Tag Archives: mom

How-To’s Day: Chocolate-dipped Father’s Day treats

This was a perfect activity for a too-hot day when we all felt trapped inside with nothing to do. I just happened to have an enormous chocolate bar laying around (courtesy of my awesome husband) and a really, really lot of sprinkles. This activity went over quite well with the knee-high crowd, plus one friend, and would be a great homemade treat for Dad on his special day.

You will need:
4-5 ounces of chocolate
Animal crackers (or whatever the dad in question has a taste for)
A double boiler (or a metal bowl over a pot)
Wax paper
Napkins and baby wipes

Step 1: Lay out wax paper and hold the curly edges down with matchbox cars. Or not… but my kids seemed to feel it was necessary.

Step2: Place crackers or whatever you are dipping, sprinkles and napkins out on your workspace so you will be ready to go when the chocolate is melted.

Step 3: Chop chocolate into smaller pieces and then melt in your double boiler or in the microwave. Remove from heat before chocolate is fully melted and continue stirring until smooth. If you are using the microwave or a make-shift double boiler, be careful not to over-melt the chocolate or it will start to re-solidify real funky-like. (Yeah, I’ve been down that road before.)

Step 4: Allow children to dip crackers into the chocolate,  lay them out on the wax paper and add sprinkles to their little hearts’ content.

Step 5: Let set and then put them in a tin or a jar for Dad to take to work. Happy Father’s Day!


How-To’s Day: Become an eco-friendly family

As a child, I was quite the environmental activist. I paraded around my neighborhood with my “Save the Whales” poster, frequently checked our faucets and toilets for leaks and was horrified at our city’s lack of recycling resources. Then I became a teenager.

Flash forward to my life as a parent, when I realized that my choices, actions and attitude now affected the world times three (then four, then five). And I started to care again. But more than that, I had an interest in protecting my family from the harsh chemicals that contaminate our food, air, water and homes.

I am by no means an expert and I have a lot more to learn but here are some of the efforts my family is making:


This is probably the easiest way to get started. Paper, plastic and glass goes in their own bins in the house and then out to the blue recycle can. My son has become more involved (read: pushy) about this since he started kindergarten. (Heads up, preschool moms!)


If there is an option, we try to always go reusable. If we get plastic bags from the store, we use them for trash bags (I have yet to hear of an alternative to using trash bags) but we try to remember to bring our own cloth bags. In fact, I’ve become somewhat of a collector and have bags from just about every store in the Valley, and then some. I even made my own bag using a grocery bag as a pattern.

Some other ideas:

  • Use reusable water bottles, especially stainless steel.
  • Give cloth diapers a try. Find more information on this trend here.
  • Put items in your home to a different use.
  • Keep plastic food jars to store leftovers, LEGOs or crayons.
  • I use those big, Coscto-sized Ziploc boxes to organize papers and other items.
  • See if an artist or crafter in your area can use your baby food jars for mixed paints, buttons or beads.
  • Find new homes for your old toys and clothing. Many local families are in need of these items!
  • Use the backs of old schoolwork, flyers and office papers for coloring paper. My kids go through stacks of paper when they’re allowed to so I usually set a limit and then let them work through scrap paper but I encourage the use of their new (re-purposed train table) chalk table.


Buying your produce in-season and from local sources whenever possible reduces the number of miles your food will travel and the volume of resources used getting it to you. To make an even bigger impact, grow your own produce. I would say that this may not be possible for everyone, but hey, we live on a college campus in the desert. If we can do it, so can you. Not only will a garden greatly reduce your family’s carbon footprint, but it will save you money and jazz up your dinner table. We throw a little cilantro into every salad because we can, make pesto and salsa and eat peas fresh right off the vine. Jealous yet? Get digging! If you are really low on space, give Square Foot Gardening a try as we have done here.

This list is in no way comprehensive and there are many more way your family can make a difference. For more ideas, check out a couple of my favorite blogs on the subject, The Green Parent and Green and Clean Mom. And please comment with ideas of your own!

How-To’s Day: Chicken wire memory board

We have used this board to post pictures, invitations, announcements and most recently our kids’ hand-made “favorites” books. It’s easy to make, a great gift and a fun way to display small papers in your home. Here’s how to create your own.

You will need:
A thrift store frame (or make your own)
Paint and a foam brush
Chicken wire
Wire cutters or tin snips
A staplegun
Clothes pins

Step 1: Sand your frame down, wipe it clean and cover it with a couple of coats of paint. Let dry. Sand again for a weathered effect if you so desire.

Step 2: With a pair of wire cutters, cut chicken wire just bigger than the opening in your frame. Make sure you have enough overlap to be able to secure the chicken wire to the back of the frame.

Step 3: Turn the frame over and put a staple in across the wire every few inches until secure.

Step 4: Hang your memory board on the wall and then use clothes pins to fasten kids’ artwork and pictures or greeting cards to the chicken wire. Or use the board to organize earrings and jewelry.

So many possibilities!

Baby stuff checklist

Among the top questions I am ever asked by expectant moms is: What do I need before my baby comes? A sling! Is usually my first answer, followed closely by a co-sleeper,  breast pump, the Dr. Sears Vaccine Book and cloth diapers.

Before their baby was born in January, my brother and his wife asked me to sit and write a comprehensive list of what exactly the need to have which they would then take with them to register. I did and the last couple of times I’ve been asked, I told the inquiring expectant parents to watch for the list on my blog. Here it is! Finally.

  • Breast pump- The very best you can afford. Preferably double, electric. Otherwise, get a lower grade and plan to rent a hospital-grade pump for the postpartum period. Trust me.
  • Receiving blankets- Don’t try to swaddle your baby with these, they are too small. They are good for setting on the floor to change baby, catching spit-up, keeping sun out of baby’s eyes and so forth.
  • Gowns- All you need for around the house during the heavy diaper changing period (boys and girls)
  • Onsies- Great under a swaddling blanket.
  • Solana Swaddle Wrap– The perfect super-light blanket to keep your baby bundled but not too hot for her first four months or so.
  • Pacifiers- Don’t use them right away but it’s better to have them on hand. I like the green Soothie pacifiers.
  • Bouncer- Be sure baby doesn’t spend too much time here to avoid possible spinal issues.
  • Lansinoh- For judicious use when nursing. (Too much will cause baby to slip off the breast.)
  • Hydrogels (Medela or Lansinoh brands)- Can use one set for 6 days, rinse after each nursing with warm water. Do not use with Lansinoh cream.
  • Cloth diapers- For baby’s bum if you want to jump on the bandwagon, otherwise to be used as the world’s most effective burp cloths, cushions, props and nursing drop cloths.  (You will find a million uses for these.)
  • Baby bathtub that fits in your sink. Or you can just use your sink.
  • Baby or regular soft washcloths
  • Baby soap- Unscented, natural is best.
  • Diapers
  • Unscented wipes
  • Unscented laundry detergent (think All Free and Clear)
  • White noise machine- If it’s your first and you have no other kids in the house you will want some noise going all the time so your baby isn’t startled by noisy environments.
  • Flat (not fitted) crib mattress pads for your bed if you plan to nurse your baby there. (Sometimes a good idea anyway right out of the hospital.)
  • Boppy or other nursing pillow
  • Infant Tylenol- Your baby won’t need this right away but you won’t want to run out of the house in the middle of the night to get it when she does.
  • Rectal thermometer- Gotta have one for newborns. Sorry.
  • Car seat
  • Stroller
  • Diaper bag- Look for lots of pockets and space for a change of clothes. Should be stain-resistant or easily washable!
  • Lansinoh nursing pads- These won’t look like headlights under your shirt like some do.
  • Nursing bra- Easy access is most important in the beginning, support later.
  • Baby socks

For (circ’ed) boys*:

  • 1 box extra gauze squares
  • 1 small tube of Vaseline

* The hospital should send you home with these things but it doesn’t always happen.

Starr Pass Winter Wonderland- Part 1

Who wants to go ice skating? I prepped my kids all week for this weekend’s adventures in Tucson, ice skating being the foreseeable highlight of the trip. Eat your dinner if you want to go ice skating, I encouraged. Clean up your toys, do your homework… worked like a charm. I can be pretty dumb sometimes.

We set out for Tucson with a car full of wired kids, winter clothes (for sledding) and a big bag of my super-bran muffins. The trip down was smooth (I’m always surprised how short it is) and we wound through the Tucson Mountain Park keeping an eye out for a sign or a turn-off until we crested a hill and BAM! There it was, spanning the horizon. The magnificent JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort nestles into the mountain ridge like it belongs there. Our excitement ratcheted up about three degrees when we caught sight of it.

We parked ($20 w/ valet, $10 w/o- and parking is in Timbuktu) checked in, changed clothes and went straight for the synthetic ice. The kids and I stood rail side watching the skaters circle, spin and laugh and my kids’ faces almost split with grins in anticipation of their impending ice skating joy. Allen ran around to the skate rental booth to find that this group had just entered the ice and would be on the “ice” for another 25 minutes before we’d have a chance.

Sweet anticipation

The kids ran up and down the sidewalk swirling and twirling, arms stretched out like the skaters’ until the line began to form at the booth. We stood still until the first group was called off the ice and the line started moving. On my turn, I asked the girl who helped me if my two-and-a-half-year-old could skate. “The skates only go down to a child size 10,” she replied. His size. Perfect. So I paid $7 each for my six-year-old and I – the younger two were free- and filled out liability forms in case of a tragic accident. A few families had breezed passed us in line having signed up earlier (why couldn’t I do that, now?) and had their skates before we reached the skate line where we stood for another 10 minutes. Tedious, but it would be so worth it. Three little heads bobbed around me. The boys watched the demonstration skaters glide across the ice during skating intermission telling me all the things they would do once they were out there before finally we got to the counter.

Tragedy at Starr Pass

“They don’t have their sizes,” my husband whispered. “What?” I just asked the girl in front and she said they go down to a children’s size 10.”

“I’m telling you, I just heard them say they don’t have anything smaller than a size two to those people.” My heart plummeted.

“You don’t have any skates these kids’ sizes?” I asked the girls, patting my boys’ heads.

With their best “sorry faces” they confirmed my worst fear. I looked down to see that William’s glowing smile had already cracked into the most hideous contortion of grief he could possibly be capable of. Tears were brimming over his eyelids and spilling down his face and his nose was glowing red. “But I want to go ice skating,” he sobbed.

With a nod at the girls and choking back my own hysteria, we pulled the boys aside behind some bushes and let them get the initial shock of disappointment out of their systems. We explained that it was okay. There were other things to look forward to and that Santa was coming in a helicopter very soon so they better not cry and pout. Plus we would have hot chocolate in our room later and go sledding the next day.

We walked around to find a place to wait for Santa but the patio was packed.  Elves and hotel employees periodically stopped the boys to ask if they were excited to see Santa and were met with the blank stares of three shell-shocked, deeply disappointed youngsters. So, we pulled up a bit of sidewalk and tuned in to listen to the Tucson Boys Chorus.

Here is William recovering.

Looking up

Eventually, a light appeared in the sky accompanied by the chop-chop-chop of helicopter blades. “He’s coming!” We were alerted by a voice over the loudspeaker.

To be continuted…

P.S. It gets better!

The flu that took us down

I don’t know for sure if it was the swine flu but I do know that it sucked. I don’t recall much of our weeks of flu but it hurts just thinking about it. At first I thought William’s allergies were flaring up. He had the usual symptoms, leaky nose, cough, sore throat. His lethargic behavior worried me a little and when he spiked a fever and complained of body aches, I knew he needed to see a doctor. But he never had the chance. Within twenty-four hours our entire family of five was incapacitated by fevers, cold symptoms and intestinal trauma. If anything could go wrong in our bodies, it did. It felt like an all out total-cellular rebellion. I slept through the first two days while my husband fought his symptoms and then we traded off. My usually spastic, hyper, crazy boys sprawled out on couch cushions strewn across the floor for a week and a half. We carried buckets in front of our faces, went through boxes of tissues, consumed copious amounts of ibuprofen and acetaminophen and cried. Sound dramatic? A day or two might have been a bummer but the way this bug hung on to our insides for weeks was maddening. For me, nothing hurt quite as bad as my complete inability to get my kids the medical help they needed. They shook under blankets, sweat it out on top of the covers, ached, vomited and coughed uncontrollably day after day. I was helpless, plagued with the same symptoms.

Weeks later we were up and around… pale and tired but getting around, but the cough hung on. With the onset of symptoms befalling our family around July 12th we were surprised to be barely well enough for a family reunion on the 25th. Allen’s brother and his wife braved the drive to St. George with us and the kids did well sucking on cough drops most of the way. Only one managed to cough ‘til he triggered his gag reflex… everywhere, which was almost more than my poor sister-in-law could handle. (It was pretty gross even for me. Thanks to Uncle Bart for saving the day!)

As talk of the H1N1 virus intensifies, I feel pretty safe. I can’t confirm we suffered from this particular virus but we usually test out every bug making the rounds before we pass it on to friends and family. Due to safety concerns over the vaccine, I think we’ll take our chances. As a precaution, I’ve stocked up on hand sanitizer cough drops, Gatorade and pain medicine. If another round is coming, we’ll be ready.

Feeling the loss


Braden's last school picture

Senator Ted Kennedy succumbed yesterday to the same monster that took my little brother. Two decades ago (can it have been that long?) we discovered by blessed chance that my brother had an aggressive and deadly tumor taking over his brain. This discovery bought us time. Time to cope, prepare and say good-bye. There were surgeries, lots of radiation treatments, chemotherapy, all things no eight year-old should have to deal with. Within a year [correction by my mom: 5 months] my brother was gone.

I mentioned the cancer to an oncologist I met at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital lunch a couple of years ago. “My brother had glioblastoma multiforme.” His gaze fell ground-ward and wandered. I didn’t need to tell him the outcome.

I continue to be grateful for the time we did have after Braden’s diagnosis. His doctors gave us an awesome gift; those late memories of my brother are clearer than any others. He played Nintendo every spare second, continued to go to school when he could and even felt well enough at one point for a Make-A-Wish sponsored trip to Disney World in Orlando where we caught a baby alligator on a fishing line. He wore a hat, always, to cover his funny haircut and stitches and a smile below the brim. He was calm and seemed to have a better understanding of what was going on than any of us. He didn’t cry or complain but played the hand he was dealt.

My heart hurts for the Kennedys whose world has been ravaged by this heinous disease and I continue to hope and pray that “someday” will bring a different ending to stories that start like ours.