Thursday, February 28, 2008

Counting my blessings

After spending a good deal of last week complaining, I thought I should spend an equal amount of time focusing on some of the good (albeit boring) things in my life.

One thing I am grateful for is that right now, there is nothing in here that I need to take care of:

I have done my duty with these today, as well, and don't have to think mean thoughts about them again until Saturday:

While the cold, frigid temperatures annoy me to no end, at least there is not a large layer of white stuff covering this:

And I am just about ready for McKay's birthday party tomorrow night. I'm going the lazy route, and he and his pals will be watching a movie and eating pizza in the basement, while I thumb through a magazine upstairs. The party favors are all lined up and ready to go:

And while shopping yesterday, I ran across an incredible bargain. A store near my house was getting rid of some of their display tables, and were selling them for twenty bucks each. This little beauty will grace the scrapbook room/office and provide the children more surface area in which to color or paint on. You know, because actually coloring on paper does ask a lot of them.

I just have to figure out how to get it downstairs first. Looks to me like a job for the Husband, when he gets home.

He'll be so thrilled, I just know it.

Some happy thoughts for me today. What's on your mind?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Name that smell winner

Thanks for playing the little smell/spelling game. Here are the correct answers:

1. Nuffing (nothing), which apparently smelled really great.
2. Soap.
3. Cotton balls.
4. Cinnamon.
5. Coffee.
6. Pickles.
7. Soap.

I have to say that I am hugely relieved that some of you also saw the "P" word and the "S" word when you first looked at her list (which I'd actually spell out, but I'm afraid of the google searches that would land here on account of those two words). Good to know that I'm not the only one with a mind that goes right to the gutter.

Thanks for playing, and congratulations to Ashlee, who guessed them all right before anyone else. Email me your address and I'll send you something chocolatey and delicious.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lost in translation

Yesterday, the Princess brought home the usual backpack full of wrinkled papers and glue-sticked art projects for me to sift through and admire.

I paused when I got to this one, and I found myself unable to translate it without her help. Apparently, they were smelling things, and then writing down what they had smelled. As is the nature of the kindergarten classroom, each child had to sound-spell the words without any help from the teacher. Hannah took it upon herself to add her own rating system, giving each item a smiley or frowny face based on whether or not she liked the smell.

So here's the game. If you can decipher her excellent writing and figure out all seven things correctly, I will send you a prize. I'm not sure what that prize will be, but it will most likely involve food of some sort. Chocolate food, my favorite kind.

Contest ends at noon tomorrow.

Good luck. You're gonna need it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Scrambling for the finish

What happens when bad weather forces your husband to be stuck out of town for two extra days right before the Pinewood Derby, with unfinished cars sitting at home?

Besides a whiny, complaining wife, this is what happens:

Instead of having those two extra days to make the cars all by himself work with the boys, The Husband was scrambling to get the cars finished in time. In his haste, there was an incident with Chase's car.

The unfortunate incident rendered the car completely unusable (unless he wanted to send it careening down the track with no wheels. I thought it might be funny, but Chase didn't really see that as a viable option).

Through tear-filled eyes, Chase told The Husband it was okay. Though his heart was broken, he resigned himself to using McKay's car from last year. I quickly grabbed the spray paint Chase had picked out for his own car, and we went to work, remaking the hand-me-down car. Before long, even Chase began to get excited again about the race.

His entry was The Golden Frog. Why golden? I'm not really sure. Maybe because of his great love for money.

And why frog? Well, because when he's not voluntarily studying Winston and the War, Chase is dreaming, thinking, talking, and obsessing about frogs.

Here were this year's entries. McKay's is the bright orange one in front with a large firebird on the hood. Me thinks his taste in cars is a little too close to the white trash style that I take so much pleasure in mocking. I won't tell him that unless he someday decides to buy a car just like it.

Don't worry that some poor cub scout had to endure the lifelong shame of bringing in the pink car. It was a dummy car that they'd rigged to come in last on every race.

You know, because it's not about winning or losing, right?

Try telling that to McKay, here on pins and needles:

And what sporting event is complete without a gratuitous shot of the hot and sassy cheerleading squad? Here was ours:

The Husband and I held our breath as both cars went down the track for the first time. Much to our relief, neither one lost a wheel.

But much more important was the fact that we didn't take first place (which would entitle us to spend hours and hours at a district competition), and we didn't take last place (which would entitle us to spend hours and hours with sad boys at home).

A win-win for everyone.

All in all, the Pinewood Derby was a roaring success for the boys.

Now we can rest for another year. Thank goodness. I don't know what we'd do if this blessed event came any more often.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nothing to complain about today

Amazing what can happen in a 24-hour period, no?

I have to say that I am well-rested and much happier, in spite of another snow day today. My good friend Maren called and begged to have my children for a few hours yesterday, and (being the good friend I am), I let her have them. Today, the Husband is home and everyone is in good spirits.

The four pounds? Gone, and then some. Go figure.

The house? Still a mess, but what are you going to do?

The bangs? They'll grow. And I'll probably be stupid enough to cut them again.

Life in general? Pretty okay.

I have to thank you, my interpeeps, for all the kind words and well-wishes. I hated putting a whiny post up there, but some days are just like that. Even my brother, Dan, uncharacteristically threw a little sympathy my way. Although I'm sure his snarky sarcasm that I love will be back in full force.

There is a greater question to be discussed, however. Have any of you seen THIS show? Since my TIVO is still painfully lacking, I am venturing out to the unknown, and found myself laughing until I was sick at the pathetic souls willing to share their tacky, awful weddings with all of America. This blushing bride was a particular favorite of mine:

In case you missed it, let me recap the most special day of her life for you.

John and Gail, employed by the three paper routes they both run, are in love. Gail ordered her wedding dress on the internet and instead of getting a size 28 like she ordered, she got an 8. Her loving fiancee tried and tried, but no matter how many breaths she took in, there was no squeezing into that thing. She also ran into a little snag when her teeth turned up missing just before the ceremony. Yes, I said teeth.

The flowers that the bridesmaids carried? Orange lilies stuck into beer cans.

The ceremony took place in a flea market that doubles as a convenience store. The tables were covered with newspaper and the centerpieces were, yep, more beer cans filled with flowers. They said their vows under an arch of [surprise] beer cans and Christmas tree lights. John, the fiancee, guzzled the last few beers just in time to get them hung. What a guy. He's so generous.

When he was writing his vows? He said she was as hot and sexy as a Hot Pocket. The sandwich. He sure knows how to make a lady swoon. He also gave her a stuffed animal out of a vending machine for a wedding present.

Which she loved

And when the blessed ceremony was over, instead of releasing doves, they released chickens, and then headed out to ride a mechanical bull. Oh yes, in the wedding dress.

It was hilarious. I have not laughed that hard in a long time. I highly recommend you watching an episode or two.

And whatever my troubles are, I know there are people who are much worse off. I shall never have much to complain of ever again.

Let's hear it for the white trash who make us feel so much better about ourselves.

Yee haw.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A bit of complaining, if I may

Let's just say you've had a really bad week:

All the traveling your husband has done the last several months has caught up to you.

You've got severe pain in one of your feet and you have no idea why.

Your skin is bleeding, it's so dry. And you moisturize ALL.THE.TIME.

You've been a really good girl and somehow managed to gain four pounds overnight.

You clean your house every day, and still it is a mess.

You foolishly cut your own bangs and they look absolutely horrible.

You cry for an hour on the phone to your husband about how frustrated and tired you are.

And as if that all wasn't enough?


Heaven help me. Something has gotta give.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In search of manly happiness (not that kind, get your mind out of the gutter)

The Husband asks for very little in his simple life. All he requires is a hot meal every so often, clean laundry to take when he goes out of town, reasonably well-mannered children, and getting to see his wife once in a while. But this weekend, he realized a big piece of his manly happiness was missing.

A quick trip to The Depot, and there begun to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Assembly required, of course.

But what piece of manly happiness does not need to be assembled with tools of all sorts, come with instructions in four languages, and have one key screw missing?

Luckily, my man knows his way around a toolbox. Plus, he had the boys to provide jousting tournaments that kept him entertained while he worked: Ahhh, that's the ticket. A nice juicy steak cooking on the grill.

Manly happiness: Restored.

Dinner cooked by the Husband: Fine by me anytime.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bite-sized bits of deliciousness

In this week's installment of Making My Friends As Fat As Me, we will be learning how to make these little sweets that I made on Valentine's Day. Do not be intimidated by the piped frosting and decorative look. These are so fast and easy to make that you will hate me.

The first step is to bake a cake in a 9x13 pan. Whatever flavor you choose is up to you. I used a simple white cake out of a box for these. You need to freeze the cake, so plan on making it a few hours (or the night before) you want to eat them. Dump the cake out of the pan and let it cool. Then throw it in the freezer until you're ready to assemble.

I got this recipe from my Mom. It has its own very fancy butter cream frosting recipe made from scratch, which I will gladly give to anyone who wants to go to all that trouble.

But this will work just as well (don't tell my Mom I told you so):

Pull your frozen cake out of the freezer and slice off a row that is about one to one-and-a-half inches wide. Put the rest of the cake back in the freezer. Don't worry, we'll get back to it soon enough. You need to keep the cake frozen as you work, or you end up frosting little crumbly squares that don't look very pretty. And the cake must be pretty.

Slice your cake strip open and spread with filling of your choice. My Mom uses raspberry pie filling inside hers. Personally, I prefer the frosting in a can.

Again, please don't tell my Mom how lazy I am. Or how adverse I am to fruit pie fillings. Fruit should never be cooked or mixed with cake. It's just wrong.

But in spite of my actual dislike of the product itself, the raspberry pie filling is pretty good inside these babies. Feel free to use whatever sets your little heart on fire.

Next, put the cake lid back on and begin slicing into little squares. I can get about six squares per strip of cake. If you slice them too big, they won't fit into the little cupcake papers and you will have to hurry and eat them before anyone notices your horrible cutting.

Not that I'd know anything about that. Ahem.

Holding each square of cake by the top and bottom, frost all four sides.

Now dip each side into a large bowl of sprinkles, making sure to cover every last little bit of frosting. We wouldn't want nekkid frosting.

Now they are ready to be put into the cupcake papers. You can be all fancy and use cute holiday ones or just the plain, boring, white ones like I did here.

Now take some more of that frosting in a can (or homemade buttercream if your name is Kathi and you are not lazy), and pipe a little over the top of each cake. I like to just go around in a square (again, lazy!). But you can get all fancy and creative using your mad decorating skillz if you have them.

And the finished pastries as far as the eye can see.

And guess what? One cake will make like 50 pastries, so you can eat like five or six before you've had the equivalent of even one piece of cake. Or be like me and eat, say, 15 to 18.

What? Shut up.

Now go throw a baby shower, bridal celebration, luncheon, or a Yay, Bob Made Parole! party. Make these and find that you have won friends and influenced people.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dr. Atkins is probably rolling over in his grave

I married one of those guys who is always thinking of long-term financial planning.

I know.

We're like the ant and the grasshopper. One guess as to who the grasshopper is.

But when he recently figured out that we are spending about $800 on just bread every year, something had to be done.

My man loves a good research project, and decided that this would be the machine for us. I have no problem making my own bread every day, provided I am not spending hours kneading, mixing, baking, and wiping up flour. I mean, hello? Precious time that could be spent blogging?

Yeah, I know that you know what I'm talking about.

Well, we have spent the last week with our new toy, and I have to say, I'm smitten.

I mean, look at this. Hello, lover.

Now imagine that your kitchen has that just-baked-bread smell every day and you find yourself staring down a warm loaf of bread that just begs to be eaten.

See why my daughter is regulating my healthy eating?

Anyway, it's farewell to my friends at Great Harvest. Goodbye strange guy with the funky t-shirts and the colorful rasta hats. I will miss our weekly chats, and I hope you and your girlfriend can work things out. Oh, and if your revenues go down, say, to the tune of about $800, feel free blame the Husband's sense of fiscal responsibility, and my love of warm, soft, squishy bread smothered with butter and jam.

Oh, and by the way, tomorrow I will post instructions for the lovely pastries that you all are asking about. I need to make a fresh batch (cause we ate all of the last one) and take pictures of the process.

I'm only thinking of all you, my interpeeps (hi, Lisa! Best word ever). Not myself and those delicious mini-cakes covered in sprinkles and frosting.

I'm just so unselfish.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Because she's only thinking of me

[ sweets that I made for my sweet]

This morning, when my three littlest valentines came down for breakfast, they found a small box of chocolates by each of their plates.

They squealed with delight and proceeded to tear open the heart-shaped boxes. They smelled and fondled, trying to determine what flavor each piece was. Hannah looked at me, then looked back down at her full box. She gingerly slid a small piece of chocolate across the bar to me.

"Wow, thanks, Hannah. That is so nice of you to share."

Chase immediately opened his box and did the same thing.

"Thanks, Chase."

McKay looks up apprehensively. I smiled and said, "It's okay, you don't have to give me one. I got these for YOU."

"Really? You sure, Mom?" I promised him that I was sure, and the relief washed over his face.

Hannah then reaches over and takes back her chocolate. "Actually, Mom, I think I'm going to let you be really healthy. You shouldn't eat this candy. I'll just take it back."

Thanks, baby. Appreciate you looking out for me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Trying to break down his genetics

My son Chase has certainly proven to be one of the more interesting children I've ever met. As a baby, the doctors called it colic. I called it simply his personality. He cried non-stop unless he was being held up and shown everything happening around him. He couldn't stand to miss a minute of life. I can remember holding him for hours as I cooked, or washed dishes, or even sometimes put on my make-up. He was unendingly curious from the very start.

And he's never been one to seek the approval of friends or peers. He could care less if anyone thinks he is out of the norm. He can play for hours with a group of boys, or happily get lost in his own imagination. He lives his life doing what makes him happy.

And yesterday, what made him happy was to check out these books from the school library for some light recreational reading:

While most kids his age spend their time giggling over the potty-laced humor of Captain Underpants, Chase frequently picks up biographies or nature-filled nonfiction. He can reiterate the seemingly useless facts for hours.

Days, even.

And within minutes of walking in the front door, he proceeded to update me on the life and times of our friend, Mr. Churchill.

I don't think I can blame his sports/politics-obsessed father for this part of Chase's personality. And I know that People magazine doesn't even count as real literature, so he can't have gotten it from me.

But there is one man who I fully blame credit for Chase inheriting this unabashed love of all things history:

That's right, Opa. This nut didn't fall too far from your tree.

And if Chase turns out to be half the man you are, nothing would make me happier.

Travel Swap shout-out

Look what I got in the mail yesterday besides bills! Laurie was my partner for Kelly's travel swap and does this girl know me or what? She sent me several handmade Pride & Prejudice luggage tags, an hilarious "Don't Eat Darcy" game that I will totally be playing, candy, slippers, a Sudoko book, beaded bookmark, sleep mask, and a darling shell necklace.

Phew. Don't you wish you were me? Now I just need a trip to use all these lovelies on.

I feel so lucky to have gotten her as a swap partner. Thanks, Laurie! I love it all. Be sure to visit her other blog, Tip Junkie for some great tips, games, crafts, and advice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm visiting elsewhere today

Because I cannot seem to stop the words from coming out, you can read a little something I wrote over here at Letters to a Parent. My good friend, Annie, has a little project going on. Pop over there and give her your own words of wisdom. I know she'd love to have them.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Giving Stie

My favorite place to curl up in the warmth of the afternoon sun with a good book:
And the good book I'm currently reading unable to put down:
Oh, the sacrifices one makes on a Sunday, staying home with a [yes, still!] sick child. Oh, but I'd have gladly let The Husband take my place if he didn't have that darn Sunday School class to teach.

Honestly, I would have.

But, alas, duty calls and I must do my part. I'm just a good woman like that.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Channeling your inner Stie

I have decided that if I can't be thin, then all my friends should be fat. So to help you along with your new quest, here is THE BEST oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. Ever. I dare you to find me a better, more moist, and chewy cookie than this one. You won't.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup shortening (do not use butter, shortening is best. Probably because it's so chock full of lard)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups choclate chips

Combine shortening, both sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Combine. Add oatmeal. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. (I like to mix it up and add a bag of Skor's milk chocolate toffee chips instead of the chocolate chips. Just delicious).

When all the ingredients are combined, be sure to take a little like this:

And put it here:

Repeat eight times, minimum. Make another batch, if you must, to hide your sin.

Spoon balls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. With the palm of your hand, flatten the dough balls slightly.
Bake at 350 for 7 minutes and 33 seconds. Do not question my inner-OCD on this. It is a tested time. Seven minutes, 33 seconds. No more, no less.

Pull from the oven and cool on a rack.

Now I'll be honest here, friends. I actually prefer the dough to the cookies. Although they are spectacular cookies, by the time they come out of the oven, I am usually sick to my stomach from all the dough I ate. But give me a few hours and I'll be ready for one of these babies with a tall glass of milk.

Now make and eat these a hundred times. Send your husband out of town every night and essentially you are me.

Nice, isn't it?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Statistically speaking

We are already 38 days into the new year. Here are some interesting statistics on my daily life so far:

In the 38 days of 2008:
  • The Husband has spent 29 days out of town.
  • I have helped kids with homework for about 23 hours.
  • I have exercised 33 days.
  • It has snowed once.
  • It has rained six times.
  • I have done approximately 62 loads of laundry.
  • I have cooked four actual meals (see number one for questions on this).
  • I have made eight batches of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.
  • I have read three-and-a-half books.
  • I have spent 15 hours in church.
  • I have not had one. single. nap.
  • I have seen three new movies, and one old favorite.
  • I have had two house guests.
  • I have written 23 blog posts (not counting this one).
  • I have stared at my bangs and debated whether to grow or cut for about 4.6 hours (not in one sitting, mind you).
  • I have driven kids to 20 lessons/sports activities.
  • I have cleaned out the fridge once.
  • I have helped in three different classrooms for a total of eight times.
  • I have celebrated one child's birthday.
  • I have been to the grocery store about 25 times.
  • I have been hit on once (the only interesting one of all the trips to the grocery store).
  • I have been in two swaps. [Hi, Laurie! Yours is going in the mail today!]
  • I have transcribed 30 interviews.
  • I have fixed the telephone and internet twice.
  • I have thought about fixing the toilet once and reconsidered.
  • I have had kids home sick on three different days (and still counting, thanks to Hannah).
And I wonder why I'm tired?

Not anymore.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And the green cloud of doom wins

Today has been anything but boring. Several things have happened, each in their turn, and they have all caused me to pause and reflect. I am trying to weigh the pros and cons of each event in order to help determine if any positivity can come out of them. Play along, won't you?

Today, I was able to:

Vote in my state's primary election.
Pros: I feel like a productive member of society who has a right to complain when I don't like who is in office, especially if her name happens to rhyme with Zillary Flinton.

Cons: My vote probably won't make a difference. Sorry, Mitt.
I went to help in Hannah's class today.
Pros: I get to feel like an active, attentive parent and spend time with my daughter.

Cons: I get to see firsthand all the sniffles, sneezes, and coughs filling the air like a thick, green cloud of doom.
I got called an hour after helping in Hannah's class to come pick her up because she was running a 103-degree fever.
Pros: I would not be going to Cub Scouts tonight.

Cons: I would get to spend the evening holding a feverish, whimpering child who is miserable and sad, instead of touring the firehouse with my den and staring at the strong, handsome men in their uniforms, which I love to do.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the doctor's office.
Pros: None. Are you kidding me?

Cons: Three kids in the waiting room of the doctor's office? Enough said.
The doctor determined that Hannah has a virus and prescribed three to five days of rest, fluids, and children's Motrin.
Pros: None.

Cons: We can look forward to three to five days of feverish, whimpering sadness. More if the green cloud of doom passes from person-to-person, as it frequently likes to do.
Due to the aforementioned sick child, I was forced to cancel a day of planned self-indulgent appointments for myself tomorrow.
Pros: I am saving my husband some money, and that always makes him happy.

Cons: No shopping, browsing, mani/pedi, or movie day for me.

I think the cons have it. Looks like a sucky day, today and tomorrow.


Monday, February 4, 2008


Dear McKay,

Today you are ten years old. I look back and cannot believe how fast the time has gone.

You were born in Minneapolis on a crisp, sunny February day (although I have still not forgiven you for that, as you were supposed to be born on January 28). Your delivery was a little stressful for your dad and I. You somehow managed to get that cord tangled around your little neck, which is quite a feat considering the cramped quarters you were living in at the time. You came out perfect though, in the end, for which I am eternally grateful.

I can still picture you in your Daddy's arms that first time, just minutes old. You had your eyes wide open, and sat there just staring at Daddy's face while sucking on your little thumb. He rocked you slowly, back and forth, in a white wooden rocker, and I just held my breath. My heart felt like it was going to burst. I knew in that moment what it finally meant to love. You were my boys. Together at last. What started out as me and him became a family that day with you.

I can still picture you as a bald, cheerful newborn baby. You were the easiest of my three babies, and you rarely cried. I can remember even calling Oma and asking her if there was something wrong with you because you never cried. She laughed and told us to enjoy you. Which we did. You grew quickly and happily, and have never given us an ounce of trouble. You've met all your challenges thus far with a smile and a cheerful attitude.

You have broken us in as parents. Yours is the unhappy task of doing everything first and watching us make our mistakes on you. It's not hard to go easy on you though because you try so hard to please. You notice little things, like when I'm cranky, and you gently ask me if I need to eat something. You make sure to stop and play Hannah's games, even though you're dying to get back to your own stuff. You are the best friend Chase could ever have. Your strengths compliment his, and I know you will always be there to support him.

You are getting too big to sit on my lap and hug me anymore (I tried the other day and you thought you were going to die), but I know that you still need your Mama. I'm the one you run to, cheerfully waving a math test in your hand with a bright, red "A" scrawled on the top. I'm the one you hug tight when you go to bed, even though you pretend to think it's gross. You can still pretend, because deep down inside, I know. And that's more than enough for me.

So happy birthday, Mack. I could not be prouder of the boy you are, and I cannot wait to see the man you will become.



Friday, February 1, 2008

These kids, they are a superstitious lot

Yesterday, I felt sorry for the elementary school teachers. The electricity in the air was palpable. Kids were going beserk. They all had theories. They all were hatching plans. Everyone was claiming to be an expert.

Why the non-Halloween-candy-induced-mania, you ask?

Because we were supposed to get 6 to 10 inches of snow yesterday.

And every child within ten miles of our city was fervently praying for a snow day.

My three became fast believers; born-again Snow Dayers. They decided to adopt any and all good luck charms they heard throughout the day. They believed in any theory that anyone said would guarantee no school. Joined all the religions, so to speak. In covering all their bases, they did some very strange rituals last night.

For instance, each of my children went to bed with a spoon under their pillow:

They put an orange in the fridge:

They slept with their pajamas inside out and backwards:

And just to make sure, they even resorted to a little bit of this:

When we woke up this morning, [much to my dismay] their voodoo spells and good luck charms had worked.

School was cancelled. [You could almost hear parents everywhere crying. At least, the bad parents like me].

And by seven a.m., they were found doing this:

While I won't lie, I was found doing this:
And who says there's no religion in the schools anymore?