Monthly Archives: December 2012

Monday Musings: The New Year Edition

I had to think for a few minutes to figure out what day it is; we’ve been in vacation mode for a little over a week and while I’m not complaining, it’s a little disconcerting how quickly I’ve lost track of the calendar.

I jokingly typed a comment on a friend’s Instagram account (a photograph of her running in the snow) and said something snarky about starting my diet in January and she said, “You mean next Tuesday?”



I’ve put the Christmas decorations away except for the ones I forgot and didn’t find until the boxes were in the attic and am enjoying the starkness in the house.  I like entering January with a little bit of bareness on the shelf.  It helps me focus on simplicity which is a welcome relief after a month of excess. I haven’t made any resolutions yet because keeping them is an exercise in futility but I’ve noodled on a few goals for the year that are doable:  a few trips to move us along on the “Visit All 50 States Before The Kids Graduate From High School” project, a rough draft of a little book that has lived in my heart and needs to live on paper, finishing JJ’s quilt that’s currently splayed out over the floor of the craft room, and develop some sort of exercise habit (and this is priority #1 because I have to be in a swimsuit in 45 days).

While this year has been good for my prayer life, I’m glad to close it out.  The last six months have been particularly challenging what with T’s surgery, recovery, the boys starting 7th grade, the boys bringing home 7th grade math homework, and parenting through the teen years. While the bulk of the challenges won’t change next year, there’s something about January that gives hope and renewed strength to face them head on.  God’s mercies are new every morning and I bank on that promise and His faithfulness as our family navigates the upcoming year.

He is faithful.

Three of my favorite words.

I hope 2013 is full of good things for us, dear friends and family.

Have a nice day.

Five on Friday: The Christmas Edition

Hello, blog peeps.  It is I, Carpool Queen, crawling out from under the mounds of boxes and wrapping paper to say it has been a most excellent Christmas season.  The last few days have been spent lounging, sleeping, eating chocolate candy for breakfast, and listening to the blissful quiet of kids engaged with new toys.

Except for the bugle.

photo (41)


It’s not so blissfully quiet.

I don’t know what Santa was thinking.

I was a wee bit behind in making the magic happen this year so blogging went to the back burner so Mama could get her act together; today’s Five will hit the highlights of the season (and warm your coffee because this post is epically long).

1.  I met Angie and Shannon for a tamale-making morning that was so much fun I’m sure it is to become an annual tradition.

photo (49)

I’m positive many a Central American grandmother never starts the process without a little fortification so I brought fuel for my friends and we chatted and messed up every dish in Angie’s kitchen getting them assembled.

photo (48)

And then we had to wait for an hour while they steamed but we passed the time by making and eating caramel popcorn which was delicious but I forgot to take a picture of it. 

And then we ate the hot tamales and we were happy.

photo (47)

2.  We had a big party at our house for all the folks from Craig’s office.  It was the first time we’ve had them over to the house since we moved in and I went into OCD mode trying to make everything just so because nothing brings out my neuroses like hosting a shindig.  And it was oh, so relaxing to get everything company ready while the entire contents of my bedroom closet were scattered in several rooms while the ceiling was being repaired.  Of course, while the repairman was here, I decided to shelve out the hall coat closet for extra storage space and that meant that everything I’d crammed in there was on the dining room table and the kitchen bar and so I did my party prep in about one square foot of available counter space and prayed they’d be done by the time everyone showed up.

The pantry closet was finished in time (hallelujah!) so I was able to clear the counters but the bedroom wasn’t so I chunked all the clothes we had draped over every available couch onto our bed at the last minute before the guests showed and just shut the door and no one was the wiser.

photo (51)photo (50)

The party was great fun and I was happy with how the food turned out with the one exception of the Brie that didn’t stay contained while it baked and it flowed all over the pan and therefore didn’t look very pretty but we just rolled with it because what are you going to do? and when it was all over Craig said “Let’s do this again next year!” so I’m already on the lookout for new appetizer recipes to test.

3.  Christmas Eve was my 43rd birthday and it was a most special celebration.  Craig took me out for an early birthday dinner date and he made the mistake of letting me pick the restaurant and the second I got a gleam in my eye, he shook his head because he knew where we were going.

photo (52)

Oh, yes, I did.

I’ve been asking him for SIXTEEN YEARS to take me to the cafeteria and he has resisted me all the way.  Dug his heels in.  Moaned.  Groaned.  Rolled his eyes.  Honestly, the drama.  All day long he kept throwing out alternative ideas for our dinner – fancy places, the hole in the wall Salvadoran place, the Indian place, the Thai joint he hates – he was getting desperate.  But I stood my ground and off we went.

photo (62)

That’s the look of resignation.

And love.

We were the youngest ones there by a long shot and had a little giggle at the thought of this being us in thirty years.

photo (53)

photo (54)

Craig made it past the jello aisle (filler! filler!) but I had to grab some Watergate salad because my love for fluff knows no end and we were sufficiently loaded down by the time we got to the end of the line.

photo (55)

And I was happy and Craig had to eat his words because the food was all that and a slice of pie and he said we could go back any time.

photo (56)

On my actual birthday, we celebrated in similar lowbrow fashion by heading out to Waffle House for breakfast where my menu selection never changes – I always get the cheesy eggs and raisin toast and add a side of hash browns, scattered and smothered, extra crispy, please, and Craig usually orders the cheeseburger plate, regardless of the time of day or meal.

photo (57)

Tommy and JJ took advantage of the fact that they were sitting alone and out of earshot and ordered the voraciously hungry teenager plates.

photo (40)

Travis ordered the waffle and eggs and then proceeded to eat all of that plus everything else on my plate.


Then we came home and opened presents and I got the sweetest card from the boys that came with some comfy new yoga pants (because all that candy and tamales has to be contained somehow) and my husband waited until I was good and emotional over the notes they wrote in the card before presenting me with his gift which was tickets to go home to see my family ALONE in a couple of weeks.

photo (44)

And you cannot imagine the tears that I cried at how sweet a gift that was because I have been missing my family something fierce over the holidays and I think he knew I needed a little time with them to recharge the batteries and I love him all the more for such a thoughtful surprise.

4.  The boys were old enough to serve at our church’s Love Feast on Christmas Eve.  It was their job to hand out the napkins, cinnamon buns, and warm cider to all the parishioners and I was so proud of what a great job they did.  They were polite and respectful and I think didn’t spill anything on anybody  seemed to enjoy finally being part of the older crew that they’ve looked up to for many years.

photo (59)photo (60)

5.  For the second year in a row, we woke up before the kids did on Christmas morning.  I have to say, I do enjoy no longer getting up at 4:30 in the morning and Craig and I had time to sip a cup of coffee and enjoy the tree lights before they came rolling downstairs.

photo (45)

JJ read the Christmas story for us (no – he didn’t get an iPad – that’s where my Bible is kept these days) and then the unwrapping and the cinnamon roll eating began.  It was a sweet day of family time with the boys shooting each other with their fresh arsenal of Nerf weaponry and I was happy to see everyone else happy.

Even if it means that today I’m Windexing suction dart marks of the front door windows.

photo (61)

I hope your holidays were equally delightful.

Have a nice day.

Because ordinary would be boring

I’ve spent the last six days crawling over the contents of the master bedroom closet which are scattered, stacked, piled, randomly thrown on the floor, the chair, the chest of drawers, the armoire, the bed, the bathtub….you get the picture. The repairs from the water damage have begun and I had hoped to have them completed by yesterday so that I could put everything back into place before the big party we’re having here tomorrow night but nothing ever goes as planned because, hello, welcome to my world, and I currently find myself in a bit of a pickle.

On Monday, the contractor had just arrived and was working in the garage ripping some lumber and I was at the kitchen counter ripping through some peanut clusters and he walked in the garage door and casually asked if I had some paper towels. I vaguely waved in the general direction where they were and then he, again, casually, asked I would mind pulling off some sheets for him because he had SLICED HIS FINGER IN THE ELECTRIC SAW AND IT WAS BLEEDING ALL OVER HIS SHIRT and let me tell you, I didn’t know I could vault over the bar but I can. I ripped off half an acre of sheets and handed them to him and asked if I could take him to the ER and he said that he’d already called his boss and he was on the way to pick him up.

What? You practically cut your hand off and you stop to call someone other than the ambulance????

And then he went outside with his bleeding hand to wait for boss and I followed after him and was completely hovering and let me tell you, he was not letting me helpful. Can I get you water? A chair to sit on? Aspirin? Hydrocodone from my last bout with bronchitis? He politely refused all offers and I couldn’t just stand there so I went inside to get some gauze and tape to wrap his finger a little more securely and sanitarily and realized that I had never replaced my first aid stash since we used all those supplies this summer changing surgery dressings for Travis.

A real live emergency and the only absorbent things I had were feminine products. Something told me that just wasn’t going to fly.

I went back out to the garage and he said that it had stopped bleeding and HIS BOSS STILL WASN’T THERE and I didn’t want him to be alone in case he fainted so I had to fill the time with small talk because if there’s anything that can be counted on in a stressful situation it’s that I will inappropriately over-talk and so I told him about all the six-thousand, five-hundred and thirty-seven trips to the emergency room that my dad and brothers have had.

Because THAT was helpful.

So the boss came and they went to the ER and I paced until Boss Man came back and he said that his employee was fine and getting a couple of stitches and that our project was going to be delayed and I said that was fine and it really is and I rejoice that no parts were lost in the building of the new closet but the inner me is now slightly panicked at the revised schedule which involves them leaving two hours before 30 people walk through the door to the smell of hot crab dip mingled with fresh paint.

Hi, everyone from Craig’s work! Looking forward to seeing you! Please don’t ask for a tour of the house lest you see me faint dead away.

Have a nice day.

This week needs to end.

I was way too distracted at home to get some much needed paperwork done (it has been on the To-Do List for weeks) so I loaded it all up and went to my favorite coffee shop where I managed to get distracted anyway by the bacon biscuits and have spent the last two hours knocking it out.

photo (38)

Isn’t it amazing how once you sit down to do a task that you’ve been dreading, it takes less time than you imagined?  I cannot tell you the number of hours I’ve spent worrying about how behind I am – way more than it took me to complete it.

You’d think that a lifetime of perfecting procrastination would have taught me that.

Alas, no.

Another reason I had to leave the house is because I had to drown my sorrows in an almond latte after maybe, accidentally, inadvertently, oh-no-she-didn’t, why does this only happen when Craig’s out of town, hit the house on my way into the garage last night and I didn’t want to be near the scene of the crime.

I was coming home from church in the pouring rain and decided to pull the car into the garage so I wouldn’t have to unload T with 42 degree rainwater dripping down the back of my neck (I usually park in the driveway because I don’t like to drive in and out of the narrow door opening) and I’d stopped to let the other two kids out of the right side of the car before pulling into the garage (it’s close quarters and we are not small people) and I didn’t notice that Travis had pushed the button to roll his car door open as well and I drove on into the garage except for the part where I came to a complete and abrupt stop when I felt a thud and heard the crunch of the open door catching the side of the house and pulling the trim away.


It was too dark to see any damage so I just took many, many deep breaths and as soon as it was daylight this morning, went outside to take a look and then text a friend or two as to  a) how quickly, cheaply, and easily I could hide/fix the damage before Craig got home; and b)if that wasn’t going to be possible, enquire as to which countries didn’t have extradition treaties with the United States.  Fortunately, the general consensus was that this was not a disastrous scenario and so I dutifully reported it to my husband as cheerily as I possibly could.

Always deliver news cheerily.

Our conversation may have started with “The car is fine” followed quickly by “The garage door still closes” and “You can’t see it from the street”, “I think I can fix it myself” and a pinky swear promise of chocolate cake.  

Chocolate cake hides a multitude of sins.  

I’m happy to report that he was very understanding and he’s still coming home tomorrow.

And I don’t need to move to Morocco.

Have a nice day.

Chilly today, not tamale. Again.

Yesterday was the final follow-up appointment at Duke for Travis’ surgery. He spent a relaxing half hour stretched out on the exam table gripping my arm because he felt like he was going to roll off and I was never so glad to see a doctor walk into a room because that meant I could get the blood flowing to my fingertips once again.

photo (29)

T had psyched himself up for getting an X-ray (not his favorite part of going to the doctor which cracks me up because somehow he’s okay with people SAWING HIS BONES IN HALF but not the little click of the picture machine) and then seemed disappointed that the doctor said he wouldn’t need one so he drowned his disappointment in a package of chocolate chip cookies from the vending machine that we.must.visit. every time we go.

photo (36)


We left with happy discharge papers for the left leg and a tentative plan for the next surgery for the right leg which fortunately will not be as complicated  a procedure as the previous one.  We’ve known he needs a hamstring release on the right leg and could have done something about it when he had surgery in July but our surgeon wanted to give him the most optimal path to recovery so we left it alone at the time to give him a good leg to stand on.  I’m super grateful that this will be a quick overnight hospital stay, no cast or special wheelchair, and he should be back in PT and on his feet within a week.

After dropping him off at school, I ran to the Mexican mart for a little comfort carbohydrization and shopping for supplies.

photo (37)

A friend invited me to help her make corn husk tamales on Saturday and I wanted to pick up a few things that we’d need and while I was there I got a hankerin’ for the real deal Guatemalan tamales so I got the supplies (banana leaves, lard, lard, more lard and corn flour) and came home to spend the rest of the day ditching all my other responsibilities.

Don’t worry, moms, I fed your grandchildren.

photo (30)

I’ve had one ill-fated attempt at making tamales before and had sworn them off but I found a Youtube video (it’s in Spanish which is fine for my brothers who may want to try this at home but if anyone needs a translation, let me know) from an ex-pat Guatemalan woman who now lives in Montreal and she made it seem relatively easy and so away we went with the sauteeing and the saucing and the washing of the leaves and the mixing of the masa and the denial that I was adding CUPFULS of lard to something I was about to consume.  All of this while my friend Angie, whom I’d invited to dinner with absolutely no menu in mind, sat perched at the bar and feared for her life and/or her clogged arteries.

photo (34)photo (32)

I made mine with chicken because this was a whim thing and I didn’t want to wait the additional hour to cook the pork but what’s more important than the kind of meat you use is that there must be two olives and a bell pepper strip in each tamale or else it doesn’t taste right.

It’s like the pickle on the Chick-fil-A sandwich.  Somehow, it makes the world go ’round.

photo (33)


Then I popped them into the steamer for an hour, made dinner for starving Angie and my children who weren’t about to eat something cooked in leaves, and we sat down to chicken Alfredo with tamales for dessert.

And I wonder why people don’t come back for second dinner invitations.

When that timer went off, I danced a happy dance, we oohed and aahed and burned our fingers opening them and sat down and took a bite…..

photo (35)

And I realized I forgot to put salt in the masa and pretty much ruined them.

So close, and yet so far.


Have a nice day.

Monday Musings

I’m so glad I waited until today to mail Christmas gifts to four different states.  I hear it’s the busiest shipping day of the year and I certainly wouldn’t wanna’ miss out on all the camaraderie standing in line at the shipping office.


This weekend was all about completing the shopping list for the out-of-town family.  Craig served as chauffeur and would drop me off at the front door of wherever I needed to go and would circle the block while I went inside on attack mode.  It was a good plan and highly efficient until we hit Dick’s Sporting Goods and all the tribe decided they needed to go in and WANDER.

People, we did not have time to meander.  And all four of my men have ADD and there we stood, smack dab in the male equivalent of Sephora.

I had to practice deep breathing mainly because I’m not sporty in the least and it was like enduring bamboo shoots being stabbed under my fingernails but we were almost in the clear and out the door when Feral #1 discovered the weaponry section and cajoled his daddy into checking it out with him.

It was an easy sell.

photo (22)

I’m fine with an arsenal of Nerf but a Nervous Nellie when it comes to the real thing because I only have three boys and I’d like to keep all of them and it’s been my experience that ADD and live rounds don’t mix well as evidenced by Dad keeping a hand on the barrel to avoid J sighting a non-live target.

photo (23)

C got in on the action, too.  He has enjoyed the occasional hunt since we’ve been married (mainly dove and deer) but I don’t yell “Bring me something home, baby!” because I prefer my meat to come on Styrofoam and in cow or chicken form because I saw Bambi at a formative age.

Sunday was church (someone brought Nutella Rice Krispie Treats to class and I had something new for which to repent) and then lunch at the new PDQ that just opened.  Travis was delighted with yet another restaurant location where he can consume chicken tenders with honey mustard sauce and the other two declared it their Most Favorite Place Ever because it had a Coke Freestyle machine.

photo (24)photo (25)


I had a salad and was not at all bitter about it.

Then we came home and wrapped, wrapped, wrapped and in my haste to get it done I asked C to help me upstairs and completely forgot that I’d hidden his Christmas present in the craft room because HE NEVER GOES UP THERE and he walked right in the door and saw it.


Kicking myself.

We finished up the wrapping and even though it was a balmy 73 degrees outside, I decided we needed soup for supper and after a quick run to the grocery store for pancetta, I had everything I needed for Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone.  

photo (26)

I was initially a little nervous about making it because it had cubed butternut squash in it and I was unsure how that was going to play out in a non-pureed, Italian form but Ina has never steered me wrong and I forged ahead and OH MY STARS it was wonderful.  JJ and I both had two bowls for dinner and I woke up thinking about it this morning and had a bowl for breakfast.

photo (28)

And now I feel fortified and ready to meet the day (and the lines) at FedEx.

And find a new present for C.

Have a nice day.

Five on Friday

1.  It’s early release for the kids so I’m screaming around getting errands done this morning before they come home at noon.  It’s our tradition to eat a celebratory lunch at their favorite fast food place on the days they get out of school early and let me tell you, that’s one tradition they never fail to remind me of when the day rolls around.  They were already plotting in the driveway before the bus arrived this morning and I have a suspicion it will involve me driving to three places before it’s all said and done because despite my best efforts at uniformity and conformity, they each have a different favorite.

2. Speaking of favorites, I found an old favorite and a new favorite candy at the store this week.

photo (20)

I remember finding and eating these as a child in the ever-present candy dish at my grandmother’s house and when I saw the bag at Walmart, I had to buy them.  Since all of my grandparents have moved to Heaven, I love including reminders of them at the holidays.

I also happened upon a bag of Candy Cane Hershey Kisses that managed to spontaneously fall into the cart and I think I’m going to have to go back and get another bag or six of them because OH MY WORD are they tasty.

photo (21)

3.  Speaking of tasty, I pulled out the once-a-year bucket o’ lard yesterday for a batch of carnitas.

photo (15)

photo (16)

I had a little extra time before dinner and thought I’d try a new recipe for homemade flour tortillas but after they turned out burned, doughy, and sized for a Barbie doll tea party, I decided that grocery store Jose Ole was perfectly acceptable.

photo (17)

The children were relieved.

4.  Speaking of the children, one of them was surprised and slightly annoyed that three minutes notice before the bus came was not enough time to produce a top hat, a cloak from the 18th century and a walking cane for a Scrooge costume for his class play.


5. Speaking of Scrooge, I was miserly and shopped my house, attic, and cupboards for Christmas decorations for the dining room this year.

photo (14)

My grandmother made this bear for me (and each of my 19 cousins) and he has a place of honor every year.  The box held a candy gift years ago and I’m a bit of a depression baby and don’t throw things out so each year I just wrap ribbon around it to match wherever it happens to land.

photo (19)

I bought the apothecary jars last year at Homegoods and have used them a thousand ways to Sunday.  Just a few days ago they held a collection of leaves and acorns and were on the fireplace mantle.  A quick wash and dry and they’re ready for their new purpose:  to make me fat.

photo (18)

The centerpiece is leftover bits and pieces from floral arrangements (never throw out a floral stem) topped with ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree, the silver chargers are from an auction steal 10 years ago, and the plates from the fire sale when Linens and Things went out of business.

And after I decorated it I remembered that I wanted to use that table to serve food for an upcoming party and I’ll have to disassemble everything.

Bah! Humbug!

Have a nice day. 


In which I am vexed but prevail.

Yesterday was one of those days that by looking at the calendar you would have thought I did nothing but sit at home and eat bon-bons but in reality I was running around most of the day in vain attempt at accomplishment.

I was minding my own business when the phone rang and the school PT let me know that Travis’ wheelchair leg had fallen off and that numerous attempts at duct-taping it back together until he could get home had failed.  They were trying to get a rep from the medical equipment company to stop by but I knew that wasn’t going to work because there’s usually a three day wait to get squeezed onto the schedule, even in “emergency” situations.

Wheelchair repairs typically fall into the “Dad” category but Craig was out of town and it couldn’t wait so I went to school, sat cross-legged on the floor of the front office and tried to act like I knew what I was doing.  While I fiddled with the doohickey and futzed with the whatchamacallit, it quickly became apparent that we were going to need some hex wrenches to fix the problem and we didn’t have any handy. To save time and to avoid having to dig through the garage I drove over to a nearby Ace Hardware and grabbed the first person I saw and said that I needed a hex wrench and he said what size and I panicked because I did not know and I showed him a picture of the head of the thingy I was trying to work on.

I can't imagine why this wasn't helpful

I can’t imagine why this wasn’t helpful

Men, can we call these items by one name?  Because having to remember the difference between a screw, a nut, and a bolt drives me to drink and by the time I left, the employee, too.

Anyhow, I bought both a 3/16ths and a 5/32nds (FRACTIONS! HYPERVENTILATION!) and drove back to school where neither of them fit.

So I went back to Ace and found an older gentleman and after much gesticulating, a few more thingies, and a hastily sketched drawing on the back of a plastic inventory bag, we decided I needed a metric wrench and FOR THE LOVE OF PETE I HAD TO DO MATH TO DECIDE WHAT MILLIMETER FELL IN BETWEEN A SIXTEENTH AND A THIRTY-SECOND.

And by doing math I mean I asked for the nearest paper bag to breathe in while he figured it out.

And then I drove back to school and it didn’t work either but turns out I hadn’t properly seated the 3/16s and it worked just fine and we fixed it.

And they called to tell me it broke an hour later.

So I said, “Send him home on the bus with one leg.  His daddy will be home tonight.”

And then I turned to the next relaxing project called “Let’s figure out which fuse is out so we can light the Christmas tree”.

Two one, three off, all the way down the strand.

Two one, three off, all the way down the strand.

And after an hour and a half, I did what any sane woman does who wants to avoid yet another trip to the hardware (13)

Because sometimes you don’t need a wrench.




Monday Musings


Just be prepared for pictures of craftiness because that’s all we did this weekend (and ignore weird spacing because WordPress changed the photo editor and I haven’t figured it out yet.) 

The neighbors already have their decorations out so I was feeling the pressure to conform but before we could get to the brick and mortar house, there was the *other* house that required our first attention: the gingerbread one.

I don’t know about you but nothing sets my teeth on edge more than the annual session of gingerbread house decorating because the control issues, my friends, they COME FORTH MIGHTILY when it comes to putting frosting and jelly beans on a cookie dome.

I may or may not have to take medicinal support deep breaths before we sit down for the joyous occasion.

Gives me hives. 

I’m almost over it.

Yes, they have therapy for that.


photo (10)



















It was so much fun to hang out with friends and be crafty and have snacks (that strawberry Santa appetizer from Pinterest showed up and it was darling) and never before have we experienced such family harmony so I hereby declare that Heather needs to have this party every year for the foreseeable future.

On Sunday we put up the Christmas tree that does not have enough lights , decorated the mantle, and I braved the 5-hour sale at Michael’s where everything was 50% off plus an additional 20% with the coupon.


Sheer madness.

And I loved every minute of it because no one in the family would go with me and I had an hour and a half with jillions of other women  alone in a craft store. I overbought supplies for a Christmas wreath and some came home and spent the rest of the afternoon making it plus a lighted garland for the front door.





























And this is love, that my husband would put four nails in the door frame to hold it up.  

And a wonderful time was had by all.

Have a nice day.