Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Giftmas

I the spirit of the season, winter that is, I'd like to wish you all a happy and wonderful whatever thing you celebrate.

I say whatever thing because because I know a lot of my readers (and friends) and Christians who are celebrating Christmas. Merry Christmas ya'll. Also I know some of my Jewish friends will be celebrating Hanukkah. (And by the way isn't it ironic that if Jesus were alive he'd actually celebrate Hanukkah too? GO ahead, ponder that. Weird.) Well Mazel Tov folks. If you celebrate Kwanza, then happy that. Hopi? Neopaganistic? Druid? Enjoy. Yule? Alrighty then. Festivus? Super. Solstice? Hey, how about that full moon people? Bodhi day for you Buddhists? Ok. I'm sorry that already passed. My apologies form missing it. Saturnalia? Well, if you celebrate that that you're from ancient Rome. As far a I know, none of my readers are from ancient Rome. And some of my readers don't believe in the Christian God or any other god for that matter. Well enjoy the day off anyway people. It's all good. Atheists get to celebrate too. Who doesn't like a celebration?

I think you get what I'm saying.

Even if a lot of my readers are celebrating Christmas in it's traditional sense, they're still only making up 33% of the world. In the traditional definition of "Christian" 75% of Americans identify themselves as such. OK so twice the world population. And most of my readers are American, except for a couple of Russians and one great lady from Iceland (you know who you are) and some Germans. In any case, by the American "born again" definition of Christian only 25% of Americans are such. As for the rest of you, I can't say.

I'm calling it giftmas. Because, let's get real, in most celebrations that's what is happening. We are giving each other stuff. And sometimes lots of it.

This is our tree:

It has gifts under it. Not as many as in years past, but gifts none the less. And you know what I'm not trying to hide behind the fact that Christmas is a lot about that. And family. And cookies. And occasionally someone getting intoxicated and making a real jerk of themselves. Hey, it happens.

So whatever you believe or don't believe, merry happy that thing (or not).

It's one world folks. We all live in it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shamu discipline and the American Teen

Recently someone asked me about dealing with 15 year old behaviors. Brace yourself.

I have a teenager. I actually almost have two teenagers. Hard to believe. And true.

When my oldest daughter was born 15 years ago I held her in my arms. The world was full of possibility for her and I knew the coming years would bring excitement and joy and some confusion. I had no frame of reference for age 15. But I do now.

My daughter reads my blog so before I go on I want to say this to her: Kelsey, you made me a mother. I dreamt and hoped for you and you came. A fulfillment of my hearts desire. I haven't always made the best choices for you but I have always made the best choices I could at the time. As Maya Angelou says, when I knew better I did better. My heart aches with love for you. You are beautiful and smart. You are funny and kind. You are the best parts of me and your father. Also you're a bit of a slob, but that's ok, I love you just the same. Now please pick up your room.

Now, let me say this, having a teenager is not all that different from what I expected. My daughter has her fair share of drama and bad days. She gets frustrated with her hair and can't decide what shoes to wear (even though often times they are my shoes). She wants to know what purse to carry, what belt to wear, what to do about boys. She's still figuring it all out. When I get frustrated with her I try to remember that at her age I was a holy terror. I'm not making that up. Ask my mom. Moody. Dramatic. Emotionally labile. And I hated my mother (sorry mom). I'm pretty sure Kelsey loves me so I consider that a victory.

The one thing I knew I wanted for my daughter and I was that I wanted to be someone she could come to. Someone she could ask things of. Someone she could love that would love her without condition. I wanted her to always know that I was available for her, no matter the need. I didn't want to try to be her friend like my mother did because I knew the resentment that created. I hope when she has the distance to look back at being a teen she can say I've done those things.

Anyway, love can build a bridge as they say but love doesn't always get the clothes off the floor, even with all that love, teenagers still need boundaries and discipline.

How do you get a 15 year old to clean their room? Do the dishes? Help with the laundry?

I'm about to reveal something revolutionary.

A 15 year old is a lot like a baby.

Not in the drooling, breastfeeding, co-sleeping sense (though my 15 year old still hops in bed with me periodically, which I love) but more like this... when I smile at Ella, she smiles back. If I frown, she frowns. Cause and effect. Fifteen year olds are a lot like this. Happy and helpful makes happy and helpful. And this is where the Shamu discipline comes is (Shamu is a whale by the way, in case you live in a cave). Whale training is a lot like kid training. Read about whale training here. If you read that, they you're prepared to answer this, how are kids like whales? Well, everyone likes a reward. Everyone. I don't know one person that would say, "Oh you know what, I'd rather you didn't praise me for my good behavior. In fact, just ignore my good behavior and while you're at it why don't you yell at me when I get a C in geometry." No one doesn't like a pat on the back. The best thing about a good pat on the back? You want to get another pat on the back. It's very simple. And very effective.

Practical example anyone? Kelsey wanted to give the baby a bath. She didn't know how so I told her and showed her and helped her learn and then I gave her the reigns and of course she didn't do it perfect. She made some mistakes. Nothing dangerous or detrimental, but not perfect. I ignored them and said, "Wow, thanks a lot for giving the baby a bath Kelsey. I really appreciated getting the dishes done without wearing the baby (I do it but it gets messy)."

Guess what? The next night she wanted to bathe the baby again. And I got to do dishes again (maybe some day I'll use that time for something like a quick jog). I haven't perfected this art because sometimes I get frustrated and "GIVE ME YOUR CELL PHONE RIGHT NOW" is effective too. But I'm a work in progress. I'm working on making sure my kids have positive praise for the good things they do and hopefully nothing at all for the bad things (unless someone if getting hit by someone else, that I can't ignore).

I think you get what I'm saying here. Shamu likes fishy treats. Kids like praise. Done.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's for dinner?

If you're like me (that is a 36 year old woman who just quit her well paying job to stay at home and raise kids again... AKA the "mom") you hate this question.

Why do moms hate this question so much?

*If you're a mom and you don't hate this question, please send me a message. ASAP. I need to know your secret.

I didn't use to mind it so much I guess. But over the years I began to dread it. Around 3 pm I'd know it was coming and I'd just wait for it....

"MOM. What's for dinner? I'm STARVING."

Why are kids always starving?

Anyway. I don't know why it became such an annoying question but at some point I started to hate hearing it and began to contemplate alternate answers to the truth. For example: Purina Puppy Chow. Or, liver and onions (which I've never cooked. Ever.). Or, fried frogs. Dream something up. I guarantee you I've said we're having it for dinner. Even if it was a lie. Once I said sauteed poop. That made them quiet in a hurry.

So the question already came today. It was 9 am and it came from the 12 year old. "Mom, what are we having for dinner?"

Here's the answer:

Grab a spoon son. Dig in.

Yep. That's lard. Or manteca as they call it. Lard. It's not pretty but there it is.

We aren't just eating lard. For the record.

Breathe. It's ok. My granny cooked with lard and she lived to be 90. She probably would have lived to be 100 if she hadn't drank so much moonshine. She weren't afraid of no dern lard. Or bacon. Or fried just about anything. Or earthquakes for that matter. But that's another story for another day. In any case, for this reason, I stand firm in the belief, it's less what you eat and more what you do. For example, she ate fried chicken but she also worked her arse off chasing down and killing said chicken. And other stuff. Like picking cotton. Etc. Since I'm not chasing down chickens or picking cotton or anything equally strenuous I don't eat lard. Often. Today I make an exception.

Also, every time I mention Granny I get a little teary eyed.

So I'm taking that lard and I'm making tortillas with it.

Yup. You heard me. About 17 years ago I set out to make some homemade tortillas. The year was 1993 and I was a young determined bride.

I failed.


Girls as German as me aren't meant to make tortillas I don't thing. But I was smart enough though to seek out the assistance of someone older and wiser, and more Hispanic, than me. She taught me how to make tortillas.

And real refried beans.

There they are in their youth. Just waiting for smooshing. Over the years I modified the refried bean recipe to include, well, less frying. I'm not completely out of my mind people.

Anyway. What's for dinner?

That's what.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday. Baking Sunday.

Better than bloody Sunday.

We still aren't done with the baking. But we are dangerously close.

I swear I had the best intentions yesterday to be done. I really did. But it just did not happen. We made a lot of goodies. Translation: I made a lot of goodies. The Hub did dishes. The Big Kids helped some, but mostly sat around basking in the glory of the first day of winter break and the Wii. Ella ate. And napped some. That's what she does best. She's a professional eater.

This is what we ended up with (thus far anyway):

Peanut Brittle:

I slaved for HOURS on this. I mean it's CANDY, people. Do you now how hard it is to make candy correctly? It's HARD.

(It took 15 minutes. Including clean up.)

Peppermint Bark:

Three layers of it.

This has ganache. In the middle. Ganache is one of the best things. Ever. It's ridiculous.


Um... Yum. That is all.


This is what is in buckeyes.

Butter and peanut butter.

Powdered sugar.


(By the way, that is my ghetto double broiler. Dutch oven + glass bowl. That's how I roll. Don't judge me. )

Don't ask me what the recipe is. I can't tell you. It's secret. What I can tell you though is that mixed in the right proportions those 4 things make a candy so good you might want to just go ahead and die after you eat it.

(It's not really secret.)

This is what they look like when they are done:

That one doesn't look like that anymore. It slightly more *ahem* pureed? In my stomach.

They look like an actual buckeye. Get it?

Only mine are delicious.

I confess: I was born in Ohio. Even though I moved when I was 10 days old I still like to say I'm from Ohio. I don't know why. Who really wants to be from Ohio anyway? My dad is from Ohio. He moved to California as soon as he could. He says the people who live in Ohio only do so because they haven't figured out how to get out of Ohio yet. No offense to those of you who live in Ohio. (Family: I love you all. Despite you living in Ohio.)

I digress.

Just as an aside... You should always have a wearable helper when baking. She doesn't look very happy but I promise she is. I look like I've been in the kitchen all day because I have and additionally like I don't own a hairbrush. My apologies. I do own a hairbrush. I'm like 98.7% sure.

Note: Don't worry I'm not going to set the Baby on fire. The stove isn't even on. The water was preheated to a boil, then shut off for safety. I haven't caught the sling on fire yet.

Back to business: We are putting the finishing touches on the sugar cookies and g'bread peeps. They aren't done because I am the Mother and I insist that all the children be present for the decorating. Non-negotiable. One of said children just left for a sleepover. Inside I'm secretly glad because I don't feel like making frosting right now. I do eventually run out of energy. Tomorrow is a new day my friends.

My couch and my behind are about to get reacquainted.

Like now.

But only for 15 minutes... then I have to go back into the kitchen and make dinner. I wonder if any mother has ever just put her bed in the kitchen?

Happy Holidays ya'll.


the lady covered in various powdered ingredients

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Handmade Christmas...Part 2

The follow up to the previous post. I meant to get this up Sunday but as it was, we barely got the tree up Sunday.

Where does the time go?

Target and Walmart mostly.

I hate that place. Really. It's like a vortex of pajama pants and grouchy people.

In addition to the bunting making we also strung some cranberries:

That's a lousy photo.

Sorry. I was too lazy to get the real camera. And my finger hurt from all the cranberry stringing.

This requires a bag of cranberries, a needle and thread (or fishing line) and a person patient enough to do it. We took turns. Turns out no one around her has enough patience to string 15 feet of cranberries alone.

We also dried some oranges (at 175 for a million hours... ok it was more like 4. And they still aren't completely dry ):

And hung them on ribbon:

Don't forget to compost the ends. Cause I'm crunchy like that.

Then there were the snowflakes:

No one wanted to cut them out... Why am I not surprised? They got on board quick enough.

I only had to threaten them a little bit.

And every one likes glitter. Especially me. And the floor. That's where most of it ended up.

Oh then there were the snowmen. I painstakingly picked out the perfect wool yarn. (not the black and grey ones. Those are Vanna Whites yarns. Yes, Vanna White now has yarn. What doesn't that woman do?) Used the cute little pom-pom makers to make a bunch of different sized pom-poms. Sewed them together. Cut out orange felt for carrot noses.

They look a little melted.

Oh well. Martha Stewart I am not.

There were also the beaded initial ornaments which I did not take a picture of. Oops. Please forgive me for losing my brain in the middle of making ornaments. If you look at the picture at the top of this post you'll see Ella's 'e'. It looks more like a loop, but you get the idea. This is the stuff we used to make them. It's 20 gauge wire, glass beads and ribbon. Oh and you need some needle nose pliers unless you want bloodied fingers.

Our tree has been up like forever and I'm just posting this.

Where does the time go?

Oh yeah, Walmart.

Also, I'm posting this from my husbands MacBook Pro cause he got a brand spankin' new one for work and if I'm well behaved and lucky I might get to periodically use this computer which is pretty fancy compared to my plain ol MacBook. How lucky am I?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Handmade Christmas...Part 1


Here it is. I'd like to say it's much anticipated but I know it's not.

That's ok.

Here it is anyway.

Watch us turn this pile of stuff from Michael's....

into decorations:

Note: I took these photos with my iPhone 4. They aren't as good as photos takes with the Nikon D90 but they'll suffice. As an aside: the iPhone 4G is A-MAZ-ING. If you don't have one, I'm sorry.


Part one: Making bunting (for dummies):

This is easy. Like too easy. I would prefer to use fabric and sew bunting but, as I have previously mentioned, my sewing machice is tragically broken. Moving on.

1. Take some paper. Whatever kind you like. I bought this at Michael's for $11 and change. It was on sale from $19.99. I would have still bought it if it weren't on sale, cause, well, I liked it, and I'm a glutton like that. We used less than half the paper by the way. The rest of it will go into "that" place. You know the place. Where craft supplies go to die. Then: Add to your paper, some ribbon (or twill tape like we used), scissors (or papercutter) and a stick of glue. Oh don't forget a beat up ol' ruler that your husband has had for like a billion years. You should always have some beat up thing of your husbands for crafts.

2. Now, disclaimer: There are several ways to do this. Hubs has a degree in mathematics. Therefore, you know the process of determining the most efficient way to cut a diamond was fun. Because I wanted to let the Big Kids be helpful and we only have one paper cutter, we opted to do it this way... Using the papercutter, cut your paper into strips of whatever width you'd like your bunting to be. Ours is 3 inches wide. Then cut it to double whatever length you'd like it to be. Ours will be 4 finished inches so the cut is 8. Like so:

3. Then mark the center of your paper on the 3 inch side (at 1.5 inches. Cause that's half). Like this:

4. Then either take your paper cutter and cut from the top corner to the mark like this:

OOOOOR use some scissors and eyeball it and cut it. Whether or not your scissors have been chewed up by your jerk of a dog because your kids left them outside is up to you.

Those are my hands. I need a manicure. Please forgive me for the abysmal state of my nails.

4. Once you've cut out what will surely feel like a zillion little flags, fold them over onto themselves. I'm not including a photo of that because, well, it's just folding. I had the kids do this part. They didn't like it.

At all.

I am including a photo of the aftermath though. Don't forget to recycle so you aren't consumed with guilt because all the paper you just wasted.

It's a lot. I'm thinking about inventing a craft just for this paper.

Nah. I'll just recycle it.

Ok. I feel better.

5. After that you just glue them over a ribbon or piece of twill tape. We used twill tape by Martha Stewart cause I'm a snob that way. Somehow something costing twice the price because it has her name on it just makes it feel special. (Not really, I just liked the cloudy blue color.) Also, be sure to put glue all the way to the bottom. This seems logical and kind of a given but it's worth mentioning because if you don't, all your work will be for naught as your flags pop open.

And this is what you end up with.

Bam. Bunting. Kindergarten style.

Good luck.

Tomorrow we will be putting this, and the rest of the ornaments we are crafting today, on our tree. Not today. I'm tired. Tomorrow.

Up next Part 2, 3 and 4: Beaded initials, dried oranges, cranberry garland and Pom Pom snowmen.

AKA fighting over who got the most beads, he got more beads than me, why did he get more beads than me; UGH why does it take 4 hours to dry oranges in the oven, this is taking forEVER; how come I have to string all the cranberries, these don't even taste good. GROSS; and MOOOOOOOMMMMMM, I want to use the Pom Pom maker first.

Stay tuned.


the lady with the wool pom pom fuzz all over her pants.

Christmas tree... old fashioned style

Watch as we turn this.....

Into a tree full of ornaments.

AKA... we don't have any Christmas decorations.

It's a long story. I'd rather not go into it.

Suffice it to say, it's better to be happy than to have a house that looks magazine worthy.

In that light, and in light of the fact that I'm now unemployed (*See below) and trying to be frugal, we are making all of our Christmas tree ornaments. Or most of them anyway. I think. As long as we all survive the crafting process.

Here's what's messed up, I could have bought cheap ornaments for less.

But whatever.

Beautiful bunting, wooly snowmen, shiny beaded initials, dried oranges and cranberry strands forthcoming.

Stay tuned...

*Yes. For those who haven't previously heard (or read) I did actually quit my Job Thursday. My boss looked a little like I hit her in the face with a 2x4, but it's done.

No going back.

I am again among the ranks of the At Home Mothers.

YAY! :)
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