Monday, April 29, 2013

{Wild} life in the Valley

Our neighborhood is in metro Birmingham but our home is nestled in the valley between two hills alongside of a couple of creeks and is just about as beautiful and peaceful as we could imagine having anywhere--city or country.

It is quiet and heavily wooded with trees taller than I knew they could grow outside of lands that are protected.

We have wildlife and critters of all kinds. Which could not be more awesome when you have an outdoorsy 2.5 year old little fella.

You've already met Gary the Snail. (in case you missed it and are intrigued--click here for a post about a snail.)

Here's Hootie, the Barred Owl who hangs out VERY VERY (almost too close) to our back porch in the evenings.

Hootie is the reason I am hesitant to get a kitten and very thankful we didn't get Lizzy a bunny to go with her bunny 1st birthday theme.

We have zillions of pics of a dozen or so deer on a trail camera that sits about 10 feet from the end of our driveway. Bucks, doe and fawn (fawns? fawni?).

Raccoons are also often on the camera.

And Cody the Coyote was found on the camera at the end of our driveway. (Again, no kittens for us.)

A very large hawk (who also perches the in the same spot as Hootie)

Woodpeckers and Red Birds GALORE.

Squirrels and Chipmonks (Jay calls them "Chicky-Monks") by the truckload....or bird feeder load?

We "inherited" these bird feeders with the house as well as 5 or so birdhouses that we cleaned out and several are now occupied this spring.

I've also Identified Eastern Bluebirds, White-breasted Nuthatch, Mockingbirds, Robin, and many more yet-to-be-identified-birds all frequenting the bird feeder by the kitchen window. I hope to teach Jay and Lizzy (and myself) about bird-watching  My grandparents would sit and watch their feeders or sit on the back patio and ID birds and calls. I learned just a little but remember realizing how relaxing but intriguing it was. I wish I would have learned more about it from them, but its a start.

We've also spotted a Peacock roaming our neighborhood, I presume it's a pet.

(P.S. Peacocks are REALLY difficult to see when cruising at 35 on a shady road. They are short and sleek and kind of blend in with the pavement. I really don't know how I would explain to Jay what happened if I ran him over but we came very close to that today.)

(P.P.S. If you live in a residential area and have an exotic bird as a pet, you might be advised to share with him a little story about a chicken crossing the road and not making it to the other side! If its Tahoe vs. Peacock the Tahoe wins.)

Weekend and wellness.

I'd just planned a little post about our little fam celebrating Daddio's birthday yesterday...but the stomach virus had other plans for us.

Jay woke at midnight Friday night with a high fever followed by nausea at 2...he kept the fever and was puny all day so, we visited the after-hours clinic on Satuday afternoon (at this point it was really just fever). Let's just say it was worst between 3-7 Saturday with fever, weakness, stomach issues and at one point him just laying forehead to the hardwood making the most pitiful groans and moans you've ever heard.

He started to act like himself again by Noon on Sunday and is back to normal personality-wise, but still has some lingering symptoms.

Our weekend has been filled with lots of rest with Diego and Max and Ruby, laundry, Gatorade and showers.

We did manage to celebrate Dad with a pancake breakfast and presents and by dinner time Jay was feeling up to blowing out Dad's candles.

So, in our pj's we'll remain. I'm planning a CFA picnic on the deck for lunchtime today with the hope that it will be a fun change from Gatorade, goldfish and laying on e ottoman for my little patient.

So far, Jay is the only one who the virus has taken down. We're praying it stays this way.

Friday, April 26, 2013


My sweet cousin, Kathy shared this cake with us a few weeks ago when Grandmommy passed away and shared the recipe with me this week when a friend of Dede's lost her father.

This is my new go-to recipe when I need a dessert to take to a friend, family or pot-luck. It is amazing.

Kathy and I cook the exact same way...only measuring when necessary and shooting from the hip. What can I say?? When it comes to the kitchen we were both raised right.

This is how Kathy and I made this awesome cake.

1 box Chocolate Cake mix ( i used Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge) according to package directions.
3 Tablespoons Instant Coffee, dissolved in a bit of water

Follow cake instructions, I cut about 5 minutes off of my baking time to make sure my cake was nice and most and to prevent any burning of the edges.

2/3 Cup softened butter
2 1/2 to 3 cups Confectioners sugar
3T Cocoa ( i used Hershey's)
Strong Brewed Coffee and Cream (I did 1/2 cup of HOT water with 3T of instant coffee and added enough vanilla creamer to make the coffee a khaki color)

Mix  butter and sugar (add sugar in thirds) on medium, then switch to high after butter and sugar are incorporated  Add Coffee Tablespoon at time and mix well. (Mixture will be sandy before adding the liquid, ti's okay) If your frosting is too grainy  add more (coffee) liquid. If it's too bland add another 1/2 -1 teaspoon of cocoa. If it's too runny add more confectioners sugar and make it your own. 

Try this next time you are taking food to a new parent, new neighbor, the bereaved  a pot-luck, or anytime you and coffee lovers gather in the name of glucose.


Easter Sunday 2013

(Sorry for the delay, we left our camera at Dede and Papa's...them I forgot to play catch up when we retrieved it)

The Easter Buuny came to visit Lizzy and Jay

 We went to church at Vestavia Hills United Methodist (The day which shall forever be known as the Sunday that Lizzy didn't cry in the nursery), then went to Dede and Papa's for lunch and egg hunting....

 Loved Jay and Lizzy's matching outfits, although I couldn't force a pic of them by themselves...they were adorable in Orient Expressed blue pique. 

Dede and Little Lizzy Big Bow

Marriage Rule #86

When making food to take out of the home (to the bereaved, a potluck, or neighbors) make another to leave at your home for the hubs and your family.

Especially if the hubs has seen it or evidence that it existed.

Super-especially if its the hubs birthday week.

Sorry, dear...I'll make it up to ya!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Zipping through April (except Gary, he's slow)

Hi, Hello, we're still here!

Ah, life these days is busy as can be and with my recent procrastination post about all of the things I wanted to do post-baby-birthday we've been, well...busy!

We've reclaimed bedtime and I'm still working on that darn housekeeping schedule. The reality is that I probably need to schedule the housekeeping around 3-4 days per week instead of 5-7. I need to build in some flexibility. That is probably true of just about every single aspect of life these days-- we do best with a balance of structure and flexibility.

Just to catch us all up--we have a new pet! Meet Gary! Our pet snail. Yep, as in garden snail.

 Daddio found him in the driveway while we were hunting bugs. Thanks to the Bug Catcher we picked up at Target in the Dollar spot in February.

Sunday after church Papa and Weston came over with a new tank (our "snailarium"), house, water bowl and other goodies for Gary. So, it became official that we were keeping him. (Note to self: never again name a creature that you intend to let go. It then becomes a pet and cannot simply disappear in the middle of the night.)

Then on Monday, Weston came back to visit Gary and darned if he didn't find another snail in the driveway as he left. So, now we have Gary and "Backup Gary" (his name has changed every day, I'll be sure to update you when we have one that sticks.)

So, among all of the other happenings at our house lately we've become researchers and builders of the perfect snail habitat. Snail nerds are us. Don't be jealous, it isn't as glamorous as it sounds.

Among other random news--Jay learned to do this--

Lizzy and Gus have learned to do this--
As I am scrolling through phone pics, it would appear that Jay has a new affinity for "hats"

he also prefers balanced meals...

Oh, and whatever you do, don't get this kid an ice cream cone unless you have an hour or so to kill. he eats it one teeny-tiny lick at a time-
Lizzy was less than amused, half an hour later...
April's almost over already! Boy it's been a busy one around here!!

Lizzy {12 Months}

Weight: 23 pounds, 10 ounces
Height: 30.5 inches

Shes "greater than 97th percentile" in head and height and 80th percentile in weight. Dr. Malone says she could stand to have a little more belly.

Luckily, I consider fattening people up as one of my highest callings! Buckle up, Lizzy we're about to get a belly!

Foods: We've introduced peanut butter (our first line of attack in the Battle for the Bulge). She is a fan so far.
Scrambled eggs, biscuits, donuts, bagels and oatmeal are all in the breakfast rotation. Lunch is usually a grilled cheese, pb sammich, or macaroni and cheese and dinner is soup, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, bean and cheese quesadilla or tostada, sometimes pasta or chicken/ she is not a fan or meat or most fruits and veggies. We're working on it.

Words: She mimics a lot of sounds and names, but rarely speaks on her own other than Dada, Jay, Gus, Whassat, Whassis, Mom-Mom. She will E-i-e-i-o appropriately during Old McDonald. She says night-night and uh-oh.

She says "Cheeeee" when she sees a phone camera and "shoes" when we talk about going bye-bye.

She also counts to 10 when you go up or down steps while holding her. (UUNN, DOOO, SHREEE, (silence for 4 and 5) SISSS, SEBEM, (silence for 8) NIIIINNNNEE, TEN) Nine is her favorite by far.

Not yet walking, but will walk holding your hands which is a "Step" since last month.

Nicknames: Liz, Goo, Baby Boom-Boom, Jay sometimes calls her "Sweet-sweet" which means, I guess we do too!

She is a joy, joy, joy. The worst thing that happens to Lizzy on any given day is when I take her toothbrush away after she's brushed with it/chewed on it for almost 10 minutes. Other than that she is a happy, easy going gal. I tell people that I think she's just a happy hippie because she is so laid back most of the time.

That being said--she's making progress with the church nursery and made it through 2 straight weeks with just a moment of crying when I drop her off. And all the people said "AMEN"!

Happiest at Home

As much as we like to be on the go and soaking up all of the activities geared for preschoolers and toddlers at the bookstores, libraries, zoos, jumpy fun zones and parks I've stumbled upon a secret and I want to share it with you...

My kids are happiest at home. 

Or at least they seem to be at this phase of life.

Here's another secret--we're all happier this way.

Let me be clear I (the 33 year-old housewife) am a big fan of all of the programs geared toward entertaining and stimulating our little ones. I love the idea of enriching their lives with days of zoo exploration, introducing science, music, prose and on and on.

The reality is that with a rambunctious 2.5 year old and a one year old, these activities really only exercise my ability to control an uncontrollable situation, my son's creativity in rule-pushing and my daughter's frustration and lack of understanding of the task at hand. Oh, and there's the fact that a day out at some of these free activities often somehow costs about fifty smackers or so by the time we park, snack, get a "prize" for being somewhat well-behaved, someone runs out of juice so we have to snack get the point.

So, I'm taking the pressure off and letting the "Family Events and Things-to-Do" calendars go.

With summer just ahead I feel like everywhere I turn I feel pressured to drag my kids to some 3-5 hour enrichment program "designed just for our little explorers". I'm sure I'm not the only one. This week the kids and I spent an entire day at home. I was very productive around the house, nap times and meal times were on schedule and without issue. We played, ran, giggled and read a dozen or so books. No one shed a tear, no one fussed, no timeouts were needed and no voices were raised.

Lately basically the opposite has been happening when we visit our local bookstores, zoos, kids museums, parks, etc.

I'm not trying to turn us into hermits or homebodies, I'm just stepping away from the expectation (is it mine? is it others?) that I need to spend 2 days a week running errands and filling the other days with complicated things-to-do.

What's important right now is that I foster kindness and character in my kids. This doesn't mean I have to force them to listen to a stranger read them a story and sit still and be quiet and be a good listener in a room full of people they'll likely never see again. It's overwhelming to them and frustrating to me.

So if you're feeling this way too, I give you permission as well to skip the story times, toddler treasure trails, and preschool buddies sing-a-longs. We'll all be okay.

Instead we'll crank up the tunes at home, check out wildlife everywhere we find it, read our stories when we choose and make up new games to foster creativity. We'll enrich our lives through friendships and family-and yes, take a trip to the zoo and the bookstore-but without the pressure of making it in time for special programs, making new "buddies", and without expectation.