Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tomato and basil and anything

It's summer, which means that I try to work tomatoes and basil into pretty much everything I make. And this is before my parents' tomato plants even start producing. Which is when I get really bananas with the tomatoes and basil.

I've done a caprese version of pretty much anything you can imagine. Grilled on skewers, chopped, broiled atop chicken breasts and in the traditional layered fashion. I love myself a margherita pizza, so we grilled those beauties above on Sunday evening. And I use this cous cous recipe as my base for easy summer lunches, throwing in zuchinni, squash, cucumbers, feta, grilled chicken, and anything else that sounds good.

At some point, Chip will cry uncle and demand a cease on the caprese, so I will oblige and cool it with the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. But I draw the line at the basil. The basil I cannot quit.

Friday, June 22, 2012

No one's starving over here

Don't let Charlie's 50th percentile stats or Mary Clare's lack of excess flesh fool you—the kids eat. Earlier this week they dug into some leftover baked ziti with such gusto that I had to capture it on film. Charlie particularly does good work with the red sauces.

 [checking his sister's plate for leftovers]

I initially grabbed the camera to document Charlie's tomato-encrusted face and hair, but surprise, surprise, big sister wanted her turn in front of the camera as well.

   [charter member of the clean plate club]

[we hydrate, too]

I hope you enjoy Mary Clare's glamour shots con pasta as much as she enjoyed taking them. She is certainly on fire these days.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


And here, we have another example of "what he lacks in skill, he makes up for in spirit." This, my friends, is how Charlie plays peek-a-boo.

 [she totally can't see me, you guys]

 [hey, lady, here I am!]

[pretty sneaky, right?]

 [and now I'm going to make this bib disappear]

He's just so darned delighted with himself, putting his hands over his ears in an attempt to hide his eyes. So I just tell myself that spirit counts for a lot. And character. And then I make a mental note to read to him more. A lot more. And possibly add "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" to my repertoire.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beauty standards

Don't let the stick obsession fool you—our little girl is having more and more girly moments these days. When I get ready in the morning, the last thing I usually do before I head downstairs is use two quick squirts of hair spray, followed by two quick spritzes of perfume. Well, you know who now requests the hairspray and "par-fume" each morning as well. So I give her hair a quick squirt, and I let her rub her wrist against my wrist after I apply my perfume.

I guess we've fallen into a bit of a routine, both in action and in words, because the other night as I tucked her in, I said, "Good night, my beautiful girl." To which she responded, in a sweet, somewhat sleepy voice, "I not beautiful. I don't have hair spray on."

It took me a second to put two and two together, but apparently after finishing our morning routine, I must say, "There you go, now you're beautiful."

I'm going to try not to to worry about the fact that I may be turning her into some sort of vapid girl fixated on her appearance, and just enjoy it for what it is—a sweet moment I get to spend with my little girl each morning. Also, I promise to draw the line at spray tanning. Toddlers and Tiaras, we're not.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Two lucky kids

See these kids? Yeah, those are two of the luckiest kiddos you will ever meet.

Not only do they have a fun dad who is hopelessly devoted to them, but they  are also blessed with two equally impressive grandfathers, both of whom they have twisted around their little fingers.

It's a good life for Mary Clare and Charlie, and it's a good life for me as well, because I'm lucky enough to call Chip my husband and Papa Thole my dad. You guys are the best. Happy father's day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Charlie, one year

Oh, my handsome, happy boy. I cannot believe I am writing this post. One. Our Charlie is one year old today. It's hard to believe.

We have loved every bit of change and excitement Charlie brought to our lives this past year. He's playful, mischievous, loving and his happiness is absolutely infectious. People see Charlie's smile and ask, "Is he always this happy?" and I can honestly say, "Always. Since day one." 

Sure, Charlie has his moments, especially when we keep him up too late, but oh, the way his face lights up when he sees someone he loves—be it Buddy, Mary Clare, us, grandparents or teachers—is just priceless. He flaps his arms, the squawking starts and the dimples come out in full force. And now that he is walking more and more, you should see the way he beams as we cheer him on and celebrate his longer treks. He especially loves it when Mary Clare gets in on the action.

And speaking of action, he likes to be in the middle of it. No longer content to be held, Charlie wants down. Now. Down so he can splash in Buddy's water bowl, bat at his sister's books and generally get up in everyone's business. The one solo endeavor he enjoys is stair climbing. If you look down and don't see him, there's a good chance he's on the stairs. And as soon as he sees someone has come to retrieve him, he throws back his head, squeals and kicks in the afterburner. Stinker.

Charlie must be in the middle of a growth spurt, because the boy can pack away the food. Breads and pastas are still near and dear to his heart, but he did some serious damage to the salmon we had the other night for dinner, which he followed by eating his weight in blueberries. I also served some test birthday cake for dessert the other night, and oh my word, does he have a sweet tooth. After finishing his dish of cake and blueberries, he started angry squawking at his dad until Chip gave him the cake left on his own dessert plate. Which, I might add, Chip was a bit reluctant to do. And so the food fights begin. Just not the type I had in mind.

We are a little behind with the sippy cup and spoon skills, so I worry about next week's transition to the toddler room, but we'll get there. What he may lack in skill, he certainly makes up for in spirit. And boy does he have spirit. Especially when he doesn't get his way.

 [no way I'm going to leave this sign alone]

 [how could you?]

[the birthday boy always wins]

Oh, Charlie bird. We love you so very much. Happy first birthday to the cutest, happiest and most engaging baby boy I know. We're so lucky to have you in our family.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cool beans


Our kids love beans. Which is pretty awesome. They are super easy to make, and I throw various varieties into all sorts of things. The only bean-related dish I can't get them to go for is hummus, but we'll get there. Oh, they'll like it, alright. One day they shall be slaves to the hummus just like me.

The other weekend when we were house sitting (i.e. squatting) at my parents' while they were in Ireland, I raided their pantry and served some baked beans with our pork steaks. The kids faces were delightfully dirty and a true testament to their love for all things bean. So, of course, I took pictures.

 [stealing the beans meant for her brother]

 [hello, she's stealing my beans ... put the camera down and stop her]

 [so lip-smacking good, the little thief could care less about her brother's plight]

Thanks for supplying the VanKamp's, mom. They were a hit.

(Oh, and yes, the kids most definitely ate dinner in their swim attire. Hello, we were on vacation.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This guy

This guy is turning one this week. Can you believe it? I can't. I'm still coming to terms.

This guy is also walking—at his leisure, natch. It started over a week ago with a tiny little micro step that both Chip and I were lucky enough to see. And then he came home from school Tuesday with a note letting us know that he had taken a few more steps. He walked to Chip at school pick-up on Wednesday, and since then we have been able to coax a few steps out of him here and there. It is adorable to watch, and I need to get it on video, stat. I forgot how perfectly sweet those first steps are. The tentative lift of the leg, the flapping arms and the look of slight bewilderment that says, "Holy hell, I'm not holding onto anything and you are so far away! Let me at you!" And then the one last lurch until he reaches the safety of someone's arms. I love it.

Oh, Charlie. I'm not ready for you to stop being my baby, but I sure do love watching you learn all these new tricks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Warrior princess

We are very into sticks these days. I guess all kids appreciate a good stick, but Mary Clare is particularly fascinated with them of late. They are great for walking, poking at trees, shooting like a gun, fishing in the neighbor's ivy, and best of all, waving around and narrowly missing her brother's eyes.

While I used to snicker at the concept of poking someone's eye out with a stick, after watching how Mary Clare wields said stick, I am now on high alert for eye poking. Which, of course, means that I'll be the one who eventually takes a stick to the eye.

In addition to that fine-looking stick and the "flower" she gifted to her Gram, you no doubt noticed that she is sporting two, possibly three, things of interest. I'll start with the good news first. One is the shirt, which is yet another Nana Thole creation. Two is a set of pigtails that, while short in length and hair sprayed within an inch of their lives, make her ever so proud. The third, and most shameful, is the big ouchie on her forehead. Sadly, I am not the only one with bike-related battle scars. Only Mary Clare didn't fall off her bike. Oh, no. That boo-boo is from the helmet she wore while riding around in the bike trailer. You know, the thing that is supposed to keep her safe. Only her parents have to put it on correctly, first.

While Mary Clare spent most of the ride complaining about her head itching, we just assumed it was sweat or general displeasure with the proffered snacks. So we told her to scratch it and she would be fine. And then when we removed her helmet and saw the raw spot, we told her it would be gone by the morning. Um, yeah. We're going on almost a week now.

Looks like I deserve that poke in the eye after all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

When in doubt, sleep

The kids spent last night with Chip's parents, so in a moment of sheer craziness—promptly followed by a silent hope that he would say no—I suggested to Chip that we get up this morning and go for a bike ride in Tower Grove Park, sans bike trailer.

Of course, he agreed, and when the alarm went off this morning, I wasn't even too big of a baby about getting up. It was truly a beautiful morning in the park, even though I swear the hills grew since we rode through there with the kids last week. Nevertheless, we survived the lap around the park, and as I weaved in between a planter and a parking post in front of the Piper Palm House, I thought to myself, "Hey, when I did this years ago, I fell. Yea, me." I continued to pat myself on the back for the next five minutes as we made our way to the park exit. 

And then, within sight of the exit, I hit a huge sidewalk crack all wrong and went flying off of my bike. In true Debbie fashion, it was an epic fall, one Chip congratulated me on as soon as he reached me. After assuring him that yes, I totally did wait until I hit the grass to fall off my bike, and that yes, I really was fine, we made our way the block or so home.

When I got home, I confirmed that I am, in fact, going to be sporting a large and colorful bruise on my right lower thigh for the next few weeks. Currently, the red scrapes are highlighted by rings of blue and purple bruises, with a sprinkling of greenish-red bruises thrown in for good measure. I'm telling you, it's going to be a beaut. 

I'm also telling you, when in doubt, stay in bed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A girl can dream

The other morning as I loaded the kids into the car, we heard the rumble of the trash truck coming down the alley. Like any kid, Mary Clare loves the trash truck. As soon as she hears it she rushes to the window and waits to watch it grab the dumpsters and hoist them into the air.

As I buckled Mary Clare into her seat, we talked about the trash truck. In great detail.

D: If we hurry up, we can pull out into the alley and see the trash truck working.
MC: What color is the trash truck?
D: You tell me. You know what color it is.
MC: Blue! No, pink!
D: Pink? Are you sure? I think it's going to be orange. 
MC: Yeah, it's orange.

And then, in this most hopeful-sounding, sweet little whisper you ever did hear, she said, "But maybe it's pink."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Circus Flora fun

This past Friday we took the kids to Circus Flora for the first time. It was their first circus, actually, and the first circus Chip and I have been to since we were kids.

It was opening night, and it was fun. (My Republican husband especially enjoyed the opening remarks from Mayor Slay and Charlie Dooley, and was seemingly serious about wanting to get a photo of our Charlie with county executive Charlie.)

 [mom can't compete with a guy on stilts]

[two out of three, sorta]

Politics aside, we had a grand old time in Grand Center. Circus Flora is St. Louis-born and bred, and includes a number of local performers. It's a small, one-ring circus, so it's not too overwhelming or the short set. The performers—besides being insanely talented—are great at charming and engaging the audience. It feels very cozy and family like. And how can you not love a unicycle-riding family of performers who is happily upstaged by their two-year-old, tutu-wearing daughter, whose only contribution is to walk out to center stage and raise her arms? I love stuff like that.

[super salty and oh-so-good]

Mary Clare's favorite part—besides the popcorn, of course—was Nino, the circus' sole clown. But even he was upstaged by his adorable mini me.

Long story short, you St. Louis folks need to go. Even with a wiggly baby bordering on meltdown, I am still happy we went. This is a circus at its finest.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Family phone dependent

It started last week when my parents took off for their two-week Ireland vacation. I would find myself going to grab the phone and realize that either because of the time difference or the international calling charges, my mom would probably not be thrilled to hear that Buddy had a successful teeth cleaning at the vet. Or that Charlie starts shaking his head from side to side as he makes his way to Buddy's water dish, even before I can tell him no. (Okay, that last one might have been worth a call. It is really cute.)

I remember going through the same parent phone withdrawal last year when they were in Italy right before Charlie was born. It's not that I have these lengthy talks with my mom every day, but I do talk to her a lot. Not to diminish the value of sharing tidbits of information or anecdotes about daily life, but it's more like quantity over quality when it comes to our chats. And with two kids clamoring for attention, I love that we can keep it short and sweet. 

So I squared my shoulders and soldiered on. And started calling my sister more.

But then Sherri went and left for a week-long Florida vacation. Not that I can't call her in Florida, but I am trying to be respectful of the fact that while she might be just as easily, if not more, accessible than usual, she is, after all, on vacation.

Sure, I could call Chip (more), but then he would be all "stop calling me every hour, I will see you at home, alright?" and never get any work finished. Or I could call my friends, but they have ridiculously cute, entertaining kids of their own, so what the heck do they care if Mary Clare spread out all of the stuffed animals in her room so she and Charlie could play tic-tac-toe? Only grandparents appreciate such things. And I certainly can't share any especially poor parenting moments with them, because, hello, those stories are for my sister's ears only.

So, I guess I will just sit here and count my rapidly increasing mobile-to-mobile minutes until they return.