Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Knowing the Backstory

I've made several good friends since moving to Colorado. I enjoy doing things with them and making new memories here. But there's something about your old friends--people you've known so long that even when you haven't seen them for ages (because maybe they move far away, like to Mexico, ahem), you sit down and practically pick up on a conversation as if you might have been having it yesterday. There's that shared history--they know your backstory and you know theirs. There's just nothing sweeter than that.

I have a few friends with whom I've been friends since, no lie, kindergarten. Wendy is one of those friends. Each year she brings a group of high school girls to the valley to take part in a lacrosse tournament. Usually her husband and kids are with her, but this year Wendy travelled solo. So we took advantage of this totally unusual situation to go out--just us girls--drink a little wine, eat a huge dinner next to Gore Creek in Vail, eat ice cream, and talk, talk, talk. Hmmm, I actually feel a little ill thinking about everything I consumed tonight. Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day.

Anyway, at the end of the evening, after strolling around Vail and gabbing for hours, I suddenly looked at Wendy and said, "Do we look 41?" Frankly, I don't know what 41 is supposed to look like, but I'm curious to know if we look it. We decided we weren't sure, but we hoped not.

We also took the opportunity to call our friend Rachael in LA and harrass her and make her jealous that she wasn't present and drinking wine with us. I think she might actually have been glad not to be taking part in our debauchery. If that's an actual word.

So I drove home pondering my good fortune in friends and giggling about some of the predicaments that made our friendships what they are today. Which is priceless.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Say What You Will. . .

. . .but I'm really sad that Michael Jackson is dead.

I remember where I was when Elvis died--driving down I-75 in Kentucky. We were on our way to Lake Cumberland. I can absolutely remember the stretch of road we were on when they announced it on the radio.

I remember where I was when President Reagan was shot--7th grade math class at Worthingway Middle School.

And I'll always remember that I was descending Vail pass on my way to Denver when Eamonn called to tell me that Michael Jackson was dead.

I had heard on NPR that Michael Jackson had received CPR at his home and rushed to the hospital so the call wasn't out of the blue, but to hear that he was actually dead was a little shocking.

For the remainder of the drive (which stretched to an epic three hours becasue of construction traffic--my tax dollars at work thanks to the ARRA--and bad weather--people seem to be flummoxed as to how to drive in the rain), I was able to tune into a Denver radio station that began playing Michael Jackson music non-stop.

I found myself tuning into every newscast and retrospective show to learn more.

And for the record, I feel bad for Farrah Fawcett that she totally got shortchanged because they both died the same day.

As a child of the 80s, Michael Jackson was huge in my life. Who didn't drive around town with one of his zillion top 10 hits blaring from their (parents') car radio? I'm certain that when I go to Ohio this summer, I'll still find plenty of Michael Jackson vinyl on the shelves in our old rooms.

When I've brought up Michael Jackson's untimely death to several people though, I have found them mostly unsympathetic. One even commented, "One less pedophile in the world is a good thing."

I have no idea if Michael Jackson was a pedophile or not. I saw news coverage of people who accused him of things, bizzare behavior at his trial, his strangely changing appearance. No doubt about it--he was one weird dude.

But really it all just makes me sad because he had such a bizzare life from the get go. Again, I really only know what the media feeds us, but it's not like he had a normal upbringing or family, and he was pretty much a prisoner of his own fame.

So I'm sitting here watching a Michael Jackson retrospective on VH1 and feeling nostalgic. Hilariously, I'm seeing many of these videos for the first time. We didn't have cable growing up so the only time I ever saw music videos was when I babysat for the Kriegers, who did have MTV. As soon as the kids were in bed I used to sit for hours watching videos (because that was back in the day when MTV actually showed music videos). And if the Kriegers were actually out of town and I was staying the night with the kids, I usually stayed up nearly the whole night getting my video fix.

Anyway, personally, watching the videos, either for the first time or the 50th, and listening to his music like I haven't in years, I'm reminded of his huge talent and musical genius. And it makes me sad for him and his family. And for me because frankly, a little of my youth died last Thursday, too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some Light Summer Reading

A week or so ago I checked this huge book about WWII out of the library. I find WWII very interesting and I had seen the first two books of this trilogy at Barnes & Noble in Denver last fall. The third book isn't even published yet, but I figured I'd better get started on the first two.

So I checked this doorstop of a book out. And it has been sitting untouched next to my bed ever since. I'm not sure what I was thinking because a) I have so many other books sitting by/under/on/next to my bed that I have planned to read, and b) this book is so darn huge I have no chance of finishing it in the next 12 months.

So I've decided to return the book and simplify my life for the summer. Recently we've been reading or listening to a bunch of books from "when I was a girl," or even before, I might add. And I've really enjoyed it. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, the Ramona series, the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys. And yes, I've even enjoyed Judy Blume, her Santa outing incidents aside. We just finished listening to Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great without any major catastrophes.

And each week as we go to the library, I've been trolling around the juvenile fiction shelves, passing books and thinking, "Oh, I loved that book! I read it a million times!" over and over again. So I decided that just because I am a grown up (making big air quotes here), doesn't mean that I always have to be reading great big grown up books. It was a very freeing decision. And then I promptly checked out a Nancy Drew book. This summer I'm going to read easy, fun stuff that brings back memories.

On my stroll through the shelves this afternoon, I made a mental list. Obviously, I won't get close to reading all of these. It's just a list of stuff I read and enjoyed when I was a girl, wished I'd read, or should have read. But I am wondering if I can stay awake to read a book a week.

Today I checked out Nancy Drew Message in the Hollow Oak (I wanted to start right off with the first one, but it wasn't in, darn it) and Caddie Woodlawn, which I never read in my youth, but remembered hearing about.

Other memory makers. . .
Anne of Green Gables (Can you believe I never read these? Cinda just fell off her chair in shock.)
The Black Stallion series
Harriet the Spy
More Ramona
More Judy Blume
The Little House books
A Wrinkle in Time (I confess, despite several attempts, I have never finished this)
The Charlie Bone Series (OK, this is a modern day one, but it sounds fun)
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Red Badge of Courage
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (My Grandma Moffitt gave me this in elementary school. I never read it, but have moved it all over creation, so it's high time)
The Chronicle of Narnia (I've never read all of them)
Call of the Wild
Homer Price
Where the Lillies Bloom

I can't stop. . .

Misty of Chincoteague
Witch of Blackbird Pond
Old Yeller
The Diary of Anne Frank
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Julie of the Wolves
Stuart Little
Charlotte's Web
The Trumpet of the Swan
Bridge to Terabithia
The Outsiders

Good grief. I could go on all night.

These were just part of a pass around the library. I reserve the right to add to or delete from this list at any time. Or stop completely and just read Trixie Belden books all summer.

Got a fave I need to add to my list? Let me know.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Unfortunate Incident with Bulgur Wheat

This afternoon I had a conference call that ran until 5:15pm. The boys were excited because they got to watch TV, play the Wii or be on the computer for two solid hours. Oh yes, the electronic babysitting is a necessary evil some days.

Anyway, I had a rough idea of what we were having for dinner. I didn't have a concrete plan because I was one day beyond my normal meal planning for the week, but I didn't get to the store today. But I figured it was OK because I had some pork chops and I knew (thought) I had some Near East Rice Pilaf, which is my go to side dish when I can't think of anything else.

So when I came dashing downstairs to start dinner, I was dismayed to discover that I did not have said rice pilaf in my pantry. In fact, I was stymied by everything in my pantry. I was on overload from my two hour meeting and I could think of nothing creative to do with the brown rice, wild rice, orzo, or other various pastas facing me. I was drawing a blank.

And then something caught my eye: an unopened bag of bulgur wheat. Wait. What? When did I buy that? And why? What was I planning to do with this bulgur wheat? I like stuff like that cooked up as a hot cereal (I ate millet porridge for dinner last night--long story, I did a cleanse, I'll tell you about it later), but I was intrigued. So I went to my computer to see what is possible with bulgur wheat.

There were many options from breakfast to dinner, but I was lacking the ingredients for many. So I settled for this citrus-y salad with an orange/lemon dressing and had carrots, raisins, celery and sunflower seeds in it. It actually sounded good.

It wasn't.

I had to invoke the mercy rule at dinner tonight which happens when I make something so hideous I don't have the heart to insist that anyone eat it. They were good sports and tasted it. But even Eamonn, usually stoic in the face of my experimentation, picked out the raisins and carrots and left the rest.

The boys ate a lot of bread and butter with their pork chops for dinner. And some plain carrot sticks.

Usually we save leftovers and Eamonn eats them for lunch.

The bulgur wheat disaster didn't even go into the fridge. It went straight into the trash. A fitting end.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Finn had a little surprise for Eamonn on Father's Day:

You would think that with a father who is a former professional cyclist, our boys would have easily picked up the whole two-wheel bike thing. Not so. Although once Declan got it, he really got it and now enjoys mountain biking over obstacles and all sorts of crazy stuff. In fact, yesterday while I was working with Finn on the playground at the school, Declan was riding down stairs. I've just ordered some pictures of him at a mountain biking camp and I'll scan and post them as soon as they arrive.

Anyway, Finn's road to bike riding has been even longer than Declan's, which we now know, of course, was a result of his sensory issues. Finn would even fall off his bike with training wheels! He just had no sense of his body in space and he would teeter diagonally off the bike. He did enjoy riding the Trail-gator, which is a contraption that hooks his bike to Eamonn's and made it like a tandem, but Eamonn did comment that Finn's balance wasn't the greatest and he would lean so much Eamonn thought Finn would pull me over if I ever tried to ride with Finn on the back. So I still haul Finn around in the trailer if we ever want to go somewhere on bikes and Eamonn isn't home.

So repeated attempts to teach Finn to ride the two-wheeler were unsuccessful. He was frustrated, we were frustrated. Everyone was frustrated. A few days ago, I started Googling (oh, how I love Google) to see if there were parents of other sensory kids who were having this same problem. Lo, and behold, there were. My hunt lead me to this online book which says if you follow their method, your child can learn to ride their back in a day, or even as little as an hour. I was hopeful, but skeptical. Because didn't we all believe in Thin Thighs in 30 Days at one point? And that never happened. So I didn't want to fall prey to some sort of Internet bicycling scam.

I downloaded the book. I read it. It made perfect sense. I followed what it said. And I'll be darned if it didn't work. It took about 2 1/2 hours of work (not in a row--we took a break for lunch in between) and some bribery (Webkinz were involved), but I was determined to have him learn so that he could surprise Eamonn, who had spent so much time running behind the bike, on Father's Day.

The "secret" behind this method is that you remove the pedals and lower the seat so the kid can put his feet flat on the ground. Then, in a flat place, the kid practices riding the bike around like a scooter, pushing himself around and getting a feel for the balance. There are games you play to help them with the balance and everything, and then you move from the scootering around to putting the pedals back on and riding. The best part is they do it all themselves--you don't run behind them or steady them at all (because let's face it--I was going to last about 2 minutes out there trying to run behind him). Now, you can tell at the start of the video that I'm helping Finn push off--we haven't mastered that part yet. He can start on a hill by himself with the momentum, just not on the flat yet. But he was very excited to have me record him so he could show Eamonn so I steadied him while he got started.

So today we will go back over to the school and work on starting by himself. I need to reread that part of the book. And if it works, I'm going to go back and give Thin Thighs in 30 Days another try.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The. . . Something

Over the past few weeks, while I've been working in the evening, I've seen some commercials for new TV shows that will be starting soon. (Remember the days when new shows only started in the fall?)

So, as I was sitting here, the title of one of these new shows caught my eye: The Listener. A few nights later, new ads for yet another new show: The Philanthropist.

And don't forget that we already have a show called The Mentalist. I've never seen it, but let's face it, Simon Baker isn't too hard on the old eyes.

But what's with the The shows? Is this one of those TV trends that will pass shortly?

I remember some of these from before. How about when hospital dramas were The Thing? Of course, there was my original and favorite: M*A*S*H. But then there were was a whole rash of them that seemed to start all together. Everyone must love a good drama where everyone dies. Let's not forget the other early hospital dramas like Marcus Welby, MD, and there were countless others: Trapper John, MD, St. Elsewhere, ER, Chicago Hope, Grey's Anatomy, House.

And how about police dramas? Now there's a CSI or Law and Order taking place in every city in America. I'm certain CSI: Cleveland, must be next.

There was also a whole breed of shows that were take-offs from Friends. Different people, of course, but all some configuration of guys/girls and centering around some location--a coffee house, a pizza shop, a college dorm.

Then there was this whole phase of time, very short, mind you, where every new show had Irish people in it, or people of Irish descent. Or taking place in an Irish pub in Boston or something. I never saw any and I don't remember what any were called. I don't think any of them lasted more than a few episodes. I just remember thinking, "What's with all of the Irish shows?" (Don't get me wrong--I love the Irish. In fact, I'm married to one. He says he's English, but I like to point out that he doesn't have a drop of English blood in him.)

So anyway, I just wondered where this trend is leading. The Leprechaun MD: Fargo?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The World's Longest Soccer Season

Is over. Just in time for the summer league to get geared up. Actually, I don't think Declan is going to play though so we have a little break.

This past weekend marked the end of our epic season. At least it seemed epic to me.

We went to a huge tournament in Denver hosted by the Colorado Storm, a gigantic soccer conglomerate. Seriously. And Storm was a very apt name if you live in Colorado these days. Poor Denver has had tornadoes touch down every day for the last nine days. In fact, the boys were really nervous about going to Denver because the tornadoes have been all over the news. I assured them that having grown up in Ohio, I knew what to do in the event of a tornado and we'd be just fine. And we were. The Sunday afternoon games were delayed while some storms rolled through, but we didn't see any funnel clouds or tornadoes. Just some big lightening.

The tournament was actually quite fun. We all stayed at the same hotel so there was a lot of swimming, spending time in each others' rooms watching inappropriate movies (we caught the kids trying to watch The Dark Knight. Twice.), and eating pizza and ice cream.

A few of the moms even made a field trip to Nordstrom where we laughed at all of the footwear that is so fashionable for the rest of the world, but totally impractical for mountain living.

Some pics of our weekend:

Pregame huddle.

Our Eagle Talons U10 team

Celebrating after the game with some ice cream. See that blue stuff in Declan's cone? It's called cotton candy. Nasty. Declan ate it two days in a row. . .and then freaked out when he saw what happens when blue ice cream exits your body. He vowed never to eat blue ice cream again.

These pictures are after our Saturday games. They won both games, but I think they were more excited about eating ice cream and then going back to the hotel, swimming and eating pizza.

And then something exciting happened. The boys had won three of their games, and then lost one heartbreaker on Sunday morning. (And here I'll show my sore loser stripes. The score in this game we lost was 3 - 2. This Denver team was really, really good, but we beat ourselves by scoring on ourselves once, and then the ref made a hideous handball call which caused a penalty kick. So they actually only scored once. But it's over now and I will speak of it no more.) Anyway, after our final game, our coaches and parents were handing out tournament pins and cheering the players when. . .

. . .a tournament official drove up and awarded the boys with a runner up trophy and medals.

Needless to say, they were ecstatic.

Our international coaching staff: Eamonn (England), Wolfgang (Germany), Patrick (France)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digital To Do List

Lists, lists, lists. I love lists. I love to make them. I love to cross things off them. Sometimes I write things on the list that I've already done just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off and making myself feel more productive.

When I lose my list, I'm lost. Or if I go to the store and forget to take my grocery list, I never make it out of the store with everything I went to buy. I usually forget the key ingredient for dinner that night. If I don't have the list, I buy all sorts of things I don't need.

The list is a necessity.

Until recently, I've been low-tech with my list making. I've been a pencil and paper kind of gal. And I still am as far as grocery lists are concerned.

But as for my To Do list, I've gone digital. I've discovered I need my computer to actually remind me to do things. Meetings, phone calls, errands, sports practices, picking people up, dropping them off, various and sundry tasks. Even blogging. The computer is set up to remind me to blog every day, Monday through Friday. Obviously, sometimes I ignore the reminders. The computer has also been reminding me to "Write a book" since September. Or install my new software--since December. Or figure out how to correctly backup my hard drive--also since December.

Maybe I need a new system. Like maybe the computer should shock me if I don't complete a task.

Basically, my life is on this computer now--from work documents to what I'm supposed to do today, I can't start the day without turning on the computer because I wouldn't know what to do first. I mean, I can figure out the obvious things like: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth. It's the bigger things that I need help with.

I had a little freak out this morning when 30 seconds before a meeting was supposed to start, my computer overheated and shut down (a lovely little idiosyncrasy of Toshibas, apparently. I just realized I have no idea how to spell idiosyncrasy so I'm just guessing because I'm too lazy to look it up.). I hadn't written down the dial-in number for the conference call or printed off any relevant documents. Why would I? They're all on my computer.

It was a close call, but I did get into the meeting, albeit, a few minutes late.

But I'm thinking I'd better go back to a low tech approach for a few things. Or else move learning how to back up my hard drive to the top of the list again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What the Hell, Judy Blume?

As a girl growing up in the 70s, Judy Blume was an integral part of my late elementary and middle school life.

I distinctly remember reading:
-Blubber--As a chubby kid, I totally identified.
-It's Not the End of the World--Divorce 70s-style. Again, I identified.
-Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret--I couldn't figure out WHY this girl wanted to start her period so badly. Still don't get it.
-Deenie--I'm still terrified I'll get scoliosis.

I think every middle-school girl identified with an aspect of her books.

Judy also wrote a whole series of books for younger kids, but I had never really read them because I was older when they came out. Of course, I had heard of books like, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and the Pain and the Great One series, but had never read them.

No, I was too busy sneaking around with my friends reading Forever in 6th grade, so I pretty much shot right past the Fourth Grade Nothing.

Often when we take car trips, even just up valley or to Glenwood, we listen to books on CD in the car. A few weeks ago we got a batch of books on CD in preparation for trips to out of town soccer games. We recently finished Hoot, which the boys loved, and then started Judy Blume's Superfudge. Even Eamonn and I enjoy listening to the kids' books--we get a good laugh.

Anyway, as I said, we've been listening to Superfudge. It's a comical story about Peter, who is starting sixth grade and his whole world is changing. His four-year-old brother, Fudge, is a pain, his mother is having a new baby, and the family is moving from New York City to Princeton for a year. So the book is mostly about the family's year in Princeton and it follows them chronologically through the year. It's all funny and good until Christmas.

Now, both of my boys still believe in Santa Claus although I'm sure that Declan has his suspicions. I think I found out in 3rd grade that there was no Santa and I have no doubt that some of the kids in Declan's grade with older brothers and sisters have spilled the beans. Anyway, Finn still full on believes--no doubt about it. And frankly, I'm not ready for it to end. I love their excitement about Santa.

So back to the book and my beef with Judy. The other day we get to the section of the book about Christmas and Fudge is asking Santa for a bike. Peter tells Fudge that it might be too expensive. Fudge insists it doesn't matter to Santa. So Peter goes to his mother and is telling her that Fudge should be told that there is no Santa Claus. At least that's where I think it was going. As soon as Peter said something to the effect of, "You should tell him Santa Claus isn't. . ." I frantically starting slapping at the controls on the car's CD player to skip past whatever Peter was about to say.

The boys asked what happened because we skipped ahead to springtime. I told them the CD was skipping and I was trying to fix it (big liar). I went back as far as I could on the CD to make sure the story still made sense, steering clear of the Christmas track.

But seriously, Judy, do we need to out Santa Claus in a book for kids? Maybe she thought that particular book would never be read by kids who still believed in Santa? Was I getting carried away letting a kindergartner listen to Superfudge?

Heck, I don't know. But I guess I'd better go read all of Judy Blume's books, even for the elementary set before I unwittingly expose the boys to something else. Like the fact that there is no Easter Bunny.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Getting My Sea Legs

Actually, this post should be called getting my summer legs, but that sounds weird, like I'm trying to have great legs for the summer. Which I wish I was, but that's not my point here.

My point is that even though I had nine months to prepare for the start of summer, suddenly it's HERE, the boys are HERE and I'm trying to figure out how to work, keep the house in order (as if I did before or something), entertain them, Google things to eat for dinner, do errands, and entertain them in some fashion that does not involve excessive amounts of time with the Wii, the computer or the television. It's hard. Because I'm also finding it difficult to blog. My friend Beth sent me a funny e-mail this morning about people who don't update their blogs. I hear 'ya, girlfriend.

Because don't you hate that when people don't update their blogs? SO annoying. I know. I don't want to be one of THOSE people. Yikes!

So the whole thing with the legs is that I'm trying to figure out how to balance everything for summer. We do follow a "schedule." It's really designed for homeschooling families, but my sister told me about it, I thought it was cool, and we've been using it for the past three years or so. I dig it. I dig structure. And so, as it turns out, do the boys.

The whole theory behind The Schedule is that the kids move from activity to activity during the day. You change things up every half hour or so and they don't get bored and start picking at each other. At least that's my interpretation. It works for us. I started using it because I needed to block out time for me to work during the day and not leave the kids to their own devices, which usually involves irritating each other in some way, shape or form.

Some days we follow the schedule, some days we don't. Like if we're out and about somewhere all day, we don't follow it. But it's great for the days we're at home to keep everything running smoothly. They love to look at what's coming next and remind me, "Hey, it's time to. . .go outside, go to the park, read a book. . ." Whatever.

The schedule is this big grid divided in 30 minute increments. Each person has a column. My column looks like this:

6 - 7am: Exercise
7 - 8am: Shower, get dressed
8 - 9am: Breakfast & kitchen clean up
9 - 9:30am: Chores (we alternate a chore each day--dust, Swiffer floor, vacuum, trash, etc.)
9:30 - 10am: Free time (the boys also have free time at this time--this is a chance for me to get my computer running and answer any critical work e-mails)
10am - Noon: Outdoor adventure (park, hike, scavenger hunt, bikes--whatever. If it's nice, we go outside. We need to get our outdoor activity done in the AM because it gets crazy hot in the PM. Or it storms. One or the other.)
Noon - 1pm: Lunch and clean up
1 - 1:30pm: Work
1:30 - 2pm: Read aloud to the boys
2 - 3pm: Quiet time (The boys don't nap, but everyone goes to their rooms for reading or quiet play.)
3 - 4pm: Crafts/games/project (example--this summer I'm going to do an ettiquette lunch for the boys. One of their chores before dinner is to set the table. They pretty much just throw the stuff down on the table in a haphazard fashion. So my plan is to get some books about setting the table, manners, etc. from the library. We'll read about the right way to do it and then I'll treat them to a fun "formal" lunch where we put all of these things to use. This mostly because I'm sick of looking at haphazard place settings.)
4 - 4:30pm: Summer learning (helping the boys with summer worksheets/workbooks from school)
4:30 - 5pm: Outside play/outside chores
5 - 6pm: Dinner prep & dinner
6 - 7pm: Dinner & clean up
7 - 7:30pm: Catch up time (the boys are usually playing with each other or Eamonn during this time)
7:30 - 8:30pm: Bedtime routines. Sadly, bedtime gets stretched out until about 8:30pm during the summer, if not later. Even with blackout curtains, it's hard to get their little internal clocks to shut down in the evening. Bummer. So then at 8:30pm, I'm sitting down to really get the bulk of my work finished.

The boys' schedules are similar, obviously. Theirs look something like this. . .

8 - 9am: Breakfast, room clean up, get dressed (I wish they actually slept in until 8am. If they're up early--which is every day of the summer until the last week before school starts and then they suddenly start sleeping in--they play while I exercise.)
9 - 9:30am: Chores
9:30 - 10am: Free time (this is where they usually choose to do the Wii or a computer game)
10 - Noon: Outdoor adventure
Noon - 1pm: Lunch and clean up
1 - 1:30pm: Declan & Finn play together so I can get some work done. In theory. Declan chooses what they do for 15 minutes and then they switch. They can sometimes play together for this length of time without causing each other bodily harm. Sometimes.
1:30 - 2pm: Reading with me. They're working on their summer reading program through the library. They love all of that cheap crap they get for filling in the times on their reading sheets. I can't wait until the end of summer when they forget about it and I can throw it all away.
2 - 3pm: Quiet time.
3 - 4pm: Crafts/games/project.
4 - 4:30pm: Summer learning (the workbook/worksheet thing). In the past we've also done Spanish videos during this time, especially when Declan was in the dual-language program at his old school. Maybe we'll do Chinese this summer. Kidding. We're doing Swahili.
4:30 - 5pm: Outside play
5 - 5:30pm: Free time
5:30 - 6pm: Set table/help with dinner prep
6 - 6:30: Dinner and clean up
6:30 - 7:30pm: Free time (when the weather is nice, they like to go out and ride bikes with Eamonn. If the weather isn't nice, they all play hockey in the basement.)
7:30 - 8:30pm: Bedtime routines--Clean up, baths, brush teeth, books.

We follow the schedule to the letter about once each summer. Because stuff comes up, we might follow it in the morning, but not the afternoon. Or vice versa. But what I found with the schedule is: there isn't as much bickering, they're not as reliant on me for the "what's next" aspect, they don't get bored (or if they do, thy don't tell me about it, but that might be because I told them if they were bored we didn't need all of these toys around here and could I just throw them away?), they actually like the schedule and move from time to time without input from me. Dusting is their favorite chore. Very impressive Lego structures have been built during quiet time.

Truly, many days we're not even here to follow the schedule. We go out for a hike and a picnic, or to the pool, or wherever and we're gone all day and maybe we only follow it at the end of the day or in the morning. So, while I do like the schedule, it's definitely not ironclad, and I find I stress less because I know there are times built into the day where I can at least get SOME work (blogging, Facebook) time in.

My favorite time of the day? 2 - 3pm: Quiet time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's for Google?

I am mostly organized. Mostly. And other times I become hideously overwhelmed by my life and workload and things get out of control.

Last week was such a week. A magazine deadline loomed. Another client needed edits to a document ASAP. And another client's weekly work needed to be completed as well. Plus, tomorrow is the last day of school (Finn was home sick today--no joke) and so these last weeks have been filled with activities that all require parent time/money/involvement in some way.

I need a vacation to start summer vacation.

Anyway, one of the things I try to do during the year is plan out menus at least one week, if not more, ahead. I look at our calendar and see what's coming and try to plan a dinner that coincides with what's going on. We very rarely eat out, even as a last resort when we get home late, so while I don't buy a lot of convenience foods, you'll definitely find frozen pizza in our freezer. If we're going to be out skiing all day, I like to put something in the crockpot so it's ready when we get home. During the week I cook a lot from Desperation Dinners, which claims every recipe in the cookbook can be ready in under 30 minutes.

Planning things out ahead like that also helps me at the grocery store. I make a list based on what I need for the meals I've decided to cook that week and I pretty much stick to it--and the budget. Unless the boys are with me and then all bets are off. Miscellaneous boxes of cereal and various and sundry snacks always seem to make their way into the cart putting my weekly budget in peril.

So, like I said, that organizational plan works for me. Most of the time.

But then life gets in the way and I find myself scrambling--cooking straight from whatever I've got stashed in the freezer or cupboards because I haven't planned ahead. I hate that feeling, especially when 5 o'clock rolls around, nothing is defrosted (although defrosting things in the sink is quite speedy), and everyone is suddenly ravenously hungry.

It's nights like these, and tonight in fact, I dash to the computer and get friendly with Google. Tonight I Googled mahi mahi recipes and found this:

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi. With more than 725 reviews and nearly 5 stars, I figured I was a winner. I was underwhelmed. Of course, I baked it instead of frying it, which is something that drives Eamonn crazy. When you see people on those sites who say, "This recipe was great, but I used trout instead of mahi mahi, teriyaki instead of soy sauce, and I grilled it instead of fried it." So basically they made a completely different recipe.

After all of my Googling for recipes, I have found that I use allrecipes.com more often than other sites.

At Christmas, when I was trying to use up a ham, these scalloped potatoes were a hit. Except for with Finn, now that I think about it. But frankly, I thought they were delish and had to try very hard not to eat the whole dish myself.

You can't beat this blueberry pie. It turned out so well and looked so pretty that one time when I made it for a family party, Great Ruth thought I had bought it at a store. As if, Great Ruth! I only buy store pies when I am going to a party where I don't know anyone.

I love this chocolate pudding. And this rice pudding is Eamonn's favorite. It's like a meal in and of itself. My stomach just growled.

These are the brownies that I made for the school fair last week. They turned out like a volcano. I blame the altitude for that though. The brownies themselves tasted really, really good. I ate, like, a lot.

I see a disturbing trend in the types of recipes I apparently search for.

Anyway, my point here is that despite the shelf-bending number of cookbooks I have in my kitchen, I apparently cannot be bothered to actually look through them when I'm in a hurry.

Thank goodness for the Internet or else we'd starve.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Can You Believe It?

I know. I can hardly believe it either. Those are break apart cookies, purchased by me, under duress, for a school fundraiser. Mostly people support the healthy snacks/healthy lunch efforts. Except sometimes I do have to endure snide comments when different classes or the PTA decide to do something like a Little Ceasar's Fundraiser. Whatever.

So I decided that I would support the team and buy Little Ceasar's for the fundraiser so the fourth grade could afford to go on their yearly camping trip. Even though I don't even have a fourth grader yet.

So I bought some personal pizza kits, which we used at Declan's birthday party (and beyond--I think they bred and multiplied in the freezer) and some of these break apart cookie dough things.

The kids love them.

Their flavor is. . .unique. In fact, Eamonn was eating them and said, "Hmmm. What is that I can taste? I can't quite put my finger on it."

Me: "Chemicals?"

Eamonn: "Yep, that's it."

Truly, you can taste the chemicals. Obviously, I won't be buying them again.

And maybe next year we'll grow wheat grass and sell it for the fundraiser instead.

I'm kidding. They can sell whatever they want. I just won't buy it. And when everybody else's kids at school start to glow from eating this crap, I'll just smile smugly. Because that's the kind of fella I am.