Wednesday, December 31, 2008

chicken enchilada soup

Happy New Year's Eve! I know I should be posting something really profound about goal setting right now... Actually, I have a top secret tip for achieving a goal that I plan to post a little later... maybe today or tomorrow.

But right now, it's the first installment of Monday Morning Cooking Club! It's not Monday. It's not morning. And it's not a club! And that's what makes it so much fun.

What is your favorite recipe that you can make right off the top of your head (no cookbook), and it always turns out great?!?

I'm pretty proud that I made up a recipe recently and it actually turned out to be really tasty! I made it for dinner tonight and snapped some photos so I could post them on MMCC.


How can you really go wrong with a dish that includes cheese, sour cream and Fritos? Really? That's pretty much a great recipe even with nothing underneath it, right?

I'm calling this Chicken Enchilada Soup. Here's a picture of what it looked like before I put all the toppings on it.


Here's how to make it:

Cook two chicken breasts with some southwest seasoning. I used 1 tablespoon of the seasoning from Homemade Gourmet, but whatever you can find will work. I like to cook the chicken in the crockpot with the seasoning and some water, just to let it really soak up some flavor.

In a big pot, combine one can of diced tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce, one can of chili beans and one can of corn (drained). Bring that to a boil. Cook for about half an hour. Add the cooked chicken.

Serve with cheese, sour cream and Fritos. Yum!

Now, would you be so kind as to share with me your super simple recipe?? I would love it!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

happiness is...


my new gelly roll pens... and the nice clean pages of my 2009 planner.

... and my kitchen is clean.

How about you?

Monday, December 29, 2008

earth-shattering news

Oh my, oh my... Do I have some exciting news right here at the everydayMOM blog. You are gonna want to get out your planners right this very second and right this down on your list of things to do because you do NOT want to miss this.

You see... I spent five hours in the minivan on Sunday, trying to block out the sound of Hong Kong Phooey, the complete series playing on the DVD player, trying not to eat too many twizzlers and begging my husband's Blackberry to PLLLEASSSSE find an Internet connection so I could find out the date of the LOST season premiere. Apparently, the entire network was undergoing some sort of maintenance because we could not get a signal for 360 miles.

Anyway, without access to the Internet, my husband and I were forced to actually talk in real life. OK... you know I'm kidding. I am NOT that bad. Really.

We did, of course, talk about the Internet, though. And we came up with some unbelievable, award-winning, set-the-blogging-world-on-fire ideas that I will be writing about here on everydayMOM.

Remember back when I posted that little question asking da-bode-a-yas (that's slang for "the both of you", and since I regularly have around two readers a day, it fits!) if you thought I should have a theme for my blogging. And da-bode-a-yas, plus a couple of others, all said, "NO WAY! Keep it random!"

Well... I listened. And that's why I can't wait to start writing about these completely NOT THEME-Y, absolutely random topics.

One will be Fashion Friday. This will only occur on Fridays, if by chance, I come up with something fashion-worthy to write about that day of the week. Otherwise, it's going to be whatever day it happens to be. The first post in this series, will address... THE boots. (What ELSE?!?!) I cannot wait to fill you in on all of the news involving THE NEW FURRY boots.

Then there's going to be the Monday Morning Cooking Club. Again. Could be on Monday. Could be in the morning. Maybe not. Don't want to be too theme-y. Just keepin' it random.

This will probably happen about once every month or less when I actually have a good, new recipe to share. But make sure you get out YOUR favorite recipes, because I'm going to ask you what you're making for dinner. And if you want to tell me any other time, regardless of whether it's Monday Morning Cooking Club day, please go right ahead.

And finally... finally... finally... I cannot WAIT to start the LOST episode weekly review. The Season 5 Premiere is Jan. 21. I hope, hope, hope that da-bode-a-yas like to watch LOST so you can participate in this little discussion after the show.

I realize this might have been more excitement than you could possibly handle this morning, but I just HAD to fill you in on all the fun that is in store.

Now, get yourself out there and have a great day!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

primordial goo and benjamin button

I joke around a lot here about my impending birthday... you know, my inevitable rush headfirst into middle age. It's rapidly approaching now, and it's causing me a lot of... reflection.

They say this will happen.

I can look back at the first 40 years of my life and realize that I probably have around 40 more, give or take a few decades. What have I accomplished? Does it really matter? Would the world be just the same if I had never been born?

These questions have been rattling around in my brain and have been amplified this weekend after ... seeing a movie. We've been visiting relatives in another state and they kindly agreed to watch the kids while we went on our annual trip to a movie theater to see something other than the latest kid flick.

We chose The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Has anyone seen this?

The plot is fascinating. Benjamin Button (played by Bratt Pitt) is born into the world as an old man. He's a little tiny baby, but he has all of the ailments of, say, a 90-year-old man. While the rest of the world grows a little older, day by day, Benjamin keeps getting younger.

The story is about finding true love. When he is a child (trapped in the body of an old man) he meets a real child (played by Cate Blanchett) who can see in his eyes that he is really very young. Their paths continue to cross until they both reach the midsection of their lives -- when they are about equal in age.

The movie is heartbreaking as the two later move in opposite directions on the age spectrum. He keeps getting younger. She keeps getting older. For nearly three hours they age.

And in the end, they both return to the place from which they came. Just as they once gained the ability to focus, crawl, walk, run, eat, talk, read, play the piano and dance, they slowly lose those skills one by one. Just as we all will.

The movie is supposed to show that despite their differences, these two found what really matters: true love. But it's depressing and agonizing that they can't fully enjoy their lives together at the beginning and end where one is old and one is young. In his effort to deal with the hopelessness, Benjamin travels. He moves around the world. He tries different jobs. He tries to experience as much as possible as he continues to grow younger.

And even though he aged in an opposite direction, his fate is the same as that of everyone else around him who has grown old and then died.

Is that all there is? Birth, play, work, fall in love, raise children, travel, get old, work Sudoku puzzles, die?

This movie had an even greater impression on me because only days earlier my grandmother had moved into a nursing home. This woman who has been part of my life as long as I have lived is now facing the end of her days. She's a strong woman and, even at 95, she could be here another decade or more. But her new home is, most likely, the last place she will live.

The few material possessions that she has left will be given away. She doesn't need much in her little room in the nursing home. And yet, she was so happy to be there. So happy to be in a warm room where nurses will take good care of her. And she didn't seem to care at all that none of her stuff would be coming with her.

"I hope you can find someone to give my things to," she would say. "And if you can't, give them to the Salvation Army."

She really seemed so happy. According to the movie, she also had found meaning here on Earth. She had found true love with my grandfather. They had spent their lives together until a few years ago when he died.

She has traveled and worked. Raised kids and made friends. But she believes there is more to her life than the places she has been and the things she has done. Unlike Benjamin Button, she has hope.

And then yesterday, we went to visit the Creation Museum, which is here in northwest Kentucky.

It presents two very different views on life.

The first is that the earth is millions of years old. At some point, an event occurred that brought life from primordial goo. Plants and animals evolved to become all of the life forms that we now see on the planet. The ability for females to become pregnant and give birth to intricate little creatures who somehow come out with the same genetic code as their parents is the result of this random event. Those babies grow old and then die and become dirt. And that's it.

The other view is that the earth was not created by a random act at all. God spoke. He created. He formed. He planned. He sent a savior.

We live. We have meaning. We have hope. There is a point. We have a future beyond the day we die.

Ahh, yes... I have been doing some reflecting as I face the midsection of my life. And, thankfully, the future is full of hope.

Friday, December 26, 2008

the hand(print)s of time

A few years ago, I saw this idea in a magazine. Each year, a mother would trace the hands of her children on a Christmas tree skirt.

It seemed like a project that would take a lifetime to finish. But I was determined and decided to give it a try.

The first year, our oldest son was 2 and our second child was a baby.


That year, the tree skirt was pretty bare. I didn't give up on this craft project, though, after only one year. And believe me, that is not my usual tendency with craft projects.

Two years later, their little sister's hands were traced on the tree skirt.



This year, the tree skirt is full!

It seemed like it was just a blink since the day I first traced those tiny little hands. Now, the youngest set of hands is 4 years old.

I'm not sure whether I should buy a larger tree skirt and continue the tradition. Or perhaps I could let them cover their hands in paint and start making hand prints, rather than tracing the hands.

Whatever the case, I'm glad I started this six years ago. And I'm glad I stuck with it. We have so many memories behind each outline of those hands.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ho-o-tel, ho-tel, HO-O-tel, hotel

I'm sure you are asking yourself right now, WHY is this crazy woman updating her blog on Christmas Eve?!?

Well... it's because I'm realizing that so much of a big, huge, wonderful holiday like Christmas is wrapped up in expectations, traditions, memories, doing things the way they SHOULD be done, while surrounded by the people you love, smelling the scents that bring back wonderful warm thoughts...

And, well, a Super 8 with the faint scent of smoke after spending the day in a nursing home doesn't exactly fit into that mold. But, then again, sometimes you need a wake-up call to remember what really matters.

Just to make ourselves feel better, our 8-year-old came up with the ingenious idea to make up a song to describe our journey the past two days. So far, we've come up with a few ideas:

(To the tune of NOEL)
Ho-o-tel, ho-tel, Ho-o-tel, hotel. Warm is the room in our Super 8 hotel.

Here are some other elements of our story. Maybe you can help us think of a more creative song:

My 95-year-old grandma has been really sick and finally had to go to the hospital. After a few days there, she needed to be moved from her apartment into a nursing home. That happened today.

This all caused my parents to scrap their plans to travel to visit my brother for Christmas. This, of course, was a let-down for my brother and his daughters, who were hoping to host visitors. And not exactly the dreamed-of Christmas for my parents.

MY family moved Christmas up to Tuesday and actually -- get ready -- opened our gifts in the evening, instead of the morning. Gasp! Wail! Moan!! NOOOO!!! (Getting up early on Christmas morning is my MOST LOVED tradition!!)

But it had to be done so we could get on the road this morning. After a four-hour drive, we were able to visit Grandma in the nursing home and then have dinner with my exhausted parents who have been moving furniture and handling medical issues the past few days. They live 45 minutes away so we ate in my grandma's now-vacant apartment.

So, the countdown to Christmas resulted in this. Christmas Eve at the Super 8.

And that's OK. Because it could be much, much worse. And we're making memories this year of a different kind. And we're together. And we're singing funny songs.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We hope this greeting finds you well! Our Christmas “card” is a web site, with lots of pictures and news.

Please click here to get caught up on our family highlights from 2008.

We would love to hear from you! If you are here for the first time and you would like to leave a comment, just click "comment" and select "anonymous". If you are looking for the most recent entry in my blog, click here.

Wishing you all the best for a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

perils of paraffin wax

Don't you just love this time of year? I love these freezing cold days when we have no choice but to snuggle inside together. I love watching Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa, playing games together and wrapping gifts. I love the fact that our kids "get it". They understand that we have been given the greatest gift of all time, and that is why we have joy at Christmas.

Ahhh... I just had to get that off my chest.

Now, I did want to address something from my last post. I know I mentioned a few times that I had been soaking my hands and feet in my paraffin wax bath. I've been a little worried ever since that some of you, my dear friends and readers, might run out and buy a paraffin wax bath without understanding all of the hidden dangers and pitfalls to this type of appliance. (Appliance? That names seems so wrong, but I suppose that's what you would call it?)

If you have dry skin, or if you get those little cracks on the sides of your fingers, or if you just want your skin to feel soft and smooth and great, the paraffin wax bath is AWESOME!

But I need to warn you about a few things:

Once you have soaked your hands in the paraffin wax bath, you will need to wrap them up and sit quietly for at least 15 minutes. During this time, if your children start arguing... let's say, your boys get immersed in a rough light saber battle and start tackling each other... you will be rendered completely useless to break up the fight. You want to make sure you have another competent adult in the house, just in case something like this should occur.

Also, if it just happens to be time to clean up the kitchen or wash the dishes right when you have chosen to soak your hands, you won't be able to help. You will have to sit idly by with your hands in the air. In fact, you might not want to get them wet for several hours after your treatment.

If you decide to soak your feet in the paraffin wax, you will not be able to walk at all for at least 15 minutes or maybe longer... maybe even hours. You will want to prepare yourself by possibly putting a box of chocolates right by your bed, along with a good book, just in case you get hungry or bored during this time.

After you have removed the wax, you might have a waxy build-up between your toes. If this happens to you, I would recommend that you sit down immediately. Please do not try to walk on a treadmill or do any other type of physical exercise, lest your feet are too slippery and you fall.

Finally, after you see how soft and smooth your hands and feet are, you will be taunted by an unbearable desire to stick your entire face in the paraffin wax. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, stick your head in the wax! This could result in severe burning and possibly even wax your eyes and mouth shut. I have heard stories, none of which have EVER happened to me, of husbands who have had to knock their wives to the ground to prevent them from sticking their face in the wax.

As a true friend and blogger, I had to tell you these things in advance. I just couldn't sleep one more night without giving you all of the facts. Now, go. And if you choose to soak in wax, please do so with caution.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

silver bells... silver bells...

It's Christmastime in the city...

OK... this post has nothing to do with that, but I couldn't think of a title.

I've had a bad headache today.

I actually had a really nice day. Got to hang out with a friend and have some good conversation. Got to gaze in the eyes of a really cute baby.

But when I woke up, I had this headache right on the top of my head. By late this afternoon it had moved across my whole skull, down to my neck, into my shoulders and across my back. One of those.

Well, four heating pads, two tylenol, one super hot bath, two swiss chocolates, one satin hands treatment and a parafin wax hand treatment later and the headache is nearly gone. Whew! This therapy can be kind of rough!

So, it's obviously some kind of stress-related headache. And since I'm under almost no stress whatsoever right now, I can't figure out what could be causing it.

I've made a serious dent in the Christmas shopping. The boys are pretty much done. There are so many cute girly things I want to buy for the little princess, that it's just a matter of choosing one or two. I'm almost done with my Christmas letter/web site project. The last three people came by to pick up their toy orders today.

I even went out early this morning and found this cool "by number" set that was on sale for only $9.99. It includes paint by number, color by number, metal leaf by number... I'm thinking this will be one of my kids' favorite Christmas gifts.

I always get them one little craft thing like this. One year it was decorative-edge scissors. The next year it was those beads that you make into a picture and then iron. It's always the same: The huge train set or super expensive toy sits idly by while they work for hours on these little craft projects.

I'm secretly hoping though, that they will hate the color-by-number craft because I am so wanting to color it myself. Maybe they will at least share with me.

Do you see how EASY it is to buy a gift for me?!? I mean, seriously... I love so many dumb little things. Markers, pencils, puzzles... boots... those brown boots with the fur at the top... the fuzzy scarf.

But I'm thinking the headache is caused by constant brain-numbing, head-pounding, teeth-grinding thinking that has been going on night and day to come up with one single gift idea for everydayHusband. He's just so darned CONTENT! He is so naturally happy and upbeat. He's so laid back and pleased with life. He doesn't seem to want or need any material possessions that he doesn't already own.

He also doesn't spend nearly enough time doing the things he loves to do. He loves to golf, but didn't take out his clubs all year. He loves to mountain bike, but just when he started riding this year, he fell and had a serious injury, which knocked him out most of the season. He loves to cook big slabs of meat, but he already bought himself the cool Orion convection cooker that he wanted.

He travels. And I've already bought him every little gadget he could use to kill time -- I mean, make the most of his time -- on the plane.

So, I got nothing. And I know he'll pretend to be really happy when he unwraps some nice warm socks and a couple of new shirts. But I would just love to give him a gift with a little more WOW! factor.

Does anyone else have this problem? Please help, or I might just have to go eat a few more chocolates.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

give the kids a chance

There are several songs on the radio right now that have the sweet voice of a child singing part of the song.

My 4-year-old daughter always stops what she is doing and listens intently when she hears these songs. But now, as with any 4-year-old, let the questions begin.

During the other 99 percent of the songs that DON'T have a child's voice, she is concerned.

"Why don't they give the kids a chance?" she asks with disgust.

Yesterday her indignity over this grew.

"Did their child die?" she asked during a favorite song.

"I don't think so, honey."

"Well, why don't they let him sing?!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

how's it lookin' out there?

How ya'll doin'?

We only have nine days left until Christmas, and I have taken procrastination to a whole new level. I officially have not purchased even one single Christmas gift.

This isn't that unusual for me. I typically don't start my Christmas shopping until the second week of December. In recent years, this has been because my toy selling deadline is usually around Dec. 12. I get pretty focused on wrapping up my business for the year and wait until then to start thinking about my own needs.

But this year, I'm really lacking motivation.

Maybe it's because I'm... you know... almost MIDDLE AGE! Like many people these days, I'm also wanting to de-emphasize the materialism that can surround Christmas. The faltering economy gives me a good excuse to make this happen.

It also has to do with the fact that my kids have absolutely everything they could possibly need in life. With both my husband and myself in the toy business for quite a few years, our kids have a LOT of toys.

Still, I really love the joy of Christmas morning and unwrapping gifts, whether you need them or not. And I truly believe that children learn through play, so it's good to get them things that are developmentally appropriate and just plain FUN. I'm just trying to find a way to do that without depleting the checking account and spoiling the kids rotten.

I'm curious how all of you are handing the Christmas gift exchange this year? Are you doing anything differently? And why?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the garbage... ohhhh, the garbage

I realize that with just 11 days left until Christmas, I could at least START my Christmas shopping. Or my Christmas letter? I could get that thing done. I could file away the millions of gazillions of toy orders still piled on my desk.

Yep. I could do something productive like that. But, darn it, I have at least three regular readers on this blog, and I don't want to make you wait one more day for a new post! And besides, I have some important subject matter that needs to be addressed!

A few days ago, after I shooed my boys out the door with barely a kiss and into the awaiting minvan of my carpool buddy, I ran into their room and slammed the door. I had been waiting for this day for months! Armed with a roll of garbage bags, I started my mission: To go where many mothers had gone before. To clean their room.

By the time kindergarten had ended, I had successfully filled four large garbage bags with their junk and got it out to the curb just as the garbage truck came rumbling down the street. I had only minutes to spare before the middle child was back home.

What I found stuffed under the bed, tucked behind the dresser and crammed in the drawers of that big storage unit from IKEA would make even the most seasoned mother squirm. Candy wrappers, paper plates, potato chips, laffy taffy, a dead bug, art projects, homework sheets and piles and piles of drawings of stick men holding light sabers. It's a popular topic and one that can't be drawn enough in this house.

Here are a few photos of the newly-labeled drawers to the storage unit.





But I have a few questions for you, my dear friends, readers and blog lurkers:

1. Do you think that after the LEGO vehicles have fallen apart piece by piece and all the tiny little headlights, miniscule walkie talkies and teeny helmet visors have all been collected in one drawer that there is ANY CHANCE in this lifetime that those projects will ever be reassembled?

2. If so, how exactly does one store these teeny, tiny pieces?

3. AND, on the topic of LEGO, do you keep the boxes and instruction manuals so you have some hope of ever putting them back together?

4. The next question has to do with art projects. How many do you keep? How do you store them? And for how long? Now, please keep in mind that because my children go to a Christian school, that some of their art projects include things like a paper mache canopic jar and a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. How can I possibly throw away the Ark of the Covenant?! I'm sure the teachers don't realize that by sending home these works of art, parents like me will have to leave the projects sitting on the shelf in my child's room for the rest of time because I am too frightened to even think about throwing them away!

5. Finally, the school assignments. Same question as before. How many do you keep? Any? And if you keep them how and where do you store them?

I would like to thank you in advance for your help in this important matter. Now, I'm back to the Christmas letter (which will be a web site, by the way) so please check your e-mail in a few days for the link. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

burning question

I have a very serious question and I'm wondering if you all will help me out??

I'm not kidding... I really need answers here. So, even if you're usually just a reader here, would you please, just this once, answer this question for me??

I've read a couple of blogs lately that made a statement I thought was kind of shocking. I'm trying to figure out if I have some sort of disease or mental illness or perhaps something went wrong in my genetic makeup.

So, here goes. Several other women have been blogging lately about how they HATE to shop for clothes.

Here's the thing. I would say that one of my top five absolute favorite things to do is to shop for clothes. In fact, I love it so much that I have to restrain myself from doing it too much. I could cause our family some serious financial issues because of my constant and burning desire to shop for clothes.

Just this morning, I was out shopping at Sam's (where, by the way, I spent $271 on groceries!! I hadn't been there in several months. But is THIS normal?!?! Because the check-out guy, Joey, said, WHOA! when he gave me the total). Anyway, I'm going through Sam's and thoughts keep running through my head like, "Just a package of socks... Maybe some new underwear... ANYTHING that is even slightly clothing-like would make me so happy right now!"

Clothes shopping is almost like a sport for me. I buy almost every single article of clothing that I own from one store: New York & Co. I know this isn't that impressive. It's not like Macy's or J. Jill or Ann Taylor. But it works for me.

They say they have the perfect pant and in my opinion, they do. Their clothes don't always last that long, and that's fine. Because after a couple years, I'm tired of them anyway. And their style seems to fit me. I feel somewhat dressed up, but not too dressy. It's gotten to the point I don't even attempt to shop at any other stores except in a pinch when I will run into Kohl's. (I know... again, I'm sounding kind of proletariat.)

The real clincher for NY&Co. is the coupons. They send me coupons almost every week. "Spend $50 and get $25 free" "Save $60 on a purchase of $150 or more." I have a love-hate relationship with these coupons.

I hate them because I totally get their game. They mark up the prices and then make me think I'm getting a great deal. I love it because I enjoy trying to "show" them. That's when I can swoop in at just the right moment and find some great deals and THEN use my coupon. I can usually walk out of there with several nice outfits, some jewelry and maybe even a pair of shoes for $90.

So, every new season, I usually go buy a few new "uniforms". These are my two or three new outfits that I wear to my Discovery Toys parties, church, school functions and any social events.

Finally, the dressing room. I love trying on clothing. I could try on clothing for hours! This is like therapy for me.

I'm really not proud of this obsession. I don't think it's a good thing. But it's a constant battle for me to restrain myself from buying new clothing! And that's why I think its so interesting and amazing that other women actually HATE to shop for clothes!

If you are like me, will you tell me so I don't feel so alone out here??

I'm also very curious why other women don't like clothes shopping? Is it because things don't fit right? Is it hard to find something that fits your style? Or is it just not something you want to spend money on?

Would you prefer to shop for cute clothes for your kids, rather than yourself? Or maybe eletronics? Or perhaps you have a hobby that is more tempting? Or do you love shoes, but just not clothes?

Really... I want to know! Will you tell me? Please???

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

good morning, boys and girls

Warning: This post will NOT contain any stereotypes about boys versus girls.

It WILL NOT make any blanket statements or exaggerations. And by NO MEANS, will I attempt in any way to convince you that girls are somehow BETTER than boys.

None of that. What I am about to express are simply the cold hard facts as I have seen them in my house.

You see, when I was pregnant with our third child, I assumed it would be another boy. I mean, by then, I knew what to expect with boys. I knew how to handle them. And I knew that they would never attempt to usurp my status as Queen of the Household.

So, when the doctor told me I was having a girl, I accepted it quite matter-of-factly. "Aren't you SO GLAD you are having a giiiiirrrrrrllllll?!?!" people would always ask. "I'm OK with whatever I have," I would answer honestly.

Well, that was before I realized the whopping, ganormous, unbelievable blessing that God had chosen to bestow upon ME! A girl! Another female in this house to counterbalance all of the boyishness dominating the place.

This blessing was reaffirmed to me this morning when my sweet little 4-year-old came running into my office and said, "Mommy! Is it OK if I clean the toothpaste smears off the sink?!"

After thinking for a millisecond, I said, "OK, honey! That would be fine!"

Once she had completed this fun little assignment, she decided it was time to empty the linen closet of the washcloths that were haphazardly stacked there, refold each one and then neatly stack them in little piles.

Hmmm. Would my boys ever get such an urge? Let's look at a little evidence.

Breakfast:
After they have finished eating, the two boys, ages 8 and 6, run off in search of their light sabers, leaving behind their bowls, surrounded by pools of milk and smashed Lucky Charms.

Meanwhile, 4-year-old daughter takes her bowl and spoon and sets it on the counter without being reminded.

Bathroom:
Boys spray their pee on the toilet seat, the toilet lid, the outside of the toilet and the floor surrounding the toilet before rushing off, without flushing, in search of their light sabers.

Daughter uses the restroom without a trace, flushes and later asks, "Mommy! Is it OK if I clean the toilet?"

Laundry:

Boys practice light saber fight while leaping over piles of clean laundry I am folding.

Daughter squeals, "What can I do?!?" Then, she begins sorting the clothes, stacking the underwear in neat piles and folding the towels.

This is not to say I love those sweet little boys with their big brown eyes any less. They are masters at making me feel so loved when their little sister is overcome with emotion about a missing princess shoe.

But I'm so thankful for my daughter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wow! Can it get worse?!?

Back in my reporter days, I used to get to run from my office on the 20th floor at Clark and Madison over to the federal building, which was right down the street, to cover big stories like the one that is happening non-stop today.

But I'm not sure there has ever been a story quite this big in recent memory in Illinois government. Not Edgar's heart surgery. Not even Ryan's trial or imprisonment. Nothing quite as exciting as the FBI showing up at the sitting governor's home with handcuffs and arresting him this morning.

I'm glued to the radio, TV and Internet to hear the latest developments. But instead of running around with my little tape recorder and notebook, I'm devouring all of the developments while sipping hot cocoa.

At least I have my newspaper blog to release a little of my reporter-wannabe pent-up tension.

Click here if you have any thoughts you would like to share about the latest political scandal in Illinois.

Monday, December 8, 2008

the boot saga continues

EverydayHusband has been getting quite a chuckle out of the reaction to my recent blog about walking around in my high-heeled boots in the ice and snow.

He especially loved the scenario painted by his friend, Wily Hacker, who insinuated that everydayHusband actually used some sort of mind-melding reverse psychology to influence me to wear the boots. Given my independence and self sufficiency, this act then forced me to hold tight onto my husband's arm while I walked along the streets of Chicago.

Well, today another pair of knee-high boots showed up at our home. I think everydayHusband is competing with me to gain some attention for HIS boots.

Here they are:



Of course, his are PERFECT for walking around in any type of winter conditions. In fact, they served him quite well today during several hours he spent in the 18-degree weather hanging Christmas lights on the outside of our house.

I have never been a big proponent of outdoor Christmas lights and, therefore, we have never had any. I might not be practical about shoes, but home decor is another matter. And I know for a fact that what goes up, must come down. I also know that I can be a HUGE procrastinator when it comes to putting things away. I guess I need to create a new section in my planner for taking down Christmas decor.

Anyway, everydayHusband has decided that our children love outdoor Christmas lights so much that we were depriving them of the joy of childhood by not having any on our house. So, he spent the afternoon climbing a ladder hanging lights.

Please understand that it was not just cold today. Not just a little bitter. Frigid isn't even a good word. We are talking: Your nose will freeze solid within minutes and it will snap right off kind of freezing-ba-geezing cold!

For this amazing act of kindness, I hearby nominate everydayHusband, Husband of the Year.

Would you please vote for him? I'm sure you all have some amazing husbands, too. But could you just help me out here and cast your vote?

If the Christmas light story isn't enough... On Friday night when I helped organize the women's Christmas party, he came early and stood out in the death-threatening, arctic-like temps that also included an eye-numbing wind and showed the ladies where to park. THEN, he came back at the end of the night and helped all of the women load all of that blue and white decor BACK in their cars.

The women were all swooning over the kindness of that masked man out in the parking lot, with only his eyes showing through his multiple layers of ski masks. (That's why I called the wind EYE numbing.)

And he did all of this BEFORE he bought the boots.

So, if you STILL don't think he's Husband of the Year material, can you at least help me in MY attempt to get back at him for the covert psychological methods he used to force me to wear those high-heeled boots? There's a really cute pair of furry boots I've been eyeing and I'm hoping to get them for Christmas this year! (Size 8, please.) I think it's obvious that I could use them!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

shades of blue


Have you ever bought a new car? You fell in love with the model and the color and knew it perfectly fit your unique style?

Then you drove to the mall for the first time and when you came out you couldn't find it? Because there were 20 other cars exactly like yours? And you never even noticed that kind of car before? Or that so many OTHER people also loved YOUR favorite car color?

Well, that's SORT OF like what happened to a group of women from my church recently, except in a really good way.



We were planning a peppermint theme for our first-ever women's Christmas event. Candy canes. Red roses. Red and white ornaments.



Then we went to look at the room where we would be holding the event and we immediately noticed the dark blue chairs. I went searching around for some nesting boxes for our illustration on "Unwrapping the Gift" of Christmas. I remembered I had a stack in my basement in blue and white.


So, we decided that rather than fighting the blue, we would go with a Winter Wonderland theme.

Suddenly, we started noticing that every store in town had tons of blue and white Christmas decor. Since blue usually makes me feel, well, a little blue, I must have always headed straight for the greens, with their calming effect.



We had four "table hostesses" and we asked each one to decorate her table with only one criteria: It needed to be in shades of blue and white. The result was amazing! Each table was wonderfully unique and beautiful, and the whole room was coordinated even though it was put together without anyone knowing what the others were doing.



This is my table. I went with a sweets theme. Imagine that.

This is Lara's table. She had this really cool ice-skate planter to work with.

This is Lori's table. Don't you love her china? And that glittery silver garland?

This is Jolie's table. The ornaments in the glasses made it so elegant.


These are the cute little jars of hot cocoa mix that each woman got to take home with her.

I've never felt so good surrounded by shades of blue.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

high-heeled boots, icy streets and city lights

Why did I think it would be a good idea to wear my high-heeled boots to my husband's Christmas gathering in downtown Chicago?

The boots seemed perfect when I bought them: The tall black boots with my knee-length skirt. Not too dressy, not too casual.

Of course that was BEFORE the temperature dropped 20 degrees in one day. It was before the snow started and the rain turned to sleet.

But at that point, I wasn't going to change my plan. You see, if a girl has her outfit picked out and ready to go, there's no time to switch plans. A girl has to make a little sacrifice in the name of fashion.

Besides. I had already made one huge concession due to the fact I'm only months away from middle age now. (Yes, I will be mentioning that several times over the next five months.) I tried on two different pairs of boots and one pair was miniscule-y cuter than the other. However, the ever-so-slightly, barely-detectably cuter pair kind of hurt my toes. And for the first time in my LIFE, I actually chose comfort over cute.

But practical over cute? Never! (At least not until I'm 50.)

I mean it was my first time meeting the women from the L.A. office of my husband's company. They actually left their warm, sunny and beautiful surroundings that I can only dream of in December and CHOSE to fly to Chicago during our first winter storm of the season for the company Christmas party. And you KNOW how those L.A. people are??

They are always dressed better than those of us here in the midwest. I was certain none of THEM would abandon their previously-planned high-heeled boots just because of a little snow and ice. Or even a lot of snow and ice.

But no. They arrived in their practical shoes with traction to walk all over Michigan Avenue in the wonderful windy, icy, snowy, blustery, frigid (have I mentioned I DESPISE winter and want nothing more in life than to live in a warm climate???) weather. They wore ever-so-practical long pants as one should when visiting the tundra in the heart of winter. And I would bet money they even had sleek long-underwear on under the pants.

Me? Looking sharp.

Never mind that I have broken each of my arms TWICE. Never mind that I usually break my arms simply by falling down while walking. Never mind that I tried to get the mail earlier in the day but started sliding down the driveway in my boots and had to cling to the minvan and pull myself back up to the garage door so I could get myself off the ski slope in front of our house.

No. Never mind all of that because those boots looked good with that skirt, darn it.

I was honestly thinking that everyone in our group would be shuffling along the sidewalk, as I was, because they had no traction. I thought that if I actually did have to get down on my hands and knees and crawl on the ice that it would be OK because everyone would be in the same boat.

But no.

They all walked along merrily (and quite briskly, I should add), letting out little gasps of delight at the beautiful lights and store windows all decorated for Christmas.

I scooted along, holding on tight to my husband's arm for dear life. I carefully watched the ice forming on the sidewalk and tried to dodge the grates that were yearning to suck up the heels of my boots with one wrong step. I kept my nose to the ground to avoid the whipping wind and ice spitting from the sky.

"Isn't it beautiful?" they would ask, gazing into the windows at Bloomingdales.

"Oh, yes," I thought, not daring to look up. "THEY are beautiful." My beloved new boots.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I did it!

A few years ago, I had this outrageous goal with my Discovery Toys business. It was early November and I realized that it was within my reach to earn President's Club.

What's that? Well, first you have to earn the incentive trip, which is basically a year-long process of meeting goals in all areas of your business. But instead of taking a full calendar year to earn the trip, you have to do it in nine or 10 months. Because once you have earned the trip, you have to keep going.... just keep doing the same thing even harder for a few more months.

The first time I earned the trip was four years ago when we got to go to The Bahamas. I came soooo close to also earning President's Club, but I missed it by one requirement. It was something I just couldn't do by myself.

That drove me to work that much harder the next year. I earned a trip to Rio de Janeiro AND President's Club, which gave us an extra night in Rio, plus some cool perks like a limo from the airport at convention, a free hotel room, some jewelry and lots of recognition.

Last year, I earned the trip again. This time it was DisneyLand and a cruise to Mexico. But the company changed the trip requirements and made it so difficult to earn President's Club that only a couple of people did it.

Well, this year, I will admit, I didn't make it my goal to earn President's Club, even though the requirements were more do-able than in past years. I actually made it my goal to work less, spend more time with my family and focus on some interests that I had left lying on the shelf for awhile. You can see evidence of those interests here: I finally finished my planner. I started writing again. I volunteered more at my church.

So, I guess that gives me an even greater sense of accomplishment that as of this weekend, I did it!! I earned President's Club! This year's trip is to an amazing resort in Acapulco and the honor gives us an extra night.

A few years ago, I really enjoyed the recognition that came with all of these rewards. Now, it really doesn't mean much to me. I know there are so many more important things in life. Recognition is so fleeting. And at the end of my life, it means nothing.

Earning the trip and even earning President's Club have become almost expected of me. Just something to cross off my To Do list.

I'm more pleased with the fact that I've been able to create systems that allow my business to work without working so hard. I'm happy that I've been able to enjoy each day with my kids and still make some extra income.

I've actually surprised myself that I've completed my last business-related goal for the year, and I still have a month left on the calendar!

Reaching this goal isn't filled with as much excitement as in years past. But it's still a goal accomplished, and that's worth celebrating.

So, let me just say, "I did it!"

this is cool

Check it out!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

call me what you want

I was thinking of an old friend today. It's been years since we talked, so it took me a while to remember that if I were to send her a note, I would have to sign it "Wilkerson".

No one ever calls me that anymore. No one I hang out with these days would even know that was once my name. It instantly made me smile. Wilkerson. That name makes me think of playing tennis in high school.

There have been so many other names over the years and each one immediately brings up a feeling. An emotion. Or just a memory.

Emmy. My oldest sister always called me that. I think I was sort of like her real-life baby doll for many years. My parents or my grandma usually used that name when I was a kid. It makes me feel so loved if someone says Emmy.

Em. That was — and still is — the name used by my middle sister. And lots of close friends through the years. I always thought it was cool when I got to a point in a friendship that someone switched to Em.

Emil-Bleeding-Bloafer. Now there's only one person on the planet who has ever called me that. My brother. Isn't that sort of why you have a big brother? So he can tease you with names that are so, well, horrible? Thankfully, I've graduated to Em with him, too.

Emil. There was a point in high school when absolutely every friend called me Emil. It doesn't sound that flattering, but it was a good name. It meant I fit in. (I really don't like it when people call me that now, unless they were a friend in high school. Otherwise... no.)

EmilLynn. The name my friend Lynnard (aka, Lynn) and I gave our joint self due to the fact we spent so much time together. That name makes me want to drag Main in my Camaro singing Janet Jackson songs really loud.

M-L-E. A few high school buddies called me this in reference to the license plate on my car.

M-and-M. My youth group leader in high school. He and his wife were so nice. Ahhh. I now can only imagine what they put up with back then.

Smiley-E-Miley. There is only one person who ever called me this. The best friend of my college boyfriend. I think he hated me most of the time, but once in a while, when he decided we could be friends, this is what he would call me. On those days, it did make me smile.

Schmem. This was the name give to me by my friend, and identical twin in college, Schmar (aka Sarah). We were both editors at the Daily Illini. The name came from my top priority in deciding who I could and could not date in college. Namely, that I refused to date anyone with the last name, Schmemily. With this unwavering standard in place, I avoided any risk of bearing the unfortunate lifelong name of Emily Schmemily.

Wilks. A buddy at the newspaper where I worked. This name makes me laugh, too. We had so many inside jokes about the criminals around town. The politicians. The attorneys. The other reporters. "Hey, Wilks!"

The newspaper girl. The toy lady.

A lot of people these days use my first and last name together, as if it were one big word. When I was a kid, I didn't know anyone else my age named Emily. Now, I know at least three other adults and, of course, 50 little girls between the ages of 3 and 12, so a lot of people throw my last name on the end. My sales director puts a THE at the beginning followed by the whole name. She actually does that with EVERYONE, but it still makes me feel special.

Sunshine. Darling. Honey. Those names have brought me some serious joy from my sweet husband. I don't even know what he would say if he was going to call me by a real name. I do know I better watch out if he calls me Emily. On those rare occasions, I know I must have made him mad.

So-and-So's Mom. I couldn't believe it the first time people started identifying me in reference to my children. Now, I even identify myself that way.

Mom. Mommy. Mama. Oh, how I LOVE it when one of them calls me Mama! My heart is bursting with love when I hear those names.

A lot of people call me Emily these days. And that's OK. But if you ever want to make me feel good, just leave off a syllable, throw in a rhyme or call me whatever you think might fit. It's sure to make me smile.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

skype is a verb

At our house, Skype also is a noun, an adjective and an adverb.

n. Is Dad on Skype?
v. Can we Skype Daddy now?
adj. We have a very Skypey father.
adv. Dad, you look Skyped today.

That's because many days lately, including a few birthdays and major holidays, our beloved father figure has been joining us via the wonderful free Internet teleconferencing service known as Skype.

He attended our son's birthday present opening ceremony while in China. And today, he helped me cook the turkey even though he was in Switzerland.

In case you're wondering, it wasn't Thanksgiving in Switzerland. So when 30 Europeans planned a meeting in late November and needed one American to attend, they didn't consider the significance of Nov. 27. Anyway, I've dealt with my anger. I've chosen forgiveness. The bitterness is almost gone, and I'm ready to joke about it. Moving on.

Carrying my husband around on the laptop all day does create lots of good family jokes. We carry him through the house, screen facing outward so he can greet each family member. We offer to put a blanket around the computer to keep him warm while we go outside.

We torture him by asking if he thinks the turkey smells good. We offer to let him taste the pumpkin pie. And, of course, when we set him down and forget about him for 15 minutes, we have to move the mouse to wake him up.

Only at our house, do you hear phrases like, "Could you move the screen down a little bit, I can't see?" Or, "Hey! Can someone carry me into the dining room!"

But in the end, the virtual member of our family is something to be thankful for. A Skype husband is better than one who can't attend Thanksgiving at all. Besides, he looks really Skypey on my Macbook.

And, yes, dear, we still Skype you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful for...

Click the play button for a Thanksgiving greeting...


What are YOU thankful for this year? We would love to hear from you!!

Wishing you all the best on this day to give thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!!

(If you don't have a Google account but you want to leave us a message, just click "comments" and then select "Anonymous"!)

two Thanksgiving stories

I've been searching the Internet for the story of Thanksgiving to share with my family on Thursday.

I found these two cool versions.

Did you know the full story of the life of Squanto? This is a really cool story. I was reluctant at first to take the time to read it, but glad I did!

Are you thankful, even when life isn't perfect? Are you thankful when it is? This story gives a great perspective!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"I always feel like... somebody's watching me..." (aka THIS IS FREAKING ME OUT!)

If you can name the artist and title of that song, you must have grown up in the '80s. Personally, I can't remember, but the tune does get stuck in my head.

So... you might have noticed that little Feedjit at the bottom of the page. I was trying to hide it down there, but it's pretty obnoxious.

I need to know. Does it freak you out?

When I first saw it on someone else's page, it almost made me scream: "How does it KNOW a visitor just arrived from Bolingbrook?!?! Is that thing WATCHING me?!?"

Well, then I started watching IT, and I couldn't resist putting it on my page to see what would happen. It's been quite amusing, actually. I find it entertaining to see what kind of people unexpectedly come and go around here.

But I'm wondering if it is making anyone nervous. I don't want to drive anyone away. (As if my fake firing weren't bad enough, I'm really trying hard to KEEP readers now!) I know a fun part about blog lurking is that you can read about someone's life in complete anonymity. They don't need to know how often or for how long you stop by.

So... I could take it off... if you really want me to... Really, I could... I think...

My friend was telling me today about another little gadget called Google Alert. It will actually send you a message any time anyone mentions your name on the Internet.

I seriously couldn't even get up in the morning if I was getting an alert like that in my e-mail. I don't care how positive it might be, I still would cringe to read it.

It's strange how much information is out there about each one of us, isn't it? Of course, many people like me PUT the info out there for others to observe and read, so I can hardly complain.

Would it be better to go back to the way it was before?

I was reading an article about President-elect Barack Obama who will have to give up sending e-mail or corresponding over the Internet once he takes office. I guess any written correspondence can be open to public inspection once you are the nation's top dog.

Will he be able to survive his Crackberry addiction, once he can't type on the little mini keyboard of his Blackberry all day long?

I would be in such withdrawal without my e-mail, it wouldn't even be worth the presidency. I can just imagine my hands shaking, voice slurred, right in the middle of a decision on whether or not to launch a nuclear weapon: "Haaaannnnngggg oooonnnnn. Caaannnn I just check my e-mail for ooooooonnnnnneeeeee minute? Pllllleeeeaaaaasssseeeee?????"

It wouldn't be pretty.

So, tell me the truth about the Feedjit. Is it like a big piece of spinach right on my front tooth? Or can I leave it for at least a few more days?

Monday, November 24, 2008

gotta-have-it, can't-live-without-it

There's still time to leave a comment and get my "thank you for reading" gift (please see previous post).

But with Thanksgiving only days away, I have a burning (could be literally) topic on which I need your advice, so I have to update my blog.

I am the youngest of four children in my family, so until I was about age 21 I was referred to as "The Baby". Now that I'm months away from hitting a mid-life crisis, I think my big sisters and big brother are starting to see me as an adult. (Of course, I'm exaggerating... at least a little.)

They have actually agreed to allow ME to host Thanksgiving. I think I've only hosted one other major holiday when my family drove up here to the 'burbs for Easter about eight years ago. My house isn't the most conveniently located, so I always appreciate them coming to me.

Anyway, I'm not sure if it has anything to do with being the youngest in the bunch, but for some reason I always want everything to be just right. I love to host. Love to make the menu. Love to plan. And I also like to add a twist to the expected.

But with a holiday like Thanksgiving (which is one of my favorites, by the way), you also need to stick with lots of tradition. You really can't suddenly suggest an Italian theme on Thanksgiving Day (and who would WANT to?!?)

For our family, tradition means cooking dinner with the sound of the Macy's parade in the background, eating the big meal right at Noon and then sitting around the table working a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle together while we make each other laugh for hours on end. We're not a big football family, but maybe my brother can sneak off to the basement and turn on the TV if the need arises.

Now for the food. I love all food related to Thanksgiving. I'm a BIG side-dish person, so, seriously, I don't even care about the turkey. But I can't let that slide, so I'm actually going to attempt to make mine in my hubby's prized convection cooker. (He'll be out of town on a business trip, so I'll have to pull this off single-handedly.)

Hopefully, I'll have lots of time to focus on the side dishes: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, salad, corn casserole, green bean casserole and any other veggie I can add calories to by baking it with butter, sugar or something else to make it yummy. I also LOVE the cranberry element of Thanksgiving so I'm searching for a good recipes for a cranberry relish of some sort. I tried making it from scratch with whole cranberries a few years ago and it was way too sour. HELP!!

So, I'm wondering... What is your absolute, gotta-have-it, can't-live-without-it, it's-not-Thanksgiving-unless element of the Thanksgiving meal?

Tell me, please? Will you??

Saturday, November 22, 2008

what I've learned and GIFT!

OK... So, I've learned a lot over the past few days about blogging. (Please keep reading because there IS something special coming...)

1. It's very difficult to detect extreme sarcasm in the written word. If you write something super sarcastic, you should include a line somewhere that says, "I'm kidding."

2. Lots more people read your blog than you know.

3. Those special ones who comment are extra special and you should never take them for granted. (More about this coming up.)

4. If people take the time to comment, you should offer them feedback, even if you didn't think anyone would check back to see what you had written.

5. Blogging is, for the most part, a one-way conversation, so if you have even ONE person who bothers to read your ranting and raving, you should tell that person THANK YOU! They have just offered you their precious time in life.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and just to really say THANK YOU to my wonderful readers, I would like to give you a cute little gift. It's not expensive, but I think it's cute, and I would like to send you a gift as my way of saying thank you for reading my blog. By the way, I'M ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS! (I know the word "cute" would scare off any man, but if you are a man, I think you might like it, too.)

ALL you have to do is leave me a comment on this topic:

I've been wanting to make my content a little bit more specific. Some ideas I had were my weekly meal plans, recipes, tips that make life easier, inspirational quotes from books I'm reading ... stuff like that.

I stumbled on a blog today where this woman writes a post EVERY SINGLE DAY for the entire year about something to make in the crock pot, along with photos and recipes. Now THAT'S a unique idea!! Other people write blogs about arts and crafts, cars, country music, travel... you name it and there's a blog about it.

So, what would YOU write about in a blog? Or what would topic would interest you to READ IN a blog? Or what topic do you think I should include in mine?? Or if you have a blog, feel free to promote it here. If you don't have an idea, just leave any type of comment.

Leave me a comment by Monday night and I will send you my thank you gift. If you don't have a google account, just click "anonymous" and you will be able to write your comment. If I don't know you, please also e-mail me with your mailing address so I can send the gift. My e-mail is emilyneal@comcast.net.

And if I haven't said it already: THANK YOU for reading! =]

Friday, November 21, 2008

the real story

Ever have one of those days?

You know one of those days where you and your husband are talking about something that's kind of serious. Like for example, how you really love to write and you love it so much you could update your blog five times a day but it seems sort of silly when you only have a handful of readers.

And then you and your husband start joking about how if you don't get more readers you should QUIT! (As if this is a real job.) And then you start laughing more and more about how funny it would be if you DID write a letter of resignation because who would you write it to except the blog itself? And if you did, how sad would it be if no one even read it?

And now you're laughing really hard because you resigned, but YOU were the only one who read that post! And how YOU are the only one who even reads your dumb blog anyway. And you think YOU are hilarious, and you actually laugh out loud at your own jokes.

Now, you are both giggling and you can't stop. Because it's sort of sad when you love writing, but you don't really have many readers. And it's sort of sad that other blogs seems to have gazillions of readers. And it actually IS sad how that makes you feel like a loser. But WHO CARES because it's only a BLOG!?!?! So, instead of being sad, you might as well laugh about the whole thing!

So, then you decide it would be sooooo funny, if instead of resigning from your nonexistent job as a blogger if you actually got fired. Now, THAT would be funny if you were SO BAD that Google actually fired you!! (I realize now that if you don't have a blog, which I didn't until recently, you wouldn't know that it's completely free and open to anyone, regardless of how pathetic or infrequent their posts.)

Well, now you can't even sleep because you are cracking up so much at this idea. And now your husband is completely asleep because he's still jet-lagged from his month in China.

So, since you have nothing better to do (except maybe your laundry or some other household chore) you get out your laptop and write up this whole silliness.

But you are THINKING that because your few readers know you so well that they will know you are kidding. But you didn't really think about it from THEIR perspective... how you've been going along this whole time writing serious stuff and all of a sudden, out of the blue, THIS! Because THEY weren't even there when you and your husband were laughing about it for two hours. And it actually does seem plausible that you might quit given some of your more serious, whiny posts lately, most notably the boy scout one.

And then you feel HORRIBLE that your friends and relatives who you love and who actually love you are taking you seriously and even defending you!!

Oh, boy. Now, you are going to have to break the news that you were kidding and they might NEVER trust you enough to read your blog again. So you decide to blame it on your "other" personality.

Well... I don't know if YOU'VE ever had one of those days, but I just did!

So, will you please forgive me if I made you mad?? I was just being silly.

And P.S. If you do have a passive-aggressive personality like I do, beware! When Ms. Passive and Ms. Aggressive have a war of words, it can get UGLY!!

from "dedicated reader"

To: everydayMOM
From: Dedicated Reader
Subject: time to call it quits

Dear everydayMOM,

NOW look what you have done!!!

I saw you last night. I saw you giggling so hard you couldn't even go to sleep after you wrote that post. I saw you driving around in your car all day laughing about that made-up quote from the Blogger people.

You should know by now that NORMAL people don't understand our warped sense of humor! When will you ever get it through your thick head that normal people DO NOT have imaginary friends? They DON'T have split personalities. And they DON'T even have dramatic and irrational mood swings. Most of your readers are N-O-R-M-A-L-P-E-O-P-L-E!

Now you have gone off and played with the emotions of even your lifelong friends and blood-line relatives with your silly little jokes that only WE find funny! How could you do this?

Oh, and by the way, I just got THIS e-mail from the GOOF-BALL POLICE. In fact, it's from the Chief Officer of the Worldwide Internet Blogging Goof-Ball Tracking Unit of the Western Hemisphere:

"Dear everydayMOM. We would like to notify you that you are in serious violation of manipulating the emotions of innocent blog readers by threatening to quit. If we see this type of activity again, your wireless Internet is going DOWN. Believe me, we have confiscated iTouches for offenses less agregious than this one. So, watch yourself."

Listen, everydayMOM. I really think your problem is that you keep comparing yourself to all of those other cute little bloggers out there. I know. I know. They can post a new casserole recipe and within minutes they have 14 comments.

And then there's The Pioneer Woman. You HAVE to quit reading her blog. Come on. She gets 11,000 comments every stinkin' time she has a contest. But I'm sure there was a day, way back in the beginning of her blogging when she only had 11 readers. At least for the first few hours, anyway.

So, stop comparing yourself to everyone else and appreciate the wonderful readers you DO have. It is almost Thanksgiving! Can't you show a little bit of gratitude!?!

And there's one other thing I've been meaning to bring up with you. I know you think that with just a little more practice you can go somewhere with your lip sync act. But, I have news for YOU. You AREN'T Mariah Carey! You ARE NOT Mandeesa!

So, get your little schizophrenic self back on that keyboard and start typing up some blog posts!

With love,
Your faithful friend and constant companion,
Emily

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

time to call it quits

To My Dear Dedicated Reader,

You've been with me for what seems like forever.

I remember way back in third grade, as a matter of fact, when we would walk home from school together. You would tell me jokes and I would laugh out loud all the way home.

As I grew older, you never left me. People would call me "Giggle Box", but they could never fully understand our jokes. Even now, after 39 years, my kids will catch me laughing and ask me to explain what it's all about.

Well, I have some bad news for you.

I've been notified by Google that I need to give up my space in the blogosphere.

"We don't exactly consider 11 readers on a good day to be what we would classify as record-breaking page visits," the site administrator said in a recent e-mail.

It looks like they are looking for an everydayMOM who is a little less everyday-ish. Maybe someone with a better story to tell, a good sense of humor or maybe just a cooler bio photo.

I've given it my best shot, you have to admit. I've tried to make my readers laugh. I've told them about my struggles. I've tried to encourage them. Heck, I've even revealed secret recipes, had a contest and posted photos of my kids. What more could I really do?

But still, many days, it's just you and me.

Blogger did acknowledge that while my husband was overseas my page views went up significantly.

"It has come to our attention that your husband doesn't know how to subscribe to an RSS feed," they said in the e-mail. "While his repeated clicking on your blog did increase your stats, it still wasn't enough for us to be able to extend your time here on blogger."

Well, that's OK, really. We can go back to the way it was before. Just the two of us. We can continue sharing our stories without posting them for the rest of the world to enjoy. And when someone asks me why I'm laughing, I'll just say what I always have:

"I just crack myself up!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

great tips to get the job done!

Many of my readers, like me, are involved in the tricky business of working from home. It is such a juggling act to take care of your home, your spouse, your children, YOURSELF, and also grow a thriving business.

Did you notice I said GROW a THRIVING business — not just hanging on for survival and rolling with whatever comes your way? Oooooo, that's a challenge!

Well, a Discovery Toys buddy of mine sent out these great tips a few weeks ago, and I've been wanting to share them here. They are useful whether or not you have a home business -- good advice regardless of your goals in life:

Turn OFF the TV!

Put away clutter

Get your “why” in place. Why are you working? What is your motivation? If it is income, how much extra income would you like, even if it is just enough to pay for Christmas gifts. Get concrete with this; take a picture of your kids on the couch you want to buy, go shopping for the car you want and figure out what the monthly payments will be.

Share your goal with your family; post a picture of the couch/car/Disney World or whatever on your fridge.

Break down your goal into bite-sized doable chunks and post a chart to track your progress.

Take 10-15 minutes a day to read a motivational book or listen to a tape.

Take time each day to exercise and pray!

Become a better listener.

Think about how you can help others. What’s in it for them?

Stay positive, never dump down or dump to your spouse. If you are having a challenge, talk with a buddy, but be “solution-oriented”.

Keep in perspective what you can and what you cannot change.

You can’t control weather, economy or attitudes or whether people decide to buy or not to buy from you.

You can control how much you choose to work, how well you take care of yourself physically and whether you choose to be positive and thankful in all things.

Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Have a daily list of things to do and calls to make.

Instead of filling your day with whatever happens to come along, do your best to take control by having a plan and working the plan (knowing that with kids there ALWAYS needs to be a “Plan B”!)

Oh... and this is MY tip: Think bigger. Believe you can. Make it happen!

What's your goal and how are you tracking? I would love to hear!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

hey, cupcake!


I feel like this might be one of those "mom secrets" that everyone already knew but me. But just in case you are still in the dark, like I was until this weekend, let me fill you in.

I was looking at a photo of some cupcakes on the Internet and I was noticing how perfect the frosting was on top. I realized that if I used my fancy frosting squirter from The Pampered Chef (I'm semi-positive that is NOT the real name) that I could pipe the frosting on the top with much more ease than trying to spread it on.

I gave it a try and sure enough! The frosting went on as nice as a soft serve ice-cream cone!

I made these cupcakes for my son's 8th birthday party. They were MUCH simpler than my usual attempt at decorating a full-sized cake. I just drew a little panda paw print on top of the white frosting, added a little ring of red or yellow frosting and topped it off with some figurines from the Kung Fu Panda movie.

OK... they aren't perfect, which seems so much more apparent now that I'm looking at the photo. But, fortunately, my critics of 7- and 8-year-olds didn't care. They thought they were cool. And the $12 cupcake stand makes everything look even more fancy.

Have you tried the frosting piping trick already? Seriously, I'm dying to know!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

the reality of life

Click here to visit my blog.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good-bye, Halloween. Hello, Christmas.

It's mid-November, but the village of Bolingbrook is kicking off the Christmas season this weekend with the premiere of its Symphony in Lights.

But what about Thanksgiving? Does anyone else think we should stop and enjoy November before we rush fall out the door?

Thanksgiving seems to have gotten the brush off the last few years as we start earlier and earlier to enjoy December festivities. I understand the need to hang the holiday lights before it gets too cold outside to climb on the roof. But seriously, a few of the houses around town were flipping on their icicle lights before the kids could even finish trick-or-treating...

Read more on my blog in the local newspaper.

** Oh... and if you have a minute, leave me a comment over there. My blog is brand-new and we're trying to get people used to the idea of leaving a comment.

Just click the "comments" link at the top of the page. Fill in your name as you would like it to appear. Fill in your e-mail address (which won't be posted), and then type your comment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top-secret recipe

Shhhh. Don’t tell ANYONE! I’m about to reveal my top-secret chocolate chip cookie recipe.

My oldest son’s love language is Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. So for his birthday this week, I made a large chocolate chip cookie for each child in his class, decorated with the number “8”.

He came home from school yesterday and said, “Mom, the kids were talking about you today.”

“Oh, no,” I responded. (Actually, I didn’t. I just said, “Really?”)

“They said, ‘Andrew, you have the best mom. She makes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies'.”

Being the lover of verbal affirmation that I am, I begged for more compliments and then went about the rest of the day soaring on a cloud. “The second graders LOVE my chocolate chip cookies!” I told myself a hundred more times that evening.

Actually, if there is one thing I can cook, it’s a chocolate chip cookie. Much better than my improvised recipe of chicken lasagna I made this week, which went almost directly into the garbage disposal after a long hour of work and waiting. Anyway.

I will brag on myself and say that I have been asked many times for my famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. So, I’m going to reveal it right now.

Step 1. Go buy a bag of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips.
Step 2. Flip it to the back.
Step 3. Read the recipe.

OK. So, there you have it. That’s my recipe. But seriously, I have found that there are some steps that are JUST as important as the recipe in creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and I want to share those with you.

1. Follow the recipe to the T. Don’t mess around when you are measuring the ingredients. In fact, I swear that you MUST use large eggs, not medium. That’s how serious I am about measuring.

2. The one substitution I do make occasionally is that I use butter-flavored Crisco sticks instead of margarine. If you want a perfect LOOKING chocolate chip cookie, this will make it nice and round and chewy. The only thing I don’t like about Crisco is that it makes the cookies dry out more quickly. So usually by the second day, they are dried out.

3. Before adding the margarine, microwave it on high for about 20 seconds. You want it nice and soft, but you don’t want it completely melted.

4. Don’t ever bake chocolate chip cookies in a muggy or damp room. This will ruin them every time. Likewise, don’t make them when you are crying or generally in a bad or sad mood. The cookies KNOW and they will flop if they don’t feel the love.

5. This is the MOST IMPORTANT PART! I find that my cookies turn out best if I make them a bit larger than your standard-sized cookie. I scoop them out with a medium scoop. Then I take a small handful of chocolate chips (four, to be exact) and place those right on the top of the cookie. When it spreads out, these will move apart, too, and the cookie will look like it's bursting with chocolate chips.

6. MOST IMPORTANT PART, CONT'D. Take the cookies out of the oven before they are brown at all on the top. They should be just a wee bit brown on the edges, but the top part should still look like it's not quite done. As the cookies cool, they will harden up a bit. If you bake them until they are brown on the top, they will be hard when they cool.

7. I find that my cookies turn out best if I bake them on a stoneware bar pan. I have tried everything: metal pans, pizza pans, even an 11x7 pan with the sides on it. Some make them too soft, too flat, too cakelike. The stoneware pan is best, but it must be preheated. DO NOT, whatever you do, use one of those insulated pans. They will make the cookies too cake-y. And if you want cake, bake a cake. (This is just my opinion, of course.)

8. Finally, if you are having problems with your cookies, the flour is usually the culprit. Too much will make them hard. Too little will make them spread out like a pancake. Either that, or it could be what my sister did in high school, and you have accidentally substituted powered sugar for flour. NOT a good substitution.

9. I almost forgot one thing. PLEASE use name-brand chocolate chips. I'm fine with generic flour or sugar or even margarine, but the chocolate chips just gotta be a name brand. I prefer Nestle, but I've found that Hershey's are just as good. And I stick with the semi-sweet.

As you can see, I could write a BOOK about chocolate chip cookies. This is a serious obsession of mine. But right now, I'm craving one so badly that I need to go turn on the oven.

Could you please, pretty please, leave me a comment about your most top-secret, never-to-be-revealed recipe? I promise, I will not tell a SOUL!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

can I go back in my hole now?

The unmistakable sound of metal crunching metal. I haven't heard it many times in my life, but it elicits the same response each time.

Oh, no. No. NO. Nnnnnnoooo. Man. Uh-oh. You're kidding, right? No.

Shortly after I got my driver's license, I was hurrying to go to my job at the local grocery store. It was pouring down rain and my mom's bright blue station wagon was parked behind my beautiful silver Camaro in the garage. I didn't want to move her car in the rain, so I decided to try to back around it.

Crunch. The front of my Camaro had hit the huge bumper of the station wagon. The worst part was that no matter what I did -- put the car in reverse or try to go forward -- it was as if I was stuck to the station wagon. I couldn't get free. I finally had to go inside and ask my mom to help me remove the Camaro from the side of her car.

And that's exactly what went through my head on Sunday when I heard that sound. THAT crunch. What if I'm stuck to the car next to me? The shiny silver Nissan that I just hit as I was trying to pull my big red minivan out of the parking lot at church. What if I have to go inside and ask someone to help me get the van OFF of the car.

Fortunately, it wasn't that bad. Still, it was bad.

It was my son's birthday and we were heading out for some fun with a friend of his from church. With four children between the ages of 8 and 4 in the car, we were bouncing with so much joy and excitement that I didn't even notice the little car to my right. Just ran right into it.

Then I had to walk back inside, heavy-hearted, with the four bouncy children and find the owner. Tell him the bad news.

Much better than what I did in high school. I was so embarrased that I told all of my friends someone had run into MY car while it was parked at Wal-Mart.

I would really love to dig a hole and crawl inside. Change churches. Heck, maybe move completely. I feel so awful for the owner, knowing what a pain it is to go get your car fixed. To just deal with the appointments when your life is busy enough the way it is. But I know it could have been worse.

At least there wasn't a PERSON standing there. I soooo wish someone had hit my car instead. It's amazing how quickly things happen. How one instant of distraction can result in so much damage.

I hope I don't hear that crunch again for a very long time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

while you were out

It's only a few more days until my husband returns from his month-long trip to China. Wow! A lot has changed since that warm day on Oct. 15 when he headed to the airport.

The jet lag can be tough enough on its own. Not to mention the culture shock of returning to America. So, just to help prepare him, here are a few things I would like him to know:

We elected a new president. It was history-making. I'm tempted to go on a political tirade right now, but just to keep the few readers I have, I'm going to keep moving.

The leaves on the trees all turned beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. Then they fell on the ground. Now, we need to rake, but it's 32 degrees outside. Besides, I don't want you to miss all of the fall fun, so I'll save it for you.

Daylight Savings Time ended. We now watch the sunset at 4:30.

Remember when gas cost $3.59 a gallon. That was way back when you left. Now, we can fill up the tank for $2.49 a gallon. Nice, huh?

The kids got dressed up in their favorite costumes. They roamed the neighborhood for two hours. We still have six pounds of candy to show for it. (I scheduled a root canal for the Saturday after you get home.)

Our 7-year-old son is gone. He has been replaced by an 8-year-old with a big gap in the front of his mouth. The adult teeth are pushing through.

Remember our 4-year-old? The one who was drawing circles back when you left? She has taught herself to write all of her letters and numbers, as well as her name and some other simple words.

The oil on the van needed to be changed, so I just left it in the driveway and drove your car for a couple of weeks. I promise I did not let the kids eat any yogurt in your car. Or pudding. Chips? Maybe a couple. But we did our best to clean out the crumbs.

Speaking of cars... I had a minor accident. No injuries, except to my dignity, self respect and general ability to show my face in public. I ran into someone's car in the parking lot at church. We were taking a little boy home for a playdate. He commented, "I've never seen THAT happen before!"

I sort of forgot about garbage day. A couple of times. I know how you love a big job. A challenge. I didn't want to steal all the fun.

The mirror in the bedroom fell off the wall. The fire alarm needs a new battery. The dishwasher is acting weird again.

A new restaurant opened down the street. You'll be really happy. Chinese food.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eight years old!












Happy Birthday, Buddy!
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