Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stimulating the Economy

Happy Belated Turkey Day, Blogworld!

Thanksgiving was a joyous celebration here at casa de phillips as we enjoyed the company of various of Tobe's family members. This year I was in charge of the turkey (and various other things) and am happy to report that as of right now (Saturday afternoon) no one is dealing with food poisoning due to eating undercooked poultry (however, two are dealing with stomach issues....but we are blaming that on some Cracker Barrel eaten last night and not my little turkeys I prepared). I brined one turkey breast overnight in a solution of apple cider, salt, and fresh herbs and coated the other in a mixture of fresh herbs. Both were roasted in the oven inside a brown paper bag and came out quite juicy for turkey, a meat known to be dry. I was a tad bit proud of my accomplishment.

Here is a photo of a portion of our Thanksgiving Group

My Black Friday actually began on Thursday when my incredibly gracious mother-in-law offered to meet me at Garden Ridge in order to buy a new Christmas tree for our little home (she drives a mini-van...aka The Nana Mobile....that was big enough to cart the tree to our house). Although we arrived a mere 20 minutes after the doors opened that Thursday, there were only a handful of trees remaining. We were able to load one up in our basket and I only managed to knock over one display and run into my MIL a handful of times while I attempted to navigate a shopping cart filled with a 7 foot pre-lit tree.

Friday morning I got up way before the sun to hit a few Black Friday sales. I had attended a Black Friday sale at our local Wal-Mart a few years ago and found the whole experience to be relatively calm and organized. Not the case this year my friend. Wal-Mart was a mad house at 4:52am and I had quite the difficulty locating the cheaply priced portable DVD player I was in search of (ours broke a while back). Seems people get a little crazy over reduced televisions and computers and are a bit grouchy so early in the morning. I eventually had to abandon my shopping cart in the lingerie section (one spot where electronics were being sold...not sure why) and contemplated crawling over racks in order to escape, as I tend to experience a tad of the claustrophobia in large, pulsating crowds. I secured a DVD player and then set out for the Crayola Wonder Magic Paintbrush set, which apparently was a hot ticket item. Once I found the display, I was left looking at empty shelves. I questioned a lady who happened to have one of these toys in her basket if she had found it somewhere else. Nope. Seems she had been standing in line in front of the display a little after 4am to get one. Who knew that I should have ran for the Crayola item first?

I eventually left Wal-Mart and the crazy people getting a tad too worked up over Kung-Fu-Panda being sold for seven bucks and set out for Target. As I was exiting my car to join the ranks in line outside Target's door (who did not open for another half hour), the skies opened up and rain began to POUR. Now I love me a good bargain, but not enough to stand in the rain. I waited patiently in my car with a good library book and didn't join the line until the last five minutes of wait time. I was pleasantly surprised how organized Target was with their sale and am happy to report that I was able to locate a Crayola Wonder Magic Paintbrush set at a cheap price. I hit a few other stores that morning, one being a local unique toy store that was selling everything at 30% off. I eventually made my way back home, with several names crossed off our Christmas list.

Yesterday afternoon we attempted to take the children and some relatives up to our local tourist trap hotel to be awed by their Christmas decorations,but the line to even park one's car was at least 30 minutes long. We settled on a trip to the local Cracker Barrel for some tasty eats and yummy desserts.

Today has been all about the Christmas decorations and it currently appears as if some sort of holiday bomb exploded in our living room. My way of decorating for Christmas is a slow, intricate process that requires me to do the majority of it myself. The family is eagerly awaiting trimming the tree, a decorating event everyone can participate in. Hopefully I will have done the rest sometime soon so we can all adorn our new little tree.

Hope everyone is finding something to enjoy about their holiday weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Freeze Frame

There are moments in life when I just want to freeze-frame my little world and keep everything exactly as it is at that moment.

Yesterday as my two children were running laps around our expansive sidewalk, shouting "Let's have a parade!" and falling into heaps of giggling toddler, I wanted to freeze that very moment.

I wanted the fading afternoon sunlight to always make Isaac's so golden.

I wanted the brisk wind to keep Evelyn's cheeks so rosy.

I wanted them to be fastest friends, just as they were in that exact moment.

I wanted them to only know that innocent, utter joy of being a kid.

Today as we all reflect on Thanksgiving and hopefully spend a bit of time with someone special, I hope you experience a freeze frame moment.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader!

(I'll be back soon with tales of my great Black Friday adventures!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Works for Me! Travel Tips

According to my calender, it is time to head over the river and through the woods and off to Grandmother's house.

Whatever that truly means.

And if the song would like to stay hip, shouldn't it be "Nana" or "Mimi" or "GiGi's" house? Just a thought.

Regardless of the fact that few of us tend to travel through the woods, much less over the river, it is indeed a busy travel time of the year. For parents of small children, the notion of traveling for extended hours can induce a panic attack as thoughts of hours stuck on a plane, train, or automobile with a cranky little one swirl in their heads.

Because my parents live in another state and because Tobe has relatives that live hours away, we have done a lot of traveling with our two little ones.

Such traveling has involved our fair share of horror stories. Like the time we were road-tripping it when Isaac was two months old and he managed to have a blow-out diaper while we happened to be in the middle of no-where. We found an abandoned gas station, built a make-shift changing table out of forgotten plastic crates, and proceeded to bathe our child with a entire package of wipes out in the vast open on the side of the interstate. Klassy.

There was also the time we decided to fly back home dangerously close to bedtime with Isaac when he was about ten months old and would only sleep in the comfort of his crib. We knew we were cutting it close, but felt like we could arrive at our comfy home just in time to put him to bed for the night. What we did not expect was for heavy thunderstorms to hit our hometown, thus shutting down the airport due to flooding. As the plane was redirected hundreds of miles south, I had to refrain from running up to the pilot exclaiming, "You must land. I have a baby with me!!!" We eventually made it home that night, after almost starting a riot when the flight attendant provided me with a bottle of water (to make a bottle) but would not give water to other passengers without children.

Last Thanksgiving I opted to fly by myself with two children, as my husband had to stay behind for a few more days to work before joining us for holiday celebrations. TSA was almost called in to assist when an ignorant ticket agent was not going to let my husband escort me and the children (and our carry-ons, stroller, and two carseats) to the gate (yes, airlines will let you do this....just ask). I about crawled over the counter and yanked his too-early-donned Christmas tie off his skinny little neck when he jeered, "What? You can't manage it on your own?" The only thing that stopped me was my children knowing that their mother had to spend one of their first Thanksgivings locked away in federal prison for starting a fight at an airport.

See what I mean by travel-induced panic attack?

Despite these mishaps, we also have managed to cultivate some handy little Phillips family travel tips. Things that work for us to make the trip a tad more pleasant.

1. Store some random small toys (think Dollar Store or abandoned Happy Meal toys) and books that you only pull out only when you travel. Some our our favorite travel toys include: magnets and a cookie sheet, water coloring pens and books, foam letters, stickers, crayons and coloring books, and smalls bags with little toys tucked inside.

2. Decide when is the best time for your family to travel. Our kids don't tend to nap in the car, so we usually set out early in the morning. Travel during the time of day that your kids tend to be the happiest/most laid back.

3. For long trips, make meal time an event in the car. We usually have to eat breakfast and lunch while on the road for our travels. Occasionally we stop for these meals, allowing the kids to play on a fast food restaurant's playground while Tobe and I eat our lunch. The kids then eat their lunch (portioned out in these containers) while we continue driving. We attempt to make it special by calling it a "car picnic". Be prepared to later suck up forgotten french fries and abandoned apple slices later with a heavy duty vacuum.

4. Play a variety of music. Confession: Most kid music drives me crazy. It drives Tobe even crazier. We never listen to kid music when on a car trip but do often times put in our own music that kids can enjoy. Family dance parties in the car are always fun.

5. Talk to your kids. Talk about where you are going, who you will see, what you will do, and scenery you can currently spy from your car windows.

6. Have a Meltdown Plan. Kids sometimes hit the brick wall when sitting strapped into a carseat and having Mom entertain them is no longer fun. This is when we pull out our portable DVD player, which usually has to make its appearance in the final hour of our trip. Although our children watch television at home, we attempt to hold off on the movie watching as long as possible in the car simply to use the diversion when our kid's limit has been met.

7. Travel to a grandparents or loving relatives house. They will immediately swoop in upon your arrival, snatching the kids from the carseat and rushing them inside for tons of hugs, kisses, and playtime. They likely won't even notice when you and your husband stay in the car, holding back tears of joy that you have survived another family road trip.

Any tips you care to share?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Football Class 101

As I wheeled the family station wagon in the park parking lot this morning, I issued my most grave threat of how all fun....ALL FUN!...will be cancelled should two little children choose not to obey.

Sometimes being a parent and having the authority to issue such statements is a tad fun.

Anyway, after I basically threatened to cancel the remainder of their childhoods should either Isaac or Evelyn misbehave, I unloaded them and our double stroller from the car. We then sat off to participate in an outdoor fitness class.

The two snacked for a bit, chatted, and stared in awe (or embarrassment) as the group of adults attempted various physical feats in the morning sunshine. I then allowed them to get down from the stroller and run in a nearby field while I finished up the remaining twenty minutes of class.

Apparently 20 minutes was all Isaac needed to conduct his own "Ode to Joy Football Class" (I didn't name it people, I am simply rehashing the details). He made Evelyn run, he made her jump, she crawled, the girl chased after footballs and squirrels, and dove into piles of leaves. I had trouble concentrating on my series of crunches mainly because I was laughing so hard. Despite a frame more suited for soccer or swimming, seems that Isaac has some genes deep inside of him to coach football. He had that 18 month girl running all over the park, in his own series of drills and plays.

The whole class paused at one point to see her fetching the football repeatedly for her brother as he barked commands at her.

I imagine one day her womanly nature to boss and direct will override his generally easy-going attitude and she eventually will be the sibling calling the shots, however today I greatly enjoyed observing the ever-popular "Ode to Joy Football Class."

And fortunately no one's childhood had to be cancelled.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No Grey For Her

Pull out the baby book, because yesterday Evelyn and I had our first clothing battle.

Honestly I didn't think entering "Fought Mother Over Clothing Choice" into her baby book would be an option until at least five years of age.

Clearly I underestimated the force that is Miss E.

Yesterday morning as I dressed Evelyn, I happened to pull out a beautiful smocked Christmas outfit from her closet to show Tobe. Seems it caught the eye of Evelyn. As I attempted to stuff her little legs in jeans and her baby arms through the sleeves of a grey sweatshirt (which she insisted was "Isaac's"...which technically it was, but now through the magic that is hand-me-downs it belongs to her), she begin crying, saying, "No! Pretty!". Seems that grey and denim were not her choice for the day and she preferred something a bit more fabulous. Because we were all heading out to work/play in the garage, fabulous was not an option.

Lots of tears were shed. However, I stood my ground and Evelyn finally appeared outside, grey sweatshirt and all. After a few rounds in the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe and some tossing of golf balls, she was good as new.

Bless her sweet little misunderstood heart.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Question of the Week

Well, as of 6:35am this morning I had survived my final day of Thanksgiving Boot Camp. Hopefully my 18 month old will not need to be picked up at any point over the next few days because my arms are beyond tired. I can barely get the coffee cup to my lips at this point (notice I said "barely". Priorities, people.)

As of 6:36am this morning I had secured my spot in the Christmas Boot Camp coming up in three weeks. Seems someone needs to not allow me to make such decisions when under the influence of strong exercise endorphins.

I have many tales to share (one of how I caught Isaac attempting to clean E.'s ear with a piece from a wicker basket. Fortunately I stopped that plan before any ear drums were ruptured.), but the children would like to eat breakfast at some point this morning. Alas such stories will have to wait.

In the meantime, I have a question of great importance: Pre-lit Christmas tree or regular Christmas tree? (Please note I mean artificial when I refer to Christmas trees. I have EXTREME allergies to real trees...and to pine needles all over my carpet).

Casa de phillips had to toss our old tree out with the trash last year, as it had come to the end of its time with us. We just didn't feel like a tree being supported by three strategically placed National Geographics was working for us anymore. I was sad to see that tree go, as I purchased it the Christmas we were engaged for $8 in an after-holiday sale.

Now I am in the market for a new tree and I am questioning if I should go with the pre-lit tree or the non pre-lit tree. Please weigh in with your thoughts on such a profound question.

Until my next post...Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Arch Nemesis

Preschool drop-off line.

This might very well be the reason the local police one day pick me up and haul me off to jail, two kids and Disney-themed sippy cups in tow.

Allow me to explain:

Isaac's preschool has the wonderful feature of having a drop-off/pick-up line in which to deposit or retrieve one's child from school. This is a lifesaver, especially last year when I had a baby in an infant seat who was still often sporting her PJ's when we dropped brother off at school. Secretly, I wish someone was always on hand to open my car doors and either plop my child into the carseat and buckle him in or attempt to wrestle him free of the five-point harness in a manner that does not stop him from holding whatever treasure he happens to be holding at the time.

(Sidenote: After school was over today, I realized that Isaac had taken in a coloring book he had been working on in the car. The teacher side of me was mortified that he had gotten out of the car with this little trinket from home without me noticing. If you have ever been a teacher, you know the hassle that results when a student arrives at school bearing personal items from home. You know the frustration the teacher feels as she questions what type of parent allows their child to bring items from home to school. Isaac says he simply tucked the book into his backpack and I have refrained from calling the teacher and apologizing for this incident.)

Although there happens to be a very large convenience factor to the whole drop-off/pick-up line at school, there is a fairly large inconvenience factor as well....waiting. Waiting for whoever happens to be in front of the line that day to have their kid either removed or deposited into their car. Waiting on someone else's five-point harness (required by our school if child is under 35 pounds) to be fastened and straps adjusted on carseats. Waiting on someone else to hear their own report of how little Johnny did at school that day. For someone who has trouble waiting, this time can be truly maddening for me.

This is why I rush us out the door so we can get to preschool and be first in line. It is a matter of pride around our little casa as to whether or not we were first in line. We have been known to cheer on more than one occasion when we were narrowly able to pull in first to the parking lot, beating out another family.

This is why I attempt to express my road-rage (we have to drive on Interstates to get to preschool) in a sing-songy voice as a method of preventing my children from cluing into my angry words.

Being first in line is why one day when I ran into a fellow preschool parent at our local Target (which happens to be close to our school), I forfeited some items on my list so I could check-out before her, thus making it to the parking lot and my car before she was able to get to hers. We were dangerously close to pick-up time and I did not dare risk being second behind her simply because we were low on bread here at casa de phillips. Bread can wait. Preschool pick-up line cannot.

This morning we wheeled into the parking lot, gravel crunching under our tires, with Isaac chanting "First in Line! First in Line!". I didn't have the heart to tell him that we were likely last in line and that his school mates were already safely inside, starting the day (We were late due to Boot Camp throwing off our morning routine....and because I wanted to take pictures of Isaac in his Thanksgiving Feast attire he wore for his little holiday party).

Preschool Pick-Up is my arch-Nemesis.

What happens to be your arch-Nemesis these days?

Boot Camp Update: I survived day three of Boot Camp this morning. When I returned home, Tobe asked how it went.
Let's see, today we ran/speed walked three miles, did reps of either 50 or 100 of various exercises, and "cooled" down by doing five minutes of fast-paced squats. My reply to his questions went something like, "I threw up just a little bit in my mouth, so I guess okay."
Obviously, I am not armed forces material because five day boot camp is enough for me.
The picture above is just because these two are the cutest thing ever. Their new favorite activity is to hold hands and dance in a circle until someone falls down and gets injured or until someone cries. Fun times.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thanksgiving Body Boot Camp..AKA...Will Lynley Survie to See Saturday?

Where were you at 5:40am this morning?

Me...well, I was holding a very large exercise ball over my head. A ball that I would hold over my head for 4.5 minutes before letting it go (and be forced to do 20 push-ups as my "punishment"...which I happily did in exchange for being able to put that ball down).

Seems that this week I have found myself at Thanksgiving Body Boot Camp. This sounded like a fabulous idea two weeks ago when I signed up for the class. I figured a rigorous work-out for an hour each morning this week would really jump-start my fitness regimen just in time to eat mounds of Turkey and Dressing next Thursday (What? You don't call your workouts a "regimen"? You really should. It sounds much better than, "I walked two miles yesterday and threw some weights around."). Besides, I am typically at the gym at 5:30am anyway, why not participate in the class?

Yesterday morning as I was on my one hundredth+ lunge (while doing overhead presses with a weighted bar) I questioned this whole notion of "jump starting my fitness regimen".

This morning as I was crawling, on my back, with ten pound weights in hand...I decided that I should no longer be allowed to make decisions for myself, because obviously I am a fool.

Tomorrow morning I will likely be looking down longingly at the comfy treadmill, as I run the assigned three miles, stopping only to participate in "centers" that will either strengthen or destroy my abdominal and glute muscles.

Thanksgiving Body Boot Camp is no holiday, my friend.

I am a relatively healthy person and live an active lifestyle. I work out regularly. I attempt to eat healthy (despite the fact that Tobe and I consumed queso at two different restaurants on Saturday night). Boot Camp at my gym should be a feasible task.

Yesterday morning as all the participants were gathering, eager to start our work-out, I sized up the room. With the exception of maybe one or two people, I was the youngest in attendance. Having taken several classes by this instructor (some while I was eight months pregnant) I knew to expect challenging tasks, lots of ab work, and that there would be no cutesy routines (Thank Heavens. Doing "The Grapevine" while jumping over a plastic step is not my forte.). I was relatively confident in my ability to not completely make an idiot of myself. I noticed one of the participants was at least 60, if not older, and I immediately thought, "I can at least do as well as she can."

Apparently not.

Seems Ms. 60 Year Old runs marathons for fun and is currently recovering from surgery. Taking Boot Camp is part of her recovery.

I have three more days of boot camp left, plus one day next week (On an adrenaline high yesterday morning after class, I signed up..and paid.. for the "Emergency Session" which occurs Tuesday morning at a local park. I am now praying for some type of Thanksgiving blizzard to blow through Monday evening and am silently cursing The Weather Channel's prediction of a cool 65 degree day.). This morning, Evelyn and I had to run by the post office to mail something after depositing Isaac off at preschool. Apparently I crimped E.'s style by insisting that she hold my hand when we exited the building. Despite the fact that she had put on quite the fashion show minutes before as she lifted her red Mary Jane-clad foot up for people saying, "Shoe. Co-dor. Red. (Meaning: Shoe. Color. Red.)" the child fell the floor in a screaming heap of toddler. This is not the first time our precious daughter has thrown herself on the floor in public and I have had to scoop her up and rush to the car....however it was the first time she has done it after Mommy spent an hour this morning torturing her perfectly good arms.

I lifted that 25 pound crying mass of little girl up, praying my arms would not fail me before I made it to the safety of our car.

I wonder if Ms. 60 Year Old can do that....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An Early Christmas Miracle

So the Christmas picture photo session I mentioned went well. Surprisingly well.

No one fell into the koi pond.

There were very little tears....and none were shed by me (It has happened in the past at photo session with my children, people. I am not proud.).

We were able to keep the children from spying the playground that was adjacent to the park where we were taking the pictures.

All of our Christmas clothes avoided incident with dirt, leaves, or mud.

Isaac was thrilled that the family took a "hike" otherwise known as walking through a clump of trees.

Evelyn did not melt down until the very end, where she managed to throw a fit in her stroller and cause her forehead to bleed.

In the end, the pictures turned out pretty good. Now I must decide on which pose to choose and select a nifty little card for Kinda to whip up for me. In the meantime, here is a little video of my children's favorite activity to put you in the holiday spirit.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas Pictures '08

This morning, after I fuel my family up with a breakfast of homemade pancakes and Tang (I'll explain later as to why we have Tang in our house), we are throwing on our Christmas finery and setting out to take our lovely family Christmas pictures.

Last night Tobe and I had the honest conversation of how we seriously doubt we will get a great shot...we are hoping for something slightly workable. Our kids are the cutest thing ever, well-behaved and cooperative for the most part, yet seem to melt in fifty million tiny pieces when a camera appears on the scene. I have several...Several...professional pictures tucked away that involve my children and tears. Isaac's second Christmas picture involves my hand in the shot because I was having to force him to stand by the fake family living room backdrop to get at least one decent picture.

So today we are setting out...on our own, tripod in hand...and are going to attempt this seasonal feat. In honor of this, I wanted to share photos from cards past. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Post-Dinner Dance Party

This little dance party happens quite often after the supper dishes are put away. Isaac will request for Tobe to put on "something loud" and then everybody gets their groove on. Seriously, I don't think it gets much better than this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Happens When a Three Year Old Skips His Nap

There is the occasional school day when Isaac is too wired from learning which prevents him from falling asleep at naptime.

Dinner is...interesting on those days, either involving a hyper, chatty little boy or a big ol grump.

Isaac did not fall asleep today at naptime and was exhausted by the time bedtime rolled around. At night, Tobe always gets Isaac settled into bed with some books (He is like his parents and loves to read for about 20 minutes before turning out the light) while I get E. to bed. I then go in, kiss Isaac, and tell him how much longer he may read.

This is what I found when I entered Isaac's room tonight: I wish I could say this was staged, but it wasn't. The child was out cold.
Being the caring Mommy that I am, I immediately ran and fetched Tobe and the camera. Because what is childhood without at least ten completely mortifying pictures floating around?

Aren't the houseshoes the best? Isaac believes that one must actually sleep in one's houseshoes, which he does most nights. I love to see his stick figure frame in PJs with those big ol houseshoes on his feet...makes me smile everytime.

Our Bay-win

Today as Isaac's preschool teacher placed him back into the car after a long morning at school, she inquired as to why he called you "Bella" when quite obviously your name is "Evelyn". I simply shook my head laughing, attempting to explain how his version of "Baby Evelyn" has morphed into something that sounds more like "Bay-win." which we all call you on a regular basis (along with "Evelyn", "Sweet Girl", "Baby Evelyn", and Mommy's own nickname of "Ev."). The teacher looked slightly puzzled at this nickname, but in our little family we know how terribly important it is and you will likely continued to be called "Bay-win" at various times in your life.

Yesterday you turned 18 months old, a feat I cannot quite wrap my mind around. It seems like we just brought you home from the hospital yet somehow it also seems you have been in our house since the beginning.

If asked to sum you up in one word at this stage of 18 months, I would quickly say "Passionate." Oh, my dear, you are terribly passionate....passionate about what you eat (only Nutri-Grain whole wheat waffles, only specific types of chicken nuggets, only plain rice), passionate about what you play with, passionate about various people (Isaac is your favorite far above anyone else in the family) and characters (To say you love Little Einsteins...although you rarely actually see the an understatement), passionate about trains, passionate about which bow I clip in your hair, passionate about every little detail in life. Your pediatrician attempted to reassure me yesterday at your well check-up that such a passion would serve you well later in life. At least I think that is what she said. It was slightly hard to hear her over your hour-long screamfest that apparently was the result of me having the indecency of taking you to the doctor's office to begin with (you were screaming so loud when we left I had to avoid making eye contact with an acquaintance, hoping she somehow did not see me nor my beautiful screaming child.) This passion expresses itself in joyous shouts of wonder over the smallest things (MOMMY! CEREAL!), over injustices (Isaac and you want the same toy), over people (Daddy!), and over sorrow (the huge tears that were produced today when I cut the tag off a beloved stuffed pumpkin due to its choking hazard nature. You cried as if I had cut the pumpkin in half.)

Your smile, wit, and energy bring us such joy every single day. At 18 months old, we figure you can say over 100 words and are forming 2-3 word sentences. Just yesterday, you marched into my bathroom and exclaimed, "Mommy. Jacket. Pre-ty." It about melted my heart. I figure we are just a few years shy of becoming best shopping buddies. You can run, jump, and climb as well as your brother. In fact, you love to stand on the window ledges in our kitchen and eat your snack in the afternoon. Besides talking, you also love to sing. You can sing pieces of the "ABC" song, can sing our own little family version of the "Night Night" song, can sing "Old McDonald" and "Farmer and the Dell," and are generally captivated by any music that happens to be playing in the house. You can also count to five, when you desire. You learn quickly and absorb information like a sponge with a cute little bow on its head.

You love things that are completely girly and things that are all-boy as well. Everyday you feed your babies, put them to night-night, and only manage to step on their heads a handful of times. Just yesterday when I told you to go to the backdoor to get ready to go bye-bye, you said, "Oh! Purse!" and ran and grabbed your plastic purse (known to others as a sunglasses case) and rushed to the door. Although you love your dolls, you also love cars and trucks equally as much. You will push cars around the kitchen floor, making sound effects as you go. Trains are your absolute favorite and you get giddy everyday as we approach our local depot. I am sure many have wondered who was yelling as we drive past, windows down, with two kids shouting, "Hi, ChooChoo!" as loud as possible.

To say that you are a delight is an understatement. You are also a smidge of a challenge. I think such a combination is what makes you absolutely and completely irresistible to us. We love you, Bay-win! Happy 18 months!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

18 Months

It is slightly hard to believe that we met this little girl 18 months ago today.
It is also slightly hard to believe that she used to be so still and quiet.

I have lots to say about our sweet daughter and her newly acquired 18 month old status...however, a migraine is settling in and I must retreat to the darkness under the covers of my bed.
Tomorrow, my friends...

(Yes...she is scowling in this picture. It cracks me up, because this is an expression we see quite frequently when things don't go quite as E. would prefer. We also see lots of smile and giggles. I have more pictures but need to download and edit first. Again, tomorrow...)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Project Alert #2

While browsing a craft fair last weekend, I noticed the new trend of turning cookie sheets into works of art.

Such works of art included memo boards, photo frames, and Christmas Advent Calendars (and now, a reward/chore chart I made for Isaac last week. Pictures to come).

I have been searching for an Advent Calender for casa de phillips over the years and have yet to discover one that I like that is a reasonable price (But I do slightly covet the Pottery Barn version sold here)....

...until I saw the Cookie Sheet Christmas Advent Calender.

The booth selling these gems was charging a whooping $55 for such a calender.


I figure I could make one myself for a third the cost.

After a little online research, I quickly discovered directions for creating these calenders were everywhere. I immediately became inspired to put on my "Martha Stewart hat" and get crafty.

I love nothing more than pulling out the glue gun and spray adhesive, grabbing my sharpest scissors and stash of "good" markers (Read: Not Crayola nor washable), and setting myself down in front of Food Network for a little bit of craft time (obviously I do this when the children are in bed at night). Anyone interested in making their own Cookie Sheet Advent Calender?

In order to pass some time today, check out the following links to fully understand what I am talking about:

Organized Christmas Advent Calender

A Great Example found HERE

Another Cute Example

Happy Crafting!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Adios, Childhood!

Friday I had to break my little boy's heart just a bit.

We were driving home after a successful outing to the local public library (Friday mornings are THE time to go if one is seeking a deserted children's area). We had scooped up some Thanksgiving books, some craft books, a few Berenstain Bear books, and two DVDs.

One of those DVD's was the ever-popular Blues Clues.

As we were driving home, everyone in joyful spirit due to our great little trip, Isaac said something about Blue and his baby sister Sprinkles (one must watch Blue's Clues and Blue's Room to understand who I am referring to. If this is not in your viewing genre, just know these are two characters in this children's program.). I attempted to explain that Sprinkles is indeed Blue's baby brother.

Then I had to drop the bombshell....Blue is a girl.

Isaac laughed out loud, thinking I was playing some sort of joke on him.

We had at least a 20 minute discussion on how---despite being the color blue---Blue from Blue's Clues is indeed supposed to be a girl. And Sprinkles---although white with prominent pink and orange polka-dots---is a boy.

Blue's Clues is breaking all gender stereotypes, dear reader.

It took most of lunch for Isaac to process this information. He was still questioning it later as I laid him down for naptime. I felt like I had robbed a little piece of his childhood from him, burst a bit of his innocence bubble, and had might as well told him that the whole Santa and reindeer thing is just a sham (I didn't).

Hopefully he won't realize until he is at least four years old that Steve and Joe aren't really brothers....

Thursday, November 06, 2008

If This Doesn't Make You Happy...Then Your Insides are Obviously Made of Stone

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this shirt at Target. I knew instantly it was a must-buy for our little blond hair boy. I have giggled everytime he has come marching around a corner today at the sight of our own little Charlie Brown.

We had a playdate at casa de phillips with some friends today and I had two little kids who were pretty wound up after being able to show off all their little possessions to their good buddies. After our friends left and the living room was semi-normal again, I tucked both kids into their beds for some quality naptime. As I kissed Isaac's sweet little forehead, I reminded him that I had saved the last cookie from our playdate especially for him to eat after he woke from a LONG and restful nap. I then went into my room to straighten up some things.

No more than five minutes later I walked into the kitchen to find Isaac sitting at the table, drink in hand, telling me that he did in fact sleep already and was now ready for that promised cookie. There were a few tears shed when I attempted to explain that a three minute fake nap wasn't going to cut it at casa de phillips. It was hard to be firm with a little boy in a Charlie Brown shirt, but I managed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Works for Me! Toy Edition

On the way to preschool this morning, Isaac and I were playing "I-Spy: Shapes Edition" (E. was playing as well...however, she was only pointing out pumpkins. She isn't quite there with the shapes yet). Anyway, during a heated battle of who could find an oval first, Isaac exclaimed, "I see Christmas decorations!"

Yes, our fair city started stringing the lights today and had wreaths set out on sidewalks.

Granted we live in a tourist-y area and Christmas begins early around here, but I would like just a few more weeks with the pumpkins and scarecrows, please.

Because Christmas is lurking on the horizon, Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a Toy Edition of Works for Me! Wednesday.

I do have to admit that I am a fan of toys. I am attracted to their bright colors, fun features, and jazzy commercials that run on TV (cleverly during prime hours on the Food Network). It is a constant inner-battle to not let toys over-run our house. I fight the urge to buy something simply because it looks fun or because my children will be so happy to have a new possession. Rather I seriously contemplate the purchase, determine if it is something that will truly get played with, and decide if there is room in casa de phillips for said item.

That being said, here is a run-down of some of our favorite toys:

1. Puzzles

We love puzzles here at casa de phillips. The brand that we like the most is Melissa and Doug, due to their sturdy build and their variety of levels. Just this morning, Isaac worked this puzzle of the world while waiting on breakfast. He loves to point out India, saying that is where Mr. Mark lives (a friend who is currently traveling in India).

2. Art Supplies

Isaac and Evelyn both enjoy doing crafty things. I keep a variety of art supplies tucked neatly away in our kitchen. I believe encouraging kids to be crafty and express themselves through art is incredibly important to their development. I also believe that washable paints, markers, and crayons are a gift from God to the mothers of the world.

Isaac's current favorite thing to draw/write is music. He is really into composing songs, which include high and low notes. Here is his latest song, waiting at the piano until nap time is over and he can play and sing along to his work.
3. Books

If you have ever entered through the doors of casa de phillips, you have noticed our collection of books. We have books in the living room, in baskets in each child's room, in the bathtub, and in the car. My kids love books. Currently Isaac is really into the Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, and seasonal books. Evelyn enjoys anything with babies or animals on its pages (or apparently Forbes magazine as shown below)

4. Fisher Price Little People
We have a collection of Fisher Price Little People and accessories that I believe gets pulled out and played with on a daily basis. These are toys that both children can play with together and enjoy as a team. I *heart* Little People and remember them being a favorite from my own childhood.

5. Plastic Play Food

We have a bucket of plastic food that I purchased at Wal-Mart for about $5. The kids love to play with this! Isaac will set up a grocery store, a picnic, or a restaurant. Evelyn will dump everything into a bowl and stir her heart away. They love play food so much, that we have a set for inside and for outside.

6. Little Tikes Outdoor Toys
We have a few pieces of the Little Tikes outdoor play equipment and the kids love it. They can play around outside while I cook dinner in the kitchen. The best part about these toys is that they were all purchased used and I plan to re-sell them once the children have outgrown this stage.
And if all else fails, we simply lug the cozy coupe inside for a little Drive-In Movie time.
What are some favorite toys around your house?

Don't forget to check out other bloggers' favorite toys over at Rocks in my Dryer!

Just a Little Poop in the Morning

I had lofty dreams of cleaning the house from top to bottom this morning. One child is in preschool and the other I have entertained by enlisting her help with the Swiffer duster and also by bringing the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe inside for her to enjoy (a treat that happens only when one child is telling the damage two little ones could do with this car inside casa de phillips).

My lofty dreams lost a good portion of their steam by 8:15am this morning when I was looking at poop in the bathtub and a glob of yogurt in one child's hair. Fun times, this mommy thing.

The yogurt was washed out of child's hair in the kitchen sink, with child screaming the entire time. The poop has been scrubbed up and the dishwasher is currently scrubbing away all the germs off the bathtub toys.

After a quick run to preschool to drop off oldest child, youngest child and I returned home where I once again geared up to clean house. It was then that I discovered Brother had left markers out on the table (he is currently into composing music...don't ask) where Sister found them while I was cleaning the tub. I am now about to clean up a variety of red, blue, green, and brown marks off the kitchen floor.

Perhaps by 3pm I can really start cleaning house...

...or simply lay down on the floor and nap.


I have also been distracted by all the political talk today. I am happy to hear people from opposing parties come together and support our new President of this fine country. Good for us for being compassionate and unified!

I am beyond thrilled that my children will always know a United States of America in which a person of any color, race, religion, or gender can run for...and be elected...President.

I am beyond frustrated at people who are referencing the Left Behind Series and Anti-Christ when discussing our new president. I would hope we are beyond comparing religious fiction to reality.

Enough political talk...I have marker marks to make disappear.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cardigans in the Name of Charity

Bad news, readers.

I saw my first Christmas commercial of the season today and it is merely November 3rd. Seems commercialism isn't going to let November pass without going into full Christmas-mode.

Alas, I will accept it and move on (but I will not shop the Christmas aisles of our local mega-marts until the week of Thanksgiving. I simply refuse to look at ornaments and red and green decor until then!).

Such commercials remind me that I do need to take a peek at my Christmas list and see who I have left to buy for and what remaining items are still lingering on store shelves just waiting to be picked up by me. I am sure most of you are starting to closely examine your own shopping lists and gearing up for the holiday season as well.

Recently I was made aware of how one can shop at one's favorite stores on-line AND also participate in Box Tops for Education. Many of you are likely familiar with "Box Tops for Education" and often spy these little symbols fixed atop your favorite boxed foods. Perhaps you even cut those out and send them to your child's school.

Now you can participate in Box Tops for Education merely by shopping online. It is as simple as:

1. Signing up at

2. Click on the "Marketplace" tab and finding your favorite store from a list of over 70 retailers (such stores on this list include some of my favorites as Banana Republic, Gap, Target, and One Step Ahead)

3. The school of your choice will receive a donation of up to 8% from your qualifying purchases.

As a former school teacher, I know how important money is to the individual school. I know how deep teachers often times have to reach into their own pockets when school budgets fall short. Box Tops 4 Education is a way to give back to local schools merely by shopping at stores you already visit.

I have signed up at and have listed the elementary school that my children will one day attend (since I currently do not have school-aged children) as my school of choice.

I have also decided that should I choose to purchase this lovely cardigan from BR and these jeans, it would merely be out of a charitable duty to our local education system.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Conversation with Simple Mom

In case you haven't heard, I am a big fan of the household notebook.

In fact just this morning I spilled half a cup of coffee on my own, handcrafted household notebook and literally thought my heart had stopped beating for a few seconds.

Fortunately I had the wisdom months ago when I crafted this thing to put my pages in plastic protectors. That Dunkin Donuts coffee wiped right off and I was able to continue on with my day and avoid a untimely and costly trip to the local ER due to an off-kilter heartbeat.

If you have not read about my household notebook, check it out here. Also, click here for some links to websites with more info on Household Notebooks.

Recently, I contacted Simple Mom (one of the "Queens" of the household notebook) and asked her a few questions about this book. I thought it would be a great time to share this conversation with Simple Mom, as we are approaching the end of 2008 and many people are considering what resolutions that will make in January (organization of one's home is usually top on that list!).

What led you to create a household notebook for your family?
SM: I just wanted a place to store all those little thoughts, papers, and ideas in one central location. I detest paper clutter, so this was a way for me to streamline what I need and focus only on the necessities.

How has having a household notebook helped structure your day?
SM: It provides me a central landing pad for all my tasks, so I routinely go through it and check things off, add to it, etc. I don't bow down and worship it, however, so when my day calls for change, I don't freak out over it.

What are some easy, “quick start” tips/techniques someone with limited amounts of time can use to create their own household notebook?
SM: Just START. Don't wait to do it perfectly, because it will always be a work in progress. Start printing some things you think you might need or use, and see how it goes. You could even start with blank paper, and start jotting down things you think of throughout the day. Then use that as your research for what you need to include.

Is there something currently not in your personal household notebook that you wished you had included or are planning to include in the near future?
SM: It started off as my go-to for everything, but now it's more of a storage solution for papers, checklists, and the like. I eliminated a lot of things I didn't need, so now it's mostly my master forms I created (and are free for download on my site).

What section of your household notebook has been most helpful to you personally?
SM: My Daily Dockets, easily. A close second would be the financial section, where I store my current monthly budget and ongoing financial goals.

Thanks, Simple Mom! Be sure to check out her website and use her handy search engine to read more of her thoughts on how to create a Household Notebook!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Summary of Events

We have had some pretty busy days around here at casa de phillips.

On Thursday we set out with friends for a pumpkin farm/train about 30 minutes away. I was quite excited because I really thought E. would love the train, considering she currently loves all things trains.

What I did not account for was the fact that the "train depot" was also set up as a spook house. Despite the fact that only people under 3 feet tall can possibly fit inside the train comfortably, the owners of said pumpkin farm thought that having talking mummies, cackling witches, and two-headed dogs would be a great decor for their train depot.

Evelyn did not agree with such a decorating decision.

She cried pretty much the entire two hours we were at the pumpkin patch.

She did manage to dry her tears when she found a wagon (another love...the girl is nothing if not passionate) and was able to pull it around.

(Please note that I do not fasten bows on my child's head to make her resemble a Christmas present. The bow experienced some slippage due to the extensive wagon hauling.)Isaac had a great time with his friend at the pumpkin patch and participated in some pumpkin rolling as well.Friday was, of course, Halloween. We are fortunate to live within walking distance of our local Halloween street festival, which we set out for after a festive dinner of Frito pie and homemade bread. The children were beyond excited, so much so that attempting to take decent pictures of them in their costumes was not going to happen.

Upon arriving at the street festival, Isaac declared that his goal was to fill his plastic pumpkin to the top with candy. He was not shy about Trick-or-treating. Evelyn had to be coaxed along at first, but then quickly realized that people would place things in the plastic pumpkin if she held it up. She then would hold up her pumpkin and say, "Pump-kin?" quite inquisitively. She was very excited with all her candy (despite the fact that she would not eat candy if offered to her).

This particular street festival gathers quite the crowd, often allowing one to view a variety of interesting costumes.

This year, such costumes included:

1. A lady wearing 4 inch thigh-high stiletto boots, tights worn as pants. and a red jacket (we are still unsure of what costume she was attempting) while walking around with her preschool child.

2. A woman dressed as Tinkerbell, walking around nursing her infant.

3.A man dressed as the Heath Ledger-Joker (very scary, very disturbing) while pushing his infant Batman-clad child in a stroller.

4.Too many girls under the age of 16 wearing tiny costumes and thigh-high stockings (I can't help but question what father allows his daughter out of the house dressed in what appeared to be lingerie versions of bumble-bee costumes, Strawberry Shortcake costumes, etc...)

The street festival was fun, but longer than it has been in the past. Poor Isaac rubbed two little sores on his legs from where his cowboy boots were irritating him.

We trick-or-treated a few houses in our neighborhood, then called it a night. Halloween was a success and we all had a blast.

The back of E.'s vest read, "Cowgirl." Too cute. She had a hat to wear, but never wanted to put it on. The night before Halloween I attempted to put her hair in pigtails (because we know cowgirls wear pigtails) but it was not a successful venture. We just went with the simple black bow.

Also, I never was able to locate cowboy boots for E. that were 1.) Cheap and 2.) Not pink with Dora the Explorer on them. We had to settle for red Mary Jane's instead.The kids costumes were from Gymboree. However, they were both used and purchased for a reasonable price off EBay. This mommy can't sew but she can do some mean bidding on EBay!Here is Isaac's "Cowboy Face." Intimidating, huh?

(This was taken in the car drop-off line at preschool...they wore costumes on Wednesday)

After church this morning, we went to eat at the American Girl Doll Store Bistro. Tobe's dad is the general manager of the Bistro and we (Okay, Tobe's mom and myself) have been dying to eat there.

Girls often take their American Girl doll to eat with them at the Bistro (or you can borrow one). However, we thought Isaac should bring along his good buddy, Ike the Dog.

Ike and Isaac had a great time waiting for the store to open.
Evelyn took her Baby Stella, however she did not want Stella to sit at the table next to her. In fact, E. did not really want much to do with eating at all (She later woke from her nap with 102.7 fever). The rest of us enjoyed choosing our meal (check out the menu here) and watching all the little girls dine with their dolls (Is 31 years old too old to order my own American Girl doll?). My favorite was dessert, where I ordered milk and cookies. Yum.

It has been a busy few days, but a lot of fun. The kids are going to need lots of normal paced, non-exciting days these next few weeks if they are going to make it through the holiday season without their little heads exploding.

Have a great week!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Preview of Our Buckeroos

With the few spare moments I had this afternoon, I wanted to share a few pictures from our Halloween last night. Our little cowboy and cowgirl had quite the time last night. I have many tales to tell, interesting costume sightings to share (Tinkerbell nursing a baby), and revelations to reveal about what to do about all that Halloween candy (not really on that one....however candy has been a CONSTANT topic of conversation this morning).

Until then, welcome to our little piece of the Wild West: