Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday Insanity!

Let me qualify this by saying I sort of have a policy about NOT shopping on "Black Friday" - the day after Thanksgiving, simply because I find the frenzy to be insane and ridiculous. I would much rather pay a few extra dollars for an item than fight my way through a crowd or stand in hours-long lines. And reading about the Wal-Mart worker who was trampled to death, and the two men who shot each other (in front of children!) at a Toys 'R' Us store just makes me think this world has gone crazy. What the hell is going on? Why the frenzy? Stores should offer us good deals every day and not put us at risk of life and limb by creating these stupid sales that attract thousands to purchase hundreds of items. There will never be enough items to go around at the sale price so people become animals scrabbling for the coveted item at the best price and look at the results.

I have an idea - how about we NOT become so obsessed about the latest and greatest? When my kids were little, I had another policy - no matter how much begging and pleading, I would NOT spend a ridiculous amount of money, nor become part of a frenzy for the most coveted toy. Forget it. It's just not worth it. And what kind of message are we sending to our kids? That Christmas is about sale prices and physical competition to get the coveted gift? Not in my book. Shop early......stockpile gifts all year long.....say "no" to the things you can't afford (or are not willing to jump through hoops to get). We've become so obsessed with Christmas and making it so perfect and magical that we've forgotten the important stuff. And I'm not just talking about the religious component. Whatever your beliefs, Christmas is a time to celebrate your family and maybe make a little effort to spend some extra time with them. NOT shopping. Doing stuff, like looking at Christmas lights and making cookies and watching Christmas movies you've seen a million times over again. It makes me sick when I hear of the crazy shoppers or read another article about "ten tips to overcome the stress of the holidays". C'mon! Holidays should be fun, not frenzied. Too much is just too much.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Well, don't you just know I created the nicest little Betty Crocker Thanksgiving dinner you ever saw? I rustled up the moistest turkey, velvety mashed potatoes, tasty gravy, sweet potatoes with lots of brown sugar and pecans, green beans with bacon and onions and fluffy little rolls! Harrison made Waldorf salad and Hayley put together the chocolate trifle for dessert. Instead of pumpkin pie I made "pumpkin stuff" from the cookbook entitled "The Sweet Potato Queen's Big Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner)". All in all, delightful! knew there was going to be a but, didn't you, now?

For one thing, no kitchen is big enough for two cooks. Which caused a bit of a ruffle this morning when Jeff (who has taken over my kitchen as his cooking domain) was attempting to "help" with Thanksgiving dinner. Well, let me start by saying that he wanted to cook up all these weird concoctions that in no way resembled my momma's Thanksgiving dinner so I was havin' NONE of that! I proceeded to show him the ten page document that I've saved over the years (gravy-splattered and all!) with explicit instructions on how to create MY MOM'S Thanksgiving dinner. He was to follow it to the letter with absolutely no substitutions or "spicing up" to his tastes. But I found it easier to just do it myself. So, he went about roasting one of his poor, defenseless birds that he shot silly with his shotgun, and making it into "pheasant/oyster gumbo". Now, eww. What kind of Thanksgiving food is THAT? But he made it up, rice and all and we proceeded to have a 'Nawlins type lunch (actually it was pretty good). I scurried about, using up every one of my pots and pans to make the feast.

And while it turned out lovely, I couldn't help but notice that we spent the ENTIRE day to make a dinner that was consumed in.........well, as much time as it takes to consume any dinner. Not to mention that Jeff and I never showered or changed from yoga this morning and the kids were still in their jammies at dinnertime. So, it was a lovely sight. And I thought, why do we do this really? I mean, are there Thanksgiving police that will arrive at your door if your giblets aren't cooking up on the stove and you don't have a couple dozen pies laid out on the counter top? And I realized, wouldn't we all just be happy to eat Cool Whip out of the carton with a spoon (well it did make ME happy while I was cooking!)? I think as long as you have the basic essentials of Thanksgiving dinner - butter and brown sugar - then you've got yourself a feast! I mean, every single dish has a stick or more of butter in it and brown sugar sort of makes a grand appearance, so why not just melt yourself a big ole stick of butter, mix in about a cup of brown sugar and eat that gooey paste till you're practically passed out from sugar/fat overload? The results would be the same. Ok, so the turkey is pretty good. And you can't get that tasty gravy without all those turkey drippings. So, here's what you do. You go to the deli and get yourself some nice, fresh turkey sliced up all handy-like for you. Purchase some gravy (canned, deli, your choice). Slap that on a platter and heat it up. Now you've got yourself a respectable dinner (veggies - who cares? It's Thanksgiving). Purchase an 8-oz container of Cool Whip for each guest and serve with festive holiday spoons. Make a nice big bowl of brown sugar/butter paste for each guest and serve in those cute little serving dishes you never use. Voila! Thanksgiving dinner! You may notice I left out stuffing. Because, in the end, it's really just soggy bread. And no one likes that, right Tonya?

Hope you all had as nice a Thanksgiving as I did. I'm gonna go now and eat me some more Cool Whip!!

This is why it's called a "blade" of grass.......

So, Jeff took the little ones hunting again yesterday (and lest you think it's insane for him to take a 9 and 10 year old hunting, they actually saw a woman with a BABY in a frontpack out in the killing fields......OMG!), and this trip was even shorter than the last one. Not because they got their two bird limit, no. I received a call around 1:30 with a "where are you?" followed by a hesitant and weird voice from Jeff at which time all I could think of was "which one did you shoot!?". But he quickly said "don't worry, I didn't shoot anyone!" and proceeded to tell me that Arlie had cut her hand on........a blade of grass! Yes, you read that right, a BLADE of grass. Apparently she and Harrison were pulling grass as they walked along in the fields and (not wearing gloves this time - oops!), Arlie pulled on a blade that sliced right through the middle pad of her middle finger on her left hand (she's right handed - whew!). Anyway, Jeff saw that it was deep, and called the dr. office, which directed him to a nearby emergency clinic that was - closed! Yes, closed at 1:30 on a weekday. So, he was going to go to the ER, but I said "hell no, just take her into the dr. office and let her bleed on their floor and they will help her!" (I know, it almost makes you tear up how compassionate I am, right?). So, he did and I just happened to be getting off work and picking up Hannah at that time so I dropped her off at the orthodontist's office and went to the doctor's to see what was up. Well, it was one ugly and nasty cut (Arlie couldn't even look at it!) It really needed stitches but since it was on the middle pad of the finger, the dr. said she could forgo the stitches and keep a bandaid wrapped around it tightly for the next several days. So, a tetanus shot and a bandaid later (I wonder how much that bandaid will cost us?) she was fine and headed home, no worse for the wear. But that made three days in a row that one of the kids was at the doctor's office this week. Talk about frequent fliers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You Say Redneck Like it's a Bad Thing!

Now, in every marriage there is compromise. For example, Jeff does the lion's share of the cooking but isn't the best "cleaner upper" as he cooks, hence soup splatters on the stovetop and crumbs left over on the table. But do I complain? No, because I appreciate his efforts. I, on the other hand, handle the lion's share of the paperwork in the house, but often leave piles of "to do" paperwork all over my desk. Does he complain? No, because he wants me to know he appreciates my effort (yeah, whatever, let's face it he doesn't even know I HAVE a desk!). But you get my point. We all make compromises in a marriage because, well, it's necessary. And sometimes we go over the top and allow appalling things to slide by just because we love our spouse THAT MUCH! Case in point - last weekend we stopped by the local hardware store to pick up some Christmas lights. I stayed in the car while Jeff "ran in". Several minutes later, he returned with boxes of Christmas lights and a grin on his face. I soon learned the source of that grin when he proudly held up a bag containing..........Christmas lights fashioned out of used shotgun shells! Now, I had to stifle my grin because they WERE funny, and you know, he's just a redneck at heart. But get this, I am such a wonderful wife, that I actually ALLOWED him to hang these atrocities in my kitchen for all to see (but only for the Christmas season - he was bargaining for leaving them up all year!). What's next - an antler chandelier? (Don't get any ideas, honey!). Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two-Headed Dog!

I thought this picture was funny..........the dogs were sleeping side by side and when I took the photo, they looked like a two-headed dog!

Someone call child protective services!!!

Jeff took the screen out of Harrison's window this weekend so he could start installing Christmas lights. Harrison noticed this and decided to stick his head out the window. He came downstairs saying "it smells like a campfire outside and the sunset is so pretty - can we sit on the roof?" So, of course I said no but he wheedled and begged and said "not even with parental supervision?" I finally caved in and then said to all who could hear "if you want to sit on the roof, now's your chance!". So, Hannah and Arlie dashed at the chance and we ended up all four of us on the roof watching the sunset. Well, along comes the milkman, Ron, who saw us up there and decided to toss up some little chocolate milks! I was holding my camera in one hand so I missed all of them, but Harrison managed to scramble after his, Arlie caught hers, Hannah fumbled hers but finally got it and mine landed in the gutter! I scooted down the roof to retrieve it and we all drank chocolate milk, watched the sunset and waved at the perplexed neighbors as they drove by. The highlight of the roof sitting (almost an hour! And it was cold!), was waiting for Jeff to come home and then pelting his car with our empty milk containers! He got out of the car and said "is this good parenting?" I knew I was going to get in trouble! Ah well, sometimes even parents are naughty!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Last night, after a lovely dinner out with Jeff, Doug called me to say Hayley was really sick. She had started to feel bad Thursday night (and we know it must have been BAD because she chose to stay home instead of see the premiere showing of "Twilight" which we had tickets to for weeks!). Friday she stayed home and slept all day. And Saturday she just got worse instead of better. Jeff and I stopped over at Doug's on our way home from dinner and decided she needed to go to the ER. So we all headed off (Hannah, Harrison and Arlie were, conveniently, at other places during this time!), and got to the ER around 9. She was taken in to a room within minutes and subjected to a strep test, flu test, chest x-ray, blood draw, and eventually, IV antibiotics. Turns out she has pneumonia AND the flu! The flu tests came back negative but we couldn't get a good sample, and both the doctor and nurse felt she had classic flu symptoms. Of course, the pneumonia showed up on the x-ray. After midnight, Jeff and I finally took her back to Doug's (he had to leave earlier to be home for the other kids), and put her to bed. Today, I have to fill her two antibiotic prescriptions and she's definitely not going to be doing much for the next few days. When we were leaving the hospital room, she suddenly got dizzy and nauseated and rested her head on a counter. Her legs suddenly buckled and we got her in a wheelchair, only to see her face as white as I've ever seen anyone's face! She was sweating, unresponsive, and then irritable. Totally different than she had been just minutes before. It scared me so bad! They said she had a "vagal" response to standing up and having her blood pressure be so low (85/43!) and she passed out for a minute. I decided to wait a little longer and have her blood pressure and pulse checked again before we headed home. The color finally returned to her face and she said she wanted to go home. They gave her an antinausea drug and sent her on her way. Needless to say, I've had an anxious night waiting to see how she's doing this morning because she's still at her dad's. I've never seen her so sick before, it was definitely pretty scary. I took some photos (much to her chagrin!) and will post them here for sympathy! :) My poor baby!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good Luck Charms!

Jeff took Harrison and Arlie hunting after school yesterday. It was a half-day so they headed to three different hunting sites. As you can see by the photos, the kids must have been good luck charms because they came home with TWO pheasant (their limit) and were home by 3 p.m. A stellar day, to be sure! Hunting's not really my thing but Jeff said these two are natural barbarians (besides being frightened to screaming when she discovered the pheasant she came upon was NOT dead yet, Arlie still didn't seem to mind when Jeff wrung it's neck, and Harrison delighted in pulling out the innards - gross!). Enjoy the photos of the junior hunters (and the ever-faithful Shade!).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twice Insulted - Before 8 a.m.!

So, this morning someone knocked on our bedroom door (duh, it was obviously Arlie, the other three just barge in). Jeff said "what do you want?" and Arlie said "Is Mary-Leah in there?" Jeff said "Yes!" Arlie asked "Is she decent?" I was not even dressed yet, so Jeff said "No". Arlie then asked "How long till she's decent?" and Jeff took a good look at my (naked) self and said "Oh, a LONG time.......". Bastard! Then, he said "You can come in if you want to see Mary-Leah naked" to which Arlie replied "No thanks". Geesh. I feel so loved.

When Kids Grow Up!

Last night Jeff told Arlie "come here, I want to hold you like I did when you were a baby! I miss that." Arlie looked at him with a quizzical look on her face and reluctantly crawled into his lap. He adjusted her accordingly ("you used to always have your head on THIS arm") and held her like a baby. After a millisecond, Arlie said "This is really awkward. Can I get down now?" And that's how you know your baby's grown up. No more daddy lap! Sad!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Grayland State Park

We took a quick overnight trip to Grayland State Park and stayed in a yurt this weekend. The yurts are a far cry from "camping" - not quite a tent, not quite a cabin. They are round "huts" with canvas sides and a wood frame. The inside has wood floors, bunk beds, a futon, heat and electricity. Very comfortable in the winter, thus allowing us hard-core Seattleites the chance to go camping in the worst of weather! It was a nice change from the camper, although we had to remember to bring so many items that are conveniently stashed in the camper, thus I was rationing bowls and cups! We spent a nice time on the beach and watched the sunset, then went back for a dinner of hot dogs and beans. Jeff, Arlie and Harrison headed out around 7:30 to go clamming (the girls and I declined, having already gotten toasty warm and having brought the TV with us, decided to stay and watch a movie!). In about an hour, Jeff and the kids had dug their limit of 45 clams (about four pounds) and came back to get dry and warm. We watched home movies from the camcorder and went to bed. In the morning, we had oatmeal and pop-tarts for breakfast, cleaned up and headed home. It was a quick trip, but a great photo opportunity and another successful clamming! Check out the girls' blogs (on my "blogs I'm following" links) for more photos!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stupid YMCA!

So, this morning I slept in (such a rare treat) and woke up just in time to throw on my workout clothes and race to the Y to meet my friend Carla for Pilates. Well, I got there ten minutes early and missed the cut off of 25 people by ONE person! They wouldn't let me in (even though the person ahead of me went in over the 25 limit WITH her disabled son, I know this because she's Arlie's math tutor), and so I was screwed out of Pilates, even though I was early. I guess you have to be REALLY early to get into the class which begs the question - if you HAVE time to be early, wouldn't you just be better off using that time exercising at home, and not wasting gas running to the Y only to be rejected at the door? I resigned myself to the cardio room, but upon peeking through the glass realized it was very full and I didn't have my iPod or watch with me, thus no music or way to keep track of the time on the treadmill. I just said "screw it" and drove back home.

This is why belonging to a gym has never worked out for me. For one thing, I'm not a huge fan of group exercise, especially when you are in touching distance of your classmates and can barely move around. At my yoga class (which I love!) there is ample room and no crowding. Also, I have noticed that the gyms never offer classes when I can work out - you either have to fight the early morning or late evening crowds when everyone is off work, or you have the option of doing the cardio machines only because there are no classes offered in the middle of the day, or even early afternoon. It's just much easier and more convenient to work out on your own schedule at home. I pointed out to Jeff that for a one-year membership to the Y we could buy a really nice treadmill. Or an elliptical trainer. I mean, it's nice to belong to the Y for some reasons, like that the kids can work out there, but it's a lot of money to be rejected at the door for a Pilates class. I dunno.........with this crappy economy and cutting back, I wonder if joining the Y was the right decision for us.

Anyway, I'm so not motivated to work out now. In fact, I'd like to crawl back into bed. I woke up with a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold and could have kept sleeping for another hour! Grrr......not a great way to start the day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hunter Men!

Monday was a day off school so Jeff took Harrison hunting. Harrison set out, complete with hunter orange vest, plastic cap gun (held together by duct tape!), and a hunter orange hat that said "Nice Rack" (courtesy of Jeff, thanks for that!). They had a great time, but, once again, brought home nothing (yay, score one for the pheasants!). However, they did manage to take these two great photos, which I loved and wanted to share.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tub Tagging!

Proof that kids are never too old for toys! At my nanny job, I noticed these cool soap crayons in the tub. Myla loved playing with them and I thought they were so cool - it was addictive to draw pictures on the tub then scrub them off with the ducky sponge! I mentioned this to Julie, the mom, and the next day she arrived home with a set of the crayons for me to take home! I just knew the kids would love them (not that they needed any more reason to take hour long showers!) and I was right! I about died when I saw their tub after one night and four showers. The graffiti included insults to little brothers, confessions of unrequieted love, salutes to the new president-elect, and even a picture of the Chipmunk's butts! Wow, creativity knows no bounds. I'm going to buy a set for my shower. And Jeff better leave me love notes or else!

Tres Leches Cake

Arlie, Jeff and I are participating in the "5th grade book club" and our first book to read was "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan. The book is great, we highly recommend it! The theme of the book club revolves around the book being read, so Thursday night's theme was Mexican. Emails started flying with offers to make enchiladas, tacos, chips and salsa, etc. I thought we'd do something different so settled on "Tres Leches Cake" (translates to "Three Milks Cake"). Sounded easy enough, and we had almost all the ingredients on hand. I had to attend an open house at Hayley's school, so Jeff set about making the cake. He was first suspicious when he noticed 5 eggs in the recipe, amongst other liquid ingredients, and only 1 1/2 cups cake flour. Sure enough, the batter was runny and watery. But he baked it anyway. The cake came out about 1/2 inch thick and VERY dense and chewy! Undeterred, he went on to make the milk topping that is spooned over the cake, and the whipped cream topping that is frosted on. Kudos to him for going the extra mile, but the next day when I retrieved the cake from the refrigerator, the photo above is what it looked like. And the taste? Even worse! It was chewy and hard and practically flavorless. The whole thing went down the garbage disposal! I'm not sure if it was the recipe (found on or what, but it was a disaster from the start! Muy malo. Shoulda stuck with Mexican brownies!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New President!!

We have a new president and we've made history. Barack Obama has been named the 44th president of the United States. How things have changed! And how they will change. Regardless of how you voted (and I never reveal my voting preferences), our country is facing so many challenges that anyone willing to take on the job of its fearless leader is to be commended. There will be little girls in the White House for the first time since.......Amy Carter? That's what I remember - when Amy Carter was in the White House and I was so jealous (bet she's got the coolest clothes and toys, bet she makes the Secret Service do whatever she wants, bet she's SO spoiled!). Now little girls everywhere will wonder about the secret lives of Malia and Sasha. But I's more about the changes we need and the ability to lead our country through war and recession. Everyone wants and needs changes so we will see what the next four years bring. It was pretty cool to see all the public gatherings and all the excitement bringing out record numbers of voters. It was inspiring to see how much the kids got into it and learned about presidents in the past. All four of them were Obama supporters throughout (heavily influenced by the public education system). But I made them tell me the reasons they supported Obama (and not just "because he seems nice"). I want them to know how important it is to choose a president (and other leaders) based on what you believe and hope for, and not just because you're loyal to a certain party. And (I'm almost embarrassed to admit this!) Jeff voted for the first time ever! When I found out he had never voted, we registered him right then and there online and I told him his mission was to read and research both candidates and spend time at least once a day informing himself on the issues. And he did. It was pretty cool to fill out our ballots together (and have a debate over the ones we didn't agree on). So, I'm proud of him for voting (and still appalled that he never did it before!). Here's a photo of him with his sealed ballot, ready to go in the mail! Yay, Jeff! Yay, Obama! Yay, USA!

Rain Dance!

So, this is what happens when you raise your children in Washington. They go out in the middle of the night, in the dark, and dance in the rain. In the street. In their clothes. What's more, they sit in the gutter, and lay in the street (God forbid any cars should come speeding down the street). Somehow, the novelty of "real" rain does not wear off here. You know, not the constant "mist" that hangs in the air from November to May. But real, downpouring rain. It's not as common as you might think here. Thus, the results! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Caramel Apples

So, for our Halloween party I decided to make caramel apples. I love caramel apples and, in fact, it's the one "must have" item at any fair or amusement park I go to. Years ago, I used to make them all the time. So, Harrison and I spent an hour and a half before the party making 20 caramel apples. First, you must buy four bags of those Kraft caramels. Then, you must unwrap all 1,000 tiny pieces of individually wrapped cubes of caramel in those bags. While unwrapping these, you will find that the cellophane sticks to everything by way of static cling, and thus will have to retrieve more of them off the floor than actually land in the garbage can. When that task is completed, you must melt all 1 billion of these caramels in a pan.......over low heat! This takes approximately 2 hours. Finally, you have smooth, golden caramel and you can dip your apples! But wait, you must wash and dry each apple individually and remove the stems. THEN, you may dip the apples. We very artfully applied the caramel to each apple until it was covered in golden, smooth, buttery deliciousness and placed them on a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam. They were perfect. True Martha Stewart perfection! That being done, the apples were placed on the table on trays, looking very Halloween-ish I must say. Fast forward an hour to party time. The caramel has now slipped down the apples until each apple is now coated with a thin glaze that allows just a tinge of green to show through (not very appetizing). The majority of the caramel is distributed in a large circle beneath each apple. And just try to remove one of these babies from the tray! HA! I dare you. The stickiness factor is such that the entire tray is levitated with each attempt at retrieving an apple. Finally, people just give up and move on to the pumpkin cookies. At the end of the evening, only 8 apples have been consumed. Such a waste! But no! My thrifty mind goes to work and I decide that I can "save" these rejected apples from certain doom in the trash can. So, I individually "wash" the caramel off each apple, remove the stick and voila! 12 shiny, perfectly good apples. Now, what to do? Well, perhaps dipping the apples (sliced of course) into the left over caramel would be lovely (and much less taxing). So, I slice up an apple and put the bowl of left over caramel in the microwave on "reheat". Apparently in my microwave, "reheat" means "boil the hell out of it" because upon opening the microwave, I discover a half-empty bowl of molten caramel, while the remainder is pooled around the bowl on the microwave tray like an island of golden lava. I remove the entire tray and it's contents to the counter top and attempt to scoop out some (very hot!) caramel from the remainder in the bowl. The rest of it I have to leave for later as it is about 12,000 degrees and definitely not "touchable". I enjoyed my apple and caramel dip (after it cooled down to a more tolerable 200 degrees). But this morning I was greeted with the now rock-hard island of lava, with the bowl stuck fast in it's middle. I will need a chisel to remove this substance from my microwave tray. The moral of this story? IT IS NOT WORTH IT! Do not make homemade caramel apples. This is why some intelligent person created caramel dip in a plastic tub that you can buy for $2.99 at the store! Martha Stewart be damned. No wonder she always looks slightly angry!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


We had a big Halloween party last night and it was a lot of fun. Jeff brewed a special Oktoberfest beer and had several bottles of his wine out (a favorite amongst my friends!). We had a TON of food (always more than needed) and a bunch of people showed up. Harrison and Arlie went trick or treating with Doug and Jeff and then everyone came back here for the party. Here are some photos of the kids in their costumes. They made them out of stuff we had here at home, and we didn't spend any money on costumes this year (bonus!). Hayley was a vampire, Hannah (pictured here with her friends) was a "flower child", Arlie was a "dead cheerleader" and Harrison was a robber!