Tuesday, December 18, 2012

R is for Ridiculous

Ridiculous is the only word for my Christmas tree project.  It's seriously something worthy of Pinstrosity. (BTW, if you're a Pinterest fan and haven't checked out pinstrosity.blogspot.com/, you have to go take a look. Hilarious!) 

The Backstory
A few years ago, we had an artifical Christmas tree. It was pre-lit to save a little work when setting it up. And for the first year or two, it worked really well. But then some of the branches started to droop. The gaps grew bigger. The tree was wobbly. And the pre-lit lights started burning out. It was sadly bedraggled. And that was before the cat started climbing it. By the end of its last season, the tree was in bad shape. It just wasn't worth storing and pulling out again the next year. So out to the curb went the tree.

Instead of buying another artificial tree, I decided to go with something a little untraditional. We put up an outdoor tree of lights and used it as our Christmas tree. It was a bit unusual, but I liked it. It was actually quite convenient the way you could stack all the gifts inside the tree as a bit of protection from curious cats and toddlers.

But these trees are not very durable, either. So after a few years, it also found itself on the curb.

The Project
When it came time to put up a Christmas tree this year, we no longer had a tree - artificial, outdoor, or otherwise. I looked for something in my price range, but could not find something that I liked for a price I was willing to pay. And then I had a bright idea! I would create my own tree of lights.

I bought several strings of discount LED Christmas lights online, some green wrapping paper, and a bag of bows usually used to decorate presents. I spent about $15 altogether, which was right in my price range. :)

And then I started building the tree. I carefully cut out a traditional tree shape from the wrapping paper and stuck it to the wall with double-stick mounting tape. It looked good, but plain. So the next step was to add lights. I used the mounting tape to meticulously criss-cross my light strings and it looked pretty good! The kids stuck the bows all over the tree for the final touch. Unfortunately, I was unable to take a picture before the tape started giving way.

It turns out the paint on my walls has some sort of adhesive-repelling properties. (Marker, crayon, and dirt, however, are not the least bit repelled.) The tape would just not stick. So I pulled out the painter's tape and started fortifying the mounting tape with the familiar blue tape. It didn't look quite as pretty any more, but at least it was up. I took time to fix some dinner for the family - during which time the blue tape gave way as well, bringing most of the tree crashing down. Frustrated, I turned to the ultimate tape... traditional silver duct tape. The real stuff, too, not some knock-off brand. It didn't blend. It wasn't discreet in any way. But it was going STICK, darn it! Nothing beats duct tape. I taped that tree and lights with about half a roll of duct tape to be sure it wouldn't move. I watched it suspiciously for a while, but it seemed secure. I went to bed. And by the time we got up, the tree was falling from the wall. The paper was peeling down in strips. The bows were mostly laying on the floor. The lights had become a tangled ball dangling randomly from the front of the "tree."

Just what I had pictured when I had this idea, can you tell?

The Project - Take Two
This pathetic excuse for a tree remained for a couple of weeks until I finally had a chance to build it again. I finally wised up and bought a big box of pushpins. I cut out a new tree and pinned it securly to the wall. Then I wrapped the wires around the end of the pins. Much easier this time to criss-cross my light strings and keep them all up! I pinned the bows as well. So my wall is full of pin-holes, but my tree is up and has stayed that way for almost 2 weeks now! It's a pretty good-looking tree now, I think. Maybe even Pin-worthy instead of a Pinstrosity. :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Q is for Questions

Today I am questioning why people make such horrible choices. There are so many questions and thoughts racing through my head, but they all boil down to: Why did Adam Lanza decide to go into an elementary school and start shooting children?

I know that people have free agency to make their own choices, but it's never so hard to accept that doctrine as it is when terrible things like this happen. It doesn't lead me to question why God lets it happen, though, because I have faith that He is there. He is comforting those children now. He will comfort the families as much as He can. He weeps as much as we do over these terrible events, yet still he allows us all to keep our free agency - no matter how much it hurts.

A mass shooting is always a terrible event. I don't understand the thinking that leads someone to decide that is the course they should take. But as the mother of young children, this one hits even harder. I have a kindergartener. And for all that he drives me crazy at times, I would be devastated if anything were to happen to him. Since hearing the news of the CT shooting, all I can do is wonder What If.

What if it were my child's school? What if it were my child's classroom? What if it was my child? I am in tears. I am shaking and queasy and so, so sad. I can't imagine what the parents of those children are going through.

I don't know if we'll ever have answers to our questions about today's terrible tragedy. We may never know why Lanza decided to do this horrible thing. I wish we could know. I wish that knowledge would help us stop this from ever happening to another school, another family, another community.

I cannot find the answers. I cannot do anything to help from the opposite side of the country. But I can leave work to go see my babies and hug them all so tight. I can say a prayer of gratitude that I am still able to hold my family close. And I can love them with all my might every single day.

Excuse me while I go do that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

P is for Preston

Preston is my sweetheart little boy. He loves to come up and give you hugs. And cling and climb all over you. And just wants to be way too close all the time. But even if I occasionally have to cry Enough! to the clinginess and send him on to play, it's still sweet.

He's so tiny. He's currently outweighed by his 4-year-old brother and is only about an inch taller than Brekken. Needless to say, that makes him the smallest in his 1st grade class by far. But it rarely seems to register with him. He's such a little dynamo - constantly running here, there and everywhere. Aaron and I joke that the reason he doesn't grow is because he's so full of energy that he burns off every calorie he eats before it has a chance to do him any good!

Running, climbing, jumping off of things, breaking things, constantly fighting with his brother... he's all boy. Frankly, it drives me nuts sometimes. :)

He's also very emotional. Everything is a worst-case scenario for him. If he gets banned from the computer for an hour then he's NEVER GOING TO GET TO PLAY COMPUTER AGAIN! A time out leads to YOU HATE ME! YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO LET ME OUT OF THIS ROOM! Time to stop playing and get ready for church on Sunday? NO!! I HATE CHURCH! I'M NOT GOING! JUST LEAVE ME HERE BY MYSELF! And this in spite of the fact that once we're at church he has fun and frequently on the way home from church he tells us - I'm not going to throw a fit next week. I just forgot that I liked it. *sigh*

He loves dinosaurs. A few months ago he picked out a book about dinosaurs from his school book order. I looked at it - a 20 pg book about various types of dinosaurs - and then looked at the book next to it - a dinosaur encyclopedia of over 100 pages about every dinosaur currently known for only a couple of dollars more. I made the swap and got him the encyclopedia. It's best buy I've made for him! He adores that book. He looks at it every night. He and Aaron sat together for many nights until they had read every page. Now Preston sits with me and reads the pages to me. It makes me laugh a little that I sometimes have to help him with everyday words like first or later, but he has absolutely no problem reading paleontologist, Eoraptor, Dimetrodon, or Corythrosaurus. Nothing we've done to help him start reading has been anywhere close to as motivating as that impulse purchase of a dinosaur book.

He also loves to play on the computer. Given his choice, he would spend hours and hours on end just playing Lego and racing games and puzzles and alien wargames online. It's devastating to him when he is forced to move away from the computer and do something active. (Of course, once he has gotten over the fit, he moves like a whirlwind and wreaks so much havoc that you want to beg him to go back to the computer.)

His siblings are his closest friends. And his deadliest enemies. They laugh and play joyously together and then minutes later they're slugging it out in earnest. Screaming with laughter or screaming with rage. All in the course of a normal 10 minutes at our house.

In spite of the fact that he makes me crazy, I adore him. He's such a cute, precious child. We're lucky to have him in the family.

Monday, December 3, 2012

O is for Oops

I have soup for lunch pretty much every day. A different variety from day-to-day, sure (for example, today's offering is chicken and wild rice and tomorrow I'm going to get crazy with some pasta fagiole), but still - every day it's soup.

This habit is due less to my love for soup than to the fact that the local store often puts cans of Progresso soup on sale at 10 for $10. I stock up whenever there is a sale, then keep a supply in my desk at work so I always have lunch on hand. And for only $1 a day, I feel like I'm being fiscally responsible.

Having the same thing for lunch every day lends itself to creating a bit of a routine. Every day I reach blindly into my desk drawer to grab a can of soup. (This is where I get my excitement from lunch - I know it's soup, but until I pull it out I don't know which one! Whoopee!) I then go to the break room and pour the soup into a bowl, place the bowl in the microwave, and set it for 3 minutes. (It's always 3 minutes.) While it heats I refill my mug with ice and water, drop it off back and my desk, and make a quick visit to the ladies room. When I get back, my soup has finished heating and I can head back to my office to eat while I read a book.

Nothing too thrilling about the routine, but it generally works pretty well. Until today. When I apparently followed all the usual steps in my routine except the one that says I should press "Start" on the microwave before I walk away. Oops! I did follow the rest of my routine, including removing the soup from the microwave and sitting down to eat. I didn't notice until I took the first bite that it was stone cold.

I may be the only one laughing at this one - but I found it amusing. Not as good as the time my aunt popped a piece of gum in her mouth without removing the foil, but right up there with my sandwich last week that included the wax paper from my slice of cheese. :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Quick Funny from Preston

Taking a break from the alphabet theme to share a quick funny.

Preston was singing to himself and I wasn't really paying too much attention. I recognized the song he was singing, so in my head I heard the lyrics as they're sung on the radio.

"Party rock is in the house tonight
Everybody just have a good time
And we gonna make you lose your mind
Everybody just have a good time "

But when I stopped and listened a little closer, I realized he was actually singing:

"Potties rockin' in the house tonight
Everybody just have a good time
We're all gonna go at the same time
Everybody just have a good time"

Subtle differences, but it really becomes a very different song. He's convinced that his version is correct. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

N is for Number 2

Number 2. As in 2 years. 2 YEARS! How can it have been two years since my baby was born? I still think of him as my sweet baby in spite of the fact that he is walking, climbing, jumping, talking (a little), and getting into more than enough trouble for any official 2-year-old. He doesn't look like a baby anymore. He's a little boy.

2 years. It makes me sad to think that I won't get to experience those baby moments again. The newborn snuggles. The brand new baby fresh from heaven. All the little learning moments as the baby grows into a toddler.

I know there are many more happy moments ahead. I know there are many things to love about age 2, 3, 4, and beyond. But right now, I just feel a little bit sad that my baby is really not a baby anymore.

1 year
2 years

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

M is for Movie

Yesterday I had a brainstorm while at work (I may have been procrastinating my actual work). It suddenly occurred to me that it had been a long time since we took the kids to a movie (the last show they saw in the theater was The Princess and the Frog when Rylen was a few months old). Since they had been asking to see Wreck It Ralph and there was no school the next day, I thought we should have a family movie night.

Unfortunately, when I called Aaron to pitch the idea, he wasn't feeling well. He's not a huge fan of movies anyway, so going to a show with the kids when he didn't feel good did not sound fun to him. I didn't want to give up on the plan; so we decided that Aaron would stay home with Rylen (who would likely not sit still for a movie anyway) and go to bed early. And I would take the other three to the movie.

I got home from work to give the kids a quick dinner before heading out. And got a great surprise! In spite of not feeling well, Aaron had spent his day off with the kids cleaning the house! It looked so much better than when I left the house that morning. What a great husband I have.

The kids and I headed out for the movie and had a great time. They were well-behaved and got along and really enjoyed the movie. It was not my favorite kids' movie ever, but it was cute. More importantly, I loved snuggling with the kiddos on our "date night" while we watched the movie. It was really nice to just spend some time enjoying them for a change.

Monday, November 19, 2012

L is for La-La-La

I am currently the Primary chorister at church. I do about a half hour of music time for the 3 - 8-year-olds, 10 minutes for the 18 month - 3-year-olds, and then another half hour for the 9 - 11-year-olds. Every week.

I'll admit that when I first got this calling, I wasn't thrilled. You see, I used to be a Primary chorister. And I had that job for - literally - years. I can't remember exactly how long it was, but I went through two pregnancies and spent quite a bit of time leading music with my right hand while holding a baby on my left hip. In fact, I spent so MUCH time leading music this way that I still don't really know what to do with my left hand while leading. :)

By the time I was done with the job last time around, I was really DONE with the job. I was burned out. Because at first glance it doesn't seem like such a hard job. You go in, you sing some songs, you go home. But you also need to plan in advance. You have to make materials to help them learn the song. You have to keep their attention. You have to try and get them to sing. You have to sing the same songs, over and over and over again... even when they're songs you've never loved in the first place. You play games, you entertain, you perform... all to try to get them to participate long enough to learn a few songs for the annual program performance. By the end of each week, you can be exhausted. That's the part that I mostly remembered when they asked me to take on this job again. So I accepted, but I had reservations.

Happily for me, I had forgotten all the good parts of being the chorister. For what other job at church can I make a big cardboard turkey? Or stage a snowball fight? Or play games every week?

I get to watch the little faces light up when I announce that we're going to sing Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes - the FAST version. I get to see someone beaming with excitement when they get to choose a favorite song to sing. I get to hear them improving week by week as they learn a new song. And since this is my second shot at this, I've learned a few things that help me enjoy it more.

  1. I don't take it so seriously. Sometimes, the kids aren't going to pay attention. Sometimes, they don't want to sing. Sometimes, I forget the words. And all of that is okay. I used to feel like I had to make sure every kid was involved and participating. And now I accept that not all of them will. I don't give up on them ever, but I don't take it as a personal failure, either.
  2. I choose songs I like. After so many years in Primary (when I wasn't the chorister, I've still been involved as a teacher or substitute for a lot of the time), I know most of the songs really well. And some of them I am really tired of hearing. So I go out of my way to find songs that aren't sung very often. And I teach the kids some of my favorite songs. And if it's one I don't like... I just kind of leave it off the list. (Unless one of the kids requests it.)
  3. I have fun. I goof around plenty. I make silly visuals. I joke with the kids. And sometimes I just go with the flow. When the kids have suggestions - like let's sing the words out of order - we go ahead and try it. It may not work out, but it's a good time.
The moment that it really sank in that I'm enjoying the job this time happened yesterday. I was finishing up singing time with the older kids and they had just learned a Thanksgiving song. One of the girls piped up and asked: "Can we do that in a round?" How exciting that they were participating and wanting to do more! We decided to not only do it in a round, but in the complicated 4-part round. We split the room into 4 groups, assigned out starting points, and went for it. And with no rehearsal, no stress, no trouble at all, they sang through this song flawlessly in a 4-part round. It was just a simple song, but it sounded so wonderful. And it made me so happy that they were so involved in it. Even the 11-year-old boys joined in - and believe me, most 11-year-old boys don't jump at the chance to sing!

It was a simple little song. A simple little moment. But it made me really happy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

K is for Karma?

I think I may have done something bad along the way and karmic payback is leading to several runs of bad luck.

The toilet failed and leaked copious amounts of water all over the bathroom. Had to replace it. So I went to the store and bought the one I wanted and arranged for someone to come install it. Unfortunately, I did not notice that the toilet that was loaded into my car was NOT the one I had pointed out to the sales associate. I realized a very short time before the installer was due to arrive on Saturday and raced to the store to get the right one. Of course, the toilet I brought home the first time is still sitting in our bathroom because it was too heavy for me to load back in the car by myself! Must remember to take that back... The bright side was that the kids thought it was incredibly interesting to watch the plumber install the new toilet. Haley was especially fascinated, given her ambitions to become a plumber herself someday.

As an amusing side-note, the plumber had an accent. At one point he brought in a shop vac and the kids asked what it was. Her told them it was a "vaw-cuum" - in his charming accent. Now Brekken cannot be convinced that it was actually just a vaccuum. He insists that it is a special plumbing tool known as a vaw-cuum. :)

Speaking of leaking water... the dishwasher has also been leaking water every time I wash a load of dishes. Even worse, it's not getting the dishes clean. For some reason, though, I kept trying. Even though eventually - after running a load through 2-3 times - I generally pulled most items out and washed them by hand. It does help keep the floor around the dishwasher cleaner, though, since I have to mop it every time I try to wash dishes. Having finally had enough - and also convinced Aaron that it was enough - I scoped out new dishwashers at Home Depot. I was simultaneously glad and slightly upset to learn that Home Depot was running a Black Friday sale the next day. Glad - for obvious reasons. Sad - because I had to postpone buying the dishwasher for a couple of days and I had been all psyched up to deal with the traumatic blow to the bank account! It was, in fact, worth going back later in the week. The dishwasher I had looked at earlier was now $75 cheaper - and even better, installation fees had dropped from $129 to only $39. $165 in savings is good in my book! I am ridiculously excited to do some dishes after it is installed tomorrow. It has powered silverware jets! A dedicated jet for the upper rack! A disposal! It works with the crappy new dishwashing detergents! Tomorrow's going to be a good day. And for tonight... we'll continue eating off paper plates.

I have a tooth that is giving me fits. It aches and sometimes throbs. It makes my whole face and head hurt. But if I brush it with enough Sensodyne, it goes away for a while. And yes, I know that's not a good solution. I know I should see a dentist. But I'm one of those people with an irrational fear of the dentist. And it's really not so much a fear of pain - I have that already. Frankly, it's a fear of criticism if the dentist thinks I have bad dental habits. Not to mention the fear of the bill that comes along with the dental visit. We have some very worthless dental insurance...

So there's the latest run of bad luck. In addition to the rest that we've had this year, I'm starting to think I should make an Earl-style list. (Anyone else remember that show?) On the other hand, plenty of good things happen around here, too. Sometimes it just feels a little harder to remember those things!

We did manage to pay off the van this month, though. Hallelujah! I've discovered a new affection for the car since paying it off. When it acted up before, it was always "I can't believe I'm still paying on this piece of junk!" Now it's more like "It may be crappy, but at least it's paid for!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

J is for Jealous

It's hard to admit, but I am feeling pretty jealous of the Obama supporters right now. I've never really been invested in a presidential election until this year. I've always felt that the vote was basically a choice between the lesser of two evils. I still voted, because I feel it is not just a right but a responsibility to participate in the political process. But frankly, when my chosen candidate did not win, it was not upsetting. While I had a preference, I was okay with the other possibility as well. I consider myself an independent and I'm equally likely to vote for a Republican or a Democrat. (I did vote for Obama in the last election.)

This time was different. I was intrigued at first by the idea of Mitt Romney as a candidate, but I didn't really think it would go anywhere. Then, as election season continued, I became more interested. I realized I liked his economic plans. I liked his stance on a lot of things. And I didn't like the incumbent. I wasn't happy with how things have gone over the last several years. And then the polling showed things growing closer and closer. I started to think maybe Romney had a chance.

I let myself get emotionally invested this year. I really thought maybe my candidate would pull it off. I read the articles on all the news sites. I watched all the debates. I had strong opinions. I was excited to watch the election night coverage and hoping so much that it would turn into a Romney win.

So it was rather crushing when the results didn't come out the way I was hoping. I watched the coverage until Obama was declared the winner and then I went to bed. I was actually depressed by it. And the next day when I saw the news coverage and posts on Facebook about how happy the Obama supporters were, I was jealous. Jealous of their excitement and joy. Wishing it was me!

But. Life moves on. I'm still disappointed. But there's nothing more to be done. We just need to keep moving and do our best. And not be depressed over an election result that can't be changed. I thank my friend Amanda for reminding me of this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley:

"It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. … If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers."

Monday, November 5, 2012

I is for Imaginative and Intelligent

My kiddos, that is. They constantly amaze me with the things they come up with.

As an example, a few days ago we were driving down the freeway and passed an accident with police on scene. Because we were crawling by very slowly, the kids had plenty of time to observe and comment on the scene. They started to wonder how the police officer would decide who was at fault for the accident. I explained that he would talk to both drivers and maybe a witness and examine the evidence.

"But what if someone lies to the police?" they wanted to know. Before I could add anymore, they started a whole side conversation about how they were sure criminals lied to the police all the time because they don't want to be caught - and discussed which types of criminals were most likely to be liars. The consensus was that killers and drug sellers were the worst liars.

Then Haley had a bright idea. "When I grow up I will invent a machine that will tell the police when people are lying!"

I told her that they do have a machine called a lie detector. They wanted to know how it worked, so I explained a little about how it measures heartbeat, breathing, and other things that change when someone is nervous, as they presumably are when they are lying.

My kids immediately saw the fault in this system.

PRESTON: "What if someone was telling the truth but they were just nervous because they were talking to the police? Then the machine wouldn't be able to tell if they were true or lying."

HALEY: "And if they were really good at lying maybe they wouldn't be nervous so the machine would think they were telling the truth."

BREKKEN: "I like bologna. If I was a police I would get to eat bologna sandwiches every day. And I would tell the bad guys - Just tell me the truth, you bad guy! Or no bologna for you!" (Note: He ALREADY eats bologna sandwiches almost every day.)

Haley and Preston decided to bypass the Bologna Blackmail system and proceeded to start brainstorming how to make a better lie detector. They had all sorts of ideas including monitoring brain waves, checking blood tests to see if there are chemicals changes when you lie, and using computers to watch people very closely and figure out when they're lying. I was pretty impressed with their thinking!

I have to say, I was also impressed by the fact that they are very practical about these plans. They have agreed that they will work on this project together in their spare time. After all, they plan to be quite busy in their chosen careers. As Haley put it - "We still have to make money for the bills, you know!" :)

Just in case you're wondering about those chosen careers? Also very practical. They have thought about things like their interests, how much schooling is required, and how much money they think they can make. So far the plans are:
  • Haley: Plumber. (Synopsis of her reasoning: Because everyone always needs plumbers and you can charge plenty of money. Plus there are more boy plumbers than girl plumbers so she can probably find a good plumber husband and they can have their own business.)
  • Preston: Boat Mechanic. (Because people need mechanics all the time - he may be influenced by our van's constant trips to the mechanic. But he has decided specifically on a boat mechanic because if they have enough money for a boat, they have enough money to pay a mechanic. He also has plans for a sliding fee scale where he will charge poor people a little bit and rich people a lot. :) )
  • Brekken: Police. (Not a policeman or a police officer. He insists he will be a police. Apparently because he can have bologna sandwiches every day.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

H is for Halloween

I know that Halloween is technically not until tomorrow, but we've already been celebrating here for days. Friday night was the ward Trunk or Treat. It was cold and a bit snowy, but the kids had a grand time running from car to car in the church parking lot for the trick or treating. Rylen was a little confused at first, but quickly figured out that if he held out his bucket, people would put candy into it!

When we got home Friday night we dumped everyone's candy into the communal candy bowl (everyone has to share the haul at our house). They all got to eat a few pieces as a bedtime treat, then we put the bowl up on the counter out of reach. Or so we thought... until Saturday morning. That's when Rylen got up early (or at least earlier than Mom and Dad), dragged a chair into the kitchen, and climbed up to the candy bowl to help himself to copious amounts of chocolate.

Aaron had a rare Saturday off work, so we actually got to have a family day! So as if the candy from Trunk or Treat wasn't enough, we took the kids to Trick or Treat Street at the local high school on Saturday afternoon. We haven't been before, but I was really impressed by this. There are lots of local businesses and families who set up booths in the halls of the high school - complete with funny or spooky decorations, costumes, even some little games to play. And all of them hand out candy to the kids. It was very fun.

Next was a trip to the American Legion Hall for the haunted house. For the first hour of operation it was advertised as "lights on, not scary." We opted to go for the lights on version, though Haley and Preston told us repeatedly that they wanted to go to the scary version. We eventually convinced them to try the non-scary version first and then we would discuss going through again with lights out. Turns out that the lights on version was plenty scary enough for them! No one insisted on going through again with the lights out. :)

We finished up the evening with a Halloween dance at the elementary school. I wasn't really sure that the kids would enjoy a dance, but they had lots of fun. A dance for elementary schoolers involves a lot of jumping up and down, a lot of running around randomly, and a lot of Taylor Swift. (Seriously, I think about every other song they played was by Taylor Swift.) It was fun to watch the kids dance around and dance with them (thankfully the lights were low so no one could see my lame dancing). Aaron was even dragged onto the dance floor a time or two (under much protest).

I have to admit that the highlight of the dance was totally unrelated to my own kids... there were some older (high school) kids at the dance, too. I'm not quite sure why they came, since most of them spent the entire evening sitting on the bleachers and texting. There was one couple there in matching Navy costumes. He looked quite distinguished in a set of immaculate dress whites. She looked fairly trampy in a very non-standard Navy uniform (skin tight, low cut, short skirt... seriously, why does every costume for girls have to be slutty?). They were sitting on the bleachers with his arm around her shoulders. I happened to be looking over at them when he decided to drop his hand a little lower and give one of her breasts a healthy squeeze. Even as I was thinking to myself: "For heaven's sake, there are little kids all around you!" there was a lull in the music and in the momentary silence a little voice piped up:

"Mommy! That boy just squeezed that girl's booby! That isn't appropriate, is it?"

Awesome. I could not have possibly said it better myself, kiddo. :)

The Halloween extravaganza will continue tomorrow with parties at school. And I'm working at home so that I can pick them all up from school and take them to my work and Aaron's work for trick or treating. Followed by free kids meals at Chik-Fil-A for kids in costume. Followed by the actual official trick or treating. Whew! What a celebration.

Monday, October 22, 2012

G is for Gratitude

I was kind of dwelling on the negative in my last post, so today I'm trying to find the positive. Yes, last week was pretty rotten. But there are still silver linings to be found.

I got the flu. That part sucked. But I'm grateful that it wasn't a terrible case of the flu like last year. I'm not completely over it yet, but I'm definitely on the mend. I'm grateful I have an understanding boss who is more concerned with me taking time to get better than with the deadlines and assignments I missed while I was out.

In a fever-induced haze, I suddenly decided to cut my own hair. Oh yes I did. While dazed with illness and medications, I used my sewing scissors and the bathroom mirror to hack off 4-5 inches of hair. (I believe my reasoning at the time was that I was tired of the frizzy split ends, so the best solution was to just cut them off.) Thankfully, curly hair hides a lot of cutting errors and it really doesn't look bad. I actually got a couple of compliments on the new hairstyle today at work. Heh. I'm grateful I didn't scalp myself.

I lost a filling. While eating mashed potatoes of all things. Not exactly the kind of thing that normally does a number on your dental work. But I'm grateful that (since I can't afford a dentist's bill right now) the missing filling is not bothering me at the moment so I feel like I can put off the repair for just a little while.

I got pulled over. Sometimes when you're sick, you find you still have to leave the house. Maybe to go to the doctor. Maybe to visit the pharmacy. Maybe to pick up a Strawberry Cheesequake Blizzard because you're sick, darn it! You deserve a little something to make you feel better. And when I left Dairy Queen, a police officer pulled out right behind me. And then she started flashing her lights at me. And then she gave me a big old ticket. Because apparently somehow our plates expired back in May (May!) and we never noticed. I swear I never got a notice in the mail. And of course, when she asked for my proof of insurance I discovered that I had forgotten to put the new insurance card in the car. So I got cited for the expired plates and a court summons for driving without insurance. I cried. Life was feeling a bit too unfair right them. But in trying to find the silver lining, I am grateful that Aaron stood in line at the DMV the next day to make the van legal again. (Though I'm not grateful for the $150 penalty we had to pay for the expired plates... especially when the registration itself was only $70.) I'm grateful that I actually do have insurance, even though I didn't have the proof with me when I needed it. I'm grateful that Aaron plans to take the proof of insurance to the court on Friday for me so that I won't actually have to appear in court next month. And I was really grateful for the Blizzard.

We had a small fire. Aaron and the kids did their best to let me sleep in on Saturday while he got ready for work. They try this most Saturdays (grateful for that!) but it was especially appreciated this Saturday because I was still so exhausted from having the flu. Haley volunteered to make breakfast for all the kids. I was very grateful for that - and not bothered at all that peanut butter sandwiches are not typical breakfast fare. I told Haley where to find the last loaf of bread (in the freezer) and how to thaw it out (in the microwave). However, I did not tell her to remove the twist tie from the bag before turning on the microwave. My sleepiness came to a crashing halt when Haley ran into the room to tell me there was a fire in the kitchen. I'm grateful that it was a small, easily-extinguished fire. I'm grateful that the microwave wasn't damaged. I'm grateful that my kids weren't damaged!! I'm grateful that we rescued half the loaf of bread and Haley was still able to make sandwiches and I didn't have to deal with breakfast.

Most of all I'm grateful that I have wonderful kids, a great husband, and so many other blessings. Even if I forget to count them sometimes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

F is for Fire!

...and also for Flu. For Fear and for Fighting and Frustration, too!

Flu. My newfound resolve to keep up with the blog hit a snag almost immediately. My mom and Aaron's mom both called on Sunday night to check in and to wish me a happy birthday. Unfortunately, both of them said something along the lines of "I'm glad everyone is healthy at your house." I tried immediately knocking on wood... but it was too late. Murphy's Law immediately kicked in. Less than 24 hours later, I was on my way home from work. I was feeling fine when I got on the bus. By the time I got off the bus I was SICK. Fever, horrible chills, drippy nose, sore throat, utter exhaustion... all setting in within about 20 minutes.

Oh no! I've seen this before! Almost exactly this, in fact, when I came down with the flu while at church last year. I recognized the symptoms and the sudden onset and knew it probably wasn't just a cold. And over the rest of the week it was proved that this was in fact the flu. Again. For the 2nd year in a row. And both years I got a flu shot! No fair. On the plus side, this case of the flu is not as bad as last year's, which knocked me down for about 6 weeks. And none of the rest of the family has come down with it... *knock, knock, knock*

Fire. So because I'm still exhausted from the flu, I got up very briefly when the kids got up this morning, then got back in bed and tried to sleep in a little. Aaron hadn't left for work yet, so I thought I could squeeze in another hour of rest. I remember Haley coming in and asking me where to find bread for some peanut butter toast for breakfast, and I was just glad that she was willing to feed herself and her brothers so I didn't have to get up yet. I told her there was a loaf of bread in the freezer, and she'd just need to defrost it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Unfortunately, in my hazy state of sleepiness, I forgot about the twist-tie on the loaf. Haley put the whole loaf into the microwave and started it up. The next thing I knew was when Haley came running into the room screaming, "Mommy! There's a fire in the kitchen!"

There's a wake-up call for you! I've often said that nothing wakes a parent up faster than that choking cough that precedes a child's vomiting... turns out that Fire! is even more effective. I leapt out of bed and headed for the kitchen. I vaguely heard Aaron (who was just getting out of the shower) ask, "Did she say something is expired?" When I yanked open the door to the microwave I saw that the bread and plastic wrapper were merrily burning away. Luckily it was a small fire and I was able to quickly put it out. There was no lasting damage to the microwave (just a small scorch mark at the back) and we even saved half the loaf of bread for breakfast. Whew!

Fear. With the recent abduction and murder of Jessica Ridgeway followed by several more abduction attempts in the area, I've been a nervous wreck. It doesn't help that I'm out of my anxiety meds. I hate to even let the kids set foot outside without me. We're being extra careful that the kids don't walk anywhere on their own, and we've had talks with them about stranger danger, non-stranger danger, etc. I don't want to make the kids paranoid and afraid, but it is so hard to let go a little. I consider it a pretty major accomplishment that I let them all go play outside this afternoon. In our yard... with the 6-foot privacy fence... and the padlock on the gate. And even then I was a bit nervous. But I did let them go.

Fighting and Frustration. They go hand-in-hand today. Oh the fighting every time I turn around! My kids claim to love each other. And sometimes they act like that's true. But today you would swear that they are all mortal enemies. Fighting and spitting and hitting and crying and throwing things and breaking things. And the frustration on my end that it seems nothing will induce them to get along for more than five minutes at a time. Frustration that this really, really long day does not want to come to an end. Frustration that this blog post has taken almost 2 hours to write because I am constantly interrupted by more fighting! Dinner will be ready in 2 minutes and believe me, the moment they are finished eating it is time for bed! I'm sending the three older ones to the bedroom with a movie and putting up a gate so they can't come see me anymore. I am done.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

E is for Enjoyable

I didn't do anything big to celebrate my birthday this year. For one thing, we're kind of broke at the moment, so there's not money to spend. I ended up using my birthday money from Aaron's parents to pay the little boys' babysitter for the week - which wasn't a lot of fun. But at least it meant I had enough money to pay her! And my parents gave me an Amazon gift card, so I can still get myself a little something.

So with my birthday off to that start on Friday, I didn't have high expectations for the day. But my friend Georgette took me out for lunch. And then when I got home, I was greeted by four very excited kids who shouted Happy Birthday! and happily presented me with gift bags. They informed me that they had taken money from their piggy banks and made a trip to the dollar store to do some birthday shopping. They were so thrilled to give me their presents. It was so sweet. They know Momma well and got me chocolate and Pepsi. :) There were also some other random items that they thought I would enjoy. A foot exfoliator from Brekken. A set of hair clips and combs from Preston. Hair elastics and a makeup brush from Haley.

Haley was also so excited to show me her other project of the day... she had baked and frosted a birthday cake for me. I was very happy to see it, as I haven't had a birthday cake in several years. At some point I decided that I refused to buy or make my own birthday cake, because it just wasn't right to have to do so. Aaron doesn't actually like cake, so it never really occurred to him to get me one. Ultimately, I was only hurting myself by not getting a cake, since I'M the one who likes cake. But it was the principle of the thing! So it was a very nice thing to have a birthday cake this year. :)

We did have a little money to go to dinner, so we went out for hamburgers and home to bed.

On Saturday Aaron did his best to let me sleep in while he got ready for work (which he actually does almost every Saturday!). Thanks to the kids deciding to get up bright and early, it wasn't entirely successful, but it was nice nonetheless.

The kids did their best to pamper me during the day. They did a "spa beauty day." This consisted of Haley using my new makeup brush to apply makeup in color combinations I've never really considered before. :) And Preston, Brekken, and Rylen brushed and styled my hair. That resulted in one of the new combs becoming hopelessly ensnarled in my hair. As I tried to get it loose, it actually snapped in half. The kids also "helped" me eat the chocolate bars they had given me as a birthday present. They offered to help me with the Pepsi as well, but I managed to keep that for myself. :)

All together, a very enjoyable birthday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

D is for Doctor

When all these problems with anxiety attacks hit me this summer, I went to see my usual doctor. Shannon is awesome. She listened to me, talked to me like a competent adult, and really seemed invested in helping me feel better. I tend to dread going to the doctor, but not with Shannon.

And then a couple of months ago I went for a follow-up with Shannon and learned that she was moving into the Urgent Care side of the clinic. She would no longer be taking appointments. I was so sad to hear that. I asked about Shawna, my second choice. Nope. Shawna is going to Urgent Care as well. That left me with Dr. Euser (who I like but he is always in high demand so it's hard to get appointment with him), Dr. Kilpatrick (jerk with rotten bedside manner who talked to me like I was a naughty 5-year-old), or Randa (who I'd never seen before). Obviously, of those choices I decided to see Randa when I needed a prescription refill (and the pharmacy said they couldn't refill without a doctor's visit).

So I went to see Randa. Randa not only wouldn't increase the dosage on my daily medication (as Shannon had indicated might be a good idea) but also told me she personally doesn't like one of the meds so wouldn't give me a refill on it - even though I have found it very helpful. So she then spent a good 20 minutes trying to talk to me about my emotional triggers and how I really just need to be reasonable when I'm having a panic attack. Because "panic" and "reasonable" just naturally go together, don't they?

When I start to get anxious, I should just think - "What's the worse thing that could happen?" and then reassure myself that the worst thing won't actually happen. And then everything should be okay. Yep. It's just that easy. I bet other people with anxiety disorders don't realize that it's this simple! We've all just been malingering, waiting for someone to explain to us that the bad things we worry about aren't going to happen! What a relief that is.

I tried to talk to her about it. I tried explaining that things are not that clear-cut. When she asked about upcoming stresses, I listed a pre-school home visit, family coming to visit, and a party I was planning. She immediately leapt to "So what's the worst thing that could happen? Your mother-in-law tells you that you are a bad housekeeper and a bad mother and criticizes everything?" (Since I hadn't told her that was an anxiety about the visit and she leapt to that conclusion, I wonder what kind of mother-in-law issues she has herself.)

I tried to explain that it's not anything like that, it's just a generalized anxiousness. I can't usually pinpoint any specific thing that triggers an attack. I'm not thinking that my mother-in-law is going to come in and criticize me or the preschool teacher is going to report me for having a dirty house or my friends aren't going to like me anymore if I have a boring party. I'm just anxious about everything and nothing all at once. But she kept on teaching me the technique of "think of the worst thing that could happen and then tell yourself it won't really happen."

Turns out the worst thing that could happen was my favorite doctors would move to Urgent Care and I would be left without real help. And I need a new doctor, because I'm not going back to Randa. I guess it's Dr. Euser for me until they add a couple of new docs to the practice (supposed to be happening soon) and I can give them a try. I miss Shannon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

C is for Campaign

As in political campaigns... emphasis on the "pain"! I am a fan of the democratic system, but I hate election season. Regardless of who you plan to vote for, I think we can probably all agree that we are tired of political TV and radio commercials, especially negative ones. Tired of political pop-up ads on the Internet. VERY tired of the endless phone calls from various candidates. Aaron and I are registered as independents, which means we get even more calls from both sides of each race.

I find the debates very interesting and I'm looking forward to them, but if I never see another political attack ad I would be thrilled.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

B is for Blanket

I'm enjoying the cooler weather we're finally getting. (After a long, hot summer.) There were even a couple of days last week that were downright chilly - and I loved it. To me, cooler weather is an invitation to cuddle up with a soft blanket while reading or watching TV. It's snuggling under the quilt on the bed. It's wrapping up in my Slanket (that's a blanket with sleeves, in case you don't know) and ignoring Aaron when he teases me about it. A nice blanket makes everything so cozy.

When I was growing up I had a favorite blanket. I think my Aunt Sandy made it for my mom. It was light blue on one side and yellow on the other. It was made of a soft, slippery material that I loved to snuggle into. My siblings and I fought over that blanket. We all wanted to have it. I would hide it away in a closet so no one knew I had it, then sneak it out at night. I remember some knock-down, drag-out fights over who got to have the blanket.

When it was time for me to move away to college, I wanted to take the blanket with me. By that time it had come unstitched around all the edges - it was just the ties holding the layers of fabric and batting together. The edges and the exposed batting were a little tattered and dingy. There were various faint stains that hadn't come out in the wash. And I still loved that blanket. I tried to quietly pack it into the car with the rest of my things. But I got caught! Mom loved the blanket, too, and it was going to stay with her. :)

I went to school without the blanket; and since then I've had to make do with inferior blankets. But I will always have a soft spot for that old blue and yellow blanket. On a recent trip to my parents' house, I came across the blanket. It was a little chilly, so I happily wrapped up in my old favorite. It was just as good as I remembered.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A is for Absent

As in, I've been mostly absent from the blog lately. But I do want to improve that. While I hope you are still reading (even with my very sporadic postings lately), in a lot of ways this blog is for me. I use it to journal, vent, write down stories and events I don't want to forget, and share important things happening around here. I really like using the blog as a way to look back at the year and remember the good... and the bad... and the everyday.

I've missed blogging. I've had ideas for blog posts, but I just have a tough time actually sitting down and writing them out. And then when I do have time, I find I've forgotten the ideas!

In an attempt to get back in the blogging habit, I signed on for the A to Z blogging challenge. 26 alphabetically themed posts; just to give myself a jumping-off point. So while I have been absent a lot, I will do my best to check in here more often... at least for the next 25 posts. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pants on the Ground

I really thought that the low-rider pants style was finally starting to go away. I'd heard that it wasn't even all that cool with kids anymore. But apparently there's at least a small group of people who still think this is the best way to dress... and they work at Wahoo's. I went to Wahoo's for lunch (paid for by the company - yipee!) and noticed that almost every one of the male employees was sporting the droopy pants with the boxers showing at the top. While I don't understand why they want to do that, I mostly don't care. If they want to show off an inch of boxer at the waistband, who cares?

But my attention was caught by one of the employees who was taking the drooping pants to extremes. This was not a teenager by the way... he was mid- to late-twenties. He had the requisite colorful boxers and battered jeans; and the jeans were hanging so low that the waistband of the jeans actually began at the bottom curve of his butt. I have no idea how they were staying up. It seemed to defy gravity that his pants had not yet fallen to the ground.

As I waited for my order to arrive, I had nothing to occupy my attention (my colleague had gone to the restroom) except for watching this guy and wondering how long the pants would stay up, he reached down and grabbed his waistband. Finally! I thought. He has realized that his pants are falling off and he's going to pull them up.

And he did... he pulled those pants up by almost half an inch.

Wow. That made all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sister Heaven

I used to have a wonderful visiting teacher named Kay Hemming. I adore her. She was never fazed by the perpetual state of disarray in my house, my children running wild (even when - on several occasions - they were completely unclothed), or anything else I could throw at her. When Preston was in the hospital with Swine Flu and we could not find anyone willing to watch the rest of the children (for fear of catching Swine Flu), Sister Hemming came over to our house and took care of the other kids so we could be with Preston.

The kids loved seeing her, too. She always gave big hugs when she came to visit or when we saw each other at church. And she brought cookies - not just when she came for a visiting teaching visit, but sometimes just as a random drop-in for a nice gesture. The kids often got her name wrong, but their mispronunciation was so appropriate. Instead of Sister Hemming, they always called her Sister Heaven. :)

About a year ago, Brother and Sister Hemming left on a mission. To Tahiti - rough life, eh? I love to read their blog and see their pictures as they have adventures in Tahiti. Last night I was catching up on their blog and Preston and Brekken came over to see what I was looking at. I showed them the pictures and we talked about where they were and what they were doing. The boys thought that was pretty cool, but mostly they wondered when the mission would be over. Their big concern? Sister Heaven never brings us cookies anymore!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quick Funny from Brekken

After seeing a commercial on TV, Brekken came running in to me:

"Mom! There's a new show I want to watch. It's Casper the Holy Ghost!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Very Ugly Sofa: Before and After

For my other home decorating project, I decided to tackle our unattractive, uncomfortable sofa. I really wanted to pick up a nice slipcover while we were at IKEA, but (see mention in previous post about dragging kids through IKEA) I didn't have a chance to look. But based on previous experience looking at slipcovers for this sofa, I'm pretty sure that they would have been more than I wanted to spend.

But I REALLY needed to do something with the sofa. I don't know how to fix uncomfortable, but there must be SOMETHING I could do about the ugly. When you look at it, the back and arms are in decent shape, it's mostly the cushions that are so awful.

Notice the stains left by 8 years of children's spills.

Also the shredded upholstery and stuffing poking out of the cushions.
It's even worse when you flip the cushions over.

And then I had an idea. I didn't need to cover the whole sofa, just the cushions. I've tried before to cover them up by tucking a flat sheet around them, but it always pulls loose. But what if I made a cover for the cushions? So I went looking for fabric and ended up buying some cheap flat sheets. It was actually cheaper to buy a couple of flat sheets than if I'd just bought the fabric I needed. Plus this way, all the edges are nicely finished already. I even found some in a perfect shade of eggplant that goes nicely with the purple walls in my living room.

It was super easy. I just folded the sheets to fit snugly around my couch cushions, pinned it, and sewed a grand total of 4 seams (2 for each cushion cover). It basically made a big pillowcase-like pouch. Then I slipped the cushions inside. It took about 10 minutes altogether. That's about all the time I can squeeze out for projects around here.

It's not perfect, but it looks a lot better than before!

About 5 minutes after the kids got home (and approximately 2 minutes after I had given them the rules about no spilling anything on the new cushion covers), we had our first spill on the new cushion covers. *sigh*

Luckily it was just water, so it dried just fine. And if we're not so lucky with the next spill (because there's sure to be a next spill), I'll be glad I left the back edge open so it's easy to pull the covers off and toss them in the washing machine!

Homework Station: Before and After

Haley has a lot more homework this year. And of course, it will just continue to increase. Plus as the boys get older they'll have more homework to do, too. So we decided it was time to set up a dedicated homework area so they can all have a spot to work.

Searching the Internet for a good deal, the best we found was a special at IKEA for $20.00 Since I've been wanting to visit ever since they opened, we decided to make the long trip down to IKEA to get the desks. I loved the store, but didn't get much chance to look around. And let me tell you, next time I won't let Aaron talk me out of dropping the kids at the Smaland childcare center! It would have been much more enjoyable if we weren't dragging 4 children through the store.

But we got the desks and brought them home to assemble. Where I promptly dropped a table leg on one of the desks and created a large dent. D'oh!

I guess for a true before and after picture, I should have posted a shot of the living room with no desks at all. But I didn't think to take that picture. So here is the homework area with desks and chairs assembled. Workable, but a little plain.

I wanted to fix it up a little more. I started by using wood putty to repair the dent in the desktop. So it was level, but still didn't look great. In trying to think of a way to improve the desktop, I stumbled across these.
That seemed perfect! I used one of those to cover the patched dent and put another at each chair. With a dry erase marker, the kids can now use the little dry-erase boards as scratch pads while doing their homework or just to draw for fun. I also added a number line around the edges of one desk. Haley likes to use a number line when doing her match homework, but we end up drawing a new one every couple of days. Either she loses it or she writes all over it, but within a day or to we have to make another. It's not that it's difficult, but it takes up time that she should have been spending on the homework itself. So I printed out a number line from 1-100 and taped it to the desk edges, then covered it with clear contact paper. Now she'll have the number line always available, and the clear contact paper lets her write on it with her dry-erase marker and then clean it off for next time!

I'm pretty happy with the new setup. Now I'm looking forward to the kids bringing back some homework tonight so they can try it out!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Isn't That Pinteresting?

It's been a while since I managed a real post. I'm still having issues with my mental/emotional stability, and it makes it hard to get anything else done after a day of work and then an evening taking care of the family. But though I haven't been blogging much, it doesn't mean I've abandoned all my Internet addictions. I'm still hopelessly devoted to Pinterest. I've been trying a lot of the recipes lately. Most of them were pretty good... some not as successful.

Cake Mix Snickerdoodles (http://www.mrfood.com/Cookie-Recipes/Cake-Mix-Snickerdoodles)

Haley REALLY wanted to make some cookies. More than that, she wanted to make them all by herself. The only help she was willing to accept was in dealing with the oven. So I went searching for a recipe simple enough for her to tackle on her own. I found quite a few cake mix cookie recipes and they were all pretty much the same and pretty simple. So Haley looked them over and picked out a couple of versions. She made some red velvet cookies that were actually quite good. Some devil's food cookies that were really gooey... as in, eat them with a spoon gooey. They still tasted good, though. And Sunday she made snickerdoodles. They tasted very good, but the dough was a bit too thin, resulting in VERY thin, flat cookies. So you can use this recipe for pretty much any kind of cookie just by swapping the cake mix base and any add-in, but you might want to add a tablespoon or two of flour to thicken the dough a bit. The nice thing is that a child can really do it all on their own. Haley even cracks her own eggs. It keeps her busy for a while. Makes her and her brothers happy to eat the cookies later. Gives me an incentive for good behavior (You've got to behave yourself if you want to make cookies later.). And the clean-up isn't TOO bad.

This recipe originally came from Paula Deen, so you know it's not good for you. But it sure tastes good! More trouble than a typical pudding, but worth the effort once in a while. I made it for  girls' night out potluck and it seemed like a hit. I can tell you that the kids and I were pretty thrilled that there were some leftovers and ate it for breakfast the next day. (Bananas are a good breakfast food, right?)

Another girls' night out dessert. (I seem to always take a dessert. I really need to mix it up with a main dish next time.) Anyway, I liked the look of this one because it was a little healthier than a usual cobbler and it was pretty low effort. And the picture sure looks good! Unfortunately, I was not as successful as the original poster. I made one at home a few days before girls' night to test the recipe. It was pretty runny. And the topping was powdery in some spots. So when I made it for girls' night I made some adjustments. I mixed the topping together before putting it over the fruit (trying to avoid the powdery patches). I put less soda (trying to avoid the runny end result). And It was still really runny and gooey. Topped with a scoop of whipped cream it tasted ok, but it didn't look very appetizing. And it definitely didn't keep! When I took it out of the fridge the next morning it looked awful and I couldn't bring myself to serve or eat any. If anyone else has tried it with more success, let me know what you did! I still really like the idea, it just didn't turn out for me.

My first ambitious sewing project in years was a skirt for Haley. The project looked pretty simple, so I figured I could manage it. And I did. Kind of. No fault of the blogger who posted the instructions, I just wasn't as successful as she was. The skirt I made is a little too short and hangs a little bit unevenly. But with a pair of leggings it works ok. More importantly, Haley still really likes it. So I'm calling it almost successful. I may just try again now that I know what I did wrong on the first one and see if I can make a skirt that graduates from play-clothes to school/church-clothes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Unexpected Humor

The morning bus driver on my route is very nice guy. He's an older gentleman with a bit of a Southern accent and is unfailingly polite (even to some passengers who deserve less). He calls everyone sir or ma'am and is just very pleasant in general. However, he's also a little stiff and formal. He doesn't chat and joke around with passengers as many bus drivers do. Which is fine! Nothing wrong with it, but it did make this morning's humor a little surprising. He must have been in a really good mood today. :)

Just after we'd started the route we were stopped at a red light. I was shifting my backpack to a better position on my lab and accidentally caught and pulled the Stop cord, signalling that I wanted to get off the bus. "Sorry!" I exclaimed. "That was an accident."

He smiled at me, then said: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you pulled the cord. You'll have to get off. No work for you today." He even opened the door while we were stopped at the light. Luckily he then laughed and closed the door again. I was able to stay on the bus.

A few minutes later, we saw one of the morning regulars sprinting to make it to a bus stop in time. Knowing he was coming, our driver stopped and waited for him. When the man breathlessly climbed aboard, our driver offered the completely deadpan comment: "Thank you for participating in the RTD a.m. fitness program. If you'd like to join the p.m. program as well, I can arrange to have you dropped off at the wrong stop this afternoon for a long walk home."

Okay, seeing it typed up I guess it's not quite as funny. Maybe you had to be there. But it helped me start my morning with a laugh!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Overheard at the Preschool Assessments

I took Brekken to his preschool assessment today and sat at the back of the room completing a paperwork while the teacher walked through the assessment with him. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud at some of the things I heard him say.


Teacher: Can you draw a picture of yourself?
Brekken: Okay, I will draw a picture of my sister.
Teacher: That would be great. Could you draw a picture of you and your sister together?
Brekken: Okay, I am going to draw a picture of my sister in a car!
Teacher: That will be a good picture. Can you draw yourself in the car, too?
Brekken: That's too hard! I'm just going to draw a picture of me.

Teacher: Can you draw a picture of something fun you did this summer?
Brekken: Yeah, I'm drawing scrambled eggs!
Teacher: Do you like to eat scrambled eggs?
Brekken: Actually, no. But sometimes yes. And here is a picture of a banana.
Teacher: Do you like bananas?
Brekken: Yes. They're very good mixed in scrambled eggs.
(Note: we do not actually put bananas in our scrambled eggs.)

Brekken: Hey! I want to slap you!
Teacher: Excuse me?
Brekken: You know, your hand? Like a high 5!

Teacher: Can you count for me and show me how high you can count?
Brekken: 1, 2, 3... a hundred! Banana!
                laughs at himself
                I crack me up! then proceeded to actually count

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quick Funny from Preston

As we were driving home a few days ago, the sun briefly broke through some looming clouds and sent a few brilliant sunbeams to Earth.

Preston took one look and immediately said: "Look! There must be a new baby lion somewhere!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Just Five Minutes

It goes without saying that as mothers, we love our children and (generally) enjoy spending time with them.

But I think it’s equally true that as mothers, there comes a time when what we REALLY want is just five minutes… by ourselves… in the bathroom.

Five minutes without someone needing a drink, a snack, a hug, a bandaid. Five minutes without hearing: “Preston hit me!” “Rylen bit me!” “Brekken won’t share!” “Haley is singing that song again!” (For the record, that song is currently “Call Me Maybe.”)

Since I have a job outside the house as well, you’d think I could get my five minutes of peace there. But I work in an office with 40-some people on my floor… the vast majority are women. And there’s just one bathroom. So on any given trip to the ladies’ room, you’re likely to bump into someone. And in our office culture, it’s considered perfectly acceptable to begin or continue a business conversation while you’re in the bathroom. So the five minutes turns into: “Hey, I’m glad I caught you! Have you had a chance to look at that document? Finish that presentation? Set up that meeting?”

So when a day comes, as it did today, when I get home from work just a little bit early, it’s a blissful thing. It’s not much time, just enough for a quick trip home to drop off my work bags and take five minutes… just five minutes… to go to the bathroom by myself.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Quick Funny from Rylen

Rylen's first Quick Funny post! What a milestone.

We've asked Rylen to "help" us get up out of a chair or couch before. You know, that joking around you do with kids where they pull on your hand and you grunt and groan and make it a lot of work for them? (Is it just us that does this?)

Apparently he has learned the lesson well. Now, when he wants one of us to get up and come with him somewhere (usually to the kitchen for a drink or snack), he comes over and grabs a hand. Then he proceeds to groan and grunt with effort - though without ever actually pulling on your hand - to indicate that it's time to get up. Makes me laugh every time!

Friday, July 20, 2012

New and Improved S'mores

I don't have a ton of stories about the Wardle reunion trip this year. I'll pretty much leave it at - it was just as we expected. Lots of fun seeing and visiting with family, time for the kids to fish with Grandpa, plenty of rain and hail (as always!).

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my family. And since Aaron doesn't camp, we stayed at my parents' house at night. So we got to enjoy their really nice new deck, their stellar air conditioning (it was really hot), and their extensive DVR selection of Criminal Minds episodes. (I'm very addicted to that show. We watch a few episodes every night. Plus I watch old episodes on YouTube during the day while I work at my desk.)

I thought I would share a tip... everyone likes S'mores, right? But they're so hard to get right. You cook the marshmallow and stick it on your chocolate and graham cracker, but a perfectly toasted marshmallow isn't really hot enough to melt the chocolate. And I don't like to eat the marshmallows that are hot enough (read: on fire and charred).

So my sister Emily and brother-in-law Tim came up with a new idea during this last camping trip. It gives you the perfect combination of toasty marshmallow and melty chocolate! Delicious.

Let's all thank my other sister Melissa for being the model for this photo series.

Make a hole in your marshmallow and insert your chocolate INSIDE the marshmallow! They used extra-large marshmallows and a couple of squares of chocolate, but you could definitely do the same with a regular-size marshmallow.

Toast your marshmallow. By the time it's done, the chocolate inside will be melted.

Squish between two graham crackers.

Take a BIG bite!

Enjoy. Mmmm!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Traveling Tip

Alright, I'm trying to ease back in to the blogging thing. I know I've been MIA with everything going on, but I do actually have stories to tell. I just have a hard time sitting down and writing them. But since I know people are doing/planning summer road trips right now, I wanted to share a new tip for traveling with the family.

I don't know about you, but for me, mealtimes are some of the most expensive, time-consuming, frustrating parts of a road trip. When you stop to eat at a restaurant it ends up costing a fortune. And for all that money, the kids probably don't finish all their food because their jumping out of their seats, crawling under the table, fighting with their siblings, playing with their drinks, spilling their drinks and generally being restless because they've been cooped up in the car for the last several hours. So after a long (it always seems to take longer than we thought it would) frustrating mealtime, we still end up taking them to a park or playground to run off some of the energy before we get back on the road. By the end of it all, we've sometimes spent 2 hours on a meal stop.

I am really tired of that.

So a few weeks ago, I saw something on Pinterest (of course). It said that if you put hot dogs in a crockpot - no water or anything extra - and cook it on low for several hours, you'll have hot dogs that taste broiled... kind of like the ones on the hot rollers at a convenience store, but without the germ concerns I would have with eating a convenience store hot dog.

So I decided to give it a try on our road trip. We have a power inverter for the car that converts the cigarette lighter to a regular plug. You can find one of these at any truck stop or on Amazon. Just make sure you get one that converts to household power (120V AC). (We learned this from experience by getting one of the wrong power level first.)

With the right power inverter, it's super easy. I dumped the hot dogs into the crockpot before we left the house. Then I put the crockpot between the two front seats and plugged it in. We drove for several hours before stopping to eat, then found a park with picnic tables. We used paper plates, plastic utensils, and leftover condiment packages from visits to various fast food restaurants. (Everybody saves those, right? It's not just me?) Altogether - with a package of buns, some chips, and water for everyone to drink - we spent well under $10 to feed the whole family! On the road!

The hot dogs were great - much better than cooking them in boiling water or in the microwave. (I mean, you have to like hot dogs first, but we do, so it works out.) Next time, I'll throw in more hot dogs so we have enough for two meals on the road. For that price, we can eat hot dogs for two meals in a row.

The other advantage? We're eating outside, letting everyone get some fresh air. It doesn't matter if the kids are loud and wiggly - we're at the park. And they can run around and get out the wiggles once they're done eating (or even before they eat) because we're already right there at the park or playground. Big time saver to not have to make two stops. Combine it all with a rest stop (assuming the park has restrooms) and it's a lot less time before we're able to get back on the road with contented kiddos.

Now that I know I can use my beloved crockpot while traveling, I just need other recipes that would work as road food. It has to be something that cooks without a lot of liquid (I don't want it to slop out of the crockpot while we're driving) and pretty easy to eat and clean up at the park. I've thought about meatballs (for sandwiches) or maybe pulled pork. Anybody have other great suggestions?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Two Weeks Ago

Heart pounding. Can’t breathe. Can’t stop shaking. Can’t sleep. Can’t think. Can’t function.

That’s what I feel on the inside. On the outside, I put up a pretty good fa├žade. I go to work. I go to church. I do my church work and volunteer work. I try to be mom to four kids who are sweet and smart and oh, so needy. They need food and clothing and shelter and attention and love and learning and fun and so many other things I can’t even list them all.

I love my job and my volunteer work. I adore my husband and children. But I just feel like I never get a break. I rush from work to home to church... always just a bit too far behind with everything and I can't seem to catch up. At the end of the day I collapse into bed and I’m out within minutes. Only to wake up a short time later, gasping for air.

When I fall asleep, my defenses go down and all the stress and worry about work, family, finances, and the rest of the day take over. In life, I feel like I’m drowning in responsibility. In my dreams, I’m just drowning. So I wake up, gasping for air. Heart pounding. Can’t breathe. Can’t stop shaking. Can’t sleep. Can’t think. Can’t function.

During the day, I don’t think I look panicked. I go through the day and no one knows I’m shaking inside. That I feel like I can never catch my breath. That I can't answer a ringing phone unless I know exactly who's calling and why. That it takes me four days to find the right words to answer an email... let alone write a blog post or even a Facebook status. That I don't want to go to work because I'll have to interact with people face to face. That going to church is like torture because I spend the entire time worrying that my kids are too loud... that my dress doesn't look right... that I haven't done something I should have done... that I did do something I shouldn't have done... that someone will talk to me and I won't know what to say... that no one will talk to me. That there’s a thin line between normal and panic.

No one sees the panic. Not if I can help it. But when no one is arround to see, there I am. Heart pounding. Can’t breathe. Can’t stop shaking. Can’t sleep. Can’t think. Can’t function.

I don't know what happened. Nothing changed in my life to suddenly turn me into a basket case. Work is stressful - but no more so than it was two weeks ago. Finances aren't great - but not worse than they were two weeks ago. The kids and house and church are a lot of work and responsibility - but again, nothing more than they were two weeks ago.

And yet somehow, everything is different than it was two weeks ago.

The doctor tells me it's just genetics. With a family history like mine, it was pretty inevitable that eventually I'd have some problems with anxiety and/or depression. That for some reason, a switch just flipped in my brain and suddenly life is not the same as it was two weeks ago. I thought by reaching the ripe old age of 37 without having issues, I had somehow won the genetic lottery. Guess I was wrong.

Instead, I'm hoping and praying that the meds from my doctor will somehow reset the switch to where it was two weeks ago.