Thursday, May 30, 2013

Zumba Madness

Due to an expected schedule whack out, I didn't get to go on my morning jog yesterday. I've been on an exercise roll lately, so I decided after the boys went to bed, I'd do an alternative form of exercise. I asked Ryan if he wanted to do a Kinect workout with me (now, get your mind outta the gutter!) He quickly opted for hunting instead, thinking I wanted to do the Zumba dance game. Um, no. I've done the Zumba tape enough (once) to know that I won't do it in front of the hubs. Here are a few reasons why:

- I'm a total klutz! Just when I start to feel like I'm sort of in the groove and might look kind of coordinated, they change to some new ungodly move and I'm totally lost again.
- When I caught the boys spying on me from their bedroom, they got in BIG TIME trouble--not because they should be sleeping, but because NO ONE needs to see me flopping around like a freshly caught fish.
- I sweat like a pig! The girl on the screen is rockin' her hotness in a hoodie, those cute knicker sweats, and a jaunty cab driver hat. I would have ended up in my skivies if it weren't for my unhealthy fear of peeping Toms and web cam hackers.
- The "encouraging comments"from the game aren't so encouraging. "Move those hips?!" I can't even get my FEET to do what hers are doing. The hips are on a whole other level!
- If Ryan sees me like this, he may never want to kinect with me again!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Managing Chaos

In order to try to stay organized (and sane) this summer, I've developed a schedule. I only follow it on weekdays and, let's be honest, not even all of those. But so far, it's made our days pretty darn productive. Here it is, in all it's glory:

Ungodly hour o'clock - Wake up to a whispered, "Can I have my DS turn?" Mumble yes, give a death threat for waking up Max, go back to sleep while big boys get their technology fix.

Still too early - Wake up to wallowing third party in the bed. Snuggle, kiss, and try to keep from being kicked in the face. Encourage him to watch Reed and Calvin play DS or hand him the iphone for his "turn."

7ish - Wake up to a bowl and a package of some sort of cracker or trail-mix-type snack shoved in my face accompanied by a sweet smile and, "Can I havva snack?" Finally give it up and start the day with breakfast. Try to read the Bible and pray between refills and spill clean ups.

7:30ish - jog/walk

8ish - Garden work with the chitlin's

9:30ish - popsicle pay time and reading a "buttload of books" on the porch swing.

10ish - "School at home" - our attempt to stem boredom and supplement their education

12ish - lunch/nap/quiet time - Max sleeps while Reed and Calvin play quietly in their room so they can't talk to me for an hour have an opportunity to rest their growing bodies. I clean one room in the house (theoretically--this is where it's broken down most days so far...), then start of one of my eleventy billion projects.

4ish - Start supper, because we have to eat at:

4:45 - Eat supper, because we practically live at:

6:00 - The ball field for parent pitch or T-ball

7:30 - Rinse off the grime and try to have everyone ready by:

8:00 - bedtime (though, realistically, it's usually a lot closer to 9:00). After we finally get the munchkins settled down, Mommy and Daddy hang out, watch Netflix, and/or stay up until the wee hours in the morning surfing the World Wide Web.


During the downtime in this day, there's a whole lot of this going on:

Every pillow, cushion, and jumbo teddy bear in the house

Fun Run

I'm no runner. Yes, I ran track in high school and college, but my longest event was the 300 meter hurdles and I begged every meet to scratch that race. In college, I only had to run a few steps down the triple jump runway. My husband coaches Cross Country, but I think he and his athletes are insane for running anything longer than a lap around a track.

But lately, I love me some morning runs! Not because I feel good while running (I don't.) Not because I am gaining great physical results from my efforts (I'm not.) No, the primary reason I look forward to limping up and down the crazy hills surrounding our house is because NO ONE CAN TALK TO ME!!!

 It's just me, the dog, and the iPod for however far I can trudge in 10-15 minutes.

Then I pull out the earplugs, turn around, and walk home to the sound of sweet, sweet, silence. Once I'm in that door, it'll be nonstop jibber jabber for the next 12 hours. Some of it will be cute and funny. A lot of it will be annoying. So, I'll endure the puffing, panting, and burning calves for the moments of freedom they provide - and for the sanity it gives me to walk happily back to this crazy life I love so much.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I was on a roll today! While running double car trouble errands, I managed to kick butt and take names. At the grocery store, I happened to notice a stockpile of empty clear plastic “jars” for candy. I knew they’d be perfect for organizing, which I’ve been doing a lot of since school let out. So, I asked the manager if they would sell them and he let me take six (SIX) for free (FREE!) The only thing that could’ve made it better would be if they were way-cuter glass, but considering the demographics of my household, I think plastic is probably for the best. I have big plans for a super-cute, super-organized, Pinterest-ful craft nook in the corner of my bedroom and these jars are gonna bring it to a whole new level. 

Then, I stopped at a junk shop to ask about a dresser I’ve been eying for a couple of weeks. It’s been sitting outside and it’s definitely seen better days, but it’ll be perfect for this other big plan I have for a super-cute, super-organized, Pinterest-ful, entryway by our front door. 

Sidenote: Did I mention that I have a lot of projects lined up for the summer? Darn you, Pinterest! On my first day of freedom, I was spazzing out to Ryan about it because, “I don’t even know where to start!”  The hubs, ever the practical one, told me to just make a list of everything I wanted to do. That’s the problem, Babe. I already did, and it’s three pages long! Literally. 

Anyway, I’ll be loading up the dresser I’ve been coveting tomorrow with my wallet only $20 lighter. Boo. To. The. Yah!

So, I was telling the boys about my sweet scores because they still care about that kind of crap (or they’ve learned the age-old man secret of pretending to care). They got really excited with me and asked me where I was going to put said sweet items (ftr - they clearly didn’t learn their pretending to care skills from their father). So I described the craft area and the entry nook and how we would keep our shoes in a large basket under the dresser because it had awesome tall legs and how we could store our hats and gloves in one of the side cabinet thingies in the winter and our sunscreen and beach towels in the summer and how I was going to sew a little curtain to cover up the missing drawer, etc. etc. etc. Then, Reed said something that showed what a perceptive little fellow he is. “Mimi will say you're so organized!” Perceptive, because his comment showed that he understood what I valued, and who in our life would most appreciate the decorative arts.  I got a chuckle out of that because I had instantly thought of my Mom’s reaction to the “after” when I saw the “before.” Calvin, reacting to my laugh, had to up the stakes as only he can, “Yeah! Mimi will scream and pee in her pants!” One can only hope, Cal-cal. One can only hope. 

There’s just a tiny problem. I don’t know a thing about refinishing furniture. And I haven’t gotten my new sewing machine out of the box to see if I remember how to use one. And I have three more pages of other projects to do first. I might just have to settle for a Mimi gasp when she sees the "before" and dreams of the "after" possibilities with me. By the time I actually get it done, she may be peeing her pants on a daily basis. 

Update - I did it! Check these projects out - dresser and craft room containers and craft nook

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My life is !&@+

Many moons ago, I was looking at cute wedding photography with my newly in-love sister. We loved the ones of the couples holding an ampersand (weirdest word ever, btw). It sparked an idea in me. I jotted the idea down. Over a year later, I brought that idea to fruition. This is a small feat in and of itself. I have lots of ideas. I do about as many of them as I do pins on my Pinterest boards. But I’m on a roll lately. Glow in the dark bubbles? Tried it. Frozen toy ice chunk thingie? Party entertainment for the chilluns. I have now completed two pins. Only 732 to go!

So anyway, my idea was to illustrate my life using symbols. I thought of all the major events in my life, then found a corresponding symbol. I ordered all the pics in black and white 8x10s. Then, I borrowed the new love of my life: Mr. Cricut. We’ve spent many a late night together, I have to admit. He made me beautiful punctuation marks out of carefully selected scrapbook paper and I was ready to rock and roll. I bought a couple yards of fabric and some cheap wood. I mitered and staple-gunned my own frames (29” square). That’s right—mitered and staple-gunned, baby.

Then, I attached a piece of foam core to each frame to give me something flat to glue to.

Then, I stretched the fabric over the frame, staple gunned it to the back, and laid out my pictures.

Needed a little cute in these boring pics

I backed each picture with a 12” square piece of scrapbook paper. Then I mod-podged the crap out of those bad boys. Only I made my own mod-podge, thank you very much (Elmer's glue-all plus water). Some of the papers wrinkled pretty bad, but I kept rubbing as they dried, and now they look flat as can be. I hung both frames on top of each other in our master bathroom. You’ll see why I chose such an out-of-the-way room in a minute.

If you’re annoyed by my bragging and/or not totally amazed by this procedure, I don’t think you understand the magnitude of this accomplishment! I did carpentry! And completed a multi-step project that required patience! With children in my house! Sometimes awake! Afterwards, I thought I was a frickin’ genius. I couldn’t wait to show off my creation! I imagined pinning it and it going viral. Women everywhere would recreate their lives in symbols. They might call such art Tobi-esque.  

Appropriately enough, the first lucky person to see the masterpiece live was my sister, who unknowingly started the seed that became this magnificent flower. She looked at it, complimented its cuteness, stared a little longer, then said, “I don’t get it.” I had to explain the meanings. Then, when my mom came for a visit, she acted like she got it, but she totally didn’t, so I had to explain it to her. So I might as well explain it here. The  countless pinners who come to check out this amazing project might be as dense as my female relatives:

 !      Yay! I met a cute boy and we fell in love
&    We became Mr. & Mrs.
@   We lived @ our first  house.
+     We added a baby to our family.

+     We added another baby.
@    We moved to where we’re @ now
+      We added yet another baby
?       I wonder what God has in store for us now 
(though my sister insists that it stands for, “I wonder when we’ll have our accidental baby girl?” and my mom thought it was an elaborate, “I’m pregnant!” announcement. It most certainly was—and is—not!)

As I explain it, a little bit of its brilliance wears off. So maybe I’m not a genius. “!&@+  my life” may never catch on. Oh well. At least it does a good job covering up this.

My life really is !&@+

Linking up to Kammy's Korner: Trash 2 Treasure Tuesday

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Exercise Chore Chart

I love all those adorable little chore charts you find on Pinterest. And we use magnets for picking up rooms before bed. But I've started my own little magnet system for something that has become like a chore for me: exercise.

It's pretty simple. I assigned letters to the activities I wanted to accomplish in a week: jog, walk, arms, legs, belly ("a" for abs was already taken by arms). I glued magnets on the back of scrabble letters, popped them on my fridge and voila! Chore magnets for fattie. I just slide a magnet over to one side when I've done an activity. Their presence on the fridge reminds me to take time out for the "chore," and the sliding gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, they're Scrabble tiles which I've always thought are cute!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weed Whackers

We've been in the dirt all week. Planting:

Attacking weeds (oh the battle analogies I've heard...):

Using up all our accumulated feed bags as weed blockers.


Then covering the whole mess with straw to keep in moisture and deter weeds.

These boys have been hard at work. And Mama too. I don't know what's more challenging - 15 wheel barrow rides uphill to the straw pile or keeping Max from stepping on the "good plants."

I paid my little child laborers in popsicles and stories on the porch swing after each work day. They haven't quit and I haven't had to fire anyone yet, although I've been pretty lax on the youngest employee - he earns his popsicles mainly by test driving the company tricycle and doing this for Daddy:

Screen Time

When I was a waitress back in the day, I used to get on a rant about families who let their kids play on their DS or iPhone at the table. When I became a teacher, I totally saw the effects of kids who were used to being constantly entertained by media. I was convinced that TV and video games were the devil as far as kids were concerned. And then I became a mom. Fast forward seven years, and we have three boys, a Netflix subscription, two iPhones, high speed Internet (recent upgrade - woot woot!), 2 laptops, a DS, Wii, Xbox, Rock Band, Kinect, and portable DVD player for the car. Speak of the devil...

We really did try to shield little baby Reed from television. I remember when he was barely old enough to sit up, we were watching a movie one afternoon with him in the room. Feeling guilty, I strategically placed a large toy to block his view of the television. He grabbed the link-a-doo rings that were attached to the toy and leaned back so he could catch a glimpse of the action. Ever since then, if the TV is on, Reed is a total zoner. When we go to people's houses where the TV is on for background noise, he will only make halfhearted attempts to play with friends, even if it's an infomercial. And when my high tech older brother passed down his Nintendo DS, there became another object of my boys' affection.

So I'll admit, there are times when the boys look like this:

or this:

But we do try to limit their screen time as much as possible. Here's what has worked for us so far:

- Each boy gets one 20 minute turn on the gaming system of their choice. They know not to ask for more. They are responsible for setting their own timer (actually, they usually have their sibling set it for them so they don't lose any seconds of play time). When the timer dings, they can "finish their level"if it doesn't take too long. Max has started taking an iPhone turn while his brothers watch each other play on the DS. He basically opens up all the apps, shoots angry birds backwards, and tries to delete or buy things, but he thinks he's big stuff and he leaves me alone for 10-20 minutes so it's all good. He's also the master timer watcher for his brothers. "Timer ding!"
- They get to watch one movie (or a few short episodes of a show) on Sat. and Sun. mornings. This is totally so Mommy and Daddy can sleep in. Max hasn't gotten that memo yet, though...
- The boys know not to ask for more TV or game time. They are pretty diligent about getting their 20 minute turn in each day and we wake up EVERY Saturday and Sunday to a whispered, "Can we watch our movie?" but they don't usually push for more. I guess they got tired of hearing "No."
- The Wii, Rock Band, and Kinect are basically for family fun. With all three, we played almost every night for the first week, and now we might play one of them once a month when the mood strikes. This summer, I figure they'll be our rainy day saviors. That and Pinterest. The bigguns love that site almost as much as their mama! Too bad they want search Ninjago instead of cute mudrooms.
- In the middle of winter, we probably have movie or video game nights about once a week to battle cabin fever.
- On long car rides (we live 9 hours from mi familia) it's pretty much nonstop techno land on wheels. Sometimes you just gotta survive!

Our biggest issue is when we're around other people. In the winter, we favor uninterrupted adult conversation over towing a hard line about technology. But we're currently fighting a battle because of it. There are certain people they see only for their iPad or the Cartoon Network on their TV (we have no channels at home). We've taken to giving a lecture in the car before we arrive at our destination, forbidding them ask about TV or phones or Kindles. I swear my mantras every weekend for a month have been, "We don't go to Grandma's house to watch Transformers or play Bejeweled. We go to see Grandma and Grandpa" and "It's too pretty outside to watch TV. Don't even ask!"

I'm sure this will be an evolving battle, but for right now I feel like we're winning the war on technology overload. Now if I could just get myself under control. Right now, it's nearing 3 a.m. and I'm still on my laptop!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Popcorn on the Cheap

One time, we had a "movie night"at our house. We don't let the boys watch a whole lot of TV, so to make it even more of a special treat, I made popcorn and hot chocolate for the boys. Now, every time we watch a movie, they just assume there will be popcorn and hot chocolate. Like this week. In 90 degree weather. Oh, well. I stopped buying microwave popcorn long ago when I had to get up every 3 minutes and 30 seconds to put in another bag. Our new popcorn is cheap, easy, and able to be made in massive quantities.

Stovetop Popcorn

     popcorn kernels
     salt (flavored kinds are especially fun)

- Dump about a tablespoon of oil in a large pot (I used to read the directions on the popcorn bag and measure everything out, now I just guesstimate and dump. I've never messed it up, so I don't think it really matters.)
- Dump about a half a cup of kernels in.
- Turn the burner on medium, place the lid slightly off center to allow air to escape, and let it go. I don't even shake mine. I actually sit down and watch the movie until the popping slows down.
- When popping slows down, just turn off the heat, shake salt over the pot, shake and pour into a large bowl*.

*Don't get lazy and take the hot pot into the living room and set it down on the carpet. I'm just guessing that the carpet fibers might melt to the bottom of the pan if you tried that. Not really sure, because I've never tried it or anything, but just in case you don't want to be scraping Barney pink fibers off of the bottom of your pot for a week...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poetry by Calvin

We really can't get a word in edgewise around here. Usually, what the boys want to say when they interrupt us is totally pointless (or they want something), but every once in a while, they treat us to a little gem:

Ryan: Graduation was really great last night.
Me: Oh? How so?
Ryan: Well...
Calvin (interrupting): Hey! Dad! I got something!

                                  Roses are red,
                                  Graduation is here,
                                  And your feet smell like stink!

That's my boy...

Friday, May 17, 2013


(cue "School's Out" music - and then go ahead and play the Hallelujah chorus next)

Heck. Yes. Even though I was done at noon yesterday, I decided to stick around for another day and a half to clean out my closet. I just felt like after this year I needed a day of purging and a fresh start next year. I've taught eleven years now, and this one was, by far, the most challenging nine months of my career. I've always prided myself on having excellent classroom management skills, but this is one class I'm ashamed to admit I never really had control of. Here are the highlights (or lowlights, if you will):

- 24 students, known by all elementary staff since kindergarten as "that class" - the one that made me consider having another baby just for the maternity leave...
- 6 new students - twin boys shortly before MAP testing and one more student for good measure the second to last week of school
- the perfect storm of intelligence, pre-maturity (as in knowing too much for their age), immaturity, willingness to share/need to be heard (as in not being able to say the word "pizza" without having the class launch into 30 simultaneous diatribes about favorite flavors, least favorite flavors, how much they can eat in a sitting, and how much their uncle ate one time), creativity, highly developed senses of humor (as in no less than 10 class clowns in the bunch), too many chiefs/not enough Indians, too many boys, too many hormones, too many kids/not enough space - As one mother said recently, "The chances of all THOSE kids being the same age, in the same town, and winding up in the same class together is just...unreal."
- 2 life-threatening conditions to fret about (one newly diagnosed and both requiring detailed carb counting for all class parties and treats) and about 26 cases of ADHD (the other 2 have LZ)
- 1 first-grade son who's a teensy bit on the whiny side and had a rough year, too
- 1 two-year-old son who lived up to the classic saying about his age--with a vengeance

But it's over. I survived. And I even told my 30 little ruffians I loved them on the last day. Because really, they're neat kids. They just need to be dispersed among 30 classes to dilute the neatness.

And after a day and a half of purging and organizing, my closet is flippin' spotless and I have all kinds of great ideas for next year.

But first, time to purge and organize my house. Holy pigsty!

This is my Grammy with one of her kindergarten classes. There are 30 of them. No aide. I always knew Grammy was awesome, but wow. Rockstar.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Move Over, Bisquick

We went through a phase where we had “brinner” every Sunday night. This phase just so happened to coincide with my, “I’m going to make every product we use from scratch” phase. I got tired of buying a box of pancake mix every time we went to the store, so I searched online and found a recipe for all-purpose baking mix. After enduring streaky dishes from my homemade dish detergent and getting fed up with hand grating boxes of soap for laundry detergent, I got over the Little House on the Prairie phase.  I never outgrew my baking mix, though. In fact, I was near tears this week when I couldn’t find the recipe. I looked everywhere in my house, then ventured onto the world wide web only to find mini versions of it. I bust my hind end about three or four times a year and make a gargantuan batch. I found this smaller version for anyone who wants to test the waters, but I recommend the buttload recipe, which was in my recipe box the whole time. Nice going, Ma!

Baking Mix for lightweights

            8 c flour
            2 T baking powder
            1 T salt
            2 t cream of tartar
            1 t baking soda
            2 c dry nonfat milk
            2 c shortening

Buttload o’ Baking Mix

            5 lb flour (I mix white and whole wheat)
            ¾ c baking powder
            3 T salt
            1 T cream of tartar
            ½ c sugar
            4 c dry milk powder
            2 lb shortening

-          Sift dry ingredients (not milk powder) three times. I don’t even know what a sifter is supposed to look like, so I just use a colander and a beater. Seems to work fine.


-          Cut in shortening to consistency of corn meal.

-          Stir in milk powder

-          Store in airtight container. I put half in a cute container in the pantry and half in an ice cream bucket in the freezer.

Here’s the great part. You can make all these things with the mix. I keep all these recipes on a card taped to my pantry container. 

            1 ½ c mix
1 c milk          
            1 egg

            1 ½ c mix
            1/3 c milk
-          Bake 10 mn at 400 degrees (drop or rolled and cut)

1 ½ c mix

2 T sugar (I usually dump in more)
1 egg
½ t salt
¾ c cornmeal
¾ c milk

-          Bake 20-25 mn at 400 degrees

Coffee Cake
            2 ¼ c mix
            1/3 c milk
            1 egg
            ¼ c sugar

-          Pour into 8” pan
-          Sprinkle on ½ c brown sugar, 3 T butter, ½ t cinnamon
-          Bake 25 mn at 375 degrees

            3 c mix
            1 c milk
            1 egg
            2 T sugar (tried these once – needed waaaaay more sugar)

-          Bake 20 mn at 425 degrees

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Ladies' Man Strikes Again

Well, Reed's admirer couldn't settle for talking to his Daddy. She was on the phone again a day or so after her first call, and this time, Daddy didn't bail Mr. Studmuffin out. Reed reluctantly took the phone, made a, "What?!" face at Ryan, scowled and gave a gruff and grouchy  hello, followed by an even grouchier, "Whattya want?" I gave him my best, "be nice" face and he walked out of the room, saying, "I can't believe you called me." I tried to find some chores that needed doing in a nearby room, real cas, you know. I wasn't fooling him. At one point he said, "Wait. I have to go somewhere else or my mom will hear me." So, I backed off (which means I eavesdropped from a safer distance).

His voice got a little more friendly, but still had an edge, especially when the pushy broad couldn't take a hint. Reed must've said a half-dozen times, "But how can I call her if I don't know her number!?" He also threw in, "I can't talk to her! I'm going to eat supper WHILE I watch a movie. I can't eat AND watch a movie AND talk to her. That'd be ridiculous!" Finally, I came to his rescue and hollered, "Time to eat, Reed! Hang up the phone!" You can thank me later, little Casanova.

Preview of Coming Attractions

Today felt almost like summer. It was "glorious," to borrow from Reed's vocabulary (sometimes I think he needs to spend a little less time around his dorky Mama).

The nublins donned their mud boots, grabbed their bikes (or, in Max's case, stroller) and we headed down the road.

We got as far as the neighbor's ditch. Yep. We play in ditches. That's how we roll.

They splashed and threw rocks, and Daddy even came out of the field to join us for a few minutes.

We're down to 6 1/2 days of school (1 1/2 for stinkbutt Ryan, but I'm not bitter or anything...) and I can't wait for more downtime with my favorite people!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Studmuffin Update

Eat your heart out, ladies. (It's gotta be the snaggle tooth...)
We have quite the little ladies' man in the hiz-ouse! Tonight, when the phone rang for Mr. Popular, it was a girl. Ryan executed the perfect block move: "Well, let me see if he's still eating. Reed, are you finished?...Sorry, he's still eating supper, can I take a message?...ok... Umm, I'll tell him, but I'm not sure if he can do that or not. And who is this? A? Ok, A, I'll let him know." As soon as the name came out of Ryan's mouth, three sets of eyes widened, and Reed was running down the hall to hide in our bed (super-sneaky hiding place, dude. Especially when you go there every time.)  Calvin chased him down for moral support, but not his parents. Nope. We barely waited for the beep of the phone before I began my, "Whoo0ooOoooO, Aleeee-xis!" and Daddy started one of his loud, slightly (or incredibly, depending on your mood) obnoxious laughs. Reed tried to hide his smirk when he came back to endure the ribbing. I told him he better thank his Daddy for running block for him. I have a feeling I'm gonna have to be shutting down some little girls myself if this keeps up...