Friday, October 31, 2008

Well, what else would you wear if you just wanted to be comfortable all the time?

Two nights ago, the big boys got to wear new jammies. They were excited because these new jammies are just like Lil' Maa-Maa's -- one piece zipper jobs with grippy feet, soft, warm, fleecy, and comfortable. Now, maybe almost-4 years old is a bit old for blanket sleepers, but they're still making them so I must not be the only person buying them. I like the idea of my little ones being toasty warm in their beds when the wind is blowing cold outside, even if they kick all the covers off in the middle of the night.

G-Dog and ConMan raved about these sleepers. ConMan informed us he was going to tell all his friends at preschool the next day about his jammies with feet in them. G-Dog thought it was really cool that his jammies had a zipper. I mean, really, it was like Christmas morning, as excited as they were.

Fastforward 18 hours. We came home from preschool yesterday, and G-Dog disappeared back into their bedroom. I was fixing lunch and didn't think anything of it. All of a sudden, he's there, right next to me, completely naked except for little skivvies, holding his blanket sleeper. "I just wanted to get comfortable, Mommy."

They have now decided that blanket sleepers are the absolute best choice to wear underneath Halloween costumes. Hey, I think they're right -- one-piece long underwear with feet? If I weren't absolutely convinced that such attire would hug my butt and accentuate the old saddle bags a little too much, I might be tempted to seek one out in my size!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wholesome, delicious, and consumed by small children everywhere

Yesterday, our family went out for lunch together (to the "ham store" -- see this post for another funny story about this place). Our children love this particular restaurant, and they eat better there than almost any other place -- even home, sometimes. So we weren't that hungry for dinner, but, and you can call me crazy here, I feel somewhat guilty if I don't provide sustenance of some sort for every meal.

Enter CPod. I was playing outside with the kids when he got home from work. Inside, left to his own devices, he decided to cook up some steel-cut oats for dinner. (He's really awesome, I know.) If you haven't tried them, you should, especially if you're an oatmeal fan in the first place.

Now, Lil' Maa-Maa can eat himself some oatmeal. He loves every bite -- or at least every bite that doesn't somehow drip down the front of his shirt to the chair or hardwood floor (the kid is supremely mess-making talented). The twins? Not so much the oatmeal fans.

ConMan has been known to fake-wretch if my culinary efforts do not meet his standards (read: Honey-Nut Cheerios, Eggo waffles, hors d'oeuvre-like slices of ham, cheese and crackers, applesauce, grapes, and string cheese -- you get the picture). And G-Dog accidentally-on-purpose spills anything he doesn't want to eat. ("Oh, no, Mommy, it's been on the floor. I can't eat that!" Unless, of course, it's a cookie, in which case the 10-second rule is sure to apply.)

So CPod and I stood in the kitchen wracking our brains, trying to figure out a way to get them to eat oatmeal when, and I'm totally bragging here, I had a moment of absolute genius: what works in cookies, will probably work in the bowl. And that's how we came to put chocolate chips in our cereal. Let me tell you, I am a believer. If you add the chocolate chips to the oatmeal the same time you put in your sweetener of choice (mine is dark brown sugar), stir briefly, and then immediately pour a little milk on top, the chocolate melts, but doesn't entirely lose it's shape . . . yummy, gooey, lusciousness in a bowl. And it's good for you! Two of my kids actually liked it. ComMan was the hold-out, but we persuaded him to eat three daddy-sized bites, and then I could go to book club with a clear conscience.

In other news, yesterday, the twins and I went on a preschool field trip to a local farm. Everyone came home with a little mini-pumpkin (G-Dog was absolutely insistent that we get an extra one for Lil' Maa-Maa, who spent the morning with his daddy walking our land and going out for breakfast) and then everyone went to bed with a little mini-pumpkin, too. Adorable! It's like they think they're stuffed animals or something. I caught ConMan and G-Dog watering their pumkpins this morning, because then they could grow into big pumpkins. How can you be mad about that mess of water all over the floor?

Also, I've decided to boycott the game Jenga for . . . oh, the rest of my life. Not because I've played it lately, at least not officially. But because I had a really awful experience at the grocery store the other night. Let me explain.

I make a really fantastic salad with spinach, apples, walnuts and cheese. Out of walnuts, though, so I picked some up at the store late the other night . . . really late, like 11PM. And I'm really trying to be frugal, so instead of buying the prepackaged walnuts, I tried to use the self-service bins where you pull the handle, and the chute opens up to fill your bag with your desired nut variety, or trail mix, or whatever. Tried. Over and over. Because those walnuts were crammed in that bin just like Jenga pieces. Every time I pulled the handle, one walnut would loosen just the slightest bit, enough to give me hope that maybe next time it would fall, and if one could fall, the 6 ounces I needed might soon follow. Here's how it went down: Shake the container (violently, repeatedly -- no one's around, it's nearly midnight and the store is about to close), pull the handle, about a thousand times, catch my one walnut in the bag. Mind you, the bin is on the bottom shelf, so I'm like half-way sit/squatting on the dirty grocery store floor. Repeat. Again. Again. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that eventually, just like Jenga, the entire house of cards is going to fall and I'm going to end up with a lot more walnuts than I bargained for. Which is exactly what happened. Oh, well. Walnuts, anyone?

And here's the recipe for the salad:

Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Toasted walnuts
Small cubes of sharp cheddar cheese

Dress immediately before serving with:

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. maple syrup (I know!)


Monday, October 20, 2008

You're So Vain . . . and other tales of the highlands

This past weekend, my sister and I and our spouses took a long-anticipated, greatly-appreciated, totally relaxing backpacking trip to the top of Mt. LeConte in the Smokies. Relaxing, you say? Hiking in the rain and cold, round-trip 13.3 miles, up steep inclines and across scary-because-there's-nothing-underneath-you cliff faces was absolutely, completely and totally rejuvenating on so many levels -- yes, relaxing. Because, see, at the top of Mt. LeConte are a lodge, some cabins, and even a few flush toilets (wo-hoo!) -- yes, primitive, without electricity and somewhat Little-House-on-the-Prairie-ish, but they cook delicious meals for you and they keep you warm, and there is no noise -- no exaggeration here -- at all. It's like the mountain just absorbs any noise the other guests make and you are insulated from the world (no airplanes, cars or trucks, televisions or radios, no phones, unless you are as tall as my husband and you align yourself like an antennae while standing in the one spot on the mountain that gets any signal). God bless our family -- Mom kept MommyJ's kids, and our little brother and his new wife kept my little ones. (The news is good -- Gramma doesn't want to have anymore children, which is good because, well, she's 56; and The Newlyweds still want to have children even after spending two days with mine!) A good time was had by all.

MommyJ and I are the vain ones. Both of us got up early Friday morning and fixed both hair and makeup before we began our trek up the mountain. Josh totally made fun of MommyJ for "smelling too good" and making an effort to be attractive on the mountain. Who you trying to impress, right? I mean, this is the man who didn't even bring a clean pair of socks with him. Strangely enough CPod refrained from haranguing me. If you know him, you know this is odd. No comment on my perfectly coiffed curls? No poking fun at me as I applied makeup in the car, driving in darkness through the curvy roads of the Smokies? Nay, not even a look askance, nary a word was spoken. I am convinced it's because he's seen how ugly I looked in the pictures taken when we were at Mt. LeConte earlier this summer, and if he is to be allowed to post them on his Facebook page, I have to look good (my requirement, not his), and until he changes his password, I will keep removing photos! I think maybe I'll let him use this one:

We hoped for some great views of fall colors, but with our rainy weather and serious fog, it just was not to be. Instead we ended up with fantastic sunset and sunrise, and some pretty cool shots of people next to Nothing. (You'll see what I mean.) All in all, a great trip -- and we plan to repeat it ever year that we possibly can, and when our kids are big enough that we trust them to not fall off a cliff, we'll bring them with us.

Side note: many of you who have known me for a very long time (cousins, college roommates, high school friends, and such) may notice my wild woman curly hair. I know, you're thinking, "Her hair isn't curly! She must have a perm." I assure, I don't. MommyJ will vouch for me -- she is insanely jealous of the curls and would be the first one to give me up if they weren't natural!

And now for the slide show . . . and a brief explanation for each image.

See, I told you . . . totally Little House. I mean, when you check in, they give you a key to the flush toilets (they have latrines for the non-paying riff-raff who just do a day hike or stay in the AT shelter up above the lodge) and a pail with directions to the hot water tap!

Me and MommyJ in front of our totally awesome sunset . . . the lodge was completely socked in by the clouds, so the hike to Cliff Tops was a bit of a gamble, but we were rewarded for our efforts.

People next to Nothing. This is why Mom can't ever do this hike. She might be hyperventilating right now just looking at the vast expanse of space beyond the edge of the rocks.

Sunrise wasn't bad, either. The best part about it? It didn't happen until 7:45AM, which is just perfect when you took a loooooong nap the day before, and then stayed up until the unbelievable hour of 10PM playing Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit by lamplight the night before.

On the way home, we started out above the clouds, then hiked through them, and then finally emerged from the mists and finished below the clouds. We also sort of hiked through the seasons -- we had snow flurries on top of the mountain (high of 48, low of 28 when we were there), beautiful fall leaves through the mid-elevations, and a lot of green at the trailhead. Beautiful! We saw at least 4 distinctly different ecosystems, varying by elevation, proximity to water, and exposure. Just amazing. Now you go do it!

For more images of this trip, and a different perspective, visit MommyJ's blog. Or don't. I may have bored you to death!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Birthday Cake Evolution

So these are the birthday cakes I decorated for the twins' first birthday. No big deal -- easy for them to demolish, and they were too young to really understand fancy design elements on a cake anyway. (Lil' Maa-Maa's first cake looked just like these except for the initial.)

The next year, I branched out a little and made pick-up trucks for the twinlets. I wasn't thinking about Mater from Cars when I made them, but as soon as he saw his cake, ConMan yelled, "Mater!" and so that's what it was.

This year, I really got creative. The boys wanted a dragon cake, so I gave them a dragon cake. I know, I've got mad skills, right? Well, I do, but only with help. Check out Family Fun Magazine for some more cool cake ideas. It's a lot easier than it looks.

And now, for the piece de resistance (it's killing me that I don't know how to put an accent grave on the 1st "e" of "piece") . . . Lil' Maa-Maa's second birthday cake. I even made my own frosting. I'm so impressed with myself!

A Day at the Beach

We had such a good time at the beach this past weekend that I have to do a photo essay to illustrate. So, here goes.

The weather wasn't great, but at least rain clouds make for interesting shots. G-Dog spent a lot of time trying to throw everything back in the water. You can't see it in this picture, but he's actually holding a shovel and trying to dig up sand to toss back to old Poseidon.

I found a rock that looks like a grand piano, keys and all. G-Dog was not allowed to throw that one back into the deep! (I am absolutely alarmed at how many lines I have across my hand. What am I, like 140?)

Lil' Maa-Maa sucks his thumb. This is him showing me why he couldn't do it.

A rare moment of trilateral cooperation.

ConMan and G-Dog played in the surf with their cousin, K, the last day we were there. They held hands with her to keep her from running back before the water got to them. Eventually, she got into it, too.

Lil' Maa-Maa tried to bury his daddy in the sand. At least we know if all else fails, he has a future as a gravedigger.

This morning's 3.5 mile run is brought to you by . . .

Foo Fighters. Because they are awesome. My Chemical Romance ain't half bad either. That's all I have to say. (Still sweating.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

There's Something Magical About Boys and Water

We're here at the beach, and if I'm being honest, I was a little worried about this trip. My boys are, shall we say, energetic, and I just wasn't sure if, A. we would be able to handle them in the face of such adventurous temptation, or B. they would find the adventures all that tempting. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about on either account.

Every moment we are here feels like a perfectly scripted and staged Hallmark movie, except the people are real and actually related to each other, and the events depicted totally resemble real life on purpose. Scene 1, the boys chase the surf and collapse into a laughing heap in the sand, hair windblown and cheeks flushed with the excitement of new experience. Camera pans out for a wide angle shot of whitecaps and orangey-purple sunset, scans over to proud papa standing with hands on hips, abject devotion as plain to see in his face, even in his stance, as the gulls soaring on updrafts overhead. Scene 2, daddy and boys work together to build a sand castle from a bucket that closely resembles a giant chess piece. They count to three together, upend the bucket to reveal their perfect fortress, cheer for the sheer joy of creation, then demolish it because only then can they go through the whole process again. Scene 3, little boy fights back at encroaching tide by throwing sand into the surf and yelling, "You can't get me, ocean!" as if he could, in all the blustery confidence of 3 1/2 years old, stop the constant rush in and suck back of the ever-powerful, all-consuming ocean.

Oh, how I relate to that little one. I think he knows he can't keep it at bay -- that he cannot turn the tide with his tiny handfuls of sand. He can see neither the beginning of the shoreline nor the end of the water, but still he must try to make progress against the relentless pound of sea against sand. He can see the pulverized shells that have been cast up from the depths, can see what such power can do to things that seem so hard, so indestructible . . . and still, he must try. Because, really, what are we, if we don't keep trying? If we just let the sea roll over us and drag us under without putting up a fight, kicking and screaming against the undertow? He gets this, I think -- on some deep, genetically-programmed level, he strives to make his voice heard above the roar of the surf, above the whip of the wind that would steal his words before he even says them. I hope he never stops. God help any of us when we decide to stop trying.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Munchkins

These are pictures taken at the zoo a month or so ago (it was really hot, hence wet-headed, sweaty boys). From top to bottom: G-Dog, ConMan and Lil' Maa-Maa. No, the twins are not identical. For more on funny twin stories, see mommysnark. She's my baby sister, and she has twins, too, and every funny twins thing that has happened to me, happened to her first, and she already wrote about it, so I don't need to.

Come On, Daddy, You Can Get This!

Lil' Maa-Maa loves nuts of all kinds. So, when CPod had a snack of almonds a couple of days ago, he asked Lil' Maa if he wanted some. Lil' Maa comes into the kitchen, and Craig hands him some almonds. And the conversation proceeds as follows:

"Here are your almonds, Lil' Maa."


"No, almonds."


"No, Maa, almonds."

At this point, Lil' Maa-Maa looks intently at his daddy. I think if he knew how to, he would have said, "Read my lips!" Instead he just said, "Peeeaaaa - nuttttssss!" and looked expectantly at CPod, as if waiting for him to finally get it right. Just like we look at him when we're teaching him a new word.

And I collapsed into a heap of ill-concealed giggles on the kitchen floor.

My Big Fat Double Standard

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our children out for lunch at "the ham store" (as the munchkins call it) that's right next door to CPod's office. As we were leaving, I advised all three little boys to throw their drinks away because we can't have non-hermetically sealed drink cups inside the car. And then I kept mine.

So, as we were walking to the car, G-Dog looks at my drink cup, looks at me, and says, "Mommy, why do you get to keep your drink but we had to throw ours away?" Now, I admit, I totally asked for what came next when I responded by saying, "Because I'm a hypocrite and I have a double standard."

He didn't miss a beat. "Oh. Can I have a drink of your double standard?"

Um, sure. And also, you can have some of my humble pie.

Why "I'm Not Crazy Mommy"?

Because I say it all the time, that's why. I think of it as a positive affirmation. As in, "I am NOT crazy -- I know I put my keys right here!" Or, "I am not CRAZY -- I just saw a velociraptor in the bushes!"

And apparently, I say it enough that my kids have picked it up. Like, at church, when I asked G-Dog to please be quiet and sit down in the pew, he yelled (no exaggeration here), "I'm not crazy, Mommy!" And so, now that I have joined the 21st century and started a blog, I could think of no more appropriate title than the thing I tell myself to keep from checking right on into the loony bin. Now, there's a record. I am officially NOT CRAZY!