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Friday, December 17, 2010

1 .

As Promised, Pictures from The Plunge


As you know, my husband, PJ, and a crew of guys he works with at Texas Roadhouse raised money for Montana Special Olympics and then participated in the Freezin' for a Reason Polar Bare Plunge.  I want to give a very heartfelt thank you to all of our friends and family who made donations.  With your help, they raised over $900!  The fun part for you is that I promised photos if you made donations.  I'm not one to break promises, so enjoy!






  







Thursday, December 16, 2010

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My Chaotic Little Winner

It's done!  With the help of random.org, I've chosen a winner of the Chatic Craftiness gift certificate.  Even if you aren't the winner, I think you should hop over to Chaotic Craftiness and see what Lisa (@TaderDoodles on Twitter) has up her sleeve!  And remember, If you don't see something listed, and wonder if she can make it for you, just ask.

Are you ready?  Are you sure?? Are you positive???  (Only fools are positive, or so my brother used to tell me.)  The winner of the $10 gift certificate is... Anna!!!  Get ahold of Lisa on Twitter and she will hook you up with what your heart desires.

Thanks for playing!  Keep checking back for future giveaways, and let me know if you'd like me to host one for YOU.

*random.org was used to choose the winner of this contest.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

3

The Secrets of My Success

As a lot of you know, today was my 2 month weight loss check in.  The results are in, and I've lost several inches the last 2 months and I'm down 14.2 pounds!!  It isn't enough to win The Biggest Loser, but it's enough that I can fit into three pairs of pants that I couldn't two months ago.  It's enough that a few more of my shirts fit comfortably.  It's enough to keep me going, keep me smiling, and keep me jogging, of all things!

When I shared my success on Twitter this morning, several people asked me how I did it.  Since my goals, plans, and actions were hard to fit into 140 characters, I thought I would post it here for all to see.

First of all, I have made a few changes in my diet.  I'm not ON a diet.  And I didn't cut much out of my diet.  I switched to Splenda in my coffee, and I eat yogurt with oats in it for breakfast instead of a big bowl of cereal.  I try to buy fruits and vegetables to snack on instead of candy and other "bad" foods.  I have made this biggest changes in my portion sizes.  I still eat pizza, but have only one or two small slices instead of four.  I gave up sodas, but every once in a while, I get a craving.  Instead of drinking a Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper like I used to, I grab a Diet Root Beer.  I buy Lite string cheese instead of regular.  Really, the little changes add up quickly.

Next, I've started exercising.  I'm not talking about four hours a day in a gym.  I'm sticking with 30 minutes, three days a week.  If I manage more than that, great!  My main activity is the Couch to 5K program.  Basically, it takes people who have no experience running through an interval program that builds up to an uninterrupted 30 minute run.  I'm starting week 6 tomorrow.  Friday I jogged (I'm not to the point of running yet.) a full 20 minutes, and I covered about 1.75 miles in that time.  I haven't run that long or far in over a decade!  When I do fit something else in, it's a Biggest Loser workout, yoga, or a Walk Away the Pounds video.

Last, I have a great support network.  My husband is a champ, and lets me go out jogging while he hangs out with the kids.  He's very supportive of my efforts, and proud of my accomplishments.  My mom helps out with the kids when PJ is working.  My friend, Rachel, also did the C25K with me while she was in town.  Plus, I have a great group of online friends who are all working toward the same goals as me.  It makes a huge difference when I have friends to hold me accountable, ask questions about what I've done and how I'm feeling, and can understand what I am going through.  I know from previous experience that I would have given up weeks ago if it wasn't for all of them.

In short, I'm doing all those things "they" say to do: Eat right, exercise, and have a support system.  I wish it was easier, but it's not.  I'm not sure I will manage to hit my end-of-the-year goal (I have 12.5lbs to go), but I'm extremely happy with the progress I've made so far.  It's not magic, but if you have any questions for me, please ask away.  I'm hoping I will have a bigger (smaller?) success story to share with you next month!

Friday, December 10, 2010

9

You Look Like You Could Use Some Chaos!

I think everyone should have a little chaos in their day.  I don't mean the kind that makes you hide in the bathroom, or that you find at Wal-Mart any Saturday in December.  I'm talking about the Chaotic Craftiness you get from "four kids, three cups of coffee, two sewing machines, one hubby, and zero sleep", better known as Lisa from Chaos Appreciation.

My beautiful card holder

Just as her headline says, she's a momma to four kids, and she's very crafty.  A few months ago, Lisa started selling her fun and useful products in an Artfire shop.  (You'll be really happy she did because you're going to get a chance to win something from her!)  When she asked if I'd like to write a review of one of her products, I jumped on the opportunity.  Imagine how excited I was when I received not one, but two business card holders from her.  There was a fun, feminine one for me, and a manly denim one for my husband. 
The current contents of my
business card holder
Now, my husband has his business card holder packed full of, well, business cards.  I don't have business cards, so I packed mine full of the cards I keep with me at all times.  Take a look at the picture.  It currently holds my debit card, driver's license, PetSmart card, Subway card, Flex Spending card, insurance card, and a Famous Footwear discount card.  Though you'd think this would pack it tight, I know it will hold more.  That's right.  I used to have even more stuffed into this little card holder.  Trust me when I say that they're well worth the $8 she sells them for in her shop.  Plus, she has lots of fabrics to choose from!

 
These bibs can be personalized!

Now the kids can take their crayons
along without the hassle.

If business cards aren't your thing, how about bibs?  Or tissue cases?  Pacifier clips?  Maybe an apron?  Lisa has a lot of great items in her store.  They are all handmade, and they'd make great Christmas gifts.  And the best part?  I'm giving a lucky winner a $10 gift certificate to Chaotic CraftinessAll you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what you'd buy if you won the gift certificate.  Besure to include your email address or twitter name so I know how to contact you!  Each person gets one entry, so make it good!  (To leave a comment, click on the number to the left of this posts' title.)  Sounds easy, right?  THAT'S BECAUSE IT IS! 

Now, go on.  Go check out her wares, leave me a comment, and early next week I will randomly choose a winner.

*Disclaimer: I do not receive monetary compensation for my blog. I do receive a sample product free of charge for evaluation. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.










Wednesday, December 1, 2010

0

Do it for Kevin

I know this time of year brings a lot of messages telling you to give money here and donate to there and help this or that...The only difference between all of those other messages and this one is that this request involves two men who are very important to me.  Most of you don't know them, and probably never will.  That's ok.  I will fill you in, and then you can decide if I'm giving you a worthy cause.



PJ and his winter beard :0)

The first man I'm doing this for is my husband, PJ.  He and the rest of the Texas Roadhouse management team have set a goal to raise $5000.00 for Special Olympics.  I will tell you right now, they aren't even close to reaching that goal.  In two days, these men will plunge half naked into a frozen Montana lake whether they raise the money or not.  It's because they are dedicated, and this is an important event. 






Kevin with his 2010 SO Medals

The second man is Kevin.  He's PJ's big brother, my brother-in-law, and he has Down Syndrome.  Kevin has participated in Special Olympics his entire life, and he has a closet full of medals to prove it!  The sense of accomplishment he gets from competing is huge.  Kevin is one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth people I have ever met.  It's no wonder PJ is so committed to this cause.

I can tell you want to know how to help.  I will tell you, but first, consider this: If we all do something small, we can make big things happen.  I'm not going to ask any of you to donate $5000, though if you can and you want to, I won't stop you!  I know the economy stinks, and money is scarce.  But do you have $1?  Or maybe $5?  It'll help.  If each of my blog subscribers gave $5, that would be an extra $105.  If each of my twitter followers gave $5, they would raise $4295!!!

I wouldn't ask if this wasn't important to me.  Will you help??  Every dollar is appreciated.  The fun part is, if you get involved, we will share pictures of the guys during the plunge!  They're not just dedicated, but also a little crazy!  If you've decided you can spare a buck, visit their website here.  If you can't, that's fine.  I thank you for taking the time to read this anyway.
GM John and PJ before the 2008 Polar Bare Plunge

Saturday, November 27, 2010

1 .

Beaneath the Streets, Havre, Montana (Part 1)



Poker table in the Sporting Eagle Saloon


While we were on vacation last week, my in-laws took our family on the most interesting homeschool field trip to date.  We got to go under the streets of Havre into shops that had been built in the early 1900's.  An arsonist set a fire in the business distric of Havre in 1904.  The fire destroyed a majority of downtown Havre.  Building materials were scarce and expensive, so the proprieters moved their businesses underground.  Think of it as an underground mall.  With nearly 20 stores in the tour, there was a lot to see!  Each room contained authentic pieces from the time period, and many that were original to the stores represented in the tour. 

One of the Bordello rooms


The Bordello was first used as underground living space for the Chinese railroad workers.  Racism was prevalent in this area and time period, so most of the Chinese workers "hid out" in their underground rooms to escape poor treatment from the white and Native population.  After the railroad tracks were completed in this area, the small rooms were converted into a "cozy" bordello.  The guide didn't go into more detail than this due to the large number of children (mostly mine) in our tour group.


Some of the equipment in the Casady Blacksmith Shop


The Casady Blacksmith shop had more tools and equipment than I ever would have guessed!  (Check out the huge bellows in the bottom left of the picture!)  There was also a tack shop (Bruce Clyde, Dray and Tack Shop) attached with an old Singer sewing machine, an Antique Stetson hat, and a saddle that was handmade by a local leathersmith. 



 
Boones Drug Store was my favorite stop on the tour.  When taking a prescription in to be filled, you could pass the time in their department store shooping for fine china and toiletries (like the toilet waters and egg shampoo in the picture at right).  You could also settle in at the soda fountain (pictured above) for an ice cream treat.  Each summer, there is an event held in the city beneath the streets and they actually serve ice cream and sodas in the little fountain area, baked goods in the bakery, and deli items from the meat market!


We had a great time, and this is just the beginning!  I will get another post ready with more pictures next week.  Come on back.  I'd hate for you to miss the Opium Den or the Holland & Bonine Mortuary!


Monday, November 22, 2010

1 .

Vacation Doesn't Always Equal Relaxation

My husband somehow managed to get the entire week before Thanksgiving off from work.  This is a first for us.  We started getting ready to leave last week.  You know, washed clothes, cleaned the house, and packed bags.  On Thursday, our two year old daughter threw up twice.  Not good.  Later that day, our six year old did it too.  That's when I started to get nervous.  After all, we were leaving on Saturday to go to my in-law's house for the week.  It's normally a four hour drive, but with the snowy conditions all the way, we knew it would take longer.  Then Friday came, and all was well, so I stopped worrying.


The Road, I think

Saturday morning, we packed the bags, the kids, and the dogs into the car and headed out.  The four hour trip took more like seven because the road was snow packed the whole way.  The good news is, the trip was vomit-free.  The bad news is that the days since haven't been.  In fact, three of the four kids have been sick since we got here.  They all made it through church yesterday, but dinner last night was a series of unfortunate (and messy) events.  And the ten year old boy was up sick last night, which means I was up last night for about three hours. 

Did I mention that I had a migraine all day Sunday?  Of course, I did.  I always have one the day after traveling.

In the middle of all the sickness, one of our pups escaped the back yard and went for a little neighborhood jaunt.  I knew there was a reason I felt compelled to write their names and my phone number on their collars before we left town.  Don't worry though.  She only made it about two blocks before my father-in-law and son spotted her, in the Police Chief's yard, no less.

I'm very happy to report that I slept in until 10 this morning.  The kids are all vomit and diarrhea free so far today.  The dogs are contained, and have learned to use the doggy door.  And the temp has climbed up to 0degrees.  Yes, I said UP to zero.  It's cold here, people.

Now we will just sit back and hope things continue to go smoothly.  Two days down, five to go...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

3

One Month Health Update

I know I just told all of you last week that I was starting an exercise program, but I've actually been working on my weightloss goals for a month now.  I'm not anywhere near reaching my goal yet (it's a BIG goal), but I am proud to say that I have lost 10 pounds!  I am at a weight that I haven't seen in about three and a half years, not since before my last pregnancy.  I'm excited!  You probably can't tell by looking at me, but I'm OK with that as long as I continue to make progress.

My next goal is to lose another 15 pounds by the end of the year.  That'll put me at a weight that I can't even remember for sure when I last saw it.  It's obviously been a while.

The biggest hurdle for me is going to be that my workout buddy is going to be in Canada for the next month.  Add that to the suddenly winter temperatures and a week at my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving, and see where I will be struggling.  I'm still going to stick with it.  I will find a way to get the workouts in each day.  I'm not going to fail this time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

1 .

One of THOSE days...

I know today isn't even close to being over, but seriously.  I has already been one of those days.  The kind that make me wish I was a drinker, or had to travel for business, or that it wasn't illegal to lock my kids in a dog kennel for rest time. 

It's almost as if our house couldn't exist without drama, so we have to keep it at a max in order to stay grounded on Earth.  With five kids in the house, there is never a shortage of drama.  Today, #1 had schoolwork meltdown, #2 was suddenly unable to read, #5 was fascinated with hitting the dogs with their own chew toys, and #4 was obsessed with every single thing #5 did.  #3 was pleasantly easy to coexist with.  It must be his day off.

Now add a basket of laundry, numerous conference calls, two wet dogs, and three sleep deprived adults.  Do you see what I'm getting at here?  My question is this:  WHERE. IS. THE. CHOCOLATE???

Monday, November 8, 2010

0

Week 2 Day 1, and no I'm not joking


The temperature got up to 46 degrees here today, with constant 30mph winds. I don't even want to think about the gusts. After not getting any exercise the last few days, I decided I'd better go do week 2 day 1 of C25K anyway. Heh.

This happened 2 weeks ago...

I set out dressed in running pants, a T-shirt, a hoodie, cozy socks, Nikes, my ear buds, and a BSU stocking cap. (Have I mentioned it was cold and windy?) My water bottle all but froze to my hand.

My first running interval was, of course, uphill and into the wind. As if that wasn't enough, about 30 seconds into it, I was attacked by a Pomeranian. I didn't hear it come up behind me because of my music. It was 3 inches from me and barking before I knew it was there. I jumped, felt like an idiot, laughed at myself, and prayed no one was watching.

The next interval made me think I should cut my loop short because cold weather, jogging, and asthma don't mix. Then I got headed downhill with the wind behind me and changed my mind.

During the running portion of the 3rd set, my underwear slid down and settled atop my thighs. I would have straightened them, but I was directly in front of our new church at the time, and there was a crowd of teenagers in the parking lot. From this point on I literally froze my a$$ off.

The last running section was also uphill into the wind while dodging high school students returning from lunch. Did I mention my underwear were trying to escape my body?

But, I did it. I was frozen. And tired. And felt naked. And was so proud of myself and thankful to God for getting me through. Look out, week 2. I'm ready for you!
0

Week 1 of Couch to 5K

I am happy to say that I lived through the first week of the C25K.  The first day was a little boring because I downloaded a program on my BlackBerry to keep track of my intervals, but it wouldn't work with my music.  I spent the quiet time praying for my friends, my family, other people like me who are afraid to fail, and therefore never try...  I watched the horses in the pasture and the kids at the high school.  And then I realized I had made it through.

Days two and three I used music from here that had already been set up with the intervals for week one.  I'm not a fan of techno music, but it was nice to have something to listen to.  It also helped that I had some great twitter friends who were willing to start on this adventure with me.  We all have our own issues, goals, and approach, but the support system is wonderful!

Look out Week 2!
0

Taking the first step

I know you've heard me talk before of hating my current shape, wanting to adopt a healthy lifestyle, starting an exercise routine...  Same old story.  This time is different.  I've been thinking a lot about all of the health issues my parents have dealt with, a majority of which stemmed from their obesity.  I'm not getting any younger, and I'm extremely out of shape.  I don't want to deal with diabetes and heart issues.  I want my kids to have a healthier outlook than the one I grew up with.  I don't want my kids to live by the idea of always having to clean their plates, whether they are still hungry or not.  And I want to change my thinking as well.

I'm not saying I want us to be wasteful.  I do want to be more aware of what and how much we eat.  We will offer healthier options.  My family loves fruits and veggies, so we should be eating more of them.  The kids have plenty of opportunity to exercise, but I need to make more time for me to get moving.  I will do my best to keep you all informed (and me accountable) of my progress.  I'm too young to be obese and not try to change my circumstances.

The first step: Couch to 5K... Lord help me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

0

And the Winner is...

I'm about to post my 16,000th tweet on Twitter, and you know what that means! I've got a winner. I know you're going to love Erin's work as much as I do. With no further ado... @SassafrasHill You just won a $40 gift certificate from Erin Lowden and Love Letters Jewelry!!! Thank you to all who entered. I can't wait to do it again! Be sure to check out www.loveletters.name for gifts to match any occasion. *The winner was chosen at random electronically from the list of entrants.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

4

Super Saturday Giveaway!!!


Yesterday I introduced you all to Erin and Love Letters Jewelry. Today she's giving you the chance to win a $40 gift certificate! That's right. If you win, you get $40 to spend any way you'd like at www.loveletters.name

I can see you're excited, so let me tell you how to win. Each person
gets one (1) entry.

That's it. Just one.

You can either leave me a comment on this blog post (just click the circle up by the post title) with your favorite thing from the Love Letters Jewelry website, your name and email address, or you can copy the following message and post on Twitter:

I want @cassie_d_ape and @lovelettersFW to make me a winner!

A winner will be chosen at random when I reach 16,000 tweets. (Less than 500 from now.) The more you talk to me on Twitter, the faster the contest will end! (But you still only get one entry.)

Why are you still sitting here?! Get yourself entered. And tell the guys to enter too because this would be an awesome gift!

*Disclaimer: I do not receive monetary compensation for my blog. I do receive a sample product free of charge for evaluation. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, September 10, 2010

0

Featured Friday: Love Letters Jewelry








This little box came in my mail today.

My own personal Love Letter
I come across people of all sorts on Twitter, and while I'm nearly a hermit in real life, I love socializing on the internet. Of course, I'm drawn to people with interests similar to mine. One of my favorite aspects of Twitter is meeting people who are creative and crafty, people who take pride in making things for others to enjoy. That is what led me to Erin Lowden, or @lovelettersFW.

Erin has a full-time job away from home, but when her husband, Chris, was laid off, she decided to turn her hobby into a home business. She opened Love Letters in April, and loves it so much that she would like to be able to be a full-time work at home mom. (Her son, Jonathan is adorable. I can see why she would want to be home with him!)

Love Letters Jewelry is high quality, personalized, hand stamped jewelry. She makes necklaces, bracelets, baby bracelets, bookmarks, key chains, pets tags, and even dog tags and golf ball markers for the menfolk!



For man's best friend . . .
For Mom or Grandma . . .
For the bride . . .
Erin's products are great gifts for birthdays, weddings, holidays, new parents, graduation, and the list goes on. She has charms for nearly anything you can think of. If your kid makes the bobsled team or your wife is an RN, Love Letters Jewelry has you covered! If you're like me and you can't make up your mind, you can always go with a Love Letters gift certificate.

When you fall in love with Love Letters Jewelry like I have, you can sign up for the newsletter, check the calendar for upcoming events, and you can even host parties (locally in Fort Wayne or on a website set up just for you)!

You can check out Love Letters Jewelry on the web at www.loveletters.name , on facebook www.facebook.com/lovelettersjewelry , and @lovelettersFW on Twitter.

Check back tomorrow for a special Love Letters Jewelry Super Saturday Giveaway!

Disclaimer: The keychain shown above was provided to me for free to review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

0

God's Blanket

I had already had an ultrasound. My midwife had already told me I would miscarry. I already knew my babies (2 of them) hadn't developed and would never breathe, smile, or grab my finger. Still, there was a nagging voice in my head telling me to buy the two pieces of fleece in sweet baby prints. So I did.

All this time I thought God was up to something in my life. It always takes me by surprise when I realize that it's not all about me.

Last night while looking through my fabric stash for a cute piece to make a baby blanket, that same voice kept saying, "Not that one. Keep looking". Over and over again. Just as I thought I was out of choices, I came to those two pieces of fleece, hidden away in the bottom of the box. "Yes. Those ones. It's time to use them."

I immediately burst into tears (because I'm an emotional wreck anyway) and formed my argument on the tip of my tongue. But God always wins. He said, "She needs to feel loved more than you need to hide away these pieces of fabric."

I know this all sounds silly, but I always thought God telling me to buy it anyway was His way of telling me I would need it someday. For me. For my babies. I had no idea He meant it for someone I hadn't even met. But again, God always wins.

I haven't cut into it yet, but I will. And I will wash it before I send it off. It's not fair to blanket someone else in my tears.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2

Fall is in the air, and the kitchen!

Summer is the season of the young. I can recall the bliss of spending the entire day riding my bike around the neighborhood with my wild band of friends. A sun kissed glow across my cheeks and popsicles in my belly. As an adult, I've come to enjoy the arrival of fall. The cooler temperatures and beautiful colors fit this season of my life.

As much as I like the changes in weather and foliage, I think I'm more in love with the seasonal food and drinks. So on this very gloomy, wet, chilly day, I indulged in some of my Autumn favorites. (I will include the recipes for you)

As an afternoon treat for the kids (and maybe for me) I made a batch of no-bake oatmeal cookies. Ok, they are my favorite, but I did share with the kids. I also nearly cried when I was gathering ingredients and didn't have any vanilla extract. (Who doesn't have vanilla extract??) I hit up Google though, and found that I could substitute maple syrup for vanilla. Crisis averted!

*No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

Combine 2c sugar, 1/4c cocoa, and 1/2c milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat.
Stir in 1/2c peanut butter, 1 stick of butter, 1tsp vanilla (or syrup), and 3c quick oats.
Drop with a spoon onto waxed paper and let stand until firm.

The cookies were so yummy, and such a hit with the kids that I got really ambitious and decided to make my absolute favorite cold-weather food...potato soup! I pulled out the old church cookbook (the cookie recipe was from the same book) and the first soup recipe was for a creamy potato soup and I had all the ingredients. That's a sign, right?

*Creamy Potato Soup with Chicken

Cut two chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and cook in frying pan. Set aside.
Wash and cut 6 medium potatoes into cubes. Dice an onion (or not, onion is optional) and add the potatoes and onion to a large can of chicken stock in a big stock pot. When potatoes are cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove 2/3 to a large bowl. Puree the other 1/3 with the liquid and set aside.
In the stock pot, melt 2tbsp butter and mix in 2tbsp flour. Combine to make a soft paste. Then add 1c milk. Stir continuously until it thickens and becomes creamy.
Add in puree, potatoes, and chicken. I also added some Alpine Touch (a Montana made seasoned salt) and some parmesan cheese.
Makes approximately 6 servings.

*this soup would also be great with corn, broccoli, or bacon!

The soup turned out creamy and delicious. Even though my kitchen is a MESS, I am in love with today. The air was crisp. The cookies were chocolatey. The potato soup was just like Grandpa used to make.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

1 .

Homeschool PE 101: No more training wheels

I love that we can choose from so many activities for homeschool PE. The kids express interest in something new every day, and we add it to our list of things to look into. However, we decided that our first PE activity should be learning to ride a two-wheeled bike.
Our oldest is ten and already knows how, but the next two, ages six and seven haven't learned yet. Our oldest son learned to ride in three days, so I just assumed the other kids would be equally as quick to pick it up.

I. Was. So. Wrong.

The first thing my daughter said to me was, "What if I fall down and scrape my knees?"
"Well, you will. It's going to happen. It might happen even AFTER you learn to ride. You just have to suck it up and keep trying."
"But I don't want to."
"I understand. No one WANTS to get hurt, but it happens. Sometimes that's the price you pay to have fun and learn new things."
"It doesn't sound like fun," she replied.
"Well, no. Getting hurt isn't the fun part. Being able to ride and the freedom is the fun part. If you just keep pedaling and steer, I will help you balance so you don't fall."

*insert look of skepticism here

So, she geared up, walked her bike out to the (very quiet and safe) street, and climbed on. I reassured her that I would be holding on. She put one foot up on the pedal and shot me a look that clearly implied that I would be held accountable for any skinned knees. Finally, she started to pedal.
I ran next to her on the down slope. I practically pushed all 75 pounds of her and her bike back up. She wobbled. She jumped off. We repeated this several times. It was hot, frustrating (for both of us), and took a lot of practice, but guess what...
Well, never mind. She didn't get it, and I'm pretty sure I had heat stroke by the time we were done. We both walked away annoyed, exhausted, and dehydrated. Two days later I was still thinking we should have started with something easier and less dangerous... Maybe archery or knife juggling.
On the other hand, maybe there is such a thing as over teaching on things like bike riding. She took it upon herself to go out and practice. She risked the safety of her knees, not to mention our neighbor's mailbox (which she only hit once) and was successful. She's still wobbly and uncertain, but the training wheels are gone for good.
While I'm still mad at myself for being so impatient and not knowing exactly what she needed from me in order to learn, I'm also wildly excited for her, and so proud of her determination!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

1 .

If the Heat Doesn't Kill You, the Prices Will!

My mom called me first thing this morning to see if the kids and I wanted to check out the Farmer's Market with her downtown. I didn't have anything planned, so we went.
I won't lie. I had visions of making my two-year-old daughter walk so I could fill the stroller plumb full of fresh produce, Hutterite baked goods, and beautiful plants.
We got lucky right off and found a close parking spot right at the entrance. I should have known it was an omen. Extreme good has to be balanced out with an equal amount of bad juju.
The first fail of the day was the temperature. As soon as I stepped out of the car, enormous beads of sweat formed on my forehead. Since it is July, I went with it. We had several water bottles filled with ice water, so I figured we'd survive.
As we started walking from booth to booth, I nearly lost it. I thought maybe the sweat dripping in my eyes was impairing my vision, but no. The prices were truly...I don't know. Heart stopping? Ridiculous? Definitely not affordable to the average Joe.
I'm all for supporting my local growers and I LOVE fresh produce, but if I have to get a home equity loan to pay for it, I will just stick to Sam's Club.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

0

The FSA Saves the Day...Again

We took our four kids to the dentist yesterday. They all had appointments at the same time, which I love. We arrived early with our paperwork filled out and insurance card in hand, all ready to go! (This is no small feat for me.)

They took the three big kids all back at the same time, and when they were nearly done with their cleanings, we went back with the littlest little to have her teeth checked and talk to the doctor. All four of them did a great job, and only two needed further work.

Our oldest has always had an underbite. He reminds me of a little pirahna. :0) Anyway, we were told not to worry about it until he got his permanent teeth to see if they grew in the same way. Well, that time is now, and they did. They are going to fit him with an incline plain to correct his underbite. It looks like a wad of chewed up bubblegum that will sit on top of his lower front teeth and force his top teeth forward when he bites down. This should only take a few weeks.

Our second oldest has been complaining of tooth pain for two weeks, so I wasn't surprised to hear that she had a cavity. What I wasn't expecting to hear was that she doesn't have sufficient space for permanent teeth to come in. His plan was to fill the cavity, shave a little off the sides of her lower canines, and fit her with a metal device to help make space.

We were lucky because someone called while we were there to cancel an appointment. They could get both kids back in that afternoon to get started.

A lot of people would be a little panicky at that point because the doctor expects payment at the time of service. We are lucky though. My husband's job offers us the chance to pay into an FSA (Flexible Spending Account). It is basically money taken out of his checks pre-tax and put into a savings account for us to use on medical expenses and OTC meds that are NOT covered by our insurance. We have a credit card linked to that account. It felt so good yesterday to be able to take the open appointment, have the necessary work done on our kids' teeth, and not have to worry about how we were going to pay for it. Especially since it totalled over $1800.00, and our portion was almost $600.00.

We left the office, grabbed a quick lunch, dropped C3 and C4 off at Grammy's for a nap, let the pups out for a potty break, and headed back to the dentist. It took another two hours to get everything done on both of them.

Now we just have to wait for their "appliances" to come in so they can be placed.

*If you don't know if an FSA is an option for you, ask your employer. It has been a lifesaver for us many times. When our last two babies were born. When my husband had to have knee surgery. Any time that any of us are sick and our only option is the ER. We don't have the panic over medical bills anymore.

Monday, June 7, 2010

4

When Blenders Attack!

I wanted to call this post "When Blenders Attack My Husband's Cooking Utensils!", but finally decided like it sounded like a bad comeback attempt by Bryan Adams, so I went with the condensed title. A good alternate would have been, "It all started at Wal-Mart." Either way, the story is the same.

It all started at Wal-Mart. (I know I already said that, but it did.) My niece and I took a quick trip to buy generic Oreos and ice cream so I could make milk shakes for a special treat. We ended up buying fake Oreos with chocolate frosting, chocolate ice cream, and caramel topping. It was only after we returned home that I realized that I was wearing a shirt that said, "A balanced diet is a piece of chocolate in each hand." Fitting.

As I started making ├╝ber-chocolate caramel milk shakes, I searched for the little plastic pokey tool (that's the technical term) that pushes the food down into the blades of the blender, but to no avail. (It's hiding in a cupboard, not the drawer.). Instead, I settled on a rubber spatula. All was going along smoothly until I came across one lone chunk of ice cream that would not be blended. In an attempt to make a creamy milk shake, I pushed the ice cream down into the blades of the blender.

Let me insert here that I am thankful that my husband bought the nice blender. Sharp blades. Optional drink dispensing spout. Pokey tool. It's a high quality piece of kitchen gadgetry. This fact was also the downfall of milk shake attempt #1.

As I pushed the ice cream down, I misjudged the distance and also pushed the spatula into the blades. The sharp blades grabbed that rubber spatula like a mother grizzly protecting her cubs! Imagine my surprise as I pulled up a half shredded rubber spatula. For several seconds I actually debated in my head whether I should dump it, or keep it as my own to avoid wasting enough milk shake for an adult and three kids. In the end, I figured I'd better go with my logical self and dump it all. It was a very sad occasion watching the chocolatey fake-oreo stream running down the drain. I definitely had second thoughts while washing the sweet treat out of the sink and blender.

Takes two and three were executed with more care and turned out delicious. Now I just have to decide what to do with the thoroughly gnawed up spatula.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

0

One thing Garth Brooks and I have in common

I know it's just a song, but I too am much too young to feel this damn old. When did it happen? I seem to have lost all the muscle, energy, and drive that I had in my 20's. Are the 30's really that different?

As you know, we just bought a house and have been moving. I'd just like to say that I feel lucky to have survived the last 48 hours. In the last two days we have moved all of our furniture and heavy stuff. I have muscle aches in places that I didn't know could hurt. And to top it all off, I'm sweaty and out of breath as well.

I guess if I needed a wake-up call concerning my health and weight, this week has done it. There is no good reason for me to feel this horrible in my early 30's! I'm thinking I should start walking in the morning after my husband gets up. It's low impact enough that even I can handle it. Now if I can just stay away from the ice cream and Mountain Dew as rewards...

Monday, May 31, 2010

0

In Memory of My "Family"

If you have read back through my blog posts, my tweets on twitter, or met me in person, you'll know that I have an interesting relationship with my family.  I just laughed out loud while typing that because, the truth is, I have no relationship with most of my family.  Memorial Day has a lot to do with it. 

My dad died a few years back, and it was almost a relief in the sense that I could then choose to never have contact with my step-mother again.  We had the typical step relationship you hear about.  She was evil.  I could do no right.  You get the picture.  She and my dad were actually married twice.  The first time they had four kids.  Then the divorce came, and so did I.  When I was about seven, they remarried, and I became her arch nemesis, though I didn't understand why at the time.  Anyway, moving on.

When my dad died, she had him cremated.  I have to take her word that that's what Dad wanted because I wasn't allowed to have anything to do with the funeral.  They had a video made with pictures of the family, and there was one picture of my kids in it.  I cried, not because I missed him, but because I felt like such an outsider there surrounded by my "family."  I wasn't allowed to take one of the plants or floral arrangements home from the service "because you have such a long drive home.  It would never make it."  Yeah.  Five hours.  I'm sure.

Then, out of nowhere, my husband got an opportunity to move to Montana.  We decided to take it, and it landed us smack in the same town as my step-mother, two sisters, a brother, and their families.  As an adult, I decided I would do what I could to build a relationship with my siblings.  We started visiting on holidays, one sister and her kids bought from my son's Cub Scout den and my daughter's Girl Scout Troop, I asked one niece to stay at the house one night while we took the baby to the emergency room...  All things I would come to regret.

Last year on Memorial Day, I was really missing my dad (or the idea of my dad, anyway).  I felt resentful for not having someplace I could go to feel near him.  His ashes had been scattered out in the country somewhere, and I hadn't been there to know where.  Out of hurt and frustration, I wrote two sentences that would change my life.  My facebook status read, "I'm really missing you, Dad.  I guess she finally got her way because I can't even bring you flowers."  Look out! 

Now, I'm not stupid.  I knew my nieces were on facebook.  I knew there was a chance it would come back to bite me.  The crazy thing is, I just didn't care.  I was tired of having to make the effort all the time.  I didn't want to be the one to call, and wonder if they were inviting me over because they felt obligated to.  If I had been worried about anyone reading it, I wouldn't have typed it.  But nothing happened.  Well, not exactly.  Nothing happened for a full month.  That's when things got hairy.

I have one niece who is more like a daughter to me.  She was over one afternoon, which was pretty common, when her mom sent her a text informing her that she should tell me that I needed to be careful what I put on the Internet for all the world to see.  Huh?  She called her mom to find out what was going on, and learned that another of my nieces (or two) had just told my step-mother (their grandmother) about my Memorial Day status.  You know the expression about the stuff and the fan, right?  Yeah.  That happened. 

Things got out of hand quickly, and I finally got so upset that I called my step-mother to get it straightened out.  Now, you have to understand, in 24 years, I had never called my step-mother on purpose.  It was the last thing I ever wanted to do, and when she answered and started chewing my head off, I told her that.  I explained my feelings, my stance, and she tried to make nice like I was the one blowing it out of proportion.

That was the last time I had contact with any of them, other than the one niece who is more like a daughter.  They threw back in my face the time I had been allowed to spend with them, the popcorn they bought from my son, the GS cookies they bought from my daughter, all of it.   They have completely cut me out of their "family."  I was really upset at first.  Why wouldn't my own family, my brothers and sisters just love me because I'm me?  What did I have to do to get them to accept me?  Then one day I was talking to a friend on the phone when it hit me...

I have an amazing family.  God gave me the chance to pick exactly who I wanted to surround myself with.  I have the best husband ever (don't bother arguing with me.), four kids I couldn't live without, and friends like you would not believe!  I have brothers and sisters who love me.  ME!!!  Just the way I am.  We don't share blood, but we share faith.  We share memories.  We share laughs, and dreams, and I don't mind when they call me at 2am crying, and they wouldn't mind if I did the same.  I don't have to wonder how they feel, or what is OK to say around them.  That's because they are my family, and family means more than being related.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2

Baby Love Part 3

My third pregnancy was something else.  We lived in a state that didn't have a single in-network provider for our insurance, so we had to drive 45 miles to the next state for anything requiring a doctor unless we wanted to pay way more out of pocket than any family should ever have to for medical care.  It made things really interesting when it came to prenatal care, and I can remember being convinced that I would give birth in the car on the way to our approved hospital.

Like my two previous pregnancies, I was put on bed rest, I think it was around 33 weeks.  I was also prescribed medication just in case I started contracting.  Our other babies had both been born premature.  Since I had two small children already, and a husband who worked long, crazy hours, my mother-in-law came to stay with us and help out until the baby was born.  She was great to have around.  Wouldn't let me do anything but pee and every other day I got to shower.  I sat in our huge, green leather recliner for two weeks, hand sewing a quilt for our daughter while she was there. 

On night just before bedtime, I started having a few minor contractions.  They weren't painful, but they were steady and only about six minutes apart.  I took a pill like a good girl, sat back, relaxed, and...continued contracting.  An hour later I took another pill because they advised me it might take two to make contractions stop.  Or not.  My mother-in-law was in bed asleep.  My husband was still at work.  It was midnight.  I was having contractions that kept getting stronger and closer together.  Oh, and I was 45 miles from the hospital.

I woke Loretta, called PJ at work, and set about packing a hospital bag.  (No, I didn't have one ready because it was still five weeks to my due date.)  PJ made it home in record time (because there is zero traffic in Cheyenne, Wyoming at midnight any day of the week) and we headed out at NASCAR speed to Fort Collins, Colorado.  I was positive we wouldn't make it, and PJ kept speeding up to ensure that we did.  I'm pretty sure that trip only took us about twenty minutes. 

When we arrived at the hospital, a nurse had to come out with a wheel chair to collect me because I knew if I tried to walk in, the baby would fall out!  She assured me that it would be fine as we were riding up in the elevator with another expectant mom who was farther into labor than me.  When her nurse jokingly told a story about a woman giving birth in that very elevator the year before, the woman shot her a death glare and yelled, "That was me!"  OK.  So much for putting us at ease...

We got checked in, changed, into a room, checked, and were told it would be a while.  I wanted to take advantage of the new jacuzzi tub, so they moved me in.  I'd like to offer a little tip here.  A powerful jetted tub is not a good thing for a woman in the late stages of labor.  I felt like I was being pummeled to death, and the nurses couldn't figure out how to get it to stop completely, so every five minutes the jets would start up again, I would curse the new wonderful birthing center, and my poor husband would look helpless. 

It wasn't long before I knew I needed to get out of the tub and to the bed, so we hurried (Ha!  Yeah right.) out of the bathroom, got the bed prepped, and they checked me again.  My midwife gave me the go ahead, and I'm pretty sure I never pushed.  I maintain to this day that I just complained and whined until my son fell out.  I didn't get to see him right away because when you have a preemie, they have an entire NICU team in the room waiting, and when the baby is born, they whisk them off to make sure all is well before the mommy gets a chance to see the little screaming bundle of ugly old man baby (except my babies were all beautiful.). 

When they determined he was fine, just needing a little oxygen, they filled me in on all the stats.  With as much as it hurt when he came out, I was sure he was at least a nine-pounder.  I was in shock when they told me he weighed 3 pounds 15 ounces.  WTH???  No really.  But his head was E.Nor.Mous.  Off to the NICU he went, and my nurses did the usual fussing over me.  My midwife was great, and my husband was a champ!


When I finally got to go see Baby Boy Eldridge, I was amazed how tiny he was.  I know all babies are sweet and little and cute, but BBE was minute.  I was afraid to touch him for fear he would break.  I had bought bags of sugar bigger than this baby, and I was somehow supposed to be able to keep him alive.  I had an immediate internal panic attack at that thought. 

For two days we made visits every few hours to the NICU, and then it was time to check out.  I was all packed up and ready to go home to make plans when one of the NICU nurses came into my room and informed us that our bitsy little read-headed baby with the swirl up front was too cute and sweet to not have a name.  They were all tired of calling him Baby Boy Eldridge.  That's right.  He had no name.  We couldn't decide what to call him.  We talked.  We thought.  We talked.  Finally, Christian, our oldest son who was just shy of 4 years, said he had watched a cartoon and the boy in the cartoon was named Connor.  He said it was a good name, and it started with "C", as did both of our other kids' names.  And so the nurse went back to the NICU to make a name tag that said Connor William. 

The one really great part of delivering Connor in Ft. Collins was that they own several blocks of houses on the street adjacent to the hospital.  They use them specifically for families of long-term patients.  My MIL, my kids, myself, and my husband, on his days off, got to spend the next 17 nights in a three bedroom house with all the things a house should have, and it only cost about a quarter of what two hotel rooms would have.  Plus it was a two minute walk to the hospital. 

By the time we were finally allowed to take him home, Connor weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces.  I could only wonder if they were out of their freaking minds.  Why the hell would they let me take a baby so tiny and fragile home?!  Didn't they know I had a rambunctious pre-schooler and a toddler waiting to get their hands on him?  They insisted that he was ours, and therefore we had to take him.  And so, with six little rolled up receiving blankets to prop him in his giant of an infant car seat, a small oxygen tank, and the biggest pacifier on the planet, we went home.


One week later he was off the oxygen.  A week after that he was circumcised.  Another tip:  Don't be in the room while your son is being circumcised.  Holy crap.  And wow.  But mostly yikes.  He was still so tiny that people would look into his car seat, see only blankets, and think we forgot to bring the baby.  For the first little while I had to resort to buying him doll clothes because preemie clothes were entirely too big. 


And now he's six.  Today is his birthday, and I'm in awe of the funny, caring, lovable little character he's become.  While I miss the so tiny super little red head with the pinwheel cowlick, I am so proud of my generous little white-blond monster with the pinwheel cowlick.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

0

I'd like to lodge a complaint...

I realized today, after an extremely emotionally exhausting Monday, that I complain some.  Okay, okay.  I complain a lot.  About big things.  About small things.  About most things.  I complain about people who complain.  And about people who don't.  And about their dogs.  I spend my day listing all the bad things in my life (or your life, or his life) and a lot of times I completely miss the good things.  The blessings.  The love.  Instead of smiling when one of my kids wants to sit on my lap, I get annoyed because the other three don't.  Instead of being thankful for my husband's job that provides enough that I can stay home, I let myself feel overwhelmed by my "duties" as a homemaker.  I'm getting a little tired of feeling like crap all. the. time.  And I hate that it's me making me feel that way.

In the hopes of salvaging the rest of this week, I'm going to give you a list of just a few things that I really am thankful for.  The things and people who make me smile on a daily basis.  The things I want to focus on from here on out.

  • My family.  The real family I have chosen for myself, from my husband on down to the friends I haven't met, but still love like family.  The people who love me, accept me, and support me, even when I complain.  You know who you are, so I won't name names.
  • My home.  It may be a mess, but it's safe and warm and big enough for my family.
  • My kids.  These guys deserve their own category.  I can't imagine my life without the little munchkins all up in my face all day.  It just wouldn't be right.
  • My new house.  It's a new adventure, just waiting for us to climb aboard!
  • My God.  Today is proof that I need the grace He offers, and don't deserve a thing.  How can I only see bad when His plan is so good?
Most of all, tonight I am thankful that I will have tomorrow to try this all again.  I can make better decisions.  I will use softer words.  My smile will appear more often than my frown.  And if I don't, feel free to complain.  :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1 .
Today holds some very good memories for me.  It also brings a lot of heartbreak.  Each year, I try to see the blessings in both.  I'm sure that the more years pass, the more my memories are going to fade until the two events cancel each other out.  For right now, one is still amazingly lovely, and the other a tangible test of my faith.

As a woman with 20 years behind me (barely), I was lost, confused, and living on my mother's couch (literally).  I had dropped out of college, moved in with my mom, dated a few guys, learned some painful life lessons, and was sure my life was over.  I lived in a very dark place internally, and honestly didn't think I would ever recover.  So when this random guy I had talked to a few times asked me on a date, I thought little of it.  After all, they were all the same, and not right for me.  I agreed to go with him though.  Why?  Because his smile nearly melted me to my core. 

When he picked me up that afternoon, I had no idea what I was in store for.  I was more than a little surprised when he pulled in at the little local drive in restaurant, Ford's, so he could order me a cinnamon Coke, one of his favorite treats.  While we were there, he took the T-tops off his car so we could soak in the wonderful May sunshine.  (I didn't tell him that it bothered me to have my hair blowing around in my face until our second date.  That's when I left a ponytail holder in his car so it wouldn't matter the next time.) 


We drove along the river with our cinnamon Cokes, laughing, talking, realizing I really enjoyed his company.  He took me to the fish hatchery.  (Nothing says "romantic first date" like a zillion little fishy kiss lips.)  We spent a lot of time at the park wandering and talking.  My heart wasn't dark that day, and it felt good.  I really hated to see it end.  Nothing can go on forever, so eventually he drove me back to my mom's house, to my little couch, and I thought I'd be overtaken again.  As it turned out, he didn't want the day to end either, so after we ate dinner with our own families, he picked me up again and we made the date epic.  That's right.  We went to see Titanic in the theater.  I had seen it before, and Leonardo DiCaprio still died, but even that couldn't bring me down.  I was happy.  Happy was something I hadn't felt in months, and I liked it.


That first date was May 5th, 1998.  PJ and I got married that December, and just celebrated our 11th anniversary.  God knew exactly what He was doing when He got us together.  I may have doubts about a lot of things, but my feelings for my husband aren't in that category.


Now, that's a nice story, and I'm sure you have a silly smile on your face, but our story turned around on May 5th, 2007.  I knew it was coming because my midwife had confirmed it a week before.  I still just wish it hadn't turned May 5th so bittersweet in my heart.  Knowing that I had two babies inside me who hadn't grown, who didn't thrive, who wouldn't live nearly tore me apart.  My body chose one of my happiest memory days to reject my precious babies.  I miscarried, forever dulling the good memories just enough that I'm never sure if I should smile or cry when this day rolls around.  Usually before the day is over, I do a little of both, and my heart is cleansed for tomorrow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

1 .

Does This Mortgage Make Me Look Fat?

Today was the big day!  My husband and I made an early morning trip to the title company, met with our realtor and banker, signed our name 864 times (approximately), and are now the proud new owners of a house!  We delivered our first load of random belongings, rolled giddily in the plush carpet, and started making plans of where everything will go when we move it all over.  I packed several more boxes, and I repacked the back of our Suburban after my husband went to work.  Now we are all set to take another load and do some unpacking tomorrow.  I am truly excited about this move, and can barely stand to wait for school to be out to finish. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2

15 Reasons I Won't Miss Apartment Living #1!!!

Well, we've made it to the last day!  The last two weeks have been fun, but as they say, you ain't seen nothin' yet!  Settle back, and away we go!

We have already established that I live in Montana.  If you've never been here, it is very rustic, mountainous, rural, and the wild animals outnumber the people.  Our apartment complex is called Hunter's Pointe.  (The extra "e" makes it classy.)  They are obviously playing to the adult male, strong, vital, woodsy, with the title.  Out in front of the office stands a great beast, a life-sized, majestic bugling bull elk! He truly is a sight to behold.  Here, I will provide photographic proof.

I can see why they chose him.  He's strong, virile, he's the jock all of the cow elk want to mate with.  Somehow that translates to a reason for people to want to live here.  Since I'm not a man, I don't really get it, but it is a very nice piece of art.

Some of you look confused.  You are wondering what the problem is because this is obviously not something I hate, so how did it manage to make it into the #1 spot on my list?  Let me explain.  The picture you are looking at is what you see as you drive into the parking lot.  There are only three buildings to the left of this, but six buildings and a majority of the parking lot to the right.  That means that most people who live in this apartment complex, and a majority of the visitors will approach the office from the right side of the entrance.  When we go in and out of the office, we are greeted by this:


That's right.  He is absolutely anatomically correct.  He's not shy either.  Rain, snow, sleet, hail.  He always puts himself out there for all the world to see.  While I'm sure the testosterone level in this place rises as men enter the parking lot, it truly isn't worth it for me to have to encounter dangling elk genitalia each time I pay my rent.  Luckily, the bank that gave us the home loan settled for a huge pendulum clock, and my days of looking at this are few.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

0

15 Reasons I Won't Miss Apartment Living #2

Tonight's topic is one near and dear to my heart.  Well, not so much my heart as my last nerve.  Parking in my one assigned parking space is about the fastest way to flip on my "B!+ch Switch".  The only crime ahead of it is messing with my babies, so you can see what a serious offense it is.  I look at it like this: If I'm going to pay over a thousand dollars a month to live in this hole, I am at least going to have the luxury of parking in my own spot.  If you decide you can park there too, I WILL pull up behind you and block your exit.  I WILL slap a Tow Away notice on your window.  (What can I say?  Management gave me extras.  And good luck getting that bad boy off.)  I WILL report your illegally parked car to the management WHILE I am parked behind you.  And God forbid you run into me in person while any of these steps are going down.  I don't care if it's your first day moving in, your last day moving out, your mom's birthday, or your annual celebration of abundance and joy...DO NOT PARK IN MY SPOT!

I warn because I care.