Week of craziness

(One day soon I hope to come up with better titles…we’ll see.)

Thursday last we had a double crazy day.  I baked 6 dozen cookies over the course of the day, those yummy apple caramel cider ones I did last week, but this time with the chunk caramel rather than the bits.  Oh what a difference the chunk caramel made!  They went from yum to superextrayum!  After the kids came home from school we decorated the cakes they baked the night before and that morning.

Ben’s cake:

Ben's green car cake

David’s cake:

That night Nick took the kids to their cake auction while I went to a cookie exchange party at one of the newer neighbors houses.  I didn’t know most of the people there, but the kids did enjoy playing together and I came home with some fabulous cookies.  (photos to be added once I find them)  Nick came home with some other kids cake, as he was outbid on our kids cakes.  They totally loved that!

Friday was the quadrupaly crazy day.  Ben had eaten  one of the caramel chunk cookies without warming it first and his crown came out so he had to be taken into the dentist first thing in the morning.  Also in the morning there was a concert at school for all the kids and parents that hadn’t gotten to see/be in the big performance the week before.  My mom took Ben to the dentist and my dad, Greg, and I went to save seats at the concert.  Ben and my mom got back before the concert started but too late to sit with us.  David got to play his violin in public for the first time and did very well.

From there we went home and got some breakfast real fast before gathering stuff up for the class parties.  I’m the homeroom mom coordinator for our PTA this year, so I’d spent the week contacting all the homeroom moms and their teachers, trying to make sure all the room parties were being taken care of and that people were all signed up to bring stuff.  I brought a cartload of extras and put it in the school office in case anyone was lacking anything, as I had two parties of my own to help out with.  Fortunately for me, the other moms involved in the parties were awesome, so I was able to run back and forth between the two parties a bit.  While I was running around, I noticed this hanging in the bathroom:

Isn’t that amazing?!

Anyways, Ben’s party had bingo

and a Left/Right gift exchange (I wrapped extra gifts in case they were lacking some and passed them out to younger siblings afterwards).

David’s party made ice cream cone Christmas trees (idea from Pinterest, naturally)

and also played bingo (yes, Greg was everywhere all at once, too!)

It was a great afternoon, but I was exhausted and out of breath by the time I’d climbed all those stairs a half dozen times (sometimes I’d walk the extra distance and take the elevator, but it was pretty far away).

My parents picked us up straight from the time the bell rang and drove us down to Palestine for our annual trip to ride The Polar Express.

Mom and I dressed up in our robes for the event

The kids were likewise dressed in pajamas.  This year it was freezing cold, so everyone wore their jackets, except Greg, who tried to live inside my robe.

Looking down at the train

Sitting together

The other half

Mr. Conductor came and punched our tickets.  The kids continued to be sad that they weren’t punching words like in the movie. The elves came out and danced with Ben

and to our great surprise, David danced with her, too.  (Even more surprising actually was that Greg said “no.”)

Hot chocolate

The North Pole.  We decided to be nice and let another family that hadn’t been there before sit on the side with all the lights.  🙂

After the train ride we changed up tradition a little and ate dinner at Giovanni’s, which is right next door to Little Mexico (where we normally go).

We have no photos of Saturday at all.  Aren’t you feeling happy about that by now?

Sunday Santa’s helper Elmer the Brownie visited our house.  When he saw we were all decked out for the holidays, he brought us yummy cookies.

Monday we made some graham cracker houses (and used up all the leftover candy from the class parties).

Yesterday we got The Call and left for College Station a day early, thinking that Steph’s baby was on his way.  Sadly, he wasn’t yet (she was more than a week over due), but we did get in a little visit today and she opened his present from us (which was partly something to be used on Christmas day).  Tomorrow I’ll post some more pictures.  Aren’t you excited?

The beginning of the insanity

So after the Boring Post of Boringness, things finally got interesting.

Thursday morning I kept Ben home from school because he had to go in and have a pulpectomy, which is basically a smaller version of a root canal. His little tooth was mildly infected, so they drilled it and put a silver cap on it. He said “it was terrible” and promises to floss more now. Here he is with the funny mask they put on him for the nitrous oxide:


We were going to go straight home for him to rest, but he was antsy so we went to the mall and looked for a present for his grandparents while we waited for him to stop being drooly and start being able to eat. Once he’d regained feeling, I fed him lunch (his lunch time is really early and he wasn’t done being numb by then)and took him back to school. I took no pictures of his drooliness by his request. Then I headed off for my piano lessons and the rest of the day.

Friday morning I got a text from my long lost friend Monaca asking us to go out for coffee, so we headed out to Einstein’s bagels. (If you sign up for their e-club they’ll send you a coupon for a free bagel with schmear with any drink purchase. I also have a refill cup there, so my refill only cost $1, which wasn’t quite as good as the promised 50c refills, but better than $2+ for coffee. No, I’m not being reimbursed by them to say this. I also signed up with Panera Bread for their card and got a free pastry coupon from them, too.) Greg got an “everything” bagel with strawberry cream cheese on it. It was pretty gross. My whole wheat with onion spread was delicious. From there we left for our regular Friday playgroup. This time we met at Pollard Park, which we’ve been going to since before Ben was born. It’s gotten pretty run down in its wooden seating areas, but the playground itself is in great condition, so the kids love it there.  It was much cooler at the park than it was at my house.  I’m surprised Greg didn’t freeze to death (he had a jacket and refused to wear it).  I ended up wearing someone else’s blanket as a shawl the whole time we were there.


My parents came into town again, so we hung out with them after school (though not that night, as Nick was making chili and I was baking cookies) and the next morning helped them put up lights outside. The kids, naturally, ran around and tried to drown each other in leaves.



That night was the Chili-Cook-off and Sing-Along at church. Nick made a super yummy, super spicy chili for the event. He won 2nd place!



We all had a great time singing along and enjoying the entertainment afterwards as well. I love live music, so it was a super fun event for me.



I admit to not taking any of these photos. I was too busy enjoying the event. They were either taken by Lupe Gonzales or Laura Moody or maybe even both. I am so fortunate to have facebook friends who take event photos and let me mooch off of them.  The kids sitting in front of us (I don’t know their names, as they’re not from our immediate church,but were visiting from nearby) were hysterical.  They danced and danced.  Our kids actually got up on stage and sung with the whole group at some point as well.





Sunday my mom, dad, and I left the boys at home with Nick and went off to do our Christmas shopping. It was CRAZY out there. I hate shopping near the holidays. Afterward we came home and the kids and I cleaned up the house while Nick cooked. Then my parents came over for our special birthday dinner for my dad.


I love this next photo because my dad figured out that if you time it just right, it seems like you’re blowing out the light-up candles on this bag. He’d press the button, let the song play, then say “Blow them out!” and Greg would blow on the bag and the lights would stop. It was so cute!


Here’s a little preview of our winter décor (another post on that another day, I promise):



Monday was another day with A. It was, of course, raining, so we had to figure out some indoor things to do.


I was beginning to realize at this point that I was having an RA flare, so I convinced everyone to go to scouts all together in one car at one time that night instead of me coming up and bringing someone halfway through the evening and taking someone else home. It was so very nice not to drag myself out of the house again. Oh so nice. Incidentally, the kids got all their reading done this week. Haha. Evil mommy plan worked.

Tuesday I spent getting my stuff ready for gifting. I did all the purchasing and cutting for crafts I planned on gluing on Thursday. I did not take pictures of this process. Aren’t you surprised? Teehee. Afterwards I went to the library for volunteering and took a picture of my favorite literary tree:



Tuesday night was a joint performance between our school and one other’s 2nd & 3rd graders of a program called “Flakes.” Ben was sad he didn’t get a speaking part, but he’ll have other chances.

Ben before with friends (they were supposed to be dressed for cold weather):


Ben during (see why it’s a good thing I took a before picture – my camera couldn’t handle the lighting differences and distance):


Nick and Greg watching the program (I thought I took one of David and the friends we sat with during the program, but can no longer find that photo. I wonder if he deleted it. He was cranky that night.):


I was going to post a video of the program, but I’ll be honest here: you can’t see my Ben (or the kids next to him, for that matter) at all. The kid in front of him was a) taller than him and b) wearing a huge hat (which they’d said they wouldn’t let kids wear, but with 300 kids up there, no one was paying attention to that). It was ridiculous, but there’s nothing I could do about it. The program was cute enough, but you don’t want to spend 20 minutes watching a shaky video where you don’t see Ben, right? Right. Moving on.

Yesterday was another day with A. It was freezing cold, literally, as evidenced by this ice we found in the back yard flower pots:


We were supposed to go to the library again, but it was Circus Day and A. professed a fear of clowns, so we stayed home and played inside and sprayed ourselves with colored hairspray.  And told each other silly secrets.  That was important.  And silly.



This morning we got up and, inspired by a friends pictures on facebook, made fancy pancakes.


We also made heart shaped ones and a reindeer. Ben helped me with a lot of the process: measuring, mixing, pouring batter into the pan, and keeping the already made pancakes warm while I made more.

And now I must run off and finish my gift crafting or no one will be getting presents for Christmas. 😉

Happy November!

Did I say that the other day?  I do love November, though.  It’s one of the nicer months of the year.  Here in Texas it is finally getting crisp and nice outside.  The boys and I spend as much time outside as we can.  I also like that for us, at least, it is one of those months that doesn’t have any family disagreements built into it, holiday-wise.  My in-laws do their Thanksgiving a few weeks after, just in time for their anniversary, so that just leaves us one family to do Thanksgiving with.  🙂  (Of course there are still multiple celebrations: my son, my niece, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law all have birthdays this month.  Whee!)

Catching up on life: We had a great vacation.  We went down to Galveston Island (about 5.5 hours from us) and stayed in a condo near the beach.  We got up later than we normally do and watched the sunrise on the balcony or on the shore every morning and went back out there again for the sunset.  We listened to the seagulls cry.  We walked nearly everywhere: restaurants, church, the beach.  We had time with friends.  We went to Schlitterbahn Water Park (just the indoor part) and Moody Gardens.  The weather was perfect.  I really did want to stay there forever, which never happens for me on vacation (usually I get more and more stressed and want to go home).  It was a delightful trip.

Since getting back home I’ve tried to work a little more of that laid back vacation attitude into regular life.  I head out onto the front patio with my tea in the morning and sometimes even make it back out onto the back patio in the evenings.  Nick and I made a joint decision to watch a little less TV than we had been, so we deleted a few shows off our DVR, just in time for the World Series.  So I’ve watched less TV, at least.  (Things we dropped: Raising Hope, Fringe, & some of the new stuff we’d recorded but never watched) I’ve spent that time reading or doing crafts, which I love.  I have a secret project I’ve been working on for a friend, so I’ll post about that after the gifting has been done.  I was hoping to add some more walking into my schedule, but that hasn’t worked this week yet.  After this week I’ll have more time, so maybe Greg and I can go take some long walks at the park trails.

Another new thing in my life is piano lessons.  I took piano from the time I was in 3rd grade until my senior year of high school.  I was considering going on to music school in college, but got extremely burnt out on everything and quit taking lessons and went on to be an English major instead.  But I’ve kept up with music; I sang in choirs at church, taught beginning piano and clarinet lessons for a bit while in college, played my clarinet in various community groups throughout the years, and have been doing piano duets with my mother-in-law at church lately.  I can still play well from sheet music, but I wanted to learn to improvise and accompany.  My kids piano teacher had mentioned that the system she uses with beginners (the kids will be starting it soon) had a corollary program for “professionals” and she also had a time slot open.  I figured out a way to fit it into the budget  (no more lunches out and no more fancy beverages pretty much did it; the added bonus is that theoretically that will help with weight loss, right?) and off I ran with it.  I started last week in David’s time slot while he was away at camp with a school program.  I’ve already managed to memorize 3 chords and their minors & 7ths, which had totally eluded me in the past (perhaps because while my teachers always told me what kinds of chords things were during lessons, the chords themselves weren’t what I was practicing, not in my mind).  I have my second lesson today.  I’m very excited.  🙂  Unfortunately all the practicing is making my hands more twingy and achy, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to deal with that and I think I’ll go back to doing my hand stretches in the morning again.

week of the kiddos

Well, you’ve mostly heard about my week with all these Food, Fitness, & Faith updates, but you haven’t heard about the kids, so here’s their updates:

Monday was, as previously mentioned cold & rainy & full of laundry.  The kids came home from school to see piles & piles of the stuff for them to put away, but they were okay with it because the piles were warm and fluffy.  The kids watched some of their latest obsession: Avatar: The Last Airbender (which everyone else in the universe seems to be watching right now.  Cepheids, friends from various churches, kids of friends from high school.  everyone.)

Tuesday I got all the kids to school.  (Greg at MDO)

It was David’s Track & Field Day.  This year the 4th & 5th graders got to have a big track meet with some of the other elementary schools over at Rose Stadium (the big one the two high schools use). I was only going to go for the first half, but David didn’t have a whole lot going on during that time period, so I stayed til the end.  It was a big disappointment for him: he followed directions and didn’t get a chance to play any games because none of the other kids were following instructions.DSCN2224

Tuesday afternoon they watched some more Airbender (as I call it.  Avatar, as they call it).  Greg and I dug holes for the azaleas that had magically appeared in our front yard.  We planted & watered them.DSCN2254 The brothers had to be pried out of their seats to go to piano lessons.

Wednesday morning Greg and I spent at my friend SJ’s.  We spent ALL MORNING LONG there.  We played inside with drums, then outside with spray bottles and brooms.  We ate lots of snacks and the kids drank lots of juice (me, I had COFFEE).  So much fun.  See:DSCN2249

That afternoon Greg and I repotted some plants, big and small:


Thursday was the Day that Wouldn’t End.  There were no toaster pastries left when we got up, which I had promised as a special treat (Nick didn’t know that David had eaten his already, so he thought he was saving me from fighting kids by eating the last two), so we had to go to the grocery store before school.  Eventually got everyone to school, but then I had 10,000 errands to run and none of them went exactly as planned (mostly the scout related ones, naturally).  I did manage to buy everything needed (I went to the grocery twice and Wal-mart as well) and got back homewards just in time to pick kids up from school.  Of course then the kids had kids with them, which I’d invited and everything, but had forgotten about having over.  So the house was a wreck, people were coming over, I had no snacks (despite all the grocery runs), and there was chaos. Which is when my mom called to say that the main city water line had broken outside of their house; water was everywhere and they couldn’t leave to come up here because they were blocked in my giant bulldozers. I couldn’t do anything for her, but for us, all was not lost: we had water balloons and Junk Trail Mix (saving money/parenting tip: if you have a houseful of kids, no “real” snacks on hand, but lots of leftover holiday junk food, combine the whole thing in a bowl, toss, then dish out as “Junk Trail Mix” The children will devour it, think you’re the funnest parent ever, and you will have saved money by not shelling out for “real” snacks).  DSCN2256The water balloons saved the day and there was much fun wetness. We filled up fifty balloons, split up into three teams, and picked our bases.  The big kids took the jungle gym, the medium kids took the trampoline, and me & Greg took the comfy chair (there really were only two bases that were decent choices, alas).  The big kids were very sneaky and let the younger kids throw all their balloons before pelting them from above.  DSCN2262We also noticed that throwing balloons up there did no good, as they bounced on the wood and did not explode, so that gave the big kids more ammo to pelt us with.  After the filled balloons were gone, I went inside to check the camera and the kids started filling more balloons, but not tying them off.  They figured out that they could be twisted and thrown with all the watery splash and none of the broken balloon pieces, as long as they were throwing short range.  They also kept trying to lure me outside to get me wet: a cute kid looking sad at the door while two to the side were armed with balloons waiting to pelt me when I opened the door. After everyone went back to their homes, we grabbed a quick dinner before Nick and David left for Webelo scouts.

Today is Friday and my parents are on their way up.  We’ll spend the afternoon with them, then hit somewhere fun for an early Mother’s Day celebration, since our Saturday is filled with church stuff and they’re going home early Sunday morning.

ABFoL Day 18

Today’s challenge was to put our keepsake/memory stuff in order. I laughed long and hard at that, told a friend about it, laughed long and hard with her, and then went home and spent 6 hours working on it before giving up for the night (dinner was nearly ready at that point – so glad I have a lovely husband that cooks).

I didn’t do a before picture: our memory/keepsake stuff takes up many, many boxes in the garage and a giant storage bin out there and several smaller bins and drawers inside the house as well. I went through two storage drawers and another box full of stuff today (which only leaves one more drawer and one more box inside the house to do, as well as all the garage bins).

The after picture is just of the utilitarian folders that I made that sort of resemble what ABFoL did for her kids stuff (they’re not decorated yet – I figure on Sunday I’ll have the kids dig through the scrapbook paper and let them choose their own papers,yay for money saving stashes,  but today they weren’t here while I was working). I have one folder per kid that covers pre-school, divided out by year (2’s, 3’s, Pre-K4, Pre-K5; the eldest two’s stuff is still in the garage and will have to wait for another day) and one for K-2 and another for 3-5 (our eldest is currently in grade 4). Each tab(leftovers from high school & college!  money saving FTW!) is labeled by computer tab printouts.  Then I made a folder for stuff more belonging to my spouse and I divided by year (rather than school year). I’ve basically gotten done all of the folder setup and stuff from the last two years, with occasional forays into 3 and 4 years ago as well. I will start again on Sunday (as tomorrow is the Sabbath) and try to at least get through another couple years of stuff (which is actually fairly well sorted out in the garage, just hard to get to since all our “emergency water” bottles are currently living in front of those bins).  In the meantime while I struggle to get through all these things, I have set up a folder for each kid and one for the spouse and I in a bin near the other filing stuff to file assorted papers & memory things as time goes by.

ABFoL Organizational Challenge, Day 12

Day 12 of the organizing challenge brought us to the spice cabinet, which I’d been thinking I’d organize this week anyway (on my modified Flylady calendar it’s the kitchen/dining room/laundry area week, so I’ve been very happy with the overlap on this last few challenges).  I took all the spices out, made circle labels for the tops, organized them into bins (recycled from fruit cartons to save money) according to how I use them, and put them back away.  Most things stayed on their original shelves, but I made sure that second shelf had labeled columns that made sense, rather than everything thrown in there willy-nilly.  (And yes, to those observant folks, I do keep super glue & sharpies in there.  That little bit of counter there is useless for most things besides drying wet glued items and labeling things.)  That third shelf just got tidied, as that top shelf  is too small to store anything anyway other than flat.  The circle labels were made using the big sheets of sticker paper Wal-mart used to give out when you got portraits there (the software to make the stickers did not make cute things, so I never got around to using it) and my handy-dandy circle punches (which saved me money since I didn’t have to go out and buy little circle stickers!).

Before, During, and After my spice cabinet redo

“We started right here, in the ovary”

I hate giving subject lines for these posts, especially when I’m just updating about everything.  Maybe I should go back and retitle this “More of everything” Hmm.

David has been doing a lot of scouts stuff from his book, which means that all of us have been doing a lot of scouts stuff because you can’t have just one kid doing all the “fun” stuff.  The kids liked making family trees again (this time with phone calls to relatives to ascertain actual dates & real names) and finding the page in the phone book that has all the emergency info and calling different city officials to ask questions about how the city works and doing more of the recycling on their own (including picking out everything from their Happy Meals that could be recycled & taking that home to put in our bin rather than leaving it there with all the other trash “They waste SO MUCH, Mommy!  Why do they do that?”)

Ben is steadily growing stronger reading skills.  It’s been really hard getting him to read aloud to us at home.  He’s the second best reader in his class (behind Amy, whose mom is an elementary school teacher), but reading at home has just not been something he’s willing to do.  So now we just have him read a few pages out of each book we do at bedtime story time (in addition to whatever they send home as reading homework.)  Knowing that he only has a few pages and that we’ll fill in all the hard words seems to make it easier on him.  Ben has also taken to my old Cabbage Patch Kids lately.  He has a few that he especially likes and will dress up for certain occasions.  It’s pretty funny.

Greg is still climbing everything in sight.   He has ropes that he carries around with him nearly at all times and will tie to things.  He gets his brothers to help him tie them up higher than he can reach.  During the day when they’re not home to assist him he’ll do general kid stuff, but as soon as they get home, he’s back to finding new & better places to climb.  Oh, and when he paints stuff, he mixes all the colors & makes all his painting black.  He paints weird stuff, too.  like Oklahoma.

Nick continues to spend loads of time in Beaumont, but that will end on February 12th.  I can’t wait for him to be home for real, but you know what?  It’s going to be an adjustment.  I’ve gotten used to my weeknight schedule & I don’t know if I’ll transition back to Couple Time all-the-time very well. Currently I’ve been doing Monday nights as project nights, Tuesday nights as other-people-time, & Wednesday nights as TV time.  We’ll see if Nick likes that plan.

I’ve been writing, cleaning, etc.  When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.  (Writing updates continue to be at my dreamwidth journal)
Or fixing people’s computer woes.  Apparently word has spread that I have a way with computers, so I’ve gotten a few phone calls the past month or so requesting assistance.  Mostly over the phone “how do I?” stuff, but this weekend I went to someone’s house & set stuff up, then fielded calls/texts about it all across Saturday afternoon & Sunday morning.

Speaking of calls/texts, we’ve noticed an upswing in our phone usage in the last 6 months, not because Nick’s been gone (we actually talk less during the day, so the extra call at night just blends into the regular usage), but just, ya know, being friendlier or something.  I don’t know.  So we started running our usage stats, first through Sprint (who actually said our current plan suited us, despite our being $20-$50 over every month), then on our own.  We added in our wishlists of how we’d like to use our phones that we aren’t currently doing, looked up plan comparisons, phone reviews, etc, and found out that we’re better off staying with our current carrier (Sprint, which works well here all the way to CS) and getting smartphones with the unlimited family plan.  So once our refunds from last years medical expenses come in, we’ll be doing that.  We’re looking at the HTC Hero phone and the Samsung Moment (we haven’t actually played with them in store yet, but I’ll be doing that tomorrow if the sick kid goes back to school by then).

In other randomness, I’ve been drinking tons of tea lately, trying all different kinds from various places.  My favorite is the supergood ginger kind that my friends sister gave her from Teavana (more details once I’ve seen the canister again).  Republic of Tea’s Cinnamon Plum loose leaf tea is also very nice (but Blackberry Sage remains my favorite from them).  Lipton has a flavored green tea that’s orange, passionfruit, and jasmine that I like for afternoons.  I also have a new favorite otc bagel: Sara Lee’s Blueberry.  There’s something different about them now: they’re more lemon flavored than they used to be.  Mmm.

I have some news that I’m sitting on currently that I’m really excited about, but am awaiting more information before I can announce it.  Eeee.  I love having exciting news & I hate waiting to share it, but that’s the way it goes.

That’s it for this week’s update.  More later.  🙂
Now playing: Michael Mucklow – Pipe’s Canyon Sunset
via FoxyTunes

Chopper thingie

Dude, this chopper thingie really rocks. It’s one of those slidy things with a blade on one side (diagonally set) and the other side has a place for different shaped pieces to slide in, depending on what kind of cut you want. It took me 30 seconds to cut carrots, instead of the 5 solid minutes of work it would have taken me for horrible slices.

Alas, I did suffer one small problem: I sliced my thumb. Oh well.

All in the name of making inexpensive baby food.