Monday, April 27, 2009

Wind Power

I took the boys for a walk this afternoon like we usually do, but today we decided to go a new area in the neighborhood. We don't usually go where we did today because there aren't any sidewalks, but we decided to walk on the lawns of our nice neighbors to see what we could find.

At one point, Big kept lagging behind. I soon realized it was because he was blowing at this giant pinwheel in an effort to get it to spin. No matter that it was all the way across the street. Big was determined.

I set the boys in a tree to try and take a few pictures, and Big continued to blow his heart out:

Yep. Still blowing.

Then the funniest thing happened. Just as Big blew, a gust of wind came up and made the pinwheel spin! This is the look on his face when he saw what he thought he'd managed to do:

Oh, how it made me laugh. A little farther on in our walk we came upon another, much smaller, pinwheel. Big decided to unleash his amazing wind power on it, too.

The wind had died down by then, so the kid huffed and puffed to no avail. He seemed a little puzzled as to why he couldn't get it to go, but I'm sure he'll try again another day. And I'll pray for wind when he does.

Enough Already!

Bud and Big have been all over each other lately. They are constantly (especially in the morning, for some reason) squabbling! Bud is an expert "button pusher" these days. I don't know if it's his age or the fact that he's a neglected middle child... or maybe it's just because he's a boy... Probably a combination of all three, I'm sure.

Anyway, Bud spends a lot of time annoying Big, and Big spends a lot of time yelling at Bud, pulling Bud's hair, biting, hitting, etc. That gets Bud screaming. Oh, that scream! (Anyone who has heard Bud's scream can attest to the fact that it is indeed ear splitting and that, yes, Bud is most likely going to be a first tenor) Then Bud starts pinching and hitting in return... it goes downhill fast.

It's reached the point that often, even when Bud gives Big a kiss or goes in for a hug, Big reacts by pulling Bud's hair. Being bugged is just what he's come to expect, so he reacts without thinking! It's sad. (I don't want you to think that all of the fighting stems from Bud's behavior, but it's a large part. Big does his share too.)

All of this fighting is driving me absolutely batty! I, of course, have been giving them all of the talks about using logic, telling Bud that if he'd just leave Big alone then Big won't kick the tar out of him. You know the using-logic-talks I'm referring to-- yep, those using-logic-talks that kids never listen to.

I am reaching the point that my own mother did. I now understand why she used to say to us, "deal with it amongst yourselves" or "you guys figure it out". She had given us the using-logic-talks so many times that she was tired of doing it. She knew she had taught us what we should do and how we should act, so now it was time for us to learn to apply it ourselves. But mostly it was because she didn't feel like hearing herself say the same thing again.

To no effect. Again.

It drove me nuts that my mom would say those things to us. I wanted her to step in and save the day! To make things right when I felt I had been wronged. I wanted justice! I know the boys are too young for me to send them on their way to figure it out, but I have started doing that with the girls a bit. I'm sure I'll be doing it a lot more in the future, especially with what Bud complained to me this morning:

"Mom! Big pinched me on the tooth!"

The tooth?! Seriously?!?

Enough already!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Action Shots

Last entry, I wrote about The 365 Day Ashlland Challenge. Part of the idea behind the challenge is to help me learn photography. Because of this, the other day I attempted to snap an action shot. I have never been good at action shots. They never turn out the way that I envision them, so I figured now would be the time to figure out how to remedy that.

Bud was jumping down the neighbor's front steps so I took my chance. This picture isn't great, but I took worse, believe me. I rather like the way his arms extend back, and if you squint you can see that he has a great look on his face.

I laugh at the way I framed this next shot of Big. When he told me he was going to jump I seem to have forgotten the fact that he's not quite two and is, well, BIG. I framed the shot as though he was going to jump a lot higher and farther than he did. Oh, well. I do absolutely love the look on his face though.

Obviously, my action shots still need a lot of work. But that's what this challenge is all about.

Here are a few bonus shots of Big. For a kid that loves to bite and pull his brother Bud's hair he sure knows how to show off his angelic side:

I'm about to give you another bonus, can you believe it? A funny story!

I have been doing this one workout every morning lately. It is a Jillian Michaels workout I can get On Demand through my cable company, and it kicks my butt. Apparently the boys like to watch me get my butt kicked, because every morning they settle in on the couch to watch the entertainment. They sometimes join in on a few of the exercises, but most often just sit there watching and listening to Jillian tell me to keep my abs tight while I perform the various moves.

Yesterday, when I was outside using sidewalk chalk with the boys, Bud informed me that he was going to teach me how to draw the number 8. I said, "Okay". I mean, my eights could use some improvement (can't everyone's?).

Bud then says, "Now, keeping your abs tight...." and proceeded to show me how to draw an 8 while he continued his explanation.

If any of you would like Bud to tutor you on how to draw an 8, I can set you up. Not only will your 8s look better, but your abs will be tighter.... what a deal! (All for only $19.95!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Challenge

I recently accepted a challenge. There is this other place online that I frequent regularly-- sometimes I refer to it as The-Evil-And-Addicting-Place, but most of you know it as Facebook. Anyway, this challenge I agreed to take part in is located there. It is called The 365 Day Ashlland Challenge. The only requirement this challenge asks you to fulfill is to take at least one picture a day for 365 days. The idea behind it is to not only learn photography, but it is also to boost creativity and to help us notice the beauty and uniqueness in the world around us-- things we just pass by without paying attention to while we live our lives.

Not loving where I live at the moment, and feeling that my life is rather dull and uninteresting, I was a bit reluctant to take the challenge. I recognized, however, that my life is in a bit of a rut and decided to take the plunge. As a result I am looking at my life with a completely different perspective.

I have never considered myself to be very creative (others will insist that I am just highly strung and need to let loose), so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see just what I'm really made of. But my life is dull and boring. Would I be able to do it?

I took the challenge seriously. The idea is to find beauty in the world around you, and my world is mostly my house and my little street. I kind of made the decision not to go searching outside my normal routine for shots, because then I would be changing my life for pictures, not finding beauty in the life I already live.

In the past, I doubt I ever would have noticed what a great photo opportunity existed in a new mini muffin tin sitting out on the counter to dry after receiving its first bath:

Or what about the way Big's new ball sitting on the back of the couch so coolly reflects not only its own self in the window, but also reflects the world existing outside?

Would I ever have thought to take the push broom leaning against the garage, lay it down on the driveway in the bright sun to take a shot? Probably not.

In the past, I have always focused on taking pictures solely of my children. It is something that I do fairly well and offers me the most return for my buck, as it were. I mean what am I going to do with a bunch of still life photos? The pictures I took of the kids were always pretty standard-- up close shots of their faces that I know can be enjoyed by all. This challenge has changed that. I still take pictures of my kids (they're way too cute not to), but I have been looking for different and more creative ways of capturing the life contained within them.

And if I take a few pictures that aren't of the kids while we're at the park or on a walk... well, that's okay too. I'm allowed. I'm learning that.

A few of my friends also took the challenge (it's through them I learned of it, actually). Some of them have decided to have an "assigned" subject of sorts. One day they'll all photograph books, for example, but each with their own style and take on the matter. They invited me to join in with them, but I decided to stay solo. I was too afraid of narrowing my perspective on my life again.

The way the challenge is going for me now, I am constantly scanning everything I pass by, looking for a photo opportunity (and I mean everything-- do you want to see the pictures of the wheels of my trash can?). I am afraid of missing something great because I was only thinking of the assigned subject for the day. I want to look at everything with new eyes, not just some things on some days. I think it's working grandly for them, but for me I knew it wasn't the right choice.

The other day I took the kids to go pick Rophone up from work. It was raining-- not an easy photo day. I sat in the car with my camera, window rolled down, looking for available shots. If I had accepted the books "assignment", I would have missed this shot.

I know you're thinking, "You could have still taken it." But I know myself. I would have been preoccupied with the kids, thinking of how to creatively photograph books, waiting impatiently for Rophone to emerge from his workplace. It may not be the best shot, but it's one I made an effort to take in a situation when those people normally would have passed me by with probably not much thought on my part. I'm pretty happy about that.

I am noticing the world around me. I am finding beauty in the things that surround me. I am becoming more creative (I think). I recently accepted a challenge.

And it is changing my life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Little p

There was cause for some rejoicing in the Laundry Queen household tonight. Big performed his first "little p" in the potty (Not to be confused with the "BIG P", of course. When that happens there will be a lot of rejoicing!). He was left unattended for a moment, so it didn't all technically make it in the potty-- I think his fingers may have goal tended his own shot-- but we'll give him the score.

Here's a picture I took of the Big boy this afternoon:

I took this one the other day while he was playing in the rain:

I can't believe how old and independent he is getting! While I am overjoyed about embarking on this path toward No-Diaper-Land, it comes with a trace of sadness because my baby is being left behind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bedevil Your Eggs

I just had a couple of deviled eggs with my lunch. They were absolutely perfect in their simplicity-- a well balanced blend of flavors. I have had a few requests for the recipe, so here it is (the recipe is good, even if the pictures aren't. I promise!):

Deviled Eggs
(courtesy of Cook's Country)

6 large eggs
(you know the drill-- split them in half lengthwise and remove yolks)

To the yolks, add:

2 T. mayonnaise
1 T. sour cream
1/2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp. mustard (yellow or stone ground-- my family prefers yellow)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Mix and mash the yolk mixture until smooth. I usually put the yolk mixture into a ziploc baggie, snip the corner and pipe the mixture back onto the whites, but you can just spoon it, if you like. Enjoy! (and try to restrain yourself. It's hard to stop!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bar Me From the Kitchen, Please!

This year's Easter dinner was to be a small one as far as people goes-- just my little family and my folks. Rophone and I decided to serve pork roast since we knew the kids would enjoy it. I sent Rophone to get a pork shoulder roast at the grocery store (he would usually go to our favorite meat shop, but they had to close recently due to the economy-- stupid economy!) and when he arrived home with it he mentioned that they only had bone-in roasts. "That's great!" I told him-- more flavor and moister meat that way.

After everyone else had gone off to church the next morning, I opened up the roast to start the browning process and couldn't believe what I saw. Not only was it a bone-in roast, but it was covered in nasty, pork-rindy-looking skin! It even had a few stray little piggy hairs poking up from the pasty white, marbled surface. Ugh! Not what we normally buy, that's for sure! (To give Rophone his due-- if he could have gone to the meat shop he would have brought home exactly what I was expecting. Stupid economy!)

I set out to do my best with the unexpected hunk of meat, but I struggled with touching it. When the skin's on, it was just so much more apparent that this was a hacked-up-piece-o-piggy. But, I did my best. As I browned the meat, I made the decision to deglaze the pan and transfer the roast to the crock pot for the day, so I could free up the oven for brownie making in the afternoon.

Trying to get that unwieldy piece of piggy shoulder out of the browning pan was a bit difficult. All of that piggy skin made it harder to transfer than usual and I ended up burning myself. Not just once, but three times! On 3 separate fingers! Oh well, I've had worse. And the pig is now in the crock pot, out of sight. Let's just pretend it's not covered in marbly and just slightly hairy skin, why don't we?

I headed off to church and had a fabulous morning and afternoon with the family (despite the fact that my burned fingers were, well, burning a little). My folks arrived as the dinner hour was approaching and my mom immediately began putting together an impressive fruit salad while I attended to the rest of the meal.

When it came time, I began whipping the potatoes happily with my new Christmas hand mixer. It was going along swimmingly.... until I accidentally hit the "turbo" button (yes, my hand mixer goes turbo). The sudden surge of power took me by surprise and I managed to fling hot, whipped potatoes everywhere!!! The walls, the stove, the floor, and oh yeah, on my feet, which were clad only in flip flops!! OUCH! Now we can add two burned toes to the three burned fingers. Yippee. (There was sarcasm there, in case you missed it, by the way)

At least after dinner and doing the dishes I was able to relax with the knowledge that my time in the kitchen was at an end. I was safe now.

After dinner had settled a bit, I went to serve the brownies only to find that the recommended cooking time wasn't nearly enough for my oven. So, I popped them back in for a few minutes more. A while later I pulled the brownies out to see how they were doing and pressed the center a little with my finger. Ouch, ouch, ouch! I got hot brownie goo on my finger!! Thinking quickly, I licked it off.... oh, oh, oh.... MY TONGUE!!!!

If you've been keeping track.... well, surely you'll agree with me when I suggest that maybe this is a day I should have just stayed out of the kitchen. At least it's over, right? Until next time, that is (did anyone else hear that evil laugh in the background?).

Easter Day

We had a great Easter! We got up and had a nummy pancake breakfast (we broke with tradition this year because of lack of desire on my part to get up too early) and then fairly quickly looked in our baskets to see what the Easter Bunny brought. When you have church at 9 am, there's just no time to dilly dally. The 3 older kids got new outfits, and Big got a fun new toy.

Hurriedly, we got ready for church and actually made it on time-- although I stayed behind to get the roast started, but that's another story (see next entry). After church, we hunted Easter eggs. We asked the Easter Bunny to cut back on the sweets this year, so the kids got Hot Wheels and Littlest Pet Shop creatures in the big eggs, with just a little candy in some of the small eggs they hunted (are Littlest Pet Shop not the weirdest things ever? Hmmm... maybe not better than candy.)

I tried to get the kids to pose for our annual "posed" Easter pictures. No go. They absolutely refused, so I made do. At least I got some work out of Big. Here he is sweeping the porch:

I absolutely love the way Bud carried his Easter basket over his shoulder like it was a purse. And just look at his face as he displays his brand new "little cars":

Ginger went crazy for her 2 new Littlest Pet Shop creatures, especially the bird who she named Lemon:

Pen received a new Sunday outfit from the Easter Bunny. She has been eyeing this peasant skirt in a catalog for ages, so was thrilled to find it in her basket.

All in all, it was a pleasant, low-key Easter. Just my speed. Well, except for the cooking part. But, like I said, that's another story.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Pedicure

After dyeing Easter eggs, Auntie Art and I went to get pedicures. I was so excited! I haven't had a pedicure in ages, so my feet were in dire need (not to mention my soul). We spent an hour and a half talking and hanging out while our feet were pampered. Doesn't get much better than that. I chose a really cute blue color that I think looks really Easter-y-- perfect for strappy sandals on Sunday!

Perfect, right? Not so fast.

I slipped on my flip flops, rolled down my pants and prepared to leave, but as I stepped down from the bench the hem of my pants dipped into the polish on the big toe of my right foot. Nice! We were able to quickly repair it (for the most part) and Art and I went and paid.

Not perfect anymore, but close enough. What's one little flaw on one toe? It's hardly noticeable! Still good enough for those strappy sandals on Easter.

Well....on the way home, I managed to make a dent in the polish on my left big toe. Nuts! Still not too bad. I'll learn to ignore it.

We went to Target as a family when we got back and I managed to once again ding my left big toe. Oh, man! At least the polish was still covering all of my nail, even if not perfectly smooth anymore. I'm probably the only one who will notice anyway. The pebbled polish look is in, right?

I helped Big out of the car when we got back home, and as he walked by me he stepped squarely on the middle of my right big toe. NOOOO! As his foot twisted as he walked (ON MY TOE!), I knew the polish wouldn't be salvageable. I was right. No more convincing people about that pebbled look. There was no more polish in the middle of my toenail! None!

(This was an hour and a half after I had them painted. How long does polish take to dry anyway?!? Seriously!)

Now I don't know what to do. I have 8 perfectly polished little toes and 2 toes that look like they were on the losing end in a fight with a golf ball wearing a pair of corduroy pants! Do I remove the polish from the big toes and just paint them a different color for the eclectic look? Or do I redo them all?

Maybe I'm not meant for pedicures. I just don't take enough care to protect my tootsies. Or, (and I like this thought better) maybe I'm supposed to get pedicures more often so I'll become accustomed to protecting the polish until it's all the way dry. Yes, that must be it. I was taught to never give up, so I guess I'll just have to try, try again.

The Eggs Dyed

My two younger sisters, Auntie Opera and Auntie Art, came over this morning to dye Easter eggs with me and the kids. It's something we all enjoy, so I made sure to hard boil a bunch of eggs (we dyed 50, actually-- if you're feeling a little woozy or light-headed, just come open my fridge and take a whiff. It'll snap you right out of it!).

We had a lot of fun, and Auntie Art snagged my camera to snap a few photos of the event. Here's Big having a little bite to eat while he had an egg soaking in the yellow (he did a lot of yellow eggs and let them soak for a loooong time. I think he wasn't exactly sure why we thought it was so much fun, but he went along with it):

Just ignore the fact that I'm in this picture. It was the only one in which Ginger was in focus.

Here is a small sampling of the eggs we dyed:

We had such a good time and I think the eggs turned out absolutely fantastic! (Now I just need to figure out how to eat 50 eggs without getting sick of them. Or sick for that matter!) Thanks for coming Auntie Opera and Auntie Art!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pleasure's on the Menu

I had kind of a funny conversation with Bud today when I asked him what he wanted for lunch.

Me: "So, Bud, what do you think you want for lunch today?"

Bud: "I'll take pleasure, Mom"

Me: "Hmmm. I'm not quite sure I know how to make that."

Bud: "Well, it's a sandwich." (thank goodness, I was thinking it sounded rather stripper-esque-- like he was requesting Pleasure and not just pleasure!)

Me: "I don't know what the ingredients are, do you?"

Bud: "Yes, but I don't want to tell you."

Here, just when I thought I'd find the key to making everyone happy all the time by serving them pleasure on a plate, I'm denied! Guess I'll have to do my best with what I already know.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Giveaway

There is a giveaway for one of these really cool reclaimed silver rings at Marvelous Kiddo. I think they're perfect with all their imperfections!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Wish

Here are just a few of the things I wish today:

1. I wish I were more patient with my kids.

2. I wish that when the baby has a bite of food in his mouth, and realizes that he's thirsty, that he would finish chewing and swallowing and not just spit the food out in order to take a drink (see #1).

3. I wish I could write and make money doing it.

4. I wish that kids were pre-wired at birth to pick up any messes they make (oh, and to put away clean clothes and not just throw them in the laundry because it's easier).

5. I wish I felt inspired.

6. I wish pedicures were free.

7. I wish I could take a photography class and become better at it.

8. I wish I could loosen up a little (okay, a lot!).

9. I wish Girl Scout Thin Mints were a vegetable (then I'd feel better about how many I ate this year-- frozen, they have to be frozen!).

10. I wish I could have a home on the water and go for a leisurely paddle in a kayak or canoe every morning.

11. I wish I didn't have a canker sore on the tip of my tongue.

12. I wish I could start some things over again.

13. I wish mosquitos didn't bite.

14. I wish that my kids would play together every day as nicely as they are doing right now.

15. I wish that everyone liked me.

16. I wish happiness upon all those I love (and even those I don't)!

17. I wish I were better at recognizing the needs of others.

18. I wish I could eat a bowl of fresh Oregon berries right now.

19. I wish my car could be like a mini-van on the inside, but look like something else on the outside.

20. I wish I knew how to speak "girl".

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's Julia's Recipe

Today, both Pen and Ginger told me what a good cook I am. It happens quite often, actually. They are always telling me I should open a restaurant or have a Food Network cooking show, absolutely certain that I will become famous should I do so.

It hasn't always been that way, though. Today I was reminded of a time when Pen was about 4 years old and Ginger was probably close to 2 or so. At that point in Pen's life, everything I made was gross. Things she had previously adored eating landed on her black list.

One day, when my Tae Bo workout tape ended but we had not yet shut off the TV, Pen and I got sucked into watching Julia Child on PBS. This became a common occurrence, and Pen became convinced that Julia was a culinary genius (quite true, actually).

A few weeks after Pen's Julia obsession began, she asked me as I served dinner, "Is this a Julia Child recipe?" Stupidly, I said, "No." Pen refused to eat the meal. I am very uncomfortable with lying, but am usually not stupid more than once, so the next meal when Pen asked me if it was a Julia Child recipe I said, "Why, yes, it is! Doesn't it look marvelous?" Pen ate every bite, exclaiming as she ate that Julia's food was the best.

For quite a while after that, every time Pen started refusing to eat something I would tell her that it was Julia's recipe and she'd eat it. Do I feel bad about lying? Sort of. Okay, not really. In this case, the ends justified the means. It didn't hurt anyone. The only person it might have hurt is Julia when she found out that I was passing off some of my rather unspectacular cooking as hers. All I have to say about that is, "Thanks, Julia! You saved my bacon!"