my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

November 15, 2012

no name cookies

i mentioned a few days ago about how i made an ice cream cake for my sister's wedding. and through trial and error and test cakes, it was decided that the chocolate cookie crunchies that are found in the middle of commercial ice cream cakes were a requirement in the one i was making.

but do you want to know a hard truth i learned? those cookie crunchies are made in that size. it can't be done by taking regular cookies and crushing them up. trust me, i tried. oreos, chocolate graham crackers, these things, none would crumble into the right size piece. either they would create huge chunks or dusty crumbs. and it didn't matter how i was trying to crumble stuff, i used my food processor, my hands, a bag and a rolling pin, nothing worked well. and so it was decided that we needed to buy the cookie crunchies already made.

but did you also know that those things are hard to find? at a reasonable price at least. and dairy queen told me they wouldn't just sell me a bag of them. so we trekked over to a restaurant supply store and found them. being that they're sold to restaurants and other commercial operations, they are sold in bulk. like in ten pound boxes. ten pounds of cookie crunchies is a lot. and the ice cream cake used surprisingly little.

and so, because i have a huge box of crunchies left, i've decided to get creative with them. because how many can you really eat over ice cream or mixed in yogert?

a few weeks ago, i smushed some into the side of a birthday cake. and a few days ago, i made peanut butter cookies.

the recipe i used for the cookies was one that, after you made the dough, you were supposed to roll small balls of it around in sugar before putting on a baking sheet and smashing slightly with forks. i've seen many recipes for peanut butter cookies written this way, and honestly i usually skip this step. i feel like cookies are unhealthy enough without the extra sugar stuck to the outside. but then i thought, what if i didn't skip this step? and what if, instead of plain old sugar, i rolled the peanut butter cookie dough around in chocolate cookie crunchies before smashing and baking? it was a crazy idea, but so crazy i figured it just might work.

and it did, even though my hubby took one look at them and thought that i had burnt them. the cookie crunchies didn't really crisp in the oven like i thought they might. in fact, they've absorbed some of the moisture from the cookies and gotten soft. also when my boys dunk the cookies in milk, the crunchy outside turns all mushy.

the only real problem i've had is trying to figure out what to call them. peanut butter cookies with chocolate crunchies? chocolate crunchie peanut butter cookies? peanut butter chocolate crunchie cookies? maybe i'll have to make them again to solved this dilemma.

November 12, 2012

my adventures with ice cream cake

once upon a time, a long long time ago, i made an ice cream cake for my sister's wedding. a huge ice cream cake. the most ridiculous ice cream cake i have ever made. really though, it's not hard to call it the most ridiculous, because i'm really not in the habit of making ice cream cake.

anyway, this was certainly the biggest i've ever made, because my goal as i set out was that it would be able to feed 60 people. so that's a lot of cake. lucky for me, i happen to have a pan that would be big enough to make that many servings. as a bonus, it just fit in my freezer. i thought it would be perfect.

and then i thought some more and realized that when i normally make cakes in this giant pan, they are the regular sort, the kind that take eggs and flour and sugar and get baked in the oven. and because this pan produces such huge cakes, i have something very sturdy that i use to turn them out on: a shelf that came out of an old wall unit. seriously. it's made of particle board and covered with a plastic veneer, and whenever i use it for cakes i usually cover it with foil so it looks all shiny and pretty. but it's perfect for my cake purposes, because the board itself is not heavy, and yet it doesn't bend or warp even when traveling with a 15 pound cake (and that i know from personal experience).

but the problem is that the board would not work to turn the ice cream cake out on. i needed something that i could turn the cake onto, and then set on top of a pan full of dry ice. it had to be something that wouldn't be damaged by the extreme cold and yet would transfer that cold into the cake sitting on top of it so that the ice cream wouldn't melt. and though the board is perfect for regular cakes, wood doesn't transfer cold so well.

my mother came up with a wonderful solution, she bought a full sized sheet pan that i could use. and yet it was not a perfect solution, because a full size sheet pan is not meant to be used outside of commercial kitchens. the sheet pan was too big to fit in my freezer.

and so we had to trouble shoot some more, and figure out a solution. and eventually we did, though i'll admit it made for a less than elegant execution.

i started the ice cream cake making process by lining my huge cake pan with plastic wrap. then i took cartons of ice cream (the flavor of choice happened to be rocky road), peeled off the cardboard container and sliced it into half inch thick pieces. i laid those in the bottom of the pan, and used the heat from my hands to melt everything into one giant layer. then i covered it with more plastic wrap and put in back in the freezer to harden.

the next day i took out the pan and spread marshmallow fluff over the first layer. i used marshmallow instead of the normal fudge because i thought it worked better with the rocky road flavor. then i spread a generous layer of cookie crunchies on top of the fluff. did you know that cookie crunchies are hard to find in a regular store? and did you know, if you do have to turn to a restaurant supply store, they only sell them in 10 pound boxes? it's true, i know from experience, which is why i could be so generous with the crunchy layer. then i covered my work and put it back in the freezer to set.

once the cake was hard again, i cut more blocks of ice cream to make the bottom layer, exactly like i had done with the first layer. i then froze it overnight before i turned it out onto my cake board and covered it with white chocolate whipped cream frosting. yes, i used the wooden board, covered with parchment, because the board fit in my freezer. plus it was easier to travel with. the parchment meant that all i had to do was slide an offset spatula under it and slide it onto the full sheet pan at the reception.

it was a great plan, except for the fact that the wedding coordinator decided to be help and set the ice cream cake up. but she didn't remove the wooden board first, and by the time it was noticed, the cake had already begun to melt. not that it was really her fault, because there had been a breakdown in communication. she didn't know my plan, and i didn't know of her help. still, the cake was a hit, even though it was a bit soft. and there was more than enough to go around.

still, i don't think i'll be making another ice cream cake anytime soon. though i do have a lot of cookie crunchies on my hands. but i think i can come up with some creative uses for them.

November 10, 2012

my favorite holiday

it's almost thanksgiving! seriously i am so ridiculously excited. it is my most favorite holiday of the year. i love it so much i made a huge thanksgiving dinner for my birthday one year, and my birthday's in july. i can still remember the first time i tried to roast a turkey, i was only 12. it's like my christmas. in fact i think it's way better than christmas.

not that i have anything wrong with those that consider christmas their favorite holiday. i don't like it because for me it always gets awkward. the gift giving and the gift getting, why does it always seem required?

take away the presents and commercialism from christmas, and you're left with special traditions and spending quality time with family and friends, and that is everything i love about thanksgiving. that and of course the food!

i'm a huge foodie, just in case you haven't realized it yet. reading about it, researching it, making it, and of course eating it. food for me is way more than simple nourishment, it calms and comforts and brings people together. i love trying new things, whether it's eating them or making them.

unfortunately, it's been many years since i was able to host thanksgiving dinner. it doesn't stop me every year from looking forward to all the articles and sites dedicated to thanksgiving recipes. and the fancy table settings. and the cute kid crafts. and the new themes.

still, even though i might not be in charge of the whole meal, whenever we spend the holiday with my inlaws i am in charge of the desserts. and i kinda think that's the best part anyway. from making my grandmother's pumpkin pie recipe to trying new apple desserts, thanksgiving always gives me the chance to continue traditions and get creative with new favorites. for me, it really is the best time of the year.

November 8, 2012

sick kids that are not sick

so you might not think it from looking at him, but my dear lumpy is frail and sickly. like seriously, just because he's bigger then almost everyone else his age, he seems to get sick a lot. but he's a trouper and deals with it well. after so many years of taking so many meds everyday, he's kind of gotten used to popping pills and chugging shots out of medicine cups and taking his puffer when he needs it.

and he's been feeling so much better lately. in fact, we've been able to wean him off of almost everything that he was taking on a daily basis. he only has to take his allergy medicine, and soon we get to stop that until spring. of course we still have to monitor him closely, because if he starts to slip, the it's back to the regime of puffs and pills.

still, i worry about him and his health. part of it is because there is so much unknown with his sickness, the hope has always been he'd grow out of whatever was the cause, but there was never anything definite beyond that hope. the other, bigger part that causes me worry is that i feel responsible for how everything was handled in the very beginning. he was young and had the flu. i was in contact with his pediatrician, and we pushed fluids and gave tylenol and i decided to wait a few days to see if he got worse. and then he collapsed and we took him to the er and all hell broke loose. and i still feel like it was my fault, because i couldn't see how sick he was, and didn't realize how bad it had gotten, and i should have been able to protect him from getting sick in the first place.

ah mommy guilt, does it ever really get better?

anyway, fast forward to a few days ago when he started to complain that his tummy didn't feel good. and then he had to keep going to the bathroom. the week before his sister had come down with a terrible stomach bug, and i wasn't surprised that he was feeling the effects too.

part of me knew that it would pass. it was the kind of thing that antibiotics didn't help, but at least he was old enough and big enough i could give him something for his tummy, unlike poor fish who moaned and complained and took four hour naps. (also, pullups are great for some things, but they do not contain the big messes. lucky for me i had a blanket on the couch that day.) there was another part of me that was worried that this would develop into something more serious. and so i kept him home.

it's been two days of him "not feeling well." and of him chugging gatorade. but also he's been sitting and watching cartoons and chasing the cats and playing video games. and complaining that he's bored and wants to ride his bike outside. and not once did he lose his appetite, unlike fish who refused to eat.

so i realized earlier today that, though he was sick, he is also a very smart boy. smart enough to play off my worry and guilt. and when the wrestling and jumping around rivals the activity levels on the best days of summer vacation, i know he's not all that sick. so i gave him an ultimatum: if he was well enough to go outside and play with his brother this afternoon, then he was well enough to go to school tomorrow.

and guess who's not missing his math test tomorrow?

November 7, 2012

french toast casserole

i've talked here about my love of breakfast, especially for dinner. brunch is right up there close to the top of the list of things i enjoy stuffing in my face. i've also mentioned how my dear hubby is not a fan of breakfast for dinner. or breakfast in general. in fact, i have a feeling if he could eat fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy three times a day, he'd be a very happy man.

lucky for me, my kids share my affinity for breakfast for dinner. and it just so happens that my hubby has entered a few weeks of intense schooling. like he leaves at about 1145am, goes to school all day, then to work, and doesn't return home until 3 or 4am. it's a very long day for him, and at times it's trying for me because i am forced to deal with the little godzilla known as fish all by myself. but because he doesn't eat dinner with us, the kids and i are free to eat whatever we'd like. so of course that means breakfast.

when faced with the monumental task of making breakfast for dinner, i have a few simple recipes that are easy to whip up. i've made baked oatmeal a number of times, loaded with apples and raisins, and my kids all love it. i also have a few different french toast type casseroles that are easy to assemble and then pop in the oven. really, preparing things ahead and then baking them off is totally my style, though i have made pancakes in various flavors a time or two.

when they were younger, i used to make bacon to go along with our breakfast style treats, but, as crazy as it may seem, my kids are not fans anymore. in fact, lumpy has completely lost his love of bacon, and won't eat it even if you force him. i consider not including meat in our menu as marginally healthier, seeing that most breakfast meats, like bacon and sausage, are filled with fat. and less fat from meat mean more syrup without the guilt. according to my boys, of course.

so last night, my kids and i had breakfast for dinner. and i decided to keep it simple and make a french toast casserole. this time i decided to be brave and make one without using a recipe. i've made enough french toast in my day that i figured i was up to the challenge. i also kept in mind that i wasn't just making french toast, i was making a casserole, so instead of the standard mix of eggs and milk and sugar, i threw in some mashed overly ripe bananas. because of the bananas, i decided to add cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, to mirror my favorite banana bread recipe. i also switched out the plain sugar for brown, because i figured the richer flavor would work better, though i didn't use much because i knew my kids would be covering it with syrup. i also used whole wheat bread instead of white, because i'm trying to get my kids to eat healthier. with a splash of vanilla, i mixed everything together and let it sit overnight in the fridge. before i baked it off the next day, i mixed up a crumbly topping of brown sugar, flour, butter, and spices.

the casserole baked up beautifully, and all the kids loved it. even though i added four bananas, their flavor wasn't as pronounced as i would have liked. the casserole wasn't overly sweet on its own, which is exactly how i intended it to be, because like i knew would happen, my boys slathered their pieces with syrup. and of course, the crumbly topping was my favorite part. all in all, it was a dinner success, and so easy i can definitely repeat it for a more appropriate breakfast or brunch dish. or maybe i'll add some peanut butter and chocolate chips next time, and call it bread pudding for dessert.

November 6, 2012

let's talk birthdays and cake

so i happen to have a large nuclear family, with a random assortment of hangers-on. that fact means many things logistically. first and foremost, it means that the holidays are absolutely nuts. who we're spending which holiday with and when and how long we will be staying, it gets a little crazy. vacations are equally complicated. and birthdays, birthdays are the worst.

the problem with birthdays, as in my kids' birthdays, is that our random family is spread far across the state. so to have a huge party with all the family is complicated. it means that one side or the other will have to travel. my side doesn't have a problem traveling up town, but there aren't many good places for parties around where my in-laws live that can easily (and cheaply) accommodate so many. my parents have the space to have everybody, but not everybody is able to travel so far so, what with kids in school and people working weekends. the solution (which i hate) is that we end up having separate parties for the kids. i didn't always envision myself as a mom, but when i did, i always wanted to have all my family from both sides together to celebrate all the important times in my children's lives. and that just doesn't happen often.

but there is a plus about having such a large conglomeration of people that i get to call family, many people means many birthdays. and in my mind, a birthday is just a good excuse for cake (like i really need a good excuse). but this post happens to be about an epic cake i recently made for a joint party for my sister and one mom, so let's talk about that.

i wanted this cake to be special, and i was scouring recipes, looking for the perfect one. and then i asked my sis lots of random questions about her cake preferences. i know she doesn't like chocolate and peanut butter together, because she's crazy like that, but i also found out she doesn't have a sprinkle preference. who doesn't have a sprinkle preference? she's the first i've found. she also said she prefers vanilla cake to chocolate, which gave me a good starting point.

now i know i've talked about how i like to use cake mixes before. and vanilla cake is a kind that you can find very good mixes for. but i wanted this cake to be special, so i started researching vanilla cake recipes online. i found many, some very complicated, some much simpler, but the unifying quality in all the highest rated recipes was that they all used cake flour. which was fine by me, because this was just the excuse i needed to buy cake flour for the first time.

then, after settling on the vanilla cake recipe i was going to use, i started searching for filling and icing recipes. i knew the outside would be covered with chocolate cookie crunchies, because i had a bunch left over from the ice cream cake i made for my sister's wedding (which will be discussed in another post), and i needed to use them up. so i decided to try and make a chocolate filling of sorts. i found a recipe for a chocolate pastry cream which seemed well within my skill level, and i made that. it was delicious, and only after it was done did i realize it was also basically homemade chocolate pudding.

i wanted something a little different for the icing. because the filling was so sweet, and i didn't know how sweet the actual cake would be, i wanted something tangier for the frosting. so of course that meant making a cream cheese icing. and because i can't leave well enough alone, i added some melted white chocolate while it was beating, because i wanted a hint of chocolate in the icing to compliment the chocolate filling on the inside and the chocolate crunchies on the outside.

overall, the cake was a hit. because i wasn't paying attention, i ended over baking the cake layers, and they were a little dry. the combination of the frosting and the cookie crunchies produced a taste just like an oreo, so that might be something i'll try to replicate in the future. because it ended up being three layers, with all the filling and everything else, it was a very rich cake, and could have easily served 20. all in all, i call it a success.

November 5, 2012

oh poodles

any parent of a small child, or a child that once was small, knows one fun little fact. in truth, it's something that anyone that has come in contact with a small child for any length of time probably knows. small children are parrots. not that they hang out with pirates and eat crackers, though mine would love that. what i want to talk about here is that small ones will repeat whatever you say.

sometimes it's funny. saying complicated words and phrases, and then hearing them repeated with a cute little toddler lisp is adorable. or when you have to have a serious talk with one kid, and the little one repeats your lecture, word for word, while standing right behind you. even better is when they copy your stance, hand on hip with one finger raised. it helps to remind you that your kids are only young for so long, and maybe making a huge deal about a messy room that you've told them to clean up for the millionth time is not as world ending as you previously thought.

and their parrot skills are strange at times. hearing them say phrases out of context is weird, but when they say things that are spot on, like "that is absolutely terrible" in response to your complaints about having to put away yet another load of laundry, is even weirder.

though what i really remember from when the boys went through this stage, and it is really brought to mind with my dear fish just entering it, is that they will repeat all the things you don't want them to say. when bumble was around two, you could get him to say anything. in fact, it was his favorite game. it was cute when we'd watch old kung fu movies and he'd yell along and swing a fake sword. it was way less cute when he'd repeat at the dinner table things he might have heard me mention in traffic. and that's what dear fish is doing now: she's telling the boys that "daddy is going to kick your ass" for doing something wrong. not that it ever actually happens, but perhaps it's something she's heard the boys threatened with on more than one occasion.

and so, to combat her developing the vocabulary of a well seasoned sailor, my family and i have tried to use words that sound like the ones we really want to say. like fudge. or dumpster (my sister's favorite). and i've started to use "oh poodles" for just about everything. because even if fishie repeats poodles, it sounds innocent no matter how it comes out. unlike fudge, which if slurred by a two year old just right, still sounds like the f-word we're trying not to say.

the strange things is that now i say it even when i don't have to. even when i'm around other grown ups, or even just by myself, i still say poodles. which i guess isn't so bad, it's safer to be so used to saying it that i won't slip up and say something i shouldn't. at this stage, i'm trying to expand fish's vocabulary in good ways, with words like probably and fantastic. learning all those other words sounds like a job for poppop.

November 3, 2012

please, help and donate

i keep reading posts and articles written by those affected in new york and new jersey by hurricane sandy, and my heart just breaks for them. i remember what it was like to be evacuated, and not allowed home. and then getting back when the water finally goes down, and surveying the damage, when everything smells like sewage and diesel fuel. and realizing how absolutely lucky you were that most of your stuff stayed dry while your neighbors lost their home. and how grateful you were that you had people to help get you back on your feet and a warm, safe, dry place your whole family could call home. also, how hard it is to explain to your kids that sometimes bad things happen in this world, and all we can do is prepare the best we can for the hard times and hope that it's enough.

it's novemeber already, and that is most absolute favorite time of year. and with it comes thanksgiving, which i consider the best holiday of all. but i also realize how hard that will be this year for those hardest hit but this natural disaster. thanksgiving is a time to get together with friends and family, and talk about how grateful you are for all the blessing of the past year. and how does one do that when they don't have a place to gather, and they aren't feeling particularly blessed?

this is the time when we all need to come together, no matter who and what we believe. as a society, we the people need to come together to support each other. we can take small steps and perform little acts of kindness with our own hands for those that need it most. and so, this rambling post is my plea for those that can to donate if they're able. here is the red cross's site, though there are others that are also doing good works.

i know i should just stop reading all the terrible shock-style news articles, but i can't. it's like a scab i like to pick at, one that still hasn't quite healed. before and during sandy, my kids were understandably upset, and i tried to explain to them that we would get through it all together, just like before. and then the storm passed us, and it was nothing. but it's not always so easy for life to return to normal. i still remember (an older post about what i went through with tropical storm lee).

October 17, 2012

one banana, two banana, three banana, bunch!

my dear hubby is weird. he doesn't really like cream cheese, but he likes cheese cake. and he likes mustard and honey, but he hates honey mustard. also, he's not a fan of coffee, but likes chocolate cake better when i add some in. and he hates mayo, but loves macaroni salad that is made with mayonnaise. like i said, he is weird.

something else he doesn't really like is vanilla pudding. but he's told me he likes banana pudding. the kind with bananas and nilla waffers and vanilla pudding all mixed together. i don't really get it, but a few days ago we had some very ripe bananas, so i figured i'd surprise him with some banana pudding.

honestly, i had no idea what i was doing, because i'd never really had banana pudding before. i tried it once, when we went out to a buffet, but it just tasted like vanilla pudding with banana slices mixed in. i had asked him about it while i was eating it, and he said it wasn't banana-y enough.

so when i made him his surprise banana cream pie, using a premade pie shell (which was much cheaper than a box of nilla waffers, weird right?), i decided to make it extra banana flavored, which i thought he'd like. so not only did i layer sliced bananas on the bottom crust, i also smushed extra bananas and mixed them into the vanilla pudding that i spread into the crust next. and then of course i spread whipped cream on top.

well, when he tried it, he was confused by my execution, because he said there was too much banana in it. turns out out he didn't remember talking about the bad banana pudding at the restaurant, and that the vanilla pudding, to be authentic, should have remained plain. also, it didn't really set up like i thought it would, and i had to use a spoon to get it out. and, the next day, the pudding started to separate, which i think might have had something to do with all the banana in it.

so though it tasted ok the first day, it got really strange looking the next day. if i ever try to make it again, i think i'll try using an actual recipe. who ever would have thought that making banana pudding too banana-y would be a bad thing.

wedding cookies, part 3

so my dear sister's wedding is fast approaching. and i am tasked with making many cookies for the reception. unfortunately, she hasn't been very specific with the kinds or amounts, and i am a person that needs a lot of specific direction. and so, with the lack of specifics, i have been trying many different recipes. because though i am creative, with a task like this i get overwhelmed by all the possible options.

the latest test run for possible cookie candidates was something my sister had told me about awhile ago. there had been a bake sale at her job, and one of the ladies made brownies in cupcake papers. and inside of those brownies, she stuck oreo cookies. now this is not a new concept to me, i had read about this a few months ago when oreo had their 100th birthday. there were many celebratory recipes that used oreos floating around on the foodie blogs i follow. i had never tired to make them, though, because honestly, i'm not a big fan of oreos.

still, because it's for her wedding and she said she liked them, i figured i'd try. and being that there are little mini oreos on the market, i figured i can try making them in mini muffin cups, so they're smaller and cuter and bite-sized. plus then you can eat a few and not feel bad.

though i had settled on the kind of baked good i was going to attempt, i realized that my mini muffin tins were at my mom's house, where i had forgotten them. still, i wanted to try this recipe ahead of time, just to see how it bakes up, and how long it last before going stale. and so, i just used a 9x13 pan.

honestly, i think they came out ok. fishie helped stick the oreos in the pan after i poured half the brownie batter. then we carefully spread the rest of the batter over top of the oreos and baked it according to the package directions. they took longer to bake than i thought they would, and the cookies seemed to have almost dissolved into the baked brownies. still, my kids liked them well enough. and i think they will definitely work for the cookie trays. especially since i can do many at one time, and they stay fresh tasting for a few days. so bonus points all around.

i also think that these oreo brownie bites are going to be the last trial cookie that i make. the rest of the tray will be filled out with tried and true recipes that i know work well. now all i have to do is create a shopping list so i can get all the ingredients that i need, starting with fifty pounds of flour and ten pounds of butter.

October 3, 2012


it's late and i can't sleep. thoughts keep running around my head, and my mind just won't turn off. and the worst part is that there really isn't much that i can do about any of the things i'm actually worried about.

and yet knowing that doesn't help. and quietness and meditation and all the usual tricks don't help. so i figured i'd share my more pointless worries, in hopes of at least quelling some of the riot.

my dearest fish is doing great with her potty training. that is not my worry. it is more my annoyance. because though she rocks the potty, she won't go by herself. and when she has to go, she has to go. so i have to drop everything and stop whatever i'm doing to go and help her potty. and i know, eventually, she'll not only be awesome at going, but she'll be able to go all by herself. it's just getting her to that stage that is driving me bonkers.

the other part of potty training that i'm worrying about is that we are going on vacation as a family this weekend. to canada. so we'll be out and about in unfamiliar territory. and staying in a hotel all weekend. i don't know how she'll do with the changes, but i am already very much aware about how much i'll be missing out on because i'm the one that'll have to take her. you know, because my dear hubby can't exactly go into the women's bathroom, and fish would be one to point and ask "what's that" when walking by urinals in the men's room. and i know this is just fact and a reality of being a mom, but it still sucks big time.

the other sucky reality is that bumble is up against one of his greatest weaknesses in school right now and i can't help him. or don't know how. in his old school, spelling was taught by memorizing lists of words, and then getting tested on those words. in this new school, they have a short list of "trick words," ones that don't follow rules or patterns, and they're tests are on two or four words from the list. the rest of the spelling test isn't really spelling like we're used to studying for, it's more like a phonics test. in addition to getting a list of like eight trick words, he's expected to learn three or four phonics rules, like how certain letters work together to make sounds, and then he's tested on random words that follow those specific rules. the rest of the kids in his class of learned this stuff since 1st grade and it's all new for him. needless to say, he got a 45% on his first test. and i've talked with his teacher on how to better prepare him, and all she could say is he needs to practice the example words she sent home, or any other words we can think of that are examples of the rules. i really feel out of my depth with this.

the other part to this phonics stuff, kind of a kick him while he's down thing, is that the rules he's supposed to learn and master and be able to use for the second test are all suffix rules. like knowing when plurals end in -s or -es by knowing which sound they end in (anything that ends in -ch or -sh with end in -es, single consonants will end in -s). or hearing a word and knowing if it ends in -ed or -er or -est or -ing. yeah, guess who is in a specialized speech and language program because he can't hear or pronounce the ending sounds of words, in addition to not knowing the different between -ch and -th sometimes? so how is he supposed to pass these phonics tests? and how am i supposed to help him?

maybe if i had gotten him help sooner. or even realized he needed help. or read to him more. maybe if his previous teachers listened to me when i said i think he was falling behind. or if we hadn't been in a school where they could only see him for 30 minutes every two weeks because the speech teacher was stretched between four schools. maybe if i had the money to have gotten him private help over the summer, we would have been able to start this school year off ahead of the curve.

i guess the other, bigger "maybe" that keeps me up is that i wonder if maybe my kids had a better mother than me, there wouldn't be any of these issues. if i had been paying attention, i could have gotten bumble early intervention and then he could be rocking school right now. just like, if i had really seen what was going on all those years ago, i would have realized how sick lumpy was and maybe we could have avoided the hospital stays and years of medication. and if i was able to take control of things better, maybe fish would be a more well mannered child. unfortunately, my kids are stuck with me.

September 28, 2012

bread is the best distraction

yesterday, i baked something. shocking i know. ok, really that's not the shocking part, because i bake all the time. it's like cheap and delicious therapy for me. but, the difference between yesterday's oven fun and most other times is that what i baked wasn't a sugar laden dessert. see, i told you it was shocking.

this week has been a crazy week of craziness. and i really needed something fun and delicious to take my mind off of things. something that was on the healthier, less sugary side of things. and i needed something to occupy not only my mind but also my hands. what's better for that than kneading bread? and so i searched my archives of recipes and found the perfect one. this one in fact, though slightly modified.

side note: if you haven't noticed, i love joy the baker, that lady is amazingly fantastic. i've linked to her a bunch of times here, but if you have any interest in cooking and baking, you should follow her yourself. she's down to earth real, plus her recipes are so yum. i know, weird plug, but i'm realizing this is like the tenth time i've linked her, so i figured it bears mentioning how much i respect her. plus, she has her own cookbook, just in case you want to get me a random present for being so awesome or something.

anyway, i followed the recipe as closely as i could. i don't have bread flour, so i just used all purpose. for those that don't know, bread flour has a higher protein content, so it is more glutenous and produces a chewier bread. the other small problem i had was that my yeast was very old. i was able to bloom it, but after adding the water/yeast mixture to the flour, the dough didn't raise as much as it should have. because of that, the end result was very dense. i also changed up the spices called for in the original recipe. i used extra garlic and dried thyme, skipped the pepper flakes, and sprinkled coarse salt and cracked pepper on the top before i baked it.

in the end, i was successful in baking a loaf of bread to go along with the soup i made for supper. it was dense, and because of the olive oil in the pot, the bottom got very crispy. the flavor was very nice. i think it'll go better next time if i have more lively yeast. also, i'm thinking that if i throw a handful or so of parmesan cheese in the dough, it'll be even better. but it was nice to find out that i can make a loaf of bread from start to finish in less than three hours, it's definitely something that i'll attempt again.

September 27, 2012

"worst mom ever"

like most parents, i sometimes doubt my abilities to comfort and care for my children. i wonder if i have the skills and patience necessary to handle all the major and minor events in my kids' lives that they will need help coping with.

what i'd like to talk about now is not one of those times.

since we moved into our new house, my boys have made friends in the neighborhood that they go and play with. in all of the places we've lived before, they didn't get much contact with other kids beyond school and scouts, so this is all new to them and to me. we never really had ground rules about how late they could stay out, how far down the block they could go, and into who's house they could enter. we also never had to worry about other kids randomly ringing our doorbell, asking if my boys could come out and play. or my boys randomly bringing other kids into our house.

and because we never had to have these discussions on rules and boundaries, i never really thought about my stance on such topics. and i definitely wasn't prepared to have these talks with my boys, especially with an audience of their friends right in front of me. it's all kind of thrown me for a loop.

the other thing about being totally unprepared is that sometimes i make rules, we set boundaries, we talk about what the protocol is for certain activities, and then i find that it doesn't work. so we need to change how we do things. honestly, i think that as kids grow, rules will constantly be changing because kids are constantly different. as they grow they want more freedom to explore. and sometimes the easiest punishment is to revoke some of that freedom they previously earned.

the thing is, my boys don't deal with change well. like at all. routines are their favorite. they like to know what to expect and what will happen next. so to change things on them is to stress them out. which, according to them, makes me a bad mom. and to punish them by not letting them play with their friends as much as they'd like also makes me extremely uncool. but the fact that, even on their best behaved days, they have less freedom then the rest of the kids in the whole neighborhood makes me the worst mom ever.

but i can handle their hate, because i know it's not universal. they're kids, testing their boundaries, seeing what they can get away with, hoping for all fun and no work. and as their mom, i know that they need to do their homework first before they go and play. and that it's not safe to run around after dark or to go into everyone and anyone's house, especially if i don't know where they're going to be. so even though they might not understand now that i really have their best interests in mind when i make these rules, one day, they'll see.

and until then, we still have to get through high school years. and at that point their sister will be a teenager. may the fates be kind for the next ten years.

September 26, 2012

righteous indignation and martyrdom

i love my husband for so many reasons, more than i will list here and now. but one of the main qualities that drew me to him in the very beginning is that i knew he was what i was lacking. like puzzle pieces fitting together, he complimented my personality, filling in parts that weren't there. and he still does, sometimes to excess.

i don't get mad. or if i do, i don't really show it. i learned that, in most cases, there is no point in getting mad. just because somebody does something that upsets me, showing that i am angered doesn't help to resolve the situation. at certain times, it would escalate things, with them knowing that they had upset me. there was nothing i could do to improve things, because i was not in control of the situation. if they knew that they could make me feel bad, it just gave them more control and power and sadistic delight. forcing me to endure horrible experiences was fun for some. yes, i was surrounded by real assholes in my past.

from those humble (horrible) beginnings, i learned that getting angry serves no purpose. if i can change the situation, i will try. if i can improve things or up and leave, i will. but railing against the cruelty of the world does nothing but tempt the fates to show me what they can really do. and yes, sometimes i might give up too easily, thinking i can't change things, i just accept them and move along. in those cases, a little anger might serve to motivate me.

in those cases, that is where my dear husband steps in. he gets angry, a lot. he shouts his fury to the heavens, he yells back at the storms. he is quick to anger, seeing unfairness in so many places. but then, too, his anger leads him to want to rage quit. in this way, in dealing with the stresses of life, we are opposites. opposites that compliment each other.

where he feels anger, i feel patience. where he is moved to furious activity, i attempt understanding. but then too, i make excuses, not allowing myself to believe that people are truly cruel, just that there must be extenuating circumstances that drive their actions. and then also, he is willing to fight for us and for our rights, he is willing to stand up and work for just treatment. i am willing, in most things, to make myself subservient to others, to be accommodating, to be unselfish to the point of sacrifice.

still, even though i am not moved to anger, i think his furies are excessive at times. sometimes people have good reasons for their actions, though he thinks of it more like excuses than explanations. and sometimes he gets angry on my behalf. things happen, and he feels like i should be upset by the whole situation, and i'm not. or not upset enough. and so he rails against those that have wronged me. or there are times where life is just not fair. with school and bills and work and all the normal demands of life, he gets upset. but there is nothing we can do to change certain things, life is just unfair sometimes, as much as it sucks to admit. we need to accept that fact and just keep swimming, and eventually we will get through.

and so, there are times where i wish my husband would be more even tempered. just like i know there are times where he wishes i would be more excitable. but together we balance each other, and i thank my lucky stars for that.

September 25, 2012

a place holder for better things

some days i don't feel like i have much to say. i don't have anything interesting going on, i don't have anything i'm making or baking or cooking. i'm running errands and doing all the normal mom stuff, which doesn't seem like it would be very interesting to share with the world.

there are days, too, where i do have things to say. things i want to say, or wish i could say, or think i need to say. and then i step back and realize it's not really something i want to share with everyone. it's times like this that i remember where i came from, in my blogging life. an important lesson i was forced to learn was that the internet is forever. and that sometimes some people who you didn't think would are actually reading your words and paying attention to the things you say. i was forced to learn that i should only post the things i was willing to tell everyone i know, because there is a chance they'll find out eventually. and it's a lesson i don't ever want to learn again.

and so, i'm kind of at a loss for words. my life doesn't seem that entertaining or interesting. and the things that are going on in my head are not things that are appropriate to share. and my day to day real life actions seems boring.

life has ups and downs. and because of that true fact, it follows that there are times that we are stuck in the middle of a hill. i'm not sure if i'm going up or down, if there will be great excitement or horrible tragedy. but right now is what i've got, is all i've got. changes will come swift and soon, with topics to discuss and points of interest to talk about. until then, there is this, a place holder to remind me not to forget.

September 23, 2012

forgive and forget

*a post from my archives. something that was written and never got published, but i just didn't have the heart to delete it. so here it is, in all it's crazy glory.*

i have been hurt in the past. really hurt really badly by people that i trusted. maybe i was just an easy target, maybe i had it coming, maybe i did something wrong. or maybe i'm just making excuses for them, and they really are just jerks. whatever the case, i know that i am damaged, and i am fighting to overcome that every day.

the problem i'm really having now is that i still have some of these people in my life. or rather, they have re-entered my life. and things are different now, we are different now. i am not the scared little girl i once was. they are not the vindictive people they were either. so now, we're trying to get along, trying to move past all the hurt and the pain and the damage.

there are two big problems with that though, two things standing in the way of moving on. or rather, of me moving on. the first is that, though they don't act like they once did and they don't dothe things they used to do and treat me how they used to treat me, i still get no sense from them that they are sorry for what they had done. i really don't believe that they think they did anything wrong in treating me how they did. just because it's not how they treat me now, doesn't mean that i'm ok with how they treated me then.

i almost feel like i want them to apologize for how they acted. and i know i could tell them i want them to apologize, but i just don't think that would do any good. they don't think they did wrong, so i doubt they'd apologize. also, part of me doesn't want to ask for an apology because i really don't want to have to explain why i want one. i don't want to have to bring up the past, i don't want to relive all those awful things. i would rather bury those memories deep down inside and pretend none of it ever happened and just move on. because it really seems like they've forgotten everything that went on, and i feel like i should too.

the other problem is that i can't forget. i can't just pretend it never happened. well, i can pretend, but there are times when i look at them and it all comes back. so i'm on edge in their presence. i am alert and ready to bolt. so being around them is a stressful experience. even though i'm trying my hardest not to let it affect me, it is.

i guess, when these two issues combine, them not feeling like they did anything wrong and me feeling nervous around them, it makes me wonder if i'm nervous for no reason. i remember what they did, but those memories are clouded by time and space and so many other experiences. maybe i'm not remembering things correctly. maybe i'm confusing some of their actions with somebody else. maybe it never really happened at all. it would explain why they don't act at all remorseful for their previous actions, because there really is nothing for them to feel bad about.

and so we're at the point where i continue to try and pretend it never happened, because maybe that's exactly what they're doing. or it really never happened, and i'm truly the crazy one. either way, i don't think i'll be saying anything. i'd much rather suppress than confront, it's just my way. i need to try to forgive and just move on, accept that i can't change my past and let it be. they are different, i am different, and it won't happen again. this time, i won't allow it.

September 22, 2012

wedding cookies, part B

i'm making cookies for my sister's wedding. i've already started testing recipes. the whole shindig has a fall theme going for it, so i started out with pumpkin cookies.

they were a hit. even with the chunky pieces of oatmeal in them, i was told that the texture was good. i had baked them, iced some of them, and then stored them in the fridge overnight, and i have to say that i liked the texture and flavor much better the next day. somehow, they tasted even more pumpkin-y, and it almost made the maple cream cheese frosting unnecessary. almost.

the same time i made the pumpkin cookies, i broke out a recipe that i've had for years, but never actually tried. they're called walnut acorn cookies, because the finished product looks like acorns and is filled with walnuts. in fact, the recipe is very close to the brown sugar shortbread cookies we always make at christmas time. it's mostly flour, brown sugar, and melted butter all mixed together. finely chopped walnuts are added to the dough, and then it's rolled into small egg shapes and baked. after they're cool, the tops are dipped in chocolate and then rolled in more finely chopped walnuts, and i also added a slivered almond, attached with melted chocolate, for a stem at the top.

they turned out adorable, everybody knew they were supposed to be acorns. and the taste was very good. they spread a lot more than i thought they would, but i can prevent that next time by chilling the trays before baking. that should help them to keep they're cute little shape and not spread into big cookies. i also need to figure out a better way to attach the almond stem, because i thought it was very cute with it, but it didn't stay on some of the cookies. also, i stored them in the fridge with the pumpkin cookies, because i didn't want the chocolate to melt, but i liked the flavor of them much better when they were at room temperature. i'm realizing, though, that cold cookies won't be a problem, because they'll be set out on trays and readied for the guests to show up, so there will be plenty of time to come to room temperature.

the other fun thing about making these cookies is that i had a bunch of melted chocolate left over after dipping all the cookies. which of course meant that i got to dip all sorts of other things. like pretzel sticks. and ice cream cones, which were then rolled in sprinkles. making cookies is hard work, but somebody has to do it.

September 21, 2012

a mother knows

so today i was going to talk about something personal and embarassing. but i can't really concentrate because, at the moment, i have a screaming two year old flailing on my couch.

on top of that, i am tired. like really crazy tired. because little miss stinky pants (aka my dear fish), has decided that if people in the house are awake when she wakes up in the middle of the night, then she needs to be awake too. or, like she did last night, if she wakes up and no one is awake, she needs to come and wake me up.

usually i can plunk her back in bed and she'll stay there and go back to sleep. and that's kind of sort of what happened last night. only we got to repeat the routine like ten times. and the way it usually goes is that i get her back in bed and then i go back to bed, and when i'm just about asleep, she wakes back up.

she wasn't always like this. just mostly like this. but she's had good stretches where she'll sleep through the night. but then she has a few bad days, or weeks, where sleeping at night isn't her thing. and the worst part is that i know there is something wrong. because it's like it was last summer, when things were getting worse and worse and worse, and we went through all sorts of tests to figure out what was going on. they preformed surgery to help her breathe, and then things were much better. for a while.

now it's gotten to the point where things are really bad again. and we're going through all the "fun" tests again. she had a sleep study done monday night. some of my family asked if they told me any of the results, and no, they didn't tell me anything. i have to wait to talk results until mid october. not that i was really concerned with knowing how little she was breathing, sleeping next to her i can hear how many times she stops and for how long. and even if i knew the numbers, i know it's not anything i can fix on my own anyway.

so i'm not sure what our plan of attack will be this time. i know i'd like to have her tested for allergies, to see if it's just a seasonal reaction in her body, and that maybe some prescription strength meds might help. though if she's anything like lumpy, it won't matter what allergy test they do, he never had a positive reaction to anything, but he still needs the allergy meds to help him get through the day.

like i said, i'm not sure what treatment the doctors will come up with. unfortunately, like both her brothers, there is something wrong. i know there is something wrong. it's not easily definable or diagnosable. and in the case of lumpy, it's not easily treatable. as much as i don't want to admit it, my kids have issues, medical, physical, emotional. and even if i can't always get their doctors to believe me, a mother knows when something is wrong. like now.

September 20, 2012

wedding cookies, part one (probably)

i've started testing recipes for the cookies i'm planning on making for my sister's wedding at the end of october. she's doing a fancy fall theme, so i wanted to try out a few fun, new recipes, more than just my standard chocolate chip or peanut butter. because while those are great cookies, this is a chance to do something fancy and extra special.

not that i'm going super fancy and fiddly. like those sugar cookies that are covered with royal icing. like these or these. the fantastic ladies that make those cookies have skills i could only dream of. i have a feeling they also might have a bit more free time and counter space then i have.

instead of going crazy and trying something that i believe is out of my skill set, i am going to try and stick to cookies that are pretty and taste good, instead of just looking fantastic and tasting so-so (have you tried royal icing? it's like fondant, gorgeous and gross). and in keeping with the fall theme, i've been researching pumpkin flavored cookies. and because i'm going to be making tons of cookies, i've not only been looking for yummy recipes, but also easy ones that will make a lot at a time.

oddly enough, the first pumpkin cookie i decided to try really isn't a pumpkin cookie, the recipe is technically for banana cookies. but reading over the recipe made me realize that the cookies would be soft like banana bread, which made me realize that banana bread and pumpkin bread are very similar recipes. and so, instead of using banana, i used a can of pumpkin. the cookies came out soft and chewy, and making them with my small cookie scoop i got five dozen out of one batch. they're also covered with a yummy and totally necessary maple cream cheese frosting. seriously, i tried them plain and then frosted, and they really need the frosting. the only thing i don't like is that the recipe uses oatmeal as a binder, and i only had old fashion oats. because the pieces are so big, it's almost the consistency of an oatmeal cookie, which is not what i was going for. i think if i make them again, i'll use quick cook oats, which are smaller pieces.

i've already tried out other recipes, and researched tons more. over the next few weeks, i'll be discussing them. if anybody out there has any ideas for improving or suggestions for fall flavored cookies i can try, please let me know.

September 19, 2012

breakfast for dinner

my kids love breakfast for dinner. in fact, most people i know love breakfast for dinner. it's quick, cheap, and easy. really, we'd do it once a week if my hubby didn't hate it so much. and the crazy thing about him hating breakfast for dinner is that, working nights, he gets up and eats dinner as his breakfast. try and wrap your head around his dislike of such an awesome concept given the facts, because it boggles my mind.

lucky for the kids and i, with hubby working nights and going to school in the afternoon, there are sometimes days where i pack him food to take because he doesn't have time to eat dinner at home with us. ok, it's not lucky, honestly it sucks not having him home, but i make it up to them with food that gets covered in syrup, and then they're ok with it.

my favorite go-to is a french toast casserole. basically, it's layers of bread lined in a greased pan, covered with a mix of eggs and milk and sugar, all of which can be assembled in advance. it's so much easy to bake in the oven, instead of dredging each individual piece of bread through the custard mix and then frying or grilling on a griddle. i have recipes that are labeled as "over night french toast," but it works to just do it a few hours before and let it sit. sometimes i mix in nuts or raisins, and sometimes, if i'm feeling crazy, i cover it with a crunchy crumble topping.

the kids also like baked oatmeal. it's like eating a bowl of oatmeal with a fork. or eating a warm and mushy granola bar. i think it's strange they like it so much, because lumpy and fish aren't really fans of a regular bowl of oatmeal, but baked up and cut into squares make it taste better i guess.

the great thing about those dishes, besides being easy and make-ahead, is that they are endlessly adaptable. i can throw all sorts of random bits in and my kids will eat it up. it's especially nice because not only can i use up what i have laying around, i can change it for the season. and it's fall now, so that means apples! still, my absolute favorite breakfast/apple creation has to be pancakes, because it's ridiculously easy.

i start with complete pancake mix, the kind that you only have to add water to. but instead of just water, i also add applesauce and cinnamon. and if i'm feeling really crazy, i'll add a little bit of molasses, ground ginger, and ground cloves, because then it tastes like a cross between apple pie and gingerbread. and if my kids have been especially good, or they're having an especially alexander type day, i'll mix some apple juice and cinnamon and powder sugar together, and let them use that instead of plain old maple syrup.

honestly, those pancakes are so quick and easy, i'll even consider making them for breakfast. though eating them for dinner is much more fun.

September 18, 2012

my life at the moment

so much is going on in my life right now, and all of it is boring. or rather, not boring to me, just boring to write about. and so, i've been at a loss of words for this space, which makes me feel bad and neglectful. and so here is a run down of my life at the moment, until i think of something more clever to share.

i've been carting kids to random doctors for things. last night i got to stay with fish for her sleep study. she had one done last summer, and then because she stopped breathing for minutes at a time, which is supposedly really bad or something (sarcasm!), they took her tonsils and adenoids when they put the tubes in her ears. the tubes weren't because she was sleeping poorly, it was because when she got an ear infection, it swelled and burst through her ear drum. so pussy, bloody drainage made me think something might be a little off. and then to go through hearing tests and fail them all and be considered clinically deaf, that was super fun too. but now, after getting tubes, she can hear, and better than her doctors thought. you know, because it's super awesome when you take your kid in for a follow-up visit and the doctor is so surprised that there was no permanent damage or deafness, not that they told you it was a possibility. anyway, now we get to wait a month before we go back to hear the results of this latest sleep study. because i'm not really sure what the plan of action will be, but sleeping beside her last night made me realize how many times she stops breathing again.

so, to tide us over until we can go back to the doctor for dear fish, tomorrow i get to take my clan to bumble's nine year check up. there, i get to hear all about how he's off the chart for his height and his weight from a brand new doctor, because the guy we had been seeing decided to leave the practice and go teach pediatric medicine at the hospital where lumpy and fish see their specialists. i keep hoping to run into him so i can say hi. and beg him to come back. and also, because it's fall, it can only mean one special thing. that's right, flu shots for all! here's hoping for no adverse reaction.

besides getting good use out of our health insurance, i've also been thinking fun fall recipes. because it's apple time again. and pumpkin time. and i love fall so much. it's my favorite food season of all. fresh in summer is nice, and cozy in winter is good, and the delicate flavors of spring are ok, but i live for cinnamon and cloves and sage, roast chickens and pies and caramel. thinking about everything just makes me smile.

what's even better this year is that i'm thinking fall cookies. my lovely sister is getting married, and she asked me to make cookies for the reception, because she knows i'm kind of into that sort of thing. i have about six weeks to figure it all out, but already i've got a list of recipes i want to try. thankfully, i know enough willing test tasters who will give me their honest opinions.

so yeah, that's what i've got going on. plus all three of my boys are back in school. and cub scouts started back up. and then there's always the normal cooking and cleaning and laundry to be done. so while it's all exciting (or necessary) to me, it's not much to talk about. i promise, though, i'll try harder to find topics to fill this space.

September 11, 2012

cupcakes and birthday guilt

so i might have mentioned last week that on saturday was my dear bumble's birthday. we had a busy weekend of fun planned, including an awesome party. so even though i wouldn't be able to personally make a cake for him, i thought he'd still have a good birthday. and then the fates conspired against us.

he wanted an angry bird's themed party, which i hadn't been able to find in any of the stores, so i ordered the supplies online. i used the same site that i've used for years, like since bumble turned four, and usually everything goes perfectly. this time, though, things went all wonky. we moved and i put in our new address, but they still had the old one on file, and their system got all confused and said it couldn't verify our address. so i had to call and get things straightened out, and they promised that i would get the supplies by friday, because that's when we were leaving. but i didn't get them. i didn't get the box until monday, when it was way too late.

so, we went up town anyway, figuring that we would be able to find something that would work for the party. the plan was that my father-in-law was going to take my boys out quad riding saturday, and then i would have all day to prepare for the party that was taking place that evening. then it stormed, and they couldn't go. now, part of the fun of riding is that they get all messy and muddy, but we had to draw the line at thunder and lightening. honestly, i think lumpy was more upset then bumble, but still, it wasn't the fun day they were supposed to have.

in the end, the party came together well enough. i tried to make up for the fact that we didn't have angry birds by decorating with every balloon and streamer we had. and he said he loved his cake, even though it came from the store.

when we came home, we had another small party with my family for bumble. he got chinese food and a lovely cake made by my sister. still, it was more like all of us hanging out together then a real party, in my mind at least. again, he said he had a good time, but then he's also not one to complain.

honestly, it's one of those crazy things that i build up in my mind. everybody said that everything went well. and the birthday boy himself was happy. so why did i think that i failed somehow? i kept thinking that, because things went wrong, i had to keep making things up to him. but no matter what i did, it didn't seem like it was good enough. still, that's a problem i have with so many things in regards to my kids. i always want to give them more and do better, and when i can't live up to the ridiculously high standards i set for myself, i feel like i'm not worthy or good enough. it's an issue i have that i'm working on, and maybe one day i'll be better.

not yet though. because i feel like i failed over the weekend, i decided to try and make it up to him by making cupcakes that he was able to share at his first cub scout meeting on monday. and because one of the boys in his den isn't a fan of chocolate, i made funfetti cupcakes with extra sprinkles. and for something extra fun and different, i made blue cotton candy flavored frosting (which isn't hard when all i had to do was make standard butter cream and add this). with extra sprinkles on top, of course.

September 6, 2012

it's cookies AND candy... and birthday thoughts

i have a lot going on in my life right now. my dear bumble turns nine on saturday, and life has gotten so busy that i won't be able to make his cake. which is a big deal for me. the worst part is that he is having two parties, and i am so busy in the next couple of days that i don't have time to make a cake for either of them.

i feel awful. this is a huge fail for me. though it's not like i haven't bought him a cake from the store before. honestly, as long as there is cake, i don't think he really care where it comes from. but i care. and i know. and i keep records.

and so, to try and make myself feel better for this coming fail, and a host of others that are currently happening, i have decided to sooth my family's troubles with something sweet. or, more accurately, i have decided to sooth my own conscience and assuage my guilt with chocolate.

looking through my recipe stacks, i've settled on trying something new. it involves melting chocolate and mixing it with a whole package of crushed oreos, and a can of sweetened condensed milk. after you let it cool a bit so they don't melt right away, you mix in chocolate chips. then you press the whole mess in a foil lined pan, cool in the fridge, and eat.

i've never made these bars before, but i imagine that they won't set completely hard, like a chocolate bar. the reason is because the ridiculously easy fudge recipe i have is just chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk melted together and cooled. so even those these bars use less melted chocolate and have crushed cookies in them, i feel they'll have a fudgey consistency. which also means that i can cut the pieces smaller to make them last longer. it also means they'll probably be very sweet. and that i'll need to keep them in the fridge. however they turn out, i know that these bars will be a hit with my family. we like all of the ingredients separately, so mixed together means it should be even better.

and whether i make these bars or not, i do understand that my dear bumble is not worried about his birthday. he's happy to know there will be cake and quad riding and games at one party and chinese buffet dinner at the other, so he's content with the fact that he'll get to do so many of his favorite things. it's more that i am trying to make myself feel better because i think i let him down then that he feels bad, because he doesn't think i've done anything wrong. i blame the mommy-guilt, but that's a topic for another time.

September 4, 2012


i did many interesting things this weekend, but the most surprisingly fun thing happened on saturday. the family and i went to this picnic party thing at the house of a fellow cubby parent, and everything went so much better than expected.

let me back up a bit and explain that i wasn't expecting the get together to be bad or anything. no, i knew from who the hostess was and some of who were going to be there, it would be a good time. i was more worried about me, and how i deal, and how absolutely bonkers i can be.

like really, most people have no idea. poor hubby does. but then he's at a loss as to how to help and what to do when i start going off about such things. so he asks what he can do, and i have no answer for him. because seriously, unless he can help me step out of my own head or magically make some xanax appear, there's not much to do but step back and let me be crazy for a bit.

and i do hate this about myself. like absolutely wish i wasn't like this. and it's hard to talk about sometimes. but then, i feel like, if this is who i am, then maybe it's best to put it out there, you know, as a warning. so that way all the normal people i meet and greet on a regular basis won't be caught off guard. and yes, i know there's therapy and doctors that help and stuff. i did that for many years, for other issues. but this social anxiety stuff, i know i can kick its butt.

because i wasn't always like this. i never liked to be the center of attention, but i knew how to handle social situations. there was always proper etiquette to fall back on, to help me know what to say and what to do. i just had to take the first step out and i was ok.

and then for a while, it was easy. i liked to be in the limelight. and i think it was because i didn't care what people thought of me. i had a close group of friends, and we loved each other, faults and all. so it didn't matter if random people thought i was a little off, because those who mattered most to me were there.

slowly, though, things and life happened. i lost touch with those i was closest to. the years slipped by and i moved and changed and adopted the role of a wife and mother. and then it wasn't so much me but we, my hubby and i.

still, for whatever reason, my brain never quite settled down. and i looked at the friends we had as his mostly and mine by association. and so i was on edge. because i was afraid i would do something or say something, and then everyone would look down on me. or i would embarrass him, which is something i never wanted to do. so i found it easier to withdraw from social situations then join in them. because if i said or did something stupid and foolish, it wasn't me that people would look at, it was him. and the very last thing i want to do in this world is make more trouble and stress for my dearest hubby. he has quite enough on his own without my help at getting more.

and so i made the brilliant realization that if i never entered into social situations, there would be no way that i could shame myself, and my family by association. so i stopped going out and doing things, which was easy enough to accomplish with the excuse that i had little ones at home to take care of. and i know there was fun i missed out on, i was regaled with stories of the adventures that happened. i didn't experience the good times, but i also didn't have to experience the stress and worry and paranoia that went along with those times either. so i was content to stay at home and "miss out."

the problem, though, is that after years of staying home and avoiding as much human contact as possible, i am out of practice. i don't know how to make small talk or deal with others or simply act in social situations any more. in avoiding the small stresses of society for years, things have gotten to the point of dizzying panic attacks when now i am forced out into the world. and i am forced out, because the boys are older and my husband is busy, so i have to pick up the slack and go and do things.

and it's my fault for avoiding this for so many years. had i just continued to subject myself to company continually, then i would have gotten used to people by now, like i used to be. instead, i chose the hermit life, which didn't last, and now i have to re-acclimate myself all over again. and though i don't like, i know i can do it, i just need people to be patient with me and my little quirks. and overlook the fact that i'll probably be over in the corner hyperventilating into a paper bag.

September 1, 2012

chocolate and peanut butter and pretzels, oh my

everybody has different ways of coping with stress. if you've read this blog for any length of time, you'd know that how i cope is with sugar. candy and cookies and cakes are all great stress relievers for me. and i don't just mean eating, though that helps. for me, it's more the process of making that helps me get back in a more stable frame of mind.

the problem, at the moment, is that my family and i are trying to eat healthier. and it's hard to be healthy with tempting treats hanging around. so to help make things easier on everybody, i haven't been making many sweets. but sometimes i feel like i just have to. because my mind gets whirling and worried, and i just don't know what to do with myself. and even though most of what worries me is stuff that most more stable people wouldn't be bothered by, i just can't help it. i'm told to just stop freaking out, but that's definitely easier said than done.

and so, i've decided to get more creative with the sweets and treats i make. some recipes are easier to adapt than others. like the one i made yesterday.

i started by making a pretzel crust, which is exactly like a graham cracker crust, only using pretzels instead of crackers. so i mixed crushed pretzels, melted butter, and a little sugar, then baked and cooled it completely. then came the filling. the first layer was a mix of chocolate pudding (i used the sugar free kind), peanut butter, a little milk, and cool whip (which was fat free). the next layer was a little more peanut butter and the rest of the cool whip tub. the layers were spread over the crust, and then the pan went into the fridge to set.

it tasted really nice, with the salty crunch of the crust complimenting the sweet smoothness of the filling. and i'm not sure if it was the peanut butter or that i used so little milk, but the pudding layer held together so well that i was able to cut nice, clean squares, something that usually doesn't happen when i make pudding desserts. my hubby especially loved it, and was super thrilled to find that it wasn't too bad for him, with the butter in the crust being the worst component. if i make it again, i'll probably omit the sugar, because everything was so sweet, i don't think i needed it.

so everyone in the family was happy. they all got something yummy to eat, and i got a bit of stress relief. after this weekend it over, i know we'll be closer to a set schedule, and things will be more normal around here. and i know i just need to hold on and make it through the next couple of days without a major freak-out. if nothing else, i'll go back to my old ways and make some caramel and burn my tongue by licking the spoon. i am contant if nothing else.

August 31, 2012

important life lessons

i yell at my children, more often than i should admit to. but i yell at them with love and the best of intentions. and sometimes, i even yell good and important things at them. yesterday i was shown proof that at least one of them is listening.

i have already learned much about this walking to and from school business. i have learned that the boys are at an age where the school doesn't check if their parents are there before letting them out. in fact, there is a girl in bumble's grade who lives a block further away than us that walks by herself everyday. the boys think this is a  great idea, and want to implement it themselves. i said those famous motherly words: "we'll see."

i have also learned, through trial and error, that dear fish is not up to walking back and forth to the school twice a day. she is best at walking in the morning, and will even run to try and keep up with her brothers. in the afternoon, i push her in her stroller, and let her play on the playground while waiting for the boys to be released. i'm honestly not sure if the afternoon is harder because the walk falls so close to the end of nap time, or if i'm just out of patience for her dawdling at that point in the day. either way, the stroller works.

another thing i have learned is that there is more then on way to get from our house, through the neighborhood, and to school. with the crazy design of the streets, there are a silly number of different routes, but we have been trying to find the fastest. because there was some discussion between my boys and i about which way to go, we took a different path home yesterday afternoon.

it was, in my personal opinion, no shorter than our normal route. it was also not a way i would want to walk to school because of a large hill, but going home meant going down, and i was fine with that. the only plus i see in going that way is that we go past a different playground. thought it wasn't much of a plus yesterday because the slide was too hot to use and there was a spider on the see-saw.

so, instead of getting to play, we all agreed to walk home and eat popsicles. and because my boys are secretly teens and i am totally lame, they decided to run ahead while i slowly pushed their sister home.

and before i could even open my mouth, my dear fish yells "be careful and stay together!" and so they did.

all i could do was smile, because i knew, in spite of all of my doubts and fears of failure, my kids were at least getting the important stuff i was trying to teach them.

August 30, 2012

"all through the night"

i just realized something recently. my dear and beautiful fish is finally sleeping through the night. and it only just hit me because i also realized that, because she is sleeping all night, i get to sleep all night.

i know it might not seem like a big deal to some, but to those with little kids, you know how big of a deal this is. when babies sleep all night and don't get up for 2am feedings, it seems like such a parenting win. and when little toddlers don't get up and ask for a cup of water and a cuddle, it's just more proof that they're on their way to being a big kid.

now, when my boys were little, i never had a problem with them sleeping all night. i would put them down for bed, and they would stay there until it was time to get up in the morning. it might have had something to do with the fact that they've shared a room since lumpy was just over one and bumble was two, so if one got up they were able to comfort each other. little fish, always sleeping on her own, has been a completely different matter.

when she was little, she never really slept through the night. there were times where she would, but more often than not, she was up. and it wasn't that she was hungry or thirsty, it was just that she would wake up for whatever reason and then she'd need help settling down and going to sleep again. it was even worse when we transitioned her into a toddler bed, because then she'd get up crying and wander through the house until someone found her and put her back in bed. when we were staying with my mom, after we lost our house, she shared a room with my hubby and i, so she got very used to getting up and having us right there. and so, when we finally moved into our new house, it was hard for her to get used to sleeping in her own room in her own big girl bed.

this summer has been a crazy mash of not sleeping "normally." when we'd go places, usually all the kids would sleep together, so fish would have her brothers for comfort. and when people would come and visit, i would let people sleep in her room or in her bed, and have her sleep with my hubby and i. by the end of august, we were practicing our school routine, and so everybody was not only sleeping in their own bed by themselves, they were going to bed early and getting up early.

these last few days are kind of when it all hit me. fish has been going to bed just like her brothers, and she gets up with them in the morning. but she doesn't get up in the middle of the night any more. and no more fighting to go to sleep, with her screaming and crying that she's not tired, or i need to come in and hold her, or just sit and watch her fall asleep. nope, she's sleeping like a big girl, and i am so happy!

August 29, 2012

it's potty time!

with the boys in school all day, i have more free time. over the summer we were all so busy with reading and writing and all the normal summertime fun, i didn't have much time to get to all the things that i was hoping to do. now that my schedule has opened up a bit, i can focus on some of the important things i was putting off. like helping fish take the big step that will officially (in my mind) turn her from a toddler into a big girl. yeah, it's time to start potty training.

it's not like this is an out-of-the-blue decision. she's shown signs that she's ready. and we have attempted it a few times in the past. but either things got crazy at home or she just stopped being interested, and so i put off really trying until a later time. i really wasn't worried about her not being interested, because she's only 2 and a half, and i can remember the boys didn't bother until they were much older.

we started trying to train bumble just before he turned three. it was a struggle, but that i think had more to do with the fact that i had no idea what i was doing than that he wasn't ready. and it took a while, but he had it down. then we moved and he started having accidents and we had to go through potty training refresher courses.

my dear lumpy was a completely different story. he would watch his brother trying to go, he watched us help bumble through the whole process, he knew exactly what he was supposed to do, he just didn't want to bother. why stop what you're doing and the fun you're having just to go and sit on a funny white seat when going pee in your pants is so much faster and easier? the preschool we sent both the boys two had a daycare of sorts that allowed kids that weren't potty trained, which lumpy joined when he was two. on christmas break they had two weeks off from school, which also happened to be when he turned three. and so, in those two weeks, my hubby and i really forced lumpy to stop being lazy and start going like a big boy. he went from diapers all the time to regular underwear and no accidents all night in two weeks. if ever i need to point to a sign that my youngest boy will always choose the easiest way possible, how he was potty trained is it.

(another story that springs to mind is how he used a calculator to do his simple addition problems for homework once. and the only reason i questioned him is because he finished all 20 problems in less than 5 minutes. maybe he doesn't choose the easiest way so much as he is just lazy. and clever. which is turning into a very dangerous combination.)

anyway, i have a funny feeling that training my fishie will be much like training lumpy. she knows what she needs to do, and she's done it enough times that she's comfortable going. she's even gotten to the point where, once she goes, she comes and tells me when she needs a diaper change if she's ready for one. so, starting today, i am making her go. at least twice an hour i make her sit on her potty chair. and we decided her rewards for going would be temporary tatoos. i'm really pushing this because i've also decided i bought my last box of diapers. i'm not sure what i'll do if she runs through them all, but i believe that it won't be a problem. now that it's just her and i home all day, i can focus on helping her go.

she's clever, just like her brother. and i know she likes to take the easy way out. but i've told her princesses don't use diapers, and if she can stop having accidents, i'll buy her a crown. thankfully it's almost halloween, so i know i can find her one. and an outfit to go with it.

August 27, 2012

dress rehearsals

the summer is almost over. not by the calender, but by the standard of any family with young kids: school is starting. in fact, for my boys, it starts tomorrow.

that means that starting last week, we've been getting up early. and then earlier and earlier every day until today, when we got up as early as we will need to tomorrow. and we've been practicing not only getting up, but also getting ready. so today was a full dress rehearsal in getting to school on time.

and really, i've needed all this practice as much as the boys, because this year is going to be different. last year i was able to get the boys up and breakfasted and dressed. then i'd grab fish and we'd hop in the car and drive to the bus stop, wait for the bus, and then drive home. i never realized how easy it was that i really only had to worry about getting two people ready to go.

this year they're walkers. which means i can't really get them to their school in my pj's. or i could, but it's a long walk in slippers. it also means that i can't really leave fish in her pj's either, because i'm trying not to look like the trashy family that runs around in sloppy clothes with messy hair. i don't want to embarrass my boys so early into their new school careers, i'll have years for that.

this morning we got up, had breakfast, got dressed, and walked all the way to school. and we actually made it with time to spare! and, just to see how'd she do and how it would go, i let fish walk the whole way. she made it the whole way there and only wanted to be carried when we were 20 yards away from being home.

the boys thought it was great fun getting to walk. lumpy was even up and ready to go before bumble. or he would have been if he hadn't had a small melt down with his shoe laces being in knots. but both boys walked ahead and waited at the corners to cross with fish and i. and my dear littlest even held my hand most of the way.

still, it's the last official day of summer according to them, so i'm letting them take it easy. no work books or reading today, just games and cartoons. poor fish is happy with an easy day too, walking more than a mile just after breakfast has her laying on the couch, ready for a nap. hopefully tomorrow goes just as smoothly.

and it will, i'm sure. as long as it doesn't rain. because i don't think we have enough umbrellas for everybody.

August 26, 2012

stupidly easy cinnamon rolls

after a bit of crazy and a lot of absence, i am hoping to get back into this posting thing. school starts in two days, and with that comes a pretty solid routine that allows for some free time during the day. still, i have found the time to play with sugar and my oven, and i figured i'd try to put things back to normal by sharing my latest experiment.

i've been going through my pantry and fridge and freezer, marveling at all the random things i've purchased for recipes that i never made. there are cans of things and odds and ends of so much stuff that i feel i really need to start using more and wasting less. not that the stuff in the pantry gets wasted, because it has such a long shelf life, but the stuff in the fridge sometimes languishes in a dark corner on the bottom shelf, and when i pull it out i cringe at the long passed expiration date.

like the last time i went grocery shopping, i bought apples, and when i brought them home i put them in the crisper drawer. it's sad to say it's been so long since i've bought something to put in that drawer, i didn't realize i had a tube of crescent rolls stashed there. ones that had expired a few weeks ago. and i just happened to find this tub of dough a few days ago, but i left it in there because i kept thinking it might still be kind of good.

i know this might sound gross to some people, and might make them change their minds about eating things i make, but honestly, when the food in question is so processed with chemicals, as long as it doesn't smell sour or look off, i figure it will still be ok to cook with. and especially when it's something that's baked, it'll be cooked thoroughly, and the most that happens is that the leavening agent is so old it doesn't puff up like it should.

and so, after thinking for a few days about what exactly i should do with this magical tube of fun, i settled on something different that i wanted to try. and when i searched for recipes to try, i couldn't find any. which just meant i'd have to make it up as i went along.

i love cinnamon rolls, always have, always will. when we went to the beach a few weeks ago, there were coupons for the recently constructed cinnabon, but i was very bummed that i was unable to find it. and i have made different versions of cinnamon rolls of the years. i've made the standard yeast version that i talked about in my old post. i've made ones with biscuit dough. and today, i used creasent roll dough.

seriously, i have no idea why i've never done this earlier. all i did was pop the dough out of the tube and put it on a piece of wax paper so it wouldn't stick to my count. parchment paper would work, as would a rolling mat, or even some flour sprinkled down (but i was feeling lazy and didn't want to clean flour from everywhere). then i rolled it out it help close the seems and make a bigger rectangle. i actually had to put another piece of wax paper on top of the dough because it was so sticky, but i think it was extra sticky because it was so old. once it was nice and thin, i spread soft butter and sprinkled over cinnamon and sugar. then i rolled it up and cut it into 12 pieces, put it into a well greased 8x8 pan and baked it. because i couldn't find another recipe like this one (and there might be one out there because i didn't look very hard), i baked it at 375, which is kind of my standard baking temp. and, as my mother says, i baked until done, which meant golden brown and delicious.

i used probably way more butter and sugar than i needed, and it baked out of the bottom of the rolls. once cool, this just gave them a crunchy, crusty, sugared bottom. and i liked them enough like that so i didn't even bother with an icing glaze. they didn't puff up much, but i wasn't really expecting them to. i think if i ever try to make these again, i'll use the new creasent sheets they came out with, that don't have the perforation to make rolls. then i could skip the rolling pin step and get them into the oven in less then five minutes. all in all, not bad for for a random recipe i made up on the fly to try and waste less.

August 8, 2012

why i hate pinterest

everybody has told me that it is totally a thing i should be all over. amazing pics of cute stuff, fun ideas, creative ways to keep it all together, and, of course, food porn. seriously, awesome stuff made by awesome people and shared quickly and easily so that everybody can be bowled over.

and i really do get why it's so popular. normal people make things and then pin them. and then some other random somebody sees it and shares it. and it gets repinned and repinned and repinned. and eventually everybody knows what a cool idea it was. before pinterest, if you made something and wanted to share it, you had the regular social media sites, mostly facebook. but then only those people who are friends with you would see your pics and ideas, not the world. or, if you had lots of great ideas, then you could create a blog and share your amazingness that way, and possibly reach many more people.

the thing is, i followed many different blogs by some very amazing people for a very long time. so not only did i get to learn all sorts of fun tricks and tasty recipes, i got to learn about the writer personally. it made things more interesting, because i almost felt like i had a personal connection with them.

and unlike pinterest, it made things more manageable for someone like me. reading blogs takes time, whereas pinterest is like flipping through a magazine and just looking at the pictures. if you like something, you can stop and take a closer look, but otherwise you can keep flipping. it's like sensory overload, too much too fast, and i can't take it all in. you can look at things in different categories, but there are thousands of things in each. or you can only follow what certain people are pinning, and hope they are finding all the interesting things. but then i feel like maybe i'm missing something, so i look at more and more and more. it's too stressful for me like that.

the other thing is, when i would read full blog posts, i would get more than just a simple recipe. there are tricks to cooking, and sometimes little tidbits of information would be stashed in posts that seemed to have nothing to do with that fact. or, though i wasn't interested in the dish they were making, i would read through anyway and might learn a new technique that i could apply to something completely different. if i had just been looking at pictures, i would have flipped past and missed those things.

the biggest reason i hate pinterest, though, is that it makes me feel bad. seriously, there is all this amazing content right there in front of my eyes, and then i looking around at my own life and i just feel so much less creative or clever or talented. whereas when i read a blog for a long time, the authors not only talk about their triumphs, eventually they talk about their failures, which always makes me feel like less of a bumbling mess up.

i know i'm probably missing things by not jumping on the pinterest bandwagon, and by only following a select few blogs regularly. still, for my sanity, i like my way better.

August 7, 2012

what you don't know can kill you... with worry

i've heard the saying "what you don't know can't hurt you," but that's not really true, is it? i mean, if i'm walking along, and there is a rogue lion escaped from the zoo running straight at me, i think i'd kind of like to know so i can go a different way, as opposed to not knowing a crazed jungle beast was coming to eat me. i am one that likes to know what's going on so i can be prepared.

and sometimes, when something bad is going to happen, even if i can't change it, i'd still like to know. i like to be mentally prepared for the horrible, if i can, because then it saves me from blubbering in a corner because i was unprepared. i do not handle surprises well. or at least, bad surprises. i make plans, i prepare, i try to be ready for what life might throw at me, because when i am caught unawares, a freak-out ensues. and depending on the shock, it might be a while before i am collected enough to function.

and so, being that i know me very well, i am usually prepared for anything and everything. and mentally for all possibilities. because if i've thought it and worried about it, then, when and if it happens, i can deal with it. because if i've already worried over it, i'm past the freak-out stage, and can move straight on to the action stage.

that just means sometimes i let my imagination get the best of me. i give it free reign to be creative as it wants, to visualize all possibilities, not matter how unlikely. most situations that my crazed mind can invent never come into being, but that doesn't mean i don't wonder and worry until the moment has passed. and then, when those horrible possibilities are no longer possible, i move on to the next possible future of horror and drama.

still, sometimes reality surprises me. it catches even me unawares. things happen that not even i considered. and though i might have wasted so many precious moments worrying, sometimes the mental exercise in stress is enough to help me get through.

and yet, had i known what was going to happen, i probably would have worried and wondered more about the outcome. had i known these unexpected occurrences were even possible, it would have opened up a whole new realm of worry for me. and now that i know such craziness can happen, it builds on the scenarios that my frazzled imagination conjures, adding new stress over the future.

i let worry consume me. i know i shouldn't live in the apocalyptic possible futures, i should focus on the here and now. i should forget about the things that might happen, that could happen, that will most likely never happen, and if i feel the need to worry, i should worry about what's going on today. yet, there is the nagging in the back of my mind, all the worry that i do is what holds things together, that if i stop, if i just relax and go with the flow, then everything will fall apart, i will be taken unawares and off guard.

bad things will happen, whether i worry about them coming true or not. still, i worry that, if i don't worry, worse things will happen.

August 6, 2012

knowing my place

sometimes i am forgetful. sometimes i forget what my real duties and responsibilities are.

first, foremost, and before everything, i am a mother. it's a true fact if there ever was one, and there's no getting away from it.

and it's not like i have much room to dispute or complain. i am a mother because i chose to be. or sometimes, because i didn't chose not to be. there were long ago choices i could have made, things i could have changed, and then this here and now would not be the future of then. i could have said no where i said yes, i could have done so many things differently. and though i might not have known that being a stay at home mom was going to be my major accomplishment in my life, i really didn't do much to stop it from happening or try to change my circumstances.

and even though, in the beginning, i was making my decisions for questionable reasons, they were my reasons. i was not coerced or forced. i still stand by them. i knew myself well enough then that, no matter how things turned out, it was the right choice.

and really, looking back now, i know i made the right choices. or at least, given the options available at the time, i pick the correct ones. i was not expecting to get here, but had i chosen differently, i know where i would have ended up. and though i am not completely satisfied with my life at all times, this reality is a better one than what could have been.

it doesn't matter how much i look back, though, because looking back won't change anything. and there is no point in looking around, because i know what is here and now. what i need to do, what we all should do, is look toward the future. plot and plan and prepare for what is coming as best as we are able. and i am trying to do that. because the future as i see it doesn't have much of me playing a huge role, but the future is for my children. and so i am not preparing for my future, but i am trying to help them prepare for theirs. which is ridiculously hard and frustrating sometimes.

i know the world well enough to understand that my place in the here and now is not for me. my place is to help and support and sustain my kids. i have a pretty good idea what my future will hold, there aren't too many possibilities stemming from a past like mine. and so, instead of trying to rail against fate and change what i consider my destiny, i will put all my efforts and energy into helping my children. because their futures are still filled with possibilities. if nothing else, i want to give them a choice, and make sure they know that choice exists, to give them a chance at a much brighter future than what lies in store for me.