Thursday, December 31, 2009

The one about the Java Cup...

All I have is a picture. But I can't very well just post the picture without some sort of explanation. It's a very sad picture. I'll do my best to tell you why...

Our annual journey to join my mom's family for their Christmas celebration was yesterday. This is no small feat. Five children. Ages 2 to 15. Two carseats. One Chevy Suburban--neither ancient nor new. Typically at least a three hour drive that takes us through rural southern Virginia, North Carolina and the Great Dismal Swamp. A day filled with relatives we only see once a year--a family in desperate need of a flow chart. My mom is the second oldest of eight children. All but two of her siblings were there this year. And each sibling comes with their own offspring and their offspring's offspring.

Yesterday's trip down was actually relatively painless. And short. And non-stop. For the first time in several years, I wasn't pregnant...nor were we traveling with a potty-training toddler. One of the nephews had traveled down the day before with my parents so there were only four kiddos--two to each row. Kyleigh and Maia napped in the middle row while Jacob and Sammy kept each other entertained discussing poop and it's various forms...or, rather--Jacob kept himself entertained while Sammy attempted to snooze. Either way, they were all the way in the back and my sister and I enjoyed each other's company.

Fast forward through turkey, ham and collard greens. Family drama and countless family photo opts. Scores of short ones under the age of 5 wearing each other out. Avoiding various uncles wishing to discuss various political issues. Thank the good lord no one actually brought up healthcare...at least not within my hearing range--oh, look...is that my son climbing up that very unstable stack of chairs?...Gotta go. Rounding up everyone that belonged to us, buckled back into carseats amidst blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, various mp3 players, books, water bottles and bags of snacks...my sister and I making sure our travel mugs are accessible for our now traditional post-party-prior-to-getting-back-on-the-road-stop-at-the-one-place-that-sells-good-coffee coffee stop...

and they were boarded up-someone-please-rent-me-hand-painted-sign-stuck-in-the-window Closed. And we were going to get muffins too.

Rural North Carolina. Just south of the Great Dismal Swamp. Starbucks is unaware that people actually live there. It was another hour down the road before we found some place other than a gas station that might have palatable coffee. I don't think my reaction of "Really?! That would be fantastic!" was quite the response the kind and patient lady at the Dairy Queen drive-through was expecting when she informed us she'd have to brew a fresh pot.

Bless you, dear lady. We'll see you next year.

I've never really gotten along with "conventional"...

Rose Is Rose

Happy--and safe--New Year's Eve!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The stories we could tell...

This is what I do, Darlin'...

Yeah, well...this is what I do...just make sure you come home.

'K...love you, bye...

Love you too, Weirdo.

Nighttime craziness was in full swing--kiddos were in the process of teeth brushing and shower protestations, kitty cat was starving and Sean was just finishing up dishes (oh, yeah--he does dishes too...told you he was Hot) when his phone rang. Possible bomb. Gotta go.

Soapy wet goodnight kisses from the showering little ones and my parting instructions to be careful and to come home in one piece sent him on his way.

Now...sitting here in a quiet house, dog not-so-softly snoring at my feet, my mind wanders. I think about ones we've known and lost. A friend who kissed her husband--father to her two little girls--goodbye and he didn't come home. At least not alive. A roadside IED just outside of Baghdad took care of that. He was EOD...his wife and I were stationed together. He knew his job--well trained, surrounded by other well trained men.

Don't worry...this is what I do.

I know. But then there's all of the stuff I don't know. And so I wait. I don't wait very well.

There's a book sitting on the table--one of Sean's Christmas gifts. He hasn't started it yet. Makes it fair game around here. See? Now he has to come home...so he can whine about me swiping his book.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Told ya'll it was genetic...

My mom made me another Lego cake for my birthday. There were no candles on this one...my loving, two-and-a-half-years-older-than-me Husband mentioned something about fire codes...but it was still tasty!


A few months ago my parents traveled to San Diego and my dad spent some quality time in the Legoland store. The figures are from a vintage collection set--part of my birthday present.

The nifty part was that the cake pan for the blocks was also one of my birthday presents. Jacob now wants a Lego cake for his next birthday. I think I just might be able to oblige.


It was a delightful birthday. I'm so grateful to just be able to spend time with my family. After so many years of being scattered across the globe, the hour drive out to my parent's home isn't that far at all.

In a couple of days the kiddos and I will pile into my sister's Suburban along with her and her kiddos and make our annual pilgrimage down to my mom's family Christmas celebration. They rent out the fellowship hall of my aunt's church--it's the only place big enough to accommodate us all. It's a three hour trip from my driveway. There's a little coffee shop we stop at on the way home--they seem to remember us every trip and we always tell them we'll see them next year. We actually found them by accident the first year we took over the church. On the trip down we followed directions for a by-pass of a small town. Driving home we missed the by-pass road and drove through the town--and passed the Java Hut. Suburbans can actually perform neat and efficient u-turns if the driver is sufficiently motivated.

My sister and I used to be upset with our husbands because they've always found some reason or another not to join us. This year they are both working--really, they are. Now we simply enjoy the trip--she and I get to chat and enjoy each other's company while the cousins all keep each other entertained. There's only one spare seat now. So even if one of the husband's wanted to come, they'd either have to flip a coin for the seat or we'd have to drive two vehicles. And where would the fun be in that?


(top picture taken by my dad, bottom picture taken by me)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not old...

Because I'm still that 13-year-old listening to Runaway, Bon Jovi is always welcome to sing Happy Birthday to me--in their own, ever so amazing, way...

Hey, man, it's been a while
Do you remember me?
When I hit the streets I was 17
A little wild, a little green
I've been up and down and in between
After all these years and miles of memories
I'm still chasing dreams
But I ain't looking over my shoulder ...

I like the bed I'm sleeping in
It's just like me, it's broken in
It's not old - just older
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans
This skin I'm in it's alright with me
It's not old - just older





...and, yes, it's my birthday...and, no I won't tell you which one but my 2-year-old can now count how far away I am from forty...and, no, I don't feel old in the slightest! I camouflage my age well by surrounding myself with toddlers and a really hot older man.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Warner Bros. owes us money...

We were the original Griswolds...

Beach trip summer of '74...check out the rides on top!

Since they were snowbound without the grandchildren this weekend, my parents spent a lot of time scanning in old slides...and sharing them with the rest of us. Pictures I had no idea even existed. Can't wait to see what else they dig up!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Can't think of a better way to spend the Winter Solstice...

For this being the shortest day of the year...we certainly packed a whole lot into it! It started with the drive out to Kimbilio to spend the day with my parents. You know...over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house in the snow...or something like that!

Jacob has had a rather lengthy list of all of the things he wants to do in the snow. I believe we managed to check most of them off today...

Build a huge snow man...check


Have a snowball fight...check


Eat snow...check (okay, this one is Kyleigh, but it was on her brother's list as well)


Go sledding...check...and he was fast too! Had the longest run of any of us.


Somehow manage to convince your long-suffering cousin to pull you back up the hill...check.


Even Kokoo got in on the sledding! Truth be told...it was her idea in the first place!


Of course, Kyleigh had to give it a try...held ever so protectively in her cousin's arms!

Watch Mommy spin as she sleds down the hill too...check.

Yep. Dang near perfect day. I can imagine that if we lived somewhere where the snow showed up early in the season and stuck around we'd get mighty tired of it. I won't be sorry to see it go in a week or so, but we're certainly enjoying it while we can!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh, yeah...I was also informed I was in the funny papers this morning...

Arlo & Janis

11 years isn't all that long...

and it's certainly not too much to ask...

To hear you say my name, to see you search my eyes

To feel you touch my hand, it more than satisfies.
If I was not the first, just say I'll be the last
It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask.

Now I can only dream of being all you need
And I can only try to be the reason why
You think about today and forget about the past
It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask.

Now I can only dream of being all you need
And I can only try to be the reason why
You think about today 'cause the past is just the past
It's too much to expect, but it doesn't hurt to ask
It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask.

~Mary Chapin Carpenter

Happy Anniversary to the Man who was and is strong enough to walk beside me. I love you more than words can possibly convey.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh, baby...it's cold outside...

Non-standard 2-year-old measurement says the snow is t-h-i-s deep...and t-h-i-s wide...

and it's still coming down...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yes! We have bread and milk!

We shall survive the Great Winter Storm 2009!

I thought Jacob's head was going to explode when he realized that not only was it snowing--it was SNOWING! We're at somewhere around 6 to 7 inches already and it's supposed to keep snowing until sometime Saturday night. A butt ton of snow. In central Virginia.

This is really messing up my arguments on the environment and global warming.

Overheard in our house last night...

"Mommy, you have two pairs of pants on!"

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Why are you wearing two pairs of pants?" His expression implying this was the strangest thing he'd ever seen in his 4 and a half years on this earth--because, apparently, my son is the Prince of Normal.

"In the winter Mommy wears two pairs of pants because she cannot handle being cold. I get grumpy when I get cold. And then I start trolling the internet for last minute great deals on trips to the Seychelles...and then your father gets grumpy. So, in an effort to save our blessed matrimonial union, I wear long underwear from October to March."

"Mommy!"
Jacob declares as he erupts in a fit of giggles, "You said underwear! That's a Potty Word!"


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The day the cupboard ran dry...and I was glad...

I've always held rather strong feelings against the idea of Gift Obligation. If you have nothing to do with me throughout the rest of the year, why spend five dollars on a cheap gift for me just because it's Christmas? What I'd rather would be five minutes of your time just to sit and talk. I'll even provide the coffee, or tea if you'd prefer. Cards are nice for that--hey, I haven't talked to you all year, but seeing it's Christmas...peace to men of goodwill and all...here's a card reminding you I still exist and was thinking about you. I'm good with that. Not that I managed to get cards out this year or anything. Oh well.

This year, however, I found that there are those in my life that I do feel obligated to give gifts to--something in appreciation for their work and dedication. Teachers. My children's teachers. Those women deserve awards for what they do.

I had a lot of help with the project as well. A huge thanks to Chef Tess for the inspiration and recipes! Jacob helped with the mixing and my poor husband stopped at the store on his way home yesterday for more cocoa powder since I managed to only scrape out enough for four out of the five brownie bags. But what an amazing idea...by simply using what I had in the cupboard I was able to produce delightful, homemade gifts that won't clutter up anyone's attic for years to come. I did manage to pretty much empty the baking section of the pantry...but replenishing a bag of flour and a bag of sugar won't break us. At least not this week.

Basic cookie mix...yes, I took over the stove top for counter space--something this kitchen is in dire need of! Where else was I supposed to put the laptop? Anyway, the basic mix is all of the dry ingredients, butter and powdered milk.

I started out with the Kitchen Aid Workhorse...but even that couldn't handle nine cups of flour! (See? That wee little patch of countertop real estate is all I have! Even though the mixer is stored elsewhere it's still no wonder I take over the stove top!)


All the festive bags with their mixes! I made up the Oatmeal Raisin
recipe...2 cups of the basic mix, plus oatmeal, spices and a separate baggie of
raisins for people like me who can't stand the mummified grapes.



On to the Brownie Mixes...all lined up like soldiers. Jacob and I snuck in a batch of chocolate chip cookies with red and green M&Ms...all the cookie ingredients were already out, it would have been a shame to not have anything to sample.

Oh yeah...one of these things is not like the other...which of these things is not like the other? The bag on the end? The non-brownie one? Ran out of cocoa powder. I also ran out of sugar--but I did have just enough of that for everything, including the cookies Jacob and I made. Whew. Five pounds of sugar--gone. In one day. Just the thought is enough to start me shaking!

Arts and crafts time last night...printed off labels and baking instructions...cut them out and decorated red lunch bags.
Each teacher received two bags--a mix in each.


See...lovely little baking instructions for each mix
and cut out with Jacob's crinkle scissors.


All the little bags ready to go.
Aw...the Christmas tree in the background,
gift bags full of goodies...I love Christmas!


The funny thing is, even though these were obligatory gifts, they didn't feel like obligations at all. I'm so grateful for what the school is providing for my children and for us as a family. And Jacob was so excited--and proud--to be able to give his teachers presents.

Besides, give a person a batch of cookies and they gorge themselves for a day...give them a mix to make their own batch of cookies and then they...um...bake their own at their own convenience and then gorge themselves on homemade cookies...or something like that. Anyway. I have more bags to make up--not out of obligation, simply because there are people in my life I'm grateful for and I want them to know that.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Long days...

...beget long week...

However, despite the fact that Sean is working really, really long hours himself this week I've still been productive...lots of work things taken care of before everyone goes home for the holidays and forgets about little ol' me who asked them for money...gifts of appreciation for the amazing women who teach my children (more on that later)...wrapping goodies and surprises without anyone witnessing what actually went into the boxes thereby insuring they remain surprises...I failed to get a picture capturing Kyleigh wearing my Bon Jovi apron...lots of cookie baking with Jacob--he's trying out recipes from the book If You Take A Mouse To The Movies...

Regular blogging will return shortly...


...a delightful side note...typing in "Bon Jovi" brings up a multitude of lovely pictures on the Zemanta media gallery...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Where are the parenting books I really need?

How to Raise a Non-Santa Child in a Santa Culture
I could really use this one right about now. Seriously. This is the first year we're dealing with the issue of Santa Claus. I am fine with the idea of St. Nicolas and Sinterklass and even Father Christmas...all well meaning men and all now very much not alive. And none of them were registered home invaders. I am not okay with the American version of Santa Claus...a fat old man fondling small children, keeping tabs on naughty boys and girls, bribing them with gifts, breaking into houses in the wee hours of the morning...ewww. I cannot be the only person this creeps out.

Anyway, my own issues aside...Christmas isn't about gifts and Santa Claus. (Yes, I know...December 25th was/is a Pagan holy day taken over by the Romans in an effort to promote Christianity and that Jesus was most likely born in the spring and that the wise men didn't make it until he was almost 2--I got all of that, however, the day has come to symbolize the birth of Jesus...so there.) I don't appreciate the idea of complete strangers asking my son what he wants Santa to bring him for Christmas and if he's all excited about Santa coming. That ranks right up there with complete strangers touching my pregnant belly--when I had one. Don't do it. Don't push your beliefs on my children. That's my job.

Now I have a very brilliant four-year-old informing me, on a daily basis, what Santa is going to bring him. And every day I have to do damage control. All the while walking that fine line between our own unique life and respecting another's way of life and parenting. Which brings me to the other book I desperately need...

How to Unlearn the Playground Lessons and Words Without My Child Going Back and Referring to the Other Parents as Idiots
I realize that not all parents feel the same regarding what makes an appropriate toy and what doesn't. Guns, for instance. I've talked about this before. We will not purchase toy guns for our children. At no point do I want to plant the seed that guns are toys. They aren't. Ever. Yes, my son creates and builds his own toy guns but "guns" made out of k'nex or toast or Legos or sticks will never be mistaken for the real thing. Neither will the bright colored stubby water pistols I broke down and bought for them last summer.

Not all parents take issue with their children talking about killing each other, calling each other idiots or using "potty" words on the playground--words and behaviors my son did not have prior to the beginning of the school year. Okay, he had the potty words but he never talked about killing someone. Once again, I'm tasked with damage control.

Fortunately I have the good doctor on my side...

"So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left." ~Theodore Gisel

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Duality...

Two dear friends are in the hospital today.

One giving birth to a son. One in for surgery--
modified radical mastectomy with her third round of chemotherapy to follow once she's recovered.

Humans are amazing creatures--we can be Heartbroken and Overjoyed in the same moment.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Just because...

We all watched Daddy and his furry partner drive off this morning...we'll see them again either tomorrow or Thursday.

But we have the twinkly Christmas tree to keep our spirits up...

...and I have the phrase, "Please stop taking the ornaments off the tree!" to keep saying over and over to occupy my time.


I love this time of year. I don't like the cold. I don't think I'll ever get used to it, but I do love Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Girl wears a hat like that...

...you know she's not scared of anything!"


Yes, we were out Christmas tree hunting. Yes, we came home with one and yes it is all lit up and decorated.

No, I haven't taken pictures of it yet and yes, the cat is delighted to have his winter hangout spot back (under the tree). Until tomorrow when he figures out that the tree is in the front room this year and all toddler containment gates are gone. And, no, I do not feel bad about that.

And yes, I got a little sentimental and teary eyed pulling out all of the ornaments--particularly the one I won in a raffle at the squadron's Christmas party 14 years ago...that just happened to be mine and Sean's first date. Sorta. And, yes, though we brought home a good and sturdy Scotch Pine that fragile Lladro bell will remain in the box again this year.

Some things just aren't the risk.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Arguing semantics...

I think I finally figured it out. The mental difference between "cooking" and "baking" and why I'm good with one and not so much with the other. Whilst my "cooking" has always been met with mixed reviews, my "baking" is usually met with yummy sounds and exclamations of joy (at least in my head that's what those sounds mean)...except when I go all crazy and add nuts then the Husband gets grumpy until I point out that he has his own batch of nut-free whatever. Not only that but an afternoon spent cooking only to have whatever it was that I cooked to be gone in mere minutes--whether consumed or thrown out--is just discouraging. Baked goods last a little longer and their enjoyment is prolonged--depending on how much is baked.

"come to the darkside, we have cookies..." ~V

Baking allows me to get all creative and to pull stuff out of my arsenal of secret weapons...

And create goodies such as Chocolate Chunk Cookies with brown butter and pecans*...and, yes, there was a batch without the pecans for the picky one...erm, for the Love of My Life. Whole wheat flour, Smart balance butter, egg beaters and dark chocolate? They're like health food!

It's actually a combination of recipes and something I read about in Cook's Illustrated. I really don't follow directions well and I really, truly dislike being told what to do (amazing I made it through four years in the military!) so I take what I like, discard what I don't and add what I want. There's always the chance that something is going to explode and that makes my baking just that much more exciting...that and the Bon Jovi apron.

*recipe if you just can't resist...

Sift together:
2 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 1/2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar (yes--just add the sugars with everything else...don't waste time with the whole "cream together sugars and butter--it just takes longer to be cookies that way!)
1 cup brown sugar (don't attempt to sift this--it's not pretty)

1 cup butter--divided. Brown one half in a skillet--watch it closely because once it starts to brown it's like a nano second from Brown to Burnt. It's an extra step but it makes such a difference in the finished cookie--just don't taste the raw dough or you'll find yourself unable to stop...or so I've heard. Once brown and emitting a delightful nutty aroma add it to the other 1/2 cup of butter, stir in 1 tsp vanilla and dump everything in with the flour/sugar mixture.

Add 2 eggs (beaten if using real eggs--I use egg beaters and I've adjusted the flour amount accordingly. Real eggs...maybe cut out 1/4 cup of flour)

Stir until just combined then add a 11.5 ounce bag of chocolate chunks and 1 cup of nuts of choice.

Put the cookie dough in the 'fridge while oven preheats to 375.

I have a 1 ounce scoop I use for cookies. Or just use the old fashioned tablespoon method--the chilled dough insures that these don't spread out a whole lot. Bake 10-11 minutes--just until brown along the edges. Cool in pan for a couple of minutes just so they don't break up when taking them off. Enjoy!