Monday, May 31, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

Did you know? I want to make your day. Enter to win a week of summer day camp for ages 5-12 here, a fun Shrek-tacular prize pack here, or a $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.


On Memorial Day weekend, there are always lots of activities planned, many of which center around food. For us, we spent much of the weekend at birthday parties, but today we finally had the requisite grilling and cooking, and the wee ones had a blast.

Granted, this isn't the recipe that I made today (Laura, I made your Twix bars AGAIN), it's one of my favorites for barbeques and other informal gatherings. And now that I look at this recipe again, I'm going to have to make it soon!

Happy Memorial Day - and a huge thank you to all those who serve in every capacity.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1/2 lb black beans, washed and soaked overnight (or use a can of beans - drained and well rinsed)
10 oz frozen corn
1 small red onion, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 c cilantro (fresh), chopped
2 avocadoes
2 limed, juiced
salt to taste

Soak your black beans overnight. Drain and rinse a couple times. Fill your pot with water about an inch over the beans again and simmer for 2-3 hours until tender. Drain and add to a bowl.

While the beans are coming to room temperature, seed your tomatoes (or be lazy like me and just cut them in half) and chop them 1/2 inch pieces. Chop the red onion (you want about 3/4 cup - depending on your preference; this is what I shoot for) and the cilantro.

Add these to the beans along with the frozen corn, and stir gently to mix. Add the juice of your limes and about 1/2 t salt (again - season to your taste). Stir again. Slice up your avocadoes into the same size pieces as your tomatoes and add to the salsa. Stir gently one last time to coat the avocado with the lime juice and distribute throughout the salsa, but don't break the up.

Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve the same day with chips (or my favorite - slices of cucumber so I can justify eating the entire bowl myself).

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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Posting at Chicago Moms Blog Today

I'm hanging out over at Chicago Moms Blog today - I'm in the process of passing the hat in my PTO world and wow is it so not the world I thought it was! Come take a gander and make me feel loved!

Give yourself a present: Enter one of my giveaways for a week of summer day camp for ages 5-12 here, a fun Shrek-tacular prize pack here, or a $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Look What I Found!

Psssst. Don't forget:
A week of summer day camp for ages 5-12 here
A fun Shrek-tacular prize pack here
A $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.


Summer arrived in Chicago on Sunday. And by arrived (for those of you who aren't familiar with our area), I mean that it went from 50s to 90s with 99 percent humidity in a matter of 48 hours. Or maybe less. My memory is a little hazy after being fried.

So with it beign that hot and us not used to the heat yet, what did I decide to do on my afternoon of quiet while the wee ones were napping?

I decided that I couldn't stand the garage being so disorganized anymore. I couldn't stand the mess, and no one but me was going to do anything about it. I'm debating making the garage and a potential inside parking spot for my husband his anniversary present (umm help - it's Monday and I haven't started shopping).

Apparently I'm on a bit of an organizing kick right now. Someday soon, we might even have a post showing an organized office. I've had that one planned for about two years now. I'm still working on it. Ahem.


The garage has not been thoroughly cleaned by me since we moved in almost four years ago. While my husband has swept it and done the basic maintenance like that, with only one car being parked in the garage and well, it being a garage, things get placed there and stuff accumulates.

Needless to say, I spent five plus hours cleaning and organizing the garage. It was hot work, and maybe not the best day to do it, but I'm proud of what I accomplished. And like any major task, it came with a few surprises.

Some of my favorites?

  • The 2007 Christmas picture Back in 2007, my husband apparently took the wee ones to a mall without me to get their picture taken with Santa. It was the first year that Little Miss sorta knew who Santa was, and it was an experience I wanted to share with them. Soooo my husband apparently hid the photo inside a Gymboree bag and placed it under the wheel of his bicycle where I found it two and a half years later (see, I told you I hadn't organized it in awhile).
  • A gigantic plastic bag filled with pinecones The wee ones - especially Mister Man - are big collectors. They like to find rocks and acorns and sticks and leaves and well pinecones. While I allow them to collect these things, the mean mommy in me also makes them redistribute them at the end of our play session. My mom indulges them a little more, and I found a gigantic bag filled with pinecones tucked away under the workbench. If only we had a wood burning fireplace, I'd be set for starters for years.
  • A tent Neither my husband nor I camp. Interestingly, we never have, and I'm not sure how we came into the possession of a tent - which I originally thought was a folding camp chair until I opened the bag. More interestingly, we appear to have all the poles but none of the canvas. It's possible that this will end up in the garbage next week. Right now, it's overflowing.
  • Balls, balls, and more balls While both my husband and I play softball/baseball, the wee ones are not hugely athletically inclined as yet. They're playing t-ball currently, but football, basketball, and soccer are beyond them right now. We've yet to buy any of this kind of sporting equipment. Yet I now have three large bins filled with four basketballs, two footballs, six soccer balls, and a tennis ball. I have no idea how they got in our garage.
  • A box full of light switches, electrical outlets, and a smoke detector I'll take the blame on this one - or at least most of it. Four year ago, before we moved in, I changed out all the icky dirty gross light switches and electrical outlets. I put in dimmers and all sorts of cool things. And I saved the old ones because I thought I was going to... I forget what. The smoke detector is all my husband though. Needless to say, they are now properly disposed of.
  • A broken wooden bat and metal cleats with holes in the sides Those are both my husband's. His baseball league does a few wooden bat games each year, and apparently he broke one of his (obnoxiously expensive) wooden bats. He kept it thinking that one day he'd tape it up for a fungo bat. And the cleats? Ummm the holes in the sides where he'd worn through them were the reason I gave him new cleats two years ago for his birthday. I also found the plastic color changing inserts for his new cleats in a different location. All are now in the garbage.
    A variety of children's artwork The wee ones apparently somehow emptied their backpacks from time to time without me seeing (or maybe on days when I was working?) and stashed artwork throughout the garage. Very bizarre.
  • Two baseball gear bags Oh. Yeah. I remember buying those at the church rummage sale for the wee ones for this year when they started playing t-ball. I got them for $0.50 total, and they are perfect to hold their gloves and cleats and bats. Oh. Except that I forgot about them until I discovered the bag Sunday. There's always next year, right?
    Professional photos of the wee ones We had absolutely gorgeous photos taken by a local photographer two years ago. They were amazing. And last year sometime, they disappeared. I couldn't find the small album anywhere. I found it. It was in our wagon. I have no idea. None.

On the plus side? I found no dead mice. Living as near as we do to a conservancy (it's in our back yard), small creatures like to try to use our house as a home base. We discourage them - luckily cats tend to keep them out of our house proper. My husband has found two dead mice so far this year in the garage, both in different baseball gear bags of his. Every time I found a potential mouse hiding place, I brought it to him outside and had him search it. Phew. Nothing.

So what's the weirdest thing you've ever found when cleaning?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well That Didn't Work As Planned

Another giveaway reminder:
A week of summer day camp for ages 5-12 here
A fun Shrek-tacular prize pack here
A $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.


Little Miss is my challenge child. She's headstrong and spirited, and I don't have to worry about her ever being bullied. I just pray that she uses her powers for the side of good - she's cute and she knows it, and she knows how to take advantage of it (and has for years).

As Mommmy, I get to be the bad guy.

Little Miss, you need to drink your milk.

Little Miss, you must take all your vitamin.

Little Miss, you have to take a nap, which means no getting out of your room and no peeps.

Little Miss, you may not play with that right now.

And the list goes on. And on.

This morning, we were having a discussion about drinking her milk (which also contains her liquid vitamins, per her request). She didn't feel like drinking it, and I explained that she had no option before her bus came.

After doing some cajoling, I explained what would happen if she didn't drink her milk. She'd lose her light saber (yes, I have the only four year old girl who knows more than the average Star Wars geek about the movie - and no she hasn't seen it).

Go ahead, Mommy, just take the light saber now. It's ok.

Ummm yeah.

So we tried the no toys in the room trick.

You can take all my stuffed animals, Mommy. I don't need them.


As I was cleaning up while she ate breakfast, I picked up the artwork she'd brought home the day before and accidentally mixed it in with the recycling.

Mommy, MOMMY! What are you doing? she shrieked.


Mommy, I need my ducky and my pony back. Mommy, don't throw them away!

And thus her milk was drunk this morning. And I retrieved her treasures. For whatever reason, no inducement to drink interested her this morning.

Then I realized it was just a crabby and temperamental day for her.

On our way home from picking up Mister Man at school, all the carpool kids shared a snack of Triscuits and grapes. Little Miss had asked only for a few Triscuits and eaten them (somewhat) happily. After we dropped off the carpool buddies, Little Miss discovered that the grapes were all gone. The grapes that she'd shown zero interest in for the previous twenty-five minutes.

And the screaming began. And the giant crocodile tears flew down her face. Mister Man is trying to explain that he didn't know she wanted any and apologize for eaten them all, but she wanted none of it. I tried to explain to her that she was being unreasonable and needed to stop screaming since it was still raining hard enough that it was difficult to see.

No dice.

Little Miss, I need you to stop screaming in the car. Mister Man didn't know you wanted any grapes, and there's nothing we can do about it now. If you can't stop screaming, I'm going to ask you to get out and walk home once we get into the neighborhood. I can't drive with this screaming.

She paused for a moment and looked at me. I heaved a sigh of relief.

So are you going to stop crying then, Peanut?

Shrieks again filled my car, and I cringed. Mister Man placed his hands over his ears and tried to drown out her noise.

As we got closer to our neighborhood, she got quieter and quieter. I turned into our neighborhood with blessed silence in my car. I thanked her for ceasing her screaming so that we could get home all together.

I could almost see the wheels turning in her brain. She took a deep breath.

And screamed.

So I did what any mom with a massive headache (and amazingly cleared up skies with no more rain) would do. I pulled over and asked her if she really wanted to run home.

That's about the point where I learned she can now unbuckle her own carseat. I shrugged, and she climbed out.

She ran the next three blocks to our house, while Mister Man and I crawled along the street in my car keeping pace with her (and no, we didn't have to worry about crossing streets).

Little Miss arrived home breathless but giggling madly. My happy little girl was back, and she loved her adventure of running home. Go fig. Actually, as much as she enjoyed her exercise and independence, I might have accidentally created a new monster.

I need to find yet another new form of timeout, I think.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yep, We Go To Catholic School; Why Do You Ask?

Before I forget, I have three giveaways right now - two very newly posted and in my humble opinion all pretty darn cool! Go check them here, here, and here.


The other day, I was driving carpool on the way home. As always, the second children step into my car (all four of them in the carpool - and soon to be five, which means less driving for me!), the request is made to change my radio to Kids Place Live. As long as the request is made nicely, I generally acquiesce readily.

On Friday, Absolutely Mindy (the afternoon host who cracks me up and I really enjoy - especially when she's interacting with the kids who call into the show) was talking about the baby that she's been "baking in the oven for the past nine months" and her need to name it.

She was soliciting suggestions from the kids and was determined to find a name based on them. My personal favorite (only because the parent who called in apparently had a change of heart) was schwa umlaut - a two symbol name. The parents were apparently seriously considering the name and only changed their minds in the delivery room, if memory serves. Hey, at least that kid would have had an easy time spelling his name.

After listening for a few moments, Mister Man piped up.

Mom, I need to talk to Absolutely Mindy. I have an idea for her baby name.

Do you, Sweetie? What name would you choose for her baby?

It isn't a specific name. But I need to tell her something. Her baby's first name has to be a saint's name. He sounded somewhat concerned at the thought that it wouldn't be (this was just after the schwa umlaut suggestion).

Well. It could be a middle name. So long as the middle name is a saint's name, it's ok. But it would really be more appropriate for the first name to be a saint's name.

Isn't that sweet? My little boy has already picked up more Catholic doctrine in kindergarten than I remember (then again, maybe that's why the priest baptized my sister Margaret Anne instead of her given name - because technically neither was a saint's name). And he's concerned about a stranger's baby's spiritual health.

Ok, and it sorta cracked me up. Fortuntately, Mindy played one of his favorite songs right after this observation, so his attention was distracted and we did not have to call in to offer this tidbit of wisdom.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

I've got not one, not two, but three good giveaways right now. Check them out here, here, and here!


I feel truly inspired today. Like really, truly inspired. I just saved myself a ton of money. A friend of mine frequently eats the preflavored tuna packs that those lovely companies have come out with lately. Granted, they're made it more ingredients than I usually like to ingest, but man are they good.

And on a hot day (yep, the a/c is officially on in our house after it got up to 82 degrees overnight *sigh*), I am not cooking. I'm not even grilling when it's 90 plus and such high humidity. Those tuna packages make for such a light and refreshing meal, and I'm all over it.

And then I think about the $2.49 I'm spending on each package that I could probably make for cheaper. And healthier. And potentially yummier.

So I got to work.

I think I did ok. Any guesses what I'm having for lunch tomorrow?

Pesto Tomato Tuna Salad

1 can tuna (albacore in water for me) - I use Costco's 7oz can (only $1.50 per!)
1/4 c fresh basil
1 T olive oil
4 T Parmesan cheese
2 t pine nuts
1 t garlic, minced (don't use the icky bottled stuff please!)
1 T mayonaise (mmmm real mayonaise)
8 sun-dried tomatoes, drained

Ok ok ok, so you can use your own premade pesto if you want, but it tastes so much better when you make your own. You'll need about a third of a cup if you're using premade basil.

Gently toast your pine nuts in a dry pan for a few minutes until they start to smell yummy. Don't let them burn though - you'll want to keep shaking the pan.

Place the basil in your blender (a mini one works great for this orrrrrr you could just up the recipe and save the remaining basil for something else fun!). Add about half the olive oil and give it a whirl until it's made a good paste.

Add half the pine nuts, all the garlic (add the garlic in the next step if you like it less garlicky, as fewer cells will break and it won't be quite as strong), and 1 T of the parmesan and while again until well blended. Add the remaining pine nuts and 1 T of the Parmesan and blend again.

With the blender still going, slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil until it's smooth. Ta-da! Pesto is really that easy.

Now... drain your tuna. Add it to a bowl. Chop up your sun-dried tomatoes and add them. Toss in the pesto you just made, along with the remaining Parmesan (do I really need to say we aren't using the stuff in the green can here?). Include the mayo and gently fold it all together.

Enjoy on sandwiches (this makes enough for two meals for me, and sometimes three) over a salad, with crackers or however you want. Yum!

Yep, definitely cheaper than buying the single serve package for $2.49. And healthier, I think!

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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I'm Off Visiting - Come With Me?

Hello, hello!

I am actually posting today over here at Chicago Moms Blog about Mister Man and the name issues we're having with him. Come see what I have to say, and lend me some comment love if you will!

And while you're off traveling, I've got a couple more places for you to visit. I've got two giveaways going on - Parigi boys' clothing here and a $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.

See you tomorrow - here!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

But I Didn't *MEAN* To

With Mister Man, it's always an adventure at the end of the school day. We hope and pray that he's had a green day (no trouble - or only a single warning) and not a yellow or red day where he's had more difficulty following the rules and doing what he's supposed to do.

Unfortunately the autism diagnosis only makes his impulsivity and other behavioral problems more understandable. We've yet to find the solution to actually stop them. The good news is that the sticker chart has helped provide incentives to him to follow the rules, and we've started to see patterns (specials like music and gym are more of a challenge).

We still have many days where he comes home having been put at a separate table for group work in Language Arts because he was drawing on someone else's paper or running in the halls or laying on his chair instead of sitting.

When we have those days, we always talk about them - trying to create the social stories that will help him understand how to better handle the situation in the future. Some of them work, and sometimes the behavior repeats itself.

Yesterday, Mister Man came home with a yellow day. He was having difficulty listening in one class, and then he put his hands on a classmate's neck. Obviously, the hands around someone's neck is alarming. Behavior like that - especially for someone who doesn't always know where the line is and when to stop a game (another function of his autism).

I showed him the sheet of paper and asked him to tell me about the situation. I've found that having him walk me through exactly what happened and what he was thinking is far more effective in trying to work through the issue than me lecturing or getting upset at him.

He was upset about having gotten in trouble. But, Mom! I was just trying to give H a hug. I wasn't hurting him at all. Mrs. C saw it and gave me a yellow.

When trying to get further clarification from him, apparently he likes this little boy and wants to be an even better friend. And so in line to go inside after recess he tried to give him a hug. The teacher assistant saw only the arms up around the other child's neck. Mister Man is not one to question authority (very rules focused - another autism trait, ironically) and so didn't try to explain his thought process.


Should he have gotten a yellow for that? Probably not.

Should he have been doing that to begin with? Probably not.

I explained to him why Mrs. C thought he was doing something he shouldn't have been. We discussed how school isn't probably the place to hug people, anyway. BUT if he really wanted to hug someone, he needed to first let the adult in charge know his intentions so that she could alert him if there were to be a problem. Second he needed to ask his friend if it was ok if he got a hug.

He seemed to understand - or at least he claimed he did. It's amazing to me that Mister Man always has a thought process and logic behind what he's doing. Whether it's the logic that most people would use and whether he went to what would be considered a logic conclusion may be up for debate, but at least I'm starting to figure out how his head is working.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow is another green. After all, he has another Bakugun to earn from good behavior just waiting in the closet!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm Trying So Hard To Be Healthy


I'm about ready to give up, although I know that isn't the answer. With the wee ones, especially, I do what I can to ensure that I'm teaching them to be safe, helping them learn to live happy and productive lives, and feeding them the best foods (ok, the Twix-tacular bars aside) that are the healthiest for them.

I don't always feel like I'm a success, but I generally feel like I at least am a ship on a steady course towards the right destination, even though a wave may push me one way or the other temporarily. I'm not the best parent, but I do ok.

But ohhh this food thing.

We don't eat trans fats at all - nothing partially hydrogenated gets eaten by us (and yes, that means some foods that we're given in goodie bags or for Halloween get donated instead of enjoyed by the wee ones). They cause obesity and raise bad cholesterol, lowering good cholesterol.

I cut out all plastic that wasn't BPA-free because of the risks of BPA. The increase in diabetes and fertility problems and memory issues just wasn't worth it.

High fructose corn syrup (and really, just about all corn syrup) is also a forbidden food, and the wee ones know it. Yep, this is another one that leads to obesity, but I was also concerned with the mercury that studies found contained in many samples of foods made with HFCS.

Yesterday, studies came out showing that pesticides - particularly in produce - appear to be a big part of the reason for higher incidence of ADHD. Given the high correlation between attention issues and autism (not the mention that fact that there are times of concern with Mister Man's attention levels!), I can't justify putting him at risk. And my march towards buying organic has suddenly become a sprint as I vow to avoid any produce that isn't organic going forward.

And today ... more bad news. That BPA issue? It's worse in the linings of cans than it is in plastic. So much for my "healthy" homemade tomato sauce. Or my emergency we're-out-of-fruit-pineapple. Eden Foods is apparently the only option for non-BPA cans, and I don't think I've ever seen that brand near me.

So what's next?

What else will I learn that I'm doing that I think is healthy, that I'm trying to do to help the wee ones only to discover that I'm instead poisoning them in one form or the other.

I'll be the mom sitting in the corner drooling and muttering gibberish. Don't mind me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

As I type this, I have a recipe in the oven that I'm not posting. You'd thank me for it except that I'm providing you to the link for the Twix-tacular bars here. I think I hate Laura just a little bit right now. If you want to hate her, too, go see how evil those bars are.

I'll try to be a little more healthful.


After all, it's fresh fruit. And less sugar. It's all relative.

Lemon Raspberry Pots de Creme

4 c heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
zest of one lemon
7 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar (see, I told you it was less than the Twix-tacular Bars)
1/3 c lemon juice
2 pints raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 is ok if you think your oven may run hot!).

Heat the cream, vanilla bean, and lemon zest in a heavy saucepan on medium low heat until steaming. Allow the flavors to infuse for about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly add the lemon juice to the well-whisked mixture slowly, as though you're emulsifying oil. Temper the eggs by adding a small amount of the cream to the eggs to bring them to temperature. Then slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot cream while whisking to ensure the mixture does not scramble.

Return to the stove and let it simmer a few more minutes or steep together off the heat for about ten minutes. You'll know it's ready when it starts to coagulate on a wooden spoon. Use your finger to draw a line in the custard. If the line stays for a bit, it's ready.

Pour the custard into individual ramekins and place into a baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking dish (NOT into the ramekins) until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake in the oven until the custard is set but slightly jiggly in the center. This will be in the neighborhood of 60 minutes, but every oven will be different. Go by feel here!

Remove the roasting pan and chill the ramekins in the fridge until cold. When ready to serve, cover the top completely with raspberries.

Enjoy this and more with Tempt My Tummy and Blessed with Grace!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's All In How You Look At It...

Earlier this week, I was having a really bad day. It seemed like no matter what I did, things were just going wrong and it was going to be a horrible day. I could sense my attitude slipping, and that's never a good sign for anyone.

Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself of what I tell Mister Man whenever something goes wrong. Hey, things go wrong sometimes. Don't let it ruin your whole day.

Because of the huge rains that caused flooding, "everyone" was traveling on the main road we take to get to school, which meant our usual 16-18 minute ride took over thirty-five minutes, and everyone was late for school. But we made it there safely.

As I got close to Little Miss's preschool to drop her off (fifteen minutes late due to the traffic above), the street was flooded, and I was not about to risk stalling out in the middle of the road. Her school is in a neighborhood filled with twisty streets that go all over, making it easy to get lost. But I turned around and found my way through.

When I finally arrived there, the power was out in her school. The teachers met us there with flashlights, and the basement had flooded in several places (again). But they were still holding school, and Little Miss thought it was a great adventure to have school in the dark. My plans for the remainder of the day didn't have to be cancelled - and power was restored less than an hour and a half later.

When I finally arrived home, the person I was meeting at my house had already arrived... because I was running late. But she totally understood and it worked out just fine.

I was heading to a location I hadn't been before but was pretty sure I knew. The GPS in my phone (btw Google Maps, I'm talking about you - in the short time I've been using you, I have reported lots and lots of errors. You are not engendering my confidence!) had me turn somewhere that surprised me, so I assumed we were going to a different section of the town. Nope, we were going exactly where I thought we were going, except that I had to turn off the main road and go through back streets that added another seven or so minutes to the trip. That made me late - along with the person who was following me, who hates to be late, making me feel guilty. But we weren't the last ones to arrive, and we didn't miss anything.

Running out of my house to get to the event, I'd forgotten to bring the requested jacket. But the nice people kindly lent me a jacket, and I was nice and toasty in the cold areas.

When I returned to my car, the dummy light that had turned on first thing in the morning scared me. It had started with 38 miles remaining, which was plenty to get me through my locations - although I would have stopped for gas anywhere earlier in the morning had I not been running behind because of the stupid traffic that threw my whole morning off - but due to the traffic wasting gas idling and the GPS taking me in the wrong direction, the range on my car was down to three miles. Then two before I left the parking lot.

I knew where the closest gas station was, and it was more than two miles away. I started planning who I could call to help me. I watched the range tick down to one. I was being as gentle as I could with the accelerator trying to conserve what gas I had remaining. And then it showed zero, and I was nowhere near the gas station. My heart was pounding, and the refrain of please please please kept repeating in my head. Please, just let me get to this turn so I won't be on a main road. Please let me get to this next street where I'll at least be able to walk on sidewalks to the gas station. Please just let me coast into this parking lot so my car is somewhere safe.

The most appalling part for me is that I am a fanatic about keeping my tank over a quarter full, and I generally keep it over a half tank. Unfortunately, I've been so swamped with a number of things going on in my life that my routine has been off and I didn't made it to a gas station.

Somehow - somehow - I made it to the gas station without running out of gas, and my tank was quickly filled.

That was the point where I realized that it truly was all about my attitude, and as "badly" as things had gone so far that day, it had all worked out. It was all ok. And there was a silver lining everywhere.

And from there, it all turned around. Now if only I can keep that attitude in the right place, my life will be much less stressful - even though nothing else changes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Fundraising Was Easy (Well, Sorta)

As any of you who have read my blog for any length of time know, I am the PTO president at the preschool Little Miss attends (because I can't say no - seriously...).  And part of not being able to say no means that I ended up taking on way more roles than just the presidency.

After four years of this (I technically have nine hats this year), I'm a little bit burned out, but there are definitely things that make it all worthwhile.  I *love* seeing the difference we can make in the school.  Some of the performers we've brought in this year have been fantastic and really well received.  At our most recent event, a mom came over to hug each of the women who were working the event to thank us and tell us how grateful she was for all we do. 

And then there are the "big" events.  Granted, our eensy weensy budget means that our big fundraiser is a drop in the bucket compared to what most elementary schools around us make on their small events.  But for us, it's a big deal. 

We just completed our big event of the year, and we tried something new this year.  Part of our challenge is taht we have a morning preschool and afternoon preschool and do our events during the day so the kids can participate.  That leaves us with two choices: either do a silent auction and hope people will provide their bids in advance or make it all raffle and hope that lots and lots of people buy tickets.

We've tried a couple of different things and had various challenges:

Doing a silent auction at the event leaves morning (and working) parents frustrated that they didn't "get" to bid at the end.

Doing a "super" raffle for $5 tickets doesn't generate the same level of revenue per item as the silent auction had.

Last year, we looked at potentially doing an online auction for our more "special" items and keeping the remainder as a raffle.  We found a few sites that offer the service of creating online auctions for charities.  However, they charge a (for us) hefty upfront fee and also take a good portion of the proceeds (fifteen percent for one site I considered - briefly).  We'd heard that eBay also offered charity auctions, but we couldn't get a straight answer from them on what to do.  So last year, we stayed the course.

This year, I was convinced that I could figure out the eBay thing.  And I did.  Registering to be recognized as an official charity was actually pretty easy once I figured it out.  From there, we receive a credit for our listing fees, provided that all the proceeds from the auction benefit our recognized 501(c)3.

So we listed our special thirteen items.  And crossed our fingers (some of us - ahem, me - aren't so familiar with using eBay).

Today was the day when items started to close.  I kept hitting the refresh button, hoping to see a flurry of bidding at the end that would take our items from fire sale prices to we have a chance at helping to fund a new playground prices.  And for the most part, they did.

It was pretty cool watching the price on a play membership go from $40 this morning to the closing $147.50.  And in total, we have raised just over $1,100, which brings our fundraiser total to almost $4,500.  This is significantly higher than what we had last year - and most schools in our area are seeing fundraiser declines of twenty or more percent.

This?  This is a good feeling.  Even more cool was seeing some of the winning bids being from outside the school - people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to support us or potentially even know about us.  It's a total win-win situation, and we'll definitely be doing this again next year.  The chatter amongst the teachers and the parents has been very supportive, which is great.

We did learn a couple things though....

#1 Don't make the auctions end near the end of the school day.  Aim for mid-evening.  I'm not quite sure how to do this since eBay started the auctions after the verified them, but there has to be a way to ensure they end in the 6-9pm hour.  I have a feeling we would have had several items bid up if we'd done that.

#2 Encourage winning bidders that we know to send in checks instead of using PayPal.  As great as PayPal is in terms of convenience and speed of payment, they do take a percent of the proceeds which we can avoid by collecting payment directly.  The difference isn't huge, but for us, every penny counts.

My term is almost up, and this was my last major responsibility.  You have no idea how happy it makes me that it was a success - and hey, if anyone else is out there trying to figure out how to do a fundraiser with an online auction, let me know.  I'm planning to bring some of the info I learned to our next districtwide presidents' council meeting so they can take advantage of it, too.

I'm just going to suggest they make plans for the day and time the auctions are scheduled to end so that they don't end up staring at the screen watching the minutes ohhhhh so slowly tick down and demanding to the screen that the bids magically go up.

Not that I was doing that or anything. Nope, not me.

(And no, no one asked me nor paid me nor gave me anything to post about this.  I'm just thrilled that we raised probably $600 more than we would have had we not done the online auction.)

PS Need a fun outfit for the boy in your life?  Check out my Parigi Fashion giveaway.

I also have a family pizza party that I'm giving away here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Need a fun outfit for the boy in your life?  Check out my Parigi Fashion giveaway.

I also have a family pizza party that I'm giving away here.


In my house, the rule is that you have to try whatever's on your plate. While that rule has changed slightly over time and become more precise as needed, the wee ones have generally been pretty good about following it.

There have always been some exceptions, and some items that the wee ones just aren't interested in. If I see a legitimate item that I don't feel that they'd enjoy, I don't push it.

Sushi is one of those foods. As much as I'd love for the wee ones to enjoy sushi - giving me an excuse to eat it more often - they've always been turned off by the texture of the nori and the raw fish. I sighed and then continued my merry way eating whatever maki happened to be on my plate.

Not so much anymore.

Both wee ones have decided they now like sushi. Mister Man started with the tekka don (tuna slices served over rice with no nori) but has now moved on to both salmon and tuna maki.

Little Miss skipped the tekka don stage and simply decided that she now enjoys sushi.

The entertaining bit for me is that the wee ones have obviously absorbed what I've preached about sushi. Even when they weren't eating it, they'd ask me what I was doing with my chopsticks and why. It's sunk in.

And now? Well, apparently I have to share my sushi. I can't really complain though!

Did I mention that this is also my child who has decided that the only way she wants to drink (rice) milk is with cinnamon in it? Who drinks cinnamon milk? I have bizarre children. Then again, that's what makes them fun!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

Want a family pizza night?  You can win one here with my Family Pizza Party giveway.


I missed last week. Completely. On many, many levels. But I'm back - and check it out, posts two days in a row now. Whew.

This week's recipe is one that is in the oven as I type. I whipped it up in about ten minutes - if that - for two pretty good reasons. The first is that I'm making dinner for some friends tomorrow and need something to go with my lemon chicken kebabs. And second, I have a review I'm putting up that requires me first making a blueberry cobbler.

So I am.

Well, sorta. The say they want a blueberry cobbler, but the recipe they provided is really for a blueberry crumble. And me being me, I can't blindly follow the recipe (especially when it calls for blueberry pie filling), so I made a few tweaks. And it looks good so far.

Oops - timer just went off. Now I can prove myself right!

As usual, I'm going for homemade, pretty quick and easy, and of course something yummy! I love recipes like this because they're so flexible and forgiving. I literally used no recipe and didn't measure everything, so feel free to do the same.

Blueberry Crumble


3 c frozen (or fresh) blueberries
3/4 c sugar
1 lemon, squeezed and zested
1 t vanilla
1 T flour
1 T butter (or CF butter substitute, since I made mine dairy free)

Mix everything together in the 8x8 dish you're cooking it in.


1 c flour
1 1/2 c oats
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg, fresh grated
1 c butter (less the 1 T you used in the filling), melted

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly with a fork, then make a well in the center. Pour in the butter (or butter substitute) and use the fork to mix until just moistened. You want it in chunks and crumbly.

Pour the topping over the blueberries in the pan.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is lightly browned and slightly crunchy and the blueberries underneath start to bubble out.

Let cool to room temperature, and enjoy!

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

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Ok, so I've been very much MIA. Needless to say, I've been swamped with my preschool fundraiser and then I got sick. I'm still recovering and may actually head to bed as soon as I get this posted, but I figure I ought to write something again at some point!

Regardless, Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Whether you're doing it on your own or in a great partnership, you're doing the best you can, and today is the day to celebrate the joy you bring to those little lives and the impact you make!

Around here, I was spoiled with the wee ones waking me up - Mister Man in particular - with a special present. He gave me a dollar bill from his piggy bank. Awwww.

He also created a lovely hat from a coffee filter for the Mother's Day tea at his school (and no, I will not be posting any pictures of me in it, thank you very much), which was oh so sweet, as well as a lovely nosegay. And the requisite marigolds. I now have six.

Little Miss provided me with the handprint lilies that she created on a laminated sheet of paper. She also "wrote" me a greeting on the back. While it's in her handwriting, I don't believe her claims that she spelled it out all by herself.

Yes, I will be putting it in her memory box to save forever.

My husband also provided me with presents. He sent me an Edible Arrangements basket, as he does regularly for major holidays. It was a cute little orange pail, and the wee ones were excited for the fruit I'd share with them.

My only disappointment? The strawberries in this bunch were way overripe. In fact, they've already started to mold, and I put it in the fridge immediately after receiving it. The fruit we've had before has always been perfect, and after a bit of dithering, I called to ask if there was a problem with the strawberries.

They claimed there were no issues and that I must have just gotten the last of the previous batch and offered to give me a free box of chocolate covered strawberries to make up for it. At least it was something.

I drove over to pick them up, and I received six chocolate covered strawberries to replace my ten chocolate covered strawberries on my arrangement. That was a disappointment. Even Mister Man didn't want to eat the chocolate covered strawberries on the plant, and he's not exactly a food connoisseur (yet).

I think we'll give them another shot, as this is a new franchise, but I may be at the end of receiving healthy (ok, relatively healthy) and unique presents from Edible Arrangements. And that's too bad.

Fortunately, my husband also picked up a gift certificate for massages, and those don't go stale. Now if I could just find some free time to schedule that appointment, I'd be all good!

Here's hoping you are properly spoiled on your Mother's Day.

PS I have a new giveaway up for a Family Pizza Party from Pillsbury on my other site.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I Made An Exception

Everyone has those phrases they swore they'd never say or those things they promised they'd never do - either the ones that stuck with us from childhood of those naive things we saw parents do while we were still childless or (worst of all, perhaps?) those tips we read in parenting books.

Me? I told myself that there are certain things for which the wee ones woudl simply have to face the natural consequences. They'd learn that they needed to - and could - rely on themselves and take responsibility. I pictured this with them as elementary school kids who forgot lunch or homework at home or neglecting to study for a test or something similar.

They're all relatively non-critical in the long term type things - nothing wiht a big risk. Having minor failures like this and learning to deal with them is something that helps engender feelings of confidence that they are capable of being resilient enough to bounce back and find a solution. And to be responsible enough to avoid repeats in the future.

Yesterday? I made an unexpected stop at Mister Man's kindergarten.

After he had gotten off on the carpool and Little Miss had made it onto the bus, I walked back through the foyer on my way to the office to do a couple quick catch up things before I ran some errands. And I spotted a little bubble wrap bag sitting on the floor of the foyer.

I flashed back to the night before where Mister Man had done his daily job of unpacking his backpack and talking through what's in it with me. He was so excited that he got to do show and tell the next day - something that happens only twice a year. He immediately decided to gather his favorite Lego creation and show how it was made and what it did.

Right after he'd placed his Lego into a protective bag, about to place it in his backpack, my parents had walked in the door. Needless to say, that threw our whole evening out of rhythm. And apparently that bag had remained on the floor unbeknownst to ... me. (Really, who else would notice, anyway?)

I debated internally for a few moments - thinking about my vow not to be saving my children constantly and letting them deal with the consequences of their actions. And honestly, had this been Little Miss, that bag probably would have simply been placed on her placemat for when she returned home.

Mister Man though? He's still in kindergarten. And this failure to have show and tell would be visible to all his classmates. And he'd been interrupted mid-routine through no fault of his own.

Again - all of these things, Little Miss could have dealt with and simply shrugged before getting over it. Mister Man doesn't. Something like this - especially with the public aspect of it - would ruin his day. It would cause him to go into a downward spiral of shame and frustration that would result in him not paying attention in school, in not cooperating with his classmates, in having a yellow or red day.


It's an unfortunate consequence of the Autism Spectrum Disorder that he's been recently diagnosed with. They can't move on from things like this and shake them off like neurotypical kids can. He has a lot of challenges, and I've become far more patient with them and him knowing that it isn't just him being difficult but rather that he's doing the best he can with the deck - in many ways - stacked against him. And for the most part, he does a pretty good job.

I thought about what was more important for him in this instance. Had it been homework he'd forgotten? It would have gone in the next day. Had he not taken his snack? He can go without a snack. This, however, was something that he wouldn't realize was an issue until the teacher asked him to retrieve his show and tell item from his backpack and the class all awaited his presentation... that would never come.

And I immediately called my carpool buddy to see if he was still in the car so that she could reassure him that his show and tell was coming. Unfortunately, she'd already dropped him off, but she was still at the school and volunteered to stop by the classroom to give him the heads up.

I did drop off his Lego creation in its special bag with the office. And he did give his presentation. When I asked him how it went as I picked him up? Mom, you brought it late! I didn't give my presentation until the afternoon - but it was so cool!

And with that, my heart swelled, and I know that I'd made the right decision for my special child, for my boy who may need me to bend my rigid rules a little to find a way to support him. I ask the schools and other places to make accomodations for his needs, and I'm starting to realize that I need to do so, as well.

But I really meant it. When he's in fifth grade and forgets his social studies homework, he's just going to have to take that zero!

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