Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stress free moving? (And pictures of the house)

I am moving.

You would think this would be stress inducing, but you forget that I am the sort of woman who can handle stress and glides through life without any trouble. After all, I am the same person who showed up at church dressed like this:

Remember that post? Good times.

Anyway, Peter and I have done everything we can to ensure our move across the continent is as stress-free as possible. That is why we decided to move in the middle of the school year. In fact, to ensure as little stress as possible, we will be arriving in our new hometown two days before Christmas.

We are geniuses.

I know, I know, you want me to plan your next move. I seem to be so good at it. Let me tell you, we must be allergic to adrenaline, the way we avoid stress at all costs.

That is why we decided, when moving two days before Christmas in the middle of the school year across the Northern portion of the country in winter snow season, to build a new house. And my husband is picking all the finishes.**

**You see, when I chose the place I wanted to live I sold my soul made a deal with my husband that he got to pick the house we lived in. For some of you that may mean agreeing to live in a shack, but for me it meant living in a golf course neighborhood and spending 50% more on a house. After Peter started talking about the finishes of his dream home, I decided he better chose them and leave me in the dark about the cost of the upgrades. Which would have worked, if I wasn't required to sign all the work order changes. So anyway, I know we have the same taste and he has picked great finishes so far, and so this hasn't added to the stress at all ...um, not really, but it makes me feel better to say it hasn't .**

To summarize:

  • I am moving into a house that my husband has chosen everything for and is still under construction a month from our move.

  • I have not seen said house since it was an undeveloped piece of land.

  • My life, it is like a calming stroll on the beach.

Did I mention that we will be living closer to family than we have lived in 12 years, since my oldest was a toddler? And that, to make it even easier, we are moving ourselves instead of using movers?

So, anyway...

I'm dealing with the stress really well.
  • As long as you ignore the eye twitching.

  • And the nightmares about living in a house that is just made of sticks.

  • Oh, and the 3 pounds of chocolate I'm eating everyday. It goes well with the 100 books a week I check out of the library to supplement the 100 I've bought.

  • Not to mention the fast food we're consuming at 50% of our meals.

See, I handle stress well. Twitch, twitch, twitch ....


Special thanks to my sister, who lives in town and takes pictures of my house so I have something to look at and calm myself when the stress gets to be a bit much.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Before I Begin Halloween Recovery

Unlike previous Halloweens, we went for easy this Halloween.

Even so, after making six costumes last week, my house is a wreck.

After splitting an entire warehouse size bag of candy with my husband last week (and having to replace it before Halloween trick-or-treaters came), my stomach is a wreck, too.

Finally, after getting my first cold of the season last week, my to-do list is also a wreck.

So I have a lot of reconstruction this week, I guess I'll see you later.

We all went for things from space this year. Originally I thought we could each choose a planet (since the loss of Pluto's status as a planet, there are eight of them), but the kids had other ideas. I let them go with their own choices. Yes, my kids were geeky to come up with these ideas on their own. Even Matthew. It does a mother proud.

From left to right:
  • A Comet (Elise-13) Elise made her own costume this year, which was really nice.
  • A Quasar (Ryan- 12) If you don't know what a quasar is, look here. Or see one here.
  • An Alien (Ethan- 9) The writing on the side of his control panel says
    "Earth Takeover Handled by Alien Nations"
  • An Astronaut, in pink (Kirsti- 8) Her writing says
    "Keep Intergalactic Rogue Spacemen Terrestrially Interdicted"
  • Jupiter (Joseph- 6) He wanted all 63 moons, but I couldn't figure out how to do it easily. We settles for the 4 Galilean ones, but 2 fell off at the Trunk-or-treat before we took the picture.
  • The Asteroid Belt (Matthew- 4) For some reason this has always been his favorite part of the Solar System. And yes, we have favorite Solar System parts in this household.


Monday, October 25, 2010

It was the best place to run out of gas. Also the most humiliating,

It would be humiliating, if it weren't so ridiculous.

It all started when Peter's friend had an emergency and asked him to take over a pick up at the Bishops' Storehouse. Peter, quite fond of his friend, readily agreed. I, quite fond of my husband sleeping instead of driving after an all night shift, volunteered to do it instead.

Luckily, a friend had already requested a playdate with 3 of my children and, hearing the two left in the car crying, volunteered to take them, too. So, with my oldest left at home, I was driving my brand new and improved* Suburban alone for the 75 minute drive to the storehouse.

*Did I mention we took it to get a tune up after the drive shaft was repaired? On this first substantial drive after picking it up, I realized they somehow broke my speedometer; now it jerks back and forth in a 5 mph swing. Also, the brakes aren't working properly anymore. So "brand new and improved" really means "I can't believe I'm stuck with you until after we close on the house."

The drive there went without a glitch and the car was loaded with the needed food. On the way home, however, I found myself thinking, "Do not fall asleep. You are not tired. Do not ..." Chanting, by the way, is not the best way to keep awake. Instead I decided to stop at a gas station/rest stop to get a soda. As an afterthought, I picked up a candy bar and as an after-afterthought upgraded it to kingsize.

Walking back to the car, I noticed a wild rooster eating crumbs from the parking lot. He eyed my candy bar, I think, with jealousy. I jumped into the Suburban and started the engine.

It started and instantly died. No amount of revving would get it to turn over again.

My first thought is that the battery somehow died so I unplugged my phone, the GPS, and the XM radio (wonder why I was worried about the battery), but it did no good. Then I remembered how the last time the battery died it was really out of gas.*

*You see the gas gauge has been broken since we bought that car. At 1/4 tank it either has 1/4 tank or it is running on fumes. It was not until that moment that I remembered the gauge had been on 1/4 full when I left the house that day. Something you think should make a bigger impression on me, distracted and tired or not.

I sat in the car for a moment to savor the ridiculous fact that I had run out of gas, at a gas station, where I stopped not to buy gas, but to buy a soda. Silently praying the fumes would expand just enough to take me to the pump, I tried about 10 more times. Because surely trying over and over will fix the problem.

It did not.

So I walked back to the front of the station and bought myself one of those gas containers. The cashier regarded me curiously. After all, why would I be buying an I-ran-out-of-gas container when I am obviously already at the gas station? And if I walked here, why would I purchase a soda and candy bar before taking care of business? "My gas gauge is broken," I mutter as explanation, my eyes properly lowered in shame.

Speaking of shame, there is nothing quite like the walk of shame to the gas pump. Standing there carless while customers filling their car-attached tanks try not to notice. Their own gas pumps suddenly become far too interesting to look my direction, but I can almost hear them thinking, "There but for the grace of God (and attention to the gas gauge)..."

The rooster who taunted me.
I had plenty of time to ponder the inner thoughts of my fellow gas buyers as my first gas container was broken. After a couple minute trying to fish out the spout, I went back to the cashier and begged leniency. She replaced the offending container and I took the walk of shame again, buying my 2 gallons and taking it back to the Suburban. My only break was that the parking lot I choose was in back and had no witnesses expect the wild rooster, who I know was laughing at me the whole time. I should have shared my chocolate the first time.

Finally, the gas added to the tank, I was able to start the car and pull up to the pump.

My credit card was denied. "Please see cashier inside"

Something about using my card 4 times in a half hour triggered suspicion. I had to see that cashier one more time and explain again. Luckily, as a participant in nearly every step of my story, she understood what happened and let me use my card. "Gas gauge," I squeaked one last time as I left the store.

Finally I was on my way. I guess I'm lucky I stopped for that soda. Although the chocolate is what really calmed my smarting ego. At least I no longer felt tired at all; I recommend humiliating yourself if you ever feel sleepy at the wheel.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Guest posting today

Due to events of today, I have yet another car story to tell, but this time it is actually funny. Well, funny in a how-does-this-happen-to-me meets I-have-no-one-to-blame-but-myself sort of way. But while I contemplate how to best write the wild rooster into my tale, I'm sending you over to MMB for a guest post of mine. I sent it in months ago, and it has posted here before, but after last Friday I certainly needed a reminder! So, if you're so inclined, hop on over and read The Keeper of Bad Days.

(And just so you don't get your hopes up the wild rooster is merely a side note to the main tale)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Friday Ended

"We're just picking up the kids and you're not getting out of the car," I impatiently snapped at the kids, "Just leave your shoes and jackets at home. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll get home and into bed."

My fate was sealed...

Here are the quick facts from the last post:
  • Elise is not home
  • Peter is at work until eleven
  • Ryan and a 16-year-old boy are waiting to be picked up 25 minutes away
  • 3/4 kids jacketless, 1/2 shoeless
  • Skunk issues in the yard
  • 2 hours past kids bedtime, approaching mine

1 0 : 3 0 P M
Like all good parents, or at least experienced ones, I cranked on the heat during the drive to help facilitate sleeping kids.  As I pulled into the roundabout driveway, I realized it was blocked by another car and backed out, slightly grazing a bush as I went.  What can I say? It was dark, I was tired, I'm driving a Suburban double the height of the bush, and backing up is not my strong suit anyway. So I pulled in the other side of the driveway and left the car running while I picked up the other kids.

As we walked back to the car, I jokingly told the 16-year-old my brain and patience shut off at 10:00 so he'd better be an angel for the ride home. (Jokingly because he really is an angel; the brain and patience part is cold hard fact.)

As we pulled from the side road onto the main country road, my car tire went flat- or so it seemed.  I pulled over to the side of the road and checked: the tires seemed fine. Being that there is no real light on New England roads, I couldn't see that well and assumed a piece of the grazed bush had gotten caught in my wheel well. Of course the obvious solution was to drive faster until whatever was caught knocked loose. (Remember the part where my brain is shut off and my helper in the passenger seat has no real driving experience yet?)

Despite the intelligence of my idea, it worked!  As soon as I hit 60 mph the bumping stopped.  Satisfied with my car fixing skills, I slowed back down to 55. And then the fun really began.

1 0 : 5 0 P M
Clunk, clunk, clunkity, chuggity clunk. I thought all 4 tires must have exploded at once! I knew I hadn't hit anything, but it felt like I was running over a ditch, or more like several ditches in a row. Luckily I had JUST COME to a part of the road with a wide shoulder.  I pulled over and put the car in park to jump out and check those tires again.  When I lifted my foot from the brake, the car began to roll down the hill. Checked again, and I was still in park. So I engaged the emergency brake. Still rolled down the hill. It is the middle of the night, on a country road without lights, and I can't take my foot off the brake without the car rolling. Oh, and as it rolled it made a nice crunching noise. Extra fun.

This is where having an angelic 16-year-old with me became important.  We took turns pressing the brake while checking the tires. Nothing. Finally, after the person with a still-awake brain asked, I remembered I had a flashlight in the back of the Suburban. It was with the flashlight that I saw the car's blood spilled all over the road. Streaking and puddling down the 3 feet the car had rolled since we stopped, it was reddish enough for me to briefly wonder if I'd hit an animal.

1 1 : 0 0 P M
I'm stuck with my foot on the brake of a bleeding car- with good tires, by the way- but, in the 10 minutes it took to figure this out, Peter's shift at work had ended.  "Ended" is arbitrary as he usually doesn't leave the hospital until an hour or so after the official end of shift. Not tonight. I called the Emergency Room and waited to be connected.

Our conversation is a little hazy.
  • I told him what happened ...
  • he reminded me we have road side assistance on our insurance ...
  • I told him I didn't have the most recent card- just as 16-year-old handed me said card from the glove box ...

I know Peter later chided me. Something about calling in the middle of the night, highly excited/upset, and rambling about car trouble. Apparently not answering the question, "is anyone hurt?" until the 5th time it's asked is not appreciated. Picky, picky.

He was on his way, I was calling insurance.

1 1 : 3 0 P M
Do you know the best time to find out your insurance has bad customer service? Well I know it isn't the middle of the night, with my foot stuck on a brake pedal, 6 mostly asleep kids in the car (many without jackets).

"We need to know where you want to take the car, then we'll give you a list of tow trucks that you will pay for and we might reimburse you for. You have to look all that up on your own."

After calling Peter to decide where to take the car, I called back insurance. After explaining that I didn't know what town I was in (there being about 300 choices on any given point of a New England country road), they transferred me and then hung up. I'd been explaining myself for ten minutes and they hang up on me?

I don't do well with idiots confrontations, so I decided I would rather apply the brake forever before calling again. (Remember that whole statement about patience evaporating at ten?) Luckily Peter arrived and checked the tires, checked the pool of car blood, and proclaimed it must be the transmission.  He called the insurance again and tried to give them directions for where we were located. After being told the roads of the intersection he gave didn't exist and giving them 50 alternate names for the roads (Thanks for that, too, New England), they finally put him on hold to find a tow truck.

1 2 : 0 0 - 1 2 : 3 0 A M 
Meanwhile I decided to take Peter's car to bring the kids home in batches. 16-year-old offered to stay behind and I loaded the oldest 4 kids into the car, leaving my 4-year-old asleep in the back of the Suburban. Arriving home, Ryan asked if he had to stay up since he was in charge.  "No," I replied, "just make sure you lock the door behind me." As I walked out the door to get the other load of kids I pointed at him and said, "Come lock this door RIGHT NOW." I walked away, pulling the door shut behind me. It was now half past 12, and I was starting to drag.

1 : 0 0 - 1: 3 0 A M
On the way back, I stopped to get Peter some food, since he hadn't eaten that day and had been planning to make a stop on the way home.  I also needed some caffeine if I was going to make the 30 minute drive to the broken car and back a couple more times. This is where I learned that Burger King is a happening place at one in the morning. Stupid lack of patience.

Back at the car, it turns out our customer oriented insurance had informed Peter that absolutely no tow trucks existed in our area that could take care of us- after a run around of 45 minutes on the phone.

It also turns out AAA will let you join in the middle of the night while currently in need of a tow truck.  One was on it's way to tow us to a shop AAA recommended instead of one pulled from a quick, random google search.

Peter had backed the car into bank on the side of the road so he no longer needed to brake.

"Why didn't you do that?" he asked.
"Remember how I am when I get tired?"
"Yes," he replied, with a sigh of resignation.

I grabbed our teenage helper -sidenote: his mom was out of town, so we couldn't call her to help us. On a plus side, that means she wasn't at home freaking out that her child was stranded in the middle of the night- and my youngest. After dropping off the 16-year-old, I headed home.

1 : 3 0 - 2 : 3 0 A M
It wasn't until I tried to open the front door and felt the resistance of the locked doorknob that I realized I had the set of keys that was missing a house key You see, I had Peter's set of keys and he had never put the key back after taking it off before our vacation last August. Despite my reminders every time he woke me up in the middle of the night to let him in.  I knew it would come back to bite some day, but I always thought it would be him that got bit.

At one-thirty in the morning, with a jacketless four-year-old shivering in my arms, I took a deep breath. Surely one of the four kids asleep inside will hear me knock and open the door. After all, how much more irritation could I have on this night? After a couple minutes, I decided to just go in through the garage.  Someone (who may be the same person who hadn't replaced his keys) had locked the garage-to-kitchen door. I tucked Matthew back into the warm car and went back to knocking and ringing the doorbell.  Now I started calling, too.  Leaving loud messages informing the kids to WAKE UP AND LET ME IN NOW.

After several minutes I decided to take a more drastic approach and sneak into the back side yard to knock on the boys' bedroom window.  They have bunk beds, so I would be knocking directly above my 12-year-old's head. As I walked around the house in complete darkness, I was relieved to see a light on in the back of the house. I was relieved, until the light revealed that darn skunk slinking around back there.

What to do? Risk getting sprayed or risk being stuck outside forever? You know what I did?  I knocked.  I was desperate and tired and ready to be done.  I then ran as fast as I could back to the front of the house.

It made no difference.  Not a single kids woke up to my risky knocking and I was too chicken to try again.

An hour after beginning I was still banging on the door, ringing the doorbell and calling the house. I just was doing it a little more desperately by then. And then when Peter called to inform me the tow truck had finally arrived, I gave up and went to join him at the repair shop.

Luckily he had my set of keys with a house key and we were able to get inside and end this awful night.  All told, we were stranded on the side of the road 3 1/2 hours:

  • I had my foot on that brake for over an hour of it, 
  • drove back and forth about 1 1/2 hours, 
  • and knocked on the door almost an hour.
For those interested, it was the drive shaft that broke, knocking and breaking the transmission casing (maybe?)  The mechanic was amazed at the damage to the shaft and said they'd never seen anything like it.  He wondered how I was able to do anything with the car after it broke loose. On a positive note, the car is fixed and back in the driveway.  I have the rental minivan until Saturday, though, and intend to use it.  I'm not ready to forgive my Suburban yet. Also, I am think we'll be switching insurance companies when we move.  And I am getting Peter a new key as he has admitted his is lost, not forgotten.

Drive Shaft
Some part of transmission


Monday, October 18, 2010

A prelude to the rest of Friday night

It wasn't until I tried to open the front door and felt the resistance of the locked doorknob that I realized I had the set of keys that was missing a house key. At one-thirty in the morning, with a jacketless four-year-old shivering in my arms, I took a deep breath. Surely one of the four kids asleep inside will hear me knock and open the door. After all, how much more irritation could I have on this night? Apparently, a lot, as an hour later I was still banging on the door, ringing the doorbell and calling the house. I just was doing it a little more desperately by then...

5 : 3 0 P M  ( F r i d a y  e v e n i n g )
The day didn't begin to derail until evening, although many of the mitigating factors were already in place. The first thing was so small, it would normally settle in the backdrop of forgettable memories: for the first time ever, my well-loved and oft-used laminator jammed. Ignoring the warning picture of crossed out silverware- right next to the crossed out hand- I dug into that thing with a couple knives and wormed the ruined paper out. Like I said, a completely forgettable event, all it did was make me late so I was hurried and frustrated. However small, though, it was the beginning of the end.

6 : 1 5 P M :
I was already deep into my drive-a-thon, harried because my laminator issues forced our time schedule back by15 minutes. I'd picked up one of the 16-year-old boys from church and dropped him and my 12-year-old off for a game night activity at a leader's house, about 25 minutes from mine down a typical New England country road. Since Peter was working until eleven and Elise was going to the local high school play with a friend, I also had the other four kids in the car.

Because they were in such a grouchy, ants-in-their-pants mood, I decided I simply could not wait to run a few errands. After all, nothing says "relaxing Friday night" like taking 4 hungry, tired, and bored kids to a craft store, then next door to a bookstore, and then across the street to Target. I really must claim temporary insanity.

8 P M :
Yes, that would be 2 hours later, we were finally finished shopping. I will glaze over the frustration, the calls of

 "Don't touch that!"
"No, we are not buying a $75 peacock puppet."
"Not an owl one, either"
         and the
"It's the price, not the animal that causes the 'No'! Stop asking me about puppets!"
          intermingled with the  
"Don't run / yell / break anything / squeak your shoes."

(Did I mention that it was raining the whole time and the temperature was dropping quickly?) You can use your imagination to fill in any gaps in the specific details.

It was now past eight. The kids were still unfed and I was about 150% past my ability to stay calm and collected. All that frustration did produce the Halloween books I wanted and the presents the kids needed for birthday parties the next day, so it wasn't a complete loss. Dollar sandwiches at a fast food drive through fixed the hunger grouchiness and I was ready to go home and put the kids to bed.

As we pulled up, we saw a skunk scamper past corner that leads to the front porch. We honked and flashed our lights, but (for some odd reason) no one wanted to run out and check if the skunk had slunk off teh doorstep or waited with raised tail. I finally decided I was the bigger person (literally, I suppose, as the next biggest person was only 9), and ran to check. No skunk could be seen, although I wish I could X-ray vision all the bushes, so I quietly slipped through the door and opened the garage for everyone else to escape inside. I then closed the garage door firmly behind me.

It wasn't until that moment that the following three facts finally came together for me:

  1. Ryan had texted me that the game night finished at 10:30,  
  2. Elise was spending the night with her friend. 
  3. Peter was at work until 11 (which means he probably wouldn't be home until midnight).

All family members able to watch the kids were GONE except me. I realized I couldn't put the kids to bed, they had to come with me to pick up Ryan and the other boy. Not only was it already bed time, I had just over exhausted them by taking 2 hours to visit 3 stores. I knew this wouldn't end well.  I just had no idea how much worse it was going to be.

1 0 P M
Time to head off to pick kids up, I was perplexed to find three-quarters of my kids had managed to lose their jackets and shoes. We had only been home 1 1/2 hours! Not wanting to be late again, I issued a proclamation I would later regret,

"We're just picking up the kids and you're not getting out of the car.  Just leave your shoes and jackets at home. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll get home and into bed."

My fate was sealed.

(To be continued)


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesdays, shopping, and forgetting to buy food.

To understand the full content of this post, I must first introduce you to Tuesday. I know that Monday is the traditional dread sibling, but Tuesdays most often kicks my trash.

~ You see Tuesday is shopping day (no small feat when providing nutrition for 8 people).

~ Tuesday is also a music class for my preschooler.

~ Tuesday is also church activities night, and with Peter's schedule that often entails me bringing 3 extra kids to wait while the other 3 attend activities.

~ Tuesday is also the day (while I am already out) that I usually hit the library, craft store, consignment shop, post office, and any other random errands when they're needed.

Tuesday is a day when at least one of my kids stays after school for something and needs me to swing by and pick them up, too.

~ Finally, Tuesday is the day I realize maybe half my kids have practiced the piano maybe half the time and piano lessons are the next afternoon, so they must, must practice NOW.

Like I said, Tuesday kicks my trash quite regularly.

And now for This Tuesday:

Yesterday I decided to wear my Shape Up shoes so I could count my crazy Tuesday as workout time. I also decided to start buying supplies for Halloween costumes.  This meant constant meandering back and forth between departments, multiple times, a process I normally eschew. Extra walking + shoes designed to make walking extra arduous; I know, my brilliance is blinding sometimes.

By the time I arrived home, my legs were killing me! But despite this exhaustion, immediately after picking my son up five minutes late from after school football (I'm supposed to remember I'm a kid short in time to be on time?) and heading upstairs to use the restroom (AKA hiding in my room and reading for 45 minutes), I began dinner.

This is no small victory. Dinner has to be early on Tuesdays which usually means tacos or corndogs or fast food picked up on the way.  But today I was cooking Chicken Carbonara, a fancy family favorite. (Fancy being defined as something that take more than 30 minutes of effort on my part).

I baked and chopped the bacon and then chopped and baked the chicken.  I simmered the sauce.  With 12 minutes left before GO TIME for church, I was ready to add the pasta noodles to boiling water, reveling in my togetherness and homemaking skills.

It was not till that moment that I realized we were out of spaghetti noodles. Gone. Unless I wanted to used lasagna or manicotti noodles, there weren't even substitutes.

Wait, you might ask, didn't you say today was shopping day?  How could you be out of food?

To which I hypothetically reply, Thanks for rubbing it in, did I mention my out of shape legs are about to collapse and I've only been home for 2 hours today, most of which was spent unloading groceries with my worn out legs?

So that is why we had delivery pizza for dinner last night, ordered by Peter while I was on my way to church.* On a positive note, I have dinner ready for tonight, as long as I make it to the store again to buy spaghetti noodles.

This post would be a whole lot funnier if I didn't miss some key ingredient for one of my planned dinners every single week. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.


*Peter would normally be the one driving to church, but Young Men's was canceled so he didn't have to go and I thought sitting in the foyer without any kids around would be quite relaxing. I was right. It was the saving grace of a hectic day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The story of my birth

I decided to make my debut in this world a year or so after my parents met, nine months after they married, and precisely on my due date.

Labor began while my parents and my dad's best friend were in the middle of watching Charlie's Angels, which is extremely rude behavior before the age of DVR's or even VCR's.  How much more polite to come earlier, when my mother ran around the house several times vainly hoping to entice me? Obviously, my vague distaste for exercise existed even in the womb.

Despite her earlier attempts to jump-start labor, after only one major contraction my mother changed her mind entirely about that whole "delivering a child" thing. It obviously was not for her and she simply was not going to do it. My father, despite knowledge of my mother's fierce determination in most things, still realized the flaw in her argument and persuaded her to go to the hospital anyway; his persuasion taking the form of enlisting his friend's help in carrying her to the car.

I was born in rural, rural Arkansas in 1976 which  meant a few things. First of all, I would never like to wear shoes (true story) and would feel compelled to shop at WalMart (who shares its beginning in rural Arkansas).  Also, they didn't go into all those new-fangled things like epidurals or allowing the father's presence in the birth room. No, they still used laughing gas and made the father pace outside. As they wheeled my mother away, she grabbed my father's hand and left him with immortal words of wisdom: "Honey, I forgot to iron your shirts." I think they still used laughing gas just to give the husband teasing ammunition for the rest of eternity.

The rest of my birth is sort of unreliable as my mother was a little bit high and my father was not there.  I can assume that it actually happened. Pretty sure I wasn't dropped, even if that would explain a lot. It couldn't have been too horrid, either, as my mother did it 5 more times without any medication or epidural.  My siblings can thank me for their existence later.

Now anyone who has ever said, "What's in a name?" has never been through child naming negotiations. Sorry Shakespeare, but apparently there is a lot in a name. My parents were no different. My father, the driving force behind "Charlotte", made solemn vows to never abbreviate my name to "Char", a nickname my mother did not appreciate. I can't be certain what threats were made, but they must have been severe as the nickname was never used. On rare occasions when people insist my name needs shortening, I have gone by Charlie. I'm sure this is some cosmic commentary on interrupting Charlie's Angels with my birth.


I would like to preemptively apologize to my mother for the preceding story. Obviously I can only go on what I've been told about my birth and, re-reading it, it must be my father who told me. Why else the knowledge of what was on TV and the good-humored teasing of my mother? Any inaccuracies can be blamed on waiting until late to write this so I couldn't call and double check facts and/or my own faulty memory . I was born under the influence of laughing gas, after all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On flag football, twirls, and running without abandon

The field is occupied by 5- to 7-year-old boys and so overflows with unbridled energy. That energy undulates through the 2 uneven lines formed facing each other, ostensibly for the purpose of running The Play, as father-coaches gently guide errant boys back into place.

My son is guided often.


As the lines form...
 ...he twirls wildly, arms outstretched
and flags lifting from his side.

As the players face off...
...he hops back and forth between the lines,
a lifetime supply of offsides in every play.

As The Play begins,
a mass of boys forming a blob of running legs
and grasping fingers with the football at its heart...
...he tussles with the other stragglers
at the line for a moment
and then merrily skips behind the blob.

As the whistle blows and The Play ends...
...he begins grabbing random flags
from his nearest friends,
returning them in time to begin again
his twirling.


Then, finally, it is his turn to carry The Football. The coaches, perhaps noticing his un-firm understanding of The Plays, whisper fervently in his ear, gesturing in a certain direction. My son nods thoughtfully and, when prodded, points more or less in the same direction.

"Hut. Hut! HUT!" he calls out with great precision. And volume. When he's handed the ball it transforms him into a statue. Finally perfectly still, with a dazed expression etched on his face. "Run!" remind his coaches.

It isn't until he loses both his flags that he shakes off the stone and runs down the field without abandon.


He'll learn the rules. The seemingly random instructions will coalesce into game plans and strategy and positions. The Plays will mean something to him. Right now, I rather enjoy watching him run without abandon, twirling the game away.

Do you like watching your kids learn something new?
Was your kid ever the distracted one?
Ever been the coach of your child's team? Peter seems to really enjoy it.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Teddy Bear into an Elephant. (In cake surgery)

I've decided to take up surgery as a hobby. To be more specific, Species Changing Surgery. I have all I need: knives, prosthesis, frosting. No training needed, on the job experience is enough.  Did I mention that the animals I'm working on are made of cake? That's right, I recently turned a teddy bear into an elephant.  (Or as my friend called it, an teddyphant)

I've shown before my transformation of this same teddy bear into a monkey.  In case you missed it, here is the before/ after.

For Joseph's birthday I transformed the same teddy bear into an elephant.  I actually got the idea from the pan maker's site (Wilton Stand Up Cuddly Bear) He had wanted one for at least the last 7 months. Here is the process

1- Make cake. I use a recipe called WASC (White Almond Sour Cream), which uses a box mix and tastes yummy while adding density.

2- Cut out elephant ears from cardboard.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  Tape dowel rods to back.  Add dowel rods to marshmallow for arms and trunk.  (I put 4 for the trunk, but cut one off at the end because it was too long.)

3- Make buttercream frosting and use Wilton gel dyes to color.  I needed white, black, pink and LOTS of gray.

4- Frost front of ears pink.  The edges don't matter as they will be covered by gray.

5- Cut off bear ears.  Add elephant ears, arms, and trunk by inserting dowels into cake.  Frost bottom of feet pink.  Frost eyes following (more or less) shape of cake.

6- Start adding gray.  Continue adding gray until you think there is nothing left in life but making tiny gray stars.  Then take a break for a couple minutes to regain sanity and continue. (see how the trunk it too long?  Looks much better in the final picture with just three marshmallows).

7- Add finishing touches like outlining the eyes, adding small white tusks, making gray frosting dots along hands and feet for toes, and writing "Happy Birthday."

8- Make a wish and blow out candles.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

What? French Horn Edition

Ryan with his new pet
Some kids bring puppies or kittens home, begging parents to let them stay. Not my kid, though; my kid came home with a French horn.

Apparently my 7th grader, randomly and without warning, wandered into the band room last week and asked to join. Even though we are moving in three months, the teacher let him join, let him chose an instrument, and let him bring a loaner home. Since he already has chorus for his music option, he is taking band lessons after school.

He is already in piano lessons. He has never played a French horn before. I’m not exactly sure how he knew it existed.

Nevertheless, we are now the proud guardian of a more-than-slightly-used French horn.

I don’t know if I should be proud- he does love music and takes initiative; confused- why French horn, why now?; or just plain scared- how much more noise can my poor ears take? At least I now know my Random Gene has been passed onto my children.

(I hope this doesn’t give any other family members an idea. I still won’t let them keep a pet.)

What weird things have your kids/husband come home with, leaving you scratching your head?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but only literally

Today I literally woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Peter is out of town and in an act of insanity, or perhaps sheer exhaustion, when I fell into bed last night it was on his side. I woke to the alarm buzzing, and as I rolled out of bed to hit the snooze button, I hit the other half of the bed instead. Similar to attempting to climb one more step in the dark only to find you've reached the top, my stomach lurched as my preconception revolted.

I just hope my literal miscalculation does not translate into it's well known figurative counterpart.

Also, I keep my alarm on the dresser so that I must get out of bed to shut it off, and yet I always use the snooze button (more than once). One would think I would adjust the alarm to the actual time I get up.

I have no idea why I don't, even though I've realized the inconsistancy.

But this morning I only pressed snooze once.  Well, technically twice, but the second time I remembered I planned on making my inaugural attempt at German Pancakes, so I got up anyway.  My goal is to make sure the kids eat breakfast every morning and that it is something other than cereal or, sometimes, a slice of bread thrust into their hand as they are running to the bus stop.  I don't mean something other than that everyday, only half the days.

To do it everyday I would be forced to confront my 2-3 snooze habit more often.  Baby steps.

The thing I have to remind myself about baby steps is that babies may take small steps towards their goal, and they may be quite wobbly, but they sure do take a lot of them, quickly, and get up when they fall.  I think I misuse the term baby steps to mean "I'm too lazy/unmotivated to actually plan on achieving my goal."

But maybe not, as I have managed to make muffins and German pancakes this week and cereal has replaced bus-running-bread-thrusting breakfast the rest of the time (mostly).

The other thing I need to remind myself about baby steps is that I haven't seen What About Bob in years and it might be on the movies-you're-a-loser-if-you-don't-show-your-children-before-they-grow-up list.  I'm not sure about that, though, as I am a pop culture moron. 

I have crossed Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Sound of Music off that list, though.  Baby steps.

Now I am off to finish prepping for preschool, as it is my turn to host.  We are learning about the letter M so I bought M&M's and we're making M monsters.  Later, I'm making a 3D elephant cake to celebrate Joseph's birthday early as Peter will be out of town again next week. Oh, and I found out yesterday that today is only a half day at school, so the kids will be home around lunch.  Maybe a trip to the library this afternoon is in order? 

I should really try to not wake up on the wrong side of the bed anymore; it shorts out my randomness filter.


Monday, September 20, 2010

A 4-year-old Birthday Party Under the Sea

Doesn't it seem like I'm doing this a lot? With my once every 4 years rule, this is the last "friends' party" I obligated to throw for two entire years; it might take me that long to recover! So, what does one do for a 4-year-old's party when he has requested a 3-D turtle cake for the last 11 months? Make it an "Under the Sea" theme, of course!

We decorated with lots and lots of fish cut outs. There were fish everywhere! Thankfully, I found them all at the party store so I didn't have to trace them all with my projector. Did I mention the use of fish cut outs in decorating?

Given the attention span of most four-year-olds, we provided plenty of short activities:

  • magnetic fishing with activites printed on the back (that would explain the crab-walking, fish-face-making kids)
  • decorating cardboard fish to glue on gift bags
  • creating octopi from paper cups and streamers
  • reading the Rainbow Fish
  • playing "minnow, minnow, SHARK"
  • pinning fins on the fish
  • breaking shark pinatas
  • and (of course) eating cake and opening presents.

And, at least until we move in a few months, no party at our house would be complete without playing on the beach. Especially appropriate for the theme, too.

It was plenty of fun, even if the wind made it so Matthew only pretended to blow out candles. There was always the fun adrenaline rush from hearing helium filled balloons and/or those 4/$1 punching balloons randomly popping. Thanks to everyone for coming, especially Matthew's special request for his awesome primary teacher to attend. Also, thanks to my friend, VT, (whose blog is private) for taking all the pictures: they're great!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Guest Post and Welcome to my Blog!

Today I am guest posting during the month long celebration of the Proclamation to the Family over at Chocolate on my Cranium. I posted some thoughts on prayers role in nurturing our children,  

I'd love you you to head on over and check it out.

There have been some other fantastic guest posts about family written this month at the two host blogs: Chocolate on my Cranium and We Talk of Christ.  Thanks for asking my participate Cocoa!

If you are a new visitor stopping by from my guest post, welcome!  Here are some posts of mine to get to know my blog:


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Goldilocks and the Bears are a Bunch of Liars

Lately my 4-year-old has been asking me to read stories "the kind that aren't in a book." Which means he wants me to tell him a fairy tale. Good thing I went through a Brother's Grimm stage when I was young. Also, good thing I can edit out the nightmare inducing parts. I mean have you ever read the original fairy tales? Gruesome doesn't even begin to describe them.

But I digress. I meant to tell you my epiphany after a rather riveting rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears the other day.

"This story is in no way based in reality!"

Aren't you shocked by my insightfulness? You might think the talking bears living in a nice forest cottage gave it away. Or perhaps the adorable blond criminal smart enough to break into a house but stupid enough to only steal porridge then take a nap.  At the very least that Goldilocks was quick enough to escape three angry bears and strong enough to survive a two story drop out a window. 

No, it was much more obvious a tip off. Goldilocks finds Baby Bear's porridge/chair/bed most inviting. No way! It is a universal law of motherhood that all children are irresistibly drawn to the possessions of the mother.

If given three bowls of porridge, no matter how wonderfully spiced and temperatured the other two are, everyone will want the mother's portion. At my home I could make everyone a gourmet meal specifically tailored to their likes and, as soon as I sit down with my peanut butter sandwich, everyone will want said sandwich. (Everyone who knows me knows this is completely hypothetical as "gourmet meal" and "specifically tailored" are not in my repertoire of cooking skills.)

CASE #2:
Look at the chairs, too. Is there a favorite Mother spot that isn't instantly coveted by every member of the household? Even if it is the bathroom? Totally unrealistic that Goldilocks would find Baby Bear's chair "Just right."

CASE #3:
The only believable part of the story is the chosen bed. I think it is clear that the "just right" bed would be the one most recently washed and made by Mother Bear. That could easily be any of the three beds.

So why is this story propagated? One might think it is to teach proper behavior for visiting or some other rot, but I think it is lying propaganda made to trick mothers into thinking they can own something and people will actually leave it alone. Don't be taken in by this trickery. It is your bowl that will be empty, your chair broken, your housework undone. The guilty party won't even bother to jump out the window when they're done.

Now, to calm your sensitivities, Matthew likes to retell the stories immediately after I tell them. He thinks it's funny to change around the details, and I have to agree with him:


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More information on our move

For some strange reason I am finding this post, one I promised to write, very difficult to begin.  It has nothing to do with having different company over Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday or that my youngest is having his first friend party this Saturday.  Busyness isn't really the reason.  I think I'm in prime avoidance mode because the move we are about to make it so important to me. 

Nonsense is so much easier to write about.  Maybe I should make this post instead about how Matthew tried to catch a skunk last night while all the youth (12-18) from church where at our house for a BBQ.  Luckily someone stopped him before anyone got sprayed, because as cute as a 4-year-old can be, it would be hard for a group of teenagers to forgive going to school the next day with that sort of stench.

Shoot.  See that?  I'm in optimal avoidance mode.

Let me see if I can just spit it out.

We are moving across the country in December and the decision is all on me.  I was the one who wanted it and my husband is leaving a job he loves to make me happy.  Not that I'm not happy now, it is just that Connecticut has never felt like home.  I couldn't find my groove.  As much as I love the beauty here, no matter how wonderful the people here have been, it just has never felt like home.  We are too far from any family.  It is too expensive for my frugal loving side.  My husband's job will always be too many hours.

We are moving to a town in the Pacific Northwest where I have 3 siblings living.  Peter has 2 siblings about 3 hours away.  We are driving distance from Utah and New Mexico so we can visit our parents -and other siblings, cousins, grandparents, friends- more often.  Plus, the house we are building is half the cost to buy the same here.  Peter will be working a lot less hours for nearly the same pay.  My children will no longer be the only ones their age at church.

But still, we know the downsides and struggles we will face here, and are exchanging them for unknown downsides and struggles.  I know we have wonderful friends here and are exchanging them for people unknown.  We know what we have to work around with Peter's job here, and are exchanging for unknown business and hospital systems.  (That may not seem like much, but we are moving from a large physician owned group with fantastic benefits to a independent contracting group, which means that we are going to be self-employed.) That is scary.  If it fails, it is all on me.  That is a lot of pressure.

Oh, and we are planning on moving to a home that is merely a plot of land and a floor plan right now.

The good news is that my prime avoidance for cleaning and packing happens to be what I am doing right now.  So you should be seeing a lot of me in the next couple months.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Convolutedly Complex Road to Simplicity in Day to Day Life

With six children under the age of thirteen, I am always looking for simple ways of doing things. The flaw to this philosophy, of course, is obvious: "With six children." You see, my path to simplicity is, well, complicated.

I first began thinking about this as I was scratching my kids' names into their new toothbrushes. You heard me correctly; I was scratching their names with a thumbtack into the more expensive, vibrating toothbrushes I refuse to buy more than once a month. It is the only way to know, after the first or, if I'm lucky, second time of using them whose is the only one properly rinsed and put away.

See the simple solution for brushing teeth? See the complexity? Scratching because permanent marker wears off too quickly. Vibrating toothbrushes because regular ones require more parental involvement to properly brush than I can give every single night. Just memorizing the colors I assign would only work if I had any brain cells left after 6 pregnancies. Without the scratched evidence, I would have six kids claiming they specifically remember putting their toothbrush away. Unlike King Solomon's solution, none of them care if I cut the thing in half either. Although, King Solomon couldn't have insisted the mothers share the lone baby until the end of the month when it would be replaced, so maybe I do have it easier?

Of course, the complexity of that simple solution is nothing compared to "the System for Rotation of Seat Assignments in the Suburban with Contingencies for Only One Parent and the Resulting Empty Front Seat and/or the Taking of Two Cars with Resulting Opportunity to Drive in Dad's Car." Actually, over the summer I had another kid turn twelve and the last kid leave the 5 point harness car seat for a booster and have yet to revise the system. Chaos has ensued, but I need a refresher course in linear algebra before I can figure out the new system.  Still more simple than the brawl of letting them sit where ever they feel like.  Because they all feel like sitting in the exact same spot.  Which spot doesn't matter; if one wants it, they all want it.

Even making lunch involves a mountain of complexity.  And a mountain of food, six kids eat A LOT!  Take making the sandwiches.   Who currently prefers mayo over Miracle Whip?  Who will freak out if the mustard is forgotten?  If it isn't left off?  Whole wheat or white bread?  Maybe they prefer instead peanut butter and jelly (or is it honey, or fluff)?  Get an answer wrong and simple lunch turns into wasted bread and punishment for whining.  Far more simple to remember the preferences before I make them then deal with the consequences of making them all the same. 

Now at least  you know the information my few remaining brain cells contain.  No wonder there is no room for toothbrush colors.

If these things aren't enough to convince you of my ingeniously complex ideas to simplify my life, there's always my systems for wrapping Christmas presents* or hiding Easter Eggs.  It takes roughly 1000 more hours of prep time, but prevents headaches and/or meltdowns on the actual day.  Of and it is easier for the kids, too.

So if it looks like I have my household running smoothly (after you get your eyesight checked) I can assure you the behind the scenes of any simplicity is a system so convoluted it makes quantum theory look like child's play.  It is simple, really, having a large family is complicated. Make sense?  I didn't think so.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nice to See You Again

Did you think I fell off the edge of the world?  I suppose, cyber speaking, I really did.  After days of encouraging my children to forsake their 2 dimensional existence on electronic screens, I realized they might take the message to heart better if I got out of the computer chair to tell them.  Stupid good example.

Of course, with computer time limited to after the children's bedtime, I had to prioritize.  Somehow winning fast money on Family Feud, planting violent plants to protect my backyard from zombies, and practicing my airline controller skills seemed most important.  This is partly due to over competitiveness and partly from being too exhausted after the kids went to bed to approach the coherency levels needed to read and comment on posts, much less write my own.

In a day and a half, I will have 5 of the 6 kids away at school and I will have more time to read and write in cyber world.  I've missed everyone!  Plus, I can finally announce my big news about trading the east coast for the west.  (Big enough teaser for you?)


P.S. I feel compelled to mention that I don't plan on ignoring the one child left at home during the day. He just gets a quiet time every afternoon. Of course, Word World a necessary daily activity for it's educational purposes and NOT for my online time ones...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The only thing to fear is fear itself ... and escalators

I've managed to keep it a secret for many years, but a couple weeks ago I was forced to reveal a phobia I've held onto since childhood. After 15 years together, I finally admitted to my husband my deep and abounding fear . . . of escalators.

Don't judge me. Can't you see the evil emanating from escalators with their mechanized movement and unnaturally quick and effort free ability to move from floor to floor? I'll show you pictorial proof.

Can't you see it now?

I'm pretty sure the whole thing started from the horror stories my parents told me a child. "If you wait 1/4 second too long to step off, the escalator will suck you down and eat your leg, then you will be sent directly to hell where you will be forced to balance on erratically height shifting surfaces for the rest of eternity" *  At least I think that is what they taught me; I'm sure my mind didn't escalate the warning over time.

But really, someone coordinationally challenged like myself has a lot to fear from that moving staircase of terror. Step on the line and suddenly you're stuck with only half a footing. Let's be honest, I struggle to keep balance with all of a footing on a stationary stairway. I mean I have never on my life been able to catch the timing of double dutch ropes and I'm expected to step with both feet between two evenly spaced lines?

As a grown up I've learned to live with my eccentric fears, I ride escalators all the time with only a momentary pause to gather my strength, double check the speed of the escalator, take a deep breath, and take the leap of faith. My stomach only slightly lurches every time that flat pathway pops up into stairs beneath my feat. After years of practice, I can now step off at the end with only a slight exaggeration.

Watching my kids ride sans my help, however, has intensified my deepest escalator related fears. Lately, for some odd reason, my 13 and 12-year-olds have decided they don't want to hold my hand on the mall escalator. Who am I kidding? Even my 3-year-old insists he doesn't need my help.  As I call out to remember to step off before the belt attempts to eat their toes, they often pretend I'm some crazy stranger. 

They are going to give me a heart attack, stepping on those things without so much as "one, two, three, STEP."

By the way, my husband found this heartfelt confession hilarious. Complete with chuckle and eye roll.  He found it nearly as funny as when I told him I'm afraid of getting prostate cancer or looking like a tourist (while touring someplace on vacation) or that I fear a serial killer might one day sneak in, wait in our closet, then kill us while we're sleeping.

Strangely enough he's scared of having cold water dumped on him in the middle of a shower. Of course, his fears are grounded in reality...

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*Technically as a child I remember hearing about a man at the store where my father worked did have his legs amputated (or were they crushed?) while fixing an escalator.  Or something like that.  So my parents did tell me some form of terror story about escalators.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

It turns out I am still alive and the house is now spider free.  Well, mostly spider free.

We are nearly finished with our recovery from vacation.  The suitcases are back in the closet and the laundry is done, although it still needs folded and put away.  I have resorted to Melatonin to switch the kids back to East Coast time.  Apparently letting them stay up past midnight in Utah every single night was a bad idea.

Anyway,while I was gone, I had a guest post go up at Or So She Says about beginning tips for making birthday cakes.  Today I have another post there on making mini tote bags.  I even have a nifty new button for my side bar! Head on over and enjoy!

Also, as of yesterday afternoon, Ryan is home from the Boy Scout National Jamboree (which really deserves a post on its own).  I am trying to convince him, with limited success, he is old enough to put his stuff away.  In case you were calculating the math in your head, yes, Ryan was gone at the jamboree while we were on vacation.  Like I said, another post all it's own.

The great news is that we still have three whole weeks of summer left to enjoy before school starts.  The sad news is that when you add in the doctor appointments, school shopping, dentist appointments, and fixing mixed up internal clocks, I'm left with about 2 hours of summer left to enjoy before school starts.

I thought I'd take a minute to let everyone know how my parents are doing after their motorcycle accident a few months ago.  I've appreciated all the emails and inquiries about their recovery, but wanted to wait till I saw them with my very own eyeballs before I said anything.  They are doing well.  Their road rash is almost entirely gone (SEE MY MOM'S ARM IN RIGHT OF PICTURE) and the bones are healing nicely.  My dad lost a bit of weight through it all and has to check his oxygen levels often, but he is still telling silly puns and has the same teasing smile.  His wrist will never be the same (CAN YOU SEE THE CAST HE HAS ON NOW?), especially since they x-rayed it wrong and let him leave the hospital without a much needed cast.

They do, however, tire much more easily than I've ever seen.  Some things broken in an accident like that don't ever heal perfectly.  I'm just glad they're here to tire!

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