.

And when I find it do you think I'll gather it up and throw it in the trash?

No, I'll scarf every last piece of candy while he's at school.  He can't get mad....if he does he'd be admitting he's had a candy stash all along. 

**The recipe I referenced can be found at the blog Eighty Twenty.  Her philosophy is eat 80% healthy foods and indulge in 20% of the good stuff.  She shares great recipes and tips on leading a healthy lifestyle. I suggest you visit her site and find something to make for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.**
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Family Photo Shoots

Whenever my mom's side of the family gets together we take photos.  We take just about every combination of photo you can imagine.  We do each family individually...sisters...brothers in law...and last but not least the cousins.  We have years when each person is sort of smiling.  We have years when there's a few criers in the bunch.  Some years everyone is in the picture and some years a few will be missing.  For me (and maybe a few other cousins) this is the worst part of each Christmas gathering.  You have to stand there while everyone tries to make "the baby" smile.  There's a lot of cameras flashing and hand waving, "Yoohoo...over here...ok, me next...look this way." Every child's name is being simultaneously yelled by their mother hoping for that perfect smile.  Most years the pictures turned out just like this one from 1984.  We all look drained, a little stressed, and confused.

Oh the tables have turned!  Guess who was waving their hands, calling out names, and making a lot of strange baby noises trying to get kids to smile?  A few of us from the photo above have grown up, stepped behind the camera, and threw out all self consciousness.  We waved our hands, said our children's names in a sing song voice, and did all that we could to get them to look at the camera and smile.  It doesn't work.  They just won't listen to sound advice and instruction.  

Why is it that between 1984 and 2011 a better formula for family picture taking hasn't been discovered.  All the kids still look drained, stressed, and a little confused?  

The one constant however is Grandma.  She's the only one who looks at the right camera, at the right time, and smiles. 

Followers of this blog all know who Jonah is.  (The kid on the left.)  The kid on the right is Landon, my cousin Michael's son.  Michael and I are exactly one month apart.  Jonah and Landon are about 3 months apart.  Baby photo shoots are hard.  They don't stay still and rarely look at the camera.  These two guys kept taking turns spitting up and drooling.  (What you don't see is the giant drool stains I tried editing out before posting this picture.) 

After seeing the pictures of Jonah and Landon I recalled a few pictures from the 80s of Michael and me.  


 Since my mother is so tech savvy these days I have her to thank for the retro pictures.  She was able to scan old pictures onto her computer AND attach them to an e-mail. (Way to go Mom!)

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Baby Patterned Baldness

Over the past several days when Jonah wakes up in his crib, this is what I see. 

His hair...Tons of his hair.  My poor baby is going bald!  Now, I know this happens to a lot of babies but poor Jonah...He has so few hairs to begin with.  

He's balding in patches like the back of his head and the side.  It's a good thing we live in Texas, because the mullet look he has going on will allow him fit right in at the large multi-purpose chain stores that shall remain nameless.  

In the mean time, he can wear hats while I take a lint roller to his sheets.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

I should have written something about the new year on January 1st, however that would have required rest and planning.  I didn't write in January 1st because I was doing this on December 31st. 

That's right people.  I rang in the new year playing Bingo.  Bingo with lucky black eyed peas as place holders.  I also rang in the new year wearing my newest fashion accessory...Jonah.  It's best to be celebrating the new year in the highest of fashion.  

The people I party with....they're family.  

They also wear the latest in fashion design.  See those t-shirts? 

See these glasses?

This might have been the hippest party in all the United States.