Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

For the day and a half before Christmas last week, it rained here. And by rained, I mean it poured. Had it been snowing instead of raining, we would never have made it to church -- or anywhere else. On Saturday, it turned into snow. Light, puffy, fun snow. And it kept snowing. In fact, we ended up with over a foot.

(Yes, I had to take the picture through the screen door, as there was enough snow, and the snow was heavy enough that I could no longer open the screen.)

We ended up shoveling multiple times during the snowfall to try to keep the driveway at a reasonable level, and the wee ones had a blast "helping" us out by using their shovels. Of course, their version of helping usually entailed shoveling snow from the grass onto the driveway, but they're learning.

We decided to go sledding after awhile, and it was weird. As we walked to the "hill" near our house (really a detention pond), it was silent because the snow absorbed absolutely all sound. And oddly, there were no other children outside playing on the day after Christmas.

Us? We were out. We played. And we had a blast! We played outside and sledded on Sunday and on Monday and ... well, you get the picture. It's cold, and we need hot cocoa when we come in, but that just makes it all the more fun.

And for me? The proof is in their faces.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I seemed to run out of time for a lot of things this December. Our tree was up late, our cards went out later, I wrapped presents Christmas Eve at 11pm... and I never got a chance to make the gingerbread house that the wee ones kept asking about.

My mom has a gingerbread house that we bought ummmm four years ago at IKEA (hey, we don't actually eat it, so I'm not worried about it going bad). She kept mentioning that we needed to make it, and we kept not quite having time to do it.

So this afternoon, I finally made the time. Who cares that it's after Christmas? Who cares that most people are taking down their Christmas decorations? We spent a good hour having a blast putting together our gingerbread house.

Ok, so that's really a picture of the box.

Apparently that's what our gingerbread house was supposed to look like. Except for putting on the icing (which is a somewhat delicate job), I let the wee ones decorate the house however they wanted. I let them tell me where to put blobs of icing, and then I did their bidding.

We had lots of smiles, and they were so proud of themselves.

Look, Mommy! I made a door handle. And it's red!

Look, Mommy, I made a doorbell.

Look, Mommy, my gingerbread man is throwing a snowball!

Look, Mommy! I made a wreath for over the door!

Seriously, why didn't I do this weeks ago? How did I not make the one hour of time to spend with them to do this? Granted, it was one hour of time because the house umm came pre-assembled (thank you, Costco!), but still... next year, we're making our house the first weekend of December!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Every family has their traditions, and mine is no different. For Christmas Eve, I host dinner, and I always make the same thing: Caesar salad (for which my husband is primarily responsible), lasagne, and baguettes. It's always good and filling -- especially the lasagne.

The recipe I use is loosely based on what an ex-boyfriend made way back when. I think it's the first and only time I dated a guy who even came close to really cooking, and he taught me a few things. The fact that he was Italian didn't hurt! His lasagne is similar to many "normal" lasagnes except that it includes a bechamel sauce to make it extra yummy and rich, and he always used pepperoni in place of ground beef.

Since I love creamy, and I don't like meat, this recipe works out perfectly. It's hard to be exact about having a half meat and half non lasagne when using crumbly beef. Pepperoni, on the other hand, works quite nicely.

Bechamel Lasagne

Tomato Sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 T olive oil
3 14 oz cans diced tomatoes (look for a low sodium one)
1 T dried parsley
1/2 T dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t pepper

Heat saucepan on the stove until it's hot. Remove paper skins from garlic and chop. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat a minute or so until shimmery. Add the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, dried herbs, and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes while you make the bechamel. Use an immersion blender to puree to the thickness you prefer.

Bechamel Sauce
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 c milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 t nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 t pepper

Turn the stove to medium and heat a heavy saucepan. Add the butter and flour and whisk to combine. Stir constantly until it just starts to get a hint of brown color. Add the milk all at once and whisk until thoroughly combined (this will help you avoid lumps). Grate the nutmeg into the milk mixture, and add the bay leaf and pepper. Simmer, stirring periodically, until it has thickened (usually about 10 minutes). While the bechamel is thickening, make the filling.

12 oz ricotto cheese, part skim
6 oz mozzarella, part skim - shredded
6 oz Parmesan, grated (NOT from the green can)
6 oz Koskisko or other solid cheese like Gruyere
2 eggs
1/2 t dried parsley
1/2 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
13 lasagne noodles, uncooked

Mix the ricotta, 4 1/2 oz Parmesan, all the mozzarella, 4 1/2 oz of the other solid cheese, eggs, and herbs together in a bowl, and use a spatula to combine well.

Combine lasagne in a 13x9 pan. Use a ladle to spooon about 3/4 c sauce onto the bottom of the pan to cover (you may need a bit more or less, depending on your pan). Add a layer of lasagne noodles. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the filling mixture at a time, and press into the noodles to cover, using a bout half the mixture in total. Add half the bechamel sauce (after removing the bay leaf!). Add more ladles of sauce to cover.

Repeat the layers, ending with the sauce. Atop the last layer, add the remaining shredded cheeses to form a crust.

Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Let it sit for about 20 minutes before serving or it will fall all over the place (not that I know from experience).

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Now *This* Is Some Serious Shopping

I realized earlier today that I had a few coupons that were going to expire. And by a few coupons, I mean a good twenty-five coupons for free frozen items that I received when I bought my deep freeze back in February of last year. They expire on December 31, which is shockingly ummm this week.

I decided to be productive today and get some errands run -- including redeeming said coupons. Hwoever, I think I've ruined shopping for myself forever after this trip.

My first stop was Target where I returned two presents for the wee ones and a pair of shoes for Little Miss that I bought back in October that were two sizes too small (what, she has small feet, and I forgot to check to see what size she was). Two people ahead of me, two lines open, and I got my money onto a new gift card in no time.

Into Target I headed, looking for a returned Crayola Crayon Maker, a gingerbread house kit, and possibly a new kitchen garbage can. I struck out on all of those, but I did manage to buy five 5x7" picture frames (they're in the dollar section, people!) and a new pair of dress shoes for Little Miss in a size 12 that were on clearance for $6.48. I used a gift card I had already, and I found that I still have $76 on that one. Needless to say, I have about $100 in Target gift cards remaining. Score!

The next step was Costco to buy more oatmeal and flax. I found a returned pre-built gingerbread house for $4.97. I'm still up money from the returns at Target. I'm happy. Unfortunately, no Costcos in my area have had a Crayon Maker returned yet. Nor does the JoAnne Fabrics I visited. Nor the Wal-Mart. That's ok though.

The next stop is Gap where I remembered that I have a coupon for a free pair of jeans that expires ... this week. Amazingly, the first pair of jeans I tried on fit nicely, so I'm set there. Except for the line that takes forever because a woman who is getting a price adjustment for $9.88 insists that she receive cash for her return instead of having it credited to her debit card because "I don't know that I'll get the money back there. I only get a statement, like, every three months, and I won't know for another two and a half months if the money even shows up there. Everywhere else I go gives me the option of getting cash back. Paying with your debit card is paying with cash, you know." And on and on she went. The woman in front of me and I kept glancing at each other and giggling. Fortunately, a manager came over to help with the debit exchange, and I walked out with the jeans that cost me $0.00.

Bed, Bath & Beyond is the next stop, where I'm planning to use my 20% off coupon to buy that garbage can, a jewelry holders that I saw there last week when comparison shopping, and a cookie dough scoop. Sadly, the jewelry holder is now only in a rubbed brass instead of silver, so I pass on that. And apparently they no longer carry cookie dough scoops. And I refuse to pay $119 for a garbage can. I walk out having spend $0.00 again... albeit with no packages this time.

It's about this point that I realize a) that I'm hungry, b) that there's a Chipotle nearby, and c) that I have a gift certificate for a free burrito from Chipotle that expires on December 31. I happily munch on my free lunch as I drive over to the grocery store.

While it takes me a good forty-five minutes to find all my frozen items, I'm at least smart in my shopping. First I chose the veggies that are ok if they get a little melty. Then I got the potatoes and garlic bread, then the pizzas, and finally the ice creams. I check out, and I somehow get a refund of $4.01. The original price of all the groceries? $131.95. I'm not quite sure how I got money back, but I'm not complaining. Both my regular freezer and my deep freeze are now absolutely crammed full with the six bags of items that now live there.

My final stop was to Aldi. Really, I didn't need anything from there, but that's where I got the Bakugan for the wee ones' stockings, and Little Miss broke her Bakugan within four minutes of my opening the package. I decided to check to see if they had it again. Not only did I find that Bakugan -- now for $1.99! -- but I found three others that they didn't have previously that for less than two dollars I felt pretty good about buying and handing out to the wee ones on days that I feel particularly happy with their behavior. Oh, and on the way to the cashier, I spotted HDMI cables. For $6.99. And one of my Christmas presents was a Blu-Ray player that needs an HDMI cable. Total score.

When I total is all up, I was paid just over $9 to shop today. And I came home with five frames, a pair of shoes, a pair of $70 jeans, six bags of groceries, lunch (with leftovers for lunch tomorrow -- no one can eat a whole Chipotle burrito in one sitting!), and presents for the wee ones and myself.

Like I said, it's only downhill from here. While I enjoy shopping -- especially grocery shopping, I think I've peaked. How can it ever be this much fun again?

Although... I do mysteriously have almost $100 in Target gift cards. Maybe I can get a bunch of storage bins the next time they go on sale for my decorations for all the holidays and Mister Man's Legos and maybe even get a decent start on some of the items we need to turn the playroom into a homework room.

Oh, and speaking of gift cards -- don't forget that I have a giveaway for a $200 VISA gift card going on through New Years Eve here!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Singing Lessons

Ahhh, the presents are opened (with scads and scads of them from my parents), Santa ate his cookies (and the reindeer ate their carrots), the first toys were broken (at 8:17am, four minutes after Little Miss started playing with her Bakugan), and the overtired, overstimulated wee ones are once again nestled in their beds.

We had a great Christmas, although we still haven't learned our lesson. Once again the wee ones had a gift opening frenzy that precluded my husband and I noticing exactly who each gift was from. My aunt, my sister-in-law, and my husband's cousins gave gifts, as did my sister and parents. Annnnnnnnd we're really not sure what is from whom in most cases, although we're pretty sure my sister-in-law declined to buy me a gift after insisting my husband buy her husband a wii game in addition to the Dippin' Dots maker for her daughter and college gear for her. Yep, we'll be making the calls of shame yet again tomorrow and swearing we'll do better next year.

Mister Man loved his gifts, although he did notice that there was no Crayola Crayon Maker. After bursting into tears, he allowed me to explain the lengths we went through to try to find one for him and that we'll go together to buy one once they're restocked in stores, which will make it more special for him. And he was good with that, luckily.

We made it to my aunt and uncle's (where, oops, we both made potatoes au gratin as my uncle merely told me to make a side dish and to not do sweet potatoes) and back safely, although the temps dropped quickly which immediately the rain that had been falling all day. My mom broke the only glass at the gathering (phew), and there was no drama.

Little Miss finally changed out of her Halloween shirt and Easter slippers (which she wore to "trick" Grandma) and into the ummm 2T Christmas dress that somehow still fits her. It's no longer floor length, but I still wouldn't believe the size if I hadn't looked at the tag myself. She, of course, managed to shred her tights, but she at least kept them on. We're making progress.

And we're all happy....

Little Miss took awhile to get into the holiday spirit last week:

But once she did, she was so proud of her abilities (she unfortunately learned the right words before I remembered to tape her more interesting rendition):

Which of coure meant that Mister Man had to show us how well he knew the songs that he learned for his Christmas program:

I'm content. I'd like to just hold onto this feeling for a little bit longer. Merry Christmas to you (assuming you're celebrating), and I hope it was a quiet and peaceful day (if you aren't)!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Open Letter To The World

Dear World,

Can you please slow DOWN?

Please?  Pretty please?

I discussed yesterday my issue with missing out on December.  I admit that this was entirely my fault.  In fact, I did an admirable job catching up in the past twenty-four hours (all cards are written and mailed, presents are sorted and wrapped, shopping is complete, and prep for food is done).  I'm giving you some of the blame, too, though.  Since you've been pushing Christmas for so long, I no longer have the jolt that I need to start preparing for Christmas.  You've lulled me into a false sense of security that Christmas is still far away... and it's not.

But still.

It's not even Christmas yet.  I still have two full days to enjoy preparing for Christmas and the joy on my family's faces for the season.  Quit rushing me.  I want to celebrate the season, and you're making it awfully difficult.

Case in point.  A week and a half ago -- on December 11 to be exact, I received an email from our local baseball and softball organization letting me know that summer registration was now open.  Are you kidding me?  Two weeks before Christmas, and you want me to start thinking about a sport my children won't be playing for another four plus months?  Last year, I missed registration and signed up after teams had been formed, and now I know why.

Retail stores, you are not exempt.  When doing a little shopping last weekend -- a full week before Christmas, mind you, I noticed that the Christmas items were already being moved to the back and Valentine's items are being displayed.  Trust me, there's no way I'm buying any Valentine's when I don't have any Christmas cards out.

I'm slowly figuring out why I'm constantly exhausted and feeling behind.  There's no time to enjoy the moment we're in.  And I refuse to go along with the constant rushing ahead into the next "thing."  Watch out, World.  I am busy living in December.  And enjoying it.  Give me my Christmas.  I'll get back to you in February about Valentine's Day.  And in March or April about t-ball.


PS Only two days left my LOFT $200 gift card giveaway is ending on 12/25. One more week for my $200 VISA gift card giveaway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Think I Missed December

You know the phrase about time flying when you're having fun. Apparently it also flies when you're a mom. Or at least that's the excuse I'm using right now. I've been late for the entire month of December, and with Christmas in only a couple days (it's December 22 today, right? I don't even know the date right now!) I'm not even close to being ready. Somehow, it will come together, but I haven't quite figured out how yet.

So rather than wrap Christmas presents, I'm taking a break from the must do's to muddle over the proof that I'm this late.

Top Ten Pieces of Evidence That I've Forgotten It's December

10. I just wrote out my Christmas cards. It's 9pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve. There's about a 0.00001% chance of anyone receiving the cards before Christmas. Oops.

9. The only reason I was able to write Christmas cards tonight is because I bought two huge boxes of Christmas cards majorly clearanced last year after Christmas. It only took me thirty minutes to figure out where I had hidden them.

8. I'm still collecting addresses from friends who I know have moved. One friend just called with his new address, so I'm down to only two friends whose cards have no addresses.

7. The cards I wrote for the most part have no pictures in them. I went online at today to order cards or pictures to put in the cards, but they wouldn't be ready until 11am tomorrow. Knowing this wouldn't happen, I didn't even bother to order them. Fortunately, my mom had ten extra wallet sized pictures of the wee ones that we'd had taken for her cards last month that she had dropped off with me last week (because, you know, her cards were done by December 1). It only took me 30 minutes to figure out where I'd hidden them. Hint: they were sitting on top of the box of Christmas cards I'd bought last year.

6. I did fortunately have letters to go in each of the cards, and no, this didn't happen only because I happened to have nine sheets of my holiday stationary left over from last year. I actually remembered last weekend that we would need new stationary, so I stopped at the store Sunday afternoon to pick some up. Not willing to pay $3 for 25 sheets at Target, I went to Office Max. The good news is that their Christmas stationary was 25% off. The bad news was that they had only one design left. And it was pretty ummmm not my style. But I bought it anyway, and my lovely Christmas letter is written on it.

5. I am to bring a side dish to my aunt and uncle's for Christmas Day. That's as far as I've gotten. I have no idea what I'm making. I have no idea what ingredients I need. All I know is that it won't be a sweet potato dish since another aunt is bringing sweet potato hash. Any suggestions?

4. I'm hosting Christmas Eve Italian dinner at my house. I traditionally make a lasagne, Caesar salad, baguettes, and a dessert of some sort. I have no lasagne noodles. I have no ricotta. I have no greens. I have no lemon. I have no idea what I'm making for dessert. Guess who's heading to the store tomorrow!

3. I haven't wrapped a single present. I have bought several presents for several people, but I don't have a complete inventory of what I have still have to pick up. You already heard about my issues with the Crayon Maker. My husband isn't getting two of the presents I was planning on because the only store that sells them has neglected to call me back. And I never gave the pictures to Elizabeth for the photo bracelet. Apparently tomorrow I'm also spending much of the day wrapping presents and doing some last minute shopping.

2. Oops. I just realized that on Christmas Day when we go to my aunt and uncle's house, I will need to have presents for my cousins' three children. Apparently I also need to figure out who else I need presents for. And hope that I'm struck by inspiration quickly.

And the number one reason I know that I've forgotten it's December? This is what we were doing yesterday.

On the plus side, I don't have to worry about our tree drying out and dropping needles all over the place before the garbage company picks up trees in January this year!

Tell me I'm not alone... what have you forgotten to do this year?

PS Don't forget about my two giveaways: my LOFT $200 gift card giveaway is ending on 12/25. And my $200 VISA gift card giveaway ends the following week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Last week, I was asked to bring in cookies for Mister Man's Christmas program. The only requirement was that they be nut free. Easily done, since I don't cook with nuts anyway.

I chose the recipe for my grandmother's Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies, as they're relatively easy to make and also don't have egg -- another allergy in Mister Man's class. I figured this way the boy would have our treat and whatever his mother brought for him.

I got out all the ingredients and quickly realized that I was out of almond extract. I sighed heavily and got my coat and purse to go buy more. Oh. Yeah. Almond extract. Made from almonds. Which are nuts. And therefore verboten.


I adjusted my dear Gram's recipe so that they were Strawberry VANILLA Thumbprint cookies (and also dairy free for Little Miss), and they are my husband's favorite cookies of all the batches I've made so far this year. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, and they're completely gone now. I think I'll have to make them again soon though!

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies


Cookies -
2/3 c sugar
1 c butter, softened (or butter flavored Crisco if you're going dairy free)
1/2 t almond extract (or 1 t vanilla if you're going nut free, ahem)
2 c flour
1/2 c preserves (any flavor works but ummm not grape, please)

Glaze -
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 t almond extract (or 1 t vanilla)
2-3 t water

Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the almond extract/vanilla until well-combined. Add the flour and stir until just mixed.

Spoon onto a cookie sheet with a sil pat (if you don't have one, use an UNgreased cookie sheet). Use a spoon or your thumbs to make a good indentation in the center. Bake at 350 for 14-18 minutes until they start to turn slightly golden and crack just a touch.

Use the spoon to reaffirm the dents. Spoon a bit of preserves into each divot you've made. Let the cookies cool with the preserves in them until they are no longer warm (if you are impatient, the glaze won't work well, not that I know this from experience).

Mix together the powdered sugar and vanilla/almond extract. Slowly dribble in water until the glaze has reached the consistency you like. I go a little thicker but still pourable. Spoon just enough glaze onto each cookie to cover the jam, but don't let it spill over the edges.

Let cookies harden 10-15 minutes before eating... if you can!

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

PS Don't forget about my two giveaways: my LOFT $200 gift card giveaway is ending on 12/25. And my $200 VISA gift card giveaway ends the following week.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dialing For Dollars

Every year, there's a hot Christmas present. When I was a kid, it the Cabbage Patch kids that drew the frenzy (I ended up with an obvious knockoff that year). I've watched from afar the frenzy of the Tickle Me Elmo and the Beanie Babies, always thankful that I was ... well, afar.

This year, Mister Man and I roamed through Costco the week after Thanksgiving perusing the toys they had on hand to get an idea of what he and Little Miss might like for Christmas. He found a few things, and I made note of them.

On Black Friday, my husband went shopping, and he found the Crayola Crayon Maker (a hot item on Mister Man's very short list of ummm one item). Or at least, he found it advertised. When he arrived at the store, he ended up with a rain check as it wasn't a Black Friday special but instead just on sale.

Since we were in St. Louis, and we know my in-laws have no idea what to buy for anyone, they offered to hold onto the rain check for us and purchase the item. Fine with us, as that's one less item that we need to buy.

Fast forward to this afternoon, when my husband found out that his parents hadn't actually purchased the Crayon Maker. In their book, they then just wrote it off.

When my husband informed me of the news, I sighed but didn't despair. Little Miss and I were near some stores, so we surreptitiously shopped the toy department of two stores with no luck.

After we arrived home, I started looking online. Site after site -- including Amazon -- was sold out. Ooo not looking good. Then my husband announced that he was finding auctions on eBay where the Crayon Maker was being sold for $80 and more. Yikes!

In the interim, my husband visited the less busy Costco near us to see if he could purchase the Crayon Maker there. No dice. He spent the next hour driving from suburb to suburb stopping at all likely stores. He came home empty-handed.

That's when I got serious. I started searching for availability, which is when I found the following message on the Crayola website:

The Crayola Crayon Maker is a popular holiday item, with limited availability at many U.S. retail stores. We have encountered an extremely high consumer demand that has exceeded our expectations. Unfortunately, we cannot manufacture additional units in time to ship to retailers before the holidays. Please check the following retail stores in your area:

Walmart, Toys R Us, Target, Michael's, K-Mart,, A.C.Moore, Meijer,, JoAnn Stores, Shopko, Kohl's, Fred Meyer, Wegman's, Boscov's and Costco.

In my mind, this was good news. I knew where they were sold, and we have many of those stores in my area. In fact, the Walmart Website listed three stores in my area that had the Crayon Maker either in stock or with limited quantities.

My husband called the first Walmart and struck out. Then he called the second and third that the website should have some quantity left. Nope.

In the intervening two and a half hours, my husband and I have called every single Target, Meijer, Walmart, JoAnn's, Kohl's, Michael's, K-Mart, Toys R Us, and Costco in the area.

This is when I'm thankful that it's a Sunday and we aren't burning our cell phone minutes on our fruitless search, as not a one of them had the Crayon Maker in stock.

I was briefly optimistic when the K-Mart online chat found some websites that were still selling the Crayon Maker. Of course, that was using the term loosely. For the item that was less than $20 before Thanksgiving, the lowest price was $68.64. Some were close to $100.

My husband has started looking at all the prices on the eBay auctions, but I refuse. Christmas is about giving; it isn't about trying to make a quick buck off someone. I refuse to perpetuate the trend of people buying up what they think the "hot toy" will be and then selling it to the highest bidder. To me, that's as anti-Christmas as it gets.

The new questions he's asking me is what I plan to tell Mister Man come Christmas morning. Will I tell him that he wasn't good enough for Santa to bring it? (No.) Will I tell him he wasn't worth $80? (No.) Will I ruin his Christmas? (No!)

While this is a toy he wants, we don't always get what we want, and that's fine. He has a number of other toys and books that we've bought and that my parents have bought that I know he'll enjoy. I'd be willing to bet that he doesn't even remember about the Crayon Maker that day.

Am I wrong for holding hte line on not wanting people to profit from a shortage of product on Christmas?

And once Crayola is able to make more of them and have them in stores again? I'll go out with the wee ones, and we'll buy one together. I'm sure we'll enjoy it then, and in the interim no one's life will be ruined. And next year? If there's an item Mister Man really wants, I am not relying on my in-laws to procure it, thank you very much.

PS If you need a little Christmas present for yourself, my LOFT $200 gift card giveaway is ending on 12/25. And my $200 VISA gift card giveaway ends the following week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Difference Between Men And Women

Don't forget! I have two different $200 gift card giveaways going on yet
here and here. Go. Play. Win.


Decorating for Christmas:

Women plan for the decorations. We determine when we'll have time to put up what decorations, and for that matter, what decorations we're planning this year. We'll wait to get it out and ready until we know we have a block of open time to do so.

Men are reminded that it's Christmas time when they see the stockings that the woman has gotten out of storage (the only item that had the time to go up, as it's quick and easy). He goes into the basement and starts lugging out all random Christmas boxes and depositing them in the children's playroom so that the woman "will have some motivation to get things decorated."

Removing items from storage:

Women very carefully place the somewhat fragile decorations from another holiday in an area where they are not likely to be disturbed. When removing other items from the storage area, women are careful to avoid disturbing other items in the storage area to minimize breakage.

Men see big boxes. Men get big boxes. Men go fast. Men drop things.

Accidentally breaking items:

If a woman accidentally breaks an item, she first inspects it to determine whether or not the item is fixable. If it is fixable, she immediately adds that to her to do list, at or near the top of said list. She picks up all the pieces and ensures that the area where the breakage occurs is once again clean. If the item happens to belong to someone else, the woman will tell that person, apologize and offer to either fix it or replace it.

Men break things. Regularly. They pick the item up without looking at it and put it back where - or somewhat close to where - they think they found it. They pick up the big pieces and throw them away. Men leave the little pieces on the ground -- because the cleaning ladies will vacuum it eventually -- so that the woman can come downstairs with her hands full and fear that somehow there has been a mouse infestation or something equally disastrous. Men don't mention the broken item to anyone unless pressed on the suspected mouse droppings in the basement.

Sometimes I wonder... and sometimes I just try not to be bitter. Guess which day today is!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Above And Beyond

Don't forget! I have two different $200 gift card giveaways going on yet
here and here. Go. Play. Win.


When Mister Man was a baby, he received this Advent tree for Christmas. At the time, we thought this was not the best present for a two month old, so we put it away for a couple of years.

For the last three or four years, though, this has been the highlight of the wee ones' Christmas anticipation. They can't wait for me to get it out each year. The first thing they do every morning is to run downstairs to put the next number on the tree. They take the numbers off the tree and play with them. Mister Man reads and now knows all the poems on each of the ornaments that has a poem. In short, they big puffy heart this tree.

Until this weekend....

Last Wednesday, I had my co-op Christmas party and gift exchange at my house. Since the numbers were so neatly arranged on the foyer table (thank you, Mister Man) a couple of my guests assumed I was using the numbers to see who went first, etc in the Yankee gift exchange. oooo, brilliant idea!

Everyone loved the fun little numbered ornaments. I loved not having to write out twenty-two numbers on little slips of paper. As soon as each person went, they put their number into a special bag, and at the end of the night, I carefully rearranged all the ornaments to be exactly where they were pre-party.

On Sunday, I had another Christmas party and another gift exchange at a friend's house. I decided to be cute and bring my fancy numbers along.

Unfortunately, when I got home, I realized that number fifteen was missing. I checked and rechecked to no avail. I called a friend I knew to be still at the party cleaning up, but it was not at the house.

Our assumption was the someone had accidentally put it in their pocket or into the gift bag instead of back into the special bag I'd brought. Now the fun became trying to remember who was number fifteen. I dialed for dollars but came up empty. Finally, one woman thought she might have remembered who had number fifteen.

Given the hour, I decided to simply email her rather than wake up her entire house. By this point, it was Monday night -- the 14th -- and I knew there would be disaster in my house come yesterday morning. And there was. There was crying and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the missing fifteen. Well, there was until Mister Man had the idea of just putting up number sixteen intead. Ah-ha!

Last night, I got home from work late. I arrived to a mysterious bag sitting in my doorway and twelve emails going back and forth trying to track down the missing ornament. Offers to search through garbage were handed out. My friend who did have number fifteen offered to buy us a whole new tree. I was overwhelmed by how far people would go for a little number!

I was hoping that we could easily find the number, but if not then we'd deal with it. We'd fake a number of we'd just deal with the fact that we no longer had number fifteen.

My friend wasn't going to let that happen, however. She felt so guilty about misplacing the number fifteen -- and truly, we don't know that it was her. Someone else may have moved or taken the fifteen after she put it in the bag.

So inside the bag she left unsolicited in my doorway last night was a replacement ornament that she had made, and two presents for the wee ones. She actually made a new felt ornament to go on our tree when she hadn't found it within two hours, then drove to my house to drop it off.


And this morning after Mister Man read the apology letter she left him? He totally forgave her and understood. But that new ornament?

Look, Little Miss! Look! We have a brand new ornament for our tree. And it's a SNOWball!

First of all, I can't believe she made that. I can't even come close to cutting an actual circle, let alone two, and forget painting a recognizable number on it and making a border. It looks great, doesn't it?

It's now happily ensconced on our tree, and the world is once again right. In fact, it's more than right. Thank you, L. Thank you so much for going above and beyond -- we're really grateful!

I hope each and every one of you has friends who would do something like that. Talk about finding a way to put some joy into everyone's hearts.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

One giveaway ended, but I have two high dollar giveaways going on at my review blog here and here. Who can't use $200 in gift certificates (each) right about now?

So last week I talked about a whole bunch of yummies I made for a party I had at my house. It was hard to decide on my favorite, so I won't. This, however, was the favorite of at least a few people there, I think. It's somewhat non-traditional, but oh so yummy, easy and healthy, too! Plus, it was a non-messy appetizer, which is always a win!

Green Bruschetta

16 oz English or petite peas (fresh is better but this time of year, I totally went frozen)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Boil a large pot of salted water (one of the rare times I will truly advocate salting your water!). Add the peas, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, and onions. Cook 2-3 minutes until bright green and still crisp. Drain and immediately submerge in an ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain again.

Puree the newly cooked veggies with the parsley and ricotta until lightly blended. Drizzle in olive oil until you get a consistency you like. Add salt and pepper, still pulsing in the food processor.

Cut the loaf into thin slices diagonally to maximize space for the topping. Lay them on a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake in the oven until a beautiful golden color - about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and immediately rub with the garlic cloves 2-3 good strokes for each slice. (Or if you're me and like garlic, go to town and use six cloves of garlic.) Make sure the bread is still warm when you do this.

Spoon the puree onto the slices. Top each slice with a bit of prosciutto, and serve immediately.

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

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
8 oz nice green beans (preferably haricots verts - which I bought frozen)
4 green onions, rough chopped
8 oz broccoli florets
1/2 c fresh parsley
1 1/2 c ricotta cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 loaf crusty bread
3 cloves garlic
~12 slices prosciutto

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good Ideas Gone Bad

A reminder for you all, I've got a trio of giveaways going on over at my review site right now -- consider it some early Christmas shopping, either for yourself or someone else! 

My four pack of movie tickets and free cereal ends tomorrow and so far has only seven entries (what do you not like going to the movies?) Enter here.

Do you shop at the LOFT? $200 awaits you here.

Are you more of a cash kind of person? Enter for a $200 Visa gift card here.

Stop me when you figure out where I went wrong today.

I agreed to watch a friends two sons this afternoon for a couple hours after church today (no, this is a good thing), beginning at noon.

It turns out that the wee ones had Christmas pageant practice today after church. Church ends at 11:30 or so. The practice I found out was going to be "about forty-five minutes or so." I did not bring food for them to eat lunch. (Sadly, this is not where I went wrong either.)

At ten to twelve, my friend called to confirm that we were still at church and dropped off her boys. I was expecting ten more minutes of pageant practice, and they can be entertained for that long, surely. For ten minutes? No problem. Unfortunately, it was almost forty more minutes of practice. And the wee ones still hadn't eaten lunch. (I'm starting to have a few regrets, but this isn't where I went wrong.)

When we got to our house at 1:45, I discovered that the two boys had eaten lunch already, so they just wanted to play. You can imagine how well lunch went over with Mister Man and Little Miss while their friends are calling to them and trying to get them to play. Little Miss sat right down and ate something, and I contented myself with Mister Man eating two bites of a sandwich and drinking his milk. Nope, still not where I went wrong.

Yesterday, I started baking Christmas cookies. I have to bring in cookies to Mister Man's school twice next week, and I volunteered to be the "nice" mom bringing in not only the nut free cookies (required) but also the egg free (an allergy in Mister Man's class) and dairy free (an allergy in the school in general) cookies. Those cookies were quickly and easily made yesterday, but by the time I finished those, the wee one and I were done baking for the day. The sugar cookie dough sitting in the fridge was going to stay there overnight.

So I decided that today would be a good day to finish the cookies and that the boys could help me. I rolled out the dough, and I showed them the selection of cookie cutters. Surprisingly, this wasn't too painful.

One of the boys asked if he could have a taste of the dough. I agreed and gave him a small sliver. I then spent the next hour and a half chasing after him and making him put pieces of dough down. This was the beginning of the end.

Since they were cut out sugar cookies, I figured we had to decorate them. I was envisioning using my sugar crystals of various colors with the stocking being sprinkled gently with red for the bottom and left clean on top. The snowflake would be perfect sprinkled in blue, while the star would look great in red -- and so on.

Apparently it's been awhile since I've decorated with children. The pile of yellow sugar on one cookie wasn't a huge issue, as I easily spread it around and calmly explained that you couldn't use that much sugar on a single cookie.

When they argued over the sugar and grabbed at the sugar the others had, smashing an elbow into a couple cookies along the way, I quickly devised a color sharing system -- at my call, they would each rotate the sprinkles to the right.

When Mister Man asked to use the new red sprinkles, I helped him open them. At that point, I turned around to do something -- stupidly, I'll admit. I heard the oh no! as I turned back around. Apparently the red sprinkles have very large holes in the top, and a pile of red sprinkles larger than the cookie now lay atop a poor snowman. I took a deep breath and quickly grabbed the still pouring sprinkle container then began trying to scrape up some of the teensy tiny grains of sugar. Muttering under my breath, I gave up.

The first tray done -- albeit over decorated -- I placed into the oven, and we started on the second tray. I placed the red sprinkles out of the way so no one would be tempted, and I contentedly monitored the over sugaring of the cookies. As the timer went off and I turned around to check the cookies in the oven, I really should have known better. One of the boys had opened the red container, and almost half the sprinkles in the bottle were now covering a reindeer and a bell. At least the boy had the good sense to right the bottle and stop pouring after the initial mishap.

I tried tilting the tray to better capture the excess sprinkles, which only worked minimally as both of the boys were putting their fingers in the sprinkles and gobbling the sugar as quickly as they could. My admonitions were met only with sheepish grins and more reaching. I checked the clock to see how long before I headed out for my Christmas party tonight (and by my, I mean me and other moms with no children present).

We continued decorating the cookies, and I continued fending off the boys from the stealing of dough and sugar. Somehow, I don't lose this battle when it's the wee ones, but these boys are more persistent. They also began begging to eat a cookie. I promised everyone could have a cookie once we got the second sheet out of the oven and they'd cooled somewhat (with Little Miss getting one of the strawberry thumbprint dairy free, egg free, nut free but surprisingly not taste free cookies we'd made yesterday).

As the cookies were ready, I placed a cookie for each child onto a plate and made sure they sat at the kitchen table to eat. I continued to work on rolling out the dough and finishing up the cookies. When I next looked up, the children had all left the table, and I can only pray that they washed -- or at least licked off -- their hands before going to play in the rooms with carpet and other light colored objects.

This is about when I realized that over sugared cookies have a bigger problem than just wasting the sugar. About three-quarters of the sugar that had been in the dispensers now lay strewn about not only the kitchen table but on the floor all around the table as far as the eye could see. I sighed and was mildly grateful that this wasn't summer and therefore no ants would smell the sugar that I'd missed, knowing it would take me several rounds of sweeping and mopping to capture all the errant grains.

They did all have fun, and I sent the boys on their merry way not long after with a big plate of the cookies they'd helped me make. I surveyed my kitchen and sighed.

Moral of the story? Making cookies with children isn't a bad thing. However, next time we're going with icing. Sugar is best left in the hands of experts.

And now? I have seven minutes before I need to be at a party that has only adults, some adult beverages and a basement full of delectable goodies. I'm feeling better already.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Santa's Bringing Me A Big Ol' Lump Of Coal

A reminder for you all, I've got a trio of giveaways going on over at my review site right now -- consider it some early Christmas shopping, either for yourself or someone else!  Like the movies? Enter here. Do you shop at the LOFT? $200 awaits you here. Are you more of a cash kind of person? Enter for a $200 Visa gift card here.


I'm a bad daughter in law.

I've posted before about how I'm not a fan of telling people what I want them to buy me for Christmas. If you know me well enough to buy me something I'd love, great. If not, I really don't need anything, and I don't know you well enough to expect anything from you.

My in-laws have decided that their Christmas shopping for my whole family now involves a trip to the store. They choose the store, then we choose our gifts.


Honestly, I'd rather receive nothing from my in-laws, and I'd be totally cool with that, but they can't do that, so off we go to the store.

In the store, my husband immediately decides he could go for a couple new shirt and tie combos. Since there are approximately 25,642,320,483 color and pattern and fabric choices available at any given moment, this takes some time, especially for someone not too confident in the fashion department.

While my husband chooses his presents, I am left to entertain the two bored wee ones who are used to going shopping with me and having a job to do. Unfortunately there aren't too many possible jobs for the overtired children while Daddy looks at ties, so it's a full-time gig.

Then Mister Man decides he's thirsty, so I take him to go find the drinking fountain at the other end of the massive store. Little Miss can't be left behind, so she catches up to us. As we're heading back to find Daddy, he has finished and is now helping his mom look for presents for the wee ones.

Not surprisingly, he asks for help. I somehow manage to simultaneously entertain the wee ones and keep them oblivious and also point out some potential choices for them to then figure out.

Realizing that I'm the only one left to choose a present and no opportunity to do so as yet, I ask my husband to watch the wee ones while I head to the front of the store to look at the clothes. Because of course, it's so easy to choose clothes for yourself when given an eight minute time limit and no opportunity to try anything on.

I do somehow find a sweater that I like, but my size is missing. I see another shirt that may be an opportunity, but without trying it on, I'm not sure. That's about when my father in law appears and insists that I tell him what I found.

I am now getting the maybe it'll be ok shirt for Christmas, and he insists on asking one of the workers to look for the sweater in my size. No dice after ten minutes, but they insist I need something else.

Having seen nothing else and at this point soooo not in the mood to shop, I suggest to my husband that he pick out an Oxo super sealing container. We have a bunch at home, but there are never enough. I big puffy heart them. Trust me, a circus of each of us trying to find the others ensues, but I'm working on getting to my point.

We finally meet up, and my husband has apparently been successful, so I know I'm getting at least one of the containers for Christmas, and that's fine. My in laws wrap the presents and send them home with us since it's "too much of a hassle" for my retired in laws to visit us over Christmas and come to our house for the first time in eighteen months (yes, that was a direct quote from my father in law).

After we get home, all the presents are placed in the basement to await the tree that I swear we *are* getting at some point this season. I immediately forget about them.

Or, I forget about them until I'm trying to remove all clutter from my house in anticipation of two parties I hosted at my house in the last week. I have a giant box of Cheerios that really doesn't fit on the counter but has nowhere else to go.

I decide that I could put it into my cereal dispenser if I could find a place for the mostly gone knockoff brand (but surprisingly better for you) rice square cereal. All my handy little containers are in use. Until I remember my Christmas present sitting in the basement.

After all, my in laws aren't going to see me at Christmas time. They will never know -- nor are they likely to care -- if I open it early. Right?


It worked out perfectly, and my counter was blissfully clear for both parties. Oddly, I don't even feel a little guilty. It doesn't really feel like a Christmas present. But at the same time, when I think about it rationally, I think I should feel like the most evil daughter in law. But isn't it pretty holding my cereal?

What's the most Christmas tradition you've most gone against?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thank You!

Before I forget, I've got a trio of pretty darn awesome giveaways going on over at my review site right now -- consider it some early Christmas shopping, either for yourself or someone else!  Check here, here, and here.


November is usually the time to focus on being thankful and appreciating what we have.  While I did that peronally to some degree last month, I know I didn't post anything on it.  And some of what I'm thankful for, I know I didn't appropriately thank the person involved.  There are a lot of people, especially random strangers, who do thoughtful things, and we frequently just accept them.  I'm trying to remember them more often and keep those memories close on the days when I'm tired or frustrated.

Dear School Psychologist,
Thank you for not only taking my call last week - especially since you've never heard of me before -  about Mister Man, but thank you for making me feel better about both me and Mister Man.  It's good to know that I've been doing the "right" thing and that October and November can be really tricky months in kindergarten, especially in the Catholic school where there is such a focus on Christmas.  I really appreciate the suggestions you gave, and thankfully, I can already see a difference!

Dear Blue Car Driver,
Thank you for not being the typical Chicago driver.  I've been a bit, shall we say, busy lately, and I almost forgot where I was going.  I don't usually have to change lanes at the last minute, but I really appreciate you letting me in rather than trying to speed up to keep me one car behind you.  And even more -- I appreciate that you didn't honk at me.

Dear Grocery Cart Dude,
Yesterday was a really cold and miserable day, and I just wanted to get to the store to buy a 2 liter of 7-Up for my co-op party.  Even though I'm sure you were colder, I really appreciate you insisting that I park before you started pushing your collection of grocery carts back to the store.  And to say hi and be friendly once I exited my car?  Well, you just don't see that too often anymore.  It's really nice to see someone happy with his lot in life who is willing to share his happiness.

Dear Blonde Lady,
Thank you so much for your compliment.  I do love my new sweater, and noticing it and saying something about it really made my day.  I've noticed this phenomenon before -- and thus I try to give unsolicited random (but honest) compliments to people once a day at least -- but it never ceases to put a smile on my face when someone tells me that I look nice or that they like something I'm wearing.

Dear School Mom,
Thank you so much for holding open the door to after care for me, as I urged three children to follow me as we attempted to pick up the fourth carpool child last week.  For whatever reason, that door is locked, and the after care people can't hear anyone knocking.  One child in the carpool has soccer very close to the end of the school day, so being able to get into the after care area to pick up the last child quickly really makes a difference.  I appreciate you holding open the door for all of us, as it isn't always the easiest to get us all through.

Dear Carnival Mom,
Thank you so much for the carnival tickets that you gave us.  That was really sweet.  I know how it feels to buy extra tickets sometimes and then realize that children have got to get home, but yet you don't want them to go to waste.  We'd already used all ours, and the line we were standing in to buy more was not conducive to my sanity with children anxious to return to the carnival.  We really appreciate the fact that we now had tickets to have the wee ones go on one last ride before heading home which avoided a certain meltdown.

Dear Nice Child,
Thank you so much for your assistance at the McDonald's playland.  They do not build those playlands for adults to get into whatsoever.  When Little Miss was injured by another child and crying hysterically because she couldn't figure out how to get out, the fact that you helped her and gently held her hand to lead her to the slide and help her down without anyone asking says wonders about you, and I really appreciate it.  And the fact that you helped Little Miss play in the playland after she was assured that she was going to be fine really made me smile.

There are more.  There are lots and lots more, and some I can't even remember other than the happy glow that still sticks with me.  There is so much that's sad and wrong with the world right now, but these little rays of light keep my hope alive.  For anyone who helps a stranger, pays a compliment or otherwise makes someone's day, thank you.

Who are you thankful towards?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scrooge No More

I just came back inside after round one of shoveling our first major snowfall of the season. Lucky me, it was the heavy wet stuff, but hey -- I didn't get to the gym today, so I can use the exercise.

The shoveling got me to thinking, and I just figured out my issue. Or at least one of them.

Every year, I treasure the Christmas season. It's a very special time, and I love it. However, I'm also one of those people who does not want Christmas to drag on too long or infringe on any other season's joys.

Once we hit the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I'm ready to start Christmas. The decorations can come out. I'm willing to buy a tree (although we're rarely, if ever, that organized). I'm way into my Christmas baking. And I've got the Christmas station programmed in my car.

This year though, I had no interest in listening to Christmas music at all. It just didn't feel like Christmas, and I was sooooo not in the mood. I wasn't sure why, but one day last week, I found myself turning on the Christmas station on my way to drop the wee ones at school. Apparently the Christmas spirit was back.

However, by the time I got in the car again that afternoon, I had apparently lost my Christmas spirit because I couldn't stand to listen to the music anymore. What gives?

Today, I finally turned the Christmas station back on -- although admittedly I had to flip between a couple because I didn't like what was playing on one or the other at times.

Any ideas what changed?

Ummm yeah... how does that classic song go? "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go...." Apparently all I needed was a little snow. That first day I listened to Christmas music? We had a dusting of snow that melted mostly off mid-morning. Ohhhh (the lightbulb goes on). And today? More snow. In fact, we're forecast eight to eleven inches.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

So how many of you now have those songs going through your head? Sorry. Sorta.

And a Merry SITSmas to all!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

This past Saturday, I had a party at my house (more on that in a few days on the review blog -- keep an eye out there for all sorts of great stuff). And having a party means lots of cooking, of course.

I wanted to do some fun things that were easy to make and tasted good but were also sort of healthy. And I wanted to do some playing around with recipes I hadn't used much before. Needless to say, I have a few recipes to share with you over the next few weeks -- and many of them are perfect for holiday entertaining!

First up was the party favorite (other than the apple crisp, but I've already shared that recipe!), my cranberry oatmeal spice cookies. That sounds weird, doesn't it? They actually taste great though, and I think I need to come up with a fancier name. Ten points to whoever comes up with my favorite name for these.

Cranberry Oatmeal Spice Cookies

1 c butter, unsalted
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/8-1/4 t allspice
3 c rolled oats
2 c dried cranberries (or so -- I don't measure these things!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the softened butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well before and after each addition, then add the vanilla. Add the salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice and mix well. Add the flour, stirring by hand until mostly mixed, then adding the oats and cranberries. Mix by hand until just combined.

Drop onto a cookie sheet with sil pat or parchment paper. Bake ten to twelve minutes or until lightly brown. Then be sure you hide them from your husband and kids, or there will soon be none left!

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


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oh The Irony!

I think I've mentioned somewhere along the line that I'm a Northwestern fan. I've had season tickets for football since graduating and can hold a fairly intelligent conversation on Northwestern football's history when called upon.

I go to all the games, and I'll admit that I had some serious angst this year on Halloween when we had a 3:30 game and trick or treating also started at 3:30. I couldn't decide what to do. Had the game been at 11am (normal start time), no question I would have gone and just been a little late to starting out trick or treating.

I'm not an obnoxious fan though, and I don't go totally all out. While I always make sure to wear purple, you'd never look at me and giggle. Well, ok maybe you'd giggle, but not because of what I was wearing.

So you can imagine my surprise when a package arrived for Little Miss this week from the Northwestern Athletic Office. I hadn't purchased anything, and I couldn't figure out how they even knew her name or address as I don't have the wee ones signed up for the Kids Club (yet).

I shook the box, and it was light. Tempted as I was, I refrained from opening it until she got home from preschool. That gave me a good two hours to ponder why she was receiving mysterious packages.

She was quite excited to open her very own package, so we quickly discovered that it contained another box.

Lo and behold, inside the box was a football. And not just any football. This is a football signed by Pat Fitzgerald, the football coach who pretty much walks on water at Northwestern. He was a star player while at Northwestern in the golden Rose Bowl days, and he was hired as head coach after the previous coach tragically passed away from a heart attack. He was the youngest coach in D-1 football, and he's brought back the swagger to Northwestern with our third bowl game in a row (to the Outback Bowl in Tampa this year).

So Little Miss did exactly what any other four year old would do when seeing such a great present in a box like this. She picked up the ball, tossed it forward onto the ground, rolled it on the ground a little bit, then picked it up to repeat the process.

I stood frozen in horror for a few moments before my mouth functioned.

AHHH! Put that down! That is not a toy! Do not throw that. Ever.

Ok, so I might maybe possibly have had a little stronger a reaction than necessary. Fortunately, Little Miss just looked up at me like I was nuts (I was errr am) and handed the ball to me before bounding away to play with something else.

The football is now enshrined in the sports room in our basement in the Northwestern section, happily ensconced in a football case I happened to have laying around.

So why did she get the ball?

Welllll, Northwestern this year had a giveaway each game. I of course entered to win a football at every single game (except the Halloween game that I sadly was forced to miss). The wee ones went to one game early in the year. My husband snickered, but I entered them to win a football at that game, too.

Little Miss apparently has a horseshoe tattooed somewhere that I don't know about. She goes to her first and only game ever, and she wins a football game. I've been going to football games long enough to have good seats for my season tickets, missing nary a game (except, tragically the Halloween game...), and I got zip.

Do you think it would work if I bought lottery tickets for her, too?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm At The End Of My Rope

Mister Man is a good kid. I know all parents say that, but he really is. Or was.

He's a sweetie who loves to be a helper and really tries to please people. Most of the time. But his social skills and cues are low, and his impulse control sometimes causes issues, especially if he's overtired.

I fully acknowledge this. But he's a good kid. He has never gotten into trouble at school, and for that I'm grateful. Or at least, I was.

This year has been hard. The kindergarten teacher told all of us parents that the first month would be a hard transition because they were all getting used to a new environment and being in school all day. She told us not to worry.

Mister Man got in trouble for silly things like putting his hands down the back of another kid's shirt one day or pushing a kid who told him he wasn't going fast enough in the line to head to lunch. It wasn't anything major, but it was consistent enough that we set up a reward and punishment scheme at home.

If he was good all week, he earned a special prize like getting to see a movie with me. If he had a bad day, he lost that week's prize and also lost something he enjoyed like a library book or a stuffed animal. It seemed to make a big difference, and after a spate where he didn't think he could do it, we were sailing smoothly.

But... not so much anymore.

I don't know what's changed, and I can't get a good handle on it from him. He's getting in trouble again. He's having "no" days (each day is a different goal such as listening or keeping your hands to yourself, and you get a "yes" if you achieve the goal and a "no" if you don't) a couple times a week. Bigger than that, he's having yellow days, which is when you have multiple warnings for major infractions.

I know he isn't the only kid who acts out in school, as I hear from Mister Man some of the things other kids do, but they don't do it every day. And even when the first grader we carpool with was getting in trouble most days, it was for talking during class which is less of a concern (although still obviously an issue).

So far this week, he kicked a boy on Monday. He went into a corner and wouldn't come out later that day. Tuesday was a green day and no issues. Yesterday, he had a yellow day again for not keeping his hands to himself and not listening to the teacher in separate instances. Today, he had another yellow day where he hit two different boys on two different occasions.

The teacher wrote a note this time explaining that they've talked to him several times this week to no avail and that he's had to miss recess a few times as a consequence. It isn't helping.

At home, he long ago lost all his library books, and he'd already lost the privilege of going to the library to get new books. He has now lost his special sleeping buddies, and he knows that if he doesn't have a green day tomorrow, he isn't going to a birthday party on Saturday.

Today, he wrote apology notes to the three kids he physically bothered this week in addition to both his teachers. He's written apology notes before.

He's ashamed of the incidents, and he hates having yellow days. He doesn't want to misbehave and can't tell me why he is. And I'm trying to figure out how I can help him. I reinforce the rules before he heads off to school, and we go over what he should have done in provoking situations rather than react physically when he comes home.

But right now, I'm at the end of my rope. I don't want to have him kicked out of school, and I don't want him to feel badly about himself for his actions. He knows that he's disappointed us and that his behavior isn't acceptable. But I have got to find a solution.

PLEASE don't tell me to have him tested for ADHD. That isn't the problem or the solution, and I won't be medicating him.

I do wonder if it has something to do with the probiotic I started him on about three weeks ago... a few days before we really started having these issues. I had experimented with a homeopathic spray to help with focus and learning, and I stopped it a week and a half ago to see if that was it, but it's getting worse without the spray rather than better. I think I'm going to try stopping the probiotic as of tomorrow -- another friend of mine recently switched her probiotic and her younger son (who is an angel) has been acting out enough that the school psychologist called to talk to her.

I'm wondering if we don't need to get him to bed even earlier, as he's now waking up at 6am but telling me at 7:10 that he's super tired and wants to sleep. We know from experience that the more tired he is, the earlier he wakes up. Tonight, he went to bed at 6pm, and I haven't heard a peep from him.

Have any of you gone through behavior issues like this? Please give me some sort of hope... some suggestions (other than medicating him). What do you do in these situations? I'm debating asking the teacher if he should be held out of the kindergarten Christmas Program (he has a major part since he can read fluently and likes to perform), but I don't know that they can replace parts so close to the program.

I don't need any more grey hair. I just want my sweet little boy who does what he's asked. What can I do to help Mister Man find that little boy again?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I've been a very good little girl this year. Or at least, I think I have. I've tried really hard to be a good mommy and make sure I stayed on the "good" list.

I haven't quite figured out what I want for Christmas this year, but I'm working on it, I promise. Last year, you were so nice to me, and I got everything I asked for -- even some things I didn't.

After I finished opening all my presents though, I realized that I didn't feel that I didn't have that happy bubble in my heart that I did when I was younger and got the gifts I coveted. I looked around at my family, and I realized that they and their happiness are what makes me happy. I don't need anything else, and I'm happy with what I have.

It was really kind of a revelation. I want nothing.

So why am I writing to you? I'm not asking for anything. In fact, I'm writing a letter that I'm sure you don't get nearly often enough.

Thank you.

Thank you, Santa for all the you do for all our children. Thank you for the joy and excitement that you bring them every Christmas morning. Thank you for the patience you teach them as they wait for you to come. Thank you for the lesson you teach them in how to deal with disappointment when you don't bring them everything they have.

And thank you for being constant. Thank you for not becoming new and cool and hip like so many treasured friends from Tinker Bell to Mickey Mouse. Thank you for staying child-friendly and for helping to maintain my wee ones' innocence for just a little longer.

This year, I'll leave you a couple extra cookies by the fireplace, and maybe a few more carrots for your reindeer.


PS If you want to leave a little high quality chocolate under the tree, I wouldn't object. Or some new kitchen gadgets.

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