Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sad and Happy

I have been sad.  Hearing about what happened to the little children and their teachers in Connecticut filled me with sorrow.  The uncontrollably crying kind.  I haven't felt that much grief since my baby Gwendolyn was stillborn.  It was tough.  I kept saying to myself, "I have all of this empathy for those parents.  To what purpose?  What can I do with it to make it useful?  How can this grief be to the benefit of those who truly have cause to mourn?"  I'm still thinking about that question.

Interestingly, last week (or maybe the week before) I saw a Frontline on PBS about a mortuary. I think it was called "The Business of Dying" or something like that.  The mortician who was the main person they interviewed had some insights into how our culture deals with death that I thought were worthwhile.  He talked about how we are so removed from death the old days death was so much more hands on.  People weren't swept away in a black car never to be seen again until they were pristine and dressed in their finest laid out for burial.  Loved ones dealt with the dead from the moment it happened until the last shovel full of dirt was tamped into place.  Death really is a part of life.  None of us can avoid it.  But it seems like our whole culture today is built upon just that principal - to avoid death in any way.  I do believe that grieving would be easier if we all weren't working so hard to pretend that death isn't out there, or doesn't affect us, or isn't something that we should let ourselves think about. 

  So, I have thought about death, and naturally that means I have also thought about life.  Specifically the life each of my children are living right now.  They are each having such a unique experience in life, and sometimes I try to imagine what it is like for them.  How is it to have me for a mother?  What are their days like when I'm not with them?  What do they think about in their quiet moments?  I love talking to them and coming to understand little pieces of the answers to these questions.  Ultimately, it is their lives that are the most interesting thing about my own.  How could you not want to happily go through life with these faces?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Halloween Post

Here we are again, eh?  Back for another little chat.  So, what's new?  Hmm...

Halloween is over.  I'd put up some pictures but I never get around to that.  Just picture in your mind's eye two girls dressed as angels with fluffy white halos, long white dresses, and fancy angel wings (thanks for the costumes Grandma!), one big kid decked out as an alligator wrestler (picture a Steve Irwin type guy) and a baby wearing an alligator costume to complete the vignette.  We had a good time at our ward's Trunk-or-Treat.  Tyler and I even dressed up for that one.  I was Mary Poppins and he was Bert (the sidewalk art Bert, in the Barbershop Quartet looking get-up, not the chimney sweep Bert).  Everyone knew who I was, and if they saw us together they knew who Tyler was.  If they saw him alone no one knew who he was supposed to be, so he had to stay close to me all evening...which was kind of strange because I'm not used to being around him much...

Between his work schedule, his MBA class, and his church calling I just don't spend much time with him, and the children see him less than me.  It's not my favorite thing.  I'm always telling myself that lots of wives have husbands they don't see much...but that's not so comforting really.  Growing up with a dad who is a university professor and always available and home a lot spoiled me.  I didn't come into my marriage expecting to be basically a single parent for long stretches of time.  I know it's no fun for Tyler either but it's hard to feel like there is no flexibility in my life.  The possibility of doing any errand, any project, any ANYthing child-free is just not there.  It's kind of exasperating.   And I have kids that I really like and that are generally well behaved - I can only imagine the lengths I'd have to go to to survive if they were extra obnoxious and rambunctious.  I'm sure my life would have to include daily medication. 

Wesley is going through a difficult phase right now (surprise, surprise) which doesn't help.  He cries a tortured and delirious cry if I am not holding him or directly engaged with him in some way every waking moment.  If I try to do something he grabs my legs in his freakishly strong vice grip and won't let go.  I know all babies do this to some extent, but he is absolutely relentless with it.  He does it all day, everyday.  Every time I put him down.  It really wears me out.

On the plus side, we are having a week of amazing fall weather.  In the low 70's, and some of the leaves are turning colors.  The end of daylight savings time means an afternoon spent at the city park ends as the sun is setting in the beautiful Texas sky with a cool breeze rustling those orange-ish leaves...a perfect Texas fall day that makes me wish I cold put it in a bottle and live it again and again when my kids are all grown up.  Or at the very least be one of those moms that takes beautiful pictures with a real camera.  I told the kids I might make them dress up in their Halloween costumes again so I could take some pictures of them outside now that it actually looks a bit like Fall.  I was too frenzied getting the kids ready and out the door by myself on the real Halloween to take any pictures at all. 

But, things are looking up.  Thanksgiving is coming, which means a week off of school for the kids and two days off of work for Tyler.  Maybe we can all get reacquainted :).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Turning Into Your Mother

You know how people say "I am turning into my mother!"when they notice they have done something a little bit bonkers?  Well, I think more accurately people should say "I have turned into a mother!", because really, most of these little things we thought were so annoying as children are not just some idiosyncrasy of our own mother, but things that just happen when faced with the realities of motherhood. 

I can think of two classic examples of things from my childhood that drove my dad and siblings and I absolutely crazy. 

One was that nearly every night my mom would make dinner, tell us it was time to eat, keep pestering us that dinner was on the table NOW, settle us all down for a prayer, and then as soon as everyone said "amen" she would excuse herself to go to the bathroom.  We all thought this was so ridiculous.  Why rush us all to the dinner table when you yourself aren't even ready to sit and down and eat it? 

Now that I am making dinner for my own family every night I understand this phenomenon completely.   I am rushing around to make dinner at the time of day when everyone is at their crankiest, with a baby crying and holding onto my legs and kids asking me how to spell things and other kids crying because someone just socked them in the face and other kids yelling out, "It was an ACCIDENT and  I said SORRY".  Somehow the meal all comes together and you manage to get your family gathered around it.  As you sit down to join them you realize "Hey, I have to use the bathroom".  And you genuinely did not have time to think of this before the instant you sat down and finally had a moment to pay attention to your personal needs.  So Mom, I apologize for all of the eye rolling and snide comments when you excused yourself to use the bathroom nearly every night.

The other example is the classic "Mom is always the last one in the car".  Sundays are the prime example.  Everyone is dressed, everyone has his or her hair combed, shoes on, scriptures found, and is in the car.  Except for Mom.  Every few second someone yells out the car window into the open door to the house "Mom, are you coming?!" And the reply "Yes...coming!" wafts back to you.  Sometimes we would even see her in the doorway and it looked like she was heading for us, but then a quick turn back into the house and we'd lose her again.   It was so exasperating.  After all, Mom was up before the rest of us.  She was showered before any one else.   Surely she has had the most time to get herself ready to go! 

Now I know all too well what happens when it's time to load up the car.  Invariably I am the last one climbing into our car on Sundays, fastening on an earring or putting fingernail polish on a run in my nylons as I get settled.  Sometimes I feel I have to explain myself so I'll start on the list "I just had to make sure I took the cake out of the oven, and that the crockpot had been turned down to low, and I had to grab the things from the printer for Sharing Time, and Lily needs a safety pin for her dress where that button popped off five minutes ago, and the snack for the baby didn't get put into the bag so I had to grab that, and I have a little something for the people I visit teach that I had to put in a bag, and of course I had to go to the bathroom".   It's funny - no matter how prepared I think I am to leave the house, suddenly, at the moment of truth, I will think of at least five things I need "grab" or "run and check on" before I can actually leave.

So Mom, I'm sorry for giving you a hard time about this one too.  I now realize that these things just sometimes come with the job.  I really appreciate the work you put into being my mom, and I hope someday my own children will come to the same realization (and in so many things if I could honestly say "I am turning into my mother!" it would be a huge compliment).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Baby of the Family

I have an eighteen month old baby that does not talk.  He babbles.  He jabbers.  He does not form actual words.  This is very strange to me because it does not follow the pattern of any of my other children.  Then again, he is breaking the mold in many ways. For instance, he chews gum.  And he does not swallow it.  He will hand it to me in a sticky, slobbery lump with his little sticky, slobbery fingers when he is done with it.

 He also knows how to gargle with mouthwash.  Not that I actually let him gargle with mouthwash, but he doesn't know it is just a bit of water in the rinsed-out mouth wash bottle.  He is thrilled with oral hygiene. 

He is also a champion door closer.  He takes it upon himself to close the door to any closet or the pantry whenever he notices it ajar.  Same thing with the dishwasher...even when I am trying to load/unload it.  He is undeterred by my explanations that I need it open for the moment and goes ahead and shoves that door up as hard as he can.  He will not be satisfied he has done his job until he hears it slam.  Then he looks at me with a pleased smile on his face waiting for my unenthusiastic "Thank you, Wes".  Job done, he'll go on to find the next open door and I will stealthily open the dishwasher again to finish my job. 

He does the usual things - he takes out all of the pots and pans and arranges them on the kitchen floor.  I will give him a wooden spoon and some magnet letters off the fridge to stir in the pots and he is happily an alphabet soup chef for about three minutes. 

He climbs on everything.  For some reason that one line of "Ice Ice Baby" always comes to mind..."If there's a problem, yo, I'll solve it" except in my head I hear "If there's furniture, yo, he'll climb it".  He gets himself stuck in all kinds of ways with his climbing.  Sometimes he's gotten all the way up somewhere and he can't get down, sometimes a leg or an arm will get caught in the rungs of a chair as he climbs, sometimes he'll climb until he gets wedged in a tight space and can't move at all. 

His obsession with technology is unsurpassed.  The fits he throws when he sees a phone or a computer of any kind are pretty amazing.  He is not ashamed to scream and to cry - the turning red, shrieking, limbs clenched and shaking kind of screaming and crying - to get a go at that screen.  If you try to be a step ahead and turn your device off before you hand it to him he will find the power button immediately and turn it back on.  If for some reason he fails to get it to power up he will throw it, flinging it to the floor with such a look of disgust that I nearly laugh every time...only the thought of how unwise I was to willingly let him handle my electronics again, when he just threw it on the floor again keeps me from true enjoyment of his frustrated face. 

I feel like it must be because I'm old now and my energy is gone that this baby seems so active and, well, kind of a mess.  I mean, he's cute and dear and I love him more than I can say, but his waking hours require a level vigilance I just don't remember with my other kids.   I know he will grow up, and he won't be my little non-speaking, furniture climbing, door closing, electronics nabbing baby forever.  I'll miss his squeezable, kissable, babyness - but you know what?  I like my kids as they grow up.  I'm looking forward to getting to know him as his own person - and besides, my kids never really grow out of their squeezable, kissable, stage anyway. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Getting What You Deserve

You know what one of my least favorite words in the English language is?  It is "deserve".  This concept drives me absolutely crazy.  How many times has something good happened to someone and people tell them "Oh, you deserve it!".  Really?  Why?  What makes one person more "deserving" than the next?  Goodness?  Patience?  Beauty?  Suffering?  Misfortune?  I really don't get it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"That Baby Needs Drugs", and Other Pleasantries

Judging by the number of comments I receive I know the world waits with rapt attention for the next installment of our adventure, so let's just wrap this thing up, shall we?

The drive back to Texas began without incident.  We planned to camp one night mid-way home, which would mean finding a campground near Santa Rosa.  Tyler decided he'd like to stop for the day sooner rather than later and have time to set up camp and enjoy whatever it is you are supposed to do when you camp.  (I personally have never been able to figure this out.)  That meant staying at a campground closer to Gallup (or, for those who know it's true significance, it is even closer to Grants!).  We needed to stop at a store to load up on camping food, which led us to a Wal-Mart in Gallup, NM.  Now, I know Wal-Mart and its customers have a bad reputation.  You can find ample evidence for every single complaint about Wal-Mart by visiting the store in Gallup, NM.  I don't think I need to say more about that experience.

We finally reached our campground at Bluewater Lake, NM.  I noticed a generous scattering of horse manure throughout the campground but didn't think much of it.  People ride their horses through campgrounds, right?  Imagine my surprise when later in the evening a herd of horses came running at a gallop through the campground, completely unattended by any human. They stopped and began to graze among the camp sites.  Apparently this campground is either in the midst of a wild horse preserve or in the middle of a rancher's grazing land...either way it was kind of cool and kind of disconcerting to be surrounded by roaming horses - particularly with small children around. 

We spent a completely unrestful night in the tent...3 of our children did just fine and one of them didn't take kindly to not being in his bed and showed that displeasure by crying and trying to gouge out my eyes with his little fingers...I'll let you try to figure out who.

Day 2 of the return journey saw us wending our way through more of New Mexico.  After our first post-camping gas and bathroom stop we were loading everyone back in the car.  Relevant to what happens next is this fact: Wesley cannot stand to be put into his car seat.  I'm sure it didn't help that he had been traveling for a day plus some, but even in the best of circumstances he screams and arches and writhes and generally acts like he is being mistreated in a cruel manner by unfeeling tormentors.  So, he is doing his usual thing as I try to get him in the car.  The woman getting into her car next to us says to me "have you ever tried drugging him?"....ummm.....come again? She continues "My dogs don't like the car and I always give them Children's  Benedryl.  You should try it."  A little "Ha ha, he just doesn't like getting buckled, he'll be fine in a few seconds" speech from me and an unconvinced smirk from her, and we were off. I had to wonder what kind of person goes around suggesting to total strangers that their babies need to be drugged (like dogs, no less).  Then I had to wonder what type of baby leads random passers-by to conclude they need to be drugged...

The next time we stopped for a restroom break we were still in NM.  It was hot and miserable and the Dairy Queen in the gas station had lost power which was a blow to our morale.  Two men were working on their motorcyles right in front of us.  They asked Tyler for jumper cables and a jump start.  I took the kids into the bathroom and when we came out the bikers had their engines revving and were ready to roll.  As we headed out Tyler tells me that these two bikers were members of the Knights Of Columbus.  They were returning from a Knights of Columbus Convention when one of their bikes broke down and we saved the day.  (Some of you will know why this story has significance.)

I was very grateful to cross the Texas state line. We grabbed a pizza in Wichita Falls as Tyler reminisced about his mission days, pointing out exciting landmarks like "This is the apartment complex where the other set of Elders lived - the Elders who asked me for permission to go stay in the sister missionaries' closet during a tornado warning" (permission was denied).  After that we were nearly home.  We arrived home and put the kids to bed in an upstairs that was 96 degrees according to our thermostat and they were so happy to be in their own beds that they didn't mind it (much).  Tyler and I waited to go to bed until the interior temperature was down to 86, and I didn't even mind it (much) either.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I've Been Through The Desert In a Van With No Name

I am overwhelmed at the thought of writing all of the happenings from our most recent family trip to Sedona, AZ.  That's why I have decided to just write little stories at a time instead of the whole trip in one LONG post. 

Let me begin the re-cap by saying that the trip out to AZ was very pleasant.  For the first time ever we divided a road trip into two legs instead of driving straight through.  We drove for 8 hours and then spent the night in Santa Rosa, NM. 

We got there at about 4:30 in the afternoon, so we checked in to the Super 8 and asked the receptionist what to do in town with a bunch of little kids who have been in the car all day.  She helpfully pointed to the park directly behind the Dollar General right across the road.  We headed over there to discover a strange little park with the hugest ants I have ever seen in my life.  I don't love insects in general, but ants are simply my undoing.  I loathe them.  One contributing factor is that there is really never just one lone ant.  Where there is one there are a thousand.  And since I have general phobia of all things that can be said to swarm, ants in their multitudes fit firmly in that category as well.  Aside from being aghast at the size and number of ants, I thought the park excursion went well.  Tyler picked up a pizza and brought it back to the ant park and dinner al fresco was enjoyed by all. 

After we'd (okay, mostly just me) had our fill of the park we went for a little drive to see what more Santa Rosa had to offer.  Surprise, surprise, we found some gems.  Not 200 feet from where we were nearly born off by the mutant ants there was a fabulous lake/swimming hole in the park.  It looked like such fun and we were so disappointed that had we only known it was there we could have be swimming all evening.  The kids were pretty disappointed that we didn't have time to swimming there before the park closed for the night.  We tried to appease them by reminding them that the house we were renting in Sedona had it's own pool, but even we knew that a pool has nothing on a big lake in a park with a diving board and a cool dock.
Park Lake (These are not my pictures.  Some nice people who use the internet took them.  Thank you, nice people, for preserving the memories I didn't take the time to.)
 We continued driving, following signs for the "Blue Hole".  We finally found it behind some buildings and this was another little gem.  It is a very deep natural swimming hole - apparently it is 80 ft. deep and an excellent place for scuba diving.  It was totally cool and teenagers were doing crazy running leaps off of the rocks at the top into the water.  The kids were again disappointed that we couldn't swim there, but that one I wasn't as sad about.  Four small children in an 80 ft. deep swimming hole?  No thank you. 
The Blue Hole (No, I did not take this picture either.  It was full of people when we saw it, but we were there at sunset and the setting was this beautiful.)

That little drive left us with the feeling that Santa Rosa was a destination all on it's own and we wouldn't mind coming back again, this time being more prepared for it's aquatic amusements. 

After a quite good night of sleep all things considered we hit the road again the next day and drove for another 8 hrs. until we got to Sedona. 

Sedona was filled with time with cousins and swimming and hiking and seeing wild animals at a Safari Park and buying souvenirs and jumping off of rock cliffs into rivers and having a good old time with the extended Brock family. 

Cousin time at Slide Rock State Park

Tyler feeding a giraffe on our safari.  He had to feed the giraffe as proxy for each of our children who were too scared to do it - notice his fist full of their carrots?

After 5 days of frolicking, it was time to drive home.  And that's where things got really weird.

To be cont...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sam's Club Addles the Brain

Do you sometimes have days when the most random things make you feel like bursting into tears...and then things go downhill from there?  Yesterday was like that for me.  It all started with a trip to Sam's Club, as most inclinations to burst into tears do. 

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this, but it is no picnic taking my four little ones on errands.  Especially the craziest one of them all, Wesley. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that standing at the register I suddenly notice that I am sweating in a serious way...just from trying to buy things like flour and frozen pizza and peanut M&Ms (you're welcome for those office snacks, Tyler) with these kids (by the way, why does the Denton Sam's Club not sell skim milk? I was incredulous. Tyler's theory is that Denton is more historically rural and farm people like "wholesome" whole or 2% milk.  I just found it annoying).  I think it ends up taking us about 10 to 12 minutes to get from the register to the exit door because Wesley is FREAKING out.  He is squirming and screaming and I can barely hold him.  I try letting him walk and he makes a bee-line for the Tire Center and walks underneath the gate into their register area...etc.  You can picture it.  By the time we are finally outside walking to the car I feel like I have crossed the Sahara or scaled at least part of Everest...something momentous.  Is this the scenario that brought me close to tears?  No. 

After loading everyone up I head over to Sam's gas station.  I slide all of the proper cards and start pumping the gas.  After a couple of minutes I look at the pump and notice that the "premium unleaded" pump is the one that was selected.  I have no idea how this happened since I have never in my life pressed the wrong pump at the gas station, but there you have it. I am so mad that I have just put several gallons of gas at $3.55 a gallon into the van that this is the moment when the tears threaten.  The frustration is intense.  And then I think how absolutely ridiculous it is to cry over pumped gas (which should be the new colloquialism, don't you think?  "Spilled milk" is so last century). 

Apparently this episode affected my mental processes in a significant way because after we got home and unloaded all of the Sam's Club stuff we got ready to go swimming.  The kids wanted to walk to the pool so that we would dry off on the return trip.  Makes sense.  I gather all of our supplies, put the baby in the stroller, run back inside to grab my keys and my cover-up, have everyone stand in the front yard while I run back and close the garage door and exit the front door, locking it behind me.  At this moment C.T. says something like "where did you put your keys Mom?" and I say "I have no idea, but I don't think I have them".  And I didn't have them.  Oh bother.  It was 2:45 in the afternoon.  Tyler usually leaves work about 6:30, and that's on a good day.  My plan is to go to the pool and have the kids stay there as long as possible and then hang out in our backyard until that gets to be too much for them and possibly throw ourselves on  the mercy of neighborhood friends by showing up on their doorstep begging for shelter.  We stayed at the pool until 5.  I texted Tyler and told him what the situation was just so he'd know that if he could avoid working until 9 it would be good.  He said he'd try to leave early.  We walk home and stay in the back yard for half an hour and Tyler comes home and rescues us from the great outdoors.  There are my keys, sitting on the family room coffee table where I put them down to put on my cover-up.

The plus side to everything that happened yesterday is that the kids were completely tired out and fell asleep so fast after I put them to bed.  Not one person came downstairs saying they couldn't sleep because they couldn't get the vampire episode of Phineas and Ferb out of their heads (Lily), or that their bug bites were too itchy  (Amelia, whose entire right side- face, arm, hand, leg, foot - is covered with mosquito bites from sleeping on the trampoline with Tyler Friday night), or that they can't sleep because when Mom goes downstairs it feels like she's not home and that makes them feel like they want to cry (C.T.).  So even though there were several more challenging moments to the day, I honestly laid my head on my pillow feeling like it had been a good day after all.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mid-Summer Review

One thing I can say for myself: I am consistently an inconsistent blogger.

Lots of things happened in the last few months so I'll just give some highlights.

#1 School ended!

#2 Tyler quit his job!

#3 Tyler started a new job!

#4 We went to Maine!

#5 It's super hot!

#6 We celebrated the Fourth of July!

I thought the exclamation points made all of the highlights so much more exciting, didn't you?  Doesn't it feel like we have had a AMAZING! summer so far because of those?  I thought so.  

Some details to go along with the highlights for those who are interested:

#1 The last week of school was full of award ceremonies.  I guess I just didn't realize that with two kids in school I would be going to an awards ceremony almost every morning of the last week of school.  So of course I scheduled swimming lessons for Amelia that week also.  Which meant that we were rushing to get to the school, hoping that our kids got their awards by 9, then rushing to the swimming lessons, and finally wandering the halls of the swimming facility chasing Wesley as Amelia followed me crying and reusing to go into the pool for her class.  Money and time well spent, wouldn't you say? 

This is Lily's kindergarten class at her Kindergarten awards ceremony.  She is in the middle of the top row, with the big red flower.

Here is C.T. with two friends from church.  They each won the Lil' Texan award at the last school-wide awards ceremony, which is a great award to get based on citizenship and performance and just generally being a good kid.  Lily won this award the first term, and C.T. won it the last term.  Bookends!

#2 Tyler was frustrated with his job.  He just didn't feel like he was getting the professional experience that he wanted long term, so he found a new job and quit his old one.  5+ years with Citi are complete and a new phase is started.

#3 His new job is with PACCAR, which is the parent company of Peterbilt - you know, the semi truck people.  (I always think of the movie Cars. Lightning McQueen is looking for Mack on the highway screaming "Mack!" at an approaching semi and the truck bellows "I'm a Peterbilt you moron!").  He's an accounting manager in their marketing division.  It's a lot to learn and quite demanding, but I'm sure we'll see him again someday.

#4 My family reunion was in Maine this year, near Bar Harbor.  I've always wanted to go to Maine.  As a child I loved the books Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine. If you've never read them, check them out.  The illustrations are wonderful.  I read One Morning in Maine to my kids a few times in preparation for the big trip and I'm happy to report that Maine lived up to my expectations for the most part.  It was so great to see my family and the kids adore playing with their cousins.   

We took a boat tour through the harbor to Little Cranberry Island. 
My nephew James loved to hug Wes.  As you can see, Wes just kind of went limp and waited for it to end.
We went to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park and Amelia was thrilled to be there.

Me with my cute Mom and Dad at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.

We didn't come prepared to swim at Sand Beach on this day, but that didn't stop our California kids from jumping into the ocean anyway.  They were soaked!

The whole gang rode bikes through Acadia.  It was beautiful, and the weather was so perfect. 
We went canoeing. 
We took a little hike to this small Light House.
Some of us at Bar Harbor - so lovely there.
We had a great trip.  We flew to Boston and rented a car and drove the 5 hours to Maine, so on the way back we decided to leave a few hours early to get in some sight seeing in Boston before our flight home.
In front of the Old State House on Boston's Freedom Trail
That turned out to be a bad idea.  The kids were terrible!  We tried walking the Freedom Trail, but only made it part way before we just abandoned the whole venture.  Such complaining I never heard!  It made me so thankful that we hadn't done our original plan of driving to Maine from Texas stopping at different cities along the way.  They just don't appreciate walking around looking at old buildings yet...:)

#5 I know summer in Texas is always hot, but I guess I'm getting wimpier because I don't like going outside at all - not even to go to the swimming pool.  So, we've been kind of boring, holed up in our house with the fans on, making a lot of snow cones.

#6 We had a good relaxing Fourth of July.   Our ward has a pancake breakfast at the park every year and we went to that.  The weather wasn't too sweltering so I could stand it.  Tyler smoked some pork for our lunch of Bar-B-Que smoked pork sandwiches, potato salad, baked beans, and chips.  We made homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert.  We had the exact same meal for dinner - isn't that what you're supposed to do on holidays?  Recycle all the food every meal?  We went swimming in the afternoon and headed out to see some fireworks in Denton.  Usually we set off a few of our own fireworks in a nearby parking lot, or most memorably, at the park 'n pop lot.  This year we skipped that and just watched the show.  It was pretty stress free and the kids were able to have fun with their friends - a great Fourth of July.

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Busy Week

I had a busy week last week.  Lily's birthday party was on Saturday. (It was a "girl party".  There was fingernail painting involved, and bracelet making, and a pinata shaped like a purse.  I also made a purse-shaped cake that was somewhat successful.  Lily said it looked like her lunchbox more than a purse and she had a point.  I made purses for the girls to take home as favors that were pretty cute and they were filled with all kinds of random "girl" things.  Thankfully birthday party season is over for us until November.)  The big Day of The Tornado was Tuesday. (No damage to our little neck of the woods.  Or swath of the prairie I should say.) My birthday was on Wednesday.  Thank you! (Because I know you were just thinking "Oh, happy birthday, Wendy!" in your head). Friday the kids had no school so we dyed Easter Eggs.  Here's a little secret for you - my kids dye raw eggs.  That's right.  I DO NOT HARD BOIL OUR EASTER EGGS.  Seriously, who wants upwards of two dozen hard cooked eggs after the fact?  I like a good egg salad sandwich now and then, but certainly not enough to handle that kind of inventory.  People always say "Don"t your kids break the eggs?" and the simple answer to this is no.  No they don't.  I tell the kids that the eggs aren't cooked and that they have to be extra careful and guess what?  They are.  It's amazing.  Next year I'll probably hard boil a few for Wesley to handle, but for the last three years we've used only raw eggs with not one break.  Of course, we've had multiple incidents of the dye cups being knocked over and the colored vinegar water spreading itself all over the table which I always know is going to happen but which always frustrates me. 

We do Easter baskets for the kids.  Here is my secret about that: I didn't buy a single thing for their baskets this year.  I bought it all last year when it was 75% off at Wal-Mart.  Chocolate bunnies, Reese's Eggs, Jelly Beans, you name it.  I bagged it all up in Ziploc bags and stuck it in the freezer.  I pulled it out the night before Easter and loaded it in their baskets.   The next day, after the kids had done their usual ritual of opening 3/4 of what is in their baskets and taking two bites out of each item and then just leaving it lying around I took the opportunity to take a few nibbles myself to test the quality, as it were.  And I am happy to report that one year in the freezer left no trace.  The chocolate looked normal and tasted normal and it was enjoyed by all normal people. 

Also, don't you love strawberry shortcake?  I do.  It's kind of an Easter tradition for us to have strawberry shortcake as our Easter dessert.  I always use angel food cake for it, so I guess it isn't technically shortcake. We had some friends over for Easter dinner and their 3 year old said "This is strawberry shortcake?  But this cake isn't short at all! (I do have a recipe for authentic shortcake, which I made once and it was roundly maligned by my family.  Tyler in particular did not appreciate my historical accuracy.  It was more like a slightly sweet biscuit than any type of cake.)  My dad told me there is a bumper crop of strawberries this year and strawberry farmers are disappointed because there is such an abundance that they are selling them very cheaply and they aren't making any money from them.  That's too bad but this is certainly one of those "their loss is our gain" type of situations. I love to see my fridge full of fresh strawberries. 

The End.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Off Day

I had what you might call an "off day" yesterday.  It started at 5:20 in morning when Wes awoke me by crying and crying. (Granted, 5:20 is much better than this morning, when his cries began at 4 am.  What is going on?!?) Since I was up and at 'em so early I decided how lovely of me it would be to make cinnamon rolls for everyone's breakfast.  I put the ingredients in the bread machine and returned to watching PBS World (one of my favorite stations as it never has "special pledge-drive programming" of continuous lecturers talking about "The Ultimate Mind Body Solution" or endless incarnations of Celtic Thunder and Celtic Woman).  Anyway...the bread machine beeped and I looked at that dough and thought to myself "Did I remember to add the yeast to this?  Cause it looks kind of...not yeasty".  And then I thought "Should I carry on?  Or should I just call it quits now in case there is no yeast?"  And then I thought "Ah, I'll just make them anyway.  Butter, cinnamon and sugar would be good covering just about any type of dough, right? Unleavened cinnamon rolls will still be good."  So, I proceeded to roll them out, spread the dough with butter, sprinkle on the sugar, and then went to grab the cinnamon. Started shaking it on the dough and I thought "This cinnamon seems unusual.  What is wrong with this cinnamon?  Should I stop shaking it on? Nah, not yet." Finally it's strangeness couldn't be ignored so I stopped shaking it on and took a moment to examine the jar, whereupon I discovered that it was not a jar of cinnamon at all, but rather an identical jar filled with Chili Powder.  Made half-hearted attempt to scrape topping off of dough but chili powder merely became melded more completely to dough surface, so abandoned hope and threw the whole blob away.  Kitchen trash can did not smell like a brewery for the rest of the day so can only assume that I did in fact neglect to put the yeast in after all. So I guess my take away from this experience should be that if I think I left the yeast out of something, STOP rather than persevere only to waste a good half a cup of butter on it later.  I was really sad about that butter.  I mean, are cows living on petroleum products or something?  Why does a pound of butter cost as much as a gallon of gas?  It pained me to throw it away...but I just really could not think of any use for the butter, sugar and chili powder paste I had inadvertently created.  If you can think of something just keep it to yourself because #1- I don't need to feel worse about the debacle that was yesterday morning and #2- I never plan to make that mistake again and therefor do not need to take up valuable brain space with that information.  Thank you.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Motivation...can't Google it.

I know the internet can be the source of great motivation for many can give you ideas for craft projects, recipes, exercise routines, oh my!  The thing is, this does the opposite of motivate me.  It is a motivation stealer.  I look at all of those pictures of homemade fabric flower headbands and I think "Cute!  I could make one of those." and then I read the accompanying text which is always something like, "Yesterday I made 32 of these in assorted colors for my daughter and my 5 nieces and all the Activity Day girls at church!" and I just say to myself ""  No matter what you think you are good at, there is always someone on the internet doing it better than you, more often than you, or making way more money off of it than you.  It's a downer.

Also, what is it with photography these days?  Doesn't it seem like a very large segment of the population are now photographers?  There are a lot of very nice pictures being taken, but again, seeing all of these perfectly shot and perfectly edited photos of children and projects and families walking down a country lane in the fall or in front of a giant Ferris wheel with a two year old in a sports coat and the mom in 6 inch heels just makes me want to take the batteries out of my digital camera and put them in the Wii remote to turn on Netflix and watch all of the items showing under the recommendations for "Understated Bristish Movies with A Strong Female Lead".

I've seen the saying that "Comparison is the thief of joy".  Comparison is also the thief of motivation. And so I haven't made my girls fabric hair flowers since Lily's fourth birthday, and we haven't had a family picture taken since Amelia was 6 months old.  I have however watched all episodes of Downton Abbey, and North and South, reread Pride and Prejudice, and anxiously await the airing of Sherlock:Season 2 on PBS.   

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