Saturday, June 25, 2011

The party is over! And apparently a giant tornado of toy packaging went through...


I apologize in advance for any misspellings, gramatical errors or sentences that just don't make sense. I am currently typing this while listening to Kidz Bop 19, a remote control car and Hot Wheels. Guess nobody ever said that having children was a quiet affair, right?

Today we descended upon the local park with a folding table, many chairs (two of which broke when guests tried to sit down...Oops!), bikes, scooters, balls (both cake and rubber), food and lots of children. We were celebrating Alex's 5th birthday and Shad's 6th birthday. It was super fun and completely exhausting.

Thanks to 19 kids, 46 cake pops and who knows how many battery-required toys strewn all over my house, I am just too pooped to write much. So please, just enjoy a few pictures:

This is how Alex prefers to ride his bike (Yes, really):

We put ice cream in these little heart shaped chocolate cups that Tricia found at New Seasons. She went searching after I attempted to make chocolate cups at home. (Note: if you attempt this, make sure the melted chocolate has cooled down. A LOT. Trust me.) Honestly, the ones she found were way cuter than I could have made, so perhaps it all worked out.*

*Grandma Marcia, who cleaned the chocolate off the walls, may disagree.


This pinata turned out to be styled after a tank. The good news is that every party-goer got to whack at it. The bad news is that it took Dusty beating it to actually get the thing open.

And finally, here is little Alex trying SO hard to break open the candy box that he came VERY close to falling over backwards...many times!


I really appreciate everyone who came out today. My little babies are growing up, and growing up well. It means so much to me to see how many people love and support them!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food, Party, Food & a FIVE year old! Oh- and food!

Probably if I spend too much time awake without purpose tonight, I'll cry. Why will I cry? Because Alex will wake up tomorrow a 5 year old. FIVE?!?! What? I am not ready. I am not ready for Alex to be a Kindergartener. I am not ready for training wheel free bikes or "r" sounds that sound like "r". (I AM ready for accident free nights, but that is a whole other post...) And yet, here we are- 5 years old. Alex has gone from this:

My fav. Alex pic (3mo.)

To this:


This transformation has me thinking all kinds of sappy things- including, but not limited to, Trace Atkin's "You're Gonna Miss This" and the words of a poem on the wall in my Mom's kitchen (Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'till tomorrow, for babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.). In short, I'm an emotional wreck. I'm happy that Alex has made it here, and I'm excited for all the new and exciting things to come in his world. But I'm not quite ready to start viewing him as anything but the Barney obsessed toddler in my memory.

Speaking of all this emotional overload, let's talk food. That IS how it works, right? Emotions=food? If you disagree, you've probably never needed to attend a Weight Watchers meeting. Which, by the way, I should probably attend next week- thanks to the food I'm going to blog about.

First up: Cake Pops!!!
I know everyone in the world (mine, at least) is sick of hearing about cake pops. I fully accept it- I get obsessed. I have been thinking about cake pops to the point of insanity for two weeks now. And it paid off:


I may never have the nerve to even LOOK at a cake pop EVER again- but there they are. Al B.'s beloved, requested cake pops with sprinkles. Party ready. A few things, for those of you crazy enough to consider making these little headaches-on-sticks:

-When dipping cake pops into chocolate, use a small crock pot. Someone told me this might work better, and I swear I owe that woman a lifetime's supply of cake pops (alas, I'm swearing them off, so that isn't possible).

-Use melting chocolate. Even if it is a pain in the butt to find some that fits your needs (in my case, gluten and peanut free)- find it. It is SOOOO much better than chocolate chips with oil.

-Pony up and buy a stryofoam block. There is really no way around this. The End.

Ok. That is the end of the cake pops. I think. For now.

Now I move on to tonight's dinner:


(Gluten free) Penne with Smoked Salmon Vodka Sauce

If you like low fat meals, you should stop here. This is NOT Weight Watchers friendly. And yet, it is SOOOOO good!

1 small white onion, sliced
1/2 lb. smoked salmon (I made my own, but Trader Joe's sells it too!)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp. dried basil (but fresh would taste better probably!)
1 1/2 shots citrus vodka (I used Smirnoff Citrus Twist)

1 package penne noodles- cook as directed

Sautee the onion in a small amount of olive oil on medium high heat. When onions are transparent, add lemon zest, salmon, cream and basil. Stir constantly and keep at medium high heat until sauce begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium/medium low, add vodka, and simmer (stirring frequently) for 5-10 minutes. Add to pasta, and toss in some steamed veggies if desired.

This was one of those I-know-this-will-increase-my-waistline-but-I-don't-care-it-tastes-so-good type dishes. I got the original recipe from a class at Hipcooks (which you really should try, by the way!). The hipcooks recipe was an amazing blend of fresh herbs, hand made pasta and incredible enthusiasm. When I made this dish, I was tired from my battle with cake pops, had no fresh herbs but an abundance of smoked salmon and abslutely zero enthusiasm for making my own pasta. So I made do. Either way was great, though I'll give it to Hipcooks- mine was yummy. Theirs was to die for.

And since I'm all about food tonight, I have to show off a meal that Dusty and I really made together. But his part was better.


Broiled Rockfish and Moroccan Lentils with grilled sweet peppers and asparagus.

If you haven't had a chance to check out Crockpot 365 , you need to. Besides just being a genius with the crock pot- which is a great thing to be, since life gets so busy- the author of this blog is also a gluten free cook. To me, this combination is perfect.

When Dusty called me at work and offered to make dinner if only I'd give him a hint on where to begin, I sent him a link to Crockpot 365's Moroccan Lentils. As it turned out, we only had about half the requested ingredients. We DID have fresh basil and sweet peppers, though, and those went in the pot. So technically, we don't know what the original recipe tastes like. We DO know that what Dusty did was pure lentil genius.

On top of the lentils came rock fish, which was supposed to have been baked in white wine with garlic and peppers. Since I didn't have the patience to wait for baked fish, it quickly became broiled rock fish. This was my fist time cooking such a fish and I was impressed! It will now be added to my list of things to make.

The peppers and asparagus were cooked together at high heat with a very small amount of olive oil. Why were they cooked together? Because I was lazy and didn't want to dirty another pan. There really is no better reason. Whatever the reason, though- it was great. Dusty says it was the best aspargaus he's ever had. To be fair, Dusty could have been saying that because he wanted to make me feel better. In this meal, Dusty was the star. Those lentils were awesome. And the leftovers made a fabulous bean dip for chips, which means one less thing for me to make tomorrow for Alex's 5th birthday party.

Goodnight, world. Goodnight, 4. Five...I'll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I see your true colors shining through...

And there you have it, folks. Alex is a Kindergartener! Where has the time gone?

Last night was Alex's graduation ceremony/Mommy's cryfest. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever. The kids sang and danced and posed for pictures, before a slideshow was put on to make all of us overly-emotional moms (well- myself, at least) cry like babies.

I will miss Gymstars. It is such a true blessing when a person/school/organization can inspire confindence in parents that their child will be well loved and cared for while in the care of others. Gymstars has been that for us for two years, and now we are on the next big exciting phase with Alex. Thank you so much, Teacher Janelle, Correnna, and everyone else who has loved and cared for our Al B. during his preschool years!

I don't know if I'm ready for Alex to be a Kindergartener- but I assume that after a summer of the kids being home all day, I'll get there.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sky's first ever golf tournament!

Ok, first lets get two things out of the way right off the bat:

-These cake pops are good. Like, really good. Like, Ashley-you-better-get-them-quick-'cause-they-may-just-disappear good. This has renewed my determination. I WILL make Alex perfect birthday cake pops. Alex will be thrilled. The scale at Weight Watchers will not.

-I saw a peacock tonight up the road from my house. A peacock. Uh...I don't even have anything to add to this. Who the heck sees a peacock in their neighbor's driveway (in Oregon)?

And now, the moment you all have been waiting for. Or, the one I'VE been waiting for at least. Skyler's first golf tournament. EVER!

I need to fess up to something: this made me a big old mess. From the moment I woke up this morning until the moment Sky stepped up to the first tee, I was unreasonably emotional. Twenty minutes before the start of the tournament, Skyler was on the putting green in his zone. I was pacing back and fourth, fighting the urge to puke, burst into tears, or do the hysterical laugh I do when I'm nervous that makes people think I'm crazy. I was also sucking down Diet Coke to calm my nerves like I was a chain smoker and the soda was a Marlboro. Did I mention that Sky was calm, cool and collected?

Skyler's tournament was at Kah-Nee-Ta resort near Warm Springs, Oregon. Thanks to Grandma Val for loaning us her wheels, Skyler, Alex, Dusty, Tyson (Sky's dad), Pappi (my dad) and I were able to make the trek over the mountain in one vehicle. It was awesome that Skyler had so many people there for his big day!

He was great. He was really, really great. His score was that of an 8 year old who plays golf in his first tournament- not as low as the older kids he was paired with, but good enough that he obviously knows what he's doing. But his attitude, his etiquette and a shot out of the bunker made my heart pump up with Mommy pride. I don't often see Sky play golf- it is definately his special thing with his dad. But all day, I was amazed at what my little boy can do.

Actually, I was amazed by what ALL those kids could do. Since we were in the Pee-Wee division, the kids were 8-11 years old. Sky was the youngest in his group, and one of (if not the) youngest I saw at the tournament- but all the Pee-Wee division kids were just, well, kids. At one point while walking up to the putting green, the three boys had to be reminded that they can talk about Pokemon later. And yet, from a distance, they just looked like short golfers. It was amazing. These kids really know how to play, behave, interact on the course...I come away from today a much bigger fan of golf and a huge believer that children are incredible.

Skyler came away from today exhausted, excited for his next tournament, and happy. Oh- and starving. Can't blame him- he'd just walked nine holes with a golf bag on his back, while making all club choices and other game-related decisions alone (parents and spectators were not allowed to give advice, and caddys were prohibited). He was probably also exhausted from the Benedryl I'd had to give him, but that's just life for an allergy kid who loves outdoor sports.

We celebrated his accomplishments with a good lunch and then swimming. By this point we were so tired that I think 5 of us would have been happy to go home. I'd been using the "but we'll go swimming later" carrot with Alex all day. Alex walked (and was carried a little) the nine holes. He watched his brother. He was quiet. Way quieter than I'd expected a kid his age to be. Alex was patient. Alex wore a "golf shirt" and understood when we told him that he couldn't use the putting green just now. And Alex, never one to turn down a good-behavior carrot, was NOT getting back on the road without swimming.

The pool was fun! It was strange to be in a warm pool. I kept thinking "EEEWWW! A pee spot!" and moving away, only to remember that the whole pool was warm. I know it is the result of warm springs. I'm still not positive that the pool was pee-free. Thank God for chlorine. We only stayed an hour to swim (much to Alex's dismay), because this IS Sunday night, the kids DO have school tomorrow, Tyson, Dusty and I DO have to work tomorrow...and because we were all exhausted. Even Alex, who saw his exhaustion as even more reason to stay, and began to turn into the scary monster that I (thankfully) don't often see as he was unfairly ripped from the pool. For a good 15 minutes, I'd reclaimed my "meanest Mom ever" status. After that, he fell asleep. Since he pretty much slept until we were home and he knew there were cake pops waiting for him, everything turned out just fine.

Here are some pictures from our awesome day. Enjoy!

Sky and Tyson, on the way to the first tee.

And, he's off!

Pappi, Alex and Dusty:

I believe this was on the 4th hole- that's a long way for little legs!

And, here come the crazy emotions again. *sniffle* I am so proud of him!

And, it's over. Do the kids' scores match the parents'?

Uh, why didn't WE bring clubs again?

Dad, will you teach me how to drive this?

No, Sky, we can't golf again. Now smile for the camera:

Pappi and the boys. Dusty, Tyson and I are way less cool when Pappi is in town.

I know there is a story to this, but I was too tired to really catch it:

Alex may be mad about leaving, but he'll always smile for a picture.

I think this was about 30 seconds before Sky fell asleep and I entered a zombie like state.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Today was a day of "Well, now I know".

Today, I tried something new. Lots of new somethings, actually. I gave in to Alex's pleading and tried my hand at cake pops. I borrowed my mother in law's smoker and smoked the salmon my Dad bought me. I made a pot roast. I woke up at 6am. On a Saturday.

Most people would think this is too much "new" in one day. Most people, however, are more or less sane. I don't think I've ever made that claim.

We were up early because Dusty had to get to his test- which he passed with flying colors by the way! (I knew he would- my dream said so.) This left Alex and I in a strange state of mind. By 7:30am, we felt like we should do something. But it was too early to play outside and, frankly, too early to do much of anything. So I cleaned the fish tank while Alex yelled at the Wii about how "UNFAAAAIIIIIRRRRR" that last play was. At this point, the fish was the only member of our household grateful for the early rising.

Finally we got dressed and headed for the farmer's market and the library. We decided to do the library first, because Alex said so. You should have seen the look on Alex's face and mine when we realized that the library wasn't open yet. WE made it to the library BEFORE it opened? On a SATURDAY? Clearly, the stars were not aligned.

To kill some time- because Alex was determined to go to the library before the market, even though the market was in full swing just 1/2 block away- we went in search of cake pop sticks. We went to the fabric store and the craft store. If you've ever been in one of these stores, you probably know the general attitude that seems to be required of craft store employees: screw you. At least in my experience, "Hi! Can I help you?" is out of the question. Probably eye contact is as well. And if you have the nerve to walk up to an employee and politely inquire about the location of whatever you're looking for, you will likely get a look that says "If you have to ask, clearly you aren't crafty enough to know", accompanied by a finger pointing vaguely at the other end of the store. Needless to say, we didn't find the Wilton brand paper pop sticks that I wanted. I settled for some wooden dowels, assumed Dusty would cut them, and hoped for the best.

After a morning that passed by v e r y s l o w l y, we were back at home and ready to tackle projects. Isn't "projects" just the general term for "stuff that will make you wonder what you're thinking"? Here are some very important things I learned today:

-Too much frosting when making cake balls is bad. It makes them mushy. If they are mushy, they don't hold up on the stick, which means they will become "cake balls speared with a wooden dowel". Not cute "cake pops".

-For smoking salmon, you need a meat thermometer. I won't mention why I don't own a functioning meat thermometer anymore. *cough* (Dusty) *cough*

-Wood chips only last for about an hour. I learned this approximately 3 hours into the smoking process.

-Those cute, perfectly rounded cake pops on Bakerella's blog? Yeah...they aren't easy. I started out intending to make cute globe-shaped cakes on paper sticks. What did I end up with? Haystack shaped lumps on wooden dowels. That could sink to the bottom of the dowel at any moment, just to keep you on your toes.

-I also learned that the above lesson bugs the crap out of me, to the point where I may need to reevaluate my life's priorities. Somehow it seems that over the course of one day, "Perfect Cake Pops" has become Priority #1. I understand this isn't logical. I'm working on it.

-Pot roast needs way more spices than I put in it. And even then, it'll probably never taste as good as my Mom's. Probably I should shelf that dish and invite myself over to dinner at her place more often. (For the record, she'll tell you I'm a better cook than she is. She lies.)

-My Dad is way too nice to just come out and say "Your pot roast sucks, Brianna".

-Alex is way too nice to say "the cake pops aren't working, Mommy." He waited all day (because they were so screwed up that they took about 9 HOURS!) with an optimism that could literally insipre a nation to end hunger.

-When it comes down to optimism vs. exhaustion, sometimes you fall asleep. See pictures for proof.

So, the good news is I learned a lot today. I may have made haystack shaped, falling down and generally not Birthday Party Quality cake pops- but I think I know how to fix them next time. And I made a crappy pot roast, but...well, forget that one. I wasn't kidding about just going to Mom's next time. And the salmon may have taken hours and left me only *mostly* sure that it's edible, but now I know to buy a meat thermometer and change the wood chips.

After all, knowing is half the battle.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I'm trying to write more. So... goes.

At this point in the post, I can't be sure WHAT I'll write about. Lots of things are buzzing through my mind like chickadees on crack in the middle of a windstorm.

I'm thinking about work- and about the professionalism that is annoyingly instilled in me that keeps me from blogging much about it. I am thinking about the fact that Skyler seems to go from super sweet momma's boy to holy-cow-that-attitude-is-enormous in the drop of a hat. I am thinking about my Mom, who is currently out of town...and how much her being IN town helps me. I'm thinking about the mess that I *should* be cleaning, but I'm almost too tired to type at this point and am only exerting the energy to be out of bed because a not-yet-asleep almost 5 year old is snuggled up on Dusty's side. I'm also thinking about Dusty, who is working late tonight and then has a huge test to take in the morning. But I know it'll be ok, because I had a dream about how ok it would be, and I'm just crazy enough to take such dreams as absolute fact.

I just finished reading Poser: My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer, and I loved it. I don't do yoga, and yet the book has me wanting to do the splits while pondering life and adoring my children. When I say I just finished reading it, there is an emphasis on the word JUST. So we'll see how long this feeling lasts.

Ok- on to my Mom. I hope that some day my children treasure me the way I treasure my Mom. I hope that they know that I'm not perfect, but still love me and miss me when I'm out of town. I hope I can always be what they need. Cause that's what my mom is- she is what I need, when I need it. She's a feminist when I'm angry, she is sympathic when I'm whiney, she is endlessly encouraging (in fact, if I removed the names on every comment on this blog, I can guarantee you that you'd know which ones were from my Mom) and she is a queen of laundry when I'm so overwhelmed with work that washing my family's clothes is just too much. Thanks, Mom.

Speaking of Moms, holy grasshoppers does Skyler have me confused sometimes. I don't understand this age. Why is he so happy? Why is he so upset? Why are Pokemon cards cool? And yet, just when I'm thinking that ripping all my hair out is the ONLY possible solution, he pops off with "Mommy, you're the best Mom ever. I really love you." I love him, too. I do. And I am proud of him. The same goes for Alex. At the same time- when adults experience these kind of mood changes, they wind up in straight jackets. Just sayin'.

Dusty just wrapped up the EMT basic courses and tests with the state of OR tomorrow for his license. I am so excited for him! I was nervous, until I had the dream. I wasn't kidding about being one of "those" crackpots that believes dreams are sometimes messages. That's what this was. I believe that Dusty will rock the test. And then I believe we'll all have an awesome time in Kah-Nee-Ta on Sunday to celebrate Dusty's new life and Skyler's first golf tournament. Me? I'm just along for the ride, the food, and the swimming- provided I can find a place out of the sun to swim at.

And, that's about it. Alex should be passed out by now- he hasn't yet figured out that "Friday night watch TV in Mommy's bed" is code for "Mommy is too tired to mess with bedtime, so fall asleep to Sprout, Darling". Georgia is acting like the dino dog in the Flintstones' opening sequence (even though she JUST went out a few minutes ago, try telling HER that- clearly she shouldn't have to be outside a second longer than she wants to. It isn't like she's an animal or anything.) The coffee pot is begging to be set for tomorrow...or is that reality, reminding me that in my world, a day without brewed coffee when my eyes open is going to suck by default? And Dillon has attained a level of relaxation that I am more than a little jealous of.

Goodnight, all you readers (Mom). :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The anatomy of a tantrum.

I am writing this post primarily so that when Alex is a parent I have proof that he did, in fact, freak out a little every now and then.

I'll start by saying that little Alex- with the exception of a few months surrounding his 3rd birthday- is NOT an argumentative child. He is happy. Things don't bug my Al B. The world can be crashing down around Alex- give him a banana, a good haircut, a Wii and some pretzels and he is on top of the world. But not today. No sir.

Today, Alex's shoes were left at Grandma's house. His favorite shoes. And this is just NOT acceptable to little BigHam.

It all started when I asked the boys to please, for the love of all that is sane, BE QUIETER while playing the Wii. After repeated requests, I sent the boys to time out. Skyler quickly headed to time out and sat silently. (Recently Skyler could be heard telling Alex "It's ok to get in trouble sometimes, dude. I get in trouble all the time!") Sky knows the drill.

For Alex, getting in trouble is a personal insult. Naturally, this led to sobbing and tears of frustration and general screams of "this isn't FAIR!!!". That happens to everyone, right? Huh. Perhaps it's just Alex and I. Darn cancers.

With all this carrying on, I realized quickly that productivity was no longer a possibility. At this realization, Skyler was instructed to put away the Wii while Alex, still in the throes of desperation, was given two choices: put his shoes on to go, or be carried out shoeless.

As any reasonable person would do, Alex opted to continue laying on the floor and carrying on like a maniac. Two minutes later, Grandma Val's neighborhood was treated to a jarring rendition of "MY MOMMY IS THE MEANEST MOM EVER!" while I carried a shoeless and screaming almost 5 year old to the car. In the car, Alex did a fabulous impression of a caged raccoon and I found myself thinking fondly of the days when Alex's carseat resembled a straightjacket.

A child unbuckling and scrambling to exit the vehicle is not conducive to safe driving conditions. As a result, we sat for about 15 minutes on the side of the road, showing the whole neighborhood just how dysfunctional a family could really be. Good times.

After a drive home that was longer than a cross country trip in a Geo Metro, my eyes were closing and Alex was completely certain that he is literally the most unfortuante person in the whole entire world. He proceeded to spend the next thirty minutes hiding in various spots around his room (which, by the way, is not very large) while stewing over the fact that no reasonable parent would EVER make a child leave Grandma's house shoeless. Finally, at 5pm, Alex fell asleep. Thank heaven for not-so-small miracles.

Alex woke up an hour later and left a defeated message for Grandma pleading for the return of his shoes. Slowly, he began to consider that while I may be the meanest parent ever, I was also the holder of the mac n' cheese that he wanted to eat for dinner. As happens with children, his stomach eventually won out. By 8pm, I had my little Al B. back. And a glass of wine in my hand.

They are so cute when they sleep. And for the record, I WILL save this blog post for 30 years down the road when Alex calls me to tell me how frustrating my grandchildren are.