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Friday, January 30, 2009

The rewards of motherhood

Being a mom who considers motherhood her full-time job and who takes her job very seriously, there are often times when I just have no idea whether or not, quite frankly, suck at it.
There are moments of laziness. ("Sure, watch Scooby again for the umpteenth time.")
There are moments of frustration. ("What's the matter with you?!? Why are you missing so many on your math test? We practice! You're wasting my time!")
There are moments of exhaustion. ("Please just go away.")
And the hard part about parenting is that there is really no concrete way of judging how well you are doing. There's no report card, no review sessions. There are no checklists, and there sure as heck aren't any pay raises.
So what we're left with are the little things. The random hugs, the sparse compliments.
But every now and then, something appears out of nowhere, like this recipe card Ellen concocted the other night.
She told me she was writing a secret recipe, and that I wasn't to look
"OK," I said, because I was too busy to pay attention anyway.
When it was finished, she gave this to me...

I had to get an explanation on "7 cups." It's "photos." And I had to ask her, is this what it takes to make a happy mom? Or a happy kid? Or both?
She answered, "it's all the fun stuff that you do for us."
Guess I'm not so bad at my job after all. Maybe even good enough to deserve that raise.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hey Hey! Vote today!

If you like this blog, take 2 seconds and vote for me at the following site...

Or perhaps even if you don't like me.

Or pehaps even if you just feel like a random act of kindness, or a rare burst of energy, or are somehow robotic and do everything someone tells you to do, in which case, while you're at it, send me a boatload of cash.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 random things about me

From the Facebook game that seems to be going around of late...I thought I'd just post my 25 random things here, too, because I'm pretty sure I'll never make it to the "20 questions" part of the local paper.

1. I won a band scholarship after HS, but rarely ever touch the saxophone.
2. I own my own set of mining gear.
3. I am licensed to carry a concealed weapon in Ohio, but don't normally pack heat at the playground.
4. There was a time when I did not like coffee. That was long ago and far away.
5. I have slept in a cow pasture after having cooked my dinner over a pile of flaming turds.
6. I really wish I could speak polish.
7. I have a freckle on my butt.
8. I can double curl my tongue.
9. I love the woods and wish I owned a hundred acres and had my own maple syrup farm, but instead will settle for 1.1
0. I don't know how I ended up with my husband, but there could never be a better match.
11. I wish my entire world smelled like a campfire.
12. I love to cook and I love to eat, yet I still weigh less than I did in highschool.
13. I wish I had long hair.
14. Milk grosses me out.
15. But I really like beer. And wine. And apricot brandy. And whiskey. But not vodka.
16. I have a hard time throwing anything away.
17. I can't sing the song "Inch by Inch" without busting up in tears, every freaking time.
18. I have been called an "educated redneck" and wasn't offended.
19. My first car was a 1974 VW bug.
20. My first real job was a ski instructor.
21. We carved our wedding cake with a bowie knife.
22. I love to play cards, pinnochle in particular.
23. I hate watching sports on TV.
24. Someday I promise myself that I will be able to identify every plant in my backyard.
25. I love my kids so much that I sometimes don't know what to do with myself.

52 pictures are worth a thousand words, and a zillion bucks

I recently received a very special package in the mail. It was enough to make a mama weep.
The idea came to me via my brilliant cousin in the form of a shower gift, some eight or so years ago before my first child was born. After opening package after package of pink sleepers, bibs, and diaper pins, I was surprised to see two disposable cameras in the box.
Actually, I was kind of like, “huh? I am having a baby here. I need stuff. Baby stuff. Not cameras.” Of course, I didn’t say this out loud, although given the girth of my belly, no one would have or could have stopped me.
Instead I smiled and thanked my cousin who obviously recognized the look on my face. She then went on to explain this odd gift.
“These cameras each have 26 pictures on them. Take one picture every week of your child’s entire first year. Set her in the same chair every week, and don’t develop the cameras until her first birthday.”
“OK,” I thought. My cousin is a fairly fabulous mom, so I took her word for it, not knowing what sort of excitement lay in store.
And so, for the first year of my oldest daughter’s life, I snapped a picture of her in our rocking chair. On her birthday I took the last photo and turned in the film. And what developed was more than just pictures. It was an amazing week-to-week memory of how she went from a 6 pound lump of baby to a running and smiling toddler.
It was so amazing, in fact, that I did the exact same thing with my son, taking the pictures every week in the same rocking chair. Those 52 pictures cataloged his growth and advances like none other, watching his red hair and his personality grow.
It went without saying that with my third and last child I would do the same thing. By now, the advancements in digital photography allowed me to go beyond the wind-up camera and actually design the weekly pictures into a digital scrapbook.
Week after week I took her picture in the rocking chair, and after her birthday organized them on my computer, chose a snappy little butterfly background and a yellow hardback cover, and hit “BUY NOW!”
Even though this is the third time I have gone through this photographing and developing project, I am still completely awed by how very special it is.
Flipping through the pages I can see how little my daughter was, and how at around 11 weeks old, she finally figured the eating thing out and went from the little pistachio to a full blown pecan. Then, when she was around 21 weeks, she developed an allergy to milk and her pictures show her with a not-so-lovely rash until we figured out the problem. By 31 weeks, she was clear and smiling again which was good because at 33 weeks I had to take the photo at a hotel chair. We were at a family wedding in Indiana.
Her teeth make a full-fledged debut at 42 weeks, and when she was 43 weeks old, someone spilled something on the rocking chair. The stain remains through the end of the book.
By 52 weeks I could barely get her to sit still to have her photo taken. She had other things to do, other siblings to chase. In fact, she’s probably getting warmed up to chase her new cousin that is scheduled to make his grand entrance in a few weeks.
His mommy is all ready for him, too. She got a lovely shower gift from Auntie Karrie.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our Little Chicken Fried

The meanings of some songs are best danced out...

Friday, January 23, 2009

WIth apologies to my friends who sell Tastefully Simple

First of all, let me say that I accomplished something that would have, I believe, in some circles of religions, put me into sainthood. It was a miracle of dramatic proportions, and even I can hardly believe it.
I made a turkey meatloaf that my family loved.
This was a miracle because a) my kids ate meatloaf and liked it and b) my husband didn't blurt out "where's the beef?" as if he were an old lady jonesing for a square hamburger patty.
I personally ate so much of it that I skipped breakfast this morning because I was still full from the amount that I crammed in at dinner.
But besides the amazing turkey meatloaf, I also whipped up a loaf of beer bread to welcome the husband home from a business trip. And as much as I love the simple and tasty packages that I tend to buy at home parties, this recipe is so easy. So easy. And cheap. Your friends will be amazed.
I should say that my mom made this all the time when I was a kid, and being the dough-lover that I am, I would sneak fingerfuls of this while she mixed it in the bowl. I was always a little bit afraid I was going to get drunk.
I never did.

Beer Bread

3 cups self rising flour
3-4 Tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 egg
1 can or bottle of beer
1/2 stick melted butter

Mix together everything but the butter in a big bowl. Don't overmix. Pour the lumpy batter into a greased bread pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Pour the melted butter over the loaf and bake for another 15 minutes.

Yep, it's that easy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whining in a Winter Wonderland

It’s just one more reason in a long list entitled “how I know I’m getting old.” Even though I promised myself I would never do it, I have started comparing my childhood to my children’s and saying things like “you don’t know just how good you have it,” and “back in my day…” and other such nonsense that pushes me one step closer to turning into my mother.
The latest cause for alarm is the wintery snow and cold that seems to come as a surprise every year, even though we all know it’s coming. And along with my proclamation of old age, I also find myself complaining about the cold (which I swear is getting colder) and the snow (which I’m sure is getting slipperier) and the winter in general (which I’m positive is getting longer, grayer, and darker.)
But winter is winter, and as sure as you always end up following the salt truck when you’re late for an appointment, kids are drawn to the snow with unimaginable forces.
I know. I was one of them, way back when.
But now I find myself being a grumpy old mom.
Consider this recent turn of events…
The snow had just started to fall, and the muddy grass was just barely covered. As the children sat pressed to the back door, staring at the nearly winter wonderland, they began asking to go out and play in, and I quote, “all the snow.”
(This is where I start getting old.) “Snow? You call this snow? Back in my day, we measured snow in FEET, not millimeters. This is nothing. We had trees that completely disappeared from December through March, and sometimes small pets. One year I totally forgot about my swingset because I didn’t see it for so long. That’s a snow. This is just cold fuzz.”
But still they begged and pleaded and eventually the snow continued to fall and the temperatures dropped enough to freeze the underlying mud and I caved. And thus began the long and arduous process of getting dressed to go outside and play in January.
(Get ready—here I go again.) “When I was a kid, we didn’t have any of this fancy Gortex, breatheable, poly-something-athene, highfalutin snow clothes. Nope, we had to deal with what we had. We wore 4 pairs of sweatpants that we tucked into our dad’s socks, and a super high turtleneck to keep the steel-wool sweater from touching our skin. We’d cover up in our one piece snowsuits that were at least seven inches thick and I swear was made of absorbent sponge material. And there were no lined and waterproof boots with traction. Nosiree. We put plastic bread bags on our feet and slipped into our moon boots, which had totally flat bottoms and were made out of that same sponge material, which coincidentally also constructed our mittens. Yes, let me tell you, those were the good old days.”
(And then I get a little nutty…) “And while I’m at it, if we wanted to make a snowball, we actually had to pick up snow in our cold, wet hands and pack it into a ball. There were no snowball-making apparatuses. Packed it in tight as ice and made a real flying frozen weapon, not these wimpy things you guys have today. And sleds? What you have is outstanding, but they can’t beat the downhill fun that we had. We had two sleds: a Flexible Flyer which was totally uncontrollable and whose metal runners inevitably ripped your snowpants, and a garbage bag. That was it. And we liked it.”
By the time I had finished my crotchety rant that made me long for TVs with rabbit ears and rotary telephones, the kids were successfully outside on their slick plastic sleds in their watertight and warm gear.
“These are their days,” I thought to myself. I just hope I’m around long enough to hear how they whine to their own children when they turn…into…me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Too lazy to send this to Leno

Sometimes something in the paper just catches your eye. I ripped this dandy out for the Hubby and he snorted a little, so I know it is genuinely funny and not just I've-been-in-with-the-kids-all-day funny.

So if this is one inch off his waist...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My brilliant idea

I guess you could say we're having a little trouble letting go of the holidays.
Mostly it's the one, small artificial tree that I am too lazy to carry down the basement.
So on this very cold snow day, I gave the kids a task and they literally jumped up and ran to do it.
They are taking down all of the Christmas decorations and then going to make new ornaments to decorate for Valentine's Day. Voila-- a Valentine's tree.
This is working well on many levels:
1. I don't have to carry the tree down the basement.
2. The kids were happy to un-decorate it.
3. This will keep them busy for an extended period of time.
4. Our stairwell will maintain that soft luminscent glow of tree lights.
5. I will somehow gain some status as a "cool mom" who does more than complain about the holidays.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Goodbye, Norma Jean -- we’ll miss you

We didn’t really have a name picked out when we drove to pick up our new puppy. We tossed around a dozen or so while making the trip, but it wasn’t until the way home that we heard a song on the radio and looked at her wrinkly, droopy, and so-ugly-it’s-cute face and came up with it.
“Norma. Norma Jean. Norma Jean, the beauty queen.” And thus, she became a member of our family.
We never really planned on getting a bloodhound, it was just something that happened. We weren’t planning on using her for hunting or tracking, nor were we planning a Beverly Hillbillies reenactment. It must have been a calling from the universe that pointed us in the direction of what soon became our very own character dog.
And man, did this dog have character. She had gumption, determination, extreme laziness, and more odor than a single person could handle. She was a walking (and sleeping) factory of stink and personality.
More than that, Norma was a survivor. She lived through more than any one dog should. When just a pup, she slothfully slept at the top of our stairs that had a rail just high enough to allow a small puppy to fit underneath it. One yawning roll for dear Norma, and she fell the distance of one full flight of stairs, straight to the wooden floor below. Expecting certain death or handicap, I went running to her only to find that she whimpered a bit, then walked back upstairs and went back to sleep.
That’s the kind of dog Norma was. Once she knew she was OK, she simply went back to sleep.
Norma has also survived the birth of three children into the family, all of which she let crawl all over her while she slept and tug her tail and lift her ears which I’m pretty sure were the largest ears east of the Mississippi, possibly the world if not the universe. I think they should have had their own zip code, actually.
And then there was the time that Norma survived the wrath of my entire family after she ate the Honeybaked Ham that was keeping cool on the back patio one Christmas. After being reprimanded, she took off into the woods to hide and no doubt, nap.
Without being very picky, Norma has also eaten a deer carcass that she pulled out of the woods, multiple sticks, countless animal excrement, an entire unit of mouse poison, and undoubtedly many more obscure things, all of which didn’t have a single effect on her.
It seems the only thing that did have an effect on her was the cancer.
At first there were tumors here and there. We watched them grow everywhere, near her tail, on her neck. We had them removed one time, but more returned. As we watched them grow again, we watched our dog wither away. What was once nearly 100 pounds of red, drooling fur was now a mere 60 and the look in our eyes knew it was time to do the right thing.
We briefed the kids, telling them what was going to happen and why Norma wouldn’t be around anymore. Our oldest took it the hardest, but we did our best to pamper Norma on her last day. She had pork chops for dinner, and a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. She got more love that night then she’d received in a long time, and by the time the kids got up in the morning, she was gone.
We will bury her collar and a picture my daughter made for her in the woods where she was happiest.
We’re pretty sure she will rest because we know she was so very good at it, but we all pray that she rests in peace.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The end of Home Invasion, and it’s mine, all mine!

Quite honestly, I spend most of December waiting until I have my whole family home, together, free of school and work duties, for that precious stretch of time that goes by many names: Winter Break, Christmas Break, and Holiday Break to name a few. Or as I have recently come to call it, Home Invasion Break.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I love more that not having to worry about homework and toting kids here and there. And I really like having my husband around to change the occasional baby diaper and help around the house.
But it was getting out of hand. As a mom who normally runs a tight ship, well, a semi-tight ship that usually needs a little scrubbing and dusting, I feel as if I had been totally overtaken by people in my space, my domain.
My husband was changing laundry loads (incorrectly, mind you, and he has since been banned unless he promises to pretreat stains and sort colors), and the children hadn’t gotten out of their pajamas in three days. I hadn’t been to the store and we were scrounging through the freezer trying to come up with something, anything, to eat that wasn’t ham, keilbasa, sauerkraut, or any other food that we ate countless times at countless holiday parties. The Christmas decorations were starting to haunt me in their post-holiday gloom, wondering when I would be able to climb up to take them down without someone wanting something.
Yet as usual, all good things come to an end, and likewise, this too shall pass. And finally, after day after day of fuzzy holiday cuddles and hot cocoa around the tree and enough frosted cookies to sink the Titanic, they have all gone. And I’ve got the whole place back to myself, devoid of the pitter patter of fighting siblings or my husband’s make-shift office cluttering up the kitchen table.
I am once again queen of my castle, and that’s pretty fabulous because now, after all of the waiting, I finally have full control of the toys.
Of course, I’m speaking mostly of the newest addition to our family, the Wii video game system that we splurged on for ourselves, er, I mean, our kids. For those not jumping head first into this latest and greatest system, the controllers allow you to actually physically move around and play the games. My family room has been a bowling alley for the better part of the past week, and my children have become proficient boxers, amazingly enough without one single Band-Aid involved. They’ve danced along with the cast of High School Musical, and battled with some crazy looking creatures with names that I won’t even attempt to pronounce.
And between all of the fun they’ve been having, I have barely gotten a turn. I mean, sure, I played enough the first day to wake up with a sore shoulder the next morning (so I’m not such a fit tennis player, oh well), but my kids were pretty much hogging their own Christmas present.
Until now. Now that they are safely off to school, I myself am heading straight for the TV, controller in hand, ready to take on whatever unpronounceable critters that come my way and work on my backhand. I know it sounds a bit childish and selfish, but I’ve been patiently waiting while my kingdom was being invaded.
And by the time my skills have improved, it’ll be just in time for another long weekend at home with the family. Oh how shocked they all be at just what a good bowler their mother really is.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Get the freezer ready

After a few weekends of sitting in the cabin watching the Food Network and eating out-of-date foods from the freezer, Ryan finally got a deer. I vote next year we just wait until muzzle loader and save myself a few zillion calories, potential food poisoning, and a lot of money in cook books.

But alls fair in love and deer season...

For the family who want the full story, Ryan took it in the morning, and after coming in for lunch and some hot coffee, the whole family went out on a little blood tracking spree. The kids did a great job following the blood trail and they spotted the little guy right away. Toby ran right up to it, Ellen was a bit leery. Eventually the girls left for a hike back through the cold and Toby and Ryan field dressed the deer.

Toby watched the whole thing, and even pulled out the heart and lungs by himself. He came back with bloody hands, and then commenced to play in the dirt only wearing a sweatshirt because "real men don't get cold."

He is a real man. Even at age 5.

But who will eat the venison smokies, said the little red hen?
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