Thursday, July 31, 2008

Traveling with two toddlers to Texas

All-righty! Saturday's departure day for The Home Team's vacation. The agenda: drive from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and catch the Amtrak train to Ft. Worth, Texas. That's right. TRAIN. As in, no one I've told about this trip has ever taken it. Makes me slightly nervous but I'm thinking the boys (who this trip is really for, not their very much a kid-at-heart father who seems to just smile to himself every time he utters the word "Amtrak," no sir, it's for our precious boys) will get a big kick out of it.

The train ride itself is about four hours long. Four hours with two boys not in carseats. Freeee to roam about, and get into trouble, and get bored.

So my question for you is this: what tips for traveling with littles can you offer? (Pretend we're doing what the rest of the world does and flies or drives to their destination.) I already have goody bags for them to parse out along the way, and one of my savvy mom friends suggested a roll of masking tape for each of them. I can see them taping Pete and I to our seats and really running amuck, but I think it's still a good idea.

Okay, lemme have 'em: your best tried and true tips for traveling with little kids!

(As for the rest of our journey: we're going to Six Flags and a Rangers/Yankees baseball game, and also visiting some family. Any tips for getting through all that without tears on anyone's part are also appreciated.)

Icing on my BlogHer '08 cake

You know when people win something and they say with a stupid grin ", I've never won anything in my life."

Well, that's not me.

Although I do have a stupid grin on my face. You would, too, if you'd just won this beauty:

Seems the kind folks at Symantec (the guys who make the trusted Norton security software) were having themselves a little drawing at BlogHer '08 and whaddya know...they picked me.

(What? You can't seem to read the horribly out of focus print on the picture? It's from Spafinder. As in, 250 smackaroos to use at a spahhhhhh!)

Hmm, when might I find time for that? Oh Peeettttte!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things I learned this week, and it's only Tuesday

1. My oldest boy can hurl a (clean) diaper so that it softly comes to rest on a ceiling fan blade.

2. I looked down at my lunch plate today and everything on it was a shade of white. For the third time this week (did I mention it's only Tuesday?).

3. "Do we need to take the duct tape on vacation?" is something I never thought I'd utter as a parent. *

4. The best time to take my kids to Big Water Park is two hours before they close. The crowds are thin so if one of them goes on a joy-walk I can find him more easily.

5. Summer always makes me think of my all-time favorite words to ever come out of my mother's mouth when I was a kid: "...well go get your bathing suit on and let's go..."

6. A short 25 years ago next month I was getting ready to start my senior year. In high school. Don't know why I'm thinking about that right now; maybe because I feel so friggin' old.

7. My soldier brother-in-law is on leave from Iraq until mid-August and I'm not going to see him. Because he's coming to Oklahoma, where I live, and I'm going to Texas, where he lives. On the same weekend.

8. All I'm sayin' is I better win something at Bloggy Giveaways. Get over there and fritter away a few minutes entering contests; there's some really good stuff out there!

9. I agonized for two hours while watching Step Brothers and watching Pete laugh throughout it. I did NOT agonize when I saw the ticket taker turn away a sixteen-year-old because she wasn't old enough to see it without a parent. Then I agonized some more when I heard the tiny voice of a four-year-old in the theater. With her parents.

10. Miscellaneous posts like this one are what you do when you don't have the concentration to actually link sentences together into a real paragraph. They're also good when Alex is asleep and Mickey's hounding me for something to play with, except not a toy for heaven's sake.

* For taping Alex's mouth, uh, diaper up at night.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Overheard: yeah, that's right

The Home Team is taking a little vacation this weekend.

Me: "Is there any way we can take your laptop on our trip?"
Pete: "Probably, why?"
Me: " case I want to, uh, write."
Pete: "Oh, so now you're one of them."

(Truthfully, with three backpacks, two carseats, three suitcases, a DVD player, and something to carry food, I think the laptop may not make the cut. Wonder if I really need my suitcase...)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lands' End Giveaway at Owlhaven

Please, oh, please let me win this awesome giveaway from Owlhaven! A new Lands' End backpack (which I am too cheap to buy) would probably cause my oldest to shed his first tears of joy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

If you're claustrophobic, look away now!

Yesterday in our little city it was a stifling 97 degrees. Add in a little humidity and you've got a suffocating 105 heat index. (Alright, alright...I didn't check the EXACT temps; suffice it to say it's friggin' hot here).

Anyway, here's what Mickey decided to wear for lounging around the house:

It's...fleece. I could barely look at him without breaking into a sweat. I asked him if he was hot and he says "I will be until that air (conditioning) comes on..."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How to accumulate trash while grocery shopping

(You must have a boy toddler and another boy who acts like one.)

1. Push your cart within fifty feet of the deli counter. That's all it takes for said boys to notice it and start screaming "I want a piece of cheese!" (Say "Can everyone just be quiet please?" and sorta smile as the little one whispers "Can I have a piece of cheese?") And I'd like to go on record here: I did not, on my first grocery store visit with the boys, sidle up to the deli counter and ask the deli worker for a sample piece of cheese for each boy. The DELI WORKER offered it. And since my boys never forget someone who gives them food they like, they now ask for it every time we visit the store. So don't blame me if you're spending a fortune giving away free cheese, deli worker. You started it.

2. Get them their cheese sample, which comes wrapped in a piece of tissue, and when they've eaten the cheese, wad the tissue up and stuff it between the bars on the cart (since grocery stores do not have trash cans ANYWHERE. Unless you're in a Super Wal-Mart, and you aren't).

3. Fill your cart about half full, leaving no room in the bottom of it for a gallon of milk (even though you really need two). PLEASE, grocery store designers, would it kill you to move Dairy closer to the front of the store, i.e. earlier in my shopping trip? Realize that the only place for the milk is next to the littlest toddler in the front of the basket. Threaten him nicely at least ten times not to touch the milk. Get comfortable in the fact that you have gotten your point across. Listen to him say "okay" and watch him happily turn his attention to the Lunchables in the cart.

Then turn your head for a millisecond.

Listen to him say "it's milk, Mommy." Be thankful you are in the furthest corner of the store in Frozen Foods by the organic section where no one ever goes. Get your edamame out of the freezer and into your basket with the speed of a big cat. Then take a look at the gallon of milk, whose lid is awkwardly tilted. The gallon is now 7/8 of a gallon, the other eighth having dribbled down over the groceries in the cart and onto the floor.

Take a deep breath and head to the meat section, which is the only place in the entire store where they have paper towels (and I'm not buying them). Tear off seven towels and start wiping down milk-coated groceries. They also have produce plastic bags; grab one, stuff in paper towels and oh, while I'm at it gimme those little cheese papers.

4. Take a look at your wadded up, milked up grocery list, wad it up even more, and stuff it into the bag with the milk, the cheese papers, and the paper towels. And that in-store coupon you got for hotdogs. Its 55 cents is slowly losing its value.

Tell a stockboy guy about the little present you left him in Frozen Foods and breathe a sigh of relief at how kind he is to you.

5. Get to the checkout, where you know they at least have a tiny office-sized trash can under each register. Without saying anything, invade the checker's space and stuff your bag into already-overflowing trash can.

6. Get out of the store and try to figure out a way to strap your own trash bag on the cart for next time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We interrupt this blog for...housework

Since I got back from BlogHer '08 I must be on the computer at all possible free moments: installing junk on my blog, visiting other attendees' sites, and counting up the huge stack of business cards I accumulated. The latter, thankfully, has been transformed into bookmarked links for later use, and Mickey is finally the proud owner of 28 cards of various shapes and sizes and colors.

All that said...I gotta get some work done here, people! So if you don't see me for a few days, know that my kitchen floor, my laundry room, and my bathrooms are no longer being neglected. More or less.

In the meantime, check out Cake Wrecks for some of my creations. Well, not mine yet, but I'm about guaranteed a spot out there at some time or another. (Thanks to Julie via Twitter for the link!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A must-read on asking a lot from a bathroom

One of my roommates from BlogHer '08 was Mary from Owlhaven. You must check out her 4 women, 1 bathroom post. (Unfortunately I DID forget who I was sleeping with for a fleeting fraction of a second. Fleeting, I tell you. Miniscule. Sorry, Melanie...)

BlogHer '08: ...and perfectionism will keep you from posting

Since I got back from BlogHer '08 two days ago I've been mulling over what to post about it, to say the least. There's so many snippets and stories that are so memorable to me but maybe my readers could do without those. I decided today to stop mulling and just provide you with something useful on my blog for once. So here's a brief recap of my experience at BlogHer '08, and I also encourage you once again to visit Blogging Basics 101 for more info.

Day One

FAQs for Beginning Bloggers: Excellent session! Visit Wannabe Hippie for what was a live blog from the session and Webgrrls International for a list of resources.

MommyBlogging: Public Parenting and Privacy: Really interesting, open discussion with four panelists. Live blog is at It's My Life. This one made me second-guess my decision to post the boys' photos out here.

Writing Workshop: The live blog is at Abigail Schilling, but I found Contentious, who led the workshop, had more detailed info.

Day Two

Building Traffic via Content and Community: Here's where I sat in wonderment (on the floor because it was so crowded) at the information provided by Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes. SR is one of the most-read recipe blogs on the planet and this woman seems to know what she's doing. She admitted this presentation is a couple of years old; to me, that means its info is tried and true. Semi-Charmed Wife has the live blog.

Photography: Another session where I felt very lucky to be hearing the speaker. Me Ra Koh has truly put her mark on the online photography world, and amazingly she only started taking pictures seriously six years ago. The live blog is at It's My Life and be sure to visit Me Ra as well.

Third session: Nothing. I was overwhelmed so I went to the spa and got a wax.

(You can get recaps and live blogs for all the sessions at the BlogHer site.)

BlogHer '08 was truly a unique experience and I would love to go again next year. If Pete can survive the boys this year then next year they should be even easier, right? Right?

(Pete does want it to go on record that he did housework while I was gone. And there were no injuries. At least nothing that won't heal in a few days...)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

There's no crying at BlogHer!

Oh, my. It has been way too long since I had to act like I know what I'm talking about at a professional conference. Like, seven or eight or 12 years. BlogHer has totally sent me into a tailspin of self-doubt, indecisiveness, and a general feeling of technical inadequacy.

And I've loved every minute of it.

First of all, San Francisco is friggin' cold, but only in the 60s so actually invigorating about 3:30 this afternoon when the urge to bust out of break-out sessions and card exchanging overwhemed me.

Day Two will probably be more of the same of everything, but bring it. I'm ready. Maybe.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Could be a long three nights for Pete

Just when I thought I was home free today, this happened:

That would be shards of glass. The glass that was our lamp. Pete and I spent 45 minutes picking up the pieces. And trying to keep little toes off the carpet.

I was a little shaken-and-stirred...with all I have going on tonight. But I made time to take this: "Alex and Primary Colors."

Sorta makes broken lamps a little easier to take.

Why the BlogHer Conference?

What in the heck is BlogHer?

You know those advertisements on the right-hand side of this text? Those are called "BlogHer ads," and they are the product of BlogHer, which is an organization for women who blog. They realized that there are a friggin' lot of women who blog and even more who read our blogs, which equates to untapped (until now) advertising revenue. Now I'm going to try to refrain from using "blog" anymore in this post since it's losing its punch.

What is the BlogHer Conference and why are you leaving your family for four days to go?

Check out the conference site here. They expect around 1000 attendees, not all mommy bloggers like me, of course. I'm going to the conference to find out more about the career of blogging and figure out if this is really something I want to dive into more enthusiastically. You may have noticed that I don't really have a plan for what I write and that's because I don't make writing a priority and that's because I really just do it for myself and not as if it's some kind of job. But it could be. And I'm going to seek out some inspiration to that end this weekend.

Where are you staying?

We'll be at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. Supposed to be in a great location with great shopping. Not that I'll have time to do that. I'll be rooming with Melanie and Shannon and Mary. These ladies are rockstars at what they do and I feel a little like the little sister trying to tag along with her teenage sisters. Or I could just be having flashbacks...

How long will you be gone?

Leaving Thursday, coming back Sunday.

What is Pete doing with the kids?

That is between him and the kids. And McDonald's. And grandparents. And aunts with trampolines. All I know is that he very graciously encouraged me to go. But I believe that was before I told him it was out of town. And overnight.

What are you wearing?

Huh? It has been many years since I have had to dress for a conference. Pete said I should dress business-casual but my business-casual these days is what most people wear to the grocery store. At 10:00 on Sunday night. And the weather in San Francisco?! Mid-60s! I don't even know what that means in July.

Will you blog while you're there?

Who knows. I'm not taking a computer but if I can pillage someone else's then maybe. But don't count on it. Count on the inconsistency of this blog you've come to know and love.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We all scream...

Last week the boys and I toured a local ice cream factory where I tried out Alex's monkey on his back. Which it is, he believes.

The thing actually did work and wasn't too uncomfortable for anyone (except I still felt like the bad mom. Did I mention there were moms there with three and four kids and not a monkey in sight?)

Here are a few pics, and also some of later in the day, since apparently there's no cap on the amount of chocolate ice cream my boys are allowed in a day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Seriously, you need to take the plunge

Every now and then my real-life friends and I talk about what's on my blog, maybe they have a comment on a post (which I suppose they prefer to tell me in person rather than sending me some comment luuuuv...)

Anyway, I've heard several of them say, in the same far-off way one talks about about taking a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas, "I've thought about starting a blog..." My reaction is always the same: WHY DON'T YOU? The fun thing about blogging is that it can be whatever you want it to be. You can keep it private or tell your friends and family. You can tell only your friends and family or you can (attempt to) invite the world to join you.

That's quite a long intro for telling you about a site that will get you going one way or another: Blogging Basics 101. It's authored by my very talented friend Melanie at Don't Try This at Home and Bloggy Giveaways and it's one online blogging source that will truly tell you everything you need to know to get started and continue to develop your blog.

And the beauty of the site? It's easy to read but so thorough it may be the only blogging resource you'll ever need. And Melanie scours other online blogging resources, too, and passes helpful info on to her readers. For us novice bloggers, she keeps her information basic but thorough and doesn't crowd it with a lot of techo-babble. Although she has that on the site, too, the brainiac.

So if you're considering starting a blog, or if you're new to the blogging world, bookmark BB 101 now. Specifically this section. Happy blogging!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Nightmares are a small price to pay for security

You may remember my almost-three-year-old Alex has a thing about fleeing from the safety of my side, not once, but two terrifying times.

Since we have a trip to Six Flags planned in a few weeks, I told Pete I'm not stepping foot out the door without something to keep him from helping himself to an escalator or a log ride.

So today I found this at Target:

He had the choice (as if that's going to help him love being on a leash) of a puppy or a monkey and he chose the monkey. I hate monkeys, ever since I was in high school and one of my friends let me watch a very graphic real-life movie. I will spare you the details but in the video there was a monkey who met a rather morose demise by way of hammer. Every time I see a monkey I think of that horrible scene and how that my friend's parents were losers because I had nightmares for a long time after that.

Anyway, he chose the monkey and now I get to have nightmares some more in order to keep him safe.

(tap, tap, tap....ewwwww!)

Friday, July 04, 2008

I love this country!

Here's what 7:00 a.m. looked like this morning.

And 10:00 a.m.

As Alex so insightfully put this morning: "Happy Fourth of Jul-live!"
Amen, Alex. Amen.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Stars and Stripes Cookies

In my next life I'd like to come back as a chef in the baking department of the Food Network kitchens. Imagine getting to do nothing but test recipes in a gigantic kitchen with a gigantic island, with gigantic trash cans that get emptied by someone else. And all the ingredients would be in giant resealable boxes instead of rolled up in their bags and sealed with a clothespin.

I'd also get to work with cool people like Gale Gand and Sandra Lee and other celebrity chefs that really don't do anything but show up and put the ingredients together. Who do you think measures out all their ingredients and chops all their vegetables into perfect little squares? Some underpaid sous chef who merely aspires to empty their trash, I suspect.

Anyway, what does all that rambling have to do with the title of this post? Well, it's not even Christmas and I'm making sugar cookies today! Red, white, and blue sugar cookies. Once a year is way too little to whip up a batch of Royal Icing and let it work its magic, so I'm doing it today.

And why, you may wonder, am I blogging this now when I don't have anything to show for it? Who really knows. I'm just so excited at the prospect of edible stars and circles in patriotic colors I can't even stand it.

No, I don't really have time to do it. But lately I've tried to stop saying that because I think it's about what you choose to do with the time you have. So instead of saying "I don't have time" I say "I didn't make time for that..." Try it, it's liberating.

But you can bet today I'm makin' me some time for patriotic sugar cookies. Check back tomorrow for the results!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

WFMW: Two Five-Ingredient Recipes

Today's Works for Me Wednesday is a themed affair: recipes requiring five ingredients or less. My gosh, I hope Shannon never takes that post down; I could just start from the beginning of the 368 posts (at the time I'm writing this) and make a cookbook.

I thumbed through my recipes and found these two gems. They're both easy and family-pleasing. They're both the required five ingredients or less (minus the salt and pepper). They're both pretty cheap to make.

But there's one glaring difference: one wears angel wings and the other you will hate me for if you're currently dieting. No mystery which one is which:

Chicken Breast with Honey-Balsamic Glaze
From: Weight Watchers; 4 points

1 1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 t. olive oil
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, four 4-oz. pieces
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. honey

Combine the first three ingredients; sprinkle over both sides of chicken.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, cook 7 to 8 minutes on each side or until chicken is done.

Transfer chicken to a platter; keep warm. Reduce heat to medium-low; add vinegar and honey to pan. Simmer one minute or until glaze thickens; stir constantly. Pour glaze over chicken. Makes four servings. Really good served with rice.

Almost Candy Bars
From: A mom friend who brought these on our Branson trip. To. Die. For.

1 box devil's food cake mix
1 stick butter
1 bag chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semi-sweet)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. chopped nuts

Blend butter and cake mix together until crumbly. Press into bottom of a jelly roll pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts evenly over the top. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until everything looks melty. You'll know! Remove from oven; let cool and cut into small squares. Makes a lot but not enough!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A new bloggy outfit

Notice anything different? Woo-hoo! After two years I've finally changed into a new bloggy ensemble. You like? I hope so, could be another two years before I change again.

Thanks to Christy at Be Design for getting me into my new diggs. I thought this would take a couple of weeks to accomplish but my word that girl is fast!

Ya'll have a good day before the day before the day before the Fourth!