5:38 PM

The History of the Nap and Gone Fishin'

My freshman year of college, I learned a valuable skill. Actually, I believe it was my dear friend Jill who taught me this life-changing practice: the art of the nap. You see, before I went to college, I was never really a napper. To lay down and get all drooly in the middle of the day was not something I was into. Or so I thought. But when Jill would lay down and get snuggly after class, what was a girl to do? There was no good TV on in the afternoon (Springer was on at 11, and it was all downhill after that). So, I would reluctantly get myself a blankie and lay down on her little pull out couch. She had the routine down pat...close the blinds, set an alarm, and then simply sleep. Just like that. At first, this was just impossible for me, but I gave it the old college try. I would lie awake thinking of everything but sleeping. I would toss and turn, and think about homework and laundry and Ramen noodles.

I even began to doubt the nap. Was this just a waste of time? I was never even really tired in the middle of the day. What was the point? But again, I persisted. I would learn to nap no matter what, damnit. I then began to think of it as a "sympathy nap". I really wasn't tired, but Jill was, so I would nap in order to sympathize with her feelings. I am so selfless. Fortunately, this plan worked! Success at last!

Now, as an adult, I have a whole new appreciation for the nap. Although I rarely have the opportunity to nap myself, this has become a very important part of my life. When Emily began refusing a nap at age 2, I was devastated. How would I survive? Life as I knew it was over. Now that Emily is at school, Ethan is the main napper in my life. I have once again gained 2 and half hours of uninterrupted time each day while my dear boy slumbers. On weekends, the entire household has taken to "family naps" where we pile pillows and blankets on the floor, and encourage one another to sleep, or at the very least, sympathize with one another's desire for slumber. One thing that I have learned is that this is rarely successful unless everyone under the age of 6 has spent at least 3 hours blowing off some steam. This is a serious prerequisite to the family nap, or it turns out to be a complete disaster. So, this weekend, we went on a family field trip in an effort to have some fun and blow off some steam.

The Easter bunny generously gifted the children fishing poles, and my Mom gave the kids these stylish and snuggly fleeces, so we decided to give them a try. I think it may have been too cold for the fish, but by the time we left, both kids had dirt under their fingernails and leaves in their hair, so it was definitely a success.

At first, they were all gung-ho about the fishing adventure:

That lasted for about 15 minutes, until Ethan decided it was more fun to throw rocks, so we ventured down stream and left the fishing to the more patient half of the family.

And, about 15 minutes later, Ethan had a rock throwing partner, and Andy was the last fisherman standing.

That was our cue to take a nice walk in the woods, and visit the playground

Then we took them home, hosed them off and took a nice long family nap. I am happy to report that the kids were so tuckered out that this plan was a rousing success. A big thank you to two very important people who made this day possible, my Mom for getting the kids such snuggly fleeces to wear on our fishing trip, and Jill for teaching me the importance of resting ones eyes midday.

7:37 PM

A springy photo shoot

Happy Easter! Every spring, we get professional pictures taken. I decided to try to take them myself this year (Why? I have no idea.) Yesterday, I forced the kids to get all dressed up say "Cheese!". They were pretty irritated with me when all was said and done, but some of the pictures turned out OK. I will eventually get them printed and give them out to people, but we all know I suck at following through with things so here they are:

This one is funny, see how thoroughly annoyed he is. Love it!

Should I cut my losses and take them to a professional? Should I quit my day job and become a photographer? What do you guys think?

7:29 PM

Playing with Food 3/22/08

Remember the Wonder Years? That was such a good show: wholesome family, coming-of-age storylines, great music, Winnie Cooper and her teeny little eco-friendly car .

I really miss that show.
One of the most consistent scenes in The Wonder Years revolved around Jack, Norma, and the kids enjoying their evening meal. It never failed that as they would sit on their vinyl seats around the table, Jack would have to yell at Wayne for playing with his food. That Wayne was such a PITA.
Anyway, I realized that in my house we seem to encourage playing with food. In preparation for Easter, we played with edible playdough:

(This is made from equal parts dry milk, peanut butter, and honey. It is pretty tasty.)
We made a bunny hutch:

We dyed eggs:
And, the most popular event, playing with rice:

This is quite possibly the perfect spur of the moment activity. It is cheap and provides at least 45 minutes of entertainment. For this activity, you first gather supplies. I prefer to use Organic Whole grain Jasemine wild rice. That was a joke. Anyway a couple of bowls, spoons, and measuring cups and voila! It is easy to clean up too:

Fun, fun! So, that is what we have been up to...eat your heart out, Jack Arnold.

7:27 PM

Is there a person in there?

March 16, 2008 - Sunday

This morning, we were waiting to see the Easter bunny. In line, many families with pretty little children were all dressed up in their fancy duds to sit on the lap of he who will bring them treats in a basket while they slumber. First off, my children were not in fancy gear...this Easter bunny thing was an afterthought; my main interest in being at the mall was to buy more pants for Emily since she outgrows them every other week. So, as you can tell, we were kind of already standing out like a sore thumb. Well, maybe not like a sore thumb...more like an itchy thumb. We were noticeably underdressed, but not painfully underdressed. Not that this really matters, but I did want to set the scene.

Then, whammo! Emily asks a question I have been dreading..."Is there a person in there? In the bunny? That huge bunny would not even fit in our house!" Since she chose to semi-scream this question, all of the moms, dads, and kids in line quickly turned to stare at us, the underdressed family...they were clearly awaiting my response as much as she was. Way to put me on the spot, little girl.

As you can imagine, this question poses quite the conundrum. She is definitely old enough to tell the difference between real and fake...and a 7 foot tall fuzzy bunny with gigantic plastic eyes definitely falls in the fake-o category. What’s a mother to do? I am certainly not going to lie straight to her face...she would know that I was either a. lying, or b. stupid. We can’t have that. I am sure she will think I am an idiot for the majority of her teenage years, and I am not in a hurry to speed up this process. Plus, we have a BIG rule in our house about lying, and I am not about to sit on time out! On the other hand, how can I burst the bubble of all the other children in line by telling the truth.

So, what was my response?....a big old mumble. Yes, I simply mumbled..something like "Well, theres sammeremen and the bunny pershhshsafluies. Hey, LOOK! They give you bunny ears after you get your picture taken COOL!" I don’t quite think this strategy will work when the "birds and the bees" discussion rears its ugly head, but it seemed to do the trick today, so I breathed a sigh of relief and went on to answer the 20 million other questions that she had while we were in line. Then, my casually dressed kiddos smiled nicely for the camera and we were on our way.

So, the moral of my story: When in Doubt: Mumble.

7:26 PM

Sayonara Cinderella

March 14, 2008

OK, folks. One question: what is the appeal with the Disney Princesses? The fact that they are pretty? That they have a prince and a poofy dress and live in a castle? I’ll pass, thank you very much. Please pardon me if I sound a bit jaded. I just have a slight bitterness about the princess madness that has played a role in Emily’s live for the past 2 years. She played dress up with the outfits, went to see them on ice, and has a multitude of trinkets and other such princess paraphenelia. Handel’s

"Hallelujia" chorus practically resonated in my ears when she uttered the highly anticipated words, "I think maybe I am not so much into princesses anymore".
Don’t get me wrong, she still has an adequete love for pincessy things, and this much I can handle, but I am oh-so-pleased to report that the undying adoration has come to an end. I must say that I do appreciate the princesses mannerly ways, their poise, and their ability to perservere when they encounter adversity These young ladies did have their strong points. That Cinderella did not bend over and accept her fate as an unappreciated servant. I get this. Way to go, blondie. Unforutunately, she waited for a prince to come along and save the day. What’s up with that? Is this really the role model we want for our impressionable girls? I think not.

And what about that Mermaid...disobeying her father like that and "flitting to the surface"? Putting her life in danger and giving up her voice, her God given gift, to hang out with a fella she had only seen from afar? Superficial much, Ariel? Seriously, you’d think one of her sisters, or at least Sebastian, would have stepped in and let her know that there were other fish in the sea. You need not give up part of yourself to make your dreams come true. Really.

Quite honestly, the only princess I would hang out with, and want my daughter to learn anything from, would be Belle. Yes, the bookworm who saw the true beauty in the ghastly beast gets an A in my gradebook. She didn’t fall for that egotistical Gaston. She stood up for her father and took a stand. She valued education and heart over beauty, and this is a lesson I would like to send to my daughter.

I look forward to the opportunity to revisit these stories with Emily when she is old enough to learn the right lessons from them. I am just happy, for this moment, that I do not have to worry about her expecting some guy on a white horse to come sweeping by and rescue her. My girl can stand up for herself, thank you very much, and I intend to be sure she knows it.
OK. I am climbing off of my soapbox for now. Carry on!

7:16 PM

Time to get all sappy

March 10, 2008 - Monday

So, here we are. Two years ago today, I was holding a brand new snuggly bundle in my arms. Now, this bundle has quadrupled in size, and has grown from a floppy little thing into a real live boy. I will never forget the night he was born and when I first looked in his eyes. I just knew that he was the absolute perfect addition to our little family. Isn't he just the sweetest little thing ever:

Now, he is such a little clown. I catch him walking around the house making funny faces and cracking himself up just about daily. I am amazed at how quickly time passes, and I try to savor each moment until he is embarrased to be seen in public with me. Here is my big boy with some of his new birthday loot:
This was first thing in the morning, when he got his first bike. Notice Emily in the background...yes, I guess I do allow my children to ride their bikes in the house.

He really did love it...even though he looks a bit stunned in the picture.

Another favorite gift:
He is not really a demon, I just can't seem to get the red eye reducer to work on his baby blues.
Getting ready to eat cake:

And, one of the big sister enjoying the party:
I know, I know...again with the red eyes...apparently, I can only get rid of it on right eyes...the left eyes just stay demonish.
Anyway, that's enough sap from me for one day.

7:15 PM

My lifetime original movie

March 3, 2008 - Monday

Have you ever accidentally tuned in to a Lifetime Original Movie and gotten so sucked into the pitful drama that you can't seem to force yourself to change the channel? Don't act like you don't know what I am talking about. The main character and victim is usually played by Melissa Gilbert, and she is most likely being lied to or cheated on...or someone stole her baby. Without Pa there to protect her, all-grown-up Laura Ingalls has the worst luck ever. Seriously, half pint can't get a freaking break.

Today, my dear friend Megan and I were discussing some such movie, and contemplating what our own lives would look like if broadcast on the victim channel. How would our most suspenseful moments play out in a made for TV movie? Would it be as thrilling and addictive as the others, or are we just not martyr material enough to make our movie worth watching?
Sadly enough, the most dramatic moment of my day is when I literally sprint from the car to my home while perpetually running late from one job to the next. I know that Dr. Phil views consistent tardiness as extremely selfish behavior, but whatever...Phil has no idea what I am up against here. It is inevitable. I feel I must elaborate on this so you understand just how tight my schedule is. During this final sprint of the day, I wouldn't dare stop at the mailbox to get the mail...this would take like 10 extra seconds that I could not possibly spare. My poor children are lucky enough to get a greeting and a half assed hug as I dash to my computer to make up for lost time.

Anyway, as I confessed to Megan, the front door being locked is quite often my biggest obstacle. I must sadly admit that I have actually cursed the door for being locked. Out loud. I may even have let the f-er fly after this horrifying discovery.

So, picture this...the most dramatic moment of my day as I, played by Kellie Martin, sprint the 15 feet from my car (most likely a sensible sedan or quite possibly even a minivan) to my front door. Soundrack music is crescendoing in the background as my victim-channel movie comes to a climax so suspenseful that even the Lifetime people would not dare interrupt with a commercial. Kellie is determined to reach her destination. At this point, the heel of her shoe breaks and she probably falls over and scrapes her knee, ripping her pantyhose in the process. But that Kellie is a victim no more! She perserveres. She will crawl, hop, whatever it takes to get to that door and get to her commitment on time.

Tears begin streaming down her face as she realizes that she had just ruined her favorite pair of shoes that she bought in New York City with Tiffany Amber Theissen. With a new wave of determination, she charges once again towards the door. The new Kellie won't let even this crappy realization get her down. There is still time. She has 4 seconds to spare. Then, just as she reaches the door, the stinging reality of the situation overcomes her. The damned door is locked. And if you thought the music was crescendoing before, you were sadly mistaken my friend, because this is the true crossroads...the apex of the story, the defining moment that makes or breaks Kellie. "Why!? Why?!" Kellie screams, to no one in particular. The neighbors glance over at her but continue carrying in their groceries as if this is a daily occurance. Now, cue the commercial...the camera panning out as Kellie lies in a huddled pathetic mass, fumbling with her keys on my front stoop.

What will happen to Kellie? Will she overcome the trauma, and find that a new pair of shoes is just a train ride away? Will she make millions as the inventor of a voice activated door lock? Was this whole experience a blessing in disguise...her obstacles really a gift that shaped her true character and pointed her in the direction of her true destiny? There has to be a lesson in here somewhere, people...she didn't go through all of this for nothing!

What lesson did the real non-victim Natalie learn? To count to at least 5 when I hug my kids after I walk in the door. After all, when I am gone, even if it is only for 3 hours, that is three hours of their Lifetime that I missed. Fortunately, my dear girl is quite the storyteller, and their channel plays reruns of daytime programming all evening long. I vow to listen intently as they replay any crescendoes I may have missed. And tomorrow, when I sprint to my front door, I am going to laugh my ass off, picturing Becca Thatcher, a sobbing mess, huddled next to my flowerbeds.

7:06 PM

An undersea adventure...almost (3/2/08)

March 2, 2008 - Sunday

Today, we packed up the kiddos and went to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Living close to major cities definitely has benefits, I tell ya. This was a quick 25 minute ride into a whole new world of sharks, fishies, and frogs. The kids had a blast. My third child, Andy, loved it too. He spent the entire ride home discussing how amazing it would be to breathe underwater. "What would be cooler, flying or breathing underwater?" he pondered aloud. "Which would you prefer?" he asked, reminding me that as this gift was bestowed upon me, the word "Behold!" would be thundered by the gift giver. He has really thought this moment through, I guess. Dialogue and all.

This got me to thinking. I have no interest in either of these "gifts". Really, I think combining my impatience and ungraceful nature with either of these things would be a certified recipe for disaster. I am perfectly happy here on land, just me and my two feet. Is that weird? Is this a symptom of my contentness or a demonstration of complete lack of adventurous spirit? I wonder. What do you think?

Anyway, at the Adventure Aquarium,
They let you pet the sharks and starfish:

We got to hang out in a rainforest:

They had these awesome glow in the dark jellyfish:
Got up close and personal with some big fish:
Emily the Angelfish:
Ethan the Octopus:
Me and the kiddos:

Our attempt at a do-it-yourself family photo in front of the beautiful Philadelphia skyline:

As you can see, it really was a great day. If you have not had the pleasure of visiting an aquarium, I highly suggest you do so. It really is amazing to see all of the wonders from the beneath the deep blue sea. Even for the boring, non-adventurous type like me.