Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween: My Way

We've already started celebrating Halloween around here.

We're lucky in that a neighborhood somewhat near us had twenty houses participate in a casein free gluten free trick or treating experience. We were invited due to Little Miss's allergy, and it was a blast. Mister Man got to see a friend of his from preschool who he hasn't seen in too long. It was pretty cold, but they made it through with smiles on their faces.

Starting tomorrow though, we go by my rules for Halloween.

My Top Ten Rules for Halloween:

Rule #1: We go potty before we leave the house. I'm not begging to use a random neighbor's bathroom this year. So skeevy and gross last year.

Rule #2: I carry the candy backpack while the wee ones carry their small trick or treat sacks. After every third or fourth house, the small sacks are emptied into my backpack. It keeps my hands free and prevents whining from the wee ones that their bags are too heavy or that they spilled all over.

Rule #3: The wee ones walk on sidewalks and driveways and don't run across yards. First, I want them to respect other people's property. Second, it's been raining way too much lately, and I'd prefer to avoid the mud and muck on their shoes and God only knows what else.

Rule #4: If they want to trick or treat, they do it properly. The ring the doorbell, then step back. They must say trick or treat. No grabbing allowed. After candy has been received, they must wish the homeowner Happy Halloween and say thank you. Again, it's probably more strict than most parents, but it's what I model for them, and it's the level of propriety I expect. And they know it. And while they need small reminders as we go along, they pretty much know what they need to do.

Rule #5: No running ahead. Our neighborhood is a magnet for ... nonresidents. Our streets are lined on both sides, filled with cars during the trick or treat hours. There are people and cars everywhere. While we have sidewalks, it's still not the easiest thing to keep track of everyone, and I refuse to risk it. And I'll go back to the polite thing. Mister Man's social aptitude has increased hugely, but norms aren't easy for him. Having the rules and understanding why they're there help him grow his social skills, too.

Rule #6: You don't refuse what's offered. I have to admit that Mister Man did this at one house tonight. He was polite and said no thank you -- then added that he didn't like it. It's trick or treating. People don't care if you like what they're handing out, and it hurts feelings when you refuse what they offer. Again, this is a bigger social lesson than trick or treating that I'm trying to impart.

Rule #7: Mommy has her own treat. In my neighborhood, the adults carry cups. At various stops, people will offer to refill what you're drinking. Some have wine, some have beer, and some have Jell-O shots. And really, what other reason than this do you need to be happy living in my neighborhood?

Rule #8: Trick or treated candy is used to supplement our candy bowl. Last year, we had 462 trick or treaters (my husband graphed it in half hour increments). The vast majority of these people don't live in our neighborhood. I can't afford to buy candy for 462 people. Little Miss can't eat dairy. Neither of the wee ones ingests corn syrup anymore (whenever I have control over what they're eating). That knocks out much of the candy they collect. We sort through it when we get home and take out the "icky" candy and place it in our candy bowl to recycle for the trick or treaters who have yet to come to our home.

Rule #9: The wee ones choose as much candy as they are old. We don't eat a lot of candy and sweets. And they don't miss it. They love collecting it, but after that it just sits there. We now have them choose the number of pieces that matches their age. That's what they get to keep and eat over the next week or so, and then we're done with the candy.

Which brings me to the most important rule:

Rule #10: Whatever candy is leftover gets donated. There are so many people who have so little for various reasons. And so many people who are so grateful for just some little thing. This year, Mister Man's school is collecting leftover candy to send to a second grader's uncle in Iraq. He then plans to share it with his entire unit. And you know what? We'll be contributing a pretty decent share to that shipment. I have a feeling we'll all feel pretty good about that.

So what are your rules for Halloween?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Made With Love

I love holidays, but I'm not one of those people who spends (in my mind) an inordinate amount of money on indoor and outdoor decorations. That's not to say I don't have some decorations. I have a few Department 56 houses. And I have static clings for just about every holiday (thanks to my mom).

Side note on the static clings: I had so much fun putting them up this year. They didn't want to stick at first, so I used my head. Technically, I used the wee ones' heads, I suppose. I simply took the stubborn clings, rubbed them on their heads like you do with a balloon and then stuck them to the front door. It worked really well.

My heart swells with my pride as a mom. (kidding, kidding)

Anyway, there are some decorations that I am sure to put out every year. And that collection grows each year. This year, I wasn't allowed to put anything out though. Mister Man decided he was in charge of it ALL (which is why it's all sitting on our table in the foyer instead of being mroe appropriately distributed throughout the house).

And really? I don't think I need any more decorations than these.

Every year the wee ones bring home at least one fun decoration per holiday, and I love it. This alone is worth the pain of childbirth, don't you think?

What are your favorite decorations to put up?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm Going Crazy; Don't You Want To Come Along?

I am losing my mind. Seriously losing my mind. I don't know how it happened or where it started, but it's definitely getting worse lately.

A week and a half ago, the school nurse asked me to pick up socks and underwear and sweats for her, since she hadn't had time to buy the $100 worth the PTO buys her every year. I agreed and asked her to send me an email. She did me one better. She wrote the sizes and info down on a sheet of paper for me.

I went to W-M (her suggestion)and got the list out of my purse. Or tried to. It wasn't there. Then I looked on the seat of my car, where it must have fallen out. I hadn't left the car since she gave me the list. It had to be there somewhere. It wasn't. I took a deep breath and hoped I remembered enough of the sizes and items that she'd be happy with my selection and went shopping.

I chose the items - including finding the $3 sweats and $4.25 packs of 6 underwear and $5.50 packs of 10 socks. I loaded everything in my cart and started for the front. That's when I realized that I'd left my nice blue mini-accordion binder that has our tax exempt info in the car. I sighed, left the cart, prayed it would be there when I returned, and headed for my car. Amazingly, the cart was still there, and I purchased my $100 worth of items. Phew.

Then at the book fair last week, I ran into a mom who volunteered to do our ink cartridge recycling for us. She'd start doing drop offs immediately. Yay! I told her that I had everything in the car, and I left her with the cash box while I went to get the info for Office Max and Staples where I turn in our printer cartridges for recycling. I grabbed the Office Max folder that was sitting on the seat where I'd used it the day prior, but I couldn't find my blue mini-accordion binder that has all my school stuff in there -- including two $30 Staples vouchers I need to spend by October 31 and a $15 Staples gift card. And my grocery coupons (including some free items). And our tax exempt information.


It was NOwhere in the car, but I figured I must have brought it into the house when unpacking the car accidentally. I decided to look for it when I got home. When I got home, I looked for it on the island, but the island was (miraculously) clean. It wasn't in the office on my PTO table. In fact, it wasn't in the house at all. My stomach started turning thinking about everything in that binder that I needed. I never take it out of the console of my car, except when I'm using it to shop.


I left it behind somewhere. I tried to think back to the last time I'd used it. Maybe at Dominick's? Or Trader Joe's? Or Staples? Or W-M? Then I started counting the days since I knew I'd last seen it and groaned.

On Friday, Little Miss and I ran errands after her gymnastics class as I continued to puzzle over where I might have last seen it. Then I remembered my disaster of a trip to W-M. Where I'd had to hand back some items to the cashier because I was over my $100 limit. Where we had a ton of trouble with my tax exempt card because he couldn't read what number it was and kept coming up with other organizations. Where I was so flustered by the time I walked out of there that I was ready to just go home and go to bed.

I bet I left it in the cart as I put the three bags of socks, underwear, and sweats into my car. And I bet it isn't there anymore.

Since we were headed to the town where the W-M is located anyway, I figured I'd stop in to ask if it made it to the lost and found. There were three people ahead of me, and they all had apparently very complex issues -- to the point where the woman working the customer service desk apologized to the woman in front of me. Fortunately, Little Miss was fairly fascinated trying to identify all the coins on the Coinstar machine.

As I started to describe my precious blue mini-accordion binder, the woman pulled out the lost and found bin. Amazingly, it was sitting on top. And nothing was missing from it. Hallelujah!

But it gets better. My work has an ID badge that we must scan to get into the building. We scan it to access the copier. We scan it when we want to print out anything. We scan it pretty much all day long. We had an off site event requiring our ID badges, and I put mine in my purse.

After that event, I didn't go into the office for a week and a half. As I got ready to go that morning, I realized that I hadn't seen my ID badge in awhile. I verified that it was not tucked into the corner of my car's console where it belonged. I searched my purse. I searched the purse I'd been carrying prior to that. I searched my husband's car. And I decided that I wasn't going to print anything that day.

Last night, I decided I had to find it. I didn't want to pay $15 to get a new ID badge made. I cleaned out my entire car. I searched my purse thoroughly again. I searched my husband's car again. I searched the outfit I'd worn the day of the off site event. I looked everywhere. It was nowhere to be found.

I decided to bite the bullet, and this morning I asked to have a new ID badge printed. The security guard mentioned how he always keeps his in the console of his car so he doesn't lose his. I smiled nicely and bit my tongue. A new one was printed, and for whatever reason, they didn't charge me for it.

I went upstairs. As I was waiting for my computer to turn on, I saw a receipt that had my credit card in it sitting in my purse. Not wanting anything else to get lost and/or stolen, I decided I'd recycle it while waiting. I pulled out another three or four receipts and other papers that I no longer needed. As I poked through my purse, I felt something in a side pocket of my purse.

You'll never guess what was nestled in there. Of course, it was my old ID badge. How I didn't manage to find it the other thirty times I looked in my purse, I'll never know.

Ironically, my new ID badge swipes me in and out of the building, but it asks me for some unknown PUK code when I try to print or copy anything. Fortunately, my old ID badge still works. So now I have two ID badges. How long before you think I lose both of them at this rate?

Does anyone have any good memory drugs? I can't afford to lose it like this!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tasty Tuesday - Whole Wheat Baguette

What's better on a cold, dreary fall day than fresh baked bread? Now that the heat has left us (have I mentioned that enough?), I'm using our oven more often -- much to the delight of my family.

When I buy baguettes at the store, they're usually over two dollars a loaf (granted, Joseph's has great bread for $1.49 but I don't get that direction often), which is hard for me to justify when it's so easy to make on my own. Plus, it's so much more healthy when I do it, as I can count the ingredients on one hand.

I've made this twice this fall already, and my mom has told me that when she goes into the home, this is what I'm to bring her when I come to visit. And yes, she has a flair for the dramatic. We all know where Little Miss gets it.

Whole Wheat French Baguette

1 1/2 c water (hot but no more than 115 degrees) and no, I'm not counting water as an ingredient, so hush
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
3 c whole wheat flour*
1 1/2 c white bread flour
1 t salt

Add the water to your bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, then the sugar atop that. Stir well. Add 2 c of the flour (either will do) and mix thoroughly. Add the salt and combine. Slowly add your last 2 1/2 c of flour. Knead your dough until it's starting to stretch some (about 7-10 minutes on a stand mixer with a dough hook). When you're adding flour, you want to add the flour until the dough no longer sticks at all when you strip it from the dough hook. If you add too much flour, you can sprinkle (and I mean sprinkle -- a little goes a long ways) water into the bowl while it's mixing. The amount of flour you'll need will vary based on the humidity in your home, so be flexible and play with it. It's quite forgiving.

Once your dough is thoroughly kneaded, cover your bowl with a damp towel. Let it sit for an hour and a half until it's doubled in size. Gently punch it down and separate it into two balls. One at a time, stretch a ball into a flat rectangle about 5 x 9. Fold a long edge 2/3 the way up the rectangle, then fold the other long edge over. Pinch both long ends together next so that you have a neat seam atop your rectangle. Flip over your rectangle and gently roll with your hands to finish up the loaf shape. Repeat with the remaining ball.

Place both loaves onto either an oiled baguette pan (I was young and single and loved to cook -- I've got some great gadgets that I love) or a greased jelly roll pan. Cover them with your damp towel again, and let them rise for another hour or two.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your loaves into the oven (after removing the towel!). Toss 1/2 cup of water into the oven, but NOT on the loaves. Repeat this process three or four times during the first several minutes of cooking. It will create a steam bath in the oven which will help create a great crunchy crust to your bread. Bake for 25 or so minutes until golden brown and it has a hollow sound when you thump it.

Let it cool for a couple minutes, then slice and enjoy. This bread is great for a day or two, but eat it quickly! It will freeze nicely.

*If you don't have whole wheat flour, feel free to use all white flour, but reduce the water to 1 1/2 cup or so.

Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's The Little Things That Make Me Happy

This is another of those gifts I received that I would never have bought for myself and never even lusted after. In fact, I never knew it existed before my husband presented it to me one Christmas.

We've had our temperature gauge for a few years now. It is attached to our deck and monitors the outside temperature. It also tells time. And we have two units. One sits on the main level in the kitchen and also tells the indoor temperature, among other features.

My favorite one lives upstairs in our bathroom though. This one not only tells the indoor temperature and humidity levels, it shows you.

Disclaimer: Yes, those are icky brass fixtures on the bathtub. And yes, that is a dusky rose tile on the surround. Fortunately you can't see the black and white diamond tile floors or other atrocities like the trickle of water that comes from my shower. I need a new bathroom, I know this. Just focus on the cool toy and pretend you don't see the icky styled bathroom.

See how cute that little dude is wearing his pants, hat, and jacket? As it gets colder, he'll add mittens and a scarf. As it gets warmer, he'll lose the jacket, and eventually he'll end up in just a little bathing suit wearing a big smile and some freckles. Granted, I won't see this again for months and months. And months. And months.

And I might be making it up that he's holding a beach ball when it's 90 degrees, but the fact that I have a little dude telling me how cold it is outside with his outfits always makes me giggle. And there are definitely some mornings when I need that.

What's your favorite little thing that gets you smiling for no good reason?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Not To Make Mommy Friends

We once again somehow managed to have a spate of nice days this week. Ok, so it was really two, and kind of only one. But Little Miss got to spend lots of time at the park yesterday (with Grandma, while I worked the book fair the entire day and night, so this nice day thing is kind of hearsay).

While at the park, my mom noticed that there were some parents there who apparently needed a little refresher of park etiquette. Luckily, no one got hurt, but it sounds like there were some close calls. That or my mom was using her dramatic tendencies again.

Regardless, I present you with my TOP TEN THINGS NOT TO DO AT THE PLAYGROUND:

10) We all love pictures of our kids, and digital cameras make it really easy to tote them everywhere. Assuming I remember I have mine - and its batteries are charged - I take my fair share of pictures. But it's weird and disturbing when you start taking pictures of my child when I don't know you. Really weird. Like we're leaving the park weird. Quit it. We were having fun.

9) If your child is home sick from school -- say with the swine flu -- and feeling a little better but still possibly has a mild fever, and is definitely hacking up a lung and sneezing as though surrounded by Pigpen's perennial dust cover, going to the park is not a good idea. Really. We're finding plenty of other ways to get germs, and I think we're full up right now.

8) While I know everyone has different rules, don't let your child throw wood chips into other children's faces. I get that our rule that wood chips stay on the ground and aren't picked up at all is probably not necessary for every family, but trust me, seeing me after there's a splinter in my child's eye because you were letting your child play tornado with the wood chips on my child will not be pretty.

7) The only time I want to hear about potties on the playground (ok, so I don't ever really want to hear about them) is when a child -- and preferably not my own - has to go potty. We've tried to keep their ears and mouths somewhat innocent. Watching your four year old swearing like a sailor is just not cool.

6) My child will be ok. I know my child's limits. I know she's small, but Little Miss is mighty. She's fully capable of climbing up the ladder by herself, as she's done it nine thousand times and now scrambles up it like a monkey. It's her talent. Don't tell my child what she's too little to do. I'm standing within a ten foot radius at all times, and I'm fully aware of and comfortable with what she's doing.

5) We love snacks. We just don't love them ground into the playground equipment. See those picnic tables just outside the wood chip area of the playground? Those are where you can sit and eat and enjoy your food and drink. As much as I'm sure your child disagrees, it is possible to eat at a playground without playing. And the equipment? It just can't digest all those Cheetos and Capri-Suns. Think of it like the zoo with their "Don't Feed The Animals" signs.

4) The park is a great way for a child to learn some independence. There's a difference between independence and abandonment, however. When your child has fallen off the slide and is bleeding and screaming bloody murder, that's a good time for your to end the phone call you've been on for the past ninety minutes and check to see what your child is doing. There's only so much comforting a stranger can do in that situation.

3) Fun is playing. Playing is not seeing if you can break the equipment. The equipment on playgrounds is mind-bogglingly expensive, as I know (we're trying to raise funds to put in a playground at the new school being built). While it won't last forever, watching your child trying to jump up and down to find a stress point on the plastic tunnel and then actually breaking through the top of it is more than a little depressing. Having him sneer and swear at me when I ask him to please be careful and look out of the equipment goes beyond unacceptable.

2) Back to the snacks thing. I'm sure you've run into this issue at school where you have to be sure that anything you send in is at least peanut free because of allergies. Those allergies don't go away just because you're on the playground. While I love that you and your child want to share, giving my child chocolate candies without seeing if it's ok first is dangerous. Fortunately, Little Miss knows she has a dairy allergy and needs to check with me before eating anything, but not all kids will do that.

And the number one thing not to do at the playground?

1) Don't leave your kid there alone. Wow. While he might be seven or eight, he obviously doesn't know anyone at the park who is watching out for him. As mature as he may be, this park is not in a neighborhood where there are houses nearby. There's a busy street just outside the park borders. And the few families that are playing aren't going to necessarily be here the whole time to babysit him. Life's busy -- and trust me, I get that -- but bring your work to the park if you have to or take him with you. You don't know what or who is lurking when you aren't there.

I feel much better now. Except for the rain that's pouring down outside that is going to continue for the next ten days. Unless, of course, the rain turns to snow. On the plus side, I won't have to worry about park issues for another eight months!

So what are your biggest playground don'ts?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Made In America

I'm so proud.

I don't shop in the dollar store that often, but sometimes I forget and I wander in there. Like when I was looking for some cheap thank you notes. Ha!

They didn't have any.

However, while browsing, I did find a few things that I had to buy. With Mister Man's vision exercises, we have one exercise where we are doing a lot of erasing of pencil marks. We've already gone though almost an entire eraser, so when I found six large erasers for a dollar, I bought them. Ditto with the four glue sticks for a dollar (gotta glue on those Labels for Education to get those bonus points!).

When I got home, I flipped over the erasers for some unknown reason, and I got sad. Really, really sad. Here, see if you can figure out why.

The irony finally really hit me yesterday. Wanna know why? This was my final purchase at the dollar store.

I'm thinking I need to send it to the erasers manufacturer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Ahhh, the fall weather is truly upon us. Or it was. I swear. I was waking up to temps in the 20s, and we weren't getting out of the 40s. Apparently my complaining helped, as it was sunny and got up into the mid 50s today.

I'm still sticking with the soup I made this weekend though. It was good, and there's a tiny bit left, as the wee ones don't/can't eat this. Yay, more for me. Even my husband liked it.

Cream of Multi-Vegetable Soup:

1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t salt
1 T butter
3 c chicken stock
1 c dry white wine (not an icky bottle; something you want to drink the rest of)
2 c milk
1 lb broccoli, blanched
1/2 lb fresh spinach
8 oz cheddar cheese

Chop your veggies, including a rough chop of the lightly blanched broccoli.

Melt the butter with 1/4 c chicken stock in your soup pan. Once melted, add the onion, garlic, and green onion. Cook for 10 minutes until translucent, then add the nutmeg and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and wine. Add the spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted. Add the broccoli, and use an immersion blender to puree the whole lot. (Or put some of the liquid in the blender with all the vegetables and blend then return it to the pot).

Add the milk and bring to a light simmer. Slowly add the cheese, stirring until melted between each handful. Decide that 8 oz of cheese isn't enough, and add another 4 oz if you're anything like me but decide not to put it in the recipe, because 8 oz already sounds like a lot of cheese.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed By Grace!

I will admit that this isn't the best looking food picture I ever took. My mistake for putting a greenish soup into a yellow bowl. I opted not to include the picture. My husband loved it. I loved it. Just try it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Don't Remember It Being This Hard

On June 24, Mister Man went to the dentist (I know this because it was only last week that my insurance finally paid our claim and I got the updated bill from the dentist). The dentist informed my husband that Mister Man had two loose teeth. He was to wiggle them daily.

The loose teeth were news to us, but not too shocking. In fact, when I tried to wiggle then, I could sorta feel one wiggle but not even really the other one.

We encouraged him to wiggle.

He then informed us that he had seven loose teeth.

He didn't. He had two. We reminded him to wiggle.

The tooth got looser, but it still wasn't super loose. I kept up with the wiggle reminders. This week, he informed the receptionist at our chiropractor that he had a loose tooth and showed her.

Oh, look, Mister Man! It even has the new tooth growing in behind it. Cool!

Wait, what? Tooth growing behind it? NOT cool. Visions of hundred dollar bills being funneled to an orthodontist's villa in France flashed through my head. Oh, no. No, we aren't going to need braces because the child didn't wiggle his tooth. If we need braces, we're at least going to have a good reason.

On Thursday, I called the dentist to pay the aforementioned bill and asked how concerned I should be about this latest development. If the tooth isn't out by Monday, I was informed, I should make an appointment for the dentist to pull the tooth.

I didn't want to pay for a goofy dentist appointment to pull a baby tooth either, so the pressure was on Mister Man.

I tried helping him wiggle it, but my fingers are really too big.

I informed him that the tooth fairy doesn't come if the dentist has to pull a tooth. She only comes if the tooth falls out on its own. Something about how the tooth falling out sends a magical call to the tooth fairy to come that night. It's true, you know.

The tooth had to come out. Unfortunately, I had to explain this over the phone to him, as he was at Grandma's all day (long story, don't ask). And of course, Grandma and Grandpa did nothing to further the tooth loosening.

On Friday, he kept wiggling. And unfortunately, I had a lot to do on Friday, so I couldn't help him much (explain why schools schedule institute days for the days when you have the most to do). I could tell that it was getting looser, but it wasn't there.

I had a Girls Night Out Friday night, so at 4:50, I left the house and the wee ones in the care of my husband. I opened my book and promptly forgot about the tooth. Until I got a call from Mister Man about ten minutes later saying he'd lost his tooth!

I was surprised, but happy. Until I heard the story. Daddy took a whack at it. Actually, Daddy took two whacks at it and forced the tooth out. Then he had Mister Man rinse and spit in the sink, which freaked the poor boy out when he spit bright red.

But a lost tooth is a lost tooth, I suppose. If my husband was going to do that, it would have been nice to at least have been home to witness the miracle, but I'm not going to complain.

And yes, the Tooth Fairy did pay a visit that night. She brought her quarter in a fancy black velvet little bag and left it under Mister Man's pillow. You have no idea how excited he was to open it and get a whole quarter.

We still have one loose tooth though. Fortunately, I can't see or feel another tooth erupting behind it or anywhere near it, but that tooth is coming out this week. One way or the other.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm Getting Old

Last night was my quarterly Girls Night Out in the city, and the food was great. MK, which had been on THE LIST (that's not a good thing) since I'd been there eons ago when it first opened, was our destination, and we all had a great time. Great food, great drinks, and great company.

But it was also an eye-opening experience for me. I'm just not as young as I used to be.

Exhibit A: When exiting Metra at 6:30, I yawned. I was tired, and I debated caffeine, but then I decided that would just keep me up all night.

Exhibit B: I walked to MK, and about halfway there, I realized I had blisters forming on the balls of my feet. I kept walking. When I finally had to stop for a red light, my feet were burning. I thought aobut taking a picture to show you the massive blisters, but I spared you (you're welcome). I used to walk a mile and a half to and from work on a daily basis in heels, regardless of the weather (and yes, this includes snow). Apparently, I'm a little old for that now.

Exhibit C: I used to order the foods that sounded interesting, knowing that if I didn't love them, that was ok, but at least I tried something different. Last night, I went totally safe on dessert with their apple something or other. By the time it arrived, I regretted my choice of not going for the funky deconstructed "sorta" carrot cake. I used to be more interesting. Apparently I go beige in my old age.

Exhibit D: I no longer get on the Metra on my way home to scope out the seat I want because it's my favorite place to sit. Now, I watch where the young obnoxious kids sit, and I choose a different car. I'm not just old; I'm a cranky curmudgeon.

I'm not quite ready for the asssisted living facility, but a few more years and I might need one at this rate!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Give Up

I live in Chicago. And I know I live in Chicago. Where we have all four seasons in a single day sometimes.

Regardless, I have certain rules about the weather. I don't wear a coat past May 1 or before October 1. I wear open toed shoes from Memorial Day through the first day of fall. I could go on, but I won't frighten you further.

Ok, I will. I also don't turn on the heat until at least October 15. My husband started pushing to turn the heat on at the end of September, but I resisted. It was sunny enough during the day that it warmed the house pretty well -- one benefit of a western exposure.

Then we went to St Louis for the weekend. And came back to a house that was 54 degrees.


We had to turn the heat on, and I hate hearing it kick on what feels like every twenty minutes. And I finally gave up on the idea of the wee ones wearing short sleeves and/or shorts again this year. I flipped their closets so that their winter clothes are easily within reach.


I do have to admit that sleeping with my mattress warmer on each night is kinda nice. Just don't tell my husband I'm already using it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thank God I Was A Girl

I've been thinking about baby names lately (and NO not because I'm pregnant, thank you very much). I've discovered some friends who've named their children things I really love, and there are some that I just raise my eyebrows at.

When Mister Man was born, it wasn't an issue. My husband and I fairly easily settled on both boy and girl names. For Little Miss, it wasn't so easy. He rejected all sorts of good names, for various reasons, only a few of which had merit. Granted, now that I look back on it, I totally should have played the new mom card and gotten my way, but ... too late!

Thus, Little Miss is not named:

(ok, I love that name but would never really name my daughter that, I suppose)

But it could be worse.

When I was born, I was three weeks late. No, you didn't misread that. I was THREE. WEEKS. LATE. Sorry, Mom. I was so late that my grandmother had to return the "Welcome Scorpio Baby" sign and buy a Sagittarius one -- and yes, that's a true story.

And of course my mom was in labor with me forever. Thank God doctors don't let pregnancy go on that long anymore. My poor mom. I finally popped out at 5:32pm.

And my mom's dreams were dashed.

She had waited nine years before getting pregnant with me (that's nine years of trying btw). She wanted two children. Two boys, to be specific. And she had names picked out for them. My dad apparently didn't have a say.

The first boy was going to be Douglas Frederick, nicknamed Dougie Freddie. And knowing my mom, she would have called me Dougie Freddie to this day. The second boy? Frederick Douglas -- or Freddie Dougie.


Fortunately, God apparently has some compassion, and neither of the children my mom bore were boys. The world was spared from a Dougie Freddie / Freddie Dougie sibling pair.

Then again, maybe this is why Mister Man was born a boy. Our girl name was Kiersten Anabel. Neither name made the cut when we were looking at names for Little Miss, just in case you're wondering.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Only A Milestone

Birthdays can be hard for people. I know people who have denied having a birthday since they turned 21. I know others who went headlong into a serious depression upon hitting thirty. Or forty. Those who bemoan every birthday.

Not me. I used to look forward to turning certain ages - 10, 13, 16, 18, 21... but now it's just another birthday. I have to stop to think about how old I am, but it truly doesn't matter to me. Milestone birthdays aren't a milestone to me.

And I know people who have the same issues with their children. They lament no longer having a child whose age they count in months. They lament starting preschool or kindergarten.

Not me. One. Fine. Two. Three. Four. Five. I enjoyed watching Mister Man grow.

And on Sunday, he turned six. It first dawned on me when he came home from school on Friday. I was fine sending him to school with the macaroni and cheese for the food pantry and the cherry brownie bites. When he got out of my friend's car with the crown announcing he was six, I gasped.

He's really turning six. He's no longer a little boy; he's actually turning into a big kid. I love the fact that he's growing up, but ... it really hit me hard. And now I'm dreading when he turns 10, 13, 16, 18, 21.

But no matter what, he'll always be my little boy. I get it now when my mom says that.

(See the boy crying in the sideview? Apparently in his world, all presents are his, and he didn't take well to being told Mister Man was going to get to keep them. Such a cutie, though! Mister Man, on the other hand, was T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D to get his Legos. "I never dreamed I'd ever get these!" he enthused.)

PS That's the cake Grandma made him, not mine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Nope, I didn't fall off the face of the earth. I just got sorta buried under it. I actually have quite a few posts to read, but my trip back from St. Louis today sorta took it all out of me for the moment, which included my husband being sick enough that he decided to take the train back to Chicago (which he missed so he unilaterally decided to fly) because he was pretty sick and didn't want to be in an enclosed space with us and get us sick... and went on with me driving the 300 miles from St. Louis by myself with two very overtired children.

Needless to say, I have pictures of this, but I'm too tired to post them tonight! I promise to be back to my usual blogginess, but tomorrow. Or Wednesday.

Cheesy Chicken Soup

1 lb shredded baby carrots
1 1/2 stalks celery, shredded
1 green onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
2 c chicken stock (use the good stuff -- no boullion cubes allowed!)
2 c chopped rotisserie chicken (or whatever kind of chicken you have on hand)
5 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
1 t Worchestershire sauce
pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted, then add the carrots, celery, and green onion. Cook until softened, for about eight minutes, then add the garlic and stir for another minute. Stir in the flour and cook for three minutes.

Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring to ensure no lumps develop. Add the milk and Worchestershire sauce. Cook until thickened and bubbling lightly. Very slowly add the cheese, stirring and melting before each new addition. Remove from the heat about halfway through adding the cheese. Add the chicken and pepper.

Serve immediately.
With biscuits, too.

For more fun recipes, visit Blessed by Grace at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can I Get A Redo?

I had Wednesday all planned out perfectly -- because this is what I do.

7am - Wake up
7:10 - Wake up the wee ones
7:30 - Everyone dressed and ready and downstairs
7:50 - Breakfast done, lunches made, and backpacks packed
8am - Mister Man is out the door on the carpool
8-8:25 - Finish getting Little Miss ready; read some books if we have time
8:25 - Little Miss gets on the bus
8:25-9am - I prepare for the day and get all my materials together and organized
9am - Drive to elementary school to sign paperwork for Mister Man's language group
9:30 - Sign paperwork and drive to preschool
10-11:40 - PTO meeting
11:40-12pm - Drive to high school
12-2pm - PTO Presidents Council meeting
2-2:30 - Drive to pick up Little Miss from my parents
2:30-2:50 - Drive home with Little Miss
2:50-3 - Unpack backpack, eat snack, and grab coupons
3-3:30 - Drive to Mister Man's school for pickup
3:30-4:10 - Drop off carpool
4:10-4:40 - Drive to Chuck E Cheese for fundraiser
4:40-6:15 - "Enjoy" fundraiser
6:15-6:40 - Drive home
6:40-7pm - Get wee ones ready for bed and into bed

Phew. From there, it's the usual nighttime routines of getting ready for the next day, going through email to ensure I have everything done that needs to be done, etc.


7:50am. I receive a phone call from the carpool partner saying that her daughter is sick and that she won't be going to school. She offers to drive Mister Man to school anyway. I think about it for a nanosecond then decide that it would be somewhat nuts to put Mister Man into a small, enclosed space with a known sick child.

I swoop in and get everyone to hurry, especially Little Miss. I grab as many items for the meetings as I can. Oh, and I grab the fixings for breakfast for myself and stick them in a grocery bag.

We get into the car seven minutes later than I wanted to (remember that time warp in my garage?) and get Mister Man to school two minutes late -- but we aren't the last ones in line to drop off. Phew.

I drive Little Miss to her preschool and make it there just by the skin of my teeth. I walk her in and hang up the signs directing people to the PTO meeting. I let the office staff know that I need to run but will be back.

I head to the elementary school where I still have to sign the paperwork. Note that this is within a mile of Mister Man's school, but the therapist wasn't available when I was there earlier in the morning. I also discover that the road between the schools is now under construction (seriously? It was fine twenty minutes earlier!), so I'm five minutes late. But it's ok.

I turn around and head back to Little Miss's preschool. I call my treasurer to let her know that I'm running late but will be there as quickly as possible. I leave a message for my secretary and the office staff telling them the same thing.

I'm late for the PTO meeting, but fortunately, I'm not the only one so starting late isn't a bad thing. Phew.

I head over to the high school. Where the road down to one lane for both directions, which means I wait for seven minutes (yes, I counted) until it's finally our turn to go. While I'm late, other members are later -- including some coming from the opposite direction who live three miles away and needed forty-five minutes to get there. Yikes.

I head home since my parents insisted they'd keep Little Miss until I picked her up for the fundraiser, which happened to be near their house. I stopped at home where I cleaned up the black rice that had spilled all over the floor (did I neglect to mention that I knocked out that container while grabbing breakfast items for myself but didn't have time to pick it up? No? Oh, and no, I didn't have time to actually eat my breakfast).

Back on track, at 3pm, I left the house to pick up Mister Man at school. The road that had been clear a half hour earlier on my way home was now down to one lane, and I'm stuck. I'm stuck where I can't even turn around and try a different way. I sigh and pull out my phone to call the school to tell them that I don't think I'll be there by 3:30 at this rate but that I am coming.

We get Mister Man and our preschool buddy into the car, and I cannot for the life of me get the booster seat buckled in. And I find out that Mister Man had a yellow day, which means he doesn't get to go to the fundraiser.

I call my husband and find out that he will not be home for me to drop off Mister Man. I detour on the way home and drop off Mister Man before handing off our preschool buddy to his home and heading to my parents' house.

Little Miss and I make it to Chuck E Cheese. And they have dairy free items. And it isn't the noisy hell that I've seen when I've been there before (go figure - Saturdays and Sundays are a madhouse, middle of the week is relatively sane).

We have fun. Little Miss has what she describes as a "magical time." We earn tickets, and we use few tokens. Little Miss loves feeding the tickets into the machine that eats them, and she doesn't even notice that we can then turn the tickets in for prizes. Am I a bad mom for not pointing it out to her?

We got home, and she went straight to bed, and I finally started catching up on the day.

And then I got the call from the carpool buddy that they won't be going to school again on Thursday. At some point, I'll have this down pat, right?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is That How She Sees Me?

When I look in the mirror, I see a lot of people looking back at me. I look at the working woman who has the respect of her colleagues. I see the PTO president at the wee ones' preschool who takes on all the roles no one else can or will. I see the mom of two small children who does everything she can to make the best lives possible for them. I see a wife who helps her husband out wherever she can. I see someone involved in a babysitting co-op, a friend, a daughter, a cook, a cleaner, an organizer, a reader, and more.

I see it all in one face. I see it all happen, even when some aspects are more prevalent than others.

I've known for awhile that the working woman has been getting bigger. My hours have been increasing, and I've been spending more time and effort on my job than I'd like. There are many reasons for it, and I've come close to quitting a few times in an effort to better balance my life, but I keep telling myself, not now.

Not in this economy when so many others have no job.

Not when I work part-time and mostly from home.

Not when I have a job that challenges my brain and is well respected.

Not when I receive a paycheck that keeps me from hyperventilating when I open the bills.

Today, Little Miss came home with an art project from school.

My four year old daughter drew her family, and her teacher labeled the pictures for her. Little Miss is there, as is Mister Man. She drew daddy, and she included our two cats (although the teacher obviously misunderstood "Roar" as "Roy"). And she included "my grandma who likes to shop a lot."

But there's no mommy.

I didn't make it into my daughter's view of her family.

When I saw the picture, I asked her where Mommy was. She looked at the picture and was confused. She tried to say that Roar was me. And Meow. And my husband. And Mister Man. Even herself and grandma.

But I'm not there.

When Mister Man was two and a half, I quit my job because he cried and screamed "no" when he saw me on the weekends. It was obvious that my full-time account management role that kept me on the road or in the office throughout the week didn't work for my family.

And I think it's time that I faced up to the fact that maybe my job isn't working for my family now. And that? That is more important than keeping my brain challenged, the bank account full, and myself marketable.

I just need to screw up my courage and talk to my company. And maybe show them the picture Little Miss drew. As unskilled as it is, it's one of the clearest pictures I've seen in a long time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Surely, There Must Be A Solution

I hate this time of year. I have to put away my fun summer shoes and - gah! - once again wear socks. My toes are very sad right about now. Although I'm in desperate need of a pedicure, so maybe this is a good thing.

I'm back to my responsible shoes now. Although looking at them in this picture, I can see that they at the very least need a good polish and at the most replacing. By something more fun.

This isn't the part I hate the most about this time of year. I hate having to wear socks. At least when I go to work they aren't the constantly running, itchy, icky, old lady nylons women used to have to wear. I can get away with socks that are far easier to put on.

But then this happens.

About forty times a day. I pull them up, they slide down. Then I get irritated and leave them there.

Granted, they're still better than nylons. MUCH better. And it isn't just these socks. This happens no matter what socks I wear.

I have to be doing something wrong. And since we in Chicago have another eight months before my toes will see the light of day and be freed from their confines, can any of you help me out here?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

I'm tired. I'm getting sick. I have nothing witty to say today, so we'll just go straight to the recipe -- but hey, at least I have pictures.

This is VERY similar to a recipe I discovered somewhere online awhile ago, but me being me, I had to change it up and (in my mind at least) improve upon it. Plus, this recipe is dairy free, which means even Little Miss gets to partake.

As always when baking -- and more and more often when cooking -- I had little helpers making this. I figure another three years, and I won't be the one cooking at all anymore!

Carrot Cranberry Muffins:

1 pound baby carrots, steamed
2 eggs
6 T applesauce
2 T vegetable oil
1 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c white flour
3/4 c (scant) sugar
1 1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg, ground (nutmeg makes EVERYthing better, after all)
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t allspice
1 1/2 c dried cranberries (or more)

Place carrots, applesauce and oil in a blender. Cover and process until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Add the carrot mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened (lumps are ok when you're making muffin and pancakes and such!).

Fold in the cranberries.

Fill muffin cups until almost full.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 12 muffins (or ummm more).

Enjoy this and more with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday hosted by Blessed By Grace!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Feel Better Already

It's that time of year. I got a call from our carpooling mate tonight saying that she was keeping her daughter home because she was sick. The flu shots are everywhere. And I'm curled up on the couch with two pairs of socks, two layers of sweatshirts, and a blanket over me.

Mister Man asked what was wrong, and I told him that I wasn't feeling too well. He looked at me seriously and said that he knew how to make me feel better.

Really, Kiddo? How can you make me feel better?

All you need to do is have someone not you pray for you.

Ahhhh, that's a good point. Will you pray for me, Mister Man?

Yeah! Sure I will, Mommy.

Can I hear what it sounds like when you pray for me?

Ok. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. He very seriously and slowly did the sign of the cross on his own, folded his hands, and looked to the sky.

Dear Lord, Please help my mommy to feel better really soon. Thank you. Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Song, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

While my cold may not be gone, I somehow feel so much better anyway.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Mom Makes Me Giggle

My mom and I are fairly alike in some things, especially when it comes to eating. It's because of her that I don't eat peanut butter or green peppers. Like her, I need to have clutter removed from my space to function well (ok, not quite as much as her). And I am constantly overcommitting myself, just like her.

But then there are times when I see how different we are. My mom can't remember song lyrics to save her life but still sings. To this day, I sing, "Lullabye and goodnight let you sweet song deliiiiight. Hushabye and good night, let your weary eyes fall down." I know those aren't the words, but I've never heard the correct words, and those are the only ones I know.

My mom readily admits to some of her entertaining characteristics. And there are some days when I really notice them. Like today.

You know, I really worry about those poor boys and girls.

Uhhh, what poor boys and girls, Mom?

The ones who don't asked to the Homecoming dance and will be sitting home instead.

Uhhh, ok.

We don't know anyone in high school. I didn't know it was Homecoming weekend before this non sequitor. Oh, and I don't think that the people who aren't going to the Homecoming dance are necessarily that crushed by it. But this has officially made it to my mom's worry list.

A few minutes later, she was reading an Australian book about crocodiles to Little Miss.

'And now you're safe my little poppet.' Do you know what a poppet is, Little Miss?

No, what is it, Grandma?

A poppet is a baby alligator.

Uhh, Mom. a) you're reading about crocodiles, not alligators. And b) a poppet is a British term of endearment, not a baby crocodile.

Yep, that's my mom. Passing her special brand of quirkiness on to the next generation. We love her anyway!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Call Me Scrooge

I am a fan of the Olympics. I think they're pretty cool, exposing sports I might not see on a regular basis and bringing together the best in the world for the sports I follow.

When the Olympics were in Los Angeles in 1984, I was going into frouth grade and remember watching every event I could. In 1996 the Olympics were in Atlanta, and I was in college. In 2002, the Olympics were in Salt Lake, and for the first time it dawned on me that I could go to the Olympics and see this amazing stuff in person. Of course that dawned on me in the middle of the Games, which didn't do me much good.

The Olympics are headed to Vancouver this year, and I have friends who live in Seattle who spend a lot of time in Whistler, near where many events will take place. I determined that I was going to make it to these Olympics. How cool!

Then I started looking into the tickets as they went on sale. And I changed my mind. The prices for non-core sports for early action were astronomical. There was no way I could justify going to more than one event or maybe two. And then there's the cost of staying there and getting there, and my dream fizzled.

Chicago has been bidding for the 2016 Olympics, and everyone around here is excited. "I back the bid" t-shirts and signs are everywhere. Whole schools have been having assemblies and creating ways to show how much they want the Olympics to be here.


Not so much. Call me a grinch, but when I look at the Games the past few times, there has been all sorts of spending on stadia and housing for athletes and others that has either been beyond a realistic budget, short-changing other dire needs in the area, or both. And Chicago has a lot of needs. They've left the cities with massive deficits and then-empty attractions. The traffic has been a nightmare, and in Chicago it already is. And the tickets are unaffordable.

I've quietly kept an eye on what's been going on, and when I saw things like our major expressway (three lanes in most places, and already filled with traffic except at 2am) having one lane dedicated to Olympic athlete traffic, I cringed. When I saw the estimates of a $5 billion cost, I looked around at so many people I know who have no jobs or resources, and I see that money being funneled into short-sighted projects that won't benefit them -- or at best will provide them with a short term job, amidst much waste.

Were the Games more like their roots where the facilities took advantage primarily of what was already in existence, allowed the ordinary people a chance to see world class athletics, and showcased the host city for what it provided rather than dressing it up using dollars it doesn't have, I'd be thrilled if the Olympics were coming to Chicago.

As it is, I smiled quietly as I headed out of the locker room at the gym this morning, saw the tv on my way, and noticed that Chicago had been eliminated from contention.

My hope is that the city, the state, and the nation will now focus on so many of our larger problems and let Rio handle the circus that now accompanies the Olympics. I'll happily watch them at home, and then I'll head out to drive in my usual traffic to my usual destinations, unencumbered by any hoopla caused by the Olympics in my backyard.

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