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, 1 grandson, 3 granddaughters, 4 dogs, and a whole lot of love.





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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.)