Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

This is my last post of 2007. Thanks for checking in on my life and I look forward to entertaining you with tales of stained carpet, bad dinner conversation and bodily fluids in 2008. If that doesn’t keep you coming back, I don’t know what will.

On deck for tonight: Robert will watch the recorded Oregon bowl game, I will finish reading my book, and our boys will stay up to celebrate New Year east coast time. That means 9:00 everyone, and I mean it. (Robert is campaigning to celebrate Nova Scotia time so the kids will go to bed an hour earlier.)

We have little bottle poppers and something called “Magnum Poppers” which I’m going to have to google to find out how to use. (They look like little guns, so should be very popular with the boys.) We will top our evening off with a drink of sparkling cider. I know, we are party animals.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's White, It's Cold, It's SNOW!

Although snow was forecasted to come to us twice over the holiday season, it failed to make an impressive show. So, we had to go to the snow. It took two hours to drive up to the snow park on Mt. Hood. For another two hours we sledded, dug snow caves and threw snowballs. Actually, Isaac pooped out after one hour, so I made the sacrifice of sitting in the car with him while the rest of the boys got the snow play out of their systems.

The drive home took three hours. One of those hours was spent making our way down to Government Camp, a distance of about six miles. I’m not sure what I could say to adequately describe the misery of traveling 6 miles in one hour other than to say I’m glad I have boys and that they know how to pee in an empty water bottle.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cute Christmas Picture

I’m posting this picture because it’s cute and because it’s just about the only picture that didn’t turn out blurry from Christmas morning. Every year my Christmas pictures turn out blurry. I think it’s because of the low light and fast moving kids. They can’t get the wrapping paper off quickly enough. It’s a fifteen minute frenzy of ripping and shouting and good times.

Isaac loves the cartoon “Max and Ruby” based on the books by Rosemary Wells. So when I found these little Max and Ruby beanies on-line about a month ago, I didn’t have to think twice before entering my shipping and credit card info.
Score one for Mom!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Didn't Think it Through

The frog habitat seemed like such a good idea at the time. It was sitting on the shelf right next to the Ant Gel Habitat, Butterfly Canopy and Sea Monkeys.

I considered my options: Ants could escape their space gel enclosure, find their way into my pantry, start a colony and would probably be holding general elections within 9 months. (I know…ant colonies are monarchies)

The butterfly would start off as a caterpillar, spend weeks as a completely boring chrysalis and then turn into a butterfly that would last 2-14 days, unless we released it into the wild where it would probably die from exposure.

There were also Sea Monkeys, but I became disenchanted with those when I found out that the girl sea monkeys did not have lipstick and hair bows, carry snazzy handbags or play tennis.

I pictured Jonah watching his mail-order tadpole grow and develop into a full-fledged frog. I imagined the excited look on his face as his frog took its first hop. I also figured that after a few months, we’d release the little creature into the wild where it would assimilate itself with the natives and enjoy a happy frog life.

I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what frogs eat. I spent even less time considering how long frogs live.

The answer: live crickets and 5 years. Also, according to the frog information pamphlet, we can’t release our frog into the backyard when we are done with it because it would not have the skills to survive. Crap.

And, in a related story, Ethan received a totally cool microscope kit from his cousin Erik for Christmas. Included with the plethora of little parts is a frog dissection kit. Unfortunately for me, Ethan has already informed Jonah that he should not worry because he will NOT dissect his frog.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hot Stuff

And so it begins.

The boys donned their Christmas pajamas, posed for this picture and ran up to bed as fast as their little legs would carry them. This year, there was just enough fabric for 4 pair of pajamas instead of 3, so Robert got his very own matching pair. I have to say, I do feel a little left out. After all, don’t these boys look HOT? (See? There's flames on their pj''s like "hot" because of the flames. Get it?)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Carmel Corn for Breakfast

I don't need to justify my breakfast choices to you! Don't judge me. But seriously, what is the difference between carmel corn and this?

Ok, Corn Pops is fortified with vitamins and minerals and is a "healthy part of this nutritious breakfast." But other than that, it's basically carmel corn. You know I'm right.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fudge For Lunch

Around this time of year, there is a spot in my kitchen that starts to pile up with goodies. Neighbors and friends bring over really great things like chocolate dipped pretzles (excellent), Harry and David truffles (heavenly), big buckets of popcorn and movie night goodies (fun), gourmet brownie can cookie mixes (delish!) and much, much more. Today, my friend gave me big hunks of fudge, which I know exactly how to not eat.

It's pretty much like not eating fudge you get at the beach, except you drive around with it in your car and just take one little bite every time you come to a stop sign. Or a stop light, when a new song comes on the radio, when you use your turn signal, when the kids start fighting in the back seat, when the kids stop fighting in the back seat and when you use the garage door opener.

So, I had fudge for lunch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Squeaky Wheel

It’s true; the squeaky wheel gets the grease. What you don’t usually hear, however, is that before the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the squeaky wheel keeps you up all night. Or to be more specific, the squeaky wheel keeps you up all night unless you are younger than 10, or male.

Like all hamsters, Ethan’s little ball of fluff is nocturnal. As mentioned on this blog before, hamsters run a lot. Sometimes up to 5 miles a night. I wouldn’t have believed that before last night when the constant, squeak…squeak…squeak persisted for hours.

I moved the hamster to the kids bathroom and shut the door, but it didn’t seem to help at all. I laid in bed trying to figure out how to put more distance between me and that rodent! Honestly, the squeak was pretty faint. I should have been able to fall asleep despite its annoying constancy. I can fall asleep to the sound of rain quite easily, why not this quiet little squeak? Maybe I could pretend the squeak was frogs in the springtime or crickets in the summer. Those sounds would be almost relaxing.

Oh have mercy! The squeaking! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Robert started snoring.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Best We Could Do

I had a Seinfeld moment today when I licked 80 cheap envelopes and felt like I was going to die. I had to eat 3 brownies just to get the horrible taste out of my mouth. However, the Christmas letters are done! It might take me a couple weeks to get the stamps, but the letters are in the envelopes, a huge accomplishment.

I even got the family to hold still long enough for a family picture. I won’t say that it was a good family picture. In fact, you can see for yourself up above. My hair is blowing in the air, Isaac is not looking at the camera, Ethan’s eyes are practically closed AND he was trying to give me rabbit ears, and Jonah has some kind of “how dare you take my picture” scowl. Robert isn’t particularly happy with how he looks in the picture, but come on! Compared to the rest of us, he looks great! Although I believe he's holding onto a rolled up "Friend" magazine for some strange reason.

Getting this picture was an effort that almost required a nap afterwards. We had someone take it after church. The boys were climbing the tree, running all over the place, flying paper airplanes, running out into the parking lot, and basically doing anything but holding still. Robert was busy with tithing settlement appointment arranging and couldn’t come outside until just about everyone was gone.

I grabbed a friend as she was getting in her car and she graciously came back and agreed to snap a picture. I didn’t have the heart or the patience to ask her to take more than 23 pictures just to get this shot. OK, I’m kidding. She took two, but really, that was enough. It gets really hard to smile when you feel like strangling your kids.

So, this is our picture. On the letter it will be in black and white and much smaller. You almost can’t see my blowing hair flying in the air. But now you, my faithful blog readers will know the truth behind the picture. Aren’t you glad?

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Shoe Fits, But...

A few months ago I was alerted by my non-blogging sister, Allyson about a great deal. This GDA (Good Deal Alert, as she called it) was for a pair of Heelys shoes for $25. Don't know what Heelys are? Have you ever seen those kids zipping around the mall on their rolling tennis shoes? Those are Heelys and they are very popular with the kiddos.

Normally Heelys sell for around $55 to $70, so I thought that $25 sounded like an offer I just couldn’t refuse. There were 2 shoes at the sale price: one was pink and white, the other blue and white. The fact that the style was called “glitter” only caused me a moment’s pause. Blue was a boy color, right? The blue ones must be boy shoes. Ethan will love them!

The shoes were ordered, the shoes were delivered, the shoes were stuck in a corner in the back of my closet to await Christmas or birthday. All was hunky dory until the other day, when non-blogging sister Allyson mentioned the shoes she’d purchased for her daughter during a phone conversation.

She mentioned there was a pair of glitter laces and I should check my pair of shoes and possibly remove the glitter laces so Ethan would not be under the false impression that his Heelys were “girl” shoes. So, I opened the box.

Hmm, there were RHINESTONES on the shoes. Yes, rhinestones. I racked my brain to think of when I ever saw rhinestones on anything “boy” related. The answer: Never! The glitter shoelaces were there too, but clearly the least of my worries. I was looking at a pair of powder blue and white girl's Heelys.

Allyson suggested a little shoe alteration with a Sharpie to disguise their feminine origins, but I could not bear the thought of sending my son to school in girl’s shoes. We all saw the abuse Michael Scott took on The Office when he came to work in a ladies suit! (OK, maybe not all of us saw that, but trust me; it was hilarious, and so embarrassing.)

I decided I needed to unload the shoes, so I sent an e-mail to all my friends who might possibly have daughters hoping for a pair of rhinestone studded, powder blue, glitter Heelys. I offered them for $29.97, which was the exact price I paid including shipping. I had one person interested almost immediately. In fact, I thought I’d definitely unloaded the shoes.

When she decided not to buy the shoes a little later, I posted them on Craigslist for $40. Robert was pretty excited at the thought of making a little profit on the shoes. Well, we will see if that happens. This morning a potential buyer is stopping by to look at them. Hopefully those rhinestones will dazzle her into parting with forty bucks. If so, it would be my very first Craigslist sell.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why I Hate Toys R Us

I had to go to Toys R Us today. Yes, that's right, I was physically forced. Because honestly, the only thing worse than having to set foot in Toys R Us, is having to do it during the Christmas shopping season. (OK, I wasn't physically forced, but it felt like it.)

I had the worst expectations for my venture into toy hell. Sorry for the coarse language, but really, it's like an evil maze of stuff and even though they have approximately 3 billion toys in inventory, you can never find the exact toy you are looking for. But you have to wend your way through the maze of super narrow aisles anyway on your quest for that one toy. Heaven help you if you are pushing a cart because managing those tight corners practically requires special training. Just make sure you know the rules for cart etiquette if you happen upon someone else with a cart going the opposite direction. Be prepared to back up all the way to the video game section to let them by.

This is the bad attitude I took with me to Toys R Us.

The parking lot was completely packed as I arrived and I hissed, "I hate this place" under my breath. But a spot opened up and it was pretty close too. The surprises didn't end there. I looked for what I needed for about 30 seconds before a helpful store employee came up and asked if she could assist me. She took me right to where I needed to go. There was a huge assortment of just the kind of toy I was looking for. While I was thinking about which one to buy, another helpful store employee approached and asked if I was finding everything I needed.

OK, not what I was expecting.

The check-out line was short and moved very quickly. The check out girl even made a really witty observation that made me laugh. I was in and out of the store in less than 10 minutes!

Unfortunately for Toys R Us, this just makes me loathe them more. Death, taxes and the fact that Toys R Us is a miserable place to be: all things I could count on... until today. Today that idea was shattered. Thank you so much Toys R Us for proving me wrong!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Chat

I loved my latest read in the Kiki Strike Series, "The Empress's Tomb." Is it so unrealistic that a group of five fourteen year old girls could get along well enough to be spies in New York City, all behind their parent's backs? Actually, there is a bit of infighting in "The Empress's Tomb" but that helps me to stop thinking about the fact that the main character's parents are so clueless that she is able to sneak out of her house every night and come back around 4am.

Seriously, if you need a kick-butt break from reality, this book is for you. True, there isn't any actual butt kicking in this book, but it's not for lack of ability among some of the characters. The first book is "Inside the Shadow City" and is also a great read. In fact, I suggest reading it before "The Empress's Tomb."

From November 9th post's list of upcoming reads I've read the following:

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little, by Peggy Gifford. I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would. The writing style was fun and quirky, and I loved how Moxy could creatively rationalize her procrastination. I would be interested to hear a 7 year-old girl's perspective on this book. I wanted to love Moxy and she really just kind of annoyed me, but maybe because I'm a grown-up.

Good Masters, Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz. Wow! I wish I was in middle school and studying the Middle Ages. Any book that can make me wish I was back in middle school is seriously good.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan. This is a graphic book, not necessarily a novel. And when I say "graphic" I don't mean blood, gore and sex. I mean it's all pictures. This graphic book does not have words. In spite of the absence of words and BECAUSE of the absence of words, this book is able to convey a whole gamut of emotions. Really great.

Love Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I returned this book to the library. I wasn't really interested in reading it in the first place. The first one ended just fine for me and I had no desire to follow this fictional character any farther. Besides, November didn't leave me a lot of time for reading.

Hatchet by Gary Paulson. Hatchet ended way too soon for me. I really liked it and could have kept reading about this character for at least 100 more pages. I didn't want him to have to survive a winter, like some people did. I did want him to be able to use his way cool survival kit for more than 20 minutes though.

I'm still waiting for a few more books from the library and on deck is Epic, by Conor Kostick and Tamar by someone else I can't think of right now.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cherry Pie Tips

When you make cherry pie and you don’t want to use the pre-made pie filling, which is delicious and great for making Jean Atwood’s Famous Christmas Cherry Ring Roll, or just eating out of the can when no one is looking, here is a tip.

Use tart cherries in water and follow a recipe like this. Do not use 2 bags of dark, sweet cherries. Even though they are pitted and sweet and dark, they are not the cherries you want for a cherry pie.

I knew that I didn’t want dark, sweet cherries when I went to Safeway yesterday to get cherry pie ingredients. I knew that I wanted tart, pie cherries. But when I couldn’t find them canned or frozen, I bought two bags of dark, sweet cherries anyway.

Maybe I thought that they would mysteriously become tart, pie cherries on the drive home? I’m not really sure. Luckily, QFC had exactly the cherries I needed.

So, since each of these cherry products cost $4 each, I spent $12 on cherries yesterday. A pie from Marie Callender’s would have been cheaper, don’t you think? So, if you have any tried and true recipes using dark, sweet cherries, please pass them on to me. I would love to use up these cherries in my freezer.

Potter Personality Test

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz

This is me...who are you?
Harry Potter Personality Quiz by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Can you guess which table I decorated? Let me give you a hint. My plan was to distract the diners with candy so they wouldn’t notice the centerpiece. Trust me, there is candy on the table. Really, it’s in those little cups that look like they should be used instead for crème brulee.

So, I did my first table centerpiece and survived. Following Anna’s advice, I went to Dollar Tree to get a little inspiration. Instead I got 3 candles. The little balls were from Fred Meyer. Since I chose to purchase the boxes with one broken ball, I paid $1.25 instead of $3 per box.

The meager evergreen sprigs were stolen from a Christmas tree lot at Safeway. They were closed, otherwise I would have asked first. I saw a pile of discarded branches next to the baler. I looked around to make sure no one was watching, jumped out of the car, grabbed a handful of branches, and then made my getaway.

The pedestal plate thing goes with my cake plate and was where I was going to put Robert’s birthday cake tonight. But he wanted pie instead, so I didn’t feel so bad using it for my centerpiece.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a pie to make.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Why I Look Tired Today

I'm sorry. The kids have not done anything cute, destructive or annoying. I've come to terms with the following:
  • Isaac does not like anything I make for dinner
  • Ethan will spend twice as long hiding his dirty clothes under his dresser and behind his bed as he would just putting them in the laundry basket
  • Jonah's paint project will somehow end up face down on the carpet while his flubber will stain all the white grout on the kitchen counters bluish-green

None of these things surprise me anymore, and I don't feel inspired to write about them. I also don't feel inspired to clean the house, but that's a different post altogether. Well, I guess it could be the post, but it's not going to be.

Instead, I will post about what kept me awake as I lay in bed last night.

  • I have to write the Christmas newsletter. It's not the actual writing that is causing me grief, it's the family photo. The thought of getting our family somewhat presentable and then snapping a picture of all of us boggles my mind. I can't possibly see how it could be done. I have nothing against putting individual shots of each of us in the letter, but I just don't have a decent picture of myself. Actually, there are literally 2 pictures to choose from and one was taken last year. No one ever takes a picture of mom. Sigh.
  • That brings up the second thing that kept me awake. I know some would say, "why not just put a picture of your kids in the Christmas letter?" Well, I'll tell you why, after I apologize to all the people I will probably offend by saying this. (Sorry) I get a little bugged when I receive a Christmas letter from an old friend I haven't seen for like 15 years and it only includes a picture of their kids, who I've never met in person. I really, really want to see YOU. I like YOU! You are my friend and while your kids are very cute and I do want to see what they look like, I also want to see YOU. So, that is why I insist on including my picture in our Christmas newsletter.
  • Next thing keeping me awake: Money. The credit card bill is going to be high and the spending isn't over. Even though I want it to be and I feel like feeding my family powdered milk for the rest of the month just to save money. And I think I just might have put in $20 instead of $10 when I went out for dessert with some friends the other night because I can't find the extra $10. And it's making me sick even though it's $10 and I should just let it go.
  • I offered to set a table for this Thursday's Christmas Enrichment meeting because I have a lovely set of Spode's Christmas Tree patterned dishes I received from my grandma Atwood. However, I didn't realize that I would also have to set the table with silverware for 8 and a centerpiece. The silverware isn't that big of a deal, but I don't know if I have service for 8. A few pieces met their demise in the garbage disposal. The real issue is the centerpiece. Some would call me creative, but honestly, I don't think I have the attention to detail for a centerpiece. I feel a google search coming on. Of course the more I think about the lack of silverware and the need for a centerpiece, the more the size of my credit card bill creeps into my mind and I find it hard to move onto the next thing keeping me awake which is...
  • I need to turn 7 yards of flannel into 3 pairs of pajama bottoms.
  • I shouldn't have spent so much time reading today, but since I can't go to sleep, I wish I would have gone to the library to pick up that book that just came in. Then I could just get up and read until I fall asleep.

I think that is all the things that kept me awake last night. So, what will I do today to ensure these same things don't keep me awake tonight? I'll go to the library and pick up my books. Denial works so much better between 8am and 10pm, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lesser Known Christmas Traditions

Jonah informed me tonight of the following:
"You know some parts of Christmas are about shooting staples."
I can see it now! Sing along everyone: On the thirteenth day of Christmas my true love ambushed me with 13 shooting staples, 12 lords a-leaping, etc...

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Did It!

I need a nap.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oh Dear!

Looks like the girl from school was telling the truth!! I found this on eBay. It's a hamster tote (read: purse) a vest (I don't know if I can go on!) and a beaded leash. Beaded! I have to ask, what could possibly be next? A fishbowl on a necklace so you can take your fish out on the town?

More Christmas Myths Dispelled

Myth #1 Stuffed Animals Need Stockings
Today I had to explain to Jonah that stuffed animals did not celebrate Christmas. Nevertheless, Jonah has put up a stocking for his stuffed dog Patrick. I suppose this is a special Christmas for Patrick. Jonah has requested as one of his Christmas gifts, a wife for Patrick.

Myth #2 Hamster Leashes Make Great Christmas Gifts
Ethan has ignored my previous instruction about who in the family is eligible for Christmas presents and has requested a hamster leash for Jacob so he can take him for walks. I have serious doubts that such a product even exists. Ethan claims a girl in his class has one for her hamster. I don't even want to dignify the seed of curiosity this has planted within me with an Internet search, but we all know I'll Google it as soon as I'm done with this post.

Myth #3 It is Christmas Tomorrow
My Christmas wish is that Jonah and Isaac will stop asking if tomorrow is Christmas. It's not. It's not even December. They've actually been asking me this nightly question since before Thanksgiving. Serenity now!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hamsters Don't Celebrate Christmas

This morning before Ethan left for school: Mom, what are we going to get Jacob (hamster) for Christmas.

Me: Nothing

Ethan: I was thinking we could build him a big play area in a box with tubes and things to climb on.

Me: He already has a play area. It's called his cage. He's got a wheel. That's fun.

Ethan: Maybe we can each get him one present so he would have 5 things to open on Christmas.

Me: If you want to buy him presents, be my guest.

Ethan: We need to take Jacob to the vet. You are supposed to take a hamster to the vet once a year.

Me: (Are you kidding!!) I don't think so. Besides, he's not a year old yet.

Ethan: Can Jacob have a stocking?

Me: Ethan, hamsters don't celebrate Christmas

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday Bail Out

For the last few years I've abandoned sleep and braved the crowds to get in on all the fabulous Black Friday deals. This year I planned to do the same. However, this 50,000 word novel is taking up a bit of my time and I didn't do the freakishly detailed planning I've done in years past.

In the past, I've subscribed to a Black Friday website that sends out lists of store sales as soon as they become available. Some of these sale notices are available around the end of October so you have at least 3 good weeks to plan your Black Friday strategy.

Additionally, I subscribed to e-mail updates from my favorite stores, like Bath and Body Works and Eddie Bauer to get last minute special deals and additional coupons and e-mail love notes.

This year I did none of that. The extent of my planning was to purchase a newspaper Thanksgiving morning with the plan to browse all the store flyers on the way to Olympia for Thanksgiving at Aunt Paula's house. Unfortunately, the newspaper I purchased did not have flyers for the stores I was interested in shopping. There was no Fred Meyer, no Toys R Us, and no Kohl's. The newspaper did contain a Target flyer, but there was not one thing in it to tempt me.

Later in the evening, I was able to see what was on sale at my favorite stores, but there wasn't anything worth getting out of bed for. So I didn't.

I did shop later in the day and was able to get a few very important Christmas items. But that is all I will say about that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Four Months Ago Tonight...

Where were you 4 months ago? Were you reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? You were? Me too! Here's a little Harry Potter fun for those who are interested. Warning: Just watch this once. I can't be responsible for anything getting stuck in your head all day. (Voldemort, Voldemort, oh Voldie Voldemort!)

In the Mailbox

The toy catalogs continue to fill the mailbox. Most are actually really cool. For some reason I got on a mailing list for educational toys, so I get catalogs like Constructive Playthings and MindWare. But today I got MetKids from the Metropolitan Muesum of Art.

I was immediately taken back to my days as a New Yorker; those money scraping, no air conditioning, work for free, days as a BYU intern when I could get Broadway musical tickets for $20. (I didn’t know how good I had it!) The Metropolitan Museum of Art was free, and therefore, a place I went often.

The museum store was awesome and I wandered up and down the store aisles imagining the day I would be able to actually afford to buy something from it. That day finally came when I purchased a beautiful address book with artwork by Wiener Werkstätte for $7.95 which I still treasure today, masking-tape covered spine and all.

Angela, there is a book and CD of Peter and the Wolf for $19.95 that you might be interested in. Claire, maybe Preston would like “What Can You Do with a Paper Bag?” A book that has instructions for making hats, wigs, masks, crowns and helmets using a paper bag. I noticed a picture of a King Tut head dress on the cover that would have fit in perfectly with Preston’s Egypt studies. (Not to mention the “make your own Egyptian Mummy kit!)

Anyway, I spotted this art kit and this one and was excited because my novel’s main character receives something similar to this and I didn’t feel like I described it very well, so I’m going to clip out the picture from the catalog and put it in my notebook for when I start the re-write.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chocolate Fix

I made cookies today. You know how there are cookies you can whip up, bake and have the dishes done all with in 30 minutes. You have everything on hand at all times; you know the recipe by heart; you’re so efficient that you can also make bread dough, a potato casserole and bake a ham at the same time?

Well, these are NOT those cookies. I had to buy special ingredients for these cookies which required me to go to the store twice. I wouldn’t have had to go to the store twice, but I ate part of the ingredients and didn’t have enough to complete the recipe.

The cookies are Chocolate Malt Whopper Cookies and the recipe can be found here. I spotted the recipe at Cookie Madness and that blog link is at the bottom of my page. Unless you’ve become a vegan in the last 6 months, can’t tolerate massive chocolate overload, or insist on eating “healthy” by avoiding sweet snacks, these cookies are for you.

The recipe suggests using 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup of chocolate chips. I opted for the bar of bittersweet chocolate and I wish I would have just done the chips because the chopped up chocolate didn’t hold its form and kind of melted all over the place.

Anyway, the cookies were not too complicated, but enough so that I had to check the recipe a million times while I was making them. AND, chopping round whoppers is kind of a fun exercise in comedy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Specs

Take a look at my new glasses. They’re kind of trendy, so I imagine I’ll be out of style with in six months, but until then, I’ll enjoy looking like a hip mom. Jonah was worried that I’d look like a jerk in my new glasses. When I asked him what “jerk” meant, he said he had no idea. (I guess that makes me feel a little better.)

So I was especially curious to get Jonah’s reaction when he came home from school today. He looked at me for a few seconds and just said, “good.” Ethan wanted to know why I didn’t get red frames. Isaac said he liked them, but wanted me to put the old ones on again.

I do feel like these glasses give me some kind of super writing power. Kind of like how Clark Kent took his glasses off and became Superman; I put these glasses on and become Super Writer. I’m not kidding. After I got home from picking them up, I wrote 1,000 words in like 10 minutes. (or something like that.)

*Update* Robert could not come up with a comment on the glasses when he got home because of his inability to lie. I gave him several ideas of things to say, but he couldn't bring himself to say any of them. (i.e. Wow, those are stylish glasses, those glasses have black rims, hey look, new glasses!) So, I gave him 30 minutes to figure out what his repsonse to the glasses would be and he finally came up with "they're growing on me" and "they kind of look like that lady from 30 Rock (nice try, but no they don't.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to "The Wall"

I've hit the wall with my nano writing. I need to make it up to 23,338 words by the end of today to be on track to finish by the end of the month and I'm just over 19,000. These are the hurdles I will need to overcome today:

1. My main character is a boy, but I don't think I should have done this. I mean, JK did it just fine, but she was really writing from 3rd person (right?) and I'm doing first person, so I have to be in this 12 year old boy's head a lot more. Do 12 year old boys notice small clothing details about the punk girl in their algebra class? (Probably not.) Do they notice medium clothing details? (I don't know.) Big clothing details (i.e. she was wearing all black....maybe, but would they even mention it?)

For this reason, I am wondering if the main character should have been a girl. I really wanted to write a boy book, but my main character is turning out to be too wimpy for my taste. I need to turn it around. But will any boy want to read about a boy that is just like them with fears and insecurities?

2. I have to get my main character to a party. It needs to be the kind of party that is thrown by an older brother while the parents are out of town and there needs to be all kinds of "who-knows-what" there. I say "who knows what" because, contrary to what you might be thinking, I wasn't very popular as a kid and never went to any parties. I've read books and I know what's going on at these parties, but I just don't know if I want my guy to go there. I'm really struggling with it. It's probably not as big a deal as I'm making it. I know when I'm reading these teen books I never mind a peek into the crazy-teen-parents-out-of-town party. I just don't know if I can write about one myself. I think I have party-phobia.

3. The whole premise of my book revolves around a map that was delivered to the main character's doorstep and which he saw upon returning from his old neighbor's funeral. I have only the slightest idea what the map leads to, but I'm thinking about changing that. Meanwhile, I don't know what the map looks like and I don't know WHERE it leads to. I know there is a secret door in the back of the shed that is not readily visible and I'm pretty sure the map leads through that door, but I'm not sure what to make the map look like so it's not totally obvious to the reader but not so confusing that no one could ever figure it out.

So, other than being crippled with self-doubt about moving forward on this book, everything is going great.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dinner Comments

It's not too often I make a full-on dinner with all the sides. Tonight was one of those nights. I made Parmesan chicken, broccoli, a green salad (which got RAVE reviews when I made it for bunco last Friday), sliced apples and pears and french bread. Oh, we also had ice cream for dessert.

Here are some of the actual comments I got during dinner time:

I hate this.

Do I have to eat all of this?

I don't want this plate, give me another plate.

My feet don't work and I can't come to the dinner table, someone carry me.

Ouch! I bit a chunk out of my tongue, do you want to see it?

My stomach hurts.

I can't lift my arm to eat any more.

Someone put the broccoli in my mouth, I can't do it.

Did I eat enough for dessert?

I couldn't finish my chicken because the marinara sauce reminds me of my tongue wound.

I said get me more milk! Where's my milk?

You gave me too much ice cream!

I would try and teach my group of ingrates a thing or two by giving them cold cereal every night for the rest of the week but I have a feeling they'd actually like it.


If you have a kid who watches kid TV, you’ve probably seen the commercials for Floam. In the ads, Floam is fun, Floam is exciting, Floam inspires creativity, Floam ends global warming, our dependence on foreign oil and world hunger.

In reality, Floam is messy, Floam gets on the carpet and won’t come off, Floam is the bane of my existence.

Jonah got Floam a while back and we quickly found that, contrary to the pictures in the commercial, Floam does not come out of the container ready to use. Floam is a mixture of foam microbeads and some kind of slimy goo. When Floam sits, unused for 10 minutes or more, the goo settles on the bottom and the foam microbeads rise to the top. Each time you use Floam, you have to mix these two substances together. The goo is sticky and the little beads love taking up residence between your fingers.

When you play with Floam, just about the only thing you can do is stick it to other things. It won’t hold its shape. You can’t create Floam coil pots and ash trays. According to the commercial you can “Floam” your skateboard, your bike or a model dinosaur. Of course all these projects would require about $1,379 worth of Floam (about a cup of Floam is $6.99!)

Now for a confession: A couple of weeks ago I noticed the tub of Floam up in a corner of the cupboard (where I keep all my half used candles) and since it had been probably 4 months since Jonah had played with it, and since I had absolutely no desire for him to play with it again, and since I decided to assume that it was all dried out without even opening the lid to check, I threw it in the garbage.

Two days later (garbage man had already come and gone) Jonah asks me to get his Floam down. “It’s right up there on that top shelf,” he assures me.

“No it’s not.” I say.

“Yes it is…I know its right up there!” He’s so confident; my heart breaks just a little bit for him. I know what I have to do.

“Jonah, I threw the Floam away.”

Jonah’s eyes get big with disbelief and he looks like he’s just learned the truth about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all at the same time. (Not to mention the truth that his mom occasionally throws out his stuff.)

I can’t help myself. I open my mouth and this comes out: “I’ll get you more Floam. We can go to the store right now!”

So we have more Floam and I’m back to picking foam micro beads out of the carpet. Meanwhile, Jonah Floamed one of his Army guys. (See photo above)

Friday, November 9, 2007

I Have Questions

Question #1: Are you right brained or left brained? Click this link and tell me if the lady is spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise. The site claims that most people will see her spinning counter-clockwise and that you can force yourself to see counter-clockwise, but I don't believe it. Anyone out there able to prove me wrong?

Question #2: Have you read or heard of these books? (See list below) After an hour or so spent browsing some blogs, Kirkus Review, and Amazon, here is my list of books to read. I think they are all middle grade and young adult. Do you have anything for me to add to this list? Anything I shouldn't waste my time with? Of course I will wait to start reading until December when I'm done with Nano writing. I'm just thinking ahead/wasting time.

The Bearskinner, by Laura Amy Schlitz

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Like Stuart Little, by Peggy Gifford (evidently a story about procrastination, so it seems to be right up my alley!)

The Navigator, by Eoin McNamee (might be a little too "fantasy" for me, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I'm judging the book by the author's really cool name.)

The Name of This Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch (speaking of cool author names...)

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (waiting for me at the library NOW! A graphic novel, I believe)

Kiki Strike: The Empress Tomb, by Kirsten Miller

Love, Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (I loved "Stargirl" and am not to sure that I want to continue with the series since I really liked where it ended.)

Good Masters, Sweet Ladies: Voices From a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz (Fuse #8 can't say enough good things about this one, so I don't think I can pass it up. Not really non-fiction, more like the script for a play.)

Hatchet, by Gary Paulson (I'm trying to read "boy books.")

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Black Queen on Black King

Now that I’m trying to write a 50,000 word novel, the game Spider Solitaire has become much more interesting to me. Before I tried to discipline myself to write a certain number of words everyday, Spider Solitaire ranked about a 1 or .5 on a scale of importance. Now that I’m writing a novel, Spider Solitaire’s ranking has jumped up to around 8 (on a scale from 1-10).

Why is this? Could it be that organizing the cards into neat little groups gives me comfort when I can’t organize my thoughts? Or, am I just lazy?

Meanwhile, Ethan is in his room “working” on a 5 paragraph essay which is due in 2 days. However, I can hear the familiar sounds of his favorite game “Bulls-Eye Balls” and I know it’s impossible to play that game and write at the same time. Maybe he and I should have a little writing party.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Candle Rules

Did you know there were rules to owning and lighting a candle? I had no idea until I found myself in the mall (I have no idea how I got there!) and wandered in to Yankee Candle Company.

First of all, a bit of advice to Yankee Candle: Could you pare down your scent selections a bit? How am I supposed to choose between Sparkling Vanilla, French Vanilla, Sugar Cane & Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcake and Christmas Cookie (which smells surprisingly vanilla-y)? It's vanilla for crying out loud! I need to save my ability to notice tiny to non-existent details for choosing between Hershey's Extra Dark chocolate bar and Hershey's Cacao Reserve chocolate bar.

Second, for a jar full of smelly wax, these candles are pretty pricey. Some marketing genius came up with the idea to sell the 14.5 ounce jar for $19.99 and the 22 ounce jar for $22.99. (That's 7 and a half ounces for just $3 more!) The medium sized jar will burn for up to 90 hours, which is just about as much time as I want to have the scent of Autumn Wreath penetrating my home. The large jar will burn up to 150 hours. To me, that is a commitment I just don't want to make. What if I get tired of smelling Autumn Wreath after 100 hours? I'm stuck with this scent for another 50 hours.

Yes, I know, I can put the candle on a high shelf somewhere and forget about it for a while, but I have better things to fill my shelves with than half used candles.

After finally deciding on a medium sized Autumn Wreath candle and purchasing it, enduring invasive questions (What's your phone number? Can I see your driver's license? Are you sure you don't want the large sized, 150 hour burning candle for just $3 more? What about a $10 "illuma-lid?") the cashier informed me she was including a list of tips and instructions for my candle.

Silly me, I thought I just held a match to the wick and let the candle do the rest. My 2 page "Complete Guide to Candle Use, Enjoyment and Safety," includes general candle rules (extinguish candles with care as wax may splatter. A candle quencher or snuffer is recommended), storage instructions (candles are sensitive to temperature! I had no idea.), and instructions on cleaning spilled wax (basically, if you spill the wax, you're screwed).

So, I'm off to trim my candle wick to 1/8 inch, make sure it's properly centered, find a safe, non flammable place to set it, carefully remove the glass lid (which is breakable), and burn the candle for one hour per inch of diameter. I'm a little intimidated, but I think I can handle it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Catalogs, Meet Recycling Bin

I joked with Robert that lately, we've been getting 2 toy catalogs a day. Well, I may have been exaggerating, but it does seem like the toy catalogs have been multiplying in the mailbox. I basically hand the catalogs right to the kids who literally spend hours poring over them, announcing every 20 seconds, "I want this for Christmas," and then, "No, I mean I want this for Christmas."

Today when I got the mail we had three toy catalogs: Target, eToys (are they still in business?) and Discovery Channel Store. The Discovery Channel Store catalog has an interesting looking hydrogen fuel rocket for only $40. When Ethan gets home and starts looking at this catalog though, I bet the first thing he'll ask for is the DVD collection of Mythbusters Season 4.

I'll let the kids tear the catalogs apart for a few days then it's off to the recycling bin they go!

I called it! After a minute or so of flipping through the Discovery Channel Store catalog Ethan exclaimed, "Wow! Mythbusters Season 4 DVD Collection! Can we get that?"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Back In the Pumpkin Saddle

Some of you may know that I had a pumpkin pie disaster a couple months ago. Without going into too much humiliating detail let me summarize: There was a party, pumpkin pie was requested, I offered to bring it (Yes! Of course I can make a pumpkin pie!), the offered pie was not so much pie, but more like pumpkin pudding in a crust.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been hesitant to use my pie plates again. In fact, I think they stayed in the back of my car for 3 weeks after the pumpkin pie disaster.

So, tonight I gave it another shot. Following the same recipe, I made another pumpkin pie. It turned out great and it was delicious. I probably wouldn’t even mention it, but Robert insisted on taking a picture of the pie for my blog. So, after he worked with the pie for several different poses, I felt a little obligated to blog about the pie.

p.s. Those of you with whom I will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner will be happy to know of my pumpkin pie success as that is my food assignment. See you then!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dumb Dumb

If you were here, Ethan would offer you a Dum Dum lollipop. I don’t know how these suckers got their name, but just maybe it refers to the people who save the wrappers and send them in for cheap merchandise.

Ethan is currently trying to save 20 wrappers so he can get a “Dum Dum” cap. He has 17 wrappers saved, and 3 more lollipops to eat until he has 20 wrappers. Right now, he’s offering a lollipop to anyone who passes by his room. I asked him why he doesn’t just take the wrapper and throw the lollipop away.

“Mom! That would be wasting!” Ethan gasped.

Once Ethan eats his remaining 3 Dum Dums, he will have 20 wrappers. He can then mail them in, along with $8 for the cap and $2 for shipping and handling, for a Dum Dum cap.

I am really having a hard time biting my tongue on this one. I suppose, when I was Ethan's age, I would have sent in 50 Bazooka bubblegum wrappers and $2 to get the Fortune Telling Fish if I'd had the stomach to actually chew that many pieces of gum. (Not that having a strong stomach should have anything to do with chewing gum, but I don't have time to come up with any more creative of a reason than that. All my creativity is going to Nano right now!) After a while, a bunch of candy wrappers is really just garbage, isn’t it?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Halloween Trick?

Robert took the kids out trick or treating tonight about 6:30. It is a lovely evening: no rain, no wind, not even very cold. And thanks to daylight savings, it’s not quite pitch black. I would venture to say this is the most enjoyable trick or treating evening we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been paying attention to things like this.

About 20 minutes after the kids left a pack of cute pre-teen girls showed up on my doorstep. There was a chorus of “trick-or-treat” but one voice sounded different in a familiar sort of way. There in the middle of the group of 11 year old girls was a little cowboy. It was Isaac trick or treating his own house.

The girls turned, left and Isaac came in the house. I looked all over for Robert, but he was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s Dad?” I asked Isaac.

“I don’t know, I lost him.”

Isaac claimed he was done trick or treating and sat down in the front room and started to eat his candy. I figured Robert would eventually figure out he’d lost his 3 year old son, so I went outside to watch for him running down the street. Sure enough, after a minute or so, I saw Robert. He double checked with Isaac to make sure he was actually finished trick or treating and went back to the other boys.

Wouldn’t you know it, 15 minutes later, Isaac was ready to trick or treat again. Robert had his phone so I called and luckily he was just across the street and a couple houses down.

Hopefully he will survive the night with out losing any more kids. Did I mention he’s one of two adults out with 6 boys? I think I got the better end of the bargain by hanging out at home, updating my blog, and jumping up to answer the door every few minutes.

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Happy Halloween. I am planning a more detailed post, with pictures, after the kids get dressed up tonight. However, I couldn't resist sharing the full version of Werewolf Bar Mitzvah with you. If you are a faithful 30 Rock viewer you will recall the October 11 episode when Tracy Jordan mentions his novelty song "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah." On 30 Rock we just got to listen to a small part of the song. Here, for your listening pleasure, is the whole song.

If you don't watch 30 Rock it probably won't be very funny. It might be a little bit funny.

If you'd like to see the video clip from the show, click here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's Nanowrimo?

You might have noticed the little yellow "nano wrimo" graphic on the side bar of this blog. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place from November 1st through November 30th. Those participating in nanowrimo write a 50,000 word rough draft novel in 30 days.

I'd never heard of nanowrimo until last fall when my cousin Catherine announced her intention to write a 30 day novel and was looking for other insane, I mean enthusiastic people to join her. I declined last year, but am really looking forward to participating with her this year. (By the way, she won nanowrimo last year by meeting the 50,000 word goal--way to go Catherine!)

After November 1st, you can click on the yellow typewriter picture (on the sidebar, not on this post) and check out my word count and watch me progress towards 50,000 words. Hopefully the fact that anyone can check in and see how I'm doing will provide the motivation to keep writing and not give up.

Now, a little word of gratitude...

My sister Angela is amazing. Just check out her blog and see what she's been up to if you don't believe me. Angela was the technical wizard who figured out how to make that little yellow rectangle turn into a link to my nanowrimo page. I really don't know how she did it, but I think it involved writing HTML, lighting a scented candle and chanting in binary code. Thank you Angela!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mummy Update

So the question is: Should I get the kids dinner or do a quick blog post? Dinner? Blog? Dinner? Blog?

I'm thinking that after last night's candy haul and the subsequent candy scarfing, the kids are probably not that interested in dinner anyway. Plus it's leftover home made pea soup and home made wheat rolls and I didn't get really good feedback on it the first time around and the rolls were hot out of the oven, so I'm not sure I've got a chance with dinner tonight.

Here's a quick update on the mummy costume I was working on yesterday:

Cheesecloth: I ran out of strips of cheesecloth, which, by the way, is self destructive. You have about 30 seconds to work with it before it starts falling apart. For the mummy look, it worked ok, but I ended up with lots of little white strings all over me, the table where I sew and my carpet. When Ethan wore the costume, he left little white strings every where he sat.

The Ladies Turtleneck Sweater: I had Ethan try the sweater on when he came home from school. As I was yanking it over his head he said, "this smells like a girl." I assured him nothing could be farther from the truth and pointed out all the fabulous mummy features the sweater had, like too-long sleeves which would cover up his hands and make them look all mummified. (So, you can't hold your Halloween bucket with the sleeves covering your need to sacrifice your comfort for the costume's authenticity!)

Ethan took the sweater off and went outside to play. I proceeded to sew strips of cheesecloth around the base of the shirt which was satisfyingly easy. Then I got to the arm pits and got stuck. I decided to skip to the neck and I sewed several strips of cheesecloth to the neck. I ended up hand sewing the final strips to the shirt as the kids were waiting in the car to go to the party.

Finally, I was as done as I could be and I called Ethan over so I could put the mummy top on him. Well...

Cheesecloth doesn't really stretch and I'd sewn it right around the neck so it was neat and form fitting. But it wouldn't go over Ethan's head. Not a bit. So I clipped and cut and poked holes and essentially destroyed the neck so that it finally slipped over his head.

Final Words: Luckily for me, the more I messed up, the better the mummy costume looked. It didn't even look too bad with the arms unwrapped. I could buy more cheesecloth and finish a few more empty spots on the top, but I think I'll call it good. I am done making Halloween costumes for another year. Look for pictures after Oct. 31.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Big Surprise

Once again I have gotten in over my head. The church Halloween Party and Chili Cook-off is hours away and Ethan’s mummy costume is unfinished. My plan: buy grey sweat pants, sweatshirt and cheese cloth. Cut cheese cloth into strips and wrap around the sweats then sew in place. Presto! Mummy costume.

In my warped brain, this would have taken me approximately 30 minutes and would look fabulous.

In reality, I’m an idiot. I can’t even explain why this is difficult in a way that would make sense because I don’t know what that little part of my sewing machine is called that isn’t long enough to accommodate the entire length of sweat pant leg so that I can sew around and around all the way up the leg. (Or down the leg…I’d take down the leg if I could figure out a way to make that work.)

I still have the mummy top to work on, which is no longer going to be a sweatshirt because I’ve decided that it would be too bulky for this last-minute-super-easy-thrown-together costume that will take me 30 minutes. So I ventured into Goodwill today with the 2 little ones (yes, as a matter of fact, that was them diving under the clothing racks, playing hide and seek) to find a grey turtle neck.

What I ended up with was a copy of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, because I’ve heard so much about it and have finally decided to read it, and a cream colored ladies ribbed turtle neck. I’m pretty sure the turtle neck will fit Ethan if I can manage to get it over his head before he realizes it’s girl clothes.

Looking at the glass half-full, this last minute church party costume crunch will ensure that I’ll be ready for Halloween night.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wimpy Kid Wows Ethan

I just read a winner of a book and passed it on to Ethan. I know it's a winner of a book because (gasp) Ethan’s reading it. The book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Rather than attempt a mediocre book-report-style review, I will direct you to Fuse #8 for Librarian Betsy Bird's professional opinion. (She's a professional librarian, and a professional reviewer.)

Basically, Wimpy Kid tells of middle-schooler Greg Haffley in a novel with pictures. The text is printed in a goofy handwriting font and every page has plenty of illustrations to crack you up or make a point. The pages are even lined to mimic a real diary.

I requested this book from the library when I read it just might be up for funniest book of the year and kept seeing it pop up on various children's lit blogs as one of the best books for middle grades. To top it off, Wimpy Kid is a total boy book and boy books don't come along very often.

So, if you know a 8-12 year old boy who is reluctant to pick up a book, throw Diary of a Wimpy Kid his way and leave him alone.

If you are still curious, check out the Diary of a Wimpy Kid blog. You can also check out this site for sample pages from the book.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And in Other News...

In a tragic playroom accident, Jack, President of Jack-in-the-Box suffered multiple, life threatening injuries when Mega T-Rex suddenly charged and attacked him. Witnesses claim the attack was unprovoked, but another witness, commenting on conditions of anonymity said, "Look at my impressive wing-span," followed up by, "I have a laser, and I'll use it."

Jack was dressed for the ski slopes but close friends admit that although they've never seen him in anything other than ski gear, they're pretty sure he's never been skiing.

It's been rumored that Jack has an army of antenna balls at his command but so far not one has shown up to offer assistance.

Jack is currently in critical condition and still in Mega T-Rex's mouth.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Halloween Candy Solutions

Our kids have no less than 3 Halloween candy-gathering events coming up: The Intel Family Halloween Party, our church "trunk-or-treat," and the big day, October 31st. I'm not expecting Intel to load us with much in the way of candy, but the trunk-or-treat is a candy jackpot. Kids make the circuit around church parking lot over and over again until trunks run out of candy. Cars are parked close together and kids get the equivalent of 2 hours of neighborhood trick-or-treating in 20 minutes or less. Finally, we have October 31st. I'm not too worried about Jonah and Isaac's candy haul. However, Ethan's candy gathering abilities have increased over the last few years and I'm anticipating he will bring home an obscene amount of candy.

I'm not looking forward to this candy influx and I personally know that a few of you feel the same way. (Adele...any comments?) My increasing dread prompted me to write an article for listing several creative ways to get rid of too much Halloween candy. Of course I had to be sweet and gentle about the suggestions I gave because I don't want to offend anyone who might have more scruples than I when it comes to dealing with kids and candy.

But here, on my blog, I can be honest. I can tell you how I really feel, share my secret strategies and bare my soul, so to speak. Here is the number one thing I do to reduce the amount of Halloween candy in our house...

(If you are one of my children, I am going to have to ask that you stop reading this post immediately. Now! Stop! I think I hear Dad calling you. Did I tell you there are cookies in the kitchen? Go!)

...I steal my kid's candy.

Well, I suppose "steal" is a harsh word. Let me explain.

When the kids come home from any event where they accumulate candy, I remind them of my rule: For every candy wrapper I find around the house (not including the garbage can), I get to take 1 piece of candy from everyone. I would honestly be happy if they just kept the candy wrappers off the ground as the litter that ends up all over my house is really my biggest gripe with Halloween candy (Easter is a whole other post.) For some reason, however, this threat seems to have little effect. With in minutes, wrappers start appearing on the floor, in between couch cushions, and under beds.

The second thing I do when the kids come home is exercise the "mommy tax." This is the payment I get for dressing them in cute costumes and letting them out the door in the first place. The mommy tax usually relieves my boys of their Mounds and Almond Joy bars, which in their eyes, is a big win/win. However, not that many people are giving out Mounds and Almond Joys anymore (finally caught on that kids hate coconut, I suppose) so my mommy tax has dwindled. I also accept Jr. Mints and Smarties as part of the tax, but the subjects complain mightily when they have to part with those candies.

The third thing I do is go through the kids candy haul and confiscate anything with a stick. Well, that pretty much includes lollipops. I can barely handle M&M wrappers on the floor, but sticky lollipop sticks stuck to the carpet and furniture practically send me over the edge. (Yes, as a matter of fact I do live with animals!) Like I said, my threats don't seem to keep kids from littering all over the house, so I just make a little pre-emptive strike on the lollipops and the days following October 31st go a little more smoothly.

A few days after Halloween, I estimate how much trash I've picked up around the house. I then "thin out" the candy stash as significantly as I can without drawing too much attention. This isn't really stealing because the kids were fairly warned about the consequences of leaving wrappers on the floor. If they do notice candy missing from their stash I simply show or tell them about all the wrappers I've picked up. That shuts them up pretty fast.

Other than the Mounds, Almond Joys, Smarties and Jr. Mints, all confiscated candy makes a one-way trip to the garbage. Using this strategy, along with encouraging the kids to eat their candy as quickly as possible, I'm usually able to clear the house of candy with in 5-6 days.

I actually found a few creative suggestions for other ways to re-route an excess of Halloween candy during the research for my article. I’ll try and post a few kinder suggestions in the coming days, along with a link to my article.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Plan of Attack!

Found: A map of the neighborhood, drawn by Ethan, with a Halloween trick-or-treating plan of attack. Includes a key with colors indicating good and bad homes (good homes give out full sized candy bars) and arrows indicating the most efficient route. Almost illegible notes give these instructions: take extra candy bag and first aid kit just in case.

Should I be worried that Ethan thinks he will need a first aid kit for trick-or-treating or be happy he is thinking ahead? As for the extra candy bag…I don’t know how to break this to Ethan…if he has that much candy that he needs a 2nd bag, I’ll be handing out the contents of the first bag in big fistfuls to anyone who comes ringing our doorbell.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What is That?

I was going to subject you all to a little guessing game to see if you could tell me what was in the picture above. The more I look at it though, the more obvious it seems. So, rather than insult your intelligence, I will come right out and tell you that my picture is of apple peels.

I peeled about 40 pounds of Elstar apples today and made apple sauce. The sauce turned out quite tasty according to my resident fruit-a-holic, Jonah. Most fortunately, Angela loaned me the Pampered Chef "Apple Peeler Corer Slicer" which sped up the peeling process and spared me a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. If I hadn’t had that handy tool, I’d most likely still be peeling apples and not updating my blog.

I ended up with 14 quarts of apple sauce (7 regular and 7 cinnamon-spice) and still have another 40 pounds of Macintosh apples to go. Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Don't You Hate That?

OK, so I'm trying to stay healthy and eat right. In the past I had a lovely little habit of drinking Dr. Pepper. It was so delicious and every time I had one (about once a day) I also craved (needed, required, had to have...) chocolate. So each afternoon I would sit on my butt in front of the computer while drinking my delicious Dr. Pepper and eating my yummy chocolate. It was just once a day, so it wasn't really that big of a deal, right?

Well, about 18 months ago, I decided I needed to loose a few pounds, so I did a two week no-carb-type cleanse diet. I survived the two weeks and felt GREAT! Gone was my craving for so much sugar. I brought carbs back into my diet in the form of whole grains (as much as possible) and really limited my snacking.

Part of the healthy eating fall out was the exclusion of Dr. Pepper and caffeine from my diet. I don't know if caffeine had a negative effect on my weight, but I just didn't want it messing with my energy levels. I wanted my body to regulate itself naturally, blah, blah, blah.

So, I'm feeling pretty good, no caffeine, trying to drink lots of water. I went through a Crystal Light kick, which turned into an IZZE obsession and have finally landed on a healthy Vitamin Water by Glacéau relationship.

Well, Vitamin Water is $1.25 a bottle! So when I saw Kirkland "Vita Rain" at Costco for $9.59 for 24 bottles, I thought I'd found a Vitamin Water equivalent at a great price. The bottles look the same, the copy on the outside of the bottle has a similar casual, funny and sarcastic slant, the vitamin levels are the same and even the ingredients are the same...mostly.

However, the Vita Rain, Tropical Citrus flavor also includes "natural caffeine." What!?

I'm not even sure I know what natural caffeine is, but it sounds a lot like regular caffeine and why does this drink need to have it? I don't want caffeine. I hate when drinks that shouldn't have caffeine like root beer and orange soda and health drinks sneak it into their formula.

I think I should just go back to drinking plain old water.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Please Ignore the Carpet

Why is it that I can spend the whole day cleaning, folding, vacuuming and putting away then leave for one hour and come home to a house in disarray? This is what happened last night, but I can't say that anyone was really at fault. Unfortunately, Isaac threw up twice while I was gone, so between the cleaning up of that mess and the creation of several others, the house I came home to did not resemble the one I left.

Sunday, I had a meeting and was gone one hour. ONE HOUR! When I came home, every person in our family was in the computer room. All appeared to be having a fine time doing whatever it was they were doing. A short while later, I noticed a miniature marshmallow had been torn apart to create optimal stickyness and smashed into the carpet just under the computer desk. I noticed it when my bare foot stuck to that particular spot of carpet.

Now, our carpet is nothing special. While many of our friends in the area request "shoes off" when inviting us into their homes, I usually request of our house guests "shoes on for your safety and protection." The only source of comfort I have about our stained and worn carpet is that it's not as bad as the family I knew growing up who had not only worn a hole right through their carpet and pad, but had gone on to wear a hole right through the floor boards so you could see down into the crawl space under the house. (You have to take your comfort where you can get it.)

So our carpet has seen better days and with 3 boys who think nothing of tromping through the house in muddy shoes, or spilling, drawing or even throwing up on the carpet, we are in no hurry to spend thousands to give them a clean slate with which to work their special brand of magic.

Back to the marshmallow sticking to my foot...I was irritated. Of all the stained and worn carpet in the house, the section under the desk was a protected haven that was still fairly pleasant. I had a few questions:

1. What were the kids doing snacking on mini marshmallows when I made sure they were well fed and snacked up before I left?

2. Why were they eating in the computer room when the house rule is "eat in the kitchen only?"

3. How could the other adult (I won't mention him by name) be literally feet away from these kids and a) let them snack on mini marshmallows, b) let them eat them in a non-kitchen area, and c) let them grind one into the carpet?

Personally, I was at a loss on how to remedy the situation. Not that I care about one more stain on the carpet. I'm beyond caring about that. My concern was that my foot would have to be subject to the unpleasant stickyness every time I sat at the computer. The only way I could think to remedy the sticky mess was to stick something over the top of it, like a piece of paper, a small swatch of fabric, or 1,200 square feet of brand new carpet.

I stewed for about 2 hours on Sunday afternoon. I won't tell you all the thoughts that went through my head because I really don't want to paint that un-named other adult in a negative light. After all, he was on-call and thoroughly engrossed in looking for microscopic pieces of dust on silicon wafers. I stewed and stewed until I thought that google might be able to point me to a solution that would not include a blow torch or hydrochloric acid.

My Google search paid off and I found the following: Since marshmallows are water soluble, simply set a damp towel over the marshmallowed area for a while and the sugar in the marshmallow will dissolve. It said to treat the area with your favorite carpet cleaning method and in my case, my favorite method is dimming the lights so no one can see the stains. So, the lights are low and the carpet is not sticky.

You should see how great the carpet looks with the lights low AND my glasses off.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You're Welcome!

Saturday I made my all time favorite sandwich. I guess I should disclose that I only have about 5 sandwiches in my repertoire and 2 of them are pb&j and grilled cheese. (The third is grilled cheese with ham.) Given that information, you may find it surprising that I know how to make this sandwich at all.

I found the recipe for this sandwich in a cookbook we received as a wedding present. Picture me as a newlywed, with only one (maybe two) lunches to make on a Saturday afternoon. No one is chanting "I'm hungry" while clinging to my leg, so I am not rushed and can spend more than 90 seconds throwing together a grown-up sort of sandwich. These are the circumstances in which I discovered this delicious lunch-time meal.

I know you will thank me when I tell you how to make my delicious sandwich, thus, the title of my blog, "You're Welcome." And here is the recipe:

Baked Ham and Brie Sandwich with Honey Mustard

2 slices of wheat bread
honey mustard
1 small apple (actually, you only need about a quarter of the apple)
lemon juice
cinnamon/sugar mixture
lettuce leaves (I use red leaf)
2-3 slices of deli ham
sliced Brie

Thinly slice apple and toss in a bowl with a few teaspoons of lemon juice. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon/sugar mix. Spread each slice of bread with honey mustard. Top one slice of bread with lettuce, ham, brie slices and apple slices. Top with another piece of lettuce and the second slice of bread. Slice diagonally into triangles if it's a rainy day or lengthwise into rectangles if it's a sunny day.

This sandwich is best enjoyed in solitude, or with another grown-up. If kids enter the room while you are eating and shout, "What is that? I want a bite, give me a bite! Yuck, I don't like that, what is that, it's yucky, Mom can you get me a glass of milk, I want a snack, I'm still hungry, get me something to eat," quickly take your sandwich, run to your bedroom, lock the door and listen to some relaxing music on your iPod at high volume while you eat in peace.

You're welcome!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Typical Childhood Photo-Op

The kids had a day off from school today so I decided to take them to Lakeview Farms pumpkin patch in North Plains, Oregon. I don't really care about the pumpkins...I can get them much cheaper at Winco, or even free at Portland Community College's upcoming Fall Festival. The real reason that I or anyone goes to the pumpkin patch (in my humble opinion) is to get cute fall pictures of their kids.

We paid $12 to get 4 of us in the pumpkin patch. This gets us one ride on the paddle boat across the lake and one train ride back to the main area. Also, each ticket is good for $1 off any pumpkin we decide to buy. We ended up spending $4.25 on 3 small pumpkins.

When Ethan was a little kid, this same pumpkin patch didn't charge anything to enter. The boat and train rides were free and only the pumpkins cost money. A few years after that, they charged $2 a person to come into the pumpkin patch but that money was refunded when you purchased a pumpkin.

So, I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I got for $16.25. The kids had a good time and I think it was a little better than staying home and watching TV, which I probably would have caved in and let them do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And If You Don't Have a Y Chromosome....

From Amazon:

THE DARING BOOK FOR GIRLS is the manual for everything that girls need to know –– and that doesn't mean sewing buttonholes! Whether it's female heroes in history, secret note–passing skills, science projects, friendship bracelets, double dutch, cats cradle, the perfect cartwheel or the eternal mystery of what boys are thinking, this book has it all. But it's not just a guide to giggling at sleepovers –– although that's included, of course! Whether readers consider themselves tomboys, girly–girls, or a little bit of both, this book is every girl's invitation to adventure.

Also from Amazon:

How to do almost anything in one handy little book! Want to be known for your unique style? Inside you'll learn how to design your own clothes (p. 35), do the perfect manicure (p. 82), or make your own lip gloss (p. 11). Feel like impressing your friends? Show them how you can make a crystal (p. 16), juggle one-handed (p. 33), or deal with a bully (p. 42). Bored and need something to do? Not anymore when you find out how to keep a secret diary (p. 88), make a scrapbook (p. 9), or put together a dance routine (p. 24). And tons of other neat-o things you need to know how to do!

Let me get this straight: Girls have all the American Girl publications, Nancy Drew books, any book written by Meg Cabot and a thousand other feel good, you can do it, money/period/hairstyle/crush-surviving guidebooks? The market is saturated with stuff for girls.

On the other hand, anything that would interest boys inevitably has to be shared by girls too. Just because boys don't like to read doesn't mean publishers should forget about them. That is part of what makes "The Dangerous Book for Boys" so appealing. No one is going to ban girls from opening it's pages, but this is one book that is most definitely 100% for boys.

So, if little girls really feel they need another book to tell them how to weave the perfect friendship bracelet and how to paint the perfect manicure, if they can't live with out a giggle-guide for sleep overs, then please help yourself to yet another book designed specifically for girls. But, with the abundance of titles girls have to choose from, couldn't we let the boys have their "Dangerous" book without having publishers trying to grab a piece of the action?

Ok, I know, it's just a book. I'll go have a cookie and take some deep breaths. I'll be ok.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Parents

Have you seen this book? "The Dangerous Book For Boys" is the best-selling book created by two brothers who felt the over-protective "rules and safety" environment we were creating for our children (more specifically, our boys) was doing them no favors. Inspired by the idea that boys need to test their limits and occasionally fall off things, this book contains plenty of vital information all boys need to know.

There is a section on how to tie knots and what each knot is used for. There are directions for how to build a tree house and a go cart. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are described, with color pictures. The book even has poetry every boy should know, including "If" by Rudyard Kipling (my personal favorite.)

Ethan was immediately drawn, however, to the section describing the rules of poker. After reading through the material several times, Ethan announced he wanted to play poker. To be fair, the authors do a great job of helping the reader understand the risk of playing poker. I believe their suggestion had to do with finding a good charity to donate to if you felt you had a bunch of money you didn't need.

Ethan was insistent that we play poker, so Sunday after noon, we played poker. Ethan loved it. When Ethan suggested we play poker for Family Home Evening on Monday night, Robert and I felt Ethan needed a little more education on poker.

"Poker is a game of chance, like playing the lottery or gambling," I told Ethan. "You really shouldn't ever play for money."

"Isn't Bunco gambling?" Ethan quickly shot back.

I was a little flustered. "Well, uh, that's different, because, uh....tell him why it's different Robert."

I swear Robert had a smug little look on his face. He was no help.

"It's like I'm paying for dinner, kind of," I offered Ethan, "with gifts...that are sometimes great and sometimes less great."

Ethan lost interest in my Bunco rationalization and turned his attention to Robert. "What about mutual funds?" (Mutual Funds!!! Where in the world did he learn about mutual funds? He's only 9...I don't think I knew about mutual funds until I was in my 20's.)

Now it was Robert's turn to think quickly as he tried to justify, I mean explain, the difference between investing and gambling.

Anyway, "Dangerous Book for Boys," thanks a lot. It would have been slightly easier if Ethan ripped his pants learning how to climb a fence or skinned his knee jumping out of a tree.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Another Recall: Hooray!

A few weeks ago we received our replacement Skarloey in the mail. Skarloey was one of the casualties of the Thomas the Tank Engine product recall. Luckily, Skarloey was the only toy we own, so far, that has been recalled. However, with the almost daily announcements of more recalled toys and other products that contain lead paint, it's a wonder more of us aren't coming down with lead poisoning.

I'm just waiting for the announcement that lead fishing weights have been recalled because of excessive amounts of lead. What about those lead bibs they have you wear when you get x-rays taken? I would think that would have an excessive amount of lead, but it's probably safe as long as I don't chew on it. (That's probably why the dentist puts those annoying cardboard-y things in my mouth, right?)

Well, here is the latest product to be recalled due to excessive lead content. It's a Boy Scout badge that Ethan happens to have. I'm actually thrilled that this thing has been recalled because about 2 hours after he received the badge and put it on his uniform, the beads had come off and were being used as projectiles.

I gathered up the beads as best I could and put them in a little zip lock bag with the idea that I would most definitely reattach them to the badge very, very soon. It's been over a year and the thought of just throwing them away and ripping that remaining badge part from Ethan's uniform is bringing me a strange amount of joy.