Sunday, October 31, 2010

super cheesy goodness with a side of halloween

Halloween is something new for us, this is the first year we've actually done anything for it. I don't really like the spooky and scary aspect of it, ok, I don't like that part of it at all so I try to keep things light and fun. Last year I cleared out Target's Halloween section the day after Halloween so we'd have plenty of decorations and fun things to look at for years to come.

I bought plates and cups and silly straws and towels... The kids have been using the plates and cups for the past month and the towels, well, they got turned into a dress by CB so who knows where they are. Our new house has a rockin playroom and I really wanted to do that area up for Halloween but wasn't sure what exactly to do. Then I saw this little craft project from and was inspired. So, 6 black socks, 2 sets of leggings and 2 sets of baby socks from the Dollar Spot, a package of fluff, a bunch of pompoms, a whole lotta pipe cleaners and googly eyes and 16 sticks of hot glue later, I had a wall-o-fun.

W really wanted a "super silly haunted house" so I got some cheesy garland and lights and tried to outline a house. On a side note, can we please talk about those new stupid LED lights they are putting into light strands?? Putting those things up was almost deadly. Those lights are evil! I didn't realize they were the LED lights until I plugged them in and started to hang them up. My eyes started crossing and the headache hit instantly... I don't really care if they reduce energy consumption by 88% or whatever. If they are giving me a migraine and/ or a seizure every time I look at them, the lower energy consumption isn't really going to matter, ya know? I'll pay the extra $3 a month to light the regular ones! I keep having to tell the kids, "DON'T LOOK AT THE LIGHTS! YOU'LL BURN YOUR EYES OUT OF YOUR HEAD!"

If you're looking for aesthetically pleasing pictures of perfectly done little Halloween craft projects, you aren't going to find that here. My pictures are snapshots, at best, and the projects, well, I'll just say the kids helped, even though they didn't, it was all me... but it looks as if a 4 year old did them. And that is fine, it is all in good fun. Good, cheesy, Halloween fun. So cheesy... really, really cheesy.

In keeping with the festive spirit, we took the kids trick-or-treating for the first time. Rather, M took them while I stayed behind with MJ and passed out candy and made sure no one smashed our pumpkins or egged our house. This was the first time I've ever passed out candy and it was definitely interesting. I'm shocked our house wasn't egged or t-peed when we woke up, given the amount of times I told teenage girls to go home and put some clothes on. I asked one girl who was probably 14 if she borrowed her little sister's costume. That thing was so small, I'm pretty sure it was a 4T and she, well, was not.  As it got dark I kept seeing how there were all of these kids in pure black, without any kind of illumination or reflective fabric on them, so I broke out the glow sticks I had bought for my kids and started handing them out, thereby turning me into the over paranoid neighborhood safety patrol. I was half tempted to break into M's stash of reflective belts he wears for running and pass those out too. What are these people thinking, sending their kids out in all black on a dark night?? Hello!

I was well prepared for a barrage of greedy kids, but they were for the most part, polite and kind. Except for 1 kid who hit my house twice and was apparently pretty pissed off I only gave him 1 piece of candy the first time, so he decided to raid my candy bowl himself the next time. He was quick too! Little punk pulled like 15 pieces while I was sitting right next to the bowl, only stopping after I told him to get his grimy little paws out of my bowl or I'd take his entire bucket. You steal mine, I steal yours.  I'm already that scary cranky old lady that lives down the street and I'm only 28... No, I wouldn't really do that, but seriously? Where are your manners?

Overall, the day was a blast and I loved every second of it. It was the 2 year anniversary of M coming back from Iraq and coincidentally, I made the same exact meal I made the night he came home. We had a great time with some new friends and their little girl and the kids had a blast.

L, here is the recipe for the soup and crisp! :)

Minestrone Soup
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed into bite size pieces (use 2 if you like a thicker soup)
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squashed, diced
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 bay leaves
1, 28oz can diced tomatoes w/ juice
6 cups chicken stock
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can great northern white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
1/2 lb kale, washed and cut into small pieces

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over low heat in a large heavy pan. Add the onions and garlic and let cook until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook for a couple of minutes. Once those get soft, turn the heat to medium add the potatoes, zucchini and squash along with the dried spices and bay leaves and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a slow boil. Add the beans and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, add the green beans and kale and cook for just a couple of minutes, until the green beans are bright green.

Serve with a good crusty bread and Parmesan cheese.

You can add a small pasta, like mini penne or shells and if you do, add about a cup when you add the beans.

Apple Cranberry Crisp

Happy Halloween! Be safe out there and don't forget your glow sticks! And don't dress like a ho, or I'll yell at you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

on becoming a morning person

I am far from being a morning person. My internal alarm clock doesn't start beeping until 7:30 am and that is only after I've had at least 2 cups of coffee in complete silence, after 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and we all know how realistic that is. So when we moved to our new town, the first thing we made sure of was that we were central to W's school, so I wouldn't have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn to get all 4 kids out of the house and to the school by 8am.

Now really, whoever decided school should start at 8am needs to be smacked in the head. That is just cruel and nearly impossible to accomplish when you have 4 kids, 2 of whom are in diapers and 2 of whom can't tie they own shoes or button their own jeans. When we found a house that seemed perfect and was only 7.8 miles from the school, we took it. And then after we moved in we realized that there were 4 schools on the way to W's school, all starting before his school did, and that it could take 14 minutes to drive 3 blocks, and if you got stuck behind a bus, you were even more screwed. So it turned out we do, in fact, have to be up at the butt crack of dawn anyway.

The first few days of school went ok. I was full of optimism and drive and we were able to get out of the house, sit through traffic, a 6 minute long bus stop and then get to school on time. And then that momentum came to a screeching, crashing, slam into a tree halt and it was confirmed to me that being a morning person seriously sucked.

The main problem was that I was waking up when the kids were waking up and didn't have any time to actually wake up and get some nice serum in my veins to deal with the chaos of 4 kids in a calm and sane manner. And the other problem was that we were eating breakfast an hour before we left (if I even got breakfast at all), and then leaving an hour before school started, so by the time we got to school and myself to the gym, everyone was starving and cranky again. That had to change and the only solution was to wake up earlier, which seems counter productive, and stop eating cereal and yogurt for breakfast. We all need a high protein, hot breakfast to keep us full so we don't crash before our day even starts. So in essence, by trying to make my life easier, I've really made it a lot more difficult.

Now I get up at 5, get my coffee, and in a blurry eyed stupor check the email and try to catch up on what all of my West Coast Peeps did while I was asleep and by the time I'm finally waking up, it is 6:30 and the kids are up and asking for seventeen thousand things at once. They got their dad's annoying "morning person" gene so they don't need a 2 hour jumpstart on the day like I do. Once they are up I make breakfast, unload the dishwasher, clean up breakfast, get W's lunch ready, pull the snacks for the girls and get the diaper bag packed. Then I get W and CB dressed, hair and teeth brushed and throw them in the car with some books while I get the babies up, changed, dressed and put in their car seats. Then I get the babies bottles, put everything in the car, and start the stupid drive to school. Drop W off, go to the gym, work out for an hour and a half, shower, pick up the girls, get everyone in the car, and make the dumb drive home. And then I make a second pot of coffee, effectively negating all of the work I have just done at the gym and proceed to pass out on the floor while playing with the babies, only to be woken up by a dirty diaper to the face or a toy stethoscope to the head. It doesn't work.

I just can't get this "morning person" thing down! Even if I don't go to the gym after dropping W off I still find myself falling asleep at 10am while the babies pull all of the DVDs out of the cabinet and CB finds movies to watch on my phone (dang Netflix App). And I'm not talking about taking a little "cat nap", I'm talking full on mascara smeared across the face, ring indentation in the forehead, drool in the ear kind of passing out. If I sleep in later, the chaos abounds. And if I try to make everything a little simpler don't do all that I do in the morning, I end up really far behind during the day and nothing gets done. I already prep everything for breakfast, W's lunch and the girls' snacks at night. I have my gym bag ready to go by morning... but am I never going to be able to start the day with a good attitude and be like, "OH YAY!! I get to wake up and unload the dishwasher!! What a GREAT start to the day!! I am SO blessed." And before you say there aren't really people out there like that, so calm down, there really ARE people out there like that, I've met them. I'm related to them, believe me, they exist.

So tell me, please, what do you do to wake up in the morning? What is your "elixir" that gets you going? How do you manage not to be cranky and be productive before the sun comes up? What is your secret to a good start to the day? I need to know. I need to figure this out. My husband and children thank you in advance.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It is totally that time of year again-- MY new year. Fall is always my season of change and when life seems to "revamp". 4 years ago I was getting ready to move to Germany, 3 years ago we were getting ready to move back to the States, 2 years ago I had just moved back to Germany and was getting ready for M to come back from Iraq and last year I was finally starting to settle into my new life with 4 kids.

This year is no different, we're settling into a new house, had a slight change in career, the babies are becoming real toddlers (*snif*), we're changing the way we spend our money and the way we eat and live and we're trying to get used to our new routines. While all of that seems kind of mundane and seemingly simple, there has really been a true lifestyle change and it feels kind of drastic at times.

I'm hoping I can get to the point where I feel like I've got it together, soon. But last time I said I felt like I had it together, BOOM!, I got pregnant with twins. Sooooooo, I'm not really thinkin I really ever want to say I've got it together again because I know God would be like, "really?? That's what you think!! Let's see what you do with this" and then BOOM! something else life jarring and altering would happen. But I would like to be able to just sit back and enjoy life, instead of constantly feeling 1 step behind. And we're getting there, we really are, although I have been saying that for over a year now.

I plan on sharing more over the next couple of months, including what is going on here and doing some major series pieces on baby gear, diapering, including a huge diaper review of my all time favorite diapers, reviews on our strollers (which I've been meaning to get to for the past year), what I've been doing around the house and some other things, which may or may not include a wicked awesome giveaway. I know you guys are all super stoked to learn all about cloth diapers and strollers, I really do. There will be some fun stuff thrown in between, I promise :)

PS. Please let me know if any part of the new page design doesn't load for you-- I haven't been able to test it out on IE or Opera yet. I still can't even decide if I like the design or not...