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Friday, July 31, 2009

It's hard to see that I'm 32

Today is my birthday. Husband woke up early and bought me a fancy coffee and donut just like he said, and even though those make me smile, I certainly am not winking at it.
In true ironic form, this morning my left eye is nearly swollen shut a little on the gooey side and all because even at the age of 32, I'm still a major dork.
I had good intentions. Last night before bed I thought to myself, "I don't want to wake up on my birthday with make-up gunked on my eyes or running down my face" so I used extra soap to get it all off.
Using soap on my eyes isn't something I normally do, as I soon found out that gunky eyes is really the better way to go. Somehow, the soap went directly INTO my eye and pretty much dissovled every bit of natural eye-juice and I'm almost positive burned a large hole in the ol' eyeball as well.
Not a great way to say goodnight, and after attempting to flush out my eye and putting in allergy drops (because I didn't know what else to do), I squeezed my eye shut and went to bed, chalking it up to another Call-Me-Lucy moment.
This morning, over the roar of the rain, I woke up and opened my eye. Eye. Singular. The other one was sealed shut, crusted over, swollen, and surprise surprise, pretty gunked up and running down my face, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

Oh yes. Happy Birthday to me. Once I regain full sight and look a little less like Popeye, I think I'll go grab a Seventeen magazine and hope to grow up by this time next year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pre-birthday Small Successes

Tommorrow is my big day of the year, when my husband gets up early to get me fancy coffee and donuts. I am showered with love from everywhere, even though I don't really ask for it. Birthdays are the perfect day for feeling special, and for letting someone know just how special they are. So this week, my small successes are not my own, but instead they belong to some special people that I know.
1. J.S. traveled cross country in a minivan. With two small children.
2. J.H. is supporting breast cancer and walking in the 3-day walk in Cleveland, even though she isn't really ready for it.
3. E.M. learned to play one of her mom's favorite songs on the piano.

and why not,
4. K.M. got another year older.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Late summer wouldn't be the same without it

August 8th is officially "sneak some zucchini on your neighbor's porch day" but I'm celebrating a little early this year. A friend recently bestowed upon me some lovely zucchini before leaving on vacation, and I thought that there would be no better way to use this gift than to dig out my grandma's recipe.
The paper, a photocopy that is held together by yellowed scotch tape has her very distinctive handwriting. I'm pretty sure that handwriting lessons were pretty strict back in the 30's, because it seems that most older women have the same handwriting. My grandma's, however, has lovely capital B's and lower case s's.
We closed the vault on grandma's ashes just last week, so I think it's fitting to bake her recipe this week. And if anyone drops some zucchini on your front porch in the upcoming weeks, I offer this recipe for you to try. I'm planning on eating a slice or two and playing some Solitaire, in honor of the woman we all loved so much.

Grandma K's Zucchini Bread, exactly as it is written, minus the soy comment!

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream (I'm using soy yogurt so the whole allergic family can enjoy some too)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups ground zucchini
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup raisins or craisins (soak in hot water for a short time and drain well)

Put all ingredients in bowl and mix well with mixer (except craisins.)
When mixed, add craisins and mix them in by hand. Put all in 1 bundt pan or 2 bread pans or 5 tiny bread pans (less time for tiny pans)

Nut crunch topping (if desired)
(Put on about 10-15 minutes before done.)
Mix together: 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup chopped nuts, 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Topping is very good but not necessary.

Bake at 350 for 55 minutes - 1 hour.

...And there you have it, straight from the paper. Happy baking!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another one bites the dust, and won’t pick it up

There are few things as humbling as a major appliance going on the fritz. In fact, I think the only thing that would set a family further into mass commotion would be two appliances going out at the same time, which is what just happened to us.
The washing machine had been on its way out for quite a while. Apparently the way I do laundry, affectionately known as the “stuff it in because why else would it come with a setting for extra large loads” method really does a number on the spinning mechanism after 10 years of use. With even the smallest amount stuffed in there, the washer would start its routine ca-chunka-chunka dance across the laundry room floor with each load. I’d walk in to rebalance it for the third time only to find my five-year-old son doing his very best to hold a full washer from moving with all of his 38 pounds. Even after a few repairs, I was told that it was a goner.
It took only a few loads of my husband witnessing this ordeal until he declared that we were getting a new washer that night.
“That will work well because I’ve got to take the vacuum in to get fixed too,” I said while wading through a sea of cracker crumbs, paper scraps, and dog hair that had been accumulating on the floor.
It seems my lack of tender loving care that makes up my laundry habits also stretches to my vacuuming techniques. I operate on a need-to-pick-up basis, where I will run over something at least seven times before I bend down and pick it up. This has worked well for me in the past, but on a recent whirlwind clean of the basement, my dear sweeper couldn’t handle my vacuuming aggressions.
I went full force underneath the couch in the basement, which for us is just a giant room where plastic toys go to die and the children are allowed to jump off the walls. There was a loud zooming sound, and then the distinct noise of a piece of metal being cut with a chainsaw in a blender. Suddenly with a final whoop, all was fairly back to normal. Or so I thought.
Days passed and I found myself being pelted with crumbs and misplaced doll shoes while sweeping until I could take it no more and scheduled the ol’ sweeper in for a tune up.
“Sounds like you’ve got a clog,” said the man on the phone.
“But I swear I heard a part fall off and then get sucked up in that torrent of cleaning in the basement” I answered, and I took it in.
With children in tow, the repair man plugged in the vacuum and turned it on for three seconds before informing me that it was indeed plugged.
“It’ll be fifteen dollars for me to fix it.”
“My kitchen floor is solid Cheerio, sir. Please do what you need to do.”
He disappeared behind a wall with a one-way mirror and after a few minutes returned with a tiny plastic bag. He had removed whatever it was that was plugging my vacuum and somehow thought I might like to see it too. I liken it to the old joke where someone says “eeww, this milk is sour! Smell it!” And the other person just has to smell it because it is our human nature to partake in disgusting things. Disgusting things such as the gunk that clogs a vacuum.
As it turns out, it was a small piece of cardboard from a cowboy action set that I swear I’ve never seen before but because it was encased in a small conglomeration of lint and dried up rice, it had to be from my machine.
Slightly humiliated, I waited while he fixed it and added a needed replacement part before we headed out for the appliance store, knowing that my humbleness would someday be rewarded with clean socks on a clean floor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In the background

This morning as I sit and type
There's a banana sitting, over-ripe,
Next to the coffee pot and such.
I just can never have too much.

The kids are all finished eating
Oatmeal covers the baby's seating.
It's on her clothes it's in her hair.
I love that it is everywhere.

The dryer hums, the grass in long,
Spongebob sings his favorite song.
I wonder about the news today...
I wouldn't have it another way.

My birthday is creeping up so slow,
Gray hairs always remind me so.
The kids, the man, the bills, the mess.
It's the color of a mother's stress.

Today when this post is through
We'll venture out with errands to do.
Shopping with three kids is tough,
But I just can't seem to get enough.

Overworked, underpaid,
I admit the beds are never made.
Someday I'll look back on this rhyme,
And miss every minute of this time.
~~~Originally published at www.momwriterslitmagblog.com.~~~

Monday, July 20, 2009

Playing with bats, no baseballs required

I was a bumbling nerd of a highschool senior, walking into my very first scholarship interview at The College of Wooster. I sat down in the chair, wondering if the professor would notice that my right armpit sweats a little more than my left and that my face and neck made “cherry tomato” seem like a dull, blah color.
She quickly welcomed me and then leaned back in her chair and said, “tell me what you know about bats.”
My mind raced because this was an English professor and I didn’t think she was really asking me about anything scientific. I wanted to say that I spent countless hours as a child, sleeping on our pontoon boat, nestled deep inside my sleeping bag while the bats dive bombed all around us. I wanted to tell the stories of being at Girl Scout camp and choosing my canvas tent by the number of spiders versus the number of bats. I wanted to say that I always loved how bats pretty much have thumbs, and that if I ever met one who was ready to converse and not give me any diseases, I’d toss him a big thumbs up and expect one in return.
Instead I think I just said something really stupid, like “my mom doesn’t like them because she thinks they’ll make a nest in her hair even though she knows they won’t.”
As the interview went on she explained that the point of her asking me that bizarre question was to demonstrate how the media, movies mostly, can skew the opinion of such a wonderful creature.
“Thumbs up,” I should have said. Instead I sat there, with my irregular sweat pattern.
These torturous memories came back to me last weekend as the family was out late, setting off our little fireworks and enjoying the rise of July’s full moon. The bats were out enjoying it, too.
I watched as the bats came swooping down at the firework debris as it floated back to Earth, and all at once I was back in that interview office. To ease the unpleasantness, I quickly grabbed a pebble from the gravel drive.
When the bats are out, it’s rather fun to play with them. As we all should know, bats don’t really see; they use echolocation. They send out little squeaky bat sounds, waiting for the return of those squeaky sounds, so that they know where the bugs are so they can zip over and gobble them up. Bugs, that is, or pebbles.
Next time you find yourself in the presence of these hairy, thumbed, flying mammals, wait until they get fairly close and then toss a pebble 10-15 feet up in the air out in front of you. If the bats are hungry, you can watch as the bats dart straight for the pebbles and plunge to the ground as it falls. Don’t worry, they won’t actually hit the ground. They aren’t as blind as a bat…
Chances are that if you do it once and it works, you’ll do it again and again. Soon enough you’ll be on the lookout for bats, hoping that they grace your summer evenings with their humorous ability to chase down a falling rock. Before you know it, you’ll be hanging bat houses in your backyard, sewing anatomically correct bat costumes for your children’s Halloween costumes, and studying up on the little guys so much that if anyone ever asks you what you know about bats you’ll have an awful lot to say. Without a single drop of sweat.
By the way, I did get a partial scholarship. If only I knew then what I know now, that professor and I would have probably been out back behind the English building late at night, laughing with a handful of tiny rocks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A photographic record of my perfect day

It's not too often that the calendar comes together in a sort of perfect way. There's always something getting in the way, and as a mom I am usually the one staying back.
But not today. Today was a completely selfish day, which is something completely selfish and wonderful. I know these things are about as few and far between as Haley's comet or waking up to a houseful of children cleaned, dressed and fed, so I took the liberty to record the day in photographs...
Up early and out the door, driving in the husband's jeep and leaving my mom-mobile, with all of its trash, carseats, diapers, and kid music behind. Off for my adventure at the NRA's program called Women on Target, a day of shooting instruction that introduces women to guns. Sleepy eyes were quickly remedied by...
...my ritual stop at McDonald's for a McGriddle. If you've never had one, you are missing out. It's like someone too every single tasty flavor at the teeny tiny top of the food pyramid and stuck it all into one sandwich. Sugar, fat, carbs, and a little more sugar and fat. Wash it down with the world's best drive-thru coffee and the day was off to a great start. Driving, singing, coffee, blowing off steam and blowing off...
...a few rounds of ammo. Here I am on the skeet range. Shooting skeet and trap is so empowering, and doing it in a non-farm field back of a pick up sort of way is really something special. Sure, it gets a little tiring if you aren't used to shooting, but then again it's not too bad if...
...vacuuming while holding a baby or shopping while holding a baby gives you biceps like this. Oh my. Even though some won't believe it, I do not lift weights. Only children, groceries, and clothes baskets. If that gun holding the gun doesn't worry you, take a look at...
...IDPA. Defensive pistol shooting. Here I am, pretending to be sleeping in bed when three bad guys walk in. The loaded pistol is on the night stand, and in a matter of barely a second or two, each bad guy has two shots in his head. You can find out more about this fabulous shooting sport at the Ashland Lake Gun Club site, or look for a Women on Target event (or otherwise) that might offer this course. I highly recommend it, not only for the instruction, but also for...
...the big cheesy smile and cute hat you have at the end of the day.
(And then to complete the perfect day, I spent the evening listening to a local band that somehow played just about all of my favorite songs. I highly recommend Honeytown for anyone in the area!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why my blog posts haven't been so great of late

I'll be the first to admit that I've been neglecting this blog, writing, and the computer in general. My inbox in bursting, my digital to-do list a virtual mile long. And all for this very reason:
Summer is fun. Kids are fun. Dirt is fun, mud is better. Thank goodness for these long, long days and hoses.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Introducing The MommaVlogs!

A mom-writer/publisher/everything friend of mine is launching a new site! www.TheMommaVlogs.com is a place for moms who blog and vlog to network and chat.
What's a vlog? Video blog.
In an effort to help a friend, I had my daughter video me this evening making these lovely flower dolls (care of Karen Geiser's creativity and classes).
After just arriving home from a day of family reunioning, twirling a jump rope for 2 hours and following distant relatives into the wonderous Cascade Park, this is not my best movie by any means. But that doesn't mean that mom bloggers and non mom bloggers alike shouldn't zip over to www.themommavlogs.com! I think it'll be a really fun place to share and network. The community of mom bloggers and writers is such a great one, and even though we are always emailing and reading, we never SEE or HEAR each other. What a great way to make a fabulous community even better.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New summer food pyramid for busy parents

There are a lot of things that make the summer different. Warmer weather, higher temperatures, and of course, empty schools. And empty schools mean one thing: copious amounts of children at their homes, causing chaos and confusion in their mother’s lives.
Normally I try semi-hard to feed my children semi-healthy foods. There’s always a fruit or veggie around, but don’t hate me because we eat white bread and rice.
During the school year there is routine. Wake up, eat cereal. Pack lunches, eat balanced meal. Nothing else to do in the winter but cook a flavorful and nutritious meal for dinner. There are homemade cookies and breads and popcorn popped on the stove all the time.
But in the summer, there is fun to be had, lawns to be mowed, and creeks to be played in. And for me, all of this trumps the food pyramid, unless the food pyramid is something we build out on the back deck or jump off of at the park. We are constantly on the go and out the door and that means less planning for mealtimes and well-organized trips to the grocery store.
Mostly I feel quite guilty about it all, not feeding my children whole grains and organic produce all the time, because I know deep down that is what is best for their little growing bodies. Regrettably, deep down is covered up by what’s on top, and what’s on top are lovely little excuses to get me through my day.
So I offer the following to anyone else that needs a little pick-me-up when it comes to feeding the family, or else has a friend stuffing brown rice spinach bundles down their kid’s throat…
Wondering how to pack in good nutrition during the crazy, non-lazy days of summer frantic fun? Let’s start at the bottom of that food pyramid:
Breads, Rice, Grains, Pasta: This is the easiest of all of the food categories to obtain for the busy mom. Who hasn’t thrown a granola bar in the back seat on a morning drive to the zoo? The foods in the group have a common base of flour, which is exactly the number one ingredient in donuts. Voila.
Fruits and Vegetables: According to the old food pyramid, one should have 3-5 serving of vegetables a day. This is easily achieved by a medium-sized french fry. And while some may argue that potatoes aren’t really vegetables, I ask, is it a mineral? An animal? Yeah. I thought not.
Fruits are equally easy to achieve. The 2-4 servings come without knowing it when that bar you tossed in the backseat has a fruit filling, the kid washes it down with apple juice, and then eats some fruit snacks at the zoo.
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese: Hellllo? Ice cream? Macaroni and Cheese? Milkshakes? Donuts with cream filling? This one doesn’t even deserve an explanation.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Nuts: Kids love protein. They need it to grow and run and be strong. Why not feed them the beef hot dogs, the chicken nuggets, and the fish sticks their bodies are asking for? Don’t forget that cookies are usually made containing eggs, and that peanut butter and jelly does contain the word “nut.” And probably a little fruit as well, not that I’m calling it a perfect food, but well, throw in the bread and it just about is.
Fats, Oils, and Sweets: I know this may be a bit difficult, but we are told to use these sparingly. Basically, eat candy, but not too much. Chocolate melts in the summer heat anyway.
I leave parents with one final thought: A cookie can be a health food as long as it is not broken up into little bits, leaving the cookie intact and making it a delicious “whole” grain.
Now go out and play.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Small Successes


This week I'm inviting any readers to list one of their successes here as a comment. I know personally I've had the kind of day that doesn't feel like I've succeed at much of anything, one of those worn down days where I want to just snuggle up on the couch and fall asleep...and it's only 4:30 in the afternoon.

My accomplishments for the day are:

1. Let the baby eat a bowl of oatmeal without any help. Normally I would be all over her, so that the oatmeal wasn't. I had to let go. I did. Then I cleaned.

2. I tried a new recipe for dinner and it was pretty good. Walnut pesto over fettuccine with fresh basil from the garden and a homegrown salad. Putting in the garden this year has really made me happy.

3. Despite the fact that I was really, really tired, I played Monopoly Jr. with the kids. I will, however, admit to cheating at the end so that my money pile would mysteriously dribble away to nothing...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Re-usable lunch baggies

As my mother and her mother would say, I've been "tinker-farting" around with these lunch bags lately. Last year I made a trial one for my first-grader, and I'm happy to say that besides a little fringing at the edges, the whole thing stayed perfectly intact. We used it over and over and over again for sending little snacks in her lunch box instead of wasting small plastic baggies.
Not to mention, the snazzy pattern really brightened up her lunch box!
This latest set is constructed much better. I hope to someday post the pattern, not that you really need one to measure the size of sandwich you want. They are cotton on the outside and nylon on the inside, and believe it or not, I wash them in the dishwasher.
Mediocre seamstresses unite and cook up a batch of these yourself! Or maybe I'll get the urge to sew up a bunch and you can find me at the farmer's market one sunny Thursday before school starts....?

Here's a wild idea

The Wilderness Center, local nature hangout and all-around very cool place, now has really neat podcasts.
Click on the image to check them out-- what a great resource to learn about local nature and get a little closer to what's around you.

It would be broccoli, but...

So much for the good camera.

I have two digital cameras: one that is very pricey, fancy, and complicated. It takes marvelous pictures. The other I got free with some credit card points and the pictures are very so-so. For that reason, I have typically used the freebie one for throwing in the purse on outings so that I don't have a 10 pound bag of lenses dangling off one arm. The heavy-duty one I use for special photos, like the one of my children holding all of the broccoli that we harvested from our garden yesterday.

It was beautiful. Living in the woods, our garden is small but mighty and we picked three lovely heads of broccoli yesterday. I posed all three children in front of the garden, each holding a head as if it were a bouquet of roses. The boy didn't even give bunny ears. The baby smiled. It was practically a photographic miracle.

I snapped about 7 shots, and wouldn't you know that every single file had an error on the camera. Couple that with the big dinner of fresh broccoli (and beans...yummy) we had for dinner and another great photo op has been lost to the digital world. Where's a good 35mm when you need it?

But, feeling rather proud of my broccoli, I wanted to keep the proudness rolling and show you all that even though I can't apparently operate a camera correctly, I can do a little hooking. This is the latest rag rug creation, made for my son who got to choose the colors. I think camo is the eternal favorite. Here's little Annie, using it in her kitchen as she prepares her mother a delicious bowl of banana soup and a cup of coffee, and not a single serving of broccoli.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

How to maximize your amusement park memories

It’s as traditional as potato salad at a cookout, the summer trip up to the mega amusement park. We had the excellent pleasure of venturing to Cedar Point for a mini-getaway for the extended family, braving the crowds, the prices, and the heat, all in the name of a little fun by the lake.
Who doesn’t have fond memories of going to amusement parks? Waiting in lines for hours just for that thirty second thrill that was so worth it. Getting sunburned and eating cotton candy. Spending three weeks allowance to play the water balloon game just to win a stuffed animal the size of a stick of gum. Coming home with legs and feet so sore that your mom poured you an Epsom salt bath out of the kindness of her heart even though she told you that fashionable shoes were going to hurt to walk in all day long.
Yet somehow, even after barely leaving the parking lot, the bad stuff disappears and you’re left with a gaggle of good memories. Sure, my feet were sore and my shoulders were peeling, but I had a good time and that good time is all that really sticks in my mind.
And that’s why, if you ask if I had a good time this trip, I’ll honestly say “yes! I did!” because I really did. Believe it or not.
Upon arriving at our accommodations at the park, we unloaded the sleeping bags for the children and I because we were assigned the sleeping loft, a carpeted loft with a ceiling height of, we found out, about 30 inches. The baby was happy to wander around up there and I was relieved to not be claustrophobic as I crawled around on hands and knees.
Carrying in the cooler and the sleeping bags, my husband realizes he never put the suitcase in the car.
Oh well. I can wear the same clothes for two days, and really, who needs to brush their teeth or wash with soap after a full day of sweating in the 80 degree June heat?
On to the park we went, only to find out that my son, a veritable daredevil at five-years-old, is approximately 0.0001 inches too short to ride anything with any thrill factor that he can’t achieve by riding his bike down the driveway. Mild pouting sprinkled with jealousy of his sister riding the big coasters marked the beginning of our trip o’ fun.
Next up, the little one, clocking in at 18 months, can’t do much of anything but get dragged around strapped in the stroller. So when she begged to stretch her legs and do some walking I let her waddle around until her prancing was interrupted by her knees kissing the pavement. Hobbling along, I scooped her up and threw her on my hip only to find out too late that her knee was bleeding. All over the front of my shirt, the only shirt I had to wear for two days.
A quick trip to the first aid booth and the bathroom where I promptly stripped down to scrub my shirt clean, and we were back in action, fully clothed and blood-free. From then on, life was great. The kids were smiling, the over-priced pop was flowing. We even brushed off the fact that it cost us the price of a shiny new convertible to feed our family dinner, and didn’t think twice that our kids hadn’t tasted anything green or containing any nutrients since we arrived.
We rode the rides we could, hauled the baby around and closed the place down before retiring to the tight quarters where we all gladly crammed ourselves in.
From the loft, crouching down in plain view of the rest of the family, I loudly excused myself before changing into my nightclothes.
“Hang on while I put on my PJ’s. OK, I’m done.”
And I laid my dirty head on the dirty floor and went to sleep a happy camper, smiling to have accumulated a few more painfully wonderful memories.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Small Successes!


I'm exactly 1 hour and 29 minutes early this week for my Small Successes!
(If anyone is wondering just what the heck these are, click the logo. Or I'll just tell you. Three small accomplishments in your life to make you--or at least me-- not feel like I run 97,032 miles and not gotten anywhere.)

1. Marched for the library in the Orrville parade with two kids who didn't whine for a single second and didn't spend $4 on a fried pickle at the carnival.
2. Visited two absolutely lovely families and their homes in one day, giving me plenty to reflect upon over the holiday weekend. And, I might add, only got lost one time thanks to Gordon (my GPS) who doesn't know his way around Wayne County which is pretty fitting since we gave him an Aussie accent...
3. Baked 3 different types of cookies, only leaving one batch in the oven for 30 minutes while I talked to the neighbor. Also discovered a new recipe for butterscotch cookies that I'm pretty sure I've completely fallen in love with. (Moosewood Cookbook, y'all.)
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