Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reviews, Randomness, And A Recipe

It's cold. I'm cold. I hate being cold. I'm always cold. This cold is never ending. I'm done.

I realize I live in Wisconsin and I should be used to the cold winters. But here's the thing; this is REALLY cold. I'm talking COLD. Colder than Alaska, cold. Yes, Wisconsin has been colder than Alaska this year.

Normally in Wisconsin we have cold weather anywhere from October through March. The normal temperatures in December average around 34 degrees and in January the average temperature is 30. I can handle that. Honestly, I can.

But this winter? Yeah. This winter the average temperature was 8. And I think that is a lie. I can't remember the temperature being that high. February really wasn't any better.  I think our average for February was 12. The normal for February is 36.

Basically what I'm telling you is that for the past two months it has been AT LEAST 20 degrees colder than it should be on average. Most of the time it was about 40 degrees colder than it should be. And, well, I'm cold. It's too much. Even for Wisconsin.


I've been trying to stay warm by drinking steaming hot tea, wrapping myself in blankets, and reading.

I just finished the book What Alice Forgot.

"Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.
So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, , she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…" (courtesy of Kirkus Reviews on Amazon)

It is a touching story about life's twists and turns and what changes us. It is also made me very thankful for my life as it is right now and reminded me just how much I should cherish it. It was a very easy read and one of those books that you don't want to finish and you continue to think about it long after you do.

I ordered another new book too. Kicks Like A Girl written by my very own WI blogger friend, Green Girl!

"Gretchen Benton is the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding when she gets drunk, says exactly the wrong thing and feels alone in the midst of all the couples. She can’t avoid weddings—she’s a florist. She also can't avoid the thugs who break into her shop and assault her the following night. To combat her fear after her attack, Gretchen enrolls in karate classes at a local dojo. Soon she's caught between her handsome martial arts instructor and the cute cop assigned to her case. As she begins mastering the basics of karate (while sweating enough to make her mascara run), Gretchen learns that kicking like a girl doesn’t imply weakness, it means striking hard and striking with style." (courtesy of Amazon)

I am so excited to start reading it. I have to finish two other books I'm currently reading before I dive in, but I couldn't help but sneak a peek and read the first few pages. Before I knew it I was two chapters into the book. It is such a fun book with well written characters. It really sucks you in.  Go ahead and run on over to Amazon and order a copy for yourself! And congratulations, Melissa! I'm so happy for you! I know I'll enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed your last one.

One more review, people. This one is a movie review.

If you see ONE movie this year it has to be About Time. 

Yes, it is a time traveling movie starring Rachel McAdams but it is nothing like The Time Traveler's Wife (which I wasn't a fan of). This movie is much deeper, much funnier, and more profound. The acting and directing and music (oh gawd, the music)are all superb. I pretty much love everything about this movie.

The basic premise is about a young man of who finds out from his father that the men in their family have always been able to time travel. Not to any point in time. Just back in time and only to places and events that they have already been to and experienced. Each man in the family used the time travel for what was important to them. Some were ruined by their desires (money) and others benefited. The young man now needs to figure out what he will use this newfound ability for.

The movie comes to us from the creator of Love Actually. Another favorite movie of mine. About Time has the same feel, the same sense of British humor, the same type of fabulous British actors, the same wonderful British scenery. The first half of the movie is a romantic comedy, but by the end of the movie the plot becomes so profound and meaningful that I can barely think of it without a tear coming to my eye.

I remember seeing the coming attractions for the movie and not being impressed. I finally watched it after a friend of mine INSISTED that I watch it. And now I insist you watch it. I watched it while Todd was gone this past weekend (thinking it was more of a chic flick) and by the time I was done watching I knew Todd needed to see it as well. I rented the movie again the day Todd came home and we watched it that afternoon. To say Todd was affected by the movie would be an understatement. Now he is recommending the movie to everyone too.  It is GOOD people. Watch it. You won't be disappointed.

Now I feel like watching it again. I guess I'm gonna have to buy this one.

Okay. Onto the recipe.

I know everyone is always looking for yummy, sweet, healthy recipes and I have a great one for you. A very healthy banana bread. I found it online (I think Facebook) and adjusted it slightly.  It is super easy and SUPER yummy. Every other day the kids are begging me to make this banana bread so I usually double the recipe and make two loaves right away
Healthy Banana Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
3 mashed overripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and stir. Mix in the applesauce, honey, and eggs and stir until batter is properly mixed. Add the mashed bananas and stir well. Batter may be lumpy.  Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan (9x5) and bake in the oven for approximately an hour (I leave it in just a little over an hour). Do the toothpick test to make sure bread is thoroughly cooked before removing from oven.

I change and add things to my recipe all the time. I usually add raisins, sometimes walnuts, and even diced apples. And before I put the bread mixture into the oven I always sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the top. Also, Todd's uncle makes his own maple syrup and always gives us big jars every fall and I use that instead of honey when I have it. So yummy. Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, February 24, 2014


Tween: in between.


In between.

That is exactly what Joey is feeling lately.

Today Joey turns 11 years old. Just yesterday he told me that he doesn't want to get any older. When I prodded him he confessed that he liked where he is right now in this moment. He worries that when he gets even a few years older he will no longer like the things he does now. When he is 14 will he still want to be a fighter pilot or a LEGO engineer? He likes playing with his brothers and sister, building LEGOS, making snow forts, watching cartoons, snuggling with his mum. He doesn't want to get older and feel like he has to leave that behind.

It kind of floored me.

I can remember being a kid and constantly wanting to be older. I felt like the older I got the better life would be. Maybe that is the curse of being the youngest. Constantly wanting to jump to the next phase of life.

But not Joey. He wants to stay here. Right now. In this time. And hearing him say that made my heart explode. He is happy. Right now. In this time. I couldn't ask for more.

Yet even as I am explaining to Joey that he can do all the same things at 15 that he does now my heart aches a bit knowing that he probably won't. My 15 year old Joey will probably not pile onto the recliner with me for a snuggle. Things will change. He will grow up and grow through phases. As he should.

But for now. We will enjoy Joey at 11 years old. There is so much to enjoy.
What a year you've had, Joseph. An amazing year. Such growth. You are becoming a man right before my eyes. Suddenly, you are becoming responsible, taking pride in your work, working hard, keeping a positive attitude, trying your absolute best in everything you do.

I can see it. I can see how hard you are trying to be a good boy. To do the right thing. It is a visible, tangible thing. This sudden maturity. This strength. This care. It is impressive. I know I've told you many, many times this year, but I will say it again. Your dad and I see how much you are trying. We see it. We appreciate it. And we are so proud of you.

My heart is full with thoughts of you. My big/little man. My first born. My 11 year old. My son. My Joey.

Happy Birthday, Joseph. I love you more than you'll ever know.

Friday, February 21, 2014

From Brutal to Blissful

So... this is the craziest winter in all of history. Okay. Maybe not. But it certainly feels that way. I hesitate to even write about it since I know we are all pretty sick of talking about it, hearing about, and living through it. If it isn't the bitter, nasty cold it is the piles and piles of snow. 

The other night we got another 10 inches of snow. Todd always plows three of our neighbors' driveways as well as our own (and his mother's) so he was outside on his tractor until about 11 o'clock at night. First he plowed our driveway and then by the time he finished our three neighbors' (actually it was four because he felt especially charitable) driveways he saw that our driveway had another 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow. So he plowed our driveway again.  Madness.
At school the kids have been trapped inside for almost a month because the temperatures were below zero and it was too cold to go outside for recess. A sledding trip for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders (a reward for good behavior) was cancelled and rescheduled over and over again for 4 weeks straight on account of snow or below zero temps.

Finally this past week we had temperatures in the 30s. It felt like spring. Everyone wanted to go outside without jackets and take runs and ride their bikes (in the snow). The school sledding trip was taken. For three days we basked in mid 30s as if it were summer.  Then we had a massive snowstorm and the temps plummeted again. The highest temperature expected for this coming week is 12 degrees.

I think I can officially say we are DONE with winter. D.O.N.E.

That is why we decided to use this wonderful "No School" Friday as an escape from winter. The minute I found out the kids didn't have school I told Todd to take off of work. I had plans.

Seeing as how Joey's birthday is on Monday I wanted to do something special this weekend to celebrate. Todd is out of town on Friday night until Sunday so the "No School" on Friday came at the perfect time.

We kept it a secret from the kids just in case another horrible snow storm came through or one of the kids suddenly got sick.

This morning the kids were healthy and the weather (though windy and cold) was clear.

Immediately after breakfast we told the kids that for Joey's birthday treat we were all going to Blue Harbor to enjoy the waterpark for the day. Screams and cheers of excitement all around.

The minute we stepped into the hot air of the waterpark we knew we had made a good decision. It took approximately 2 seconds for the kids to rip of their jackets and sweatshirts and jump into the water and onto the slides.

Todd and I couldn't get over how much fun it was. I'd even call it relaxing. All of the boys can swim like pros and Grace was doing amazingly well. It was really the first time when Todd and I could sit back and play and relax and swim and watch while the kids had fun, instead of holding and wading and helping a little one. A little bittersweet for me, but mostly sweet. It was so much fun!
We played basketball in the water, we swam, we rode all the slides, we floated and played in the lazy river, and we even had relaxing time in the hot tub. It was perfection. The absolutely perfect way to spend the umpteenth freezing cold, windy winter day.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

So Much To Love

So, it wasn't the Valentine's Day that we had planned.  But it turned out to be pretty perfect anyway.

The day started off properly. The kids came bounding down the stairs and were suitably surprised by the Valentine's Day decorations I had put up while they were sleeping and were out of their minds excited about the silly little Valentine's I gave them.  They were equally excited to hand out their Valentine's that they made for us, wonderful handmade cards, a bracelet, and a ring. Very thoughtful gifts that they were all very proud of. I must admit it was a great start to the day.

The rest of the morning was a rush and a flurry of getting all the needed items for a day of fun Valentine's Day parties at school.  Each child needed his/her Valentine's to pass out, a snack to pass, of course their homework, snow pants/boots/mittens/hats, lunch bags, and special boxes and bags to receive their Valentine's Day treats in.

Grace did not have school today but since her class was having a Valentine's Day party I brought her in so she could celebrate with them (in 4K you have the choice to attend 3 days a week or 5 days a week- Grace is 3 days a week). Gracie got all gussied up in her red and pink best and off she went to her party.

While Gracie was happily partying away I was busy in the school office helping out with the biggest school fundraiser of the year.  What I thought would be just an hour or so soon turned into over three hours (almost two of those hours grace was with me waiting patiently- and eating her candy).

Luckily, I got to see my boys here and there as they would pass by the office. They were so excited to see me and enthusiastically thank me for the little surprise note and piece of candy I put in their lunches. I tell ya, seeing how much those little things mean to my kids really makes me the happiest momma in the world.

Finally, Grace and I were released from the office and went home for a very late lunch.  Gracie quickly went down for a nap and then I got back to work. I called the very fancy restaurant that Todd and I were to visit later this evening and cancelled our reservation. We had suddenly found ourselves without a babysitter so we called off our romantic night and tried to think of other plans.

I worked on the school fundraiser for the rest of the afternoon until the boys came home from school. The boys were bursting to tell me about their parties. Tommy got a sweet card from a girl he likes. Joey won the box decorating contest. Ben wants to put on his new tattoo! Somehow I got them to calm down long enough to sit down and get to work. Homework was quickly completed and then the boys threw their winter clothes on and headed outside to get some fresh, but very cold, air. I was happy they wanted to play outside for such a long time since they were all hopped up on sugar and out of their minds hyper.

As the sky got dark I called the boys back inside to warm up and change into dry clothes. We were taking them out to dinner to their favorite Mexican restaurant. Cheers all around.

Our romantic dinner for two had turned into a family dinner for six. There was root beer and kiddie cocktails, chips and tacos, stories, jokes, and laughs. It was a happy dinner. A happy day.

Now I sit in my chair in front of the fire, my belly still full, and listen to the silence that can only occur when the children are all sleeping. And I can't help but think back to a time when Valentine's Day used to be so different. Sure, there may have been fancy dinners, dressier clothes, and late nights out. But now. Now Valentine's Day feels more like Thanksgiving. Reminding me of exactly what I am so thankful for. And I have much to be thankful for. There is so much love in my life.

It was a good day.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Birthday Bliss

What do you do for a birthday boy obsessed with tornadoes?  Well, you drive yourself crazy trying to find books, clothing, and toys (???) associated with tornadoes. You also spend two hours attempting to make a tornado out of brown tulle so that you can properly decorate his birthday cake. Well, I do, anyway.  Because I'm crazy.

For the past few weeks I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to make a tornado cake. A tornado made out of frosting just wouldn't do. I wanted an actual 3D version of a tornado and preferably something Ben could "play with" once the cake was gone. This boy has been asking for a "tornado stuffed animal" for the past 3 years and I've yet to figure out just how to make one with my zero sewing skills. Also, when you ask other seamstresses if they could make you a tornado stuffed animal they tend to think you are crazy.

When I saw brown tulle at the store last week I thought I had a brilliant idea.  However, tulle doesn't exactly hold it's shape.  It flops around quite a bit. This stupid tulle tornado gave me so much stinking trouble it nearly gave me a migraine. And the end product wasn't even that impressive.  I just crossed my fingers and hoped the birthday boy would be pleased with the results.
It worked.  He was pleased. Whew!

A little bit of the focus was off of Ben this weekend as Joey had a basketball tournament to play in. Ben was such a good sport waiting patiently for the birthday focus to be on him.

Once the tournament was over Ben did get to pick his favorite restaurant for dinner (and got to sit on the saddle while his birthday was announced to the patrons).  Both of the grandmas came to dinner with us and then it was back to our house for cake and more presents.
The next day we all went to see the new LEGO movie for Ben's special birthday activity. The kids really enjoyed the movie and Ben's birthday weekend was complete.  I'd say, overall, it was a success.

Ben, you dear, sweet boy. I can't believe my baby boy is 7 years old. You are all light and goodness and easy, breezey good-heartedness. You are energetic and loving and kind. How fitting that your favorite thing in the world is a tornado since we have called you "destructor" since the moment you could walk. Always moving, crazy and wild, a little clumsy, and still destructive, but never maliciously so. You are a protector and a helper, always concerned about other's feelings. It is hard to be the youngest brother but you fight to keep up and play with your older brothers and you definitely can compete.  Your determination and fight will serve you well in life and make you stronger. You are sweet and protective of your little sister and a very good friend to her. You are a mathematical and spelling genius and are becoming quite the reader.  A very smart boy. You try hard and want to be good.  And you are. My snuggly little Benny Bear. I love you more than you can fathom.
Happy 7th Birthday, my sweetheart!
My darling baby boy.  Where does the time go? Such a precious baby. Such a precious boy. Each day I love you more.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Days Like This

Once again my alarm clock, aka the neighbor's dog, wakes me and the rest of my household up at 5:40 in the morning.  A full hour and a half before intended. Seeing as how I couldn't fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning I am left feeling not so refreshed.

"Momma said there'd be days like this..."

I wake up angry. Angry that once again the neighbors have left their dog outside at the butt crack of dawn to wake the entire neighborhood. I had thought the problem was solved shortly after we moved in when one morning, having finally lost my marbles, I stood outside in my bathrobe and yelled at the dog to "shut up, dog!"  The neighbors finally go the idea and for a while all was peaceful. Then, this past summer the same neighbors bought another dog. The barking began once again. All day long and most especially when people are sleeping.  The dog barks early in the morning. The dog barks during nap times. The dog barks when the kids have finally fallen asleep at night.  The dog barks every time it is outside and yet the barking does not seem to bother the owners at all.


The few hours of sleep I did manage to get last night seemed to have caused severe nerve damage to my neck and back.  I can barely move my head from side to side, up or down. Grocery shopping this morning was excruciating and the groceries are still sitting in my kitchen awaiting placement in the fridge and the cupboards.  I just can't bring myself to do it.

In less than an hour I'm expected at the kids' school where I will cut hundreds of squares from fleece for some kind of project I am not even aware of. This should make my neck and shoulders feel MUCH better.

"there'd be days like this, my momma said..."

The winter blues have hit full force around here. The bitter cold and mounds of snow have wreaked havoc on my mood. Did we even need the groundhog this year?  Clearly there will be 6 more weeks of winter (aren't there always, though?) and I'm guessing even more than that.

I guess I'm not really doing well with my meditation word for this year.  Breathe.  I just need to breathe.

Lately my breath seems to be stifled. By severe cold. By exhaustion. By stress. By melancholy.

I was leaving the YMCA and saw a gaggle of mommies and their toddlers waiting for a gymnastics class to begin. Littles were crawling and falling and fighting all over each other as the mommies were trying to collect shoes and socks and diaper bags. One of the mommies had a sweet little baby belly to go along with her toddler and I couldn't help but be envious. That used to be my life. Toddlers and pregnant bellies.

I will never be there again.

As I stepped over and around the toddlers the mommies apologized with embarrassed smiles.  I smiled and let them know I thought it was adorable. Part of me wanted to tell them that I had been there only a short while ago. I had crazy toddlers and baby bellies once too.  I rocked and soothed and watched and apologized just like they did.

I wanted to tell them how much I missed it. How much it made me ache to know I would not have that again. I wanted to tell them to cherish every moment even though I knew that was sometimes impossible to do when you are in it, and at times a little annoying to hear.

Instead I moved on down the hall with the sound of other people's children still ringing in my ears, trying to catch my breath.


I just have to breathe.

"Momma said there'd be days like this. There'd be days like this my momma said!"

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson