Ghostly Garland

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What do you do when you have a sick little boy who has cabin fever and Halloween right around the corner?

You grab a box of tissues and revisit the fourth grade with a Halloween craft for kids.

Ghostly Garland

To make this fun garland you need:
  • A box of tissues.
  • A black marker.
  • Yarn, string, twine, ribbon...what ever you have handy.  We had twine sitting two feet away, so that's what we used.
Step 1:

Lay a tissue flat.  Ball another tissue and place in the center.  NOTE:  This is a craft for ages two up, but Elizabeth sure had a great time balling up tissue.

Step 2:

Gather the flat tissue around the ball.  Ideally, you'll gather it without squishing the tissue too much, but, as Joseph said, wrinkled tissue makes the ghosts look like old ghosts.



Step 3:

Tie a sting around the "neck".





Step 4:

Add ghostly features

Step 5:

Call him your new best friend and run around the house making "oooooooo-ooooooo" noises.

Step 6:

Make more. A lot more.  As many as you need to fill up your doorway, wall, window or mirror.

Step 7:

Now here's where you have a couple of options.  The first is to thread your twine through the top of the ghosts' heads with a large needle.  This will allow them to hang perpendicular to the floor.  The second option is to tie the twine around their necks, allowing them to stare down at your little ones.  We chose the second option after Joseph got upset that he couldn't see their faces.


And there you have it!  A simple, easy sick day kids craft project.

Halloween Past

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When Joseph was a baby, I had visions of dressing him up in adorable - and original - costumes.  With his red hair, I came up with all sorts of ideas...

Howdy Doody
Raggedy Andy
Opie
Irish Bagpiper
Spider Monkey

For his first Halloween, I pored over costume website, looking for all that was cute and adorable.  Each idea was vetoed by the Father.  Finally, irritated, I threw up my hands and said, "Fine! You pick!"

So he did.


And Joseph was a goat.

Which, because it was Halloween, threw me.

But not my husband, the guy who knows next to nothing of Biblical symbology.

I giggled about it the whole night.

And yes, that's a beard on his chinny chin chin.

A Week Word Ghost Story

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Katy picked the Week Word this week.  And this one had me scrambling to the dictionary.

Eldritch - unearthly, alien, supernatural, weird, spooky, eerie

To be honest, I'm still not quite certain how to use this word in a sentence, so I thought I'd tell you a ghost story.  But unlike some ghostly tales, this one is true.

A few years ago, Chad and I traveled to Scotland.  While there, we joined several walking tours, but one in particular sticks in my mind.

Let me preface by saying that Chad is an "unbeliever", a skeptic.  If it can't be felt, touched, explained, proven, he thinks it balderdash.  I, on the other hand, believe that "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

This makes us the perfect pair to take a haunted underground tour of Edinburgh.

Having been on quite a few haunted tours before - they're Chad's favorites - I was prepared for tales of the dark side of the city, creepy walks through a cemetery or two and finishing deep in the vaults below Edinburgh. On the previous tours, I found the stories fascinating and the history thrilling.  I wasn't fond of the few moments of fear or sadness that sank deep into my bones while visiting haunting sites of ancient battles.

And I wasn't fond of my husband laughing off my unease.

After paying for our tickets and touring above ground, we began the main event...

I was not prepared for the cold chill that crept into our bones the moment we stepped into what I later discovered was the most haunted site in the UK. The tour guide's stories of life in the vaults, echoed in the still, damp air.  Stories of plague and poverty, crime and hate.  Stories of the dark underbelly of Edinburgh life.

Chad said the chill was because we were, in essence, in a cellar.

I could feel the negative energy emanating from the stone walls of the cavern as we walked by the light of a flickering lantern. In one particular vault, I took pictures as the guide spoke of the malevolent spirit that is said to haunt the room.  The icy fingers of evil crept down my spine. A trickle of apprehension raised the hairs on the back of my neck.  I felt like someone was watching me.

Chad said it was because he was following me.

I couldn't wait to get above ground.  Shaking off my unease, we ended the night with a glass of Scotch and a quiet walk back to our room.  When we returned from our trip, I developed the pictures.  Every picture I took on the tour showed nondescript vault walls, over-exposed by my flash. 

Except one.


Chad said I must have moved the camera.

I say there was something else in that vault.

What do you think?

Help. Me.

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I'm typing this in the closet.  On the other side of the door, my house has been overtaken by two small natives.  I can hear the crashing of toys being pulled from their shelves and the screeching of maniacal laughter brought on by a combination of drugs and lack of sleep.

I'm afraid.

Very, very afraid.

As I type, the smallest is banging against the door incessantly chanting, "Mamamamamamamamamama."  The high pitched sound of her usually sweet voice is boring into my sleep deprived brain.

I just heard a toy bin being tossed across the room and the squeak of the bed means that someone is jumping.  Elizabeth is now talking on my phone.  To someone in China, most likely. 



Dear Lord.

I don't know how long it will take them to find my hiding place.  I don't know how I'm going to survive.  If you don't hear from me over the next couple of days, it means that the natives have overtaken me and I'm curled up in a corner in the fetal position.

Season of Sickness

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For some reason, I thought it was too early to start our annual Season of Sickness.

I was wrong.

Two days ago, Joseph started coughing.  A horrible, painful cough.  My little man lay on the couch, lethargic and glassy eyed with fever.  Yesterday, I took him to his pediatrician.

After checking him out, the NP said that it appeared he has allergy induced asthma and gave him a breathing treatment to help, not only his cough, but his wheezing.

A breathing treatment that made Joseph jump around like he'd just consumed 14 espressos.

I asked her what exactly was in this treatment.  Instead of speaking to me as if I was a - oh, I don't know - non-MD, she rattled off a list of ingredients that made my head spin.  She then gave me a list of prescriptions that Joseph needs to help the infection that's causing his fever, the cough that's making him vomit and the asthma that's leaving him breathless.

And then she gave me a prescription for a mask, a prescription for allergy medications and a piece of paper telling me how to administer it all.

In metric.


Side note: I'm going to go on a tangent here. When I talk to moms about the meds my little man is on, they rattle off the names like they're the members of a hot boy band. How do they remember those names?!?! I have a hard enough time remember the car dealer's name is Steve fifteen minutes after he introduces himself.

While I'm holding a screaming Elizabeth and Joseph's pulling on my shirt, nearly bouncing off the walls and wanting a sticker, I asked, "Are all of these medications necessary?  It just seems like an awful lot to put into a 43 pound little boy."

"They are."  She then went down the list.  "This is an antibiotic."

"Does he have an infection?"

"The fever indicates that he does."

"But shouldn't we let the fever help kill off the infection as long as it's not staying higher than 100?"

"We also tested him for pertussis so this will help if he has that."

"He hasn't been exposed."

"I understand, but I do think that an antibiotic is necessary right now."

"And does he really need two nose sprays? Aren't Nasonex and Flovent kind of the same thing?"

"He needs both."

"Two nose sprays and an inhaler?"

"Yes."

"It just seems like overkill.  Out of curiosity, since Joseph has a tendency to develop allergy induced asthma, what can we do for prevention?"

"You know, it's really not time to talk about that yet."

"When can I see Dr. N?"

"She'll be here for our follow-up."

And I left, drove to the pharmacy and walked out with $120 worth of medications.  I came home and started researching and still think that it's overkill.

So I'm not giving him both nose sprays.

And I'm holding off on the breathing treatment until I hear wheezing.

I just hate the idea of my son being a walking pharmacy.

Mon Dieu, Marie Claire!

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Hold on to your pants, kids.  I'm about to get on my soap box again.

I know.  It happens so rarely.

Which means you should probably grab a cup of coffee and prepare for the worst.

Just don't grab a donut because...

A blog entry from Marie Claire is making the rounds.  Entitled Should "Fatties" Get a Room? (Even on TV?) and written by Maura Kelly, this little piece explored the complex issue of whether or not it was gross to watch two obese people kissing.

And no.  I'm not joking.

I sat at the computer, eating my grapes, wearing my BodyMedia FIT and feeling sick to my stomach.  The stomach that is sitting on my legs.

I read:

"...I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair."
And then, because that wasn't enough, Ms. Kelly continued to give helpful hints for all those struggling with obesity because, after all, obesity is something a person "has a ton of control over".

At first, I was so angry, I wanted to spew a rant of epic proportions, full of terms like "idiotic" and "ignorant" and, well, this is a PG blog so I'll stop there.  But you get where I was going with this.  Then, I stopped because I read her apology.  Which, honestly, wasn't as much an apology as a back pedal.  And I realized something...

She honestly feels that all obese people just don't have the will power, knowledge and strength to lose weight.  She assures the reader that she knows that slimming down can be tough.  She says that it will take some time, but it'll be so worth it.  In her own, sadly naive way, she's trying to be encouraging.

I wonder if she's ever been on a 1000 calorie a day diet that leaves you light headed and exhausted, but doesn't help you lose more than a quarter of a pound a week.

I wonder if she's ever had to lose more than fifty pounds in order to be considered healthy.

I wonder if she's ever gone to a party, a family dinner, a restaurant, a club and drank water and ate raw veggies in order not to blow her diet.

I wonder if she's ever stood in a dressing room in tears because she realizes she needs to go up a size.

I wonder if she's ever gone to the pool and felt as though everyone was staring at her, judging her.  Oh wait...if Ms. Kelly was there, that might very well be the case.

Because, honestly, if she hasn't walked a mile in my Lane Bryant jeans, she has no idea what it's like to struggle to lose weight.

And yes, kids, while I'm considered obese by medical standards, I can walk a mile. I can run a mile.  I can pick up my kids and play and dance - well sort of.

My body, my rolly, polly round body, has given birth to two children.  My breasts have nourished two babes. And while I'm working to get fit, to get healthy, I understand that my situation is not the same as everyone else. I understand that not everyone can just lose weight - no matter how hard they try. I understand that there are emotional, psychological, physical reasons why people are obese.

And I understand that it's no more my place to judge them and their actions than it is for me to judge Ms. Kelly.

So I'll conclude with any time there's love in this world it should be celebrated. No matter the size.



For more posts on this topic, go here to see the link up.

Brita Vodka

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Of all the things I've learned from my moms' forum, one of the most interestingly useful pieces of information has been this:
You can filter cheap vodka through a Brita a few times and end up with vodka that tastes as good as top shelf. 
Where were these women when I was in my early 20's?!

And, before you ask, no, I'm not drinking a gallon of vodka.  It's for my first Christmas gift craft project.


Ohhh...you're intrigued.

And a bit sick to your stomach.

Guest Blogging

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Guess what?

No.  I didn't figure out of the corn relish is still good.

Do you even read the titles of my posts?

I'm guest blogging!  Yep.  Kristi from Mommy Crib Notes wanted to know what I do to keep keep from being arrested while shopping with my children. 

That's right!  I'm giving out advice.  To people who, unlike my sisters, want it. 

Go.  Read.  Comment.  Even if you are one of my strong/silent types of followers.  Say you're from Mandyland.  And while you're there, check out Kristi's blog.  It's chock full of honestly good advice.

Side note:  Can you feel how excited I am that someone actually trusted me with writing for their blog?!

Chicken Chili Recipe

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Last night was a bit chilly, so I decided to make chili

With my normal inability to follow a recipe, I combined three I found on the internet, two from a cookbook and one I seem to remember from a magazine. Or was that a chili verde recipe?  Hmm...

Regardless, I was super happy with how it turned out. 

I'm giving it five soup spoons.

Or at least I would if I had a rating system.

Chicken Chili Recipe


1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
olive oil

28 oz. chicken broth
7 tomatillos, finely chopped
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
3 T. fresh chopped cilantro
1 can Ortega chilies
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced stewed tomatoes
2 c. fresh or frozen corn
2 c. diced, cooked chicken

Step 1.  Saute your onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are clear.

Step 2.  Add chicken broth, tomatillos and herbs.  Bring to a simmer.

Step 3.  Add everything else.

Step 4.  Simmer, simmer, simmer for about 30 minutes.  (Or until you finish making the cornbread.  What?  You mean I have to tell you that it's mandatory to have cornbread with your chili?  Geesh!)

Step 5.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or shredded cheese and/or additional fresh cilantro.  Or serve it plain.  No matter how you serve it, you'll love it.  Personally, I crumble a bit of cornbread in mine.

Enjoy!

Conversations...

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A day in our house...

---------------------------------

"Hey babe?"

"Hmm?"

"Am I an alpha male?"

"No.  Why?"

"Wait.  I'm not?  You're not supposed to say that!"

"Well you're not an omega."

"Do we know any alpha males?"

"Probably."

"But I'm not one of them."

"Baby, if you have to ask..."

"Well, I think I'm kind of an alpha male."

"No.  You're a..." I paused searching my mind.  "You are a lone wolf.  With a mini pack."

"Oh.  Okay.  I can live with that."

------------------------------------

"Mommy!  That was the best movie ever."

"Totally!  I still have goosebumps!"

"When I grow up, can I train a dragon?"

"I think that's a fabulous idea."

"And can I be a Viking when I grow up?"

"Absolutely!" I pause, "Hey Joe?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I be a Viking when I grow up and train a dragon?"

"I think that's a fabulous idea, Mommy!  But only if you train a blue dragon."

"Deal."

-----------------------------

"Oh my God, Chad!  Do you remember this song?!"  I started dancing to Lou Vega's Mambo #5.  "A little bit of Monica on the side," I sang, twisting my hips and dancing around the living room.

"Yeah...this was a pretty big hit."

"I loved it.  It was my go-to song for getting ready for a date. Bam! Bum bum bu--ow!"

"What's wrong?"

"Oh Lord.  I think I just threw my back out."

"You've got to be careful with the Mambo."

Adventures of a Frumpy Mom

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Hmmm...if I ever decide to re-do Mandyland, that's actually a pretty awesome title.

Onward!

I took the kids out for frozen yogurt yesterday.  We went to our little local build-it-yourself place where we perused the selection of 5000 toppings and tried to figure out what would go best with our vanilla.  Because the kids and I are vanilla people.

Finally finding our topping joy - rainbow sprinkles for Joseph, Heath bar for E and I - we went to pay.  The owner of the shop was on a phone call, a supplier from the sound of it.  We placed our concoctions on the scale and waited while until he moved the phone from his mouth and said, "That'll be $5.15.  Do you want lids for these?"

"No.  I think we're going to go ahead and eat it here."  He nodded and went back to his conversation.

Two minutes later, a Mom walks in.  A Mom with a capital M.  She waltzes in with her too cute for words ruffled ballet flats, her perfect jeans on her slim body, her knit top and jacket casually coordinated with an artsy necklace and her three children dressed in private school uniforms.  They wander through the store, making their selections and then go to the counter.  The owner puts his call on hold and then spends the next five minutes flirting with the Mom, asking if they wanted to eat at the shop, asking about her kids - nearly asking what her sign was.

The Mom smiles, flips back her adorable hair and says, "We're taking it to go."

"Do you want some chocolate dipped strawberries?  I'll just throw them in."

"That would be great!"  And off she walks, herding her children out the door.  The owner stares after her and then, belatedly remember to pick up his phone.

Her shoes really were to-die for.

And maybe next time we leave the house, I'll brush my hair.  I like chocolate covered strawberries.

Week Word - Joy

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Sally from sowandsew chose this week's week word.  And what a wonderful word!

What is joy to me?

Joy are moments composed of pure light and color.

Joy is happiness that nearly bursts your heart.

Joy is holding hands with my sisters while we jump waves.

Joy is meeting my niece and nephews.

Joy is sitting on the floor with my best friends in an empty living room, collapsed in laughter and exhaustion, surrounded by moving boxes. 

Joy is first kisses. 

Joy is falling in love.

Joy is dancing in the moonlight, surrounded by an ancient stone circle.

Joy is...

marrying the love of your life.


Joy is...

taking your son home.



Joy is...

holding your daughter.


Joy is...

seeing your love reflected between two young souls.



Joy is...

80's Flashback

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I walked into Gap the other day with my sister and stopped dead in my tracks.

There, on an impossibly slim mannequin, was the horror of my youth, the fashion faux pas of my teenage years, the cringe-worthy statement in my junior high and high school pictures:

Stir-up pants.

Paired with long shirts.

Am I seriously old enough that the things I wore when I had zero sense of style are now back?

I knew the 80's were in - leg warmers, skinny pants and ankle boots being all the rage.  But...stir-up pants?!  That's dangerously close to "my" generation.

What's next?  Wearing four pairs of scrunched socks with your Keds?  Off the shoulder prom dresses? Shoulder pads?  Puff sleeves?  Big bangs? Spiral perms?

Do you see how this can get out of control? 

Or has it already?

(Let's not even talk about the insanely revealing and scanty dresses geared towards 16-18 year-olds.  That's a whole other blog post.  I'm just hoping granny dresses are in style when Elizabeth is old enough for prom.  And if they're not, I'm going to make her a trend setter.)

And just out of curiosity...can someone explain these shoes?  I feel like I fell asleep with pointy-toed heels and woke up to chunky crazy sandals. 

Oh!  That's right...I had a baby.

Handmade Christmas Gifts

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Every year, I rush around like a madwoman, sewing, gluing and crafting Christmas items for the annual craft fair.  Every year, I sit in my booth and barely make enough to cover rental because the shoppers at craft fairs are really crafters in disguise, just looking for new ideas for their Etsy shops.

Every year, I then turn around and scramble to buy gifts for those near and dear.  Well, kids, this year, there's a change of plans.

*cue instrumental music*

This year, instead of renting a booth at the craft fair,  I'm going to attempt to make all of my Christmas gifts.  Or at least 90% of them.

I have some ideas from scouring the tutorials, websites and blogs of Craftinistas across the internet, in magazines and books.  (And one from my own little brain.)

Fantastic ideas.

Craftastic ideas.

Ideas for the women in my life.

Ideas for the gardeners in my life.

Ideas for the men in my life.

Ideas for the children in my life.

And I can't share a single one without spoiling the surprise!  Because all of the recipients of these gifts read my blog.

This is indeed an dilemma.

So...here's the question, if I put a gift idea and tutorial on here with a "Spoiler Alert" and said, "My friends should not peek."  Would you look?  How honest would you be?  Or do you mind a spoiled surprise?

Because my fingers are itchin' to type.  My camera is beggin'  to take pictures.

Quite the dilemma.

Ohhh...I just had another thought.  It's too, too delicious.  What if...what if I were to host a few giveaways for some of my favorite readers?

What do you think?

Down Syndrome Awareness

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My friend Jennifer is raising Down Syndrome awareness on her blog all month by participating in 31 for 21.  She's posting about her son Zach, Down Syndrome and how it has affected her family's life.  I wanted to write something for Down Syndrome Awareness Month, but, to be honest, am woefully uneducated.  She and I decided an interview was in order.  I have to say, I've loved getting to know her better over the last couple of weeks while we worked on this.  Her sense of humor, grace and honesty is so apprecited by someone who, more often than not, puts her foot in her mouth. 

Being a mother is a challenge in and of itself. What would you say is the biggest challenge you face raising a child with Down Syndrome?

I would have to say that the biggest challenge has been having to be a fighter when at times all I want to do is curl up and let things happen. I can’t just let things happen, I have to make them happen.

Motherhood is such a scary unknown. There are so many things that can’t be taught. Now throw into that mix therapy sessions, extra doctor appointments and a tremendous amount of guilt. I always felt like I wasn’t working with him enough. Not doing the exercises the therapists told me to do with him during the week. I try to not beat myself up and blame myself for things but it’s hard not to.

You mention in your blog post about not finding out about Zach prenatally, that you've changed. In which ways? Has your relationship with Chris changed?

It is hard to pinpoint exactly how I have changed, I just have. Have Chris and I changed? I think so. Just bringing a baby into the world will change the dynamic of a couple. For us I think it took our love to a whole new realm. I can’t speak for him but seeing the way he accepted our son with a “he is ours and he will never feel like he is less than” has made me fall in love with him all over.

I don't know a lot about Down Syndrome. Could you explain some of the health problems associated with it?

I would say the biggest, and most common health problem, is heart problems. Zach was born with a small hole in his heart that thankfully did not require surgery. Many kiddos with DS do have open heart surgery within the first year of life. Zach also had bad acid reflux when he was younger. He spit up for what seemed like forever. He did take daily medication for it and we were able to control it with diet. Luckily he outgrew that around the time he turned 3. The only other common problem Zach has dealt with is very small ear canals which have led to many ear infections and a couple sets of ear tubes. When he was 2 we also had his adenoids (apparently they were HUGE) out which helped with colds as well.

There are other health problems that are associated with DS and there is a great site that talks about them all here.

How do you help people understand?

I don’t really think I do. If people don’t want to hang out with him… their loss. If they care enough to ask me questions and want to be our friends then great. Then they get it. Then they understand.

Do you feel like an advocate?

I have to be. I want my kid to have the every opportunity to live up to his fullest potential, whatever that may be. When it comes to his education I am his advocate. I blog because I want to raise awareness for not just Zach and not just Down syndrome but because I want people to be more accepting of people of all abilities and hopefully see that Zach is more alike than he is different.

I've read that mothers of children with special needs are a lot more relaxed when it comes to milestones. Do you find this to be true? Do you find it to be a positive thing?

Yes, I do find it to be true. Kids with Down syndrome will do everything that “typical” children will do they just do it in their own time. I do know that I am so much prouder and appreciate the little things so much more because Zach has to work harder at hitting those milestones. Things that come naturally to most kids don’t necessarily come easy to Zach. He has to work at it and be taught. I didn’t realize that nearly as much until I had Hannah and saw how naturally things came to her. Do I find it to be a positive thing? I don’t really know because I have never known any other way. Personally, if I had to think about it, I would say it is a positive thing. There are so many bigger things in life than to worry about if your kid is sitting unsupported by X age. Or if they have X words by X number of months. I mean years from now do you really think the age at which they first rolled over is going to matter? Help them get into college? Unlikely.

If you had to say one thing to people about Down Syndrome, what would it be?

Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t feel sorry for my family. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to raise such an amazing loving kid.

When people meet Zach, is there anything you wish you could tell them?

You might not understand what he is saying all the time but try and hear him and you just might learn something. Know that he will never judge you. He wants nothing more than to be your friend and have fun.

Oh...and…try not to let your guard down or he might try and hop on your back and get a piggy back ride.

Week Word

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Sally from Sow and Sew is hosting this week's Week Word.  Join her to find out what it is...

They suspense is just killing you, isn't it?

One for the History Books

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I have to write this one down so that I can pull it out in...oh...about ten years...

Joseph and I took a little Mother/Son trip to the hardware store this weekend.  (And yes...Mother/Son hardware store trips are a common occurrence in a world where Father decides "fixing" a broken drawer means putting the broken bit on the counter.)  While we were wandering the aisles, looking for wood - ha! you thought I was going to say plants! - Joseph and I had the following conversation:

"We're looking for 1" x 12" boards, baby."

"Okay!"  Joseph said as he tried to flip himself over the middle bar of the wood dolly.

"Umm...don't try gymnastics on the dolly, hon."

"Why?"

"It has wheels and might move or you might hit your head on the other bar and...well...it's just not safe."

Joseph stopped and thought for a moment, "Mommy!  You're a genius!"

I looked around to see if any other shoppers noticed how astute my four-year-old was.  "What was that, baby?"

"I said," he started patiently, "you are a genius!"

"Why, thank you," I smiled in reply, resisting the urge to ask him to repeat it again.

"Do you know how I know?"

"No.  How?"

"Because I'm a genius too.  We're two geniuses."

Ahhh...now we're back into familiar territory.  At least he doesn't think he knows more than I do.  Yet.

Side note:  Is it ironic that I misspelled the word "genius"?

Low Fat Banana Muffin Recipe

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Last night, I wanted to make some pumpkin muffins up, but, sadly, we're out of pumpkin.

And we were too lazy to go to the store.

Then I started thinking...what if I did a twist on my old standard.  I opened my cupboards and came up with...

Low Fat Banana Muffins


1 box French vanilla cake mix
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

Mix everything together.  Bake for 20 minutes at 400.

I loved the chewy exterior and the moist, flavorful inside.  At 17 calories per mini muffin.  I ate mine for breakfast this morning with a bracing cup of English Breakfast.  Perfection!

Pickled

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Guess what I've been doing...

I'll give you a clue:

It involves vinegar.

I'll give you another clue:

I had to pull out my canning pot.

That's right, boys and girls, my local produce store had a bumper crop of pickling cucumbers, so I snagged a dozen pounds and made...

Dill pickles.

Side note:  I'm glad they had a bumper crop.  I ended up killing eight cucumber plants.

Aren't they pretty sitting in their jars with spices floating around?  Loads of dill, garlic, pepper and mustard seeds are playing nicely with vinegar, salt and pickling spices to make a tangy brine.  My mouth is puckering in anticipation.

And since I actually had a few extra cucumbers left over, I decided to try my hand at sweet pickle relish.    I used a recipe out of my new favorite canning cookbook.  Anything with pictures that beautiful should be guaranteed to work!  I tried a bit straight out of the pot and let me tell you, I highly doubt I'll be able to go back to store bought.  The melding of the peppers, onion, spices, sugar and vinegar is pure perfection.  I can't wait to eat it on a hot dog.  What?  You think I should go gourmet?  Hmmm...

Nah.

And then, because I'd already paid for the spices and because I had corn hanging out in the bottom of my fridge, I decided to try corn onion relish.  This is my "bad boy" relish.  While it's sinfully delish, it's caused no end of worry, stress and fretting.  Here's the deal...


After following the recipe to the letter, I realized that it didn't call for vinegar.  Since the main ingredients are corn and onion, I was a bit concerned that I'd need a pressure cooker.  I went ahead and added a cup of apple cider vinegar.  (Boy am I glad I did!  It was a bit too sweet before.  Now it's spicy and tangy and addictive.)  I went ahead and processed it using a hot water bath, but now I'm worried I'm going to give someone botulism.

I called the Canning Hotline, but haven't been able to get through.  I'm researching, fretting and trying to decide if we should just break up.  I hope not.  The jar I put in my fridge is divine.

If anyone has an answer for me, I'd love to hear it.

So that's what I've been up to.  Now...I need to get going.  Becky and I took the kids to pick Concord grapes and I have some steaming to do.  Grape juice, here we come!

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

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October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

This was a tough one to blog.

I wanted to write a bit about my experiences, my feelings. I can't speak for every woman who's lost a child through miscarriage, but maybe I can help those who haven't understand. I'm truly a "glass is half full" kind of person.  When I write in my blog, I rarely delve into the darkness. But how can I write about a miscarriage without doing so?

When the one year anniversary of our miscarriage - and it was "our" miscarriage, not just mine - passed, I was deep in the haze of New Baby. Joseph was only two months old. I was still recovering from my c-section. Chad was still noting sleep schedules into our spread sheet. But then...when the second year anniversary arrived...something deep inside of me recognized that this was the anniversary of a Significant Event. On my LiveJournal, that day, I wrote:

I woke up this morning with an intense urge to make strawberry jam. I got out of bed grabbed the boys and went to Farmer's Market to get fresh strawberries.

Chad had to go to work, so after putting Joseph down for his nap, I started hulling and smashing berries. In was very zen. As I allowed my mind to drift, I realized that two years ago this weekend, I made jam. It was June 11, 2005, the day after my miscarriage.

I sometimes think of that baby. I wonder what he would have been like, how he would have looked. I never found out the sex, but in my mind he was a boy. We would have named him Joseph Henry, but he'd be so different than Joseph. Would he have had red hair? Blue eyes? Would he have been so happy, he'd make me giggle?

I wonder if, in an alternate reality, there's a different Joseph Henry born to Chad and Mandy. If in some alternate universe, Mandy didn't have her miscarriage and is happily loving a beautiful, dark-haired boy with Chad's eyes.

Reality is me making strawberry jam for the baby that is and remembering a baby that nearly was.

Those first few days After were so very, very difficult. My body was doing what it needed to do, my hormone levels were all over the place and I had very kind people telling me things like, "You'll have another."

I would smile sadly and nod while internally I shouted and raged, "I don't want another! I want this one!"

Even worse..."It was meant to be."

How does one even respond to that?

Our friends and family didn't really know what to do to comfort us. We didn't know how to ask for help. We didn't even realize we needed help. After all, it's not like we'd actually had a baby. We buried ourselves in stats and studies. We told ourselves that it was normal. We assured each other that we didn't do anything wrong.

And yet...

Two months later, when we discovered that we were pregnant again, we didn't react with shouts of joy.  I walked into the bedroom, showed Chad the test and lay next to him on the bed.  We held each other in silence. We didn't announce it in an email blast. We didn't dance in to work and share the news with our co-workers. We quietly made doctor's appointments and took blood tests. We tentatively shared the news with family, cushioning it with, "Don't say anything yet." I refused to allow anyone to mention the words "baby shower" until I was nearly 16 weeks along.

For the first twelve weeks, I didn't look at baby clothes, cribs, strollers, baby websites, pregnancy books or nursery themes. We didn't talk names. We separated ourselves from the experience, hoping to protect our bruised hearts.

When we got pregnant with Elizabeth, we knew that I'd carried Joseph just fine, but inside, I had a fear of patterns. "Lose one. Gain one. Lose one..." Irrational? Yes. But the fear was still there, a monster in the closet who lurked in the shadows during the darkest part of the night.

When I see a first time mom announce her news with a glowing face, I want to yell at her, "STOP! Don't. Say. Anything." I want to wrap her in cotton and protect her from potential pain. I want to insulate her from what "could" happen.

Now, here I am, five years and two children later. I've had friends and family who have suffered miscarriage. Some have suffered more than one. I doubt that I found the words of comfort they so desperately needed. I hope that I was a listening ear, a sympathetic shoulder. I hope they recognized, in me, a kindred spirit.

One who has had her world pulled from under her. One who sat in the doctor's office listening to clinical words describing a heartbreaking event. One who curled on her bed in tears. One who felt as if she failed at the one thing a woman's body should be able to do - even while knowing that very thought is illogical.

At times, I still I find myself wondering about the other baby and how different our lives would have been. Then, I look at my two miracles and thank the universe for sending them to me.

Week Word - Temptation

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This week's participants in Week Word are:

Go visit their blogs to see how they handled temptation this week.  If you want to play, leave a comment and I'll link back to your post.  Now...

As for me...

I was surrounded by temptation.

On Monday, Chad brought home a tempting bag of Poppycock.  I could smell the toffee goodness from twenty feet away.  He popped handfuls into his mouth, each crunch tempting me to indulge.  One tiny bite went into my mouth and flavor exploded on my tongue.  I gave into the temptation, but limited it to two cups instead of a whole bag.  Progress.

On Tuesday, I turned the corner in the office and stumbled upon the temptation of a platter of pesto focaccia bread layered with bacon, egg, tomato and onion.  My sad bowl of low fat chicken soup looked so...bland.  Giving into temptation, I stretched my hand towards a half a sandwich.  I pulled back and looked at my watery soup.  My hand moved of it's own volition, picked up the sandwich and I and indulged in the buttery, salty goodness.

On Thursday, I bought a book.  It sat on my counter, the cover shiny and new.  Every time I passed it, I could almost smell the new pages. It begged me to take a peek.  While I cooked dinner, it beckoned, from the corner of my eye.  It tempted me to pick it up, to open it.  It whispered to me to read just a page or two.  I reached for it, picked it up, leaned against the counter and gave in to the temptation.

Dinner burned.

We called out for pizza.

But the book was oh-so-delicious.

How were you tempted this week?  Did you give in?

A Fresh Coat of Paint

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Never underestimate the value of a fresh coat of paint.

A few years ago, I bought two tables at Pier 1 to flank my front door.  Well, kids, the heat, the sun and the water really took a toll on these little guys.  They faded.  They got stained.  They started looking a little trashed.

Fine.  They started looking a lot trashed.

But the table itself is so cute!

What to do?  What to do?

I decided to buy a can of spray paint in glorious cherry gloss.

I set the tables up outside and...an hour and $3 later, the finished product looks fresh and clean and new.

And ready for a pot of spinach and green leaf.

Pumpkin Muffins

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Do you remember THE pumpkin muffin recipe?  The one that so easy, even I can make them?  The one that's low calorie, low fat and high in yumminess?


With fall in the air - or at least on the calendar - I decided to make them.  It's been a while.  Almost eight months.  They were as delicious as I remember.  And the kids couldn't eat them fast enough.

But here's the really, super, uber cool part.

BodyMedia FIT has an activity manager where I log my calorie intake.  The data base has a "Recipe Creator" which will give me the nutritional information per serving for my favorite recipes.

So...

I logged in one box of Betty Crocker's Spice Cake Mix and one can of pumpkin.  Since I made mini-muffins - 32 to be exact - I entered 32 servings.  The recipe creator did a little bleep, bleep, bleep* and spit out...

56 calories per mini muffin.

Fifty six!

Ho-ly pumpkin love, Batman.  I think I'll have a couple more.


*I understand that computers no longer make little bleeping sounds before spitting out the answers a la 1960's movies.  But you don't understand how slow my computer's been lately.)

Deal of the Century!

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I just found the deal of the century.  Or at least the decade.

A few years ago I started looking for these groovy chairs:
Pretty adorable, yes?

Originally I wanted to buy them from an antique shop or perhaps, if I was really, really lucky from Granny Smith's garage sale.  I envisioned a lot of restoring and paint and then...

Sitting outside while watching the kids play, sipping on my ice tea.

Sadly, I live in California.

In California, Granny Smith not only knows the worth of her vintage and retro items, she has an Ebay store where she sells them worldwide.

So I was pretty jazzed to see that Lowe's carried a new version.

But they were a bit out of the ol' budget.

Until today.

Ladies and gents, I'm pleased to announce that I'm now the proud owner of two adult and two children's retro outdoor chairs.  And I got them for a steal.

I saved $115.

Seriously.

They were on clearance for 75% off.  I got all four chairs for $32.  How awesome is that?

Now I just need to put them together.

Pow-wow

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Last Saturday, Sarah invited the kids and I to join her and Jackson at the Chumash Intertribal Pow-wow.

Sensing that this would be something a) educational and b) super cool, I agreed.  (The inner debate of "Elizabeth takes a nap" vs. "fabulously fun activity" took about ten seconds.  Poor LizzieBeth.)

We piled into the truck and drove nearly two hours south to Live Oak Campground.  On the way, we stopped at the always delish Los Olivos Grocery to pick up gourmet sandwiches, macaroni salad, cold orzo salad and multi-grain chips. 

After arriving at the pow-wow, we sat in the back of the truck, listening to the pounding of the drums and the sound of high singing while we ate.  We could hardly wait to finish lunch!  As soon as we were done, we loaded the stroller, put Elizabeth in her Ergo and headed over the hill towards the sounds of a Gourd Dance.

It was amazing.

We stayed for almost four hours, watching the fancy dancers, the grass dancers, the drummers and the singers. We ate fry bread and washed it down with iced lemonade.  We walked around the booths, getting the boys a small toy and a seed rattle for Elizabeth.

For the record, my music lover didn't sleep a wink.  As soon as we were close enough to feel the pulse of the drums in our chests, she started bouncing in her carrier.  The bells tied around the dancers' feet made her swivel her head to watch them.  The sound of the singing had her swaying and kicking her feet.  Once she had her rattle, she shook it, excited to be making music.


Joseph and Jackson, so serious, watched the dancers.  They listened as an older gentleman told them the story of the coyote and the woodpecker, banging his sticks to make a woodpecker sound.  Joseph put feathers in his baseball cap and both boys played in the dirt while Sarah explained the costumes and customs.

At the end of the afternoon, we trudged down the hill as the drums continued their throbbing beat.  We washed off the boys' feet, legs, arms and hands.  We loaded the still-awake Elizabeth next to them in the truck and drove home.  The boys were asleep in minutes.

While Elizabeth tried to talk to them until she finally gave up, slumping down to a much-belated afternoon nap.

It was an amazing experience.  I can't wait to go again.

But Sarah has to dance next time.

BodyMedia FIT - Week 4

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One month with the BodyMedia FIT and...

I lost a total of five pounds.

Yay!

Feeling only slightly discouraged - I was hoping for two pounds a week - I ran my first 28 day report.  After looking through the four page report, I'm actually very, very happy with how I've done.

The report averages out all the information that is normally available each day.  When I look at the averages, except for the number of steps I'm taking each day, I'm not doing too shabby.  Honestly, I thought I was doing much worse when it came to keeping my deficit around 1000 calories.  Overall, I seem to be hitting my marks.


Further down in the report is an interesting bit on my nutritional information.  A quick glance confirmed what I already expected:  far too many carbs, not enough protein or alcohol.

More interesting was the activity report.  It was almost embarrassing.  Sure, I had great days, but there were also days that my activity level was almost flatlined.  What happened on those days?  Did I even move?

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