Thursday, October 29, 2009

Baking & Talking: A Cautionary Tale

On Wednesday, my first post appeared on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog. I wrote about making Finn's birthday cake last week. It was somewhat of a fiasco.

It wasn't always this way. I used to be a great baker when we lived in Ohio. I blame my problems on the altitude here.

But, apparently there's one thing I can't blame the altitude on: my inability to talk--to anyone--while I'm trying to do anything in the kitchen, regardless of what state I'm in.

My cooking history is littered with disasters that were a result of attempting to talk and cook at the same time.

I can walk and chew gum at the same time, in case you're wondering.

Notable cooking/talking fiascos:
-Baking ginger cookies for a United Way silent auction while talking on the phone. I forgot to add the baking soda. Do you know what happens to baked goods when you forget the baking soda? Hockey pucks. Eamonn insisted that I not throw the pucks away--he was sure he could eat them. After nearly breaking a tooth, he admitted defeat.

-Baking Christmas cookies two years ago while talking on the phone. I was making Russian Teacakes and doubling the recipe. Except that I doubled everything but the flour. The cookie sheet was basically just one giant cookie.

-Christmas 2008, baking with mom and Tara and trying to talk/socialize at the same time. I was mixing up the Norweigan Holiday Cookies. I lost track of how many teaspoons of salt I put in. You had to eat those cookies with a big glass of water. In my defense, last year my mom was so busy jabbering she tried to chop nuts in the food processor without the blade. She kept telling me my Cuisinart was broken. It wasn't. Pilot error.

-Pot roast circa 1988. I was living in Florida and was talking to friends while putting a pot roast in the oven. The result? Shoe leather for dinner.

-Since Facebook came into my life, I was burned numerous batches of cookies while stepping away to check e-mail or Facebook, "just for a second." That's the 21st century version of talking while cooking.

-And finally, today, I burned, yes burned, Rice Krispie treats while trying to help Finn with homework (damn that Sunshine Math).

I'm not exactly sure how you burn Rice Krispie treats, but there you have it. What could be next? Burning boiling water? Oh wait, I did that once and ruined a pan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rocky Mountain Moms

Hey! Check me out! I'm blogging over here today!

Thanks to Jill for letting me know about this opportunity!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Walk in the Woods*

*I blantantly stole that title from Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, incidentally. Thanks, Bill.

About 10 days ago I went on a hike with some friends. There's something decadent about going on a hike in the middle of the day when everyone else is working or at school. Of course, I had to stay up until 2am the night before to finish my work so I could go on the hike guilt-free, but that's beside the point.

Last year I went on a fall hike with this same group of friends. It was a hard hike. For me anyway. I was huffing and puffing in an embarassing fashion. I tried to blame it on the fact that we were 1,000 feet higher than where we live, but, and this is just a guess here, it was probably because I was out of shape. I thought I was in shape. But apparently I wasn't. I vowed to do better if we ever did this hike again.

Fast forward to this year and we all decided to hike again. Several options were mentioned for a location, including last year's trail. Mercifully, my friend mentioned a location new to me and I jumped at it under the guise of "I've never been on that trail before." It had to be easier.

It wasn't.

I had to be in better shape this year.

I wasn't.

I had to conjure up a bunch of photo ops to give myself the chance to catch my breath.

Heading up the first hill. It doesn't look like it, but it's crazy steep. I'm bringing up the rear. And yes, that is snow.

It was a mostly overcast day, but occasionally the sun peaked through at us.

We missed hiking at the peak of the fall color, but it was still beautiful.

These are all Aspen trees.

It's always so great to get out and commune with nature.

Hmmm, what's this? Bear track. Very fresh bear track. Walking in our direction. Did he hear us coming and leave the trail? I was very happy that we were accompanied by two nutty dogs who were running and barking like mad.

The bear passes a squirrel. Or chipmunk.

My foot. The bear's track.

Soon we came to a really steep part of the trail leading down to a creek.

We decided it was time for lunch.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Sweet It Is: The Mighty Finn is 7

Birthdays are exciting. . .when you're a kid. When you tip over a certain age, maybe not so much.

Today is Finn's 7th birthday. It was fun this last week to see and hear him so excited about it because let's face it, his birthdays haven't always been so much fun.

But this year, it's all about the fun!

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Happy Birth Day!

October 22, 2003--Age 1

Celebrating with scones and clotted cream in Cornwall, England.

October 22, 2004--Age 2

On chemo, getting ready to start delayed intensification and 3 weeks of steroids.

October 22, 2005--Age 3

No steroids! Giving his all to blowing out the candles.

October 22, 2006--Age 4

First birthday in Colorado. On steroids and hair a little thin. This was about the only smile of the day. We celebrated again a week later to make up for it.

October 22, 2007--Age 5

Chemo finished! Celebrating Finn's 5th birthday in England. In the hills above Ullswater, the Lake District.

October 22, 2008--Age 6

Home all week because of the "incidents" going on at school, he vomited up his birthday dinner and pie in the middle of the night.

October 22, 2009--Age 7

At last! Your big day is here! Enjoy it, Kid. You've earned it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I'm sick. Again. A few weeks ago I had a mild head cold whose strongest symptom seemed to be fatigue, but came with a bonus side of congestion, headache and sneezing.

And now that cold is back and has taken up residence in my sinuses. I think Eamonn and the boys had it last week. I'm telling you, if Eamonn is sick, you can rest assured you're dealing with one potent set of germs. I swear he is Immune System Man--no germ ever brings him down. I can't remember the last time he took a sick day (unless you count that day after a night out with the cycling guys, but we won't go into that now). Last week he must have felt bad because he slept in. One day.

But yesterday I threw in the towel to this plague--whatever it is. It was a struggle and I didn't do it until lunchtime.

Why is it so hard for grown ups to take a sick day? What do we think will happen to the planet if we just stay in bed?

Let's face it--I work at home so really, if I'm sick, all I need to do is sit with my computer on my lap, mouth breathe to my heart's content, make the occasionaly groaning noise and just get on with work.

I tried that yesterday and I did finish my work.

I thought about the rest of my To Do list that I wanted to accomplish. It involved cleaning toilets. I really don't think there is anything more unappealing when a body is sick.

But those toilets were troubling me. Why? They'll still be there tomorrow. I had already put the stuff in (Clorox Greenworks, by the way--I'm an occasional convert). Was I worried about wasting the cleaning stuff?

Maybe I was just too lazy to go upstairs and get in bed.

But finally, I did it.

After putting dinner in the crockpot.

And cleaning the toilets.

Folding some laundry.

And setting the alarm on my phone to wake me up in time to pick up the kids.

So technically I didn't take a sick day--I took a sick 90 minutes. But then I went to bed at 5:45pm.

It's a start, I guess.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Outlet for my Frustration

The other night I was annoyed because there wasn't an Internet access port in the bathroom. This amused me for several reasons.

But before I go into them, don't get all grossed out and wonder why in the world I would want to access the Internet while I was in the bathroom. I wasn't trying to be in THE bathroom, you know, like on the toilet. No, I wanted to be able to soak in the bathtub and "watch TV" on my computer. Is that weird? Maybe that's too much information, but I do like to soak in the tub and read. And then last winter I would sometimes soak and watch DVDs (I was pretty prune-y by the end).

So as someone who still records television shows on a VCR, I realized it's impossible to watch tapes while soaking in the tub. Unless I had Eamonn carry a TV and VCR into the bathroom (not THE bathroom, remember). But I don't see him doing that unless weapons and coercion are involved.

Anyway, since so much TV is now available online, I figured I'd soak and watch. Our house is one of those newfangled ones where it's all prewired for Internet access with ports in every room. Except, apparently, the bathroom. We do have wireless, but it's in the basement and the signal isn't the strongest on the second floor to even get e-mail, let alone stream a TV show. So I knew I needed to actually plug into the wall. But I couldn't. So that idea was out the window. Or down the drain, if you will.

But the reason I was cracking myself up is because really, who do I think I am that I need Internet access in the bathroom of all places? The house I grew up didn't even have OUTLETS in the bathroom. No lie. We had to dry our hair out in our bedrooms---using the ONE OUTLET in that room. A room with one outlet. We had so many of those thingys that you could plug into an outlet that made it so you could then plug in like 12 other electrical appliances at the same time. I'm not sure how we never burned the house down, frankly. We didn't have electricity in the bathroom until my mom had it remodeled in the early 90s. After we'd all left home (sort of).

When Eamonn and I built our house in Ohio in the late 90s, he strategically placed electrical outlets all over the place--such a luxury. And now I'm complaining because I can't access the Internet from the bathtub.

Technological ingrate.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Priorities, Priorities

Brace yourself. I'm about to vent.

A few weeks ago we had THE big fundraiser for our local elementary schools. Unfortunately, Colorado has one of the worst school funding systems in the country and we're constantly struggling to make up the shortfall between what the government provides (of course, this is the story everywhere, I know) and what kids need in the classroom.

Anyway, this huge fundraiser we have is very volunteer intensive. The money raised is divided up amongst all of the elementary schools. Each school is assigned a certain number of volunteer positions to fill. If the school doesn't fill its positions, it doesn't get an equal share of the money.

Fair enough.

This year, I am serving on the PTA board as secretary. I figured I'd go and take notes and that would be my commitment.


I figure if I spent as much time working for pay as I now do volunteering for stuff at the school, I'd be a millionaire in just these few short weeks since school started.

So one of my jobs as a member of the PTA board is to help staff a PTA table at various school events--sort of a "what is the PTA and what do we do" type of thing.

Great. Afterall, remember, I have an MBA in the field of common sense (marketing), so this is right up my alley.

So a few days before the big fundraiser, our school had its back to school night. We were trying to sign people up to volunteer at the fundraiser. We were in dire straights. Our volunteer sign up sheets were originally due the day before, but we hadn't filled our spots. We weren't going to get an equal share of the proceeds from the event. We were desperate. We begged for an extension to get volunteers since our back to school night fell on an unusually late date this year.

Let me say a few things here--first, we are the biggest elementary school in the district. In fact, only the high schools have more students. It is totally ridiculous that we didn't fill these volunteer spots right away. And can I just say, it's not like we're asking for a limb or the scalp of someone's youngest child--these volunteer positions are doing things like running games, baking things for a bake sale, or directing traffic in the parking lot (a very dusty job that I ended up volunteering Eamonn for to fill the spots) for, at the most, one hour during the fundraiser. You've got the whole rest of the day to hang with your family.

So, there I was, along with a few other dedicated PTA members, standing at this table on back to school night, calling out to people to help volunteer because we weren't going to get the money we need to run our school if we didn't fill our spots.

How do you think that went? Not well, in case you're wondering.

I couldn't believe it. People looked the other way when we asked for help. Literally would not make eye contact and walked on by. This is a small town, by the way, so I find that totally bizarre. Hello! It's not like I don't know who you are and where you live! One person actually said to me, "I don't want to." Um, and I do? I WANT to spend several hours of my Sunday doing this? No. I don't WANT to. I do it because we all NEED to whether we like it or not.

And I've been on a tear ever since, wondering what the hell is wrong with people. It seems like no one wants to volunteer to help out and do things anymore. At PTA, it's the same 10 - 15 people who pull the load for everyone over and over again and so then those 10 - 15 people end up in volunteer burnout and you can't even get them anymore because they're so fried. And I get it. I'm one of them. I'm over the whole volunteer thing and it's only mid-October. But not volunteering is not an option.

In the end, we did fill our spots--barely. I had to sign up for three different jobs that day and I volunteered Eamonn without his prior knowledge. But the whole thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the willingness of parents to get involved in schools (which is HUGE) and why a few have to pull the load for the masses.

And you know what, I totally don't buy the "I work full time, I can't volunteer at the school" argument. We all work in some way or another and there are a million ways to be involved at school that don't required hours and hours of time.

We're all busy, we all want to spend time with our families, but if we would all pitch in just a little and share the load, it would be so much better. What's that saying? Many hands make light work? We want top notch education for our kids, but it doesn't come for free. Are we willing to work for it?

But then, I realize I'm preaching to the choir once again. Thanks for listening to me rant. I just got an e-mail asking me to make food for teachers this week. Also on the e-mail? The same 15 people who are always on it. GAH!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Germ Warfare

The germs are circling. And landing.

I'm trying to think if both boys have been in school a full week yet. It seems that someone is always here fevered, sniffling, sneezing, hacking up a lung, or camped out in the bathroom with some scary gastrointestinal ailment. No H1N1,thank goodness, but I'm nervous. Very nervous.

And so yesterday and today, I am blessed with the presence of not one, but two little people who are apparently sick of being cooped up at home (but not well enough to go back to school) and are driving each other (and me) slightly batty.

Actually, Declan is the only one with a legitimate "you're so sick you're staying home" illness. I pulled Finn from school for most of this week becasue that school is a cesspool right now. Out of 21 kids, only 7 were in Finn's class on Monday. Eight on Tuesday. I can't risk him getting sick because we go to Denver for Finn to take an asthma test tomorrow. If he's sick, they won't test him, which makes sense, but I want to get this done and over with and get some answers before the germs get any worse.

I think we're already over our sick days quota for the year. I should be getting a form letter from the district any day now.

Now, I must run and pack up all of our snow clothes for our journey down the mountain. I wonder where I left my long underwear?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Head Trauma, Blood and Stitches, Oh My!

We don't have an urgent care in our little town. And yesterday, for the first time ever, this was a concern. A big one.

Once a month, Finn's preschool friends get together for a "Kids' Day Out." One mom hosts all of the kids for a two hour playdate. Sometimes the moms stay and hang out, other times we drop and run.

Yesterday was my day to host. Last year I had it here at the house, but I was worried about germs this year--a lot of local kids have been sick these past weeks--so I decided to have Kids' Day Out at a local park. The park is right near our house. It's a really cool park and the kids love it.

We'd been there about 45 minutes when I heard screaming and crying. I turned to see Finn walking towards me with blood pouring down his head, face, neck--everywhere. He was crying--the screaming was coming from Declan who was freaking out.

I think I said something like, "Oh my God!"

Finn came over and I started feeling around on his head. I poured some water on him to see if I could see the wound. More screaming. And his head was literally pumping blood--I forgot how much head wounds bleed. I had a huge wad of tissues in my pocket so I pressed this to his head in the area I thought the cut was (it was hard to see through all of that hair).

Fortunately, two other adults had stayed that day so I threw the boys in the car and raced to the doctor's office, hoping they'd see us immediately. I wasn't sure if they were equipped to deal with something like this on the spur of the moment.

So we walked in and I said, "Can someone help us?" The front desk girl rushed us right back and ran through the halls (which was impressive because it looked like she was about to birth a baby any second) yelling, "Head trauma!"

Head trauma? I thought he just had a little cut. "Trauma" seemed a little over the top.

So the doctor's office was set up to deal with our "trauma." All sorts of other words were thrown around like lac, sutures, CT. I felt like I was in a episode of ER. Just as bloody, but slightly less glamorous.

It wasn't until they got through his hair that I saw how big and awful the "trauma" actually was--about five inches across and down to his skull. Ick. I had to sit down, but there wasn't really any time to be queasy. I wonder if I turned green though because the doctor asked if I needed a break. Anyway, I had to keep it together because Declan and Finn were both hysterical. In fact, I had to send Declan out of the room because he couldn't handle hearing Finn scream (which I totally understand). A friend came and picked poor Declan up and took him to her house.

I think the worst part was when he had to get the numbing shots--the wound was so big I lost count of how many sticks to the head he took trying to get that wound numbed. Seriously, I don't think I could have handled it. I don't know how he did it. But then again, I don't know how he was done a lot of things in his little life.

He was pretty uncomfortable last night, but today he seems unphased. He's playing Wii billiards as I write this.

At one point in the doctor's office, Finn said, "What did you say when I got hurt?"

Hmmm, beyond "Oh my God," I wasn't precisely sure. I hedged. But Finn wasn't to be denied: "Is it OK to say bad words in an emergency?" So now I'm wondering what really did come out of my mouth in those first hysterical moments.

And now we're all still in our pajamas and it's nearly noon.

I think the one most traumatized by all of this might be me--sort of a post-accident shock thing?

And now, since Eamonn is out of town (did I neglect to mention that part?), I have to personally clean all of the blood out of the car. Or just keep driving around town until he gets home in a car that looks like I murdered someone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When the Cleat is on the Other Foot

First, the good news.

We went to Denver for a soccer tournament. Our U10 boys won their division. Awesome.

Here are the happy, little champs!

And now for the bad news. Remember last spring when I was complaining about obnoxious soccer parents? Truly, I hate obnoxious parents at sporting events--no matter what the sport. Personally, I find the hockey parents scariest of all, but soccer parents can hold their own.

So not to downplay our team's efforts at the tournament this past weekend, but the team was clearly placed in a bracket that was too easy. They won the first game 11 - 0. Second game: 17 - 1. Third game: 6 - 1. And I have to say that all of these teams we rolled over so badly, lost with graciousness. Their parents were also gracious. There was no snarking on the sidelines. There were some tears from their players, but heck, I felt like crying for them, too. Even though someone has to lose, it must be hard to lose that badly. And there's no mercy rule in tournaments because everything is on a point system--you want to score as many goals as possible to improve your ranking.

Anyway, the boys, who were understandably very excited by their success (and they did play amazingly well), made it to the championship game. The other team was from the Denver Storm--the team that beat ours in the finals last summer. I'll admit, we all, players and parents alike, were a little bit nervous about the face off. And we all wanted to stuff it to this team, frankly. They played roughly--not aggressively, I'm OK with that--last summer. I don't dig unncessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct from anyone and this team took the cake. A lot of pushing, tripping and elbowing and not really caring who saw it.

The game started. It was rough. It was aggressive. We scored three quick goals. And then there was a collision between one of our players and one of theirs. Just a collision--no one in particular at fault. But despite the fact that it was just a collision, one of our parents chose to make a very loud, nasty comment that many of their players and parents heard.

I was mortified. The other parents on our team were mortified. And it was all downhill from there. From then on, the opposing team's parents felt like they could say whatever they wanted because "we" had pretty much thrown down the gauntlet. It was painful to sit on the sidelines and listen to them spout off--they obviously felt justified because we were horrible soccer parents.

Ugh. That game couldn't end fast enough for me.

And the bummer is that all of our parents were tarred with that same brush--we were all branded as ungracious because of one parent's comments. I hate that. In the end, we beat them 5 - 1. It was a dirty fought game by their team, but the satisfaction of our team winning was gone because I was so embarassed by one person's behavior.

At one point during the weekend, when we were clearly rolling over all of the competition, a tournament official said he wanted to invite us back in the spring and put us in a higher bracket. I can't even imagine how we'll get bracketed now--I'm guessing they're out for revenge! But maybe I'm just being paranoid.

For now, I'll just focus on hockey. Because, oh yes, hockey has started and we're running between two sports for the rest of October. Sports are colliding.