Monday, September 28, 2009

Jungle Safari! Part 1

I'm going to have to divide Carson's birthday party pics into 2 posts. But first, some of you have requested pictures of the cupcakes, and here they are! This is the menagerie of jungle safari animals: zebra, lion, monkey, giraffe, elephant and tiger. I could not have made these without my in-laws, who took the kids on Friday night and Saturday! These were an absolute labor of love...one that I will not be repeating. I spent the better part of a month collecting all the little candies necessary to finish these babies, and from start to finish it took about 7 hours to make. I've decided it's easier to make LOTS of one kind of cupcake, even if it's time-consuming, than to make a few of several different kinds like this.Here's the tiger.

For some reason, I did NOT choose the best looking monkey for a solo close-up! This one has crooked ears and googly eyes. But, these would be one that I would definitely do again for a monkey-birthday party or something. They are cute and not too challenging.
Lion.
Zebra.

Elephant.
I did the ears and trunk with melting candy wafers like I used for the butterfly wings. By the time the pictures were taken and it was time to eat the cupcakes, most of the ears had broken off! The tusks are banana runts. :)
I forgot to take a solo pic of the giraffe (so this was cropped from another pic) partly because I was not that happy with how they turned out and partly because I finished them last...late on Friday night, and I was exhausted!
Here's the display! It was fun for Carson to not have seen any of the prep and walk in to the jungle animal cupcakes he had chosen so many weeks ago.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Deliriously blessed.

We had a big party today. It was super fun. I make cupcakes and they took a long time. Carson has a blast at his party and felt so special having all his friends and family shower him with love, attention and gifts. I love it too. I'm feeling very, very blessed. But also? Very, very tired. More pictures to come, but first I HAD to post this one pic that Mike took of Carson and me last weekend. Those smiles need no explanation!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I've been trying to get a good video of Sydney dancing, because it's darn cute. But, as you'll see, she gets distracted pretty easily. Usually it's her interest in the camera itself, and this particular night, Trent let her sit by the computer, so she was fascinated with the volume control. But you can get a glimpse of her rockin' moves in action. (Shout out to Hannah and Norah, since here's another vid with the pink lace camo shirt that she inherited from them!)

video

If you want to see a hilarious baby dance video, check out this sight. For some reason, it wouldn't embed well into my post, but it is hilarious baby dancing. I was dying!

http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1921700

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FOUR!

Like any mother, I cannot come upon my child's birthday without remembering the details of that child's day of birth and pregnancy. Today is the FOURTH anniversary of Carson's entrance into our lives! I didn't blog then, so I feel the right to share the abridged story. :) I had an easy pregnancy physically, but a difficult one emotionally. Two of my best friends lost their precious late-term babies while I was pregnant, a fact I cannot talk or even write about without crying. I mourned their losses so intensely, felt my survivor's guilt sharply, and experienced their love for me and my child, the recipient of a graciousness that humbles me to this day. Carson's life will forever be linked to the lives of Baby Grace and Baby Marr in my mind, just as he is with their wonderful, healthy brothers Nate and Henry.
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My labor was long and difficult. (I started contractions regularly on Tuesday night, he was born Thursday at 1pm.) I'm still glad I got the epidural, even though I puked my way through the last hours because of it. There was meconium in my water & Carson's heartrate was dropping so often and quickly that an operating room was prepped for us in anticipation of an emergency C-section. I had to have an oxygen mask on during all the pushing, and I had 5 different tubes placed in various places in my body. Including, the strangest one, a tube to put fluid BACK INTO my uterus because he had been in there so long after my water broke. But, even after all the drama (the most anxious I've ever seen my husband!), Carson was born healthy and we didn't end up needing the O.R.
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There's just no way to understand this crazy, wonderful adventure until you experience it. Having him in my life truly feels like having a part of my heart walking & talking...and moving & growing away from me little by little as the years go by.
Here is a pic of Carson yesterday. A little blurry, but as close to current as you can get. This little stinker has brought out emotions in me that I didn't know existed! Indescribable love and mind-numbing frustration being the most keenly and often experienced! I wouldn't trade one day with him, even the rough ones, and I can't wait to see him grow even more. Happy birthday to my baby boy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Accentuate the positive!

So, I feel like I have used this blog on many occasions to rant/share my frustrations with my challenging son. And while I have many more of those type of tear-my-hair-out stories that I could post, I thought I'd give you a couple goodies.

First, Carson's preschool teacher, Mrs. M, told Daddy today that Carson has "such a sweet spirit" and is doing wonderfully in class. HOORAY! It HAS only been 2 weeks, but still. I'LL TAKE IT!

Second, this morning when he was leaving for school, Carson was giving Sydney a kiss and he took her hand and kissed her palm. He said "Now when you get sad, you put it to your cheek like this and say 'Carson loves me, Carson loves me, Carson loves me.'" For those of you who have read The Kissing Hand, you'll know this is an exercise that mommy and Chester racoon do when Chester is worried about leaving her to go to school. I loved that he did it for his sister!

Third, and this one happened on a day when he was an absolute PILL, we were in the backyard close to dinnertime, and he picked up a dandelion. You know, the kind that kids love b/c you can make a wish and blow the whisps all over the yard and adults love because those little whisps are planting weeds all over your yard. Well, he picked it up and, not knowing I was listening, he said "I wish...for mommy kisses for the rest of my life!" I said with a smile, "What did you wish for?" And he answered sheepishly, "I wished you would kiss me for the rest of my life." STOP IT! I melted in a little puddle right there on the deck! When I composed myself and stopped sniffling, I went over and gave him a bear hug and plenty of those kisses he wished for.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Say it a little louder. Canada didn't hear you.

I tried to find a generic photo for this post, but there wasn't a photo of a child with a megaphone large enough to do it justice!
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You see, in the last week, we've had 2 incidents where Carson, completely innocently, has LOUDLY commented on another person's appearance in public. And you all know there's no way he was saying something like, "Mommy, that lady is so beautiful!" or "What a trendy scarf!" No, no. As kids do, he notices things that are unusual or--to his mind--comical.
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These weren't the first 2, but the 2 from last week:
"WHOA! That man's nose is REALLY big! It's SO FUNNY!"
(Man was returning a cart at COSTCO at the same parking lot cart return where we were slowly loading up, so he was approx 5 feet away and surely heard. He did, in fact, have an unusually large nose.) I said, "Oh, OK. Well that's not nice to point at people. Can you not do that, please?"
What do I do?!
and:
"That guy's stomach is SO BIG! It's falling over his pants!"
Fortunately, this one was made in the car regarding a passerby, so Trent and I exchanged looks of chagrin and worry, because it was loud and emphatic, and could easily have happened right next to the man.
Not being super-prepared for the teachable moment, I stumbled something out about how God makes people of all sizes, shapes, colors, heights, etc., & that each person is special, blah, blah, blah. Then I said that if he wants to show me something interesting about a person, he needs to whisper it quietly, because...uh, it may make that person feel sad if they think we are laughing at them.
What do I do?!
I let it go, so as not to make a huge deal out of it, but realized this is something that might be happening more often as Carson's language and observation skills are improving.
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OK, so parents, what have you said to your kids to minimize these moments? (Because, let's be honest, they are GOING to happen.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

There's definitely a learning curve.

So, I have two functions this weekend for which I'm providing cupcakes. One is for company at my house tonight. Last night I decided to experiment with 2 different cupcakes styles, both merely decorative and not focusing on the taste of the cake. (Hello, Betty Crocker yellow cake mix!) I thought both would be really easy and look fabulous. I was mistaken. This green grass cupcake is from the Martha book, and it looked so easy, I thought it was my BACK UP! Her version has little lady bugs made out of fondant, but I didn't have time for that, so I got some sour balls and thought I could just pipe black frosting on.

So many things went wrong. First, I could not get the grass green enough. Second, were you at my house last night at 10pm? It was very hot. The frosting was melting literally by the minute. I would pipe on some "grass" and it would instantly melt into one big glob of neon green moss. I tried putting the frosting bag back in the fridge between each cupcake, but that was ridiculously time consuming. Along with the moss-like issues, I would put the sour ball on (which were way to round and dark to look like ladybugs anyway), and it would slowly s-l-i-d-e down the side of the slippery frosting, messing up any semblance of grass along the way. When I finally got the little sourball ladybugs on, the black frosting was not coming out in little dots. It was coming in little spikes. Suddenly the adorable lady bugs in my mind were turning into some severe spikey-shelled animal out of old school Mario Bros. video game. Sigh. I made about 10, but I won't be serving them to any company. First one over here gets them all!
The next plan was a 50/50 success. First, I'll start with the good: they turned out pretty cute! However, if you cannot tell they are supposed to be corn on the cob, please don't tell me. Aside from similar frosting melting issues and sliding jelly bellies, they were relatively easy.

However, I was planning to take these to a large function for Trent's coworkers, and I was only able to make 4 "cobs" or 12 cupcakes, because I ran out of yellow bellies. There was only one place in town where I could buy just yellows, and you're looking at $5.50 worth of beans!

The picture in the book had many more jelly bellies on each cake, but I had to spread the wealth of these golden beans. Also, I got the "caramel corn" bellies, because they were orange-ish/gold and sounded yummy, but now they stick out to me. I would not get those again.

I found another version online that is multi-colored Indian corn for harvest/Thanksgiving, and it was really cute. So, I may have to try it again, even though it is spendy! (BTW, the butter cubes are banana Laffy Taffy, and the pepper is black sprinkles.) So, instead of the work thing, I'm going to serve these tonight for our guests, which works out well anyway, b/c we're having an outside BBQ so hang on to these last summer days. You'll know my plate, b/c it will be the one that has all the buttered popcorn jelly bellies picked off and cast aside!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Birdie pics

Sydney's still not confident about the walking thing, but she's getting very sure of herself with her balance and footing when she's holding onto something. She'll speed-crawl around the house, pull herself up on anything that does or doesn't move, cruise around, then squat back down to crawl her next destination.
Oh, gosh, look at that weary little face and puffy eyes! Last week she had a nasty virus that manifested itself with just 2 symptoms. The first one was a high fever that lasted a good 48 hours. This pic was taken when she was still feeling pretty lousy.
The other symptom was that after the fever was gone, she broke out in this nasty pink rash all over her body. It was so sad! The doc said because she wasn't itching it, it probably was not an allergic reaction, just the virus running its course. You have to click on this pic to enlarge to get an idea of what it looked like. Poor baby! We were so glad to get her back to normal.
In other news, our little Bird has been going through some personality changes. She's definitely exploring the world of toddlerhood and all its requisite attitude. During the day she is much more fussy than she used to be. I know some of you will laugh at this or completely not believe me, but she has been getting aggressive in her pouting! She'll pinch Carson's arm if she thinks it's too close to her, or forcefully slap away food or drink that I offer to her if that's not what she's grunting for. I knew my perfect little girl wouldn't stay so easy forever, but I'm a little sad to see that stage pass! She's got a perfect little pout frown, which I will try to catch on film one of these days.
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However, of course, she's still Sydney, so she's also extremely sweet and loveable most of the time. Here's some precious pics of her and her doting Daddy playing with bubbles the other night.


Telling Dad all about it.











This is one morning when she got to peek in on Carson's Curious George show. She's clapping her approval... ...then coming to the camera for a close-up. Love that cute face!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

And it begins!

SCHOOL!
Carson is now officially a student. He started today and won't stop for many, many years. OK, I know it's only preschool, but it's quite a milestone for all of us. Don't ask me if I documented it. You know I did!
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Here's the big school boy watching his one allotted episode of Curious George before partaking of a healthy breakfast of milk, peanut butter toast and kiwi. (On the side, not on the PB.) We had quite a few power battles this morning, and I really tried to reign in my control issues. Combing the hair was the first one. Clothes were the biggest one. I thought I was being so proactive and we chose some clothes last night, but I made a couple mistakes. First, the shirt he chose (from my approved list) was brand-new, and when he put it on this morning, it was way too big. The sleeves hung below his hands. So we had to pick a new one. I wanted a nicer polo shirt, he is rebelling against all things with collars. It was chilly, I thought he should wear pants, he wanted to wear shorts. We settled on NICE shorts that are long. He chose a ratty old sweatshirt that didn't match his clothes and is too small, and he would NOT back down. I gave in on that one too since I at least approved of the shorts and the shirt, even though they weren't my first choice. (But notice it is not in the pictures!) Also? We then argued over what SYDNEY would wear. I'm not making this up. He was adamant that she wear a pretty sundress (ironic, since HE wanted to be so casual) and I said it was too cold. He then wanted to choose her shirt AND pants, and I said he could choose one or the other, then I would choose a complimentary piece. It was almost funny if it hadn't been so frustrating at the time.
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But we made it to school in plenty of time to pay our tuition, make a stop at the little boy's room and take some pictures. Here is Carson in front of the door to his building. He was a little unsure of the big kids going into their classes right next door.

Here is Carson's teacher! I'm going to try to protect a little privacy, so we'll call her Mrs. M. We're excited to get to know her better. Carson got very shy right here, but I told her that would last about 3 minutes.
Carson immediately went to the toys, which we had seen on our scouting mission (aka: open house) last week. He dove right in, not seeming too concerned with me or when I was leaving.
The classroom is very cute and looks just right for a preschool!

After a few minutes, I realized there was no reason for me to stick around, even though school didn't officially start for another 10 minutes. So, I told Carson I was leaving, he said "OK!" and gave me and Sydney big hug and kisses and went back to this table with the ramps and the cars. I walked away thinking that it was rather anti-climactic, as I had possibly envisioned tears and drama, but I was SO relieved that it went the way it did.
BTW, his teacher said their class is maxed out at 18 kids and they have THIRTEEN BOYS! Heehee! Please pray for Mrs. M. :)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

And quite a yummy hobby it is.

So, as mentioned in my last post, I've become very interested in cupcakes. I think it started with Sydney's birthday cupcakes, which I was pretty proud of, even though they kept tipping over. Then, every time I went into costco, I was drawn the the beautiful pictures in Martha Stewart's cupcake book. I saw some really cute cupcakes, and then one that was a cheesecake cupcake with an actual Oreo in the bottom of each one. I'm not going to lie: that was a huge selling point right there.
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I bought Martha's book and another one, Hello, Cupcake!, and have really enjoyed trying some out. The two books compliment each other well because they have totally opposite goals and methods. I mean, you know Martha. Martha's all about making things from scratch with the perfect--sometimes obscure--ingredients. And not just the perfect ingredients, but she has all kinds of instructions about how the eggs and butter need to be at room temperature and not one degree cooler, and how you need to be vigilant to watch your candy thermometer in the corn syrup (which must be light), and that the egg whites should be gently whipped to small peaks, and that the graham cracker crust on the raspberry cheesecakes will only turn out right if you put the cupcake tin IN a roasting pan with about 3/4 inch of water while cooking. She's a total cooking snob, but if you follow it precisely, you'll end up with a pretty fantastic product. Plus, the pictures in the book are to die for.
Hello, Cupcake! is merely about decoration. They have the most creative cupcakes I've ever seen, from butterflies to bowling pins. The authors utilize all sorts of candies to accomplish their clever designs, but don't spend time dealing with the ingredients of the actual cakes. There is an appendix in the back that has basic recipes if you care to go beyond a Betty Crocker box mix, but the ingredients list in the book for all the pretty designs say: 14 cupcakes and a can of vanilla frosting, some junior mints, a few red vines, etc.
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ANYWAY, I have been experimenting and trying to remember to document my experiments when possible. I'd be more than happy to share any recipes with anyone, but I'm not going to spend the time to post them just in case.
The first cupcakes I tried were brownie cupcakes with lavender icing for Sarah T's b-day. They were edible, but not beautiful, so I'm not too disappointed that I forgot to take pics. But of course, the next ones I had to try were the Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes!
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I only have one tired old cupcake tin...I really need to get another one. As promised, an Oreo at the bottom of each cake.

They don't look like much, but they are yummy. So far they are Trent's fave that I have made and I think they'll become a standby. And no decorating, so they're pretty easy!

The next ones I tried were the Snickerdoodle cupcakes. We like snickerdoodle cookies in our house. Grandpa Phil tends to surprise Carson with a big snickerdoodle cookie from his favorite bakery every once in a while.
The frosting was rather high maintenance to make, the recipe made WAY more than I needed, and it doesn't keep very long. They were yummy and cute, so I'll probably make them again, but they really should be served the day they're made.

I mean, it's cute, no?

Here's a question: when is a cupcake really a muffin? These were also from Martha's book, but I think they are just muffins. They have a sweet cornbread flavor with the tart blackberries, and are very yummy.
According to MS, if the oven is any cooler than 375 degrees, the berries will "sink straight to the bottom." This batch turned out right, but the next batch had some sinkers. And you know what? They ALL TASTED JUST FINE! I've already made this recipe again.

And then? Oh people. I've gotten a little out of control. I'm on a baking roll and I did something I've NEVER done before. I made up my own recipe. I had a bunch of wonderful ripe peaches, and I wanted to make a cobbler. But I had the idea to make little cobbler cupcakes. So, I took a pre-made pie crust and cut little circles out to make little cupcake/piecrusts. The uglier ones are made of all the dough scraps.

I followed a recipe for the peaches that a friend gave me on Facebook. It's basically diced peaches with some brown sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch for thickening warmed in a saucepan. Then I put a spoonful of peaches in each mini pie.

My favorite cobblers might fall more under "crisps" because I like lots of oatmeal and brown sugar, not as much the breaded kind. So, I basically copied my recipe for the topping in my apple crisp and sprinkled the crumbs on each mini-cobbler. I had to totally guess on the oven temp and time, but it seems 350 works for just about everything. :)

Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream. It was great! Not perfect, but really yummy and I totally want to try it again. Look at me! I'm a baker!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

BIG DAY!

Sydney took her first steps!

Before this, she literally had taken only one half-step. To steal a phrase from Toy Story, it really was "falling with style." Then all of a sudden she was busting out three or four in a row this evening. Of COURSE my good camcorder was surprisingly out of battery juice. GRRRR. But, this other camera has quicker upload, which is good news for all of you. Please enjoy and cheer from your own computer chairs:

video

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As you can tell by the voiceover, Carson was having some jealousy issues with Sydney getting so much attention. The same thing happened the first time she started crawling. He was grabbing the camera, pulling my hair, trying to sit on me, etc. Sigh. I guess that's his job, right? Can't let sis steal his thunder! Oh well. That's life with siblings!

I should know. Mike is seriously ALWAYS stealing my thunder... ;)