Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Have you read these books? And other random musings




The summer after I graduated from high school, I held my own reading boot camp during which I tried to read as many "classic" books as I could because I thought most people read those kinds of books in high school and my education had been deficient. Out of dozens that I tried to get through, the two that I can remember reading and actually enjoying were The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The one that I can remember absolutely detesting was The Stranger by Albert Camus.


I had this ridiculous romantic notion that when I got to college, I would find a boy who would want to hold my hand, gaze into my eyes as we walked across the moonlit quad as he recited poetry. Yes, I actually did believe that. When I got to college, I briefly found a boyfriend who wanted to hold my hand and gaze into my eyes as we walked across the moonlit quad but the last thing that probably ever crossed his mind was reciting poetry. He might have hummed a Grateful Dead tune once or twice.


It so happened that I didn't have to take any English classes. I might have done so for sheer enjoyment but my college English department was heavily influenced by the southern women writers genre which was not my thing so the only literature classes I ended up taking in college were through the Latin American Studies department.


I lay this long and boring history before you to confess that I have not read any of these books. I haven't read very many classic books at all. And for whatever reason, that has started to bother me. So I downloaded a few different lists of Books that Everyone Should Read and I hit the bookstore tonight. I got these three and three others that quite likely I will never get through. But I'm going to try. I threw one Charlaine Harris vampire book into my pile because, well, I have to keep it real.


Another thing that has been on my mind these last few weeks is the One Little Word for 2009. Ali Edwards links to this idea on her blog and last year I picked the word "Focus." It actually worked! For the first time, I accomplished some of my New Year's resolutions. I ended up focusing on 2 different things than I originally anticipated but that's probably okay. So far, I have decided the essence of the word I want to use for 2009 but not the actual word itself. The ones I've come up with so far seem too related to food and that's not the point at all.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope all of you have a very happy day with family and friends!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We have lost our minds

"We" as in the entity created when my husband and I decided to get married and abandon our individual identities. It makes it easier to blame our peculiarities on the collective rather than assuming any personal responsibility.


We returned from vacation just over a week ago and since then have done a passable job getting the tree up and the house decorated for Christmas. We've wrapped presents and played festive music. In fact, we even managed to sneak away to see the Transiberian Orchestra which is a holiday rite of passage that I think everyone should do at least once. As Justin says, it's a weird Christmas metal thing. We mailed cards, baked cookies and cinnamon rolls and mulled some wine.


But in the midst of the holiday rush, my car decided that it wasn't really happy about the arrival of winter and began to rebel. First it was a belt that needed to be replaced. And then the exhaust system sprung a leak, creating a very attractive Nascaresque rumble whenever the car was actually used to drive. And then the fuel line froze, forcing us to call AAA not once, but in fact, twice in one day. Faced with the choice of thousands of dollars in inevitable repairs, "we" decided to go car shopping on the day before Christmas Eve. Because we are so organized and we have absolutely nothing left to do to get ready for Christmas. Yeah, that's us.


So 7 hours later, we came home with a new car and at 7:00 this evening, my husband ventured out to finish his Christmas shopping. (Have I mentioned yet that we celebrate Christmas with his family on Christmas Eve day?) What else is a father to do when his little girl tells the kindly Mrs. Claus at daycare that the only thing she really wants for Christmas is the EZ Bake Oven frosting pen even though that item wasn't on any of her Christmas lists? I'll be doing laundry into the wee hours and trying to figure out what to do with the piles of paper that mysteriously continue to accumulate all over the house despite my unparalleled organizational skills. And cook. And finish wrapping the presents for tomorrow. And watch Lord of the Rings for the 3925th time. Nothing says it's Christmas like the Lord of the Rings.


Oh, and choose paint colors. Because as soon as all of this joyous celebrating is over and the last tiny shred of wrapping paper discarded, we are going to start painting the interior of the house. Because at some point over the last month, we clearly just gave up any pretense of sanity.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family get togethers are always so much fun

I am not a hair/make-up/clothes person. But every once in awhile, a mood strikes me and I decide that I want a fun and funky hairstyle or I decide that my hair is hopeless or I just get in the mood to be girly. And when that mood hits, I call George.


George is a hair genius. He is employed by an international hair product company called Keune and he travels all over the world doing hair shows and teaching and other seemingly glamorous hair things. In his regular life, he took over his mother's beauty salon in western Pennsylvania and a few years ago, rented space in my office building for a second salon that he opens twice a week. This always confuses me a bit because in the towns where he works, George's clientele is mostly older women who like the big blue bouffants. (Although George doesn't do blue. But you get the idea.) George seems very happy and I am very happy that he came to my town. When George touches hair, something wonderful happens.


It also happens that George is a very witty, sarcastic person who gets along well with just about everyone. When the Obama campaign opened an office in our building during the primary, George hung a huge McGovern poster in his window. I adore him. Everyone adores him. Including "Midge" (changing names and details just because it's the right thing to do!) who is a long-time companion to one of my family members. Midge doesn't like anyone or anything. But she loves George.


So it happened today that I found myself in George's chair telling him to do whatever he wanted to my head. And he started snipping and snipping and hair was flying everywhere. I squinted in the mirror (sans glasses) and wondered when it happened that I got my great-great aunt Edith's jowels. George kept snipping and eventually started drying and straightening my hair. (George always straightens my hair. It's part of his magic because no one else has ever been able to straighten it.) Then I heard her. "Why are you running so late? It is my turn and there are still two people in front of me? I have to leave at 3:00!" And George said "hello Midge!"


Midge walked over and said "why don't you wear your hair like that all the time? It's so much more attractive, I don't usually like your hair at all, all those curls, do you like it? You should wear it like this always." George was speechless for a moment and then mumbled something about how my hair always looks nice but Midge was undeterred. "No, no, I don't like it. Her hair. But this, this looks good. She should keep it." And then she started complaining again that he was running so late. And George turned to her and said very sternly "stop nagging me Midge!" And darned if she didn't giggle! I've never heard her giggle.


And then I put on my glasses and saw that George had done something that made my great-great aunt Edith's jowels disappear from my face and I decided that Midge was right. I'm thinking of inviting George to Christmas this year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Because Pirates of the Carribbean never gets old. Ever. Never ever ever. Except to the people in the boat with my family as we sang "Yo, ho, all together, hoist the colors high..." over and over again. We are a family who is passionate about our alleged pirate ancestry. Even if they called themselves buccaneers. I'm sure they were just like Johnny Depp.

We are returned from our 10 day vacation to Disney World. There were some highlights. There were some lowlights. But these moments were my very favorites.

My obsession with seeing an alligator in the wild has become a bit of a joke. Through several vacations down south, much time wasted prowling near the banks of ponds and irrigation canals, until Saturday I still had never seen an alligator in its natural habitat. (Well, we did do an bayou tour in New Orleans and saw lots of alligators then but they were lured with chicken and that doesn't count. Same with the one who lived outside the restaurant in Mexico where we went on our honeymoon.) But Saturday was the fateful day! We went to Kennedy Space Center which is surrounded by a wildlife refuge that is habitated by, well, wildlife. And I counted 11 alligators! Victory! Space shuttle? What space shuttle, look honey, it's an alligator!!!


Peter. Peter, peter, peter. Peter Pan has been sending Charlie letters for two years now. They are good friends. Grace's favorite movie is Hook. Followed by her second favorite movie Peter Pan. Followed by her third favorite movie Return to Neverland. And yet we were never able to find Peter on our first trip to the Magic Kingdom. We found him this time. And if my mommy heart could have melted from seeing the joy in my son's eyes as he got to meet Peter for the first time, it surely would have.


Really, it's just beautiful. I'm pretty much over Disney theming and Disney in general and theming and theme parks in general at this point but the castle lit up with icicle lights at night still has to be one of the prettiest things I've ever seen.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My mom came with me

and I was worried she wouldn't like the movie as much as I did. Or that I wouldn't like it as much the second time. But I liked it even more. And she did too. And this time, we weren't the oldest people in the theater.

I want a do-over!

Starting yesterday morning.


I have the next 10 days carefully choreographed in my head. It's all about holiday cooking and holiday celebrating and Christmas preparations and packing for vacation and haircuts and last minute errands and then hitting the road exactly on time. If you ask me what I have planned for next Monday at 1:30, I'll have an answer.


So yesterday when my car keys accidentally went to work with Justin and Grace and I were stuck at home all day, it threw my plans off. But I readjusted. Work Tuesday, add Monday's stuff into Wednesday and we are back on track.


I got my keys back this morning but then my car wouldn't start. It wouldn't start for Justin either. So I called AAA and prepared to wait. About one hour they said. Only 40 minutes later Justin called to say that the highway was closed and he had been sitting at the bottom of our hill trying to get out that whole time. The AAA guy eventually got here and my car turned on instantly. Just in time for me to go rescue Grace from school. But far too late for it to make it worthwhile to go into work.


But I just readjusted again! I'll work Wednesday, send Grace to daycare this afternoon as planned and try to get everything I needed to do Monday and Wednesday. The first part went well, I dropped her off at daycare and headed to the grocery store. And then I got a panicked, confused phone call from a mom in my son's class that they had instituted an evacuation order but she didn't know what that meant.


I spent several fruitless minutes trying to contact the school. Eventually I learned from NPR that due a gas main rupture, they had evacuated all of the children to the highschool and all parents were to proceed immediately to bus stops to prepare for the kids' imminent arrival home. So I did. Drove to the bus stop. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. No more communication from the school. No updates on the radio. 3 1/2 hours later, the bus finally showed up.


The highway was still closed. So we backtracked through the countryside, carefully navigating the icy roads thanks to the winter storm we also have going on and I finally stumbled into the house shortly before 5:00, having accomplished absolutely nothing today other than make the AAA man come to my house for no reason and sit at my son's bus stop whilst playing Tetris on my phone for 3 1/2 hours.


It probably does not make sense then that I am going back out, all by myself, to go to the movies tonight. It makes sense in my head, I really want to see the movie Twilight again and in those carefully choreographed plans I had yesterday morning before everything went to hell, I thought I might get a chance to go to a matinee on Wednesday. But now I have to work AND do everything I planned to do yesterday, today and tomorrow, all during my lunchbreak. So I'm going to the movies tonight. And that's that!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I've created monsters

Yesterday afternoon shortly before Justin came home from work, I discovered a game on Facebook called "How Big is Your Brain?" I was happily playing this game when Justin came home. Justin took one look at the game and wanted to play. And play and play and play. And a certain element of competition set in. So he played some more. (He is standing over my shoulder waiting for me to finish blogging so he can play some more.) ((I am not!))


Okay then.


He walked in the door from work tonight and said "honey, set me up!" And then he missed dinner. He still hasn't caught up to my high score but he's close. And it's driving him crazy.


In the meantime, Charlie wanted in on the action. So Justin let him play. And darned if the kid didn't do pretty well! But now he's addicted too. He's raised his score from "Dog" to "Gorilla" to "Average Joe." Which just sent him into muttering about "Joe" since he is still very scarred from the "Joe the Plumber" references during the Presidential campaign. He does not want to be Joe. So he asked to play again in the morning.


Which leaves just my little Grace, who piped up right before bed, "Daddy, can I try?" And then she scored almost as high as her brother. And asked to play again.


We only have one computer in this house. It's getting ugly.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Starting the season early


Normally we don't even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But because we are going to be out of town for almost two weeks in December and will lose two weekends of preparation time, we had to start planning early this year. And today the weather cooperated with getting us in the spirit. It is cold and blustery and the flurries which flew all morning long finally started sticking this afternoon.

I took the kids to a holiday open house at an art store and they got to see Santa Claus. I switched from my regular mocha at Starbucks to the Peppermint Twist Mocha. And we tuned the satellite radio to the Holly station. We came home and I made the first fire of the season. The cats are curled up right in front of the fire place and their appearance of absolutement contentment matches my mood exactly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Because I can't embed the official video

Here is some will.i.am from Oprah last Friday

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top 10 signs election addiction season is over at my house

10. When he couldn't find me in front of the computer last night, Charlie thought I went missing.


9. Justin turned on Countdown after dinner and after 5 minutes, switched to poker.


8. Yesterday I moved our i-tunes library from the old computer to this computer. And made new playlists. And spent my fun money on new music instead of campaign donations.


7. I'm back to thinking Andrew Sullivan is insufferably verbose rather than witty and prescient.


6. Since I didn't have the compulsive need to check 538.com 74 times yesterday, I caught up on the laundry.


5. The Disney packing list is at the top of my to-do list.


4. I started dinner at 4:00 yesterday instead of fifteen minutes before Justin was scheduled to arrive home.


3. I updated this blog two days in a row.


2. I read two (not very well written) books since Sunday night.


1. The radio in my car is turned back to XM Kids instead of CNN.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Coincidence?



My blog entry from a year ago today says that Grace had a stomach virus on that day. Grace has a stomach virus today too. I hope this means she'll be healthy from now until next November.

This turn of events made me feel the most sorry for Justin. I was away this weekend and he did a wonderful job getting the kids to all of their scheduled events, doing the yardwork, grocery shopping, cleaning up the house and taking them to do some fun things as well. He was super mom and he was feeling it when I came home last night. He was in a great mood, happy I was home, happy that things were so under control, just all around happy. Then Grace started throwing up and the picture of quiet, happy order quickly degenerated into mounds of laundry, chaos and crabbiness. He eventually went to bed with a very defeated look on his face. At some time in the middle of the night he turned to me and said "I don't like the throw up." He's got a point.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Feeling mostly reflective tonight

"When you get to the top of the mountain, please remember me"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

An October Update




It's my favorite month of the year and it has flown past before I even realized it was here. But last weekend we decided to get off the hampster wheel and we drove across 4 counties (well into the pro-America part of America) to Raystown Lake. We walked in the woods, did a cave tour and completed the mega cornmaze we discovered last year. The clues at this cornmaze are bible verses and this year the good verses (telling you that you're going in the right direction) were from the 23rd psalm which added a degree of peril to the whole adventure.

After saying I would not volunteer again for the Obama campaign this fall, I am knee deep in it. I've not logged as many hours as in the spring but that is because there are dozens more volunteers to fill up the slots. I'll be doing voter protection on election day which hopefully will be a very boring, uneventful job.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tagged

Paula tagged me so I have to update my blog. I'll try to do a real update tomorrow. But in the meantime, here is the 4th picture in the 4th folder on my blog. Without further ado:


I don't know if anyone out there still reads this blog but if you do, consider yourself tagged. And link me up in the comments!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend round-up

1. After three days of being convinced that my kids were coming down with something because that could be the only acceptable justification for their record number of crying jags and temper tantrums, they both appear to be perfectly healthy and I am the one who is sick.


2. Said children have started a neighborhood extortion racket... I mean, a neighborhood business where they volunteer to pull up weeds in exchange for ever increasing amounts of money. They are doing this with their friend Brooke who has decided that with the proceeds, they are going to take the families on a cruise vacation.


3. Today is September 28th. Today I finished my "Week in the Life" album recording a week in our lives from March 2007 - an album I began at CKU in April 2007. I am telling myself this is part of my new "focus" and I suppose there is something to be said for to not allowing projects to sit unfinished for years at a time.


4. Perhaps relatedly, (and I really do think it is), I am going to take Ali Edwards up on her challenge and do another Week in the Life album this week. I hope it will give me some perspective and get me out of this funk. When I took the pictures for the original album, I hated them. I thought they were mundane and my life was "small." Looking back only a year and half later, I love what I recorded. I love seeing those little details. I love realizing that my husband played board games with the kids after work almost every night. I love looking at the little pictures they drew at school and I even love realizing that I ate peanut butter toast for breakfast every single day that week.


5. My husband's response while looking at this album was a little bit different. He loved it but said that it turns out, he is not a big part of our lives during the week. And he said it reminded him of when we ate food. You see, when we returned from vacation, rather than return to our pre-vacation grocery budget, he said he didn't notice the difference so I might as well continue to save the money and make the quick, light meals I prepared during the summer. I guess looking at a picture of pot roast in the album made him realize that he is tired of grilled cheese.


6. Which is a little bit unfair since I made Pioneer Woman's (really Pastor Ryan's) version of Pasta Carbonara last night. With that much fat in one recipe, I think it has to count as real food.


7. The polls are starting to make me feel over-confident about my candidate's chances this fall. I know that's not a good frame of mind. But I can't help it.


8. Justin is almost finished painting our house. The first coat is complete and a good portion of the second coat is complete. I suspect the trim will have to wait until spring but all in all, I am thrilled and proud of him that he got it all done in the very little spare time he had over the summer.


9. I think SNL is going to be abysmal when Amy Poehler leaves in a few weeks.


10. In addition to the money they are extorting, um, I mean earning, Grace just walked in with a piece of pie. Now they are feeding them baked goods. Maybe they think it will get them out of their yard.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Posts without pictures are boring

And I'm sorry about that. It's on my list to fix next week. I have lots of layouts and lots of photos, just not organized and ready to get up here.


My word for the year was "focus". I haven't focused on all of the things that were on my list for the year. In fact, my list of resolutions remains largely undone and mostly forgotten. But the word... well, I just changed what I was "focusing" on. The biggest item, of course, has been on getting healthy and losing weight. I am thrilled to report that I have consistently gone to the gym at least three times a week since the beginning of the summer. I am very close to completing the Couch to 5 K training program. And as of this morning, I have lost 20 pounds. I still have a long way to go but this is one of things I have been "focusing" on and it has worked. Two other areas have been our personal finances (and sticking to our budget) and buying and eating in an environmentally and socially conscious way. As a family, we have made some significant changes this year and we have been able to stick to it.


I was thinking about this today, not because I am overly thrilled with how the last few months have gone, but because of things I am not so happy with. I had another major change in my life starting at the beginning of the month - Grace transferred to a pre-K program near our house rather than the pre-school she had been attending nearly an hour away. I made that drive back and forth, sometimes twice a day, for 4 years. I suppose I looked at this change as an opportunity; I would have lots more free time and be able to get so much more accomplished. But the reality has been that I spend most of her time at school at the gym - a routine I started in the summer, but which has been a bit of mental challenge during the time that used to be "my" free time during the school year.


And rather than adjust to it and figure out how to make this new schedule work, I have been drifting. I seem to end most days not sure what I did and with nothing concrete accomplished to justify the hours spent at home. The housework is piling up, I'm not finding much time to be creative and I generally just feel very directionless. I feel pulled in so many different ways and I'm not sure what to do so often I just end up doing nothing. Then I feel guilty because this is not the reason we have sacrificed all of these years for me to stay home with the kids and put my career on the back burner.


I guess I'm writing this out tonight because after a month of feeling this way, I feel like it's time to add some additional "focus" to my life and see if I can't find some direction while continuing the very positive changes made in other areas. Accountability seems to be a huge thing for me so if I can work that into the plan somehow, it can only help!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I think that coincidence is a weird thing

For the last 2 days I have been composing a blog post in my head about friendship bracelets I used to make. It was my first foray into anything crafty and I was darn good at it. I wove these elaborate, beautiful bracelets in highschool strictly for the purposes of selling them at Grateful Dead concerts. Where I came to a block in remembering this story is whether or not I ever sold any. I honestly don't remember. Now that is not because I was in a drug induced haze back then, I was, for the most part, a very good girl, but still, I can't remember ever selling a single bracelet. And I made hundreds of them. I wonder what happened to them. I went to a lot of Grateful Dead concerts over the years. And I also don't remember why this idea for a post popped into my head the other day, but memory is a weird thing sometimes.


It's all the more weird because the Obama campaign just announced that the surviving members of the Dead are reuniting for a concert at Penn State next month. Obama. Grateful Dead. Penn State. It's a trifecta. I'm going to go look in my mom's attic to see if those bracelets are up there. Do you think anyone wears friendship bracelets these days?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

10 Things I Know

1. The all-you-care-to-eat buffet at the all day scrapbooking crop I went to this weekend was NOT worth the 6 meals of lettuce I have had to eat since then. Parsley potatoes are never really that good.

2. The piece of chocolate peanut butter cake I ate on Saturday night was, however, worth it.

3. I still do not know how to field dress a moose.

4. I have not taken a single picture at any of my kids' sporting events this fall.

5. My kids were in too many activities. Charlie had to quit karate.

6. He decided to quit karate at just the right time since he fell and split his arm open this weekend and wouldn't have been able to do karate for several weeks anyway.

7. That kid bought 4 books at the book fair today. He's read 2 of them so far since he got off the bus.

8. Grace had a bad day. She had a bad day. Her day was bad. Grace had a terrible, very bad, no good, very day. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Any questions? Bad.

9. I do not believe that Pennsylvania is even in the polls and I don't care what Rasmussen says.

10. It is not a good thing to block the cat door to the basement where the litter box is located.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This has never happened before

but I am completely burned out on politics. Yesterday, I thought it was just because I was tired. But I'm still feeling it today. Just completely exhausted with the rank stupidity and hypocrisy from the supporters on each side, from the pundits, from the chattering class. (As an aside, I tried to look up the definition of rank stupidity and came up empty. It still sounds like what I think I want to say. I hope.) Exhausted probably isn't strong enough a word. Disgusted. I like to think McCain and Obama would be embarassed by most of the things their supporters say to further their campaigns. If Sarah Palin has accomplished anything in her life, it is that she managed to bring out the absolute worst qualities of both her supporters and detractors. Hypocrisy seems to be a bi-partisan quality these days.


How about them Steelers?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Update? Who me?


This morning I finally re-achieved my pre-vacation weight so I guess that means it's time to update. Vacations are great for everything except dieting. This picture was the view from our balcony. I wish I was standing there right now.


I've been riveted by the political developments of the last two weeks so most of my computer time has been spent reading message boards and political sites. It seems odd that 8 weeks out we're going to enter a calmer period but it feels that way for me. It's almost like all the cards have been dealt, the bets made and now we just have to wait for everyone to show their hand.

The kids have started back to school but in no way have we established a routine yet. It's probably like that every year, it takes time to find the right pattern but it's exhausting when it's happening. Charlie's teacher is... interesting. First of all, he adores her, so that's a good thing. Next, she definitely seems to be teaching them, which is good, I'm just not sure if she's teaching them from the curriculum. Which, considering my feelings about NCLB, is also probably a good thing. So far he's learned all about feng shui, they planted bamboo, and today they are going to learn about economics. Economics in 2nd grade. Who knew? He's had some regular homework so I know she's fitting in all in there.

I am still sticking to the diet and the gym. I realized this morning that I am bored with running though. My interest in staying on the treadmill wanes much faster than my ability to run. It could be because they've got the Price is Right on tv but I think I've got to come up with a solution pretty quickly or else I'm likely to just quit altogether.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

http://francineclouden.typepad.com/it_takes_all_kinds/

A little while ago, my friend Francine asked me to be a part of a new challenge blog she had an idea for me. It will bring together people from around the world: young, old, in between, many races, (hopefully!) men, women, people with children and without. I hope you will take a moment and check it out!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The thrifty vacation

We are getting ready to leave for the beach on Friday and the house is starting to show signs of strain. Because of various meetings and work obligations, we have to pack by Wednesday and that means I went shopping today. Right now there are approximately 400 bags of groceries in the kitchen and 50 baskets of laundry in various stages of completion littering the rest of the house.

This was an unplanned (i.e. unbudgeted) vacation because we decided midway through the summer that although Disney will be fun, summer isn't complete without a trip to the beach. Normally (because unplanned expenses are a very normal thing in this household), we would just pay for the extra vacation and at the end of the year, wonder why we don't have more money to put into savings.

This time, I decided that I was going to figure out how to pay for the whole thing without impacting our budget. The condo was the easy part - we canceled our Valentine's Day getaway because of scheduling issues and the vacation falls on our anniversary. Those are budgeted expenses so I just used that money to pay for the condo. Trickier was food, kenneling the dog, going out to eat, new books for the beach and all the rest of the fun stuff that costs money on vacation.

I simply moved to an all cash system for the weekly budget and started stashing my savings away. I planned simple, inexpensive meals and managed to stay on the all organic plan. I only drove my car when absolutely necessary (we are very lucky that Justin's gas is paid for by his employer). I planned free or low cost outings with the kids. And still we did a lot of things: I renewed our zoo membership, paid for a birthday party, visited two amusement parks, ordered pizza and went out to dinner a few times.

Today was the fruition of all of that savings. While we buy meat, dairy and vegetables at the beach, we do the rest of the grocery shopping at home so we don't have to pay inflated beach town prices on things like peanut butter, cereal and toilet paper. I also had to buy backpacks and new school shoes for the kids today because Charlie goes back to school the day after we get home. I was dreading the trip - sure that I hadn't saved enough, especially since we had some unplanned expenses come up this week (Grace decided that she wants to play baseball too. And that requires a hot pink glove and matching bat!) But when the cashier was done ringing us up this afternoon, I realized that we came in way under my budget and that we still have plenty of money left to do all the fun stuff at the beach. That will include wine since that was one of the things I stopped buying while I was trying to save money.

So one of the things Justin and I have talked about is whether our regular weekly budget is simply too high. The biggest savings, by far, has been in groceries and that is due to eating mostly very simple, vegetarian meals over the last month. I expected complaints, especially from my gourmand husband. Instead, everyone seems relatively satisfied with the meals I've prepared. The other big savings was in gasoline and that is because Grace doesn't go to preschool 25 miles away any more and we just aren't in the car that much. That budget will definitely need to be adjusted to reflect the shrinking of my world.

I think we will leave the rest of the budget unchanged and see how it goes. After all, my brother is planning a move to Anchorage and an unplanned vacation to Alaska will cost a whole lot more than an unplanned trip to the beach.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

There is nothing wrong with a good education


The zookeeper takes the baby tiger home with her on weekends. He snuggles with a black labrador retriever. It's enough to make me consider going back to school to get a doctorate in zoology.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity... from birthday parties to playdates to camp to the Breaking Dawn book release to the Making Memories Masters contest deadline... it's become increasingly difficult for me to remember where we need to go from one day to the next. The summer is quickly winding to a close. We depart for the beach in a week and school starts the day after we return.

I am looking forward to resuming a regular schedule but I am not looking forward to the children going back to school. I think if they stretched summer vacation one more month, it would be just about perfect.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend Brain Purge

Once again, the blog gets the photo remains as I am knee deep in the midst of a "must use previously unseen photos" scrapbooking contest entry.


We had Grace's family birthday party at a local park this weekend after the 90 degree forecast sent me into a tizzy about fitting all of those people inside the house and hoping the air conditioner didn't explode. First, parties at the park are awesome and I may never have a party at my house again. I don't know what it is that makes the park swing/slide/running space better than the swing/slide/running space at home but it is better nonetheless. Next, Grace had an outrageously good birthday this year - an embarassment of riches actually. It is a good thing that she is a child who will actually enjoy and play with every single thing and wear every single item of clothing (both of which milestones she accomplished before the end of the weekend.) If there is anything I can say definitively about our Gracie, it is that she is a child who really knows how to play.


My brother is moving to Alaska. In almost every regard I think this is awesome news. I am sad that we never made it to New Mexico to visit his earth ship. (That is the kind of house that he lives in, it's a real designation, I swear. http://www.taosearthships.com/. He has lived completely off the grid since he graduated from college.) I hope that if he ends up marrying his long-time girlfriend, they will return to Taos for the wedding and we can go then. As I said, I am mostly thrilled that he is moving to Alaska where he got hired for his dream job thanks to the efforts of one of his best friends. So why is it that I had a nightmare on Saturday about his impending move? I woke absolutely broken hearted that he was moving so far away.


Yesterday we went to Kennywood Park for Justin's company picnic. It is the first time we've gone together as a family. It will be remembered in my scrapbooks as one of the best days ever. Something magical happens to my children when they walk through the gates at an amusement park. They cease whining. They cease bickering. They are filled with wonder and delight and pure happiness. When we tell them at the beginning of the day that they will be able to pick one sweet treat before we go home, they listen and don't nag all day asking for something from every stand we pass. I thought before that this was the Disney effect but it's clearly just the amusement park effect. My favorite memory of the day... Grace picked the Whip It as her favorite ride. She rode it five times, throwing her arms in the air and squealing with glee every single time her car "whipped." Her joy was so infectious that she had the male teenage ride attendant laughing out loud. Bystanders watching their own children on the ride were laughing along with her. It's the kind of memory that deserves one of those "priceless" commercials.


And finally, an update on my endeavor to get in shape. This is week 5 of the effort and I have faithfully made it to the gym about four times every week. I can't say I am seeing a lot of progress on the scale (although that improved a little bit last week) but I am seeing progress in other ways - as in, the size of my tummy is visibly decreasing and a smaller pants size is in the near future. I don't like exercising any more than I did when I started this thing but I am finally in a place where I can start to see it as a permanent lifestyle change.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You can measure the chaos factor of my life

by how often I update this blog. I'm just not sure which is the precipitating chaotic factor - posting a lot (i.e. meaning I'm on the computer a lot) or life events.


My favorite cat has taken to curling up on my lap when I use the computer in the morning. He will be 13 years old this October so it's probably not surprising that he's decided to become a lap cat in his dodderage. For now though, I'm going to blame the chaos and my lack of ability to get things back under control on him. Because how can I do anything else when there is a soft warm cat purring on my lap?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Letterboxing misadventures

I have been totally caught up in work craziness over the last two weeks and rather than having the kids enjoy summer in our yard, they have been cooped up at daycare. In a way it felt like today was the first day of summer vacation all over again so I decided that we would go letterboxing.


Our previous attempts have been mixed. We found the first box with no problem but then missed the trail on the way out and ended up hiking several extra miles. Justin and the kids had no success at finding the second box on our list. We started the day with a mission to find 2 new boxes and another attempt at the one we couldn't find before.


The first two on our list were at Bushy Run Battlefield and the directions were simple. But... no box. We continued on to the second and found it with no trouble. We returned to the area of the first and searched. And searched and searched. We searched so hard that we eventually stumbled onto someone else's hidden geocache. There was not a leaf nor a daddy long legs left undisturbed by the time we gave up. This is when we should have given up for good.


We drove back to a park closer to our house to look for the last box. The directions were deliberately vague. Of course we took the wrong trail. What I didn't know was that we took the Heart Attack Hill trail. (Incidentally, why does every park in our town seem to have a Heart Attack Hill trail?) When we finished that trail, we took another wrong trail. Two hours later we stumbled back to the starting place, no box, sore feet, tired, thirsty and hungry.


But I bet the kids will sleep well tonight. And it was a fun adventure to share for the last day that my Gracie will be 4 years old.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I really really need to order new pictures

because I'm getting tired of scrapping fall and Christmas photos!


I'm about halfway through the edits for the next batch. But I have to be in the right mood to edit photos and that mood doesn't come around often.


And come to think of it, I haven't been taking many photos lately either. I'd better try to fix that today.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sometimes life just catches up with you

in so many ways. I told Justin last night that I felt like I was flattened by a steamroller over the last few days. But he made everything better. He's good at that.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where are those babies?

Okay, first of all, my computer is driving me crazy because it won't let me cut and paste the text from below the layout to above the layout. It's one of my biggest frustrations with blogger that it won't insert a picture anywhere except at the top of the post so if you forget to do it first, then you have to cut and past to move things around. Or not as the case may be.


I can't remember if I shared this layout before. It is representative of everything we are not doing this week. After my ramblings on the lazy summer I hoped for, I forgot to take into account extra work obligations. Did I ever mention that my kids (or at least one of them) is not particularly well behaved after spending the day at daycare? It makes it extra special when they have to be there more than usual.


Back to the real topic of this post... two elephants at our zoo are expecting babies any day. The zoo said they thought they might be born at the beginning of the month but so far, no babies. I feel like an expectant aunt waiting for them to arrive; I check the newspaper first thing in the morning and then check back periodically through the day to see if there is any news. The zoo also has a baby tiger whose mother rejected it. They are hand raising it but at last report, well over a month ago, they didn't know if he would survive. I think the zoo needs to start its own news division so that crazy people like me can be constantly updated about zoo happenings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And then I procrastinated

I didn't have time to post this morning but Paula tagged me so I think that is reason enough to take a break from the law and answer up.

The rules of the game: Each player answers the questions themselves. At the end of the post the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment letting them know that they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answers.

Ten years ago...I was enjoying the first year of being married to Justin, we had just moved into our first little house and adopted Kuma, an Akita puppy. Gosh she was cute. I was in the second year of law school and working in exactly the same place I am working right now. I believe we had just returned from our first trip to Hatteras Island where my grandma and I collected more sea shells than you can imagine.

Five things on today's "to do list"... 1. Return phone calls 2. Laundry 3. Return more phone calls 4. Call to schedule Grace's birthday party 5. Haircuts

Snacks I enjoy... Dark chocolate, cheese, Pringles 100 calorie whole wheat pizza sticks - yum!

Places I have lived... Pennsylvania, Chicago

I'm going to think of some people to tag. In the meantime, Sheila you need to start a blog!

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's Monday

Long to-do list for the day and for the week. It's Monday.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Houston, we have a tomato

This being the first year in seven years that I planted the garden on time, this is also the first time we've achieved tomato in June. There are also three or four tiny little peppers. We haven't seen a whole lot of bees this summer so it's a relief to know they are out there doing their job.


I made another card last night. Does anyone have any news for which they need congratulating?






Saturday, June 21, 2008

Go Team Pumpkin!


My mother-in-law signed us up to do a charity walk for epilepsy today. We met my brother-in-law and his family at PNC Park and proudly donned our bright orange shirts to embark on what she told us was a 2 mile walk. Thus, Team Pumpkin was born. Right at the start of the race, my mother-in-law decided her foot hurt too much to walk so she found a seat and sent us on our way. We started close to the back of the pack and about 10 minutes in, came upon a sign that said "5 K this way." And that's when we realized it wasn't a 2 mile walk.


I'm not really embarassed to say that we finished the race next to last. The kids wanted to play in the fountain, they wanted to run and my brother-in-law wanted to take lots of pictures. We were passed by people on crutches, people in electric wheelchairs, people who got out of their wheelchairs to finish the race on their feet; basically, we were passed by everyone. But we had a lot of fun and it was for a good cause so I have no complaints.


For my scrapbooking offering today, I lifted some cards that Nora Griffin had on her blog earlier this week. I think it's a darn cute idea:



Now if I could only find someone who has a birthday soon!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Who picked these pets anyway?

Sam, the softer and more adventuresome of our two Siamese cats decided to sneak out the door last night at 10:00. I had to stay up until 1:00 a.m. until he decided his adventures were over for the evening.


And Harry, our rambunctious and misbehaved black lab decided to eat a dozen cookies and the contents of the garbage can for breakfast this morning. I suppose it's a good thing he ate the cookies since I'm starting the new gym program today.


Speaking of today, here is my scrappy offering. This is another older one that I never posted.


Have a good Friday!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Halfway through the year


Seems like a good time to reevaluate resolutions and revisit my word for the year "focus." Some things I'm still struggling with so I'm trying something new - like signing up for the new program at the gym. Some things I have failed completely at - like writing every day - but I still want to do so that may be a good place to start with the "focus" thing. We have made a lot of positive changes as a family, even if my kids still grumble about the organic thing. Eventually they'll get used to it, right?

But yesterday and today what I've been thinking about most is scrapbooking and where it fits in my life. It's normal for interest in a hobby to ebb and flow but when you've spent as much money on supplies as I have, the "ebb" periods seem overly self-indulgent. I participated in the Layout a Day Challenge at Two Peas for a year. I didn't make a layout every single day but I did it most days. I'm going to try that again, to see if I can find the joy in creating again, to see if I still have things to say with my scrapbook pages. Today is Day 1 and I'm posting a page I did a few weeks ago. It's not cheating because I did make a page yesterday but I hope to submit it so I'll hold it back for awhile. So anyway, Today is Day 1. Play along with me!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Quiet


Today was one of those days where I just needed the world to be quiet. Some family friends were in a horrible car accident earlier this week and two people died. It's one of those situations where I didn't know them well enough to intrude while they are trying to deal with their loss but I still feel the loss very keenly. Yesterday I was grumpy and nasty with Justin for no good reason and I only managed to get a few hours of sleep. Today I'm trying to regroup and focus on the little things I will be able to do to help over the coming weeks.

Regroup is probably a better title for this post. I got invited by my former gym (emphasis on former) to participate in a 16 week pilot program where I get a free personal trainer, a strict nutritional program and some other health/fitness related perks and guidance. It requires a big commitment but I like the idea of accountability. One week at a time. I'll start as soon as I eat the bag of m&m's that came with my scrapsupply order this afternoon.

It's a cold and blustery afternoon so we're holed up inside. We're going to have a Harry Potter marathon. Does that fall under the "quiet" or "regroup" title?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Random thoughts on summer




The smell of summer. I spent the summer after my sophomore year in college studying in Venezuela, in a mountain town not far from the border with Colombia. Nothing can bring me back to those days faster than the smell of diesel on a warm summer afternoon. It's such a strange smell to love but I do... it's one of the best smells in the world. I associate it with men carrying huge bunches of bananas riding burros down the sidewalk, advertisements for the discotecas soaped onto the windshields of cars, run-down rusty vans careening down the streets taking people where they need to go, chocolate cake and mango shakes for breakfast, tiny stone chapels hidden in the unlikeliest of corners, the warm crumbly corn taste of arepas, the vivid cacophony of reds and fushias and turquoise all mixed together in indescribable beauty.

The act of summer. It's an ongoing experiment for us. Three years ago we were in two Moms groups, a playgroup, a weekly scrapbooking group, enrolled in 2 weeks of daycamp, members of a pool club and vacation bound x 2. At the end of that summer, I realized my kids had not spent more than 2 afternoons just hanging out in our own yard. Since then we've cut things back one by one until this summer only the pool membership and the scrapbooking remain. We're going to try out some new things like the summer reading program at the library, maybe a day or two at the municipal playground program, maybe some craft afternoons at the local craft store. But mostly we're going to hang out and have fun together instead of rushing from one activity to the next. There is going to be a lot of sprinkler and sandbox time, a lot of popsicles and a lot of hot, lazy summer afternoons with nowhere to go. So says the plan.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer and another new lens


This picture makes me very very happy. Not because it's technically brilliant or even a very good picture. It's because my boy, running there on the soccer field, does not look like an ant. Yes, my zoom lens has finally arrived, only 2 years after I realized I needed one.


I was sitting at Charlie's baseball game later on Saturday afternoon feeling pretty smug as I snapped photo after photo (baseball games have been the biggest frustration without a zoom lens) when one of the dads walked by with his Nikon D300 and some huge mammer jammer lens. Justin turned to me and said "his camera is bigger than your camera."

Incidentally, Charlie had a great sports day - he scored a goal at soccer and was 2 for 4 at baseball. And he got to go swimming. That's the way to start summer vacation.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No matter what

No matter who you supported during this primary, no matter if you didn't pay attention at all, no matter if you are a (D) an (R) or an (I), no matter if you prefer blue or red, are a man or a woman, liberal or conservative, no matter if you are black, white, red, purple or green, no matter if you are young or old... this is a night to be proud. This is a night that history will be made. This is a night that will be written about, talked about and studied for generations. This is a night to be proud to be an American. No matter what.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

For no good reason whatsoever


I stuck the red felt on there at the end because it felt empty and I was tired of messing around with it. I'll probably change it. I don't have a reason or a story why I made this layout, I just did.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day six of when will everyone in our family be healthy again?

I ought to write a comic strip.

In the meantime, here is a funny Charlie story. The background is that my great grandmother (whom I adored and named my daughter after) had a lovely lilac talc that she scented her girlish things with. I don't find things with that particular scent often but when I do, it makes me very happy.

So I bought the kids some new Winnie the Pooh shampoo/bodywash last week and one morning shortly after his shower, I was snuggling Charlie and sniffed his hair. "I said mmm.... your hair smells very nice this morning." And he replied "yeah mom, I smell like old people. Not regular old people but really old people." I'm left wondering when he's been sniffing really old people.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hillary Clinton on assassination and why do we run for President this way?

I'm going to take a break from your regularly scheduled banal blog posting and take a point of personal privilege to talk about politics for a moment.


As people bicker over whether she is really contemplating Obama’s death as justification for continuing in the race or whether the analogies were historically accurate, I’m going to propose a different theory. She initially made the statement way back in March when Mark Penn still held full sway over the campaign and every soundbite was triangulated and tested and polled. I suspect that they first trotted out this analogy for two reasons - both to argue that the nomination has lasted through June before and to plant the question in the minds of super delegates as to whether they really want to endorse a candidate who just might be killed before the convention.


Since she used the analogy twice afterwards but eliminated the assassination reference, my suspicion is that within the campaign they decided it wasn’t the right message, or it didn’t end up testing well or it was too risky to use more than once. But now months later she’s exhausted, she’s answering the same questions for the hundredth time and the first message came out of her mouth. Not with malice aforethought, not as an indication that her soul is dark and contemplating all of the possibilities, but as an honest mistaken reference back to the Kennedy analogy that for whatever reason had previously been abandoned.


Which brings me to my larger question which is why do we tolerate politics the way it’s run today? Because when you get down the question she was asked about why people want her to quit the race, her basic response was that she didn’t know, she finds it curious, she doesn’t understand, blah blah blah, keep talking, say stupid thing, blah blah blah. But none of it is the truth. She knows exactly why people want her to get out of the race and she doesn’t find it curious, she just disagrees. She can’t say that though because for some reason, we don’t tolerate the truth in politics today.


Take Obama’s response as another example - he takes her at her word that she meant no offense, he’s not bothered by it, move on. None of that is the truth either. He knows exactly why she said it, I guarantee that if he’s not bothered by it, his wife sure is, and you can bet that there were a few moments of glee in the Obama headquarters when they realized how much damage this story was going to do to her campaign. But he can’t say any of that either.


When you take a good look at what any of the candidates are saying on any given day, it’s clear that they aren’t saying much of anything they actually believe. When Senator McCain sarcastically says he admires what Senator Obama has accomplished for being such a young man, what he really means is that he can’t stand the guy and yes, the dislike is very personal. Why can’t he just say that, that in their personal dealings, he found him untrustworthy and not genuine and that’s his honest opinion. Why pretend affinity that doesn’t exist?


I know this is the way politics has always been played but with the 24 news media and the pundit class, somehow it seems all the worse because now we have an entire industry that exists for nothing more than to blather and analyze the nonsense that comes out of the candidates’ mouths. In the meantime, there are actually really important issues that will affect all of us that no one seems to have any interest in talking about. Maybe they’ll get around to those issues when the election is over.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A sign that your children might be watching too much tv

So we're all sick now. And the tv has been on, um, a lot over the last two days.

As I was cleaning up from lunch, Grace came into the kitchen and said she wanted a space bag. I asked her what a space bag is. "It wocks out bugs, dirt and mooster." "Moisture?" "Yeah, dat." "What are you talking about Grace?" "Mommy, it fits under da bed and you vacuum it up and you put your sweaters in it and it's good cause there is no bugs in it." Okay then.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A new lens





It's going to take some getting used to but I'm excited to play.

I'm sick. And sick and tired of the rain. The weatherman says that it's going to be nice any minute now. But I'm sick. So the level of my caring is not what it once was.

A Grace anecdote might brighten the day. She went to bed. She called me to her room. She always calls me to her room. It's a source of great tension. This time she wanted MooMoo. I said I would bring MooMoo if I found her. Grace said she would go look. I said no, I would go look. Grace said she would go look. I said no, I would go look. And then I closed the door. Grace said she would go look. I said nothing. Then I heard "ha ha, I said it last, I winned." I fell for the bait. "No, you did not win. I will always win, I am the mom. Saying it last does not mean you win." Her muttered reply? "Well what do you think it means then?"

And a Charlie story just for equal measure. He got the Diary of a Wimpy Kid (or something like that) at the bookfair on Tuesday. He finished it by Wednesday morning. His dad brought him home the next one and he started reading it last evening. He went to bed at the regular time but several hours later I had to put something away in his room, went in and discovered the lights on, him reading away. I turned the lights off, told him to go to sleep and thought that was the end of it. This morning he woke up with bags under his eyes down to his chin. And admitted that after we went to bed, he got back up and finished reading the book. I still haven't decided whether I can actually punish him for reading.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The laziest week of my life

I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I was a slug this week. Maybe it was the gloomy, cold, rainy weather, maybe I just reached my breaking point. The fact that the sun just finally burst through the clouds and I found the inspiration to blog about it is probably a hint. I hope it stays out long enough tomorrow so I can start to get the house back in order.


That's it. That's all the energy I can muster. I'm like a depleted solar panel.

Edited to add: The weatherman confirmed it - it has been gray and rainy for 15 of the 16 days in May so far. The weekend forecast? Gray and rainy. I think I need to buy a sun lamp.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!



We're having a quiet, lowkey day as we try to beat a stomach bug that's been hanging around all weekend. It's grey and rainy and the perfect day to sit inside, watch Indiana Jones and scrapbook. Enjoy your day!



Thursday, May 8, 2008

A recap

Grace started out the school year wearing 24 month clothing. That lasted only a few weeks when she moved to 2T. That lasted only a few months more when around Christmas she moved to 3T. I just spent a small fortune buying her summer clothes in 4T. And yes, you guessed it, they just barely fit. This is our first growth spurt (slow and steady is the rule around here) and my wallet is not too pleased about it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy day after National Scrapbooking Day!



Working through some leftover fall pictures. I love fall pictures.

I was very excited to win a free registration for Debbie Hodge's Scrap Your Events class. I've downloaded the first two lessons and hope to get to that this afternoon. Scrapping events like Christmas and birthdays is challenging so this class will be very helpful!

We took the first step away from "our house looks like college kids live here" this afternoon. We bought Charlie a complete set of bedroom furniture. Until now, we've been hodge podge purchasers, a little something on clearance here, a little hand me down from someone there. Nothing flows and really, it just looks bad. Justin and I are very slow with decision making; in fact, we picked out Charlie's furniture a year ago and just never returned to purchase it. And then when we finally went to get it this week, discovered that it had been discontinued so we had to start the process all over again. But we've been talking about remodeling and redecorating for months now and this was the first step. Next step - repainting and new floors? Check back in a year and see how far we've gotten with those decisions. It's painful I tell you.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A turning point?

This morning did not start out very well. Justin's car wouldn't start and after trying for an hour to charge his battery, he gave up, took my car and headed off to work. My AAA membership expired on April 30 - but it turns out they have a grace period. Eventually they showed up and figured out what the problem was and we headed off to the kids' schools, only about 45 minutes behind schedule.


But... and here is the turning point part... it was my intention to run today after dropping Grace off, and then come home and do all the stuff around the house that has to be done. So I was 45 minutes late, giving me time to either run or come home - not both. And then, when I got to the park, I couldn't get the ipod to turn on. So short on time, no music. But I ran anyway. Yes I did! 1/2 mile more than Wednesday in fact.


Tonight I have to go to the funeral home for a viewing for a friend's father who passed away unexpectedly. We are too young to be losing our parents. This friend has now lost both parents and 2 sisters. It seems to me some families get more than their share of tragedy. I hope I can think of the right words to say to him.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy May Day!


Yes, I am gleeful that the month of April is over. I've never felt that way about April before but this one kicked my butt. So even though I backed into someone's car in a parking lot today, I am confident that good things are going to happen in May! (And that's not just because I have a birthday this month.)

My little man had a birthday last week. He likes birthdays but he is not very happy about getting older. Transitions are always a little bit difficult for him and this one has been no exception. He threw a temper tantrum yesterday (probably only the 3rd temper tantrum in his entire life) and was so mad that he tried to make his head explode. He squeezed his eyes and his shoulders, his face turned purple and he started shaking from the exertion. And he almost succeeded - he broke most of the blood vessels around his eyes. He might be the very first kid to get two black eyes from screaming. The source of the temper tantrum? He was mad at himself for doing something mean to his sister.

He has found a best friend over the last few weeks and was devastated that his black eyes meant he would not be able to ride the bus home with her after school tomorrow. This led to another round of teeth gnashing anxiety. I am still looking for the manual that came with him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Think of me, think of me kindly

Yeah, I've had Phantom of the Opera songs stuck in my head all week thanks to the American Idol recaps on Youtube. But I do love that David Cook!


This week has been another installment in the "why I think cloning might not be such a bad idea" crazy month of April. The good news is that things should start to return to normal after this weekend. The bad news is that I can't organize my thoughts well enough to put together a coherent blog entry until then. Back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Friday, April 18, 2008

In the midst of the blog hiatus

and the insanity that is April, I did finally come to the realization that who-cakes and peanut butter cups are not helping. So I started running again. And doing arm curls. Because I suddenly realized that I am almost 35 years old and I don't want to have my great-grandmother's arms for at least 40 more years. If I squint and don't look in the mirror directly, things still aren't quite that bad.


So we are overscheduled. We have become those crazed parents that sociologists write about, careening down the road from one activity to another, cramming peanut and jelly sandwiches into the minutes that should comprise dinner and changing uniforms in the car hoping that the police don't notice the naked child in the backseat. And it's all so much fun!


Charlie also has a birthday this week, as does my mother and Justin's father. He is having a family party this weekend and I swear I will get the dirty socks out of the bathroom before then. A few more days and they might walk out themselves!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why my diets (I know, that's not the right word) fail

Diet, lifestyle change, whatever. Well not so much whatever because I think it's the lifestyle change, or lack thereof, that keeps me from ever maintaining a weight loss program. Have to work overtime? A peanut butter cup will help! Think I might go crazy if I don't get a day off soon? That means it's time to go to IHOP for the Horton Hears a Who breakfast! No, really, that one is just for the kids. Really. I swear.


Clearly, I need some better stress management techniques. And don't suggest carrots, shopping or exercise because none of those are as fun as a peanut butter cup.


Unless maybe it's shopping for scrapbook supplies. Which I think I am going to do tonight on the way to IHOP. That's called multi-tasking and that's a stress management technique right there!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A pictorial hiatus

I'm not spending much (any?) time at home this week because I'm filling in at the office for my father who is taking some time off to finish his master's thesis. While I still have access to the computer, I didn't think it would set a good precedent to bring the scrapbook supplies and camera to work as I suspect the paying clients might not appreciate the aesthetic. Although, if ever an environment called out for some creative decorations, it's a law office at tax time.


It's also the first week of baseball and soccer seasons (wheeeee!!!!) and I discovered tonight that baseball practice goes from 6:00 until dark. Right now that means 8:00. It should be really fun when it stays light until 9:30.


Add in 4 court appearances, my Inns of Court pupilage group presentation (it's a professional organization - just as geeky as it sounds), the cub scout fishing derby, karate, gymnastics, the local Obama phone-a-thon that the campaign is running out of my office, a vet appointment and a husband with several multi-million dollar bids due this week, and you might begin to understand the slight twitch I've developed in my eye. And the massive pile of folded but not yet put away laundry that sits on my couch. Just keepin' it real.


This too shall pass and Sunday afternoon will find me happily playing away with the new Cosmo Cricket robots and the Scenic Route Loveland that my wonderful friend Vivian sent after I couldn't find it anywhere. I think those hearts will look great on the front of my desk at work.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The funniest thing happened last night!


Peter Pan and Tinkerbell came to visit our house while we were sleeping! I think they must have been worried that I wasn't able to keep the secret about going to Disney World so they stopped by to drop off letters for Charlie and Grace. Tinkerbell told Gracie to ask her dad if she could come visit her at Disney this year. Justin wasn't so sure, so he had to measure Grace. Imagine his surprise when we discovered that Grace is tall enough to ride Big Thunder Mountain! Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cinderella

Gracie has a strange Cinderella game going on right now. It involves her taking over the chores from me and finishing them despite my protests. Sweeping up the moonsand that is covering the porch floor being one example. I swept, went to dump the dust pan and came back to find her on her hands and knees under the table picking it up grain by tiny grain. And she insisted she was going to finish it.

I wondered what was going on until she piped up "Mommy, if you was a ugly stepsister, I would be really grumpy right now."

I hope she isn't grumpy when midnight comes around and she realizes Prince Charming isn't coming to rescue her.

The best laid plans of mice and men

Today was supposed to be a busy day, running tither and hither to one obligation after another. But then Grace got sick in the car on the way to school so now the day is not so busy. After several hours of Noggin and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she seems to be just fine.


Harry's tumors were benign. The kids still think he looks like a zombie and don't want to be anywhere near him.


Now that we booked the Disney trip, I don't want to wait until December to go.


Scrapbooking. I think I'm going to go do some of that now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A good day, a very good day

First, because we booked a surprise trip to Disney at Christmas. Shhhh!!!! The kids think we won't go again until Grace turns 9. Justin and I are trying to decide whether to tell them ahead of time or just start driving and see how long it takes until they figure it out.

And then, because I just got an e-mail that Barack is coming to town on Friday. Rested and relaxed from his vacation... I am pretty stoked to go and hear him in person. I'm hoping to be able to take Charlie as well.

It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Twas the week before Easter

and all through my house...


was the sound of the carpet cleaner, vinegar squeaking on windows and the tiny screams of tiny spiders dislodged from the hidden corners on the sunporch in which they built webs during the winter. Sorry spiders.


It's been an emotional week. Harry (our pup) had surgery yesterday to remove two masses from his flank. We are still hopeful that they are just cysts. It was even more emotional when I got the bill for the surgery. But we love you anyway Harry.


And the speech. Of course I'm going to say something about Obama's speech. Because despite all the trivializing by the likes of Wolf Blitzer who says it's the same old politics, what I heard yesterday was the best speech given in my lifetime. Whatever happens to this man, in this election, I am proud that I was part of this moment in however small a way.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring came to visit


And I decided I would go up the mountain to visit the bog and see if it was waking up. I've visited the mountain in every season - deep winter, early spring and it's always been fine. But I've never attempted it in the midst of the freeze/thaw cycle and as I skidded and bounced along the unmaintained road through the state forest, I reconsidered the folly of not having told anyone where I was going. No guardrails, no other cars, no cell phone coverage - just my fingers gripped to the steering wheel creeping along at 2 miles per hour praying that the all wheel drive would keep me on the road.

Finally I was at the summit and could breathe again as I headed down the trail through the woods to the bog. At first the trail was a messy mix of a thin layer of snow interspersed with patches of deep mud and thick layers of rotting leaves. As it wove deeper into the forest, the snow pack deepened and soon the only sound I could hear was the crunch of my shoes breaking through the crust of the snow. There was one other set of old tracks heading in and every once in awhile, I could see where that person stepped off the trail and broke through the snow into a ditch filled with mucky, murky bog water. The walk did little to calm my nerves.

As I came to the platform leading out into the bog, my first reaction was absolute disappointment. Still asleep. Still frozen and silent. A pair of crows called to each other from the trees on the far edge of the water. I searched the sky in vain for the sight of a hawk and listened certain I would hear the songbirds chirping to each other in an early spring frenzy. Nothing but the repeated, obnoxious "caw caw" over and over again, causing my startled heart to begin pounding again with every discordant call. This was not peaceful or calming.

And then I forced myself to stop. To breathe. To just be in the place like I had been dozens of times before. It was then that I heard it. A creaking, distant cracking. The tiny gurgle of running water. The ice is melting. The bog is waking up. Spring is coming.

I took a gamble that the summit road would be better maintained from the logging trucks and state forest vehicles so I drove in that direction and was rewarded with clear roads the whole way to the highway. My car is completely covered in mud. But spring is coming to the mountain.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Time keeps moving on

I made this layout for my grandfather for Christmas. That's me up there on the tractor with him. In 34 years, I've never seen him react like he did when he opened this. I've not had a lot of success giving scrappy gifts to other people but this one was priceless.


And speaking of time, I went school visiting this morning and think we've found a pre-K program for Grace next year. We have officially decided not to send her to kindergarten yet and this program will work very well in the transition. Charlie is the only one who is upset about the decision.


I'm off to take a nap. The time change is killing me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This boy


woke up sick this morning. March is always the worst month for sickness around here and it's holding true to form this year. The crocuses finally decided to stick their little green shoots out of the ground though so that means spring is coming soon. I think I'll sit in the yard and wait until it gets here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Old, new and blue





I really love my hobby.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Twilight

Where have I been? Why didn't I listen to anyone about these books? They are mushy, sappy, romantic, suspenseful and the most fun read I've had in a long while. I read all three of them since yesterday morning. Justin sniffed disdainfully a few times and I always replied with... "but Amazon says Twilight is the best book of the decade!" He is unimpressed.


So I obviously don't have much else to blog about since I've done nothing but read in the last two days. Go buy these books!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Please don't faint.

But I scrapbooked today. The layouts look nothing alike.



I can't figure out why the 2 pager is so small. It's Ghosthunters night so that means even more time to scrapbook after the kids go to bed.

It turns out that Gracie has strep throat. She's doing much better today after antibiotics. We all had to get new toothbrushes out of the deal so she's actually pretty happy.

My favorite scrapbook store is for sale. I'm very sad about it. I wish I lived closer so I could buy it. I wish I had enough money to buy it. I wish a lot of things.

Back to your regularly scheduled scrapping.




Tagged!

I've been tagged by Paula to post 7 random facts!

1. I studied abroad in Venezuela and rather than use my travel time to see the Amazon or Victoria Falls, I went to the beach.

2. My favorite color is purple because when I was in college, a dorm mate was washing her very purple sheets and they caught my attention and I realized that I had never considered purple before. Said dorm mate is now the angel in the Philly Cream Cheese commercials.

3. I watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy once a month. Star Wars original trilogy also. Pirates of the Carribbean trilogy also. I watch a lot of videos while I read or scrapbook.

4. I vacuum every day. Sometimes more than once a day. Dirty carpet makes me squirmy.

5. I read political autobiographies for fun.

6. I am afraid of the dark.

7. My kids have covered their car windows in the car with all the stickers from their trips to the doctor. I'm the mom that drives the car with stickers all over the windows. I never thought I would be that mom.

I'm supposed to tag 7 other people but Paula used up most of the people I would tag. So... if you are reading this AND you have a blog AND you haven't been tagged, consider yourself tagged. And leave me a comment so I can check it out!

Monday, March 3, 2008

It was very, very green

When I last did the grocery shopping, we were still planning to cook through Nigella and I bought accordingly. Last night's menu included the last of the recipes: broccoli soup. Sounds harmless enough. The recipe includes a goodly amount of Stilton cheese. We're fans of the blue cheese around here so I was optimistic.


Let me interrupt this story to tell you another one. A few weeks ago, Anthony Bourdain's travel channel show had him in Singapore happily munching away on various Singaporian cuisine. One of the foods that Anthony loved was made from these gigantic crabs that feed on the carcasses of the dead human bodies that are thrown into the river. You read that correctly. Anthony called it something like Spicy Crab or Chili Crab as he munched on it happily at a mall foodcourt. Even more delightful. Crab of the dead at the mall food court. My husband said it sounded delicious. And he would like to eat that. My husband would like to eat crab of the dead at the Singaporian mall food court - the man will eat just about anything.


Until it comes to Nigella's broccoli soup. He took one bite. Made a funny face. This caused Charlie great anxiety because Charlie doesn't like broccoli at all but he was making a valiant effort to eat this soup. Justin ate some bread and shot me a look across the table that caused me concern for my continued health. He took another bite. And then he quietly pushed the bowl away and said "please do not make another one of Nigella's recipes. Ever. Please." And then he at Amy's organic cheddar bunny crackers for dinner.


Personally, Gracie and I didn't think it was that bad.


Speaking of Gracie, she woke up yesterday with a bad cough that worried me but that I hoped was asthma. She woke this morning with a high fever and now I'm even more worried because while my kids are prone to the high fevers, they usually show up much later in the day. So we're going to spend the day watching videos and cuddling on the couch. And perhaps a little bit of time researching new cookbooks.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

This is how things work at my house

Last night when we were deciding which movie to watch, Charlie made a strong argument for Lord of the Rings. And his argument was this: "but Mom, we haven't watched Lord of the Rings since January."


(I think he was wrong though. I think it's only been since the beginning of February.)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The kids were misbehaving and I was getting grumpier by the minute so I loaded them in the car and we went sled riding at the park. After settling down for some pizza and Harry Potter tonight, Gracie declared it the best day of her entire life. She might be onto something.