Monday, October 28, 2013

Dating at Home

With a newborn, it's easy to get stuck in an evening routine rut.  Until last week, we were spending most of our evenings after we got Jane and Walt to bed watching our favorite shows on the couch while I nursed Harry.  When you're exhausted, it's easy to take the path of least resistance and just veg out on the couch.

We decided we were sick of watching tv and needed to switch things up a bit.  Enter the At Home Date Night Jar.

I grabbed a mason jar, a handful of craft sticks, some felt-tipped pens, and we brainstormed fun activities for the two of us to do at home other than watch television.  We don't have the budget to regularly pay for a sitter, and we want to keep things fresh by having regular date nights at home.  When we're looking for inspiration, we'll draw a stick from the jar, and we'll do whatever activity is written on it.  

We had fun brainstorming activities together.  Within 15 minutes, we had run out of craft sticks, and we had a jar full of fun, creative activities for future at-home date nights.  While we were brainstorming, we discovered The Dating Divas.  The Dating Divas is a site dedicated to strengthening marriages by encouraging couples to keep dating throughout their marriage.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, we stole a few ideas from their site and came up with a few of our own.  

Here are a few of the activities in our At Home Date Night Jar:
  • Visit for inspiration
  • Rearrange furniture in a room
  • 30 minute massage
  • Wine, cheese, baguette, & watch Life is Beautiful
  • Living room dance lesson (consult YouTube)
  • Online house hunting
  • Do a puzzle together
  • Dress up, takeout, candelight meal in the dining room
  • Make family photo album on Shutterfly
  • Mario Cart Wii tournament
  • Share 5 goals over a snack
  • Watch a pre-1960 movie
  • Workout DVD & smoothies
  • Watch a sports game & eat stadium food (nachos, hotdogs, pretzels, etc.)
  • Read a book to each other
  • Set up a practical joke for the kids
  • No technology, no electricity
  • Picnic in the family room
  • Bubble bath
  • Sit outside & read together
  • Write a mad lib style story together
  • Build a fort for the kids
  • Read the same book.  Discuss after each chapter.
  • Learn & play a new card game
  • Make a freezer meal
  • Choose new photos for frames around the house
  • Try a new cocktail recipe
  • Bake cookies
  • Board game tournament
  • Tackle a problem area of the house (garage, storage room, etc.) with a bottle of wine
  • Teach each other about an historical event or current issue
  • Get some peppermint foot lotion & give each other a foot massage         
We decided to kick things off that night by drawing an activity out of the jar.  We played a game called "Head of the Class" that I found on The Dating Divas and opened up a bottle of wine.  

From The Dating Divas
From The Dating Divas
Both of us filled out cards that had questions like, "What is your favorite movie?"  Then, we took turns asking each other the questions and guessing what the other person wrote.  The first person to get 10 questions correct won.  It was TOUGH!

The funniest moment of the night was answering the question, "What is your biggest fear?"  The conversation went a little something like this:

Philip:  What's your biggest fear?
Me:  You dying at a young age.  What's your biggest fear?
Philip:  (laughing sheepishly)  Me dying at a young age.
Me:  What?!?!  Your biggest fear is YOU dying at a young age?!
Philip:  Well...(laughing)...I wouldn't want you to be sad!
Me:  (Laughing so hard that I'm crying)  Great, so you want me to die first?
Philip:  I guess so!  

Isn't he romantic?  

Unfortunately, for me, Philip won.  Before playing, we decided to make it a high stakes game by putting a 10-minute back massage with Body Shop Body Butter (love that stuff!) on the line.  Philip loves back massages, so he was a happy camper when he won.  He got a lot of grief for the rest of the night for wanting to kill me off first.  It was fun learning more about each other and revisiting questions that we hadn't thought about in awhile.    

Do you and your sweetie still have date nights at home?  Do you have any fun activities to add to our list?

We're looking forward to our next At Home Date Night!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Picnic Lunch in the Family Room

Last week, I decided to switch things up a bit.  The kids had been playing really well together, and I wanted to reward them for being so sweet to each other.  Ever since Harry had his 2-month well-visit and our pediatrician said I needed to fatten him up, it seems as though I've been spending our entire days "just" nursing Harry on the couch.  I wanted to do something special for Jane and Walt to let them know how much I appreciated their patience with me as I nursed their baby brother.

After I finished making lunch, I surprised them and announced, "Okay!  Lunch is ready!  Today, we are going to have a PICNIC IN THE FAMILY ROOM!"

Oh my goodness, you would have thought it was Christmas morning around here.  Immediately, they started jumping up and down and saying, "YAY!!!"  I laid out one of our blankets and set out our food.  I decided to make their favorite--PB&J, sour cream and onion chips, and applesauce.  It was all very, uh, organic and very nutritious....wink, wink.  At least they had their milk!    

Before we sat down to eat, Walt observed the food on the ground of the family room.  He looked at me and said, "Mommy, we make a mess!"

This was his way of saying he was worried we were going to spill and make a mess in the family room.  I told him, "It's okay!  We are going to eat on the blanket today.  It's fun!"

When he heard me absolve him of any fear of making a mess, an ear-to-ear grin came on his face.  It simultaneously thrilled me and broke my heart.  I was tickled he was so excited about the picnic, but it struck me that his first thought was, "Oh, no.  What if we make a mess?"  The family room picnic was my small attempt to let them know that it's important to Mommy that we have impromptu fun together.

One minute into the meal, Walt dropped a glob of grape jelly on his jeans.  A look of panic crossed his little face.  "Oh, no!  I spill!"  

I smiled and said, "Accidents happen!  It's okay."

He returned my smile and said, "Okay, Mommy."  Note to self:  Reinforce to the kiddos that accidents happen and that's okay--especially on the days when we've had 5 potty training wardrobe changes or spilled milk 3 times in one sitting.  It's good to learn how to be careful, but it's more important to learn that Mommy will help you when you have an accident.

Jane and Walt did a great job eating, so they got to have their favorite treat--a Double-Stuf Oreo.  

Ever since that day, they regularly ask for "more picnic time."  I hope when they look back on their childhood, they'll think of moments like this.  I want them to remember Mom joining them on the floor, doing "Criss-Cross Applesauce" on their backs as many times as they ask, reading all of the books from the library twice in one sitting just because, and telling them that I love being their mommy.  If all they remember is me scrubbing toilets, telling them to pick up, or "Hurry!" it will have been a squandered opportunity.  

I want them to know that they (and their dad) are my vocation; they're not an obstacle to it.  I hope they know that I chose to stay at home because they are my vocation--not cleaning the house, making meals, or any other secondary goods.  They are my heaven-sent eternal gifts that give me everyday opportunities to help me on my own path to sainthood.  Hopefully they'll think of Mommy as helping them on their path, too.  That is why I'm home.  

"She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her."  
(Proverbs 31:26-28)    

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happiness Project: October Resolutions Progress Report

Philip and I decided to get serious about changing a few things around here with our version of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project.  I wrote about it here.  Basically, we're doing small things to improve our own happiness to in turn increase the happiness of those around us.  Philip and I decided to touch base last night before bed to see where we thought we were with our October Happiness Project Resolutions.  To help hold us accountable, I thought I'd share our thoughts here. 

In case you forgot, our October Happiness Project Resolutions were:

  • Catherine, 6:00 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred level 1
  • Philip, running or elliptical 3x per week before leaving for work
  • 9:00 p.m. get ready for bed
  • Lights out at 10:00 p.m.
  • Weeknight family prayer time after bathtime before bed
  • 1 decade of the Rosary followed by bedtime prayers at the dinner table 
Let's tackle these one by one...

1.  Exercise

  • Catherine:  The 6:00 a.m. routine worked a few times, but my exhaustion got the best of me most mornings.  The combination of the "big kids" waking up at 5:30 most mornings and Harry needing at least one feeding in the middle of the night made for one tired mama.  I'm switching my routine to gain some snooze time.  My new routine:  Tuesdays and Thursdays once I get home from dropping Jane off at preschool and Saturday mornings, Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, level 1.  
  • Philip:  My sweet hubby was so supportive trying to get everyone dressed and fed in the mornings that he put himself last most days.  Unfortunately, he has a tough rotation on the docket for November, so we're still brainstorming ways that he can get his exercise in daily.  For now, Philip's goal is to run or do the elliptical 2x per week.
2.  Sleep
  • Harry has changed his feeding routine since his last pediatric visit.  (Translation:  He's low on the percentile chart and my pediatrician would like him to fatten up before his next weigh-in.  This means he's eating longer and more frequently.)  He's having his last feeding around 9/9:30.  We start getting ready for bed immediately afterward, but we should get ready for bed before I start that feeding.  We've been in bed most weeknights before 10, but we can work harder to reach that goal.  Perhaps we could try to make Harry's feeding closer to 9, make it a goal to be in bed by 9:45, and lights out by 10:30.  
3.  Faith
  • We have said 1 decade of the Rosary followed by bedtime prayers at the dinner table *almost* every night since making this resolution.  We missed a few times because of Philip's work schedule, date nights, events with extended family that kept the kids up too late, etc., but the family Rosary is definitely a habit.  On the rare nights that we missed it, the kids asked about it.  Hooray for a regular family prayer routine that is sticking!
  • Things that helped our family Rosary time be successful:  
    • Routine
    • Low lighting and candles (with the promise that each child can blow out a candle at the end if they do a good job praying) 
    • Rosaries with cord and plastic beads for the kiddos
    • Picking battles and accepting baby steps toward reverence
    • Family Prayer Binder (stored on top of the fridge) with all necessary materials
    • Laminating & displaying an image of the mystery of the Rosary that we are praying on a stand (flanked by the lit candles)
Our family prayer binder that holds our materials
Our prayer binder tabs & pockets with prayer materials
One of our laminated images we display while praying the Rosary
  • Here are few photos from our family Rosary time:

Baby steps toward reverence...  Saints in the making, right?
So, overall, I'd say we're doing well.  We can improve each area, but we are making strides in the right direction.  Our Happiness Project is off to a great start, and we already have ideas for our November resolutions.  

Do you have any suggestions for a future resolution?  What's something you're doing to boost your own happiness & the happiness of others?  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Neighborhood Nature Scavenger Hunt

Philip was post-call today.  That means that he worked a 24-hour shift at the hospital, and he had the day off once he got home this morning.  Fortunately, it was a relatively slow night at the hospital, so he was able to get a good amount of sleep. 

Philip is always so good at coming up with fun activities to do as a family.  Jane came home from preschool on Tuesday with tales of a class nature walk.  This inspired Philip to plan a family nature scavenger hunt around the neighborhood.  

He created a picture checklist for Jane and Walt of things to find.  Here's Jane with her list.  See anything strange on it?

It all seems pretty standard for a neighborhood nature walk, right?  Tree, leaf, grass, acorn, sun, monkey...  Wait, monkey?  That husband of mine loves to make the kids laugh!  

"Daddy!  We're not going to find a MONKEY!"
"Why not?"  Philip loooooooves playing dumb so that they feel smart.
"Because!  There aren't any monkeys in our neighborhood!"
"Okay, we'll see."

Don't mind us, neighbors.  We're on a mission!
Checking things off -- in purple crayon, of course
I just love how rosy his cheeks get
Still looking for that monkey!
Monty's glad we didn't bring along any strollers
Showing off some leaves she found
Hooray for strong and tall Daddy!
Whoops.  Didn't realize the view the neighbors were getting until I started walking behind them!
"Look at our collection!"  Proudly displaying everything they found.
Karate chopping each other so that they can hold their favorite items.
As much as I gripe about residency, I know I'll miss these random post-call days when Philip is home in the middle of the week.  After we came home from our nature scavenger hunt, we read stories and took a family nap.  Oh, so glorious!  After naptime, Philip made us breakfast for dinner.  We had eggs, pancakes, sausage, and apples.  Deeeeeeeeee-lish!  Philip played with the kids while I cleaned up the kitchen.  Jane and Harry even had some "tummy time" together.

Neither one seemed to enjoy it.
After that was bath time, dance time, story time, family prayer time, and bedtime.  Now, it's Mommy and Daddy (and Harry) time.  Off to hang out with my boyfriend before our bedtime!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Practicing for Preschool Picture Day

Us preschool parents found out that picture day is on Thursday.  I'm sure a lot of the other parents didn't give this a second thought.  If they did, they're probably focused on things like what their child will wear or how they will style their hair.  I'm concerned about other things.  You see, Jane likes to give it her all when it comes to taking pictures. 

She'll do one of two moves:

  1. Evade the camera with all her might
  2. Give the goofiest face she can think of
Philip called today to check in over lunch.  I gave him the usual report on what was going on around the home front, how preschool went for Jane, what I had been up to with the boys, etc.  I mentioned I had been trying to "practice" Jane's picture day smile with her.  

"What do you mean?" Philip asked.

"Well, I'll say, 'OK, Jane.  Pretend I'm the photographer.  When I say 'Cheese!' what are you going to do?'  Then I ask her to smile."

"Oh," Philip said.

"I'm afraid it's making the problem worse.  Now she thinks it's funnier than ever to be silly for the camera."

After recovering from laughing, Philip said, "Well, maybe you could make it look like a real photo shoot with a backdrop on the wall, ask her to stand in front of it, and take real pictures."

So, guess what we did this afternoon after lunch.  Bingo!  Preschool picture day practice photo shoot!

Wanna see how it went?

After I put up a few pieces of cardstock, my ready and willing subject, Walt, entered the scene.  It looks like he's saying, "Who?  Little old me?"

Moving subject with camera phone  = blurry

Way to go, buddy!  Show Janie how it's done!  I love your use of pretend ice cream cone.

Workin' it

This way, buddy

I'll take it


I think he's about over it

Yup.  He's had enough.

Enter my next subject...

This is what I got when I said, "Smile!"

Cheesy smile with a little lower lip biting action.  OK, this could be a good start!

Blowing kisses

Well, this is sure going downhill

Oh, dear

After a little break, Walt's back for more

The trouble is, the girl who doesn't want her picture taken won't leave the scene

I'm back, Mom!  Keep taking my pic!


Jane used her time away from the camera to think up this pose

And this one

And yet another variation on that one

Alright, folks!  I think we might be coming back to cute

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand, there you have it!  Cousin It!

How much do these preschool pictures cost anyway?

At least we're stationary and making eye contact

Getting too distracted...the lazy eye is making an appearance

The grand finale!  Is it naptime?
So, there you have it.  I think we're ready for preschool picture day.  Practice makes perfect!