Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Lemon of a Cake

On Christmas day we were invited to attend dinner with my friend's family. She has quite a large family and they take turns hosting the event. She rented a local lodge and gave us our assignment: bring a couple desserts. Hah! No problem. Desserts are my specialty. I love to bake. Yay!

I had recently found a lemon cake recipe online that sounded delicious. It was to be made in a bundt pan, so I thought it would be festive and a bit different, figuring folks would probably have had a belly full of sugar cookies and chocolates by now.

Christmas Eve I set into making the cake. Well, it called for cake flour which I didn't have, but that's no big deal...but then I ran out of regular flour with a 1/2 cup to go so I substituted whole wheat flour. Oh, and I didn't really have buttermilk, so I soured regular milk instead, and I didn't really have lemon zest, but who's going to miss that?

Into the bundt pan it went. Out of the bundt pan was a bit more difficult.

After much coaxing with a butter knife it finally came out...well most of it anyway. The chunks left in the pan I carefully removed and fit back into their places like lemony pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I figured that once it was frosted no one would be the wiser.

The next day I made the icing. It was very uncooperative and runny. Hmmm. I put it in the fridge for a while hoping it would thicken up somehow. In the meantime I made a nice easy gingerbread cake from a mix. It was smelling delicious. I took the gingerbread out of the oven and set it on a burner to cool. Unfortunately, Sis decided to make some Top Ramen and accidentally turned on the wrong burner. I took the icing from the fridge, and as I was trying to convince it to pull itself together, I heard a loud crack and the sound of glass flying around behind me. Pyrex pans are only so tolerant of intense heat, and my gingerbread cake was now lying in a lovely bed of shattered glass. Festive yes, safe for consumption, no.

I frosted the lemon cake and well, basically the frosting just ran off onto the counter. The powdered sugar never really blended with the butter so it was all lumpy. This was not looking good-literally. I consulted with Sis and she confirmed that we in no way could bring that cake to the party.

So I went to plan B...which involved a bag of sugar cookie mix, and a box of chocolates I had received as a gift. So much for my incredible baking skills!

As a side note, later that night Sis decided to try the lemon cake. After all, the frosting that we licked off the counter tasted great, and looks aren't everything, right? Wrong. It tasted as bad as it looked and had the texture of a stale brick. Ewww.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mother Mary

Today at Church I was part of the Sacrament program where I and several other women read parts of the Nativity Story. This was a little different though, one woman was John the Baptist's mother, another the mother of Joseph, another the mother of Mary, another the wife of the Inn Keeper and yet another the wife of a shepherd. It really brought new perspective to the story as seen through these women's eyes.

I got to be Mary. I had the smallest part but I was very honored to be chosen to speak her part. I really liked the passage that I read and thought it quite profound:

Yes, I am Mary, and yes, Jesus is my son. Indeed, blessed am I among women. My story is an old one, told and retold from before time began and once again here today by these women whom I love so well. It is a story of spirit, rather than history, and its simple and inspiring truth must and will be manifest by the Holy Spirit rather than by the words of men. I am a woman, much as the women among you, gifted with the divine opportunity of forming a partnership with God in providing a mortal temple for the spirits of his children. It is a sacred thing, motherhood, whether it concerns the Christ or any one of the infinitely precious spirits sent to many of you. It is sacred, holy and beautiful beyond description. For in the pure and undefiled love a mother for a child, mankind comes closer to approaching the love of God, than at any other time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Very Talented Teacher Indeed

Nat brought her class picture home from school today and she tells me, "Mrs. B did a mistake on our class picture. She drew Annissa on it and she moved away."

I couldn't help laughing. I could just picture her kindergarten teacher toiling away at drawing surprisingly realistic portraits of each child for the class picture, and in her exhaustion accidentally drawing Annissa's as well, even though this girl had moved away a month ago. Silly teacher!

When I was little, I remember thinking that the music I heard from the radio was actually the band performing live at the station, and I was older than kindergarten at that point. It just never occurred to me to think through the logistics of it all until I was a bit older.

Ah, the innocence of childhood and the unlimited possibilities!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just Following The Four Food Groups

(You have to remember a certain Carl's Jr commercial for this to make sense:)

Hot water. Tea bag. Box of See's. Don't Bother Me I'm Eating.

Hey, I never claimed I was eating healthy!

Which reminds me of my favorite Christmas movie, Elf, in which Will Farrell's character Buddy recites the 4 food groups according to elves: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup! Yum! 'Tis the season!

My mom used to always give Mike and I a box of See's for Christmas, and I would very conspicuously scratch Mike's name off the name tag to see if I could make him crazy. It usually worked.

This year one of his subcontractors sent us a box. I picked it up at the post office, noted its weight and shape, then proceeded to scratch my husband's name off the label and replace it with mine. I knew exactly what this seemingly inconspicuous brown package contained and I was going to claim it as my own! My little label adjustment did not go unnoticed and I was thoroughly lambasted by my husband and Sis. Just a little Christmas fun you guys, sheesh!

As soon as a box of See's is opened I always claim the chocolate that has the caramel and marshmallow layers in it (the treasured Scotchmallow). I'm pretty sure none of my family knows that this particular candy exists, as they have never sampled it, let alone seen it. I plan to keep them in the dark, for as long as possible, if not forever. It's my little secret, Bwwahhahaha!

The other morning I was in a hurry to go finish my Christmas shopping while the kids were at school, so I grabbed a couple pieces of See's on my way out the door. I never got around to eating anything else, and on the way home I realized that I was famished. That's when I remembered that I had little candy canes stashed in my glove box and proceeded to eat two of them. 2 of the food groups covered. If it wasn't for the candy corn I could easily adapt to the Elf way of life!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow Boots Are For Sissies

Sis and I went to the valley and did our Christmas shopping on Saturday and I splurged on myself and bought myself some new shoes. I don't think I've bought a pair of shoes for myself in at least a year, with the exception of flip flops. The shoes I had were a pair of slip-on clunky shoes, which I fondly referred to as my clown shoes. Let's just say they really didn't flatter my foot size, but hey they were super comfy. Kind of like baggy sweat pants for my feet.

So here's my new shoes:

My first pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars...ever. I'm very proud. And they are so darned cute that I don't want to take them off. Plus I got the coveted Teenager Seal of Approval so I know for a fact that I'm COOL.

So anyway, today we got a little snow. The first decent snow we've had this year, but only about an inch or so. I took Nat to school and proudly slogged through the slush in my new shoes, hoping everyone would notice that I wasn't wearing big clunky snow boots (or even my clown shoes), but that I was braving the elements in what may be the cutest shoes ever. Snow boots are for sissies people! True mountain women wear cute Converse sneakers and laugh at Jack Frost. Ha! Ha!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Favorite Ornament

This is my favorite ornament. My mom gave it to me on what would be her last Christmas.

Of course we didn't know then that would be the case, and that in 4 short months pancreatic cancer would rob her of knowing her last grandchild, or seeing her grandson graduate from high school, or from watching her eldest granddaughter grow into a young woman, or seeing little Shelby be baptized into the church that she held in her heart.

So on that first Christmas without her, as I was trying to make it one day at a time through the holiday that she always brought so much life to, I came across this ornament she had given to me the year before, and that I had completely forgotten about. I remember just feeling so blessed to have this last gift from her.

Holding this in my hand it was like she was giving it to me all over again. I could see her holding me on her lap and it was as though she were looking right at me through the picture. I am touched every time I look at this ornament, and it means so much to me that she thought to give me something so meaningful.

I don't pack this ornament away with the rest of the Christmas ornaments and decorations, I keep it in the top drawer of my dresser along with other things that remind me of my mom: a score sheet from one of our Scrabble games, a children's book, and a birthday card.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Turkey Talk

I won a contest! I'm so excited! Our local news website recently ran a contest to name a wild turkey hen that has been hanging around the shopping center in town. The prize was a $20 gift certificate to the local coffee shop where she is seen most often.

Okay so you're dying to know the winning name aren't you? My suggestion was Cranberry. I had a feeling when I submitted it, that it may win. Of course, some of the names I was competing with were, Butterball, Strutin Stuffin, Drum Stick Walking, and Little Golly Gobble. I don't mean to be rude, but how could I NOT win? Hee, hee.

So here's a picture of my turkey, Cranberry. I am going to try to go visit her soon, since now I'm practically her owner.

When I got the email telling me I had won, husband suggested I call them and say, "Thank you, she was delicious! What? You mean the turkey wasn't the prize? Oops!" Yeah, he thinks he's pretty funny sometimes.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sleeping In Your Clothes is Not a Good Sign

Last night I read to the girls on my bed, their daddy shuttled them off to their room and then after some tv, I pulled the covers up over my fully-clothed body and went to sleep. I had on socks, jeans, a belt, a long sleeved shirt, and a light jacket. When I woke up I realized that sleeping in your clothes is not a good sign, although it's very convenient to be fully dressed already! (Just kidding people!)

So, I began to think of what might have triggered my lapse in bed etiquette. What I came up with is that I have been feeling completely overwhelmed lately. I narrowed it down to Christmas and daycare taking a toll on my sanity.

I've had my boxes of Christmas decorations sitting in my dining room for 6 days. I did finally manage to finish decorating the tree---yesterday. I counted 15 boxes of stuff. Sis has her snow globe collection, and Cam has his lighted Christmas villages, and then there's umpteen other decorations. I usually do the whole village scene and do 3 mini trees (in addition to the regular one), one of mini ornaments, one of husband's fishing Santas ornaments and one of Cam's Star Wars ornaments. Even though the kids have lots of their own ornaments and decorations, the bulk of decorating and all of the putting away falls on me.

I kept looking at the boxes, and looking at my messy house, and thinking about all the work of decorating, and then anticipating the undecorating and decided, "I ain't gonna do it this year!" I got the kids' special ornaments on the tree, the decorations that they love to play with out, the nativity scenes out, and called it good. I felt so much better after I made that decision!

It seems with daycare my house is in a constant state of chaos, and is always, always a mess. Even when I have the kids pick up and put away, they only do it half-heartedly and someone is always coming right behind them messing things up again. Again the bulk of putting away and keeping stuff organized falls on me.

It is driving me out of my mind, and apparently making me feel so overwhelmed that even changing into pajamas was just too much more to do in a day. I can take a hint. Time to slow down, and re-evaluate.

Cutting back on the Christmas stress has helped, and I am starting to look for another job. I am looking into working at the Indian casino in the next county. Even part-timers get full benefits, but right now the hour long commute each way sounds like a daily 2-hour vacation to me! Where do I sign up? Yeah, I definitely need a change!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ode To The Fake Tree

Sung to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree"

Oh fakey tree, Oh fakey tree
Oh tree of green unfading.

Oh plastic tree, oh plastic tree,
your pre-lit branches please me.

You're waiting in your cardboard box,
convenient and no trunk to chop.

Oh artificial loveliness,
You never leak your sap out.

There was a tree that was so dry
no needles left and I did sigh,

"The hardware store sells trees half-price,
on Christmas Eve, lets buy one!"

That's how you came to be our tree
Oh I do love you dearly

Don't have to wait on husband now,
when your time to shine comes yearly.

This will be our third year with an artificial tree. We would usually go into "the back 40" and cut our own, but what looks good outside doesn't always look (or fit) so well inside. Then there was the year that the tree decided to leak it's sap onto everything--from the ornaments to the carpet. What a mess---happy flippin' holidays!

For a few years we bought a tree at the local tree lot. First to find a time when husband could fit it into his busy schedule to come with us with the pick-up truck to transport the thing, then forking out the 50-60 bucks, then the waiting for husband to trim the bottom of the trunk off so that it would drink it's water, put it in the stand, and bring it in. This sometimes took days. And lets not even talk about getting rid of the thing once Christmas was over...

I found that the trees from the lot would dry out quickly and 3 years ago we had the tree that broke the camel's back. This tree was so dry and losing needles so quickly that by Christmas we were going to wake up to a festive brown twig and a carpet of needles. I had been looking at the artificial ones and noticed that all Christmas items went on sale at Ace Hardware on Christmas Eve.

On the 24th of December, I drove to the hardware store, got my pre-lit, easy to put up fake tree, brought it home, completely undecorated the real tree, threw it out the door, spent 20 minutes cleaning up needles, put up my new tree and redecorated. I've never looked back. Yay for fake!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Let The Games Begin

My legs are annoying. They have a mind of their own at night. I'm pooped, I lay down to drift off to sleep, and then my legs decide they haven't had enough action for the day and start in. They try to leave the bed and get up. They try kicking their way out of the covers. They try inventing new yoga poses for my toes. They basically really tick me off.

This doesn't happen every night, but often enough. I've noticed my legs are more likely to want to become independent of my body if I'm a bit overtired. Of course this is truly counterproductive, because I want to sleep but my legs keep waking me up, which makes me more tired, which makes my legs want to take advantage of me even more. It's a vicious circle to say the least.

The other night the toes on my right foot kept flexing. I would feel the muscles in my calf begin to tighten and then it would move down to my foot where my toes would all of a sudden have the urge to flee from one another. Very strange indeed.

The first time I ever noticed this phenomenon with my legs was when I was pregnant the first time around. I called it "stretchy legs" as it felt like I needed to stretch, but no amount of stretching helped. It only happened rarely then, but during my last 2 pregnancies it was very intense. Pregnancy really seemed to make it more extreme.

Only in the last few years has it gotten attention and been given a name: Restless Leg Syndrome. I was usually met with a blank stare when I would mention it to my doctors, so at least now I have a name for it and even a commercial product to reference. It definitely seems to get worse the older I get so eventually I'll probably have to look into treating it with medication.

Until then I will have my nights when it will be me and my legs-two separate beings in a fight over sleep vs. activity, rest vs. exertion, stillness vs. motion. Yeah, if I could kick their butt I would, but you can already see the conundrum that presents!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What Exactly is a Horehound Anyway?

Today I took the little girls and our dog down the hill to our humane society's fundraiser, Paws and Claus, where for $10 your critter can get their photo with Santa. It was pretty chaotic. There were other dogs everywhere plus 3 cats, one of which was in one of those pet strollers (hee, hee). I mean, it's a good idea and everything, but I still think those strollers are kind of goofy. I think the cat had the same opinion.

The girls got in the photo with Suey, our pit bull mix, and we got 3 shots, none of which were very good. In every photo, someone is looking the wrong way, mainly the humans. Even Santa couldn't get it right. Suey did pretty good at looking at the camera, but she has the wacky animal red eye in all of the photos, where it looks like you're looking into their skull and it's completely empty. I wasn't disappointed, I feel good about supporting the humane society no matter how bad their photography skills.

While we were waiting for them to print out our photos, we took a walk to the old fashioned candy store around the corner. Shelby wanted to see if they had horehound candy. She has been reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder and hearing about the candy in the book had piqued her interest. I waited outside the store and gave the girls instructions to go in, choose something, and then come out and mind the dog so I could pay for their treats.

They were in there a very long time. Finally a lady came out and told me my girls were waiting their turn very patiently while her mother made her purchases. She also told me how well-mannered they were and how Nat had told her the town where we lived, how old the dog was, and other interesting facts about our family. Nat loves to have conversations with whomever will listen---she is her father's daughter, no doubt about it!

They finally emerged and told me their choices. Shelby showed me a small tissue paper packet and told me the lady gave her some horehound candy to try. I paid for the girls' candy and came back out to find them spitting and drooling over a nearby flower planter. Horehound tastes about as good as it sounds apparently!

So that was our big outing today where we learned that the humane society people are good-hearted but not necessarily photographically inclined, and that back in the old days kids would eat anything if you called it "candy" and think it was fantastic. If only kids these days were so easy to please!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Thermostat is Broken

I'm freezing. My husband is toasty. I sleep in full flannel jammies under our comforter and an extra blanket that is only on my side of the bed. My husband sleeps in his undies with the sheet over him. My favorite number on the thermostat is 74, his is 67.

It's starting already. Every year we go through this. Me being cold, him being warm, me sneaking the thermostat up, him complaining and plunging it back down to indoor refrigeration temperatures.

I can't help it if I'm always cold. Heck, I even wear sweaters and long sleeves in the summer. It's not easy being constantly chilly. I wish I could get some sympathy around here.

My favorite thing is to be alone in the car and to crank the heat up to scorch. It's like driving around in my own personal sauna. It's all the better if the sun is shining directly in on me. Maybe I'm some sort of reptilian freak that needs the warmth of the sun to function.

It's really not even winter yet, and it's been unseasonably warm around here, but you'll still find me in at least 2 layers. Around the house. When winter arrives it will be my standard 3 layers for indoor comfort. You'll also find me in my usual spot. Perched right in front of our heater so that I can absorb as much hot air as possible as it blows out.

Yes, being me in the winter isn't easy. I really think my inner thermostat must be broken. Brrrrrr. Going to get my flannels on now and curl up in a ball under the blankies!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thankfulness for Warm Memories

I think Thanksgiving is when I miss my mom the most. She's been gone 5 1/2 years now. She always made the holidays so special. She would go all out decorating. She had boxes of rabbits and chicks for Easter, ghosts and pumpkins for Halloween, pilgrims and turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas was in a class of it's own. Every inch of her small house was tastefully decorated with lighted villages, Anna Lee dolls, heirloom ornaments and every Hallmark keepsake ornament you could imagine.

There was just something about Thanksgiving that was extra special. I think it was the coming together of family without the pressure of shopping and gift giving. Mom was a good old fashioned homey-type cook. She could seemingly effortlessly fill the house with warm delicious smells. My husband loves to cook too, and she gladly let him help her with all the Thanksgiving trimmings. The two of them would be out in the kitchen sipping wine, taste testing the meal, and giggling with each other. She did enjoy her wine when she cooked and I think she enjoyed having my husband as her wine-and-cooking buddy.

Gosh, when the meal was finally served it was incredible! After having smelled it cooking all day and being tortured by the mashing and slicing and buttering that took place in the last 30 minutes, it was such joy to take that first mouthful. There was always happy banter around the table as we filled ourselves to bursting with the delicious food. And always the last minute warning, "Save room for pie!"

Homemade pie and hot tea...that's a whole blog post in itself...

This year we had a wonderful meal that my husband cooked. We had a beautiful, perfectly done turkey and we had lots of laughs. My dad ate almost the entire apple pie I made--by himself--in one night! I'm glad I had a slice when I did after dinner, because by the time he had a couple midnight snacks and breakfast of it there wasn't any left!

So it's still the coming together of family, and the eating of wonderful traditional foods, but there is an emptiness that no one can fill that belongs to my mom. And after 5 1/2 years it's still there. I guess it always will be. I'm so thankful that she was my mom, but I miss her like crazy, especially during the holidays.

Friday, November 16, 2007

'Tis The Baking Season

The fabulous preschool Soup Dinner soup turned out to be just that (read the previous post to know what I'm talking about). And I made notes so I will know exactly what I did right. I just have to find the notes now...I put them on the counter of doom, so they've got to be here somewhere...shoot!

Thinking of preschool, for several years running I've been involved with our little co-op preschool and their annual day-before-Thanksgiving bake sale. This is the one big fund raiser of the year for this school, with the emphasis on BIG.

This bake sale is a huge seasonal event in our town, second only to the hanging of the lighted snowflakes on the power poles to welcome the skiers and their money to our slopes. The sale runs from 8am to noon, but is usually sold out before then.

Each family (and there is generally 16-20 families) is required to bake enough goods to equal a $90 profit. I usually bake about 6 pies, 6-8 loaves of banana or pumpkin breads, a couple batches of festive cookies and some cranberry bars. It is a ton of work not only because of the baking, but the goods have to be packaged to look like they fell out of an issue of Martha Stewart Living. Packaging and wrapping is not my strong suit as anyone who has received a gift from me can attest to.

So this year, since I'm fresh out of preschoolers, I don't have the bake sale pressure on me. Strangely though, I am so in the mode of baking my pants off at this time of year that I really am missing it. I volunteered to bring 3 pies to our family celebration even though there will be only about 7 of us there. I was worried that this might be a bit much but my sister assured me that there's no such thing as too much pie. I'm pretty sure she's right! I am also going to whip up a few pumpkin pies to drop off to the preschool as a donation, though I'll leave the wrapping and decorating up to them.

I guess it's kind of funny that when I'm not required to do something it's somehow a lot more appealing and fun to do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Snow on the Mountain

I'm making soup tonight. Soup Dinner soup. Our little co-op preschool has had a Soup Dinner for the kids and families every year for the past 25 or so years. Since all 4 of my kids have attended this preschool we have enjoyed quite a few Soup Dinner nights. The preschoolers cut the veggies for the soup and help get it in the pot and they decorate paper place mats for their family members, then that evening the soup, with its awkwardly butchered vegetables, is enjoyed by all.

Well, Sis remembered that this year, since we're fresh out of preschoolers, we aren't going to Soup Dinner. So she used the "Mommy" on me (see previous post) and today I'm making the Soup Dinner soup. I'm a little frustrated by the recipe as I am to add 1 can of tomato juice, 1 can of water, and 1 can of stewed tomatoes. No sizes. I'm guessing maybe 25+ years ago tomato products only came in one size?

Well I decided I would put in a big can of tomato juice because that seems to be the most common size, then I went to stewed tomatoes, and they seem to come in one size, but of course it's a different size than the juice. What about the water? Do I now use the big can or the little can? I chose the little one figuring I could always add more. This is not the first time I've made the soup, but it's been so long that I don't remember what I've done in years past. Today I'm going to make notes on the recipe--providing I don't completely mess it up.

This all reminds me of my family pastie recipe. That's PAST-EE, not PASTE-EE. Pasties (past-ees) are a Cornish meat and potato pie, pasties (paste-ees) are nipple covers. It's important to note the difference. Especially if you're having guests for dinner.

The recipe I have for pasties has been handed down on my dad's side of the family. His mom's family was Cornish miners who would take these pastry covered meat pies into the mines with them for lunch. Legend goes that the men would tuck their fresh from the oven pasties into their shirts on their way to work in the morning to keep themselves warm. Traditionally the pasties were made individually in a half-circle shape, but later they were made in a rectangular dish and called pastie pie which is an easier and faster way to make them, and works just as well unless you're in the habit of shoving it into your clothing.

I've been attempting to make pasties for years now. My mom was an expert at it. She took lessons from my dad's mother and grandmother, plus she had good cooking skills to begin with. My mom gave me the written recipe and I took lessons from her, but I still struggle with my pasties.

As with the soup recipe the pastie recipe is also a bit vague. I can handle grating the potatoes and carrots but here's a sample of when it gets a bit more difficult, "Cut meat and pile into a heap. Sprinkle the heap with pepper, and then enough salt so that it looks like a mountain with snow on top. Ok, I live in snow country, so I know what a mountain with snow on it looks like, but the first time I made pasties by myself they turned out so salty we couldn't even eat them. Apparently I was thinking more of a winter blizzard and the recipe was implying more of a spring flurry.

At least on my pastie recipe I make notes each time so that I learn from my weather interpreting mistakes. Even with my sorry pastie making skills (I won't even go into the challenge of making the pastry) they still turn out pretty darned delicious. Let's hope the soup fares as well tonight!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cream of Wheat and Coconuts

I love teenagers. Some people say how difficult teenagers are but I personally have really enjoyed mine. Of course I think two-year-olds are great too, so what do I know?

Sis and I have a good relationship and we enjoy doing things together and joking around. I don't cross the line of parent vs friend, but we are able to have a good time together nonetheless.

Sis likes to revert sometimes and have me do stuff for her still (and I secretly kind of enjoy still being needed by her). I know it's going to be one of those times when she calls me "Mommy" instead of Mother or Mom.

Lately she's been having difficulty knowing which end of the knife to use to cut cheese when she's making a sandwich.

"Mommy can you come cut the cheese?"

Now, who's going to resist a set-up like that, so I replied, "No, I really think that's Mike's area of expertise." ba-dum-bump

Yeah, I love it when I can show off my comic genius to my child and get her eyes to roll back into her head.

A lot of times on the weekends when we actually see each other in the morning, she wants me to make her something for breakfast. "Mommy I'm hungry. Will you make me breakfast?" How am I going to resist my poor starving child? So gathering up all my culinary knowledge I often offer, "Do you want cereal or a granola bar?" If I'm feeling particularly domestic I offer to make toast.

This last Saturday she requested Cream of Wheat. Of course this is the 2 1/2 minute kind of Cream of Wheat which involves a pot on the stove, boiling water and stirring. It is serious stuff and I wasn't sure I was awake enough or cheerful enough for this task.

"Mommy will you make me Cream of Wheat?"

"You can't make it yourself?"

Adding a bit of a little girl whine, "I don't know howwwww."

"Sheesh, it's not brain surgery!" as I grab for the pot and measuring cup.

In a little girl voice, "Thanks Mommy."

Me, with lots of sarcasm, "Yeah, I'm glad I have a college degree so I know how to make Cream of Wheat!"
(Luckily Cream of Wheat only requires a 2-year degree.)

At this point I go through the motions like this is expending all my energy for the day. (It's got to look like a sacrifice otherwise these teens just don't appreciate it.) She happily eats her hot cereal and looks very smug at still being able to make her mommy do what she requests.

Last night I was reading one of her little survey things that teens love to post and one of the questions was, "What people would you like with you if you were stranded on an island?" It made my heart warm to see that I was listed along with her 2 best friends and her brother. As I was gloating about how special I was I began to think a bit more logically. Of course she would want me on the island with her. Who else is going to make fire and crack coconuts open!

Yes, the relationship of a mother and her teen is a tender, beautiful thing that involves much sacrifice (on the part of the mother) and many rewards (on the part of the teen).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Vote Early, Vote Often

I didn't have time to blog yesterday. I was busy voting, and voting, and voting, and in my spare time, voting. What could possibly have been so important to vote on? High school football of course!

The local major tv news station runs a poll each week on which high school football game to cover as the "Game of the Week". Our county's only 2 high schools, and fierce rivals, for oh, about 100 years, were up for contention. There were 7 other choices, most of which were valley schools who get their share of media attention anyway, but one other choice was our neighboring tiny county and their two schools.

There was no limit as to how many times one could vote, and I received in my email a plea from another parent to visit the news channel's website and vote for our schools, and the kids were hyping it on their myspace pages. On Tuesday I decided I might as well get in on it, cast a vote or two and see how we were doing. I was surprised to see our schools at 64,000+ votes with the other county right on our heels, and the other choices still around 1000 votes. I thought it was funny that the amount of votes exceeded the population of the counties. Our county has a population of about 47,000, the other county's population is close to 39,000. As our community's news website put it, "Pets, toddlers and possibly even the deceased are voting in this poll".

It was kind of fun voting and seeing the numbers jump ahead. The two counties were only about 200-400 votes apart at anytime I happened to check. Sometimes the other county would be ahead, sometimes we would be. Every time I checked I would vote until we reached the next 100, but soon I made my goal to vote until we reached the next 500. On Wednesday, with the poll closing on Thursday at 9pm, I would vote until we reached the next 1000. The way the numbers were constantly climbing that didn't take long.

I woke up on Thursday and we were 600 votes ahead. I spent an hour voting, took a shower and then spent another hour voting. I'm not kidding. It was ridiculous. Then I had to pull myself away and go help at Nat's kindergarten class. I saw my friend who works there (and has a kid on the football team) heading for the computer lab during her break to vote. She was just as obsessed as I.

When I got home we were trailing by 200, and the votes now numbered more than 110,000 each! I was getting a bit crazy, mumbling to the other voters through some sort of cyber-telepathy, cursing whoever was voting for the other county, and imagining who else could possibly have this much time on their hands! By Thursday afternoon we were still trailing, but I was still plugging ahead, trying to hold our ground until the teenagers got home from school and helped me out.

When Sis got home from high school, she said during one of her class periods they were released early to go to the computer lab to do some "research". Gotta love those competitive teachers!

I had to leave during the evening for my dance rehearsal and got home in time for the last hour of voting. We had jumped ahead by 2000 votes! Hurray! Not wanting to let my cyber team down, I voted like crazy for the last 60 minutes. The end results had our county teams at 139,000 and the other county's teams at 135,000. On the evening news they said the voting broke all records of their online poll by more than double.

I have to say I'm pretty proud of our little county and the other county as well. We are often ignored because of our remote location and small communities, but I think we all showed them that we are a force to contend with because we are a close knit bunch who are used to coming together for a common goal. Now I'm off to go ice my carpal tunnel I developed....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Carrot and The Stick

...kind of like The Tortoise and The Hare, but not really...

Shelby's teacher suggested, nay, ordered me, to develop a carrot and stick program for Shelby. I had to come up with meaningful rewards (carrots) for her as she reaches her academic goals, and also come up with consequences (sticks) when goals aren't met. And she said it shouldn't involve giving her money. She took all the fun out of it!

So I sat down with Shelby last night and told her that we were going to think of rewards for when she reached 10, 20 and the goal, 25 points in AR. For those of you who don't know, AR stands for Accelerated Reading. The kids are tested on reading level, then they have to read at their level or above, and quiz on the books they read for a certain amount of points. Easy books might earn you 1 point, whereas a more difficult book at the same level will earn you 7. The kids are required to earn 25 points a trimester.

So, here's what she came up with: at 10 points she wants a Payday candy bar, for 20 points she wants a bucket of red vines, and when she reaches 25 she wants to have a friend sleep over. Yes, I think I'm getting off easy as far as "carrots" are concerned. However, having a friend sleep over is a huge deal around here because of my doing daycare. I really don't like to have kids at my house when daycare hours are over. I'm done. So this will be a sacrifice for me.

We did the same thing with end of the week work. Her teacher gives weekly awards if all work is turned in and the kids have at least a C average on tests and quizzes. So if she brings home a weekly award she gets an orange Fanta soda. (Now you know how deprived my poor children are.) And if she brings home 5 in a row, I will take her to Walmart for a $20 shopping spree. (Yes it's money, but can't I plead a technicality on that one?)

Oh, and the stick? No Hannah Montana. Yes, I know, pretty harsh, but tough times call for tough measures, and with kids Shelby's age Hannah Montana is more like a 2-by-4 with a nail in it than a stick. Yes indeed, I think ol' Hannah is going to help me out quite a bit by the look I got from Shelby. I love a good stick!

Monday, November 5, 2007

News to Me

I attended teacher conferences today for my two youngest. One is in kindergarten the other in 3rd grade. I knew Nat was doing well in kindergarten. It is all coming pretty easy for her thus far, and she's a confident and outgoing little girl. Moo however, I knew was struggling a bit. I was getting papers returned with incomplete, late, or just poor grades on them. I have been a bit frustrated so I was looking forward to hearing her teacher's input.

The teacher confirmed that Shelby has not been working to her potential. I was expecting to hear that she is just not getting it, that she's just not quite as smart as I thought, or that she had a learning disability. But no, the teacher told me she's smart and should easily be an honor roll student. No, surprisingly Shelby's problem is that she flirts with the boys in class and doesn't get her work done!

The teacher has moved her many times, but hasn't found a spot to put her yet that keeps her from being chatty with a girl, or flirty with one of the boys. She says she's never seen a girl this age so flirty. Little Shelby is a cutie too. I always tease that she is actually my sister's child because with her long, honey-blond hair and blue eyes she looks just like my sister did as a child.

The news that my sweet child was the class vixen was quite a bombshell for me. I know she likes to be social, but she's usually more on the shy side. Now I've learned that my girl is boy crazy at the ripe old age of 8! The first thing that came into my head was: what the heck am I in for when she hits middle school!

I've always pegged Shelby as my easy child, my sweetie, my lovable little angel, now I have to think of her as the little heartbreaker, the vamp, the siren! Well, I am thankful that I know now, early on, and can prepare to go to battle when she wants to start dating in the 6th grade! Sheesh...I may have to look into all girl boarding schools or something...who says girls are easy to raise?!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Give Me Something Good To Eat

Well, Halloween was a success. And contrary to the previous post, I didn't take my kids out on the wrong night and insist that they be given candy by confused door openers. At least I got Halloween right. Wish me luck with this upcoming time change though!

Our whole county is pretty rural and hilly, with a lot of vacation homes, so the one little neighborhood that's pretty much normal as far as flat terrain and full time residents, gets the brunt of candy seeking kids from the 3 towns surrounding it. It is quite a sight. As this event has grown, the fire department and sheriffs come out and block off the streets and direct traffic, and a local business runs a candy drive to help out the residents who see somewhere around 900 trick-or-treaters show up at their doors.

This particular neighborhood is very welcoming with almost all of the inhabitants decorating their yards to the hilt and others turning their yards into spectacular haunted houses. They even hand out free cups of hot cocoa. It really is something to experience. We always have a great time and we always see everyone we know. It makes me glad I live in this crazy little county.

The day after Halloween the teachers take an "inservice" day. Yeah, right. I realize they don't want to deal with over tired kids hopped up on sugar, but don't they consider where all those kids go on a Thursday when their parents are at work? Yep, about 50 of them come to my house. Ok, not 50, but it sure seemed like it. Those teachers have no consideration I tell you.

I'm not even convinced the teachers are working. I bet they show up to school, celebrate with Irish coffees and Krispy Kremes, give high 5's all around, call it a day and go shopping for those day after Halloween bargains. It's a conspiracy, I can smell it! Now I'm off to go dig through the candy buckets to find a little morsel (or two) to make me feel better...

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

All last week I was bracing myself for this week: minimum days all week and teacher conferences plus a dental appointment for the girls to work my schedule around. I have been kind of dreading the minimum days with all the daycare kids arriving at 12:30 instead of 2:30, plus it's supposed to be raining on and off all week, so I was envisioning long days inside with a house full of bored kids.

I got Nat prepared last night to anticipate catching the bus in the morning all week and being on the early bird schedule, instead of her usual late owl schedule which involves me dropping her off to class at 9:30.

I even posted a reminder for my daycare parents about the fee change of minimum day rates vs the usual after school rates.

I got the girls on the bus first thing this morning and reminded Mike to be home at 12:15 so I could go to the teacher conference. Everything was in order.

There is a little girl that comes to my house on Monday mornings and I take her to school along with Nat as she too is a late owl. When I saw her dad pull up in the driveway, I rolled my eyes a bit. Her family is new to our area and apparently they didn't get the memo about the minimum days this week. I was happy to let him know that he should just take her to school, as it had already started. All this was news to him, but that's ok, it takes those new people a while to catch onto things.

I went back to enjoying my quiet morning. I thought to myself that I had better enjoy it now as the clock was ticking and those kids would be here before I knew it. I still couldn't get over that dad thinking this week was regular schedule, I certainly couldn't be wrong...let's just check the school calendar, just for laughs, you know...yep there it is...teacher conferences...minimum days...starting November 5th! Dang it!

Well, then I had to call the school and tell them I sent two kindergartners to school at the wrong time, plus I had to call the little girl's mom and tell her what a complete dolt I was to her husband and child. The school told me it wasn't a problem and they would just keep the girls there, the mom told me it wasn't a problem and that she understood. I'm sure those conversations were followed by much head shaking and snickering though.

I wish I had a good excuse for being so off base, like I'd been on a 3-day bender, or I had had a serious blow to the head over the weekend, but no, I had to fess up to just being absent-minded and rather daft.

Yes, I still don't know where my brain went. It apparently went on vacation sometime last week and neglected to let me know it's itinerary. Just another self-inflicted embarrassing moment to add to my very long list!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Road Kill

Road Kill. I know, kind of a weird topic, but it's been on my mind because we had a dead deer near our house. Someone had hit a deer Tuesday night just a few houses away so that I had the unfortunate view of it from my kitchen window. And I do get the irony of this post following the one about Bambi.

On Wednesday morning we discovered it as did our dogs. It was interesting to see the dogs slowly circling it at first with their fur standing at attention. They really were unsure about it and wondering if it still may jump up at any moment and kick their butts. After much circling, they finally inched in to have a sniff. Once they realized that the deer was not going to move then they went over and over it with a fine-toothed nose. I'm sure it must've been fascinating for them to get an up close smell, since usually they only get within barking distance of deer.

Our younger dog, Suey, eventually just sat near it. She would get up and sniff once in a while and then just sit and whine a little. It was almost as if she was waiting for someone to come do something. The guy who is building next door, said it made him sad to see her sitting there crying. I don't know if she is capable of feeling sympathy for the deer or if she was simply just a bit confused by the whole event.

As soon as the kids got off the bus they spotted it and went tearing over to examine it. You'd have thought someone dropped a carnival ride off on the street with all their enthusiastic yelling and running. I could definitely see the similarities between them and the dogs. They were anxious and unsure at first, but then interested in looking at a deer so close up. They got to see the texture of it's fur, its antlers (it was a small buck), and it's hooves. It was a pretty clean road kill, thankfully, but there was still lots of "eeeewww" and "gross" and "yuck" to be heard.

Like little CSI detectives, there was much to be learned by observing the deer. Nat came back and said, "Mom do you know how big deer poop is?" and went on to give me the details of deer excrement circumferences.

The day before this the kids had found a dead bat which they examined with the same zeal. It's funny how excited they get about being able to see an animal up close and personal. Because of our cats, we often have dead birds and mice in our yard and the kids like to have little funerals for them and make little head stones out of a scraps of wood.

Some time ago we had a skunk road kill that the kids found equally fascinating. With the skunk, I hesitated a bit to let the kids go check it out. I mean what would my daycare kids' parents think when they were told they had an outing to go see road kill? But like the deer it wasn't a mess, so I thought what the heck. The stinky skunk smell kind of added to the excitement of that one, and I even went and looked at it with them. Skunks really do have cute little faces.

While it's sad to see one of our forest creatures, and especially Bambi, dead on the road, I think the kids actually learn a lot from it. I think I may even have a great idea for a new business: Lesley's Daycare and Road Kill Expeditions. What do ya think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Remember in the movie Bambi when spring had sprung and all the animals in the forest started hooking up? The females began hopping around singing "La La La La" in operatic tones and batting their lashes, ultimately putting the lovesick whammy on their male counterparts. The cynical old owl called them "twitterpated". Bambi and Thumper swore they wouldn't become goofy and soft-headed like the others, but before you could say "La La La" they'd each been twitterpated by a female of their species. As the owl put it, "pain in the pinfeathers, that's what I call it".

Well, both my teens have been twitterpated. And both in the last 2 weeks. I talked to my son yesterday, and he told me about his new girlfriend and how in his words they are "so cute together". Goodness, he's past head over heels and gone into loopy.

My daughter has her very first boyfriend. A boy she's known and had a crush on for well over a year. She's not quite as goofy and ga-ga as her brother and I think it is because she's known this boy for so long and hung out with him on various occasions.

The rule for my kids is that they can't date until they are 16. Surprisingly I didn't get any hassle enforcing this rule. Talking to my daughter last night, she says, "This is my first boyfriend", and I said, "Aren't you glad you waited?" She said that she was indeed glad that she didn't get caught up in the emotions of dating at a younger age.

I know from where I speak, as I started dating at age 13 and had a serious boyfriend at age 14 (he was 17) whom I dated exclusively for the next 6 years. I know my parents were trying their best and my mom even said later when I was an adult that she didn't know what to do with me at that age and that my boyfriend seemed like the only thing that made me happy. He did make me happy at times, but having such a serious relationship at that age without having the life experiences and mature perspective to draw from was very difficult. From having that experience and the emotional turmoil that went with it, I am now very protective of my own kids.

I know I can't protect my kids from everything, but I wish I could. Now that they are both dating someone, I am already anticipating the heartbreak that will probably accompany these young relationships. I don't mean to sound too negative, but the chances that this young man and young woman are my future son and daughter-in-law are fairly slim. It is so hard to see your child's heart broken. I remember my son's break-up with his first girlfriend and it was SO painful to watch him have to work through it, so I guess I'm preparing myself. A mom would always rather feel the pain herself, than watch her child endure it.

Life's lessons are sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter, but we all have to learn them. I am happy for both my kids; it's another step towards mature adulthood (and ultimately grandkids, right?!) I think the owl in Bambi had it wrong though; love is not a "pain in the pinfeathers", and I also think the poor old owl was a bit jealous that he didn't have a long-lashed warbling female after his cranky hide.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Great and Powerful BOZ

I had the pleasure of going to a belly dance workshop this weekend with the famous Jim Boz. Yes, a male belly dancer and a world renowned performer and instructor. I have seen him perform before, and he is incredible. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated to be taking this particular workshop. I had no idea what to expect, and I was concerned that I was going to be completely out of my league. Jim himself is a bit intimidating at about 6'4" and 260 lbs. He really looks more like a tv wrestler than what you would expect a male belly dancer to look like.

During the course of the 3 hour session, Jim taught us moves such as the "barf", which is like a reverse body undulation, but a bit more subtle, and yes, barf is a fairly good description of it. He also gave us the visual of a line of snot running out of our nose and hitting our hip, knee and foot in succession to help our alignment of a particular move. He qualified this by saying, "I may be a belly dancer, but I'm still a guy".

I figured that my skills would be challenged and I was right, but on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being "completely lost", and 10 "being this is easy" I rated myself about a 7. And I gave myself a hearty pat on the back at the end of it.

That evening there was a performance of local dancers and the "Boz Man" performed last. Let me just say it was worth the wait. If you've never seen a grown man in shimmery tight clothes do a full body shimmy-vibration you have truly missed out. My heart still beats a bit faster just thinking about it. Whew! Oh, and the rest of his dancing was incredible too....ah, but the shimmy...

Now, because I raved about Jim Boz's fabulousness, my husband has labeled him as gay, which may or may not be true, (and for the sake of my crush, in my mind he is not). Husband likes to label all my celebrity crushes as gay. In fact he's still trying to get a nasty rumor about Jeff Probst's sexual orientation going.

Although male belly dancers are rare in the U.S., I have seen one other. Notice I didn't say "had the pleasure of seeing". In contrast to Jim Boz who does belly dance moves in a masculine way, this dancer had swathed himself in orange flowy chiffon and danced in a very feminine way. That would have been fine had he been a bit more feminine or metrosexual looking, but this guy rather resembled a homeless street person with his scraggly hair and beard, his pasty white less-than-fit abdomen covered in man fur, and what looked like very hastily applied blue eyeshadow and mascara. My friend described him as Rasputin-esque. I know I sound like a belly dance snob, but really I wasn't the only one that found him a bit unsettling. Let's just say I didn't take away a good memory, and gouging at my eyes didn't help to get the vision of orange chiffon hairiness out of my mind.

So, even if you have no interest in middle eastern dance, if you get a chance to see Jim Boz, do it! You will be glad you did. However, if you see Rasputin dressed like a harem girl, please for the sake of your eyes and mind, run!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Expanding Horizons...and Jaws

Last night I got to turn Sis's palatal expander for the last time. I'm no longer a slave to her mouth. I don't have to wait up for her to get home anymore so that I can "turn her crank". We were both very excited about this event. If we both hadn't been so tired we would have celebrated somehow.

I guess I'll start at the beginning of Sis's orthodontia story. She has been bugging me for the last few years to take her to the orthodontist. I really didn't think her teeth looked that bad. At least they were pretty much straight. One was overlapping and her midline was off because of a tooth that never came through, but compared to my own orthodontic experience, her mouth didn't look so terrible.

My own teeth had been so overcrowded that my eye teeth were coming in above and over my other teeth so that I looked like I had fangs, and my bottom teeth were a zigzagging jumbled mess. They had to pull 4 teeth just to get started and I even had to wear head-gear at night for a time. Yes indeed, I know bad teeth. I have lived it.

Then I took my daughter to the orthodontist and was immediately humbled. Poor Sis, her bite is messed up, her jaws need to be expanded, a tooth needs to be persuaded to come down and she needs her wisdom teeth out asap. Her orthodontist, who happens to be a specialist, described her as a "red light case". Her jaws needed to be expanded twice the distance of an average orthodontic patient.

Sis will be the recipient of nearly all the high tech orthodontic appliances known to man. And yes, they call them an appliance because you could easily go out and buy a new appliance at Sears for what these sophisticated metal contraptions cost. The first appliance they have installed is her palatal expander. This is an interesting piece that was cemented into the top of her mouth. I turn the little screw thing in the middle of it every night thus pushing her teeth outward, and spreading her palate apart. I have been literally breaking the upper part of her mouth apart very slightly every night for the last 8 weeks. Yes, it is extremely creepy. The first week it gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I got used to it. I have even threatened to turn it twice when she's gotten sassy.

The amazing thing is how her face has changed. This expander has made gaps between her teeth and of course changed how her upper jaw looks (she has another expander on the bottom that the orthodontist adjusts every 2 weeks so the bottom hasn't been as dramatic). From a crowded narrow smile, she now has a wide gappy toothed grin. Her teeth look very similar to the plastic novelty "Billy Bob" teeth sold at cheap toy stores. That will soon change as she starts getting her braces on.

Sis has really been a trooper through all of this, and she still has nearly 3 years of orthodontia ahead of her. Her mouth has been so tender at times that she couldn't eat solid food to 3 days, her expander has given her headaches, she can't eat candy, crackers, chips or anything else that might be crunchy or sticky. Yet I have yet to hear her whine or complain.

Her expander will stay in now for 3 more months so that the bones can set. She will still make strange noises while she eats as she sucks and slurps out bits of food that get caught between the expander and the roof of her mouth, and she will still have a bit of a lisp as she tries to maneuver her tongue around the metal in her mouth. So while not having to turn her expander anymore is a momentous occasion, I think we'll save our celebration for the day her expander comes out. We'll go eat something crunchy and have her say tongue twisters!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My How Times Have Changed!

So I have this huge ongoing project of taking all the boxes out of my closet and getting rid of stuff and organizing the rest of it. It's difficult sometimes to decide if a certain item should go or stay. Some things I keep because they have special meaning to me, other things I keep because they will be fun for the kids to have in the future. There is a fine line though, I don't want my poor kids to have a boatload of random stuff to sort through at some point.

One of the things I came across recently was my yearbooks from junior high and high school. This was back in the late 70's early 80's when we went to junior highs and not middle schools.

Some of the autographs in my yearbooks I would hesitate for my kids to read, as back then my friends and I liked to act like we were big stoners. A lot of the messages start out "High" because we thought that was so clever, and there's a lot of "don't party too hardy", "have a bitchen summer", "don't get too high" and various renderings of pot leaves. We were a high-brow bunch to say the least.

Some of my favorites were written by my dear friend from 4th grade. Here's one of the classics that she wrote in my 7th grade yearbook,"Keep cool this summer and don't get into too much trouble with your parents and you know who! Don't go with too many guys or get into cars with foxes, unless I'm with you." Now that's advice to live by! The greatest travesty in her mind was if I should happen to meet some foxy guys without her there. She really needn't have worried!

Yes, those were the days. She and I would either go to the mall or to the roller rink and look for "foxes". She was completely boy crazy and I was painfully shy. She would get lots of attention and I would be the tagalong wallflower. Just the memory of the feathered back hair do's, the skin tight Ditto's jeans and the big clunky shoes send a shiver down my spine.

What really caught my eye as I was going through this particular box was the graphic on the front of my yearbook from my junior year in high school, 1981:

and inside it looked like this:

I'm thinking this kind of art work wouldn't fly anymore. Back then Urban Cowboy with John Travolta was popular, and everyone wanted to look like a wanna-be cowpoke for some reason, so putting old west style revolvers in a yearbook wasn't even given a second thought. Just interesting...

Now, do I go through all of my old yearbooks and take a black Sharpie to the things I don't want my kids to see, or do I not worry about it because they are never going to be interested anyway? Big decisions and painful teenage memories await!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carpet Training?

I am an in-home daycare provider, and like most mom's that take on this type of business, I do it so that I can be home with my own kids. It is a challenging occupation to say the least.

I am currently going through a potty training battle with one of my charges. She will be 3 in a couple weeks and has been potty training since spring. She is like any other kid who would rather not have to take a break from playing to use the potty, but a bit more so, and compared to her twin, she still has a way to go.

My house is 1800 square feet, and with the exception of the 3 bedrooms (two of which are off limits to daycare kids), and a 5x8 rug in the living room, I have hardwood floors throughout. If a person were to just randomly come into my house and throw water on the floor they would have a 90% chance of hitting easily-wiped-up hardwood. So one would guess that the chances of an almost potty trained kid having an accident on the carpet would be slim. But that's where Murphy's Law rears it's ugly head. This little girl always seems to make it on the carpet. It's like she's carpet-trained or something!

The clincher the other day though, was when she had an accident in my husband's Lazy Boy recliner. I know. The Sacred Man Throne. I was pretty upset, I mean, carpet is one thing but furniture, even my ratty assortment, is a different story. So I went against all the child rearing theory of potty training, and put her in time-out while I cleaned up the chair, after which I give her a very stern talking to.

For some reason this tack seems to have worked and we haven't had any accidents for the last 2 weeks! I've gotten a bit better at giving her potty-break reminders and I think the lesson was learned on her part. So far, so good anyway, but I have learned that just when you think you've figured a kid out, they find another way to challenge you!

Monday, October 15, 2007

One Wrong Turn Deserves Another

This weekend Sis and I went down to the City to celebrate Bub's birthday. Gosh, what a gorgeous day it was. The weather was sunny and warm, and there wasn't a cloud in sight. We went to the beach, then into the city to the wharf for a tour of the wax museum and a sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder. It was a busy and terrific day with my two eldest kids!

Every time I drive to San Francisco, I'm reminded of the trip I took earlier this year where one wrong turn led to an epic adventure (soon to be a major motion picture).

First of all, I don't do a lot of freeway driving so it makes me a bit nervous. I do a lot of 2 lane windy highway driving which rarely involves going even 60mph, so when I get on I-5 and the speed limit is 70, it freaks me out a bit. Add to that all the crazy bay area drivers who believe that the safe following distance is somewhere between your bumper and your back seat, and the fact that I have no idea where I'm going, and you've got a recipe for driving hilarity.

Well, my friend and I are on our way to Marin, which in theory, is north of San Francisco, to see the famous Bellydance Superstars. I have my Yahoo map in hand and away we go. As we get closer to the bay, my friend B is reading the directions while I am trying to find the corresponding sign, and then try to figure out which lane to be in. It's kind of like some cruel real-time strategy game. Well, suffice it to say, when the 580 split, I missed it and headed to San Francisco rather than north and around it. B realizes that we're headed to the Bay Bridge, and traffic is getting thicker by the minute. She tells me to take the next right and get turned around, otherwise we're going to go way out of our way to reach our destination. Somehow I manage to convince the other drivers that I'm worthy of moving into their lane, and I finally reach the farthest right lane with an exit in sight. We will be back on track in no time.

As I exit I notice how there is no traffic on the ramp I'm now driving. What a rare and convenient occurrence in the bay area! I drive further and realize there is not another vehicle even in SIGHT on this ramp, and the ramp seems to be going parallel and over the lanes we just left. Hmmmm....Next I notice signs saying Bus Lane Only violators will be prosecuted. So that's why there are no other cars around; I'm on the bus ramp to go over the Bay Bridge! I have to laugh as we head back down the ramp towards the line of cars waiting to pay their toll. Red faced, I maneuver my car through some pylons that separate the bus lane from the law abiding citizens' lane and cut in front of someone who is shaking their head at my obvious hillbilly stupidity. B and I have a good laugh at this, and pay our toll. Whew! I'm glad I got away with that! Thankfully the bus ramp doesn't have cameras to send idiots tickets after the fact, and thankfully none of the other drivers I cut off were packing their guns that day.

B assures me that all we have to do now is go over the Golden Gate Bridge, and we'll be right on track. The exit for the Golden Gate comes up, and off I go. To get to the Golden Gate you have to go through the city for just a bit. I'm looking for signs to follow that are either too small, or hidden, or non existent, because I miss the turn and go straight. No problem, we'll just make a left, then another left and be right back on track. Easy enough, but strangely all the left turns are blocked off. We drive on and notice groups of people dressed in colorful costumes, then we notice floats parked on the side of the road, and realize that they are all getting ready for the Chinese New Year parade. Of all the days to be driving through the city, this is NOT the one. On the bright side we get a kind of drive-by view of the parade.

Traffic is stop and go, and really heavy and we are headed for the Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 tourist trap with no escape in sight. I have to go against all my instincts and start driving aggressively, running through lights at the last second, tailgating, and pushing my car into the lane I want. My nerves are shot, but the views of the city and the Golden Gate are incredible so I try to enjoy what I can. We really have no idea how to get to the Golden Gate from where we are. We can see it, but getting there may prove a bit more difficult especially with the luck I'm having today. I decide the best thing to do is follow a car that seems to know where it's going. I first pick a black Suburban. I have to abandon it after if parks. Then I see a blue BMW. It is driving with an air of authority, so I follow it like it's my mother duck. The BMW is a good bet and we are soon out of the crazy tourist area and headed to the bridge! Hooray!

Somehow we still manage to get to the show on time even after our hour and a half tour of the city. My only regret is that we didn't have time to stop at Ghiradelli Square on our impromptu detour through San Fran, because some chocolate would've done wonders to soothe my frazzled nerves.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Snake Charmer

My sister and I have always been snake lovers. Well actually we're just all around critter lovers. From the cute and cuddly to the big and slimy, we both are crazy about "all creatures great and small".

When we were young we would often catch little blue belly lizards, frogs, toads and water snakes. Our poor dad is one of those people who cannot stand the sight of a snake. It just really gives him the heebie-jeebies, and here he was blessed with two little girls who thought bringing a slithering reptile in a coffee can into the house was more fun than Barbies any day. I can only imagine how many times he must've jumped out of his skin coming across one our precious pets.

Mom, on the other hand was more like us. In fact she had a couple toads who lived under our house that she was quite fond of. One day some neighbor boys were playing in the yard and took one of these toads. Well, Mom caught wind of it and she was pissed! She was especially upset to think of what these boys might do to her toad. She immediately got on the phone and called the boys' mother. As Mom told it, the poor woman on the other end of the phone got an earful from her, as Mom demanded, "Your boys took my toad and I want them to bring it back right now!" We lived in a very small town, so the crazy toad lady episode was probably the scuttlebutt for some time afterwards.

Well, I can be a bit anal about the reptiles in my yard too, and it's good to know I come by it honestly. I do not let the kids play with my little frogs that live in the flower beds unless they are just going to handle them gently and put them back. I am also on the alert when I see one of the cats messing with something, and have saved quite a few snakes from a torturous death. I always get a thrill from holding a snake and feeling it slither through my hands--yes, I have the crazy toad lady's genes.

A few weeks ago the kids came running into the house all excited to tell me there was a rattlesnake in the yard. I figured that it probably wasn't, and that I would be saving a garter snake from the cat again. However, when I reached the front steps and saw Mike poised with his shovel, I had a feeling the kids knew what they were talking about.

As I got closer I could see the little guy trying to hide under the wooden border that separates the lawn from the driveway. He was obviously a rattler, though he wasn't rattling at the moment and I couldn't help being completely fascinated by him, and crouched down to observe him a bit closer. He was the coolest snake ever, and to think I was lucky enough to have him right in my front yard! I was apparently the only one who felt this way because about this time Mike lifted his shovel up and said, "Now everybody step back." This caught me off guard. What? He can't be serious. He wants to kill it? I tell him, "You can't kill it!" And now he was the one caught off guard. As he processed this bit of information, I could see the realization hit him that he should've just killed the dang thing and shown me the beheaded body.

I tell him he needs to find a bucket, get the snake into it and take it out to the forest and set it free. He is beyond thrilled to hear this bit of news, but reluctantly heads to the garage to find an empty garbage can. Isn't it amazing what a guy will do for a woman? He is able to get the bucket and a long stick and he very carefully starts jabbing at my sweet little snaky friend. My little friend is not happy about this and starts rattling like crazy. I've never seen a rattler this close up. Wow, it's so cool!

It only takes Mike about 3 tries to get him in the bucket. He has a look of relief on his face and is ready to take my little serpent for a walk. I tell him, "Wait! I have to get a picture of him!" and I rush to the house to get my camera. I'm pretty sure I saw Mike's eyes roll back into his head at this point. After a couple photos and a few more admiring glances I let Mike take him across the street and out in the woods where he can be safe from shovel-wielding maniacs.

I think this is a great lesson for the kids. They got to see what a rattle snake looks and sounds like and they also learned that just because you're afraid of something that you don't need to kill it. I tell the kids that they need to be careful around animals that can harm them, but if it's possible to save the animal, you should. After all, these creatures have a place in nature too.

Mike also learned a lesson that day. I think it goes something like this: Act first and tell the crazy lady later, or be prepared to spend your afternoon pretending to be Steve Irwin.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Special TV Bonding Time

Every Wednesday Sis and I make a bee-line for the couch at 8pm to watch America's Next Top Model. Yes, I admit it. Yes, I enjoy it. Yes they are a bunch of whiney, anorexic looking, brats, but that's what makes it so fun to make fun of. We love to hate the bitchy selfish girls and we love to root for the shy misunderstood ones. It's just a great show for female bonding time.

Tonight was the makeover episode which is the episode we look forward to the most next to the finale. It seems like someone always gets shaved bald, and tonight was no different. This one gal had colored and permed and abused her hair into oblivion and they had no choice but to use the clippers on it. Of course she did nothing but bitch, moan and complain about it for the rest of the show.

It reminded me of my beauty school days. There was this one girl at school who had bleached and dyed and permed and teased her hair into a soft platinum fuzz. I remember being kind of alarmed at the sight of it. She still didn't get it though. She was always trying to do more things to it. She had even bleached and damaged it so much that it was incapable of absorbing anymore color. I had my own name for her hair; I called it Frog Fluff.

ANTM brought other memories back to me too. It reminded me of the evenings watching a show with my mom. I remember we were big fans of St. Elsewhere and Knots Landing. We also watched all the sitcoms especially the Thursday night line-up on NBC, back when it was The Cosby Show, Cheers and Hill St. Blues. Those were really good memories of female bonding as well, and I feel really fortunate to have that feeling of bonding again with my own daughter. Yes, even a silly tv show can bring us together with the ones we love, and I'll take bonding wherever I can get it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Good Night Nurse!

So I was out helping take care of Dad this weekend who is recovering from bladder cancer surgery. They took his bladder out so now he has an ostomy bag. Apparently they took out his sense of modesty as well, which must be housed near the bladder in the human body.

I'm sure giving Dad a modestectomy was a minor mistake they made during the surgery and they thought we wouldn't notice that his modesty was now gone. But we did. Dad doesn't care who sees his stuff now. He just wanders around in an open robe and nothing else. He also has the habit of dragging along a big bag of urine with him. Eventually he could use his ostomy pouch which can be hidden under clothing, but for now he likes the heavy duty, industrial sized bag, because it doesn't need to be emptied but once a day. You've heard of people who seem to have a bladder the size of a watermelon and never have to pee? Well this bag is the medical version of that. It's very convenient for those who don't want the hassle of using the restroom, but for the rest of us it can be a bit distracting during meals and polite conversation.

It was my intention to go out and be of help; do laundry, fix meals, clean house, and keep an eye on Dad, giving my sister a much needed break. The first thing Dad wants to do is take a shower. Mind you this is his first shower in 6 weeks. He's pretty determined about it, and Tracy and Dave have already installed the needed equipment in the shower for him. I ask if he needs help, as it is clear to me now that I've already seen everything so I might as well help him wash it too. He declines, and on one hand I'm thinking that's good, because he needs to become independent. On the other hand it scares me to death that with the combination of soap, water, and his unstable physical condition at the moment, he'll hurt himself. He heads for the bathroom and I listen to every sound coming from behind the door. For the next 11 1/2 minutes I'm a nervous wreck. If he slips I'll feel terrible for not insisting on helping him. Finally I hear the water shut off and hear him shuttle off to his bedroom. All is well. Thank you Lord.

Then he calls out for me. So I rush back to the bedroom and he tells me not to go in the bathroom. What kind of doom awaits I can only imagine, but then he explains that he had forgotten to put the shower curtain inside the tub and got water on the floor and didn't want me to go in there for fear I would slip. He'd just as soon wait for the water to evaporate rather than put me out, but I tell him it's no problem and go start the clean up.

Well, he got quite a bit of water on the floor. A good 1/2 inch or so over the entire floor, plus the counter, the mirror, the toilet paper and the unsuspecting box of Kleenex also saw what a hand held shower head is capable of when it's not being restrained behind a curtain. It was quite a sight, and how he made it out of the shower and waded through the wetness on the linoleum without killing himself will be one of life's perpetual mysteries.

Oh, and I think your modesty regenerates. It must, because women lose theirs all the time during childbirth, but somehow it comes back. Here's hoping Dad's modesty is on the return. Soon.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Banner Day For A Mom

So my son calls me on Friday. I am quite thrilled because when he first moved away to college I thought that maybe his phone was broken and he couldn't dial out, as I didn't hear from him unless I did the calling. So on Friday this would be the second time IN A WEEK that he has called. I'm not sure whether to worry or to mark it on the calendar as a banner day.

Before I go on, keep in mind that my kid is in college studying computer animation, that he works for some sort of server company where he monitors computer networks, AND his cell phone gets the internet, so that he can "work" (and play) wherever he happens to be (yeah, he has it pretty good for a college kid).

Well, Cam has always been a man of few words, and this particular call was no different. It went something like this.

Bub: "Hey"
Me: "Hi, how's it going? What's up?" (I'm thinking please don't tell me anything that involves the words 'bail', 'out' or 'jail').
Bub: "Nothin'"
Me: "Oh. So what's new?"
Bub: "Not Much."

And so it goes for a few more rounds. Me playing 20 Questions, him playing Can I Answer In One Word Or Less. He's winning.

Finally I have to get to the point, "Are you in Jail?!"

No, I'm kidding, I didn't say that. I was just blunt, "So what do you want?"

His answer, "How much are stamps?"

Turns out he's mailing out bills and remembered that stamps had gone up but couldn't remember how much.

So I tell him, and then I ask Mr. I-Live-Eat-and-Breathe-Computers, "Why didn't you just Google it?" Oh course he's very succinct, "Eh."

I also tell him there's this thing called "internet banking" he might want to check into.

I know my kid is smart and computer savvy so maybe he knows that moms always have the need to be needed and that calling to ask me how much stamps are would make my day.

Friday, October 5, 2007

OMG! Where Are Your Pants?

I'm a very sentimental person which is why I have a drawer full of random notes and such, mostly from the kids, that I keep.

One of these treasures is a simple note from Sis, written when she was in middle school. Every time I read it, it makes me chuckle. Here's the background:

I had purchased a long-sleeved Roxy brand shirt that was popular at that time, and Sis was after me to let her wear it to school the next day, but since the weather was quite warm, I told her no, that she would be too warm in long sleeves.

Mike used to let me sleep in since I was up during the night with Baby Nat at the time, and he would take the kids to the bus stop in the mornings. So on this particular morning I woke up to a note on my dresser that read (and I resisted correcting the spelling):

"Mom, I borrowed your roxy shirt. Don't worry I'm not wearing pants. P.S. Cameron is wear all long sleeves today."

I had to laugh at the mental picture this brought to my mind, and my first thought was, "Well now I AM worried because you're not wearing any pants!" Even though I knew what she meant--she was wearing shorts to make up for the fact that she was wearing a shirt that was too warm for the outside temperature. I also appreciated that she tried to shift the focus from the fact that she had snuck into my bedroom while I was asleep and swiped my shirt that I told her she couldn't wear, to her brother who went out the door in long pants AND long sleeves. In her mind that was the true crime committed that morning! Gotta love that kid.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together

So, remember that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial where some guy is walking along with his chocolate bar and some other guy is walking along with an open jar of peanut butter ('cause you see that kind of thing every day, right?). Somehow these two inexplicably collide and the chocolate bar lands in the peanut butter. At which the two guys indignantly exclaim, "Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter!" and "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" They bravely taste it anyway and the rest is delicious history.

Desperate for something sweet today, I got out my trusty jar of peanut butter and my almost empty bag of chocolate chips and enjoyed this taste sensation and began to think of other tastes that go great together that maybe are a little different.

Have you ever had a peanut butter and bacon sandwich? I learned about this great combo from the PBS show ZOOM, that I used to watch religiously in my elementary school days. The best way to fix this sandwich is on a hot dog bun because the shape of the bun accommodates the shape of the bacon quite nicely. It's really good, I swear. If it wasn't would they have put it on tv? I rest my case!

Another good one that I've enjoyed is fresh pineapple dipped in marshmallow creme. Of course, what doesn't taste good dipped in marshmallow creme? If you go one step further and mix cream cheese and marshmallow creme together you have one tasty fruit dip.

I've heard of Fluffer-Nutter sandwiches (peanut butter and marshmallow creme), and even peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches (it's said to be like peanut butter and celery) but haven't ever tried either of these myself.

There's always that salty sweet mix that's fabulous like chocolate covered pretzels, french fries and a milkshake, and my own personal favorite: Nacho Cheese Doritos and M&M's. I lived on that lovely combo in high school for lunch, usually washing it down with a soda. Is it no wonder I was always tired and dizzy? Hmmmm. Sis swears by the combo of Crunchy Cheetos dipped in chocolate pudding. I haven't yet sampled this delicacy.

I have ambitions for making a list of things that taste terrible together such as Oreo's and OJ and then challenging people to taste them. I don't know why. Just sounds like good clean fun, I guess. "Two great tastes that gag you together" maybe?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Running the Filthy Gauntlet

So I got the Pilot waxed and detailed today (on the outside--I can handle the inside). Oh man, it was so pretty and shiny when I picked it up. The metallic paint was shined to perfection and the wheels and bumper were polished glossy black. Not too bad despite the dings from people who just whip their doors open with no courtesy to other's vehicles. Ah, well.

So off I go to drive the 20 miles home and first thing, I get caught behind Cal Trans who has their big street sweeper on the highway. They are blocking the highway and putting out a huge cloud of dust and leaving a trail of wetness along the road that I'm trying desperately to keep my tires out of without going completely into oncoming traffic. Gosh I just want to keep this car nice so I can take pictures of it and park it on the highway with a For Sale sign on it tomorrow. Is it too much to ask?

I take advantage of turning off onto the bypass as Cal Trans doesn't seem to want to take pity on the line of traffic following their motorized version of Peanut's Pig Pen, and pull over so we can pass.

Well, the bypass is yet another story. It's an old well-patched road and as luck would have it they have been recently patching it again with tarry, loose asphalt. I cringe as I hear it ping against my clean car's underside. Dang it!

Finally I'm back on the highway and heading for home. But what's this? Road construction signs? Yes indeed, they have the con crews out cleaning up the highway by cutting and chipping brush and somehow making the road a dirty dusty mess. There is just no avoiding it so on I drive.

When I finally arrive home I have to take a towel to the side of the car where the tires flipped wet road dirt, then I go around and wipe the layer of dust off the rest of the car. I think the only thing missing on the drive home was a spouting fire hydrant and a swarm of bugs.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thufferin' Thuccotash!

Disclaimer: Yes, I'm LDS, No, it's not a cult, and Yes, we are Christians.

So when Sis volunteered to give the opening prayer at Moo's baptism, she wanted to make sure she did it in the proper "Mormon form" (Sis does not attend the LDS church). So I told her the order prayers are usually said, and she promptly wrote a cheat sheet on her hand. Like Mother, Like Daughter.

You see, the first time I was called to do a prayer at church in front of the congregation, I was a nervous wreck. First of all, public speaking is not my strong suit, and secondly I feel a bit inferior to most of the other people who attend my ward. My worst fear was that I would get up there to the mic and develop a sudden case of Tourette's Syndrome. I had a terrible vision of myself trying desperately to invoke the Spirit, but instead spouting obscenities, at which point the Bishop and the Missionaries would hog tie me and drag my still-cursing body from the Chapel. Ok, so I can be a bit overdramatic.

To prevent this calamity, I wrote out an entire prayer ON MY HAND, and when the time came I completely cheated and read from my palm. This was not a proud day, but I haven't been struck by lightning yet.

Two Sundays ago I was again asked to do a prayer at church. I was feeling a bit more confident this time though. I was still really nervous, but it had been over a year since the "palm reading" incident, and I had faith that I could get through it on my own this time. I pretty much knew what I was going to say and had rehearsed it in my head few times, though it was bound to be a short-but-sweet benediction.

So up I go, feeling ok, just a bit shaky, and start the prayer. So far, so good. Then right in the middle, I develop a speech impediment. I kid you not. There are several words that my mouth cannot seem to form. I have to keep repeating myself, and it's pretty embarrassing. It seriously sounded like I had had several shots of whiskey prior to approaching the podium. Somehow, I managed to get through it, and was even able to laugh at myself afterwards. I just kept thinking: at least I only sounded drunk and not like a Tourette's patient.

I don't think anyone's going to be clamoring to ask me to lead the congregation in prayer again anytime soon though, and there may even be a conspiracy forming to send me to rehab!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Baptism

So Shelby had her baptism on Sunday. In the LDS tradition, kids are baptized when they are 8. It is the age of "accountability". It is thought that they are unable to commit sin before this age. Eight is the age when kids should be able to distinguish between right and wrong and be "accountable" for their actions.

Anyhoo...Shelby got to choose the songs for her baptism, and we had 2 women from our ward that she's close to give talks, Sis even said the opening prayer (as a side note, Sis can sure project-as in speak loudly enough for all to hear. I really admire her. I have the wimpiest voice ever. I'm glad Sis loves drama. I really think it's a calling for her. Plus she doesn't get nervous about speaking in front of a group---darn her self confidence anyway!) Oh, and the current Miss Calaveras County sang a solo at the baptism which was very cool too.

Shelby had to be in a white jumpsuit for the occasion, which the church provided, and my friend made sure to tell me to find some white underwear--she emphasized to be sure that Moo was in white from head to toe. The day before we were lucky enough to find completely white undies at Sears. Not as easy as it sounds. Nearly every pair of girls' underwear has either Dora or Bratz or Disney Princesses on them, and if not that, they at least have pink elastic on the waist band. So I was very proud of my find, and feeling pretty confident.
So right before Shelby goes in to get dressed in her jumpsuit I realize she has blue pony tail holders in her French braids. (One of my friends suggested French braids so we wouldn't have to hassle with drying her hair afterward, plus it insures that everything goes completely under during the baptism preventing the dreaded "do-over"). Yikes, my heart sunk. This was going to mess up the whole plan. But, someone was looking out for us because as luck would have it, Nat wanted her hair braided that morning too, and in an uncharacteristic move, wanted two braids (she usually insists on one and only one!) and in an equally uncharacteristic move wanted white pony tail holders instead of her standard issue pink ones. When I looked down and realized that Nat had white pony tail holders, it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone down and the angels started singing! Halllelujah! (Maybe you have to be a mom to get that excited about pony tail holders) And to prove that it was truly a religious experience I didn't even have to bribe, threaten or cajole Nat to lend them to her sister for the baptism. Yay!
Shelby was a little nervous about the baptism, and a little uncomfortable being the center of attention, but it all went well, and she was happy afterwards.

Down By The (E)Bay, Where The Watermelons Grow

So this whole financial revelation (sounds better than crisis, right?) has led me to get creative and finally motivated to sell anything that's not nailed down.

I've heard some great stories about Ebay. My friend's hubby listed a ratty, well-used, basically thrashed but still usable backpack and was hoping to get 25 bucks for it. In the end he had people cyber-killing each other over it and sold it for an amazing $275 to some guy in Hong Kong. Turns out it was some sort of collector's-item-rare-thing-of-some-sort.

So right now, I've listed some down coats, a couple leather coats, my old White's logging boots from my forestry days and some Radio Flyer toys. I'm actually getting lots of hits and questions and a few bids. So far, when the things with bids sell I will be almost $50 richer, and hopefully all the items will sell eventually.

I know Ebay with it's auction format makes it more fun to buy stuff. When you bid on something you don't know if you'll "win" it or not. And then it gets competitive, and then people just kind of lose their minds (and their grip on reality) and have to have it.

Yes, I have bid on things and in those last minutes it's quite exciting to keep refreshing the screen to see if your bid will win. I have not spent over 40 bucks on anything on Ebay, and I have officially quit searching for things, because if you search, you will find it, and then it's so dang tempting to want to get it.

So here's hoping I have some sort of collectors-item-rare-thing-of-some-sort hiding in my closet just waiting to make me a mint on Ebay.

Ebay update: 9 of my 12 items listed sold, and I made $153. Woo-hoo! Yes, I'm listing more stuff. This is kind of fun, and yet another excuse to goof off on the computer.