Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Splish Splash

Last week we continued the Summer Park Tour with a trip to Starlight Ridge Park.

Audrey and her youngest son Mason invited us there. This park is in Audrey’s neighborhood, and I have to confess that whenever I go to her place I have house envy.

She has the perfect house for raising a family- both the physical structure, and the warmth you feel from the family atmosphere that Audrey has created. The fact that Audrey always serves me a glass of wine or a Corona as soon as I enter the door doesn’t hurt either.

The neighborhood is full of kids as well as this amazing park.

There are two good-sized playground structures here. I’m sure they have great stuff on them, but the main attraction was the splash park.

We went on the warmest day of the summer thus far. After scarfing down a picnic lunch, the kids were immediately in the water, where they played for almost two hours until the mean mothers said that time was up.

I love splash parks! It is so much easier than a swimming pool.

The kids were exhausted afterwards- I think all three of mine took naps that afternoon.

The only downside to this park is that you have to be a member of the community with a fob to gain access to the bathroom and turn on the water. Otherwise, this is a PERFECT park.

Vincent has already said multiple times that when we get a new house he wants to live next door to his friend Mason. Audrey better watch out, we might decide to move in down the street.

There goes the neighborhood.

Here is the current SPT ranking:

1. Aurora Park

2. Starlight Ridge Park (This park would be number one, if only we had a fob!!!)

3. Seaview Park


Monday, June 27, 2011

A Special Card

Patrick and my closest friends will tell you that I am clutter phobic. If we don’t need it, use it, or love it, it is outta here. Knick-knacks are NOT my thing. If it collects dust, it probably doesn’t serve a very important purpose. I am of the mindset that if you collect everything, you value nothing.

This has held true even after having children. While I have kept a handful of sentimental things for the kids, they are few and far between. I don’t feel compelled to keep every drawing or painting. Projects goes up on their respective bulletin boards in the kitchen for a few days, but once it is replaced by a newer, better version, it is gone...forever.

A week or so before Valentine’s Day Vincent told me he had made me a special card. He said it was on blue paper, because I love his blue eyes. He told me he wrote I love you on the card and used a heart in place of the word love, just like I do on his occasional lunchbox notes.

The build up to this card rivaled that of the royal wedding.

So on Valentine’s Day we checked his file box and there was a lovely pink heart shaped Valentines card, handmade by Vinny. I was informed that this was NOT my special card.

The following weekend was the school art show and open house. Vincent asked his teacher where my card was. Mrs. Abang said she had sent all the cards home. Vincent explained that the pink card the whole class made was NOT the same as my special card and described this card in great detail. He was quite emotional about it, which he very seldom gets over “things”. We both assured him it would turn up, but I had my doubts. Vincent then repeated this same conversation with the principal later in the day. This card had really riled up my normally mellow, go-with-the-flow kid.

For weeks Vincent continued to talk about this special card, and say things like, “I can’t wait for you to see it!” and “ You are going to love it!” We would check the file box every afternoon to see if it was there, to no avail.

Vincent finally stopped asking about the card. He either forgot about it, or lost hope. Then one day in May when I was pulling the various notices and reminders out of Vincent’s file box, he caught a glimpse of it- this blue Valentine’s Day card...that he made for me weeks before Valentine’s Day... during free playtime.

It is on blue paper.

It says “I love U!” just like his lunchbox notes, even if the U and the exclamation point are juxtaposed.

There is a heart drawn in place of the word love.

It is finished off with a few shapes and stamps of spiders and octopus, thrown in for good measure.

Most importantly, he made it on his his free time...when he could have been building with magna tiles or pretending to be a firefighter with his classmates...for his mom.

I decluttered yesterday. I hate clutter. The card has been on Vincent’s bulletin board since it we brought it home from school. A new painting he made at the rec center went in its place, but this card went in my drawer. Not because it is any spectacular work of art. In fact it is pretty unremarkable. It is the sentiment and story that go with this special card that make it such a valued possession.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Polygamy Love

I don’t know why I have been so fascinated with polygamy lately. I asked Patrick if we could drive thru Colorado City on our impending road trip this summer. He looked at me like I had three husbands heads.

It is entirely possible that I am watching too many episodes of Sister Wives.

Anyways, I just finished reading The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall.

You know that I hate spoilers, so I will just tell you that it is the story of a polygamist with 3 wives who finds himself in the middle of a sticky affair. It took me a month to finish, not because I didn’t enjoy it, or for lack of trying. It’s just that I have been having a hard time staying awake at night.

I think I have a vitamin deficiency...and a sleep disorder...or maybe it is just having three children.

The book is approximately 600 pages. I thought it was going to be hard to follow, especially when I saw the family tree on the front page that includes all 28 children...and my attention span isn’t what it used to be. However, because the author tells the story from the point of view of just a few of the family members, as well as the houses in which they live, it was not hard to keep track of what was happening to whom.

The characters are well developed. Most of them are likeable. Rusty will tug at your heartstrings. As the novel progresses there are a few twists that you don’t expect. The book is not satirical, but a rather respectful take on relationships, expectations, and religious choices that could be applied to just about anyone. Overall, it is a good read.

For a full review go here, but remember The New York Time gives too much away, in my opinion.

Now that I have finished this novel, I am afraid I will not get an adequate polygamist drama fix.

I think I will add Big Love it to the Netflix queue- something new to watch in all my free time.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pill Bug Terrariums

The boys have been so excited about their Summer Bucket List. One of the items they have really been looking forward to is making Pill Bug Terrariums. Luckily, it was one of the first activities we pulled from the bucket last week.

This is the easiest activity. I saved three medium sized jars so that each child could have their own. Then, during a sleepless night with Franklin I thought glass jars on the concrete patio would not be the brightest idea. These are the things I think about at night when a child refuses to sleep- Pill Bug houses...and retiring in Charleston...and Jack Daniels.

I went to plan B and gave them an empty plastic peanut butter container. They need to learn to share anyways. When I went to punch holes in the lid it cracked, so we put holes around the sides at the top. Good enough.

The kids scooped potting soil into the jar and added various types of leaves from around the yard.

They put in a large stick for the bugs to climb on.

Then they searched for Pill Bugs, or as we call them, Roly Polys. We have an abundance of them.

I saw a little bug box for two bucks this week at Target. It comes with a tweezers, magnifying glass, bug maze, a catcher and a mesh container. Totally worth the money if you have a child that is squeamish about picking up bugs. My children are not, but we picked up one to add to our bug empire. We are becoming the Trumps of roly polys. Don't be jealous.

This activity has been a great distraction for the boys. When bickering starts, or I need to clear out the dishwasher, I send them to the back yard to find Rolys...and all is right with the world.

The level of commitment and responsibility the boys have shown with the terrarium has surprised me. They remember to spray the soil every other day to keep it moist, and they feed the bugs various vegetable scraps. While we have had very few casualties, I am not trusting the boys to take over the dog duties just yet.

Check out what other things people are crossing off their Summer Bucket Lists here!

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Monday, June 20, 2011

A Preschool Year in Review

When you have children everything starts moving at hyper speed. This was never more evident to me than last week when Vincent finished his first year of preschool. What is it about measuring time by school years that makes it seem to fly by even more quickly?

Here he is on the first day. My first born going to school. I know it was only a couple days a week, but allow me the drama.

I made cake pops when they celebrated the October birthdays. Vinny is always up for a good cake pop.

The fall festival included live animals. It was a huge hit.

Vincent class got to be donkeys and lambs in the Christmas pageant.

Does this make me the mother of a donkey’s behind?

Santa came to visit at Christmas. Vincent wanted nothing to do with it.

Their first field trip was to the bakery. There is Vincent and Loren. Loren would give both Vincent and Franklin a hug at end of the day dismissal, a fact that was not lost on Franklin. Both boys adore her.

Then there was the trip to the zoo to see the capachin monkeys, which I always mispronounce, and Vincent always corrects me. I know how to pronounce it now, but don’t tell Vincent.

Mother’s Day Tea is still talked about almost daily in our house, and my gift is proudly displayed next to the computer.

Daddy’s Pizza Night was an equally big hit. Vincent made placemats for himself and Patrick. Patrick’s said, “My daddy likes to watch football.” Vincent’s said, “I like resting.” Resting is code in out house for “laying down on mom and dad's bed for a half-an-hour watching Power Rangers, while mom starts dinner.”

The last day of school. I only noticed the day before that his uniform pants are about two inches too short. They started off a bit too long. When did all this growing happen?

The end-of-the-year pot luck was wonderful, complete with entertainment. Lantern Bay park will soon be featured on our Summer Park Tour.

There were so many events that I didn’t get my camera out for I this year, as I was wrestling with Franklin or Coco- the Halloween and Easter parades, the Art Show, the Marian Day celebration and the May pole. There will be opportunities to get pictures of those next year, but I would have been really sad, as would Vincent, if I didn’t get these photos with his amazing teachers.

I could not have asked for a better first school experience for Vincent. Mrs. Abang has the patience of a saint. I have never seen someone so calm and consistent. It was probably a shock for Vincent, coming from the constant crazy of our home. Vincent has never done great with leaving me, but his face lit up in the morning when he saw Mrs. Abang at the classroom door.

Mrs. Masters was really on the ball. I don’t think anything can get past that woman- exactly what you want when you leave your child at school. Franklin seems to think he will be in her class next year. I think Mrs. Masters would understand Franklin perfectly. I appreciate Mrs. Master’s sense of humor and how she understood Vincent.

If you ask Vincent, he will probably tell you Mrs. Leach hung the moon, invented candy, and launched the space shuttle. Everyday Vincent would report the activity he did with Mrs. Leach or what Mrs. Leach said. The days he got to be her helper were like winning the lottery. To say that Vincent adores Mrs. Leach would be a gross understatement.

So there it is, the year in review. My dad asked him the other day if he was learning anything new at school. He replied, “no, we just learn about God.” In reality, he went from writing VH as his name to writing Vincent H. He recognizes letters and numbers and asks me how to spell things. He has figured out how to play with kids that are not his siblings.

He has self control...he gets that from his father.

And he learns about God. I can’t ask for much more than that.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Date Night In

Back in October, Patrick and I had a long talk about trying to make more time for us as a couple- not an easy task with 3 little children. The timing of the discussion coincided with Colette turning a year old, when it became easier for mommy to leave her for a few hours in the evening.

Any parent can tell you that once kids enter the picture it is easy to forget your spouses needs (and your own) because you are responsible for this new little life. We decided to make “date night” once a month a priority. December marked the first month it actually happened, and we have kept it up each month. We even took a weekend away at the end of April.

Then, a few months back I saw on Little Wonder Days this great idea for a date night in, and was totally inspired by Kelly who would make an appetizer and cocktail for her husband and her to share when the kids went to bed on Friday nights. She calls it “Happy Friday Night.”

Why didn’t I think of that? Our Friday night usually consisted of a late dinner with the kids so they could see daddy before bed, and there was usually a meltdown from someone. They were tired. And hungry. And tired.

This was followed by a litany of yelling back and forth through various rooms in the house: “Whose teeth did you floss?”

“Franklin, we don’t jump like Spiderman when we are naked.”

“The dog does not need to put on pajamas too.”

“Your toothbrush belongs in your mouth only.”

By the time everyone was in bed it was 8:30 and we were done. No intelligent conversation can take place after sorting out where everyone’s night-nights are and making sure bedside waters are the right temperature.

So, I did what any mother starved for adult attention would do...I stole Kelly’s idea.

Now, on most Friday nights, I have the kids feed, bathed, flossed and brushed before Patrick gets home. They get a few minutes to play with daddy and off they go to bed.

Then, we eat something together and have an adult drink and do something that hasn’t been done in our house on Friday night’s for a long time...we have a conversation! It often doesn’t even revolve around the children!

Last Friday I made this really easy Warm Shrimp Dip.

It was super quick and yummy. I sautéed about 4 oz of chopped shrimp (you could use fresh or frozen). When that was cooked I added a small can of sliced olives and a small can of diced green chilis (both drained) as well as two chopped green onions (the white and green parts) and about a quarter cup of light mayo. Once that was warmed through I poured it into a bowl and added about a quarter cup of blue cheese to the mix. You could use feta if you prefer. I served it with various crackers and tortilla chips, but think it was best with Wheat Thins.

We had some white wine. Shocking, I know.

I cut some roses from the garden. It has been a good year for my roses.

And I made these Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bars for dessert. Don’t be a hater, I did it for the sake of my marriage.

If you need some “Date Night In” inspiration check out this antipasto tray Kelly makes. She might find Patrick and I on her doorstep one Friday night.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SPT- Aurora Park

Stop number two on the Summer Park Tour is Aurora Park.

I have to give Patrick credit for this one. He told me a few weeks ago that he had seen this park from a far and though we should try it out. Since he was the one who discovered it, I thought it was only fair that we go on the weekend when he could be with us.

Then, if I hated it I could tell him immediately...repeatedly...and vehemently...that he was a complete parenting amateur and could never again be trusted to make decisions for the family.

Luckily for Patrick, this park is amazing!

We picked up bagels and coffee (lots of coffee) and drove over. This park is tucked into an older neighborhood and is absolutely beautiful. It is a big park, with lots to do, but feels intimate. There are four sets of coffee style tables with benches around three sides of them, kind of like a living room. You can see the kids playing from just about everywhere in the park.

There are two play structures (one for little kids and one for older kids), a half basketball court, a small field, and an adjacent hiking trail.

When we first got there the park was empty, but for a couple teenagers shooting hoops. As the morning wore on, it got busier.

There seemed to be a lot of grandparents with grandchildren that walked over from the neighborhood homes. This thrilled me because not only was there a nice sense of community, but the children were all supervised.

I know I am going to sound like an old woman, but what is it nowadays with parents who don’t supervise their kids???


  • Two play structures
  • Six slides
  • Three rock walls
  • Swings
  • Lots of places to sit
  • Sand
  • Rubber playground material
  • Easy parking
  • Play area away from the street
  • Great visibility
  • Peaceful


  • No bathrooms

Franklin "waiting to catch” Coco on the slide.

Vincent hits a rock wall.

Colette and Franklin were on the swings for a long time. None of my kids have really ever liked to swing until the last few months. When Vinny was younger he would fall asleep in them. I wish getting him to sleep nowadays was that easy!

A rare photo of myself with the kids. I tell Patrick he has to take the photos occasionally so that when they are older they know that I did stuff with them...and wasn’t home alone...drinking. This triple slide was so much fun.

Aurora Park has taken over the top spot on the Summer Park Tour. If you are keeping track, here is the current ranking:

1. Aurora Park

2. Seaview Park

Thanks for reading!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Kick Off Party

Vincent has been chomping at the bit to start working on our Summer Bucket List. On the last day of school, I though we would usher in summer with a new family tradition and have a Summer Kick Off Party.

We all got ready for bed early, before Patrick got home from work. The Southern California “June gloom” is lingering this year so we couldn't eat outside, but we did get out our summer place mats. We had pizza and melon for dinner and talked about the best parts of the school year.

For dessert we had a Sand Cake.

Franklin was concerned it was real sand- so he put his tongue in it. This is why we don’t invite non-family members to our parties.

Once it was determined that this sand was edible everyone rejoiced.

Nothing says, “summer is here” like sand and umbrellas.

Then we read each item on our Summer Bucket List. After every item Vincent would say, “Ohh, I hope we can do that one tomorrow.”

The boys folded each one and placed them in the bucket, which is permanently displayed on the kitchen table until the end of summer.

Let the summer fun begin!

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