Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Heroic Deed

Ok, maybe heroic is a little inflated, but I did help Oscar out in a big way today.  I noticed that my four footed adversary had a weird looking red spot on his inner meaty hind leg thigh.  (You're loving my description of the dog's leg, aren't you?)  At first, I figured it wasn't worth me walking over to him to investigate.  Then he laid down and I noticed that his red spot looked more like a misplaced 13th nipple.  Yes, I have counted how many nipples the dog has.  I use this knowledge to hurtle insults at the dog, like "Why don't you and your 12 nipples go somewhere else?" when he's bothering me.  I don't think he cares. So back to the 13th nipple.  It was a new development so I realized at this point that I was probably obligated to take a look.  At first glance, I though maybe it was some sort of melanoma.  Then I saw the wriggling legs.  It was a tick.

If you grew up in my house, then you might be like me and freak out at the mere thought of a tick in your home.  My mom always went on about ticks like they were one of the worst things that could happen to you.  Cancer?  No problem.  Get some chemo and radiation and you're good.  Ticks? You're pretty much dead.  Better get your affairs in order.  So when I discovered the tick my first instinct was to freak out and get away from the dog.  Then I felt duty bound to alert Bryan to the situation.  He's really tolerant of the furry freeloader (probably because he supports me and our two spawns, Madeline and Ellie).  I knew the dreaded question was coming so I hastened to add on the IM that I wasn't willing to engage in tick extraction.  That's when he asked for a picture. Ugh.  Taking the picture made me realize that this parasite was lodged pretty well into the dog, which made me feel a little bad for him.

Oscar uses a product called Frontline that is supposed to kill any fleas and ticks that bite him.  Since it's been cold out for a while, Bryan hadn't been putting it on Mr. Furkins for a few months.  Last night he decided to put it on him since it's warming up outside.  In theory, I could have probably left the tick embedded in the dog and all would have been well, but I began to worry.  After a quick call to Bryan discussing tick removal and my strong desire not to get clawed by Oscar or come in bodily contact with a tick, I decided I'd give it one shot.  A co-worker told Bryan that I should use tweezers and twist, not pull, the tick out.  I assumed that twisting the tick would be nice and simple.  My assumption was wrong.  Apparently, ticks are pretty tenacious.  It took multiple attempts before I got the twisting technique right. I had to twist the little sucker (pun intended) three times before it released.  And, despite being told not to pull, I don't think the tick was aware of this key piece of information.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't the one pulling, but there was some definite pulling going on.  Oscar was shockingly a very good patient.  I guess he was aware that I was helping him.  I'm fairly certain the extraction hurt since it looked like it was painful, but Oscar didn't flinch, yelp or try to scratch me.

So for today, I think I'm Oscar's hero.  Mr. Tick, who is currently residing in a ziplock bag is probably thinking I'm more of a meddling menace than a hero.  He's still alive and awaiting his final judgement when Bryan comes home.  I saved him so Bryan could make sure I got all of it out.  I'm guessing since the tick is still alive that I got all of it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Craziness Compounded

I get a little frantic leading up to major holidays and the kids' birthdays.  Something clicks in me and I have the unshakable urge to clean like there's no tomorrow.  I'll clean places that no one will ever see, like the insides of cabinets, or under, yes, under the sinks or appliances.  In short, I go nuts.  Add illness to the mix and we've got quite the an interesting hybrid.

On Thursday it was evident that Ellie didn't feel too hot.  She had a fever and her throat was hurting.  I wound up not teaching my CCD class that night so she could stay home and rest.  By the time my neighbor dropped Madeline off after CCD, Ellie had a fever of 102.3.  Anything over 102 in my girls makes me realize that we need to seek medical attention.  I managed to score a late evening appointment for Ellie with our pediatrician.  The poor girl had strep throat.  Another one bites the dust.  Two cases of strep throat in 8 days.  The good news in all of this was that I was protected since I was on an antibiotic for a sinus infection.  Hooray for being sick!  Madeline was the only one in the house who was considered vulnerable.  As of now, she's still nice and healthy.  Here's hoping she stays that way.

I'm feeling worn out.  Between the cleaning, illnesses, and my frantic need to provide perfect holiday memories for my kids I'm spent.  Madeline's poorly timed Presidential essay didn't help my stress level either.  I am happy to report that she is finished writing her essay, and I think it's pretty good for a third grader.  I had to help her with a little bit of the research and overall organization, but the words are all hers.  She even surprised me with a few of her word choices.

Tonight I tossed myself into the heart wrenching task of throwing away some of the arts and crafts projects that my girls have made in school.  Up until tonight, I have saved pretty much every single craft the girls have ever made in school.  I was beginning to worry that my house was going to go up in flames from all the kindling.  I brought myself to part with two large shopping bags full of my girls' handmade treasures.  I decided to keep the holiday themed pieces and anything that used their hand prints.  Projects where my girls' personalities were captured were also saved.  I still have a ton of stuff, but all the projects that weren't anything to write home about were tossed.  I did find it amusing to compare Madeline and Ellie's pre-K projects.  Both girls had the same teachers and are were enrolled in the same 3 day program at Ellie's school.  The result is a lot of duplicate projects.  The quirky eyelashes that my girls draw on just about every person are almost identical.  I thought it was funny how Ellie always draws sad faces on worms and Madeline always makes them happy.  I also learned tonight that I clearly underestimate Ellie.  I frequently comment that she's not as advanced as Madeline was at the same age.  I realized tonight that Ellie is a lot smarter than I thought.  So while tossing all these crafts was  sad for me, some good came out of it.

The next couple of days will be busy for me as I continue to prepare for Easter.  I'm hoping to get a lot done tomorrow so I can try to take it easy and prepare for the marathon of church going that is the Triduum.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cue the Darth Vader Music

Darth Vader's music just has that aura of impending doom. I think that music is appropriate for today.  Last night Ellie began to act sick.  She spilled her full cup of apple juice across the kitchen table. Twice.  Then she fell asleep on the couch before bedtime.  That was followed by a disoriented journey up to her room to get ready for bed and culminated in an accident.  Apparently she mistook the instruction to go potty for "go potty after you get in bed."  The hours between 5:30 and 8:30PM last night were very long, and I have still not recovered from the messes that resulted during that time frame.  I am happy to say that I did not lose my cool and get bent out of shape about any of the minor mishaps.

Ellie greeted Bryan this morning with the dreaded "my throat hurts."  My throat still hurts and Bryan is still taking antibiotics for his bout with strep throat.  Since she's well beyond the incubation period for strep, I doubt she has that.  In talking to the neighbors, I think what she may have is a strain of the stomach virus.  Some in our neighborhood have started off with a fever and sore throat that is followed by a day of vomiting.  I have a bad feeling my child who doesn't want to eat, unless you count the sour cream and onion Pringles she just ate for breakfast a few minutes ago as eating, is about to join the ranks of the upchuck brigade.

I'm still feeling unwell.  My day of neglecting housework so I could focus on resting didn't do me too much good yesterday.  Last night's soccer practice brought a fresh load of dirt into my house, so I'll be sweeping, mopping and vacuuming up the dirt trail my husband kindly made for me this morning.  The man walked through the kitchen, down the hall, up the stairs, down the hall and back, into the bedroom and master bath and back down the stairs.  I easily have 70 feet of dirt tracks to clean. Sigh.  Here's hoping there will be no vomit trail to go with it.

I even had to call and ask for a sub for my CCD class tonight.  I can't drag Ellie out so I can teach a class if she's not feeling well.  I guess it's a good thing I wrote up a lesson plan last night.

Small Successes-Fifth Week in Lent


Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

This past week hasn't been the greatest.  Bryan was getting over strep throat last week, then I came down with some mystery illness that turned out to be a sinus infection that isn't exactly going away, and now Ellie is running a fever.  My past week sort of feels like a major fail.

1. I took advantage of a nice sale that was going on at Old Navy last week and got Madeline some tanks, tees, shorts and dresses for this Spring and Summer.  I got a few things for Ellie, too.

2. I brought myself a few new shirts and two pairs of shoes.  When you're not feeling great, sometimes    shopping is a nice temporary pick me up.

3. Madeline and I went and got library cards from our local library on Tuesday.  I haven't had a library card since I moved out of my parents house nearly 10 years ago.

Bonus: I managed to survive last Sunday.  I was feeling pretty sick, but I pulled myself together and was able to teach my CCD class in the morning and then play the role of soccer mom at two out of the three games my girls played.  Madeline's indoor soccer team still has a few weeks left in the session and outdoor Spring soccer just began.  I can't wait until she's down to one game a week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Signs That I'm Doing My Job Right

If your a conservative minded person like myself, chances are you've realized at some point in time that educators are typically liberals.  I can recall as far back as fourth grade being down graded on my papers about conservative politicians.  Did that make me change gears and write glowing reports about FDR or JFK?  No.  Instead, I decided to call the teachers on their liberal prejudices and point out precisely why they were wrong. I must have been an insufferable student for the super liberal teachers.

Madeline came home today with a social studies assignment.  She has to pick a President and write an essay about him.  She knew right off the bat that Obama was off the table.  So she started to look at the list of presidents I had pulled up on the White House website.  She was mildly interested in Abe Lincoln, another President who shares our last name, Ronald Reagan (probably because I love Ron) and George W. Bush.  I pushed for Nixon because I had written several papers on him in high school and college (and still have them).  Then I tried to sell Reagan telling her that he liked jelly beans, got shot and lived (that makes him super hero cool, right) and was one of my favorite presidents.  My selling points on Nixon and Reagan didn't succeed.  Then I pointed out John Adams and tried to sell her on a founding father.  No dice.  Taking the know-it-all angle (I'm a know-it-all just in case you didn't know) I tried to sell her on George Washington telling her we could overturn all the lies they teach the kids about him in school.  No, he never chopped down a cherry tree and said "I cannot tell a lie."  She decided instead that she wanted to write about W.   While he wouldn't have been my pick, I'm not going to stand in her way. I'm just thrilled she happily selected a Republican.

I thought about emailing her teacher and asking if I should expect a lower grade on her paper since it's going to be about a Republican, but I'll be nice and wait for the grade.  It will certainly go into the school as an A paper (I have the grading rubric).  It will be impossible to keep this Republican mom with a degree in political science away from such an appealing assignment.  I shall do my best to not take over this latest project, but I'll still be very much involved.  I'll be playing the role of proofreader, writing coach, and in house historical fact consultant.  Perhaps I can get her to put in a line or two about how the liberal media has done their best to down play GWB's accomplishments, but history will remember him as a great President.  I'm becoming my dad, who also has a degree in political science. He was always my sounding board on all things history and politics related when I was in school.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book Review: Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids

I just finished reading Susie Lloyd's Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids a few days ago.  Susie Lloyd is the Catholic home schooling mother of seven who amusingly writes about her life as such.  Her book is entertaining and captivating.  I picked up the book expecting to read a chapter or two and wound up reading about a third of the book in a very short time span.  Then, I got up, did a few things around the house and found a few moments to dive back into the book.  Before I knew it, I had read the entire book.  It was the funniest book I've read in a long time and one I simply could not put down and stay away from for very long.

If you're a mom, you'll find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you read the about the antics of Susie Lloyd's adventures in mothering.  The book is punctuated with many side splitting moments of hilarity.

You don't need to be a home schooling mother to fully appreciate this book.  I think this book will likely appeal more to Catholic moms, but I think any mom with a sense of humor will thoroughly enjoy this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to any mother who could use a good laugh.

I received a complimentary copy of Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest review of the book.

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph Rocks!

We are not a family that takes a break from our Lenten fasts on Sundays.  Let me just put that out there.  I've been seeing things all over on line about how we don't have to fast from meat today because it's a solemnity.  Fair enough, what about candy?  Well, I got my answer when I opened up the email for today's edition of Holy Heroes' Lenten Adventure.  Apparently, when there's a solemnity in Lent, that feast day overrides the rules of fasting. Sweet!  Bryan was wondering about this because he wasn't willing to eat meat today since that's what he gave up for Lent, if I wasn't able to eat candy.  He didn't want to be the one to fail on his Lenten sacrifice.

Once I read the email from Holy Heroes, I decided that we needed to celebrate this wonderful solemnity.  Bryan got to eat meat and I have had a few varieties of candy.  We'll be letting Madeline know she can play the Wii tonight.  This wonderful solemnity will make the next 15 days easier to bear.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Small Successes-Fourth Week in Lent

Celebrating the little things in life that add up. 
(Considering my "bonus" accomplishment, this line could be seen as ironically punny, but I digress.)

1. I got rid of more stuff for the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge.  I gave two shopping bags of Ellie's outgrown shoes to her classmate's little sisters. How on earth did a kid with only two feet amass so many shoes?  (Some of them were Madeline's.)  I also packed up a lot of our paper recyclables which I like to hang on to like they're treasures for some unknown reason and showed them the door.  I'm very close to hitting the 40 bag mark at this point.

2. I made Irish Potatoes earlier this week and managed to survive not eating any of them, not even the dough as I mixed them.  That ordeal was incredibly painful.  Everyone I have given the tasty confections to have enjoyed eating them in front of me.  Ugh.

3. I survived my husband's business trip last week, and his subsequent woe is me  illness (strep throat).  Can I just state for the record that I need a vacation? I'm feeling a little overworked and under appreciated these days. Sigh.

Bonus: Thanks to the nice warm weather we've had the past few days, I got to go out in the back yard yesterday while Bryan languished inside and clean up all of Oscar's "presents." Yessss! (Said in my best Napoleon Dynamite voice) This was prompted by the realization last Friday that a certain person hadn't been doing this job, after my dad tracked dog poo all over my kitchen floor and family room carpet.  Talk about an appetizing pre-dinner activity.  It's been a long week and I'm feeling a touch cranky.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: To Be Like Jesus

I recently had the opportunity to read Sr. Ann Shields’ To Be Like Jesus Inspiration From the Gospel of Luke.  The book is broken down into thirty-one reflections from the Gospel of Luke.  These reflections are meant to be reflected on for a week.  It is not the author’s intent that you zip through this book at lightening speed.  Instead, she’s hoping you’ll take the time to stop and ponder the wisdom that is to be found in the scripture.  For the purpose of writing this review I read the entire book in the span of about ten days, but I was careful to avoid another case of “spiritual indigestion.”  If you think you’re going to sit down and read seven or eight of these short chapters in succession, you’re probably going to walk away feeling a little overwhelmed. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to take the author seriously when he or she warns you not to power through their book.
I really enjoyed this book and I fully intend to sit down and read the book again, the way it was to be read. One week at a time in preparation for Gospel reading at Mass so you can reflect on the message and have it sink in.  The Gospel of Luke is read during liturgical year C, so this book is perfect for this year given that we're in year C.  I found Sr. Shield's insight and wisdom on the scripture to be very enlightening.  Her take on these scripture references makes you stop and think.  For the weeks that have already passed for this liturgical year, her take on the Gospel has helped me to see it in an entirely new light.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on To Be Like Jesus.  I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

From Annoyed to Embarrassed

This Mc Donald's commercial irritated me like you wouldn't believe.  The rudeness of the guy in the commercial made my blood boil.  Every time the commercial came on I'd complain to Bryan about the guy.  I complain about a lot of commercials, particularly ones that assume the viewer is a helpless idiot or the ones that seem like they're preying on the elderly, but this one irritated me almost on the same level as the ShamWow commercials. (I can't stand that guy!)

I still dislike this McDonald's commercial a lot, but now I don't dare complain to Bryan about it for fear of what he might say.  A few weeks ago, while I was in my "Don't talk to me until I've had my cranberry juice and sugar coated wheat puffs!" early morning state, Bryan pointed out to me that I was acting like that guy on the McDonald's commercial.  I was not happy that he made that statement, but I realized that he was right.  I'm not like that to everyone in the morning.  As awful as it sounds, I can tolerate and be pleasant to some people in the morning, like Ellie, my father and my favorite house plant.  I do my best to be nice to Bryan because I know snapping at him can make the day miserable for both of us, and that's not how I want to start the day.  People who are Virgos, my mother and Madeline to be specific, have the ability to set me on a tirade just by cheerfully wishing me a good morning.  Poor Madeline was the victim of my grouchiness the morning Bryan stepped in and pointed out that I was the rude dude that I loathed on the Mc Donald's commercial.

Now when that commercial comes on I still feel irritated by that guy, but I also feel humbled and embarrassed.  It's an odd feeling when you get to see yourself from the outside and realize that you don't like what you see.  I'm now making a conscious effort to not be that guy in the morning. Part of me wishes they'd just stop airing the commercial so I could stop getting this unpleasant reminder of who I am.

Planning Ahead for Passion Sunday

I usually like to come up with a game plan for the crafts I do with my kindergarten CCD class a week or so ahead of time.  This past Sunday I dove into my St. Patrick's day after doing two rather involved crafts in the previous weeks. I'm trying to take a slightly more relaxed approach for the next two weeks.
My craft for this week comes from the text book, so it's nothing spectacular, but it has potential to be cute.  Using the craft that went with the curriculum took some of the pressure off of me to be creative and allowed me to plan ahead to Passion Sunday (or Palm Sunday, if you prefer to call it that).  Months ago when I brought myself a copy of The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation I stumbled upon a cute and simple craft for Passion Sunday.  It's a paper plate with the child's handprint on it (a palm, if you will) and "Hosanna!" written across the top.  It's cute enough to be a nice Holy Week door knob hanger, and who doesn't want their little darling's hand print art decorating their home?

I decided I should test the project out for ease of use and mess assessment by using Ellie to make my class room sample.  The paint version that is described in the book came out nice, but I wasn't thrilled with the thought of having eight paint covered hands to contend with.  So I did a little brainstorming and decided that having the children trace their hands onto green construction paper could also work nicely.  Here are the two versions of the same craft.  One is low mess and will take longer because tracing, cutting and pasting are required, and the other will hardly take any time at all, but will potentially be very messy.  I think I'm going to go with the labor intensive low mess option for my class.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Irish Potatoes

Irish Potatoes combine some of my favorite ingredients to make a yummy confection that delights my taste buds.  I've had a few years where I've screwed up and didn't get my ingredients ahead of time and wound up going from store to store on St. Patrick's day in desperate search of either coconut or confectioners sugar.  This year, I was thinking ahead and I got everything I needed about two weeks ahead of time.  I wasn't going to make them this year since I gave up candy for Lent, but I gave into Madeline's requests and decided I'd plunge my hands wrist deep into temptation.  Over 110 Irish Potatoes later, and I'm happy to say that I didn't lick my candy coated fingers once.  Usually I can be found gnawing the candy off my hands while I make these.  I did, however, put my head over the mixing bowl and inhale the intoxicating aroma of what I'm certain are my most delicious batch Irish potatoes to date. Sigh.
Irish Potatoes, the perfect St. Patrick's day treat!

Making Irish Potatoes is really very simple.  My recipe calls for 2lbs of confectioners sugar (also known as 10X sugar), 1/2 butter, 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/4 cup of half and half, 1/2lb of sweetened shredded coconut and cinnamon.  To make them you'll need to combine the confectioners sugar and melted butter.  I strongly suggest mixing this with your hands.  It's a bit messy, but it works the best.  I highly recommend you do not try to use your KitchenAid stand mixer to make these, unless you want to damage it.  I did this with my brand new mixer 9 years ago.  It hasn't functioned the same ever since.  Just knead the sugar and melted butter until it's all crumbly.  It will take on a lumpy yellowish appearance. Next add the vanilla and half and half.  The idea is to work this into a ball, but it's going to be a sticky lump that doesn't resemble a ball in the slightest.  Next you will need to work the coconut into the dough.  Once it is worked in nicely, you're ready to start making your Irish potatoes.  To make the potatoes you'll need to pinch off some dough and roll it into a ball or potato shape between your palms.  Once that is accomplished you'll need to roll the ball in cinnamon.  I sprinkle cinnamon onto a large plate for this part.   I managed to get about 110 Irish Potatoes that are a small to medium size.  They're very rich, so you don't want to make them too big.

If you don't like cinnamon, you could use coco powder for the final step.   This recipe can also be used to make coconut eggs for Easter.  Instead of rolling them into a ball shape, you'll make them look like eggs and coat them in melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Disorientation is the Name of My Game!

When Bryan is away on a business trip I often feel like the universe is totally out of alignment.  I'm not sure what is so special about his presence being within the bounds of NJ or PA, but as soon as he goes beyond the borders of these states without me and the kids life as I know it falls apart.  On Wednesday Bryan left to do disaster recovery in Boulder, CO for his company.  It was one of those dreaded trips where we weren't sure if he'd be home on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  Thankfully, everything he had to do went smoothly and he was ready to come home by Friday.  Sadly, the plane tickets were over $1,000 for a flight on Friday so he had to wait until Saturday to fly home. (It was cheaper for his company to pay for his lodging and food on Friday than it would have been to put him on a plane a two days early.)  I was really happy that he made it home a day early, but by the time he had made it home I was sufficiently disoriented.

It was an odd trip.  The kids were pretty good and I didn't have any major issues like I normally encounter. Instead I encountered aggravation from a plethora of outside sources.  I didn't feel the need to angrily call Bryan in frustration over stupid issues, and I wasn't short with the kids because I was stressed (I hate to admit it, but I do this frequently when he's away.)  Instead, I just entered a state of disorientation that I wasn't fully aware of until last night.

I knew I felt a little out of sorts on Friday, but I couldn't place what was bugging me.  On Saturday morning I became keenly aware that I hadn't planned my lesson for my kindergarten CCD class (that was this morning).  The same thing had happened on Wednesday night when I realized I didn't have anything planned for my 7th grade CCD class, but I chalked that up to me being worried about Bryan's travel.  Being the planner that I am, I wrote out the checks for my church envelopes on Thursday.  I clearly had no idea what Saturday's date was even though I had looked at the date on the envelopes.  It wasn't until after I put the first envelope in the collection at Mass last night that I realized I dated the checks with next Saturday's date.  I have no idea how I screwed that one up.  On the drive to Target (I was procrastinating on the lesson plans and craving a Starbucks frappuccino.) I was recounting all of my scatterbrained behaviors to Bryan who couldn't figure out what happened to me.  Then I got hit with another wave of unexplained disorientation.  I'm not sure what I was doing, but somehow I went to Starbucks and ordered the wrong size drink (I never get the Venti, that's like asking for death!) and I'm still not sure if I ordered the drink I intended to order.  In short, I was a mess.

I think I'm almost back to normal.  I didn't get much sleep last night and the time change didn't help.  I had my CCD class and the kindergarten class from across the hall do the St. Patrick's snake craft today.  Some of the snakes came out looking a bit like I have felt over the past few days.  Others looked a little mutated with their googly eyes in the wrong place and their tongues hanging out on odd angles.  I looked at the mutated snakes and thought to myself, "Hey, that's me!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Because I Can't Be That Person...

You know the person I'm talking about, the one who brings his own syrup or utensils to the restaurant because what they have isn't nearly good enough for him.  I would willingly be that person in some cases, but I have a husband who will call me on my ridiculous behavior and that makes me stop and think, and in most cases I decide I'll deal with the less than ideal situation.  I'll happily capitulate and not bring my own beverages when visiting his side of the family lest I be accused, in a non-flattering way, of being like my parents. (They bring their own sodas to our house when they visit since I don't stock Diet Coke.  Typically the only soda you'll ever find in my house when we're not having a party is 12oz cans of Sprite.)

Up until last year I really enjoyed eating at the Cracker Barrel.  We'd eat there almost monthly.  If I wasn't getting their sugar cured ham, I was ordering their french toast.  Bryan, likes to go there for gritz and their equally gross looking saw mill gravy.  I'm usually able to stomach the unappetizing appearance of his food since I have incredibly delicious food in front of me.  What has always made Cracker Barrel's food appealing to me is their maple syrup.  Most restaurants will give you syrup that is made from corn syrup (and no, I'm not one of those anti-corn syrup nuts) and that simply doesn't fly with me.  I'm a 100% pure maple syrup kind of gal.  It's also worth mentioning that when you get maple syrup on your fingers you can lick it off and there's no sticky residue.  You won't have that kind of success with the other syrups!  Last year Cracker Barrel changed from 100% maple syrup to 70% maple syrup and 30% cane sugar.  The change resulted in cheap tasting syrup that is sticky. Yuck!  This change created a  problem for me.  I can't eat the sugar cured ham without the syrup. (I'm like Buddy the Elf, I like syrup, just not on spaghetti!)  And even worse, now that I've finally found a restaurant that makes french toast that's not gross and doesn't hint at tasting like scrambled eggs (I despise scrambled eggs.) I was posed with a serious issue.  Either I deal with awful syrup on my tasty french toast, or we simply don't patronize Cracker Barrel.  Since I can't be that person who brings her own syrup to the restaurant, I have had to forgo that delicious french toast that haunts my taste buds.

In my longing for french toast I decided to go online and see if I could dig up the secret behind Cracker Barrel's french toast.  I found some recipes, but I also read comments the pointed out inaccuracies in the knock off recipes.  Since the recipe called for milk, an ingredient that was likely responsible for every scrambled egg tasting piece of french toast I've ever consumed, I decided to heed the words of wisdom from a commenter who said Cracker Barrel does not use milk.  I was skeptical, but I figured I was worth a shot.  What's the worst that could happen?

I attempted the french toast recipe for lunch today.  The recipe is incredibly simple.  Sourdough bread (Pepperidge Farm) and eggs.  I whisked up two eggs with a fork, soaked the bread after I let it get a little stale for an hour, and tossed it on my heated and buttered pancake pan. (Yes, I have a special frying pan for pancakes. It's an 11 inch non-stick square pan.)  The french toast, topped with 100% maple syrup and whipped butter (I like Land O Lakes) tasted every bit as good as Cracker Barrel's.  I am incredibly happy with the results.  Cracker Barrel probably won't be seeing me for a very long time, if ever and it's all because they changed their syrup.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Keeping the Neighbors Amused

While it's true that the diabolical Mr. Furkins, my ever faithful and willing scapegoat, doesn't listen to me when we're in the house or on a rare walk, he does however listen to me when I call him in from the back yard.  It's something Bryan remarks on frequently.  He can stand at the sliding glass door calling his furry friend inside and most of the time Bryan will have to actually go outside to get him to listen.  It amazes Bryan that all I have to do is open the door, call him and within seconds Oscar comes trotting in the door.

What's my secret?  I stand by the door and in a very high pitched voice I shout "Inside Mr. Furkins, nyip, nyip, nyip!"  It's very obnoxious and it echos through the back yard, but it works every time.  I'm sure the way I call him doesn't have half as much to do with getting him in the door as the consequences for not listening.  I had too many cold and rainy days where Mr. Furkins decided he wasn't going to listen when I called him, so I decided rather than go out in the cold to get him that I would simply close the door and wait a while before offering him the comfort of inside.  It didn't take long for the dog to wise up and come every time I call.  On the rare occasions when he doesn't come when called he will find himself waiting a good while for a second invite.

Today our neighbors out back were in their yard when I went to call Oscar in side just a few minutes ago.  I think Joe got a good chuckle out of his crazy neighbor who sounds like a lunatic when she calls the dog.  I saw a look of amusement creep across his face once I called for the dog.  It was one of those moments where I felt the need to go outside and explain that I call the like that because it seldom fails to get results, and to remind him that I'm aware that I am that crazy neighbor who does goofy things.  It's all good. I could be an angry or mean crazy neighbor, but instead I'm the delightfully insane neighbor who you can at least laugh at, and in most cases, I'll be laughing along with you.

Maybe some day I'll do a video of my Oscar call and post it here so you can all hear how ridiculous it sounds.

St. Patrick's Day Craft

This Sunday I don't just have my kindergarten CCD class, but I'm also teaching the kindergarten class from across the hall. Will Miss Karen survive 15 five and six year olds for 60 minutes?  Your guess is as good as mine!

So I started to wonder what I should do with the pack of kindergarten kids.  I could do a foam craft, but I wasn't sure if I could handle having to peel foam stickers for 15 kids.  After all, I only have two hands and sometimes that's not enough to help 8 kids, let alone 15.  So I turned my thoughts to St. Patrick's Day.  Surely, there must be something the kids could do that wouldn't require too much assistance from me.

This is what I came up with:

It's a shamrock with a repurposed toilet paper roll cut and painted to look like a coiled snake.

I will tell the students how St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Blessed Trinity, and I will also share with them the legend that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland.

For the craft shown above you'll need green construction paper for the shamrock, a toilet paper roll, green paint, glue, red paint or red construction paper, and a black marker or pair of googely eyes.

The toilet paper rolls need to be cut into a spiral shape.  I rounded off the snake head to make him look a little more realistic.  Red construction paper or a scrap from the toilet paper tube colored red is needed to make the snake's tongue.  Eyes can be colored on, or you could use googely eyes to add a little more pizazz.   Once your snake is decorated you simply glue the bottom to your cut out shamrock. It's a cute simple craft that shouldn't take too much time.

Small Successes-Third Week of Lent

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. Because I have that delusional  hospitality gene that makes me think visitors to my home are going to inspect for dirt, the main level of my house is incredibly clean right now.  Ellie had her friend over for a play date on Tuesday and that translated into me cleaning like a crazy lady.  I am enjoying the nice clean result.

2. I hauled a lot of stuff off to Good Will on Monday.  I'm so happy that my living room floor is no longer harboring a pile of cast off clothing that I was too lazy to take to Good Will in the previous two weeks.  I'm going to start rummaging through our stuff for more things to give away.

3. I successfully won the lose threads in the toe of the shoe battle with Madeline's New Balance sneakers. I've never seen anything like it.  I spent the past 20 minutes pulling and cutting 26 inches of loose cord like thread out of the toes of her shoes.  I fought very hard with those shoes.  I am very happy that I got those shoes on clearance for $21.99 last month.  I would have been out for blood if I had paid the original price of $54.99 and had to deal with that problem.  I think New Balance will be getting a strongly worded email from me on the importance of quality control.  I've never had this problem with Nike or Skechers.

Bonus: I stalked approached the mother of one of Ellie's classmates yesterday who has two little girls and asked if she'd take my small mountain of little girl shoes for her daughters.  She immediately said yes, so next Wednesday I'll be bombarding  and overwhelming giving her the bags of shoes.  Who knows, maybe I'll have a new victim recipient for our hand me down clothes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

St. Patrick's Day PSA

If you're like me and you make Irish Potatoes for St. Patrick's Day, consider this your warning to get out and buy the cinnamon, confectioner's sugar and coconut.  If you wait too much longer you'll be like me and have to run from store to store searching for a bag of coconut.  This year (the year I'm not eating candy for Lent) I was smart and picked up the ingredients early.  I'll be posting my yummy Irish Potato recipe in the next day or so.  Get your coconut, cinnamon and 10X sugar before it's too late!

Words You Wish You Hadn't Heard

I think when you get handed the job of Mom you realize that the child entrusted to you care may come out with some statements here and there that will give you pause.  Sometimes it's in the form of the child telling an unknown man that he looks like a peanut, even it if didn't sound like she said peanut.  Other times it's the child saying something that you simply didn't want to know.

Yesterday I walked by the dog crate and saw Ellie crouched behind it hiding from me. (She was playing Hide 'n Seek, I was not.)  Oscar was happily sitting in his crate looking out at me.  A few seconds after I passed the crate, Ellie made an announcement.  Apparently, she wasn't just hiding behind the crate, she was investigating.  In her delightfully obnoxious voice Ellie loudly proclaimed "Mommy, Oscar's butt smells bad!"  Yes, another string of five words I wish I had never heard come out of the mouth of my child.  It's not that the sentence itself is bad, but rather the fact that I now know that my child took it upon herself to sniff the dog's hind end.  Ugh!  I just wish she had kept that information to herself.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Definition of Disconcerting

Nearly 5 1/2 years ago while I was making my bed one morning Madeline walked into my room and happily announced that she was going to be a big sister.  It was a really odd moment.  I explained to Madeline that she really didn't know that and that I would certainly know before she would.  She insisted that I was having a baby and that it was her little sister.  Eerily, she turned out to be right about the pregnancy, and five months later we found out she was also right about the gender.  It's one of those memories that sticks out as being a little surreal.  At the time, Madeline was just a little over three years old and she was not aware that we were trying to grow our family.

Let's fast forward to today.  I'm in Target shopping with Ellie and out of nowhere she tells me in a very matter-of-fact tone she's going to have a little brother.  Umm...I'm not pregnant as far as I know.  I asked her if she meant to say that she wanted a little brother.  She simply responded that she was going to have a baby brother and that she was going to get to help take care of him.  The conversation and scenario seemed a little too close to previous events on this subject.

If she's right,  which I find highly unlikely and incredibly disconcerting, I'm going to be beyond surprised.  We're not currently in the market for a new human.  I'm still trying to decide if I want to hop into the insanity of having three kids.  It's a decision on which I'm happy to procrastinate.

I think it's safe to assume that I'll be obsessively worrying pondering this statement, which Ellie has refused to retract, for the duration of the week.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Moses and the Burning Bush Craft

Most weeks I try to come up with a craft for my kindergarten CCD class that either goes with the lesson for the day, the liturgical season, or one of the readings from Mass that day.  Some weeks I strike out and have to just resort to decorating a cross or decorating a foam doorknob hanger with church themed stickers.  Either way, the kids generally have a great time doing the crafts.  On the weeks where I have them do an extra coloring sheet instead of a craft I get lots of grumbling.  These kids like their crafts and they aren't willing to accept me slacking off in that department.

This week I was genuinely stumped for ideas.  I wanted to have something fun to do each week in Lent.  The first Sunday of Lent where I brought in lots of coloring sheets, the kids weren't too pleased with me.  Apparently coloring is hard work and it makes their hands tired.  So last week I decided to have them make Marian Grottos since we were covering the chapter on Mary.  They were a hit.  The kids really enjoyed making them, and I was surprised at how well they did decorating them. I did the grotto assembly and coloring of the picture (I didn't want any zombie or robot Mary grottos coming out of my class.) the night before. Not wanting to hear grumbling that the craft isn't cool enough tomorrow, I did what I could to find a relevant Lent craft.  I didn't see anything out there that I wanted for this week so I looked to the readings.  Finally I settled on the Old Testament reading.  Moses and the Burning bush.  I love the book of Exodus so having an excuse to do an Exodus craft works for me!

I did a little searching on line and found a You Tube video for making a burning bush using a paper plate, and tissue paper.  It seemed easy enough.  The kids already did a similar thing with the Advent wreaths earlier in the year, so I know they'll enjoy it.

So I don't have to go insane with painted children, I cut the plates to bush shapes and painted each plate to look like a bush.  The kids will simply have to glue the tissue squares to the plate. I imagine this will easily take the class 15 minutes to complete.  Anytime glue is involved the craft seems to take a little longer than you might expect.  It's a relatively inexpensive craft that I'm sure the kids will enjoy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Review: The Year & Our Children

I recently had the opportunity to read Mary Reed Newland's The Year & Our Children.  The book walks you through the liturgical year, starting with Advent and progresses chronologically through the major and popular feast days and seasons.  The book offers a litany of suggestions for how you can help your child celebrate the Church year at home.  The book was written in 1956 (pre-Vatican II) so some of the suggestions in this book seem a little dated, but there are still plenty of suggestions that are relevant for today's Catholic family.  There are a few areas in the book where you can see how some Church traditions seem to have disappeared as a result of the changes brought about by Vatican II.  I found those areas to be rather interesting.

For every season or feast day, the author offers many suggestions for introducing prayer into your daily family life.  Some of it seems a little over the top, but much of it seems totally feasible.  What you chose to incorporate into your own family's spiritual life will depend on what your family is up to trying.  She also offers ideas for craft projects and treats.  Some of the craft projects seemed a little difficult to visualize since there are no pictures or diagrams to accompany the suggestions.  For that reason, I would not classify this book as a craft book.  Many of the food suggestions have the recipes, but there were a few that simply suggested a treat.  For the cooking challenged, like myself, I found the instances where a food was suggested but no recipe provided to be a little disappointing.

The book reads much like a modern day Catholic blog.  The author walks us through how she and her family live out the liturgical year.  She beautifully shows by example how using manipulatives like story telling, crafts and foods help children to understand their faith better.  From personal, experience, I can say that I find this to be true for my own children as well.  When the children have ways of connecting the celebrations of the Church in their own homes through a variety of activities and objects that help them to learn and live their faith, the results are amazing.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  The tone was very pleasant, and I loved seeing how so many problems and concerns that many mothers have today with regards to raising their children in the faith were also concerns of mothers back in the 50's.

If you are looking for a book that will help you understand the liturgical year better so that you can be better armed to impart the faith in your children, then this would be a great book to consider reading.

I received a complimentary copy of The Year & Our Children from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest review of the book.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Small Successes-Second week of Lent

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I am totally on top of the laundry.  I'm so on top of it that Ellie has worn the same nightgown several times in one week.  Hmm...if I can keep this up, maybe I can reduce the number of pajama sets I need to buy for the kids.

2. I am making progress with the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  I have finally come to my senses and realized that I don't need to save clothing from events in my past.  The incredibly short and revealing dress that I wore for my wedding rehearsal?  In the pile for Good Will.  Is it not amazing what one will wear before kids vs. 10 years later?  I'm laughing at myself as I go through old clothes and continually ask myself what I was thinking.  

3. I am cultivating patience and doing my best to not flip out on the girls over the messy state of the basement. (It's been a mess for days, despite many clean ups.)  What is so hard about the concept of playing with one toy at a time and putting it back when you are finished?  I've tried to enforce/instill this rule since they were infants, but it simply doesn't take root.

Bonus: It's not really my success, but most of the snow has melted.  My deck has no snow. Yay! I can actually see about half of my front and back yards.  Best of all, I see that some of my Spring flowers are starting to come up.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Starving Mr. Furkins

If Mr. Furkins could blog, he'd tell you all about how I'm starving him.  How I've stripped him of his right to beg for food at the kitchen table, and how I've banished him from hanging out at my feet while I prepare food.  I'm sure he'd wax on about how inhumanely I'm treating him.

It's well established that Oscar is my personal scapegoat.  I won't readily admit it, but I like that he hangs out in the kitchen with me.  If I spill something or make a mess, not only is Mr. Furkins there to take the blame, but he's also there to help clean up.  For the most part, I think he's more than willing to assume blame if it means he can score some people food.

The neighbors outback have a Jug dog, too. (Jack Russell/Pug mix)  He and Oscar have some traits in common, but they're as different as they are alike.  The neighbor's dog looks like a stuffed sausage.  He's overweight.  Up until a few months ago I was always amazed at how thin Oscar looked next to Dillon.  Dillon's people bring him to the school everyday to pick up the kids. (Mr. Furkins is too much of a spaz to visit the school grounds.)  I've been remarking since about November that Dillon looks like he's losing weight.  Mostly, the neighbors just say something to the effect of "You think so?", "Maybe, but I'm not sure." or "Really?" and I, of course insist that he looks like he's slimming down and starting to look a bit like Oscar.  Never once did it occur to me that perhaps maybe my dog was turning into a little stuffed sausage.  Not a chance.  The copious amounts of people food he consumes can't possibly be packing on any extra weight, can they?

Bryan took Oscar to the vet on Saturday for his long overdue appointment.  He was supposed to go just before or after Christmas but something happened and the appointment got pushed back.  Then Bryan got stuck in a meeting for his rescheduled appointment and had to reschedule again.  When he finally got in to the vet this Saturday, Bryan learned that Mr. Furkins was about 2-3 lbs over weight. (He's now 19lbs.  In the past they told me he should be between 15 and 16lbs.)  On a dog his size this amounts to 10lbs on us per pound on him.  One of his hind knees pops out because of the weight. The fix?  Mr. Furkins has to stop mooching food from us and slim down.

Mr. Furkins is clearly not happy with me.  He acts offended that he's not getting constant handouts.  If we didn't have so much snow this Winter, I'm sure he would have been able to exercise off some of his people food, but instead he sat around the house like a lazy creature.  Once all of this snow melts, he will have to start taking walks or chase bunnies and squirrels in the back yard.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I get around just fine, thanks!

Last year I got my temporary AARP membership card in the mail.  This was shortly before my 31st birthday.  I thought AARP was a little premature in sending that nice welcome letter to me.  I'm not sure where they got the idea that I was in my 50's, but they were clearly mistaken. My parents, who are in their 60's and 70's found it rather amusing.

Today as I was sifting through my junk mail I noticed there was a letter from The Scooter Store addressed to me.  Oh joy!  It came with a "mobility assessment".  Inside, the letter says "Take this test and then take the next step to regaining your independence."  Really?  Sure those, rascal carts at Target look pretty cool, but I'm fine with walking.  Besides, if I had a scooter, how would the kids keep up with me?  And let's take into account that I have difficulty pushing a shopping cart without running into things.  Does anyone really want me to drive a motorized shopping cart?  I doubt it.

I decided to look at the mobility assessment for the fun of it.  They tell you if you answer yes to any of the questions to call them.  Only because I found the test to be rather funny, I'm going to repost it here with my answers.

1. Do you sometimes feel left out by not being able to get together with family and friends? Yes (I have children and oftentimes their needs/obligations come before my own.)
2. Do you have health-related issues that limit your mobility? No
3. Are you having trouble getting to your kitchen or dining facility by yourself for a meal?  Yes, the aforementioned children frequently insist on accompanying me to the kitchen and dining facilities.
4. Is it difficult for you to get to the bathroom on your own?  Yes, but I'm finding as the years progress that I can usually sneak into the bathroom once or twice a day unnoticed.  Once again, the children generally make this an impossibility.
5. Are you unable to easily access your clothes and dress yourself each day? No, but my four year old would have to answer yes to this.  And, my husband and 8 year old often need me to help them find their clothes [which, I must add are always where they're supposed to be].
6. Have you lost the ability to operate a manual wheelchair inside your home? Yes, furniture placement and random toy speed bumps would make wheelchair operation highly unlikely in my home.
7. Are you feeling like a bother to others due to limited mobility? No
8. Have you fallen in the past 12 months? Yes, at least once a month.  Last Friday I fell up the steps.

Think I should call the Scooter Store and get my "valuable 32-page Puzzles and Games booklet?"  Based on the mobility assessment, I think the whole family could use their own personal scooters.

If I were a water ice.....

Bryan's company is really into "Team Building" activities.  The corporate environment that he works in is very different from the corporate environment that I worked in before I took up my current gig as a stay at home mom.  His company really tries to make sure their employees have some fun.  Some of the time they succeed and other times, their little projects just seem ridiculous.

Today was one of the ridiculous project days.  Bryan sent me an IM informing me that he needed to come up with a water ice name for himself.  Really?  After a month of having snow on my lawn every day, the last thing I even want to think about is water ice.  I'm not a fan of water ice.  To me, it's glorified snow.  Generally, water ice isn't sugary enough for me, and the taste isn't bold enough for my liking.  I don't like watered down flavors, and that's precisely what you get when you have water ice.

I decided to help him out and offer up some suggestions.  Obviously, if he's telling me about this water ice project he must be fishing for ideas, right?  So I rose to the occasion and spit out a few ideas in rapid succession:
Cyborgic Ice
Bry-dog days of Summer
Fruity Fattingham
Our last name-berry delight
Essence of Bryan

All of those got shot down.  Personally, I thought Cyborgic Ice was pretty good.  Then I jokingly offered up Bitter Husband, which got ignored.  Hey, Ben and Jerry's has Chubby Hubby so why not Bitter Husband? It could be a sour lemon water ice.

So then he explains that the name will be visible to everyone in the office, not just his team.  Fine.  I'll play nice.  To understand the following names, you need to know that Bryan has no sense of smell.  He never has and likely never will.  There is a movie called Walk Hard where the main character loses his sense of smell and they make a big deal about it.  They announce that he's suddenly "Smell Blind" which is a term that is related to anosmia.

So going along the smell blind path, I came up with this lovely water ice name:
This is really just [frozen] water, but I have no sense of smell/taste so I think it's flavored water ice.

Bryan liked it, but thought it was a little long.

Odorless Fish flavored water ice and Shrimp Surprise both got shot down. Then Bryan came up with his own:"Smellblind-ice."  I countered that one with "I can't believe it's not flavored."  Bryan liked it, so his official water ice name is I can't believe it's not flavored.

Where can I get a job where they will actually pay me to come up with stupid team project ideas?

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