Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A plea, all in the name of serving my fellow man

There are many things that I love in this world. Cookie dough ranks at the top of the list, clearly, as does a crisp diet coke (preferably in a glass cup, with ice, and a straw).

And I love the Husband and our children, of course.

But there is one thing that I absolutely love, and have neglected to pontificate on. Until now.

I love babies. LOVE them.

I love my own babies. I love friends' babies. I love (from afar) strangers' babies. I love to hold them, smell their yummy necks, prop them up on my shoulder, and sit for hours. Content. At one with my chi. In my happy place.

I have even designated myself the church baby holder and make every attempt to steal hold someone's baby during church meetings.

About five months ago, I heard there was a friend in need. A friend who was overwhelmed, tired, and stressed out.

What did she need help with?

These lovely girls:

Not one, but TWO, delicious, yummy, sweet, twin babes. I asked their mama what I could do to help, and she replied with words that were like music to my ears: "Come hold the babies so I can get something done around the house."

And ever since that fateful day, I have spent Tuesday mornings in the company of two angelic girls. One named Aubrey, and one named Chloe.

And I have to say, Tuesday has quickly become my favorite day of the week.

Unfortunately for me, my friend will be moving this summer. Which will leave a great void in my [soon-to-be-empty] service calendar.

It's only because I'm so giving, you see.

And so I must put this matter of unfulfilled service into your hands: My dear friends, please have a baby (or two) so I can come hold it.

Please? It's really not asking that much. You'll get over the morning sickness, the stretch marks, and the cravings. Plus, I'd be there all through the delivery, ready to snatch that baby and do some holding, I mean, service.

Come on. It'd really make me so very happy.

What's that, you say? Why don't I have a few more of my own? Well, because I really don't like being pregnant, that's why. And I honestly don't think I could go back to midnight feedings, diapers, and nap schedules. Plus, I'm pretty sure I'm getting too old.

The matter must be left to you, my friends.

Have me a baby, dammit.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Smile for sale

As I have mentioned before, the little people in this house are greedy, capitalist mongrels. They have figured out the system and know just how to make a buck.

Take for instance, this afternoon, when my new reflectors arrived in the mail (thanks for the recommendation, Nicole!) and I wanted to try them out.

Are these little people willing to help me, simply out of the goodness of their hearts, given that I carried them for nine long months and birthed them into this world?

Oh, hell no. Their cheeky mugs do not come for free.

And even when they're on a paying gig, I sometimes get faces like this:

Determined NOT to have a good time, this stubborn, yet adorable, clone of his father refuses to flash me his winning smile.

Instead, he makes faces like this, hoping I will give up and go away:

I do not go away. I am determined to get my money's worth, so I hold out and wait. Lucky for me, I know his weak spots, and start working on them right away.

I tell a few jokes. I make fun of myself. I laugh out loud at him. And still he tries his darndest to hold out.

He is getting weaker. You can see that his strategy is failing him.

He wants so desperately to win this battle of wills.

But, eventually, he gives up, and I get what I came for.

There. Was that so painful, you little stinker?

It's a good thing he's so darn cute. Otherwise, we might have given him away long, long ago.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I may need to get a job to pay for all the therapy these kids are going to need someday

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you have totally 'effed up most of it? Like maybe you (and your family) would have been better off if you'd just crawled into a hole and stayed there all week?

Here is a small sample of some of the things I 'effed up on this week:
  • Threw out important work papers left on the table by the Husband. They had notes all over them that he needed for an important client meeting. Notes with language and words that were CRITICAL to his work for the client. Oops.
  • Totally blanked on helping in a classroom at school, thereby stressing out one of my children.
  • Threw something in the oven and completely forgot about it until the smoke alarms went off.
  • Forgot to prep my child on a cub scout assignment which left him stammering and embarrassed in front of a room full of people.
  • Yelled at my child for being out of bed, then discovered his reason for being out of bed was the throwing up he was doing in the bathroom.
  • Spaced on being the tooth fairy and got caught in the act of leaving the money.
  • Foolishly assumed that buying bite-sized sugar cookies would enable me to have just a nibble and feel satisfied. Not true, for you see, COOKIES ARE LIKE HEROIN. And I cannot stay away from them, no matter how hard I try. Is there rehab for cookie addicts?
  • Ignored one child's seemingly vague request that he needed drumsticks for music at school, then got mad at him for not being more specific. Although, it's hard to be much more specific than, "I need drumsticks for music at school."
Mother of the year, no? Luckily, I can redeem myself today, at least in her eyes.

She's home sick with the strep, and I have just consented to watch all the Barbie movies while cuddling her hot, feverish body on the couch.

I'm pretty sure I deserve it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I made it through another winter without killing anyone

What do you do when you look out your window mid-March and THIS is the sight you see?

You celebrate, that's what. For it is not snow covering the branches, but lovely, puffy, popcorn-like blossoms.

These lovely blossoms can only mean one thing: Time to put away the winter coat and pull out the flip-flops.

To say that the winter and I don't really get along would be a major understatement. We are mortal enemies, the winter and I. She hates me as much as I hate her.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that she exists merely to spite me. She takes such devilish pleasure in her ice storms and her wind chill. And she flaunts that ugly brown slush for months, like a bad outfit worn over and over until you're so sick of it you could scream.

I have never liked her. My dislike grew to loathing after experiencing the bitter wind and negative temperatures that make up a Minnesota winter.

My loathing turned to manic rage when, every year, Nor'easter after Nor'easter pummeled the city of Boston, and I was left to shovel 1,945,493 tons of snow, on my own, as the husband was always conveniently out of town.

And frequently out of town in better climates.

But finally, FINALLY, I am living in a place where winter doesn't linger until May. Here, the first day of spring actually means something.

Like, you know, that it's actually the first day of spring.

What a concept, eh?

I might need you to remind me of my great love for this state, say, mid-July, when my hair and I are cursing our other mortal enemy: HUMIDITY.

Until then, I will relish my love affair with the spring. I will sit on a blanket in my backyard, the sunshine gently warming my shoulders. I will look up and smile at my children's laughter, as they run and bike in the fresh air. I will take a luxurious sip of the diet coke by my side, and then return eagerly to the book in my lap.

Ah, spring. I wish our torrid love affair could last all year long. Don't you?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Trying hard to keep the 11th commandment

I believe there was an 11th commandment that somehow got misplaced while those pesky Israelites were off wandering in the wilderness. It reads: Thou shalt always mix peanut butter with chocolate.

Am I right?

You know I'm right.

Today, dear friends, I am feeling generous, and am going to give you one of my all-time favorite recipes.

May it make your bottom as large as it has made mine.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter (though I rarely measure the p.b. Just grab a big scoopful, then you don't have to dirty up a measuring cup with something sticky)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well, and add:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Then you must take a smidge of the dough and do this:

Because you never know. It could be poisoned. And if it was, you would then probably look like this (only slightly less out of focus):

More than likely, your dough will not be poisoned (unless you have a lot of enemies and a handy supply of arsenic). And this is what you will look like after a delicious lump of cookie dough has been sent right down to your thighs stomach:

Next, spray your mini-muffin tins with Pam.

Hopefully, you will be looking at your pan and not through the lens of your camera while doing this. The general idea is to actually spray the Pam inside the muffin cups, and not all over the sides of the pan.

Once that is done, roll the dough into one-inch balls and set into the pans like this:

Pop those babies into a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. While they are baking, you can start de-wrappering the Reese's peanut butter cups. I always solicit the help of a little munchkin and her tiny fingers for this job:

But beware, for the munchkin will sometimes sneak a cup or two when she thinks that no one is looking:

Then she will smile innocently, her chipmunk-like cheeks stuffed to the gills with chocolate and peanut butter, and pretend that nobody is the wiser:

Oh, you little munchkin. We're on to you.

Then when your timer dings, pull the pans out of the oven, and press a peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. Press firmly, until the cup is level with the top of the cookie, like this:

Let the cookies cool in the pan for 8-10 minutes to firm up. Then gently take a knife and plop them out, one-by-glorious-one.

Repeat until all the dough is gone or until you run out of peanut butter cups, whichever comes first. [One batch will usually make a large bag of p.b. cups.]

Then be sure to check the pictures on your camera. For while you were working, the little munchkin will have accidentally taken about 1,893 pictures of your bosoms. Which would be fine, say, if this were a porno cooking blog, now wouldn't it?

But since it's not, you will have to content yourself with the sight of these lovelies instead:

Hello, lover.

[And don't be thinking that these will last in your house for more than an hour. They won't. I absolutely guarantee it.]

Happy baking.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tolerance, even for our vegetable friends

A few days ago, I had all the kids with me on a trip to Walmart. At the checkout line, I realized that I needed, and had forgotten to get, a tomato. Knowing the snail-like pace that is always the checkout line at Walmart, I sent the boys off to grab me one from the produce department.

They came tearing back, giant tomato in hand. Chase set it on the conveyor belt and announced, in his unmistakably loud voice, "Bad news, Mom. It's a Mexican."

I look up in horror, smile at the African American check-out girl, and try to say loudly, "That's okay, Chase. I'm sure MEXICAN TOMATOES are delicious."

To which he practically shouts, "But, Mom, we don't really like the Mexicans." [I know he was only thinking the tomatoes would taste different. The kid has love for all god's people. Honest.]

My ensuing lecture about how we really do like everyone was lost in the murmurs and shame that was our hurried walk out to the car.

For the record, we DO like the Mexicans.

And their giant tomatoes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Fifteen years ago today, at the literal crack of dawn, you and I became us. We became a family. We clasped our shaky hands together and took our first step out into the world. Together.

I can still remember the first time I saw you. I was supposed to be going out with someone else that night, but when my eyes met yours, something whispered, "Hello, old friend."

I knew in that fraction of a second what would be.

Yes, that skinny, naive, 21-year-old boy, in Doc Martens, dress shirt coming untucked (something that still manages to happen today), walked in the door and forever stole my heart. The heart that was probably his to begin with.

I wonder, though. Would you do it all over again, if you could? Would you have taken a chance on that girl with the bad perm and the waist-high jeans? Even if you knew that she'd be really mean when she was pregnant? Or that she'd have a rear end the size of Texas during that time?

What if you'd known that she likes to spend money? And most especially YOUR money? Would you have still stayed that first night until the wee hours, playing cards, and flirting across the table, knowing the fortune she'd someday spend at Target?

And what if someone had told you that she squeezes the toothpaste in the middle, and will not, under any circumstances, drink the last little bit from the milk carton? Even then, would you still take her? Her, and all her neuroses?

I know one thing, I'd do it all again, a million times over. I might do a few things differently though.

Like that first anniversary? I'd have been a little more creative, that's for sure. Even with only a dollar to my name, I'd have done better. [Remind me, Internets, to tell you that story sometime. It's a doozy.]

And I'd try harder to let you know just how much I appreciate you and all that you do for me. Because you? You are the best thing that ever happened to me. And I'd never want to let a day go by where you didn't know it.

You are my best friend.

You are the one I need to tell things to before they become real. You are the voice of reason to my irrational hysteria. You are the one I turn to for comfort. You are the one who tells me I'm beautiful, even when I don't believe it. You are the one I want to share every joke and every laugh with. You are the one who knows me better than anyone. And you are the one who constantly says that nothing is impossible.

You, my darling, are the ring in my bell.

Happy 15th anniversary, babe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top o' the mornin to ye

Growing up, it was inevitable to wake up on St. Patrick's Day and find that everything in the fridge had been dyed green. My father especially took great delight in serving up green pancakes (or hotcakes, as he still calls them), green waffles, green eggs -- green everything.

I could stomach most of the green food. Green pancakes? Weird, yes, but they still tasted good. My brain could be fooled into taking that first bite, especially once I drowned them in lovely, un-dyeable, brown syrup.

But the one thing that I could never choke down, no matter what, was the green milk. Milk was not something I particularly enjoyed anyway, and having to stare down a tall glass of murky, green liquid was just about torture for a 14-year-old girl.

Torture almost as painful as, say, wholesome family activities at Air Force Museums in the dead heat of summer.

So when the morning dawned bright and sunny, with a smile I thought of my Dad, and just couldn't help myself.

And guess what, Dad?

They gagged on it as much as I did (though their smiles here are only because they hurried up and got dressed in their green so they could run around like trolls, pinching the rest of us).

Happy St. Paddy's Day, friends.

May your sugar cookies be green and shaped like shamrocks, and may your milk be frothy and white.

As god intended.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Of trash and treasures

Last week, I decided to tackle a much-needed project in our house.

Specifically, a project that involved the place where the little people in our house live.

A place where I spent four and a half hours of my time, and uttered more than a few four-letter words.

I tried to let it be. I have ignored these spaces for as long as possible. Plugged my ears, closed my eyes, and sang, "la la la la la la" when walking past those rooms. I wanted to let them have a measure of control over their own lives, and learn the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves. But when I feared the board of health would quite possibly condemn us (and cart me off to bad mother prison), I knew action had to be taken.

I had to do this while they are at school because I don't like it when they sob, whine, and plead as I toss all their beloved treasures junk into the trash.

And you better believe there was a lot of junk.

Like three garbage bags full.

Is it a commentary on society today that children own enough things that you can fill three garbage bags full of stuff and they'll never miss it? Or is it a commentary on the state of my parenting that I overcompensate by filling their little souls with cheap plastic crap from Target instead of love?

Don't answer that.

Now, the thing is, I took some 'before' pictures to show you the great change, but they were SO BAD that I am unable to post them. Pride will not allow me to let you in on the sorry state of those spaces before I got my hands on them. So without further adieu, and for your viewing pleasure, I give you the 'afters':

Here's hoping they stay looking like this for, I don't know, at least an hour or two.

Now excuse me, I've got to run to Target and buy some more of my children's love cheap plastic crap.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why we still like each other after almost 15 years

As I've mentioned countless times before, the Husband travels for work.

All. the. time.

People are constantly asking me how I do it. There are times when I ask myself the very same thing. It is not an easy task. Today I thought it would be fun to share my secrets and tell you exactly how I survive.

Because some days? It really is just about surviving. Like when you are talking on the phone at the end of a long day where you were puked on, peed on, changed enough diapers to make a landfill, endured the same episode of Barney 17 times, and felt that your life was the equivalent of a non-negotiable hostage situation.

The slight depression you feel on those days can go from bad to worse when you listen as he describes the five-star restaurant he ate at, and the plush accommodations he gets all to himself; all the while, the little people in your home are pummeling you with soggy cheerios for having the audacity to talk on the phone for five whole seconds.

It would be easy to hate him for it.

But because I know he's sparing me the details of his heated, intense meetings with clients, nights spent re-working financial models of young associates who have no clue what they're doing, and the 14-hour days in hospitals, meeting with boards, I don't hate him for it.

I love him even more.

But I have figured out some things through the years that have helped me cope with this lifestyle that we've chosen. I've come up with a series of rules for you to live by, if you ever find yourself in my shoes; be it for a day or forever.

1. Self-pride is paramount to your happiness. Just because your man will not see you every day, does not mean you get to wear sweats all around town and not do your hair or make-up. My hard and fast rule is that I always shower, get ready, and wear actual clothes, even if no one sees me. It makes me feel pretty and gives me a sense of self-worth, which in turn, makes me a nicer mom.

2. Fiercely guard your family time. Our weekends are absolutely sacred to us. We do not schedule play dates or friend time when Dad is home. The kids have missed him all week, and he is ready to play with them on the weekends. He is not one of those guys that needs a few hours by himself to unwind. He wants us, and we are good and ready for him.

We may not have quantity, but we do have quality when it comes to his time.

3. Learn to be an independent do-it-yourselfer. I have taught myself many things over the years about home repair, yard maintenance, and car upkeep. I don't leave those unpleasant jobs for him to do on the weekends, if possible. When I only get to see him two days a week, why would I want to have him sitting at Jiffy Lube with the car half the day? I take care of anything I can, or hire someone to do it for me.

4. Let the little things go. Yes, it annoys me when he slings his pants over the side of a chair instead of hanging them up. But do I really want to spend precious time yelling at him for it? Or, for that matter, would I be receptive to any criticism from him in regards to my own faults and failings?

Not bloody likely, I can promise you that.

So leave him alone. Ignore the small stuff. Be glad he works so hard for your family and make him feel appreciated. You will be surprised at the appreciation and love that flows your way from him, too.

5. Take care of your man -ahem- and his physical needs. This is very, very important to the health and happiness of everyone. (Because my brothers and various male relatives read this, I'll just leave it at that.)

6. Take time for yourself. I am a firm believer in the six o'clock bedtime, and religiously stick to it.

That's right, my friends, I said six o'clock.

My kids have always been early risers, and would wake up at the crack of dawn no matter what time they went to sleep. So, I figured, why not put them to sleep earlier, ensuring they get a good amount of rest? It worked, and they would crash every night at about six, leaving me a few hours to unwind and detox. Even though they are old enough now that they don't fall asleep right at six, I still put them in their rooms at that time.

I know what you're thinking. And I don't care if you judge me.

It has been our routine for years, and they know they are to play quietly in their rooms, read books, or build legos until lights-out at 7:30. It's a little down time for them, and helps me not do a lot of the yelling.

Nobody likes the yelling.

I find myself wholly unable to parent much past six, and definitely take advantage of the 'me' time to recharge.

7. And last, but not least, have realistic expectations. Plan on doing the carpool, the baseball pick-up, the ballet run yourself, and figure out how to make things work on your own. Nothing starts the agitation in a marriage like the expectation that he'll be home in time for dinner. Because when he's not? You're mad as hell and spitting nails by the time he does stroll in. But if you just plan on him not being there, go about your routine, when he happens to sneak away early, you are pleasantly surprised.

So, interpeeps, what are your tricks to surviving a traveling spouse? Anything I'm missing here?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rules to live by: Pinewood derby version

As the mother of two sons and sister to four brothers, I have had to endure the pleasure of participating in countless Pinewood Derby races thus far in my relatively young life.

(Yet another thing I am really hoping guarantees my admittance through those blasted pearly gates. I definitely need all the help I can get.)

I have learned quite a lot in observing these races, and I thought I'd impart some of my wisdom for you here, hoping to help any first-time derby moms about to embark on this most memorable of adventures.

Rule one: You must start nagging your husband about building the car at least two months in advance. Husbands really like that. Better yet, recruit your cub scout for the job. Nothing lights a fire under a man like his child asking every three minutes, "Can we build it yet? Can we build it yet?" It will still not be started until the Saturday before the race, but can you imagine what would happen if you didn't nag? The thing might still be sitting in the box come race day.

Rule two: You must be a backseat builder during the actual process. It's a special treat for your husband to have you second-guessing the design, cutting, sanding, and use of tools. Especially when you don't actually know the names of most of the tools. He will look at you periodically with what you can only assume is extreme love, and you will know your work there is done.

Rule three: Before race day, prepare your cub scout for the possibility of losing every single race. Add to this by reminding him how badly the other boys (who are his friends) want to win. That way, if he does happen to win a few races, he's so surprised and thrilled that he will promise to never ask you for anything ever again in his whole life. Video tape this, if possible, and show it to him Christmas morning when he stares at his empty stocking with dismay.

Rule four: When your son's car is going down the track for the first time, pray like you've never prayed before. Pray that he doesn't come in first, and pray that he doesn't come in last. For, if you win first, second, or third place? You get to spend another extra Saturday racing against other boys at the district level. NO ONE wants to do more than one Pinewood Derby race in a year. No one. (Except your son. But we're not counting his vote here)

Rule five: Try not to laugh at your now-too-old-to-compete son when he sits back ever so coolly with his friends and adds commentary on the cars. Remind him that he's only been a man now for about a month.

Rule six: Wake your husband up periodically or take away his Crackberry so he can be sure that he's part of the fun.

Rule seven: Send the little sister of the family off to play with the other little sisters in the nursery. It's really what's best for everyone. Little sisters like to hang upside down on their chair, as they whine and moan, asking every three seconds, "HOW MUCH LONGER?"

Rule eight: Bring enough treats to feed an army for after the race. Cub scouts have stomachs the size of large SUVs and somehow never get full. You can feel good knowing that other people's kids are eating your cookies instead of yourself. Just be sure to police your own children. Otherwise, you have to ride home with them all hopped up on brownies and sugar cookies. That's never a pleasant ride.

Rule nine: Congratulate your son on his good sportsmanship, be secretly thankful he didn't win, and pat your husband on the back for a job well done.

Rule ten: Celebrate that you now have 364 days before you have to do this all over again.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where's the superhero fashion police when we need them?

Has it really been a week since I've posted?


Last week, I felt absolutely bombarded from all directions. I had school events, baseball, cub scouts, tae kwan do, ballet, book club, doctor's appointments, carpools, grocery shopping, errands, and much, much more.

All on a week that I was forbidden from eating any dessert.

It's no wonder something had to give, right? That something, unfortunately, was this little blog. I didn't get to read your blogs and I definitely was not writing here.

My apologies to the one person who actually reads this drivel every day. (Hi, Oma!)

But I feel a little more on my feet this week, somehow dropped a few pounds (thanks to the self-imposed Lent), and am feeling ready to conquer life once again.

But before I fill you in on the fantabulous events of our ever-exciting lives, I must leave you with a little something special that makes me fall over with fits of giggles every time I see it.

But first, please go back and take a look at this.

Well, it has recently made a comeback into our lives, and I must say, the growth Spiderman has occurred since May of 2008 is remarkable, as evidenced by the disturbingly tight extra form-fitting spidey suit.

Spidey was unable to button the suit in the back this year. I am thinking that is a good indication that it is BEYOND fit to wear.

Spidey would tell you differently.

In fact, if I were to allow it, this suit would be seen by grocery store clerks and the good people of Missouri everywhere.

Lucky for all of them, I do not allow it.

Because what you cannot see in these pictures is the suit from the back. And on the back? There is definitely a lot of crack going on. And crack is always going to be VERY BAD in a Spidey suit.

It's true what they say: Crack is whack.

Spidey is matched only in fierceness by Super Girl and her scary jack-o-lantern teeth.

These are two tough peeps that should never be crossed.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

So stay tuned for the exciting events of our weekend, tales from the Pinewood Derby, and maybe (if you're lucky) a recipe to fatten you all up.

Because I really haven't done that in a while and I'd say it's definitely time.