Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kindergarten Roundup

Artwork by my B, February 2008

That, my friends, is the world my four-year old lives in.
Full of rainbows and butterflies.

She wants to be an artist, or a teacher, or an art teacher, or a dentist, or a swim instructor, or a construction worker. Or a magical fairy. When she grows up.

It's not that I don't want her to grow up. It's just that I want this time so badly. When she's small and vulnerable and skipping around the house singing Elmo tunes.

I'm turning in paperwork tomorrow for her kindergarten registration. Tomorrow is the due date. I guess I've waited until the last minute. Not because I doubt our decision, but because I can't believe the time is here.

My baby.
My B.

Don't grow up too fast, okay?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Piggy's Not Quite Back, But Closer

So I think the challenge is almost up, yes? I think March 1.

Here's the deal. I sort of wandered from the initial intention, which was to not shop. At all. We've been doing great with a budget. Even went to using cash for variable expenses and are using an envelope system. It has made us stick to a budget and has cut spending tremendously.

But there was Valentine's Day. We get the kids a little something and a card to celebrate a day about love. And a little token from Hubs and I to each other. We sent cards to family with a picture of the kids. Such things were probably way off the shopping embargo's path. I just have to mark a special day with a little special-ness. In the dead of winter we all need a little lift. I'm talking $5 toys for the kids and a $.99 card. Just a little token.

Also, gifts. We've had some family members' birthdays come up and no shopping embargo could stop me from sending them a little gift.

What this challenge has taught me is something that I'll continue with for the rest of the year. It has put a stop to impulse purchases and to emotional spending. Throwing stuff in the cart just for fun. I'm keeping "stuff" to a minimum. I'm not using my credit card. I'm planning purchases and budgeting for it. If we have something to buy, it has to come out of our budget. It has put the brakes on retail therapy.

It is a great exercise, I highly recommend. It's not over for me on March 1st, I'll be using my new habits from now on.

Be Well

* Posted this. Then took it down. Now I'm posting it again (so Jenifer won't worry for Mason). I just cannot articulate these emotions. Try as I may. *

Having a sick child is no fun at all. Last year, my little guy had 8 or so ear infections that always led to fevers and grouchiness. The part of it that made it okay was that I knew he was okay. He was prone to ear infections, but never even required tubes. We knew he'd grow out of it and be fine. It was hard to see him uncomfortable, but he never even acted that sick.

Then there was his mole and cyst, on his forehead, which we had removed the day after Christmas. Signing papers to have your child put under general anesthetic is hard. Spending a day in the hospital was hard. Yet again, it was okay because we knew he'd be okay.

When I go to Children's Hospital, I can't help but wonder about every person I see. Is that person a dad? Sister? Aunt? I imagine their stories, each and every one.

The first time I went there to visit my nephew, I saw a dad walking with his daughter outside. It was October, so still relatively nice outside. She had on a mask and was hooked up to a IV, obviously trying to get some fresh air and exercise. My eyes filled with tears. I could feel his love, fear, strength, emotion, just by looking at him.

Courage comes to those whose children are ill. I've seen it. Their eyes are heavy. Their hair unkept. Clothing mismatched and wrinkled. Their resolve is strong.

Spending time at the children's hospital here in Omaha for the past few months has taught me so much.

Any one of us who have children could be in that position tomorrow. Tonight even.
Fear is a powerful thing and you can't let it control you.


It does help you recognize blessings.
Big and small.

Tonight I'm praying for my family.
Each of us touched in one way or another by all that has gone on in the past four months.

My sweet nephew, fighting to be well.

When you tuck in your sweeties tonight, give them one extra kiss on their forehead. One extra squeeze.

No matter the circumstance, you can be happy they are there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pen Pals

Keeping in touch with my grandparents had been on my mind. When we had to miss Christmas this year, I didn't get to see any extended family. I couldn't help but fear, what if someone were to pass on this year? And I missed their last Christmas? I know it's a little morbid, but it was an honest fear. The Hubs lost both his grandfather and grandmother to strokes in the last two years. I have a grandfather and two grandmothers who are alive and well. They are so very dear to me.
If I'm honest, it's hard to see them grow old. It brings thoughts to my head of my own parents aging and even of myself at age 80. The great part is that my grandparents have led these lives full of family and service. They have rich histories written in their wrinkles. The hard part is that in my head, they are still in their 60's, gardening and doing volunteer work. When we head back to my folks and visit with the grandparents, their age surprises me. It gets harder for them to get around. The pace is s-l-o-w. I don't want them to ail. I don't want them to age. Time is a tricky thing.
It has bothered me for years that I'm not in touch with them more. Phone calls are difficult, I usually think of it when it's too late to call or when I can't really take the time to make a call. I'm also not great at chit chat and feel akward sometimes calling people just because.
Then this holiday season, it occurred to me. What better way to keep in touch than by writing letters! I love correspondence. You know the kind. With stationary and a pen and stamps? Love it! I've written monthly updates so far, and sent them off to my grandparents. It gives them something in the mail (don't you love getting mail that's not a bill or credit card offer?) and also keeps them up on what's going on with their big city grandkid. It's a win-win.
It's one small thing that I've been doing to brighten someone's day. It's not global. It's not changing the world.
But it sure feels great.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More food talk, stomach flu fears, snow (?) day

My emotions have been on a roller coaster this evening.

First of all, Hubs stomach hurt when he got home from work. I got all panicky. Seriously.
The stomach flu has been making these horrid rounds and we've been managing to duck and dodge it so far. I feared the worst and considered calling us all in sick. I didn't, but I thought about it. I started to get so nervous. Which I don't usually do about being sick. Getting so ill around Christmas woke me up to how horrible it really is.

Then, I made some really good broccoli soup. Can't say as I've ever made broccoli soup, but tonight I did. It's called Sneak It To 'Em Broccoli Soup. From a daycare cookbook. The funny part about the whole recipe is that unless your children are colorblind, you can't really sneak in pureed broccoli into a cream based soup. It turns the soup GREEN. Green soup? Goes right along with green eggs and ham. My kids will not, will not in a box, they will not, will not with a fox. B tried it, but didn't love it. My boy wouldn't even touch it. I loved it! I'm having it for lunch tomorrow! I was so excited about some silly green soup!

Then...the news. I rarely watch any, but tonight found myself watching the news. I had fallen asleep in my chair (when did I become my mom?) and woke up to it. So watched the weather. Wind Chill Advisory. -28 wind chills expected. I was fearful of taking my poor wee ones out in such weather. Then they announce that schools are closing. WHAT?!?!? That woke me up. Suddenly I'm throwing my arms in the air, hooting and hollering. Snow day!!! With no snow! Rock on.

So that's my night in a nutshell.
Scared. Nauseous. Soup-slap-happy. Tired. Drowsy. More fear. Happy. Hyper. So content.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dinner Tonight

It will be a late dinner this evening. We didn't make it to the store until 4 and then came home to fix up a delicious meal. I'm making the ultimate comfort food, thanks to my cousin, Nikki. So I'm going to post the meatballs recipe - I hope it's not a family secret!

BBQ Meatballs

3 lbs ground beef (I'm sure you could use ground anything)
1 C milk
1 onion
3 C oatmeal
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
2 eggs

2 C ketchup
1 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 C onion
3 T liquid smoke

Make balls ingredients into meatballs. Make sauce ingredients into sauce. Brown balls in skillet then put in pan to bake. Pour sauce over. Bake at 350 for one hour, or use crock pot (high for 2-3 hrs, low for 4-6 hrs).

You can obviously modify this recipe to your heart's delight. You could make them spicy, sweet, whatever. Also, you could use ground turkey or chicken. The possiblities are all there. The great part is that this basic recipe is fantastic. It's baking in my oven as I type. They are so good! Oh - and of course, every time I typed balls, I turned into a giggling jr. high girl. Balls. Tee hee.

Then, the potatoes. The good, company potatoes. Also a basic recipe from a hometown (my hometown) church cookbook, ready to be modified to your own tastes.

Potato Casserole
2-lb pkg frozen hash browns
1/2 C melted butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp mustard
2 T minced onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pt sour cream
2 C grated American cheese

Thaw potatoes. Mix ingredients and put in 9 X 13-inch pan. Top with 1/4 C melted butter, mix with 2 C crushed cornflakes. Bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hr.

In about 40 minutes, we will be sitting down to a warm, delicious meal. And obviously low-fat (ha, ha).

Also on my menu this week?
Some soup recommended by Beck (check in comments on my previous post), both recipes.
A few new recipes: broccoli soup, cheeseburger and fries casserole
Some old stand-bys: spaghetti and meat sauce (I use ground turkey) with breadsticks and green beans, hamburger helper with a side of biscuits (a super easy meal for later in the week when we are all weary)

I'll take some left overs for lunch. I also bought pitas, hummus, turkey, and some veggies to make some turkey pitas for lunches when I don't have left overs. I'm still trying to eat smarter. Small portions, less junk, eat at home. The basics.

I'll let you know how my new recipes all turn out!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Needing a Meal Muse

40 mph winds are making today a blustery winter day.
I've got menu plans and grocery shopping on the brain. I'm even going out later to shop on this frigid day. So I'm wondering, what's on your menu lately? Got any good suggestions?

I'm in a cooking rut and am actually going to make supper for the next two nights. Lately we've been doing really quick meals consisting of very little actual preparation. Since I'm home today and tomorrow, I'm going to feed my family.

I go in spurts. Sometimes cooking genius, delicious meals. Right now, it's been lots of pb&j. Which happens to be what my kids are eating for lunch right now.

So I'm planning to post my menu plan when it's done. If anyone's got a great idea in the mean time, please share!

Also, I keep reading about people making lentil soup all over the place. Seriously? I've got some bad preconceived notions about lentil soup, so if you've got a recipe to change my mind, tell me about it!

I want to kick it up a notch this week and am looking for some winter comfort food.

Friday, February 15, 2008

She makes me laugh

I put a handful of frozen peas in our mac 'n cheese for lunch.

Brenna says, with a very worried expression, "Mommy, I do not like these"

I say, with conviction, "B, eat it all. Your body needs green food too."

She says, deadpan, "But my green food is all the way to the top." As she gestures her hand to her throat.

I laugh out loud as she looks on, still very worried.
She hates the dreaded veggies-in-the-macaroni trick.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I've got four days (four days!) off , starting tomorrow.

It's been a happy Valentine's Day (or VD, as my Dear Cousin calls it).

Have wonderful weekend.

I'll leave you with the same cheer that the Hubs surprised me with at work today.

Love ya Hubs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Mama's Prayer

Dear God...

Please help me to remember tonight. The way my little boy was all snuggled up in the towel. Warm from his bath. When he's all wrapped up like that, I can still rock my toddler boy. He nestled right in, so soft and sweet.
I never want to forget the way he giggled when I tickled the toes sticking out of the bottom of that towel. The sound of joy flowing from him. Then he surprised me most of all by saying, "Stop!", with a giggle. I've never even heard him say that word! I was taken a back, my big boy using such important words. I think he even surprised himself.
This intense love, God, please help me to remember it always. Help me to remember it when my temper gets lost. Or when I'm so tired I can't see past my own selfishness. Please help me to feel that, to remember that, when being a mama doesn't feel as grand as it did tonight.
Oh. And thank you. For such a wonderful gift.
It's better than any Valentine I've ever received.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Much Brownie Love

Time to tackle another hard hitting topic: Brownies.
That's right.

Beck wrote of her recipe in a controversial post. I call it controversial because she dogged my favorite, the brownie mix. I think she compared the flavor to rotten cheese? I couldn't help but wonder though, because she seems like such a smart lady, whether she was on to something. You really should go read what she writes about them, it's harsh.
Here at my house, we love the Betty Crocker fudge brownies from a mix. It's one thing the Hubs makes fairly regularly, if there's a box in the cupboard. They're so easy to make and so yummy.

So today, I'm finally trying Beck's recipe. They are in the oven as I type. I will review in a bit how they turn out.

All this thinking about brownies reminded me of a recipe I learned to make as a child. I think they were a recipe that my mom got from my grandmother. I made them a lot with my mom when I was still living at home. A friend of mine still speaks fondly of those brownies. I thought I'd share my recipe now.
My Brownie Recipe
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
Cream together oil and sugar. Beat in 6 eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly stir in cocoa, flour, and salt. Add vanilla and stir. Pour in greased and floured jellyroll pan. Bake 15-20 min. at 350 degrees. Test with toothpick at 15 minutes for doneness. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top if desired.

Yum. I haven't made these for so long, but will have bake some now, to compare to the ones currently in the oven. The recipe above are a cake-like brownie.
Fudgey or cakey. I love brownies!

I think I hear the timer going off. Time to go try some.
Brownie review: The flavor is fantastic. I think I just did something wrong, maybe set the mixer speed too high? The top got extra crunchy and the middle sort of flopped, so there's this weird space between the two. Again, flavor - fantastic. I just have to work on the delivery. I think Beck's brownies do beat the box, except for the fact that I've never screwed up the box kind. And honestly, ours have never tasted of rotten cheese. I asked Beck if perhaps Canada's box brownies are made of something different than here? :-)
I guess brownies are kind of like pizza to me. Cheap pizza? Good. Homemade pizza? Good. Bad pizza? Still good. All good. It's like that.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Missing My Friend

I've been missing my friend, Jacque, immensely this past two weeks.
Tears spring to my eyes at the thought.

This tremendous redhead. This woman who radiated with energy and light.
She lost her fight with breast cancer on Thanksgiving and I think about her every day.
She wrote this about me last year and I think it might be the nicest thing anyone ever said about me.

Right now, it is so intense because I'm trying to register kids at school for next year's classes. This was the point last year when she got so sick. When she had to quit working. When the wheels came off for me at school. I had piles of paper and messes and stress. I remember how selfish I felt, just wanting her at work so that I wouldn't have to figure everything out by myself.

I was so upset that she was sick. I missed our daily talks. Our daily time. Time grew short quickly.

I just had no idea how very fast it would be. If I thought about it enough, regret would fill my heart for all of the missed opportunities to see her in her final time here. How does someone got shoe shopping one week and go into liver failure the next. It's unfathomable.

She was my mentor and I needed her so much. I need her still. As I start going through the piles of paper again. As I remember last year so vividly.

She was amazing.
She is still helping me.
I know that she is.

Jacque, you were this light to me. I need it now.
I am grateful to have been your friend.
My heart aches and my eyes sting when I realize that you are really gone.
My breath draws short and the sadness can fill me.

I will not let myself dwell. That would piss her off too.
Just tonight. I'm saying one prayer and lighting a candle for her.

I miss my friend.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

School Daze

I formulate blog posts every day at school, walking in the halls. About cliques, teenagers, culture, technology, and more. By the time I'm here, at home, ready to post...I can't recall what it is I was so fascinated by. But here's a piece:
  • teen flirting. girl sits on the bench, one ear piece (ear bud? headphone?) connected to her IPod, in her ear, obsessively opening and shutting her cell phone to check for texts, I assume. boy stands about 4 feet away, pacing, also checking his phone, opening and shutting it, either checking the time or for texts. they talk nervously in broken sentences but have so much between them...the gadgets...just sit down and talk to each other!
  • cliques: I often daydream that my kids will be in the band. in a big school like this one, the band is its own thing. they are all band geeks and I LOVE it. the hubs surely dreams of his future athletes, I want mine in the swing choir, jazz band, or school drama club.
  • hormones: I remember last spring thinking that it was amazing that all of the teenagers sort of lost their minds and thought every thought from their groins. Even though we are in the dead of winter, I see it happening already. they are coupling off, staring dreamily at each other, longing for one more minute of passing time to make out.
  • cliques. the adult kind. I'm more aware of the coaches suddenly. and more judgmental about them than I knew. they really are the jocks from high school. the boys grew up to be men and they still travel in packs. so giddy with their games. I think I envy that.

That's all I can recall for now. When I walk the halls, it's so much more poetic in my mind. Complete with punctuation and capitalization. Something happens between there and home. I can say this, I really love being at school. There's something about the atmosphere, the learning, the clubs, the cliques. It is exactly where I want to be.

Perhaps next week, when I walk the halls, I'll be able to remember those articulate thoughts that race through my mind. I feel lucky to work in a place that inspires me so. Even if I'm too drained afterwards to recall.