...because we all have our motley moments!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Eyes of a Child

This weekend I went to a historical farm with my son and nieces and nephews. There were 6 kids total ages 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 1. We went with my parents and sister, so there were 4 adults. At first I thought it would be a handful. I was not that interested in the farm, it was OK but not where I would have chosen to spend my Saturday afternoon.

But once we got there, it was a blast. All of the kids were so into it. The farm was set in the 1860's and had all the authentic things and dress to go along with it. The kids loved to pump the water into buckets. They were psyched to kneed the bread and cook it. They were amazed at all the animals. They could not wait to water the plants. It was SO FUN!

If it had just been me and another adult, I would not have had the adventure that we all had. I would have taken in the sites and been on my way, but we really got to experience the farm because all the kids wanted to take part. It was a GREAT day!

It is great to see things through the eyes of our children! It keeps us young!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Beach Fun

Fun at the Beach with Friends (East Coast)

We recently spent a couple of days at the beach with friends and stayed in a beach house just down the block from this secluded public beach (the house belongs to a friend of a friend, so it was FREE FUN!). We had such a great time! I wish we could go back, but we're leaving soon for a very different kind of beach. We'll miss our LW friends!

Here are some pics of our beach adventure:

First View of the Ocean

Seashell Treasures

Spiky Seed Pods...Open Wide!
On the Path Through the Mangroves

Blazing a Trail into the Sunset

Thursday, May 28, 2009

THE Pasta

1 box whole-wheat rotini (or other small pasta)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry tomatoes, quartered)
1 cup chopped spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off
2 cups sliced mushrooms
Grated pecorino romano cheese
Cook pasta according to box. Mix tomatoes, spinach, oil, vinegar, basil, and garlic in large bowl; let sit at room temperature 15 minutes. Saute shrimp and mushrooms. Toss with pasta and tomato mixture. Top with cheese. Serves 3-6, depending on appetite size.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kitchen Gadgets

My favorite kitchen gadgets and their stories.

Pancake Grill: I got this for Christmas from my sister. I love to make pancakes, french toast, fried eggs, grilled cheese and quesadillas on it. I can make a whole bunch at one time so I don't have to slave in the kitchen too long. It's about $20 on sale. Worth it!
Uncrustable Maker: This is from Pampered Chef. I don't buy the Uncrustables at the store anymore because I can make these cheap at home with wheat bread! $9 before the handling charges.

Deviled Egg Holder: I am now the official deviled egg bringer-over in my family with this baby. It keeps my little eggies nice and safe for any journey. Got it at Wal-mart. You can also find a travel cooler in the camping section of the store to pack these containers in and keep them cool!

Frosting Gun: I use this more for making my famous deviled eggs look real pretty. Great for cupcakes too! I got this one from my daughter's school fundraiser catalog last year. It was inexpensive and it works great!

Egg/Strawberry/Kiwi Slicer: Saves time and cut fingers. I like to use this for making egg salad. Sure beats cutting each egg and then chopping it all over the place.

Egg Separator: I got this from Pampered Chef as well. I like to make myself an egg-white scramble now and then. The fat grams I save from not having those yolks let me add the cheese that I love in it!

This little rolly thing peels garlic in a jiffy! No smelly fingers!

Salad Spinner: I LOVE this thing! I actually bought the Wal-mart version for less than $3 dollars. It works great. Dry lettuce every time.

Tell us some of your favorites and why!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the move!

I am happy, no, ecstatic to say that after nearly four years of living in a 900 sq. ft. apartment, we are buying a house! I think it's safe to say that in the current market it shouldn't be a problem to find an available property, so even though we don't have a specific place to go and we don't really know when we'll be moving there, I'm going to start packing NOW.

I've had a few bad moves in my living-away-from-my-parents'-house history, but none so bad as our last one. I'll spare you the details of a pretty long story, but the gist is that we thought we wanted to move, we sold our house, we changed our minds, we still had to move, and we didn't really have anywhere to go. That was fun enough, but then after we secured our apartment (where we live now) my upper back muscles started hurting so much that I couldn't even turn my head, and my chiropractor forbade me to do any lifting. So, in the weeks prior to our move, I couldn't do any work and my husband was away during the day at his summer job, so you can probably imagine how organized a move that was. It involved tossing "stuff" into garbage bags at the end because we had run out of boxes, and those bags were immediately thrown onto the truck of a friend who was helping us. He was heard later saying, "Never ask me to help you guys move again." It was horrid, and I assure you, unpacking was no fun, either.

But that is in the past, and since we have time to do things better this time, I'm starting now. My first stop for advice for anything is the FlyLady, and on her site she has an entire section devoted to moving tips. I printed that article, and I gathered all of the Sharpie markers I could find to make a color-coded chart of the rooms we will be moving. I plan to color-code the boxes so that finding what-goes-where is not as difficult once we get there. I am also going to be brutal with decluttering, and if we don't love it and use it, it's not going with us. (Local freecyclers, stay tuned--your ship may be about to come in!)

So, check back to see what's working and what isn't, and if you have any tips for me, I would love to hear them!

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Carrie's Day!

Today is my friend Carrie's birthday! For those of you just tuning in, we met Carrie and her husband Matt while we were adopting our sons from Russia. I am a very timid person, and travelling to Russia was way out of my comfort zone. It was something I had to do, but I was very nervous about getting it done. Actually, to say I was nervous was a tremendous understatement. I laid awake at night worrying about flying for 12 hours over the Atlantic, landing in a foreign country, staying in Moscow, taking a plane to my unknown child's region, and meeting a child I hoped to fall in love with at first sight. I had been popping Prilosect like they were candy and my stomach was still doing flip-flops.

Then, we got a phone call. Carrie Someone-or-another left a message on our answering machine. I actually thought she worked for our adoption agency. I figured my psychological profile had revealed that we really would need a travel companion. Finally - God really does know my limits. So I called this Carrie Whoever-she-was back and found out that she and her husband were travelling with us to meet their child. I had never learned that our adoption agency preferred to send pairs of families. We would be travelling with other Americans!

Next to my child, meeting Carrie and Matt has been the biggest surprise blessing from God. It is amazing to me that God can manage the details for the right parents to find the right child, but in our case, he worked overtime. He helped the right families find first travel partners and then friends for life while they were finding their children in the same town and same orphanage half-way across the world!

Some fun Russian memories of Carrie:
  • Washing laundry in the sink and letting it dry. We were so limited on space in the suitcase that we couldn't bring enough closes for the whole trip.

  • Talking to her mom at the crack of dawn each morning. The hotel staff couldn't really speak English and always got our rooms and names confused.

  • Eating bread dipped in olive-oil at the hotel in Moscow, and eating at Sans Pizza in Astrakhan. Good food in Russia was a big deal for us.

Pam and Carrie in Russia before we got our boys.

In the three and half years since we have been home, our friendship has grown. Carrie is my friend who understands best what I've been through. She is an awesome christian who has taught me so much about being a child of God, and she would make a great pastor's wife if God has that planned for Matt. Carrie is a fantastic Internet researcher, and she is always positive and upbeat. Plus, she is so cute. She has great hair and fun clothes. Even more exciting today, Carrie is a new mom again! I am so happy to tell you that on Friday, their new daughter, Mia MinJee arrived from Korea!!!!

The Ribeiros (Mia, Carrie, Roman, Matt and Avery)

I think Mia looks like her Aunt Pam, and I can't wait to meet her! Congratulations Carrie. I hope this is your best birthday yet! I don't know how you will ever top this one.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Power of the Praying Mama

Prayer has aways been one of my favorite things to learn about in the Christian faith. It is so cool how we have a direct line to God all the time. There are so many different ways to pray and reasons to pray. Prayer is always something that I cling to when the goin' gets tough.

While we were going through all the infertility and adoption things we felt that there was so much out of our control. We decided as a couple to pray together every night about how to grow our family. Every night we were able to lay our burden over to our loving father. Some nights we prayed in confidence knowing that God was working for our good, and other night we questioned what was going on. But we always knew that God was listening and that brought me comfort.

As a Mom now, there as still so many things out of my control. Prayer is my shelter now, too. We still pray every night together to be good parents and still about growing our family. We are closer to each other as a couple too. Many times when something in our life or the life of a loved one gets shaky we will say "lets add it to the nightly prayer list". I know my husband prayed for me before we started this nightly ritual, but to hear his prayers for me out loud is very powerful and comforting.

My mom used to pray for us kids all the time and one thing she prayed for is that when we were doing wrong that we would get caught. My mom knew that she would not always be able to influence our decisions and also know that our unwise behavior would not change unless we got caught and there were consequences for our actions. She must have high standing with the Lord because we never got away with anything! She ALWAYS found out what we were up to. And we are better people because of it! It is something that I am going to add to my nightly prayer list!

My prayer for all of us motley moms is that we are always praying for our children!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Building My Storm Shelter

What is holding me back? I have been planning to write a children's book for years now and for whatever reason, it's just not happening. I'm not even really attempting to get started. What's my problem?

I think I'm cutting myself short anytime I think about this goal. I'm really good at psyching myself out of being a writer: "I don't have any ideas." "I'm not good enough." "I don't have any connections to agents or publishers." "I'll never get published." "I don't have time." "I don't have any creative energy left after I give the kids what they need." Wah. Wah. Wah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

It's so much easier not to try. To let my wheels slow down and sink into the mud, the negative thoughts pelting down, lashing at my confidence, soaking me in a storm of my own thunderous making. I am my own worst enemy.

Now I need to get really good a psyching myself into giving this a shot. I will have the time this summer, the energy, and the inspiration. Both kids will go to children's programs every morning of every weekday, all summer long. I will be writing from a place that gives me peace, surrounded by mountains and overlooking a glinting, silver blue lake. I will NOT have any excuses not to write. I feel tingly just thinking about my own possibilities. The ideas are swirling in my head. Now I need to draw my confidence about me like an overcoat against the storm's barrage and begin my mantra: "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can...."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

10 Reasons I'm a Motley Mom

1. Sometimes I pretend I can't hear my children. I have been known to hide in their room when they're playing elsewhere so I can read.
2. I let them watch TV. Lots of TV. Probably 2-3 hours a day. The big one watches 2 episodes of Dora (or, lately, Curious George) every day while he eats lunch, before he goes to take a nap. In my defense, it's all stuff I approve of and it's DVR'd so I fast-forward through the commercials.
3. I let the baby eat goldfish that dropped in the dirt at the playground. I did draw the line at the ant-covered ones.
4. Usually I (or my husband) end up cleaning up most of the toys at night. I feel bad making Ethan pick up stuff Micah has strewn all over the house and Micah is too little to understand cleaning up just yet.
5. I get them a cookie almost every time we go to Publix, even if our trip there is so short they are still eating the cookie when we leave the store.
6. I got my oldest to not be scared of pooping in the big toilet by encouraging him to laugh at the "plop" sound it made.
7. My oldest gets on food kicks where he eats the same thing for lunch for weeks on end. Right now we're on Dora soup. I don't try to get him to eat anything else. It's got carrots in it!
8. Yesterday when I found the baby sitting in the middle of the dining room table, AGAIN, I took a picture of him to post to Facebook before I got him down. I'm sure that will do wonders to discourage his climbing.
9. During Ethan's preschool singing program, a kid was pushing him and not playing, either. When he pushed the kid back in retaliation, I had to physically restrain myself from cheering him on. I want him to defend himself.
10. I let my oldest pee outside instead of coming in to go to the bathroom. Consequently, when we were on our preschool field trip to the farm and everyone was milling about waiting to go in, he dropped trou and started to pee on the ground right there in front of God and everybody. I moved him to another, more secluded patch of grass so at least he wouldn't splash anyone. Then I noticed the bathrooms about 50 yards away. Oops!
I'm a shoo-in for Mother of the Year!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Uncomfortable Decisions

I have been pretty strict with the TV and movie watching. At home, the kids watch Noggin and PBS. They can watch Disney only in the morning. Animal shows are great too.

Of course what they want to watch is stuff like Hannah Montana, SpongeBob, and other pre-teen shows. Whenever I've relented, I've been disappointed with the attitude and words that the show uses. I feel like the TV patrol sometimes. I use it as a teachable moment and explain that some shows are of low quality and others are of higher quality. I actually use the word garbage for the low quality shows.

Lately, my kids have really gotten into watching the Little House on the Prarie shows on DVD. My good friend Kim let me borrow them from her. She has all the seasons that used to be shown on TV primetime. They are wonderful! They teach great values and sometimes show real life situations that cause the girls to ask me good life questions. I highly recommend them!

The day we saw the first LHP movie, I explained that this was an example of a "good" show. I asked the girls to tell me all of the good and bad things that they saw the characters doing. The show was filled with good and not too many bad. We then watched an episode of Hannah Montana and I asked the girls to tell me all of the good and bad things that they saw the characters doing. The list of good was short and the list of bad was long. Really long. I think they actually showed 2 kids kissing. At least it was a girl and boy and not the same sex like some other shows I've seen on TV. They got the message loud and clear.

How about movies? Well, I've been strict about the girls only watching G rated movies. Have they ever seen a PG rated movie? Yes. It's been at someone else's house and once at the free movies at the theatre in the summer. Every time they watch one, I am reminded of exactly why I don't want them to.

If my kids use the language or do some of the things shown on the screen, they get into big trouble! These movies show things that are absolutely against what is taught in the Bible. I can not in good conscience just let them go at it and be "entertained".

What's easier for me? Just letting them watch whatever's on. Not making a big stink about what's being shown to them at someone else's place. Choosing the PG movie at the movie theatre instead of the G rated movie offered.

I know this is not a popular way to live. I know that not every thinks the same way I do. That is totally fine with me. My job is to raise my girls the best way I know how. That is my priority and I take the responsibility seriously.

Remember that bible song:
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There's a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little mouth what you say...
Be careful little hands, what you touch...
Be careful little feet, where you go...

I'm not sure where in the Bible this song relates to. Maybe Psalm 101 verse 3. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The verse before it says: I will be careful to lead a blameless life- when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart.

When I see it written out, it helps me stay stronger in my conviction even when the going gets tough and I have to make uncomfortable decisions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


"He has tonsillitis, conjunctivitis, and two ear infections, and I have to tell you that he is extremely..."

He paused as he finished writing the prescription.

I stammered, "Please don't say the "c" wor--"



I took our son to see his pediatrician because he had gunk in his eyes. The toddler has barely coughed in the past few days, much less complained of pain in his ears or throat. I took him in to rule out pink eye so I could comfortably take him around his friends again, and I left with antibiotics, salves, and a giant red "C" to hang over his size 3T t-shirt.


How did this happen? When I'm sick, I let people know. I want as much sympathy as possible. I post status updates on Facebook of my current symptoms and the pills I'm taking to offset them. I speak with a feeble or scratchy voice and wait for people to say, "Oooh, you don't sound good!" Our son, on the other hand, jumps on the couch when he is sick. He tries to scale un-climbed furniture when he's sick. Most of all, he wants to play with his friends when he's sick.

Not today, buddy.

We're under quarantine until at least tomorrow. That means no play dates or library story time, no chatting with the other mommies at the playground. I guess that last part really just affects me, but as the person who stands to receive the majority of his germs I thought I could throw that in there.

So what will we do today? I'm sure it will involve fluids and medicine and hand washing and toy cars. I could use some ideas, though--what do you do when you're under house arrest? I can't wait to read your comments! (Seriously, I'm not going anywhere!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tales from the OR

Back when I was trying to get pregnant, I ended up having three surgeries in two years. A few years later, I had my hysterectomy, so over the years, I walked away with many scars (all below the bikini line, if it matters) and a few funny stories.

May 12, 1999 - My first surgery. An exploratory surgery to see what was wrong with my reproductive organs. Dr. Bopp, my surgeon, did an excellent job preparing me for the surgery by explaining in detail all that could go wrong. After all, he was legally required to tell me that there was a chance I could wake up without my uterus, if I woke up at all. He failed to tell me that those were one in a million chances, so by the day of my surgery, I was a nervous wreck. In the weeks leading up to the surgery I had been stressing out about everything from people seeing me naked to not waking up at all.

On the morning of the surgery, he stopped by to see how I was doing. I told him there was no way I wanted to have the surgery. I changed my mind; I couldn't go through with it. He smiled and quietly said that he wanted me to talk to the anesthesiologist - that would help ease my fears. The anesthesiologist came out, introduced himself and took a look at my IV. The next thing I know, I am waking up in a different room. I didn't even know I had surgery! I asked to see my family, and horrors of horrors, they told me I would have to dress my self first. It was an outpatient surgery, so its basically like ordering from the drive-thru at McDonald's. They make sure you are awake, in little to no pain, and throw drugs at your car window while your loved one drives you home. "Don't let the door hit you on your way out," comes to mind.

From this surgery, I learned that I had severe endometriosis, and I learned that I should always as for versed as soon as I was in my operating gown. Once I was home and comfortable, I also learned I had one more incision than I thought I would. They ended up doing a lot more than just exploring.

February 14, 2000 - My second surgery. This one was a full incision (laparotomy) with hospital stay to open and repair my fallopian tubes. Inpatient surgeries are much better as you usually get a morphine drip - way better than outpatient pain meds. It ended up being a gigantic waste of time, except for the four weeks I took off from work on medical leave :). I woke up on the day after surgery and had to pee, so I rang the nurse. She came right away as I still had my catheter in, which of course, I was too out of it to realize. She unkinked the catheter line for me, but told me if I still had trouble they would need to take it out and put it back in again - while I was AWAKE! From this surgery, I made a new rule: catheters can only go in after I am knocked out.

May 10, 2001 - My third surgery. This time we were doing the GIFT procedure to try to get pregnant. It was pretty uneventful. The doctor harvested six of my eggs to put back inside my uterus. We put in three and froze three for a later date because you shouldn't put all of your eggs in one basket, I mean uterus. The only thing slightly funny was that my surgeon, Dr. Bopp, didn't do the surgery, but I had seen so many doctors by then that I didn't really care.

July 13, 2007 - My last surgery. This was the big one. I always knew it was out there looming over my head - the hysterectomy. By now, I was a pro at surgeries and really wanted to have this one done. I was a little nervous that it was scheduled for Friday the 13th, but I really liked my doctor. She was actually my first OB/GYN, so I had come full circle. I was hoping to give birth to a 10 pound uterus. The surgery was done where I had worked for years, but anesthesiologically speaking, this was a new hospital for me, and I had some problems with the meds. When I finally woke up, I was in pain, so I kept pressing the button on my morphine pump. Let me first say that you are not supposed to be able to overdose on that. I'm not sure what happened, but I woke up on the fourth floor (Adult Care Unit) instead of on the second floor (Womens' and Children's), and every time I did wake up, the nurses were on the phone with my doctor. I thought that was all strange, but I was so tired I just kept going back to sleep. The next day I learned that I had some how overdosed on the morphine and almost went into respiratory arrest! They had to use Narcan (I don't really know what this means, but it corroborates my story - this was pretty serious) to pull me out of it. I guess that's what you get for having surgery on Friday the 13th! This time around, I learned that my uterus only weighed two pounds :(.

Unless something happens with my appendix, I think surgeries are behind me. At least I hope they are. But if not, at least I know to ask for the good drugs!

My Kryptonite

Everyone has something about themselves that brings them down. Like Kryptonite it takes our strength and self esteem away and leaves us weak and vulnerable. Maybe it is something about our appearance, our abilities or intelligence that is a thorn in our sides. For me, it is a learning disability in spelling and a mild form of dyslexia (Which is really hard to spell by the way!)

I am not stupid, but sometimes when I have to write things out or take notes, I feel that I look like I am. All of the short vowels sound the same to me (they all sound like “ah”) so “sounding it out” is really hard, plus the English language does not always follow its own rules, making it even more difficult. Add on top of that the letters changing places in my head, and it all makes for a hard time. Needless to say, I LOVE spell check! It is helpful most of the time, except when I misspell a word to make another word. I often write defiantly instead of definitely because the spell check “auto corrects” it for me. But those words mean VERY different things. (“I am defiantly going to be there” is a little silly sounding!) Another mistake I often make is impatient instead of important (which can pretty much mean the opposite of each other). To help with this, I often have my wonderful hubby spell check for me. He reads most of my posts before they are posted to the world. Another way I cope is to use cheers or songs to help me remember how to spell words (be aggressive, got to be aggressive, got to B-E- A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!)

Another bother is the word verification on the blogger comments. Letters switch places in my head when the letters are straight, it happens much more when they are curved. There are times when I have to do the word verification 5 or more times because I can’t get it right. It is more annoying than anything. (note: I understand the usefulness of it, so I am not trying to get you to take it off.)

There are times when I am depressed about it. Satan gets in my head and tells me how stupid I am, and that I am not worth other people listening to what I have to say. But, I have to listen to the Holy Spirit who reminds me that I have a Masters in Math Education. (Of course, I gravitated to numbers since letters were so difficult) I am NOT stupid! I am a child of God! I love the Casting Crowns song,Voice of Truth.

Even Paul struggled with a limitation:
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 7-10

God has used my disability. As a teacher I had an understanding and compassion for students when they struggled with a math concept. I struggled with spelling, so I could relate. It also gave me a passion for the Special Education students in my classes. These kids were not stupid, they can do many things. I would tell my classes of my dyslexia to show that even with disabilities you can be successful! I can also be an example for my son, to not give up just because something is difficult.

Our God is so great. He uses our weakness, and makes us stronger people. Be encouraged today!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Seattle on a Shoestring: Our First Kid-Free Vacation!

My husband and I just took a vacation without the kids for the first time ever. Before this, they've never even slept over at anyone's house without us, so we really weren't sure how they would do over a long weekend away from us. Our oldest is 5 1/2, so we figured it was time to break away and enjoy some alone time. Something we NEVER fully appreciated before we had kids!
We lucked into a pair of round-trip tickets to anywhere AirTran flies in the continental US. I wanted to go as far as possible, so we flew to Seattle on Thursday last week, determined to see the city without renting a car (Seattle on a shoestring). This meant we had to catch a city bus at the airport into downtown Seattle, get off in the underground bus tunnel, then find our bus to the Inn at Queen Anne, where we stayed. We got explicit instructions from the inn, including bus numbers, so we felt pretty confident when we stepped onto the 194 at the airport.

Why does that sign say North to Seattle...aren't we IN Seattle?!

Apparently there are two 194 buses. The one we boarded went SOUTH to Tacoma instead of NORTH to downtown Seattle. This sign was part of our unplanned walking tour of the interstate system of Tacoma, south of Seattle. At this point, I was thanking God we did not have the kids with us. We finally found the bus stop we needed and only had to wait about 30 minutes for the right bus. We rolled into downtown Seattle about an hour and a half later than planned, but hey! We were on an adventure! These kinds of mistakes have much less impact when you're not hauling car seats, luggage for four, a diaper bag, and a stroller!

Our trip was really great, but totally exhausting! Pike's Place was very cool, and we took a 2 1/2 hour cruise of the locks, where we saw the Sleepless in Seattle floating home. Don't say houseboat unless you want to catch the evil eye of a floating home owner. The Sleepless home is on the market for a mere $3 million, by the way. It's the green one with red trim on the left:

Here are some more pics of our trip:

This is where the fish fly at Pike Place Market

That's the famous mascot of Pike Place, Rachel (cast in bronze)

We drank LOTS of coffee in Seattle. There's a coffee shop on every block!

This one's for you, Miss Rachel! Check out the steep tilt...our calves were killing us by day 2!

The Famous Space Needle

City Scape: View from the Water

I don't know why we waited so long to take a vacation away from the kids, but now that we have, I already have a plan for the next one! And KID 1 asked me several times this week "Mommy, when can we go on vacation again?" I told him next month we would all go on vacation and he said, "No! I mean when can we go on vacation without you and Daddy?" They stayed at the ranch with my mom and helped feed the cows. They rode the 4-wheeler down the fence line to check the fences, and even had to round up a stray cow and mend the fence where she broke out. They got to be real ranch hands and they LOVED it! They barely missed us!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ol' Lady

So I've been a little freaked out about my age lately. This hasn't happened to me since I turned 27, but that was mainly because my soon-to-be husband and I were getting pretty serious and I could foresee the impending loss of my singlehood. That lasted about 2 days. Anyway, last week I turned 34 and while I don't think of 34 as being "old" in the least, it's still got me a little freaked. As my husband so kindly pointed out, I can no longer say that I'm in my early 30s. I am now in my mid-thirties. I am at the point in my life where stars from my youth are beginning to die. And not tragically young, either. While intellectually and even in the deep recesses of my heart I know that age doesn't matter, it's just a number, you're only as young as you feel, the truth is, I am feeling a little older, at least physically. The other night I stayed out until 11:30 watching a movie with some friends and I paid for it the next day. I was exhausted! And something always hurts - my shoulder or the other shoulder or my knee or my ankle or my wrist. I'm getting wrinkles and my metabolism, which has always been pretty fast, is slowing down. I swear sometimes I look in the mirror and think, "What the - ? Who is that woman staring back at me?" It's even hard for me to refer to myself as a "woman" and not a "girl." Mentally I'm not all that mature, so it's kind of difficult to have to admit that my body is getting older. I still feel young on the inside and really, I think that's what counts. Getting another year older is better than the alternative - death. And truthfully, my life just keeps getting better. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with myself and the more I embrace my "inner dork" and the more fun I have. Plus, my boys are growing up and right now, they're just plain hilarious. So yeah, I'm getting older. But, like fine wine and cheese, I'm getting better, too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Something That Inspires Me

I am on a mission. The mission to get some things done before my kids are off for the summer. I've already scratched some things off my list that I know I won't get to and am just accepting that my house won't be Pottery Barn perfect any time soon.

So, this post will be a short one. By the way, kudos to Rachel and Pam for those tasty ideas for blueberries and strawberries. I went out and bought some yummy blueberries today and am planning on making that rustic tart soon with the kids.

What keeps you inspired on a daily basis? One thing that I really like to do is to listen to Midday Connection on 91.1 FM at 1PM. I have it on right now and the girls are talking about jealousy. I just love this program because it's always different and it gives really great info on all sorts of women's issues.

I've been listening to this program for years now. Here's the link to their website http://www.moodyradio.org/middayconnection.aspx . They also have a blog (which you can get to on their website) and they're on Facebook. They do a book club and then talk about the book on the show.

I feel like the hosts could be friends of mine. They keep it real and yet they are so encouraging. I love it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Easier Than Pie: Make a Rustic Tart

I should probably keep more cooking secrets to myself, especially when I find something like this that is so easy yet so impressive, but this is too good not to share with my busy Mommy friends. Sturdy enough for pot lucks, pretty enough for tea, the rustic tart is en vogue and it couldn't be more simple to make!

Be warned, I am not giving you a recipe--I'm giving you a method with some shortcuts and helpful hints that I have learned along the way. If you need a recipe, google "rustic tart" and you will find many.

I used strawberries for this tart, but it's fun to make this with fresh fruit that is in season. I'm looking forward to doing this with nectarines and cherries later in the summer, and then apples and pears in the fall. This would make a great savory tart, too, with tomatoes and cheese. It's so simple to do, why not experiment with different flavors?

Step 1: Prepare the filling.

You will need about 1/2 pound of fresh or frozen fruit for a 9" round pie crust (this will make about 6 nice servings). Cut the fruit into small pieces (slices, quarters...whatever is appropriate), and toss it with sugar (approximately 1/4 cup) and cornstarch (about 1 tablespoon). Add any flavorings you want--lemon peel is great with strawberries, cinnamon with apples, etc. Allow the fruit to mingle with the seasonings while you...

Step 2: Prepare the crust:

For this tart you will need a pie crust. This step is the proverbial fork in the road for this dessert. If you enjoy making crusts, please feel free to make one. It needs to be about 9" round. When I made this tart for our meeting, I ran out of time and could not make my own, so I grabbed the next best thing--a rolled, ready-to-use pie crust. You can find these in boxes of two in the refrigerated-canned-biscuit section of your grocery store.

Whatever crust you use, roll it onto a parchment paper or easy-release foil lined cookie sheet. Now for...

The Most Important Step:
Fruit juices make pie crusts soggy, and this tart will fall apart unless the crust is sealed. Take an egg white or some liquefied jam or jelly (microwave it for a few seconds) and brush it all over the top of the crust. In my research I also found that sprinkling cookie crumbs on the crust can absorb some of the liquid from the fruit, so I crushed some amaretti cookies (pictured below) and scattered a thin layer in the middle of the circle where the fruit would be. Now you are ready to...

Step 3: Fill the crust:

Using a slotted spoon (to drain the syrup from the fruit), mound the fruit into the middle of the crust, and place some cold, cubed butter on top (one or two tablespoons). Leave a two-inch margin on the outside of the crust. Fold the margin of the crust over the fruit as shown in the picture and brush it with egg white. Sprinkle one or two tablespoons of sugar onto the egg white brushed dough, and bake the tart at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. The pastry will be browned and glossy on top when it is ready. Don't worry if the crust splits or fruit syrup drizzles down the sides--that is normal and part of the charm of this rustic treat.

Step 4: Dress it up a little:
Take a jam that is roughly the same color as the fruit (raspberry jam for strawberries, apricot jam for apples, etc.) and microwave it for a few seconds to liquefy it. Brush it over the fruit to add a little extra flavor and some gloss.

Enjoy this tart on its own, or top it with whipped cream or ice cream.

I have to laugh when I think of how this tart was probably created--you know the original baker either misplaced or simply didn't have a pie pan, so she decided to fold up the sides of the dough in hopes that the filling would stay put. Now this fun and tasty tart is on the cover of magazines and graces even the fanciest of cookbooks. I wonder if its creator ever got a royalty?

If you like this kitchen tip you can find more at Kitchen Tip Tuesday on Tammy's blog!

Looking for more great recipes? Check out Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed With Grace!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blueberries: The New Super Food

I am sure by now you all are tired of hearing how blue I am, so I will talk about blueberries instead. They are very healthy for you and have been shown to help improve concentration and ward off cancer (per John Tess's radio show). It is peak blueberry season here in beautiful, sunny Florida, so I thought I would share my blueberry muffin recipe. I did not write this, I found it somewhere. Since I cannot remember where it came from, I must not be eating enough blueberries :)

Overnight Blueberry Muffins (In Title Only)

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 cup blueberries (or other fruit of your choice)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. (I actually measure the flour and then add the other two to the measuring cup. I rarely sift). Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. (The directions do not say to do this, but I have found it very important to taste this creamed, sugary butter.) Add eggs to butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and milk alternately. Make sure that the flour is the last ingredient to add. Mix until smooth. Gently fold in blueberries. (For some reason, this is not in the directions, but it is imparative that you taste the batter ~ lol.) Refrigerate overnight. (I have never done this, as I usually do not plan far enough in advance. I just put them into the pans and bake.) To bake - preheat oven to 350. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My First Mother's Day!

Today is my FIRST mother's day as a mom! FINALLY!

Last year I refused to go to church. I could not handle the service where they ask all the mom's to stand up and everyone gives them applause. They give the mom's roses and say a nice prayers. Yes- in the prayer they do mention those who would like to be a mom but are unable, but it is too little too late at that point. In some ways I agree with Pam, church should just ignore the day. Also, for the last few years, Mother's Day meant more questions about when I was going to have kids... all the more heartbreaking for a woman who wants a child but cannot have one... Please remember these women today as it is one of the hardest days of the year for them. Say an extra prayer for them today!

But THIS year is different! Bring on the flowers, cards and pampering. I am a MOM!

The thing I am most looking forward to on Mother's Day is a little silly. Every year I have to think of some gift to get my mom and MIL. I always thought that my sibling had an easier job. They just had to wrap up something with their child's picture on it and that was a hit! So THIS year I am looking forward to giving my gift to my mom and MIL and watching their eyes light up with a gift with MY child's picture on it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Facebook Fandom

I don't mean to offend anyone here, but what is up with becoming a fan of random things on Facebook? Here are some examples of things that one can become a fan of: Water. Sarcasm. Coffee. Prayer. Winter Haven, Florida. I understand being a fan of a music group or TV show or something. But water? Do you really need to declare to hundreds of Facebook friends that you are a fan of water? I personally am a fan of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits, but cut me some slack - I did that before I knew what "becoming a fan" could get me into. It seemed innocuous enough - I love those biscuits! Why wouldn't I want to become a fan of them? But then I started getting status updates. From biscuits. Let me say that again. Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits updates their (his? her? its?) status. For example, "Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits - Hey I just met Vincent who is a manager at a Red Lobster in Austin, Texas... He approves of the site as well! Thanks for the extra Biscuits Vincent!" Huh? This Vincent, who is the manager of a Red Lobster, has never met the biscuits? And he gave the biscuits extra biscuits? Isn't that a form of cannibalism? And people comment on this! "Way to go!" or, my favorite, "BISCUITS, STOP UPDATING YOUR STATUS."
Do you see what I mean when I say I didn't know what I was getting myself into?
I'll spare you the Reese's updates, but I've been wondering lately what updates I could get if I became a fan of other things. Water: "Water is currently covering 71% of the earth's surface." Who. Gives. A. Crap? Sarcasm: "Sarcasm thinks your status updates are fascinating. No, really." That's really not all that funny, Sarcasm. And Winter Haven? "Winter Haven, Florida is the armpit of Polk County. Oh, wait, that's Haines City."
Boy, do I hope there aren't any Haines City natives that read this blog.
The point is, I've spent way too much time thinking about this "Facebook Fandom" issue. I am actually afraid to become a fan of certain things and I'm offended if it is suggested I become a fan of other things (i.e., the Florida State Seminoles. As if!) I think I spend too much time on Facebook, period. Maybe I should consider a technology blackout for a while to heal my soul or something. Yeah, right!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother's Day

We'll be celebrating Mother's Day on Sunday.

I have mixed feelings about this day. It's nice because I am a mother and so I get a special day to celebrate it with my family. It's a little hard because my mother passed away when I was 19 and my stepmom lives far away. My mother-in-law lives closer so we usually see her sometime on that day.

Because my mom died a while ago, I protect myself by not thinking about her too much. I have gotten really, really good at just not thinking about painful thoughts. Is that healthy? I don't know. It works for me. Father's day is about the same too. My dad died four years ago. We celebrate with my father-in-law on that day. The problem with these holidays is that they dredge-up all these feelings that are "in-check" the rest of the year (except other major holidays and birthdays).

I'm gonna use this as my little psycho-therapy session, OK?

How do you guys feel about these holidays? Are they peaches and cream for you? Are they full of thorns? A little of both?

I really don't have any great insight this week. I just wanted to vent.

On Sunday, we'll celebrate with a nice breakfast out and cards for me to read. I'll spend the day saying "It's my choice (to do whatever) because it's MY special day!". Then, I'll probably have a little cry session sometime towards the end of the night and my hubby will again comfort me as he always tries to do. Then, I'll wake up on Monday morning and be kind of relieved the day has passed, yet happy that I have a little family that loves and cares about me.

With that, I hope all you moms out there have a wonderful Mother's Day. Whatever your issues, I wish you all the best!

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Show me yours and I'll show you mine...

Favorite books, that is! Summertime is looming, and I'm sure we will all be lounging by the pool or on the beach every day. ;) I know I need some fresh reads, so why don't we trade book lists today? Here are some of my faves:

Diane Mott Davidson, The Goldy Schulz Culinary Mysteries

There are 15 books in this series about Goldy Schulz, a caterer in Colorado who stumbles upon crime scenes at nearly every event she caters. It's a cozy series that has likable characters and an ongoing hint of romance as well as fun recipes throughout the books. I recommend reading the books in order starting with the first, Catering to Nobody. This is by far my favorite series.

Kathy Reichs, The Temperance Brennan Novels

Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, and her work is the inspiration for these novels and for the TV show Bones. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who works in both Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal, Quebec. The books alternate between the two locations and there is a healthy dose of French much to my delight. If you like shows like CSI and Bones you will probably like these as there is quite a bit of technical jargon. The stories flow easily, and I have read 10 of the 11 volumes. I did not read Deadly Decisions as it was about motorcycle gangs and I just couldn't get interested.

Mary Higgins Clark

I love (almost) all of her books--they are full of suspense but without tons of violence. I don't actually read these anymore, though, I listen to them. Her books are our favorite road trip audio books because they keep us enthralled even through the straight, unending stretch of I-75 through Georgia. The one book of her mysteries that I didn't care for was No Place Like Home, and I didn't finish reading it because I was TOO SCARED. Given the books I read, that's saying a lot. I'm not a real fan of her Christmas books, either.

I could go on (and on, and on), but I want some ideas from you! Do you have a favorite series? A favorite author? Let's call this "Titles Tuesday" and throw out some reading recommendations!

Monday, May 4, 2009

It was a dark and stormy Twilight

An Ode to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga and Casting Crow's song, "Praise You in this Storm"

It’s been a bad week.
I’m not gonna lie
as I flop on the couch
and let out a sigh.

We got some bad news
about my dear sister’s health,
and the retreating economy’s
robbing my wealth.

But instead of despair,
a song fills my head,
“I will praise you in this storm…
for you are who you are, no matter where I am.”

God was with us this week.
He was planning ahead
to bring our family together
and keep Alex well fed.

For the news was so shocking,
I couldn’t even cook.
My only escape
was this trendy new book.

Edward, Bella and Jacob
are now part of my life.
I spend so much time reading,
my husband misses his wife.

Before I start reading
about Jacob and Bella,
I pause to praise God
for Kyann and my niece Arabella.

My house is now quiet
as I run down the list
of blessings from God –
precious, wonderful gifts.

The usual come first,
my husband, my son,
a new baby for Carrie,
the warm Florida sun.

Eternal life is,
of course, on the list
as well as my family
and a soft spring mist.

Let’s not forget friends
who come to the rescue,
coupons to clip,
and spiky blue fescue.

As I say Amen
and reach for my book
I sigh once again
and refuse to look

at dust bunnies lurking
from under the couch
with blood-covered fangs;
I think they’ve eaten a mouse.

I fly through the pages
right back to the spot
where I last saw our heroine
in a frightening plot.

I like to pretend
that I’m as witty as Alice
that I fly through the trees
with a vampire prowess.

Pretending is good
for my sad aching soul
but back to my world
and my family I go.

With God’s loving help
and by escaping with Twilight,
I'll make it through this storm
and see tomorrow's sunlight.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

She is so cute!

...is what people tell me while I am out and about with my son. No, I did not make a typo; people tell me that my Little King is a cute little girl. Most times it is while he is wearing trucks on his shoes and a baseball shirt on.

My son has, what my friend Bee likes to call, a “High School Musical” hair cut, it flips out at his ears. He hair is not long, it is to his ears and it is thick. I think some people just see a baby with hair and think ”girl”. But I like his hair and I think it looks good so I am not going to cut it off.

I have 3 responses to someone when they say “what a cute little girl you have!” It depends on my attitude, the person and how many times I have already heard that comment that day which one I decide to use.

#1.) Ignore it and just say “Thanks” If I am in a store and in a hurry and will never see this person again it is the quickest way out.

#2.) Try to be subtle while correcting them. “Yes HE is a pretty cute little BOY” Most times this does not work. I mean if they are not paying attention that he has a big TRUCK on his shirt why would they listen to my response?

#3.) Just correct bluntly. “He is a Boy” This is most effective and I usually get a “Of course he is a boy!” response back. But I think that this can come off rude. I usually use this one after I have heard the girl comment a couple times in the same day.

I know that this has happened to others. What kind of response do you (would you) give?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Choices...by Lindsay

(Lindsay submitted this article to Motley Moms, which kindly saves me from blogging on an already crazy, over-scheduled day. Thanks, Lindsay!!! -Donna)

As parents we all have to make choices for our families. Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping, rocking to sleep vs. crying it out, etc.

Many of the choices are made after discussions with our husbands and we do what works best for our families. Some choices are made because we have researched and decided it is the best option for us. I choose to breastfeed for this reason. Some choices are made out of convenience...like picking up a pizza on your way home from a busy day. Some choices are made to save money or be "green"...this is why I choose to cloth diaper and use vinegar to clean with. Some choices are made based on our interpretation of the bible...which is why I choose to spank my kids (on occasion). And sometimes we go with "tradition"...on Sunday night it's "Eat-Anything-You-Want Night" (meaning if it's in the house, you can have it for dinner, even if that means popcorn and cereal), because that's something I did as a kid and LOVED.

As a new parent, I used to get defensive when I heard that someone else had made a very different parenting choice than I had made. I wanted to explain to them why I thought my choice was "best." I felt like their choosing something else meant they weren't well-informed. I also sometimes felt guilty because I made a different choice. For example, I don't buy organic food (most of the time). It's just not something I am overly concerned about. I do try to make healthy choices: veggies and fruit in our diet as much as I can, not buying sugary processed foods, and getting my kids to drink mostly water. But even then I break my "rules" and get cookies from the bakery on a whim just for fun.

What I have learned is that most of our choices don't really matter in the long run. My husband's grandfather is 91 yrs old. He has eaten high-fat, fried, made-with-real-butter, made-with-white-flour, smothered-in-gravy foods his whole life. He has also gotten plenty of exercise and eaten all those things in moderation. He still works on the farm every single day at 91 yrs old. While I think breastfeeding is important, that's not on job applications when you are an adult. I have a friend who fed their child nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a whole year because he "refused" anything else. He is now almost 7 and a perfectly healthy, happy, well-adjusted kid. I wouldn't have chosen to do that myself, but he is fine despite what I "think."

The point of all of that is this: As parents we make the best choices for our own family that we can. However, we will all run into someone at some point who has made different choices, and that doesn't necessarily make either of us right or wrong. And since we all know how difficult it can be to raise kids, especially small kids, we all need to be supportive of each other and not judgmental. My choices are best for my family, your choices are best for your family, and I won't criticize you if you won't criticize me. :)