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~my thoughts about life~



Friday, September 30, 2011

Novel Books

I am an avid reader.  Unfortunately, I've purchased several books in my lifetime that have ended up in the trash can.  I am offended by books that have explicit language and graphic sexual content.  Maybe that doesn't affect you but it bothers me.

I was recently browsing books to purchase for my Kindle.  Even though they're less expensive than print books, I didn't want to waste money on a book I wouldn't finish.  I wanted a website that reviews books based on moral values.  I stumbled upon Novel Book Ratings and was thrilled that a site like this exists!  Sadly, most of the books I was searching had not yet been rated.  So I took it upon myself to start rating books as I read them.  I feel like I've made a small contribution to society.

I wrote an email to the site, thanking them for what they're doing.  I told them I would review their site on my blog to help spread the word.  If finding morally clean books is something that's important to you, please visit this site and offer your contribution.  Working together, we can help promote quality books with strong values.  Thanks!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easy Dinners

Don't you just love those easy dinners that don't take much preparation?  I consider spaghetti to fit into that category, but not spaghetti and meatballs.  I love intense, homestyle cooking, but sometimes you need a quickie meal.

Here are a couple things I've made recently that fit into the Easy Dinner category.

Chili- I think this recipe is so good, you'd never think it was that easy.
  • In a large pot, saute onion in butter.  (I use just a couple tablespoons of onion, but you can use more depending on your taste.)
  • When the onion is golden brown, add one clove of pressed (or minced) garlic.
  • Add 2 lbs. of crumbled ground beef.
  • Brown well and drain all grease.
  • Add one 28 oz. can of tomato sauce and one 28 oz. can of tomato puree.  (If you don't like your chili thick, add two cans of sauce and no puree.)
  • Add 1/2 to a whole package of McCormick chili seasoning.  (I only use half a package so it's not too spicy for my kids.)
  • Add approximately 2t sugar to cut the acidity.
  • Add salt, if necessary.
  • Here is where my chili gets unique.  I think some people would call it goulash instead of chili.  I add elbow macaroni.  I don't measure, I just kind of sprinkle it over the chili until it thinly covers the top.  No one in my family likes beans so we don't add any. 
  • Cover and simmer until pasta is tender.  If you don't use macaroni, your chili is done any time.  I don't believe that you have to simmer chili for hours upon hours to make it good.  But it certainly doesn't hurt.  Just keep it low.

Chicken Club Sandwiches
  • Our local grocery store offers ready-made rotisserie chickens for $4.99, any time.  You can't even buy a whole raw chicken for that price.  Monday, I bought a chicken in the morning during my regular grocery shopping time.  I refrigerated it until dinner time.  20 minutes before dinner, I popped it into the oven to heat it through.  While it was warming, I microwaved a few strips of bacon.  I sliced the chicken and layered it on good quality bakery bread.  I topped it with bacon, CoJack cheese slices, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  It was a quick and easy supper that made cooking at 9:00 PM more bearable. 

Hopefully one or both of those recipes will give you some quick dinner ideas for when you're on a time crunch.  (Isn't that every day???)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Workation

Hubby is off work next week.  Slacking off and having fun is what we will not be doing.  We won't even be calling this week a Staycation.  Just the opposite, my friend, we are having a Workation. 

Hubby scheduled the week off so very long ago.  We knew we would have just returned from a big vacation so we planned this week to "get stuff done around the house."  Anything that's gone wrong in the house over the past few months has been pushed to the back burner.  "We'll get to it in October when we have a week off."

I love lists.  I love making them; I love organizing them.  But I hate doing the things on them.  This list includes annual/semi-annual things like changing furnace filters, water filters, and smoke detector batteries.  It includes things that aren't difficult but we've just been too lazy to do, like hanging pictures.  It also includes some more advanced projects that Hubby doesn't even know about yet. 

Sherwin-Williams
Gingery
I plan on painting our lower living room.  Right after we painted it last time, we had a home security system installed.  It created holes in various places.  We also changed from a TV mounted on the wall to one sitting on a base.  That means we have all kinds of craziness going on where the TV once hung.  I'm thinking about a caramel color, that's not too close to burnt orange.  I hope the room isn't too small for that dark of a color.  The room is currently a sage green color.

I wish I had a better eye for decor.  My house needs a serious makeover.  I love when you guys post pictures of things that are going on in your home.  I peek around in the background to see how you have your house decorated.  I've come to the conclusion that ya'll are much cutsier than I.  Maybe I'll take some snapshots around the house and ask your opinion.  Or better yet, I'll welcome any of you into my home to do some serious redecorating.  (Anyone feel like a road trip???)

Uh-oh...looks like our projects for next week just got a lot more intense!  I'll have to add it to the list.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Did It! (Well, Sorta)

I survived the longest run of my life!  Here's how it went:

All week, rain and chilly temperatures were forecasted so I was pretty nervous.  Turns out, we had absolutely perfect running weather!  It was in the high 50s to start and got up somewhere in the mid-high 60s.  The sun even peeked its head through a bit.

I slept better this year than last year.  The last time I remember looking at the clock, it was almost 1:00 AM.  Last year, I think I went down to the couch around 3.

We woke up bright and early, tried to force down some breakfast, and met friends at 5:45.  We fought the traffic together and found parking spots within walking distance.  (Irritating:  they advertised free parking throughout the entire downtown area.  Two of our running buddies were charged $5 to park!  One had to leave because he had no wallet with him and the other said she only had $3.  They accepted it and let her park.  I think that's ridiculous!)

We found our first leg partner, who got there before we did.  We also ran into several other friends who were running the half (one who was fatter than me- ha ha).

It took a total of nine minutes for everyone to even begin.  Isn't that wild?  There were so many people, so much cheering, so many cow bells, and even people beating on pots and pans.

Next, Hubby and I walked to our relay point because we were both running the same leg.  Then we waited.  And waited.  We got to see the lead runners, who were keeping a 5-minute pace!  One was local, one was from Kenya.  I had to pee several times from all the hydration.  Don't ya just love porta pots?

Hubby's teammate arrived.  He took off and I knew I still had more waiting.  Finally, it was my turn.  I didn't see my partner, I just heard a moan and the word, "She!"  She crashed to the ground due to a blown out knee.  I grabbed my snap bracelet and took off.  I didn't feel ready, even after all the waiting.  I had only half-heartedly stretched.

Almost immediately, I had a huge downhill.  I know you're supposed to pace yourself but I briefly felt like a little kid again.  I ran down the hill as fast as my legs would go without tripping and falling foward.  Looking back on it, I'm actually shocked that I didn't fall flat on my face!

Let's skip ahead...mile 5 for me.  Yowzers, this is harder than I thought!  I hadn't stopped to walk yet, even through water stations.  Finally, I had to slow my pace.  I was beginning to feel sickish and didn't want to pass out.  Unfortunately, once I crashed, I never got my second wind.  The next few miles were sheer torture.  I missed the carb gel handoff and wished I had made a way to get some.  I ran, I jogged, I walked.  I prayed and asked God to get me through this.

Finally, my iPod (with Nike+) said I had one km to go!  I could do this!  I picked back up my pace and talked myself into running the rest of the way.  It counted down, "500 meters.  400 meters.  200 meters."  I was almost done!  Then finally, my iPod said, "Congratulations!  You have reached your 10K destination!"  What the heck?  If I've reached my destination, where in the world is my handoff partner?  I kept running until I saw The Hill.  Dear glory, there was no way I was making it up that thing running.  So I walked.  Again.  This was the fourth time.

I know my story is long so I'll get to the end.  I eventually reached the relay point, feeling closer to death than ever before in my life.  I handed off and sunk into the arms of my waiting husband.  My eyes actually filled up with tears as I embraced the intense exhaustion that consumed me.  I walked slowly, grabbed a bottle of water, then immediately boarded a bus.  Of course, every seat was taken so I had to stand for the 20 minute drive to the finish line.

So I did it.  I finished.  I wasn't able to run the entire leg but I made it through.  According to my iPod (whom I am quite ticked at) I ran 11.51 km in 1 hour, 12 minutes, and kept a pace of 10 min., 6 sec. per mile.  Not true.  I actually ran 10 km in 1 hour, 12 minutes.  If my math skills serve me well, that's almost 11 1/2 minutes per mile.  Weak, I know.  But it was all about finishing for me.  And I finished.

So next year, do I take on the longest relay leg or am I just kidding myself?  :)  Thanks for reading my long story.  I know it's probably boring for you but I am really glad to have it documented here.  Run on!

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Little Piggie had Roast Beef

I have never really made a good pot roast.  My mom made roast and potatoes all the time when I was growing up.  It was always good, but not phenomenal.  The potatoes, on the other hand, were amazing when she cooked them with the roast.  I remember declaring roast beef potatoes as my favorite food when I was just a kid.
When I got married, juggling a husband, a job, and student teaching was strenuous.  We were pretty poor and eating out was not an option.  I remember how easy it was when my mom made a pot roast.  She put it in the pan and turned the heat on.  That was about it.  You could throw in potatoes and carrots too.  So I did that.  It was not good. 

I tried again many times throughout the years.  I used the stovetop, the oven, the crockpot.  I cooked it for many hours, I cooked it for just a couple hours.  I finally came to the realization that I must just not like roast beef.  Bummer too, because I love those potatoes!

Jenna from Jenna's Journey recently posted about how good her Mama's roasts are.  She included a picture that made me want to drool.  She had some unique directions that I had never tried before but it still sounded extremely easy.  So I bought a roast and baby carrots on my next shopping trip and decided to give it a try.  I changed a few things along the way so I wrote them down just in case I loved it enough to make again.  It was a success and I will definitely be making it again!

(I failed to get a picture before we began eating.  As there were no leftovers, I certainly couldn't take one after dinner.  So I stole a random roast beef picture from Google.)  Here's my "recipe":
  • I heated just a bit of oil in a large skillet.  Jenna's recipe called for garlic powder, which I did not have.  So I browned a whole clove of garlic in the oil.  I decided to leave the whole clove in with the roast while it cooked and removed it later.
  • I sprinkled the roast with pepper only and browned both sides in the garlic oil. 
  • Then I added 1/4 C regular soy sauce, 1 C beef broth, and a large drinking glass of water. 
  • I brought it to a boil, then covered and simmered it slowly.
  • After 4 hours, I added peeled, quartered potatoes.
  • About 2 hours later, I added a couple handfuls of baby carrots.  There was still plenty of liquid in the pan but I would have added more if necessary.
  • I cooked the roast for 7 1/2 hours total.
  • As the kids set the table, I made a roux of 2 T butter and 2 T flour.  I slowly added hot broth until the consistency was perfect for gravy.  (There was still quite a bit of liquid left in the pan.)
Hubby went wild.  Son #1 declared this to be his most favorite supper from now on.  Baby Girl picked a little and then asked for soup.  I poured some of the extra broth into a small bowl and she ate it.  I now have to change my opinion that I don't like roast beef.  Because this, my friends, was Da Bomb!  I will be adding it to our regular rotation!  Thanks, Jenna!!!  (Thank your Mama too!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

+ & -

+ I love that it's nice enough today that I can walk outside in my bare feet to pick the few remaining tomatoes from the garden.  (Thanks to Baby Girl for being the foot model for this picture.)

-  I have a cough deep in my chest that's making me nervous.  Let's hope it's just a passing phase and not something that's going to keep me down.

+ I finished another Shutterfly book yesterday! They have an all new "Custom Path" that gives you complete creative control over how your page looks! I love that since I am so meticulous about exactly how my page is set up. Right now, they are offering 20% off of photo books and free shipping on orders over $30. What a perfect time to make a scrapbook to showcase all your summer memories!

- I have an album that spans the entire year of 2010. It's been sitting in my Shutterfly account, unpublished, since last December. I had an awesome coupon that expired 12/31 and I didn't finish in time. So it's been sitting there ever since. That makes me sad.

+ Son #1 gets to take free French Horn lessons at school that are paid for by the Band Boosters!  He was hand-picked to play French Horn in addition to Tuba, which he's been playing for a year.  I get such great joy watching him play.

-  Because of the two horns he's playing and how busy summer was, he has seriously neglected the guitar.  We need to get back to guitar lessons before he forgets everything he learned.

+ I have really gotten good sleep at night lately.  I think it's because of the open window beside my bed.

-  I totally just jinxed myself by saying I've been sleeping well lately.

+ Oh my, the roast beef we had for dinner last night!  I think I'll make a whole other post about that!

-  No leftovers means a peanut butter sandwich for lunch today.

+ I have changed my mindset and now I feel like I am ready to run a 10K this weekend!  I looked at someone much fatter than me who is running the half marathon.  If she can run the half, I can run my leg!  Doesn't that sound like good reasoning to you??

- The weather forecast for the marathon says high of 64 with a 40% chance of thunderstorms.  I guess that's better than a high of 60 with rain all day that was predicted a couple days ago.  Rain, rain go away!

+ Baby Girl has been eating better lately, BUT

- ...she wants to eat all day long.  Unlike normal people, she doesn't have a breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  She snacks throughout the day.  That's a really bad habit to start!  This morning, she had "breptist" with her sister before school.  After we got home, she asked for a "stawbrerry."  It's healthy, so I obliged.  Then she asked for "breptist" again.  "You already had breakfast," I replied.  She threw a bit of a fit.  Then she remembered that she hadn't finished all the cereal in her bowl so she ate the rest.  Then she asked for crackers.  "No, not until lunch time," I said.  Again, a bitty fitty.  What do you do when you have a kid that rarely eats, but when she does, she's doing it wrong?!?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheesy Bread

I am about to share with you a gem of a recipe!  It is incredibly easy to make and tastes absolutely wonderful.  The ingredients are bread, cheese, and butter.  Who could not like something made with bread, cheese, and butter???  However, it does lack a spectacular name.  I guess you could call it Cheesy Bites or something equally cutsie, but Cheesy Bread does the trick for me.  It's a lot of fun to serve at a football party or even a baby shower.  It's best hot but is even tasty room temperature.

Start with one loaf of frozen Rhodes bread dough (or whatever brand your supermarket carries).  You can take it straight from the freezer, set it on a greased plate, and cover with greased plastic wrap.  Let it sit there for many hours and you have a perfect, risen loaf of dough to work with.  Or you can take the shortcut method, which suits me much better.  Place your frozen loaf on a greased plate and pop it in the microwave for a minute.  Cover it and let it rise for only a couple hours instead of many hours.  For this recipe, the bread doesn't even have to be completely risen.  You can see how it looked when I started to prepare my bread.

Next, set up a little assembly line.  You will need 1/2 stick to 3/4 stick melted butter and 1C+ shredded Cheddar (or Cheddar Jack) cheese.

Tear off a small piece of dough, about the size of a cherry tomato.  Dip it into the butter and press the buttered part into the cheese.  The cheese will stick to the butter.  Wrap the dough around the cheese, keeping the majority of the cheese inside.  Tuck the edges on the bottom, which leaves you with a pretty nice, smooth top.  Place the dough balls into a greased baking dish.  If your dough was mostly risen, you can place the balls of dough right next to one another.  If the rising process wasn't complete, the dough balls can touch, but don't crowd them.  When you're finished, dump the remaining butter on top of the bread, spread it around, and top with the remaining cheese.

At this point, you can cover the bread and put it into the refrigerator for several hours.  If you will be baking soon, let it sit on the counter and continue rising.  I put mine straight into the oven and baked it.  (I was in quite a hurry.)  I normally make this recipe in an 8x8" (or 9x13" for 2 loaves) glass baking dish.  However, I was taking this to an event so I used a disposable pan.

Bake at 350 until it's done.  (The more the dough rises, the shorter the cooking time.)  You want to make sure the top is browned so it's not doughy inside.

Enjoy!  It's also served good with marinara sauce. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I am Not a Germaphobe

Have you ever seen that episode of Seinfeld where David Puddy is a Germaphobe?  I find it to be hilarious but I don't think I fit into that category.  Maybe I'm wrong.

There have been several events lately that have made me wonder, Am I actually a Germaphobe?  I wash my hands before I eat.  If I'm in a place where that's not possible, I use Purell.  I wash my hands after I blow my nose, sneeze, or use the restroom. When I cook, I'm even more compulsive.  I wash my hands before I start cooking, after answering the phone, after looking up something on the computer, or after assisting the kids with something.  If people are going to be eating my cooking, I want to make sure they don't get any of my germs.  Does that make me a Germaphobe?

Many years ago, I was in the restroom at a store nursing my baby.  I exited the stall at the same time as another woman.  She noticed that I had my hands full and jumped to politely open the door for me.  "No, that's OK," I said.  "I'm going to wash my hands."  She smiled sweetly, opened the door, and left.  I was totally grossed out and have never forgotten that incident.

On occasion, I find myself in a handicapped restroom stall that has its own sink.  When I use the sink, I'm always worried that someone in the restroom will think I didn't wash my hands.  So if I have Baby Girl with me, I will say to her (for everyone else's benefit), "We already washed our hands in the stall.  We don't have to do it again."  I just want to make sure they all know.

I was with a friend in a restroom recently.  After using the bathroom, she turned on the water, quickly rinsed off her hands, and left.  That's better, I guess, but it still bothered me that she didn't use soap.

So you tell me.  Am I the odd one?  Am I a Germaphobe?  It seems to me like I am no longer the norm because I wash my hands often.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Picture Day

I am facing a dilemma and I need your input. 

This week is Picture Day at school.  I always loved Picture Day when I was a kid.  Mama always curled my hair and I wore my most favorite shirt.  All the students looked nice and they were better behaved than usual. 

When I married my husband, my Mother-in-law gave me a 5x7 of every school picture from Kindergarten to somewhere in middle school.  Actually, now that I think about it, he probably stopped getting school pictures taken about the time that his dad died.

So, school pictures have always been valuable to me.  I can already envision the posterboard at my kids' graduation that showcases their school pictures from every year.

Here's my problem:  they're expensive!!  The smallest package I can order is $15.00.  That might not sound bad to you but multiply that by 3 kids.  For $45, I would get one 5x7 (of each kid), two 3x5s, and 21 of those itty-bitty pictures that kids like to trade around.  The worst part is, the pictures are never good.  Last year, they gave my daughter a blue background and both boys gray backgrounds.  One kid always has their eyes half closed and another kid always does a fake smile.

While we were in San Francisco, I got awesome individual shots of each one of my kids.  We were on a pier by the Bay Bridge and the lighting was beautiful.  It was a bit foggy and it made for great shots.  So, everyone has a great individual picture right now that shows their character.

Here's where you weigh in.  Do I keep up the tradition and pay to have the classic school pictures taken or do I spend a couple bucks to get their nice, personal photos printed?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Salsa, Baby!

Oh yes, I did make salsa on Friday!  The verdict:  scrumdidaliumptious!

I started with 16 lbs. of tomatoes (yeah, that's a lot) and I grew every one of them in my garden.  They were a mixture of Best Boy and Brandywine.  The Best Boy tomatoes are my favorite for sandwiches and just eating by themselves but they had A LOT of water in them.  The Brandywine seemed to be better salsa making tomatoes.

I used this website, which had very detailed, step-by-step instructions.  I read them through several times and decided, I can do this!

So I chopped.  I chopped for a very long time- tomatoes, onions (I bawled my eyes out), peppers, and garlic.  I'm a pretty big wimp when it comes to spiciness so I worried that this recipe would be too hot for me.  I cut the amount of onions in half and reduced the peppers from 6 to 2. 

Quick tangent about the peppers:  my Grandma is the one who planted all the peppers in my garden.  I don't eat them.  She knew she had habaƱero plants and she called the others"chipotle peppers."  She got them free from a garden center and said they were very mild.  So one day, I got brave and decided to try a mild chipotle pepper.  If I am growing them, I should at least taste them.  Right?  Yowzers- it was NOT mild!  I immediately spit my bite into the sink and drank a glass of milk.  Still on fire.  I moved on to a piece of bread.  Still burning.  I drank a glassful of cold water.  No relief.  For a good half hour, my mouth and lips burned.  When I told Grandma, she laughed and said she must have been wrong.  So that is the main reason I only used two peppers.

Still following the directions, I simmered all the ingredients, tasting from time to time.  The salsa wasn't spicy at all so I added another pepper.  Still not too hot, I added 3 shakes of the chili powder bottle.  That gave it a nice flavor and a bit of heat.  I still wanted to keep it mild so I stopped there.  When my jars finished sanitising in the dishwasher, I pulled them out and got ready to start canning.  It was then that I realized, I don't know what the heck I'm doing!  I know absolutely nothing about canning.  So I decided I'd better look it up.  The same site had detailed directions about the canning process.  That whole deal was just as intense as actually preparing the salsa!  This is when I began wondering if I was in over my head.

I followed the directions closely and filled my jars.  I boiled them for the proper amount of time and set them on a cooling rack to seal.  I made 7 1/2 pints.  The next morning, I tested each jar and they all seemed to seal properly.  I opened one right away and the salsa still tasted delicious.  So now I get to enjoy tasty, fresh salsa all year long!

I still have 2 quarts of chopped tomatoes leftover.  (The 15 lb. conversion didn't exactly measure out after the tomatoes were chopped.)  So I bought a Ball seasoning packet and I'm going to try it that way too.  Who knows, taking the easy road might even be easier!

This has been a year of trying new things so I'm quite proud of myself!  If you want to taste my homemade salsa, swing on by and sit a spell! 

I will leave you with one tip.  After you've been dicing hot peppers, DO NOT touch your eye later on in the day...even if you've washed them more than once.  Just take my word for it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

To Much Avail...

While on the phone with my television provider, the operator asked me, "So you would like to avail that card?"  Confused, I asked her to repeat herself.  She said the same thing again.  "I don't understand what that means," I honestly admitted.  She rephrased the sentence in way that I finally understood.  Later in the conversation, she said, "Would you like to avail for that?"  I came up with a few conclusions:
  1. She gets paid a dollar for every time she uses the word "avail."
  2. She is far too educated to be a telephone operator and should be using her smart vocabulary at a more important place of business.
  3. I am an idiot and her phrasing was perfectly acceptable.  I should not have been allowed to graduate college since I was didn't understand.
  4. She just didn't make sense.
What's your diagnosis?  Do I need to go back to eighth grade?  (Confession:  I spelled "eighth" incorrectly while writing this post.  Guess that answers my question.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Randomness

Have you seen those commercials for Slushy Magic?  I really want to try it but I know it certainly won't work as promised.  I would just end up disappointed that I couldn't have slushies whenever I wanted.

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I am craving roasted pumpkin seeds and feel like decorating my house for fall.  I am resisting the urge because I want to hold on to summer as long as possible.  A friend I met last night showed up in boots.  I wore a short skirt with bare legs.  Either she's early or I'm late.

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Remember the huge deal around here about my son saving up to buy a new iPod Touch?  Well, he's already lost it.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  That's exactly why kids shouldn't have expensive things.

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I am glad we had Chicken Quesadillas for dinner last night and not "Chicken Diarrhea" like Baby Girl said.  (Say both words out loud and you'll be surprised how they sound alike.)  When Daddy called last night, she told him we were having Chicken Diarrhea for supper.

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My marathon is in like a week.  I thought I was going to be ready but I feel quite unprepared.

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I have about 16 lbs. of tomatoes sitting on my countertop- a beautiful sight indeed!  Today, I'm going to try my hand at homemade salsa.  I found an awesome, very detailed website that explains each step well.  I've never canned anything so I'm pretty nervous about how it will all work.  What if the salsa is nasty?  I can't imagine going through all that work and wasting all those beautiful tomatoes if I don't like the taste.  Well, I guess I could always sponsor a Salsa Giveaway here on my blog if that happens.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Maters

BEFORE

DURING



AFTER


It was a long process but I'm quite proud.

(The lavender didn't make it.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back to Normal?

For the past few weeks, I've been saying how I am anxious for things to get back to normal.  I crave routine.  I thrive on a schedule.  While I may enjoy the carefree, lazy days of summer, I function better when my life is regulated.  Waking up at the same time, having a bedtime...it works for me.

The last week of our summer consisted of a family vacation.  We traveled across the country and crossed through various time zones.  I still don't think our sleep systems have regulated from all the change.

Then school started.  The kids don't want to go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 so they lie in bed awake for a while every night.  Therefore, they're not ready to get up when the alarm goes off bright and early in the AM.  I'm not quite used to the new schedule yet.  Son #2 is still not in the right Math class.

Then, Hubby had two unexpected days off.  It was so nice getting to spend time with him while three of the kids were in school.  But that just meant that normalcy has still not returned.  He went back to work today.  I told him that I'm finally ready to get back to normal.  Do you think that actually happened?

Around 9:30 this morning, I got a call from the school.  It wasn't the office staff or Big Sis' teacher.  It was another teacher.  She stated that Big Sis wasn't feeling that well.  Sure, whatever.  I get these kind of calls a lot.  I usually talk to whichever kid is trying to come home, convince them that they're OK, and talk them into going back to class.  "Yeah," I said to the teacher, "she did say something about a sore throat this morning.  She's probably catching the cold I'm just getting over."  But the teacher had a bit of a tone in her voice.  She said that Big Sis was pale and had dark circles under her eyes.  Actually, that's just how she always looks.  I, too, am pale and have bags under my eyes.  No, the teacher continued.  "She said her chest hurt after gym class and we gave her some apple juice."  OK, I'm thinking to myself, so what's your point?  "We called 911."  YOU CALLED 911????  What in the world is going on?

Panic began to set it.  I looked at Baby Girl who was watching TV with no pants on.  I was dressed, thankfully, but my hair was in curlers.  "Do you want to come to the school?" the teacher asked.  Uh, yeah!  "I'll be right there," I said.  I ripped the curlers out of my hair, threw it back into a messy bun, and shoved the baby in some pants that did not match.  I called my father, who wasn't home, and jumped in the car. 

All the people who like to drive 10 mph under the speed limit were out today.  Trying to be patient, I drove as crazily as legally possible.  I arrived at the school to see an ambulance pulled up on the front sidewalk.  Both front doors were propped open.  I hurried in to see a stretcher in the main office.  I passed up a paramedic and entered the side office.  The principal was holding Big Sis, who looked scared to death.  "This is Mom," she said."  Two other men were gathered around my child, talking to her, taking her blood pressure, and listening with a stethoscope.  She looked like she was trying not to cry.  I set Baby Girl down in a random chair and rushed to comfort her sister. 

About five other teachers were in the office, including the one who had called me.  The humanity inside me wondered how bad they probably thought I looked since I got ready in about twelve seconds.  Everyone started asking me questions all at the same time.  Does she have any health problems?  Has she had trouble breathing before?  Does she have asthma?  No.  No.  No.  I glanced at the chair to find that Baby Girl was no longer there.  I wondered what she was thinking of all this.  Son #1's third grade teacher, whom I love, was carrying her around the office.  She did look a tad panic-stricken though.

I was trying to be as calm and brave as possible, even though I felt like sitting on the floor and crying.  It was so overwhelming.  By this point, I was beginning to think that the situation was blown out of proportion.  My daughter is a total drama queen.  Whatever she states as truth needs to be dialed down by about half.  I was gently trying to explain this to the swarms of people around me without sounding uncaring.  I didn't want to look like I was shrugging off the situation.  I explained that the circles under her eyes are normal.  But they assured me that she did not look normal. 

They checked her heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, and sugar with a finger prick.  Everything came back normal but they still wanted to transport her to Children's Hospital.  My eyes grew large as I thought about my baby riding in an ambulance.  One of the medics said, "Mom knows best.  What do you think?"  I hated to say what I was really thinking- I think everyone is overreacting, I think she's fine, and this ambulance ride will cost me a fortune since she doesn't have health insurance.  Yeah, I deserve the crappiest mom of the year award.  I simply answered, "I will do whatever you advise.  But I would like to take her myself."  They were worried that she would pass out on the way to the hospital.  I thought she looked fine, just a little scared.  They called the hospital and shared the results of the tests.  They said that if I was just going to take her home, they would insist on transporting her.  But if I assured them I would take her to the doctor, they would release her.  I agreed.

About an hour later, we scored an appointment at the doctor, who closes early on Wednesdays.  Thank the Lord.  He examined her thoroughly and found nothing wrong.  He said we could continue to monitor her clinically.  Or as an extra precaution, we could have an Echo done at the hospital.  When he realized we didn't have insurance, he said that could totally wait.  It wasn't necessary, just to be thorough.

We returned home with a Snow White sticker and a sense of peace.  Hours have passed since and Big Sis is just as normal as she was yesterday.  I am thankful for a staff of teachers who care that much about my daughter.  The teacher holding the baby was even tearing up.  They all asked to be updated as soon as possible.  I am thankful that nothing is wrong.  I am thankful that the doctor bill was only $50 and it gave me a kick in the rear to get health insurance as quickly as possible.

But no, things will not be returning back to normal.  Not today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Respectful Vandalism

The teenage girls group that I head up started up again last night.  They range in age from 7th to 12th grades.  Yesterday happened to be our Youth Pastor's birthday so I knew we had to do something big to acknowledge our appreciation.  Also, he's my first cousin so I know him pretty well.  I wanted to do something on the line of TPing (rolling, whatever you call it) or Forking, but I didn't want to do anything that would be difficult to clean up.  My fabulous assistant suggested Chalking.  That's it!  That's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

About 20 of us loaded up on the church's passenger van and headed over to his house.  We were sure he was out for his birthday so we had plenty of time.  The girls also made an ugly sign that they decorated with scribbles and mud handprints (they were so creative last night) to announce to his upscale neighborhood that it was his birthday.

About 5 minutes into the job, my mom happened to call and mention that The Birthday Boy was five minutes from home when he decided to stop for ice cream.  Knowing what we were doing, she asked if he would drop ice cream by our grandparents' house to try to stall him for a bit.  It worked out perfectly and we finished just in time.

My girls had a blast and the photos are all over Facebook now.  I love meetings like that where I really feel like I connect with the girls and show them a good time in a safe community.  I also hope this program is still going to be around when my girls are teenagers.  I'll do my best to make sure that happens.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby Girl's Birthday

At least she's only 3 so she won't realize how rushed and unplanned her birthday was.  We were on the train for her actual birthday.  We told her it was her birthday, taught her how to make "3" with her fingers, and sang the song.  She was content with that and didn't seem to require any more. 

But I felt guilty.  I hadn't purchased any birthday gifts, did not have a theme in mind, didn't create precious invitations with her picture on them, and didn't have a menu planned.  When Hubby suggested that we simply visit Chuck E. Cheese the night after we got home, I whole-heartily agreed.  I sent a text message to my closest family members the morning of the party.

Baby Girl loves trains and we just completed a train trip.  So that seemed to be the obvious choice for a cake.  She said she wanted her cake to be green.  Trains are typically for boys so I knew I would have to work hard to make it feminine.  By the time the cake was baked and semi-cool, I had less than an hour to decorate it.  I worked as fast as my cramped fingers would allow.  I ran out of icing and had to keep the smokestack in generic ice cream cone form.  It was sloppy, but it was done.  We were only twenty minutes late for the party.   
She had a super time and so did her siblings.  The boys hit the Jackpot on one of the games 3 times!  The staff finally unplugged it.  With 2600 tickets to spend, we left with two stuffed Angry Birds, an inflatable hammer, and a pink "fire" ball.  I've always wondered what kind of people get those big prizes on the top shelf.  (People who apparently figure out the weakness to the Jackpot game.)

I left the mess there (well, I still had quite a mess from the speedy cake decorating job) and came home mostly stress-free.  That's the way to do it!

I'll plan something a bit more organized for next year.  Who knows what she'll be into by then!

Friday, September 9, 2011

San Francisco

I know vacation pics tend to be boring so I'll only share a few.

Baby Girl's first plane ride.   Can you tell how pumped she is?  She wouldn't sit with the Captain to get her picture taken so he took our picture in his seat.  That was my first time sitting in the cockpit of a plane!


The kids really enjoyed watching the seals at Fisherman's Wharf!


We ate dinner at The Stinking Rose.  It was a really neat experience!  If you don't like garlic, you probably won't like this restaurant!


The Redwoods in Muir Woods were spectacular!


I loved this tree at Stinson Beach so I had to capture its photo.


Tuckered out


This is the Bay Bridge, not Golden Gate.  I just really liked the photo.  I may frame some of these to display at home.  What do ya think?

This was taken through the window of a moving train.  I can't even imagine how beautiful the photo would have been if I was standing still and NOT looking through glass.  For some reason, they were not willing to stop the train every time I wanted to take a picture.  I don't understand why...

We had an awesome time and I cannot wait to go back again soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another Stolen Post

Yeah, it's 6:00.  No, I haven't posted yet today.  Yeah, I have so many things in mind I want to post about but don't have the time or mental clarity for any of them right now.  I seriously think I'm still jet-lagged.  How long can I use that excuse?  A month or two???

I'm also trying to get caught up on reading all my favorite blogs from when I was gone.  It's taking forever because all those awesome bloggers keep posting and posting!  It may take years.

Anyway, k posted this about a week ago and I thought it was clever.  So I'm gonna steal it.  (Swiper, no swiping!)  It's a writing exercise that requires a one word answer.  So let's see how I do.

yourself: busy

your boyfriend/girlfriend (husband, whatever): superman

your hair: graying

your mother: aging

your dog: nope

your favorite item: home

your dream last night: performing

your favorite drink: tea

your dream car: Mercedes

the room you are in: dining

your fear: failure

what you want to be in ten years: happy

who you hung out with last night: kids

what you're not: perfect

muffin: cinnamon

one of your wish items: patio

time: flies

the last thing you did: cooked

what you are wearing: plaid

your favorite weather:  seventy

your favorite book: Binchy

the last thing you ate: cake

your life: blessed

your mood: sleepy

your best friend: Hubby

what you are thinking about right now: eating

your car: van

what you are doing at the moment: coughing

your summer: amazing

your relationship status: blissful

what is on your tv: cartoons

what is the weather like: cool

when is the last time you laughed: four-ish

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baby Girl Strikes Again

In honor of her third birthday, I thought I would share some cute things my little monkey has done lately.

Baby Girl can spell her name now. 
"B - I - J - 7."  I'm so proud.

~~~~~

Everything right now is "I know."  But the bad thing is, she doesn't seem to know what I know means.  For example:
-Baby, you're not allowed to chew gum.
-I know.
-Throw it in the trash.
-I KNOW!
(She wanders away, still chewing gum.)

~~~~~

Son #2 wanted to trade in his old DS for an iPod Touch.  He's been saving for a while.  Unfortunately, Baby Girl broke his DS.  Only the bottom screen has been working so they said they'd give him $20 for it.  I thought that for $20, I'll just keep it and make it her Game Boy.  So we've been letting her play with it.  She threw it down a full flight of steps and it started working again.  Go figure.

~~~~~

At breakfast yesterday, Baby Girl had cereal.  Then she wanted crackers.  Then she asked for "Ha-corn."  That is her word for popcorn.  "I don't have any popcorn," I told her.  "Hacorn!  Hacorn!" she adamantly demanded.  "I'm sorry, I don't have any popcorn."  She grabbed my pinkie finger, "I show you."  She led me to the cereal cupboard and pointed at the box of Pop Tarts.  POPcorn...POPtarts...I see the connection now.  She broke her Pop Tart into pieces and then asked to watch "Prince an a Beas."  (Beauty and the Beast.)

~~~~~

She has been anticipating her birthday for some time now.  On her actual birthday, she kept saying it was her cousin's birthday instead.  She said she wanted a cake with fire (candles).  At her party last night, she was most excited about singing Happy Birthday before blowing out the candles.  She sang the entire song to herself.  It was so precious.  Her favorite gift was princess fruit snacks.

She makes like just a bit more pleasant.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What a Day - Update

Today is Tuesday and I haven't found time to sit down and blog until after 9:30 at night.

We arrived home from our trip last evening, dropped our bags in the living room, and headed to my niece's birthday party.  Afterward, we crashed in bed (my own wonderfully, comfy bed) and tried to sleep off the jet lag.

This morning, the kids began their first day of school.  Our district just built a brand new middle school (which both my boys attend) so they delayed the start date to allow time for its completion.  It's gorgeous.  We woke up at 6:45 and Hubby headed to the store for groceries.  Getting home late last night, we didn't realize that we didn't have milk for breakfast or bread for lunch.  I packed lunches, curled hair, ironed clothes, and chauffeured kids to school.

After that, I got a quick breakfast of a donut and hot tea (our daily breakfast in San Fran...if you're ever there, be sure to eat at Happy Donuts!).  I headed out for a chiropractor appointment and then to Target to let Baby Girl pick out her birthday present.  She turned 3 while on the big Choo Choo so she hadn't had a party yet.  Then off to the grocery store again to buy food for the week and ingredients to make her cake.  She wanted a green cake.

I texted my family and said we were meeting at Chuck E. Cheese at 5:00 for her party...sorry about the late notice.  I have a wonderful family who showed up with smiling faces and gifts.

We got home about an hour ago, put the kids in bed, and received some bad news from my parents.  (An acquaintance of ours was just taken to jail for the molestation of his own granddaughter.  How horrid is that?) 

So now I can sit down and tell you about The Trip.  Oh my, The Trip.

It started off great...we flew from home to San Francisco, stopping briefly in Denver.  No problems.  I didn't beep at airport security (hurrah!) and we got seats together on the plane.  San Fran was awesome from Tuesday night through Friday night.  On Thursday, however, my uncle received an email that our train trip home was cancelled.  Again.  We weren't even surprised this time.  We learned through this process that Amtrak is made up of the grouchiest people ever.  I think they're in training for the DMV.  As soon as they hit the maximum grouchiness level, they are promoted to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles.

To make a long story short, we were able to arrange for the train to take us from San Fran to Denver.  There was a break in the rail in Nebraska from the recent crash so Denver was the end of the line.  We accepted that arrangement, although not happily.  We paid over $2000 to purchase air fare from Denver to home.  We lost the money we had spent on our second flight arrangements...the ones from Chicago to home.  If you were wondering, no, Amtrak does not take responsibility for our financial losses.  At this point, our family is at about $6000 for this trip.  Can you imagine what we could have done for $6000?  But when you're stranded on the other side of the country, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Anyway, the train trip was beautiful.  If I wasn't so tired right now, I would post my pictures.  But I haven't even taken them off my camera yet.  Maybe tomorrow.

So, I made it...I'm home.  We didn't crash, we just lost a truckload of money on the deal.  I loved the trip and would have given it rave reviews if it wasn't for the DMV hopefuls and the fact that one of my kids may not get to go to college now.

Good night, all.  I hope the rest of your evening is simply splendid.  (We met some Australian people on the train who were spot on marvelous.  They've got me talkin' all kinds of proper and stuff.  Well, just a wee bit.)