Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, here it is, the last day of 2008, which for us in our corner of the world turns out to be an extremely snowy day. We're having a bit of a snowstorm - there were nine new inches of snow down by 9:00 this morning (according to the trusty Weather Channel) and many more inches expected to come down between now and midnight. This all means that we are going to be spending New Year's Eve safe and sound, tucked up and warm at home, just the three of us (plus the cat and fish, of course).

Tomorrow, we will dig our way out and face a new year, hopefully a year of changes for the better for our family, country and world. I shan't go into New Year's Resolutions any more than to say I'm renewing my eternal Top Two: to get into better (or really, *any*) shape and to stop biting my nails. Yeah, pretty pathetic that I am now 37 years old and I still bite my nails...

Anyhow, for this New Year's Eve day, to all my friends out there in the blogosphere, I say

And here's a hand, my trusty friend,

And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet

For auld lang syne

Here's a cup o' kindness raised to you and yours from me and mine! Happy New Year, everyone!

(PS: I'm not sure what beverage is in your cup o' kindness and feel free to pour yourself whatever you want - mine is a Shirley Temple, heavy on the grenadine, which is why it's so vividly red!)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holidays thus far...

Whew, hope everyone is having a good holiday break thus far! We've had rather a whirlwind past few days, ourselves. For the first time in my 37 years of life, I did not spend Christmas Eve and/or Christmas morning with my parents. I was the last of the children to break the tradition; every year up until this year, we'd drive down a day or three before Christmas and stay at my parents' house until at least the day or three afterwards. This year, Hubby, Kiddo and I spent our very first Christmas alone, just the three of us, at least for Christmas morning. After Kiddo (who was beginning to think Santa would only bring her presents to Grandma and Grandpa's) opened her presents Christmas morning, we had breakfast, loaded up the car and drove on down to the motherland (aka New Jersey). Our only snafu was not being able to find a single, solitary fast food establishment between our house and my parents' house that was open and serving food. We were a little surprised that no one was open, even with it being Christmas day - we just figured somebody would be cashing in on all the travelers with appetites who hadn't thought to pack a lunch. (Well, The Waffle House in Clarks Summit PA was open but they don't have a drive-thru...) Hubby wound up buying us a bag of pretzels and a box of Pop Tarts at a gas station minimart and that plus the candy and bananas we had in the car already tided us over, mostly, until we made it to NJ. We arrived just when all the rest of the family arrived midafternoon, thanks to decent roads, decent weather and light traffic. (Total count at my parents' house for Christmas dinner: 17 adults, 6 kids ranging in age from Kiddo at 5 and a half right on down to the youngest nephew who is 13 months old, not counting the two more babies yet in utero.) As is customary, there was lots of food, then gift exchanging and opening, then even more food, then games, then dessert (yes, more food!) and more games and then collapsing.

The day after Christmas isn't known as Boxing Day in our family, but rather "Game Night" day. Everyone who is still in town gathers again at Mom and Dad's for leftovers (we're talking turkey *and* ham here, people - way too much food) and board games. Over the past several years, those games have come to include a poker tournament, which I am proud to say I won this year, including beating Hubby who finished second. (Mwah-ha-ha!) If anyone wants to stake me for the WSOP, I'm ready to go..... This year, we weren't expecting any of Kiddo's cousins to be attending Game Night besides the youngest (who, while ridiculously adorable, isn't really of an age yet where he is able to be much of a playmate for Kiddo) but then my sister and brother-in-law wound up coming, so Kiddo had her favorite cousin - only because he is closest in age to her and therefore a perfect playmate - to run around the farm with all day. Bonus!! Also a bonus: our new Wii. We brought it down to NJ with us and Hubby hooked it up on Mom and Dad's humongous TV, and many games of Wii this and Wii that and Wii the other thing commenced. I probably should mention here: I suck at Wii Sports. Seriously. Well, Wii Bowling, anyhow. I'm not kidding: both Kiddo and my 4 year old nephew kicked my butt at Wii Bowling. (As did my 25 year old brother, but you know, somehow that is a tiny bit less humiliating, especially considering that was the first day I'd ever played Wii anything and he's been Wiitastic for a couple of years now.)

Yesterday, Hubby and I took Kiddo into New York City (henceforth referred to merely as "the city" because seriously, it is the city, is it not?) for the day. She's been in the city before, but the last time was two years ago, and she didn't really get it. This time, however, she got it all. She loved every second, from riding the train in (standing room only - she was the only member of the family who enjoyed that particular part) to taking the subway and buses to get around the city to the tall buildings and crowds and everything. We didn't have a highly ambitious itinerary: The Museum of Natural History, FAO Schwarz and Rockefeller Center to see the tree and skaters. (I harbored a secret hope of taking Kiddo skating, but the plaza - actually all of Manhattan! - was insanely crowded, so we couldn't even make it to the line, much less the ice. Oh well, something to do next time!) Kiddo loved the museum this time around (we took her there a few years ago, too, but she was a bit too young then), especially the dinosaurs, ocean and African animal exhibits. She loved FAO Schwarz, for obvious reasons (and despite the moratorium we imposed a year or so ago on new stuffed animals, Rory the Tiger came home from FAO with us). She loved the tree and the policemen on horses at Rockefeller Center, and all the other lights and decorations, too. She thought St. Patrick's Cathedral looked like a castle and proclaimed Trump Tower the biggest building she'd ever seen. All in all, a successful, if rather exhausting, trip. I have so many fond memories of taking trips into the city at Christmastime when I was growing up that I am extra glad that I was able to share that experience with Kiddo. I regret not having the same proximity to NYC now that I did as a child, but with relatives still within an hour of the city, at least we have proximity by relation...

Today was pack 'em up and drive 'em home day, which is exactly what we did. Along with the memories and overloaded photo memory card (and a few extra pounds I picked up from ALL THAT FOOOOOOOOD), I managed to bring home some New Jersey Germies. That is a souvenir I would've been happy to leave behind, alas. Now, I'm just looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and lounging about in jammies tomorrow, not to mention doing some serious blog-surfing! Hubby has to work at some point this week but probably won't go in to the office until Tuesday, and we've got several Wii games we haven't even tried yet. (He's downstairs playing Wii right now - I'm totally turning into a Wiidow!!) Still not sure what we're doing for New Year's, though I doubt we'll be going out.

And that is the brief (well, brief for me, anyhow!) recap. I shall now unload a few of the pictures off that memory card and leave you with the slightly more exciting photo recap of Heather's Holidays Thus Far!

Kiddo's most wanted gift from Santa (as written to and told to Santa many, many times) was a scooter. Tada!

Cousins having fun! Kiddo is 11 months older than her cousin, though he is a good 2.5-3 inches taller than she is (my sister and brother-in-law are both really, really tall!):

I went outside with Kiddo and my nephew to play with Grandma's new puppy on Game Night afternoon. (It's a 13 week old standard poodle who is too freaking cute and energetic.) When we were out back, there was a deafening noise. We looked up to see an absolute horde of Canada geese flying overhead. They landed in the fields back behind my parents' farm, and were the reason it sounded like a war had broken out in central NJ early the next morning. Apparently hunting the geese has been not only sanctioned but encouraged as there are so dang many of them.

Kids + ball + puppy + lots of room to run around outside = Exhaustion all around.

Which then leads to more uninterrupted time playing Wii for the grown-ups....

On to NYC.... a kindly passer-by offered to take a picture of us in front of the ginormous whale in the oceans exhibit at the museum. No, no, no, the whale is behind me. Yep, that's the whale, honest. I ate a lot over the past few days, but not that much, I swear.....

On to the dinosaurs! Kiddo loved learning about them,

hanging out with them,

and especially touching them! This is an actual, 140 million year old Stegosaurus plate. Yes, Hubby and I touched it too. No, we didn't jam our hands underneath the approved opening the way Kiddo did....

Rockefeller Center with the tree. Hubby: "Do you HAVE to take a picture right here, right now? There are ninety million people trying to get by us, here.........." Me: "Yes. Yes, I do."

Kiddo was literally oooohing and aaaaahing over the size of the buildings, the holiday decorations and the lights.

Kiddo hasn't yet seen the movie Big, but that didn't stop her from waiting forever in line ("I'll be really, really patient if we can wait, please, please, Mommy and Daddy??") and dancing on top of the Big Piano:

Even the subway is an adventure..........

Now, I'm off to play the Harry Potter game Santa brought me on the Wii. I promise I'll make the rounds of everyone's blogs tomorrow!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the morn before Christmas

'Twas the morn before Christmas
and all through the house
the cat had barfed hairballs
each resembling a mouse

The child was snug on the couch watching TV
as a means of protecting her mom's sanity
The husband had gone off to work one more day
(Though he'll come home 'round noontime, or so he did say)

And I in my blue jeans and sweater did go
Out to the driveway to clear out a mountain of snow
For the snowplow he came, his course he did run
Leaving piles blocking all driveways unmeltable by the sun

(That would assume that the sun would be coming out this day,
No way, said the weatherman - the skies shall stay gray,
with some showers of rain, that'll then turn to ice
So coming home from church tonight, the drive will not be too nice)

Back into the house I trudged to thaw out my toes
and down some Advil for the pain in my back which arose
From scraping and shoveling the mountain of slush
(Would've been an easier task had I muscles, not mush)

Soon Kiddo and I will head out the door
for those last minute things I forgot at the store
then home again to make some more peppermint bark
To fill up the holiday tins which are empty and stark
And a tray or three of peanut brittle, so crunchy and sweet
To snack upon through the day as a pre-Christmas treat

The sugar that then will course through our blood
Will ensure our energy levels will not turn to mud
For once church is over, there's packing to do
(and a wee bit more wrapping, and loading the car up too)

Then finally, Hubby and I shall collapse on the couch
While up on the bookcase the cat, she will crouch
We'll watch A Christmas Story and laugh, shaking our heads
and then in the wee hours, we'll take to our bed
Knowing that not too much later, Kiddo will appear
Hoping that Santa's been by with his eight tiny reindeer

And thus it will be, finally, at last, Christmas morn
(Remembering that this is the day Jesus was born!)
We'll gather with family, we'll gather with friends
and celebrate the happy occasion again

So from me and my family to you and to yours,
Safe travels, good times, great company and more
Are what we are wishing, indeed it is true
We wish a very, oh so merry
Christmas to you!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow day continued....

Okay, Hubby just got the driveway cleared (snowblowed? snowblown? Anyone? Bueller?) .....

I also spoke with one of the two friends I was supposed to have lunch with today and we decided to reschedule for after the school break. Now, I just have to hope that the UPS man gets here early enough today that I have the grandparental Christmas present in hand when Kiddo and I head over there for Grandparental Christmas Celebration #1 as scheduled. I was supposed to pick Kiddo up from school instead of her riding the bus and head over there around 3:30, but with the snow day, we've moved it up so now I'm doing my "Please arrive quickly, UPS man" dance instead.

Hubby is working from home, so likely will not mind Kiddo and I making ourselves scarce for a while. At any rate, he'll be more productive without his chicks around. Of course, this means Kiddo and I need to get out of our jammies (as of this typing, Hubby is the only one who has gotten showered and dressed in our home...) and get a move on. She's working on a Christmas Craft project downstairs at the kitchen table, and I'm sitting here at the computer. That's traditional snow day activity after all, isn't it? I do need to get to the grocery store as well, for more chocolate to finish up one last batch of peppermint bark for Kiddo's holiday presents for all the school staff. Between teachers, aides, therapists and bus drivers, we have FOURTEEN people to whom we need to spread holiday spirit and gratitude around, hence the homemade holiday treats in festive tins currently stacked 3 deep on my kitchen counter. Kiddo and I made peppermint bark and chocolate covered pretzels yesterday, but I want to do one more batch to fill the tins to the brim.

And people, if school is closed tomorrow? Major disaster. (
Yes, our school district has school through tomorrow.) The school is doing "A Long Winter's Night" and everyone is supposed to go to school in their jammies. Needless to say, Kiddo has been looking forward to this for weeks now. She's been obsessing over her choice of jammies to wear (I believe as of this morning, she's planning on her reindeer jammies). So, no school tomorrow will equal a devastated Kiddo and a Mommy with a bad tummyache, 'cause I don't think I will be able to avoid the 14 tins of holiday treats until January 5!!

I'll leave you with one more shot of the snowdrifts in my back yard. For point of reference, our fence is six feet high:

Yep, that's a bit of snow. Too bad it's supposed to go up to 47 and rain here on Wednesday, thereby rendering our white Christmas questionable.......

Snow day?!?

Last Friday, we had about a foot and a half of snow fall in our neighborhood between 9am and 9pm. School for our district was not canceled, though by late morning they began dismissing the high schools and middle schools early. Notice who was missing from that? Yep, the elementary schools, which dismissed at regular time. So, I sucked it up and made my way the 2.7 miles for Kiddo's class holiday party Friday afternoon. Hey, it only took me about half an hour... I brought Kiddo home with me after the party and we then waited for Hubby to make his way home, which took about four times as long as usual what with the ridonkulous snow and finished with him getting his car stuck in our unplowed/shoveled/snowblowed driveway. That was fun, sitting out in the car trying to gun it either forward into the garage or backward into the road without killing Hubby, myself or the house/car while he yelled and pushed from in front/behind the car....).

So, I was a little bit surprised after our district's big "We never close, mwah-ha-ha-haaaaa!" position on Friday during, you know, the really bad weather, to wake up and flip on the news this morning and see our district's name among the ones that did close today, when we're only supposed to get between two and six inches (depending on which local weatherdude you listen to for such info) of lake effect snow. The districts immediately surrounding ours are all open. But no, today they close our district. Today, when I have a busy schedule made up of many intricately planned items, all of which assumed Kiddo would be at school. (Um, they also assumed that Hubby would be at work, but he has a severe backache and just finished emailing his assistant to ask her to clear his schedule...) So, now I've got to reconfigure a busy day to account for gimpy Hubby and at-home Kiddo. It isn't even seven a.m. and my day is shot to heck. Yippie.

Oh, and with his back hurting, I think that means it is up to me to clear the driveway, too. i think this definitely qualifies as a bad case of the Mondays!

By the by, what exactly is the past tense of the verb snowblow? Is it snowblowed or snowblew? Hmmm....

If I have a chance, I'll get outside and take some pictures of our recent snowfall so all of you non-snowed-in-types can experience our winter wonderland vicariously.

PS - Just realized today is the first full day of actual winter. Guess it is symbolic and fitting to have a snow day then, eh?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Phriday Photo Phun - Phavorite Holiday Photo

Playing along again with Candid Carrie! This is my favorite holiday picture. It was taken Kiddo's first Christmas morning, under the tree at my parents' house. She was one day shy of seven months old...

And a bonus shot - this was the picture we used for our first ever family Christmas card, back in 2003 (and shortly before I cut about 27 inches of my hair off because Kiddo was getting too strong with her "wrap Mommy's hair around my wrists, grab hold and YANK" maneuvers....)

We are supposed to be getting one heck of a winter storm today - they're saying our corner of the county could get upwards of 15 inches or better between noon and 6pm. Someone forgot to tell the snow it's not supposed to start until noon though, because it is already coming down with some whipping winds to boot. No, Kiddo's district did NOT close preemptively like many other districts in our area. That would've been too darn sensible. Kiddo's kindergarten class holiday party is at 1 this afternoon and I'm one of the volunteers, so at least I'll be able to bring her home with me and she won't be stuck on the bus in this weather. At least this storm pretty much guarantees us another White Christmas!

Wherever you are today, hope you are toasty warm and dry! Happy last weekend of Advent and less than one week 'til Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cosmic Reset Button

I found it!

Now, I'm just going to push the button, and take care of all the problems facing the world. Everything from paycuts to layoffs to the mortgage and banking crises and the craptastic economy, to global warming and those melting polar ice caps, to civil unrest and genocide and famine and disease. Let's just all start fresh for the New Year, whaddya say? I'm calling do-over, right now. Everyone will live in peace, harmony and equality, everyone will have enough, everyone will have a home and family, no worries, no fears, no stress. Here we go...




Dang it, I think it's stuck. Anyone got some WD40?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Breakfast of champions

You know how I told you about how all we could manage to eat of my delicious birthday cake yesterday was a teensy sliver apiece, because we were so full from lunch?

When I woke up this morning, all I could think about was that carrot cake, sitting in the fridge, almost whole. I turned to my beloved Hubby and I said to him "I'm so totally having a piece of birthday cake for breakfast." Hubby, well he just shook his head. A short while later, Kiddo woke up and stumbled into the room, sleepy-eyed and blinking in the artificial light of what passes for morning in upstate NY in December, and I asked her "Would you like carrot cake for breakfast?" Hubby shook his head again. He was mildly aghast at the thought of feeding our child cake for breakfast, but I don't think he really thought I would. I mean, he didn't put up any more strenuous objection than the head shaking, and perhaps a mumbled comment or two about feeding Kiddo cake and then sending her off to school...

Which, I did. I totally did. After Kiddo had her banana and her vitamin, I cut her a (modestly sized) slice of carrot cake and another (much less modestly sized) slice for myself. Poured her a glass of milk and myself a glass of Mountain W (our local grocery store's generic for Mountain Dew - Mama's getting old and needs her caffeine) and down we sat. It was quite a cheery breakfast hour, I must say. All I could think of was this:

Not that Dr. Cosby's excellent reasons behind "cake for breakfast" don't have enough merit on their own, mind you, but this was CARROT cake. CARROTS = Vegetables. Plus, it was cream cheese frosting. Many a time, Kiddo has cream cheese on her morning toast. Totally appropriate breakfast choice, I think! I mean, this was so completely like those "sneak healthy foods into things your kids will eat" books that Jerry Seinfeld's wife and all those other mommy geniuses are forever plugging on morning TV. Totally like that, except much less work, as all I had to do was slice and serve. (Well, Kiddo carried her own plate to the table, so really, all I had to do was slice.)

In closing, while it is true that I really should be praised for my clever way of getting Kiddo to eat veggies for breakfast, and it is a good thing that Hubby is more of a head-shaker than a conniption-thrower, let's still just keep this between us, mmmkay? (I know Kiddo won't rat me out - she knows who'll give her cake for breakfast!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birthday update

First of all, thank you all so much for the kind words and good birthday wishes. I have the most fantabulous bloggy friends in all of cyberspace!

Secondly, the birthday thus far has been splendid! Kiddo, usually a bit of a grump in the mornings, came bouncing out of her room super-cheerfully (I shall not point out this was at just minutes after 7am) today and wished me a happy birthday while leaping into my arms for a still-warm-and-tousled, not-quite-awake-yet hug. Then, of course, there were presents. In our house, presents are opened as soon as possible, in this case, before 7:30 in the morning. With Kiddo's enthusiastic present-unwrapping assistance, I was done before 7:40. Hubby gave me a new Bluetooth hands-free phone earpiece thingy to replace the one that has been only sporadically reliable for the past several months. (Seriously, I've been like some Bizarro World "Who's on First?" routine whenever I try to make a call with my old earpiece thingy:

Earpiece: Say a command.
Me: Call Bob mobile.
Earpiece: Did you say Text Jack home?
Me: No.
Earpiece: Did you say Call Frank work?
Me: NO!
Earpiece: Did you say Call Lucy home?
Earpiece: Sorry, no match found. BEEEEEP.
Me: russafussarussafussa *press button on earpiece so violently it practically embeds itself in my skull*
Kiddo: (from back seat) *giggle giggle giggle snort*
Earpiece: BEEEEEEEP Say a command!
Me: (through gritted teeth and over-enunciating each word) Call. Bob. Mobile!!!!
Earpiece: Did you say tex-
Me: (ripping earpiece off of head and throwing it against the windshield) ARRRRRRGH!
Kiddo: *hysterical laughter*

And yes, I suppose repeatedly dashing it against the windshield isn't so good for it....)

Annnnyhow, new Bluetooth earpiece thingy about which I am most excited and planning to treat with kid gloves. Woot!

Also, Hubby scored us second row seats to the Disney on Ice show that is coming to town next month. !!! As in, second row off the ice seats. Kiddo is gonna blow her tiny mind and Mommy will be right there with her! (I'd actually forwarded a Ticketmaster email I'd gotten for advance sale seats to the Disney on Ice show to Hubby at work a few weeks ago, telling him I thought we should go. He immediately called me to say absolutely not because the tickets were just too expensive and it wasn't in the budget. I was seriously bummed. Turned out he said that because he'd already gotten the tickets a few weeks beforehand and was saving them for my birthday. Awwwwww.)

I also got a new iTunes gift card (of which I've already spent half on Christmas music for my iPod - finally I have the Andy Williams album on there that I owned in vinyl and cassette format but never had on CD so I couldn't copy it onto my iPod) and a lot of art from Kiddo. Not to be outdone, our crazy cat got in on the gift-giving by gacking up several hairballs and "sauce" in various spots throughout the living room. Hubby found and sopped up the obvious ones on the carpet (because *of course* she has to barf on the carpet, not the linoleum) but he missed the extra-special present location: right in/under my favorite fleece throw blanket and the afghan that was a handmade wedding present and all over my "spot" on the one couch. All down the arm and cushion where I traditionally sit. Covered. Much "sauce" soaked in and dried all over *just* the area where I sit. I felt so honored.

After all presents were opened and/or discovered, we had breakfast - Hubby made cinnamon rolls - and headed off to church, where Kiddo took advantage of being up in front of the entire congregation during the Children's Moment (and she always seems to sit right next to the pastor, and not just that but right next to the side of the pastor that is miked) to announce "Today is my mommy's birthday!" to the entire sanctuary. The pastor then asked her "and how old is your mommy?" and she told him, much to the general amusement of everyone. I couldn't hear what she said over the laughter, but I double-checked with the pastor afterwards and learned she got my age right, at least. See, she keeps switching the numbers in my age and has been insisting for the past few weeks that I was turning 73, not 37. Anyhow, there was someone else in the congregation celebrating a birthday today, only he turned 95, so I was a good 58 years away from being the most impressive celebrant. (The pastor had us all stand and sing Happy Birthday to him, which was cool.)

After church, we took ourselves to Macaroni Grill for lunch, which was so delicious and filling that Hubby and I wound up skipping dinner. Seriously, it is almost eight hours later and I'm still full. Of course, we had to have dessert, as the dessert ravioli (
crumbled peanuts, caramel and chocolate in golden-fried pastries, served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce) are too good to pass up:

Oh, so good, and they didn't even charge us for dessert because Kiddo let slip that Mommy was a "birthday girl" today. Plus, they had one of the waitresses come over and sing Happy Birthday to me in Italian (she is a voice student and was quite good) so you know, make a fuss over me and see if I mind.......

We were so stuffed from lunch that we postponed the fantabulous carrot cake until after dinner. Kiddo's dinner, that is - like I said, Hubby and I didn't eat. Well, we did each have a sliver of cake. I think I may be having carrot cake for breakfast tomorrow! Once we got home, we all changed into our jammies and curled up on the unsoiled couch to watch Polar Express. Good movie, though the DVD went wonky at a crucial moment towards the end, so we missed some key dialogue but wound up being able to figure out what we'd missed from the rest that came back after the wonkiness.

I also was thrilled to receive many a phone call from family and friends (Dad and Mom started the calls off this morning with a serenade followed by Dad's traditional retelling of the day they brought me home from the hospital - he gets really sentimental and I always get weepy; it is very sweet every year to hear the story again from him) though the best calls were when my nieces (ages almost-4 and almost-2) and nephews (ages almost-5 and just-2) left messages singing Happy Birthday. Well, my older niece was singing and my younger niece was sort of channeling Animal from the Muppets, just coming close to the phone receiver and sort of hollering "BIRTHDAY!" every so often. I totally saved the messages on the answering machine - so stinkin' cute.

And that, my dear readers, is the full recap of Heather's Birthday Adventures, 37th Edition. A few more gray hairs than the 36th Edition, as well as the start of what appear to be crows' feet and a knee that now impersonates a flamenco dancer's castanet whenever I'm walking upstairs, but still young at heart. Thanks again for the well wishes - I loved seeing my inbox full of your kind words! Hope everyone else had a fabulous day today as well!

On this day in history...

On December 14th..........

1476: Vlad the Impaler died
1503: Nostradamus was born
1542: Princess Mary Stuart was crowned Queen Mary I of Scotland (also King James V of Scotland died)
1799: George Washington, first president of the United States, died
1819: Alabama became the 22nd U.S. state
1895: King George VI of the United Kingdom was born
1903: The Wright brothers made their first attempt to fly in Kitty Hawk, NC
1911: Roald Amundsen and his team of explorers become the first men to reach the South Pole
1955: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Laos, Portugal, Romania and Spain join the United Nations
1972: Eugene Cernan of NASA's Apollo program is the last man to walk on the moon (Apollo 17)

and one more December 14th thing.............

1971: I WAS BORN

Yep, that's right, born on the same day that Nostradamus was born and Dracula and George Washington died. Born on the day that man first set foot on the South Pole and the day that man last set foot on the moon. It was a Tuesday, which means I should be "full of grace" according to the old poem, though in reality I am quite a klutz. I am a Sagittarius, which gives me attributes supposedly including being "witty conversationalist, humorous, idealistic, positive, optimistic, honest, sincere, intelligent, intellectual, moral, often having a religious streak, confident, versatile, approachable, warm, cheerful, likable, sympathetic, spontaneous" as well as being "temperamental, impatient, restless, blunt, impulsive, careless, indiscreet." Sagittarians are also supposedly "childlike" which can be a positive or a negative trait depending on the context.
I was born in the Chinese year of the Boar, which purportedly gives me the following traits: "Honest, simple, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic." Hmmm. I think, frankly, that I can be a bit of all of the above or none of the above, depending. I'm just me!

Anyhow, on this day as I have each December 14th since I was old enough to comprehend the meaning and significance of a birthday, I give heartfelt thanks to my birthmother for giving me life and to my mother and father for giving me my life and my family, and just plain thanks for being alive for one more year. And hey, I'm still "mid-thirties" for another 365 days, right? Woo-hoo!

My plans for today (when I wake up in - hopefully - another seven hours, as I've written this post to publish on the dot of midnight) are to have breakfast with Hubby and Kiddo (and in case Hubby happens to actually read this before I get up, I would be super-excited if breakfast included some of the bacon that's in the freezer, extra-well done of course), then go to church, followed by lunch out at our local Macaroni Grill. It may not be a super-fine, gourmet dining establishment, but I love their food and Kiddo can draw on the tablecloths, so it is a win-win kind of situation! (They have delicious adult beverages there as well, although if I indulge in one of them, I may subsequently need a birthday nap!) Then it will be home for some of that delicious birthday cake and watching The Polar Express for the first time. Hubby and I somehow have never got around to seeing it either in the theater or on DVD yet and Kiddo never has seen it either, so that will be our afternoon plan! All in all, I'm expecting this to be a delightful day!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The best reason to look forward to an impending birthday

Yes, it's true, I'm turning another year older officially tomorrow. I am not minding this fact too terribly, though, because this:

is waiting in the fridge downstairs for my birthday celebration.

This carrot cake is the most delicious carrot cake, ever. EVER. It's funny though, that they seem to think this is an adequate serving size:

I mean, that whole picture looks like about one slice to me, dontcha think? (Fortunately, the cake we bought is NOT pre-sliced into measly, little slivers like that! It also has roses instead of the itty-bitty carrots on top.)

Now, you might just be drooling over how amazing the cake looks. You might be wishing you could join Hubby, Kiddo and me here at Chez Smith for birthday cake consumption tomorrow, and be heartbroken that this cake shall only be devoured by me and my kin. Do not despair! Cheesy Eddie's has an online store and will ship their carrot cake deliciousness to your door! (Um, if you live in the US anyhow...) Oh, they also make amazing cheesecakes, if that is more your speed, and no, I'm not reaping any benefits from Cheesy Eddie's for plugging them here on my blog (I wish!). I just feel honor-bound to spread the word about the best carrot cake, ever!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I know where I want to be on February 22nd...

This just in: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the host for the next Oscar ceremony, and now I'm dying to bump up my 40th birthday dream by a few years and be a seat-filler at the next Oscars!!!

*sigh* If only it were even remotely possible. There's an application to be completed and submitted with a resume and head shot (so I'd be out of luck from that point on, anyhow - I mean, I'm still shocked they took me for Jeopardy! after the horrendous Polaroid the lady snapped of me at the audition, and Jeopardy! contestants are rarely beauty queens...) and then after all that, I'd have to be chosen out of all the other folks who want to seat-fill - and apparently some are actually professional seat-fillers, where I'm a mere amateur. (Not that I am not quite adept at filling seats, mind you. I can occupy space in a seated position with the best of 'em!) Considering that (a) I live on the wrong coast and (b) I have zero connections in the film industry, I doubt that I'd have a snowball's chance in Hawaii of making this dream come true.

Maybe I'll dress up in my most Oscar-worthy outfit while I fill the seat on my couch for this year's broadcast. Oh, who am I kidding? If I am not going to the Oscars, I'm not wedging myself into any sort of supportive undergarments - I'm watching on my couch (long distance on the phone with my BFF from her living room) in my jammies with a big bowl of popcorn.

It would be so cool, though... I've got three years and two days to work on this particular Midlife Crisis Crazy Scheme. Hopefully Hugh does a fantabulous job hosting this year (he certainly rocked when he hosted the Tony Awards!) and they continue to ask him back, 'til I can score some sort of miracle and get myself to Hollywood!

A girl can dream...

Phriday Photo Phun

Yes, me again. Turns out I'm not so much "dedicated to blogging" as I am "jacked up on the 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew Voltage I drank well into the afternoon which ensures I will not be falling asleep no matter how tired my little, pea brain is right now" so I thought I'd play along for the first time with Candid Carrie's Phriday Photo Phiesta. (I can't tell if Carrie does it with "PH" or "F" and I'm a bit bleary eyed, so I'm opting for the Ph 'cause that's how I feel like rolling.) I have seen folks doing the FFF/PhPhPh before (as a matter of fact, I was just over admiring Jennifer's latest entry which is quite the amazing Christmas card!) and as I'm still awake, it seems like as good a time as any to join in the fun!

Anyhow, fresh off my belated success with the Fantabulous photo-related Christmas gift creation, here is a retrospective of Kiddo with Santa over the years............ Since I am a total Christmas nut, one of my favorite things each December is taking Kiddo, all bedecked in her holiday duds, to see the Man in Red. Enjoy!

Her first visit to Santa, age 6 months, in an outfit that one of my oldest (as in since high school, not age-wise) friends and her wife gave us. Loved the outfit, I mean, seriously, it had a velvet beret, people!!

The following December, by which point I'd scouted out all the area mall Santas and decided this one was the best of the lot (Kiddo age 18 months in case you didn't do the math):

Age 2 and a half, the bow started on top of her head but slid off to the side. It sort of looked on purpose, so I let it go. She wouldn't look at me, the mommy frantically waving as I jumped about with the camera glued to my face, because talking to Santa was much more important. They had a lengthy conversation, which I believe entailed discussing a lot of points Kiddo had picked up watching and rewatching the Wiggles Christmas DVD she wore out that year:

Age 3 and a half and looking at the camera once more:

Last year, age 4 and a half:

And for this year's picture, well you can see one of the photos from this year's session down below in my SITSmas post (it isn't the exact one we used on our card, but it's still cute which is why I put it up here)... and on that note, TGIF and I'm off to bed!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yes, I survived!

Sorry, dear blogosphere friends, I know I left you hanging as I headed off to Chuck E. Cheese's for the big birthday party last night with promises to blog about it upon my safe return. One thing led to another and I haven't had a moment to blog until right now. See, I'm staying up well past my usual bedtime just for the sake of blogging - that's dedication, right there. (Shhh, no, it is NOT addiction, hush now. I type really fast and will be in bed in no time! Really!)

Anyhow, before the major catastrophe crisis to end all crises happened to me earlier today, I meant to post an update on how things went. (Okay, in the Grand Scheme of things, it wasn't that big a deal. I mean, no one wound up in the hospital or anything. It's just that this Big, Fantabulous Photo-related Project I was working on online which is to be a Christmas present for several Very Important Friends-n-Relations disappeared into cyberspace, even after I diligently saved each and every page the very second I was done laying it out. Hours upon hours of work down the drain in a millisecond. I was very much the opposite of calm about it, and I said many very bad words. Okay, shouted them, in the general direction of my computer, who was all "Dude, it wasn't ME!" Eventually, after doing major detective work just to track down a phone number and then fighting my way through the options menu to get a real, live person, I was told that my "concerns and issues would be escalated to the digital photo department" and that they'd hopefully get back to me "in three business days" but *giggle giggle whoops, switch back to a sympathetic voice* "I can't guarantee that, they're really swamped! If it is any consolation..." and no, it was NOT!, "the web site has been having problems ALL day because it is just having too much traffic. So you're not alone! *giggle giggle*"

*deep breath*

I ultimately wound up stomping about the house and snapping at everyone who dared cross my path, then calming down, apologizing for my pissy behavior and getting back on the computer (Heather's computer desk chair: "Noooooooo, not again! CREEEEEAK!") and finding an alternative site upon which I completed my project in an even more fantabulous way than I could've on the original site, AND there was a sale plus free shipping to boot. Long tangent slightly shorter, the gifts are all done and hopefully, hopefully, HOPEFULLY will arrive before Christmas. They're *estimated* to arrive between 12/19 and 12/24, so my fingers are now crossed that they'll come much closer to the 12/19 date, as we have get-togethers planned starting the 20th for which I'll kinda need them!)

Whew, that was one long tangent. Anyhoo, the birthday party. I should start off by saying that Kiddo had a great, great time. I was a bit nervous because she was complaining of being tired well before 5:30, and the party didn't even start until 6pm (by which time she's usually done with her bath and eating dinner in her jammies). I told her that we would go for a little while and if she was too tired, she could let me know and we'd go home right away. Of course you and I both know there was no way she would want to leave once she actually crossed the mouse's threshold...

And lo and behold, the magical Second Wind blew across her tired-out sails even as I was putting the car in park right in front. By the time we got to the door, she was bouncing with glee. She spotted one of her friends (who had on the cutest dress, tights and shoes - could I convince Kiddo to change out of the pants and shirt she'd worn to school yesterday? No, I sadly could not. Dagnabit.) right in the entrance and away they scampered as soon as we'd been stamped with our matching numbers.

One of the other moms told me that this particular CEC is smaller than the other locations in town. I am not sorry about that. Let me tell you, however crazy it may feel to you to take your average kid into such an establishment, well, it is that much more crazy when your kid has SPD. For real - Kiddo ramped up into high gear instantly and could not stay still. She couldn't even finish a single game (not even for the magic tickets), she was so worked up. She bounced around like a pinball right up until they paged us because the food was ready. Which was about the same time that she is typically upstairs, all calmed down and with a full belly, brushing her teeth. I spotted the pitchers of soda on the table and quickly checked with the waitress about getting some water. Not a problem - I could help myself at the soda fountain. Kiddo doesn't drink soda, and even if she did, I'm not sure that giving her caffeine at that hour of the night would do anyone any good. She was still so hyped up that she barely ate, and pepperoni pizza - even the grease-laden, not terribly appetizing looking pizza that Mr. Cheese served - is one of her favorite foods EVER, so for her to not eat one measly slice (she ate about 3/4 of a slice with much urging on from me) was a good indicator of her excitement level. There was a bit more running around, then it was time for the official birthday party stuff. Chuck E (in what appeared to be the second string costume - I'm assuming they save the "good" one for the weekends...) came out and did a whole song-n-dance that I'm sure most of you can imagine if you haven't witnessed it in person as I now have been lucky enough to do. Kiddo was especially excited when Chuck led a parade around the dining area. Kiddo loves a parade, any parade. She lives for parades, so no one rain on hers, 'kay? (Ooooh, I must be tired - I'm dropping Barbra Streisand song lyrics here. Dedication, I tell you. Pure and utter dedication.) When Chuck E had paraded them back around to the table, the birthday cake appeared. It was made up of cupcakes, each slathered with approximately two cups of vibrantly-colored frosting.

Now, with the SPD, we've kept an extra eye on what goes into Kiddo's body. We've noticed over the years that certain things send her more out of sync than others. Highly processed foods, for example. Foods with a lot of sugar or caffeine (hello, soda!) are another example. Another biggie is certain food dyes. The brighter/deeper the dye, the more likely it is to throw Kiddo out of whack. I had a mild moment of panic, therefore, when I saw the cupcakes being passed out. I had a quick word with Kiddo and explained to her that I needed to remove some of the frosting because it was bad for her body, took a napkin and removed about 99.9% of it. Crisis averted. Kiddo barely took more than three bites of her cupcake anyhow, before she was off scampering around once more.

When Kiddo is nearing what Hubby and I call "the wall" (as in "wow, didn't see that wall coming but she sure hit it hard, didn't she?") there are certain warning signs that a trained Mommy can spot. Her color starts to drain. She starts getting belligerent. By about ten after seven, she was heading straight for the wall. I decided we ought to hit the road at that point. She gave me some mild drama about putting on her coat, but thankfully rallied long enough to hug her friend the birthday boy goodbye, thank him and his parents politely for inviting her, and wave to the rest of her friends as we headed out. (She did hit the wall majorly while in the shower a short while later - I would've just put her straight to bed but she had cupcake smooshed in her hair, and that would've been even worse to deal with after sleeping on/in it overnight. Not that I wasn't glad for the chance to scrub her a la the decontamination scene in Silkwood.... I also wielded my bottle of Purell with total abandon, but still I felt a clenching in my stomach each time Kiddo sneezed this afternoon.........)

As we backed out of our parking spot (me with a raging headache coming on from the combination of the noise and lights, the chasing after Kiddo with extra-stress from trying to both keep a close eye on her to keep her safe plus watch her excitement level with the SPD, plus not eating any dinner myself - there was plenty of pizza for the adults but it all had pepperoni which I cannot eat) I was just wanting to get home, knowing a meltdown was very likely in my near future. Kiddo looked at her friends wistfully through the giant windows in the front of the building, still merrily playing inside. (Yes, one does feel a stab of guilt in such situations, but one has to do what is best for one's child, even when it sucks to be the grown-up in such a case.) She then said to me "Gee, Mom, Chuck E. Cheese is SUCH a fun place to go! I can't wait to go back there again!" I replied "Well, hopefully you'll get invited to another birthday party there some day" (while adding in my head "and Daddy will be home to take you to it so I don't have to go again myself...") Kiddo said "Oh.... Chuck E. Cheese is ONLY for birthday parties?" I was psyched - my big escape clause! I found the loophole! One tiny parental fib and I'm free of CEC until the next invite! Woo! As I was opening my mouth to speak, I glanced back at Kiddo in the rearview mirror. She looked positively crestfallen. I relented - a little bit - and said "Well, mostly it is for birthday parties." I then changed the subject to the upcoming visit from the Tooth Fairy (Kiddo's second tooth is outta there!) and we pulled into our driveway, home again, home again, jiggety jig. Oh, and the magic tickets? I'd been sticking them in my pocket and Kiddo totally missed the humongous display case of crap - I mean prizes - she could've traded them in for, because she was just so worked up over everything, and I do not feel one bit guilty about not pointing the display case out to her on our way out. I handed off the tickets to one of the other moms and away we went.

So, if I don't have to set foot in a Chuck E. Cheese for another 36 years and 361 days, I'll be perfectly content. If I do, at least now I know exactly what to expect. I'll also know to eat something *before* I go. They sure don't do their business thanks to the gourmet food, do they... The leftover hamburger pot pie was ever so much more delicious than Chuck's dinner options, and it was consumed in the quiet of my own home where the only twinkling lights were those on my Christmas tree.

I should mention that I am very proud of how well Kiddo kept herself together. I'm sure to the other kids' parents, I looked like some helicoptering, hovering, overprotective shrew, shadowing Kiddo's every move instead of standing over at the end of the table chatting with the other grown-ups, but Kiddo comes first and I had to do what I had to do, which in this case was exactly what I did. So I won't be part of the cool moms' club for another year, such is life. Kiddo did a really great job of trying to keep herself calm, of listening to me and mostly behaving well, especially given the setting. I'm proud of how she didn't ask for soda and was perfectly content to drink water. I'm proud of how she would take a piece of fruit any day over the most delicious looking sweet dessert. (Something I can't say I'm capable of doing myself... Confirmation from my desk chair: "CREEEEEAK!") I'm proud of how far she has come with the sensory integration therapy she's had over the past 2 years, because she has come a very long way. Two years ago, our attendance at such an event would absolutely, positively have ended with me carrying her out, kicking and screaming in the midst of a major meltdown. Last night, there was some minor belligerence over my announcement (I counted down for her so it wasn't a surprise) that it was time to go, but that's to be expected of any 5 year old when they're told they're about to be the first ones to leave a party.

Let's just hope Kiddo doesn't want to have her next birthday party at Mr. Cheese's fine establishment...................... eeeeek!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogosphere friend doing a Good Thing (along with a giveaway, even!) - check her out!

My blogosphere friend EM over at Life, Liberty and the Pursuit... has a post here in which she is donating one nonperishable item to a food bank for each comment she receives on this post. She's also giving away a Target Gift Card, but that's not as important as the food bank donations. (Besides, I'm busily trying to figure out the perfect bribe for her random number generator - aka her oldest son - so that *I* get the gift card, 'cause after all my birthday is just days away!)

Anyhow, you have until midnight tonight to check out EM's post (which also features pictures of her gorgeously decorated-for-the-holidays home) and leave her a comment for the donation, yeah, and for the chance to win the gift card. Please stop by - her blog is worth checking out even without giveaways!

Worst. Christmas. Song. EVER, Chuck E. Cheese Time, Best Comfort Food Dinner Recipe Ever and other, actually more important child-related stuff too

I suppose I should start out with the more important stuff before I begin to ramble. First of all, Kiddo's new sensory diet aide started this morning. I really like her from what little time I've spent with her thus far, the principal reported she received nothing but the most glowing, superlative-laden references and I was impressed with her first interaction with Kiddo when they met this morning, too. I'm feeling quite optimistic about this and that everything works out so that Kiddo has one, good aide doing a good job for the rest of the year.

Secondly, thank you for all your thoughts, opinions and suggestions regarding the little boy who rides home from school completely unrestrained and in the front seat. I did call the police via their non-emergency number and spoke to an officer. I was told that they cannot do anything unless I am reporting this occurring as it is happening. She said I'd have to see it happen, call 911 and have them send an officer. I explained that if I did that, the family would be well inside their house before an officer would be able to arrive. Not to mention I'm not entirely comfortable with the whole prospect of reporting it via 911 like that. So, I went to plan B - I spoke with the principal at the elementary school today. She is going to speak with the school's social worker and said she will also send home with every student a reminder about car riding safety, especially now given the start of our bad, winter weather season. (Considering that I skidded a slight bit going about 3 miles an hour around the bend up the road from my house in the snow-on-ice conditions we have right now, she's not kidding about the "bad" weather!) So, hopefully this situation will be adequately addressed and the little boy's parents will take better precautions in buckling him in safely in the back seat from now on. If the principal or any other school personnel witness it, they'd have to report it to CPS. I hope it doesn't come to that, but that the child is kept safe. Isn't that one of the greatest parental responsibilities we have? To keep our children safe?

In other child-related news, tonight is the night of the big Chuck E Cheese birthday party. All the kids were bouncing around the classroom this morning and the room was buzzing with excitement about the upcoming event. I think I may take a nap beforehand, so I am fully charged up before we head over there... I'll let you know how it all goes either later tonight or tomorrow!

Now, on to the first part of the title of this post. The Worst. Christmas. Song. EVER. While there certainly are a number of worthy contenders for this most dubious honor, in my humble opinion the worst of the worst is The Christmas Shoes. According to Wikipedia,
"In Tom Reynolds 2006 book I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard, he names "The Christmas Shoes" as the most depressing song in modern recorded music history."
I can most certainly agree with that assessment! Seriously, have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of this song?

I want to buy these shoes
for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile

And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

Oh my goodness gracious. I mean, not every Christmas song needs to be an upbeat and festive ditty about hauling out the holly, sleigh riding with jingle bells through a winter wonderland and rocking around the Christmas tree, nor does it need to be solely religiously based, like the coming of either all ye faithful or Emmanuel upon a midnight clear to a little town of Bethlehem away in a manger on a silent and holy night. But really? A little boy wearing clothes that "were worn and old" who was "dirty from head to toe" and who was counting "out pennies for what seemed like years" only to not come up with enough to buy his dying mother a pair of fancy shoes on Christmas Eve? Shoot me now, that is just too, too depressing. Depressing, treacly and manipulative. It's such a downer and so over the top that by the time the children's choir chimes in towards the end, I am ready to simultaneously weep, retch and throw myself under a bus. Oy.

To me, The Christmas Shoes goes far beyond the mere annoyance levels of songs like Feliz Navidad or novelty ditties which only are bearable when they are, in fact, "novel" (and the dictionary's definition of novelty is: "whose value is chiefly decorative, comic, or the like and whose appeal is often transitory"). So, yeah, I'll grant you that hearing Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer or the Chipmunks' Christmas Song too many times in a limited time frame can be too much, but The Christmas Shoes is just way too much. It is an immediate "turn the radio knob" thing for me, and I cringe if I'm somewhere where I don't have the power to block it out or switch it off, like a store or elevator (or is it the tenth circle of Hell?). When I hopped in the car at school this morning, I switched on the radio and heard just enough of that dreaded song to make me dig out my iPod posthaste for a little dreck-free holiday music instead. *shudder*

So what do you think, dear readers? Am I wrong? Does anyone care to defend the wretched Christmas Shoes? What is the worst Christmas song ever in your opinion? While we're at it, what's your favorite holiday song (or songs, if you can't narrow it down to just one)?

Speaking of you, dear blog readers o' mine, there's been a bit of discussion on the interwebz about comment etiquette. Preston and Andy have both touched on the topic recently on their respective blogs, and now I'm worrying that you all find me a rude blogger for not responding to you in my comments section... I know I don't always respond to every comment left on my blog via email either (though I try not to feel too bummed if the reason I can't respond is because the comment is left with a "noreply@blogger" instead of an actual email address), but please know that I'm not not responding because I don't love or appreciate your comments, I swear! I am a comment junkie up there with the best of them, and I do *heart* each and every one of you who responds to my posts!!

I am going to leave you with a recipe that I made last night. It is total comfort food and there's nothing better on a blustery, snowy night. This recipe is originally my mother's and I have been making it ever since I was old enough to have my own kitchen. I made it for my roommates in college - they loved it. I first made it for Hubby back when he was just Boyfriend and he loves it too. It is so yummy, although admittedly so not health food. (If you're one of those people who thinks healthy food, like celery sticks with a spritz of lemon juice, makes good comfort food, then just stop reading now. You won't like a thing to do with this recipe.)

Now, my mother's recipe is actually a variation on Shepherd's Pie. Growing up, we referred to this dish as Hamburger Pot Pie, and I've continued that tradition. Over the years, I've occasionally tried to "health" it up a bit, with various substitutions or even just to make it more "grown-up" than it is. It never comes out as good as the original recipe, so I've given up and now I make it just like my mom did thirty years ago. It is easy, not too time consuming, and a total one-dish meal. The leftovers (if there are any) honestly do taste even better the second night. (Holla, Kiki!) Here it is:

Hamburger Pot Pie

ready-made pie crust
1 lb ground beef (I do buy the leanest ground beef I can find...)
1 can Campbell's condensed Vegetarian Vegetable Alphabet soup
instant mashed potatoes
your favorite cheese, grated

Prepare pie shell according to package instructions (you know, poke full of holes with a fork and bake, let cool). Brown the ground beef and drain. (I toss a little garlic powder and some Italian herb seasoning in with it if I'm feeling really wild and crazy.) Add the can of soup, straight - DO NOT add any water to it - to the ground beef, then add a few generous squirts of ketchup (maybe 4 or 5 tablespoons - I just give the bottle two or three generous squiiiiiiiiirts) and mix. Cover skillet and let stand while you mix up the instant mashed potatoes (I usually make up the largest amount - the one that calls for two cups of water and two cups of potato flakes). Pour the hamburger mixture into the pie shell. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Generously sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the mashed potatoes and stick pie in the oven until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!!!

Now, if you are the kind of person who doesn't normally have instant mashed potatoes in your pantry because you only mash your own from organic sweet potatoes with perhaps a dash of ginger, this is not your kind of recipe. If your thoughts when I said "favorite kind of cheese" ran more to Gruyere or Jarlsburg or perhaps Vacherin Fribourgeois than to Cheddar or American, this
is probably not your kind of recipe either. (My mom used to make this with extra-sharp Cheddar taken from a brick of cheese and sliced or grated by hand, I am a far lazier chef and buy the pre-shredded bags of cheese, and tend to use the Cheddar-Monterey Jack blend myself.) If you don't eat ground beef, do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt this recipe with any sort of substitution. It does not taste the same with ground turkey or any vegetarian meat substitute, sorry. Like I said, I've tried making a more adult version of this - substituting the ABC soup and ketchup for tomato paste, mixed veggies and orzo and swapping the cheddar cheese blend for mozzarella, but it just isn't as good. Nope, this is a tried-and-true, classic comfort food kind of a meal. Also exactly what I'll be having for dinner in leftover form tonight. Mmmmmm. (Have to have the leftovers tonight as I bought a pot roast at the butcher shop yesterday and I want to make that tomorrow.)

Oh, and speaking of the pot roast, I need to pick up some red wine for the recipe, so I thought I'd be all efficient and swing by the liquor store on my way home from Kiddo's school this morning, as there is a liquor store between there and here. Turns out that liquor stores aren't open before nine in the morning - who knew? Not me! Clearly I don't drink nearly enough to have this information! We only buy wine if we are having company over and/or if someone gives us a bottle, so whenever I have a recipe that requires wine (usually either pot roast or chicken French), I have to hit a liquor store for one of those teeny-tiny bottles that are only good if you're cooking or the sort of person who drinks in public out of a brown paper bag. So anyhow, now I have to head back out in the increasingly nasty weather on the increasingly slippery, messy roads and get my tiny paper bag of wine. Woot. Hopefully the store isn't playing The Christmas Shoes or I may be inspired to switch from Category A of tiny wine bottle purchaser to Category B!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What would you do?

Okay, internet friends and random visitors alike, I have a situation to pose to you:

There is a family that lives up the road from us. Their oldest child is in one of the other kindergarten classes at Kiddo's school. He is supposed to ride Kiddo's bus, but he hates the bus (he freaked the heck out at the start of the year) so he gets driven to and from school instead. Sometimes one of his grandparents drive him, but most of the time it is his mom or dad.

When I am waiting up at the corner in the afternoon for Kiddo's bus, I often see Dad or Mom driving this little boy home. They even wave as they turn the corner and head up the street, so they're acknowledging that I've seen them drive past.

Here's the thing: the little boy is NEVER in a booster seat NOR is he even in the back seat of the vehicle (they have two, four-door cars). He is always sitting UNBELTED in the FRONT seat. Sometimes he's not even sitting - this afternoon, for example, as his dad skidded a bit around the turn the kid was standing up and leaning against the front dashboard. You know, where the airbag is - the airbag that has all the dire warnings about grave injury or death should a child be in the front seat...

Now, the law for New York state regarding children and seat belts/booster seats is as follows:
Every child under age 16 in the vehicle must use a safety restraint. If under age four, he or she must be properly secured in a federally-approved child safety seat that is attached to a vehicle by a safety belt or universal child restraint anchorage (LATCH) system. A child under age four who weighs more than 40 pounds may be restrained in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. A child of age 4, 5, or 6, must use a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or a child safety seat (The child and safety restraint system must meet the height and weight recommendations of the restraint manufacturer).

Exception: A child more than four feet nine inches tall or more than 100 pounds is allowed to use a seat belt that has both a lap belt and a shoulder harness. To use the seat belt, the child must be able to sit straight up against the vehicle's seat back with his or her knees bent comfortably over the edge of the seat. The lap belt should be placed low and tight across the upper thighs; the shoulder belt should rest tightly but comfortably across the child's chest and shoulder (collar bone) without touching the throat. If the seat belt does not fit properly, the child should use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.

Okay, so first of all, this kid is not taller than 4ft 9in, nor is he more than 100 pounds. He just turned five years old. Now, the law doesn't require that kids ride in back, but it is strongly recommended by both the DMV, police and the car manufacturers. In any event, the NYSDMV says

Air bags deploy (expand rapidly) from the steering wheel and/or dashboard, and, in some vehicles, from the side doors beneath or above the window. The force of an air bag deploying may injure those who sit too close to it. Make sure to sit with at least 10 inches between the center of your breastbone and the air bag cover. If you are the vehicle's driver, place your hands on the steering- wheel at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions to keep them out of the way of air bag deployment. For maximum protection, children under the age of 12 should sit in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Standing up and leaning on the dashboard sure as shootin' isn't sitting at least 10 inches away from the airbag cover. Heck, Hubby snipes at me when I put my feet up on the dash while he's driving (and it isn't because they're stinky - it is because he's afraid for what would happen if the airbag deployed while I was scrunched down in my seat with my feet on the cover). I highly doubt that the neighbors are just letting their son hop out of the booster seat in back and climb in the front just before they turn onto our street, either - it seems like they let him ride that way whenever. (By the way, on those days when one of his grandparents is driving him, he is always secured in back in a booster seat.) Argh. I hate thinking of what could happen to this kid if the airbag deploys, or if they stop short as he is unrestrained - that windshield doesn't look too soft and safe to hurtle through......

So, what would you do if you were the one who saw this kid riding, unbelted, in the front seat day after day? (By the way, the school is just under three miles away from our street, so this isn't like a "just up to the corner" kind of a drive.) I am not entirely comfortable with saying something face to face to either of the parents; I don't really know them very well at all (I don't even know their name, just which house they live in up the street from us) and on the few occasions when they did try to have him ride the bus at the beginning of the year, they weren't particularly sociable or chatty. (Yes, of course I tried to chat while we stood there - this is me, the one who talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and besides it seemed weird to me not to chat as we both waited on the corner.) Should I cowboy up and say something to them? Leave a note in their mailbox - signed? An anonymous note? Call the cops anonymously and report them? Mind my own beeswax and just keep my mouth shut? It just seems SO unsafe, so very dangerous to let this little boy ride unrestrained up front like that.

Anyone with any opinion on the situation, please weigh in - I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, I should do.

Note to the crazy cat

Just because you gacked up a hairball underneath the Christmas tree (and all over my adorable snowman-decorated, felt tree skirt) does not mean that the hairball (and accompanying, ahem, "sauce") is a present of any sort. For that matter, I don't enjoy cleaning up your hairball "surprises" anywhere else other than the linoleum, so if you really want to give me a gift, kindly restrict all barfage to either the kitchen, bathrooms or front hallway. Okay? Thanks.

(PS - that is just a picture of the cat in her favorite spot under the tree, NOT a picture of her with hairballs in any form.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday stuff, including the giveaway winner!

First things first, the giveaway winner! I found that random number generator thingamabob and duly entered the numbers in, and it told me the lucky winner is:

Number 7 would be Annikke, who has a blog called Mom is in the Fishbowl that is very cute and fun to read (although Kiddo thought it was about Nemo based on her header). Congratulations, Annikke! I hope you and your family enjoy the Jazzy Fairy Tales CD! For those of you who didn't win, the Jazz For Young Children website has a shop with all their offerings, so I strongly encourage you to check them out for the kids on your holiday shopping list! It's a great, unique gift idea that helps introduce kids to some new genres of music in a fun and entertaining way. My daughter is positively hooked!

Oh, and another quick Kiddo-school update: the woman who was my top choice has accepted the position as Kiddo's sensory diet aide and begins on Wednesday. WOO-HOOOOOO!!!! I'm so hopeful that she will be a great match and will do an excellent job with everything! She is a grad student with an ultimate goal of becoming an elementary school psychologist, and while she makes me feel quite old in comparison (how can a grad student look so young?!?), she seemed to be kind, smart, energetic and quick on the uptake, all good things for working with Kiddo. She said she is familiar with SPD and also took the handout I'd prepared for the school about SPD (specifically, Kiddo's subtype thereof) so that should help her hit the ground running, at least in terms of the "whys" even if she needs to be trained from scratch in the "hows" of the sensory diet. I am feeling more confident about this young woman than I have about any of the folks I've met thus far who have been in the position. Fingers crossed that it all goes well from now until June!!

In other business, my Down-Under friend Givinya De Elba did a meme and threw it out there for anyone who chooses, so I'm choosing! I actually had chosen to do this yesterday, then we had a power outage or surge or something that knocked the computer and cable out for just long enough for this to disappear, but I'm redoing it because it was fun! I also am rolling an emailed meme into this one as they had some overlapping questions but also some unique ones. Here goes the combomeme!

Ten Years Ago I:

* was working in a job that I loved at a non-profit agency with a great team of coworkers, a fantastic boss and hardly any pay.
* last went on a European vacation - Hubby and I spent the first half of our trip driving around the UK in a rental car (and out of that period, I drove for approximately 20 minutes, being utterly unable to get the hang of the whole "wrong side of the road" thing - I kept fouling up the turns especially and was utterly confounded by the one roundabout I encountered while behind the wheel) and the second half in London, where we crashed on a friend's pull-out couch and did all the touristy stuff, like the Changing of the Guard and visiting the Tower of London. All stuff I'd done on previous trips but still quite enjoyable to do again, especially as it was just me and Hubby and not me as a teenager jammed into the back seat of a two-door car with my two younger sisters and all of our assorted luggage like it was the previous time I did the "driving around the UK" trip.
* got a royal flush while playing poker at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas.
* met my BFF (not counting Hubby, of course) while taking a creative writing course.
* saw The Lion King on Broadway and was totally blown away.

Five Years Ago I:

* became a mother.
* stopped working a paying job for the first time since I was 19 years old.
* went on my last childless vacation, which ended abruptly when Kiddo was born a little over five weeks early.
* appeared as a contestant on Jeopardy!.
* wrote my first will.

Five Things on Tomorrow's To-Do List:

* take Kiddo to a playdate after church while Hubby goes on a "playdate" of his own - he's been invited to a card game and I believe there is also some football watching involved...
* finish the ambitious closet purge I began a couple of weeks ago and managed to abandon about a third of the way through.
* put away all the laundry I did yesterday, that is now towering in a clean and folded mountain atop my dresser and/or in laundry baskets waiting to go into Kiddo's room.
* sort through massive piles of paperwork that I keep shifting from one spot to another without actually ever quite sorting through.
* finish the Christmas gifts I'm working on for the grandparents.

Five Snacks I Enjoy:

* popcorn (preferably air-popped, with butter and salt)
* pretzels
* fresh fruit - in the summer, nothing beats berries of any sort. In the fall, apples - espcially Jonagolds which are my favorite. This time of year, I will eat Clementine oranges until I am literally sick to my stomach. Oh, how I love Clementines!
* Cheez Doodles (puffed, not "crunchy" or "crispy" or whatever that other kind is called)
* chocolate (pretty much in any way, shape or form)

Five Things I Would Do if I Were a Millionaire (I'm going to assume by this that I have millionS - plural, I mean, if I'm going to dream, might as well dream big, eh?):

* Ensure that Kiddo's educational fund is sufficient
ly large.
* Buy a new house, that has a playroom/rec room for all Kiddo's stuff so we can have a coffee table instead of a mini-trampoline in the living room, for example, and my picture display table instead of her ginormous easel, that sort of thing. Basically, a room so that my living room is no longer decorated in "Fisher Price" or "Little Tykes" with accents of "Disney Princess" and "Dinosaurs-n-Safari Animals" too. Also big enough so that we have a separate home office and guest room, so there's no need to snake your way carefully through all the computer equipment to get to sleep if you are visiting us...
* Ensure that our parents are able to retire comfortably.
* Support the charities and foundations I care about.
* Share the wealth with my siblings to help my nieces' and nephews' educational funds, etc.

Five Places I Have Lived:

* Branchburg, New Jersey
* Lakewood, New York
* Lebanon, New Hampshire
* Zoagli, Italy
* Biddeford Pool, Maine

Five Jobs I've Had:

* Production Office Manager for a video/tv/film production company
* Nanny
* Secretary/Administrative Assistant
* Clerk in the gourmet foods section of a grocery store
* Job Developer for a supported employment program

Five Places I've Never Been That I'd Like to Visit Someday:

* Hawaii
* Australia
* Scandinavia
* Africa
* Greece

Five of my Favorite Holiday Songs:

* O Holy Night (especially the version done by the Oak Ridge Boys)
* Silent Night (again, love the Oak Ridge Boys version, complete with the reading of the Christmas story from Luke - one of my favorite readings from the Bible)
* The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) (nobody does this better than the Velvet Fog himself, Mel Torme)
* Have Yourself a Merry, Little Christmas (Ella Fitzgerald does an amazing rendition of this, and Judy Garland's version is pretty dang amazing too)
* Happy Holidays/The Holiday Season (done by none other than Andy Williams - any other version just sounds wrong somehow!)

Five Books I've Read Over and Over Again:

* A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
* The Autobiography of King Henry VIII by Margaret George
* the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
* Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
* The Bible

Ten Movies I'll Watch Over and Over Again (not sure why this one is 10 and not 5 but I'll take it!):

* The Princess Bride
* The Sting
* Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
* Goodfellas
* Braveheart
* Out of Africa
* Sense and Sensibility (the Emma Thompson version)
* Truly, Madly, Deeply
* any of the Monty Python movies but especially Holy Grail and Life of Brian
* since this is the holiday season, I'll give a shout-out to A Christmas Story

Anyone else want to give this one a shot? Consider yourselves tagged! I shall leave you with a little snippet of one of my top ten movies, then I'm off to eat some of the turkey and rice soup Hubby has been making today with some of the leftovers from our Thanksgiving turkey - it was 16 pounds which is a lot for three people (well two and a half as Kiddo doesn't eat much turkey) so we had a lot of leftovers to freeze and use later! The soup smells soooo delicious that it has had my stomach rumbling all afternoon. Not even four Clementines have taken the edge off - my belly wants SOUP!