Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yardwork For Homework

Madeline's Pre-K keeps the kiddos quite busy. On the days that Madeline goes to school, I often pick her up along with some type of project they created during the day. It is too darn cute to see the kids file out, so proud to show off what they have been working on. Now that spring is here, the teacher's curriculum has obviously concentrated on nature, seeds, birds, etc.

Although the items that are created at school aren't *really* "homework" for us, they do give us an opportunity to carry over what Madeline learned at school to lessons at home. We love to be able to show an interest in all of this and continue Madeline's learning. Yesterday Madeline came home with a nesting bag. Although we already knew what this was all about, David and I questioned Madeline as to its purpose. She was able to explain to us that the nesting bag is for the birdies. The birdies take the stuff to use for building their nests. Papa and Madeline found a perfect spot to hang the nesting bag for our neighborhood birdies.

In the fall, Madeline came home with a handmade bird feeder (peanut butter and bird seed slathered over a pine cone). Although we hung that in our yard, it didn't last very long as it was devoured by a squirrel.

Recently, Madeline came home with some type of grass that she grew as well as a potato plant that was grown during St. Patrick's week from the eyes of potatoes. It now appears to me as though it is time to transplant the grass and potato plant. Time for gardening.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Postcard" from Russia



The video above was posted on Youtube by an adoptive family whose blog I've been following. Their "Gotcha Day" was in October. I had to share their video because they not only adopted from Russia, but Astrakhan, Russia. AND, they also adopted from the same baby home as Madeline. Watching their video, tears came to my eyes as I saw all the familiar sites of the city. Their video showed the streetscape of the city as they approached the home on "Gotcha Day" and also showed the interior of the baby home. Gosh, the stairs (in video) ughhhhh!!!!! The dreaded stairs....so filled with anticipation on our daily visits to Madeline and so filled with sadness when we had to leave her at the end of each visit. And, of course, the constant with those stairs whether we were coming or going was that the hallway smelled of cabbage!

It has only been three years since our own journey but it has truly been a lifetime! It is hard to fathom sometimes what we had to endure to bring our little girl home. Madeline is our gift from God and the three of us were meant to be a family. Sometimes it is hard to believe the storm we weathered to make our family whole but I would do it again in a second. This family's video was a bittersweet reminder of our journey. Their video footage is priceless....that is something I wish we did! As I watched, the tears streamed down my cheeks. And then, I closed down the computer, quietly checked in on Madeline as she softly slept, tucked her in and gave our daughter a soft kiss on her forehead and I went to bed feeling very grateful. We are so blessed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ocktoberfest In April?

First off, I think most of you must think that with the amount of commentaries on food (and status updates on Facebook) that I must be obsessed with food. To answer that....YES, I am. I truly am a "foodie"! I previously blogged about my obsession (click here to read that post) with all things culinary and I attribute that to family lines. Yep, the whole lot of us are food junkies! Granted, I could use to lose 20 pounds but I am sure lucky that with my obsession (and the fact that I enjoy cooking) I am not 500 pounds!

Secondly, as most of my followers know, David does a lot of traveling. In fact we, as a family, have done our fair share of traveling the world. Along with that comes an exploration of different cuisines. Since I enjoy tinkering in the kitchen, I try to replicate some of the delicacies that David has experienced. And thus, tonight's Oktoberfest.

David and I have been to Germany and David has also traveled there on his own a few times for work. For the "meat & potatoes men", Germany is the place to be......meat, meat, more meat with a side of meat! They love their sausage there too and it appears that each region has there own specialty as far as sausage goes and how they serve it. For example, Berlin's "must have" is Currywurst and Nuremberg has their own little way of serving mini sausage with gobs o' mustard on the side. We found out that there is a little German shop in Buffalo and this weekend we headed over there to scope it out. I must say, as soon as I opened the door, the first thing I said is, "Wow! It smells like Germany!". The deli, Spars European Sausage Shop, has a huge selection of meats along with a small German grocery section. That particular day, we left the store with some German sausage but also grabbed some German salami for a picnic lunch after we left the store. The bread we bought there was so dense and very, very much like the bread we had while in Russia. But also, we noted that the deli carried Currywurst sauce. Although David brought some home from his last trip to Berlin, it is good to know where to find it when our supply runs low.

So, today's Oktoberfest was inspired merely by a trip to the German deli. I decided to make homemade German potato salad (I was floored at how much of the bacon fat you actually use in the recipe!) and sweet/sour red cabbage. I bought some German beer for the occasion and pulled out that currywurst for atop our sausages (sauce wasn't added yet in this picture). OMG!!! Soooooo good! And, yes, it tasted JUST LIKE GERMANY!! I also made mini German Chocolate brownies for dessert although we didn't even touch them because we were so full! I will admit, however, that next time I make this meal, I would prefer to boil the sausages (as one might kielbasa) instead of grilling. But despite that, it was perfection....so much so that I may be inspired to have a true Oktoberfest party this Fall. Time to shop for Lederhosen!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lucky Find = Lucky Madeline

Due to the comments on my blog as well as comments from my Facebook friends, I was convinced that I needed to purchase a bike for Madeline. Not that $80 is a ridiculous fortune, but it is a lot to shell out for no apparent reason. Nonetheless, I resigned to the fact that I needed to shell out the dough. The only question left was should I save the purchase as a "1/2 Birthday" gift (Madeline turns 4 1/2 on May 4th) or a "Gothcha Day" gift (June 25th). I wasn't pleased with these ideas though because (a) we do not normally celebrate "1/2 birthdays" and (b) our "Gotcha Day" traditions do not include large gifts but rather, a dinner out at a simple kid-friendly ice-cream servin' joint accompanied by a much smaller gift.

Well, Mama-Dirtyfoot hit the jackpot! My friend Tammy, a teacher, is on spring break along with her daughters. Madeline and I headed over to their house for a visit. On the way to Tammy's, on the main rural road off which Tammy's house's development runs, I spied 3 two-wheel bikes displayed for selling purposes on a front lawn. On the way home I stopped to find that these bikes, of various sizes, were being sold for $15 each. The "middle-sized" bike was the same size as the ones I looked at in the toy store. Yes, Madeline will out grow this bike too in a few years so a $15 investment was a no-brainer, especially since the bike was in good condition. This find also solved the gift-giving/cost dilemma.

Today, I shabbily attached the training wheels and Madeline got to try out her new ride this afternoon. Despite having the training wheels on, I still needed to help Madeline out. And, as the test drive continued she seemed to get a little wobblier. I am not sure if that is because Madeline was starting to realize that she could potentially fall or if my shabby job of attaching the training wheels was starting to effect her. The later is probably more the case since after a couple spins up and down the street, the wheels were hardly touching the ground. The new unsteady ride eventually had Madeline revert back to her comfort level on the tricycle for the rest of the afternoon. However, I am proud of Madeline's good try on her first go on a big girl's bike.

In the evening, when David came home from work, Madeline was proud to show Papa her new bike. We ended a good day with a fun meal time. We, as a family, made our own personal pizzas for dinner. The excitement of the day has lead to a difficult bed time. No, Madeline isn't giving us a hard time, but rather, the excitement is making it difficult for her to fall asleep. We are now pushing 10pm and Madeline has yet to fall asleep! She is up there singing away and talking to her dolls & stuffed animals.....sounding very happy! (See video below of an early run on the bike)

video

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

November Birthdays Suck!

I always have loved the fact that my birthday is in the summer months (June). David also celebrates his birthday when the sun is shining (July). Now, I do LOVE the fact that Madeline and my mom share the same birth date (November 4th) however, as a parent, I am really not liking, in a calendar year, the location of Madeline's birthday. I have pretty much decided that November (as well as December and January) birthdays suck.

Well, to try to be somewhat positive, I will attempt to point out the pros of having a November birthday. For Madeline, that definite positive in her situation is that she shares her b.day with my mom. But, since Madeline never got to meet my mom, this will probably only be more significant to me throughout the years. Madeline's birthday falls during the school year so Mama will be able to bake special treats for Madeline to share with her classmates. Also, due to the proximity of her birthday to Halloween, I am sure one of these years she'll be able to have a costume Halloween/Birthday party the weekend before her b.day.

Now, here is what I hate. Birthday/Christmas shopping is a challenge. Don't get me wrong, I know there are plenty of people who have children with birthdays much closer to Christmas than Madeline's. However, it feels as though I am just finding an everyday storage spot for all the birthday goodies when Santa unloads his sleigh under our tree with more goodies. But, more importantly, a November birthday does not allow us, as parents, to "spread the wealth". As a child, I used to love getting summer toys/clothing for my birthday and winter toys/clothing for Christmas. Yet, nothing would suck more than getting a bicycle for Christmas when there is 3 feet of snow outside.

So here is my dilemma. Madeline needs a new bicycle. She has totally out grown the beautiful tricycle that Grandma & Grandpa bought her two years ago. Madeline is, without a doubt, now ready for a 2-wheeler. I want to just go out and purchase one, however, I can't stand the idea of buying a somewhat larger-ticket item for no reason. I had thought of asking Santa to bring one last Christmas but, like I said, what would suck more than getting a new bike under the Christmas tree that you can't use for 6 months. Finally I thought.....ahhhh...for Madeline's "Gotcha Day". But GEEEZZZZzzzzzzz, that is a lot more money than we would normally spend for that occasion. And besides, Madeline's Gotcha Day is June 25th. She would already be missing a bunch of the summer fun by waiting even that long. So now I decide.....what to do??? Do YOU have any suggestions???

And now you see why I think November birthdays suck.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dance Pictures

We're still keeping busy these days and I just can't seem to find the time that I used to for blogging. Hopefully I will get back in the swing of things again soon. In the meantime, I thought I'd post some preview dance recital pictures. Sunday, we had to head to the studio with the recital costumes for Madeline's formal dance pictures. I snapped these photos before she got the formal pictures taken. Madeline was certainly thrilled about being able to slip on her costumes and wear a little make-up. The top photo is for Madeline's ballet dance to "Best of Friends" from The Fox and the Hound. The bottom photo is from the tap routine which will be danced to "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" sung by Hillary Duff.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Go Climb A Tree!

Finally, David and I had a bit of time available to tackle the crazy amount of yard work we had waiting for us. The flower beds in our new house are jammed packed with beautiful perennials. Since this is our first Spring in this house this was also the first Spring of clearing the dead growth from the previous year and unearthing the flowers that are waiting to grow this year. Even since our company at Easter time there has been a tremendous amount of growth in the beds. Since the weather was cooperating today we realized that we had no choice but to take advantage of the sunshine and get busy in our yard.

Other than mowing the lawn, as needed, we are now done with the major yard work. Sure, we'll still have little gardening projects here and there as the weather improves but the bulk of the heavy yard work is done. But let's not be fooled....prior to opening the pool we'll need to stain/spruce up a rickety old pool deck and also work on some water drainage issues in the back yard. THOSE will be the major projects this summer.

Anyway, as David and I worked, Madeline kept herself busy in the yard. She had fun "building a nest" with all the debris that we cleared from the flower bed. Madeline even scattered plastic Easter eggs in the nest for good measure. Madeline also got a kick out of exploring the dirt and checking out the worms. I had to put a stop to this , however, when Madeline decided to put a "Band-Aid" on a worm that she thought she hurt somehow. Yep, I look over to see a worm wrapped in Scotch tape - poor little guy! Finally, Madeline busied herself "fishing" in our small pond. Madeline Scotch-taped two sticks together to make a fishing pole. Since we don't actually have a stocked pond, Madeline decided to stock it herself with a fish and an octopus from her Littlest Pet Shop toy play set. That occupied her for quite a while.

David, on the other hand, reverted back to his youth and climbed our Corkscrew Willow tree. What was he doing? David was hanging some white garden light sets in the tree. Granted, it now looks quite festive in the area overlooking our patio/hot tub, however, I was a nervous wreck as I waited for David to have two feet on the ground again. We certainly aren't as young as we used to be!

Now that a long day of hard work is over and we have a feeling of accomplishment, we enjoyed the evening by grilling out pork chops and veggies on the grill. A nice quiet evening and a nice way to end our weekend.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Super-Papa!

David really is Super-Papa - yes, as in a super hero. He is Super-Papa to both Madeline and me. The regular daily routine when David comes home from work is that Madeline gets to try on David's suit jacket when David walks in the door. Next, Madeline will "fly" upstairs with David (David carries her with her arms stretched out). As David changes into more comfy clothes for the evening, Madeline will bounce around with excitement that Papa is home. In the meantime, Mama has a few moments of quiet downstairs to finish up dinner preparations. Finally, David helps Madeline "fly" downstairs again. Today, while Madeline and David were upstairs, Madeline asked David to wear a cape. Next thing I knew, Super-Papa & flying Madeline came downstairs. Yep, Papa donned a cape! He tied one of Madeline's blankets around his shoulders. What a good sport! Super-Papa??? Yep, he's the BEST in the eyes of his girls. We LOVE you!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Enough Candy To Last A Year!

The Easter Bunny came and left although he left behind enough candy for many cavities in Madeline's mouth and many pounds on Mama's butt. However, Madeline received a package from David's sister, Carolyn, and we cracked into it this evening. In true Carolyn fashion, the entire box was crammed with cool goodies for Madeline. Small toys, drawing tools, dress-up items and.....you guessed it, MORE candy. So between the candy from the Easter Bunny, Aunt Margaret and Aunt Carolyn, this family will be on a sugar high from now until next Spring.....and Mama-Dirtyfoot will gradually transform to Mama-Fatbutt. Thanks, thanks a TON :-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter & Dyngus Day 2010

After a week's worth of guests, the house is now quiet. It was sad to see Margaret and Paul (the last to leave) drive off and for me to turn around to enter a quiet house. We had such a great time visiting with each other and celebrating Easter. It really was a crazy whirlwind of a week. Since I was so busy, I didn't have the opportunity to blog throughout the week so I will try to recap now.

Thursday was a crazy day! I am not sure what I was thinking to host my monthly book club at my house on the same evening that family was expected to arrive, but I did. I believe book club was a success and as the book club girls were leaving, my sister Margaret and her family (from OH) were pulling in. After our hellos, my brother Paul (from KY) also arrived. since by this time it was already late, we just chit chatted and visited before we settled in for the evening.

On Friday, the lot of us made a traditional pilgrimage to Buffalo's Broadway Market. There is so much to browse and see and you could feel the anticipation of Easter in the air. We also headed out to pick up the orders that I placed outside of the Market for the obligatory Easter kielbasa, ham and placzeks. Later that evening, Paul's daughter Becky and her boyfriend Zac (from KY) arrived. We ended up ordering pizza and wings. Yeah, I know.....meat on Good Friday?? This whole "no-no" got completely screwed up when I planned (without even thinking about that) eggs and bacon for breakfast. Can you believe it?!?! The reason I planned things this way was because I knew Zac doesn't like eggs so I figured I would plan a bacon and eggs breakfast before Becky and Zac arrived. I never put that Good Friday meatless connection together in my head until Paul teased me about the morning's menu just as we were about to eat. Ohhhhh Noooooo! Next (we drove in two separate cars to the Market) I was concerned about the guys eating lunch after the Market. I called home as Margaret and I were running errands and told them to make themselves some sandwiches while they were waiting for us. Again, without thinking about the meatless thing, I suggested that they use the lunch meat in the fridge. I didn't even think about what I said until I was once again teased when I got home. After the meat mix-ups, and fighting crowds all day long, the guys didn't really want to go out for a Buffalo Fish Fry (about tthe size of a whale). We opted not do that because the fish fry restaurants would be packed. So what did we do? Order pizza and chicken wings.....ugh! Bad, bad, bad! But the initial two food events occurred because I was so focused on Easter preparations so I am sure I'll be forgiven. Later in the evening we were able to do the decorating of the Easter eggs. We couldn't beleive it but Zac never decorated Easter eggs before (even as a child) so, we captured the moment with a photo. Unfortunatley, the dye that I mixed screw-up the purple and Zac's first Easter egg ended up coming out a gray-ish color. Yep, it looked more like an Easter rock.......whhhhhaaaahhhh!

I was really VERY lucky with record breaking warm temperatures this weekend. The weather was absolutely gorgeous! Saturday, I was in the kitchen almost the entire day trying to prepare for Sunday. Margaret stuck by me and was a tremendous help. We did, however, make sure that we were able to fill a huge basket with food that we were going to partake in on Sunday and bring the basket of food to church to be blessed on Saturday afternoon (a Polish tradition). The guys were able to kick back in the sun room, with the screen doors opened to a gorgeous day. Over the course of the weekend the sun room was transformed into a "man den". They played Risk and cards and watched basketball games. In the meantime, Madeline played so hard all weekend with her cousin Kate.

Easter Sunday was very nice. Madeline was super excited about the visit of the Easter Bunny. In addition to the Easter Bunny candy, my sister's family got Madeline a HUGE chocolate bunny as payback for all the years that I would supply their children with jumbo bags of candy at our family's annual campout. After the basket hunting, it was nice to have the entire family attend Mass with us at our church. After Mass, my Aunt Sue (my dad's sister) & Uncle Ron came over and joined us for our Święconka brunch (with the blessed food). Later in the afternoon, my Uncle Tom (my dad's brother) & Aunt Mary Grace came over as well as my cousins. Also, my brother Marty and his wife Vicky arrived from PA. Growing up, we spent many holidays at my Aunt Sue's house. It was so nice to get the family together again....the day went way too quickly!

Monday was Dyngus Day. What is that? The best way to describe Dyngus Day is to compare it to Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, initially a Cajun holiday, is a day of fun and partying before the solemn season of Lent. Dyngus Day, a Polish tradition, is similar to Mardi Gras but on the other end of Lent. It is celebrated the Monday after Easter. Buffalo definitely does it up right as, if I am not mistaken, Buffalo has the world's largest Dyngus Day celebration. Unfortunately, Becky and Zac had to leave Monday because they had school the following day. Margaret's husband and kids left too for the same reason (Margaret extended her stay and hitched a ride with Paul back home on Wednesday) so, unfortunately they missed out on the Dyngus festivities.

We started out our Dyngus Day fun at an afternoon event. Before I share the day's event's I have to also tell you about "Red Pig-Candle". The "Red Pig-Candle" is a long story but in short, the candle is an iconic fixture that began as a gag at my brother Paul's work place and has been handed down from employee to employee. Paul took "Red" on a road trip and took pictures of the pig along the way to post on Facebook. Red Pig-Candle offered us tons of entertainment as Paul would go up to random people and ask them to pose for a picture holding the pig. Red Pig-Candle certainly got around and posed with vendors at the Broadway Market, Dyngus Day parade participants and Dyngus Day partiers. It really was quite funny....if you are on Facebook, you MUST friend the "Red Pig-Candle" to see all the pictures. The afternoon activities were certainly family friendly so Madeline was happy to polka dance with Mama. We also were able to watch some performances of the Polish Heritage Dancers of WNY. One of the little girls that performed with he Heritage Dancers was dancing with Madeline....too cute! Later, we headed out to see the Dyngus Day Parade and had soooooo much fun there. David met us at the parade. After the parade we went to the Buffalo's old Central Terminal for a bite to eat and some more Dyngus festivities. Although we could've stayed and done some venue hopping near the Central Terminal, we decided to spend the rest of the evening at a Dyngus celebration in a different part of the city. David took Madeline home and the rest of us continued on. We spent the rest of the evening at the Hearthstone Manor, which was also jammed packed with partiers. OMG!!! Soooo much fun. And, although this was originally a Polish tradition, everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day.

Tuesday, I was soooo sore from dancing! Marty and Vicky headed out of town Tuesday morning so Paul, Margaret and I just had a lazy day together. I fed Madeline an earlier dinner and the adults opted for a later dinner after Madeline went to bed. We had a quiet steak dinner (David is the BEST steak griller) and spent some time hot-tubbing. It was a nice, quiet wrap up to a hectic week.

This morning, Margaret, Paul and Red Pig-Candle loaded up and headed out of town. I had so much fun and am looking forward to the next time family visits.