Thursday, November 29, 2012

I won! I won! A major award!

Flashback: I'm a "whoops" baby in my family... "The Caboose" "The Surprise Baby" aka "The Accident". I came along after my parents were done having babies. My brothers not only hogged the good genes, they used up my parents. They went to the circus, had lavish themed birthday parties, and they have baby books that are  filled in with details of their firsts. I have a post it note with the date and time I was born, and it's not a momento, but more of a reminder of my birthday, which they forgot ... twice. Did they ever forget my brother's birthday?  Of course not.  (Well, in all fairness, my Dad forgot my brother's birthday this year, which is pretty par for the course this year.  My dad is pretty focused on his new life.)
When I was 11, I was looking through the family photo albums and noticed my brothers had learned to ski, chopped down a Christmas tree with my dad, and had their pictures taken with Santa every year. Where was I? My mom said sheepishly, "Oh, you were so much younger so we left you at home with the sitter." I felt like my family had been living a secret life.  While I was watching Sesame Street with my babysitter, my brothers were out with my parents having an All American childhood.

One of my big beefs was that my brothers had a real Christmas Tree that they got to help pick out.  We always had a fake one and my parents would pack away mostly decorated.  My brothers strung popcorn while listening to Christmas Music, and I helped my parents fluff and adjust ornaments in three sections on a fake tree.  

My mom was sympathetic and tried to make it right.   My mom and I went to a cut your own tree farm and brought home a beautiful real tree to the tune of $50 bucks.  We decorated it and I felt like my childhood was more complete.  Until the very next morning, I woke up BLIND!

My eyes had swollen shut and I had hives all over. I was allergic to the tree!  Once we got my allergic reaction under control, we moved the real Christmas Tree on the patio.  The fake tree was brought down and that whole Christmas Season, my dad would see the real tree on the patio and remark, "Well, that's $50 bucks we'll never get back."

Flash Forward to the Present:  While attempting to Black Friday shop, I hit the local mall.  I've mentioned that I'm fearful I'm becoming a hermit, and seeing all those long lines made me literally run for the hills.  I went home and hung out with Rupert, Jane and the rest of the deer instead.  I did, however, take a moment to enter the Mall's Holiday Contest and I got a phone call that I WON!  Not only did I win, I won the Grand Prize!   Visions of vacations in far off lands and closets full of shoes filled my head as I drove to the mall to collect my prize.  No joke, I actually emptied my trunk just to make sure I had room to haul my loot.

I skipped and danced my way to the Mall Security Office and told them I was here to collect my prize. They said, "Oh yes, you won the Grand Prize!  Well, one of the 12 Grand Prizes, it's a real live Christmas Tree, where did you park?"
Bonus Activity... can you spot the kitty?
Moi:  Wait, the Grand Prize is a Christmas Tree? Are you kidding that is a Grand Prize?  I mean, I don't want to be ungrateful, but really the grand prize?  Is it 20 feet tall?
Mall Cop:  No, it's about 5-6 feet tall and we can help load it onto your car.
Moi:  This feels vaguely reminiscent of my first year of college,  "Hey Baby, come here, I'll give you a prize.  Next thing you know I'm stuck with an itchy rash."
*crickets*  (oh come on, that was hilarious! Really? I didn't even get a courtesy laugh. And for the record, that wasn't really reminiscent of my first year of college . )
Mall Cop:  Where are you parked?  We have other things we need to do today ma'am..
Moi: I'm not taking the tree, I'm not kidding, I'm allergic.  Let me see if I can gift it to a friend. Also, just out of curiosity what were the other prizes?
Mall Cop:  Oh, the 2nd prize was $25 gift cards.

Are you kidding?  I'd rather have that!  Oh well! My prize went to Aunt Cinnamon and looks lovely in her place.  Even better, my kids can visit my "Major Award" when they are hanging out with her, and I'll spend the holiday season rash free.

Psst.....Winning was such fun, I want you all to be winners too.
Anyone remember Faux-Prah?  Good news it is coming back for Year 2! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Mr. Man, here is your dang cake.

Dear Future Daughter in Law,
For Mr. Boy's birthday, he likes the cake from a box mix, preferably whatever is on sale. I kept the bar really low, you are welcome.
Much Love,
PS. I want one million grandbabies, s'il vous plaƮt.

It's Mr. Mans birthday and we adore him so much. I still am not quite sure what he sees in me. He puts up with a lot of crazy being married to me. We are lucky to have him in our lives.

Mr. Man has one glaring flaw, he was spoiled rotten growing up. When I was growing up, my mother, bless her heart, she could not cook nor bake. Even worse my younger years were spent rice free, gluten free, and vegan. Oh did I mention sugar free as well?  Mealtimes were not pleasant and my mothers food tasted like sawdust. It is was the 80's and eating vegan or even gluten free wasn't as popular as it was today.  My family's diet made me a social outcast.  Case in point:  At my birthday parties, my mom would pull out a pan of vegan sugar free jello with candles on it instead of a cake.  No ONE wanted to come to my birthday parties.   This is my 10th birthday "cake." Notice how I'm pretending to blow out the candles, as we weren't allowed to blow out the candles.  My father felt that was the equivalent of spitting on the cake, I mean Jello, so we just had to pretend to blow them out. 
Mr. Man on the other hand was blessed with a mother who was an amazing cook and baker.  When he was growing up dinners would be balanced...protein, carbs, fruits, vegetables and dessert. For special occasions his mom would make lavish deserts from scratch, in other words she spoiled him.   At my bridal shower she gave me a cookbook of all her recipes, and it is one of my most prized possessions and biggest thorns in my side.

The first year we were married for Mr. Man's birthday I asked him what he wanted for dessert on his birthday, he said, "Oh, make my mom's chocolate cake, it's my favorite."   I opened up the family cookbook and looked at the mile long ingredient list.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate from the East side of the Andes Mountains
1 cup goats milk from an unspotted calf
2 quail eggs from a white dove
1 cup fine powdered sugar (so fine, that each granule is the size of an atom)
3 cups pre-fluffed cake flour
1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla (*preferably Northern Madagascar, Southern tends to have a bitter aftertaste)
And this list goes on and on.  You have to fluff and fold things into the batter and the pans have to be airbrushed with fairy dust.
I slaved away for six hours making "Mom's Chocolate Cake" and when it was done it was a lopsided disaster.   Mr. Man ate it with a smile and when I asked him how it tasted he said, "I really love how much effort you put into it."   We will give 10 points to Mr. Man for being polite, but we all know it was a failed attempt.

I have tried since to master the chocolate cake and it's never been a success.   Since my mother in law is a saint and loves me,  she has taken over the duties of baking the "6 hour chocolate cake" which she claims only takes her less then an hour to make. 

Since Mr. Man knows my skills are limited he requests a simple dessert with three ingredients. Only problem, those cookies are like the holy grail of ingredients. 
The Holy Grail of Cookies (not pictured powdered sugar)
I went to seven stores trying to hunt them down and after store number three, I started to get bitter.   "Mr. Man and his fancy family...with their fancy ingredients.  I would just be thrilled to have something that had real sugar in it."  I lamented to a friend how unfair it was that Mr. Man had been raised with fancy taste, and my friend, ever the optimist, said, "Oh, but just think... Mr. Boy's wife won't have this problem.  You set the bar.... real low.  I mean... really looooooow."

Happy Birthday Mr. Man!  I have serious envy of your gourmet upbringing, thanks for tolerating my mediocre food all these years.   You are a trooper and today I will spoil you by taking you out and letting someone who knows what they are doing feed you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where does YES take you? Yes makes me a football fan.

Part of an ongoing project called, "The Yes Project", where I resolve to say YES more to opportunities that come my way.  Click here to see the other posts.

 I detest football. I loathe it, and have spent every single Superbowl party in the kitchen trying to avoid talking about football. Mr. Boy has been dying to play football, even pointing out that he could play football in college, because he knows college is my weakness. I'll say yes to almost anything if it motivates Mr. Boy for college.  I have said, "No Football, I love your big beautiful brain too much."
During the summer Mr. Boy's former baseball coach called and said, "We are putting together a flag football team, come join us."  And I said, "No!"  even though it's the year of "Yes."   Here's the thing, Mr. Boy's baseball coach is persistent and wouldn't take no for an answer.  She knew Mr. Boy wanted to do it and that he would love it, and talked me into it. After all it's just flag football, it was only for 10 weeks, the coaches would be amazing, and "his brain will be safe, and you know, it's just for fun."  She said, "Just come to the parent meeting.... "   I went to the parent meeting and next thing you know I'm writing out a check and picking out his jersey number.  I caved, I said, "Yes."  but I still think she used a jedi mind trick on me.

I somehow thought Mr. Boy would hate flag football.   I didn't think Mr. Boy would be good at it and I didn't think he'd like the early morning practices.   I kind of figured, he'd do a season and decide, "Meh, it's not my sport."
Then during the first game, Mr. Boy intercepts the ball, runs the whole field and scores a game winning touchdown.  I knew at that moment, I was wrong. Mr. Boy was going to love flag football. I knew that flag football was the gateway drug to tackle football, and I just had begun a long battle of trying to keep him out of tackle football.  I declared at that moment, "This is fine, but NO TACKLE football EVER."

With every game, I felt my disdain for football starting to wane.  I learned the basics of the game and with every interception, every flag that was pulled, every touchdown by my beautiful boy I could hear a little voice in my head saying, "Oh, maybe just a little tackle football. Maybe just in high school.  Maybe some in college.  Maybe a football scholarship."
Mr. Boy, Zoey the Lion (Team Mascot) and AK
Mr. Boy was into watching every football game on TV, and the boys would break down each play.   Mr. Man confessed one night, that watching football with his son was something he had dreamed about when we were adopting Mr. Boy.   For him it was one of the joyous parts of fatherhood.   

Then there was the football coach... Coach Glenn who was kind, encouraging, commanded respect, but was calm and even tempered. He was encouraging and did wonders for Mr. Boys self esteem.  I would find myself in the middle of a fight with Mr. Boy, taking a deep breath and channeling the zen calmness of Coach Glenn.  
 I wished I'd channeled a little bit more of "Zen Coach Glenn" at this moment, but that is beside the point. 
Mr. Boy loved Flag Football this season and even though I was reluctant and even somewhat defiant in the beginning, it turned out to be something I loved too.  In the beginning I brought a stack of magazines and would hardly look up to watch the game, pretty soon, I started leaving the magazines in the car and found myself cheering on the sidelines. (and maybe yelling at a ref...just that one time)
This became an unintentional "Yes" project for me.  Instead of reminding myself that I am going to say, "Yes" to opportunities that come my way, I got talked into this one after saying no several times.  But this is exactly the reason I'm doing this project this year...  to learn and do all the things I would normally be missing out on, because "No" is the easy answer for me.  I'm so glad I said, "Yes" to Football. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Worlds Best Weekend

Remember when Saturday's used to be fun?  Before we had kids we loved lazy Saturday mornings, working on house projects, running a leisurely errand and having dinner out.   Now, our Saturday's are running kids around and Mr. Man and I usually divide and conquer.  He runs one kid around, while I take the other, and we meet at the soccer field for games and if we are lucky, we eat out as a family in the evening.   The weekends are full, and the previous Saturday was madness.  We had a weekend where we were at home for 5 minutes at a time, and gone most of the day at six different activities, Sunday was the same.  It was too busy.   Then suddenly football ended, soccer ended, and we found ourselves this past Saturday with a clear day.  I started the day off with a hike with my deer friends. Bon Jour Jane!
I had tackled my "mom closet" the day before and was inspired to get my house in order.  The whole family thoroughly mucked out their rooms, and we cleaned out closets. No one really loved doing that, but it felt so good when it was done.  We laughed and talked while we worked and took several puppy breaks.

Around 5pm, I realized AK never changed out of her pajamas.  There wasn't a reason to, :we never left the house.  As the sun set, AK yawned and requested to watch a movie in her bed.   She was joined by both dogs and thoroughly enjoyed the downtime.   The mood was relaxed and lazy around the house.   
After accomplishing so much, I sat and read for a while with zero guilt, then I got ready for a night out with Mr. Man and the Irish's.   A surprise party for our dear friend that was turning the big 4-0.  I had some cheese at the party that made my knees go weak, it was divine. 
We had chomped on leftover gumballs while we did our chores during the day.  This was my gift for my friend, complete with a giftcard to her favorite store tucked inside. I love it when Pinterest makes me look good. 
When my head hit the pillow at the end of the weekend, I paused for a moment to give thanks, for this house, for my family, for my friends, and for these blissful Saturdays that recharge.   One day I'll look back and reminisce about those chaotic taxi-driving Saturdays with fondness, but for now, I'll just savor the weekends where no one cares that you never got out of your pajamas.  

Friday, November 09, 2012

Two years ago today...

Two years ago my mom sat my brother and I down and told us that her cancer had returned. It had metastasized, it was everywhere, it was terminal. She died three months later.
I still miss her all the time and after her death my dad cleaned out everything of hers. I took many of her things home and stuffed it in a closet and have kept the door closed. Every time I open the door, the tears flow and it is too painful to go through my mothers things. For the past year I have avoided this closet, until today. I'm ready to accept that my moms things are now my things. I am ready to embrace the tears and remember her vibrant spirit. She is gone but her memories still live on.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Introducing Z-Diddy aka Ziggy Boo

It was a little over a year ago, we lost our beloved dogs, Sandy and Skoopi within a few days of each other. 
My poor children have grieved heavily for the loss of their pets and were so traumatized by it.  Zoey has helped immensely and has been the best thing to help our family adjust, but the whole family feels the void of going from two dogs to one.   Add in that Zoey has been miserable since the kids started going to school all day long, because I'm apparently not nearly as fun as the kids.   Zoey also has a terrible secret, she eats the house when she is left alone.  Yes, the same beautiful house that the Juans built.  Muy Malo, Zoey!
The Neighborsteins just adopted two beautiful puppies and since we got puppies with them last time, we were feeling the peer pressure.   I wanted to adopt an older dog this time, but finding the right dog proved to be a challenge.  We fell in love with one, but she was already adopted by the time our adoption application was approved.  Another dog had 10 potential applicants and I started to feel just like I do when we are on a "Baby Chase" trying to adopting babies.  I started to get anxious and felt defeated, just like when we are adopting.  The ever patient and calm Mr. Man said, "La patience mon amour,  the right dog will find us."  And he was right.   

On Saturday we visited an adoption fair put on by our very favorite rescue, Best Friends Animal Shelter.  They are a no kill shelter that goes in to shelters and pulls animals out of high kill shelters when their time is up.  This sweet little thing was put in AK's lap.  This sweet little puppy is from the hood, South Central Los Angeles and comes complete with a tatoo.   She was picked up off the streets and after two weeks at the South Central shelter her time was up.  Best Friends stepped in and rescued her on Halloween, knowing this Labradorish pup would easily find a family.  
 "Oh Mama, Please can we keep her?"   
I couldn't resist this little face. 
And I couldn't resist those crooked ears either.
So she came home with us to start a new life.  
We named her Ziggy Boo.
And we are smitten.  Can you blame us?