Saturday, July 31, 2010

Date Night Swap

Little Tikes Pirate Ship Water Table
Last week I overheard a conversation about babysitters while waiting for Kenzie's dance lesson to wrap up. One girl babysat for many dance families and charged $9 - $10 an hour for two children. When I babysat in middle school, I remember making $3 an hour for up to three kids and was thrilled to have the extra spending money. Granted, gas cost just less than a dollar then too, and minimum wage was far lower. So, while I realize $3 would be unheard of today, I do wonder, what is the going rate? If $10 for two kids, what about three?

Brien and I are fortunate that we haven't had to pay for babysitting yet with both sets of grandparents and the kids' aunts and uncles who are willing to help out when needed. Though, I must admit we could certainly use more time together, and we don't want to go to the well too often with family or pay someone when we're trying to spend less now that I'm staying home.

Our solution? A date night swap with our neighbors, Jennifer and Landon Lucas, and their children, Nate (3) and Grant (2). Not quite an even trade since we have three, and one is a 9 month old, but we are grateful our neighbors are on board and we love their kids too. Each Tuesday we trade off watching kids so the other couple can go out for the evening. We chose Tuesday nights because the Cinemark Cinema 8 Theater in Broken Arrow shows new release movies for $2 all day. It's not exactly nice, but definitely the best value. Brien and I usually go eat a quick dinner somewhere like Schlotzsky's and when we don't catch a movie we do something active like play tennis or hit driving range balls - interests we shared before starting a family. Our whole family looks forward to Tuesday nights and we are thrilled to have neighbors we love and trust who also see value in our date night arrangement.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bath Time with Cooper

blanco silgranite sink
When we replaced our counter tops earlier this year, we also bought a black Blanco silgranite undermount sink (after finding the best deal online). I was tired of cleaning my previous stainless steel sink only to find that it still looked dingy. With our new sink I rinse with soap and water each time I do the dishes and clean with a little bit of vinegar just about once a month to keep it looking nice. But, perhaps what I have enjoyed the most about the new sink - an unplanned benefit - is that it is the perfect depth to give Cooper a bath.

Cooper loves taking a sink bath, or booty dip as I sometimes call it. He just smiles and splashes around in the water. Beforehand we clean the sink and line the bottom with a machine washable teddy bear bath sponge. We fill with water and/or rinse him with the gentle spray. We never bought a baby bath tub - another unnecessary, bulky baby thing to hide and store. Sink baths are fast and efficient, and who can resist cuddling with their freshly clean Johnson's baby.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 Highland Harback Family Reunion

Every other year Brien's mom's side of the family gets together for an extended family reunion. Since I've been with Brien I have been to five reunions, and we always look forward to these events - especially now that we keep showing up with new additions to our family. The kids love seeing so many cousins and staying at a hotel. The weekend kicks off with a meet and greet Friday night, golf scramble and group dinner on Saturday, and an organized brunch on Sunday, with lots of mingling in between events. In the past the festivities have been at places like Lake Texoma, Wichita, and Kansas City, and this year was hosted in Durant at the Choctaw Nation Casino & Resort off Highway 75. At first I wasn't sure about this venue being a casino and all, but it ended up being a great family-friendly place, mainly because it has an amazing pool that the kids couldn't get enough of. My only complaint was that even though we had non-smoking rooms, the hallway opened to the casino, where smoke poured in. And surprisingly, as much as I can't stand smoke, I would totally go back to this place. It was that much fun. We are very blessed that Brien has such an amazing family! We love getting together to see everyone, and Kenzie and Connor are already excited about the next family reunion.

Couldn't resist taking this one!

Little swimmers.

Uncle Tommy and Connor on the water slide.

You can see more of the pool in this picture and how it wraps around a large area. The inflatable movie screen is used to show poolside movies in the evenings. It's actually much more impressive at night because the area has really pretty lights and fire effects - very cool.

Kenzie with Brien's cousins Megan and Grace Roy who live in Broken Arrow. We hope to start hanging out with them more often.

Can't hold Cooper without getting something on me.

Cooper and his Godmother, Kristen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Easy Pizza Lunch

Recently we stopped buying loaves of bread and now only purchase Oroweat Sandwich Rounds, the 100% whole wheat variety, after getting on a health kick and trying to add more whole grain to our diets. We use them for hamburger buns and all sandwiches, but my absolute favorite is for mini personal pizza crusts. All you need in addition to the rounds is shredded mozzarella, pizza sauce, pepperonis, Canadian bacon, and/or other toppings you like. The secret is loading on the sauce and the cheese. I bake them for 10-12 minutes in a 425 degree preheated oven. The kids love to make their own, so it is fun to do for a play date - in fact, we were first introduced to these on a play date at the home of our friend, Michelle Brown, and we've been making them ever since.

Garden Fairies

A friend of mine had these posted on her fridge the last time I dropped by for a play date, and this morning seemed like a perfect time to try them out since Kenzie was asking to do a project. Connor and Kenzie each grabbed a plastic bag and we went through the backyard collecting various leaves and flowers and then came inside and assembled them into fairies (with my help) using glue and a piece of construction paper. Then, we topped off with foam stickers. In the kids' minds, no project would be complete without these.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Twinkle Toe Skechers

Twinkle Toe Skechers
I am amazed by the volume of TV advertisements targeting kids and at just how effective this messaging is. Just the other day I overheard my four year old recount every instance of the Red Robin commercial where the kids are playing hide and seek and the girl who is it yells "Red Robin" and all the kids pop up out of their hiding spaces and say "Yum". She thought that was so funny. Red Robin is now always yelled out by the kids when we are trying to choose a restaurant. Though perhaps the most effective advertising has been for Twinkle Toe Skechers. Every time we venture to a store to look for shoes Kenzie asks for a pair. Connor even calls his Circo tennis shoes from Target his Skechers and I just go along with it. I personally think it is a bit excessive to spend $40 on a pair of shoes for a four year old who will grow out of them so quickly. We seem to be successful finding great deals at Ross or Marshalls and tend to pay around fifteen for quality tennis shoes. At my past trip to Marshalls we came across a pair of Twinkle Toes for $24.99. Though out of my range, I gave in and bought them due to her excitement and one comment in particular I couldn't ignore, "With these shoes, I can be a rock star!" If that's not effective advertising, I don't know what is.

I guess this is the price I pay for letting them spend too much time watching cartoons and Hannah Montana! I don't even care for these shoes. Now, what to wear them with?!?

Status Update: Married

I've always thought it wasn't a good idea to spend a lot of money on a man's wedding band. When Brien lost twenty pounds doing P90X, he also lost his ring when it slipped off somewhere in his parents' backyard. His brother, Sean, just lost his at Grand Lake last month and the same is true for our brother-in-law, Scott. Brien's was a plain, inexpensive white gold band. He had been without a ring for nine months or so and we finally got in gear to look for a replacement starting at our weekly grocery shop at Sam's.

(I used to sometimes wonder about a man's intentions when I knew they were married and they did not wear a ring at work. Then, when Brien lost his, I didn't hurry out to replace it for several months due to timing and the hassle of shopping toting three children. It helps that I completely trust him too, so I was in no hurry. So, needless to say, I no longer think anything of it.)

We found something similar to Brien's old band for around $230, but after looking online went for a titanium ring on sale for $10, $2 shipping! Brien scours deals posted on and ran across it. It's super light weight, so it won't be slipping off when he plays sports, and it actually looks really nice, in my opinion. If you have a nice ring already and want a back up for the lake or sports, you can't beat this price. When I went to get the link for my blog it showed this one is sold out, but there are still other good deals out there on titanium rings to be had.