Saturday, December 1, 2012

Handprint Snowman Ornaments

This is probably one of my favorites. We just used the cheap shatterproof ornaments that you get at Walmart and some acrylic paint. 

I painted the kids' hands white and told them to grab the ornament like they were holding a ball, then let go and...voila!

Now all that's left to do is decorate your snowmen. 

Here's Jake's

And Carter's

And Miss Natalie's...complete with pink scarves and snowladies with hairbows and purple hats :)

Afterwards, I sealed them with some spray Mod Podge. I didn't think it would hurt...and I do love me some Mod Podge :)

Handprint Santa

I am an absolute sucker for handprint crafts. I love doing projects with the kids that really incorporate who they are at that moment. My grandma actually found a picture of one of these and showed it to me and I knew my life wouldn't be complete until I had replicated it. 

To mix up the dough, you'll need:
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water

Mix all of this up in a bowl...

Then when you get a nice ball of dough...

...plop it on the counter and knead...and knead...and knead...

The longer you knead, the smoother the texture of your finished product will be. Trust me, the first one of these we tried was so ugly, it ended up in the garbage. 

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and roll out your dough until it's about 1/4" thick.  (During the first attempt, I learned that a six year old's hand is a bit large to transfer, so the second time, we just went ahead and rolled the dough on the cookie sheet. I also learned that the thicker the dough, the more it will crack when baked. Thinner is better!)

Now, track down your kids, who have undoubtedly gotten into some sort of mischief while you were busy with all that kneading, and have them put their handprints in the dough. 

Then cut around the print with a knife, leaving a border. If you want to hang this later, make a hole using a straw.

Bake at 175 degrees for about 4 hours. Once it's nice and dried out, just paint, seal, and hang!

A Little Science= A Little Messy

Sometimes you just have to let your kids blow some stuff up.

The trick to letting your kids get messy is sneaking in those precious learning moments. That way, when you're cleaning up the disaster afterwards, you can calm yourself by knowing that at least this chaos has contributed to their vast amount of knowledge...or something like that. In this case, we had the opportunity to talk about reactions. 

(Please disregard Jake's shirt. I usually enforce a strict "no tank tops on boys especially ones with comic book characters" dress code, but my husband's mom dug up this little gem from his younger days and it makes me giggle when he wears it.)

If you're like me, the only thing you use vinegar for is to brighten the color of your Easter egg dye so you should have some left over from the spring. I honestly don't know what else it's used for. Seems like I've heard of old people cleaning with it or something...

Anyway, all you need to do this is some baking soda and vinegar, along with some glasses, spoons and some sort of tray to catch some of the mess. Fill your glasses about halfway with the vinegar. 

I added a few drops of food coloring to the spoons. Not necessary but I think the colors make it more fun. 

Now for the baking soda...
Hey, I never said it had to be neat :)

Now just have your kids drop the spoons in and stir!

It doesn't kill a lot of time, but have them experiment with adding more baking soda and more vinegar. Adding more vinegar will create some more fizz, though not as much as the original reaction. This was definitely a hit and they've already made me promise to let them do it again tomorrow :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Favorite Pumpkin Pie

Here's another Thanksgiving favorite in my house that will probably never change. This pie is awesome. The cream cheese in it gives it a great cheesecake-like texture that everyone will love. 

You need:
1 pie crust (I use the Pillsbury roll out stuff)
1 8oz package of cream cheese (softened)
2 cans of pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 egg and 2 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
1 cup of half and half
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Whipped cream for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Place pie dough in glass baking dish. Fit a piece of aluminum foil inside the crust and fill with pie weights (or rice). Bake in oven for about 15 minutes until crust starts to dry out. Remove foil and weights.

For the filling, beat cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined.
Add the sugar and salt and beat until combined. Add the eggs, yolks, half and half and melted butter. Last, add the cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla.

Pour filling into prepared crust and bake for 50 minutes or until center is set. Let cool, top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Pecan Pie...With NO Corn Syrup!

Yep, it's possible! Not to mention A-MA-ZING! (and easy!)

Here's how :)

You need:
1 pie crust (You can make it from scratch if you're feeling ambitious, I just used the roll out kind)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Dust both sides of your pie crust with flour and put in glass pie dish.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs using a hand mixer until frothy. Stir in melted butter. 
Add brown sugar, white sugar, and flour. Mix well
Next, add milk, vanilla, and nuts

Pour the mixture into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 325 and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top begins to crack.


Monday, November 19, 2012

You've Started to Thaw That Turkey...Now What?

Bob has always said he loved me, but something about it just wasn't official until I took over Thanksgiving for both of our families.

The first year I hosted Thanksgiving, I was 21 and had no idea what the hell I was doing. I remember sitting on the couch the night before Thanksgiving googling "easy turkey recipes" and most importantly "turkey recipes no marinade". It seems that everything I came across was asking you to soak your turkey in a 5 gallon bucket overnight in a concoction of ingredients I had never even heard of. Finally, I came across this one. I almost didn't want to try it because it seemed too good to be true, but when it's 3am and you have a toddler that gets up before sunrise, you're willing to compromise. 

Needless to say, the turkey was a HUGE success and honestly, it was the best one any of us had ever eaten. So, for the 7th year in a row, this is the turkey that I will, again, be making. My kitchen skills have improved vastly over the years, but I'm telling you, there isn't anything out there that can beat this one :)

What you need:
A turkey! (We usually use one about 18 pounds or so)
1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)
4 cups of warm water
4 chicken bullion cubes
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons seasoning salt

That's it! Seriously...

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Rinse off your turkey and remove the giblets. (You can put them in the pan later if you like that sort of thing, but I think they're gross)

Plop your turkey down in the roasting pan. Take your stick of butter and divide into tablespoons. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the skin of the turkey. 4 on each side. Wiggle your finger under the skin so you can create pockets just large enough to place your squares of butter. This is what is going to keep the breast meat moist as it's baking. It looks weird now, but I promise it'll be beautiful when it's done. 

In a medium sized mixing bowl, dissolve your bullion cubes in your 4 cups of warm water, then add the parsley and minced onion. Stir these together, then carefully pour over your turkey. 

Sprinkle your 2 tablespoons of seasoning salt evenly over the turkey.

Cover the turkey with foil and put it in the oven to bake. For the 18ish pound turkey I usually make, cook time is around 5 hours. You'll obviously have to adjust the time accordingly depending on size. Be sure to remove the foil about 45 minutes before it's done so the turkey will brown nicely. 

There you have it! Told ya it was easy :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Glow Momma

Want to clench the title of "Coolest Mom Ever" while simultaneously giving your munchkins their daily scrub down?

Put glow sticks in the tub. Turn out the lights.

Congratulations. You're an instant hero.

Nutella and Banana Pops

We've got something yummy!

Need something to do with those ripe bananas OTHER than making banana bread? Make popsicles!

We used 2 bananas and about 1/4 cup of Nutella (I didn't measure because let's face it, its Nutella. It'll be good no matter how much you use), mixed with a hand mixer, poured into molds and popped in the freezer.

Now the hard part: waiting for them to freeze!

The Best Playdoh

I'm one of those nerdy Pinterest moms. I have a different project for the kids to do just about every day. Making playdoh is a great cold/rainy day project that's quick to do and easy to clean up. This weekend, the kids were so excited about it, I actually got all of the laundry done...definitely a winner! This recipe is great. It yields a perfect amount and it has a really good non-crumbly texture. Plus, you know exactly what's in it so there's no panic when it inevitably gets ingested :) You'll definitely want to hang on to this!

1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of salt
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
Food coloring (I used neon)
Glitter (If you're feeling super awesome)
And, of course, a little helper (Or two. Or three.)

Have your little helper(s) dump your ingredients in a saucepan, including a few drops of food coloring and the glitter (if you chose to use it). Order doesn't matter. It's all going to get mixed together anyway.

Using a wooden spoon, stir your ingredients until combined, then place on burner at medium heat.

This is where mom takes over. DO NOT STOP STIRRING!!!! You'll see your dough start to thicken and get lumpier...

and lumpier...

Eventually, you'll have a big lump stuck to your spoon. You can stop stirring now :)

Plop it on the counter and knead by hand. (I love this part!)

Once it's cooled, it's ready to play with! I set my kids at the dining room table with a rolling pin and some cookie cutters and they were entertained for quite some time. 

I use this recipe for each color I make. It yields about 1 1/4 cups. To store, I roll it into a ball and wrap with cling wrap, then place in a container. Baby food containers work great but I'm sure a ziploc bag would be fine as well. 

Have fun!


We live in a world where others' perception of your life is very much defined by your Facebook status. I, for example, don't post things like "Checking my bank account to make sure I have enough for the ridiculous amount of groceries and diapers I need" or "Can't wait for this period to end. I sure am tired of bleeding through my underwear". Those things, aside from being embarrassing, paint a picture of my life that I'm not sure I want others to have. I tend to focus more on how happy I may be at the moment, or maybe my kids have just done something amazing that I want to brag about. This type of mentality carries over from social media and has huge impacts on everyone's daily lives.

As parents, we are all guilty of over-bragging and/or showing off. We're viciously competitive. Next time you take your kid to the pediatrician (one of my favorites), look around the waiting room. It's full of moms who are very loudly (and obnoxiously) trying to prove that not only are their kids are smarter, cuter, and overall better than yours, but they are better at parenting. ("No, no, William Alexander. That's not an appropriate way to express your negative feelings. Now come over here and recite the presidents of the United States for mommy.") Honestly, it's enough to make a person vomit.

I'm the first to admit that I'm very guilty of this. I'll dress my kids like they're headed to a Baby Gap photo shoot even when we're just running in Walmart for a gallon of milk. Everyone is impressed with them and I never come back home without hearing from complete strangers how adorable and well behaved they are. Unless Carter is with me.

I began wondering if Carter might possibly be mildly autistic about a year ago. He has this way of shutting the rest of the world out. Not like a normal stubborn kid who just doesn't want to listen to mom. He gets this blank look on his face like he truly is the only person on this earth. I can even yell his name and he doesn't flinch, doesn't tense...nothing. His hearing is perfectly fine, he just disappears inside himself at times. He also gets incredibly excited. Put that with his impressive ability to NOT seem to hear anything, and it makes going out in public very difficult at times. I'm that person with the screaming kid that you think "Wow, maybe if that mom would just bust that kid's ass..." Been there, tried that. Not only does he not feel pain, but he doesn't seem the least bit phased when I act upset with him. I'm not going to physically punish him just to do it. 

His unbelievable tolerance for pain terrifies me. He's also incredibly clumsy. We've had his face stitched shut twice this year. A few weeks ago, he ran his hands through the glass in our back door. His only concern was not that his hands and arms looked like they had been through a paper shredder, or that I was picking glass out of them for about 20 minutes, but that there was blood on his hands that he wanted to wash off. He jumps off of the furniture and off the stairs and pushes himself to see how far he can jump. I'm really afraid he's going to hurt himself badly enough that a few stitches wont be enough to fix it. He also doesn't seem to realize that other people hurt. He threw Natalie off of the coffee table this morning because he wanted to sit something where she was. 

He's very particular about what can touch his hands. I had made these cute little handprint turkeys with Jake and Natalie a while back. Carter would stand there and watch them do theirs and I could tell that he really wanted to make one too, but it took me a week, and a lot of tears, to get him to let me paint his hand. If his clothes have tags in them, he strips them off and says they hurt. I can't play with his hair. As wild as he is, it's heartbreaking when he gets overwhelmed. He either completely shuts down, almost like he's paralyzed or he launches into a monstrous tantrum. 

He had his first eye exam about a week ago. His right eye turns up and out - not something I thought was a big deal because we went through this with Jake and, with a little patching, he grew out of it. Well, Carter's isn't just a "lazy eye". The optic nerve in his right eye never fully developed, leaving him with very poor vision and very poor muscle control. Once we get him in his glasses, we are going to attempt patching to see if there is anything in his right eye that we can salvage. He also has severe cupping. His cup to disc ratio in both eyes is 0.85. This is what is monitored in people with glaucoma. He doesn't have glaucoma (thank God) but the cupping does leave him with a big risk of some pretty scary stuff like retinal detachments and subsequent blindness. 

His speech is quite delayed. His vocabulary is great but he is very difficult to understand. He has very poor muscle tone in his face and tends to drool a lot. When he speaks, he replaces sounds with ones that he only needs the front of his mouth to say. We've started speech and occupational therapy to help with his speech and sensory issues. While we were at his OT evaluation, one of the physical therapists was watching him run in the hall. Apparently she felt that the way he runs is something that we should take him to Shriners for a consult for. This really scared me. He can't see, he can't talk, he can't feel anything but at the same time, he feels too much. Now they're telling me he can't walk either?!

We're in the process of having several other evaluations done. All of this is being sent to the children's hospital at Vanderbilt. I'm not entirely certain that he is on the autism spectrum. It certainly wouldn't explain the strange things he has going on with his eyes or even his core weakness or muscle tone. He also has formed wonderful relationships with myself, Bob, and his brother and sister.  He has some incredible strengths. I've never seen a three year old work puzzles like he does. He's an amazing problem solver. He's so sweet, even when he's in the middle of an hour long tantrum. I'm worried and scared for my baby boy though. We live in a world where it is so hard to be different. I don't want him to be labeled, but at the same time, I want someone to tell me what is wrong so I know how to fix it. Mostly, I don't want to fail him. He's such a wonderful little boy. I just want him to get everything he wants out of life and I hate that all of this could potentially stand in his way.