...because we all have our motley moments!

Sunday, August 31, 2008


It's the end of summer, they say, and in one three-day weekend the fireflies, sandboxes, and swimsuits of yesterday give way to the school books, pumpkins, and sweaters of tomorrow. Summer clearance sales abound, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are already making appearances in the retail world. It's easy to look to the past with nostalgia and to the future with anticipation all at once.

This weekend, though, instead of reflecting on the excitement of summer and the magic of the coming holiday season, I'm going to live now. I'm going to blow bubbles and run on the green grass, throw baseballs and eat ice cream cones. I'm going to spend time telling stories in lawn chairs until dusk. Let Tuesday come when it will, and all that will follow, but this weekend is for now, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

I hope you enjoy every minute of your weekend, too!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Best Years

I am enjoying the best years of my life so far. I have a husband who loves being a family man, I have great friends, a supportive church family, and I LOVE being a mom. I'm not saying life is easy with two preschoolers and one income, but it is definitely good. Especially when I compare it to the years that led me here.

Let's face it: growing up is hard. Being a kid is not as great as we romanticize it to be. It's certainly not "sugar and spice and everything nice," as the saying goes. I remember it being pretty hard work. I went to four different elementary schools, so making friends (and keeping them) was challenging. Remember how mean some little girls in school were? I do.

Believe it or not, as a kid, I was a bit shy. I was always kind to everyone, and my mom remembers that I never laid a hand on another kid. In 4th, 5th, AND 6th grades (all three were different schools), three different girls tried to pick a fight with me. I refused to hit back. I remember thinking, in all of those instances, "Why me? What did I ever do to you?"

The answer is: Nothing. I doubt any of them could have answered that question, had it been posed to them at the time. They were just angry girls. All three were class bullies. By the time the girl in 6th grade tried to pick a fight with me (in the girls' locker room), I had learned to deflect such attentions with big talk and good posture. This girl was known as a fighter and just loved getting up in other girls' faces to intimidate them. She had her finger thrust in my face, talking junk, trying to start something with me.

I was absolutely quaking, but I stood up really tall (I was much taller than her), looked her right in the eye, and said, with surprising strength, "Get your finger out of my face. I really don't want to fight you."

She walked away. I thought I would throw up.

That was the end of girls trying to fight me, but making and keeping friends still didn't get any easier. High school brought its share of social challenges and the added pressures of "dating." I managed to steer clear of a lot of that, mostly because my mom just didn't allow me to date until I was sixteen, and then because I got really involved in community theater. This passion swallowed me whole!

College was a whirlwind for me, with no time for friends. When Paul and I got married, we hadn't been back in our hometown for a full year, and I had spent all of that time in my first teaching position and planning a wedding. I didn't have much time to socialize. My sisters were my bridesmaids. I had lost contact with my high school friends and really didn't get into the social scene of college. I worked through college and went to class. That pretty much consumed me.

Now, I am enjoying the best friends I have ever known in my life. My friends are mostly all moms with kids the same age as my kids. We're all on the same roller coaster ride, which gives us plenty to talk about! These are easy, natural friendships, and we enjoy watching our children form friendships that will hopefully last a long time. Maybe it will be easier for them...maybe.

The learning curve you're on as a kid is unparalleled to any other time in your life. The only thing that comes close to that learning curve (so far) is becoming a parent. We have a tendency to see more clearly in hindsight, so the fact that I can say, without a doubt and with crystal clear vision, that these are the BEST years yet...that's pretty powerful!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Family's Evolution

As a child, I often heard "you are so much like your mother."

I remember I used to cringe at that statement. Now I am proud to say I am like my mother. There are so many beautiful characteristics, little personality traits, that I eagerly credit to my mom!

These characteristics, the ones that used to be a source of conflict, are now a source of unity. These little personality traits are what can leave us doubled over with laughter after spending the morning together.

Not a visit goes by that my mom and I don't sit at the sewing machine together, discussing quilt patterns and color schemes. Being like ones parent is not limited to just me and my mom. Each time I hear my husband on the phone with his father, I hear tidbits of an engineering conversation going on. I walk away with a smile on my face seeing personalities that used to conflict now in unison.

My husband and I already see little familiar quirks in our children. It will be an adventure to see what conflicts will evolve into unity in our family's future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Progressive Make-Up

Progressive used to be the music I listened to in the late 80's. At least, we called it Progressive, but I think it was really Alternative music. The Cure, Love and Rockets, and Depeche Mode to name a few bands that I really liked. I would go to concerts at the Cameo in the old part of Miami (now it's called South Beach). That's where I saw The Ramones and Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert. My then boyfriend, now husband of 16 wonderful years (gasp!), and I would dance the night away at Respectables in West Palm Beach. Those were some fun days...

Now, progressive has a new definition for me. It's how I put my make-up on. Just like a progressive dinner where you have appetizers at this house, main course at another house and finally dessert somewhere altogether different.

I start out with a tinted moisturizer. I hope this will make me look a little more alive in the morning. Next stop, I put on the tinted lip gloss. I make sure to keep the sunglasses on because the mascara doesn't come on until later just before I bring some lunch to hubby at work. The eyeliner and light eye shadow is applied in the car pickup line at school around 2:30pm. I want to look my best for at least the afternoon!

Top five reasons why I put my make-up on in the car:

5) The natural lighting

4) I always know where to find my make-up bag

3) Stop lights become really just an opportunity for beauty

2) If I start putting it on at home, I'll be totally late because I'll find more and more things to do.

and for the #1 reason...

1) The kids are strapped in their car seats watching a movie while I listen to my progressive music!

This is my reality right now.

My dream is to one day get to the point where I wake up earlier than my children and get totally ready for the day (including make-up). I would then read something spiritually uplifting while drinking my perfectly flavored coffee. After this time of great reflection, I would greet my children warmly and affecionately help them prepare for their day at school where they will arrive early. The day goes on from there. I'll let you know when I get to that point!

How do you get ready to face the world? Is it a rush? Is it just the way you like it? What works for you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade Baby Food - Easy Peasy!!

After having my second child in April, I have again started a baby food making factory in my kitchen. Okay, not so much a factory. Just production. It's inexpensive, easy, and quick. You don't need any special kitchen tools. (I do have some because I like to do canning and preserving and use it for those). Here's a quick tutorial, if you'd like to give it a try.

A few tips. Start with fruits and vegetables, they are easiest to make. This same method is used for most foods. The more you cook it, the fewer nutrients are left in it. Cook it for the least amount of time possible to make it soft. The microwave is good for this, although I prefer the stove top.

Peaches for Baby

Thoroughly wash the peaches. Anything on the outside of the peach, can be transferred to the inside when you cut them.

Core and peel the peaches. I was cutting a few up for dinner. If you have a squeezo type machine, leave the skins on and the squeezo will take them off.

Steam with a scant amount of filtered water on the stove until soft. (I skipped this step because my peaches were extremely ripe ans soft.

Run through a puree machine (I am using a squeezo type that I use for jelly and jam making with the apple/pumpkin screen.) You can also use a food processor or blender with a bit of filtered water.

Sterilize an ice cube tray or mini-muffin tin in the dishwasher or by boiling for 10 minutes, and dry with a clean towel. (I do this ahead of time.)

Fill the tray with the puree, 1 tablespoon is a great serving size, and put it in the freezer overnight.

Pop the frozen puree out of the ice cube try and transfer into a Ziploc freezer bag labeled with the name and date. These are good for 3-5 months. Here are some pears I did over the weekend.

Sometimes I freeze the pulp, like this kiwi pulp, so that I can add it into other foods. I'll be making kiwi banana and kiwi strawberry with this. (Plus, a kiwi sauce recipe I want to try out.)

Take out one cube at a time and thaw in the refrigerator or warm as needed.

This doesn't have to be a major project separate from your everyday cooking. I generally make it as I am getting supper ready in the evening. If you are looking for a great resource to making baby food, Feed Me, I'm Yours, is excellent. My mom passed me her copy that she used for my sister and me.

If you're asking yourself, "Why on earth would she do this?" The quick answer is that I know how everything is processed and exactly what is in it. It contains no preservatives or additives and because the servings are closer to what a baby will actually eat, so there is less waste. As a bonus, it saves money, because I make it out of food that I am already preparing for my family.

Or I'm just crazy. It could be that, too.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Which hat are you wearing today?

One of the traditions I fondly remember from my childhood was getting a complete ensemble for Easter each year, including the pretty dress, matching hat, white gloves, and white patent leather shoes. I have enjoyed dressing up with hats ever since. For a brief period, too quick to recall when exactly, hats made a comeback in my teen years. I don't mean baseball caps which always seem to be in season, nor do I mean the floppy wide-brimmed hat that is a prerequisite for being outdoors in sunny Florida, but the fancy, lady-like hats of bygone eras -- the kind we sometimes see older ladies wear to church. There is an elegance and gentility to these hats that I long for in this "modern" era.

As women, we wear many "hats" each day. We may be moms, wives, sisters, daughters, employees, bosses, etc. As a homemaker, I often wear a chef's hat while cooking, the bargain hunter's hat while clipping coupons from Sunday's paper, the vet tech's hat while cleaning my cocker spaniel's floppy ears, the disciplinarian's hat while teaching my toddler not to pull the dog's floppy ears (nor his stubby tail), the maid's hat while cleaning up after the toddler, dog and husband, etc. Sometimes we have so many hats we are trying to keep up with on a daily basis that we can have an identity crisis or two.

Maybe that's why I yearn for an opportunity to play dress up, don an elegant hat and feel like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. How about you? Which hat are you wearing today?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Little victories...

When it rains in Florida, it pours, and sometimes it pours for days. It is easy for me to feel a little down at times like this, so I wanted to celebrate some of the things I accomplished this week because of the rain. Here is my list of successes for the week:

  • We finally started living without paper towels. It isn't really that hard!
  • We finally got our shoes organized in their new clear, plastic boxes under the bed.
  • I finally used the hot glue gun to turn an old bottle of dish detergent into a cool new reality play toy for my son. (I also figured out that indeed my little idea didn't work as well as I'd hoped. I will be tweaking the idea thanks to the recent failure, and maybe I will have a neat thing to share in a future post!)
  • I finally finished preparing our family and household for hurricane season. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, literally.

What did you do this week? Celebrate your accomplishments with us!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Fleeting Moment

I'm having one of those moments...the kind where I sit on my couch, quietly working on my laptop while my son reads a stack of picture books and my daughter snoozes in her crib. It's a moment of peace in a normally hectic atmosphere - my home. Try as I may, keeping a peaceful and pleasing home is fairly beyond my realm of reality with two preschoolers. But I don't stress about it.

I just appreciate it all the more when I do find a moment of peace and tranquility in my day. My day, which started at 5:15 AM with both kids bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Mommy and Daddy suffering major msg-headaches, and progressed to scrubbing the kitchen and mopping the floors.

So I'm sitting in a clean house (okay, somewhat clean house) at 9:00 in the morning and just enjoying this moment of peace.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring

I have reached that stage in life where I am attending so many baby showers that I think there is a baby down pour. I love attending baby showers and celebrating the coming of a new life into the world.

Part of the fun, and even the challenge of all these celebrations is finding a meaningful (and frugal) gift to shower upon the expectant mothers. These handmade taggie blankets have been the solution to my problems!

Babies love their soft and silky touch and mamas love how these little tags can occupy and stimulate their new little loved ones.

What is your favorite baby shower gift to give?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dog Days

Well, we've entered into week 3 of our newest additions to the family. They have been duly named Charlie and Sasha! The only problem is that I still call them Buddy and Sweetie. My kids and hubby wouldn't go for my names, but that's OK. We had an entire voting session, so I really can't complain, but all I can say is that the dogs are going to have to learn both names I think.

In case you are wondering what it would be like to add an animal to your family containing young children, I will let you in on a couple of bits of info. (Disclaimer: I'm going to generalize here based on my experiences with my kids. I'm sure not all children act like mine do.)

1) The dogs are easier to train than kids. When you add animals to the mix, you can expect to have to train them in the ways of your family. What was such a surprise to me is that you have to also teach your KIDS in the ways of your family too! You have to teach them how to be compassionate to the animals. Kindness and gentlenesss does not come naturally. Kids think these dogs are like their own personal play toys to dress-up, corrale into tight places, discipline,
hug REAL TIGHT, etc...

2) You have to maintain your alpha status in the family. I woke up this morning at 5:28am to the sound of my kids downstairs playing with the dogs. I was livid. Firstly, to be awakened that early when school was closed due to a hurricane warning. Secondly, because they are not allowed downstairs until I get up to go down with them. Thirdly, because they let the dogs out of their kennels instead of an adult. It was a total conspiracy between the two of them to keep me sleeping long enough for them to get some unsupervised playtime with the dogs. The day just went from there. Our kids are testing, testing and testing me. Today was training day. It literally rained all day with heavy winds so we had lots of time to devote to learning about actions and consequences.

Even with all the upheaval in my life, I'm still glad I adopted these doggies. They are the cutest dogs I've ever had. They love attention and are so appreciative for any little thing you do for them. So far I can recommend saving a doggie from your local shelter. When you get to the point that you see your child learning how to treat an animal lovingly and appreciating the work that goes into owning an animal, it is pretty rewarding. I'm hanging in there!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You can never be TOO safe. Ummm, okay.

We went on our last official adventure of the summer last weekend. We went out to River Ranch to meet up with the in-laws and cousins for lunch. I thought it was better than great but that was mostly because I didn't have to clean the house before anyone came over. (Keepin' it realz. You know you do it, too.) They have a petting zoo/barn, pony rides, trail rides, skeet shooting range, airboat and swamp buggy rides, miniature golf, an airport, regular golf course, fishing, camping, hay rides, rodeo on Saturday nights, and a nice little restaurant. There is plenty to keep the entire family busy.

I, being raised on a farm, thought it lacked somewhat. It is billed as an "authentic Dude Ranch." When your means of money making is tourism, it's a bit hard to think of it as any kind of ranch. I suppose it was awesome for city slickers. Those of us raised in the country look at these super well-trained animals as boring. I mean, where is the excitement in riding a horse that doesn't really gallop full out but practices a gated canter? That stops every time. That follows the others. It takes no skill is what I'm trying to say.

It was common to see my sister and I playing around our farm. We used to ride our sow pigs like bucking broncos. (They can really buck, too.) Or practice running up behind our horse and jump on from behind to mount like they do in the movies (that is so hard with a tall horse). I bounced off their hindquarters and landed in a heap many times. We loved to play hide and seek on our horses, sneaking up behind one another and spooking them so they would jump. Taking your horse swimming in lakes and hanging to their mane as they swim. Or setting up obstacle courses to grab flags and jump objects to see who could do it the fastest. Rigging up our saddles like trick saddles so we could stand on them while our horses were moving. You know, just having fun.

Out at River Ranch, you had to be 8 years old to go on the trail ride. What the??? I lead trail rides for novices by the time I was 8. I digress, this is a place for city slickers. I realize.

So, THE Princess is riding the ponies. I am taking her picture and telling her NOT to hold on with her hands. (Real riders don't hold on to the saddle horn, that's where your rope goes.) I am telling her to wave. And smile. Then I tell her to pet her horse while she rides. Then turn around and give his rump a pat.

She did all of it, without an ounce of fear. (She really didn't need to be fearful, these ponies seemed to have undergone lobotomies recently and they weren't going to do much.)

I look over and the other 3 sets of parents are stricken. One mom yells, "No! Don't do that! You could be killed!" Seriously. I looked at her in wonderment. "Killed" was taking it a bit far. I didn't say anything, but I am sure I rolled my eyes. I couldn't hold it in. I know, I am totally immature. As the kids were getting off their mounts, the other parents were discussing my lack of concern for the safety of my child.

So, once again I am a bad parent. As you can see from the pictures, THE Princess was totally scarred from the entire event. How will she ever make it to adulthood in one piece?

My point is, do we keep our kids too safe? I choose to let my kids take some risks. To adventure. To enjoy. Guess what? Sometimes they get hurt. But, more often than not, they have fun and learn something. Especially if they get hurt. (As the saying goes, "Even an ass doesn't bump his head in the same place twice." Unfortunately, I do. What does that make me?) I am the mom that secretly hopes that our little one-eyed-dog will nip THE Princess when she picks him up by the tail. Apparently, me telling her not to do it is not hitting home with her. Poor dog.

My husband and I find that this is our biggest disagreement in raising our children. I say let them try something even if they may get hurt. He disagrees, not wanting them to get hurt. Ever. Sometimes you scrape your knee, and I am okay with that. He says no, if they could possibly get hurt, don't let them do it.

I do shelter my kids in many ways. We don't watch TV, too much gratuitous violence and cursing. I am vigilant about them being around outside influences. Certain toys (Bratz dolls) and clothes (anything with writing across the hind end, to start with) are just not acceptable. No matter what.

So what do you think? Am I a bad parent or what? Where is the line drawn? Just wondering.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

My Surreal Life

Though I confess to "borrowing" the title of a VH1 television show, which by way of disclaimer I will say I don't watch but know the basic premise, I feel that living with a toddler creates a surreal life.

Prior to being parents, the hubby and I used to enjoy the occasional steak dinner. He would marinate the steaks overnight and fire up real charcoal to grill them. I would make a salad, baked potatoes, and some sauteed mushrooms to complete the meal. We had this down to a science after twenty plus years of marriage (not that we could afford steaks in the early, lean "tube steak" years), and enjoyed the teamwork of bringing this meal together.

Now, with the spiked prices on gas and groceries, and another mouth to feed (actually she doesn't eat much it's covering the other end of her digestive tract that costs the real money these days), plus our essentially one-income budget, the occasional steak dinner is now a rarity (pun intended).

Recently on a splurge when steaks were on sale, we attempted to have our bbp (before becoming parents) steak dinner. But the meal was decidedly different. For one, as most moms can relate to, your own meal grows cold as you feed the toddler and assist her in feeding herself. Then as she eats less and more quickly than we do, she was ready to get down from the high chair long before we were done eating. To preserve some semblance of a meal together, our daughter was lovingly placed in the pack and play (new fangled term for playpen of olde) with toys and her sippy cup, positioned where she could see the television and we could see her. To keep her mollified, I put on the cable channel Noggin.

While we were trying to enjoy our bbp steak dinner, she was "watching" Max and Ruby (for the unenlightened -- a show about a brother and sister bunny). My husband's dining seat faces the TV, so he began watching it and I listened. At one point I even asked him if his older sisters had treated him the way Ruby was treating her younger brother Max. As the meal continued, I abruptly laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. My husband shot me a look and defensively explained why he was watching the show ---- he was not amused by my laughter and didn't get what was so funny. But here sat two forty-something first-time parents becoming absorbed by a preschooler's cartoon while trying to recapture our bbp days.

I guess you had to be there -- but for me this new life is certainly surreal at times.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


"Peace begins with a smile."

The church down the street from where I live has posted this idea on their welcome sign for a few weeks now. I have noticed it many times, but I never really thought about it until I reflected on our trips to the grocery store.

Grocery store outings are not always the most peaceful events of our day, but once we have "debated" the necessity of my son sitting in the cart rather than running along side it, pushing it, and filling it, we are usually ready for the business at hand. After accepting his sitting duty, my Little Guy likes to wave at people from his little perch in the cart. He waves and smiles, and sometimes people wave and smile back. Sometimes they don't, and I see a confused look cross his features. I try to explain to his almost two-year-old brain that not everyone smiles back, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't smile in the first place. (Silently I pray that this is not a lesson he will need to teach his own children, that their smiles will always be returned and valued.) Other times, he giggles to a fellow customer who looks a little down, and with his hearty hello the hardened facade melts from the worn face, and the corners of the down-turned mouth tug upward. And so we continue until our work is done, his and mine.

It's easy to slip into despair when we see all that goes on around us. I look down at the cart and see the big toothy grin that glows with optimism and hope. Peace begins with a smile. I wonder, what great things will he see and do?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

From Bad to Worse...My Motley Misadventures

Lately, I've been feeling like the harder I try, the worse things get. Here's a sampler of my most recent foibles and faux pas:

  1. Stumped: To surprise my husband, I decided to try my hand at lawn-mowing. The kids were playing happily in the back yard, so I rolled out the push mower, figured out how to start it (it took me a few minutes...I won't tell you how I did it, so you can still honestly say you don't know how to start the mower), and then heaved my way around the yard, making cool patterns in the tall, thick grass. This is not how my husband does it, but I had a system, I swear. Within the first 10 minutes, I ran over a stump and broke the mower. Apparently, I broke more than just the blade...my husband's initial assessment is that the shaft thingy that goes up into the motor is bent. I broke it good. And this is Florida, people. In the rainy season. We now have a jungle out back.

  2. Reverse-Cinderella Story: My daughter had a bad diaper rash and I was letting her go diaperless for a little while to give her bottom a little fresh air. This is what all the "Good Mommy" books say to do. I figured we have hardwood floors, so cleanup is simple if she has an accident. It wasn't long before my son announced, "MOMMMMEEEEE! She poo-pooed on the playroom floor!" Sure enough, the smell hit me as I peeked around the doorframe. So, I got a handful of toilet paper, grabbed up the offensive load, and dumped it in the toilet. I returned with some cleaner to sanitize the floor and, as I scrubbed the floor on hands and knees, pondering how my Cinderella story must be working in reverse, heard, "MOMMMMEEEEEE! She pee-peeed on the living room rug!" That toosh got covered up in a hurry after that...I mean, that's what diaper cream is for, right?

  3. Hot Potato: I selflessly offered to bake all 40 potatoes for our OAMC day last week, thinking I got the easy job...how hard can it be to bake a potato? I was also very busy organizing the recipes, the shopping list, the "To Do" list, and the email of things the other 7 women needed to bring. In the meantime, the potatoes came out about half their original size, shriveled and blackened. So when I baked the second batch, I used the timer. Only the 15 or so on the bottom rack burned the second time around. That's improvement.

  4. Romantic Comedy of Errors: I recently organized a "Girls' Nite Out" event through my church for women of all ages. A friend helped me publicize the event, which we decided would be a movie night. I hadn't seen the new-to-DVD romantic comedy and was excited to watch it with friends. Mistake #1: I didn't take the time to learn how to use the high-tech projection theater beforehand. For future reference, pushing the power button repeatedly does NOT make it work better. Mistake #2: I didn't prescreen the movie to check for inappropriate content...I got the dreaded call a few weeks later. PG-13 movies just aren't what they used to be!

So maybe I need to stop trying so hard to do good. Maybe this is God's way of telling me that I should actually do LESS. I think maybe if I focused on the things I'm really good at, like eating ice cream and playing with my kids, perhaps everyone would be better off!

But then, maybe God puts people like me on Earth so others can learn from my mistakes and misadventures. Maybe my mission is to keep making a motley mess of things. Then everyone else can count their blessings, knowing they're at least doing better than me!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weeds To Pull

While we are anticipating guests this weekend, I am running around the house trying to get everything perfect. I am scrubbing the baseboards, the floors are being swept, even the garden is getting weeded.

Everytime I have guests coming I go through this routine. I do a deep clean trying to make the house as presentable as possible. I always end up asking myself, "why do I not go through all of this for my family...for me?"

I know why, simply, we live in this house. It is lived in. If you pop by my house at any given moment, the dishes will be done, but there are sure to be toys on the floor. The floors will be swept, but I guarantee you'll see a stray crayon lying around. You're even bound to find piles of laundry waiting to be put away.

I would love to have my house immaculate, just waiting to surprise a guest who might pop by, but it is not my number one priority. Spending time with the kiddos - they won't always be here to play in the sand, but I guarantee there will always be weeds to pull.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Week 2 - New Doggies

Hi, y'all!

Well, we have survived the first week with new doggies. It's gone pretty well - much better than I had anticipated. The first week was like a honeymoon period for us and the dogs. They were obedient and we were fascinated with them. Coming into week 2, I've seen a couple of changes...

Change #1: The kids are more relaxed with the dogs. When they came home, these poor dogs did not have a moment to just sit and hang out. Oh, no. They were the #1 attraction in the house. My kids didn't even ask for TV (much). Now they are much better with them. I've had to teach my kids how to pet and show affection without them constantly harassing the dogs. I really thought that would come naturally, but it didn't.

Change #2: The dogs are more relaxed with us. My non-barking dogs now bark when they see someone outside. This is great until they don't stop after a while. Also, the girlie dog LOVES to sit on the couch (off limits) and kind of looks at you like YOU'RE the crazy one for asking her to get off of it. The kids' toys are now a subject of interest to the dogs. I think we're going to have to figure something out about kids' toys on the floor.

The best thing about our new doggies is that they are really very sweet and tolerant. The most concerning thing about them is that I can't relax when they're out with my kids for fear that my kids will provoke them to bite. I have found that dogs are much more predictable than kids! You can pretty much tell how a dog is feeling based on its personality and environment. Kids are a different story. They do the most erratic things and so quickly that it is impossible to anticipate their interaction with animals. Kids think dogs would never bite them because kids think the dog knows how much the kids love them. I now understand why some rescues will not allow homes with young children adopt a pet.

All things considered, I'm glad we adopted these precious dogs. They still don't have names. I'm still on the look-out for aggressive behavior and I think it might be easier on my kids if we don't name them just yet. I want to be 99% sure that we're keeping them before naming them.

Today, things have gone nicely, but I think the male dog is marking his territory all over the house. A little pee here and a little pee there. I keep finding mysterious little wet droplets in strange places. Thank goodness they are banned from going upstairs. Ooooh boy! And, did I mention the male dog is pretty stinky? I think it's his ears. If it keeps up I'll take him to the vet. Vet bill!

Does it sound like I'm pretty negative about the adoption? I'm really pleased with it, but boy is it a lot of extra work. It's a good thing they are so cute and lovable!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dumping the Working Mommy Guilt

I work. Not only at being a wife and mother. I work outside the home. I am a school teacher in my working life. Ever since the birth of my daughter three years ago, I have been consumed with guilt because of this. I don’t stay home with her. I go to work and she goes to childcare. We have a recent addition to our family, the King of the Jungle, and he will go to childcare next week with THE Princess, as school resumes for teachers.

I have heard or have been told all of following regarding working:

“Working moms aren’t willing to put their children first.”

“You must want too many worldly possessions.”

“You aren’t willing to sacrifice for the good of your children.”

“You are leaving your child to be raised by strangers.”

“Single moms have to work, but married mothers should be willing to stay home.”

“You can’t have great kids if you work, since you aren’t with them all the time.”

“How can you possibly do everything well? You are to busy for that.”

“Good mothers stay home with their children.”

“Oh, you won’t be able to do [insert activity] with us, you work.”

“What kind of children do you expect to raise?”

“Your child is so well behaved, you must stay at home.”

I could go on. Seriously.

Most of the time, I try to disregard the comments. I smile and don’t answer the questions. I change the subject. I suddenly remember that I have a phone call to make or an errand to run. I sometimes think of a very sarcastic response, but don’t have the nerve to say it or it’s later that evening and the opportunity has passed.

I work for many reasons. I work because as a family, we have goals, financial and otherwise. There are some circumstances beyond our control. And, it feels good to do something OTHER than mommying sometimes. I like being good at what I do. However, I know and my kids know that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I would rather be with them. They are my most important things.

I have had to give up things, too. I can’t do everything I want to do. I can’t do everything as perfectly as I would like. I can’t be part of everything I am interested in. All I can do it try. Give it my best shot. I decided that was okay about a year ago and dumped the mommy guilt. I love my kids and they know it.

And guess what? I would stack my kids up against any kids out there. They are as smart, as fun, as good natured, as polite, and as creative as many others with moms who stay home and moms that don’t. I have plenty of other things to feel guilty about, like, most recently, how often I slathered THE Princess in baby lotion or not sanitizing the paci after it hits the floor. Bring it on.

Monday, August 11, 2008

OAMC: Optimistic Adventurous Motley Chefs

THE Chart...

Now that our OAMC day is over, I can take a deep breath and exhale a sigh of relief! I'm happy to report that all eight women went home with 12-16 meals to feed their families yesterday, all of which took less than 5 hours to prep, assemble, and clean.

Suzanne, Shelley and Teresa cavort in the kitchen...it was all work...and some chit-chat, too!

Ginger and Tracy face off at the cooking stations...we used every available inch of space!

I was really intimidated by the thought of eight people in one kitchen, but with all the preparation and organization, there was plenty to do. Having all those hands turned out to be a blessing!

Even with a nice big kitchen, the dining room table was pressed into service as a prep station.

Besides coming home with 16 meals, we also had a fabulous time of fellowship as we mixed, measured, assembled, and portioned out all those meals. And with so many helpers, the clean-up was a snap!

Our final cost per family came out to about $72...a bargain for so many great meals!

This is only a small portion of our pantry items.

We tried the Sausage-Stuffed Shells last night and they were absolutely delicious! The Loaded Spuds were a hit with Teresa's family. Both of these recipes are from You've Got It Made, by Diane Phillips.

(I have a confession to make...I burned the first batch of 40 potatoes. That was my only do-ahead job - well, besides planning and coordinating everything - and I botched it! We had to buy 40 more potatoes on C-Day...added cost: $16 on the total bill...I was completely prepared to foot the bill, but these awesome ladies are so gracious, they insisted it be added to the total. They are so classy!)

Our saucy lady, Rachel, whips up a rue...well, about 4 batches of rue. Then she took on the parmesan cream sauce for the shells. She swears standing over the stove is great because she gets a nice steam facial...I'm glad someone enjoys it!

I can't wait to do it again, ladies! (Especially since I don't have to coordinate it next time!!!)

For the list of meals we prepared, see my previous post "OAMC: What IS that?"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I received an amazing gift this week! Our dryer has been doing strange things to our clothes, and when a large brown slash mark appeared on the leg of my brand new khaki pedal pushers, I was fit to be tied. We had been talking about replacing our old dryer for a while, but with this latest casualty it was definitely the right time. After some careful research we chose the model we wanted and scheduled the delivery.

I watched the deliverymen unload our new dryer from the back of their van, and as they lowered it to the ground I saw one of the most marvelous things I could have ever imagined. Struck breathless, I ran to the stairs as they began hauling the heavy appliance to our door, and I asked, with a little too much excitement on my face and in my voice, “Can I keep the box????”

If you have tried to find appliance boxes lately, you understand my enthusiasm. When I called local stores that sell large things, I was generally greeted with the same answers: “We shred the boxes as soon as they come in,” and “Companies don’t use boxes to pack large appliances much anymore—they shrink wrap them.” My favorite, of course, is the proverbial, “Call back and talk to [the appliance guy] on [insert day of week here]—maybe he can help you.” Of course, [the appliance guy] was never there, or if he was, he had no idea what I was talking about. I soon gave up my crusade to find the Holy Grail of pre-schooldom, the multi-purpose appliance box.

If I had known that I was going to get the box with my dryer, I probably would have sprung for the dryer a lot sooner, like at the beginning of summer when I really needed the box for my toddler French class. That would have saved my new pants from their disfigurement, too. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I have the box now, so I plan to cherish it and use it for all it’s worth—we’ll start by spray-painting it red so that we can pretend it’s a barn. Then what? Maybe it will be a school bus or a post office—it could even be a cave. Then, when the time comes that our dear box cannot hold another coat of paint and it is too feeble to stand, we will use it to cover the ground so that we may spray paint the next box, if we are so blessed as to need a new washing machine.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

OAMC: What IS that?

OAMC = Over-Achievers Meet to Cook? Outlandish Activities Moms Create? Optimistic Adventurous Motley Chefs? I like that one!

I am in the throes of planning for a Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) day. This is a biggie, since we have eight families participating and we will all go home with twelve family-size meals...that's 96 meals that will feed four people each...that's 384 individual servings...which means we'll need 17 1/2 cups of chopped onion, 96 boneless, skinless chicken breasts...32 cups of cooked, chopped chicken, 64 pork chops...40 baked potatoes...16 cups shredded cheddar...8 cups of diced ham...13 cups olive oil...and so on, and so on...

It's a bit overwhelming, but once the shopping and prep work is done, my job gets easier (we have eight women assigned to different prep-ahead jobs such as washing and baking 40 potatoes, chopping all those onions, trimming the fat from the fresh chicken breasts, cooking the chicken for the recipes that require cooked chicken, boiling the pasta, boiling, peeling and chopping the eggs, grating fresh ginger...you get the idea).

With all this prep work, our cooking day will consist mostly of assembling our ingredients, bagging and labeling, and cleaning. We'll still have a bit of cooking to do the day of, but we'll have two woks, two electric skillets, four stove top burners, one oven, and several prep stations. Thankfully, we'll be working in a nice, big kitchen (my in-laws' kitchen, currently unoccupied!)...so we won't be interrupting any naptimes or bedtimes on cooking day...yea! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Here is a list of our 12 Meals:

  1. Loaded Stuffed Spuds
  2. Apple Pork Chops
  3. Teriyaki Pork Chops
  4. Chicken Carbonara
  5. Oven Sandwiches
  6. Beef Stroganoff
  7. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
  8. Sausage-Stuffed Shells
  9. Red River Chicken
  10. Moroccan Chicken
  11. Chicken Tostados
  12. Panko Parmesan Oven-Fried Chicken

Total cost per family: Between $60-$70 (I'll post the total next week when all is said and done, and some pics from OAMC-Day...we cook tomorrow!)

Half of the recipes we chose are chicken recipes, so we wouldn't have to deal with too many different ingredients. In my family, we like to intersperse our OAMC meals with lighter, veggie-bean meals--we don't like meat every night.

The best thing about OAMC is getting all that cooking done in one day in the company of seven other fabulous women! It's actually quite fun! Oh, and not having to stand at the stove every afternoon while my kids destroy the house like a couple of tornadoes...yeah, that rates pretty high for me!

See the post-cooking day follow-up here!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

You Do What?

When child number two came around, a dear friend of mine brought out her cloth diaper stash to show me how easy it was.
Cloth diaper? No way? People really still do that?

I was not going to cloth diaper. Nope. Not even interested.

Well, seventeen months later, we are a cloth diapering family (for over a year)....and truly it is easy. Not just easy, but simple and very inexpensive!

Our water bill has not gone up since cloth diapering. Since we hang our diapers on the line, our electric bill has stayed the same. The only difference is the small amount of time I put into washing the diapers and hanging them outside!

Truly, it is easy. People really still do it. And, yes we have saved a ton of money cloth diapering!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Doggies!

Well, today is day three of our new adventure with these two new dogs we picked up at the pound. Things are actually going pretty well considering...

Pre-dog days

Ever since our two dogs Cotton and Frosty met untimely deaths a few years ago, I've been pining for a furry friend to join our family. Having small children has made the idea of having pets again kind of unsavory so I had to tread lightly and plan things out carefully.

Step one. Make sure kids are toilet trained themselves. There's only so much poop and pee I can deal with at one time.

Step two. Find a breed as close to a stuffed animal as possible, ie., Not too big, not too small, not too old, not too young, hardly sheds, doesn't bark too much, isn't too excitable, won't bite the kids or eat their toys, completely house and crate trained, good with strangers yet barks at someone at the door, totally healthy, parasite-free, incapable of giving us lots of puppies, and lastly, cute as anything. Oh, and did I mention free or at least inexpensive? Simple, right? That's only 18 parameters that had to be met. Well....

I think we may have found TWO dogs that fit the bill. I told my reluctant hubby that God not only helped us find one dog, but two great dogs. Others have mentioned that maybe I'm just a sucker, but I would rather think this is providence.

So far, they're perfect. Except for... the fleas and caked poop they both had when we transported them to our home, the poop, pee and puke (sounds like a rock band) I've cleaned up, the snapping between the dogs over an belatedly eaten dog biscuit, and let me mention, all the piggy-back rides the male is getting all the time. Oh, yeah. He's getting it more than the adults in this home. It's always business-time at our house these days (that's for you Karly :) ). It's a good thing they're spayed and neutered. That's all I've got to say about that.

We have fallen in love with these two furry creatures. My continuous fear is that one will bite the kids. I can deal with anything but this. The understanding between all of us is that if we get bitten, then that doggy will need to go to another home where he/she will be happier. I hope it'll never come to this. That will be a sad day for sure.

We'll see what this week brings. We're hoping for the best!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday, Today! Freezer Paper Stencils

Upon request, I have finally completed the tutorial for Freezer Paper Stencils. This is something that everyone can do and all the members of your family can help with (including the kids).

I picked up a few canvas totes at a discount store (I think they were 3 for $4). I thought they would make great gifts, since more people are using totes to carry their groceries in. Right? But I don't want to give a plain old tote. That's not special or interesting. Or especially interesting.

Here is our cast of characters. The canvas totes in cream, khaki, and walnut. (I'm going to use the walnut colored one for this project.) Freezer paper (you can find it at the grocery store), acrylic paint, sponge brush, sharp exacto knife, and cutting surface (a regular old cutting board will work). You'll also want pull out your iron and some thick paper to put inside whatever you paint, to keep the paint from bleeding through.

The first thing you are going to do is to draw what you want to stencil on the matte side of the freezer paper (it has a shiny plastic side and a matte paper side). I looked at a picture and kind of free-handed the drawing below. But, often I trace pictures.

This is an intricate design and I recommend starting off with a simple design like this. Then, as you get some technique going, go for something harder.

Next, start cutting. Remember to cut out the reverse, of your picture so that you create a stencil. (I often do this in the early morning hours, before my kids rise, so that we are ready do work on an art project and I don't have sharp tools around.) I like to cut on a glass cutting board, it makes nice smooth curves.

I find the cutting to be the most tedious part. However, when you are done, it's so totally worth it! It goes quickly from here, I promise!

So, here is the completed stencil on freezer paper, cut and ready to go. I try to cut 4 or 5 at a time so we can paint several things at once. Put some heavy paper, in this case old pieces of manila folders, inside what your working on to keep the paint from bleeding through.

You are going to need your iron now. I like to iron (on high heat) before I put the stencil down so that I have a nice smooth place for the design. Place your design on the fabric shiny plastic side down and move it around where you want it. Then iron it in place. I recommend doing about 1/3 at a time. That way you can move your stencil if necessary. You can peel it up and re-iron if necessary.

Now that your design is ironed in place, you are ready to paint. This is the part I let THE Princess do. We use a sponge brush with regular acrylic paint. Make make sure you tap the brush (instead of wiping paint back and forth). This will insure that the paint does not soak underneath the stencil.

Cover everything with a thick coat of paint. I went behind THE Princess and added some yellow for contrast.

The great part is, that you don't have to wait to see your design. Start to peel off the freezer paper. I use tweezers to get any small areas that stick.

There it is! Just let it dry and iron over the dried acrylic paint to set it. It will wash well after that.

I added another stencil to this one and now I have a nice little gift tote! Awesome, I love the freezer paper stencil!

To see other projects with Freezer Paper stencils, look here. I have lots of ideas for this fun project!