Sunday, January 15, 2012

How To Make 4 Delicious Meals by Jacob Newman

Jacob brought home a book he made in school called How to make 4 delicious meals. He included his from memory recipes for pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and rice krispy snacks. Here is the recipe for rice krispy snacks, with pictures!

First, you buy the ingredients and bring it home. Next, you mix the ingredients in the mixer. Then, you let it settle. Last, you eat it. Then thay [sic] are all gone.

One of the most curious things about each recipe is that the first step is always buying the ingredients from the store! The other fact of note is that Jacob always spells ingredient correctly!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Casey's words

Casey often makes up words that are nonetheless very expressive and right on. Just the other day, she was remembering when she dislocated her elbow while swinging from my arm. She said that her arm was "woozy and waggy" when it was "located" :)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


You might remember that I overdid it last year on Halloween. In fact, it's entirely possible that this year I was STILL burned out from last year's festivities.

Jacob wanted to be Mario, and I looked at a lot of home made costumes and none of them looked as much like Mario as the store bought one, so I bought it! Casey wanted to be a kitty cat. She and I picked out some regular black clothes, and then we got ears, a tail, some black gloves, and I made her a kitty cat trick-or-treat bag.

Fall has been beautiful here, and we've had a lot of wonderful family adventures out of doors. I'll try to post a few more pictures from our beautiful fall when I get a chance. Happy Halloween, y'all!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gregson Family Reunion

Last month we surprised Josh's dad, Lloyce "Bogie" Gregson, with a visit for his 60th birthday. The trip was organized by Josh's sister, Jessica, and all of Josh's siblings were there: Michael, Joe, James and Jessica! Michael, James and Jessica flew all the way from LA! Also in attendance was Jame's girlfriend Dorothy and Jessica's husband Felix, and a dear friend of the family, Joe W.

What a great weekend! We played Monopoly, Horseshoes, Croquet, and Football! We made fires and drank beer! Felix and Jessica made everone a gourmet 5 star meal that was DIVINE! Everyone feasted on Kat's wonderful biscuits, pancakes, soups, stews and barbeques! The children watched Uncle Joe play video games! We ate Birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday!

It was a seriously fun trip to Alabama, and I can't wait to see the whole family together again. LOVE YOU GREGSONS!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coach Kathy

Ask my mom: I was not an athletic kid. My mom tried to get me into ballet, horse back riding, soccer, swim team....it didn't matter. No matter what sport my parents tried to get me into I didn't like it. So imagine my surprise earlier this fall when I decided to become a volunteer coach for Casey's U5 soccer team. Yah, I didn't believe it either.

It turns out that you don't need to know very much about soccer to coach this age group. Mostly you just need to know about coaching, and that information is viral and mostly free on the internet. I was surprised to learn that it's actually counter-productive to teach kids this age about passing, or about boundaries, or goal kicks, or positions---or anything else that sounds like "real" soccer. So here is what I have been doing instead: having the kids play tag, having the kids pretend the ball is a puppy, do the bunny hop, learn each others' names, learn how to say "good game" at the end, and try to not to celebrate too much when they score and score and score.

Because do you know what is even stranger than me coaching soccer? Having a winning team. In two of the last three games our team has absolutely devastated the opposition. Like 20 to 1. I'm not exaggerating.

The final thing that is surprising me more than anything else is that I am having a blast. Most of the kids and the other parents are, too. Casey, well, I'm not so sure about her. She spent the first game using the cones as clothing accessories, and the second game she almost fell asleep on the sidelines. But she likes playing games with me and the other kids at practice, and I think she's proud that I am her coach.

And, to tell you the truth, so am I!

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Mystique of Chincoteague

This was the 22nd annual Assateague "Sacrifice Your Body" massive group camping trip, organized by a tribe of friends for at least one generation. This year there were rumored to be 200 campers occupying about 5 camp sites.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do You Ever Get That Sinking Feeling?

To celebrate Father's Day today we drove an hour north to Moraine State Park, where a large man-made lake adds some recreational possibilities to a massive wetland. Our plan was to go on a group kayaking trip organized by Venture Outdoors. It was a humid, hottish, overcast day, with some sun breaks. Casey worried a lot in the car on the way up that the boat wouldn't be safe, and that something bad would happen that would land her unceremoniously in the water. She also asked about sharks and other creatures that might attack her. We reassured her that she would be safe. Over and over and over again.

We met the group, put on our sunscreen, got on our life jackets and then had our life jackets checked by the group leaders. I pushed out into the water in a single kayak, and Josh got into a tandem kayak with three seats: One for him in the back, one for Casey in the middle, and one for Jacob up front. Suddenly, we were seaborn; Jacob trailed his hands in the water and looked over at me. Shouting at the top of his lungs, he declared: "Mom, it's so peaceful." As Josh and the kids passed in front of me I noticed that the back of their kayak looked like it was laying very low in the water.

Then Casey beamed from her middle seat: "I'm not scared anymore mom! I'm not scared!" We saw a blue heron glide across the lake. We saw lily pads in bloom. We saw dragon flies and people fishing. We stopped after about 10 minutes and listened to one of the park rangers tell us a few facts about wetlands; as she finished her spiel I paddled after her and asked her how the State Park wetlands have been affected by all the natural gas drilling in PA (called fracking) and she said, "That's a good question, I'm not really allowed to talk about it." I paddled after her with a few more questions, and then I looked behind me and I realized I couldn't see the rest of my family!

With some squinting and craning I realized that behind me about 200 yards, I could see Josh's kayak. It was the only one with three people in it. Up ahead I could see our next destination: three dead trees near the far shore. I thought about paddling ahead, but instead I decided to wait for Josh. I looked around at the beauty and I felt all of the stress melt out of my body. I thought about how my parents liked to go sailing when I was a teenager and how much I hated that sailboat, and how ungrateful I was, and how much I liked the feeling now, of being on the water, almost in the water. I turned my boat around again and I saw that Josh and the kids were heading back to the beach.

What was wrong?

As I started to paddle towards them one of the group members said, "Your family's boat is leaking! They are headed back to shore."

I pointed my kayak towards the beach and tried to paddle quickly. I imagined myself suddenly in a spy thriller, and tried to go as fast as I could. I soon could see both of my children and Josh, safe, on a small dock, ecstatic. Jacob cried out: "Mom, our boat got a hole in it. We were sinking!" Casey seemed very happy. "And Mom, I sneaked into our snack bag and got a snack!" She was eating sliced pears from a small tupperware container. At first I was a bit stunned that our Father's Day Eco Tour was over, since there weren't anymore seaworthy tandem kayaks, but Josh pulled me aside and confessed that right before the trip leaders noticed how much water his boat was taking on that Casey had declared that she was ready to pack it in.

The Venture Outdoor leaders were very apologetic, and offered to give us trip credits for another venture. We piled everyone back in the car and headed for Amon's birthday party back in the city. We drove the back roads through Zelienople to avoid a bad traffic jam on 79, and Jacob and Casey played a funny role playing game in which Jacob was the dad and Casey's lovey was the baby.

After Amon's birthday party I gave Casey a bath and put her to bed. Josh played a few games of Mario Cart with Jacob and then went to see the movie The Green Lantern with some of his pals. Jacob and I decided to play a board game. I don't think they make these commercials any more, but if you are old enough to remember the tag line "You sunk my battleship," then you can appreciate the delicious irony that Jacob and I ended our day, after the Father's Day kayaking near-sinking almost-disaster, with a game of old school Battleship. Jacob won, though just barely, and with some pretty big hints. And we both agreed: it had been a great Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family Fun is....well....FUN!

I love Family Fun magazine. It's a Disney product, so of course I'm a bit worried about that, but this magazine has the BEST ideas for kid crafts, travel ideas, food/snack ideas, teacher gift ideas, summer fun ideas....anyway, IT'S AWESOME!

Last night I had no teacher's gift for Ms. Piesik, Jacob's first grade teacher. By this morning at 8:45 Jacob and I had made this "P" out of crayons for her. Above is the original photo of the idea, and our version, complete with Jacob and his teacher. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer, ho!

Am I the only kid on the planet that sort of dreaded summer? I remember feeling sad on the last day of class. It wasn't that I hated summer...I just LOVED school! I also remember going to the library, checking out dozens of books, and reading them outside (sometimes under a blanket, because this was Seattle, after all) and eating chocolate chips and lemon drops! And, of course, we swam every day in the lake! So what did I have to be mopey about?

Now I look forward to summer a lot more because summer means going to see family in Alabama, Seattle, and friends in New England! And, hopefully, our kids look forward to it, too.

Today I told the kids that they had a box from Nana waiting for them at home. "I think it's clothes," said Casey. And Casey was right! Here are Jacob and Casey's cool new summer swim outfits. Thanks, Nana!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CSI Pittsburgh

On Sunday afternoon I was folding clothes in the master bedroom when I heard Jacob bounding up the stairs.

“Mom, I have a bug bite!”

He turned around and I could see a big welt on his back, right above his tailbone. It was reddish orange in the middle with a ring of white skin, and then more red skin around the white skin. It looked like a bite all right. A SPIDER BITE. Josh thought so too. He got some first aid items from the bathroom.

I started Googling “brown recluse spider bite” and “images.” The pictures that came up on my phone were pictures of rotted flesh—bites that had festered and become black in the middle. Pictures out of a horror movie.

Jacob screamed out in pain. I looked over and Josh was dabbing rubbing alcohol on his bite. Obviously, it hurt.

I Googled “home remedies for insect bites.” I saw references to honey, baking soda, meat tenderizer (which we didn’t have) and vinegar. I ran downstairs and made up a little batch of home remedy, and I used Cream of Tartar for the meat tenderizer. Josh and I applied some to Jacob’s back. “Ouch,” Jacob cried. The bite was getting worse by the minute.

But then I thought: I’ve never seen a brown recluse spider in our house. Or anywhere in Pittsburgh. Or anywhere in my life. On the other hand, we were suffering from a bit of a STINK BUG invasion. So I Googled “Stink bug bite” and “images.” One site said “orange-reddish bites are made by the stink bug.” It sure looked orangish-red to me and Josh.

I called Poison Control.

“I think my son has been bitten by a STINK BUG."

“No ma’am,” replied my Poison Control operator. “Stink bugs are members of the (gobbledygook scientific word here) family, and those insects don’t bite.”

So it was back to the hypothesis that it was a BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER bite. Or maybe it was a BLACK WIDOW SPIDER. Or maybe just a wasp, or a bee.

I decided to ask Jacob a few questions:

“Jacob, do you remember getting the bite? Did it feel like you were pricked, or pinched?”


“Do you remember seeing any bugs around when it happened?”


“Do you remember hearing the sound of bugs flying? Like a bee?”


Finally, I did what any mom would do. I called a very skilled dermatologist who lives in Seattle. And who is my sister. And I described Jacob’s very large, swollen spider bite to her.

“Hmmmm…..” she said. “Send me some pictures.”

I took some pictures of Jacob’s giant bug bite on the front porch, where we could get some natural light. I transferred the pictures to the computer. I Googled a few more species of spider bites images. Yuck. I attached my photographs to an email for my sister and clicked “Send.”

Then some friends came over and Jacob seemed better and I forgot all about the pictures and my sister and my phone. About an hour later I found my phone and checked my messages. There was one from my sister.

“Call me,” she said. It sounded serious. So I called her back.

“I don’t think it’s an insect bite,” Brenda said.

“You don’t?”

“I think it’s a rug burn.” Brenda used very precise medical language to explain her reasoning. We talked a bit more about how to care for the wound, and then we hung up. I found Jacob.

“Jacob, Aunt Brenda thinks your bug bite might be a rug burn. Is that possible?”

“Sure," he said. I was playing on the rug out here earlier tonight.” Jacob got down on the front porch rug to demonstrate. He laid down on his back and kicked his feet up into the air. “And I felt something on my back, above my shorts.”

“Did it feel like a rug burn?”

Jacob shrugged his shoulders. "It felt kind of like something was burning me on my back. Right here." He pointed to his back, where the wound was.


As I went to bed Sunday night I thought about how lucky I was to have a dermatologist for a sister! Thanks Brenda, for solving the mystery of the DEADLY BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER BITE that was JUST A RUG BURN!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are You Afraid of the Nose Goblin? You Should Be!

My sister, the real Dr. Newman, sent this missive from the Northwest about a new trick she invented to scare her kids into not picking their noses!


So. It was getting late and I was trying to get the kids settled into bed. Ayar (pronounced A-yah) was picking her nose and innocently rubbing boogers all over the bed/parents.

Thoughtlessly, I said:

"Ayar, you better stop picking your nose or the nose goblin will come"...But then of course i had to explain what the nose goblin was.

So I said:

"Didn't you know that the nose goblin (who is very tiny) sits on the window sill looking for children who are picking their noses? If he finds them, he waits till they fall asleep and then he crawls inside their noses and eats the boogers?"

Ayar did not say anything for a long time. Her dad said her face shrunk down to the size of a pea. Then she said.....very quietly:

"Mom...I will never pick my nose again".

But nor will she ever fall asleep for fear of the nose goblin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Good job mom!

PS: I blame Kathy for the image of the Belly Popper which was embedded deep in my psyche!!!

PPS: Zarni seemed to enjoy this image-- even weirder!!

Going Overboard on Birthdays: Guilty as Charged

If you know me you have heard me complain about the modern child's birthday party. I am often overwhelmed by what I call the "potlatch" birthday, in which all the kids in a class are invited, plus all siblings and parents. Often these are held at a large indoor venue, like a play space, or a shopping mall bounce house arena. While I always enjoy attending these birthday parties---nothing like taking my kids to a giant bouncer on a rainy Saturday afternoon and chowing down on cake and pizza, it often seems to be that the birthday child gets a bit overshadowed in the mayhem. Of course I have hosted a potlatch birthday (for Jacob's 4th birthday, in Nashville), and I know where the impetus comes from; it comes from not wanting to exclude anyone---and from no wanting to have one's child navigate the complicated terrain of hurt feelings around inviting, not-inviting, etc. It also comes from just wanting to go all out. It can be cool to host a party like this!

But as much as I am a critic of how birthdays get celebrated, it appears that I am also a perpetrator of overdoing it. For Casey's birthday this year we started with a celebration on the day itself that involved birthday waffles, opening birthday presents, and about 2 hours of self-imposed purgatory a Chuck E. Cheese.

But Josh couldn't be there a Chuck E. Cheese, so the day after Casey's birthday we participated in the Cyert tradition of the "birthday walk." This is a cool tradition. Casey chooses a "birthday committee." Those kids find out the destination of her walk, and then make a map of the walk, with stops that might be important to the Birthday child. Then the whole class goes on the walk, with the child's parents usually in tow.

Josh's office is a very walkable distance from Cyert center, so Casey's birthday committee charted a path to and from Josh's office. Jacob was off for spring break, so he came along with us.

We left about 10:00 AM and walked down a very busy Fifth avenue, past the Mr. Rogers dinosaur, and to Josh's office in Webster Hall. I brought some cookies that I remembered having as a kid; they are a "no bake" cookie made of oatmeal, butter, milk, cocoa, peanut butter, etc., whipped up on the stove top, because our bake element burned out last month (a long term consequence of what I am now calling the Curse of the Meatloaf Mummy, which you can read about here).

The walk was cold and windy, but the kids spirits were high, and it was adorable to see about 20 kids file into Josh's conference room.

There I read a book called A Flock of Shoes, which is about what happens to your favorite seasonal shoes when you are not wearing them (apparently they fly about and take trains and send you postcards). The kids loved the cookies and the story, and then we headed back to Cyert.

On SATURDAY we had Casey's official birthday party, which was a princess themed party. I'm actually the one who pushed the princess theme because I found this adorable doll castle made of cardboard that I thought would make a great party centerpiece. The 4 girls who were coming to the party NOT ONLY had princess garb to wear to the princess party; many of them had MORE THAN ONE princess dress to choose from. The girls looked adorable.

We also had an Easter egg hunt with plastic eggs decorated with princess themed images (from Oriental Trading) and a cake from Josh's favorite french bakery in Millvale.

The party went off pretty well, though there was some in-fighting amongst the princesses over wands and eggs filled with candy.

Casey acted a bit spoiled and bossy, which is understandable, but perhaps also the result of this being the third or fourth celebration of her birthday in just under a week.

THEN after the party was over Josh took Casey shopping for her birthday wish, which was a pair of Sketcher tennis shoes. She also picked out some clothes which are beyond cute.

At the end of it all we were all pretty tired. And especially Casey. I don't know what to make of this week of over-celebration; it was brought on, in part, by the fact that I had the week off from work, so I had extra energy to devote to the party. But I guess I have to admit that I am part and parcel of my demographic. I am just as prone to spending too much money and energy on a child's party....with the great likelihood of this being a party that Casey won't even remember!

I think this over celebrating comes from a genuine desire to celebrate our children, and to show our love and admiration. But am I also trying to show off? I'm not sure. What do you remember about celebrating your birthday as a child?