Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Absolute Last Blog Post of 2008

Our New Year's Party culminated at 9:00 p.m. We had seventeen children here (five families), none older than a second grader - so we welcomed 2009 with the New Yorkers.

Even if I'm not wearing an evening gown and dancing on a roof in Chicago (which would be very cold anyway) - I absolutely can't go to sleep before midnight.

What to do... what to do...

"Elf" is repeating on some dish channel.
There is plenty of toffee left over.
I'm not yet finished with a very entertaining novel.
I need a lot of practice on Dance Dance Revolution.
I'm in Vegas, for Pete's sake. Nothing is stopping me from heading to the Strip.
Write a New Year's card --- never did send anything out for Christmas.
Reflect on the year gone by and wonder what the new year holds.

Good night!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Our friends Mark & Karen and their children have arrived from Canada to move next door. For now, though, they're staying at our house. Stay tuned for adventure stories from 2,200 square feet and eight kids!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Smidgens

Saturdays are always nice, and even MORE so when preceded by a holiday and two additional days off. Our entire family has slept in until 8:00 the past three days. Calling it heavenly isn't an exaggeration. A few little fun things going on:

-Santa left Stephenie Meyer's Twilight in my stocking. (He also brought Season One of "Get Smart" on DVD --- I love Santa!) Normally, I wouldn't pay much attention to a book with a plot like this, but my curiosity is piqued. Even if a hundred of my closest friends endorse a book about vampires, I have no interest. But when TWO hundred give it their thumbs-up, I gotta respond. With all the hype, I learned that the author is Mormon and this was her debut novel. She was a stay-at-home mom who hadn't read any books about vampires and cranked this thing out. I'm intrigued. I'm 102 pages in and I already know I'll be reading the whole series. I like that I've heard she "keeps it clean" as far as the romance --- now I'm just nervous to get to scary parts.

-Yesterday I spent two hours and put the much-delayed second coat of paint on my "brown wall project". It is complete and it looks magnificent. Listen to this snowball: I bought a little vinyl-letter phrase to put on my kitchen wall; I decided the wall would look better painted; a month or more of paint-chip analyzing and debate went by; finally, I painted in spurts of weekends and weeknights after the kids were in bed; then the curtains had to go (ask Josh Wilkinson); after tomorrow - it will all be complete. The whole shebang - paint, pricey paint brush, vinyl letters and new curtains and curtain rods was just barely over two hundred dollars. I feel like I could have my own budget decorating show on HGTV. Let's ignore the fact that this is a rental so it all might be for naught, but I am SICK AND TIRED OF WHITE WALLS SO IT WILL BE WORTH IT FOR WHATEVER TIME I HAVE EVEN IF WE MOVE!

-The Wii is a huge hit. We love it! I am terrible at it, but I have full confidence that I will improve. Joseph, Cayna, even Bethanie - are becoming expert bowlers, baseball players, and golfers. As a former video game UN-enthusiast, I have a way to go to understand the bright colors and bizarre characters of games like Mario Kart, but it is super fun to race against my husband - even when I lose. For the record, I was also horrible at Olympic ping-pong. And Dance Dance Revolution. I'll let you know how my skills evolve over the coming months.

-Anyone who has some words of wisdom or encouragement about dealing with extended family "issues" around the holidays - send 'em my way! I'm finding myself in a funk now that Christmas is past. Can any amount of therapy ever help me adjust my Norman Rockwell expectations to my "Arrested Development" reality? Not even "Arrested Development", because at least they're funny. Maybe New Year's will be better, right? Right, because even though New Year's is notorious for outta sight expectations, at least they don't involve family in my case.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Back Out There

For the past two days, it has been nice living in a cocoon of family, yummy meals, opening presents and playing with them, a new Nativity set and all the significance of it these days, no school and no work.

But tonight, one of our children (who shall remain nameless) was out of PullUps, so I ventured out into the dark and cold to pick up a pack at Target. Good thing I only took the money I needed to buy the necessary item, since half the store was fifty-percent-off. I might have gone crazy buying random pieces of Christmas plate sets. BOY there were a lot of people out there filling their carts with half-off Christmas items. I walked down the Christmas decor aisle and as I watched a woman loading a 3-pack of wrapping paper into her cart, I felt a little tired. We just completed that stuff! I don't know that I could bring myself to buy wrapping paper a whole year ahead right now. Granted, days before Christmas, I scored at Costco with a 950-pound roll of really pretty red and silver paper with whimsical "HO HO HOs" printed across it, so I'm not feeling desperate.

I left. I came home. A small uprising occurred when it was realized that I bought the wrong gender PullUps. Oops. Well, it was bound to happen - I was walking in a haze of clearance sales and shoppers who likely were there just two nights ago as well. Don't think I'm judging, I'm just glad the commercial craziness of the season is almost over. I want to stay home a while longer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Yep, still up. Almost done, though.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Teri almost got killed by the 20-foot extension ladder she bought for Kevin for Christmas. More on that another time...

It's a very silent night, and it will be a holy night once I'm asleep.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back from my run.

Sitting here still sweating. David Crowder's "O Praise Him" on the iPod. I did NOT want to run this morning. It wasn't the fear of an unprepared-for half marathon that got me out, it was the 5 pieces of fudge I ate last night. Actually, I probably worked that off with my shopping, but in case there was still some residual sugar in my system, I just burnt it off. You don't want to start a day off with four kids at home on sugar highs of their own with a bloodstream full of fudge.

Out I went. Decided to do the downhill first, and it was poetry. Quite windy, but on the downhill it was at my back - that is some easy running. But, you might be ahead of me already in your calculating so I'm wasting type strokes telling you this - on the uphill I was heading right into the gusts. Ugh. Slog is the word for the day for the majority of my run. At least it was short. I have to keep going because I am officially signed up for the half marathon in a couple short months. I can't go for this the way I went for college papers - putting off the work until the night before. Maybe that will be another benefit of running in my life - chipping away at my procrastination habits.

The day begins. The fudge is burnt off, but I only have six hours of sleep behind me and nearly two million dollars worth of shopping to be wrapped. And I'd like to enjoy my children. Too much to ask? Better go pray. (And shower.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eve Eve Eve of Christmas

I just got home from finishing my Christmas shopping. It was brutal. Most of it wasn't even MY shopping - I was buying presents for my kids with money from well-intentioned but lazy relatives. Next year, I think I'll tell them it's fine not to give anything if they don't want to do the dirty work themselves.

This all leads to the feeling of dread in my gut, since NOTHING is wrapped yet. Not one thing. Well, the gift I ordered online for my nieces and paid a little extra to have wrapped - but that hardly counts. Guess we all know what I'll be doing tomorrow night, huh?

In the midst of a still-long to-do list, we went to daily Mass today. That was good for refocusing, if only for half an hour.

What is everyone else doing these last few days before Christmas? If all your prep work is done, and you're sitting back enjoying some eggnog, or the glow of light from your tree, I envy you.

Off to visions of sugarplums.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Theology, Physics, Architecture, Home Ec

My day in college course titles:

Theology - Went to Mass. Relished sitting near our friends with five kids because there is safety in numbers, right? And if anyone glared at us - it wouldn't matter because we wouldn't know which kid was the culprit. Fourth Sunday of Advent. All the candles lit. Christmas is close!

Physics - Spent a good two hours in tremendous fear today. I wobbled precariously on an extension ladder that is likely older than I am. It is clinkety-clankety and I had to climb WAY up to reach the top of the wall by the ceiling to paint. Kept begging Kevin to come stand close --- as he said, to give me a false sense of security. I guess that means he didn't believe he could catch me if I fell. I think it's amazing I lived to sit here blogging, and that people use ladders like that every day. I'm glad I don't know more about physics, because I'm certain I was defying numerous laws on that ladder.

Seriously, look how high I had to climb. Freaky!!!

You'd need a close-up to see the fear in my eyes.

Architecture - Best success EVER with "gingerbread" houses! We used Rice Krispie treats instead of gingerbread and it was a phenomenal substitute. Using just one batch, Kevin cut the walls and roof supports for each kid, and it was so easy to mush together and keep the suckers standing. Unlike the structural disasters of houses from years past made of gingerbread and frosting. I did make powdered sugar/vanilla extract/milk frosting and kept it pretty gluey. But it wasn't necessary to hold the walls together, it just helped attach the windows, doors, decorations, and roofing.

Kevin cutting the walls. See? All you need is Rice Krispie treats and a pizza cutter!

Joseph begins construction:

The proud homebuilders with their finished product:

Home Ec - After a busy day including Mass, football-watching, driveway-shoveling (we're North-facing and the snow had turned to 3 inches of ice), wall-painting, gingerbread house-making, and stopping by my mom's to see her Christmas tree and help her set up some holiday lights - I have to pat myself on the back for pulling a last-minute dinner out of thin air without going to fast food even though I wanted to. Granted, it was leftovers and frozen blueberries, but we've had worse.

I'll finish with this photo of Kevin shoveling our driveway. Don't laugh - we don't have a snow shovel, OBVIOUSLY --- since a snow like this comes along once every three decades where we live. We desert rats are tremendously inconvenienced when the wondrous white stuff actually hangs around for longer than a few hours. We're not used to driving in it, shoveling it, seeing it on the sidewalks, or having it turning to ice in the shade five days after it fell!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saving my family with a shoe.

Readers, I'm addressing you with a heavy heart. For I know my death is imminent. Either the scorpions are going to kill me, or I'll worry myself to my demise.

Tonight at 7:10 p.m. (maybe earlier, maybe later, I wasn't really watching the clock) I flipped on the light in the guest room just in time to catch Mr. Scorpion number 212 headed for the closet. This is now scorpion number four since Thanksgiving and number 212 overall. (Okay, not 212, but it's over 10 now, so what does it matter the exact count? The point is, there are FAR TOO MANY DEADLY LITTLE SONS OF A GUN LURKING IN MY HOUSE.) This was also the second scorpion to be discovered upstairs, a venue I previously (wrongly) assumed was safe because if it wasn't for that assumption I couldn't sleep at night.

If questioned, I'll admit, reluctantly, that my bug lady extraordinaire did do a little checking in the attic, and did take note of the ceiling fan position over our bed. At the time, she said something like, "With really bad infestations, they'll sometimes come in around the base of the ceiling fan and drop right to your bed." You can see why I'd try to forget such information.

Anyway, tonight I screamed for Kevin. Praise the Lord I have yet to discover a live scorpion when he isn't home. He appeared with a glittery pink flip-flop belonging to my daughter - (too pretty, if you ask me, to serve as a weapon of death - but I'm not going to risk the scorpion escaping while another more suitable shoe is fetched) - and proceeded to squash the varmint while I tried to keep from having a stroke. I wish I could say all is now well, but it isn't. I still have to deal with the reality that these guys think this is their house. Well, I'm not going down without a fight. Me and my sneakers and my flip-flops and yes, my boots, are poised and ready to defend our lives.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It really is a crazy story.

I went to the children's pageant at our church tonight. It was precious, and I don't use that word loosely. Yes, my children were beautiful and played their parts fantastically, but the most precious part was the story they were telling.

As I sat there looking at them all up on "stage", especially the girl wearing donkey ears (having carried Mary all the way to Bethlehem) - I thought, "What a crazy story." The whole thing. The baby Jesus. God becoming man. Mary and Joseph. The manger. The star. The wise men. It's crazy. I love it. I hope everyone enjoys the real story of Christmas in some form this year: children's pageants; choir performances; Bible reading; Christmas Eve services; whatever. Crazy stories are the best ones!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I can't say the day started like any other, because it didn't. The kids had the day off for parent-teacher conferences and Kevin took the day off so we could all go up to the snow at Mount Charleston.

With a stop at Target for a few things, and Big 5 Sporting Goods for snow boots and sleds, we were off for the snow! It had been three days of weather forecasts predicting snow in our valley, and three days of disappointment. Each night, when the kids were in bed, I would peek out the window at the dark to see if snow was falling. Twice I got all excited mistaking white moonlight on the palm trees for fallen snow. So... if the snow won't come to us, we go to the snow!

About 11:00 a.m. we were headed for the freeway when we noticed teeny tiny snowflakes. Hooray! And the best part was, we didn't have to watch them NOT stick to the ground at our house, we were going where there would be PILES of snow and lots of places to sled and build a snowman. We even brought a "snowman kit" - a grocery bag with a carrot for a nose, raisins for a smile, and a corncob pipe. (I don't kid about the corncob pipe, Kevin's had it since he was a kid and it usually resides in our junk drawer.)

Once on the road up the mountain, we started to see little patches of snow. Then bigger patches. I always like the look of snow among cactus. I am amazed how well this turned out, seeing as how I snapped it from inside a moving car.

By the time we got high enough to start looking for places to stop, it was snowing pretty good. I hadn't pictured playing in the snow as it was actually falling, so this was an extra treat - especially when I can nearly count on one hand the number of times I've been in falling snow. We found a place we weren't afraid of getting stuck, suited everybody up, and hopped out of the van. It wasn't ideal snowman-building consistency, and our only sled-run was a snowplow pile, but we made the best of it.

Kevin scouting the man-made "hill":

Me and John. See how much snow was falling?

Joe sledding:

Bethie trying her best to get a snowman started:

Cayna making a snow angel:

After maybe half an hour, we decided to try to find a better place for sledding. I don't have photos of that stop, but it was action-packed. Cayna and Joe were expert sledders and we found two great runs. Bethanie found her own mid-size pile of snow that she repeatedly slid over on her tummy. Toward the end of our time there, Kevin decided to take John down. It all ended in calamity when they reached the bottom of the run and crashed into Joe, knocking him off his feet and toppling onto John. After that, everyone decided it was too cold and time to go home.

Driving back, I was trying to decide for myself if we'd gotten enough "snow time". The further we went, the more we started to notice the snow wasn't letting up. Kevin said, "I know it wasn't snowing this far down when we came up." All the way down the mountain, onto the highway, then into the city the snow never stopped. It was the most bizarre thing. We left a normal day in Vegas for the snow, then brought it back with us. On the cell phone, Kristi (who lives across the street) said it hadn't stopped snowing since before lunch and was starting to stick. I asked her to take a photo of our house so I could see it in the snow because I was convinced it wouldn't last long enough for us to see when we returned. Due to the storm, traffic was insane and it took us twice as long to get home as it would normally. The closer we got to our side of town, the more our jaws dropped. Everything was covered in white. I couldn't resist taking a few more photos from the passenger seat:

Palm trees and snow are almost as noteworthy as cactus and snow:

We pulled into our unrecognizable church parking lot. Here is a picture of our beautiful bell tower, covered with snow:

Turning onto our street:

For the next several hours, we reveled in the beautiful, unique outdoors around our house. We celebrated when our obligations for the night got canceled, and then when school for the next day was canceled. It was a winter wonderland, literally. It was so so so so so so beautiful! The kids built their snowman with help from Kevin and Rich, and the sleds worked perfectly when being towed by other kids or by Kevin, Rich, or Mike. There was so much laughter and joy!

I think snow is beautiful. Admittedly, I've never had to shovel it or been inconvenienced by it. To me, it is a rare, miraculous occurrence. It brings loveliness, peace, quiet, and neighbors together. Last night happened to be the annual neighborhood open house that the family at the top of our cul-de-sac hosts. We walked up the street with hot dishes in our hands to share at the potluck; kids in the sled being towed by Kevin; and surrounded by this otherworldly glow that I missed before it was even gone. That's the thing about rare, miraculous occurrences: you don't know when or if they'll happen again. So you have to hold tight and suck all the greatness out of them while they're happening. It was a fabulous day. I hope I never forget Bethanie tromping around in her mini snow-boots; John taking it all in; Cayna laughing with excitement on a fast-pulled sled; and Joe tackling anything and everything and everyone with snowballs. I loved getting photos e-mailed from Melissa F., Monica, and my Dad of scenes all around our area. I loved going to bed with the curtains and shutters open wide and then hearing the slide and "shug!" of huge glaciers falling from our roof. At 11:30 p.m., I put on my wool coat and Kevin's gigantic shoes since mine were cold and wet - and walked out front to behold the scene all by myself. That was the craziest late night I've ever seen. As another neighbor said this morning: it glowed. So did the whole day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Magical Day

No one will ever make me rate the days of my life, but let's just say I had to - today would be in the top 10. Really. Today was a unique, beautiful, magical, blessed day. I have to tell the whole story, but it'll wait until tomorrow. For now, remember the picture I posted out my back door the other day?

Here is the same view today:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two Links

Because they are BOTH so worth the time, you gotta go watch these two clips - if not right now, then sometime! Follow the links below to the blogs of my friends Laura and Vicki.

If you do watch, PLEASE tell me what you think!

I cried listening to this one.

I laughed like crazy listening to this one (she posted two videos, it's the top one of the two).

Cookie Recipes

Cayna asked for caramel cookies. I couldn't think of any cookies that have caramel in them, but my trusty friend, Kristi told me about these Rolo/pretzel cookies. They're easy - use the "rule of three": three ingredients, three hundred degrees for three minutes. I put about forty waffle pretzels on a cookie sheet. One Rolo candy on each pretzel, and put the sheet in the oven for three minutes. As soon as it comes out, the Rolos are shiny but still in their original shape. Quickly squash them down with either a nut (pecans or almonds or whatever) or with another waffle pretzel. Or be creative! Then they have to set for a loooooooong time. Well over an hour out of the fridge or stick the whole sheet in the fridge until they cool otherwise you'll have chocolate mess everywhere when you try to remove them. If you like the salty/sweet combo, you'll probably like these. I'm not a huge fan, but the kids were thrilled and really liked laying the whole thing out and especially squooshing the melted candy when it came out of the oven.

See? With recipes that easy, anyone can pull off a few varieties of cookies. Well, anyone willing to blow fifty bucks on ingredients, that is.

If you let me know in comments which other recipes looked intriguing, I'll be happy to add to this post! It's my five minutes of feeling like a baker girl.

Oh! The chocolate lollipops are just pretzel rods dipped in candy molds full of melted chocolate bark. Not sure how that will go since in the past I only used those meltable chip things you get at Michael's. I'll take pictures when we're all done! If I wasn't so self-conscious of my secret blog, I'd post a link to her chocolate lollipops, but then you'd all like her better.

On Baking

Just returned from the grocery store, where aside from a loaf of bread, EVERYTHING I bought was for cookie-baking. This is the second year I let each person pick what kind of cookies they want. And since John can't speak for himself, that gives ME an extra vote. Here's the results:
Kevin - toffee (and snickerdoodles - man of the house gets two votes)
Me - haystacks (made with Fiber One cereal so they're 1 point)
Joe - sugar cookies to decorate
Cayna - pretzel-Rolo cookies
Bethie - peanut butter Kisses
John - chocolate lollipops

In addition, we make gingerbread houses every year, and it never goes well. This year I saw some made with Rice Krispie treats and that seems to me it would stay together better - which makes the structural engineer in all of us a little happier. So I bought a refrigerator-sized box of Rice Krispies, enough marshmallows to pave a road from here to eternity, and candy to decorate the houses when they're done. I am fairly sure we will all have diabetes when this is done.

Since I stocked up on flour, sugar, and butter - and since candy is more expensive than my mortgage payment, I spent fifty dollars at the grocery store.

I'm posting this in increments, and I now have two batches of cookies done. I did the easiest first. I over-sized and under-cooked the Kisses cookies.

Pre-assembled cookies and non-gingerbread gingerbread house construction material:

Rear view of my Santa Claus cookie jar. Also what my butt will look like if I eat as many cookies as I want.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dog Barf Dip and the Cookies Nobody Wants

It is SUPPOSED to be snowing here. There's a 70% chance over the next three days. But here is the view out my back door:

NO SNOW. But I'm making the best of it. I lit a couple candles, and I am not going out. I AM POSITIVE it is going to snow! (Also, I have roughly eight loads of laundry to do today, let's be honest.)

Meanwhile, what better time than just before a blizzard to share some fun Winter recipes? The first I call Dog Barf Dip, because that is what it looks like. Chef's tip: don't broadcast the name when you serve it. The disgusting look of it doesn't seem to put people off. They must sense how utterly delicious and unhealthy it is. By next year, I will figure out a way to improve the color. If anyone has made a variation of this that doesn't look like canine sickness, TELL!

Dog Barf Dip: (from the kitchen of my buddy Rachel M., who, it should be told, makes her own marshmallows - why, I don't know - tell us, Rachel!)
1 can of chili - I like Trader Joe's turkey chili, but anything will work - heck, be an overachiever and make your own!
a brick of cream cheese
a few handfuls of grated cheddar, to desired thickness
Throw it all together in a mini-crock or nuke it in a bowl, whatever you have time for. Goes GREAT with Trader Joe's Longboard Tortilla Chips.

And, the Cookies Nobody Wants (except Teri - so invite me over if you serve them, especially if it's a fancy get-together or a festive cookie exchange, I like an excuse to get out)
a.k.a. Honey Milk Balls (no joke, I took these to a potluck banquet in college --- (where else would you have "potluck" and "banquet" in the same place?) --- and no one ate them. Well, almost no one. I had quite a few, and a few brave folks tried them and deemed them "filling". Which, as a label for cookies, is better than "disgusting".

1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
1 c. dry milk
1 c. quick oats
Put peanut butter and honey in bowl. Stir until mixed. Slowly add dry milk and oats. Make into small balls and serve. Makes 2 dozen unless you get carried away with ball diameter.

This has got me thinking. We are invited to a cul-de-sac Christmas open house this week and it's a potluck - appetizers and desserts! Do you dare me to make these two award-winners, take them to the party, and then watch like a hawk to see who tries 'em?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

'Round the house

Tonight was "Family Movie Night." I've been DVRing Christmas shows off ABC Family like a madwoman so I had the sweet little idyllic notion that we'd watch one of those and have popcorn. It all went to crap, I tell you.

First, I made "Easy Soup". It's easy, and I think it's yummy. My children think it's battery acid. Dinnertime became misery and therefore at least one child lost popcorn privileges. Under normal circumstances, popcorn would be fine after not eating battery acid, but I NEED YOU ALL TO KNOW I'M NOT FUNCTIONING NORMALLY BECAUSE I JUST HAD MY MOTHER-IN-LAW HERE ALL WEEKEND!!!!!!!!

Next, hubby went upstairs and minutes later came down and (wrongly) announced to me that he just killed yet another scorpion in our house. My demeanor went to Hell. I've lost count now how many scorpions we've had - total - since moving here. But I DO know that this was number three since Thanksgiving. And, more significantly, this was the first one found upstairs. I could just scream. Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid deadly creatures! I was thinking I was safe if I could just get upstairs. Not so. So, we sat down to watch a cheery little Christmas special - but Mommy was NOT happy. Glad I have this photo to show you. Originally I asked Kevin to get the camera because it was me and all four kids on the couch, which rarely happens, but then John got down by photo time. Still a good picture since now I'm blogging about my foul mood.

Turns out my choice for the Christmas show was a glaring dud. Anyone seen "Little Drummer Boy" from a million years ago? It even features the Vienna Boys Choir singing the title song, but we were all desperately annoyed after five minutes. Canned it and opted instead for a sequel to "Frosty the Snowman" where he marries a sweet snowwoman named Crystal. Much more fulfilling.

Minutes after the show ended, teeth were brushed, John was down and we all gathered like the perfect little family for prayer. Lasted 10 seconds before Bethanie had to be removed and I calmed her in her bed with an abbreviated Rosary and another installment of a cheesy story I started about a bunny named Apple-Dapple. Apple Dapple has equal footing with the Blessed Mother when it comes to soothing my three year-old.

Here are some photos of Bethie sporting her free haircut. (Thanks for asking to see, Suzie!) Good night to all - I'm off to laze on the couch with Kevin and NOT watch The Little Drummer Boy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Company Christmas Party

Off we go to Lake Las Vegas. I love company Christmas parties, and I hate company Christmas parties. I like watching the people in action who I hear stories about from Kevin. And I like to see what topics come up over cocktails and dinner. And you can't beat the door prizes (one year we won a DVD player). But I don't like walking through large resorts trying to find hidden ballrooms. And I'm not excited about spending lots of time on my hair when the winds are gale-force.

But enough pros and cons. How can you beat having an excuse to dress up and go out with your husband without the children once in a while? You can't. Plus... it's supposed to snow in Vegas tomorrow --- lots to look forward to tonight!

Here we are - 9 years of Carollo Christmas parties. I think I've worn black to more than half of them. Maternity dresses to a couple. But always with the same good-looking date. Cheers!

A photo of Cayna and me, too. While I was getting dressed and ready, she put on this too-small dress that belongs to Bethanie and then put her hair up on the same side I did. She REALLY wanted to come with us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bits & Pieces

1) Cayna and Kevin went on a "date" last night. It was so sweet. He got her a corsage and everything. Cayna's dream date included a visit to the park, and her requirement for a restaurant was simply that it had to serve juice. Dessert was at Baskin-Robbins and a VERY happy little girl came home proud of her corsage, her balloon, and her blue mustache from the psychedelic ice cream flavor she picked.

2) Today I hit TWO grocery stores first thing in the morning with TWO kids. I later had TWO parent-teacher conferences and then welcomed TWO in-laws to my house for TWO days.
Bright spots in the day: a kind gentleman working in the produce section busted open a banana and handed it to John and Bethanie for a shopping snack. I coulda kissed the guy. BOTH conferences were easy-breezy. And the in-laws stayed home with the kids after we put them to bed so Kevin and I could go out and mattress shop! Thanks to the feedback on my mattress post, we tested out the TempurPedic and the Sleep Number. We're leaning toward the Sleep Number, but taking our time with the decision. I can tell you that everything I tested out felt SO much cozier than the giant slab of granite I'm currently sleeping on.

3) I cut Bethanie's hair today (because I just wasn't busy enough already!). I can't say it looks perfect, but when you're considering spending 3.2 million dollars on a new mattress, you gotta cut costs somewhere, right? Honestly, that little girl is so darn cute I could shave her bald and her smile would still melt hearts.

4) Tomorrow will be Official Effort Number Three for Kevin and I to run together. We've had two previous opportunities and both fell through. With his parents here, we're going to try again in the morning. So... the question is... will he run slow along with me and go further? Or run fast as usual and then I'll eventually catch up? Oh, and the OTHER question is... who will get to use the iPod? We don't have two!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Down to the second

Grandparents just sent this, so we'll know EXACTLY how long til Christmas:

Before, we counted the days in chocolate:

And we counted the days with little wooden ornaments:

All of which are more exciting than this:

So 13 days.
Still to do between now and December 25th:
Finish shopping (mostly only parents left)
Attend one last rehearsal and then the performance of the children's pageant
Two parent-teacher conferences
Two sets of in-laws' visits
Kevin's company Christmas party
Joseph's best friend's birthday party
Another doctor appointment for me
Neighborhood Christmas party
Church Christmas party

The good news is, I think this is all over by the end of next Friday. I am going to do some serious relaxing and sitting around starting Saturday the 20th.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anyone out there love their mattress?

Consider this a mattress poll.

I want to hear if you love, hate, or feel indifferent toward your mattress. The more opinions and feedback I get, the better. And the more details you tell me about what type you have, the better I'll shop.

We have GOT to get a new mattress. I got a super firm mattress thinking that's what's best for an achy back. But it's just too firm and not cozy at all. But too soft and I'll be more than achy - it'll cause real pain. I've been asking strangers on the street, practically. Tell me about your beds, people!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas E-mail

I confess I LIKE those e-mails that ask questions. Today was the first Christmas-themed one I've received:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Paper. Gift bags aren't as fun. Too quickly opened.

2. Real tree or artificial? Real. And I disagree that cutting them down is selfish. People farm them and it's their livelihood. My cousin is one of them! That being said, they're also expensive so this year I'm glad we have our fake one. But I drive by the lots mournfully. Someday we'll do real again.

3. When do you put up the tree? As soon after Thanksgiving as possible.

4. When do you take the tree down? Now that I'm Catholic, not until after Epiphany.

5. Do you like eggnog? Oh, yes! I adore it.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Dolls. All my wonderful dolls.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My mom.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Cayna.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. A kids' one that is well-loved through the season. I'd like a pretty one for outside someday.

10. Regular mail or e-mail Christmas Cards? Regular. But not this year, sadly.

11. Worst Christmas gift that you ever received? A shower cap from my nanny. And she KNEW I loved stuffed animals.

12. Favorite Christmas movie? Please don't kick me in the shins, but I have a big hankering to watch "Sleepless in Seattle". Also a HUGE fan of "Mixed Nuts" which everyone should see.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Oh, yes.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Haystacks are pretty yummy.

16. Lights on the tree? Freaky circus-ish colors - it's an obnoxious pre-lit tree we got on clearance at the hardware store in Yucaipa when our real tree dried to sticks. I really don't love our tree, but the kids do so I'm okay.

17. Favorite Christmas Song? "Carol of the Bells" has some sentimental value. Plus it's just pretty.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home? HOME HOME HOME. It would take a bulldozer to get me away from home at Christmas.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? I can sing their names in the Rudolph song.

20. Angel on the treetop or a star? Star. I like the significance. Cayna would like an angel so that might be purchased soon.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Morning? One on Christmas Eve, and the rest on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? I love it all, even the stress.

23. What theme or color are you using to decorate? "House with four children". Thanks to the sweet little one year-old crazy boy, all the ornaments are on the top half of the tree only.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Turkey again. Yum.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Clothes. Books. Furniture. Curtains. Airline vouchers. A book deal.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Every time I go to the doctor...

... I learn a little bit more about my birth family. Now, after high cholesterol showed up in my blood again - I am reasonably sure it has to be partly genetic.

Before last month, the last time I had my "blood profile" done was late 2005, early 2006-ish. I was still breastfeeding, which does raise your cholesterol, and dumbo doc wanted me to wean immediately and start meds. Admitted he'd never heard a correlation between breastfeeding and elevated cholesterol. So I went the diet and exercise route instead of taking his advice and - miracle! - lowered it myself.

THIS doctor, who has more of my respect, said I don't need meds yet, but wants to "monitor" me. Fine with me. THIS may be the thing that gets me to lose that last ten (if it doesn't get me eating veggies more - thanks for "talking me down", Magan). And running gets the credit for many of the positive results I got today.

I have to share my numbers. I'll post today's scores and my 3 year-old scores. It's not as bad now as it was then. And I'll post again in March when I get my follow-up. Stay tuned!

Today's LDL - 182 (healthy range is 0-130) old score - 196
Today's triglycerides - 58 (0-150 is healthy) old score - 81
Today's HDL (the good stuff) - 82 (ideal range 46-199) old score - 68
Total level - 264 (healthy range is 125-200) old score - 280

I can't find the paper anywhere that shows my re-test numbers after a few months of diet, exercise, and finally weaning Bethanie. Wish I had that.

But now this is in writing in my own blog record, so I'll come back here after the next re-test. And John just stopped nursing - Wednesday the 3rd was the last time - so if I wanted to do my own little study on post-lactation cholesterol levels, I should have demanded another test today. Oh, well.

Anybody else know their cholesterol and care to share your numbers? Maybe you'll inspire me further.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Manic Sunday

Here's a funny story. Once upon a time I had a supervisor who thought I ought to perhaps investigate whether I might have bipolar disorder. He suggested this as nicely as possible. Calmly, and without drama (HA HA HA HA HA HA!) I called my buddy therapist and she read to me the definition of the disorder. We knew and agreed I had tendency toward depression, but she told me she hadn't seen evidence of the manic side. I asked her for an example of manic behavior and she answered, "Oh, like, you'd stay up all night re-wallpapering your kitchen. Or maybe the whole house." Not me.

Until today. Maybe the past few days. Come to think of it, why haven't I crashed yet? Friday night was my 8 year-old's birthday party for 15 young guests. Saturday was an annual pancake breakfast at my house for fourteen people. Then a Christmas parade... but back to today.

Today was Mass. That might have been enough. Coulda come home and watched football and sipped eggnog. Nope. My goal was to finish putting up Christmas decorations and then paint a wall. Even went to Home Depot at nine o'clock last night so I'd be ready. I think I need to call that therapist again.

Soon after church, we busted out the ornaments and started to cover the tree. Well, at least the top half. John is the perfect age this year to destroy anything left within his reach. Here I am with my team:

You gotta love how intense and serious I look. Especially since it was basically a "throw everything everywhere" operation. I wish I knew what major ornament placement consideration I was making here.

After lunch, I changed clothes and spent the better part of the rest of the day on a ladder. I finished! It looks great! I'm manic for sure!

By the way, for the record, that lovely therapist told me that women are ESPECIALLY difficult even for psychiatrists to diagnose when it comes to bipolar disorder. Can you guess why? (Whispering: because the symptoms of PMS look REMARKABLY similar to those of bipolar disorder!)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Damn Duck Pancakes

I have another secret blog. It's written by a woman I'll call "Elle" and she and I have enough in common you might wonder how she sends me into fits of despair every time I read her posts. It's the things we DON'T have in common that plague me! I only visit her blog when my curiosity gets the best of me --- when I think I've had a particularly sophisticated week and am reasonably sure I could comment on one of her adventures without sounding like we live in different worlds. But we do! Despite the fact that we are both 38 year-old women, both stay-at-home moms, both women of faith - despite all that - I am still the woman who goes out for burgers and she is trying new restaurants that serve DUCK PANCAKES... DUCK FREAKIN' PANCAKES, I tell you!!! --- and she's ENJOYING them!!!

I know this is not my pretty side. No. This is the same side of me that even after ER starting scaring the crap out of me once I had kids, I'd still sneak back occasionally for a glimpse of that irresistible action. Even when my favorite show "Friends" was proven to give me body image insecurities, I couldn't resist because it was just so hilarious! And now, when I falter from time to time about whether my life is really the way I want it, I am guaranteed to come crashing down if I take a look at what Duck Pancake lady is up to.

You should see her! She cooks, she cleans, she takes great photos with her camera! She vacations. Her parents are still married. She decorates. She takes enriching courses to continue her education. And, sadly, because a blog does not reveal the entirety of a life, my imagination fills in the rest: I am CONVINCED that she volunteers evenings with a search and rescue team to save hikers from peril at State Parks; she ran a marathon in under four hours; her husband doesn't pass gas; her children have modeling contracts with Baby Gap and get all their clothes free; she has memorized two of the four gospels and most of the Psalms; her Christmas tree is taller; her accent walls are richer; her sheets have a higher thread count than mine.

And there I have it - a tizzy of inadequacy. But the more I analyze this, the more I realize - I don't have to see her as an enemy in my battle to like myself. She can be a "Positive Role Model" instead of an "Unhealthy High Standard" if I am feeling good about who I am. So I sigh. Spend a minute with Jesus. Make a good choice about dinner. Remind myself that she's human, too - and I don't want a world without the duck pancake people, not really.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Can I tell you about my son?

Joseph turned eight years old today.

I love that little (big) guy. He's just not little these days.

But you don't need to read what I think of him, I'll just gush.

Instead, I'll make a list and hopefully it will tell you a little about him.

About Joseph on His Birthday:

He really looked forward to the party. He doesn't hop or skip around or get hyper. He simply starts notifying us when the party is "two hours away"; "eleven minutes away"; and "people should be here now!"

I'm pretty sure he loved all his gifts. But I'd wager his favorite was the remote control talking parrot. He'll get to the globe, the chemistry set, and the dartboard another day.

There was no parental influence on the guest list. He decided who to invite and it was a treat to see him enjoy his friends. Out of 15, 8 were girls, only 3 others were his age, and very few knew each other.

He went to sleep after reading two more chapters in "Double Fudge" which he has nearly memorized. His birthday balloons, parrot, and stuffed Santa from last Christmas were all close by.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advertising Advice for Pooper Scooper Businesses

I was out and about this morning and saw a truck advertising "Budget Pooper Scooper Service."

Really? Budget? Is this because there's a wide range of prices for pooper scooping and this guy wanted to make sure to differentiate himself from the "higher-end" pooper scoopers? And what would those guys be named? Elite Pooper Scooper? Regency Pooper Scooper?

Problem with pooper scooper businesses is that NOTHING sounds good in a title that already has the word "poop" in it in any form. For example:

"Ultimate Pooper Scooper" - "Ultimate" sounds good with a fitness company, and electronics place, or a car detailer, even. But when you're reading along and get to "Pooper", it's all over.

Other options just make me laugh, because of how my mind works, and because, let's face it, Poop-scooping just lends itself to comedy.

"Advanced Pooper Scoopers" - as opposed to what? Basic? The Advanced guys not only remove the poop, but provide other services I'm not creative enough to imagine.

"Complete" or "Total" Pooper Scoopers - these guys get WAY more business than "Partial Pooper Scooper."

Do a tiny little internet search, and it is evident that Mr. "Budget Pooper Scooper" needs to take a lesson from some of the more clever scoopers out there. Here are my top faves:
Pooper Trooper
Dooty-Free Lawns
The Poo Crew
Doodie Deeds Done Dirt Cheap Dog Waste Removal

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Kevin and I aren't good leftover eaters, but I feel so wasteful hurling large quantities of food down the disposal while it's still warm. Instead I seal it up in plastic storage containers and stack it in the frig to be thrown away another day.

Thanksgiving night leftover inventory:
cranberry chutney
dried corn

The next night, I admitted I have little desire to eat cranberry chutney except on Thanksgiving, so I tossed it.

Looking around the frig, I couldn't find any mashed potatoes. So I got rid of the gravy.

The dried corn looked downright repulsive in a see-through container 24 hours after Thanksgiving dinner. Gone.

On Saturday, I got rid of the container of egg dish I'd made for breakfast with company Wednesday morning.

My from-scratch mac & cheese was mostly gone, and the remaining half-cup was no longer appetizing. Down the drain.

I cleared out what I thought were all the remaining cluttery odds and ends fully intending to shop today, but it didn't happen. Tonight, desperate for food, therefore observing the frig contents more carefully, I noticed a casserole dish full of my mom's stuffing. Almost a week later. Even under ideal conditions, I don't like stuffing - I wasn't brave enough to yank it out seven days old and dump it. So there it sits. What weird backwardness that the leftovers I actually liked are long gone, but my least favorite dish is still alive and well on the top shelf of my frig. Curious how long it might last in there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I am an unathletic, overweight, over-eating, unmotivated, nearing-forty, poser of a runner. And damned if I don't run a half-marathon this coming March.

Okay, true confessions over. I know those adjectives above aren't true, but they have spent enough time in my head they might as well be. No more! I'm going to run that race. Not just to finish. I'm going to pick a time and try for it and treat myself to future races as well. My life is better for running, so bring it on.

I started my half-marathon "program" on December 1st, compliments of my personal trainer and sister-in-law Rachel. I've been back to running for a year now, since John was 3 months old and I had to drag my butt out of bed after nursing numerous times through the night. But today I did my first day of "Full Body Weights" (as Rachel prescribed) - which translates to "Exercise DVD with 5-pound dumbells" and it was challenging, to say the least. I haven't done that DVD since before I was pregnant with John (about two years ago) and I don't remember the ab work being that hard. Even doing the stuff the chiro/sports medicine guy gave me didn't compare to today's stuff.

I'm mustering all the "positive thinking"; gracious self-talk, and inspiring scripture I can to try to view myself and my life and therefore my running in the best light possible. Yet, last night when I sat talking to Kevin about really doing a half-marathon, I realized I was visualizing starting the race and thinking, "This is PREPOSTEROUS!" --- "Who runs 13 miles in a ROW? - For ANY reason!" Thankfully, I have just enough experience with running and what it's done for me that I think I can tackle that thought and beat it into the asphalt. I'll let you know.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lifting the Lights

Another great feature of our neighborhood is that every year after Thanksgiving, a guy one street over brings home a big ol' hydraulic lift to share with all the neighbors in order to put up Christmas lights.

Last year, Kevin was interested, but not gutsy enough to ask a complete stranger for the use of heavy equipment.

This year, we have connections! The family at the end of the cul-de-sac had their name on the list so we added ourselves after them.

Shortly before 9:00 p.m., this beast made its way slooooooooooowly down the street to our house.

Here's a picture to prove just how thrilled a guy gets when he is given a piece of HUGE machinery to operate.

After taking lots of rides on the thing, we got down to business. Our friend Mike Nalley hopped on to help Kevin, and Joe and Cayna went up, too. The lights went up quickly.

Satisfied by a job well done, Mike and Kevin headed for the sky. Here is an eerie shot of our house from waaaaaaaaaaayyy up above our driveway.

And, it turns out there is a tremendous view of the Strip from our house - if you can just get above those pesky other houses.

In closing, a warm thanks to the neighbor we don't even know. And to the guardian angels who worked overtime.


Vicki tagged me, and since I'm sitting here with Bethanie while she colors, I'm in!

According to the rules, I have to post six things that make me really happy... and pass it on to six more people.

I have to be honest, in my cynical state - I'd rather write a list of "Six People I'd like to be my pallbearers" or "Six things I dislike about Christmas" or "Six things I'd like to replace in my house". But I'll go with the original topic. However, when I tag six of you, please feel free to use any of the four topics.

Six things that make me happy:

1) Blogging (obviously, which is why I do it so much)

2) Spending spontaneous time with friends/neighbors.

3) Finishing the laundry

4) Running. Really.

5) People who know me well enough to know that my husband and children and my relationship with God all make me happy but I don't like to waste space on lists such as these stating the obvious.

6) People who have been to as much therapy as I have, and therefore know that nothing can make a person happy, it comes from within that person. Or from medication. Or denial. Or...

And, the six people:

Laura (I'm curious which list she'll pick)

Heather (because her lists usually make me happy)

Magan (I want to hear her pallbearer list)

Karen (since she doesn't blog enough to make me happy (see #6 above), so I'm giving her a topic)

Beth (I'm so glad she's blogging, I need to encourage it)

Suzie (since she's had lots of good time to reflect on things she's thankful for/things that make her happy)