Archive for December, 2009

GOODBYE To 2009!

Posted in holidays on December 31st, 2009 and tagged , , , , ,

As if the month of December 2009 wasn’t negative enough for our family, we spent the last days of the year with the stomach flu – all 6 of us.  It’s just an interesting end to an interesting month, and I have to admit I am glad to see 2009 go.  Hopefully, a year like that only comes along once in a blue moon…  Actually, after reading about blue moons, I’m hoping our family’s bad luck years occur much less frequently than even a New Year’s blue moon, which we will enjoy this evening.

But my point is, have a happy and safe New Year’s celebration!  If you drink, don’t drive, and if you drink and drive, you’re not invited to read my blog anymore.

Happy New Year to you and yours!!!

delete new years

A Not-So-Cynical Look At The 2009 Holiday Season

Posted in holidays on December 29th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was thinking about our family’s 2009 holiday season, now come and almost gone already, and I was envisioning words to describe this wonderful season, despite the fact that this year ours was peppered with unpleasant familial dramatics.  But about a week ago, I made what was a conscious decision to pull myself up from the depths of despair I had fallen into after losing a beloved family member just one week before Christmas.  So, in my good humor, I chose 24 of the best words to describe my holiday season, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.  Here goes…

Avatar – Saw it and actually liked it, despite my typical sci-fi reluctance.  But I liked Avatar so much that I’m really hoping the timing and budget work out so that I can see it again in 3D at a more technologically savvy theater.

Big Family Christmas – We traveled to Illinois on Christmas Day and got to take part in a huge gathering of my husband’s large extended family.  His 92-year-old grandmother, who speaks with a thick east-coast Connecticut accent (and who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day from age 16 until age 70!) told many of her infamous stories that had everyone in stitches!  After hearing one of Monie’s stories, I could have used the words Blue Boob for B, but I will spare you those details…  😉

Christ Was Born – We went to a beautiful church service on Christmas Eve to celebrate and reflect upon the entire purpose of the Christmas holiday.

De…  There are two words that come to mind for this letter based upon certain recent events in my life, but I’m not going to go there; this is to be “A Not-So-Cynical Look…” blog post.  So here, D will stand for Dumbledore, since I’m almost halfway through my first Harry Potter book and lovin’ it!

Elf – My favorite holiday movie, and we actually had time to watch it this year!  It, unlike a few other favorite Christmas experiences, did not lose any magic this year.  I still felt that warm and fuzzy “Christmas Magic” feeling after I watched this movie – I’d pull it out more often, but it’s not the same unless it’s Christmas! 
“I love smiling; smiling’s my favorite!!”  – Buddy The Elf

Friends – We are so blessed to have such wonderful friends, and I can’t thank them enough for the things they did and just for being there during this bittersweet time.

Grandparents –  We were able to visit 3 of our grandparents this holiday season!  Even being in our 30’s, we have 3 surviving grandparents among my husband and I –  we were blessed to be able to spend time with all of them this year!

Homemade spaghetti – Best.  Christmas.  Gift.  EVER!!  My mother-in-law sent us home 4 huge frozen batches of her out-of-this-world spaghetti sauce!  AND a large bag of grated Asiago cheese.  AND…  something I’ll save for another letter…

Ice – Drove through plenty of it to reach IL and get back to Ohio on Christmas day.  Luckily, traffic was light and travel for us was smooth and safe.  The kids were good as gold and slept for the majority of both drives.

Jill – Screwed us over again!  This little story begins with Walmart.  Since this is “A Not-So-Cynical Look…”, I won’t go off about Walmart, but I will simply state the facts:  the pump in our windshield wiper cleaner fluid dispenser stopped working after the last time we got an oil change at Walmart.  We didn’t really need it until Christmas night, when we were driving past the city of Chicago, and apparently smog + snow = some sort of disgusting pollution paste.  So visibility is limited, and we still don’t know exactly what happened since we’ve driven this route dozens of times, but basically the express lanes on I-90 seemed to suddenly dissolve into city streets.  So now it’s 10:30 on Christmas night, and we’re wandering around in the city.  We can’t see out the back of the car since there’s tons of Christmas presents, and we can’t see out of the front of the car because of the pollution paste.  This is where Jill comes in – and she directs us straight back to I-90.  Only problem is, our van can’t just jump guardrails; we needed an entrance ramp, and Jill was only directing us to streets that crossed over the expressway and didn’t actually intersect with it.  So we crossed bridge after bridge, and we criss-crossed I-90 until one of those streets had an entrance ramp.  Then Jill freaked out and tried to get us off of the expressway again, but she got her power button pressed – we knew our way from there.

Kalachkies – I have a fun memory of a Christmas years ago when my forgetful Polish grandmother was sitting in her wheelchair, instructing my equally Polish uncle and myself how to make kalachkies, a usually delicious Polish cookie.  The end results were inedible and referred to as “hockey pucks”.  This year at Christmas, my husband’s cousin made homemade kalachkies – real ones, no hockey pucks, and they were delicious!  Thanks Lilly!

Late night drive – One night, we took the kids out in the car in their pajamas with some snacks, and we drove through the snowy countryside to a town  about 30 minutes away for a drive-thru lighted display that’s just wonderful.  Late night drive could also refer to my husband’s and my peaceful drive home (after the unscheduled tour of the city) while the kids were asleep all the way from Illinois to Ohio – nice.

Mashed Potatoes – My mother-in-law is a great cook!  I guess it’s been  awhile since the last time I had her mashed potatoes, because I  didn’t remember how they tasted.  But I told her the truth after Christmas dinner – they were the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had!

Noodles – My mother-in-law’s spaghetti sauce also came with EIGHT pounds of whole wheat gourmet organic pasta!  I love whole wheat pasta – it actually tastes better, and you don’t get the pasta-stomachache / horrible stuffed feeling that can accompany pasta over-indulgence.

Onions – One of my favorite holiday dishes is creamed onions, and it was a nice surprise to see this dish on the Christmas buffet.  Fortunately for me, my husband can replicate the taste of his mother’s creamed onions –  yum!

P.A.S. – Pompous Ass Syndrome – my poor brother-in-law is a victim.  Enough Said.

Quiet – With 4 kids and Christmas celebrations spread out over 2 weeks, there really wasn’t much of this.

Revenge – My brother and sister-in-law gifted our kids 3 little gumball machines.  Cute, but not when you realize how many gumballs needed to be pried out of our candy-obsessed toddler’s little hands, for one thing.  Who would give little kids gumball machine gifts?  Wait, isn’t that what we got her 3 kids last year?!?  I’m all for re-gifting; I really think it’s a smart thing to do.  But maybe next year I’ll choose our Christmas gifts more carefully…

Snow – It’s been snowing on and off for a week and a half here in Ohio.  The Chicago area was unexpectedly blanketed with about a foot of snow on Saturday – thank goodness we left for Ohio on Friday night!

Turkey – We ate it and it was good.

U-Turn – see “J” – Jill the GPS.  Besides the time we were lost in Chicago, Jill caused us to make at least one other U-turn on this trip.

Vile – Odor in Gary Indiana – I don’t care what the Music Man had to say – Gary Indiana STINKS!  Literally!!!

Weather  – I was worried about it all week, but thankfully, it didn’t impede our journey in the slightest.

X-changing gifts –  Ok, that’s too generic?  What else could X stand for, the rating of Monie’s Blue Boob story?  We x-changed gifts many gifts, and that’s all I’m going to say.

Yellow Puppy – When our friends heard about our family’s heartbreak, they gifted us a gigantic (stuffed) dog.  This cute puppy’s headband wouldn’t even fit on my head, and she wears a sweater that could probably fit me – or at least all 4 of my kids in it together…  so cute and so thoughtful, and the kids LOVE her!

Zoo lights – With everything that was going on during this December, I’m so thankful that we were able to make it to  one of our favorite Christmas destinations this year –   the Toledo Zoo for their Lights Before Christmas displays.  Beautiful lights in a peaceful atmosphere, and if you get there early enough, you can see some zoo animals, which is probably my favorite thing to do in the whole world!

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a great New Year!!!

Merry Christmas!

Posted in holidays on December 24th, 2009 and tagged , , , ,

I haven’t really felt up to blogging lately (one of those major life change things – NOT one of the good ones and NOT something I’m going to discuss on a blog right now), but I couldn’t let the holidays go by without sending good wishes to everyone (anyone?) who still reads my on-hiatus blog.  Bear with me, I’ll probably be back soon.  Here’s to hoping 2010 is better than 2009!

Have a very merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14

The Fun Kind Of Chaos

Posted in church, Kids on December 17th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Last night’s youth group was…  interesting, to say the least.  It was the last session before a 2-week holiday break, and the kids were as hyper as they could be!  We had decided to throw the kids in my husband’s group and my group a pizza party, but last week, my husband had another teacher’s group as well, so two 6th grade boys groups and one 7th grade girls group were invited.  The kids ran in, ate pizza and drank pop (got all sugared up), and kept running around the room.  Finally, we got them to sit down for a kid-friendly version of the party game Mafia (I’ve linked to  it enough, if you want more info, you’ll have to do some searching thru my blogs or just google it).  Well, that presented a problem we hadn’t foreseen: once the players were eliminated from the game, what were they supposed to do with themselves?  When adults play the game, players get “killed” in the game and then are trusted to sit there quietly, observe and gather strategy for future games.  Not the case with a bunch of preteens.  The boys were trying extra hard to impress the girls, and they were falling all over each other like a bunch of buffoons.  One kid even decided to record the Mafia action with his cell phone while he was closing his eyes – cheating, but you’ve got to recognize his resourcefulness.  The girls weren’t running around, but they were busy texting with their cell phones and shooting the immature boys dirty looks.  It wasn’t quite what we had in mind, but it was fun nonetheless and a great way to end our first session as youth group leaders!

Bohemian Rhapsody By The Muppets

Posted in Fun Videos, Pop Culture on December 14th, 2009 and tagged , , , , ,

Came across this funny rendition of the Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody the other day.  I don’t know about you, but the Muppets always make me smile!

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

A New Favorite

Posted in animals, Cool Internet Stuff, Travel on December 13th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

I am a fan of many of the wordpress blogs, especially those written by my wonderful friends here on tangents.org.  But recently, I came across a previously undiscovered (to me)  blog that is right up my alley, and I was surprised to find out that it’s a wordpress blog: designingzoos.com – does that sound like my cup of tea or what?!?

This woman blogs blogged (she hasn’t written since July – disappointing!) about her job, which is far from boring – she designs zoos, aquariums, theme parks, etc. for a living!  My dream job calling?  Well, not really, I’m working my dream job taking care of my 4 wonderful kids.  And besides, zoo designers sometimes have to compromise their grand zoo visions, and they go to a lot of meetings.  But it’s certainly fun for me to read about zoo design!  I found this site while researching the history of  Brookfield  Zoo near Chicago, a place I was quite familiar with as a kid.  I ended up finding this, which is a re-design master plan map of the zoo.  If you are at all familiar with Brookfield Zoo, you might find it interesting, along with this designingzoos.com blog post about the proposed map.  Many other zoos have re-design master plans, but unfortunately, these plans are forced to be nothing but pipe dreams while this economy has forced zoo visits to be much lower on the priority list for many families.

It’s STILL Scary!

Posted in Kids, Pop Culture on December 13th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I was growing up, my parents pretty much operated as a pair, and my dad worked outside the home.  Therefore, I only remember two times when he was left in charge – the time I went missing and the time I watched the movie Poltergiest.

Both incidents occurred when I was 4 or 5.  My dad was having a meeting with someone I didn’t know (think it was an insurance guy), so I didn’t want to come in the house from playing and walk past the scary insurance guy because I was a really shy kid.  So I waited for him to leave, and I waited, and I got sleepy, and next thing I know I’m waking up in our little red wagon in the dark garage and my sister is there saying, “I found her!”  My parents had the neighbors all out canvassing the neighborhood calling my name, and so my babysitter came over afterward and I remember showing her how I had just learned to tie my shoes.  My parents probably don’t remember the incident in quite the same light…

As for the other time, somehow my sister and I were allowed to watch the classic 80’s horror movie Poltergeist even though we were both under the age of 10.  If you haven’t seen the movie, then you wouldn’t know about the terrifying clown scene that takes place in a kid’s bedroom.  My favorite stuffed toy at that time just happened to be a Ronald McDonald doll, which was no longer the case after I saw that movie.  The Ronald McDonald doll went into the basement, and a few years later, I decided I was over it and went to look for my old friend.  But he was gone, and when I asked my mom about it, she said that she had put him out for Amvets since I had decided I was done with him.  But I had trouble explaining that I wasn’t done with him; he was just on probation!  So I felt badly, but it was probably nothing compared to how my dad felt when mom found out we watched Poltergeist…

So anyway, I was thinking about my Ronald McDonald doll after seeing Mr. McDonald in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, so I decided to look it up on the internet.  If you ask me, you can’t really  blame a kid for being scared and banishing this thing to the basement:

delete mcdonald doll

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

Posted in Current Events on December 11th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , ,

…to get to the city council meeting, of course!  Did you happen to catch this story on the AP news wire a few weeks ago?  While Durango, Colorado’s city council was discussing their recent 3-2 vote which made it easier to keep backyard chickens, a person in a chicken costume ran into the meeting, circled and flapped, and then sat in the gallery.

Several minutes later, the unidentified chicken exited – after laying an egg on the floor.

No need to worry about disrupting business, however, the council found it humorous!

“I thought it was hilarious,” councilwoman Christina Thompson told The Durango Herald. “I was laughing so hard my eyes hurt. There are just so many other things for us to be serious about, it’s good to take a break once in a while.”

I, like everyone else, I’m sure, have questions.  Who was the anonymous chicken?  Was it a prank?  Were they there to show their support for the hen ordinance, or were they against it?  Was the egg hen-sized or was it larger, perhaps large enough to contain a message for the council?  What was inside that egg?!?

Budgeted Birthday Blast

Posted in Kids on December 11th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

I think I blogged about my daughter’s upcoming 10th birthday party a few weeks ago, looking for activity ideas.  There was no need to worry, because we had the party last weekend, and everyone had a blast!

We ended up extending the party to make it last 3 hours instead of 2, and two of the girls were even able to spend the night.  It was actually really easy to entertain 8 nine and ten-year-old girls, as well as the birthday girl’s two little sisters, ages 3 and 5.  Seventeen-month-old little brother was a nuisance, but the poor little guy was really very outnumbered by all those girls!

As we waited for the girls to arrive, they played a video game on the tv where there are floating balloons they get to break using their bodies instead of controllers.  Next, Dad led the girls in about 5 rounds of the party game Mafia – they loved it!  Then, we made English muffin pizzas – I set out the English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms, and the girls made their own pizzas and then I put them in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes.  The entire activity cost about $6, and the kids loved it!  Then we had cake, but I had realized ahead of time that with 4 kids, we spend about $80 on birthday cake per year!  Wow, does that add up!  So I had a talk with my oldest, and she really had no problem with me getting mini cupcakes instead of a personalized birthday cake and numbered candles.  This decision saved us about $15!  I got two 2 liters of pop, and a few cheap bags of snacks for the sleepover, and the entire party cost us under $20!  Most importantly, my daughter and her friends had an awesome time and made some great memories!  Happy birthday Taylor!!

Taylor's 10th birthday party 12-5-09 004(No, the party wasn’t so boring everyone fell asleep!  This what a group of kids playing the party card game Mafia look like!)

My Stage Debut, Sort of…

Posted in church, Theater on December 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, ok, so last Sunday wasn’t really my stage debut; I acted in about 4 stage plays when I was a kid, and three quarters of those roles were in The Wizard of Oz  🙂

But somewhere along the line, I developed a severe stage fright, and I haven’t come close to the front of a stage since I auditioned (and wasn’t chosen) for the part of Thor in The Nerd in 1990.  I’ve worked in many various capacities behind the scenes and on the members’ boards for a few of our local community theater groups in recent years, and if ever someone was brave enough to inquire, I would always reject and adamantly refuse the offers of roles to be portrayed onstage in front of an audience – just way too nervous, and I’ve actually had many a nightmare about having to  get onstage!

But a few weeks ago, my husband and I became involved in our church’s semi-annual Kidstuff, which is a small collection of skits and musical numbers aimed at instilling a virtue in its audience, this time being ‘compassion’.  So my husband was rehearsing for Kidstuff, and I was tagging along to rehearsals as I usually do when he is in a play.  I was asked by the director (who is also the school nurse in my two oldest daughters’ school district) if I would “just stand there and hand out prizes” during one of the skits.  Always being willing to help providing it doesn’t get in the way of my family life, I obliged, and next thing I know I am a character complete with a name, Fran Hootenhiener!  So I guess you could say it was my stage debut as an adult!  The director was right though, I really just had to stand there during one of the skits and hand out cookies, but I even had an introduction by the extremely handsome game show host (my real-life husband) where I had to smile and even give a little wave to the audience while I showed off my cookie prizes.  I was incredibly nervous beforehand, but I got through it without fainting or doing anything really embarrassing like throwing the cookies at someone or dropping my tray.  I think it helped that 90% of the audience was kids and also that our little show had a more divine purpose than simple entertainment.  It was quite a different experience to work with a cast and crew who were coming together to teach kids a virtue versus a community theater production where the goal is to entertain paying adults.  Not that one is better; it’s just a matter of personal preference, I think, and it helped me to be less nervous.

And I think this experience helped me for what was to come last night…  because of the weather, the two other small group leaders for the 7th grade girls at youth group were unable to make it, so I was in charge of ALL the 7th grade girls last night!  It went better than I thought, even though I really don’t like to be the one in charge of a group.  But, such is life, and I’m just happy I didn’t know about it until we arrived last night otherwise I would have been a nervous wreck all day.  And the youth pastor’s face when he told me I  was the only teacher who could make it was just priceless, haha!

I’m not saying I will ever get on stage again, but for this one time, I actually had some fun!