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...