Friday, February 5, 2016

Three Things and a Request

  • How did the peanut butter cookie dough fare in the crock pot, you ask?  Eh.  It was fine.  I was never that big of a peanut butter cookie fan until I began making them for myself as an adult, and last night's final product reminded me of any mediocre peanut butter cookie you can get from a deli or grocery store.  Cookie snob that I am, in the future I'll be channeling Lord Capulet and keeping these ill-matched parties separate.  

  • It's well-established that I'm just the tiniest bit frugal and that I'm on a lifelong quest to eliminate excess waste from our household, which makes this a beautiful, beautiful thing in my starry eyes:
I've been cutting open our lotion bottles to get all the extra lotion out for many moons, but it didn't occur to me to do the same to my facial moisturizer until a few months ago, and behold!  I discovered an extra 3-4 weeks' worth of lotion in there, coating the inside of the bottle, hiding from the pump, hoping to remain undiscovered.  Of course, you have to keep the bottle you're slowing disemboweling in a container of some sort- I use tupperware- to keep the lotion from drying out, but I was inordinately excited by this whole thing.  For some reason, Derek didn't share my level of enthusiasm over this.  He's a strange man sometimes.

  • Something neat that is commented on every time I take this crock pot somewhere:
That little rubber band-thingy came with this, the biggest of my crock pots, and it is so simple but so genius:  It does a marvelous job of keeping the lid on when I'm transporting food from the house to the car to another house, and never slips off.  I assume you could do much the same thing with a regular rubber band of some sort, although the handles on this one have notches on their undersides for the band to slip into.  Who on earth comes up with these things?  Not the likes of me.  

For the curious, that's not the C-grade cookie dough in there but tonight's supper, which has the benefit of being easy, and delicious, and doesn't require the use of our angry oven.  Like all true chefs (lolololol), I began supper prep at 7:30 this morning when I threw a roast in the crock pot and then dumped the contents of this package on top.
Lid on, switch on low, and that's it.  I'll shred the beef and discard the fat about twenty minutes before we eat tonight, but other than that, it's as far as I'll come to slaving over a hot stove today.  Served on warmed tortillas with some cheddar and salsa and sour cream?  Delicious.  I'll throw the leftovers on a bed of spinach for the lunch the next few days, show my anemia who's boss.

I have exactly six more great crock pot recipes, and then I'm tapped out, which doesn't exactly work with our oven being out of commission for the foreseeable future.  As such, I'm asking for your help:  Do you have any tried and true crock pot recipes?  Would you share them, or are they state secrets?  Please?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Unexpected Snow Day Adventures

7-8 inches of new snow + high winds + dropping temps = going on our second snow day in a row.  It's served as a nice little break from our regularly scheduled life, but sometimes our children need to be reminded that they are not allowed to go all flying squirrel in the house.  Outside?  Sure.  Whatever.

They've spent large portions of both days outside, and while I sometimes feel a pang that I am not that mom that spends hours outside making snowlumps and snow forts with them, I get over it real quick and get back to my usual routine of setting the trash/ compost bowl/ whatever right outside the door and hollering, "Somebody come take care of this, please!" in their general direction.  Then I hurriedly shrink back in because it is warm in here and cold out there, and that's pretty much all my brain needs to know to make its decision.
Sometimes I stay at the door long enough to take a picture through the glass.  That's just good parenting.
I assuage any residual guilt with the knowledge that I spent an hour shoveling this morning, then I make hot chocolate for everyone and give myself a sanctimonious little pat on the back.

Today I'm doing an experiment in cookie dough, because Adelaide was making peanut butter cookies yesterday afternoon, but within about a minute of turning on the oven, I smelled a very strong scent of gas, so I turned the oven off and called Derek.  He said to get the heck out of the house and call the energy company, who would send a tech out to inspect everything.  So I called the energy company, and they said to get the heck out of the house, they would send a tech out to inspect everything.  The guy on the phone also said exciting things like, "Do not turn any lights on or off.  Do not open any windows.  If you are on a landline, do not hang up the phone, leave it off its cradle.  We do not want to risk creating any sparks.  Get out now."

I instructed Adelaide to get bundled up as best she could with the winter gear right by the front door, then I went upstairs to rouse both the boys from their naps (see flying squirrel reference above; they had worn themselves out by midafternoon) and hurried them down the stairs.

A few delightful pieces of information:  If Atticus is in the house, he is wearing shorts.  We keep our house at 67 degrees in the winter during the day, and 60 starting at 8:30 every evening, but he still wears shorts.  Yesterday, while Adelaide was making the cookie dough, I was doing laundry, specifically boy laundry, which includes every pair of pants Atticus owns and his snow pants because I like his teacher and don't want her to faint from the scent coming off of them every day at school.  Because of all this, when we got out of the house, Atticus was wearing snow pants that hit about mid-shin over his shorts, along with snow boots and two jackets, because oh, yeah, I was washing all their coats, too.  Ditto the multiple, layered jacket look on Caedmon.  We looked homeless, but I figured it was no big deal, we were just going to go hang out at our small town library for a while 'til either the technician figured out the source of the problem or our house exploded in a giant fireball.

We arrived at the library.  There was a hand-lettered sign informing us it had closed early, I'm guessing due to the weather.  Super.

So we went to Wal-Mart, because at least there we'd fit in, right?  I've heard about that People of Wal-Mart website, and while I doubt it applies to everyone on there, keep in mind that some of those customers may look like that because they've been turned out of their house and had to dress in whatever was immediately by the front door.  It's possible.

So we went to Wal-Mart, got the kids' valentines for school, got a call telling us to come back, there would be no slow suffocation tonight.  All the hallelujahs.

The technician was really nice, but informed me that yes, something is up with our oven, and that we are not allowed to turn it on until we get it looked at.  As of today, we have an appliance repair guy coming out in a week to look at it, because that's the soonest he can get here.  Hence the cookie dough in a crock pot.  I mean, I couldn't let Adelaide's beautiful dough go to waste, could I?
I'm not real sure how it's going to turn out; we could be treating ourselves to peanut butter mush tonight.  Or it could be our new favorite dessert!  Aren't adventures fun?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Books and Caucuses, But Not Books About Caucuses

Big week, friends.  We're finally over the awful illness that trashed us last week (except for those odd moments where we have to sit down due to continued weakness and lingering nauseau.  OTHER THAN THAT.), today is the Iowa Caucus, and as of midnight tonight, we're in a winter storm/blizzard watch until Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.  Yay, Iowa!

Derek's out caucusing right now while I stay home with the kids; four years ago, I got to go be a good little citizen and caucus while he stayed home.  Either way, after today hopefully we'll stop receiving enough political flyers in the mail to wallpaper the first floor of our house and the radio will stop with the non-stop political ads, at least until the fall.

When we haven't been hearing about how this candidate is evil and a liar and possibly the anti-Christ and how that candidate is a criminal and eats babies and doesn't even know how to garden, we've been hearing about this giant storm that the Weather Powers That Be have somehow had their eye on since it was over Ethiopia.  You know, or somewhere.  It's Monday, and Monday is grocery day in this house, where I emerge with my Aldi bags and my Aldi quarter and my meal plan with my specific lists broken down by store, but today is not just Monday, it's the day before a possible blizzard, which means the stores were packed and people who are somewhat less capable and efficient grocery shoppers than I (read:  99% OF THE POPULATION) were just wandering around, stopping their carts in the middle of the aisles, thinking their no doubt incredibly deep thoughts right in front of the bag of brown rice I needed but couldn't reach without risking a molestation charge.

You know what grocery stores need?  Grocery police.  I don't mean, like, who gets which items, I mean someone to aid the flow of traffic through the store, perhaps help certain shoppers lessen their risk of imminent death by other shoppers.  I would be terrific at this, because I understand that moving through a store should be just like driving:  You travel on the right, if you have to make a stop you pull over, and in general just try to be aware of your surroundings, because as it turns out, you are not the only person in the store attempting to restock your larder!  I could somehow reward conscientious shoppers with discounts or high fives or something, and write citations for those who are pissing off everyone around them, but I'd probably need a whole separate pad for those guilty of just being all-around jerks.

I may already be drunk with power.

Even without grocery police, I made it through all the stores and got everything I need to make bierocks and shredded beef tacos and other deliciousness this week, plus we made our trip to the necessary libraries just a couple days ago, so we are ready.
Look, if the State Library of Iowa says I need three books to weather this storm, then who am I to argue?

I think I'll start with this one, because it won't be starting so much as continuing, as I'm already halfway through and it is fantastic.
Nonfiction history book about medieval England:  Sounds eeeeuuuuurrrgh, right?  But you guys, it is so good.  I can't put it down.  

Now, off to put the kids to bed, aka "I don't care if you're praying your tiny little heart out for a snow day tomorrow:  Chances are, you'll have school, so bed!  Now!  But keep praying, because I don't want to get up, either!"

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Teaching Our Children Initiative So They Don't Die

I got sick.  So did Derek.  At this point we're both recovering, as we fell like dominoes, one sick right after the other, but man, it's been a rough few days.

The result of our periods of overlapping illness was that, yesterday morning, when I emerged from my stupor better-ish, but still shaky on my pins, the house was a rat hole.  You know all that stuff I just posted about how much I love to watch our children do chores?  Well, it turns out they only do those things if I'm there to play Chore Maestro.

To be fair, Adelaide mostly took care of her own stuff, such as cleaning up her own dishes, hanging up her wet snow gear, etc, and Atticus wasn't completely disgusting, but Caedmon?  He had the nerve to act like a five-year-old boy with little adult supervision *clears throat* which, I suppose is exactly what he was, but still.

As a result, starting yesterday afternoon we began discussing initiative.  Initiative, as I lectured told my precious sacks of filth darlings is seeing that something needs to be done and then doing that thing.  It's going to throw a container of yogurt away, seeing that the trash can is nearly overflowing with refuse, and not carefully perching the container on top of the pile, nay! but rather, pulling on the magic strings of draw that are so handily built into the top seam of the trash bag, hoisting it out, and taking it out to the dumpster.  It's getting one leftover enchilada out of the container for your supper, then putting the remaining enchiladas back into that big white thing with cold insides that keeps food delightfully fresh for so long, rather than leaving the dish of meat and cheese out on the counter to rot.

We're starting small, as I soon realized that our boys don't even seem to see when some things need to be done.  So I'm pretending they're troglodytes- not much of a stretch today, friends- and leading them gently around the house, adding extra sarcasm-infused syrup to my voice as I ask, "And what is this, sweet boys?  That's right, it is a bowl!  Very good, boys!  And what is in this bowl, sons of mine?  Why, I don't know what it is, either!  Sometimes it's hard to identify food when it's been sitting out for two days, so don't feel bad.  Now, here is the important part, future men of the world (GOD HELP US ALL):  [Insert highly detailed instructions of a simple procedure including water and a sink that I will not put you through].  Now, who can repeat what I just said?"

Just eating my lunch with a wooden spoon because every other piece of silverware was dirty and our children didn't ever see that as a problem.
We have done the same thing with the toilet, with hats and mittens, with snow boots, with the trash can, and on, and on, and on.  Today I'm noodling over what kind of system to put in place (chore chart?  But I don't really like those or think they work that well.  Jar that we fill with stuff or take away from that I'm pretty sure I saw on Pinterest?  I just don't know yet.), that, most importantly, I can follow through on, because in general, the more complicated and labor-intensive a system is for me, the more likely I am to abandon it/throw it against a wall until it shatters in a highly satisfying way.

I don't really have short-term specific goals for this, either, but if I did they'd probably fall between "takes out the trash without being asked" and me no longer having to scrub around the base of the toilet while quietly singing Janet Jackson's Nasty to myself with increasing hysteria.  Somewhere in there.

Monday, January 25, 2016

These Ears Are Made for Piercing

For the past couple years, Adelaide has steadfastly refused to get her ears pierced.

I don't mean we were, like, pressuring her or anything.  I wasn't advancing on her in a threatening manner with fat needles in my hands.  (Much.)  But when she was six or seven years old, and more and more girls around her were showing up at school with ornamented ears, we had a conversation about when she could get holes punched in her own lobes (when she turned eight) and why (because that's when I got mine done).

She turned eight.  I asked if she wanted to get her ears pierced.  She answered rather strongly in the negative.  The word "barbaric" was used.  This might sound extreme, but if you know Adelaide, you know it was probably just a Tuesday or something.

Every so often we'd have another conversation about it, usually when I was putting my own earrings in.  Her opinion remained the same.

But then, a few months ago, she abruptly changed her mind.  She did want to get her ears pierced.  She was ready to embrace her inner barbarian (my words, this time.)

We waited a while to make sure she wasn't going to change her mind again.  Then we waited some more.  And then some more.  Derek basically left the execution of the whole thing up to me, which suited me down to the ground, as I have strong opinions on where you should go to get your piercings done and by whom.

I've got a total of five holes in my ears- well, other than the God-given ones- which in this day and age is a pretty conservative number, plus all my piercings are confined to my ears, which basically makes me a nun.  Those piercings were done in three different settings, and of those three, the absolute, hands-down best was in a tattoo parlor.

When I had the cartilage of one of my ears pierced, up at the top, it was by a heavily tattooed and pierced gentleman who talked me through the process as he was doing it.  He hauled out some antibacterial goop and one of the biggest needles I've ever seen, then proceeded to lecture me like some kind of Professor of Piercing, which I guess he was:  "I know this seems barbaric [that word again!], but the best way to pierce any part of your body except your earlobes is with a needle.  If you ever go to get your cartilage pierced again and they plan on using one of those piercing guns, you need to run the other way.  It will compress the cartilage, and [insert graphic and upsetting description of horrors that I don't remember word for word as it was fifteen years ago]- that is why a needle is best."
Me, meekly:  "Yes, Professor Piercing."  (I didn't really call him that.  I was way too intimidated, and he was about to stick a giant needle through me.)

Because of all that, I wasn't about to take our daughter to some dirty jewelry store to get her ears pierced by a bored teenager with minimal experience.  I was adamant she get it all done at a clean, well-run tattoo parlor by someone with plenty of experience (i.e. holes all over their body).  Derek suggested a place in Ames he said looked clean and nice every time he's walked past, so we looked it up online, and it seemed very reputable.

Derek and the boys dropped Daughter and I off Saturday morning, and sure enough!  Clean premises!  Friendly, heavily pierced staff!  Perfection!

Adelaide filled out her own paperwork, I signed off on it and footed the bill, then we went back to a private room with photos of freshly pierced folks young and old on the walls.  She settled into a chair somewhat like what you'd see in a dentist's office, except much wider and a million times less frightening (that may or may not be my dentist phobia speaking).  The gal marked on her ears with ink where the piercings would be, Adelaide checked it in the mirror and okayed the placement, then I got out of the way so the woman could do Daughter's right ear while a guy did her left at the same time.  They each used a needle to do the piercing, pushed through to what looked like a cork held behind her ear, then put her earrings of choice in.

She was so brave: She winced while they did it, but there were no tears, not so much as a word, really.  Both piercers were incredibly kind and encouraging to her, too.  They gave us detailed instructions- verbal and written- on how to care for the piercings, and we were out the door.
Heroic Ink in Ames, Iowa:  Highly Recommend
Adelaide was pleased.  I was pleased.  Derek was pleased when he picked us up.  Atticus and Caedmon were a combination of confused/grossed out/uninterested.  Ear piercing success.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Sights

Sights that fill my heart with joy:

Our children doing chores.  [Insert evil but sincere laugh here.]
Because each of our children are unique, individual human beings, they're each good at different things- including chores.  Caedmon is my go-to mopper, as he's thorough and careful to scrub when needed, something that his two older siblings can't (WON'T) seem to grasp.
Plus his dimple comes out when he's putting some muscle into the job.  If that isn't added incentive to give him this particular task, I don't know what is.

Atticus, on the other hand, is the kid I call upon when I have a mountain of towels to fold.  It's not his favorite chore, but I tell him that not everyone can be a master of the tri-fold.  He is very comforted by this.
He's also my head snow shoveler.
I took this picture on Christmas Eve, after we'd been to church and he'd had to sit still and listen to adults for close to an hour.  As soon as we got home, he begged to go out and shovel, as he had energy to burn.  This had the added benefit of making me look like a monster to our neighbors, sending our seven-year-old boy out into the cold to do manual labor on the night before Christmas, all while I watched in my fancy holiday clothes from within the comfortable warmth of our house.  I thought about making a big sign to hold up to the window: "HE ASKED FOR IT," but I decided there was a faint possibility that could be misconstrued.

::Right here you'll have to fill in your own image of Adelaide taking out the trash or unloading the dishwasher, as she seems to find it insulting when I take pictures of her doing chores while I sip my iced tea and nibble delicately on lemon cookies as I recline in my easy chair.::

Only kidding.  I don't much care for iced tea.

Other sights I always enjoy:
Is this or is this not the most perfect coffee receptacle you've ever seen?  It's from The Awkward Yeti, and let me tell you, if you've ever felt like the only thing missing in your life is a hilarious comic featuring cartoon internal organs, then get ready to achieve nirvana.  I follow him on Instagram, because I am not a fool and I never underestimate the effect of a well-executed gall bladder joke.

And finally, despite all my attempts at visualizing a vomit-free weekend, last night was... well, let's just say it was decidedly malodorous.  As of now, this illness has felled 60% of the residents of this household, and although I'm hoping Derek and I will emerge unscathed, given the amount of times my person has waded through a quagmire of germ juice over the past few days, it's not looking good.  So far, though, it only seems to be a 24-hour bug, where it hits its victims with uncalled-for violence, but then more or less leaves them alone to sleep it off and emerge more or less back to normal.  
This morning Adelaide and Caedmon were making up for hours of action last night.
These still count as joyful sights to behold, as the visage of our sleeping children makes my twisted little heart glow on any day, but when they've been sick?  Those sleeping babes make me whisper-yell, "HALLELUJER!" (so as not to wake them, see), because that means it's finally break time, and by "break time" I mean time to wash every piece of bedding or clothing  you can sneak out of their rooms without waking them, lighting candles in every room, and opening any and all bedroom windows, because the outside temp may be below freezing, but at this point, fresh is fresh air, man.
Please note that she surrounded herself with all the things that comfort her:  A bag full of library books, a coloring book and pens, and there under her head you can just make out the little pink pillow I made for her to take to kindergarten.

So!  What sights fill your heart with joy these days?  Do, do share, as I could use a few extra merry sights during this bleak, colorless time of year.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sledding and Slow-Cooked Bananas and Wishful Thinking

Temperatures soared into the teens this week, which means Caedmon and I dragged our sleds to the bus stop to pick the kids up after school most days this week.  We then enjoyed going down the little hill there over and over and over and over and climbing up the little hill over and over and over and over, fulfilling my real motive of wearing the kids out a bit and burning off any post-school day crankiness before they even walked in the door of our house.  Raise your hand if you've ever asked God to enrich the evil genius residing within you in order to aid in your parenting.

Adelaide affirmed my belief that youngest siblings generally have it made, at least if your eldest sibling is an indulgent sister whose name rhymes with Shadelaide.
His Indian name is Cute But Heavy.  Hers is Dotes Upon Caedmon, which sounds more like the name of an English village, so never mind.

Then we all went home and did the only thing you can do after sledding, which is drink hot cocoa.
Yes, I'm still using my Christmas mug.  I'm also still listening to Christmas music, although only in our vehicle.  I took all those exhortations to "Never change!" inscribed in my yearbook seriously.

Last night I made banana ice cream for the kids after supper, which is always curious, as whipping frozen bananas in my food processor tap dances on just this side of triggering an allergic response in me, despite the fact that I'm not actually ingesting any of the allergen.  I noted this with interest, then got to further my mental notes when cleaning regurgitated banana off nearly every surface of the bathroom later that night.  Apparently seven years old is not the age when you're able to hit the toilet when sick- well, not the inside of it, anyway, or even within a few feet of its easily flushable inside.  Seriously, it was like an episode of NCIS: Vomit in there.  I'm sure if I had the training I'd be able to identify all kinds of things in the splatter patterns.  Good news, though!  Apparently stomach acid "cooks" the banana enough- thereby denaturing its proteins- that even skin contact doesn't elicit a response in this allergy sufferer.  Motherhood is teaching me so much!

After a night like that, I kept Atticus home from school, and although we enjoyed a lethargic morning, he now seems to be back to normal.
Please excuse the mess.  We actually live here.
Balloons have saved our bacon more than once during a long Iowa winter:  They're cheap, after a couple days they do a Roberta Flack and kill themselves softly, and the children lose their minds over them.  I don't know why tag/keep-away/ every single other game is so much more fun when played with balloons, but according to our progeny, this is a truth universally acknowledged.  

I'm going to copy a friend of mine now and attempt to visualize my preferred future:  A vomit-free weekend, laden with running, good food (I'm making a cheese ball!  And crockpot Maid-Rites!  And yes, this is exciting enough to warrant an exclamation point!  It's possible that my life is somewhat sad!  I don't even care because CHEESE BALL!), with a liberal dose of Jane Eyre and maybe some Mancala.  Amen.