Monday, March 31, 2008

Different strokes for different folks

The boys were painting the other day and when they were finished and we were cleaning up I noticed their paint trays. This picture describes their different artistic styles better than words ever could.

Spencer (the tray on the right): His picture will be done in five minutes or less and then he is bored and wants to do something different. His picture will be very representational but messy. He is a little more apt to think "outside the box" notice in the two empty holes he mixed colors but Ev usually won't do that.

Evan (the tray on the left): He will paint all day long if you let him. He takes his time and is very deliberate in his pictures. At this point his paintings are mostly just blobs of color - every once in a while he paints "something". He painstakingly keeps the colors from blending - he is very good about washing his brush off between strokes.

It was funny to me how different two brothers can be.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm crazy for this little lady...

Now I will have that Lenny Kravitz song stuck in my head all night.

It was so beautiful outside yesterday I was able to get Hailey out for a few photos. I bought this hat for her last year when she was teeny tiny and obviously she never wore it because it was too big. I just found the hat the other day while going through a drawer in her room. I was bummed that she didn't get to wear it more during this winter season - it is so cute! I love the color of her eyes in these pictures. I swear her eyes change shades of blue!

Modeling the hat that came with the sweater. It sort of makes her look Swedish - she wasn't diggin' it much.

Her new kicks. How cute are these? She will need them soon since she is taking lots of steps! Big stuff on the horizon.

Showing off her teeth! The big smiles come out once the hats come off!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday night treat

Evan: Is this 7-UP?

Daddy: No.

Evan: Is it 30-UP?

Daddy: It's rootbeer.

Evan: Oh - right!

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's not just shots anymore!

I took Spence to the doctor this afternoon and like I surmised, a virus or a touch of the flu. We are just supposed to watch him and treat him for the flu. Rest, lots of liquids and medicine for his pain.

The doctor thought his throat looked a bit red and since strep is pretty rampant right now, decided to do a strep test. Spence did great since it was his first time and he didn't realize how awful it was going to be.

I have no doubt that from now on trips to the doctor will go something like this: Will I have to get a shot? Will I have to have that giant Q-tip shoved down my throat? I can't blame him. The last strep test I had was in college and it was horrible - I think I almost threw up.

I am feeling a little more at ease since seeing the doctor but the Mom in me is still having a hard time seeing my baby feeling so bad.

What good is a perfect attendance trophy in real life anyway?

He made it to March 28th. Not a bad stretch of wellness for a 6 year old kindergartner - I have seen with my own eyes the sneezing, coughing and random "ickiness" that permeates through his class everyday. Way to go immune system!

Spencer has had some trouble this week. Since I have been so busy dealing with that, I failed to notice until late Wednesday evening that he was not looking like himself. The thermometer revealed a low grade fever and he told me his body felt "dizzy". I gave him some Tylenol and put him back to bed and the next morning he woke up fever free. He still looked a little peaked but I sent him to school anyway because he had some issues to deal with. He seemed fine after school but then into the evening he started to feel sick again. Since Wednesday he has complained of a headache, sore joints (that is the body dizziness), back pain and a cough. His cough is sounding a little worse and this morning he told me his ear hurt a little. He still had a fever this morning so we told him he couldn't go to school today.

Today of course is the day at school he has been looking forward to for the past two weeks. Pajama Day! I felt so sad for him - he was practically begging to go. He told me to just give him medicine and he would be OK. I can just call you if I feel sick at school! Please can I go? It made my heart ache that he was so disappointed. I told him that he couldn't go to school with a fever because he might give his germs to the others kids and then his friends would get sick too. Eventually, through his tears, he agreed that the right thing to do was to stay home.

So here we are, all at home. He is having his own private pajama day which unfortunately is really not the same thing at all. He has a doctor appointment this afternoon. I suspect he has some "non specific viral illness" but I am worried about an ear infection and I really would rather not spend the weekend stressing about what is wrong with him. The doctor will most likely put my mind at ease so I won't spend every minute of the day googleing meningitis and doing symptom checks on WebMD. Yes, that is what a freak I am.

Anyway, he is home today so he no longer has perfect attendance for this year. It was a good goal to go for but his health is more important. There is always next year!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The next Mitch Gaylord?

I am surely showing my age with the title of this post. I don't care - Mitch ruled at the 1984 Olympics and I think every teenage girl in America fell in love with him. Remember he went on to do that American Anthem movie? I thought that movie was the BEST! Only when I see it now do I realize how horrible it really was. He may have not been great at acting but no one could touch him in gymnastics! I guess I could have titled this post with Paul Hamm or someone a little more recent but Mitch and Mary Lou were from my day and I still am amazed by their abilities. They will always be tremendous American athletes. I digress...

I took these photos yesterday at Evan's last day of gymnastics. In the fall he did the same class for a month and now just finished his second go at it. He really enjoys the class and was a little bummed that it is over. It wasn't in my opinion a real gymnastics class. The high school gymnastics team just basically held their hands as they walked the beam or jumped off the vault. The kid's have fun though and get to burn off a ton of energy so it is totally worth it.

We are thinking about getting him into a real class maybe next fall. I am sure it will be a bigger time commitment so we will have to make sure that he is really into it - but if that is something he wants to do, we will make it happen. I think he would be a really great gymnast. He definitely has the body type for it and already has an amazing "springiness". I don't know what it is but when he jumps it is like he is on a trampoline all the time - kind of like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh! I would love it if gymnastics is something he wants to pursue. I would much rather have him be a gymnast than a football player. Gymnasts are tough - I would like to see a football player on the rings or that high bar.

Olympics year 2020? Who knows?

I love this picture because this is Evan's version of two thumbs up. If we give him the thumbs up this is what he does back.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Easter Blessings

I would take these three over a Cadbury Egg any day, but thanks to my thoughtful mother and my husband who remembers with a shudder the "Easter incident of 1996" - I was able to enjoy both. I am truly blessed!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

If Duff saw this he would cry in his fondant.

The past four or five years, I have made a bunny cake for Easter. Not always this 3-D version - there is also the basic rabbit head with bow cake. This year I decided since we were not hosting Easter at our house and since last year we traveled the bunny cake all over with us and no one ate it - I would not make the cake. As fate would have it, Spencer asked me yesterday when we were going to make the bunny cake. So, I kind of felt like I had to make one - at least for
our family - and let's face it - it is not too hard to convince me to make something sweet.

The boys and I made the cake and decorated it today. It is not our best work. I have to confess that I should have doubled the frosting recipe to cover all of the imperfections but at the point I realized that, I was much too tired and figured that the boys and I didn't care what it looked like and we were the only ones that were going to eat it. The boys were giddy with happiness - they named the bunny Shoovey and kept asking me to take pictures of them with him. Oh o.k...if you REALLY want me to.

What was funny was that the whole time I was "constructing" this cake I couldn't stop thinking of Chef Duff and the Ace of Cakes show. PS - One of my all time favorite shows on TV. I don't know how close Baltimore is to where my cousin is getting married, but know this, if we go to that wedding and Charm City Cakes is within an hour drive time - we are SO THERE! I want my picture taken in front of that building and if they have a second - obviously a few decorating tips!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Our Good Friday tradition is to color Easter eggs - so that is what we did this afternoon. We have been doing this for years. As infants, our kids were forced to watch and participate to the best of their ability. Even before the kids were born, Trent and I would color eggs on Good Friday - probably because we are the geekiest people on Earth but we tend to enjoy doing things that most people would find mundane.

What was funny this year is how excited the boys were to BOIL the eggs. They had watched "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" on TV and thought the part where Marcy puts the eggs in the toaster, the waffle maker and eventually cracks them in the boiling water to make "egg soup" and Peppermint Pattie's frustration with her through it all was about the funniest thing they had ever seen in their young lives. Spencer even decided that Evan should start calling him "sir" as Marcy does to Peppermint Pattie. On a side note, I had never really noticed how "butch" Pattie was until I watched this special with them - and believe me, I have watched a lot of Charlie Brown. Since they were so excited, we decided to boil the eggs yesterday so they would be all ready for coloring today. I have never seen two kids so excited to set eggs into a pan of water. I don't know what they thought was going to happen - I told them that the boiling process was going to be pretty much the opposite of exciting.

After the eggs were hard boiled and I picked out the few that for some reason always crack open. I put them in the garage refrigerator. Big mistake. The fridge is as old as I am ( it came from the house I grew up in) and it runs on the cold side. The milk and pop we put in there will sometimes come out more like a Slurpee - better frozen than rancid I guess. So today I discovered that almost all of them had frozen and cracked open - not the ideal state of eggs for coloring. I called Trent at work and asked him on his way home to pick up another dozen.

Once we had eggs, the coloring began. Spence with his teenage-like attention span did his seven eggs and was ready to watch Ben 10 or whatever mind numbing show was on. Apparently, the actual coloring doesn't hold a candle to the boiling. Weirdo - I guess the boiling is kind of scientific and he really gets into science stuff and experiments. Evan being the artist that he is couldn't get enough. He even colored the cracked ones. Even Hailey got to put stickers on her own little egg. She liked picking at the stickers and then was trying to eat the egg -shell and all. In frustration she dropped it on the floor, of course it cracked apart so I cut it up for her to eat without the shell.

Spencer doesn't really get the concept of seasonal appropriate clothes. He doesn't think that a tank top in 20 degree weather is a poor choice. I have stopped fighting him since he strips out of his clothes about ten times a day, I am just happy he had something on.

The Easter Lily that Spence and Trent brought home for me. I set it in the window to take a picture and noticed how wrong it looked against the snowing background. I can't believe we had to shovel about 4 inches of snow on the second day of Spring! When will it ever end? All in all, it was a very good Friday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Warning: Ends with an awww...

I was putting Evan to bed last night and we couldn't find his three dogs - Laddie, Paddy and Wawa. I searched his room that is always a disaster of books and dinosaurs and found them in the pile of clean clothes that I have yet to put away. When I gave them to him he gave the three of them the biggest group hug and told me Thanks Mom for finding them! My dogs are my pals and my best friends! I love them and I love you too, Mom! I told him I love you Evan! You are my favorite three and a half year old boy in the world! Then he said - Mom, that makes my heart feel SUPER! Awww.....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Spencer had his stage debut this past weekend in the musical Cinderella. He did such a wonderful job! It was a long weekend with five performances after a long week of rehearsals. Needless to say by Sunday afternoon he was extremely tired - but in a good way! The photo above shows him and the other boys saying their only line. Herman? It was so cute to hear him walking around the house practicing. I have to admit that I was skeptical that he would really go through with the whole thing. I thought for sure that at the last minute he would back out or stage fright would take over, but he never wavered one bit about wanting to do it. He never seemed nervous at all. I am so proud of him! It takes a lot of guts for a 6 year old to get up on stage in front of all those people and do what he did. I know I never would have done it. I guess I have in my head that he is a shy kid and I have to get out of that mindset because all evidence shows that he is not. He was quiet in preschool and scared to play T-ball that same year, but since then has gone into all he does with gusto. His teacher has never mentioned to me anything about shyness, on the contrary he is probably not quiet enough in school!

I wonder if he will continue to enjoy acting and theatre. He took a story plays class over the winter at the theatre downtown and loved it. On parent watch day I was so surprised at how well he did and how much he got into the imagining and pretending of it all. I guess we will see what opportunity presents itself next. Who knows - maybe someday he will take me to the Oscars!

Scenes from Cinderella.

His rose from Mommy and a smiley face balloon from Evan.

Signing his first autograph!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free time...what's that again?

Since Trent has been gone so much these past few weeks working on the musical, and now the musical is over (Hallelujah!) he decided to take the boys to McDonald's for dinner - the one with the play place and then to the planetarium. It is just shy of 6pm and Hailey just went to bed. She is still not feeling one hundred percent herself, hence the earlier than normal bedtime.

Since all these things have happened, I figure I have about two hours of "me" time. As most Mom's know this is a pretty rare occurrence. In fact it boggles my mind and I find it very hard to focus time on me. There is so much other stuff that needs to be done around here I feel like I can't have that time until everything and everyone else has been taken care of. Don't get me wrong, there is stuff I want to do. I just got a box (yes, a box) of photos from Shutterfly that need to be sorted. Then there is the last box (yes, BOX) sitting on my desk that STILL hasn't been sorted. I am so behind in my scrapbooks that thinking about it makes my stomach hurt a little. I want to go on the treadmill because looking at myself in the photos in those boxes makes my stomach hurt a lot! I want to download some new music for my ipod so I can get motivated to stay on the treadmill. I want to start on the photobook of Hailey's birthday that Shutterfly is giving me for free because I am such a great customer (obviously). I want to sit at the computer and read other people's blogs and visit photography sites to get some cool photo ideas. All these things to do with my free time.

What stops any of this from getting done is everyday life. There are dishes in the sink. Hailey's high chair tray and seat are a disaster. Our cleaning lady was just here YESTERDAY and the house already literally looks like it was hit by a tornado. I need to collect the trash since it goes out tomorrow. I have laundry to fold and more to do. School papers to fill out and sign. It never ends. I just don't feel right if Trent and the boys come home and the house looks as bad as when they left. I know they wouldn't care one bit, but it would just eat away at me. I know every parenting book and magazine always say that as mom we HAVE to take time to recharge and everyone will be better for it. It is hard for me to do. Writing helps me - it helps me to organize all the ideas and thoughts running crazy in my head. It gives me a center and something concrete to focus on. It is so quiet here right now. Even the quiet can help so much to invigorate the tired "momcells" that I have used up all day. Ok, so I will just pick up the living room then maybe I can get to those boxes of pictures. Inevitably, photos of the kids will make me start missing them and watching the clock for when they will be home.

Free time...I will have so much of it in seventeen years I won't know what to do with myself.

You give me fever...and worry lines...

Hailey is sick. She was running a low grade fever over the weekend and was crazy fussy and clingy. I have never seen her act like that before. But then, she has never really been sick before. She has had runny noses and colds and fevers from reactions to immunizations. But as far as a fever to fight off something in her body...I honestly can't think of a time. I guess we have been pretty lucky. Today she woke up with a rash covering most of her body and face. I know that most baby rashes are just a symptom of the virus and not something to worry about, but the presence of a rash just raises my threat level to red. I don't know why, I guess just because it is so THERE. So after dropping Evan off at school I rushed home to call in to the Dr.'s office. The nurse told me that the rash usually appears after the fever is gone and the child is on the mend. It should be gone in a few days. She suspects it was Roseola or any other non-specific viral illness that are very common for her age group. If the fever comes back or she returns to her weekend level of fussiness I am to call her and she will get her in to be seen. In the meantime, we just wait it out. She does seem like her usual self -- just dotted.

I hate it when my kids are sick. The whole duration of their illness it seems I just have this pit in my stomach. I would give anything to take their place. I especially hate illness at Hailey's age because she can't tell me what hurts or what is going on. I know kids get sick all the time and after stories I have heard this winter, we have been so lucky. (Knock on wood) My gut knows that she will be alright, but as always when I have a sick kid, there is the scary little part in the back of my head that thinks What if she isn't? What if something is really wrong? I try not to listen to that voice and just trust my gut, but sometimes it is hard. Especially at night. Nighttime has always been the worst for me. When my kids were newborns, I hated going to sleep because there would be no one to watch over them. It is the same way now when someone is sick. I want to constantly check on them to make sure they are alright. For some reason, during the day they just don't seem as sick. The night just seems to make every worry in my head come right out to the surface. I don't know if that is just part of my hypochondriac tendencies or just part of being a Mom.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Everything you always wanted to know about leprechauns but were afraid to ask.

Setting: It is around 8:10 in the morning. Mommy, Spence, Ev and Hailey all in sitting in the minivan at school waiting for the bell to ring. An advertisement comes over the radio saying something about St. Patrick's Day.

Evan: Hey! He was talking about Patrick's Day like I learned at school!

Mommy: That's right Ev! What did you learn about St. Patrick's Day?

Evan: The guys have GOLD! In big pots! And they put it by rainbows.

Spencer: They are called leprechauns Evan, and if you don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day they will pinch you!

Evan: I know! And they make shoes for fairies!

Spencer: No they don't! Fairies make their own shoes.

Evan: They do Spence! They DO make shoes for fairies! Right Mom? Spence says leprechauns don't make shoes for fairies.

Mommy: I think that sounds right. I bet they do make shoes for fairies. But maybe fairies make some shoes of their own too. (Mom tries to change the subject to avoid fight and subsequent meltdown) Did you guys know that Grampa Paul's birthday is on St. Patrick's Day?

Spencer: Does that mean that Grampa Paul is a leprechaun?

Evan: No. But I bet he has a costume.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Remember the commercial for Dunkin Donuts where the guy was just tired and dragging and his famous "time to make the donuts" line? That is how I am feeling right now. What a week to start daylight savings time. I am exhausted in the morning and have to drag the kids out of bed for school because our bodies haven't adjusted to the new wake up hour. On top of that, it is tech week for the musical. Translation: Trent will be gone from 7:00am until 11:00pm or better all week. For some reason it always seems like this last week is the worst. I don't know if it is because he is gone so much or if the whole extent of the past weeks of "play stuff" have just reached the breaking point. I would think it would be better - 7 more days - I can see a light at the end of the tunnel - but no. Usually at some point I will go totally nuts on the kids and then totally regret it because I realize that they are just being kids and it is not their fault that I am basically a single Mom for this week and it is not their fault that their Dad chose the career path that he did. So far though - and granted, it is not over yet - things haven't gotten to that point. I think we are all too tired.

On top of our normal everyday things to do. Monday afternoon Evan had his gymnastics class. After that, we did the cliche' over scheduled family dinner in the car on the way to RPHS so Spence could rehearse for his role in the musical. Tuesday evening we headed back over to RP for another rehearsal then on the way home stopped at Spencer's school for a Rainforest Animal Show. Maybe not the greatest idea. The school had the kid's all excited about it by giving them a ticket during the day that entitled them to touch a live alligator. Ingenious huh? So I purchased the 5 dollar a piece tickets for me and the boys and we snuck into the gymnasium (we were about 20 minutes late for the show). The image of packed like sardines would probably not quite do justice to how crowded it was in there. The boys immediately snaked their way up to the front - which was great. I held Hailey and balanced precariously in the tight little spot I could muster. It was about 99 degrees in there and of course we all had our jackets on. It took Evan about 2 minutes before he started crying about needing a drink. I was thinking the same thing -but more along the lines of chugging margaritas. I seriously wanted to drag them both out of there - I was so hot and frustrated. After the intermission (and the shedding of coats) and successfully dodging all of Spencer's attempts to buy something (because of course the hall was filled with merchandise - what little kid wouldn't want a 25 dollar stuffed monkey?) on the way out they got to touch the alligator. Hallelujah. It really was a well done show and if I hadn't been melting would have been quite impressed. The boys loved the monkeys and the smiles on their faces were well worth every minute.

So here it is Wednesday afternoon, I should be taking a nap but I missed my chance. Kids are waking up. After dinner we will run Spence to rehearsal - time to make the donuts.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hailey: Fourteen months old

Where is the month 13 update you ask? Honestly, I don't know where the time went - we will just pretend that we are superstitious and didn't want to post for that month.

In the last month you have impressed me beyond belief with your ability to adapt to any new situation. We traveled by train, bus and automobile over to Wisconsin to visit your new cousin Mirabel. It was a long day. Actually TWO long days if you count the way home - and though the travel hassles may be something we will not want to remember - the fact that you are a now seasoned, exceptional traveler and a complete trooper are yet another way you never cease to amaze me. During the train and bus rides you were so content and happy to just watch people and smile at them. So many people told you how beautiful you are, I lost count. At Aunt Dana's house you went right to sleep in a unknown pack n' play and were not even phased when I switched your room. You fell into our strange new routine for that week like you never knew any different. Bless you for that because it is hard enough for me to be out of the norm and having you out of sorts would have made things so much worse.

It seems wherever we are people always comment to me on what a happy baby you are. It takes me by surprise at first because as your Mom you just seem like a normal baby to me. You get cranky and fussy and cry when things don't go the way your baby mind thinks they should go. But it is true, when we are out somewhere like the grocery store, Evan's gymnastics class, Dad's school or even at church - you are so content to look at people and just smile at them. I have noticed recently and mentioned to Daddy that the people you seem to gravitate to are men in their late teens or 20's. I told Dad we had to watch out because you are interested in boys already. He has started to research convents.

As far as physical changes in the past month there are two pretty big ones. Your two front teeth have FINALLY come through. I was getting a little worried that maybe something was wrong with them - but last week the tell tale sharp white points made their appearance. You can also stand all by yourself and have even taken a step toward me. Of course after you take the one step, you free fall forward into me and think that is the funniest thing you could ever imagine.
You can walk very well by holding onto someone's hand. First steps may be just around the corner.

Your seem to have a acquired a taste for "people" food. You will still eat baby food from the jars and I continue to give it to you just to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need. Lately though anything that you see someone else eating, you want. In the last week you ate ratatouille, an egg salad sandwich and red beans and rice. I was VERY nervous about the red beans and rice. They were quite spicy and I thought the after effects were not going to be nice at all. It was all fine though. I guess you have very mature taste and a strong stomach.

The weather is finally starting to warm up and I am so anxious to be able to get outside with you. I think you will love exploring outside and riding your princess car in the driveway! We will be able to take walks with the stroller and go hang out down by the beach. Come on Spring! It's been a long winter.

These photos were part of your 14 month photo shoot. You are hard to photograph these days. You just won't stay still. I had your brother's trying to distract you but even that didn't work. I still love how many of them turned out. The top one is just straight out of the camera. The other three I "fixed" a little in Photoshop. While I was working on them, I remembered great words of wisdom one of the photographers in my class said: You have to ask yourself if you are a picture taker, or a picture maker. A picture taker shoots what they want and a maker shoots and figures they will fix it in their editing program. I realized while I was doing this that I mostly want to be a picture taker. There is nothing wrong with changing something to black and white or bordering edges, but I don't want to take pictures just to change them into something completely different in Photoshop. It sort of seems like cheating. At least that is what I think now, just wait until I purchase my own editing program. I could reverse my stance on the matter. Wow! That was way off topic.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brothers and Sisters

Evan has a love/hate relationship with Hailey. Actually hate is probably a little strong. More of a love/completely irritated and frustrated by my sister most of the time kind of relationship. Hailey is fascinated by her brothers and wants to be by them and do what they are doing. If she is bothering Spencer, he will just pick her up and carry her away from him and that works for about 10 seconds - which is the time it will take her to get back to him. That scenario will replay a couple times until he brings her to me to contain her. Evan just gets mad at her and screams "NO HAYBAY!" when she is getting into his art things or crawling over the puzzle he is working on. He looks at her and looks at me in disgust and I know he wants to pound on her but knows he will get in big trouble if he does.

Sometimes he will make the best of her destructiveness by building towers of blocks for her to knock down. She loves that for about 3 towers worth then is ready to move on - which will then make him mad that she doesn't want to cooperate with his game. So it is rare when he wants to interact with her a lot. Yesterday was one of those rare days. When I was about to feed her cereal he asked if he could do it. He did and he did a great job. She was loving it and he was proud of himself. He told me "Mom, I am good at this!" He even wiped her lips off with the spoon. He was a little appalled that he got some on her hand, but I told him that was just fine. Then later, before afternoon naps, he asked if he could give her a bottle. As you can see from the pictures - he did a great job with that as well. I guess you could say yesterday was a LOVE day.

I am curious to see how things will play out with the kids in the years to come. Our little family is a weird dynamic for Trent and I. Trent with all brothers and me with one sister - we don't know how families with boys and girls interact. Spencer and Evan like to play together now, but a lot of what they play consists of Evan watching what Spence is doing (like computer games and Wii games). Evan and Hailey are a little closer in age but opposite sex so I wonder how they will interact in later years? Evan has little to do with her now, but I predict in the years to come they will be good friends and he will be very protective of her.

I love his hand on her head. How cute is that?

Laughing at spilled milk.
On a photographic note - these pictures were taken with natural light and a ramped up ISO - IN MY FAMILY ROOM! Where did all that light come from? They look a little blurry here but viewed big on the computer they are full of noise. So that is a little disappointing. The top photo was a little washed out so I went to darken it in my Elements program. In dinking around with it I wound up with the picture here - which I love. It reminds me of a color touched photo yet kind of black and white.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Ever since seeing the movie, the kids have been curious about what Ratatouille was and what it was made from and what it tasted like. Is it made by rats? Are there rats in it? I did a search and found a pretty simple recipe for it and decided to try to make it. It sounded good. Eggplant, squash, onion, red pepper all in a tomato sauce base - this recipe said to serve it over penne noodles. It looked great and colorful in the crock pot as evidenced from the photo above. Of course as it cooked all day, the vegetables got a lot mushier and it thinned out a bit. All in all, it tasted pretty good. It was a little plain for my taste. Maybe another recipe would have it spiced up a bit, some different variations. The kids ate it. It wasn't their favorite dish but at least now they know what it is.

Evan helping to make the Ratatouille. He was so proud!

The boys and their plates.

Hailey liked it the most. She was shoveling it into her mouth!

One of my favorite things about cooking is to see the garbage disposal side of the sink full of onion skin, celery ends, pepper stems and seeds etc. Basically showing me all of the fresh produce that is going into the meal. It makes me feel like the kids are getting more quality nutrition. I am trying to cut back on the amount of processed foods that we eat. It is a daunting task and by no means do I think I can ever eliminate all things processed. Pretty much everything has some sort of processing involved. I am more of the mindset that instead of popping a frozen pizza in the oven, I will try to buy a pizza crust and add my own sauce and toppings to it. I will not go as far as to make my own pizza sauce or crust. That is just too much time and energy that I don't have at this time. So there will always be some processed items in our diet.

Our "meal plan" has helped a lot with this. Every Sunday we try to put together a plan for the week depending on what we have going, who will be home etc. It is hard to find the time to do it. Our Sunday evenings (which seems to be the time we do it) are already so filled with homework, projects, bathing kids. When we do, it benefits us immensely because our week is much less chaotic. We base the plan on things we have in the pantry and refrigerator. We make a grocery list at the same time for the things we will need. We go through recipes to figure out ideas - mostly tried and true old favorites, but I like to try a new one at least every other week. Usually on Monday morning I will go to the store and we will have the ingredients for the whole week. It makes it hard to find excuses not to cook and keeps us from turning to takeout. It saves us a lot of money and also a lot of calories to do it this way.