Saturday, November 3, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Our Halloween happened early here in the rural mid-west. Our Trick or Treating happened on Saturday evening.
I thought it was a fantastic idea to have it over the weekend. I figured the towns around here do that so the kids won't be so tired and sugar crazed for school on Thursday morning. Then I thought it might have something to do with farming and harvest.
Whatever the reason, it was great fun and we didn't have to worry about getting up early for school the next day.

I told the kids early on that they would have to dig through the dress-up bin for a costume. They have so many things that could be used as a costume, that I refused to go shopping for anything new.
They didn't mind one bit and were both able to find some pretty neat ideas in the bin...

We only went to about 8 houses but that was more than enough for the girls. They had a blast. Even the local  police officers drove around and handed out candy from their squad cars. In fact, Tia bit into a piece of candy from the officer and out came her tooth! Good times.

I'm pretty sure we love living in Wisconsin.
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Big 7

We celebrated my big girl's 7th birthday this past weekend. I was having a hard time with her turning 7. I don't know why, I just think this is the age where they start to change. I'd like her to stay my sweet little girl forever, but I know she's growing up and soon won't need me any more. It happens. I'm trying to prepare.

So here's a recap of all the celebrating we did, because you know we do birthdays in a big way over here. It's not a birthday, it's a birth-week!

The Grand folks flew in for the birthday extravaganza. Can you imagine it any other way?
I got them from the airport on Wednesday afternoon and we headed right to the school to surprise the girls.

Later we went out for a birthday dinner. Tia chose Japanese which made Daddy very happy and proud.

What's a birthday without cake?

Friday was Tia's actual  birthday. When she woke up she was greeted with lots of pink decorations and balloons all over the kitchen. I told her she could have any breakfast she wanted since it was her special day. Guess what she chose? Yogurt and pretzels. How exciting. She's a low maintenance girl.

We also let her open the presents from the family before school...

She got a new outfit from the Grand Folks, and chose to wear it to school for her special day...

Looking so grown up!
Having to go to school on your birthday used to be such a bummer back in my day. Not anymore! The teachers and principal made such a big to-do about it being her birthday, she felt like Queen for a Day. The principal announced her name on the loud speaker in the morning, came to her class to wish her a happy birthday, and presented her with a sticker to wear that said "It's my Birthday". Her teacher put a balloon on her chair and made her a crown. So cool.
I had to deliver the class treat so decided to go a little early and have lunch with Tia. I didn't tell her we were coming because she gets very anxious, so it was yet another surprise.

The two Teresina's

For what I think must be the third year in a row, Tia chose a Princess birthday party. We were tempted to try to sway her decision, but then I figured this is likely the last year she'll be into the princess thing, because she'll be too cool for that, so we went with it!
We had to have the party on Friday night because Daddy was flying out Saturday morning for work. Tia refused to have a party without her Dad, so we broke from the norm and had an after dinner tea party.

Pure Joy
The fancy table

8 Darling Princesses

It was a late night of dressing up and eating sugar, but everyone had a great time and Tia was happy.

On Saturday the hubby had to fly out so the kids, Grand Folks, and myself spent the day doing what Tia wanted to do. Her birthday, her choice.
Lunch at Panera, WITH dessert (we never let them get dessert), then off to the movies to see Hotel Transylvania. Both good choices.

So it was another successful birthday. Another year of a happy girl loving life.
May we be blessed with 100 more!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

Last weekend I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that it doesn't take much to teach children important values. I also learned that it doesn't take much to give back to the community (and it can be fun!).

Our home backs up to a golf course. My husbands company has their annual golf outing at that course. One of his coworkers mentioned that it would be cute to have our girls set up a lemonade stand at the fence line, and sell to the golfers as they go by our property. We all thought that was a cool idea too and had been planning on it for months.

Then, that same employee mentioned our plan to the golf course manager. That one tiny conversation changed everything, and this little lemonade stand idea got bigger and bigger.

The manager insisted that we take our business right onto the golf course, not at our fence line. He promised us our own golf cart so we would have a place to sell our stuff. He referred to us in an email as "the Cookie Girls". Um, that means we better be selling cookies too, right?

During a subsequent conversation with my sister, she said "Why don't you get the kids to donate the proceeds to a charity. It'll teach them a great lesson". Well, hot dog! That's the best idea yet.
While we were at church I checked out the bulletin board, scoping out the various organizations and events looking for funds. I brought the kids over and let them choose. It made them feel empowered, and part of the process.
They chose the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota. Tia was especially struck by the fact that many of the homes on the reservation don't have heat or running water, and that the kids don't always have proper winter clothing. Her exact response was "Mom, we have to help these people!". O.K., then. We're on it.

The day before the golf outing I stayed home and baked and baked and baked. It was an all day project even though I chose 2 very simple recipes. I had gotten an email earlier in the day stating that there were about 100 golfers in our group, as well as another group of 15 who would be going by, and who would most likely buy from our cart. That meant LOTS of cookies.

Here are some of the goodies...

basic sugar cookies

The chocolate chips ready to go
I cannot tell you how excited the girls were for this day. That excitement doubled when we told them we would be getting a golf cart. I was a little scared to drive the thing, I kept feeling like I was going to tip over, but eventually got the hang of it...

The Cookie Girls!

Get Your Lemonade!
We had a fantastic time. The weather was perfect, the people were friendly, and we sold out of everything before the event was finished. We were invited to stay and have lunch with the golfers. Nice little bonus.

The very next day we went to church to make the donation. I introduced the girls to the woman who is leading the project. I had Tia give the woman the envelope of cash, and explain to her what we did to earn it. They were so proud, it just melted my heart!

At NO point did either of my kids suggest that we should keep the money. They never asked if they could have some, or buy something for themselves with it.

So my sister was right. The kids learned a valuable lesson. More than one, really. They learned that it can be easy and fun to help those in need. They learned that there are folks who are less fortunate and that we do have the ability to help them. They learned about advertising, marketing and sales. They learned the importance of making connections in the community (I bet we'll be asked back next year!). They learned about making change (in more ways than one).
They learned that a kind word and a smile sells a lot of lemonade!

I'm glad we did this project. I bet our family will be doing more things like this in the future.

Charity and Compassion are taught at home.
Teach your children well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Shenanigans

I mentioned in my last post that my sister was in town for my birthday.
I didn't post about her whole visit because that would have made for a very long and picture filled blog entry.
So, here's the scoop on the rest of the time we had with the lovely Aunt Kimmy.

On Tuesday we sent the kids off to school as usual but we picked them up at lunch time. I had arranged it with the teachers ahead of time so that we could have a fun day together.
We drove out to Pleasant Prairie for a visit here...

Why do both my kids have their eyes closed?!

The Jelly Belly candy company has a warehouse in our area and they offer free daily tours. The kids have been wanting to go there since before we even moved to Wisconsin, so they were super excited that the day had finally arrived.
We took a ride on the jelly bean train around the warehouse and learned about the history of the jelly bean.

As you can see, our Aunt Wendie drove up to join us on our adventure. She also lives about an hour away from the warehouse, so it was a good meeting point for all of us.

The kids made fast friends with the sample man. We tasted all sorts of jellied confections (many, MANY times).
The kids could have stayed there all day and eaten their weight in candy. However, the adults wanted some real food so we went out for an early dinner at one of our favorites.

Mama loves good BBQ
Sadly, the next day I had to send the kids back to school, and it was a miserably cold and dreary day.

The sunshine didn't last long after this shot
When they got back home there was lots of this going on...

Every little girl needs a pretty manicure

what better to do on a rainy day!

And some of this...

More Fancy Nancy!
This was our last night together so Aunt Kim had to soak up all the girl time she could get!
She flew out the next day. I was certain the kids both understood that she was leaving while they were at school. Well, Giuliana came home from school, tossed her back pack and asked "Where's Aunt Kimmy?". The sad look on her face when I told her she went back to New York was enough to break a moms heart.

We had a great visit and can't wait to do it again.
Let's hear it for Girl Power!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Birthday Extravaganza

I celebrated my 41st birthday last week. Admittedly, I haven't exactly been thrilled with the idea of officially being 'in my forties' instead of being 40. Turning 40 was fun and exciting, and I embraced it wholeheartedly. Leaving 40 wasn't something I was looking forward to.
However, my family being who they are, made my birthday special, fun and exciting for me. I almost forgot that I was getting older.

We kicked off the weekend by going to the Family Dance night at our local elementary school. We got all dressed up and put our dancing shoes on. We were so overdressed it was funny, but the girls loved the attention compliments we were getting. They were on the dance floor until we dragged them off because it was past their bed time.

Saturday was the day I had been waiting for. For months I've said all I want for my birthday was to go to McD's and get a Rolo Flurry. I remember having Rolo's as a kid and they were always my favorite. I was so careful all week with limiting my sugar intake so that I could fully indulge in the ice cream treat.
Believe me, it was WELL worth the wait!

After our delicious treat we headed out to a local arts and crafts fair and walked around for an hour and hopefully burned off some of the calories!
That evening we went out to dinner at a Thai restaurant that we wanted to try. The food was great and Tia, my very picky eater, tried some new things. That always makes me happy!

On Sunday I got the best birthday gift EVER. My sister flew in from NY to spend a few days. She is awesome. She knew that D.R. was going to be out of town for work on my actual birthday, so she decided to come spend it with me!
D.R. left on Monday morning (my actual b-day) so big sister and I headed into Milwaukee for the day. We had lunch at the Public Market.
Then we went here...

We took a really cool tour and did some tasting. It was fun and I'm pretty sure I'll be bringing more visitors there in the future.
When the kids got home from school we had an early dinner then we took them out for ice cream. I couldn't eat mine because I was too full from dinner. Tia had no problem finishing my share!

So even though I was dreading turning 41, it really turned out to be a great birthday with lots of celebrations. I was surrounded by family and love through the whole birthday weekend, and that's what's important.

Here's to another wonderful year!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Family Fun Day and A New School Year

We started a new family tradition last year of having a "Fun Day" on the last day of summer vacation. The kids tell us what they want to do, and we follow orders.
This year the masses voted for a trip to the Milwaukee Zoo. No Problemo, I love the zoo...

We had a gorgeous day for it.
Then of course there had to go out for an ice cream cone after the zoo. What kind of family fun would it be without ice cream?!

The next day was a big day in our house. Not only the first day of school, but the first day of Kindergarten for my little one. I think I was more nervous and sad than she was!

They decided to dress alike for the first day which I LOVE and know won't last as they get older.
Tia was very nervous all morning. Of course little sister was not nervous at all and was just ready to get her school career started!
I decided to follow the bus to the school just to make sure they knew where to go and what to do when they got there. I'm so glad I did because Tia was in tears and couldn't find her teacher. I made sure to get them to the right place, along with one of our neighbors kids who also couldn't find her way.
Here they are headed into the building...

A little teary eyed
So ready!
When they got off the bus in the afternoon (8 LONG hours later), they were full of smiles and stories of what a wonderful day they had. I knew they would love it!
Of course Mama had to make a big day about this huge milestone in their lives so I made them each their own mini-cakes. They thought the personal size cakes were awesome and I get points toward my goal of being Mommy of the Year!

Chocolate smiles!
Overall I'd say it the start of the new school year has been a big success. We are so blessed to have two kids who love school and look forward to learning new things every day.

School is Cool!

Sunday, September 2, 2012


It's 8am. and this is what my kids have chosen for breakfast...

What, you don't let your kids eat pop-sicles for breakfast?

Well, typically I wouldn't either, but guess what these are made of?
Plain Greek Yogurt (loaded with protein)
Bananas (potassium)
Blueberries (Vit C and antioxidants)
a splash of grape juice

How can you go wrong? And they're purple which is a huge bonus for my girls!

My oldest loves popsicles and would eat them all day if I let her. However, they're loaded with chemicals that I'd rather she not consume.
I've been getting creative with making our own and the results have been yummy!

What did your kids have for breakfast today?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Living Life

I realize it's been about 6 weeks since I've posted anything here about our adventures. I'm not usually such a bad blogger but quite frankly, we've been living life!
We've had a fantastic summer. This is one summer I will be sad to see come to an end next week when the kids go back to school. I'm sure I'll be able to find plenty of things to do to keep me busy while the kids are gone for 8 hours a day, but still my days will feel empty without them around.

So, since they'll be starting back at school next week and I'm sure I'll be posting about that, why don't I do a quick catch up of the last six weeks...

We had a crazy, long heat wave and drought in our area. It was tough on everyone, especially the farmers. Even with the oppressive heat, we managed to get out and do some fun stuff around town.
Our favorite was the local Lions Club Carnival. It was fantastic, good old fashioned fun.

Even in 100+ degree heat and drenched with sweat, they're smiling and being kids!

Both girls took swim lessons at the beach which was a great help with the heat...

Every day we brought our lunch and stayed at the beach after lessons and enjoyed the fresh air. I'm a firm believer that we should be outside as much as possible in summer because before you know it, the snow will be flying and we won't be able to go out!

Gia took soccer for the first time this summer. I can't say she loved it but it was a good start to learning about team sports, and not quitting what you start. She really started to get good at it towards the end...

Tia's summer sport was bowling but I don't have any pictures of that to share with you. She also didn't care for her chosen sport but went faithfully every week. We told her that Salerno's are not quitters!

D.R. and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary...

We chose to go out to dinner with our kids because they are an important part of our union. It was such a nice evening and I do believe we have started a new tradition. The kids LOVED getting dressed up and going out with us. They were very well behaved.

Then we spent quite a few days at the beach even after swim lessons were over...

Lots of fun in the sun
Last week D.R. participated in his first obstacle mud run. He had a great time, and the girls loved cheering on their Dad...

All dirty and glad to be done!

Then, my absolute favorite part of summer was going 'home' to Rochester for my family reunion. It was a near perfect week visiting family and friends...

The Aceto clan

Girls Night, with one boy!

A trip to our local amusement park

I think that should pretty much bring us up to date. Phew, that was a lot of stuff and so many pictures!
I promise to post again very soon with stories and pictures of the first day of school. My 'baby' will be going to kindergarten all day this year. Someone please send me a box of tissues!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Do You Cook When it's 100 Degrees?

I don't know about you but when I encounter several days in a row of 100+ degree temps, the last thing I want to do is turn on the stove or oven.
I'd been running out of 'no-cook' dinner ideas. There's only so many times you can let your kids have cereal and fruit for dinner without starting to feel guilty.

My kids aren't really big on salads so I figured I had to make it fun if I was going to get them on board. We had done 'make your own pizza' and 'make your own taco' night before and they were both a big hit.

I decided to do make your own salad this time since it required very little cooking, and qualified as a healthy meal.

Here's our salad bar...

We had lettuce, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, cucumbers, dried cranberries, avocado and grilled chicken. Yeah, I had to cook the chicken but it was fast and didn't heat up my kitchen like cooking an entire meal would have. There were also croutons and sliced almonds, not pictured.

It was interesting to see what the little ones would choose to put on their plates. Oddly enough, Gia who loves chicken and avocado, chose to just do a fruit salad.

She treated it like a piece of art. After this was gone she did have some cucumbers and some shredded cheese. At least she got in a little protein.

Tia, my little (mostly) vegetarian made up this masterpiece...

No protein here!
I was a little disappointed that they didn't venture out a little more and try something new (like some protein!), but overall the idea was a hit. The kids liked having control over what was on their plate, and creating it themselves. Everyone got in a substantial amount of fruit and veggies, so that's always a plus.

Oh, wanna' see my plate? How could I forget!

This Mama's no fool. I know the health benefits of lean protein, avocado, and of course berries! It was dee-lish.

Thankfully today the heat wave has broken. I guess that means I'm back to cooking regular meals at the stove.

Happy Summer eating!