Tuesday, February 28, 2006


So, this week we are all sick. I can't remember a time when we were all sick at once. It really is unpleasant. At least my husband wasn't as bad as the rest of us--he made us a big breakfast on Saturday--thanks, hun.

So, I sit here--in my extreme exhaustion, staring at the line up of vaporub, tylenol (four types), saline drops, kleenx, bulb syringe, vitamins.... I washed everything possible--toothbrushes, all the doornobs and light switches, the remote, computer keyboard, toys, pacifiers, everyone's hands. We rented videos and got books from the library. We have shared our only humidifier among the bedrooms. We have eaten ice cream, pudding, donuts, applesauce, pizza, and speghettios. And drank gallons of fluids among the five of us. I have changed my clothes three times a day--due to spit up and snot. And we sleep when we can. Well I think four out of five of us are doing better. A trip to the doctor will get the last of us on the road to recovery--missing three days of school helps too. It will probably take us a week to get back on schedule and working again on potty training, sleep routines, and school work. But oh well. Maybe fate made us take a break from our busy schedules and focus on ourselves for once (I slept almost three hours without interruption on Saturday!!).

And it reminds me share one of my favorite recipes...chicken soup.

Basic Chicken Soup
3-4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, if desired
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken breasts in hot oil. Cook until lightly brown. Flip over. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until other side of chicken is browned. Add basil. Add liquid. Bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes. Take chicken breasts out of soup. Using two forks or a knife (or your fingers!), shred chicken. Add back to soup. Add peas. Cook five minutes. Enjoy.

Add any veggies you want. Play with your food!
You can add noodles the last 10 minutes of cooking. We like alphabets or fat egg noodles.

Add 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger and one 4 oz can chopped jalepano peppers with liquid. While shredding chicken, add 1/2 package thin rice noodles. Omit peas.

Tortilla Soup
Add 1-2 chipotle peppers or one 4 oz can chopped jalepano peppers, 8 oz tomato sauce, 1 tsp chili powder. While shredding chicken, puree soup with immersion blender. Top soup with crushed corn chips and shredded cheese. Omit peas.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Busy Days

Yesterday was a terribly busy day for us--although upon reflection, I suppose it was normal for our lives. Besides the fact that we had just gotten back from travelling, which meant everyone was tired and a bit off, we had to be in three different places at once. Our daughter is taking a class which happens to be at the same time my regular exercise class and it was PTA night. It was also bath night for the kids. Not willing to give up my hour to myself at the gym, we have organized a somewhat elaborate system to get us all where we need to be. (Did I mention we only have one car?)

First, we eliminate things we can't or don't want to do. The PTA meeting was a child-parent activity, so since our child couldn't be there, we eliminated PTA. I fed our older son dinner now--at 430pm so that at least its a possibility he will be in a good mood. So, I put on my workout clothes, pack my gym bag, change the boys' diapers, and get everyone with shoes and coats to the car. We pick up my husband from work. Then we drive to the gym where I and our older son get out. I drop him off at the childcare and I go to kickbox. Meanwhile, my husband drops our daughter off at class. Then he goes home, takes care of a few things with the baby. After about half an hour at home, he packs the baby up and begins to retrieve us. He picks up me--freshly pumped and showered (the gym is the only place I can shower without anyone coming and asking me questions, using the toilet, or trying to get in with me) and our son. At this point, both kids are crying. Our older son had a miserable time at the gym since he was forced to leave a Bob the Builder toy there and then put on his coat. Our baby hates the car and was hungry since my husband didn't have time to feed him while home. But we have to keep going. We pick up our daughter and head for home. At this point, it is about 730pm. Kids' bedtime is at 8pm. We resort to survival mode. Skip baths for the boys--they can do it in the morning. Any homework not due tomorrow can be left undone for our daughter. The girls eat dinner and the boys get ready for bed. After dinner, the girls enjoy some ice cream and strawberries--shhhh! Our daughter can't skip showering even though its late but we keep it short. By 815pm all the kids are in bed and we are sitting down for the first time since 5pm. A quick putting away of dinner--the dishes can wait. And we collapse to watch the Olympics.

Now reading that, it is pretty typical. I guess it makes the time pass quickly.

So onto another mommy survival tip....
The Crock Pot
Every family must have one. On nights like this--when time is short and eating all together is unlikely, a crock pot meal is great. Plus, these meals take minutes to prepare and are healthy (since you aren't using any oil, etc. to cook with). You can throw the meal together the night before or when you have some down time in the morning. Even husbands can make great meals using it (hint, hint darling husband!). The extended cooking also acts as a nice air freshener--the house and even outside smell great (if you like the smell of pot roast or soup, that is).

Funny story--my cousin got married last year. She registered for a nice and big crock pot. Well, she ended up getting 6. We all told her to keep at least 2 for herself but she didn't believe us and only kept one. Oh well.

*I don't usually involved the kids while cooking with the crock pot because there's no time. It only takes a couple of minutes--usually of chopping, which I obviously don't do holding a baby or toddler.

Beef Stroganoff
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 lbs stew beef
1 tablespoon tapioca
1/4 cup water
1 small package mushrooms (about 6), sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper

Add onion, garlic, sauce, basil, beef and tapioca to crock pot. Add salt and pepper (1/2 tsp each to start). Mix together. Add water. Cover and cook on low 6 hours or high 4 hours (or according to manufactures instructions). Add mushrooms after 5 hours or so. Before serving, add sour cream. Taste for seasoning. Serve over egg noodles.
*can be left on 'warm' setting after 6 hours until reading to eat.

Barbeque Chicken
Chicken breasts--up to 12 fit in a standard pot
1/4-1 cup prepared barbeque sauce (about 1 heaping tablespoon per breast)

Put ingredients in pot. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. With two forks, shred chicken. Serve with buns and extra sauce as sandwiches.
Leftovers are a great filling for tacos or burritos. You can also make BBQ chicken pizza (lightly toast a tortilla, top with chicken, BBQ sauce, and cheese. Heat until cheese is melted)!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


This past weekend, we packed up the kids and went to visit the family for a wedding. It was a delightful weekend full of family and friends. It was great to see almost all of my mother's family (and that's a lot--almost 60). It was especially amazing and a bit strange to see our younger-baby cousins (we officially have to stop calling Jim who is graduating from college Baby Jimmy!) all grown up and enjoying the wedding. It is great to celebrate with four generations together. I will gladly pack up the family and drive a couple hours to see them!

As usual, it was a lot of work just getting out of the house. The preparations begin a week in advance. Besides, planning our week's meals with the existing food in our house--so we use all the parishable foods before we are gone, I shop for anything we might need for the trip (e.g. medications, birthday cards, snacks). Then I try to keep the kids on their schedules until we leave--meaning sleep and eating. I plan to do laundry a day or two early and start pulling things out to pack the night before. We go out of town often enough that it is pretty easy to pack up but it always takes us what seems like forever to leave. We always leave at least one hour later than what I had planned. Then we get in the car and my husband inevitably says he needs to run some kind of errand before we leave town. Our family has learned to expect us at least two hours after we say we will arrive.

Once we are finally there, the adventure begins. I used to get extremely stressed out when we travelled, especially up to Chicagoland to see family. I would always be sick by the time we got home. So over the years I have changed my perspective and tried some strategies to reduce the stress.
*Pack lightly.
If we are staying with people (instead of hotel), I only pack half of what need and do laundry. When travelling with five people, there are a lot of clothes. Plus kids get dirty--you want to wash those right away. I almost always do laundry when visiting my mom's before we come home--that way you come home with mostly clean clothes and you don't have to worry about doing it when you get home. Also, we often stay with my parents so I stock her house with a lot of items (e.g. shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotion, baby cereal, sippy cups, toothbrushes). We also keep a pack-n-play there. She also has a stroller.

*Take care of yourself and your kids
Do not overschedule yourselves. Of course your mother-in-law would like to see you as does your grandmother, and aunt, and brother, and best friend. But you can't see everyone at every visit and you can't see them all in one day. I try to plan only one major event/visit each day. Plan to stay an extra day if possible. Try not to feel obligated to see everyone. Remember people can come visit your home as well.
SLEEP!!! If possible I try to plan things around the kids usual sleeping times and meals. Try not to skip a nap more than one day. Sleep yourself. I love talking with my siblings but I really shouldn't stay up past midnight to do so--especially when I will see them in the morning. Also, get back on schedule as soon as you get home.
EAT!!! We have found that people without kids do not eat like people with kids--most commonly, they eat dinner when your kids are usually asleep and sleep when your kids want to eat breakfast. Try to keep your kids and your own bloodsugar under control. Pack good snacks (e.g. cereal bars, bags of cereal, dried fruit, applesauce, juice boxes, pretzles). Kids will most likely not eat at big family meals like Christmas dinner--besides the fact that the food may not be familiar, they will be overstimulated with presents and new people and places. Feed them before you leave. I also feel like as long as they eat something, we're doing good. For example, our son didn't really eat dinner one night because he didn't like any of the food offered (he's a picky eater to begin with). So, I let him eat a piece of cheesecake and some jello anyways. At least he got some calories in him, right?

Someone in your family will have a meltdown while travelling--whether its you or your kids. Its ok. People won't think you're a terrible mother if you kids throws himself on the floor because he's exhausted and doesn't want to share his toys. This past weekend, our kids were so tired. We were having dinner with my grandmother and two out of three of the kids left the table in tears. I just let them happen. Both kids took a couple minutes to cry and pout and then returned to the table and ate and the rest of the visit was pleasant. If you protect your sleeping and eating you can try to avoid meltdowns but...

*Diaper Bags
Although I try to be minimalistic with my kids and travel....I do pack a good diaper bag. Besides the obvious diapers and wipes, I pack an extra set of clothing for all the kids in diapers and an extra set for me (since we are still nursing--FYI my kids are notorious for getting off their nursing schedules while travelling). I also have toys, books, snacks, extra pacificers, and diaper cream. Since most homes without kids won't have toys for the kids to play with, the kids pack a bag of things to do including books and favorite toys (they also use them in the car). Warning!!! Don't pack your kid's favorite favorite toy unless you will be very good about remembering to bring it home. My son loves his Thomas the train but I bring other trains in his bag--besides the fact he would be really upset if we lost it, he will not share it with other kids.

Travelling with Your Toddler

Have a Good Trip

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Valentine's Week

This week was Valentine's Week. I hope everyone had a loving and special day. Having three children, it took us a couple days to complete our Valentine's date--dinner one night, movie the next.
With Valentine's, my daughter had a party at school. Being the crazy mother that I am I baked up a storm (Heart-Shaped Cookie Pops, Red Velvet Cupcakes, and a Coffee Cake for the teachers and staff during Parent-Teacher Conferences). Did I mention, she also did a report on Poland and asked me to make some good Polish food for her class? (So, a batch of raspberry kolockies, sausage, pierogies, and sauerkraut).

I love to cook, so today I have included some easy and kid-friendly recipes from my week. Additionally, I have some educational ideas to use as well. The coffee cake you can make with one hand (e.g. holding a baby)*. I will try to feature at least one 'One-handed Recipe' every few weeks. I cook every day--yes, every day. So, I have figured out many ways to involve the kids in cooking and get a homemade dinner on the table every night (plus cookies for the bake sale, brownies for my husband's office, birthday treats for a party...).
*Please take extra care while cooking with a baby. Never hold a baby close to burner, oven, or while working with a knife.

February Recipes

Cookie Pops
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
6 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
lollipop sticks--available in craft or baking sections

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add flour, soda, powder, and salt, beat well. Dump dough onto plastic wrap and work into ball. Pat dough into disk-shape. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 10 minutes to overnight. Roll out on floured board to 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place lollipop sticks into shapes--about half way up. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375oF.

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup water
Food coloring, if desired

Combine and spoon over cooled cookies.
(You can top with sprinkles or other decorations while glaze is still wet)

Sour Cream Coffee Cake--A one-handed recipe
From Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (1991)

1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups butter, softened
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla (or other flavorings)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sour cream or yogurt

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup finely chopped nuts
1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease tube, bundt, or 2 loaf pans well. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternating with sour cream (about three additions of each). Combine filling ingredients in small bowl.

Spoon half of cake batter into pan (if using 2 loaf pans, spoon ¼ batter into each pan, etc.). Sprinkle batter with half of filling mixture. Repeat. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Cool completely and remove from pan.

*You can add other fillings into the middle layer such as 1 cup of cranberry sauce, chopped apples, blueberries, any leftover pie filling, chocolate chips, sweetened cream cheese….

This cake freezes great and stays fresh for several days with well covered.
What kids can do?
Unwrap the butter Let's count the sticks of butter!
Crack the eggs--into a separate bowl first
Measure ingredients How many half cups do I need for 1 cup?
Roll out dough
Cut out shapes What shape are you using? What shape is this? What is your favorite shape?
Mix glaze
Glaze cookies What color is the glaze?
Sprinkle cookies with sprinkles
Spoon dry ingredients and sour cream into mixer
Sprinkle filling
Other ideas:
Read recipe with child aloud--run your finger along words as you read
Ask child to find the numbers on the page
Ask child to find letters, words, and sentences on page (Can you find a W on this recipe?)
If child can read, ask child what to do next after a step

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Welcome to Early Childhood Fun....the blog!

As a former early childhood professional, and now a stay-at-home mom, I have decided to start a blog to discuss everything early childhood. I intend to spend time talking about my life as a mom as well as give ideas about early childhood topics (e.g. activities, website links, good books) to anyone who reads.

So please check back and see what I can do.