Wednesday, December 31, 2008

RIP Penny

Well, about 6 months ago our family got our first pet, Penny. I had a bird named Willy growing up, so I knew we could handle a parakeet as a pet. Some kids would not think a bird was cool, but I knew Claire would love Penny because she's such a gentle soul that I knew she'd take to a bird, and she did.

Every morning Claire and Sam would run to uncover Penny's cage. They talked to her, held her, pet her tummy, fed her, brought her millet treats...the works.

Her proper name was given to her by Claire: Princess Penelope Harris.

But then Christmas came and we took her to Grandma and Grandpa Harris' house while we traveled to Kansas (we're still here). But yesterday, Grandma called to say that Penny died. We don't know why. She did everything right with feeding her and all. It's not her fault. But I was devastated. I was about 5 when I learned about death and other dark spiritual subjects like hell and I have been trying to put all of that off for Claire for as long as possible. I feel like I've been slightly depressed ever since then.

And now I have to tell Claire. But I don't want to. I've contemplated getting a fake Penny, but Matt thinks she'll know. So, now I'm thinking of getting a puppy. I never had one and I never intended to get Claire and Sammy anything like a "real" pet, but I feel like I need to make it up to poor Claire who loved her Penny so much. I won't suprise her with a puppy, but I might let her decide when she's ready for one. At her school, there are two little Shar Pei puppies which are just really cute.

They look like this. So wrinkly and precious.

But I've also found a local breeder who has some little golden retriever puppies. They are pretty darn precious too. I'm well aware of the fact that offering to get your child a dog when they are mourning their bird is probably not the healthiest idea. If I was a really healthy mom I'd let her mourn the bird and just teach her about life and move on...I guess. But sometimes you have to know your child. And Claire takes things deeply and very internally, so I feel like it's my job to help her see that there is life beyond Penny. So maybe we'll get a dog, or maybe Claire will feel like she's not ready for another pet for a while. But say a little prayer for me because I haven't told them yet (we're due to go home on Friday) so I'll tell her later. Maybe tomorrow. Damn. Being a mom is hard.

We loved you Penny. Thanks for being our first pet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A grown up Christmas wish

Matt's mom lives in a nearby suburb, and has had Christmas at her house with her kids forever. My parent's live in Kansas, and due to the fact that we had no nearby relatives, we never had Christmas with extended family when I was growing up. We also never traveled on Christmas to visit relatives because my dad was a pastor and had to be in town for the Christmas Eve service.

So, I guess I'm having holiday blues because I feel like Matt and the kids and I are sorta Christmas junkies running from house to house trying to put mooch off of everyone else's Christmas and having nothing of our own. Now, Matt and I really do want to each be with our families over Christmas, so it's not that we really want to be alone for the whole Christmas day, but I'm starting to think that during my kids' entire growing up years, I'm never going to cook a turkey or wear the apron on Christmas day. We even pack our presents for the kids into the car and drive them over to Grandma's house Christmas morning, so my kids will never run up the stairs to open presents in their pajamas at our house.

Christmas morning here is microwaving something for the kids to eat in the car during the 30 minute drive to Grandma's house and Matt swearing and digging the car out of snow. That's no good, is it?

We both know that we aren't quite ready to spend the whole holiday at our house alone, but I guess I wonder if I'll ever be the mom who hosts the extended family here or if I'll at least figure out some good traditions to do around the traveling that are unique to our little family. Don't get me wrong, we did lots of festive stuff this month. As you can tell from the photos, we built our annual urban snowman, which entails bringing a pan full of snow from our front yard into the house and making a 6 inch tall Frosty. And I do at least have a small manger scene. Didn't you know about the parakeets that visited baby Jesus? Claire thinks it's hilarious to put Penny's food by the other animals.

We made a gingerbread house too. Alright, was from a kit purchased at Trader Joe's, but we made it and there were no tears involved which was a bonus. But I digress. Because the problem isn't our lack of doing anything fun and Christmas-y; the problem is feeling like we run around like chickens with our heads cut off on the actual week of Christmas and end up feeling like the kids and not the parents of our kids. So, I declared we were staying home today and Matt agreed. He's getting off of work around noon, and then he'll come home to hang out with us for the rest of the day.

We may not find a Christmas Eve service to attend. We may not even figure out a good tradition to do on this day, but at least we're starting the tradition of spending this day together NOT travelling. And, in the morning, when the kids wake up (since they wake up early anyway) I think we're going to let them run up and open their presents before going to Grandma's house to avoid the packing of the presents and all that. And that way, instead of trying to ooh and aaah over Matt's grandpa's new flannel shirt while yelling at Sammy to stop opening gifts without asking, I can just sit back with my coffee and help them assemble their new bow and arrow sets.
Here's to trying to be a grown up one of these days! Merry Christmas all!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fairy boys

Some may remember Claire's fairy costume from Halloween. Well, lately it has been resurected during playdates. One day, last week, when Claire's teacher and I were stuck working at the Holiday Fair at school all day, Matt took our kids and the teacher's daughter, Cecilia, home for the afternoon to play at our house.

Claire and Cecilia were excited to dress up as fairies together, and, not wanting to be left out...

Sammy joined in too. This is him sporting Claire's old gymnastics leotard with black tights. The tights have a huge run in them and they were put on OVER the leotard. I tried to give him a little dignity by putting on his red cape and saying he was sorta a super-hero fairy, but he tore it off saying "NO, mom, I'm a GIRL fairy!" I wish I had a good picture of Matt's face when that was proclaimed. I just had to keep saying to Matt: "if you act upset, he's just going to start obsessing about it. Act like it's perfectly normal and he'll be back to football in a few days."

However, there was a huge fight over these blue slippers because Sammy really wanted GIRL shoes for his fairy costume.

Here are my little fairies together. It gave me an oddly happy moment because they were playing together so nicely while this game carried on. It made me jealous of moms who have two girls or two boys that can play the same games together all the time.
Of course, he realized how annoying leotards and tights can be when you have to suddenly go potty "really bad!". Because, at the end of the day, even fairies have to pee. But Sammy may be the only one who does it standing up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Homeschooling, Claire style...

I have been blessed. I am not a good planner, despite my best intentions. In my head, it's all sorted out, but as life happens, I tend to let life happen rather than sticking to the plan.
So, at least with this first child, I feel God has given me some grace. He may be telling me to get my act together because the second child is going to be a lot harder to educate than the first; I'm not sure. But Claire has been so easy. She learned how to read very quickly, and right when I think I've let her brain go to mush by ignoring her all day while I chase her little brother, she'll come running out of her room to show me a story she wrote. I was just going to introduce to her the idea of keeping a journal so that she could practice her writing, but "just going to" hadn't happened yet. Her friend had given her a tiny sparkly notebook as a take-home gift from a birthday party, so she filled it with this story: (it has two chapters)
Chapter 1 - The Great King: Once there was a great king that loved His daughter and he was wanting gold.

Gold was the best thing to him because he was born in a palace filled with gold and his plans were not unbelievable. (She did ask me how to spell "unbelieveable")

Chapter 2 - The Fairy : Once there was a fairy that loved her name and her home also. Her home was called a flower and her furniture was leaves and her bed was a flower petal.

Then she had a few pages of illustrations that didn't exactly match the story, but the one on the left is supposed to be her building a snowman in the winter and on the right is her picking apples in the fall. She had a summer and spring page too.

Here is the cover of her first book. I think it's pretty darn precious.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What are you going down in flames over?

I met an old friend from our old church at the Conservatory today. It was about 6 degrees outside and our car doors were frozen so shut that I ended up having to crawl in the passenger's seat to get to the driver's seat and then, once we got there, I had to kick my door open really hard to get out. It was fun to see them, though! Totally worth it.

She's a laid back mom about things like letting your kids wander around, (like me) so we sat on the steps of the big palm room (blocking the only exit) and let our kids explore. No one else was in there and she had to nurse her youngest one, so we figured they'd be safe. We STILL don't know how it happened, but suddenly Claire said she couldn't find Sam and Roxanne, so I went to get them. Thinking they must be just hiding from her, (since they couldn't have left) I was calm. But after about 3 times around the room, I was panicked. My friend stayed at the entrance to the room and I went running through the Conservatory rooms asking people: "have you seen a little boy and girl together? About the same height? 3 years old?" Several had, but said "it was a while ago". WHAT? How had they gotten out???? I finally found them in the desert room, and they were just walking around checking out the cactus. I was shaking so much I had to just sit down by them and say " can never leave the room your mommies are IN!" while panting and catching my breath. Maybe laid back parenting has it's downfalls.

The ironic part was that while our kids were roaming the conservatory, we were having a conversation about Christmas. She is trying to totally reassess Christmas for her family, to the point that they aren't doing a Christmas tree (apparently it's a German pagan tradition?) or really any presents. She just moved back from a smaller town in Indiana, and she was telling me how frustrating it is to re-enter the much more materialistic city of Chicago. I was agreeing, but had to embarassingly admit that I'm kinda into the presents and cookies and all that which has always been a part of Christmas for me. I know what she means, and I'm really working on making sure we have many meaningful, Christ-centered traditions (advent wreath, singing carols together before bed, making Birthday cards for Jesus...all that good stuff) but I thought it was interesting how very important it was to her to throw out all materialism. My husband would love her.

And it just made me think about how we all have our "things" that we really go down in flames over. Sometimes, we can isolate ourselves into a little community of other moms who share our "things". But even amongst moms who think alike on SOME things, we are bound to have differences. Personally, I'm not too much of an isolater of myself. I'm much too social and need way too much adult interaction to limit myself to the one or two people who share my beliefs/thoughts on most things. I'm also a bit of a people pleaser, (a bit?) so if you tell me that you don't eat meat, I'll probably throw out my carton of bacon and say "me too!" or at least "oh, yeah, I mean, I eat it, but I totally believe you that it's bad. I was thinking of becoming a vegetarian actually. Vegan even!" No, I'm not that bad. But lets just say that for most differences I share with people, I can roll with the punches.

But I do have my things. I have my things that I tend to be a judgy-judgy pants about; if not only in my head.

I care about kids getting a good education, which probably means something different to me than to some others (I'm a little Waldorf, a little Montessori, a little Classical, and probably a little whatever-I-think-is-best).

I care about kids eatting actual food and not just Kraft kids food (although my husband would say I allow WAY too many treats...but I figure, if they just ate salmon and brown rice, a little Christmas fudge never hurt anyone!).

When I had babies, I was pretty into letting them cry-it-out at some point so that we weren't constantly having to sleep with them and draw out bedtime into a long arduous activity. I didn't really care if other people did this, but I think Matt and I would be divorced today if we didn't have at least a few hours together every night! And that is one idea that can divide moms into two groups right there. We cry-it-outers are rolling our eyes at the women who spend 2 hours getting their child to sleep at night, only to have to do it again and again throughout the night every time they fuss. And trust me, I know you attachment parenting-types (who I wanted to be like sometimes because it seems like a much nicer mom!) are looking at us thinking that we are abusing our children and totally making them feel insecure and abandoned in this world when we don't respond to their cries. And I get that. And I respect that. But I couldn't do it.

I have weird issues about church. I don't like people singing in big dramatic ways from up front. Choir: fine. Praise and worship team wearing flashy outfits: nope. It seems like they are putting on a show to me. But maybe I have issues from growing up Presbyterian. I also don't like flowery religious talk. Say too many "church" words and I'm already rolling my eyes. Personally, I have a hard time praying out loud because, having grown up in the church, I feel like I'm just praddling off a bunch of Christianeeze that sounds so canned! I start with "Thank you Lord for this day and for your care. We pray that you would just let yourself be shown in this situation...." and I'm already judging myself! Even if I mean those words, I just start thinking "talk like a normal person!"

I don't like it when people show off. And I can detect showing off from a mile away. In fact, I probably show off that I don't show off! That's how much it bugs me. And, it's not neccessarily that I mind if someone has something better than me, or does something better than me, but don't try to show it off! Trust me, I'm already admiring you for it so don't embarass yourself with self-glorification.

There are other things I hold myself to (Carbs are bad! Protein is good!) and some of them I hold other people to, and some are just my own preferences. But it's funny how as soon as we get something in our mind, we hold everyone else to it, you know?

Maybe we should all just lay our weapons down and just try to get along. But what fun would that be? Right?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Cause you had a bad day....'re takin' one down. You sing a sad song just to turn it had a bad day"

If you don't know that Daniel Powter song, I'll let you google it yourself, but that was my day today.

It started off overwhelming because Matt is still out of town and Sammy still gets up at the butt crack of dawn. Also, the weather is awful and I had too much on my plate anyway. I won't bore you with the details but I had to drop off the kids, try to go work out at my new gym, get to a chiropractic appointment, run a bunch of errands, buy nice stationary paper to create the "silent auction" papers for my kid's school's Christmas party, and get to their school by 12:30 to pick them up. No wait, not to pick them up. They had to stay in the childcare so that I could practice for the friggin' nativity play (the Shepherd's Play if you're a waldorf person) which I signed up to be in because the teachers asked me to be. That means, of course, that Sammy has no nap, and then we have to go home to finish the day with him having many manic breakdowns.

Well, this morning was just hard, and I met this annoying woman at the gym who kept comparing my body to hers (she was much smaller than me) and kept saying "I'm soooooo're so skinny". And the woman was 40! Who says dumb things like that when you're that age! I felt like I was in 7th grade again. Then she kept asking me where my kids went to school and telling me how her kids go to a private school because she didn't want her kids to be in a school with too many "minorities". I wanted to push her skinny ass off of her treadmill and say "can you please shut up so I can run in peace!?"

Then, as I'm driving quickly to my kid's school (running late of course) I took a bite of some food I had brought for them to eat for lunch and I bit my tongue so hard that my whole mouth filled up with blood. I kinda started crying and really just wanted to drive home and go back to bed and not have this day happen. But it did. It kept happening.

Then tonight, my dear sister-in-law came over and I drowned my sorrows in a little too much wine. It actually wasn't that much, but after having not eaten much all day, any wine was too much.

So, later, as I'm walking her out to her car, I opened her car door for her and I whacked myself in the face with the door so hard that my nose started gushing blood all over the snow. It looked like a homicide happened by the time she got me some tissues to stuff up my nose. So, as I type this, I have a little piece of tissue shoved up my left nostril and I'm exhausted. Oddly, I started laughing so hysterically that I was crying. It's like I was just not meant to wake up today.

I'm going to bed, and hopefully when I wake up it will be next Tuesday. Here's hoping.

And so ends my pictureless blog entry. Trust don't want to see a picture of me right now.

Monday, December 8, 2008

When the cat's away...

Matt's away this week so I declared that we were eatting whatever we wanted for dinner. That doesn't really mean "anything we wanted" but it meant we were eatting kid foods. I tried to get at least a few of the food groups in there, but the kids thought it was lots of fun. And especially since evening is usually their time with Matt, they needed something a little different to get their mind off of his absence.

So we ate Cheerios (isn't Sammy's mouth funny in this picture? It reminds me of Claire's baby dolls that come with pre-formed open mouths to fit a bottle or pacifier. Haha).

And bagels with cream cheese (alright, I happened to have a thing of that smoked salmon so I got to have a pretty good dinner afterall, but the kids passed on the fish). I guess bagels with cream cheese and cheerios with milk only covers dairy and carb groups, but then I added our favorite other food:

BACON! You gotta love bacon.

And the only other food group that we had forgotten at this point was, I'm pretty sure, the marshmallow group, so we all had a few spoons of the fluffy stuff for dessert.

And then, just to be a nice mom (and to buy myself a few moments of peace) I built them a wicked good fort...complete with the extra Christmas lights. They did this until 9, which is waaaaaaay past their bedtime around here, but it was going so well, so I let them be. Sammy has been getting up and down out of bed until nine anyway, so I figured they may as well play instead.

Now, if daddy was here, he would have been the bear that crawled around the fort scaring them, and then Sammy would have had 10 sword fights with him, but that's daddy...not me. Mommy is the one who allows marshmallow creme spoons for dessert.

Oh, and honey, if you are reading this, I locked myself out of the house this morning, but don't worry: the handyman from our old condo building came over and broke into the house for me. And I joined a gym! But don't worry, it's all good. We may have a broken door and no money left when you get home, but I'll be working on getting a hot body! Well, at this point it will probably just be working off the bacon and marshmallow calories, but I know the important thing to you is just that we are all safe and sound...right? Right?!

Conservatories and happy meals...a monday morning tale

So, we headed to the Garfield Park Conservatory this morning. I used to take Claire and Sammy there all the time when my old best buddy used to live here, but after she up and moved to Atlanta, I couldn't bring myself to go back very often...just too sad.

But, enough is enough and it was time to stop mourning and go back. I remembered why we used to like it so much. It's hot and muggy in there! And since it's 17 degrees here in Chi-town right now, we love hot and muggy! Of course, this meant that we had to take off 5 layers of winter clothes, hats, scarves, and mittens when we got inside, and guess who got nominated to carry it all? The mommy, of course.

But it was really fun for all of us. Claire went to the craft table in the children's garden and made an orange with cloves stuck into it to hang on the Christmas tree. I realized that the last time I went there Claire still needed help with the craft, and Sammy was still wandering off and ending up in the tropical fish exhibit. But now they are so much more independent! Granted, Sammy did go over to the baby area (where I used to let him play with the foam blocks) and wreaked a little havoc there before I realized what was going on. A mom nicely informed me that he was kicking the blocks around and also throwing them. I took him out and apologized.

It has a pretty sweet play area for the kids complete with blocks and books and insect/animal puppets. Most the moms had younger kids, so had to be on Sammy alert the whole time, but he actually did really well.

There is a great slide that goes through the middle of it, and they did that some.

But then Claire found a little girl her age to play with. They were first pretending to be monkeys, but then, when they started eatting the wooden food, I asked them what they were doing and Claire and the girl said simultaneously "being teenagers!" I asked them what teenagers did, and they said "they go on picnics!" Alright, I guess that's tame enough. Haha.

Here is a picture I took of a woman who had a cute outfit on. I was pretending to take a picture of the whole room, but really I wanted to show her cute outfit. Isn't she so cute and urban? I like her little hat and sloopy-necked sweater,

but my favorite part was her boots. I checked them out and they are Uggs. I'm not even going to bother looking that up because I just never buy nice shoes, but it didn't help that while I was walking around with the kids, my WHOLE sole of my boot came off my foot. Only the front inch was hanging on, so I had to drag my left foot on the ground instead of stepping. It was very embarassing and people kept holding doors for me thinking that I had a disability. Oh well, I'll take help anywhere I can get it!
So, after the conserv, we stopped by my favorite cheap shoe store, Payless, and I bought some much uglier and cheaper black boots. I have to wear something and Matt's gone this week so there is no time for extended shoe shopping!
Then, in a throwback to the old days when I used to be not as conscious of my children's nutrition (I didn't know about locally grown food...that's for sure!) I hit McDonalds. But it was 2pm by then (very late for Sam's nap) and we were all starving. I thought it would hit the spot, but instead, 10,000mg of sodium later, I am completely dehydrated and I literally feel like my esophaugus is lined with grease. Yuck. But I'm not hungry!
Anyway, that was our Monday. Conservatory: Yay! McD's: Yuck!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Marriage counseling

Well, I didn't have any pictures from our counseling office. I felt like it would be weird to ask the therapist lady to pose for a blog entry picture. But I still wanted to make sure I followed up on telling what it's like to be in marriage therapy with Matt. And as you know, I don't like picture-less blog entries, so I thought I'd come up with my own visuals, (see below). This was basically what Thursday morning was like:

Susan: "So, basically, Matt and I bought a foreclosure last week and I'm really excited about it and about all the possibilities of getting to live in a single family home in the city and even though our house hasn't sold I'm pretty confident that we can rent it out and cover the mortgage. However, I think Matt's pretty worried about it still because we're going to have to put a pretty large amount of money down in order to purchase the house and then we won't have much savings left, which always freaks him out. "

Matt: "Well, I guess I just like to know that we're making a responsible decision and I like to crunch the numbers and when Susan doesn't act like she's as worried as I am, I figure she's not really thinking about it logically...she's just excited about it. And then I get nervous."

Susan: "Well, I think I should be able to act excited. That doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it logically. You just don't want to act like you like it when you really DO like it because you are sorta treating me like a kid and trying not to 'get me excited' about it...and that makes me feel like you're manipulating me. Just say 'I like it but I'm worried that we can't afford it.' Unless you think we can. Then say that. I also think that sometimes you act like you hate things just so that you can blame me for it if something goes bad...even though you made the decision to buy the house with me. You figure that if you act like you were never really 'for' it, then you can say later that it's my fault. I think you should be responsible to say what you want to do and then not hold me responsible later."

Matt: "Hmmmm..."

Nice Therapist lady: "Well, that sounds very consistent with how you each scored on the Myers-Briggs personality test. Matt is more of a planner and you are more of a feeler. We need to stop now, but let's discuss this more next time."
So far, this seems like our regular marriage with an old lady sitting in the room watching us, but I'll let you know if anything cool happens next time.

The big day...American Girl!

So, today was our big day. Claire and I went with our friends Annabel and Bridget (the mom) to the American Girl Doll store here in Chicago and had lunch. We went to the 11am seating, which was a little early for my taste, but it was fun enough. I mean, it was a huge store crammed with people so for me it was so-so, but I think Claire liked it!

Here she is outside right after Matt and Sammy dropped us off. They headed out to the sled hill because Sammy was really sad that he couldn't come with us, (he's also really into the Madeline shows lately, but that's a later topic). Someone gave us this coat and it was the perfect time for her to wear it. I think she looked like a little Samantha doll herself. You may also notice in the above photo her doll Josefina's "before" hair. We'll show you the "after" momentarily.

We went immediately to the doll hair salon because we were hoping to get Josefina's rat's nest smoothed out before lunch, but, alas, they said it would take about an hour and a half before she'd be ready. The good news was that they will give you a loaner Josefina to take with you to lunch and then they'll deliver your doll when she's done in the salon. These people think of everything! As my friend Bridget said "you wouldn't know the economy was a disaster if you worked at the American Girl Doll store." They know how to charge you for everything! But we got our American Girl doll as a hand-me-down, so I decided the $20 for fixing her hair saved me from buying a new doll for $100.

Lunch was cute. The mommies had quiche and the girls had what they call the "American girl picnic" which was a mini-hamburger, a mini-hotdog, and a mini-maccaroni-and-cheese. They were both full after the cheese puff appetizer though, so they hardly ate....until dessert of course. Dessert was a tiny heart shaped cupcake, a candy-cane shaped cookie, and chocolate mouse that came in a tiny flower pot with a daisy in it. Very cute, again. The dolls got special little seats at the table as well.

And Josefina was delivered, as promised, at the end of our meal and she was in much better shape.

Here they are outside of the store waiting for the daddies to pick us up. Bridget was inside returning a dress for which they accidentally charged her double. I guess it's good we went, but I'm not in a hurry to get back. I grabbed Josefina's summer outfit and a fancy Felicity dress for Claire for Christmas on the way out. Now, I need a nap. No more Michigan Avenue this year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chicken and bean cassoulet

I wrote about this recipe a long time ago it seems, but never really finished telling how I make it. It's a great thing to make on a day that you want to spend a while making dinner, and need something that the kids can help with. I even let Claire help with the raw chicken portion because I've scared her so much about raw chicken that I knew she would vigilently wash her hands afterwards! I made it Sunday afternoon when it was freezing cold outside and I didn't want to go anywhere. The actual recipe is found here, so go there for measurements, but here are my tips.

Give your child two giant carrots and a peeler and let her go to town on the carrots for a while. You can chop the carrots up then while you give her the annoying job of taking the paper wrapping off of all the garlic cloves from a whole bulb of garlic. Chop up the onion. Okay, the chopping part is done.

Rinse your chicken, dry, and dip in flour. Brown in the olive oil but add some butter too. In fact, leave a big chunk of butter on the counter next to your pot and just throw some in half-hazardly whenever you feel like it throughout the whole cooking makes it good. Brown the chicken and remove it to a plate. Leave the brown stuff on the bottom of the pan, throw in some more butter and oil, and then throw in the chopped up carrots and onion. Cook ten minutes. Now throw all the garlic cloves into the pan with the veggies (I cut them each in half to release a little more of the garlic-ness) as well as the rosemary, vinegar, wine, and bay leaf.

This is where you get to sneak a glass of red wine after you pour it into the pan and drink it while you are cooking...even if it's early afternoon. That's my rule. If you're cooking dinner, it's officially late enough to have a glass of wine.

Now you reduce it until it's half, then add the tomatoes, reduce again, and then add the can of beans (drained/rinsed) and the lentils. Stir, add the stock and mustard, and add the chicken back into the pan. Finally, add the lemon and zest, sugar, salt, and pepper, and then cover and put into the oven for two hours.
Meanwhile, make some polenta on the side. It's basically corn meal, water, butter, and cheese, but it's good.

It's good. It's real good. And it's good leftover. And the kids like it because the chicken is really soft. Now, obviously, this is a laborious dinner to make and I don't do it often but it smells so fabulous and is so good that I crave it every once in a while and make it...and I drink more of the red wine with it too. Then I'm tired from making it so I don't do it again for a while.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Monday challenge

As usual, I crawled out of bed today not wanting to do my job as a mom. Only the first part, though. I hate making breakfast. Mainly because I don't like breakfast myself. If only my kids just wanted to drink coffee and surf the internet for the first hour of the day like I do. But alas, they like to eat.

Matt actually took Sammy outside for about 20 minutes to shovel the two inches of snow we got last night. It didn't really need doing, but Sammy was so excited for snow and kept "woohooing" so loud that Matt suggested they go out and shovel before he left for work. What a good dad.

So, after dropping Matt off at work, coming home to finish breakfast dishes and getting everyone dressed and teeth brushed, (why do I hate that task so much??) I decided I should do something with them to celebrate this first snow of the season.

So, first we had a little mid-morning snack of popcorn and apple cider...

And then we headed off to our favorite sledding hill in Oak Park (10 minutes west of here) to take advantage of the snow. Matt took me skiing once and I was only so-so at it, but I can sled like a pro! I mean I have serious mad skills on a sled. I do just like my dad told me growing up and I throw my weight to the right and left as needed to get the thing down the hill just so.

I told them to smile as we were getting buckled up in the car after our sledding experience. Do you see how deliriously happy Claire is here? She must be thinking of what a good sledder her mom is.

After this we hit the library and loaded up on the Christmas version of every character we adore "Merry Christmas Curious George", "Merry Christmas Madeline", etc.

Of course we also had to all go potty in the library bathroom which was a feat in and of itself because of all the taking off of the snow clothes. I know, I life is really eventful isn't it? I even got an extra jewel in my crown by making them hot chocolate out of chocolate chunks when we got home.

I'm really trying to keep my spirits up as the Chicago winter sets in, but check on me in March when it's still this cold here. I probably won't sound so festive.