If you wanna feel better about your family, just read about ours...

Starring: a dad, a mom, a son & daughter-in-law, a daughter & son-in-law, a teen, a tween, a grandson, a granddaughter, 3 dogs, 2 rabbits, 2 dwarf frogs, an unfortunate number of tadpoles, and a whole lot of love.




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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas traditions that should be carried on, and a few that shouldn't.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours. I hope you're enjoying these final days of 2010 with sweet memories of your recent Christmas celebrations and with excitement for the year to come.

We're finding ourselves still talking about what a relaxing Christmas we had this year and contemplating the things we'll do the same next year....and of course the things we'll do differently.

When Z was born we decided to get each of our kids a Christmas tree ornament each year so that when they had their own Christmas tree one day, they'd have a collection of memorable ornaments to take with them. Needless to say, with four kids, our tree is packed full and I love it! +

This year we put up our Christmas tree before Thanksgiving which motivated us to get all of the shopping and wrapping done early too. We had everything completed and were able to completely enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas. +)

I used my awesome new cell phone to create a file of all the kids gifts so that I could conveniently mark and track them without keeping lists lying around. Z found the files while playing Solitaire on that awesome phone. (X)

We took the kids out to buy Christmas gifts for each other and they were responsible for wrapping them and putting them under the tree. (+)

C unwrapped the edges and told everyone what they were getting. (X)

All of our family visits happened on Christmas Eve this year. My family came over in the afternoon and my husband's family came over in the evening for Euchre tournaments. (+)

We nicknamed Christmas Eve "Binge-mas" and loaded up on all the treats we don't allow ourselves throughout the year. (+)

I didn't take into account that we'd be stuck with a ton of leftovers....we're currently on day #7 of "Binge-mas" and my jeans tell the whole story of how well that's working out. (X)

We forgot to dismantle the mouse trap before we gave K her coveted Zhu Zhu Pet. Not near as traumatic as when I was a child and my parents got my sister and me two live hamsters and forgot to lock our cat up before they went to bed Christmas Eve night. We woke up to "Duffy" munching away on "Mork" and "Mindy" Christmas morning. Merry Christmas to us. (X)

My husband read 'Twas the night before Christmas' to his whole family before they left. (+)

He didn't wear his glasses, therefore mispronounced most of the words, accidentally added a few inappropriate ones and couldn't stop giggling when he had to read the word "breast." (X)

Santa came early this year! By midnight we were gathered in A's room singing Happy Birthday to Jesus and praying together before heading downstairs for all the fun. We crashed around 4am and slept till whenever we wanted. (+)

We hid K's bike and C's battery operated police car in our bedroom to surprise them. (+)

My husband forgot and sent K in to get a pair of scissors. We both realized what happened when we heard her screams of delight....immediately followed by my husband receiving his first death glare of the day. (X)

Then he thought it would be hilarious to pull out a scary mask that sent C screaming and running....straight into our bedroom. Followed by squeel of delight when she saw her police car. Death glare #2. (X)

Christmas breakfast consisted of boxes of Schulers donuts and a hot chocolate buffet with all the fixins, complete with chocolate covered marshmellows on the ends of candy canes to stir with. (+)

Before going to bed, Z spent five hours putting together his giant Kinex roller coaster. (+)

When he discovered it was too big for his room, he opted to put it together in the middle of our breakfast table.....it's still there.....(X)

Christmas day was spent in our jammies playing, napping and gathered together in our bed to watch Toy Story 3 and Ramona & Beezus. (+)

While my husband worked, the kids and I managed to get up for church the day after Christmas. (+)

We got stuck in the snow at the end of somebody's driveway along the way. (X)

That afternoon we all met back at home for our ham dinner made complete by my Grandma's cheesy potatoes. Comfort food, packed with memories, with my husband and kids around the table. (+)


As you can see, the positives outweigh the negatives. Barely, but whatever. We've definitely discovered traditions that will carry on and we encountered a few things we'll rethink next time. All in all, our Christmas weekend was filled with blessings, family and fun.

And something we discovered a long time ago: X's make for some lasting memories.....

Okay, your turn! Let's hear your traditions. The old, the new, and especially the X's!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

From "Pity" to "Surprise".....ya gotta love a party.

I turned 39 last week. Let me tell you something about turning 39.....it sucks. And it all started with a simple question from my husband a few weeks ago that went something like this:

"I was thinking about throwing you a surprise party this year, but decided not to. Would you have liked it?"

What the heck is that? Who makes an announcement like that and then bothers to ask if you would have liked it?!? And with that, my downward emotional spiral began.....as did a new obsession with wearing thick white face moisturizer to bed each night, made worse by my husband's facial expression and his second question of the month to send me spiraling: "Crap. Are you entering that phase of life?" (Some men should not be allowed to ask their wives questions.)

For 3 weeks, I threw myself a kick-butt pity party. It was huge. Getting bothered each time my husband would seem surprised at the mention of my approaching birthday and hearing that Z and A signed up for an all-night Christmas party with the church youth group on my actual birthday. (What kind of youth group celebrates Christmas in December?!? Come on!) I spent countless hours in the bathroom studying my face closely in the mirror....with tweezers in hand. And spent way too much (wasted) time contemplating the people who don't acknowledge my birthday anymore. Do I know how to throw a party, or what?

I wasn't miserable the entire time. Similar to a heart monitor that has a flat line running across it with occasional spikes indicating signs of life. I had plenty of spikes. My in-laws came over for dinner, cake and games a couple days before my birthday. (Spike!) My husband took me and our 2 youngest to dinner at Texas Roadhouse on my actual day, made complete by getting to straddle the saddle while everyone in the restaurant yelled, "Yee Haw!!" while bordering on being embarrassed and secretly relishing every minute of it. (Spike!) The following day, the girls and I joined my Aunt & Uncle to see the movie 'Tangled.' (Spike!) A lunch date with my sister Susan. (Spike!)

In the meantime, my husband was working away planning a massive surprise. Lots of secret phone calls, passing out fliers and buying and stashing away bags and bags of snacks and drinks kept hidden in the back of his car.

All I knew was that my best friend from massage school sent me a message a few weeks ago demanding a double date for the 17th. (Spike!) We love getting together with them and I blindly jumped at her invite. It would take too long to tell you the many lies that my husband and children told me over the past few weeks but I will tell you that it worries me how really good they are at it.

Normally a double date with Andy and Lissa lasts well into the night, so when they wolfed down their food like animals and I hadn't even swallowed my last bite when my husband said, "Well, we better get going," I was stunned. After he practically bolted from the restaurant to get the car, I turned to Lissa and offered up the only explanation that came to mind: "Maybe he has diarrhea."

I got in the car and his erratic driving began. Slow. Really fast. Slow. Really fast. I said, "What the heck is wrong with you?" Then he offered up the only explanation that popped into his head: "I slow down when I see Christmas lights I like." (Yikes. Somebody's been hittin the eggnog.) What I didn't know was that Andy and Lissa were following us to the next stop and he was trying to make sure they were behind us while still trying to make it to the party we were late to.

Next stop: Our church. His story: To pick up the generator he loaned for the Christmas parade. The problem: There's currently a situation with thieves in the neighborhood stealing batteries from cars. My question: "Will anybody be there? If not, I'll stay in the car and protect the battery." His response (Lie number I-lost-count): "People will be there practicing the Christmas play." Me: "We're having a Christmas play?!?" Him: "Yep." (I need to read the bulletin more often.)

But the problem arose when we pulled into the parking lot and there were no cars (all parked in the back), the church was pitch black and the front door was wide open. My first thought: "THIEVES!!!" and not only was I refusing to go in but was considering calling 911. He was finally able to talk me out of the car and I fought thoughts of disgust when he pushed me in front to go in first. (Nice protector.)

I can't remember what went through my mind when the lights flipped on and our 3 year old came bolting out of the bathroom! And there in the foyer stood our children and 60 wonderful friends and extended family members yelling surprise and singing happy birthday to me. (SPIKE! SPIKE! SPIKE! And we have a heartbeat, ladies and gentlemen!) And an awesome volleyball tournament ensued for the rest of the evening!!

As an added bonus, he asked my sister Susan, who made our wedding cake 18 years ago (when she was only 16, mind you) to make the cakes and he even remembered and requested she use our wedding colors again....Black & Teal.

Moral of the story:
1. Give that hubby of mine a lot more credit! (And try to forgive the fact that he told everyone it was my 40th.)
2. I am loved.
3. Don't be so quick to throw the pity party. Playing the martyr is miserable for everyone involved.
4. Keep using that face cream. My skin has never felt so fabulous.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people in my life who shared the evening with me! I love you all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lessons I've learned the hard way



1. Don't touch dry ice with your bare fingers.

2. Think it through before you "get something off your chest" to someone you love. The 2 minutes you'll feel justified isn't worth the permanent damage you've done in the process. You can take the nail out of the fence but the hole will still be there.

3. Not many people are worth the fight.

4. People will always let each other down. I am no exception so allow me this opportunity to make a mass apology.

5. If you're looking for self-worth in anything but Jesus Christ, you'll always come up feeling empty.

6. If money is your primary focus you'll never believe you have enough.

7. Never pray for patience.

8. Satan will use the misery of others to steal your joy. Be ready for it.

9. Babies aren't the only ones capable of getting their days and nights mixed up. Toddlers possess that same talent for screwing with you.

10. If the toddler and the dog are left alone in a room with wrapping paper and tape, the dog will eventually be re-gifted.

11. Don't bother starting a diet in January until all the leftovers are gone.

12. If you Google diseases you'll most assuredly come down with the symptoms.

13. Our jobs as moms is to love our children unconditionally and expect nothing in return.

14. I shouldn't push the cart in Menards...or Lowes.

15. You should never let your baby sleep in your bed unless you're ready to sacrifice the middle for the next 3 years. We made that mistake 4 out of 4 times....five if we have another baby. (Some mistakes are worth repeating.)

16. There are people who have high expectations of how they should be treated without giving a second thought to treating you the exact opposite.

17. When watching your toddler's gymnastics class and another mom asks 'Which one is yours?' don't be surprised if yours chooses that exact moment to start picking her nose with one hand and her wedgie with the other.

18. In the world of Facebook, people will defriend you. Go ahead and assume it was 'something you said.'

19. After seeing the movie 'Tangled' I realize it's possible to be attracted to the leading man in a cartoon. I'm not saying it's not creepy....just that it's possible.....

20. When a grown man and a teenage boy encounter a mouse on the stairs, you'll hear what sounds like the screams of two little girls. Don't lose respect. They can't help themselves.

21. A German Shepherd is capable of pulling an entire pot of chili off of the stove.

22. There's no way to manipulate the numbers on a digital scale in the doctors office.

23. The queen is fine....but beware of her mother.

24. When you have a husband and a teenage son you will eventually find yourself saying, "That's what she said" and giggling at ball humor. Embrace it.

25. Sarcasm isn't always appreciated....but that should never stop you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family Photo Day

I should preface this story with the fact that my husband has always hated Family Photo Day. It's not that I loved it or anything, but it was important to me. Family photos are extremely important to me. I love looking at them and I love taking them. We used to have them professionally taken, made into Christmas cards and sent out religiously the day after Thanksgiving. Notice the past tense? Let me tell you what happened in 2002…...

Z was eight, A was six, and K was three. Such cute ages for Family Photo Day! We also had two adorable dogs named Bo and Sadie. What could be more precious than two dogs in our Christmas picture? I scheduled a special pet-friendly photo session at a studio just fifteen minutes from the little house we were living in at the time. What could go wrong? Well, where do I begin? Right off the bat some mistakes were made by both my husband and me that played a huge part in the debacle that followed. First, we had chili the night before and I made the unfortunate decision to give the leftovers to the dogs. Secondly, he fed the kids chocolate donuts right before we left. Bear with me. This will all make sense in just a second.

We all got dressed up and everyone looked really nice. Anyone who knows us knows that this is rare. We don't get 'dressed up' and although I hope we look 'nice' when we go out on a regular basis, that's not the main objective. Our main goal is for everyone to be clothed. (A lesson learned that very same year when somehow all five us managed to get from our house to our van and then to a softball game without one person realizing that K had no clothes on from the waist down.) But I digress....

On this particular day, our neighbors got the rare treat of seeing us all fully clothed as we loaded into the van. But it didn't take long for things to take a downhill turn. We had barely gotten onto the highway when we noticed the effects the leftover chili was having on our dogs. It was almost slow motion as the smell permeated it's way to each of our noses and everyone's eyes opened to their fullest capacity. I jerked my head around to check K who has the most sensitive gag reflex of all of us. There she was, sitting in her car seat, violently dry heaving. Before the 'dry heaves' could become 'wet heaves' I started promising her things if she didn't throw up. “If you don't throw up, I'll give you balloons and candy when we get to the mall!” (If you approach parenting with the knowledge and acceptance that your kids are all going to end up in therapy anyway, I've learned it gives you a lot more freedom in the things you're willing to say in any given circumstance.)

My promise of balloons and candy seemed to do the trick....until the next round of silent gas escaped from the dogs. Without drawing attention to it, my husband tried to subtly deal with the situation by activating all of the automatic windows. Suddenly wind was whipping through the van. (And our hair, but that's neither here nor there.) Problem with that idea, besides the Photo Day hair, was that it managed to spread the smell faster and this time no balloon in the world was able to stop K's chocolate donuts from appearing down the front of her beautiful dress.

I suppose now is a good time to tell you that A has the second most sensitive gag reflex and I have the third. So not only did we have the dogs continuing their gassy antics that started this thing in the first place, but it turned into 'Puke-Fest 2002' as our mini van (slash wind tunnel) flew down the highway with my husband yelling, “EVERYONE STOP VOMITING RIGHT NOW!” at the top of his lungs. (For future reference, yelling orders has no effect on getting anyone to stop vomiting.) Z, who inherited his dad's zero-gag-reflex, was in the back taking K's dress off of her in hopes that it might help her stop vomiting. A nice attempt, but that didn't work either.

Realizing he only had one option, my husband did a U-Turn and we arrived back in our driveway a mere fifteen minutes after we left. Unfortunately, those same neighbors who experienced the rare treat of seeing the fully clothed and looking nice family load up in their van earlier, were still outside to witness us squeal into our driveway as two smelly dogs and four wind blown, chocolate covered people poured out of every available door, followed by a naked K who was happily skipping into the house asking if we were still going to get her a balloon and candy.

I wouldn't expect a Christmas photo from us anytime in the near future if I were you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's beginning to smell like my Mamaw.



What is it about smells that take us back to our favorite places in childhood? I'm not sure, but what I do know is that right this second, I'm ten years old and I'm back at my Mamaw's house.

It's Thanksgiving Day and my house is beginning to fill with the aroma of my all-time favorite holiday. This is a holiday that doesn't have anything to do with gifts. This is the holiday that focuses solely on giving thanks to God for every blessing He has poured out on us.

One of my many blessings is memories of my Mamaw. I can't smell a batch of Communion Bread baking without thinking of her. (See my April blog entry titled 'Remember Me' for the story.) Add to that the smell of a turkey roasting, a batch of ooey gooey dressing and a boatload of mashed potatoes made with whole milk and too-many-to-count sticks of real butter and you understand why today of all days I can't stop thinking of her.

She always said she chose me to pass down her cooking gift to and I can only pray that she was right. Her cooking was simple. It was warm. It was welcoming. And it was DELICIOUS. The same could be said of her home. It was simple, warm, and welcoming. She never once got frustrated or stressed when any of her grandchildren, and eventually great grandchildren, were running amok while she prepared the feast. She offered her meal buffet style and fed several shifts of family members without even one complaint or mention of the time and cost. She cooked for her family out of love.

That's not to say that the rest of the year she didn't have her quirks. She and I butted heads on more than one occasion in my adult years. But that never once changed the dynamic of our relationship. I've been told that I'm "Just like Mamaw." The people who have said that didn't exactly mean it as the compliment in which I took it. My response? "I sure hope so." But rather than focus on the quirks they're referring to, (and that I'm trying to work on), I choose to focus on the many memories that she ingrained and passed on to me.

Yesterday, as is tradition, I spent the day cooking with each of my children one at a time while they prepared (or helped prepare) they're favorite foods for our feast. K helped me make the rolls & her favorite dessert. (Both recipes courtesy of my Mamaw.) The pumpkin spice cake was made by my one-armed A and she did a fabulous one-armed job. C layered peppermint patties in between the layers of brownie mix. (A creation I highly recommend.) And all three girls worked together making some sweet & salty candy treats. You might suspect that my Little Man, Z simply shows up to the meal to eat, but you'd be wrong. Z makes his favorite corn casserole and has prepared, seasoned, and baked the turkey ever since he was nine years old. My Mamaw would be beyond proud of these children of mine. Our cooking is simple. It's warm. And hopefully it's welcoming and delicious.

Add to the menu above baked beans because my husband loves them. We'll also have another corn dish because a friend gave me her yummy recipe. (Thanks Natalie!) Throw in some Reames noodles, my Mamaw's much-too-fattening mashed potatoes and her dressing and the meal is complete. You might notice that we have zero green vegetables making an appearance this year. Again, my Mamaw would be proud.

In a few hours our extended family will be arriving to our house for dinner. They'll be armed with more desserts. My kitchen will be set up buffet style. My children will be running amok, much to my enjoyment. We'll give thanks to God. We'll eat. We'll talk. We'll play games. We'll laugh. We'll eat some more. We'll miss the family members who couldn't make it this year. We'll remember my Gramps who passed away this past summer. We'll remember my Grandma, who passed away five years before that. Grandparents who left their own set of special memories imprinted on my heart.

Today I'll be surrounded by the family I love and who love me, amidst the aroma of our feast, rooted in memories of yet another grandparent I cherished. As I'm sitting in our simple home, that I pray is warm and welcoming, I'll remember my Mamaw.

So today as you eat, remember the many people and things you've been blessed with, the memories and traditions you still share, and give thanks to the one who generously poured them out. Happy Thanksgiving!

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good." (Psalm 106:1)

*In the interest of full-disclosure, I have a confession to make about the dressing. Three years ago, I got sick the day after Thanksgiving, and violently vomited my Mamaw's dressing recipe for two days straight. I've never been able to eat a bite of it since. Sadly, no one else in my family likes my Mamaw's dressing. For the past two years, I've continued to make the dressing in honor of my Mamaw and in hopes that a year will come along where I'll be able to stomach the thought of eating it again. Maybe this will be that year.....(fingers crossed)....

**In the interest of full-full-disclosure, I have another confession to make. I didn't just get sick the day after Thanksgiving three years ago. I took an over-the-counter diet pill that claimed to 'block the fat from entering your system'......it worked.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When Beth Moore and Good Housekeeping collide


I'm notorious for hammering myself with self-destructive thoughts. Countless times a day, I find myself on trains of thought that lead me down paths of regret and shame. Nothing is off limits. Things I've done. Things I've thought. Things I've said. People I've hurt. People I've offended. Big or small, it doesn't matter. I can find a way to abuse myself with it. Sometimes I'm not even aware of the moment I've jumped on that train, but will find myself traveling along throughout my day emotionally beating myself to a pulp.

What I find most troubling about the whole thing, is that the regrets I find myself reliving are the very things I've sought forgiveness for and have attempted to rectify to the best of my ability. So what the heck?!?

While recuperating from my surgery, I've spent the past couple of weeks lying in bed reading things I've been meaning to catch up on. First and foremost, my current Beth Moore workbook, "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things." The current section is addressing 1 Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray without ceasing." Beth Moore says: "By 'pray without ceasing' Paul didn't have in mind repetitive, wearying formulas. He was talking about a perpetual line of open communication with God throughout the entire day. A pray-without-ceasing relationship means seeing everything against the backdrop of God's presence."

Sounds nice. So I mentally added that to my 'to-do' list and moved on to the next riveting piece of reading material beside my bed. My giant stack of Good Housekeeping magazines where I came across an article by Betsy Rapoport titled, "How to stop beating yourself up, putting yourself down, and selling yourself short." One line was larger than the rest and written in bright purple font and it said, "Imagine snapping a rubber band around your wrist every time you put yourself down."

And that's when God took over and connected a few dots for me. What if I combined those two philosophies?

For the past few days, I've been mentally wearing a bright red rubber band around my wrist that says, "I will pray." Every time I find myself on my self-destructive train, no matter how far down the tracks I've gone, I 'look' at that bright red band, give it a hard snap, and immediately talk to my Savior.

"Remember that time I hurt that person when I".....*SNAP*......"Thank you Father, that you alone can forgive the unforgivable."

"I can't believe I made such foolish choices when".....*SNAP*....."Thank you Father, for never giving up on me."

"I did it again. I'm so stupid"......*SNAP*....."Thank you Father for creating me and for being a God who doesn't create mistakes."

"I'm unlovable".....*SNAP*.....(Singing) "Jesus loves me, this I know......"

It's still a pretty new practice for me and the muscle it requires is weak. But so far, it seems to be working. My goal is two-fold:

1. I want to pray without ceasing.
2. I want to stop being a willing passenger on Satan's train of self-destruction.

Enough is enough. I screw up. I have regrets. I'm a sinner. But I was obviously important enough to God that he sent His own Son, Jesus Christ to die for me. How dare I diminish that sacrifice by allowing Satan any say in how I see myself?

"Nobody is going to read this. People come here to laugh, not to read some lame attempt at".....*SNAP*....."If this helps even one person, Father, thank you for using my fingers to say it."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things you shouldn't do on Vicodin.

I had my surgery on Friday and all went smoothly. My new wonderful GYN not only showed up, but showed up early! And when the surgery room was delayed and I wasn't wheeled back until an hour after my allotted time, he was waiting by the door in his scrubs and said, "I never left. I've been waiting here the whole time."

Everything after that was a blur. I vaguely remember the doctor telling me that the lump was removed and that it was the size of a large chicken. And I remember thinking, "Wow! That would explain the large roll of skin below my belly button!" My bubble was burst later when the nurse clarified that it was the size of a large chicken egg. (So much for that roll theory and it became clear why they require a responsible driver after a surgery.)

In my foggy stupor I recall being offered some toast....and somewhere along the way I remember my husband asking if he could have my toast. At one point I was forced to drink some orange juice with the threat of having to stay longer if I didn't. So I downed my orange juice in record time. Shortly after, it reappeared along the side of the road about a mile away from home.

Ever since then, I've been in the security of my own home, surrounded by my wonderful husband and children, and lingering in a dream-like stupor....somewhere between reality and Vicodin.....and in that world, there are rules.

Rule #1: In 'Vicodin-World' you shouldn't operate heavy machinery. (Enter exhibit A: The coffee machine. Two fingers on my right hand paid the price for that lapse in judgment.)

Rule #2: In 'Vicodin-World' you shouldn't make decisions of consent. (I apparently turned over control of my Facebook account to my teenagers at some point.)

Rule #3: In 'Vicodin-World' you shouldn't ask questions. (When you vaguely recall your husband telling the dogs to stop wrestling on your belly and for the kids to stop playing mind games with you. Some things are left un-explored.)

Rule #4: In 'Vicodin-World' you shouldn't handle knives. (Whose bright idea was it to carve pumpkins less than 24 hours after my invasive surgery?)

Rule #5: In 'Vicodin-World' you shouldn't proofread anyone's college English paper. (I barely remember my husband and son awkwardly propping me up at the computer and telling me "No pressure, but we really need high grades on these." I wish them well with that.)

Rule #6: In 'Vicodin-World' you shouldn't try to shave your legs...or under your arms....or, um, anywhere else for that matter. (Note to self; get more bandaids.)

Rule #7: In 'Vicodin-World' you should't have sex. (Ooops. Refer back to Rule #2.)

And on that note, in 'Vicodin-World' you probably shouldn't post a blog entry.

So I guess I'll sign off and do the one thing you're actually allowed to do in 'Vicodin-World'.....sit back and enjoy the pretty colors.....Hellllllooooooo Vicodin World.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's raining, It's pouring


"When it rains, it pours" is how the saying goes. If this week of finishing up our remodeling project and preparing for my surgery on Friday was the equivalent of raining, then today it escalated to POURING.

I spent the first part of the week preparing and stocking our freezer with meals, on the assumption that my new GYN will actually show up to do my surgery. He pinky swore, so I have high hopes. (If you can't trust a pinky swear, what can you trust?)

Last night, our daughter came home from basketball practice with a black eye, a skinned up knee, and she was gently cradling her elbow. She fell during a drill. She could move her fingers and said it didn't feel broken, so we did what any responsible parent would do....we pumped her full of Motrin and sent her to bed. Right?

This morning when I woke her up for school her elbow was very bruised and very swollen, as was her eye. (Uh oh.) I called my husband at work and he told me to keep her home and if her elbow wasn't any better when he got home, we'd take her to the emergency room.

We spent the day nursing it with ice, elevation, and lots of Motrin to no avail. We left Z home with K & C, and headed to the hospital at 3:45 this afternoon. At 4:15 we were sitting at a complete stop half a mile away from the entrance to the ER due to an accident that happened right in front of the hospital. By 4:30, she and I were out of the van and walking the half mile to the hospital. As we got closer, I saw a sheet covered body and no one was rushing around. I quickly averted my eyes, told the policeman where we were heading, and he stopped traffic and allowed us to cross to the hospital entrance.

We were called back to the male nurse who asked her what happened. "I fell" she said. (Oh crap. That's what every child with 'mysterious' injuries says.) He immediately said, "Then what happened to your eye?" and she said, "I hit my face too." (Oh, this isn't going well.) I explained that she hurt herself at basketball practice and he continued on with his questions. "Last period?" he asked her. And she said, "American History." (Holy crap. He's going to think she has a concussion.)

When we got into the examination room, I knew I only had a second to give her a heads-up about what I thought might soon happen. I quickly explained that they might suspect she's been abused, try to separate us, and ask her a bunch of questions. I told her to answer all of their questions honestly and right down to the last detail. NO MORE VAGUE STATEMENTS LIKE "I fell!" And PS: If they ask you about your 'last period' they're looking for a date, not a subject!

Less than two minutes later a nurse came in and moved me to the opposite corner of the room and a doctor followed close behind, stood between me and my daughter, and gently but persistently hammered her with questions while the nurse kept me busy with registration. It was nerve wracking and part of me felt sick about the whole thing, but mostly I was thankful that this hospital was so diligent in their care of children and I knew we'd pass their test. Once we did, their entire demeanor toward us changed, and we enjoyed the friendly staff as they took such good care of our daughter.

My husband finally arrived from the roadblock as she was being whisked away for x-rays. While we waited, I casually said, "How quickly things can change." And my husband said, "Just ask the guy under the sheet." (Touche.) A short time later, we got the verdict. Her elbow is broken in two places. They wrapped her in a temporary sling and referred us to a bone doctor who is expecting my call first thing in the morning.

Here's where things could get dicey. What are the odds that a bone doctor will have an available appointment for a brand new patient with a double break in her elbow tomorrow when we call? Or will he need to see her on Friday, the day of my surgery? Will begging help? I'll find out tomorrow morning, won't I? And will my husband, who allowed the house to crumble in around us when I had the flu for two days last year, be capable of caring for my daughter, myself, our other three children, and our home for a week or longer without permanent damage? We shall see.

In the meantime, the downpour continues as we face the unknown of what the rest of this week holds for us. But one thing we've learned about storms is that the sun eventually follows. So here's hoping the sun will come out tomorrow. (Crap. Now I've got that stupid 'Annie' song in my head. Bet you do too, huh?)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cheap tricks and a treat

If you read my post about the infamous Homecoming dress, I'm sure you've gathered that I'm a rather frugal person. Not cheap. Just responsible. (That's what I tell myself, anyway.) So when it comes to spending $20 or more on a child's Halloween costume, I cringe.

Last November when we walked into Walmart and found a rack of toddler costumes marked down to $1, we had a stroke of genius. We snatched up one of each style for both C and K. Half were in their current sizes and the other half were in their next size up. Complete the set with a mirror and a cute pink crate and you've got an awesome dress-up themed Christmas present that pleased both a two year old and a 10 year old. Many times throughout this past year, we were treated to the occasional fashion show, and once this summer I looked up to realize that two spooky ninjas were stalking me as I mowed the grass.

When Halloween rolled around this year, we dragged out the crate and asked the girls what they'd like to be. They excitedly dove in and had fun making their choices. And as an added bonus, they chose different costumes for different functions and we were even able to make a last minute swap when the weather took a cold dive on the night of trick-or-treat. A huge success and we're planning to repeat the process this year.

Onto the carving of the pumpkins. Asking me to pay $5 for something that we're going to take home and carve holes into is like asking me to take a $5 dollar bill, fold it up, and cut it into a paper snowflake to decorate for Christmas. (One per person, mind you.) It ain't gonna happen. But I'm all about tradition. Therefore, the first weekend in November of each year my family carves pumpkins.....that we get on clearance for .50 cents apiece. Let's face it, when you're looking at pictures of yourselves carving pumpkins from past years, does it really matter which month it was in? Waiting until November also means we've extended the life of the pumpkin and they're still in great shape by Thanksgiving. Why do we care what kind of shape they're in at Thanksgiving? Because we turn the faces toward the back and from the front we have a beautiful gathering of pumpkins on our porch to greet our guests.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is another family tradition. Some people do their Christmas shopping. Our family can be found in the backyard with our array of weapons; BB guns, bows and arrows, and of course the family favorite.....the shot gun....and we have target practice with those .50 cent pumpkins. Come on, could you actually shoot at a pumpkin that cost you $5? I think not. (FYI; our colored eggs suffer the same fate the weekend after Easter.)

Okay, I promised you a treat, so here it comes. This recipe has a minimum of two ingredients & a maximum of three. As if that's not reason enough to celebrate, it also has minimal calories & minimal fat grams. Before I share it with you, I'd like to ask one small favor.....please don't tell my husband that it's healthy! He loves this treat and would be devastated if he found out it wasn't clogging his arteries. Thanks!

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Ingredients: One box of Spice Cake mix
One 15 oz. can of Pumpkin
spoonful of cream cheese icing (Optional)
OR light whipped cream (Also optional)

What to do:
1. Combine the dry mix with the can of pumpkin. (Don't use any other ingredients. Batter will be thick but manageable.)
2. Spread the batter into 9 x 13 casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes or until done in the middle.
4. Optional: Upon removing from oven, poke holes across the top of the cake, warm up a spoonful of cream cheese icing, and drizzle it across the cake allowing it to seep into the holes.
5. Optional: Or simply serve with a scoop of whipped cream.

**Whether you use icing, whipped cream, or allow it to stand alone, this cake is a crowd pleaser. Hope you enjoy it**

Wishing you all a wonderful, fun and safe Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When life hands you lemons.....make oatmeal cookies.

I don't normally blog 2 days in a row, but I had to make an exception. On the heels of "Peek at a week" we had a rather huge day. When I left you yesterday, I was waiting for the tile installers to (hopefully) return to our home to begin laying the tile in the sitting area half of our newly constructed bedroom. I'm relieved to say that they finally returned.....smelling like a brewery, mind you, but they returned.

Shortly after I finished my entry, I headed upstairs to fix lunch for my family. Little did I know, that was the last time, for a period of 24 hours, that I was allowed in my bedroom. Apparently, you're not allowed to step one foot onto newly installed tile until the following day after it gets grouted. You'd think that would be a tiny little detail the installers would tell us. Maybe sober ones do. Please add my name to the support of 'Mothers Against Drunk Tilers'.....or MADT.

That left me committed to living the next 24 hours in my Mens flannel polar bear pajama bottoms and a black tank top, sans a bra, and Hubby in his work clothes. Not a huge deal until we realized we had to make a mandatory trip back to Menards to choose and order our bedroom carpet on the one day of their big sale. Lovely.

In the meantime, I was excited to try a new steak recipe I saw on the Today Show last week. Z had to work so I made his portion first and C opted to join him for an early dinner. When A and K smelled the delicious food, they decided that they would also prefer to eat early. (Enter round II of cooking.) When the actual dinner time rolled around, it was only Hubby and me eating at the table, so why not take advantage of it? With the girls in their bedroom and the 2 drunks downstairs, Hubby and I enjoyed a romantic dinner, complete with candles.....and me in my jammies and him in his work clothes.

Shortly after the tilers left, having refused our offer to call them a designated driver, it was time to brave the dreaded trip to get our carpet. Thankfully we made it through Menards without the cashier I'd recently mamed seeing the flip-flop-pajama-clad bra-less lunatic back so soon.

When we got home, the girls were starving and ready for a snack and oatmeal cookies sounded really good to all of us. I was halfway through the recipe when I realized we had no eggs. The tiny country store in our area closes at dark and our neighbor didn't have any either. Crap. K asked me what eggs did and if they were really necessary. I explained that from my understanding, it's the eggs that keep the cookies soft after they cool. Hmmm.......that left us only one option.....we had to eat an entire batch of oatmeal cookies before they cooled.

No problem. Forty-two warm oatmeal cookies later and we were ready for bed. Bed. Crap. Where are we gonna sleep?

An hour later we were tucked into bed and saying goodnight......I was on K's top bunk and Hubby was on C's bottom bunk. Like they say; Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you handle it.....and for good or for bad, we made some memories yesterday. (Especially for that carpet salesman who couldn't seem to take his eyes off my tank top.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A peek at a week

This month has been a blur as we've been in the process of remodeling our entire downstairs. We started with the rec room which has lived up to the 'rec' description of it's name the entire six years we've lived here. That entailed a thorough cleaning, de-cluttering, painting, and new carpet.

Then it was onto our bedroom, which was originally supposed to be a large family room complete with a fireplace. What it ended up turning into was a playroom, computer room, and general hangout for our kids and their friends that just so happened to have our bed stuck in the middle of it. The evening we were laying in our bed and Z and his friends walked in and joined us to watch tv, I knew that something had to be done, and fast. My idea was to build a wall with french doors that would divide the room in half, thus allowing us to open the doors to enjoy the fireplace or close them for privacy. We're currently nearing the completion of that huge undertaking.

Needless to say, our house and our lives have been in complete upheaval during this process and I've been forced out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion. Last week I needed to run to Lowe's without my husband. Lowe's isn't my kind of store and I'm not comfortable making purchases alone, so I took Z along with me as back up. We walked in the door armed with our list consisting of drywall and sandpaper and I immediately started looking for an employee to ask for assistance. Z rolled his eyes and said, "We don't need help." (Typical male.) But when we passed a female cashier and she asked if she could help me with anything, I accepted her offer and she took us to the isle we needed. I had no idea there were so many 'grades' of sandpaper. Several phone calls to my husband and one teary eyed moment later, Z was pushing our flat cart full of items to the cashier who initially helped us. As she checked us out, she asked me out. Yep, she asked me out! With a deer-in-the-head-lights look, I turned to Z who was giving me his best Jim Halpert face and shrugged at me. We made an awkward exit and pushed the cart through the parking lot in silence until Z said, "Dude, she looked like daddy." (Um, NO she didn't.) I swore off Lowes and vowed to work on my vibe.

When my husband needed to go to a home improvement store again, I refused to tag along unless it was Menards. Several LONG hours later, we were headed toward the front with yet another flat cart filled with long pieces of wooden trim. Since I was the one pushing the cart, I got to choose which check-out line, therefore I headed toward the one male cashier. (Not taking anymore chances.) I turned into his lane, misjudged my distance, and not only impaled him with the trim, but managed to run over both of his feet with my cart. (Um, sorry?) At least he didn't ask me out, right? Unfortunately, my cart-pushing privileges have been suspended indefinitely.

In the midst of all of that, I've had to juggle the normal every day activities such as C's weekly Gymnastics class on Thursdays. Since my treadmill is currently buried beneath mounds of crap, I've been trying to squeeze in exercise wherever I can. For several weeks after I drop her off, I've managed to sneak across the street to the park, walk 4 miles, and make it back in time to pick her up without her noticing I was gone.....until, this week. I no sooner made it to the furthest point on the trail and my cell phone rang. It was C's teacher informing me that she had been removed from the class for "causing a disturbance" and I needed to pick her up immediately. I arrived back at Gymnastics to find C sobbing in the waiting room and wearing someone elses sweatsuit because she liked it better than her own. I did not have time for this. After trying unsuccessfully to reason with a 3 year old, I finally broke down and bribed her with McDonalds if she would finish out the class without a scene. It worked, but I'm now "that mom" in the waiting room that gets "the look" from the other moms who like to tell themselves that they have complete control over their toddlers and I can only hope that they don't remember that it was my daughter who threw the tantrum during the spring recital and refused to do the much-anticipated-much-practiced-much-talked-about group bow. Whatever. I drove home silently promising myself to never resort to bribery again.

But it wasn't over for me yet. That evening as we painted our bedroom walls, I had to endure a long lecture from my hubby for rewarding bad behavior and using bribery to get what I wanted. When I couldn't take another minute, I offered him a massage if he'd stop talking about it. He agreed. So much for that no-more-bribery promise, but ya know what? Who cares. Because today's concern is all about tile installation. The guy showed up, asked for his check for half of the installation fee, and abruptly left for the bank with the promise to return in 15 minutes. That was an hour ago. Guess it's time to think up another bribe to get him to come back........

"Dear Lord, please let next week be better than this one.....if you do, I promise to.....oh, never mind. Amen."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Going, Going, Gone.

I graduated in 1990. It's 2010. That's right, twenty years now separate me from my youth. Not that I sit around and count the years because who has time for that? I got married three years after high school. My twenties are a blur of babies, diapers, breastfeeding, and trying to stay ahead of things financially. If you know someone in their twenties who appears to be living in a world of chaos, seems to be making some bad decisions on every level, and could very well be losing their mind, please try to extend them some grace because you're probably right about all of it. I look back at my twenties with lots of wonderful memories and lots and lots of regrets. I doubt I'm alone in that.

Enter my thirties. The kids are out of diapers, two of them are in school, and our heads are comfortably above water financially, so things will calm down, right? Wrong. The first half of my thirties is a blur of juggling wife-hood, mother-hood, and piles and piles of flashcards that I carried with me everywhere as I earned my massage degree and top it off with a family move to get my husband closer to his work. I barely remember anything between the age of 29 and 35 and the only reason I remember 35 is because that's how old I was when C was born which brings us back full circle to a blur of diapers and breastfeeding. And somewhere along the way, I developed wrinkles, an extra chin, and my boobs hang several inches lower than they used to and permanently point south. Don't remember that happening.

At 38, I'm in the midst of experiencing the second half of my thirties and I think I finally get it. Life is chaos. My husband works full time as an Engineer and goes to school one night a week to further his education. Z goes to high school part time, college part time, works part time, and is actively involved in extra-curricular activities. A is playing basketball. K is playing the drums in the band. And C is 3 and that speaks for itself. Part of my job is to keep it all running smoothly while also keeping everyone clean and fed. But my most important job is to make sure that these years don't become the blur that the last 20 years have become. I want to teach my kids to live in today. Enjoy right now. Laugh. Have fun. Because if you're waiting for life to slow down, you'll blink and you'll miss it.

In less than 2 years, I'll be 40. Will I be able to remember anything between the ages of 35 and 39? Yep, I will. Because all I'll have to do is scroll down my Facebook page if I forget. Who says technology is all bad? And there are plenty of pictures to look back on and remember fondly, "Aaahhh, the good old days when my boobs couldn't touch my belly button....."

(This entry was inspired by my recent 20 year high school reunion. That surreal moment when you realize the class clown is bald, my junior high boyfriend is completely gray, and silicone implants have officially taken over. Yikes.)


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Womb with a view

I'm becoming convinced that's it's impossible for women to maintain a shred of dignity. From the time our period starts, we're on a continual loop of humiliating life experiences.

When I was a teenager my cousin thought it would be funny to throw me into the pool....that situation quickly became hysterical when my pad came floating to the top. Enter the 'Learning to insert a tampon' phase. (Don't panic. I've chosen to spare you from my water park story. You can thank me later.)

There's the fun of finding places to discreetly carry our necessities. When K was a baby, we were in the crowded church nursery and I asked Z to bring me a diaper out of her bag. He skipped over carrying an open super-all-day maxi pad with 'wings' no less. Sadly, I think it would have fit her. Of course none of that compares to our annual appointments with the gynecologist. I could practically hear the beeps of a large truck backing up as the nurse directed me onto the scale when I was eight months pregnant with Z. Her gestures looked like she was trying to land a small plane.

And the weigh-ins don't get any easier when you're not pregnant either. Those are followed by stirrups, and a 'you're about to feel a little pressure' comment as you lay there trying to think about anything other than 'what if I farted right now'......

The list could go on. The birthing process, breast milk arriving, engorgement that brightens the eyes of your husband with hopes that those things will stay that size forever, and the fun of trying to learn the art of feeding your own infant with those giant monsters while trying not to suffocate the infant. It's horrifying.

Anyway, last year I discovered a lump under my C-Section scar. My gynecologist diagnosed it as Endometriosis. Painful but nothing serious. I opted to have it removed and we scheduled my surgery. Last November I sat in the surgery center for over nine hours, starving, wearing a revealing hospital gown, hooked up to a constant flow of IV liquids, with the occasional visits from the male nurse anesthetist who would give me shots of something to 'relax me' but that would actually work as truth serum and I would tell him how good looking he was right in front of my husband every time he'd inject me with one. All for nothing because my doctor never freaking showed up! I pulled the plug on that little 'prisoner of war' experience and walked out swearing off Gynecologists forever.

Almost a year later, I was finally ready to deal with this situation once and for all. I found an amazing new doctor who seems like the type that would show up to do your scheduled surgery. He agreed with my previous doctor's assessment of my lump and ordered an Ultra Sound before scheduling my surgery.

My Ultra-Sound was yesterday and I was instructed to have my bladder full. I lay there on the table trying not to pee myself while a technician named Lisa pressed down with her machine as her student follower, Amanda, watched and I thought, "This couldn't possibly get any worse." Then she told me to empty my bladder (whoo hoo) because she's going to do an internal scan. (S***).

Ten minutes later I was lying on the table again, feeling like a human video game as Lisa moved the controller and Amanda studied the screen and once again made the mistake of thinking, "Okay, now this couldn't possibly get any worse." And then Lisa asked me if I would mind if Amanda took a turn. (Why not at this point?) Just before I went to my happy place where my orifices weren't being invaded, I heard Lisa tell Amanda, "Oh look....she has to pee again." (Thanks for the heads-up.......)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homecoming...The good, the bad, and the clinically insane.

Several weeks ago, our beautiful daughter announced that she had been voted to be the Freshman Attendant on the Homecoming Court. I was ecstatic! I had never received such an honor in school and was so excited to experience it with her. We immediately started planning our dress shopping day and all the fun we would have together.

The following day, she brought home a contract that she had to sign. The contract stated that we would allow 'The Queen' to pick her dress....huh?!? I'm sorry, I thought this was Homecoming. I didn't realize it was the queen's wedding.

Thinking back to how it worked when I was in school, all of the members of the court got to choose whatever they wanted to wear. (Suits were the attire of choice way back when.) And no one even found out which Senior Attendant was 'The Queen' until halftime of the Homecoming Game. Right? Shouldn't there be a level of suspense here? So, why is it that we even know who the queen is, much less, hand over our checkbooks to her and allow her to choose our daughter's dress?

Please allow me to take this moment to make something very clear. I hold nothing against the girl who was chosen as queen. My kids have nothing but wonderful things to say about her and although I don't know her well, from my few interactions with her, she seems like a great and down-to-earth girl. She did nothing that wasn't within her rights under the 'law' of this (stupid) tradition. That being said, here we go......

Due to the timing of the vote and the date of the game, we had less than two weeks to make all this happen. We were told on a Friday night that they were going dress shopping on Sunday. We weren't available to go that day. We received word on Sunday evening that A should bring $200 to school on Wednesday so that they could go pick up her dress......Let's hold on one second here, shall we? We're expected to hand over $200 for a dress, sight unseen, that may not even look right on my daughter and it may very well end up hanging in the back of a closet forever because she hates it so much.....sound about right? Not to this Momma.

Other than very part time massage clients, my husband is our sole provider. As equal partners in this marriage, I see my role with the finances as protector and respecter. He would freely hand over the checkbook to me without so much as a question and I could very easily take advantage of that, but I promise you, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I did. I love and respect him way too much for that.

I also love and respect my daughter. She is worthy of a $200 dress and I didn't want her to think otherwise, but here's the deal. Just as my husband sets the standard of a man for Z to look up to, I'm the standard my daughters see. (Heaven help them.) This is where lessons are taught and examples are set. This is life and this is where the rubber meets the road.

I had to strike a delicate balance between respect for the checkbook and respect for my daughter. I wasn't about to rock the boat for her at school or rob her of the excitement of this huge honor. This was about her, and this was for her, so I proceeded with caution......

I found out the store they chose the dress from, the color and name of the exact dress, and I looked it up on-line. Cute dress. Short dress. Certainly not a $200 dress. I'm not a good shopper, so my next step was to take full advantage of the shopping skills of my over 200 Facebook friends. (Technology is great!) I posted the dress information and posted my offer...."free massage to whoever finds the cheapest version of this dress." And, voila! Twenty minutes later, Alison, (ironically a friend I met in Massage School), came through with flying colors. We lined the two dresses up on the screen and A and I went over it with a fine tooth comb. To our eye, they were a perfect match. But I didn't want to take this lightly, so my next step was to ask another girl on the court who had already purchased the 'real' dress. I sent her our link and she couldn't find a difference. So that evening, we ordered A's Homecoming dress from Amazon for a mere $66 and a massage. Thank you Alison! And while we're on the topic of awesome friends, a friend from church who is a Cosmetologist offered to come to our house to do her hair! Thank you Melanie!

Next stop, shoes. We headed to the mall and found $55 shoes marked down to....ready for this?.....$6.97. Yes, that's right, six dollars and ninety seven cents! And they fit me too! (But that's neither here nor there.)

Dress, check. Shoes, check. Hair, check. Let's see, what other fun things could we squeeze into this experience....aaahhhh.....pedicures! Back to the mall we went. A had a wonderful young girl who gave her a luxurious experience and not only painted her nails but decorated them too! I, on the other hand, had a surgical-glove-wearing, angry Vietnamese woman, who communicated to me through mean taps to my legs and if I didn't understand, I was rewarded with harder taps and vicious glares. How relaxing.

Over dinner with A, I pointed out our victory. We got her dress, shoes, hair, nails, make-up, and hair accessories and it still didn't add up to the price of the 'real' dress. (Whoo Hoo and high fives all around.) That's what we call success!

The following day I received an angry phone call from an angry woman. She heard a rumor that we bought a 'different' dress. I assured her that the dress wasn't 'different' but that it simply cost a lot less. She proceeded to fill my ear with tales of distraught court mothers, a distraught queen, and even one distraught male escort from the football team. (We can't have a distraught football player, now can we.) It seems I had single handedly ruined Homecoming with A's 'different' dress and she demanded to come inspect the dress because it wasn't acceptable 'sight unseen.' (Oh the irony.)

A little back story on me here.....I have a long history with a controlling narcissist in my life. My role was to 'fight' and I lived up to my role. The narcissist loves a good fight and thrives on conflict and the role of victim they get to play after the very fight they started in the first place. I've spent the past 3 years enmeshed in Beth Moore workbooks making changes in my behavior and subsequently learning how to handle narcissists....I'm practically a professional at this point. The lesson: Stop fighting and the narcissist loses interest and goes away. Mark my words. It works.

It took me about 5 minutes for my 'narcissist red flag' to raise in my head and I knew what I was dealing with and I adjusted my responses accordingly. I struggled with my 'fighting seeds' as they desperately tried to push to the surface. I could have (and would have loved to) rip this woman to shreds and leave her weeping in my wake. But this wasn't about me. This wasn't about the queen. This wasn't even about this woman. This was about my daughter. So I fought the good fight. I went against my very nature and I fought the fight of patience and grace and I took one for the team. Not because I had to or because I wanted to but because of a love that is greater than the need to be 'right.'

I endured five phone calls in the span of one afternoon. I stayed as quiet as I could and let the narcissist do all the talking. (They love that.) I even kept from laughing aloud when she told me that other women resent her because she's so attractive. (Wow. Classic narcissist. They're either 'too attractive, too smart, too holy, or too victimized' to see that they actually crave the conflict.) Between rantings about the dress, slight bits of the truth began to emerge, and pretty soon it became clear that the only people upset about this were some of the mothers, and I can totally live with that.

Last night was the big game. A looked beautiful. She had a cheering section full of extended family. All the girls matched and all the moms were friendly and happy.....except for one. One mother approached me and seemed a little perturbed as she leaned in to tell me something. In an angry whisper she said, "I wish we'd ordered the $66 dollar dress too!!"


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dumplings, Cobblers and Pies, oh my!

We're extremely blessed to have two giant apple trees in our backyard. They were already here and well established when we moved in, which is the only reason they're still alive. The first year we were here, we got to experience the wonderful benefit of having our very own source of fruit at our fingertips, so we decided to take things a step further and planted grapevines, strawberry bushes, a cherry tree, and a peach tree. I weedwacked the grapevines in a moment of weedwacker rage, (see earlier post for my history with the freaking weedwacker). Our strawberry bushes produced a giant crop one year, but under our not-so-watchful eye, C ate them all. Eventually they were overtaken by weeds and ended up under our freshly poured concrete patio. Bye bye strawberry plants. Japanese Beatles devoured our cherry tree. Our peach tree, on the other hand, seems to be thriving and produced a whopping crop of four peaches this year.....C ate three of them. Hers likes her fruits.

But every other year, like clockwork, we get a bumper crop of delicious and beautiful apples. This was our year. During a cookout we hosted back in July, a friend asked me what we do with all of those apples and I told him that I spend several weeks picking, peeling, coring, and freezing them to make yummy apple desserts all through the winter. He asked me why it took several weeks and when I explained that I use a potato peeler he looked at me like I'd just sprouted an apple tree out of the top of my head. "You don't use the apple machine?!?" he asked. (What the heck is an apple machine?) Well, I was about to find out.....

When my apples were ready to pick, we wasted no time in tracking down this miracle apple machine and found one at Meijer for $9.99. Awesome. That Sunday afternoon I asked my husband to please pick me as many apples as he could. Apparently what he heard me say was "Duct tape empty trash bags into the trees, climb them like a monkey, and shake the limbs as hard as you can so that the apples fall into the bags." PS. That doesn't work and he was taken off 'picking' detail which was probably his intent.

The kids and I picked several bags of apples and excitedly attempted our apple machine. By the end of the evening, Z had sliced open three of his fingers, the thing wouldn't suction to the counter as promised, one of the prongs broke off in an apple, (I assume we'll find that in our next cobbler), and I only ended up with two freezer bags of apples because that stupid apple machine took the inside of the apple right along with the skin of the apple and I was left with tiny curly ques of apple nubs by the time it was done. This thing is supposed to save time, not cause more work and mame my only son and all I wanted to do was beat it against the floor and throw it out the freakin window. (I have rage issues.)

So I'm going to pretend that you've asked me to rate this machine for your future reference. I give it a D+. But if you're in the market for high blood pressure, bloody fingers, and a foul mouth, you too should get the apple machine. It'd be perfect.

Just for fun, here's a recipe for my easy Apple Cobbler:
1. Peel, core, and section 10-12 apples and place them in a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with non-stick spray
2. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon
3. Combine 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of oats and sprinkle over the top
4. Pour 1/2 a box of dry white cake mix over the top and stir it all together.
5. Place several pats of butter all over the top and bake uncovered @ 350 until the top is browned, then stir and cover with foil and continue baking until the apples are tender. (About an hour cooking time total.)
6. Added walnuts are delicious, but optional. I only add those when I want to witness my husband throw a dramatic temper tantrum....because that's kind of fun.
Enjoy!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

O-H!....I-O!


The date was Thursday September 2nd, 2010 and the temperature outside was a whopping 94 degrees. Yet on that day, Facebook was lit up with talk of pots of chili on the stove, crock pots full of barbecue meatballs and ovens stuffed with spicy chicken wings. What can explain the underlying current of electricity that causes grown men to withdraw from society for an entire season? Football. Who are they following? The Ohio State Buckeyes. Who is their leader? Jim Tressel.

The closest I ever came to being a 'Football Fan' was when I cheered in High School and I don't think that counts. When my husband and I began dating in March of our Senior year, football season was over so although I knew he played, I had no idea the depth of his passion for the sport.....until I accidentally planned our wedding on Super Bowl Weekend. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot.

Over the years I've gotten to experience firsthand what it's like to live with a Buckeye Fan, where suddenly the wardrobe color of choice is Scarlet & Gray and deciding on anything blue or (heaven forbid) yellow might very well get you spit on......by your own husband. (And speaking of wardrobe, several years ago, my husband told me that if he lost 50 lbs he was going to buy a 'Jim Tressel vest' to wear. Suddenly, using real butter in the mashed potatoes seemed like a really good idea.) This is a world where the mention of (whispering) "Michigan" is strictly prohibited and when he randomly yells "O-H!" from anywhere in the house, (or Walmart), you better be prepared to yell "I-O!" or risk getting the look of betrayal. Have an allergic reaction to a hazel nut when you're 6 months pregnant? Too bad if it's during an Ohio State game. The best he can do is call the squad and that's after a dramatic sigh and eye roll of inconvenience at your nerve to ask. And don't even think about going into labor unless you want your 'partner' and 'coach' to be sitting across the room in front of the television, loudly cheering and eating McDonalds while the nurse preps you for your c-section. (Am I bitter? Naaa.....)

But the vows said 'for better or for worse' so I am a Buckeye fan by marriage. I've learned to live with his glazed over eyes and know to stock up on library books to keep myself busy. I make the chili, meatballs, & wings, I turn my nose up at anything that has the nerve to be blue and / or yellow, I willingly cheer for a giant buckeye named Brutus, and our children know to spell out OHIO with their arms whenever my husband has the camera. I swore off hazel nuts and I even tracked my menstrual cycle so that I didn't taint Buckeye season with a pesky birth.....although he could have warned me that 'March Madness' has the same effect on him. Sorry C.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not a Buckeye fan because, really I am......those little balls of peanut butter dipped in chocolate and shiny parafin make me want to scream...."O-H!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fraud, thy name is Direct Tv


Eight years ago we were customers of Direct Tv. DVR, and the ability to pause live television, is what brought that relationship to an end. Dish Network was offering it for 'free' and Direct Tv wouldn't match the deal. My husband threatened to leave and Direct Tv said, "See ya" and he vowed never to entertain the thought of that company again.

Fast forward to June 2010. We were basically happy customers with Dish Network. Honestly, it's too expensive for what you're getting, but aren't they all? We were happy owners of a system that would tape all of our shows whether we remembered or not and we could pause live television at any given moment to go to the kitchen and get a snack. The American dream, am I right? This time the issue was 'The Big Ten Network.' (Dramatic music here...duh duh duh!)

Direct Tv knew exactly what they were doing when they sent my husband a flier promising 'free' High Definition for life and his beloved 'Big Ten Network' all for $29.99 a month. Here's what I know: #1. We don't have a high definition television and #2. The Big Ten Network is responsible for stealing my husband's attention for all of Fall and most of Winter. But I'm a sucker for saving money so I reluctantly agreed.

June 11th Tech #1 came out for the initial installation. He talked on his cell phone the majority of the four hours he was here and left several of his tools lying around our yard and on our roof. Quite the professional that one was. And I should mention that five minutes after he left, we lost all satellite service and internet. I received a follow up 'customer service' phone call to see if we were pleased, but since he was calling from India, I couldn't understand a word he was saying. Where's the "Press 2 for English" option when you need it?

Enter Tech #2 on June 14th. He got our internet back up. Score. Spent the better part of the hour he was here bad mouthing Tech #1 and his unprofessionalism. Accurate but that in itself is unprofessional. But when he left, our satellite was on and we were happy. Until the next day when the wind had the nerve to blow and we lost our signal yet again.

Tech #3 didn't show up when he was supposed to and several days after that, Tech #2 returned full of apologies, fixed the problem and assured me that it was 'his mistake.' (Dude, I didn't think it was mine.) Unfortunately, that darn wind blew again and 'his mistake' returned.

By this time we were beyond furious when Tech #4 arrived but he fixed us up and all was well a mere month after this process started. (You know it's bad when the air conditioner repairman shows up and C says, "Hi Direct Tv man.")

We weren't happy with many of the differences with Dish Network but we thought for the money saved we could manage to survive our two year contract. Until we received our first bill. Instead of the $29.99 we were expecting, it was for a whopping $66. Upon further inspection my husband noticed all of the hidden charges, one of which was a $10 fee for that HD tv that was supposed to be 'free for life' and that we don't even need. My husband called 'customer service' (and I use that term lightly) and went round and round until he reached a manager named Billy. Here's what Billy had to say.....We (as the customer) should have known that HD tv only stays 'free' if you set up an account to pay on-line within 30 days of installation. Our 30 days is passed so our only other option is to replace our HD server with a regular server.....for a fee, of course. Basically, according to Billy, we're sh** out of luck. I saw that infamous shift in my gentle husband's eyes and through gritted teeth he called Billy out on the scam. Billy hung up on my husband. (Bad move.) My husband called Billy back. Billy claimed that the connection was lost and that his phone doesn't make out-going calls. (He must have gotten his phone service through Direct Tv.) My husband, with eyes still shifted, calmly and frighteningly said, "Well then it's gonna suck for you when I come down there to kick your a** and you wish you could dial 911."

That was the end of the conversation with Billy and I can only assume that Billy from India, has already reported my husband to the proper authorities and our phone may or may not be tapped. As for Direct Tv, our only other course of action is to contact their corporate offices, which can't be reached by phone, so you have to send an email. (Apparently the phones at corporate can't receive calls. What's up with the phones in India?)

My fuming husband informed me that we'll be sending their equipment back.....right after football season. (That topic is still under discussion.) In the meantime, we're stuck with a $66 dollar a month signal from this fraud of a company.

Well, I have a signal of my own for Direct Tv....and mine really is free for life....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And so it begins.....

"Bus is in the cornfield!"

Everyone in our house knows exactly what that means; the person on designated bus watch has just spotted the school bus across the cornfields and that signals the last minute scramble to make it out to the bus on time. At least that's how it works on a good day.

Two years ago we overslept on the first day of school and they didn't get there until lunch. Let's just say none of our family would classify as 'morning' people. Last year we woke up on the first day of school to discover that K tried to give herself bangs in the middle of the night and was left with patches of one inch stubble scattered across the top of her head. It was awfully early in the year for one of the girls to be sobbing as she stormed down the driveway toward the bus. That usually doesn't start until after Labor Day.

This year I had high hopes that all would go smoothly. Z doesn't have to be at school until 10am this year, therefore that's one less person involved in the morning chaos. (And since he's my most high maintenance, that couldn't have worked out better.)

Everything was right on schedule in preparation for the big day.....until our well pump broke yesterday afternoon and we lost all running water. This was not in the plan. My panicked A, and cleanest child by far, asked how she was supposed to bathe. So last night before bed, my children could be found taking a mandatory dip in the pool while I sat on the side with shaving cream and a bucket and shaved my legs. Yep, we've officially crossed over into 'Red-neck-ville.' This mornings bathroom routine involved bottled water for teeth brushing and peeing outside behind the playhouse. A, also our most dignified child, refuses to pee outside therefore planned to attempt to hold her nights urine all the way to school. I haven't gotten a phone call so that's a good sign. Nothing worse than showing up your Freshman year of high school having peed your pants on the bus. (Not that I would know.)

So with their bellies full of cinnamon rolls (and bladders full of urine), my daughters made it onto the school bus on time and excited for the first day of school. Round two will begin at 9am when it's time to wake up the boy. I can't believe his school bus riding days are over and he'll be going out to the driveway to get in his own car and drive himself to school. It's such a cliche to wonder where the time went but seriously, where did the time go?

As he drives away I'll be the one standing in our driveway keeping watch across the horizon....."Z is in the cornfield" I'll quietly say as I wipe a tear from my cheek and return to the house.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The zoo is for the birds

There used to be a tiny water park called Wyandot Lake across from the Columbus Zoo. For a very cheap price, you could enjoy the water slides and the kid friendly dry rides such as the scrambler, spider ride, merry-go-round, and even a small roller coaster that brought squeals from the kids as they felt the thrill of their first trip down a steep hill. We bought season passes there for several years and have wonderful memories of that great little park.

Several years ago, the zoo purchased (and ruined) Wyandot Lake. They named it Zoombezi Bay and the price to get in is $24.99......if you're under the age of 10. If you're unlucky enough to be 10 years or older, the price is a whopping $29.99. And don't forget the $5 to park your car. That means it costs a small fortune for a family of any size to go to this park. Granted, those prices are comparable to Kings Island and Cedar Point, but here's what you might not know.....the price of admission to Zoombezi Bay does not include any of the dry rides! Thanks to Jack Hanna, you're now required to buy individual ride tokens or an all-day ride pass at exorbitant prices. That's not a theme park. That's a county fair. And that's ridiculous.

So why can we be found at Zoombezi Bay for one day in August every year? Because we get free tickets. Which brings me to how we spent our Saturday......

As we pulled out of our driveway, A said, "Let's try to make it through one day without it turning into a blog for mom." (But nobody knocked on wood.) Therefore, when my husband tried to use leftover tickets from 2009 "just to see if it would work" and he got scolded by the gate attendant and then tried to blame K, none of us were surprised. When we were having a family picture taken in the Lazy River and K's nose spouted blood like a geyser, nobody was shocked. (PS. I now understand where they get the saying that blood is thicker than water.....her blood floated along the current for quite awhile.) When we exited the river, we were followed by a tiny deeply tanned man who was wearing two pairs of sweatpants and had goggles on his head. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? While sitting in his lawn chair, my husband crossed his leg and kicked the headrest out from under the kid who was sitting in the chair in front of him. He didn't realize what he had done until the very angry father of the kid turned his very angry glares toward him......and I laughed so hard I peed my bathing suit. At lunch K lost her tooth eating cheese puffs and proceeded to vomit in the parking lot beside our van and quickly dove back in when we realized that seagulls have zero standards when it comes to what they're willing to eat. K's tooth is either flying somewhere over Columbus or on someone's windshield by now. Just another day in our world.

We're not big fans of the zoo section. Not because we believe that animals should be free to roam the wild or anything. Frankly, I think they've got it pretty good in the zoo. My dislike of the zoo stems from my dislike of crowds. Stick me on a path on a hot day with hundreds of people stampeding from exhibit to exhibit and I'm not a happy momma. Throw in the occasional slow moving scooter or heaven forbid a newlywed couple who refuses to drop hands and I have flashbacks of our nightmare trip to Disney World and I become enraged. But the zoo recently added a polar bear exhibit and the boys in our family were bouncing around with excitement to see them. So we girls tagged along to see what the big fuss was about.

The only thing worse than those crowds of tourists, slow scooters, and lovebirds crowding down a hot path, is when that same group is trying to fit down a crowded ramp, but we forged ahead to please the boys. We ended up underneath a giant glass wall & ceiling of water that was full of fish happily swimming and mocking the stupid humans who were choosing to stand in a hot hole underground and watch them. I waited about a minute before angrily asking where the infamous polar bear was and was answered with a lot of excited people pointing their fingers and saying, "There's his foot!" (Are you freakin kidding me?) I decided that bear had exactly 5 minutes to dazzle us or we were heading back to the bay to bleed in the Lazy River some more.

Finally, the bear plunged into the fishy water to the delighted gasps of his underground fans, chased a few fish, mooned us with a giant spread of his legs, and climbed back out. Admittedly, it was kind of cool and I found myself smiling in spite of myself. My husband turned around and asked if I took a picture. I looked down at the camera that was hanging around my neck (speaking of tourist, right?) and I realized I hadn't gotten one single shot. Oops. He looked like a little boy whose balloon had just popped. (Take it easy, Chuckles.) He told me I'd just missed getting a once in a lifetime picture. (Drama runs deep in our family. Notice the picture posted at the top right? It's called 'Google' so please calm down.)

Having seen a bear we were ready to go back to the water side of the park where we belong. Having fought the crowds to get to the bear, I was running short on patience to get out. I finally decided to enact my personal motto that was pretty effective in Disney World and equally as effective at the zoo. It goes something like this: "She who has the stroller, has the right of way." And it works, too......