Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Thanksgiving Table

As in years past, Jeff and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house. This year his parents provided the turkey, while Jeff took care of a roast; the sides -- oh, Dear Lord the sides! -- sweet potatoes, mashed rutabaga (which was a first for me and I discovered I love it!), two different stuffings, corn casserole and Jeff's famous variation on green bean casserole. The side dishes were overshadowed by a ridiculous display of desserts: pecan pie, (2) pumpkin pies, cherry pie and an OHMYGODTHISISPHENOMENAL dark chocolate/raspberry cheesecake made by Jeff's mom. Holy hell, yes... we had a lot of food.

However, while the spread was clearly of gluttonous proportions, for me, the highlight of our dinner table was the result of my half-assed attempt at channeling Martha Stewart: the Thanksgiving Table Votives.

What you're seeing here are square, heavy glass votive holders (which were purchased for $1 apiece from Dollar Tree for Kate's graduation open house). I love these because they are simple, stocky and solid; perfect for use any time of year. I don't remember where or how I got this idea stuck in my head, but I wanted to wrap these votive holders with black & white photos of each person in our family who was attending dinner. It ended up being relatively simple to size the photos, and I just placed them four-wide on the layout (landscape view). Even with our black ink cartridge just about dry, the images still came out pretty well. Even though I ultimately ended up cutting the photos individually and using double-stick tape to adhere them to the holders, I was pleasantly surprised with the end result. Here's a closer look at two of them:

Yes, there was a slight curling of the edges -- which I had to really try not to let bother my slightly-OCD self -- but if I do it again, I'll remedy that before it becomes too obvious. I used simple tea lights in the holders, because as I mentioned, I like to use these holders as much as possible I really don't want to mess with digging out the wax and cleaning them up. (I know, someone will undoubtedly tell me to place them in the freezer and the wax will pop right out, but tea lights are so much easier.)

I'm thinking next time (maybe Christmas...?) it's going to be baby photos. :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

For those days when I feel like I'm the worst mother ever...

The following is copied verbatim from something Sam wrote for school in 4th grade. I found it in his backpack when we got them out for school this fall... because, you know, they brought them home on the last day of school and didn't touch them again for three months.

My mom is really nice she has one brother, and she is very social. she is 43 years old and loves playing with me and my brothers. she loves navy blue because it is her favorite collage color Butler bulldogs. she could write a news paper on the teams mascot blue two blue one died but the mascot is a bulldog. She loves the basketball team, she also knits she knit a scarf in one day. she yells when my brothers and I are messing with each other. She likes vacations and driving, she dosen't like the long road trips like me until we get to the place, then we have to drive back to our home. My mom can be nice and when things get out of hand she thinks her head will blow up. I think my mom is awesome!

For those of you who know me well, you know how difficult it was for me to type that paragraph as it was written... run-ons, missed capitalizations, mild errors and all. But it was written by Sam -- my hilariously quirky boy who doesn't often speak from the heart. For all I know, this was written hastily and off the cuff just to get an assignment done. But for what he thought to include, it speaks to my heart. I particularly love that he gets how frustrating it can be when I deal with the three of them getting "out of hand." Perhaps it's because I'm prone to dramatically holding my head, saying, "UUUGGGHHHHHHH! IF YOU THREE DON'T STOP, MY HEAD'S GOING TO EXPLODE!" But I think it's those six words that close out the paragraph that really clinch it. No matter what I do or what Sam equates with me (diehard Butler fan, knitter, writer, mom with an exploding head, etc.), no matter what... he thinks I'm awesome.

Thank you, Sam. I love you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's more than just a blog name...it's my way of life

Lately, I’ve been all about simplifying and getting down to basics – back to “square one,” so to speak. A lot of this came from an ongoing feud I have with myself and the clutter-ish appearance of some areas of our home. I’ve been trying to pinpoint one area at a time and attack – pitching that which is unnecessary and creating an organizational system that will keep everyone happy. (Everyone = me.)

Swimming in that same thought-pond are my ideas for getting myself back to basics, which consist of making basic, healthy meals for my family and exercising. I’ve learned in my 40-something years that I’m one of those people who over-analyze things. And when I over-analyze things, I tend to make them much bigger and daunting than they really are. For example: creating more healthful meals has, on more than one occasion, sent me to the library to scour the stacks in search of nutrition guides and cook books. I flip through and make notes, jotting down which recipes are keepers and which ones my kids wouldn’t touch with a 10-ft. fork. I read and research, research and read. But nothing gets cooked. Well, DUH. Now, if I just use some basic common sense, I could easily navigate the grocery – with no notes – and manage to end up with a cart of very good, wholesome food, rather than just reading about it. Easy peasy.

Similarly, I go the same route with exercise. I resumed a running hobby sometime in early 2005, and within a few months I ran my very first road race – a 5K. Since then, I’ve run numerous 5Ks and some half-marathons. My goal at that time was to run a half-marathon (which I did); and a full marathon by the time I was 40. Then I got pregnant and put that whole “train for a marathon” thing on the back-burner, where it’s simmered since 2009. I have run a few half-marathons since having Bobby, but that full marathon was still simmering in the back of my mind. About a week ago, I found information on the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis which is scheduled for the first weekend of November. While I’m by no means in shape to run this year, I just might be next year. My goal = first full marathon in November 2013. Since no one ever successfully trained for a marathon simply by thinking about it (or reading and researching, which I tend to do in this area of my life as well… even more so than the whole food thing) it’s time to take Nike’s advice and Just Do It.

Today I dutifully got up at 5:20am, and ran. I was joined by the boys which is truly amazing in that I’ve never known them to willingly roll out of bed at 5:30am for anything other than the promise of tearing into Christmas presents. It was just a quick run, and Sam was the only one who groused at all, because he felt that Charlie’s transformation into “Johnny Sprint” was uncalled for. (I have to agree, since we’re running at DARK O’CLOCK in the morning and I’d rather keep all my ducklings in sight.) We didn’t break any land-speed records, but kept a pretty good pace overall.

And at least I wasn’t still in bed.

Back to basics. Back to square one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's all good until the popcorn needs popped

I’ve always thought friends are important. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t (at age 43) still declare a friend from 7th grade and my college Little Sis as my BFFs. Friends are especially important when you feel like you’re going crazy from all the chaos and drama in your life and you just want to feel normal. I am blessed to have two good friends who balance out my crazy – Jenn and Lindy.

Just because of our schedules and kids (13 between the three of us) lunch plans are frequently rescheduled (today’s lunch took three tries? I think?) but when we all sit down, sans children, it gives us a chance to reconnect, catch up and laugh. Oh, do we ever laugh. Sometimes at the most inappropriate things, but that’s how we roll.

Today’s lunch was a lovely Panera offering of soups and sandwiches, which also included topics ranging from two kids hoping to make student council at school; the often-inappropriate things that pop out of teen boys’mouths; school field trips; family drama; teenagers and their nonchalant views on how the world really works; kids’ challenges and disappointments; antics from overly-dramatic children; catching up on what’s going on with mutual friends… the list goes on.

During our conversation, we realized how funny it is that we find ourselves laughing at things that might have most parents stunned speechless or paralyzed with shock. Are we bad moms? Most definitely not. Is that how we maintain our sanity? Most definitely so. We are smart, strong women, helping raise 13 children to be good, responsible young adults – the kind of children you eventually feel pretty good about letting loose on the world. Juggling work and family life can be tricky, and is almost always chaotic. But we do it. Every day. Every week. Every month, and so on. And we do this with in partnership with three pretty great husbands, too.

So, while this post is a shout-out to two wonderful friends laced with my thanks for a.) being my friends, and b.) making my crazy life feel normal… I probably have to explain the title of this post. It ties into the “two kids hoping to make student council at school,” reference. Apparently, at Jenn’s daughters’ school, the parents of kids who make it onto student council find themselves automatically scheduled to go to the school and pop popcorn. (Which I completely forgot to ask why, but that can be addressed at our next lunch.) It was a statement that made us laugh, because … seriously?! The school tells you when you have to come in and help? Oy vey. As if schedules and calendars aren’t already filled to the brim...I can’t even begin to imagine my own response if I received a note like that.

My response just might be classified as an “inappropriate thing that might pop out of teen boys’ mouths.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Birthday boys

Happy 13th Birthday, Jack and Charlie.

It's kind of weird that the last time I posted, I loaded up a carload of boys and drove to Indianapolis for an NFL event. That was at the end of January. Now, it's the end of August, and last night I loaded up a carload of boys and drove to Indianapolis for an NFL event. This time it was just three, rather than five boys -- Jack, Charlie and a friend. I took them to their first-ever NFL game, Colts vs Bengals. It was a good night, and cooperative weather allowed for the ceiling and window of Lucas Oil Stadium to be open. Very cool.

On our drive home, which began shortly before midnight, Jack and Charlie realized we'd see the official start of their birth DAY. We counted down the seconds, just like New Year's Eve, and when the clock hit 12:00am, the boys breathed a big sigh: official teenagers. I, on the other hand, teared up. My boys. My first babies. How can they possibly be 13 years old? I clearly remember the night they were born -- hearing Jack fill his little lungs with his first breath and proceed to scream like crazy. My first thought? "I am not ready."
I also clearly remember a nurse bringing Jack to me the next morning. He'd had his first bath, and was tightly wrapped in a blanket. His shock of jet-black hair slicked down in a comb-over. So cute. I also vividly recall spending the first couple of days worrying about Charlie. My little Charlie, at just 4-lbs., 5oz. He was having trouble regulating his temperature, so they kept him in an isolette in the nursery. When he was finally able to join us, I couldn't get him to eat. One night, after they took Jack to join his brother, I lost it. I broke down into silent sobs and begged God to help Charlie. Eventually, Charlie began eating, and quickly caught up to Jack (a "whopping" 5-lbs., 9 oz.).

Such little guys, now growing into smart, funny, handsome young men.
Happy Birthday, Jack and Charlie. Enjoy being "official" teenagers now. Only please don't do all your growing up so quickly. It goes by much too fast as it is...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Missed kicks and scoring points

This past Sunday we embraced our state’s good fortune of hosting the XLVI Superbowl. I loaded up the car and drove four boys (ages almost-10, 12, 12 and 13) to Indianapolis. This morning, a friend asked how I handled that trip. My one-word answer was simply, “Shipley,” which is my best friend from college and (genetics aside) sister. During the past 24 years, she has redefined the definition of “good friend” or “best friend.” She has been there for me when even those closest to me weren’t. She is, simply, the sister everyone would want and she is the best friend everyone deserves. (BTW, I stole that line from Oprah, who used it to describe her BFF Gayle. It doesn't mean I mean it any less, having stolen it. I think it puts us in pretty good company!) Had it not been for Shipley, I may have returned home with a few less children. (Oh, I kid…)

The trip down there was touch & go at its start… I ended up leaving my huge travel mug of freshly brewed Starbucks IN. MY. KITCHEN. I realized this about 10 minutes into the trip. Let’s just say it was a loooooong ride to the next Starbuck’s.

By the time we reached Indianapolis and Shipley’s house for an early lunch, the boys were ready to be out of the car. This point was clearly illustrated when it was time to re-load the car and I see two of the boys involved in a chase – through Shipley’s muddy front yard. Neither were listening to me telling them to “STOP!”, so I had to physically stop the “chaser.” I reached for the sleeve of his sweatshirt as he went whizzing by and accidentally grabbed the hood instead. Totally horsecollared him and he dramatically collapsed on the driveway. Oh, of course they both swore it was all fun & games… but we all know that’s until he actually caught him. Then they all piled into the new car, tracking mud all over the carpet. I was pissed speechless, so Shipley took the lead and skillfully lectured them about how they’d ALL be helping clean the mud out of my car after I get home from work today. She had them agreeing to everything. Thank goodness. My only option was to yell until my head exploded. Which would have meant another mess to clean up.

We made it to downtown without another incident, and proceeded to take in all the NFL awesomeness proudly on display. We even had ourselves a true “celebrity sighting” when Jimmy Fallon (dressed like a woman… which was a little weird) walked in front of us at Monument Circle. As we’re staring and (of course) taking photos, I hear from behind me, “CUT! Okay,… we got it!” So it appears there was a television taping situation going on. I’ve never watched Fallon’s show, but I’ll be watching starting tonight to find out a.) if we got into the crowd shot, and b.) what the hell he was doing dressed in drag.

The NFL Experience was exactly that – an experience. Up until yesterday, I’ve only stood in hours-long lines at Disney World. However, we endured a two-hour wait to have each boy attempt a field goal kick. None made the 20-yd. attempt, but they gave it a great shot. We walked around a lot after that, and tried getting a player autograph. The administration made a last-minute location change, so we totally missed Pierre Garcon on the autograph stage. The kids all got a Cliff Notes lesson in price-gouging when they realized our round of hot dogs and bottled water for six of us cost damn near $60. It seems the boys all enjoyed our last stop after leaving the convention center: The Colts Store at Circle Center Mall. Player jerseys were marked down from $129.99 to $39.99 and we had a 15 percent off coupon. S-C-O-R-E!!! All four boys walked out with a jersey, and Shipley grabbed a treat for both of us at the Godiva Chocolate store. That? Is a game-winner right there.

We rolled back into our driveway just before 10pm (an exception on a school night) completely exhausted. It had been a good day – not without behavior reminders being tossed around like hot potatoes, but still a good day. Most days I spend more time than I care to admit wondering if I do enough for the kids. Most days I feel like a rabid Sheltie, snarling and snapping at the heels of my herd. I hate those days, but if just one kid would, for the love of God, listen when asked to do something and follow through, I would feel less inclined to nag. But it’s days like yesterday, even with my nagging… I think I may have scored a point in my sons’ books.