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.

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.

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?"


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!"

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