Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday's Five: Dianna

Welcome to Friday's Five, my weekly feature in which I ask a fabulous blogger five questions.

Today I'm speaking with Dianna from The Kennedy Adventures! In addition to her responsibilities as a wife and the mother to four children (including twin sons), Dianna works as an ER nurse. She's one busy lady, but I'm so glad she takes the time to blog. I especially enjoy her posts that use miscellaneous writing prompts to determine her topic(s). I never know what I'll learn about Dianna, but it's almost always something to which I can relate. Or laugh about! Or learn from! Plus, her kids are SUPER CUTE.

1. How old are your children and what kinds of activities are you looking forward to this summer? Abigail is my oldest, and she is 14. She's decided she wants to learn to play tennis, which means I am going to get her enrolled in some clinics this summer. I was an avid tennis player before the 3 small fry arrived, so I am THRILLED that she's interested. She will also be busy with voice lessons, and I'm trying VERY hard to encourage her to participate in marching band. We are also on a mission to get more active, so we will be walking/running/exercising together. I'm also planning on a Mother/Daughter book club. I have a rule for myself . . . if she's required to read a book for school, I will read it as well. I'm planning on a book a month for us together, and we will take turns selecting the novel.

For the small ones . . . oh boy! I have a goal to keep as busy as possible, since this will (theoretically) keep my house clean, as well as give my husband a chance to work in peace. We are members in about 4 different moms clubs, so I literally could go somewhere on a daily basis . . . parks, water parks, tours of restaurants, playgroups at moms' homes, etc. We will be hitting the library for story times as well. I'm also going to concentrate on starting to homeschool my youngest daughter. I love Tot School and Preschool Corner for ideas. We are going to work on shapes, letters, counting, as well as fine motor skills this summer. Lastly, I'm also going to TRY to do things with Rachel alone periodically. Since I weaned her, when I was pregnant with the boys, she has been a major Daddy's girl. Time alone with me will do both of us some good.

2. Your twin sons recently celebrated their birthday, which brings up the topic of children's party ideas. What's been your most successful birthday celebration so far? I'll be totally honest . . . I am NOT a good party hostess. I'm usually pressed for time, no matter how much I plan. I feel like I have to work the room, and usually end up getting irritated at Brett, because he will be chatting with someone, and I need him to help me 'run' the party as I think it should go. Food, presents, cake, etc.  Darn shame he can't read my mind!

I tend to think it simple for children's parties . . . we shoot for outside, at a park, since the 'entertainment' is provided, and it's cheap! Without a doubt, the most successful birthday party was last year's dual party for my girls . . . I had a joint birthday party for Abby and Rachel at a local park. We had a HUGE turnout, the weather was stunning, food was a hit, and we all had a good time. Of course, I was swollen up like a tick afterwards, but otherwise, it was great!

3. You've mentioned on your blog that you love to read—what kinds of books do you enjoy and can you recommend a couple to us fellow bookworms? My tastes run the gamut . . . I love all types of books! My all time favorite is the Harry Potter series. If you are an adult, and have passed these by as childrens' books, think again. You'll be hooked. Brett started reading these after he and I had been married for about a year, and he loved them as well.

Since my daughter wanted to read the Twilight series, I got to read them as well. They are a fast, easy read, and while not as well written as I would have liked (not as well developed characters, etc), I did enjoy them. For those interested, I'm a Team Jacob girl. Also in the young adult vein is Cornelia Funke. I loved The Thief LordDragon Rider, as well as Inkheart. I have yet to make it through Inkspell .. . I'm not sure why I'm having trouble with it. While I'm thinking about it ... I'd like to pick up Kingdom Keepers . . . I heard the author (Ridley Pearson) on a podcast, and he was very entertaining.

Thanks to my very good friend Angie, I've been reading a lot of Jodi Picoult. Some of the themes are a bit disturbing/thought provoking . . . kind of like watching a train wreck. You can't help but be drawn in. Thus far, I've read My Sister's Keeper, Harvesting the Heart, Change of Heart, and I'm working on Perfect Match. I may have to put these aside for a while, since the themes tend to be a bit heavy to deal with in big doses.

If you have female children, Gardenias for Breakfast is a must read. I'm going to put it on the mother/daughter book list for the summer. For chick lit, I love Marian Keyes (another Angie recommendation). I've also been known to read James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell novels, but haven't done so recently. I read The Other Boleyn Girl and loved it, but the next Phllippa Gregory novel Brett brought home for me was awful. (Earthly Joys . . . yuck)

I'm also all over parenting/breastfeeding/homeschooling/healthy eating books. Right now, I'm reading The Vaccine Book, and I'm attempting to read/implement The No Cry Sleep Solution. It's also time to break out The Happiest Toddler on the Block again, since the boys are older.

My faith is very important to me, so you'll often find me reading Catholic literature. I'm working on A Mother's Rule of Life, and I'm planning on picking up The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary, since I've seen it recommended on many Catholic momma blogs.

4. How would you describe your writing style to someone who's never read a "mommy" blog? Ha! Definitely conversational . . . I write just like I talk. I started my blog as a way to chronicle my pregnancy with twins. Along the way, it's turned into a hodge-podge of talking about my children, raising them and the challenges, Catholicism, being conservative, being frugal, breastfeeding, attachment/natural parenting, homeschooling, and everything in between! I love it! It offers me a chance to showcase my life, blow off steam through a creative outlet, and meet LOADS of just downright nice people, all over the country.

5. What did you have for dinner last night? Bow tie pasta, with six cheese tomato and meat sauce, along with fruit salad.

Thanks so much, Dianna! You sound like me, with 5 books on my nightstand at any given time. I really appreciate all the great ideas for reading material—I actually have never read a Picoult novel! I'm not sure if I could handle the subject matter; I'm a sobbing, hysterical mess just watching the movie preview for My Sister's Keeper. I'm not even kidding. I'm tearing up right now just thinking of Cameron Diaz shaving her head in support of her daughter . . . ergh . . . sniffle . . . sorry, go ahead and talk amongst yourselves . . . I'll give you a topic:

Friday's Five. Next week. Same place.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shady Character

Now that she's turned three, my daughter has taken to wearing sunglasses and cruising the neighborhood on her Dora the Explorer big wheel. Watch out.

Dinner last night: homemade chicken noodle soup, sweet corn muffins

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Boots at the Beach

The tide was really low over Memorial Day weekend, so we put on our rubber boots and headed to the beach.

Alaskan beaches at low tide aren't particularly pretty . . .

. . . they're kind of slimy . . .

. . . they're kind of weird . . .

. . . they're kind of foamy . . .

. . . they're kind of cool.

Dinner last night: baked potatoes topped with chicken and veggies

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

School's Out!

My two oldest children attended their last day of school on Friday. They've just finished the fifth and third grades. I remember fondly that time of year when the entire summer stretched before me, offering a smorgasbord of fun: beachcombing, fort-building, neighborhood softball games, long bike rides, berry picking, running through the sprinklers, and playing with friends. I want this to be a back-to-basics summer, full of relaxation and fun and family, so I've come up with some rules for our household:

1. No scheduled activities. I am not enrolling the girls in summer programs of any sort. No camps, clinics, or classes. The lone exception is soccer, because my eldest daughter already plays on a team. And before you go thinking, Yeah, right! You're one of those crazy soccer moms and you know it! let me assure you that basketball is my sport and I'm rather insulted that my kid has picked a game I know nothing about—she really, truly loves to play soccer.

2. No TV. This restriction won't be so hard on my two oldest girls, since they hardly watch television anyway. I'm not so sure how difficult the withdrawal will be for me the twins—they're used to a little shot of Elmo in the morning and a movie in the late afternoon while I prepare dinner. I remarked to my husband how I won't be able to use TV as a crutch anymore, to which he responded, "You mean a lifeline."

3. Lots of time outdoors. This change in policy is beyond my control, since the twins basically sprint every morning from their beds to the front door and begin wailing until they're let into the sunshine. Fortunately, their older sisters and the neighbor children also like to play outside . . . I'm going to need all the help I can get in keeping an eye on my 3-year-old explorers, especially if I hope to get any gardening accomplished this summer.

4. Lots of arts and crafts. I have to confess that I've used the twins as an excuse to avoid sitting down with my older girls to work on anything creative. The mess! The time I could be spending on other things! The mess! I'm making a vow to myself and to my readers (but not to my daughters, because I don't want them using it against me if I can't follow through) that Friday is going to be Craft Day around here. As soon as I put the twins down for their nap, I'll pull out something fun for us to work on together.

5. Nightly bedtime rituals. Reading to my twin toddlers is a lot like reading to a pair of wriggling eels, and I'm so exhausted by the nightly process that I usually just shout up the stairs at my older girls to "Go to bed!" without tucking them in, praying with them, or reading to them. Now that I don't have to worry about everyone being in bed at 8:00 and up in the morning by a certain hour, I'm going to reestablish some nightly routines that work for everyone. My husband and I will take each twin into separate rooms to spend individual reading time with them. And my 8-year-old should get back the snuggle time with Mom that she's missed so much these past few months.

So, in conclusion, I will most likely fail miserably with my summer plans and, come June 1, the kids will all be shipped off to summer camp somewhere in Minnesota while I spend my days passed out on the couch under a blanket of chocolate wrappers, with an occasional spasming foot kicking an empty bottle of moonshine onto the dirty floor.

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, cous cous & cucumber salad

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday's Five: Jen

I'm pleased to announce the return of Friday's Five, my weekly feature in which I ask another blogger five random questions.

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Jen from Li'l Man's World. She's a new mom who recently started her blog as a way to document life with her baby. Jen's site is a perfect example of how blogs can be used to share stories, pictures, and videos with family and friends in a convenient, visually appealing way. Every young mother needs to hear how cute her baby is, so if you've got a sec, pop over and give her baby's cheeks a virtual pinch!

1. How old is your child and what is his most recent milestone? Jacob is 11 months old and I would say his latest milestone is climbing all the way up the winding stair case, with me behind . . .

2. Is there anything about being a mom that caught you off guard—something you didn't know when you were childless that you'd feel or think or realize after having a baby? How every decision I make is based upon his schedule, not mine!

3. You and your husband recently moved to Michigan. Sitting up here in Alaska and watching the evening news, we are given such a bleak picture of the economy in the rest of the country. How is it really? Are people mostly okay in Michigan or is it as bad as the press depicts? In light of the recent bankruptcy filing, people seem to be walking around on eggshells and complaining about our leadership in government and not doing anything about it. My husband is in the restaurant business and he sees no effect of the recession whatsoever. They have done more business this year than the last. I still do think moving back to Michigan was the best decision for our family even though people look at us funny.

4. How do you compare blogging to MySpace? Which do you prefer? Blogging doesn't compare to MySpace. I would go one year between [MySpace] blogs! I like how everyone can see it, too, and not need to be a member. My in-laws are full-time RVers, so they feel involved in Jacob's life.

5. You knew this was coming . . . what did you have for dinner last night? Beer bratwursts, corn on the cob, and baked beans. Jacob liked the cob at the end (hee hee)!

Thanks, Jen! I know what you mean about schedules—my babies possessed the uncanny ability to fill their diapers with diarrhea just as I was moving out the door for an appointment that I had already rescheduled twice. Welcome to motherhood . . . and to the blogging community!

I'll meet the rest of you back here next Friday for another sit-down session with a fabulous blogger.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Epic Playground Fail

Last week, I took my twin daughters to a local park known for its kid-friendly playground. We set out bright and early on a sunny morning. School wasn't scheduled to end for another week-and-a-half, so I figured we'd have the park all to ourselves. I figured wrong. A class of sixth graders showed up for a school year-end celebration.

Rule of thumb: if a child no longer enjoys using playground equipment as it was originally intended by its designer, that child is probably too old to play on said playground equipment.

When a kid replaces swinging with heaving the swing up and over the top bar until it is wound so high no one can reach it, that kid is likely too old for the swing.

* proper usage of swings *

If a young person opts to climb up the outside of a 15' covered slide, rather than sliding down through it, that young person is surely too old for the slide.

* proper usage of slide *

When a child prefers gathering several of his friends to stand together on the spring-y one-man seesaw motorcycle so they can bend it down to the ground before jumping off, instead of individually sitting on its seat and rocking back and forth, that child might be too old for the spring-y one-man seesaw motorcycle.

*proper usage of spring-y one-man seesaw motorcycle*

Maybe I'm too old. An old fart. A grumpy old fart who doesn't appreciate her 3-year-olds getting shoved, knocked over, and pushed aside by a pack of rabid sixth graders who've been set loose in a park.

Dinner last night: mushroom veggie-burger

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brand New

Our friends just welcomed their son into the world. He's such a snuggly bundle of precious, I can hardly stand it . . . 

Oh, my.

Oh, goodness.

Oh, sweet heavens above.

Congratulations and blessings!

By the way, I may have a couple girls who want to babysit. They're only 3 years old, but they LOVE babies . . .

Dinner last night: chicken Caesar salad

Monday, May 18, 2009

Talking Shop

A couple weeks ago, Helene at I'm Living Proof that God has a Sense of Humor and Michelle at Table for Nine tossed some awards my way. Thanks, guys! (That's it, Kim . . . just act casual . . . "tossed some awards" sounds sufficiently nonchalant . . . they'll never guess that you screamed with delight when you got the news and then danced in your chair like an idiot. Try to keep it together, will you?)

If it's true that you're known by the company you keep, I am in good shape. Helene named me a blogger buddy! It's been exciting to watch Helene's blog take off like a rocket through the blogosphere. So many women can relate to her initial struggle with infertility, her joys and tribulations in raising four small children, and her hilarious takes on marriage.

I'd like to pass on this award to Michele at The Stefo Crew. I can't remember who found who(m) first, but our reading each other's blogs has led to lots of comments and e-mails. Read my interview of Michele to see for yourself why I like her so much!

What girl doesn't want to grow up to be a zombie chicken? Is this award a compliment or a slap in the face?! Oh, wait . . . here's the description: The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken—excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all . . .  

It IS a compliment! And a threat! Thanks, Michelle at Table for Nine! In the spirit of the award, here are five blogs that I would battle zombie chickens to read:

Conversion Diary (this former atheist documents her spiritual journey; she's profound and inspirational)

Scribbit (a fellow Alaskan who publishes every single day; her blog is more like a magazine, well-written with lots of useful information)

Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent (I look forward to his cheerful, helpful posts; a must-read for anyone interested in the publishing industry)

Bringing Up Twins (you can read why I like TwinMama here)

saddlepotatoes (you can read why I like Geri here)

Dinner last night: family barbecue (chicken, brats, cheeseburgers, potato salad, baked beans, watermelon, chocolate cake)

Friday, May 15, 2009


I was wandering through the grocery story recently, annoyed at the weight of the shopping basket in the crook of my arm and harumphing and sighing because I'd forgotten my list on the counter at home and couldn't remember everything I wanted to pick up. I noticed a mentally-disabled young woman being led through the bakery section. Her shoulders were slightly hunched under her large coat as she obediently shuffled behind her guardian.

A little girl, no older than 3, was sitting in her mother's cart—feet dangling, looking around at everything while her mommy perused the bread shelf. The mentally-disabled woman stopped right in front of the little girl, invading her personal body space, you might say. She lifted her hand up next to her cheek and wriggled her fingers at the little girl in a wordless "hello." Her caregiver, who had already moved ahead a few steps, realized that she had stopped walking, turned back to take her by the elbow, and guided her on her way again.

The little girl watched them walk away, and then smiled brightly as she said out loud to no one in particular, "She's nice!"

Everyone else in the vicinity was distracted with their shopping. No one but me observed the exchange, not even the little girl's mother who was squeezing packages of bread a few feet away or the caregiver who was intent on getting to the checkout stand. It was a moment of pure, nonjudgmental friendliness.

I may have forgotten my list that day, but I ended up getting just what I needed.

Dinner last night: pizza

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stopping to Smell the Roses

Goodness gracious, what a busy week. Crazier than this same week last year. How do I slow down and enjoy the journey when I've got a million things to do? I may live in in a climate where the rose bushes aren't even blooming yet, but that doesn't excuse me from racing through my day without taking a moment to appreciate the beauty around me.

This bouquet from Mother's Day contains fresh roses . . .

. . . and this cake offers up frosted flowers . . .

. . . there's always the wreath around the
miniature carousel horse my husband gave me . . .

. . .  and the rosy cheek of my sleeping child.

Yes, I believe I will pause to notice that.

Dinner last night: barbecue chicken, mashed potatoes, spinach salad

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fresh Taste of Menthol

So I'm driving along with my daughters in the back of the minivan, with the usual amount of humming and talking gibberish and occasional shrieking at a passing dog outside the window. Each of the girls has been provided a small notebook and pencil with which to scribble. I look in my rearview mirror to see one of the twins holding her writing implement between her fingers like a cigarette. She puts it to her mouth and takes a deep drag, before continuing her humming and talking and shrieking. What?! She pauses again to take a mighty puff off her make-believe ciggy.

I'm hard-pressed to think of a single person in my family or social circle who smokes. It's probably because they're afraid of what my father might do to them. He is militant against smoking. Trust me when I suggest to you that you don't want to light one up around him. Did I mention he trained at the FBI Academy in Quantico? I grew up in an era when people smoked freely in restaurants, airports, and hospital lobbies, and I can't tell you how many times he embarrassed me as a teenager by using his exceedingly loud voice and intimidating physical stance to shock and awe any person sitting next to us who dared pull out a pack of Marlboros. 

The only person I know with a nicotine habit is my friend, Lucinda, but she lives in California and has never met my baby. So how in the world did my daughter learn to mimic smoking?

Could it be that all of those university studies are onto something? Is my daughter picking up behaviors from the movies she watches? Please don't tell me I've unwittingly exposed her to Cruella De Vil as a role model. She was supposed to be a WARNING about what happens to your skin after a lifetime of smoking.

Maybe there is some weight to the notion that children can be influenced by glamorous strangers. Perhaps my innocent darling picked up proper ash-flicking technique merely by toddling past a federal worker standing outside his office on a cigarette break. Heaven knows she's seen her fair share of loitering teenagers, texting with one hand and holding a cancer stick in the other. Wherever she learned her impression of a chain smoker, I know one thing . . . 

Grandpa is NOT going to be happy.

Dinner last night: mac and cheese

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Minivan with a View

May is the time of year when I spend too much time in my car . . . chauffeuring my daughters to their various end-of-the-school-year activities . . . racing around town trying to fit in errands while they rehearse for their recitals . . . waiting in the parking lot for a child to return from a field trip.

It's not so bad.

Dinner last night: shrimp and pasta, green salad

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Helpful Hints

I don't think I could sleep tonight if I didn't pass on this information, which I recently received in a letter from Ford. Safety is very important to them, and it should be to you, as well. Feel free to forward these tips to your friends and family via email and texting. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

If you can't make out the text in the photo, I'll retype it here (emphasis mine):

In the event your vehicle experiences shimmy, you should slowly reduce speed by either lifting off the accelerator pedal or lightly applying the brakes. The shimmy will cease as the vehicle speed decreases.

I feel like such a dummy. All these years, I've been trying to reduce speed by pressing the accelerator pad. I have tried the brakes on occasion, but always with a heavy foot, which resulted in whiplash to the kids' necks and the burning of rubber off my tires—I appreciate Ford Company for suggesting I lightly apply the brakes. I had never thought about what I might do, should my vehicle experience a shimmy . . . my instinct would be to drive straight off the road and into a tree to stop my car as soon as possible. Thanks to Ford, I now realize that I should slowly reduce my speed.

Starbucks would be smart to follow Ford's lead in matters of safety. I'm looking forward to receiving a letter from them in which they advise me on how to handle a cup of coffee:

In the event your latte is too hot to gulp, you should set your cup gently down on the table for a minute or lightly blow across your beverage before sipping. The coffee will cool as time passes.

Stay safe, readers.

Dinner last night: tamale pie, spinach salad

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Cleaning

This past weekend was gorgeous. Hot and sunny. I kicked all the girls outside and then headed to the garage to tackle the mountain of boxes that has been sitting there ever since we moved into this house over two years ago.

They say confession is good for the soul. It better be, because I don't want to embarrass myself for nothing . . . This is what my garage looked like BEFORE.

I set up three landing areas to help me sort stuff: KEEP, DONATE, and SELL. The fourth area was a big garbage can.

In this AFTER picture the garage still looks cluttered, but trust me, it's so organized! Those four stainless steel shelves are on wheels, so I can easily pull one out to get at a box. I hope that over time I can find the mental strength to go through each of those boxes and get rid of the contents, but for now, they contain items that I just can't part with. Speaking of parting with . . .

My daughter's soccer team has scheduled a big yard sale in a couple of weeks, so these items will be donated to that fundraiser.

If you haven't tried selling stuff on craig's list, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Baby items, in particular, sell very quickly.

Dinner last night: manicotti

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring is in the Eye of the Beholder

Enough is enough. I'm sick and tired of reading blogs about your hot weather and your gardens going in and your spring flowers looking pretty. Just because I live in Alaska doesn't mean ice flows through my veins. I'm human! If you prick me, do I not bleed? And then cuss you out for pricking me like that?

Go ahead. Tell me all about your stupid blossoming trees . . . 

I've got this beauty to look at.

You can rhapsodize all you want about your lush lawn . . . 

. . . I've got moss. That's right.
It's green!

And don't forget the lichen. I'll bet MY lichen is browner than YOUR lichen. Or maybe it's yellower? Oh, who cares, it's lichen, baby!

I've got a garden, too, you know. And it's full of . . . 

. . . rhubarb?

Yeah, yeah. You've got your tulips and lilies and daffodils. So what?

I've got flowers, too.

On a serious note, though, I am wondering about my tulip situation. Today's May 1, and the snow is off the ground with temperatures reaching into the low 60s (a good sign for Alaskan gardeners). With an awesome spring like this, I should have tulips growing thick in front of all my windows, but for some reason none of them have shown up this year.

They probably died because of the unusually cold winter. Maybe they got confused from the crazier-than-normal freeze/thaw cycle we experienced, started to sprout, and then froze. Although, now that I think of it, the lack of tulips might be due to my never having planted the bulbs I bought last fall.

They're still sitting in a mesh bag on a shelf in the garage.

Dinner last night: pizza