Archive for August, 2009

no surprises here…

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Nothing surprises me any more.  Wait, that’s not true.  “Octomom” surprised the heck out of me.  Did she forget that she already had EIGHT children?  But that’s beside the point. The point is that in the course of my life, I have been through so much that it takes a lot to really surprise me.

Take the last 15 minutes, for instance.

Robert was on the porch reading his book.  I was in the kitchen putting dinner together.  The girls were all watching a movie.

I got dinner in the oven and came in the living room to sit down with the girls for a few minutes.  Laura was standing by my purse trying to be invisible.  I said “what are you doing Laura?”  and she made the face.  The “I’m doing something I know I’m not supposed to be doing but maybe you won’t notice” face.  She had found a peppermint buried in the bottom of my purse.  She had taken it out of the wrapper, licked it and tried unsuccessfully to put it back.  More than once.  Judging by the stickiness of the mint, she had done this many, many times.  The mint was covered in lint and random crumbs from the bottom of my use-it-for-everything purse.  YUCK.

Was I surprised?  Nope.  Disgusted?  Yep.

Just another page in the book of ways to strengthen your child’s immune system…

no rest for the weary

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Laura didn’t have her regular nap yesterday.  The afternoon was not pleasant.

The mistake I made was trying to run an errand with her just before lunch.  I know better.  But I needed to go to the post office.  I was hoping to go by myself.  Of course Laura spotted me grabbing my purse and promptly asked “where we goin’, Mommy?”  Usually I would explain that she’s staying home with Daddy and he would distract her while I sneak out but Robert has a bad sinus infection so I didn’t want to put him through that.  Off we went to the post office.  Once our package was in the mail we headed home.  Less than 2 blocks later, Laura was asleep.

We got home and I tried to move her from the van to the car but since I spent an extra 5 minutes talking to my friend on the phone, Laura’s brain was convinced that she’d already had her nap and more sleeping would just be a waste of valuable playtime.  That was totally my fault.  How dare I try to have an adult conversation?  Who cares if we have no cell signal in our apartment?  The nerve!

Needless to say, the move from the van to her bed didn’t go as planned.  After 30 minutes of unsuccessful soothing and rocking, I gave up.  I knew exactly how the rest of the day would go…but I gave up anyway.

Nothing was right for Laura after that.  Her sisters touched everything she didn’t want them to touch.  The dog tried to take a nap on her blankie.  She didn’t want to come inside when it was time to come inside.  She didn’t want to leave her handfuls of dirt and sticks outside.  The dog looked at her funny.  She didn’t want a banana for snack much less juice.  The dog ignored her.  There was no happiness for Laura.

At 4:45, she fell asleep…on the sofa…in the living room…I decided to leave her in hopes that she would wake in a different mood.

can't last another second

At 6:00 we were serving dinner and Laura began to rouse.  I was thinking – great, she’s had a little rest so now we can enjoy dinner and the rest of the evening.  Boy was I wrong.  The word grumpy doesn’t begin to do her mood justice.  Dinner was not what she wanted.  She wasn’t ready to put on her pajamas.  We weren’t watching what she wanted to watch on TV.  She wanted something to drink but didn’t want anything we offered.  This went on and on and on and on……

Eventually it was time for bed and to my surprise, she went willingly.  She was asleep within seconds.  As I stood in the doorway listening to her breathe, I was overcome with love for this little girl.  Despite the difficult hours just prior to this moment, I was reminded that she is a sweet, caring, imaginative and smart child.  We’ve all had bad days more than we’d like to admit.  That’s all this was.  A bad day for Laura.  Besides, she’s absolutely adorable when she sleeps!!  😉

love my bearpooped princesscan't eat another bite!whose bed?didn't quite make it to bednot my chair!

Yes, I realize that none of these pictures are from her bed.  Once she’s asleep in her own bed I wouldn’t dare wake her with the flash! :)

me vs. the arcade

Monday, August 24th, 2009

If you read my earlier post “What was I thinking?” you know that I do not like arcades.  They are loud, chaotic and stressful for me.  I don’t have an explanation why it stresses me out, it just does.  I don’t like letting my kids run around like wild animals in public either so that makes it worse.  Plus, my two children under age 6 need to be accompanied so I have no choice but to enter the den of chaos.

I know the reason for putting an arcade in a family restaurant.  The kids pump quarters in the machines ad nauseum while the parents eat their dinner.  It is a stellar idea.

SO, one time when Robert was out of town (of course he was – these things only happen when he is out of town), Hattie was invited to a birthday party at the big pizza place in town.  The arcade at this particular pizza place doubles as the party room.  Yippee!  With Robert gone, I attended the party with all three girls in tow.  We got there and greeted the birthday boy and were immediately seated for our pizza dinner.

I have never seen children gobble down pepperoni so fast.  Even Hattie, who takes a half hour to eat a spoonful of rice one grain at a time, finished her pizza at a Guinness record pace.  Within minutes, all of the children have choked down their dinner and are chomping at the bit to get their tokens and hit the slots.  Abigail is old enough to be on her own so I gave her some tokens and she headed off.  Hattie is still a little uncoordinated and can’t read yet so she needs my help.  Laura just wants to run from game to game and screech.  Yea!

Hattie made her first game choice and was able to manage it with minimal instruction.  I set off to pull Laura away from dominating the driving game and I hear Hattie yell “Mom, I WON!”  Laura and I go dashing over to Hattie and sure enough, she has hit the jackpot.  I am watching the game tally the score when I realize that Hattie is already on to game #2.  The first game starts spitting out tickets and I hear “Mom, I WON AGAIN!”  I turn to see that game start churning out tickets and Hattie is running to the 3rd game.  But the 1st game is still barfing out tickets in a pile at my feet!  And, oh no, WHERE IS LAURA???

Luckily, this arcade is designed so that the door back into the restaurant is not easily noticed by toddlers so Laura was not far.  Also, lucky for me, this was a birthday party with lots of moms.  It only took one look at my harried face for other moms at the party to come to my rescue.

In the end, Abigail won 48 tickets.  With those she “bought” 3 pieces of gum and a neon eraser.  Hattie, the uncoordinated child, won 576 tickets in less than 30 minutes.  She bought 5 pieces of candy and a parachuting Dora that promptly broke in the car on the way home.  Gotta love it….

Bratz? Really?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

I don’t get Bratz.  I don’t understand why people buy these dolls for their daughters.  Why would you want to idolize the epitome of what we don’t want our children to become?  Or am I the only one who doesn’t want her daughters to be spoiled brats in inappropriate outfits?

Barbies and Polly Pockets don’t bother me.  Does that make me a hypocrite?  Maybe.  My girls have a lot of both Barbies and Pollies.  That being said, we do not purchase all of the clothes and accessories that are available for these dolls.  If my girls want a house for their dolls, they have to build one out of Legos or shoe boxes or use the dollhouse that my parents built for me when I was 5.  I certainly don’t buy any of the outfits that look like they belong in a strip club…and believe me, I could if I wanted to!

When Abigail started 1st grade I was forced to accept that things aren’t the same now as they were when I was in 1st grade.  When I was seven I paid no attention whatsoever to what my friends were wearing.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I secretly coveted my best friend’s purple New Edition t-shirt.  But that’s it.  I had no idea about brands or fashions or the cost of clothes and neither did anyone else in my class.  It wasn’t an issue until I was in the 6th grade.  Even then it was forced on me by other girls in my school.  Looking back, it was wonderful to be truly innocent during elementary school.  I had plenty to occupy my mind just being a child.  Now stores are selling low rise jeans and skimpy panties for elementary aged girls.  Many stores don’t even offer “regular” children’s clothes.  It’s all just the junior department in tiny sizes.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting that children can’t be fashion forward or that they should wear smocked dresses or sweatpants every day.  I just don’t think they should be dressed like tiny adults.  I also don’t want my daughters to dress in an overtly sexual way at age 16 much less at age 8.  Am I the only one who thinks that these trends are sending the wrong messages?  Then there are the moms who try to hold on to their youth by dressing like 18 year olds.  As my favorite duo, Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear say, “18 year olds always win!”  But I digress….

I don’t think parents realize what they are setting themselves up for.  Little girls should have the chance to be little girls.  There is no reason to make age 13 come any quicker than it already does.  It will come fast enough!

My mother-in-law gave me a great book for Christmas about raising girls in the current era of advertising.  I will admit that I haven’t finished the book but what I have read so far intrigues me.  As parents in 2009, we face a whole new set of challenges that didn’t even exist when we were children.  There are entire marketing campaigns targeting young children.  If you’ve ever watched Saturday morning cartoons (there aren’t that many to choose from these days!) with your children, you have probably noticed that the majority of the air time is dominated by commercials.  Commercials for crap.  “All you ever wanted in its own storage tub for $19.99!  Call now and we’ll double your order!”  Great.  Double crap.  Fabulous!!

I know I’ve written a lot lately about my ideals of raising children – girls in particular.  Please do not get the wrong idea.  I am merely expressing my thoughts.  I am not going to judge you if you don’t agree with me.  This is my opinion, nothing more.  I am not a nominee for mother-of-the-year and I never will be.  I make a lot of mistakes.  We all do.  But it’s my job to give my children the best chance to succeed in life.  And I don’t think missing the Bratz boat will hurt them one little bit!

the great shave debate

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Robert and I have been together 14 years.  For the vast majority of those years, Robert has had a goatee.  He was clean-shaven when we started dating but within 6 months he had grown out the goatee and it became a permanent fixture on his face.

Every 5 years or so, Robert goes through the “should I shave my goatee or not” debate.  The last time he shaved was just over 6 years ago.  We were vacationing in the Caribbean and he appeared at breakfast with no goatee.  It freaked me out.  I kept staring at him.  He didn’t look like my husband.  He looked weird.  Of course, after a couple of days, I became used to it and I no longer felt the need to stare.

Robert’s clean-shaven look never lasts very long.  He gets flustered with having to shave every single day and eventually he lets it go over the weekend…and a few more days after that…and then trims it into his regular goatee.

I like the goatee.  It balances his face and makes him look distinguished.  It makes him look like the Robert I love.  I’m not saying that I love him less without the goatee…I just don’t see a need to mess with something that works.  I wish I had the same problem with my hair….

Robert has been mumbling about shaving his goatee again for the last couple of weeks.  He even posted a couple of photos on Flickr asking fellow photographers to share their opinions.  What will be the outcome of the “shave/don’t shave” debate this time?  I have no idea…

the simple things

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Those of you who know me and those of you who have read my blog know that we moved a few weeks ago.  We moved from a brand new townhouse with lots of bells and whistles to an apartment nearby.  The apartment is 15 – 20 years old with no bells and fewer whistles.  Somehow, we are much happier.

Here we are surrounded by mature trees and landscaping.  Our apartment has a small screened in porch that overlooks a  lake full of turtles, fish and ducks.  Two thirds of the girls toys are in storage and they don’t even seem to notice.  The squirrels eat their acorns right outside our porch window and the tree frogs sing at night.  The cows from the neighboring farm even moo at us while we’re waiting for the bus!  We moved away from a bevy of little girls in our old neighborhood.  The only children we’ve met here the boys that ride the same school bus as Abigail yet, the girls are happier.

My parents came to visit for the day yesterday.  We spent most of the day outside by the lake.  We watched the turtles and squirrels, fed the ducks and collected nuts and pine cones.  Robert fished a little and didn’t catch anything.  Abigail dug a hole and Hattie filled it with acorns from a sawtooth oak.  We sat in the sun and then in the shade and just spent time enjoying being outside.  It was wonderful.

I was worried when we left the old neighborhood and moved to this apartment that the girls would have a hard time.  Boy was I wrong!  Abigail and Hattie have both expressed their love for our new place and how much they love the surroundings.  Who knew?

It seems that so many people spend their entire lives rushing from one place to another.  How exhausting!  My point is that it is important to be able to just enjoy life.  Children don’t have to have a planned activity every day.  They have such brilliant imaginations and they deserve the chance to use them.  We adults should learn from our children and take a moment to really enjoy the simple things….

…the bar is raised…

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

In the last 6 months or so, we have started watching food shows at our house.  Our favorites include Ace of Cakes, Amazing Wedding Cakes, Food Network Challenge and Good Eats.  Abigail has even watched a little Julia Child. Yum!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired.  The older I get the more I love to cook.  I don’t particularly love cooking dinner – it’s still that witching hour at our house.  Everyone is cranky, tired and hungry and it can quickly become stressful.  I’m sure as the children get older, making dinner will become fun.  For now I mostly enjoy making desserts and snacks….I enjoy eating them too….. 😉

I have always made the girls’ birthday cakes.  Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with “store-bought” birthday cakes.  I know that a lot of people do not have the desire or time to make a cake.  I started making birthday cakes when Abigail turned 1 and never stopped.  These cakes have all started as basic two-layer cakes with butter-cream icing.  Typically, I would bake and ice the cake and Robert (the real artist in the family) would decorate it in the theme of the party.  We’ve had Rainbow Fish, ladybug, princess, duck, Hello Kitty, butterfly….all things girly!

ladybugHello Kittyduck

But now, thanks mostly to Food Network, the bar has been raised.  We’re on to fondant!  Of course I have to make things difficult so I make my own fondant.  It is labor and time intensive but in my opinion it tastes a lot better than the premade stuff.  I have 2 different recipes for fondant.  One is supposed to taste like buttercream.  It does but the taste is not worth the pain in my butt!!  It is too greasy, heavy and difficult to work with.  The second recipe is made mostly of melted marshmallows.  It is delicious!  Even though it is harder to knead, it is much easier to work with (especially after I decided to let my mixer do most of the work!)  However, I am still on the quest for the perfect professional looking recipe.

I started with Hattie’s Tinkerbell cake last year.  It was very simple.  One layer, light green with cut out leaves and Tinkerbell on top.  I used the non-fabulous recipe but it still turned out great!

Tinkerbell

This year, Abigail wanted more.  For her birthday she designed and I made a two tier circle and star cake with about 6 different colors of fondant.  I used the marshmallow recipe and it turned out really well.

circles and stars

For my parent’s 50th anniversary celebration I wanted to make a cake representative of two of their favorite activities.  So I decided to make a rectangle-block shaped cake with a piano keyboard on top and gumpaste flowers around the bottom.  For some inane reason, I made the buttercream fondant recipe.  I guess I wanted to give it one more chance before removing it from my recipe binder.  I won’t make that mistake again!!  Despite the many cracks and imperfections, my parents loved it.  That’s what’s really important, right?

piano flowers

Of course the cake shows that we watch edit out most of the hard, tedious work and make it look incredibly easy.  This can leave the home baker frustrated and cursing late at night!  Somehow, I still love it.  That feeling of accomplishment and pride when my child looks at her cake and says “Thanks Mom.  That’s exactly what I wanted.”  What more could you ask for?  At the end of the day, it’s all about doing something special for my family while finding a creative outlet for myself.  I’m no Ace of Cakes yet but I’m going to keep at it so stay tuned!!

the linebacker

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Let me begin by saying that I am a dog nut.  I adore dogs and want to pet them all. I grew up with dogs and have always been attached to them.  I don’t have anything against cats…I just don’t know how to relate to them.  My mom is severely allergic to cats so I’ve never owned one.  Plus, I don’t understand the whole cat attitude of “come love on me….now I’ll bite you…”  Thanks for that Scooter and Whiskers!

Back on topic….this morning, my neighbor’s dog came up to me and mashed her face against my legs, wanting her ears scratched.  This is something my dog, Emma, used to do so it didn’t take me long to start feeling nostalgic.

Emma was a black Labrador.  She weighed 110 pounds and was gentle and sweet.  Her mother was owned by some friends of ours so I was able to be there when she was born.  As a puppy, she was ADORABLE!  Cute doesn’t even begin to describe her.  Once she got past the lanky “teenage” months, she grew (and grew and grew) into a wonderful dog.  She loved other dogs but would rather spend time with her tennis ball.  Yes, she was really big and didn’t realize her own girth most of the time but she was fabulous.  She loved the girls and would sit still for hours while they piled beads around her neck and tiaras on her head.  Such a good sport!  Sadly, she passed away suddenly last March.  I was not prepared at all.  She was only 8 and it was much harder than I ever thought.

In thinking about her this morning, I wanted to share one of my favorite Emma stories.

Emma loved to have her ears scratched.  Several times a day, she would approach me, put her head down and press her face against my legs in an attempt to get me to rub her ears.  The more I scratched, the harder she pushed.

When we lived in Nashville, I found a vet I really liked.  She’s about my age, a great doctor and I felt like I didn’t have to hide how much I love my dogs.  Some people get it – some people don’t.  Anyway, Emma needed to go to the vet and Dr. S. wasn’t available.  So I made an appointment with one of the other vets in her office.  Dr. H. thinks he’s the boss of the practice but everyone knows that the ladies up front run the show.

Emma and I get to the vet and are waiting for Dr. H. in the exam room.  He comes in the room, greets me and then squats down to “speak” to Emma on her level.  Emma saw an opportunity to have her ears scratched, put her head down and drove Dr. H. right into the wall!  I have to admit that I was laughing unashamedly.  Poor guy –  he had no idea what had hit him!  Looking a little dazed, he got to his feet and said “she’s a strong one, isn’t she?”  Emma looked so proud of herself.

I told Dr. S. about it, she told the ladies who run the office, and Emma quickly became a celebrity.  She was invited back any time to remind Dr. H. that he wasn’t the one in charge.

I’m not a huge “women’s lib” activist.  I mean, I believe in equal pay and equal rights and all of that but I’m not obsessing about it all the time.  However, on that day, I couldn’t have been more proud of my girl!

There are many more Emma stories.  I’m sure I’ll tell some of them in the future.  The most important thing I am reminded of as I think of Emma is that there is nothing quite like the love of a dog!   :)

(You can see a bigger image by clicking on the photos above.)

the first 50….

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

I’ve just returned home from a visit to my parent’s house.  While we were there, my entire family congregated to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.  That’s right, 50 years!

The importance of this anniversary is not lost on me.  In a time when marriages are thrown away like used tissues, having parents that are still together after 50 years is becoming more and more unusual.  My parents have experienced many of the things that now tear couples apart.  Financial strain, the loss of a child, moving away from everyone you have ever known to start a new job, the ebb and flow of friends and family.  They have also weathered the inevitable storms that arise when raising children.  Especially the 3 headstrong, highly opinionated, sassy children like me and my brothers!  Through it all, my parents have remained true to each other in every way.

We weren’t able to be together on their exact anniversary because my parents were on an Alaskan cruise as their gift to each other.  As we were all around the table last night, my brothers mentioned how giddy and childlike my parents acted in the weeks before their trip.  In talking to them, they sounded like little kids excited about a week at the beach.  For me and my brothers, that was the best gift of all.  Not only are they still together, but they also still enjoy being together.

I can only hope that at our 50th anniversary, Robert and I are still happy just being together.  12 down, only 38 to go!!

moved

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

It is done.  We are moved.  Not unpacked and put away…just moved.

It has been a long week.  Robert took his last final to finish his year back in school on Tuesday.  He started moving boxes of non-essentials to the mini storage that afternoon while I stayed home and packed.  More of the same Wednesday and Thursday.  By the time my brother showed up with his truck on Friday to move furniture, we were already tired.  Moving in your 30s is a lot different than moving in your 20s!

Nonetheless, we made the last trip and scrubbed our old place clean today.  All that’s left is to turn in the keys in the morning.  Then focus shifts to unpacking and organizing.

Moving is hard yet cathartic.  When you move something you really don’t need (but secretly have some weird attachment to) enough times, eventually you will get rid of it.  In the donation bag this time?  My Birkenstock clogs.  I have had them since high school.  I wore them almost every day from the day I got them all the way through my third year of college.  They are perfectly molded to my feet and somehow they do not smell like shoes of their vintage usually smell.  These shoes bring back many memories of my time as a teenager and young adult.  They remind me of dear friends and all the time we spent together.  They took me everywhere I wanted to go with no complaint.  They never made my feet hurt.  They are still in good shape.  But I have only worn them a handful of times in the past 8 years.  Sometime after that third year of college, I realized that they actually DO look like baked potatoes on my feet.  I have some friends who can still pull them off.  My friend Susan wears them all the time and they look perfectly normal on her.  On me?  Slow boats to China.

So, with my birks on their way to the mission donation box with various and sundry unneeded items, I am ready to move on to the next adventure!  Unfortunately, that would be the kitchen……  :)