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

February 28, 2012

the ties that bind

*disclaimer before you read: things are good with me, for real. this is something i scratched out a few weeks ago, but it's a theme that holds true. and it's not so much a if you love somebody you should set them free, and if they come back it was meant to be. it's more like they're a balloon filled with hot air and you're the anchor holding them back, so you're basically annoying each other. or something. anyway, here's this... whatever it it...*

the ties that bind us to others can stretch, bend, and break given enough pressure. and it's the true test of a relationship to see how much stress it can handle before everything snaps and all falls apart.

and it's really hard, sometimes, to know how much is too much. when things are already broken and it's time to declare it all a loss. that things are lying in little pieces all around you and you really can't bring yourself to pick it all back up and put it all back together again.

and sometimes we're in denial, that things really aren't completely broken. and sometimes it really is worth the work and the fight to hold it all together. and by just saying that you'll hold on one more time is enough, because it's only one more time that you have to make it through before things finally start getting better.

but how do you know? how do you know who are the people worth fighting for and who are the people who would be better off if you cut your losses and set them free so they could soar without you holding them back and pulling them down?

life sucks and life is hard and sometimes it doesn't seem like it's worth the fight. (and how many times have i said those words here over the years?) but the hardest thing for me sometimes is knowing what is worth fighting for. i can't fight everything, and the struggle to hold it all together has me stretched painfully thin. things are going to break, things are going to be lost, things are going to have to be let go. but how do i know what are the things i need to keep holding onto and what are the things that are better off without me?

if only i had the gift of sight, because over the years the only times i was able to answer those questions with any sense of certainty were the times i was looking back.

maybe you can make someone happy now by staying, but you can make them even happier by leaving.

so how do we know that the ties that bind us together aren't the ties that hold us back?

the great backwards sleeper experiment

so i know i've talked about taking internet parenting advice with a grain of salt. and i usually do. but i had read a trick awhile ago that seemed so simple and easy, and of course i thought "what could go wrong?" yeah, if there ever were any great words of regret, those are it.

here's a bit of set-up: my kids don't like wearing clothes. i might have mentioned this once or twice. i really don't think it's that big of a deal, as long as we're home and don't have company over. i say let the kids have freedom over their bodies now, and there's less chance of secret exploration later. plus, if there's no shame and taboo built around being naked, it's something that'll seem less interesting when i know they'll try to be defiant later. or at least that's what i'm betting on.

anyway, now that dear fish knows how to unbutton buttons and unzip zippers, it's sometimes a struggle to keep her clothed. and the random nudity happens to bug some people around here. she also likes to rub her belly as she falls asleep. i honestly think that came about because she used to play with her ears and suck on her fingers while trying to sleep, but then she had all those ear problems and now doesn't like her ears messed with. so it's rubbing her belly like a little budda that knocks her out. and of course, rubbing her naked belly it what makes her happiest.

now, the only way to have a naked belly while wearing a one piece sleeper is to unzip it all the way. which brings us to unacceptable nakedness. and even when people weren't helping her, she figured out how to unzip herself. so i went online looking for any suggestions for solutions to my random problem.

one, which seemed simplest, was to cut the feet off of a sleeper, probably one they've grown a little to long for, and then put it on backwards. then the zipper is on their back and they are unable to unzip it themselves. and being that fishie had a few sleepers she'd grown too big for, i figured i'd give it a try.

yeah, let me say we're never doing that again. i don't if it felt funny for her, or if the zipper up her back kept bugging her, but she didn't sleep well last night. like i had to hold her for hours until she got comfortable. which also meant i didn't sleep well last night.

now i suppose i could have dressed her properly, and just turned the sleeper around, but i wanted to give it at least one night. and yes, she didn't unzip, but if being half naked to play with her tummy helps her sleep, i'm all for it.

i'll start worrying about her sleeping naked when she's older and there's boys involved. for now, she can do what she wants as long as i get sleep too.

February 27, 2012

my random hot dog rant

lately i've been seeing lots of recipes on various blogs and sites and such that i go to all talking about eating healthier. it's always this way on the interwebs the first few months after the new year. everybody is talking about how they want to eat healthy and lose weight and do better for their kids and live forever. or something.

i don't know, i just don't really get it i guess. not that i'm not one for eating healthy. or having my kids eat healthy. or watching what junk i put in my and my family's mouths. it's just i'm not really one for trends. and they way it comes around every year always makes me think that this eating healthy thing is a trend for most. like it's just something to do while everybody's talking about it or thinking about it, and it's not really something to stick to.

so yeah, i usually ignore most of this craziness. unless there's fun recipes about random ways to sneak veggies to unsuspecting family members. not that my kids have a problem with veggies, it's more for my hubby. my favorite trick is to cook vegan and not tell him, and 9 times out of 10 he never even notices.

lately, though, i've been seeing lots of people making not healthy recipes much healthier. not that i have a great problem with that, but it's usually recipes directed at kids. my kids don't have much of a problem eating healthy, the problem is more quantity than quality. but i guess that's not the case for most people's kids. so healthy kids' recipes, good for them.

but it's stuff that i don't see any point in making healthy. like hot dogs. hot dogs are inherently unhealthy, mostly because they're hot dogs! unless you are making your own from scratch, like stuffing your own casing, there's going to be crazy random stuff in them. of course, you could always be buying the ridiculously expensive kind, but then if a pack of hot dogs costs more than a steak, why wouldn't you buy the steak?

maybe, if all your kids eat are hot dogs, instead of taking the time to make hot dogs healthier, you take the time to find something else to feed your kids. there's so much out there, just look!

February 23, 2012

baked goodness and kitchen tips

today there is much sickness in our house. and it all started last night, so needless to say i am very tired tired today. nobody warns you about this part of motherhood that makes you question everything in the wee hours of the night. but that's a post for another time.

instead i'm going to talk about how i decided to do something productive and useful. today i made banana bread.

i always buy bananas, which i think is a requirement to feed the under 3 set. but everybody here loves bananas. so we end up buying lots. sometimes too many. like last week there was one sad little banana left, and nobody wanted it. and then it got to brown for the boys to eat, because they're picky about that kind of thing. and then it got too brown for me to eat, because i'm also picky about that kind of thing. and then it got so brown it kind of started oozing this brown juice all over the counter so i finally threw it away.

anyway, one overly ripe banana is hard to do things with. but a bunch of overly ripe bananas scream to be used in bread or cupcakes or cake or pancakes. or maybe i just look at overly ripe bananas and think cake. it's just how i am.

still, we had five bananas begging to be used, and i didn't think cake when it came time to do something with them. maybe it's because i wanted something different. or maybe it's because there are so many sick people here, and a nice, soft, comforting bread seemed more in order then a towering, sugary mess.

so i made banana bread, utilizing my favorite banana mashing technique: a potato masher. the truth is, unless my hand mixer is out of commission, i never use a potato masher to make mashed potatoes. we like our mash fluffy and smooth around here, and you just can't get that with a hand masher. but it makes perfectly mashed yet chunky bananas for baked goods. a hand potato masher also works really well if you need to cream butter and sugar, and the butter's not quite to room temperature. sure, you could warm the butter in the microwave, but i have yet to get that trick down quite right. i know there's a spot between rock hard butter and a melted golden pool, but i have yet to find it by using the microwave.

so even though i'm surrounded by sickness and suffering from lack of sleep, i can say i accomplished one awesome thing today. which is still better then other days where i don't have any good excuses for my laziness.

February 22, 2012

achievement unlocked: super shopper

like i mentioned in my last post, yesterday was going to be all about errands. actually, as you may or may not have noticed on twitter, it was really all about my to-do list, and me complaining about it. there were a few things that didn't get done, but most things got crossed off.

one thing that got the big done check was shopping. now, normally i don't mind shopping. and shopping with just fishie usually isn't too bad. i still remember the days when i had to have lumpy sit in the cart and try and watch bumble to make sure he didn't wander too far. shopping with a one and two year old is no fun. and i had to do that many times over all by myself. so shopping with just one little one isn't so bad.

though i decided to make it tougher on myself then it technically had to be by trying to be clever about sales. if i'm not really watching the paper for circulars, or if i'm buying stuff that's cheaper in the generic form than with coupons, i usually just head to walmart. yes, i know, it's a store designed by the devil, huge conglomeration, blah blah blah.

seriously, i like shopping there. if nothing else, it's the closest grocery store to my house. and, if i need diapers and toiletries and food stuffs, it's the cheapest place to get everything in one stop. usually.

yesterday morning, for whatever reason possessed me, i decided to look at a few grocery store circulars. maybe it was because every once in a while i clip coupons and i knew a i had a few in my stash that were going to expire, but i decided to see if there was anything at any of the regulars store on sale. and low and behold, at my favorite real store, a bunch of the sales matched up with a bunch of the coupons i actually had. and there were bonus gas points to boot!

so i knew i was going to head over there. but first i still needed to head to walmart. because my hubby needed a new jacket for work. and i needed black thread. and shampoo. and none of those things regular grocery stores sell. and it's a good thing i ended up going, because dear bumble needs new clothes and they happened to have shirts on clearance for three bucks a piece.

anyway, once i finally got done shopping there, and then got home and put everything away, and then got lunch, and fish got a nap, it was about 3pm until i was ready to head out to the grocery store. i had a dilemma on my hands there, because i wasn't sure i would be able to get the store and get back in time to get the boys from the bus stop.

but i had a few things working in my favor. not only did i need to shop, but i needed to stop at the bank. and because my home branch happens to be in one of the grocery stores around here, i decided to go to that location. which happens to be the store i used to go to all the time. mostly because it happened to be in walking distance of where i used to live. so i know that store very well. and i knew exactly how busy it would be.

so i went for it. i went to the grocery store, with a toddler and a list and a load of coupons. and on the way there i ended up behind a school bus letting older kids off, so when i finally got there, i had about 30 minutes to shop.

but i did it! with time to spare. yeah, i know, i am just that amazing. and i'm happy to say we are fully stocked up on pop-tube biscuits and cans of refried beans, so you should be totally jealous!

February 21, 2012

so how was your weekend?

seriously, how was your weekend? because my weekend was awesome and awful all wrapped up into one crazy busy package. let's set the stage and start with thursday evening.

well, let's back it up a little bit and explain how my dear mother was not feeling well thursday afternoon. so not well, in fact, that i had to go get her from work because she didn't feel well enough to drive home. so i went and got her and brought her back to the house. and then i started feeling not so well. i made it through getting the kids from the bus stop, and then i got sick. really sick. i'll spare the details, but needless to say, i went to bed for the rest of the evening. thank goodness my sister was able to step in and help my other mommy take the kids and do all that needed done thursday evening.

so next comes friday. and i'm still not feeling too well. but i got up and packed, because we were supposed to go and visit the inlaws uptown for take two of fishie's birthday. but first we went to visit a fish hatchery with my hubby's scout den. pushing a stroller around for an hour is exactly what i want to do when i don't feel so well, but with where the hatchery was located, it made no sense to let the boys go and then have them come back for me. plus i got to learned more about fish then i really ever wanted to.

after seeing the fish, and before getting on the turnpike to head up, we stopped for dinner. now, my dear bumble was not feeling well, he said so himself. and i was worried, because though he complains often about how not well he feels, with the fact that both i and my mother were sick, there was a great possibility that he wasn't faking it this time. and he wasn't. short story is that i'm not sure we'll be welcome back at that particular bonanza, but he had told us his tummy really felt funny.

so, we left the restaurant, and instead of going uptown, we went home. dear bumble got a nice warm bath and went to bed and slept almost 14 hours. which brings us to saturday. bumble felt better, and we had just left the car all packed, so after breakfast (and he was able to keep his toast down), we loaded up and left. this got us into town in enough time that i was still able to run around and pick up the supplies for fishie's party.

the party was a great success, and i think everybody had a good time, especially with the exploding balloons, and even though i got into a fist fight with a drawer and the fridge in my sister-in-law's kitchen. i ended up with a bruised knee and bloody knuckles, but i broke the freezer door, so i'd call it a draw.

saturday night was spent just hanging out, and sunday was too. in fact, the highlight of my sunday was taking a nap. that and homemade pizza. it was nice for my kiddies, though, because they got lots of one on one time with their bubba and pap. also, we got to watch the bubble guppies special, which was the highlight for fishie.

monday was spent packing up and waiting and stressing. it was filled with the usual amount of grumpiness and tears, but there were donuts to soothe most. i actually felt well enough by then to drive home, which was nice. it's odd, but i actually enjoy distant driving. especially when everybody else in the car takes a nap, it's peaceful and quiet and i find it relaxing. maybe i was a truck driver in a past life or something.

so yeah, that was my weekend of craziness and fun. and this week is shaping up to be just as busy. running errands today. fish goes to the doctor tomorrow. thursday and friday are dedicated to getting everything done around the house (that i'm putting off until then). saturday should be filled with fun surprises. but don't worry, i'll tell you all about.

February 17, 2012

it takes an e-village, part 2: what to watch out for!

yesterday i was talking about finding help to parenting problems online. and how there is good and bad, helpful and hurtful. and today i'm going to talk about the hurtful.

there are two kinds of people that frequent those parenting sites, two kinds i hated, that i thought were damaging to other parents, especially those impressionable and unsure. the first was the type that, if you asked a question or shared your personal experience, they would jump on you and tell you that you were doing everything wrong. some would go so far as to say you would ruin your child if you continued. you were supposed to stop doing whatever it was that you were doing wrong and start doing things exactly like they told you to. not that they were experts, as in the kind with doctorates and degrees, they just claimed to be experts because they had been there, done that. these people are, in my opinion, awful. they weren't helping with their "i'm right and you're wrong" way of thinking. tearing someone down for the choices they make, especially when it's something so personal as being a parent, isn't helpful. no one knows their own child better then the parent, and to say that a parent is damaging their child because they aren't following your sage advice doesn't do them any good. at best, it's annoying, at worst it makes them second guess and question themselves and worry and stress. and all parents have enough worry and stress. every situation is different, every child is different, and to tell somebody what worked for you is fine, but to say that if they don't do it your way no matter what is just crazy. these kinds of parents need to take a step back and realize they're not always right.

the other kind of not helpful parent isn't really not helpful because they're being mean. it's more that i can't stand them for the image they project. some people have this online thing figured out. they have come to realize that what you post is the only part that others see. so if you only post the best parts, the perfect stuff, you can seem like a super hero to those that don't realize the view is filtered through rose colored lenses. which is fine, if they want to seem perfect, i'm not going to judge them for that, i wish i seemed perfect too. and i'm not going to blame the naive parent for not understanding they're not getting the whole picture when looking at these people. no, my problem lies when these seemingly perfect parents start saying how easy everything is. that if they can do it, why can't you? or, if they go so far as to say that they love being a parent, every gross and crazy and stress moment is wonderful sunshine to them.

now let me stop for a moment and clarify before people get too upset with me. i'm not saying that being a parent isn't great or wonderful. i'm just saying that being a parent isn't great 100% of the time. seriously, whether you've heard this before or you think i'm speaking blasphemously, i will be the first to admit that though i love and cherish my children, there are some days that i want to lock myself in the bathroom for 30 minutes if it will promise me peace and quiet. and thinking like that doesn't make me a bad mom. i would do anything for my kids, but that doesn't mean they don't get on my last nerve sometimes. but they are kids, it's what they do. and i also understand that being a mom is technically my job. being a parent is a job, even if it's not a full time job like it is for me, and there are very very few people that can say they love their job 100% of the time. and this is especially true with parenting, because no matter how much you were around kids before you had them, it doesn't matter because everything changes when you have your own. and every kid is different, with their own identity and their own challenges.

so that's why i have a problem with those happy sunshine people i've seen online. those perfect people that make everything look so easy and they always look so happy. the moms that handmake everything for their kids and pack them special organic lunches and spend all the one-on-one time that's recommended by doctors, and then they turn around and tell everybody how easy it is and if they can do it everybody should! i call shenanigans on them. they might really love being a parent, and they might really find it so super easy, but i doubt it. they can project that online because they only post the happiest of pictures or the best parts of their day. there are down and dirty times, every kids throws a tantrum at least once in their life, there's no parent that's gotten to sleep through the night since day one of their kids life, and it's harmful to make other new parents think that way. because new parents are stressed and sleep deprived and worried about making a mistake, and then if they stumble across these super parents, they might start thinking that they really are doing something wrong. because if perfection is possible for others, why not for them? and those kinds of thoughts don't help to alleviate stress or worry, it just feeds it.

the simple truth, in my mind, is that parenting is hard. it's the hardest thing anybody can do. you are responsible for making and shaping a life. you are raising the next generation that we're all depending upon. so no pressure, right?

and in this day and age, it really does take all the help one can get to get through some of the really hard patches. and it's nice to know that there are more people than just those you know in real life that you can go to for advice. but just like with everything else online, you need to be careful and evaluate the advice and opinions of strangers. even (and especially) mine.

February 16, 2012

it takes an e-village, part 1: me!

i'm sure that everyone has heard the phrase that raising child "takes a village." that to show kids the values of love and respect, of cooperation and kindness, it really takes more than one person or one family to demonstrate those concepts so that kids really get it.

before, parents were forced to rely on their friends and neighbors, colleagues from work and other parents from church or school. now, instead of having a physical village of people that you actually live near and see often in real life, parents are able to rely on a world wide village via the internet.

now this can be good or bad for many different reasons, one of which is that it all depends how the parent goes about getting all the information and advice they now have at their fingertips.

i suppose i should stop pretending and give some real and personal examples so you know what i'm talking about. first person is way easier for me than third person passive. or something.

anyway, before i got into this mommy blogging scene, which i'm not sure how "into" i qualify, i would seek out information and advice online. where i was living was rather removed, and i was very limited in my social circle. so though i would ask for opinions of the people that i saw, sometimes they told me things that just felt wrong for my family or situation. so i would pole the greater community through my computer, so see what others said.

i went in, seeking said opinions, ready with many grains of salt. i have a long and storied past with the internet, and i know how many people really do want to help and how many people really just want to force their thoughts and ideas down your throat as though they are the guru and expert.

sometimes, though, i would take the advice of people that i had never met, simply because the things they were saying made more sense to me personally then anything i had heard in real life. and also, after reading long articles or blog posts or messages from some of these others, i realized their situations was more like mine then any of my real family and friends.

so there was good and bad in talking and reading and discussing with people who lived across the state or across the country. and i was very careful, just because somebody says they're an expert online doesn't mean they really are. misrepresentation and reinvention of your personal self online is what it's all about to some people. and i am speaking from personal experience there, but that's a tale for another time.

all of this is not to say i plugged in completely and ignored my family or friends and their opinions and experiences. and sometimes i would ask for help and advice and gladly accept what they offered. but it was nice to be able to ask if i was doing it right and get validation, even if it was from mostly strangers.

eventually, i thought that maybe if i shared some of my personal experiences, i might in turn pay back those that helped me by helping others. so i joined a few parenting sites and i started this blog. and things went well for awhile. and then i started running into two of the most unhelpful types of parents there are on the web.

whether they were trying to be spiteful or hurtful on purpose i was never able to figure out, but they are one of the reasons i've started this blog over so many times. i couldn't take criticism, and they made me question what i was doing and who i was as a mommy. they made me feel guilt and more stress from all the possible wrong choices i was making and how i was going to permanently ruin my children. and it's just not ok to make people feel that way.

tomorrow i'll talk about the two kinds of damaging parents that i've found online. so hopefully you can be better informed and not fall into their wily, frustrating, traps.

February 15, 2012

cupcake regret

last year about this time, i had written a post about bad chocolate that was supposed to make up for a failed (through no fault of his own) valentine's present my dear hubby had gotten me. this year he played it safe and bought me anime and a goggles. because every great steampunk outfit needs goggles. and gears, but that's a topic for another time. this post is about failed valentine's treats.

 so yesterday, as a treat for my kids, i made them special cupcakes. i've seen the fun-da-middles mix in the store for awhile, and then i found it on sale. and i had a coupon. and the boys had been particularly good. so i bought it to make later.

this was probably three months ago.

anyway, i wanted to make them something special for valentine's day. and being that i've been looking for a "something special" excuse to use that mix, i figured yesterday was the day. so i made it. it really was easy, all i had to do was make the cake mix part, fill cupcake cups halfway, put a bit of the pre-made filling in the middle, then cover with the rest of the cake mix.

i have to say that the pre-made filling was the strange part. it comes in a pouch and you're supposed to kneed it to make is soft enough to squeeze out of the tube it's packed in. it's white and creamy and looked exactly like toothpaste. i tasted some as i was putting it in the cupcakes, and it tasted strange. not bad, but it's not really a sweet filling. when i think filled cupcakes, i envision these. and honestly, that's pretty close to what i was expecting from this mix, a sugar over-load in cupcake form. hence why i was saving them for a special occasion.

well, i figured the heat from baking would transform the filling into something else, something better. sometimes i think that my oven is a magical box and not just something to heat things up with, but doesn't everybody?

anyway, the boys didn't want to have my super cute and awesome cupcakes for snack yesterday, they wanted to eat entire boxes of chocolate instead. i can't blame them, chocolate is fantastic. but i actually iced the cupcakes and put little sugar hearts on top, so when i say super cute and awesome i totally mean it. so, instead of having cupcakes for snack yesterday, i let them have them for breakfast this morning. because i'm awesome. and because it was a not good morning and i didn't feel like making breakfast or fighting about getting them to eat. and they wanted me to pack them lunches and i forgot to do it last night.

i also had a cupcake for breakfast. and it was really bad. the filling didn't get any better after baking. and the cake part was soft but solid. like mattress foam. and it was about as flavorful as mattress foam too. also, the box only made 12 cupcakes, so if i hadn't gotten them on sale with a coupon, i don't think they would be worth the money spent. the boys liked them well enough, but i'll stick to more homemade treats from now on.

February 14, 2012

the reality of love

today, being valentine's day, has me thinking about relationships.

and all day i've been struggling with what i wanted to say about my relationship. i mean, the romantical one i have with my husband. because it's a strange and complicated thing. but it's something i wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

so i was going to talk about how we got together, but then, how much is too much to share? we met at sheetz in 2000. he was, in fact, the person that interviewed me for my job there, as he was the assistant manager at the time. i have a very distinct memory of sitting on a bar stool in the office while he sat at the desk and chain smoked, looking oh so exhausted, being forced to interview me and hire me because the manager at the time was more absentee then anything. that line from clerks, "i'm not even supposed to be here today!" fit perfectly. and eventually i married him.

there's more to the story, of course. but looking back at that time in my life is not pretty. reality and the past are fluid things in my mind. they can change depending on how you look at them, shift and transform through the lenses of experience. but that time for me will always be a twisted, ugly thing, with sharp edges and deep scars.

maybe i should just share the simple truth that i look at him sometimes and wonder why he even wanted to marry me in the first place. i wonder why he stuck by me for so long. and it still surprises me that this works, that we work, so well together. our crazy fits together like magical misshapen puzzle pieces, and i can't imagine ever finding anyone that would get me like he does.

and it's an understatement to say that he just wanted to marry me. he pursued me, followed me, stalked me, and eventually saved me. he never promised me the world, he only ever promised to make me happy. and that was enough. so i promised him i would follow him anywhere, even to johnstown.

and here we are. married and kids and years behind us and years ahead of us. and through all of the ups and downs and screaming and tears and laughing and fun. i can look at him and see love. and through him i see our kids and our families, our homes and lives stretched out. none of it is perfect or smooth or easy, but i know it's ours together.

and that is the reality of our love.

February 13, 2012

mr. literal

last week there were a few warm days. ok, really, this winter has just been crazy, there have been many more days in the 40s than there has been snow. which makes me sad, because i really like snow. and so do my kids. and my hubby. and if i had to spend all those years we lived up town getting used to driving around town when there was three feet of snow on the grounds and on the roads, then i certainly wouldn't mind seeing a bit more snow. because driving through flurries really isn't that big of a deal. even if it means a run on eggs and milk and bread to most people.

seriously though, if there's going to be a snow storm, does everybody get the idea that making french toast is the thing to do? people are weird. not me, though, i'm totally normal.

my kids, though, are not so normal. all of them are special, all in different ways. like my dear lumpy. allow me to elaborate.

last week, when it was warm out (as i think i've mentioned), i sent the boys out to play after they got home from school. i had a lot going on that day, and just wanted some quiet in the house. so they both were forced to go out and play until i called them in.

then bumble came in, saying he was cold and tired and hungry and thirsty and didn't want to be outside anymore. which is very typical. so i told him as long as he'd keep an eye on fish while i made dinner, he could stay inside.

and so i made dinner. and then it was time to eat. i called everybody to the table, and my mom asked where lumpy was.

i honestly thought that he was in watching cartoons with his brother and sister. but he wasn't. and he wasn't up in his room with his toys. or in the basement. or inside at all. and it was dark out.

so my mom opened the back door and called for him. and he didn't answer. so she went to the front and called. and nothing.

my hubby was at school, by the way. and he just happened to called. and i happened to say that we lost lumpy and i couldn't talk. and then i hung up on him. so at least he was in a panic like the rest of us.

anyway, my mom went outside one way and i went outside in another direction. and i didn't get more than three feet from the door when he comes around the side of the house like nothing was wrong.

so of course i asked him, as calmly as i could, why he didn't come in when it got dark. and he told me, like it was totally normal, that i had told him to go out and play until i called him back in. and, silly me, i had never told him he was allowed to come back in.

if this was any other kid, i'm sure i'd think he was being a smarty pants. but for my lumpy, it's just how he is.

February 12, 2012

birthdays are just an excuse for cake

i think i need more people in my life. because then there would be more birthdays and more parties. which can only mean more chances to eat and make cake.

i like cake. i like it very much. i like it for its endless variety. so many flavor combinations beyond the simple box mix slathered with tub frosting. not that there's anything really wrong with that. just because i get off on making ridiculously complicated cakes with homemade everything doesn't mean that it's anybody else's thing.

but yeah, baking from scratch so is my thing. and lately i've been picking the most delicious and complicated recipes i can find. and of course i go in full force, thinking that it'll be no problem and super easy and i can totally do this. then, usually halfway through, i start to wonder why i ever thought making this cake in the first place was a good idea, and what a find mess i've gotten myself into this time, again. sugar induced panic attacks are no fun.

in the end, it usually comes out just fine. and everybody oohs and ahhs and eats it up. because it's cake of course, so what else would they do? but everybody loves it and tells me how great it is and how well i did.

i went through the whole process a few weeks ago with the cake i made for my mother. it was a rolled cake, which i've made before and they've always turned into spectacular failures. but i felt that i could do it this time and get it right. because one if the bloggers i follow is always so confident about these things, so i went in with confidence. and it came out mostly ok. and my mom was thrilled, because we'd been looking at magazines around christmas time and she pointed this particular cake out to me, saying how she'd love to try it and i should attempt to make. i had said no, but it obviously turned into a yes. and it was chocolate and mint and fluffy whipped cream and ganche. so pretty much it was rolled up awesome on a plate.

well, my dear fish turns two on friday, so we had her party with my parents this weekend because we will be out of town next weekend. and yesterday also happens to be my one grandmother's birthday, so we had a joint party. and a joint party calls for some very special cake.

so i bought fish an ice cream cake, because whenever we go to a party and there is cake and ice cream, she eats the icing off the cake and all of the ice cream and just leaves the cake part behind. so she was very happy with her ice cream cake. but for the adults, i decided to channel martha stewart, which was an interesting trick because i am no martha.

a while ago i found a recipe for a salted caramel six layer chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting. and i figured i could totally make it, no problem. which, according to my hubby, really should have been no problem. i've made plenty of cakes in my day. and i've even made multi-layer cakes a few times. and every christmas i make salted caramel. so this was just a cake using various elements of past food projects.

i have to say, there were a few tricks to making this cake. one was to rotate the pans in the oven, because i couldn't get them on the same rack. even if i could have, i still would have spun the pans so they baked evenly. also, when it came to carving them, i think if i make cakes like this again at my moms' i need to find a better knife. one that is longer than the layer so i can make it through with one swipe. the caramel really wasn't a problem, because i only had to cook it to 238, which is much lower than when i make hard caramel candies. still plenty hot to melt off skin, but i've learned to be very very careful. i used chopsticks to hold it all together until the caramel set, so the layers wouldn't slide off each other, and that worked wonderfully. and covering it with the icing was no problem at all, because the recipe made a ton so there was even some left over.

all in all the cake came out well. even if it did take about four hours to make. but it was a special cake for a special occasion. and it was so rich everybody only ate the smallest of pieces, so that means there's even leftovers, so i am especially pleased with the outcome.

and if you think you'd like to try your hand at making this cake and having this fun, here it is:

Martha Stewart

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablepoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted, and cooled
  • Garnish: flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1-1/2 teaspoons course salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, 1-1/2 cups warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.
  3. Make the caramel: Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter); stir until smooth. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, make the frosting: Whisk together cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves. Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.
  5. Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 cup caramel over top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
  6. Frost top and sides of cake in a swirling motion. Sprinkle with sea salt.

February 10, 2012

hope and wishes

my mind is scattered at the moment. actually, it's more like i just don't know what to think. or what to talk about. or what to do.

i want to do something constructive, but i can't think of anything. there is so much going on in my life that is out of my hands. so much i don't have control over. so i just don't know what to do to make things happen and move in the direction that i want things going in.

so i've just kind of been sitting here, stressing and wishing and hoping. and i feel like it's not working.

harder still is that i know my dear hubby is in an even worse spot than i am. and i keep appologizing to him, like all my "i'm sorry"s in the world will eventually make things go right. not that it's my fault. i know it's not my fault. it's more that i am sorry that he has to go through so much.

so here we are, feeling like we can't catch a break. starting over again. so much is left to the fates, and all i have are hopes and wishes and a waiving belief that good thoughts will get us through.

February 8, 2012

what's your name again?

because i have a lot on my mind right now, i think it's time to get something off my chest. so it's confession time, where i will reveal a dirty little secret of mine. though it might not be much of a secret, the fact that i am a scatter-brain should already be known throughout the land.

the secret is simply that i am terrible at remembering names.

maybe you're thinking that you are too, and it's not so big of a deal. i promise you, i am much worse than you are.

and i already know all the tricks that are supposed to help. the mnemonic associations you're supposed to make. physical traits that you keep in mind that are meant to help jog your memory. all of that and more i already know, and none of it helps.

whenever i am introduced to a person, chances are i've already forgotten your name by the time i introduce myself. this is probably due to the fact that i am such a socially awkward penguin that i am freaking out in my own head over the proper procedure for small talk.

which, though i'm bad at, i can remember. i have a gift at remembering what i talk about with a person. every stupid little thing, i can recite an entire conversation verbatim. and though sometimes interesting, i think it is more annoying than anything. it's great that i can remember that you just moved into a new house and that your grandma makes killer biscuits and you really don't like your boss at work, but can i stop you for a sec so you can tell me your name again?

the nice thing about this society of ours is that after meeting someone for the first time, we don't have to use names in conversations. i can ask questions and get my point across. i can talk for hours and seem engaged and interested, and usually i really am. but i'd never be able to introduce you to someone else. i would stand there silently and hope that you'd eventually introduce yourselves.

now though, if my name remembering problem wasn't bad enough, my social life has thrown kids into the mix. so now, if we go to school or scout functions, not only do i have to remember the parent's name, i also have to remember their children's names. i could point through a crowd and match up parent and child, but give me a list of names and i'm totally lost. thankfully my boys aren't forgetful like i am, and i can usually ask them.

in closing, names are very overrated. and i should be congratulated for remembering the person and not their moniker. i also think that name tags should be mandatory at every party, even if it's a group of people that have met countless times before.

now next time we meet, don't test my knowledge of your name. because i'd probably fail. and then things would be awkward for everybody.

February 6, 2012

personal party philosophy

yesterday was the super bowl. and because the steelers didn't make it to "the big game," i didn't have to pretend i actually cared about who won. not that i don't get all excited rooting for a certain team. and it is nice to feel like part of a group with everybody yelling and cheering together. but i have better things to worry about.

like food.

anybody that's been reading this blog for awhile should remember my love of parties. especially planning parties. and most especially the food part of a party. and a party that deals with little bits and appetizers instead of huge, sit-down courses? oh man, i'm all over it.

so, being that i didn't have a vested interest in the game yesterday, i planned the menu instead. and it was a great party. even if it was just all of my moms, my hubby, and my kids. also of course, being that there were only five adults (including me) and three kids, there was tons of food left over. though fish did her best to get rid of it by feeding the dogs off her plate.

i have a personal philosophy that any great party where one eats lots of little things, there must be variations of crunchy things that get dipped into creamy things. if there was a party law, that would be it.

now, it could be something as simple as veggies and dip. chips and dip work also. nachos and queso dip counts too. and then there is the old summer party standby of fruit chunks and some sweet sauce, stranger variations i've had include marshmallow fluff mixed with yogurt.

for our mega awesome super bowl party, i decided to keep things simple. simple as in i made a bunch of stuff that could be prepped early and set out. so nothing overly complicated, just everything delicious.

i decided i wanted to make a spinach dip, because i had a very awesome one on new year's eve. mine was not nearly as good because i didn't bake it in a bread bowl, but it satisfied my cravings. i also made a pepper jelly and cream cheese dip, which is way better than it sounds. that and the spinach dip were perfect served with carrots and crackers. bumble helped by making a chili cheese dip, and mommom brought buffalo chicken dip, and both went well with tortilla chips. my mom smoked cheese. and my boys had picked out ring bologna.

all of that was served pregame. during half time i made pizza. and cupcakes.

so yeah, any excuse to have a party is a good excuse in my book. i'm already planning future events. like next comes my dear fishie's second birthday. i can promise that the food will be good, but the cake (for the party with my parents) will be epic. six layers and filled with caramel? oh yes.

February 4, 2012

i bet you think this post is about you, don't you

i don't deal well with people. i am socially awkward and never know how to act, what to say, or what to do.

it's hard enough when i have to ask for things. in my mind, i always sound strangely demanding and insistent. i always wonder if i am inconveniencing the other person, if i'm being a pain and a bother. if i can do or get that thing i want or need by myself then i will. i try not to ask unless i absolutely can't do it any other way.

on the other hand, if i do ask for help, it's only in a dire emergency. and if you can't help, or say you can and then don't, i will be understandably stressed and upset.

the thing is, you probably wouldn't realize that i'm seething inside because i'm smiling on the outside. and though it kills my husband, even when i've been let down, my gut reaction is to say "it's ok. no big deal."

really it is though. it is a big deal. and it is certainly not ok. but i hate conflict, and in an effort to smooth things over, i will gloss over my hurt and rage and act like i'm fine.

but if you say one thing and do another, if you forget to do something or let me down, i will be upset. any normal person would be under such a circumstance.

what a not so normal person then does, and what i always end up doing, is making excuses for the other person. i rationalize why there has been such an outcome to this series of events. "they were busy." "something came up." "they had something more important to do." "they are overwhelmed or stressed themselves." i think i go along with this line of thinking because i don't want to think they just forgot because they don't like me.

and so it goes. in an effort to keep the peace and smooth out the wrinkles of life, i put myself and my feelings second. because i am so afraid of conflict, and because i am so afraid of upsetting others.

it takes a lot for me to get so upset that i let the other person know about it. and when i do, even if i'm in the right, i still feel wracked with guilt. the most normal thing in the world sets me into a tailspin of self doubt and self loathing. is it any wonder why i try to limit my contact to the outside world?

February 3, 2012

uptown living

so we're going uptown this weekend to visit the inlaws. which is nice, because my hubby is very close with his mom and dad. if it hadn't been for his job, we never would have moved away.

but it got me thinking. his family and many of our friends still live there. it's where he grew up. it's where we moved when we first moved in together. both the boys were born up there, had so many firsts up there.

needless to say, that area is very comfortable for us. things just seems easier there.

i know, if we still lived there, if i needed a babysitter for 2pm on a tuesday and only found out at 10am, there are multiple people i could ask. and if my dear hubby needed to blow off steam, there are a few couches he's more than welcome to crash on after an all night madden-athon. and it just seems like there's less pressure to one-up with the people that live there, because nobody has anything so it's kind of pointless to compare that stuff.

and yet hubby and i have talked about it at length. as much as we love to visit, we both agree that we'd never move back. there is a safe support system there, and things are easy because we already know what to expect.

but it's also a very depressed area. there are no jobs or opportunities. the school systems aren't what we want for the boys. and there are less extracurricular activities for them. the boys have both become very active in scouts, and scouting programs are almost nonexistent uptown. and for lumpy to see the specialists he needs, we'd have to drive all the way to pittsburgh. it just isn't the place we want to raise our kids.

and yet.... and yet...

and yet i miss being there. and visiting. and there are times when we go up that i wish we had more time to stay and visit with everyone, because there's never enough time in the day to see all the people and do all the things.

on the flip side though, there are times when we go that i am more than happy to be able to leave and come back home. wherever home might be.

February 2, 2012

there's no place like home

there were other things i wanted to talk about today, but all i have on my mind right now is a house. for those that might not remember, way back in september there was crazy flooding all around here, and the house that we were living in was damaged. so my whole family moved in with my moms.

and though i am grateful for having a place to call home, this is still a temporary home for us. and honestly, i was hoping that it would be more temporary than it has been. i know i've talked about having a place of my own, with all my stuff, where the kids can be free to run around and destroy things because they would be destroying their own things. here we must be much more careful.

anyway, a few days ago, my hubby and i went to look at houses. again. we've looked at hundreds online, and many fewer in person. but on monday, we looked at one we both agreed on. and one that was in our very limited price range. and one that needs minimal repairs. if you call needing a roof minimal. which, compared with most of the other houses in our price range, i certainly do.

so now we just have to wait. the realtor we're working with and the mortgage guy that is helping us have to let us know if we'll be able to actually get this house. then of course we have to make an offer and hope that it's accepted. so i know there will be a lot of waiting in store for us.

it's hard, with everything going on, not to get discouraged. things will work out for us, we just have to be patient. and when it is time, it is time. we have to have hope and faith. and if this doesn't work out something better will come along. i already know all the positive mantras i should be repeating to myself.

still, it's hard. to want something so bad and have to wait. to wonder where you went wrong, and if this is some sort of karmic punishment. i know this is a temporary situation that we are in, but still there are days that i just want to curl up and cry.

things could be worse, and there are those that are in worse shape than us. and i should focus on all the good in our life, and try not to worry so much about the bad and about all the things i don't have control over.

if anybody really knows how to do that, please let me know.

February 1, 2012

this morning stuff is for the birds!

i can still remember, when the boys were very young, having a conversation on children's bedtime with another young mom. she said that she would put her kids to bed by 7pm, because they were so young, maybe 8pm if they had a late nap. i can remember thinking how crazy that sounded to me. my boys and i were on a much less conventional schedule. but it was one that worked for us and our family.

still, i felt ashamed of my parenting choice. i ended the conversation quickly and it was never brought up again. because the truth was my boys would go to be about 3am and we would sleep in until about noon. but it worked for us!

now, i suppose, to fully understand, a bit of explanation is in order.

for those that don't know, my dear hubby works for a convenience store. it's actually how we met. he would work second and i worked third shift, from about 9pm to about 6am. most of the jobs i held were either third shift, or the dreaded swing shift, which means starting around 3pm and working until about 1am. but i loved it, i've always loved working overnight behind a counter. you always meet such interesting people. and on your days off, it feels completely normal to go shopping at 2am, when the stores are empty and you can just wander around or get in and get out.

anyway, when we had our boys, he was still working crazy overnight hours. so i adjusted the boys' schedule accordingly. if their dad didn't come home until 1 or 2am, we would stay up until then. i would have a hot dinner on the table, we would watch tv, and then we'd all go to bed. it was the same routine as any other family, just a few hours later.

and yet i was made to feel like i was abusing my boys, keeping them up so late. or that i would ruin them, and they'd never be able to get up for school or go to bed at a normal time. realize though, they were 1 and 2 years old at this point, so it's not like there was anything they really had to get up for.

fast forward six years and you'll find that my boys don't have any more problems getting up for school than any normal child. in fact, there are days that bumble goes to bed early "because he's so tired," and then he gets up an hour before his alarm. some days i would wonder how he can be my kid, except that he looks just like my family when we were young.

i, on the other hand, miss the days where i could stay up as late as i wanted and not get up before noon. i am much more of a night person than a morning person. unfortunately, unless i home school the boys (and i'm not crazy enough to attempt that), i have to keep the family on a socially acceptable sleep-at-night/wake-up-in-the-morning timetable.

i have thought about it, though. about how when the kids are all in school all day, and i can go back to work, i can start working third again. if i get off at 6am, i'd still have time to get home and get them to school before i have to sleep. then i wouldn't have to get up until it was time to get them off the bus! a perfect plan i just have to wait 5 years to execute.