~my thoughts about life~

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cutting Back

In this day and age where everything is getting more expensive and employers are cutting back on raises and bonuses, almost everyone is looking for a way to cut back.  Personally, we have made a few changes.
  • At the grocery store, I've started buying less name brand and more generic products.  Coupon clipping is also something I'm trying to do more often.
  • Eating out is something we've tried to cut back on.  We're not doing so hot with this though due to my well known Chipotle addiction.
  • Extras.  We try not to buy things that aren't pretty necessary.  From clothes to snacks, or entertainment to junk that will sit around the house.  We look twice at purchases to determine if we really need them and if they're worth the money.  Sometimes using a broken laundry basket is feasible for a few more months.
  • Hubby has been dreaming of a new car for years.  He drives a 12-year old Honda CRV that has no A/C, no clock, and a cracked windshield.  Yet, it still runs and gets him to and from work.  Every month that he holds off buying a new car is several hundred dollars in our savings. 
  • Yesterday, I cancelled our daily newspaper.  That was a tough one.  Hubby was the one who noticed we weren't finding the time to read it.  Several days a week, we were tossing out an unread, still folded newspaper.  We downgraded to Saturday and Sunday only.
  • I know vitamins are a good thing but Hubby was ordering and using extremely expensive ones.  He's a sucker for anything that claims it's better for you than anything else.  He hasn't noticed a difference since he started taking them so we're cancelling the automatic shipment.
  • The next thing on my list to cancel is our land line.  We rarely use it and don't come close to using all the minutes on our cell phones.  If the house phone rings, it's either a sales call or my one aunt who never calls my cell for some reason.  I'm still fighting this one but I don't know why.  I guess there are still some people I don't like to give my cell number to.  So instead of cancelling it completely, I called and removed some of the features, such as voice mail.  (I never check my messages anyway.)  I saved $14/month just by doing that.  That's great for now but I look forward to totally eliminating that bill.
  • I am really bummed that the NFL settled and there will be football this year.  My husband is a huge Broncos fan and subscribes to NFL Sunday Ticket.  It's ridiculously expensive and totally not worth it (if you ask me).  He disagrees and considers this his one luxury in life.  I think of all the things we could buy with the money we would save by cancelling Sunday Ticket.  Can I get an "Amen!" from any wives out there???
Some friends of ours live in a gorgeous new house in a fancy allotment.  They soon realized the house purchase was out of their means but didn't want to move.  So they got rid of one of their cars.  The husband also got a second job loading trucks in the wee hours of the morning.  He comes home from his first job, showers, and changes.  His wife then drives him to work so she can use the car for her job as a house cleaner.  She picks him up at the end of the day and they save hundreds a month.

What things has your family tried as a way to save money?  What has worked and what hasn't?  We can all use more suggestions!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cultivating The Earth

I must take the next few moments to do a little bragging on myself and I apologize in advance for it.  But I am so stinkin' proud of myself that my garden is actually flourishing!  Look at how beautiful it is!

This is my first garden and, I must say, my botany reputation up to this point has been less than stellar.  These are my house plants.

I know, pitiful.  I have even struggled keeping a hanging potted plant on my porch.  It's not rocket science, people!  All you have to do is water potted plants.  It's pure laziness on my part.

So when I decided to plant a garden, I was determined not to fail.  I started all the tomato plants from seed!  That's what impresses me the most.  It also helped me save A LOT of money by not buying tomato plants.  I have about $2.75 in tomatoes.  The garden soil was the most expensive part.  And that must be why my plants are doing so well.  Yesterday, I finally got around to staking and tying the tomatoes.  I waited a tad long to do it as some of the plants were already growing on the ground.  I broke a few trying to force them into an upright position.

I finally realized, weeding and tending to a garden can actually be enjoyable when it's not 95 degrees outside!  We had a beautiful day yesterday so I spent all day weeding and tending.  I loved every minute of it!  And it's a great excuse to get my kids outside with me.  And listen to this:  I counted a whopping 22 green tomatoes!  Boo-yah!  Anyone up for tomato salad in a week or two???

"Gardening is the purest of human pleasures." -- Francis Bacon

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Airing of Dirty Laundry

I was talking to an old friend yesterday who was teasing me about my memory.  You see, I can remember things from eons ago down to the simplest of details.  But when it comes to something that happened last year, I'm lost.  I think my brain got more and more fried with the birth of each child.  At least that's what I claim.

The memory we discussed yesterday happened when I was 14.  It was my first year staying in the dorms at camp.  Oh, the dorms...the spider infested, mold covered, hot, sticky dorms!  You weren't cool unless you stayed in the dorms.  The dorms were a place where competition arose.  We were out to get those who were deemed popular just as they were out to get us.  The competition that exists between young teenage girls is another post for another day.

This friend of mine is several years older than I am and had graduated her dorm-staying days.  (You wise up when you reach a certain age and wonder what you ever saw in the dungeon-like dormitory.)  She, along with two of her friends, came to visit us younger girls in the dorm room they once inhabited.  For some reason, they had a trash bag full of dirty, smelly laundry that was the result of a mission trip out west.  Even worse, the damp laundry belonged to a man.  Jokingly, these older girls told us to put the laundry in the bed of someone from our competition.  I would have never done such a thing but laughed at the prospect of such an insane idea.

I had made friends with a girl from another part of the state.  Her name was Jamie and she ate dill pickle potato chips.  (There's my killer memory again.)  I can still remember how those dill pickle chips stunk up the entire dorm room.  She overheard the laundry conversation with our friends and took it upon herself to see the task through.  She was, in fact, part of the group that we saw as our competition.  Yet, we still liked her.  The room mother in charge of her group was an older, unmarried woman who strongly resembled a hound dog.  I never knew her name and still refer to her as Hound Dog to this day.  Jamie took the stinky laundry and spread it all over Hound Dog's bed.  She then replaced the quilt so that the prank would be discovered at a later time. 

Oh my...when the dirty laundry was discovered, I thought the world was going to end!  They brought the camp director into our dorm who personally interrogated each girl from the other side of our dorm room.  Jamie looked at him directly in the face and lied through her teeth.  Unable to lie, I stayed busy straightening up my area and acted disinterested in the situation.  Luckily, I was never directly put on the spot.

That night, the dirty laundry was aired before the whole camp.  Adults gasped in horror of children who would do such terrible things!  I even remember someone saying that devils and demons were certainly behind this event.  Half scared, half impressed, I fought both laughter and tears as the whole deal was completely blown out of proportion. 

Jamie was never discovered, the owner of the dirty laundry was never found, and my friends and I were never associated with the devilish prank.  But I can close my eyes and be right back in that dorm room, remembering every detail as if it just happened.  But I totally forgot about a photography assignment I promised a friend I'd do last week.  Oh well, at least I'm still half sane.

Do you tend to remember totally pointless details associated with events?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Popsicles and Backseat Driving

I'm sure everyone thinks their kids are hilarious but I seriously have one of the funniest kids I've ever met!  This child is sure to grow up to be a comedian or have some career related to humor!  First of all, she picked out this outfit today.  Isn't that funny as it is?  She also looks amazingly patriotic.
  • Baby Girl loves popsicles, as seen in this pic.  The only reason I give her as many as I do is because she calls them "pockables."  That's just too cute to resist!
  • Just a moment ago, she came up and asked me for a pockable.  I told her she needed to give me a kissy lips first.  "Mmm-wah!" she said as she blew me a kiss.  "No, I need a kiss on the lips!"  She sighed just like a teenage girl.  "OK, I give you one kiss but the pockable is beary, beary, beary cold!"  Alright, makes perfect sense to me.
  • Baby Girl has recently become a backseat driver.  Whenever I'm stopped at a red light or waiting to pull into traffic, she will exclaim in a very bossy manner, "Go!"  I've tried explaining that I have to wait my turn but she just doesn't get it.
  • When Hubby was driving the other day, he was loudly singing along with the radio.  She suddenly declared, "That's enough, Bob!"  We laughed so hard we almost wet ourselves.  She loved the attention and now says, "That's enough, Bob!" all the time!
  • When she wakes up in the morning, she will play in her bed or call my name until I come get her out of bed.  When I open her door, she offers a cheery, "Ello, puppet!" in her best British accent.
  • This morning after breakfast, she told her brother, "You smell like poop.  I don't like poop."  I have no idea what sparked that topic but no one smelled like poop to me.
  • A tradition with my girls is that I daily ask them what their names are.  They sometimes come up with something funny or clever, other times they just give me their full name.  Lately, when I ask Baby Girl what her name is, she says, "Baby and I glad."  I'm not sure if she actually knows what glad means but I'm happy that she is glad.
She makes life much more interesting!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pink Fruit Dip

I mentioned in a post that I made pink fruit dip for Big Sis' 7th birthday party.  There was quite a bit leftover and I've been enjoying it with strawberries!  I thought I'd snap a pic and share the recipe.  It's great for any party!

Fruit Dip
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
food coloring, optional

Make sure cream cheese is completely softened.  Mix with marshmallow cream, stirring well or using a hand mixer.  Add a couple drops of food coloring in any color to match your theme/mood.  You can make the dip go farther and taste fluffier by adding Cool Whip.

Monday, July 25, 2011


  • Our internet is still not functioning.  It's driving me mad!  Occasionally, I'm able to connect to some signal called "Home."  I don't know whose it is or why it works sometimes.  Too bad it's not dependable!
  • While stock piling my shopping cart with cereal and toilet paper at Wal-Mart, I noticed a package of these on the shelf.  I attempted to shut my wide open mouth as I stared at a Mars Bar.  I haven't seen one of these since I was a little girl!
  • When you can't remember the date of your last run, you can hardly consider that you're training for a marathon. If I don't start running soon, I'm never going to be able to finish my 10K leg this September. I need to lay off the Mars Bars and get moving!
  • You know how those old people bend over, with their legs spread apart and their hiney sticking up in the air?  I just caught myself doing that to clean a spot up off the floor.  What does that say about me?  I'm lucky Hubby or one of the kids wasn't walking past...I surely would have earned a smack on the patootie.  I would have honked at myself had I passed by in my car.  Again, let's lay off the Mars Bars, honey!
  • Yesterday, I found The Lost Block!  Baby Girl has had a set of squishy, foamy blocks since she was a baby.  One of the purple blocks has been missing for probably close to a year.  (I know it was a purple one because I still line them up by color in the bag.  I know, I know.)  Anyway, I was vacuuming yesterday because we had ants all over our lower living room.  (Baby Girl left a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch on the floor and the aunts had a family reunion inside the bowl to celebrate.)  I stuck the hose of the vacuum under a heavy bookshelf that never gets moved.  Whap!  Stuck to the end of the tube was The Lost Block.  You don't know how happy this makes me...it's been driving me crazy for the longest time.  Maybe I need to get out more often if finding a block gets me this excited!
  • Actually, I got out Saturday night and had a fabulous time!  Our church sponsored a young married social and cookout.  (I was pumped that I'm still considered young married!)  We played a newlywed game, which Hubby and I dominated!  The winning question was "What event made her realize that she had found the love of her life?"  I've even talked about that here on my blog!  It's when he winked at me across the church.  I fell head over heels right then and there.
  • If you are no longer able to recognize me in photos, it's because I'm about to put on 100 lbs. from the yummy, delicious sugar cookies I have been making.  I hate to toot my own horn, but they are da bomb!  I just can't leave them alone.  Time to start shopping for a muu-muu!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Freaked Me Out

Last weekend, we were driving through a shopping area that is about a half hour from our house.  As we were nearing a steel bridge that we cross under frequently, something caught my eye.  A man was standing up on the railing at the end of the bridge.  A closer look revealed him to be a police officer.  He glanced behind him and frantically waved his hand, beckoning someone else to quickly come to him.  Right as we were starting to go under the bridge, I noticed a teenager sitting on the outside of the bridge, directly over our lane.  All of this happened in the blink of an eye, as we were driving 60 mph down the highway.  Still, I was able to see the pain and anguish in the body language of the individual.  I wasn't able to determine the gender of the teen but I feel like that half a second allowed me a glimpse deep into their soul.  They were sitting with their legs over to the side with their shoulders heavily slumped over.  They were looking down, possibly at the passing traffic underneath  I'm not aware if the person knew a cop was just a few feet away, ready to attempt some sort of rescue. 

As I began putting the pieces together, I could only wonder what would have happened if that person decided to jump right in front of my min-van hauling four children.  I told my husband it would have been something we would have never gotten over.

The bridge is not very tall, maybe about 20' from where the person was seated.  A fall would have only broken a couple bones, but no driver would have been able to avoid running right over the person and immediately ending their life.  Can you imagine?

Now, if you live in some big city in California, you might have see sights like this before in your lifetime.  But things like this don't happen here in Anytown, USA.  Ever since that afternoon, I have wondered what became of the distraught teen who couldn't find a reason to live.  Part of me wanted to turn around and return to the scene.  But I surely didn't want to be there if the worst happened.  So I made up my own ending.  Obviously, the teen did not want to jump or they would have already done so.  It must have been an attempt to gain attention in response to some difficult things in life.  Hopefully the authorities were able to talk the person down with no injuries.  If so, hopefully that person is now getting the help he or she needs.

Now that my internet is up sporadically, I think I'll go to that town's newspaper website to see if I can find out any more information.  I'm just thankful that today is not a day to find myself or any of my loved ones sitting on the railing of a bridge.  Someone else's day is always much worse.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I don't know whose internet I'm connected to at the moment, but it's working. So I won't complain.  We're still down.

My little Princess Girl turned seven years old on Saturday! We celebrated with a tea party brunch. The girls wore hats, gloves, and fancy dresses. I served chicken salad sandwiches, cheese sandwiches cut into flower shapes, hashbrown casserole, broccoli and cheese quiche, mini muffins, assorted berries with pink fruit dip, decorated sugar cookies, cake, and of course tea. (Yes, I went a tad overboard.  I'm so sad I didn't get a picture of the food!)

I borrowed vintage glass party plates from my mom and flowery tea pots from my grandma. I purchased tea cups and saucers from a thrift shop. Each girl's place card was a tea cup sugar cookie with her name iced on it. The cake was a set of three purses I designed specially for my girly-girl. This was my second attempt at fondant and it went pretty well. (I still think I could have rolled it out a bit thinner though.) I did nick it with my fingernails in a few places but covered it up pretty well.

The party started at least 15 minutes late because I just couldn't get stuff done. I will never again host a brunch party...it's just too early! I planned on making giant tissue paper flowers to hand over the tea table but it just didn't happen.

Because it was 90 degrees outside, none of the adults drank tea. The kids drank it and really enjoyed dropping sugar cubes into their cups. I asked them all, "One lump or two?" They all answered, "Three!"

We didn't play any organized games since we only invited one friend, in addition to the cousins. The girls just played on their own until it was time to open gifts. She loved the DS, by the way, and was totally surprised!

It was a beautiful day and lovely party. I even had help cleaning up! I'm just glad I have a whole year until her next birthday...she's already picked the theme!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where I've Been...

I am out of order for a bit so I apologize for not posting in so long!  We have NO internet in the house and I feel completely out of touch!  Hopefully it will be fixed by tomorrow.  It was one of those deals where we were so mad at the company for constantly being down that we cancelled right on the spot.  Right now I am at my aunt's catching up on emails.  My little cousin is serenading me with guitar music while I post this.  He's amazing and will be quite famous some day.  (I told him I'd give him a shout out on my blog.)

So keep me in your thoughts...you're all still in mine!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Follow The Rules

Rules.  Most people hate them.  Children really hate them.  But by the time we become adults, shouldn't we realize that rules are important and that they serve a purpose?

There are so many people that think the rules don't apply to them.  It seems like I encounter these people more and more often.  There are drivers who don't think traffic laws apply to them, citizens who don't think litter laws are important, community members who think the group's rules are stupid and Christians who don't think Biblical principals are meant to be followed.

Can you imagine a world without rules?  Complete anarchy is even too much to fathom.  In my opinion, there is really only a thin line between complete anarchy and people who break even the smallest of rules.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a perfect Miss Goody Two-Shoes.  Sure, I break rules.  I speed.  I take pictures where photography is prohibited.  I have snuck backstage at concerts, pretending I'm with the band.  I'm not justifying my actions. 

The people who consistently break the rules are the ones who get to me.  At church, they put their kids in classes that they're too young for.  (People pushing their kids to grow up too fast is another issue for another day.)  At the banquet I organized a couple months ago, they put 11 people at a table for 10.  They didn't ask, they just informed me that they were doing it.  Even though certain standards are laid out by the church, some people have decided they are above the rules.

These frequent rule-breakers get all fired up when they're not permitted to do something they really want to do.  They whine.  They argue.  They make scenes.  They don't worry about who they're offending, who they are throwing under the bus.  They have been raised in an It's All About Me World.

Teaching my children why it's important to follow the rules is an important parenting responsibility.  Sure, I would rather fight for my kid to get the best of everything.  But I can't.  My kids have to learn that life isn't fair; it doesn't always go the way you want it to go.  When it doesn't, my kids can't pitch a fit, whine, and make a scene.  They need to shrug their shoulders, maybe vent their frustrations to someone close to them, and move on with life.  The sooner that kids (and adults) learn this, the more satisfying life will be.  Because when it comes to rule-breakers, eventually they're going to be crushed.

What specific rules do people break that really frustrates you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Up on the Housetop

We're getting a new roof put on the house today.  I was awoken at 7:45 AM by the sound of someone walking over my head.  Son #2 jumped up and sprinted down the stairs before I could even open my eyes.  Back upstairs, he burst into my room exclaiming, "They're here!" in a loud whisper.  I managed to pull myself out of bed and get dressed before any of the roofers could see how I really look in the morning.

The baby immediately woke up and has been grouchy ever since.  The kids are stuck inside because I'm too nervous to let them out.  There have been things flying past my windows all morning.  AND the satellite dish has been disconnected so the kids can only watch whatever we have on the DVR.  I feel like a prisoner in my own home, even though I don't really have anywhere I need to go.  I guess I feel imprisoned because the kids are trapped in the house!

Heavy dropcloths cover my landscaping, smashing it into plant pancakes.  I'm scared to see how it will recover.  My kids keep looking out their bedroom windows and saying, "Hola," to the workers.  The photos I took are from the inside because I'm too scared to go out too.  Instead of "raindrops," I could sing "Shingles keep falling on my head..."

So that's my day.  What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What's For Dinner?

My new nephew is home from the hospital and doing well.  One of the nicest things people did for me when I had my babies was to bring me a meal.  I had four C-Sections so maneuvering through the house while sleep deprived proved difficult.  So in the same spirit, I try to prepare a meal for anyone close to me who has a baby.  I gave my brother a few choices and he chose Chicken Parmesan.  I hadn't made it in a few years because we grew tired of it.  But it sounded good so I made it for us too.  It's pretty simple...I think you'll enjoy it.  Ours was delicious!

Chicken Parmesan
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 cans Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce
4-8 slices (or 1 bag shredded) mozzarella cheese

Place chicken in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and seal.  Pound with a mallet to flatten.  Dip each piece of chicken in egg.  Coat in a mixture of half bread crumbs and half Parmesan cheese.  Brown each side in hot oil.  Spoon spaghetti sauce in a baking dish, enough to cover the bottom.  Place browned chicken on top and cover each piece with more sauce.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour, turning every 20 minutes.

About 10 minutes before chicken is scheduled to be done, cover each piece with cheese and continue baking.  Serve with a side of spaghetti, warm garlic bread, and a green salad.

*My Notes:
-I cut each piece of chicken in half width-wise to create more manageable pieces of chicken.
-My recipe didn't specify if I should cover the chicken while baking.  I think I usually do but this time I didn't.  If you don't cover it, check it often to make sure it's not burning.  Mine soaked up all the sauce on the bottom of the dish and I had to add more sauce when I turned it.
-Once I added the cheese, I turned on the broiler to get it nice and brown.  (I did not burn myself this time!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Break

Things heard around our house so far this summer break:

The Kids:
"I'm booored."
"It's too hot out."
"I'm hungry."
"I want grilled cheese for lunch.", "I want pizza.", "I want noodles.", "I want chicken nuggets."
"There's nothing to do."
"Mom, get the baby out of my room!"
"He took my iPod!"
"Can we go to Chipotle for lunch?"
"The baby is getting another popsicle!"
"Where are my shoes?"
(Regarding a messy room) "None of that stuff is mine."

"Clean your room."
"Put your dishes in the dishwasher."
"Do your chore."
"Stop fighting!"
"Push in your chair."
"Put your shoes away."
"Quit screaming."
"Clean up the yard."
"Go outside, you're driving me crazy!"
"Who will take the baby outside to play?"
"No more popsicles."
"Shut the refrigerator."
"I am not making four different things for lunch!  You'll have to agree on something."
"It's almost 10:00, get up!"
"Get along!"

Monday, July 11, 2011


It's Monday and I'm in a random kind of mood.  My internet has been down most of the weekend and is, at best, spotty right now.  That is the reason for the late post today.  It also has kept me from finishing my commenting challenge, which I've thoroughly enjoyed.  I'll just have to wrap it up a day late.


I got to have lunch with my mom today (can anyone guess where?) and hold my new nephew for about 4 minutes.  I still need some real Aunt Bonding Time with him.


I think I'm ready to do it.  I am going to step out of my comfort zone and start charging people money to take their pictures.  Being a photographer has been a dream of mine for some time now.  I don't know if I'll ever really feel ready, so I think I need to make a go of it now while I'm feeling brave.  I talked to my cousin who takes pictures on the side.  He gave me some great advice and valuable information to get me started.  I'll be forever thankful to him.


It is totally hot outside right now, in spite of the pouring rain.  That is one thing I adore about summer - hot rain.  (That sounds like the name of a cheap perfume that ladies of the night or 14-year old girls wear.)


I just put brand new batteries in Big Sis' Leapster and it's still not working.  We were so excited about it when we bought it but have never been truly happy with it.  I was never impressed with the graphics or the screen images.  The screen is always dark and difficult to see.  Then shortly after we got it, the screen went partly dead and had a big yellow line going through it.  The batteries wear out quickly  and the games are expensive.  Let's just say, it's not what I thought it would be.  I'm thinking about getting Big Sis a Game Boy for her birthday.  She's never had one but would really love it.   Although, I haven't checked the price of them lately.


Tell me something totally random about your day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Just a Trashy Girl

I spent my Saturday morning picking up trash in my community.  Our church adopted a mile of roadway and we're responsible for keeping it clean.  I didn't mind the hard work...I can roll up my sleeves and work right along with the rest of them.  I just felt sad giving up my Saturday.  With Hubby's crazy long hours, time with him is so precious.  Plus, my brother had a brand new baby boy Friday afternoon (Yippie!!!) and I wanted to spend some time with him.  But we had committed to doing the work so we had to follow through.

When I showed up, the only people present were the man in charge, his two daughters, and our pastor's wife.  That made me feel really bad.  (You see, I have backed out twice already.)  I could see that they really needed us.  In addition to our mile, we are handing out literature in another neighborhood while picking up litter there too.  So 6 of us for all that work isn't much.  Luckily, another man showed up after us.

We set out, all clean and nice smelling.  With the beating sun and clear skies, that didn't last long.  We found some interesting things along the roadway...I wish I had brought my camera!  But then again, I didn't want to touch anything that belonged to me with those filthy, germ-ridden gloves!  Of course, there was lots of firework trash leftover from the holiday.  We picked up tons of food wrappers and drink containers.  Hubby found a jacket sticking halfway out of the storm grate.  Yeah, weird.  Cigarette packages, broken toys, used Q-Tips, a bucket, and tons of popsicle wrappers were other things we found. 

My trash bag smelled like a hooker's car for most of the walk.  Along with the cigarettes and beer containers, I picked up a new car freshener that smelled just like patchouli oil.   That mixed with the scented trash bags (which you may know I hate!), and the dryer sheet I found, and you get a hooker's car.

But at the end of the day, all sweaty and filthy, I jumped in the shower with a smile on my face.  It feels good to give back.  Now hopefully those filthy animals from 14th to 17th Streets can learn to keep their doggone neighborhood clean!!!  Just kidding.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Birthday Flowers

When Big Sis turned 3, I made a doll cake for her birthday.  It was stunning; I spent lots of time making sure every detail was perfect.  I put the cake on the counter and continued getting ready for the party.  My aunt came early to help me out and that's when the accident happened.  She opened a cupboard to get something out and a box of Pop-Tarts fell out and landed on the cake.  My overly dramatic aunt screamed.  "I hope you got a picture of that first!" my mom said.  Nope.  There was a huge gash in the side of the cake.  Never fear, I did not flip out.  I got creative.  I looked outside my dining room window and noticed the deep red flowers that had recently bloomed.  I improvised and cut a few flowers.  I placed one on the cake boo-boo and used a few others to decorate, trying to make it look like it was on purpose.  It ended up working out great.

Every year, those same deep red flowers have bloomed right before my daughter's birthday.  We now call them her Birthday Flowers.  Just this week, I noticed that the Birthday Flowers have once again bloomed.  That means that her special day is right around the corner. 

Yesterday, my brother and his wife had a brand new baby boy. - my first nephew!  Big Sis is so excited to have a birthday buddy.  Her sister has a birthday buddy, my niece who was born two days later.  I share my birthday with my cousin.  I told Big Sis that the new baby will be her birthday buddy.  So when we went to visit him last night, she cut off a long, beautiful Birthday Flower and took it to him.  He is the only one who can share the Birthday Flowers with her.

I love this special tradition.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Comfort Zone

Lately, I've been learning to step outside of my comfort zone.  You see, I'm not a very confident person.  As a child, I was so ridiculously shy that I wouldn't look at or speak to anyone.  I have so many memories of my mom telling me things like, "Say thank you," or "Look at people when you talk to them."  She gave me a lecture before each birthday or Christmas telling me to show excitement when opening a gift.  Instead, I would typically open it and look at it, nodding my head.  Inside, I was so thrilled and loved the gift with all my heart.  My brother was the exact opposite.  He literally did cartwheels while hooting and hollering.  Later, he would confess to me that he didn't really like the gift, he was just trying to act appreciative.  One day, I realized that people liked my brother more than they liked me.  Of course, my family all loved me.  But they liked him better.  He was much more enjoyable to be around.

Fortunately, I outgrew that stage.  By then, I was an awkward teenager who thought I was stupid, ugly, fat, dumb, and boring.  (Isn't that quite normal for teenage girls though?)  I thought all my friends were better, prettier, and more popular than I was.  I remember something so clearly from when I was about 13.  A large group of us spent the day at an amusement park.  One of the adults brought along her younger brother, who was adored by us all.  He was older, tall, cute, and friendly.  I was so nervous around him that I could barely speak.  Later, his sister mentioned to my mom that he thought I was the prettiest but my cousin was the nicest.  It was like someone jabbed a stake in my heart.  It was then that I made up my mind that I had to develop a personality if I wanted to have any kind of life.

So I did.  I became friendlier and more talkative, even though it was forced.  I often felt like my jokes weren't funny and that people were secretly rolling their eyes at me.  I didn't feel like I was quite up to par but I tried to push through it.  Eventually, I gained the attention of a certain gorgeous, young man who later became my husband.  His interest in me was the best thing ever for my self-esteem.  It took me years to realize that he truly loved me and wasn't just being polite.  I recently found my high school composition notebook that I wrote shortly after we started dating.  It's funny- so many journal entries were about how he was too good for me and that I didn't deserve him.  As a teacher, I would have read those entries and thought Wow, that girl needs some serious help.

Today, I am a pretty confident person.  Well, I try.  I can easily carry on conversation with a group and can even approach a stranger to begin a conversation.  I still hate public speaking, yet I'm in charge of a teenage girls' group at my church.  With them, I can be myself and can even act goofy when I'm lecturing them.  I organized a banquet with those girls that had about 200 in attendance.  I welcomed the guests and spoke in front of the crowd.  I still don't like it, but I do it.

Last weekend, I hit a milestone.  I sang my first solo in church.  Now, I know I'm not a good singer.  I am a good alto and can carry a part without being thrown off by the others in the group.  But I don't have a pleasant sounding voice.  At the insistence of the group leader, I finally relented and agreed to sing a 12-word solo.  My hands were shaking to the point that I could barely hold my microphone.  When I began singing, I wasn't sure if my voice was actually coming out.  Then I finally heard it through the monitors.  I had to close my eyes because I struggled looking at the 500+ people in front of me.  When it was over, my belly did a flop and I continued with the song.  I was still anxious for the song to be over and nervous that the leader would signal for me to sing that verse again.  But I survived.  I am still standing here today and I am glad that I pushed myself to do it.

The fifty compliments I received after the service were almost embarrassing.  Many of those people know my background and understand how hard that was for me to do.  But most of them wouldn't have handed out a compliment that wasn't deserved.

This post is about pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone.  Since I've been participating in this commenting challenge, I have noticed so many bloggers that mentioned they are bold on their blogs but very shy in person.  A lot of these people have noticeable low self-esteem.  But they pushed themselves to step out of the comfort zone and begin writing a blog.  That was one of the first steps for me.  I had to open up and let go of my venerability.  I was nervous for people to see how I write.  What if I spell something wrong?  What if I use a big word the wrong way because I truly don't understand its meaning?  What if I violate my biggest pet peeve and accidentally use the word "your" when I meant "you're?"  You know what?  Who cares?!  If someone is going to skip out on my blog for one of those reasons, that is fine!  For every one of them is another person who appreciates the goofiness in my writing.  I stepped out of my comfort zone.

I think that everyone has to do that at some point in their life if they want to achieve true potential.  If we all sit idly by and remain inside our comfort zone, we will never have pride, achievement, or success.  So today, find a way to step out of your comfort zone and do something that's good for you!

What have you done recently that required you to leave your comfort zone?

Thursday, July 7, 2011


In yesterday's +&-, I mentioned that Hubby wasn't feeling well.  He ended up going to an urgent care center after work and was there hours and hours.  (He left for work at 4:45 AM and didn't get home until 9:45 PM!)  Meanwhile I was getting a bit worried about him. 

At 8:00, I realized that there truly wasn't any food in the house and we had no dinner.  I remembered I had a Chef Boyardee pizza kit in the pantry.  Day saved!  Nope, wait...I didn't have any mozzarella cheese in the fridge.  Bummer.  That actually sounded kind of good, even for an emergency meal. 

So I headed two doors down to my aunt's house in search of mozzarella.  I think she felt sorry for me since it was 8:00 and I was just thinking about dinner.  I told her I was putting together a pizza from a box and needed cheese.  She headed to her freezer and pulled out an enormous homemade frozen pizza and handed it to me.  I almost cried.  Her homemade pizza is something to be desired!  I know it's a special thing and a huge sacrifice to give a frozen one to me.  She insisted.  So instead of this for dinner,

We indulged on this:

Isn't life good?  Turns out, Hubby just had some sort of infection.  They pumped him full of nausea meds, pain meds, and antibiotics.  He is feeling much better today, thank the good Lord!

"Wook at me, Mom!"

Dancing with a jump rope
Baby Girl has become quite the show-off lately.  Any time I try to concentrate on anything, from eating, to blogging, to cooking, I hear, "Wook at me, Mom!"  I look over to see her do some sort of trick.  Just a moment ago, she was standing in the doorway, legs apart, with her feet touching each side of the door frame.  I simply could not be more proud.

My mom has a little play house for the kids.  Baby Girl isn't content to simply play in the house.  She prefers to climb on top of it.  "Wook at me, Mom!"  Big Sis has actually started to get a little jealous, I think.  She copied her baby sister and climbed on top of the house with  her.  Instead, she was scolded and told to get down.  She's not as monkey-like as the Baby and will probably fall off and break a bone.  (I can make fun because she rightly earned her clumsiness from yours truly.)

It would be so much easier to throw an uncaring glance her way while mustering a quick, "Good job," every time she asks me to wook at her.  But I know she won't be showing off for me forever.  I would be thrilled for Son #1 to do a trick to try to impress me.  But impressing your mom isn't at the top of a 12-year old's list.  So I need to savor every moment, enjoy every dance, and wook at her as much as I can.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

+ & -

+ Big Sis requested a Tea Party for her birthday a week from Saturday. I am planning hats, gloves, tea cups, and finger sandwiches on a lace tablecloth. I love my boys, believe me. But there's nothing quite like planning a little girl's birthday party.

- No one can take a descent picture of me.  We had a fabulous weekend, did all kinds of things.  Several pictures were taken of me, all of them horrid.  I am the photographer in the family and it seems like no one else can use a camera.

+ Baby Girl's new outfit from Target - it makes me smile.

- Getting the car serviced, which interferes with grocery shopping, which means no food in the house.

+ No food in the house = I don't have to cook tonight.

- Hubby isn't feeling well. He hasn't been sick in so long but I hate seeing him like this. He is going to urgent care after work.

+ My house is clean. That is a miracle in itself.

- Mt. Laundry. You all know exactly what I mean.

+ Summer. What more can I say? I love it!

- My hair has been falling out.  A lot.  Pretty much ever since Baby Girl was born.  I started taking prenatal vitamins again to see if it would help.  There might be a very slight difference.

+The vitamins are making my nails look so fabulous, darling!  They would look awesome with a manicure!

- This is The Last Diet Coke.  I don't usually buy it in bottles like this but there was a sale.  Now I'm addicted to Diet Coke in bottles.

+ My new Bath & Body Works Peach Bellini hand soap.  The sales lady talked me into it and she was right!  It's delish!

- Summer is so fun and exciting that my kids aren't getting enough sleep.  Son #2 has been grouchy since Saturday.

+ The commenting challenge I'm participating in right now.  I've been struggling to find new, interesting blogs to read.  Search no more!  There's over a hundred of them at my fingertips now!  I have really enjoyed browsing and following new and different blogs.  I need to update my blog roll!

- The burn on my arm still hurts, thanks to the S'Mores cupcakes I made Monday.

+ Last night, we booked the airfare for our trip in September!  We are taking the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Fransisco and flying back home!  I cannot wait to see the scenery and experience the western part of this country.  I've never been to California and feel like I'm going to die of excitement before it actually gets here!

What are the pluses and minuses of your day so far?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

S'Mores Cupcakes

I saw this recipe on another blog and just had to try it!  I become weak in the knees when it comes to S'Mores...campfire S'Mores, Pop Tarts, ice cream, anything that contains graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.  I knew I would probably melt over these cupcakes.  And yes, I am lying in a puddle on the floor right now, completely melted from the wonderful goodness that is S'Mores Cupcakes.  They were a perfect addition to our 4th of July weekend.  I highly suggest you give them a try!

S'Mores Cupcakes
1 sleeve graham crackers
1 t sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 brownie mix + ingredients on box
1 bag large marshmallows
cupcake liners

Crush graham crackers.  Add butter and sugar to make a basic crust.  Drop a generous spoonful of crumb mixture into each cupcake liner and press down with a cup bottom.  Stand up one marshmallow in each cup.  Prepare brownie mix according to package directions.  Pour into each cup.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

1 jar marshmallow cream
1 Hershey bar

Top each cupcake with a spoonful of marshmallow cream and spread around.  Place frosted cupcakes on a baking sheet.  Place under the broiler, watching carefully, to toast the marshmallow.  Garnish with extra graham cracker crumbs and one square of chocolate.

*My Notes:
- The crust recipe makes way too much.  Save the rest for another time.
- Do not fill cupcake liners all the way to the very top.  Save a little bit of space.  I think this recipe actually makes about 13-14 cupcakes, depending on what brownie mix you use and how thick each cupcake's crust is.
- While baking, the batter will poof up and then sink back down before it's done.
- Refrigerate (or maybe even freeze) the chocolate before garnishing each cupcake.  My chocolate got very soft and melted down onto the cupcake.  It was really warm in my kitchen...I should have immediately placed the cupcakes in the refrigerator after adding the chocolate.
- Do not allow your arm to touch the inside of the oven door while you are watching the marshmallows toast.  This will burn your arm and cause you to be in pain for the rest of the day.
- Bring two napkins with you when you eat your cupcake.  Then get two more napkins when you go back for seconds.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Commenting Challenge

I just got back from the fireworks and am a little too wound up to sleep yet.  It was a good night though...I enjoyed dark chocolate covered almonds and didn't get one mosquito bite.  About a dozen friends and family members sat together in a grocery store parking lot, playing frisbee, lighting sparklers, and running around with glow sticks.

So with my insomnia (or hyperactivity from the chocolate and Diet Coke), I decided to get a head start on my commenting challenge.  Jenna over at Jenna's Journey put this together for the second time.  I hope to get a few new visitors so I will post some things about me.  (If you're a seasoned follower, you can skip this post if you like.  Or you can jump in on the commenting challenge.  It actually starts July 4.)

~ I am a SAHM mom of 4 kids, well 5 if you count my husband.  Some days, he's the most work.
~ I enjoy photography, reading, baking, singing, eating, and being lazy in my pajamas.
~ I do not like seafood, cigarette smoke, bad drivers, 2-faced people, or cleaning the bathtub.
~ I have lived on the same street my entire life.  When I got married, I packed up my stuff and carried it across the yard.  I enjoy living next door to my parents (one aunt on the other side, and another aunt two doors down.)
~ My best physical feature is my green eyes.  My worst is my flabby belly.
~ I really enjoy humor in life and am typically pretty calm.
~ I've been married for 15 years to a cute guy I started dating when I was only 16.
~ When I grow up (if ever), I hope to be still happily married, with 4 successful adult children, an established photographer, with lots of grandkids running around.  I would love to build the house of my dreams on a couple acres of land, but would be very content to stay here forever too.
~ I have an addiction to Chipotle Mexican Restaurant and Diet Coke.
~ I am running a 10K leg in a marathon in September and don't train as much as I should.  (It's because of the Chipotle and Diet Coke.)

My eyes are growing weary as the caffeine is wearing off.  So if you're visiting from the Commenting Challenge, I hope you stop by again.  I just love followers and comments!  Have a great 4th of July!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Where I'm From

I've seen this going around other blogs and thought it might be fun to try out.  It is a writing exercise adapted from a poem by George Ella Lyons.  (You can find the template for the writing exercise here.)  It causes you to remember your roots and stirs up past family memories.  I enjoyed doing it.  I pretty much stuck to one side of the family, as they are very different.  I'd like to do it with the other side of too.  So here's Where I'm From.

I am from porch swings,
from Lawson's Chip Dip and Crest toothpaste.
I am from the yellow house with the bay window,
small, comfortable,
smelling of home-cooked food. 
I am from the pines,
the corn fields
that stretched to the heavens each summer.

I am from Sunday dinners and bad feet,
from Whitaker and Rose.
I'm from the hard workers
and those willing to help others,
from children are to be seen and not heard
and settle down.
I'm from sleeping under church pews
and weekly memory verses.

I'm from B-Town and Germany/Hungary,
from Hunky sausage and chicken paprikash.
From the church my grandfather pastored,
a father who broke his back, feet, and ankles
in a fall.
The thick green albums
plastered with photos,
bringing back the memory
of life, love, and special family time together.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Too Hard

Everything with Baby Girl right now is "I can't," or "It too hard."  Who knew laziness could strike at such a young and innocent age?  It must be her 12-year old brother wearing off on her as he nears the lazy teenage years.

She was whining this morning that she wanted to go outside.  That is a whole other battle.  She wants to be outside constantly.  She is only allowed out with her brothers or me.  Big Sis isn't quite grounded enough to keep an eye on her.  Since we live on the same side of the street as three other family members, she has acres to explore and discover.  So while she was begging to go outside, I told her she had to clean up her Legos first.  (This future architect strews Legos and building blocks around the house multiple times each day.  It's time that she starts cleaning them up by herself.)  I was met with the answer.  "It too hard." 

Trying to bring out the peppy, good mom who is somewhere inside me, I said, "No, it's not too hard.  You can do it.  Do you need some encouragement?"  She shook her head yes.  I began chanting, "Go, baby, go!  Go, baby, go!"  It worked.  She was like a runner who got her second wind after hitting a wall.  She started picking up Legos with a big grin on her face.  But, being the monkey she is, she was picking them up with her feet, not her hands.  I ran to get the camera and started snapping pictures, despite the unclothed state she was in. 

I left to return my camera to the bag and noticed that the exuberant clean up project was slowing down. 

5 minutes later, it had ceased completely. 

So right now, she is upstairs, playing and yelling at one of her siblings.  She thinks she won this battle, but my little monkey will not be going outside until she picks up the Legos.  I'm standing firm on this one.