Monday, January 23, 2012

Another Quick Funny from Brekken

While sitting in church yesterday, Brekken leaned over and whispered: "Mommy, when I was sitting there being all quiet, did you hear me?"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick Funny from Brekken

Haley loves to sing the "Do-Re-Mi" song from the Sound of Music. Brekken was singing along with her this morning and insists that the lyrics are: "Re... a drop of golden thumb."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Another exciting installment in the life of the Shields family...

It has been quite a week here. On Sunday morning I got up to throw something in the crockpot before church and when I pulled my bag of frozen onions out of the freezer, I noticed that they were not actually frozen. In fact, they were pretty soft. Still cold, but not at all what they should be when coming out of the freezer. We crossed our fingers that someone had left the freezer door ajar overnight, closed it up tightly in the hopes that it would all freeze up again, and headed for church. When we got home, the freezer had not miraculously recovered. So we started pulling everything out to salvage what we could. Thank goodness we have a second freezer in the laundry room! Once we'd cleaned out the freezer, we started evaluating the fridge and realized it was not so cold anymore either. So we rescued all that we could, stuffing most of it in the freezer and running some down the street to a friend's refrigerator.

Of course, now we were without a fridge, so we had to go looking for a new one. (I know it was Sunday and we're not supposed to shop, but it felt like extenuating circumstances.) We tried an appliance outlet store first, on the theory that outlet = cheaper. Not so much. The refrigerators at the outlet store were very nice and all, but the cheapest one they had was $700+. The floor salesman did eventually help us out and showed us a 3/4 size fridge (tiny) with a lot of scratch and dent damage for only $450. I had looked at Home Depot's website earlier and I was just sure we could find a better deal than that, so we told the salesman we'd be back and headed for the closest Home Depot. Sure enough, there we were able to find a full-size fridge (though without ice and water in the door - I will miss that) without scratches and dents for $450. Plus the delivery and haul-away of the old appliance were free (extra charge for that at the outlet store). We had to use the $$ we'd been saving for a trip to Utah to buy the fridge, but we felt pretty good overall. We hadn't gone into debt to buy the fridge, so we were glad we'd had the trip fund available, even if that wasn't how we'd planned to use it. The new fridge couldn't be delivered until Friday, but we just had to make it that long and then things would be back to normal. A friend from the ward loaned us a dorm-room fridge, so we could at least have milk and applesauce around for the kids. Everything was okay after all.

Then came Monday night. About 11:00, Aaron and I were watching House Hunters (as usual - we're addicted to that show) when we both heard something strange. We went to investigate and found water just pouring from water heater. It's a 60 gallon heater, so there was a LOT of water available to drain out. I frantically tried damming it up with towels as Aaron tried to shut off the water. We looked everywhere for a shut-off valve, but the owner's manual didn't show one. He called his dad for advice, but they were still unable to figure out where it was located. (WHY is the water shut off not a huge red switch?!? When it was eventually located (far too late) it was a tiny lever at the bottom of the tank - which had been hidden under the rushing water when we looked for it.) Eventually, Aaron had to shut it off at the street in order to stop the flow of water from the heater. Then he got to join me in the oh-so-fun clean up. By far the worst was the laundry room, where the water had run so deep and fast that it swirled up and into and then back out of the cats' litter boxes. I can't express how lovely it was to be trying to clean up the water (more than ankle deep at this point) with the contents of the cat boxes floating all around me. I swept and swept the water out of the back door - and feel lucky that there was at least an outside door there to send the water through. We used almost every towel in the house in the clean-up... and after the grossness of the clean-up in the laundry room, I don't know if they can ever be clean enough for regular use again. It's going to take copious amounts of hot water and bleach, I can tell you that. I don't care if they are colored towels.

The kitchen was also awash in water, as was part of the hallway. And then we discovered that the water had seeped under the wall into the kids' room... and of course, it was the wall where we had all the toys and toyboxes stacked. And the lightbulb had burned out in that room and we hadn't changed it yet. So at 3:00 in the morning, Aaron and I are in there in the dark trying to move everything away from that wall and soak up the water. We are just hurling things across to the other side of the room to get it away from that wall and hoping like anything that the water will stop before it gets to that other side of the room. (Luckily, only Brekken was in the room - the others were asleep in our room - so we just picked him up and moved him to our room and he never woke up.) We had to empty the closet where all the outgrown and to-be-grown-into clothes are stored, but luckily I keep most of them stored in plastic bags, so the water didn't get to the clothes.

It was 4:30 a.m. by the time we stumbled in to bed. And of course, Rylen then woke up and thought it would be a great time to play! But I'm glad he slept through all the excitement until then. It would have been much more difficult if we'd had to deal with kids while trying to clean up.

The insurance compancy has been great. By 9:00 the next morning, they had a team out there working on drying up all the water and mitigating the water damage. We have 5 or 6 enormous fans and a couple of huge dehumidifiers set up around the house. The heat put off by all that equipment is holding the house at a toasty 85 degrees. I'm just glad it's not any warmer outside, or the heat inside would probably be unbearable! They had to rip out our kitchen and laundry room floors to get to all the water under the flooring. They had to rip out a bunch of insulation underneath the house because it was saturated with water. But they promise they're going to fix all of that and in only 4 or 5 weeks we'll have the house back to normal.

I didn't get any shots while the house was flooded (what was I thinking? I should have pulled out the camera.) but here's what it looks like now, with my floors missing.

So at that point, we're all living in the master bedroom, because we can't have the kids out there with ripped up floors and all that equipment. We've got no running water, so we're using bottled water to drink and flush toilets, but there's no water for bathing/showering - which is really lovely after all that time wading around in the disgusting water. We're eating all take-out, because I don't really have the things I need to cook (some are now frozen, other ingredients are in Michelle's fridge, but they're not available to me) and we can't risk cooking too much and having leftovers, because leftovers won't fit in the tiny fridge.

It was Wednesday before we got a plumber out there to shut off the water to the water heater and turn it back on to the rest of the house. In retrospect, I think we got ripped off and paid too much for that... but we were just so desperate to have running water again! He also gave us a quote for a new water heater and installation... which was more than $3,000! Now Aaron and I had gone out the day before and priced water heaters and we thought we were probably looking at something like $1000. So to hear this quote? I cried. I literally sat there and cried because I just couldn't take it anymore and had no idea what we were going to do.

We sent the plumber away and then went back to Home Depot to get a comparison quote. Turns out we had not been looking at the right type of water heater, so the cost overall was more than the $1000 we'd estimated, but the Home Depot quote for installation was less than $1500. Quite a difference from the plumber's quote! (In other news, I am now encouraging all my children to be plumbers when they grow up - I think they'll make a nice living that way.) Needless to say, we went with Home Depot. Aaron's parents came to the rescue with a loan until we get our tax return (Here's hoping it's a good one, since we still need to have the van repaired, too!). Home Depot came yesterday (Thursday) and installed the water heater. I don't know if a shower has ever felt as good as the one I took yesterday afternoon!

So now we have running cold AND hot water. We'll have a regular fridge again this afternoon. All (or at least most) of the drying equipment should be picked up today, too. Other than the ripped up floors and all the contents of the laundry room and kids' room piled around the rest of the house, life may be almost back to normal soon. And hey, other than that strange arthritis in my knee, I think I'm finally over the flu!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cake Pops

My kids have seen the info-mercials for cake pops for the last year or so and have been obsessed with them. They begged me to call and order the baking pans so we could make our own, but I didn't give in.

Then one day a friend told me about this:

It's just a little appliance like a waffle maker. You spoon in some cake mix and a few minutes later, you have little cake balls. So easy. So cheap (less than $20 at Target for the cooker). And something to make the kids happy. I'm in!

They cook up nice and round.

You can make a bunch in a short time. (And if you have extras, they keep well in the freezer for a treat later.)
I made up a little plate for each kid with everything they needed to decorate some cake pops.

Eating them was even more popular than decorating!
Brekken is mad at me because I made him stop eating long enough to take a picture.

And Rylen didn't decorate any, but he sure enjoyed eating them!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More Semi than Sandra

Have you ever watched Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking show? The premise of it is great... she's going to show you how to combine store-bought ingredients to make it seem like a homemade meal. I love that idea... that's how I tend to cook. But to me her show just doesn't quite deliver. I mean, I don't deny that she makes some delicious-looking food. I'd love to try it! But when you're making your own sauces from scratch (those come in bottles you know) and your cooking instructions include the use of instruments such as duck snippers (I have no idea what those might be), it's missing the mark for me.

My own definition of semi-homemade is to take something from a box or a can and doctor it up until it tastes homemade.

Like my arancini... based on Rice-a-Roni instead of risotto.

And my homemade mac and cheese... which starts with boxed Kraft mac and cheese. (Prepare two boxes of mac and cheese as usual, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, a splash of milk, and a cup of shredded cheese - even better if you have a couple of varieties of cheese - put in a casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs and some shredded Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. You'd never believe it started as a box mix.)

My award winning white chicken chili (okay, so it was just a work pot-luck, but it was an award nonetheless) - canned beans, canned chicken broth, canned peppers... thrown together in a crockpot for a few hours.

The homemade pot pies my kids love... which are really just a bunch of storebought ingredients thrown together because the kids were begging for pot pies and I didn't want to go to the store and buy any. (Half a piece of refrigerated biscuit dough in the bottom of a cupcake tin, topped with a spoonful of cream of chicken soup and a scoop of frozen veggies, topped with the other half of the biscuit dough.)

I'm so much more semi-homemade than Sandra. Now if I can just convince Food Network to give me my own show...

Monday, January 9, 2012


My mom has complained a couple of times when she's come to stay with us that our house seems to be just a little bit haunted. It's nothing too alarming, but frequently one of the many electronic toys around our house will start talking or making noises for no reason that you can see. No one is around, no cats bumped it to trigger it, it just starts on its own. It can be a little unnerving when you're alone in a quiet house and this keeps happening.

And I have to admit, it flat out gave me the creeps the other night when I wandered out to the kitchen at 3 in the morning to get a drink... in the silent house where everyone was sleeping (even the cats) I suddenly heard a toy exclaim: "Peek-a-boo! I see you!"

I may or may not have yelped and scurried back to the bedroom to cuddle up to Aaron...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday to Haley

Haley's birthday is December 27 and we always make sure to make it a very separate celebration from Christmas. This year I took some vacation time and stayed home with her to celebrate. Preston was home, too, since the daycare Haley and Preston attend was charging holiday rates. We sent the little boys to their daycare as usual so I could take Haley and Preston out for the day.

We started off with a trip to Sweet and Sassy, where I had a Groupon for a glam makeover package for Haley. It was her own little spa day, where they gave her a manicure, fixed her hair (lots of glittery sparkle spray), did her makeup (barely there, but enough to make her very happy), and even gave her a special birthday girl tiara to wear for the day. She loved it!

From there, it was off to lunch where, thanks to her birthday tiara, they gave her a birthday sopapilla and sang happy birthday to her. She enjoyed being the center of attention.

Preston just enjoyed being along for the ride.

After lunch we went to Ceramics in the City, where the kids each picked a project to paint. They had a great time personlizing their projects and keep asking when they can go back again. (It was a lot of fun - I would love to go back again too!)

We headed home to let mom rest for a couple of hours, then it was time for birthday dinner. Haley had specifically requested Cinzetti's (yummy Italian buffet restaurant) and since it was a kids eat free night, we agreed. The lesson we learned was that you should NEVER go to Cinzettis on a kids eat free night during a school holiday week. I have never seen so many people crammed into a waiting area. We managed to squeeze inside and find a place for everyone to stand (standing room only doesn't come close to describing how crowded it was in there - and it's a really big waiting area) and I wormed my way to the front to check in for our 6:45 reservation. Parties of two (usually the fastest to get seated) were being quoted a wait time of 75 minutes. I guess it shows how good the food is that people accepted that and sat down to wait.

We waited 45 minutes past our reservation time and FINALLY got a table. Then began the dance of you sit here while I help these two fill a plate... now I'll sit while you go fill a plate for that one and that one... oh wait, now this one needs to go to the bathroom... now this one needs to go... I'll wait here while you get a plate... but now this one needs to find the bathroom... I'm going to get a plate - I guess I'll take these two with me to get their refills... What do you MEAN you're full - Daddy and I haven't even eaten anything yet!

Whew! It was exhausting! It reminded me why we don't take the children to buffet restaurants... it's just too much work. But Haley thoroughly enjoyed her birthday dinner. She opened her presents at the restaurant and was thrilled to get more pillow pets, a beautiful new Sunday dress, and the Nintendo DS she's been asking for for two years. (She didn't care in the least that it's used and several years old!) And of course, with her birthday tiara, she got a fancy birthday cake and a birthday song. (She didn't actually care for the cake that much, but I thought it was delicious!)

And next time, Aaron and I are going to Cinzettis without the kids. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I thought I wouldn't like having early church (9 a.m.) on Christmas morning. But it was really very nice. We got up early enough that the kids could see what Santa brought and play with it a little, then had some breakfast and got everyone ready for church. We enjoyed a really nice Christmas program and then headed home for lunch and presents. It was nice the way that it spread things out a little... usually the kids are pushing to open presents immediately after checking out the gifts from Santa and it seems like Christmas is all over with almost as soon as it began. This year the Christmas excitement lasted a little longer and it was lovely.
Rylen looked so cute in his Sunday best.

Rylen enjoyed hanging out with Daddy on Christmas

Santa brought Preston a Transformer

Brekken got a Transformer, too.
Rylen got a new car.

Haley got a new fashion doll.
Preston and Brekken got Paper Jamz guitars and they were rocking out!

Preston and Brekken both got new airplanes that they like very much.

Haley got her very own real guitar. She is working on learning to play it and looking forward to some lessons from Grandpa Schurz!

Grandma thriftily used an old box to wrap up a present for Brekken. When he took off the wrapping paper he was so excited: "A heater! My very own heater!" Who knew he'd been wanting a heater? LOL He was happy with the present that was ACTUALLY inside as well and not too disappointed not to have his own heater.
We also added to our family of pillow pets this Christmas... bedtime now requires that we locate about a dozen much-beloved pillow pets to tuck everyone in. Not sure how I managed to not get pictures of any of those!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas Train

It's long delayed, but I'm finally getting around to posting pictures of our outing on the Christmas Train. I bought a Groupon for the Christmas Train in November and it was good for 3 weekends in December. Of course, I was deathly ill for the first two weekends, so the last weekend was my last chance. I didn't want to waste the Groupon and the kids really wanted to go, so in spite of the fact that Aaron had to work, I decided to take the kids to the Christmas Train.

My first clue that maybe this was a little bigger event than I realized was when we were directed to event parking before reaching the train museum. We parked in the big lot and then had to catch a bus to the museum. The kids were thrilled! A bus! A HUGE BUS! They couldn't believe how lucky they were to be able to ride the bus. I was a little less thrilled, because it meant that my plans to transport Rylen in the stroller got scratched. Plan B, pop Rylen in the Snugli carrier and off we went.

The kids got to play on various pieces of train equipment.

I could barely drag the boys away... though they were very disappointed that it was chained in place on the tracks and I could not push them around (in this enormous, heavy piece of equipment) as they requested.

They wanted a picture with all the trains to show how big they (the trains) were.

We waited in line by this train for a VERY, VERY long time before we actually boarded the Christmas train.
And finally, the highlight of the day was a trip around the tracks on the old steam train. The kids loved it... though I couldn't get a great picture of them because I had a bad angle. But they are smiling and having fun. :)

After all the exploration of the trains and the train ride, we also saw Santa. Unfortunately I was stumbling with exhaustion by then (a day long excursion with four small children is not a smart idea when you are recovering from the flu) and completely forgot to get any Santa pictures. Next year...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I've been MIA...

That flu really knocked me for a loop. I was really down and out for about 2 weeks, then dragging for another week. And four weeks later I'm FINALLY almost over it. Still too easily exhausted. Still with the stuffy, snotty head, annoying cough and a voice that comes and goes. But it's better than it was.

I've gone from this handful of meds (4 times a day):
To just this:

I've also learned a nifty new phrase: Reactive Arthritis. Apparently this is where your body decides it's not bad enough to have the flu. Not enough to get strange rashes all over as a result of either the flu or the meds you're taking to combat the flu. No, let's add in a strange condition where for some reason the flu virus triggers your body to start attacking your own joints, resulting in a sudden-onset case of arthritis. In my case, most of my joints are a little sore, but my right knee for some reason is the major target. It's all swollen and sore and doesn't want to work for minor tasks like walking. Thus the ibuprofen, which does help somewhat. But hey, the good news is that it should only last 3-12 months... *sigh*

Believe me, I will NOT be late to get my flu shot next year!