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3.31.2009

A Little Recipe for Some Wall Wowza

Take a large blank space on your family room wall that has been bugging you for far too long.

Add an undeniable urge to create a grouping of neutral colored plates.

Ignore the fact that your husband does not think plates are potential decorating material.

He is wrong.

Find several plates at the best place ever, TJ Maxx, even a few on clearance. Do a quick happy dance right there in the aisle as you place them in your cart.

Dig around in closet for two small shelves purchased looooong ago that never found a proper home.

Coerce your husband to help hang the plates to which he is opposed.

Rig up one of the shelves to camouflage a light switch that has driven you bug eyed batty for years since it is smack dab in the middle of a wall. Of course a man installed that, probably based on a building code or something, certainly not aesthetics.

Use the shelf and a plate to outwit that silly building code.

Hang all the plates in what is hopefully an eye-pleasing arrangement.

Tell 5 year old you will be done in a minute. For the 989th time.

Admire your creation for the next several days by stopping dead in your tracks and exclaiming every time you enter the room, "I just love these plates! LOOK how nice they look together! I don't have to stare at the light switch anymore! Why did we wait so long to do this?!?! I want to hang plates EVERYWHERE now!"

Or something like that.

Ignore your husband as he rolls his eyes. You think he likes it after all.

3.29.2009

This Russian Dressing Is Not For Your Salad

What do you do when you realize the kind friends who loaned you an authentic Russian outfit many moons ago would probably appreciate it returned toote suite so their own daughter can wear it in the near future?

You postpone the requisite Sunday afternoon nap and hurriedly dress your somewhat reluctant daughter in said authentic ensemble, grab your camera bag and host an impromptu photo shoot.

First you try some shots outdoors in the harsh midday sun. Not so good.

Not only do you stress about bright sunlight, dappled-light shadows and the sheer fact that you are allowing your five year old to traipse around outside in a borrowed lace edged dress, but also the fact that your subject might likely wander off and look for worms.

Through gritted teeth you persuade your subject to ignore the itchiness of the dress and the watering eyes from the sunshine. All the while you somehow refrain from saying, "Suck it up and smile, sweetheart," while snapping several shots that look like this...

You give up on the outside photo shoot and decide to try your luck indoors. By this time every one is a tad crabby. You enlist your husband to find a white sheet or something to use as a backdrop. He finds a tablecloth and is given the job of holding it up for the remainder of this impromptu photo session on the stairs.
Ahhh...this is much better.

You take at least a bazillion shots in the hope a few might be keepers. As you do this your subject grows bored.

Thank goodness a few are keepers after all.

If you would like to see a few more take a peek over HERE.

3.26.2009

Think I Can Handle This Without a Xanax?

Remember my unfettered anxiety over Annelise's first play date at a school friend's house a few months ago?

Despite all my worries at the time, everything went well and she had a wonderful afternoon. While not ready for numerous, indiscriminate play dates (my idea, not hers of course) I am now more comfortable with the occasional carefully selected play date. At least I think I am.

After A. visited her friend's house I knew I should invite her friend over to our house. I've just been a little slow getting around to it. Okay, quite slow, possibly sloth-like slowness. Yesterday during our field trip I bit the bullet, talked to E.'s mom and invited E. over next Tuesday after school.

Aren't you proud of me?

Since play dates are not our norm around here, I am wondering what might be expected. Do I need to plan crafts or activities? Do I provide a little structure and then let them have some free play time as well? Do I need to hire a clown?

I'm thinking of having a muffin tin lunch (or picnic if it's nice weather), which I think they'll like. Since it will only be a couple of hours I don't want to go overboard, but I think I should have at least one or two activities planned. I like the idea of baking (I'd probably mix the dough ahead of time) and decorating Spring/Easter cookies or doing an easy craft, but I don't want to end up in a fetal position sucking my thumb in the corner over planning a play date either.

Any suggestions? Also, what do you do when confronted with an unsavory play date invitation? You know, the kind where you just don't want your child to be influenced by Damien. How do you handle those situations gracefully? So far I've just been vague and avoid-y (with a smile and small laugh), but not sure how to handle it if it comes down to the wire.

Without a Xanax.

3.25.2009

In Which We Expand Our Cultural Horizons

Just a little.

This morning Annelise's class took a field trip to our local Art Alliance Center. It showcases different artists and their artwork and even offers classes from time to time, at least I think they do.

I can't say we've taken full advantage of this bit of culture in our backyard until today.

They are currently displaying artwork from students in our school district from Kindergarten through High School. It was interesting to see all the different mediums used and the results of their imaginations. There is a lot of talent out there!


Annelise enjoyed looking at the artwork, at least for a little while. After a short break on a carpet square for a juice pouch and an oatmeal cookie, it was time to create.

They mixed different colors of modeling clay and attempted to make a bowl. She tried making it two different ways (forming/molding a ball and coiling snake like) but bless her picky heart, she was never quite satisfied with her creation.

Seeing all of the kids' art made me feel a little guilty for not encouraging A.'s creativity more often, and in different ways. She does draw, color, cuts and pastes a lot, watercolors occasionally but usually only does off the wall crafts at school (painting with shaving cream, leaf prints, all activities requiring glitter, etc.). I hate to admit that she has an easel with a chalkboard on one side and the place for painting on the other, but I've never bought the roll of paper for it. Or the pots of paint. I know.

After our outing today I am inspired to give art a chance. I promise to relax my control freak tendencies and not worry about potential messes. I also promise to purchase a roll of art paper for her easel and the paint to go with it. Soon.

However, I won't make any promises about the glitter.

3.23.2009

Doo Dads of Happiness

A little afternoon baking.

Simple joys of getting to crack the eggs and use the mixer.

Yes, I still have the old school hand held mixer, though I've considered upgrading to something like a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Besides sprucing up my kitchen counter, would having one really change my overall baking experience? Please advise...

Jar of fresh baked goodness.

Using my favorite casserole dish for supper. It was supposed to be creamy poppy seed chicken, but since I was out of poppy seeds it ended up being just creamy chicken. Oh well, still tasty.

Picking up some new patterned paper at Hobby Lobby while their scrapbook supplies are 50% off this week. Love that.

Finding my scrapbooking mojo over the weekend and completing several layouts.

We'll just ignore the fact that they are for events that happened in 2007 and be thrilled that the act of scrapbooking has been taking place, okie dokie?

What are some doo dads that are bringing you happiness?

3.21.2009

Scattered, Yet Selective Summary

Those playful, creative leprechauns skipped our house this year. Again. This may or may not have something to do with me. Annelise was THRILLED to eat Lucky Charms and wear a cute shamrock shirt, so I don't feel too guilty. Maybe each year I will add something new so by the time she's 8 or 10 we'll really party.

Wednesday we had A.'s overdue annual Dr. check-up and vaccinations. Does that make her sound like a pet? Maybe I should say immunizations. Anyway, this is a before the 2 shots photo. (Pardon the mark on her nose, no it's not a failed piercing, she scratched herself.)

Just imagine the after shots photo as a really red, tear stained face with a slightly betrayed expression. If I understood her doctor correctly, we may not have to get shots again until she's 12. A. was quite pleased to hear that bit of news.
The doctor asked the usual questions but then stumped me a little with the "Is she reading?" question. In my head I was thinking, "Well, she recognizes some words, copy-reads when we read together, but we don't do flash cards and I've never ordered that Hooked on Phonics..."
So I just mumbled, "No, not really...yet."
And I've felt guilty ever since. Sometimes my laid back approach to most things in life comes back to bite me in the bottom. I just figure it's all going to come together and she'll read someday soon. Am I wrong?
After all the doctor visit drama we met Scott for lunch down at the DQ. We had not eaten there in a long time and were taken aback by all the deep fried possibilities. What's that noise? The sound of our cholesterol rising I'm sure (among other things).

Wednesday night around bedtime until Thursday evening Annelise had a fever from one of her shots. Poor thing, she really thought she got the short straw having painful shots, sore legs and a lingering pesky fever.
She could only muster enough energy to sit on the porch and eat some grapes for a little while.

Did you notice that I played around with some effects for a few of these photos? Scott gave me Photoshop Elements for my birthday, but I am ashamed to admit I still have no idea what to do with it. I've played around with it some, but usually end up closing it in frustration. I use Smugmug to store my digital photos online and they offer easy editing through Picnik which I am infatuated to pieces with. One easy click and I'm set. Love that.
I've been tackling the disaster area known as my craft room bit by bit. Several times this week I walked in there, stood in disbelief and fear for a few minutes and fled. Yesterday I worked in there and in A.'s room for a couple of hours just sorting and rotating clothes. You can't really tell though, there's still so much to do. Sigh. I plan on braving it again today.
Since this has been Spring Break, and we haven't had to get up early (though a certain 5 1/2 year old did not get that memo), I have been staying up late. Sadly, not doing anything creative or productive, but watching old episodes of NCIS. I always thought that was just an Old Person (sorry) show like Jag or something and never gave it a thought.
Until now.
I have a HUGE one-sided crush on Mark Harmon. And the actors that play Tony and McGee, and gothed-out-caffed-up Abby is precious.
I know. I am a dork.

3.20.2009

And I'm Not Talking About a River in Egypt

I'm talking about my own denial.

Denial when I get dressed and things feel tight. Denial that certain areas bulge and puff. Denial that clothes I wore last spring don't feel or look so nice this spring. Definite denial about the rapidly approaching summer season of shorts and swimsuits (even though I'm more of a Bermuda short and Land's End swim mini girl, still). Denial when I ignore my portion size or the number of helpings. Denial about being hungry versus a habit. Denial when I buy and eat the junk. Big denial about the junk. Denial that next week I'll get everything together.

I'm tired of all the denial.

I can't seem to get my diet and exercise routine in sync. A few good days with one and the other stinks or vice versa. I have put off going back to Weight Watchers for months, telling myself all kinds of excuses about the $$ and that I know the program, I can do it on my own.

Like those aren't my thighs rubbing together or anything.

So, yeah, I've been having a few issues with denial. And I don't mean that river in Egypt. Sigh.

3.18.2009

To Make or Not to Make

Last month I wrote a post about something terribly serious, possibly jaw dropping and gasp inducing. Remember the Dishwasher Dilemma?

Yes, that one.

I was rather surprised by the interest and conviction expressed over separating your silverware vs. a more willy-nilly approach. I was quite tickled. Turns out, many of you are like me and just toss the silverware into the caddy, some are even more like me in that the majority of your cutlery can be found in the first few spots because you don't like to open the door all the way.

So glad we're friends!

Others showed obvious distress that tossing willy-nilly is even an option. Your caddy is organized and neat, like utensils grouped together ready to be easily unloaded back into the drawer.

Hope we're still friends!

In the willy-nilly camp there was relief that the dishes and silverware were even IN the dishwasher, however they are arranged. There was also concern expressed over the fate of the segregated spoons. Would they nestle together and not get cleaned? The horror! The segregated camp sang the praises of organization and time saved by grouping their silverware. Makes sense. (Did someone whisper OCD?) I think we all agreed that dishwashers (the automatic and human powered kinds) make our lives easier, no matter how we load them.

Now I have another question to pose to you, my dear bloggy friends, brace yourselves.

Do you make your bed every day? Every. Single. Day?

Even though our nightstands might be cluttered, and okay...a little dusty, and the bench at the foot of our bed is really nothing but a clutter magnet, our bed gets made each morning. On rare occasions it might not get made, those days always make me feel slovenly and out of sorts. Making the bed gives me a sniglet of peace, an assurance that in relation to other housekeeping negligence that may or may not be evident, at least I've made the bed. Small, daily victories, right?

What about you?

3.16.2009

The Key is Lower Expectations

We are off to a rocking and rolling Spring Break around here.

That is if you are 5 and don't know any different. Someday I won't be able to swing this, she will expect planned, organized fun because friends will begin to tell her about ski trips or beach trips that actually take place during Spring Break. I figure we have a few more years of blissful ignorance and I plan to milk that.

In the future, a trip to the YMCA, HEB and the library is probably not going to rank very high on her cool-o-meter. Today it did, that's what matters.

Last week or so I reached into my bag of Mom Ultimatums and told A. if she did not stop being wasteful with toilet paper and liquid soap I was going to take $$$ from her piggy bank to replace them.

You would not believe the waterfall of tears and the begging that ensued. We agreed this was her last chance. Now we occasionally hear ,"Guess what?!?! I only used 3 squares!!" or, "I just squirted a little soap!!" She is really trying to be more careful which is good.

Last night she couldn't find her almost new Carmex and had the nonchalant attitude of we'll just replace it. I reminded her again of keeping track of her things, etc. This morning I asked her for $1.25 from her stash so she could buy a new Carmex when we went to HEB.

No tears, thank goodness, she was actually looking forward to it. I handed her her money and had her go through the check-out first. She was proud of herself.

I don't know if this was really a lesson, but I hope she will keep track of this Carmex.

As for the rest of Spring Break, well, we don't really have any plans. See, by keeping expectations low, anything can end up being fun. If you're 5.

3.13.2009

Five for Friday

1. I have been breaking in my new running shoes these last two weeks. I've only been getting in short weekday runs, between 3-5 miles, about 3 times a week. In a perfect world, the one where I wasn't so lazy, I'd get in another weekday and a longer run on Saturdays. Oh well. I went back to Mizuno Wave Creation, which I have been happy with in the past. Plus I really like the heel design and the zippy orange color. What can I say, I'm a girl.

2. Scott and I have been teaching the 4-5 year old Bible class on Wednesday nights for a year or so. It's been a lot of fun to watch their growth, both physically and in their Biblical knowledge. Every three years our minister, his wife and a few other dedicated helpers, teach a special class for the 4th, 5th and 6th grade boys and girls. It's called Force 410 and they learn, in a fairly challenging way, more about Christianity and worship. The boys and girls are encouraged to study and complete different levels of tests, do service projects, the boys practice helping during worship services, and the boys and girls teach a bible class.

This Wednesday night two of the Force 410 girls, Mikayla and Kelsey (both in 5th grade) taught our class, which is also Annelise's class. She adores these big girls to pieces, so needless to say she was beside herself with glee.

They did an absolutely fantastic job teaching about Jesus being our foundation. They had visuals, a hands-on application and a even a snack of super cool candy Lego pieces. The boys and girls might not want Scott and I to come back next week since we are not so cool.

3. I have been room mom for Annelise's class this year, except I'm more of a reluctant remedial room mom. I say reluctant because for the first couple weeks of school the sign-up sheet sat pitifully empty, I started to feel guilty, so I decided to give it a whirl. I say remedial because I am a very low key, basic type of room mom. I am a fan of the less is more, not a lot of bells and whistles approach to class parties/activities. This is a room of Pre-K 4-5 year olds, a little bit of excitement goes a long way.

Actually other than organizing the class parties and getting an art project together for an auction it hasn't been that bad of a gig. Since the teacher's birthday falls during Spring Break I tried to organize an early celebration today. I sent a note home asking the kids to make a card for her and maybe bring in flowers or a gift if they could/wanted to, and I think most of them did. Yea!

Last summer I picked up several of these popcorn boxes at the TarJay $ Spot knowing they'd come in handy for something someday. They did. I filled the bottom with Hershey's Nuggets (her teacher's favorite candy), tucked in some popcorn and a Blockbuster gift card. Annelise made a card and we were set. I loved that it was simple and came out pretty cute too.

4. This is a shameless plug for the new mascara I picked up yesterday. Love it. It went on nicely, not clumpy and had good coverage in one swishy-swish across my lashes. I have to admit my gooberness (not that it's ever in question) in not noticing the $1.00 coupon attached to the package until I got home. Bummer. I would probably like it even more.

5. Last week I went to the eye doctor and selected new glasses and sunglasses, in the hopes I will wear my contacts less. I like contacts of course, but my eyes get so dry I end up wanting to claw my contacts off. Not that I would.

The new glasses came in today, and while similar to my old pair, they are nevertheless, um...shall I say...bold.

I think I like them, but the jury is still out. What do you think?

3.12.2009

You Had Me at Hello

Isn't that the cheesiest line ever? Yes. Still, at times it's fitting.

This post isn't really about Jerry Maguire, though that is a pretty good movie, I can only tolerate Tom Cruise in small portions. Is it just me or does he bug you too? Granted, he's handsome, but freakishly intense, no real depth or acting range and let's not forget the couch incident on Oprah.

Please.

I used to think Renee Zellweger was just precious, loved her in JM, Bridget Jones, etc. Somewhere along her road to fame she started to believe that squinty eyes and the I Smell Something Sour face was the way to go.

It's not.

Anyway, like I said, this post isn't about that, it's about books. You know the moment when you open a book, eager to be swept up in whatever the plot is and imagine yourself as participating in the adventure right along with the characters? That is a heady feeling, my friends. Sometimes that feeling takes a few pages or a few chapters to hit. Other books might take longer to hook you, which is sad since we might give up on them before we discover their greatness.

Some books just have you at hello.

Instantly you know that the book is going to take you along on a fabulous ride and you find yourself giddy with anticipation. I've been fortunate enough to discover many novels that fall into this category, probably too many to list. Those books are the keepers, they deserve space on your overcrowded bookshelf. They are the books you want to shout their praises from the rooftops and share with your best friends (as long as they sign in blood that they will return them of course). These are books you might read again someday.

This book had me at hello when I opened it this morning. I'm predicting a delightful read.

My insatiable bibliophile-spastic self is now wondering which books had you at hello.

Do tell...

3.10.2009

You Can Blame This Post on Oprah

So I was sitting at home Monday morning doing something terribly productive while Annelise was at school.

I was watching a DVRd Oprah show from last week. I know.

It was the one about a severely neglected girl from Florida. Her name is Danielle and she was 6 years old when she was removed from her birth mother's home, yet she had the behavior of an infant. Thankfully she has been adopted and is in what seems to be a stable, loving environment. But oh my goodness, she has a long road ahead of her, and so does her family. Did anyone see that show?

I soon found myself almost in tears (and those of y'all that know me know this doesn't happen often) thinking about her circumstances and those of other children in similar situations, whether infants or older children. A few thoughts came quickly to the forefront of my brain.

I must first say how thankful I am that God led us to Annelise when she was still a baby. Even though she was 13 months old when we met her, and 14 months when we brought her home, she was still very much a baby. While we missed out on many of her firsts, we did get to experience plenty. God's plan for us adopting a slightly older baby (which was of course different than what Scott and I thought we wanted) worked out perfectly.

What hit home for me was when they described some of Danielle's behaviors, which were some of the same behaviors we experienced when we first met Annelise in Moscow. Nadezhda (Annelise's name at birth, she was nicknamed Nadya) was born in a maternity hospital then moved to Orphanage 14 when she was 3 months old. From what we saw and were told, they took very good care of the children there. The director, staff and nurses seemed to truly care about the children. But still. I know she spent much of her time in a crib or play pen with only occasional adult interaction. One nurse in particular paid Nadya extra attention, which was a comfort to us. Nadya was withdrawn at first, very shy. With plenty of coaxing, playing and focused attention she quickly adjusted to us. We dealt with crying fits at meal time, even if we just set her cup of milk down for a minute. It took her a while to learn there was plenty of food. Too many toys were overwhelming to her. She had to learn to be held. She rocked herself if she was still for a few minutes as a form of stimulation. She also rocked herself to sleep, often violent rocking. She didn't cry when we put her down or left the room (at least in the beginning), she was used to that.

All of those behaviors went away with time, some faster than others. Although she is now 5 1/2, she will still rock herself to sleep occasionally. If you met her you would never guess she had been withdrawn or hesitant for even a second. She thrives on social interaction, a regular social butterfly. I am truly thankful that there were no developmental delays or long term behavioral effects.

It seems watching this episode of Oprah has also brought up my not-so-deeply-buried thoughts of "What's next?" for our family. Annelise has made it abundantly clear she wants a brother or a sister. We would like for her to have one too.

At least I think we do.

Let's face it, having one child is easier and cheaper. Raising an only child definitely has its perks and its pits. Occasionally Scott and I have The Conversation. Annelise is 5 1/2, do we really want to start over? I don't feel like IVF is something we will attempt again. However, I do believe that God has the power to overcome our fertility issues, if that is His plan. I must admit that there is still an empty place inside my heart having not experienced a pregnancy. Adopting Annelise soothed those feelings, but did not fully take them away. Do we want to adopt again? Do we want to adopt domestically (although I fear we'd be judged as too old for an infant) or internationally? Russia again or China? Do we want to adopt an older child? While I know there is a huge need for that, there is a huge fear about developmental and behavioral issues that might come with adopting an older child. What would either addition do to our family dynamic? If I'm completely honest, I have selfish concerns too.

So, um...yeah...I think about it.

What I need to do is pray about it, that God will reveal His plan for our family and we will be open to opportunities He places before us.

"For I know the plans I have for you, "declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

3.09.2009

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging

I somehow managed to take a bloggy sabbatical over the last week, thinking that I had no blog worthy material.

I still may not have any.

However, in an effort to break out of my bloggy funk, I am forcing myself to post.

I'm shifting my perspective a bit to find joy in the mundane, the ordinary daily tasks.

Yeah, it's a big shift.

But I'm going to try to remember the delight in picking a flower.

In doing just about the same laundry this week that I did last week.

Loading and unloading the same dishes into the dishwasher.

I might have to take a time out to sing with A. and her High School Musical microphone.

I'll probably cook basically the same meals I always cook.

I'll wage my usual war with dog and cat hair.

I will smile and say sure when A. asks to get out her Play Doh 30 seconds after I put the vacuum away.

I will try harder to see the beauty of God's creation around me and be thankful.

I will take time to notice the little things.

I will appreciate the love around me.