Whoa, Momma!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009
I first saw it on Yahoo!...woman gives miraculous delivery to octuplets. Before clicking on the link I think, Bless her. She must have had difficulty conceiving and required fertility treatments. I wish her and her babies well. A day later, I read in the New York Post (my newspaper of choice) that she already has six children and lives with her parents. OK, maybe there's a good explanation for her situation.

Today, I read, again in the NY Post, that this woman lives with her parents who, oh, just happen to be bankrupt. Nice. The mother of the children works in a fertility clinic. I thought doctors are intelligent human beings. Did it not occur to just one of these doctors to mention to this woman that she already has six kids, she probably doesn't require any more fertility treatments??!!!!! So, her physician implants the eggs. When eight fertilize, her physician warns her of the risks to both herself and the fetuses. She doesn't heed the warning. Nice.

What was she thinking? Seriously. I want to know exactly what was going through her head. She's insane. She needs to be committed. Wait, I know what was going through her head...BABIES. Today, this woman's mother tells the press that her daughter is obsessed with having babies. OK. I'm obsessed with a few things at the moment, but I haven't made them my life's work.

There are so many women who cannot conceive on their own and who'd give anything, ANYTHING to have one, just ONE baby. NOOOO, this greedy momma's gotta have eight. Plus six. FOURTEEN children. Single parent. Living with her own parents. I want to smack her. But I know that wouldn't help. She needs more than a smack.

What's Your Green Personality?

Friday, January 30, 2009
Green is the new black. There's no doubt about that. But what's your green personality? Take this fun quiz to find out!

Green Personality Quiz

Recycle that old cell phone!

Did you know that only 2.3% of Americans recycle their cell phones but that 90% of Americans reported they would recycle their cell phones if there was an easy way to do it?

Go Green for Schools is a new and innovative cell phone recycling initiative brought to you by Qwest. By recycling your cell phone with Qwest, you keep unused cell phones out of landfills and reduce green house gas emissions. This recycling program also helps raise money for public school districts and preK-12 educational initiatives.

Think you're doing good by allowing your children to play with your old cell phones rather than dumping them into a landfill? Well, you're not. Cell phones contain toxins including antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc. They are persistent toxins, meaning they linger in the environment for long periods of time without breaking down. These persistent and bio accumulative toxins have been associated with cancer and a wide range of reproductive, neurological, and developmental disorders.

Think about that next time you trade in your cell phone for a newer, sleeker model.

The Beauty of the Beach

Thursday, January 29, 2009
We live about two miles from the beach. I am grateful for this close proximity to the ocean. We spend most of our time there in the summer but very little of it in the winter. The beach is amazingly beautiful in the winter. Most of the summer tourists never have the opportunity to witness the beauty of the beach in the winter. Harper and I spent an afternoon exploring the beach in Ocean Grove, NJ a few days ago. Here are some pics of what we discovered.

Harper and I made one last stop at Barbaric Bean for a hot beverage!

My Little Gymnast

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
It's always been my secret desire that one of my children would take an interest in gymnastics. I was a gymnast in my younger years, and I can't help but to hope that one of my daughters will share my love for the sport. It's not going to be Emma. She despises any kind of organized sport that requires her to practice and be coached by an adult. Don't ask. As a result, I have no choice but to pin my hopes on Harper. I know, I know. This is a lot of pressure for a 2 year old, but she'll be turning 3 in two weeks. I'm not one to force my girls into sports or activities in which they show little or no interest. I merely offer gentle encouragement.

Harper currently takes a gymnastics class at our local recreation center. While this class isn't likely to produce Olympic gymnasts, it does introduce children to the equipment and basic gymnastics. Her instructors have told me that Harper displays a natural ability for gymnastics. What this means at her age is that she displays poise and balance in the form of walking across the low beam and doing forward rolls unassisted.

If she continues to show a growing interest, I will enroll her, in the fall, at a local big-time gymnastics facility located 2 miles from our home. I'll continue the gentle encouragement and maybe even kick it up a notch. And who knows, I'm not expecting a Shawn Johnson, but you just never know...


It's a long road to Appreciation

Monday, January 26, 2009
I just read that children don't fully appreciate their parents until they are about 22 years old. Yes, according to psychologists, this is true. So, they're telling me that I've got to go through another 19 years of painstakingly difficult parenting to be fully appreciated by my daughters?

Apparently, 22 is the magic age at which most have graduated from college and have begun working or are struggling to find a job. It is at this age that most children are able to fully understand the sacrifices and acknowledge the emotional and financial commitments that their parents have made for them.

Yes, we will be appreciated for isolated incidents...taking them somewhere they "just have to go", buying them something they "just have to have" but in the end, the full spectrum of appreciation won't come until they are 22. So, until then, I will continue to do everything I can for my children, give them more than I had, show them how much I love them. And I'll wait ever so patiently for 19 years to get it all back from them!

A Winter's Dusk

Saturday, January 24, 2009
This was the scene from my French doors this evening at about 5:30. Incredibly serene.


Drumroll, please

Friday, January 23, 2009
I did it! I made Harper's birthday party invitations.
I'm quite pleased with the results although I need to ask someone at the craft store about the best glue to use. The glue caused the card stock to buckle a bit, and I was not happy about it. But otherwise, I'm giving myself a pat on the back!

Would you, could you...

take a bite? I found a similar image on another blog and just couldn't resist posting this one.This photo illustrates great use of image editing software, but it is incredibly disturbing on several levels. There is a message that is being conveyed. Can you guess what it is? Click here to find out.

Excitement Abounds

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
You had to catch only 5 seconds of yesterday's historic Presidential inauguration or even a recap on the news to know that people were excited...really excited. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you have to admit, the enthusiasm is infectious. It's fantastic to see the US population embracing the new President so energetically. It's been a long time since this has occurred.

I'm elated to finally have a President who possesses the gift of oratory. Plus, I'm excited for change. The US is in dire need of it, and since it was President Obama's campaign platform, there promises to be plenty of it on the way.

Complimentary Decorating Classes

I love this! Pottery Barn is offering free decorating classes this Sunday, January 25th. All class participants will receive a 10% discount on merchandise featured in the class. To find a store near you, click here. Registration is required as class size is limited. I know I'll be there!

Don't go here when you're hungry

I have stumbled across a fantastic blog about cupcakes. Who would have ever thought that there would be enough information about cupcakes to devote an entire blog to them? In my house, cupcakes are larger than life. We love them, and make them for every and any occasion. That's why I love Cupcakes Take The Cake.

Yesterday, in honor of President Obama's inauguration, Cupcakes Take The Cake asked blog viewers to post some pictures of cupcakes from inaugural celebrations throughout the county. These cupcakes are adorable. You've got to check them out. Click here to see the pics. http://tinyurl.com/9xyszw

Music Monday - What's in your ears?

Monday, January 19, 2009
I LOVE music. I love the way hearing a song from another decade immediately transports you to that particular time and even a particular place. I can relive a moment through music. It goes without saying that one of my favorite things is my iPod. I'm always looking for new music to download.

The current top 5 on my playlist are:
"Damage" by Tim Brantley
"Free Fallin'" (Tom Petty cover) by John Mayer
"I Still Ain't Over You" by Augustana
"Green" by Brendan James
"Warm Whispers" by Missy Higgins

So, what's playing in your ears? Leave a comment for me and let me know the top 5 songs on your playlist.

Wedding day

Henry and I went to a wedding on Saturday. It was beautiful. The bride was gorgeous and the groom was handsome. The bride is the daughter of close friends of ours. Both the bride and groom are Jewish, and their ceremony was a traditional Jewish one. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been to a Jewish wedding. I don’t remember much about it…I wasn’t very observant at 20 years old. But 20 years later, I was definitely paying attention. A typical Jewish ceremony includes the exchange of vows but also includes many symbols and rituals that are links to the Jewish heritage where as the typical Christian wedding revolves solely around the exchange of vows and rings.

I found the Jewish ceremony to be fascinating. Understanding the symbolism and the rituals made the ceremony much more meaningful than it might have otherwise been considering that I am not Jewish. The rituals add a personal touch to the ceremony that isn’t present in a Christian ceremony. By the conclusion of the ceremony I knew the groom’s core personality traits without ever having met him. It’s always good to expand my cultural horizons…to know that there’s a much larger world out there than my own little world.

Friday Fun

Friday, January 16, 2009
Enjoy taking random quizzes? Here's one to occupy about 4 minutes of your time. The Web site claims that this 10 question quiz is challenging and no one gets 100% correct. I got 9 out of 10, but as I was taking it, I was thinking I'd get 6 out of 10. Guess I had a lucky guess or two.


Friday Fillins

My answers for this week are in red.

1. Enough with the frigid temperatures.
2. The state of the economy causes me to be conflicted.
3. I've been craving creativity.
4. My husband makes me laugh.
5. I wish I could go to Fiji next week.
6. The concept of the afterlife has been on my mind lately.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a quiet dinner with my husband, tomorrow my plans include attending a wedding and Sunday, I want to clean and organize!

How would you answer?

Friday Foto

This is a picture of my parents, circa. early 1950's. It was such a simpler time, but certain things were so much more extravagant than today. My mother's outfit, for example. You're not likely to see a woman dressed so elaborately for an everyday outing in 2009. Also, think June Cleaver. Would you ever wear a dress to cook, clean or run errands? And my dad looks so dashing in his Army uniform. A classic picture.


Random Thoughts and Doings

Thursday, January 15, 2009
I had planned to go to the beach today to take some pictures, but it was just way too cold.

My new favorite song is "Damage" by Tim Brantley.

My fruit of the moment is clementines. I just can't get enough of them...I eat about six per day.

I am having lots of success with Harper's birthday party invitations. I'll be posting a picture soon.

I hate doing laundry. I always have way too much of it.

Emma, Harper and I are going to make cupcakes when Emma comes home from school.

I should really start drinking more water and less Diet Coke.

I have an incredible urge to vacuum right now.

A little known fact about me

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I love to vacuum. There I said it. If you haven't already guessed, I can be a bit obsessive. OK, compulsive too. My love for vacuuming stems from this. I love the order it creates. No more mess on the floor. It's so soothing to see a clean floor. We have hardwood floors throughout our house so I have this overwhelming need to vacuum everyday. With hardwoods, there's no where for dirt to hide. You've got to suck it up. My husband hates the sound of the vacuum. Hates it. Hates it. Never wants to hear it again he tells me. For me, it's music to my ears.

Handmade Party Invitations

Harper's third birthday is next month. This means I need to start the party planning process. I make a big deal out of the kids' birthdays. I want everything from invitations to thank you cards to be perfect. Every year I vow to create my own invitations, and every year the send out date creeps up on me before I've had a chance to get creative. Last year I ended up buying blank invitations at a paper goods store and using my computer and printer to layout and print the type. They were cute, but in the end, I fell short of my own expectations. This year, I promise, the invitations will be handmade.

Here are the supplies that I've purchased.
Check back to see the final product!

Goodie, Goodie

Monday, January 12, 2009
Those wonderful ladies over at 5minutesformom have done it again. They've discovered a great Web site before I did. Their fabulous find is OneGoodie which features hot, new, trendy boutique items at discounted prices. Each day a different product is highlighted and is available for purchase only that day. Supplies are limited at those wonderful prices. So, what are you waiting for? Click the link above to go directly to OneGoodie, and once you are there, don't forget to bookmark it!

A Favorite Family Meal

We love to go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings...not every Saturday but many. We hadn't been out for breakfast since October...a vacation and the holidays got in the way. On Friday evening we agreed that it was time to go to "the breakfast store", as the kids say. On Saturday, we woke early and headed to our usual place, Mariner's Cove in Brielle, NJ. It's loud and crowded but fun. If your children are a little noisy, no one notices. It's a great place for kids and an even better place to take them to get them acclimated to eating out.

The girls had the Mickey Mouse pancakes with lots of butter and syrup...Yum!

A Visit From The Police

Friday, January 9, 2009
The girls are getting new furniture this weekend. To prepare, we've (OK, I've) been cleaning the room, moving furniture, and trying to de-clutter. I started this process last week because we anticipated the delivery to occur last weekend. It didn't happen...so hopefully tomorrow. The girls are incredibly excited for a brand new room.

Anyway, last Tuesday, when I had started cleaning, the phone rang. It was my sister, April who lives in Phoenix. We were chatting for a bit when I happened to look out the window and notice a car pulling up next to my driveway. It was one of those "official looking" cars, like a Crown Victoria or something like that...unmarked car. What the...??? A man and a woman step out of the car and approach the house. I tell my sister that I've got to go. I'll call her back. They ring the doorbell and they knock. OK, they mean business. A knock combined with the ring of the bell is some serious stuff. Doesn't look as if I can ignore this knock.

I answer the door, reluctantly. The man says hello and introduces himself as a local police officer (didn't catch his name). He introduces the woman as someone from the county prosecutor's office. "Is everything alright? Is my husband OK?" are my immediate questions. The man answers, "Yes, ma'am, everything is fine. Do you have a few minutes?" UH, NO. I can't even begin to wonder what they want with me. "Sure." I say, do I have a choice? He asks if they can come in, and I tell them that they can. I let them in the foyer and no further. He asks if there is somewhere we can go to talk. Are you kidding me? Talk? About what? We go into the kitchen and sit down at the table.

He begins by telling me that they are investigating a case involving sexual molestation. What? And how exactly am I involved? Last time I checked I didn't have a sexual deviant on my list of friends. He shows me a picture of a man whom they are investigating. Do I recognize him? Nope. Not one bit. Never saw the guy in my life. He says that they guy was my daughter's soccer coach, and I as well as others pressed charges against him. OK, but my daughter didn't play soccer. I wanted her to play, but she said no way. Then I notice that he has a spreadsheet in front of him with names and addresses on it that have been highlighted with a yellow marker. I see my address, but that's not my name next to my address. I realize that they've got the wrong person. I ask him if they are looking for the person whose name is on the spreadsheet. He says that he is. I tell him I'm not her. He realizes what they've done. They've made a HUGE mistake.

They both get up from the table like bats out of hell. I tell them that we've lived here for 2 1/2 years and that I don't know where this person is. He tells me that they'll find her. And just like that, they are gone. But I'm left with a heart that's racing and a nagging feeling that I know something about someone that I shouldn't. Something very personal.

Today, after a week and a half of dwelling on it, my husband contacted the chief of police with the hopes of speaking to him about the incident. He left a message. We'll see what comes of it.

The Dirty Dozen

I just returned from the grocery store, and every trip to the grocery store leaves me wondering which organic products are necessities. Organic food is more expensive than it's conventional counterparts, but it's worth the cost if it reduces health risks. I did some online research and discovered a great Web site called The Daily Green. I found a list called the dirty dozen, the 12 fruits and vegetables containing the highest pesticide residues as well as the 12 which do not.*

12 Most Contaminated - "The Dirty Dozen"
Sweet Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)

12 Least Contaminated
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit

*The following guide was devised by the Environmental Working Group.

A Bad Hair Day

Thursday, January 8, 2009
Last night I was in the kitchen making dinner, and the girls were seated at the island. Emma was doing her homework and Harper was doing her "homework" which was practicing using a scissors. I turned my back for a split second to check the boiling pasta on the stove when Emma yelled, "Mommy, quick, she's going to cut her hair!" I turned around to see Harper, scissors in hand and positioned to take a nice sized chunk of hair out. "NOOOOOOOOO! STOP!" My scream startled her, and she immediately dropped the scissors to the floor.

In that moment, I flashback to December 1972...I was being crowned Christmas Princess of Lebanon (PA) County. A most illustrious title indeed especially for a five year old! A few days before the crowning, I cut my hair. The only explanation I have for what I did is that I was exerting my independence, I think. I was on TV. My picture was in local newspapers. My parents must have been mortified.

Gratitude Journal Entry #2

It's been a month since my last (and first) gratitude journal entry. Pretty pathetic considering I was going to try to post a gratitude entry each week. It's not that I don't have anything about which to write. On the contrary, I have so much for which I am grateful that it's difficult to decide about which topic I should blog. It's hard not to think about the struggling U.S. (and global) economy these days. It's scary to know that the most lucrative industries in this country are battling to stay afloat. In that vain, this week (or this month, possibly) I am focusing on that for which I am most grateful in the current economic state.

1. A home. Period. It's frightening how many homeowners have been forced into foreclosure.
2. The financial means to feed and clothe my family.
3. The opportunity to stay home with my children. I realize that at any given time I could be forced to return to work for financial reasons.


The Grass Is Always Greener

Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I was talking with a girlfriend the other day. An interesting conversation indeed. She says to me, "Boy, must be nice to stay home with your children. You must get tons done every day." Who me? Is she kidding me? She returned to work when her son was six weeks old. She knows little about the life of a SAHM. So, I decide it's time I filled her in. I paint the picture for her...

7:00 am - Wake up and change from pj's to clothes that are suitable for the bus stop
7:10 am - First attempt to wake Emma
7:12 am - Make my bed
7:15 am - Second attempt to wake Emma
7:17 am - Put a load of laundry into washing machine
7:20 am - Third attempt to wake Emma
7:22 am - Brush teeth and do what vaguely resembles combing my hair
7:25 am -Fourth and final attempt to wake Emma inclusive of bribery
7:27 am - Run downstairs and put bagel in toaster for Emma; run back upstairs
7:30 am - Check on Emma's getting dressed progress
7:31 am - Run downstairs to spread cream cheese on bagel; run back upstairs
7:35 am - Second check on Emma's getting dressed progress; remind her of the time of day
7:36 am - Harper is awake and asking for breakfast
7:40 am - Put Emma's hair in pigtails.
7:45 am - We all head downstairs for breakfast
7:46 am - Make Harper french toast bites and cut strawberries and bananas for her
7:47 am - Emma asks for something to drink; I get it for her
7:48 am - Harper asks for apple juice. I get it
7:50 am - Harper asks for the same breakfast that Emma's has. She doesn't want the french toast bites
7:54 am - Still negotiating with Harper to eat her breakfast rather than make her a new one
7:56 am - I give my first warning to Emma that the bus comes in 20 minutes
8:00 am - Harper abandons her breakfast. She'll probably ask for a snack at 8:32 am
8:01 am - Pack Emma's lunch and re-check her homework
8:07 am - Give Emma first reminder on the time
8:08 am - Help Emma tie her shoes
8:09 am - Run upstairs; transfer laundry from washer into dryer; put new load in washer
8:13 am - Give Emma second reminder of the time
8:14 am - Help Emma put coat and backpack on
8:16 am - Head to bus stop

At this point my girlfriend stops me, says she's heard enough. I said, "Oh, but I've hardly gotten started. That's the easy hour and a half." She tells me that her husband gets her son dressed, fed and ready for daycare while she gets ready for work. She continues...Matt takes the son to daycare so that she can eat breakfast and read the paper by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"That's it!", I say to her. "I'm going back to work!"

I Hate That

Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I have very few pet peeves. I consider myself to be a fairly tolerant person and can deal with just about anyone's idiosyncrasies and annoyances. But there are a few things that COMPLETELY annoy me to the point of cringing.

I'd never win a spelling bee. Come on, have you heard the words those kids are required to spell? Impossible. But spelling is definitely one of my strong points. I can correctly spell all commonly spoken words and plenty that are not. BUT (notice all caps) I cannot tolerate misspellings. Typos are one thing, but flat out misspelled words in a professional (and sometimes personal) setting are inexcusable. Some common ones that I've seen are separate and accommodate. For some reason, most people like to spell separate or separation with two e's, seperate. It doesn't even look right. One way to remember is that it's root is from the Latin word para (can't remember what it means but it's easy to see that there are two a's there). Accommodate is easy...two c's, two m's. Period.

For a list of commonly missspelled words and tips to remember the correct spellings, click here.

I don't even know where to start here. There are way too many to write so I'll choose the absolute one that bothers me most. It eats me up inside when someone says, "I should have went" (to the store, etc). I hear this at least five times per day, sometimes from people to whom I am speaking directly and other times from overhearing a conversation. Either way, it drives me mad. The correct way to state this is "I should have GONE...". So, if you say this, please don't say it to me.

Back To School

Monday, January 5, 2009
Emma returned to school today, and it's a good thing. One more day off, and there could have been some serious knock down, drag out fights occurring. Welcome to life with a sassy six year old. I don't know how her teacher does it. Nineteen 7 and 6 year olds. I would be keeping the vintners in Napa and Sonoma in business if that were my job.

On another note: bus stop encounter this morning. It's been about 2 weeks since I've seen my neighbor, and boy was she saving it up for me. After asking me about my Christmas, she dove right in and made up for lost time. I now know that the IRS has denied their "offer and compromise" (apparently, that's the official term for it). This means that they attempted to make a compromise with the IRS to pay a percentage of what is owed. The IRS denied it claiming that there is equity in the home that can be tapped into. Since my neighbor is on the deed, the IRS is expecting her to take a loan against the equity. However, it's actually her father who is the rightful owner of the home. He (mistakenly, in hindsight, I'm sure) had placed her on the deed in the event of an unexpected death. I'll bet he's kicking himself now. She says they don't have the money to pay a cent. They've had to fold the business because of the back taxes. She can't get a job because of her college courses, and her husband is doing odd jobs for cash.

Seriously, this is more information than I need. I know it's unrealistic, but I like to think that my neighbors lead idyllic lives. I want to believe that behind their doors, everything is hearts, rainbows and butterflies. Alas, I know that's not possible.

But, in the end, my biggest question is why does she talk to me, a casual acquaintance, about such personal matters? Surely she must have a girlfriend with whom she's much closer than she is to me. Perhaps she sees me as an innocent bystander who can offer an objective point of view. Whatever the reason, I sure hope she straightens this out before spring when the weather is warmer and I have no excuse for running inside to the warmth.

Hermie and Crabby...

Sunday, January 4, 2009
are our hermit crabs. My niece Colette bought them for the girls in August 2008 during our week long annual family vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. As with any pet, the girls couldn't get enough of the crabs. They watched them constantly, played with them, moved them from cage to cage. Once we were back in New Jersey, the hermit crabs were soon forgotten.

Hermit crabs live in captivity for about six months. We are nearing the six month mark. This makes me nervous. A hermit crab dying could be a significant event in this house. Crabby is showing signs of slowing down. He used to climb the cage and circle it several times a day. I haven't seen him do that in weeks. Hermie went MIA for 3 days a few months ago after Harper let him out of his cage. I feared the worst and gave up hope of finding him when I saw him crawling on a toy. Whew! Now Hermie seems to be the one with all the vigor.

However small and however insignificant a crustacean is, it's loss will still be felt by the girls. We'll mourn him for a few days. And after the mourning period ends, I'll bet that we will make a trip to the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk to buy another one!

What Should I Cook for the Kids?

Friday, January 2, 2009
As a mom, one of my biggest daily struggles is deciding what to feed the girls. I never want them to fall into the mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets, pizza trap. I've always wanted them to be adventurous eaters. But eventually, I ran out of ideas. That's when I turned to my most knowledgeable friend, the Internet. I researched all sorts of cookbooks geared towards meal preparation for children. There's a plethora of them...it's big business these days.

Armed with a list of about 25 books, I headed for Barnes and Noble. I can buy just about anything online, sight unseen, except for a cookbook. I need to see the book, look at the pictures and review the layout before I make a commitment to buying it. I found two fabulous books that have saved my life several times over.
My favorite, Kitchen Playdates by Lauren Bank Deen, is filled with over 70 healthy recipes, menu ideas and activities that get kids involved in meal prep and cooking. What I love most about this book is that it includes ideas for cooking style playdates. We've used the suggestions for several of Emma's playdates, and her friends have loved cooking and baking. What's even more surprising is to hear how so many of them don't do this type of thing at home. I LOVE to cook and bake with the girls. It's a great opportunity to teach math skills.

The other book is The Toddler Café by Jennifer Carden. This book encourages parents and caregivers to make mealtime fun and interactive by getting kids to identify with their food. Carden suggests playing "food" games. As a result, we've devised a game called "The Ingredients Game". Whenever the girls are getting ready to sit down to a meal, we ask what types of ingredients were used to prepare the food that they are eating. An example is salsa. The answers are tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and salt. The Toddler Café also includes over 50 recipes that encourage families to cook and eat together. Jennifer Carden has a wonderful spin off blog, The Toddler Café which follows a similar format to the cookbook.
Don't let mealtime mean madness. One or both of these books can put the spark back into your kitchen. Both books can be purchased at Chronicle Books and Barnes and Noble.