Friday, May 29, 2009

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

But sometimes ya gotta deal with the pits.

Life has not been super awesome here right now. We have had a bit of bad luck, some minor set backs and all around not good times. I know God never gives bad gifts and the trials we are experiencing right now will help us as we continue our journey. I know He has a plan--a good plan.

But like taking the pit out of the cherry, these times really just plain stink. I am using every bit of energy in my core to be positive, to be strong, to be hopeful but I have those moments.....the times you just want to curl up and cry. I'm trying not to, but sometimes it's like a dam breaking and my tears just start flowing. I hate it.

I've been praying to quickly pass this time and move onto bigger, better things but (like a cherry pit) it's hard, really hard. I know there is so much going on and my problems honestly don't amount to a hill of beans but they are my problems and the hill of beans seems impassible at the moment. 

If you could please say a quick pray for my family-- to be strong and to get over this rough patch, it would mean so much to me. I am a firm believer in prayer. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now go out an enjoy some cherries--once you remove the pit, they are one of the sweetest, juiciest fruits out there!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

But the truth of the matter is....

If you've been reading me for a while, one thing you know is I love Macs--right now I am on the my Mac Power Notebook Pro--and I cannot stand PCs.

I say it's because Macs are so much more user friendly and reliable- (completely true by the way--my kids have their college savings in Apple stocks--so buy a two or three) but the real reason is, gulp, I don't know how to work a PC. At all. If you say 'right click', you may as well say 'hop on your right foot and press B' because it makes no sense to me. Why would a mouse have two buttons on it anyway?

I've been on Macs since before they were Macs--remember the Apple II. We had one. And then  in high my journalism class got the Macintosh--so cute, so easy and so perfect. I learned my Apple + commands quickly and never even considered getting on a PC.

Then I got to college and was in an English class that taught word processing, on the PC. I would go to the library, get on the PC and fight back the tears as I searched for the familiar apple on my keyboard to no avil. I stumbled through and vowed to never return to the PC.

On job interviews after college, I was direct. Do you work on a Mac or PC? If it was a PC, I ruled out the opportunity.

And life was good. I stuck to my system at home. Taught the kids how to use Macs and avoided my husband's PC at all costs. 

The other day we were at the car wash and the kids hopped up to the Macs on the computer bar. Dino, not being as quick, was stuck behind a PC. I went over to try to help him get over to Poptropica but I was at a loss. I didn't know how to control the mouse or how to get to the internet. A college student finally leaned over and helped us out. I am betting I was the joke of the frat house that night. 'The dumb blonde couldn't even open a window" Ha, ha.

So there you have it. A secret I have shared with my husband, a college frat boy, and now you. I do not know what 'right click' (and about hundred other PC related items) work.

Oh and I case you are wondering about my knowledge of Microsoft--don't ask. I am familiar with their names and if my software can convert them. And that is it. Thank goodness my software converts most of it ;)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Menu Monday--A Meal Plan Fit for Boot Camp

I am starting a boot camp Tuesday. My weight has suddenly started creeping up the scale and it seems like there is nothing I can do to stop it. So for my birthday, I decided to ask Mike for a four week boot camp membership. I thought it would be lots of running, squatting, lunging and push-ups. But no. 

Turns out the person who runs this boot camp feels nutrition is just as crucial. And I truly believe this also. What's the point of rolling out of bed at 4:30 am if you aren't fully committed? I figured we'd be told to increase veggies, get rid of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and most things processed. That would be easy--because that's how I already it. But no.

I just got a detox plan in my in-box. No more bacon, chocolate or even coffee with cream and sugar. Hello meals consisting of protein powder and fruit. Pretty much. 

Thankfully dinners are a bit more user friendly and Fridays include a free hour were I can eat whatever I want. I am not going to waste this hour!

My boot camp starts Tuesday so Monday, Memorial Day, will be my 'last supper'. And on a very positive note, Copper River season has begun so bring on the fresh wild fish :)

Monday: BBQ Chicken breast, grilled (chicken breast marinated in a local BBQ sauce) with multi-grain rolls and spinach salad 

Tuesday: Copper River Salmon wrapped in cedar paper along with mix of veggies (peppers, mushrooms, summer squash) wrapped in cedar paper and grilled, with a sweet potato 

Wednesday: Sauteed Mahi-mahi, pineapples and bok choy with brown rice

Thursday: Bison burger (slider size) with mammoth cheddar on multi-grain roll and spinach salad with cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes

Friday: Rigatonni with Butternut Squash and Kale (this is a fall dish but it is my very favorite dish--and it's super creamy and fattening ☻)

Hmmm....looking at the menu, it doesn't look that bad. Maybe this will be tasty after all?!

For more recipes and meal plans, be sure to check out Jen at Chive Talkin' :)

****Please be sure to take a moment and pray for our fallen soldiers this Memorial Day. They paid the ultimate sacrifice and remind us freedom is anything but free.****

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How Do You Explain This?

About seven years ago, some barn swallows built a nest next a back door and right in front of a back window. Every spring and early summer, we are greeted with a new little flock of swallows.

So a few weeks back, the swallows came back. Along with the lots of eggs. The girls had a ladder and video camera to capture it all. The birds were born a couple of days ago (on my birthday to be exact). The kids went nuts as the mommy and daddy swallow would swoop over their heads every two minutes or so to feed the youngins. 

We left the happy family for a fun morning of errands and came back to find four of the baby birds on our concrete porch, struggling to live. Sarah was the one who found them first. She was hysterical. It was heartbreaking to see these little creatures no bigger than my thumb with no feathers, fur or even open eyes, roll on the hard concrete. One was dead. 

Miley insisted we put them back. I tried to explain that the odds were, these were not heathy babies and the mommy swallow had no choice but to take them out of the nest so she could focus on the healthy birds.

"But that's just wrong mommy, "she cried. "There's nothing wrong with them. See they are moving and they making little cries. We can't just let them die here."

She was right. We honestly could not just watch them struggle to live. 

So I went inside, grabbed a soft paper towel. We carefully placed the extremely fragile, sweet babies on the towel and I climbed the ladder. I placed them in the back of the nest.

Then the kids took another towel for the baby bird that did not survive the fall, wrapped her up and dug a place for her in the garden. We had a little prayer and gave her a name. Miley led the service and I was proud of her sensitivity to one of God's little creatures.

I went back inside and noticed the mommy bird was on the nest, warming the birds. I was hoping the three birds we saved would be accepted back into the nest. And for a while, it looked like they would be as I watched the daddy bring food and mommy continually go back to warm them.

We left for a swim lesson and came back to see the 3 baby birds again on the concrete. Dead. My heart was stuck in my throat as I debated if I should even tell the children what happened.

Miley came out and my decision was made.

"How could she do that?" she cried as we began to wrap the teeny little babies. 

"Honey, "I began.  "She thinks they are sick and won't be able to make it."

"So, that doesn't mean..."

"Miley, if she spent all her time taking care of the sick babies, her healthy babies would get sick and they could all die."

"But it's just not right," she cried.

I agreed.

We had another funeral and more tears.

The remaining birds are thriving. I am starting to hear them in the morning. 

The girls have moved on. They are not as focused on the new babies but they do occasionally glance up at the nest. 

At this point, I don't even know how I feel about all this. It is a learning experience but did they have to learn it this summer?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Really Quick Really Random

The next few months, my kids are in a few summer night activities, as result, meals are going to be paninnis, quesadillas and wraps. So I might be putting off menu Mondays until we can finally sit down together at dinner time--unless of course you want to see a menu that seems to list tomato and buffalo mozzerella paninni as every other meal ;)
We went to look at couches this weekend and we met a sale clerk with zero short-term memory (think the movie Memento). She literally walked up to us six different times asking 'are you looking for anything special?', asking us if our kids were 'all ours' and telling us she 'three sons, older now'. And every time she asked us if we were looking for anything special, she had this look like 'wow, I've never seen them before'. It was weird.
Dino is still dealing with special ed issues. It's getting much better and I am happy with my personal decision  to repeat pre-k at a private pre-school. Special ed wanted to put him in a regular K classroom with an aide and to leave the room for 'small group work' 2-4 hours a day. Being led around by an aide and leaving the room for 'small group'--think that might effect his social life just a little there?!
My metabolism seems to have completely shut down. Honestly, I look at a cake and I gain a pound. And I am working out. It's so frustrating. Is this what happens when you get old or is it just me?
My little sister just completed the Cleveland Marathon last weekend. I am so impressed! Great job Susan!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Menu Monday--Summertime :)

One of the best things about living in the South is the early summer we enjoy. While many are hoping to see the grass after months of snow, we are out grilling away basking in the sun. Granted, by mid-July we'd do anything for a little cool rain to escape the triple digits, we still love being able to spend most the year outside with our grill.

Grilling is a personal preference. We personally have a big ol' gas grill because I love the even cooking and pretty much brain dead cooking. A charcoal grill is a bit pickier but you have the option of adding smoked wood chips to add additional flavor. To make up for this, I sometimes cook my salmon on cedar planks. Cedar planks are one-time use and can really enhance the flavor of salmon but because of its price, I usually only do cedar planks for my favorite salmon of all, Copper River (and it is very close to being in season). Copper River is pricey so if I am going to bite the bullet and buy it, I might as well as add the few bucks for the planks. I strongly recommend buying cedar planks from a grocery store rather than a hardware type store. You are cooking food on it after all.

I also love doing veggies on the grill. For the bigger veggies that won't slip through, I like to brush them with olive oil and put them right on. Smaller ones can be mixed together with seasoning and olive oil, then wrapped up on the side corner of a grill to heat away.

So let's enjoy summer and dust off the grill!

Monday: Grilled Chicken (marinated in diced ginger, soy sauce, salt and pepper) placed on baby spinach with a nice crusty french bread

Tuesday: Stuffed Turkey Burgers with grilled asparagus

Wednesday: Wild Salmon (grilled) with various veggies (summer squash, zuccini, red bell pepper,  fresh thyme) wrapped in foil

Friday: Roasted Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Savannah Rice (not the grill but summery ☺)

Saturday: Chicken Fajitas (chicken cooked over the grill)

Sunday: Bison Bacon Cheeseburger (horribly fattening but ya gotta have bacon every now and then !)

If you want even more yummy meals, be sure to check out Jen at Chive Talkin' for additional menu plans :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Never Say Never

Have you seen the email that compares your actions based on how many children you have--you know:
-With your first, you sign up for every activity you can find--Baby gym, music classes, etc.
-With your second, you sign up for one, maybe two activities
-With your third, the only activity you take the baby to is grocery shopping

But it stops at 4. After being a mom of 4 for two years, I know why. It is just too darn depressing, at least for moms of zero or one. For me, it had taught me to never say never.

When my first was born, I saw our world as a great Utopia--a perfect democracy. We would all decide on issues including rewards and punishments. I cringed when I saw moms tell kids what they would be doing and not following the perfect democracy model you see in many child rearing books.

When the my second was born, I was quick to see 'democracy' does not work with two girls who had total different ideas. One wanted to eat Thai, the other wanted to invite friends over for pizza. So we began a 'socialist' system. My children may have gotten different things but I always made sure it was far and equal. Bedtimes were the same, play date times and amounts-the same, rewards-the same. It was tiring, hard to keep track of but I struggled to keep everything equal. I shook my heads at my moms who did not handle things equal, fair and just with their children and was convinced they played favorites.

Then when my third was born, I realized that not everything can be fair. The baby, my first boy, needed a lot of clothes (society and daddy frown on boys in frilly dresses even if they are blue). I could not buy the same amount for the girls too. Activities had to change too. If a child needed the activity, they got it. If I did not see a real need, it was scrapped. Our family government was now modeling Lenin/marxism 'to each according to his needs'. Yes, there was some anger among the girls. There was a great deal of--this is not fair but I did try and make sure everyone got what they needed. I felt this was fair.

Finally, I had number four and I became what 3 children ago would have been my worst nightmare--a benevolant  dictator. Like Chavez or Castro. I have learned if I do not take total control of a situation, I will have complete chaos. If I see one daughter working very hard in a dance class and the other using dance class time as social hour, guess who is not taking dance class next year. Even if it was helping with posture. 'Fair' in this house is now a 'place where the farmers get together and see who can throw the cow patties the furthest' (my kids know this quote my heart). And trust me, if I had heard a parent say this phrase to a child even one child ago, I would be shocked. 

Well never say never.

My discipline style has changed too. I used to be very into discussing 'situations', then time-outs and warnings. Now I have progressed. Under my dictatorship, we are under 'zero tolerance' (and you can even ask my 2 year old what this means). There are no warnings, no discussions. There are essays (in cursive for both girls), basic writing for Dino and nose directly in a corner for Spanky (like a time out but I can't really get him to write at this point--all in time ;) ). And if excuses are made, word count/time is increased. I would have labeled myself meanest mommy ever ten years ago.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wii Fit has declared me an unFIT mommy ☹

As some of you may have guessed, we joined the rest of the world and got a video game thingy for Easter, the Wii and along with it, the Wii Fit.

I must say I have been enjoying the Wii Fit. I rock the hula hoop (3200 spins!) and I love the games. Truth be told, the whole family loves it. We have a Mii for every member of the family, even Spanky. The only negative side to this is the whole 'fit test'. According to Mr.Wii, the kids are all extremely underweight. Well, duh--they are growing kids. Once they lose that baby fat, they get skinny. 

So anyway, the Wii sometimes asks me questions when I log in. The other day it asked me if I thought Dino was gaining or losing any weight. Not wanting to deal with the issue, I clicked no change.

Mr.Wii then tells me 'no change' is never good. That we should always be changing. And then it gave me this message. (Note: Dino's mii is named "Finn" which may or may not be his real name ☻).

It proceeded to tell me dogs do better and live longer when their owners pay attention to them.

Wonder if I will win the Worst Mother in the World Award next?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Menu Monday--The Music Addition

I mentioned at Christmas time that I had specific playlists for every mealtime in Christmas carols (side note: I have been able to avoid my Christmas music (all 340 songs and counting ☺) since January 1!). During the year, I have actual non-Christmas playlists for different meals and three different playlists specifically for dinner: instrumental, vocal and 'modern'. My kids will be quick to point out that the vocal playlist includes 'Greensleeves' (aka 'What Child is This'), the instrumental includes the 'Jesu' Joy of man's Desiring' and the modern includes Nutcracker Suite (via The Brian Setzer Orchestra). I personally do not see these as specific 'Christmas' songs because they have such a timeless appeal, but my family disagrees and will many a time skip the song. 

I think music with meals make the time at the table that much more exciting, memorable and dare I say 'enchanting'. Music at breakfast is quicker and alert ('Running Just To Catch Myself' by Mark Schultz), lunch is dedicated to more playful tunes ('Crazy ABCs' by Bare Naked Ladies) and dinner is calm and soft to allow for lingering conversations (even if it is just me and the two year old!). Because I have a soft spot for classical and vocal, my dinner playlists are very long. We almost never complete a playlist at a meal but I always try to get to hear 'Nessun Dorma' by Pavarotti each evening, especially if we eat Italian. That song makes my heart just melt!

So this week, try playing music during dinner and then maybe other times of the day. I honestly think it makes food taste better. And if you love the music, take the next step with fresh flowers (Gerber daisys are beautiful right now!) and maybe even a few candles. It may seem a little 'too much' especially if it's just you and the kids but there's something magical about making dinner time special. I am not promising your kids will turn into angels if you turn on some Mozart but they just might throw the food a little less ;)

Monday: Minestrone Soup (unusual icky weather here so we are enjoying a winter dish)

Tuesday: Spanish Roast Chicken with a nice spinach salad

Wednesday: King River Salmon in parchment with sauteed bok choy (salmon is slowly coming back in season!) *link includes pesto--I am omitting pesto and pasta here

Thursday: Jailhouse Spaghetti (Miley's favorite) with broccollini

Friday: Lamb Chops with Mint and Garlic; served with roasted asparagus

Saturday: Date Night (woo-hoo!) kids getting spinach and feta chicken sausage with pasta bianco

Sunday: Mother's day--a complete unknown for me as this day is completely planned by my husband and children. I'd love to go here but would be just as happy with a picnic in the park (like last year!)

For more fantastic meal plans, check out Jen at Chive Talkin'

I am going to close with 'Nessun Dorma'. How can you not have an incredible meal with this in the background? 

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Swine Flu--A Recovering Germaphob's Take

A couple of years back, I was horrified of germs. Really horrified. You can read all about my experience with Dr. Phil and my fear of germs here. It's something I have worked very hard to conquer, and I feel I have been doing really well.

And then along comes the swine flu. If this was a few years ago, I am almost certain I would be keeping the kids home from school. Washing hands. Taking a lot of vitamin C and fish oil. And of course be stressed out of my mind.

But I am not. Even living right next to Mexico and being next to a school district that has completely closed for the next week because of a confirmed case. I am not too worried.

First and foremost, stress can weaken your immune system in the long term. Short term, it actually helps but anything over a few minutes and the stress actually makes it harder for your body to fight illness. It is ironic thinking back to how much I would stress when I would see a very snotty child come up to me. My stress was more than likely more harmful than the kid!

Second, we are heading into the summer. Germs don't do well in the sunlight and for the most part I can't see us being anywhere than outside when we are in public. At least until it gets over 100 so I have at least a good month ;)

Finally, I think this is a bit overhyped. If you look at the facts: the mild cases the US has been seeing; the fact that it is very much like a seasonal flu; the way everyone is suddenly washing their hands (which they should always be doing anyway--hand washing is an appropriate thing to always do). I'm just not that concerned.

Now I will be honest. If I see someone who looks sick, I'll steer my kids another direction. I will not be dropping them off in the gym daycare for a while. I am giving everyone in the family a glass or two of Emergence-C. And I am buying more non-perishable groceries and making larger meals to freeze in case we do get sick and can't leave the house or there are mass closings. I want to have a back up plan just in case. 

I am betting it will not be as bad as it is being played in the media. I could be wrong so I am taking those little precautions I mentioned above. But one thing I know for sure, it will not come to this: