Friday, January 27, 2012

10 Signs I am a Middle-Aged, Suburban, Housewife

Signs that I hopelessly am hopelessly middle-aged have been piling up lately, even if we discount the fact that I just turned 34.  Here are the top ten.

  1. I haven't used AAA in years.  During my college years, my card was worn smooth with pulling it out of my wallet to call them to tow my Escort/Skyhawk/Rabbit back to the farm so Dad could revive it, however ephemerally.  I got our replacement cards in the mail this week, and I couldn't remember the last time I called them.  And it was probably some hopelessly suburban reason, like having a nail in my tire, not catastrophic engine failure coupled with shot brakes.
  2. I drink copious amounts of herbal tea.  Actually, I'm not sure this is a sign I'm middle-aged.  It might be a sign that I have been reincarnated as a vegan college student wearing dreads and reeking of incense.  However, it definitely is weak sauce compared to my daily Diet Pepsi intake in the college years.
  3. I do laundry on a schedule.  In college, I washed my clothes when A.) I didn't have any clean clothes or B.) I was desperately trying to avoid writing a paper.  Now, I have two days of the week that I have designated as laundry days (Monday and Friday, if you're burning up with curiosity).
  4. I run blatantly stereotypical errands.  Last week, I did an errand run to the post office, bank, dump and grocery store.  In my minivan.  With two kids.
  5. I eat a high-fiber breakfast cereal every. single. morning.  In my defense, I occasionally switch between Frosted Mini Wheats and Raisin Bran.
  6. I am older than most famous people.  I will be reading the morning paper (either over my shredded wheat or my peppermint tea, natch), and the amazing person I am reading about who has climbed Everest / composed a symphony / started a Montessori school for Haitian orphans funded by the proceeds of their bestselling book-- is a decade YOUNGER than me.  That kills me far more than having another birthday.
  7. I occasionally find music to be too loud.  I've never been the kind of person to have music on 24/7, but if I did hear music, I liked it loud.  Now, I go places and wish they would please just turn the volume down.  And it's not because my hearing has gotten better-- I think Evan wishes I would hurry up already and just buy the hearing aid.
  8. I would rather eat birthday cake with toddlers than have a night out on the town.  Or, at least, I want to wrap up the night on the town by getting home in time to tuck the kids into bed.
  9. I write things on my calendar like "Change the furnace filter".  And I usually do such a thing on the day I designated for that incredibly mundane task.
  10. I find middle-aged guys hot.  My kids are loving watching the YouTube video of Celtic Thunder singing "All God's Creatures Got a Place in the Choir" lately.  Celtic Thunder, at least for this video, is five guys singing.  The youngest one, Damian McGinty, is about 16-17 in the song.  He is gorgeous-- but I mostly want to pinch his cute little cheeks and pat his head.  On the other hand, forty-something year old (bald) George Donaldson-- him, I can imagine swooning over.
Okay, now I'm off to drink tea and read a novel before I turn on my electric blanket, put on my socks, obsess over dental hygiene, and crawl into bed.

There's officially no hope, is there?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

[Insert Witty Title Here]

Despite the fact I have written about 20 posts in my head in the last ten days, I still can't come up with a good title for this post.  Probably because it's a fairly incoherent mish-mash of photos and thoughts.  Written while I'm numb with sleepiness.  Here goes!

 It was my 34th birthday last week.  Not my 43rd, like you could easily assume from the grouping of candles on my cake.  And my looks, but let's not dwell on that.

 How did my girl get big enough to carry a lit cake? 

 The kids were all in their jammies, because Evan had taken me out to eat for supper, and we got home just as Grandma and Grandpa were finishing up baths.

 Here is my exaggerated dismay that Elliott has quickly blown the candles out before I had a chance to make a wish.  Sigh.  Goodbye, daily maid...

 I have a pretty good collection of kids.

I airily tossed off the phrase "Evan had taken me out to eat" a few lines back like it was no big deal.  But it was definitely a big deal.  It has been a LONG time since we got to go out together, and this time, we really lived it up and went to bc, a fancy restaurant in Syracuse.  It was absolutely awesome.  I splurged on an appetizer (I did share nicely) of two humungous sea scallops.  They were buttery and perfect, but it was the garnish that made me moan in food ecstasy-- leeks and mushrooms in a brown butter/thyme sauce.  I think I would have licked the plate, given any privacy.  Then, Evan had a filet mignon with a green bean / potato hash with bacon that looked glorious, and I had (in the words of the menu) a "homemade potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, short rib and truffle ragout".  It was tender, exotic, and everything someone wants when they have made 47 dinners in a row at home.  Before supper, we met at a restaurant supply store and bought a bunch of little kitchen gadgets I have been yearning over for a long time.  Then, home to a bunch of sweet kids that were eager to give me my birthday card and sing "Happy Birthday!" to me over a vinegar cake.  All in all, about as lovely as birthdays get.

 This was Lincoln the other day, helping unload the dishwasher.  He was all set for a party of dogs, his new favorite animal.

 He's either showing off here, or trying to get a peek at the back of the camera to see a picture of himself.

 Owen, Ashley, and Cody came down Saturday night to buy some parts for Owen's truck.  Mind you, they decided the parts truck they were looking at was in better shape than the truck Owen drives, so they hauled the whole truck home.  Anyway, we squeezed in a few games of Progressive Rummy while they were here.

 Soda, PR, some brownies... life was pretty good.

 Cody, being forced to acknowledge my superiority at the game.

 Ashley may have had a bit of a handicap, having to reach around the devoted niece and nephew.  Not that it stopped her from going out in the last hand, the stinker.

 My dashingly handsome husband.

 Ashley cemented her already huge place in my kids' hearts by reading them a ridiculously long Tintin book out loud.  Of course, the rest of us listened, too.  There is a major obsession with Tintin happening around here lately.

 Today, I relented and unlocked the toy cupboard (the one with the big lock on it on the left there).  The kids were ecstatic to have new toys to play with.  It even diverted Lincoln well enough that he left off his usual method of play-- sweep everything off their play table, then throw everything that is on the floor down the stairs to the entryway.  No matter how I discipline him, he seems to find this inexpressibly fun.

 Now, we travel back in time, to when the kids went skating while Lisa was here.

 They are really learning how to navigate on the ice, I'm sure they're much better than me at this point!

 Not that they're enjoying themselves, or anything.

Here's one of Lisa making cookies with the demon-possessed White-Eye children.  Very creepy effect, that.

Well, that's it for photos, and you might be spared some of my drivel, since I will fall asleep on the keyboard here pretty soon.  It's been very busy here, I miss the Januarys when Evan was unemployed.  Sure, we were flat broke, but Daddy was home!  Now that he's been working straight through, there is a lot of nights when he's not home until late.  Definitely don't want to complain about his business being a success, but I do feel a little nostalgic for the other years!  :-)

I'm so grateful for our fairly uneventful life right now-- a house over our heads, food on the table, sweet kids in our arms-- we sure are lucky people!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Our Day Off

We had a lovely day off from school today.  I decided to skip most of the housework I do on Monday mornings, and putter around my kitchen instead.  I didn't get to that until after lunch, so I spent the morning holding Lincoln a lot, giving into my OCD side and organizing the kids' hair accessories,  making perfunctory attempts at tidying my room, and interceding in sibling disputes.  At one point, while I was in the bathroom doing my hair, I could hear the four kids, all in different parts of the house, all singing.  Lincoln was singing a little "Baby is Happy" song without words; Rilla, a hymn, Elliott, a song he was making up about shooting stars; and Cheyenne, a popular song she has heard only a few times, so she was singing enthusiastically, but the lyrics were a bit hit-or-miss.  It was a happy little symphony. 
 After a scintillating lunch of English muffin pizzas and PB&J sandwiches (not concurrently), I made cookies (, cut up steak for tonight's quesadillas, made chipolte mayonnaise (for the quesadillas tonight, and the fish tacos I am treating myself to on my birthday Thursday night), helped Cheyenne make No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge (her default recipe when she decides she wants to cook), threw some frozen bread dough in a loaf pan to rise, and made 10 pie crusts.  No, I am not planning on making 5 pies anytime soon, I do this once or twice a year and then freeze them to have on hand.  I use my food processor to mix the crust, so I do them all at once while I'm getting everything dirty anyway.  It felt very indulgent to be using 2 lbs. of butter, 12 cups of flour, a cup of cream... no wonder pie crust is so good.

While I was making pie, I had lots of time to listen to the conversations that were going on among the kids.  Or, more accurately, the American Girl Doll, Felicity, and the American Girl Bitty Baby, Gilbert White.  I don't know how the bear first entered this story, but this is where I started hearing it.  (To set the scene, there were also 4 Cabbage Patch kids, numerous books, paper scraps, stickers, an emptied tin of baby toys, extra bags, 2 Polly Pocket houses, lots of Polly Pockets, a Loving Family house, a Playmobil barn with all its paraphernalia,  discarded corn bags and blankets, spoons with residual cookie dough, a bag of scarves, used Kleenex (nose bleed), puzzles, crayons and coloring books scattered all over the living room.  Elliott was laying on the floor, telling me how he wanted an American BOY doll.  A doll that was a twin to him.  A doll that could swim.  Huh?)

Felicity (a.k.a. Cheyenne):  Good-bye!  I'm off to college now!

Gilbert White (a.k.a. Marilla): Because the bear won't come to college?  Oh, look, the bear is going away from your house.

Felicity (arriving at college, which is under the high chair): I'm so glad I'm at college now.  I don't have a roommate?  Oh, good.

Gilbert White, hot on her heels: I came to see you at college!

Felicity: Pretend you want to go home right away.

Gilbert White: My mom said I could stay for a LOOONG time.  Not a short time, a LOOOONG time.

Elliott, jumping into the mix: Pretend a giant Polly Pocket is coming into your college.

It only got more mixed up from there.  I love my kids being home.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Week with Auntie!

It is a freezing cold night here, but the kids are all tucked up warm in their beds, and I am a total wimp and have the electric blanket on, preheating our bed.  For some reason, I am over-warm all day long, but by the time I get in bed at night, I am a block of ice.  I'm not complaining about the cold, or the 2 feet of snow we have, though.  Winter has been entirely too weird, with all the warmth and lack of snow.

 Lincoln, snuggled into Daddy one night after Daddy got home from work.

 Giving Daddy a hug...

 Which is apparently a hilarious thing to do!

 The Whites were here for the week, so the kids got to play hide and seek several nights, and Grandma did "Going on a bear hunt" with the kids.  Except it turned into "Going to the store for ice cream", which probably fits into my kids' suburban experiences better.

 Rilla, in her favorite hand-me-down princess jammies.

 Curly hair, drying after a bath!

 My handsome little dude.  It's starting to be that he looks funny without his glasses!

 We wanted to take a picture of the kids with Auntie when they were all in their jammies the other night.  Cheyenne didn't want to have her picture taken.  I don't know if you could ascertain that from this picture.

 After about 30 pictures, this is her, thinking it's funny.  Which it isn't.  Refusing to smile politely at the camera is a trait I hate-- both in kids AND adults.

 Rilla, of course, wanted to pose for more pictures.  It might be time to tone down the compliments.  The other day she told me, "I have beautiful sparkly eyes..."  True, but it's not something you usually compliment yourself on!

 Marilla with Auntie.

 After a decent night's sleep, Cheyenne wanted to have her picture taken with Auntie.  Here's an actual smile.

Then, Cheyenne wanted a picture taken with all the kids with Auntie.  Which was all very cute.

And now Auntie is en route to Michigan, up to where they have lots of snow and cold.  Hmm, sounds familiar.  The kids had a great week with her, playing lots of Uno, and even going ice-skating with her one afternoon.  On Friday, they had a snow day, so they could spend the whole day with her! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Evenings are Wonderful

I am sitting here, debating whether to take a bath or read a book (or both!) as soon as I finish this blog post.  I love Sundays.  Not that I didn't have to give the kids supper, and get them in jammies and all, but I don't have to feel I'm a slug for not doing a whole lot.  I did just tidy up the living room while Evan read the first chapter of The Hobbit out loud, but that hardly seemed like work.  I'm not sure the kids are old enough to get that book, but Evan and I are enjoying it!  We read it, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, out loud to each other when we first got married.  We apparently had a LOT more free time back then.

 It finally snowed enough for the kids to be able to play in it.  In this scene, I was lucky enough to capture the moment when Elliott swept an armful of snow right into Rilla's face.

 Here is Elliott, oblivious, while Rilla sobs her little eyes out.  Elliott has problems with his ears again, so he misses a lot of what goes on.  Thankfully, after I shook her scarf out and wiped her face off, Rilla went back to playing happily.  They really had fun this weekend, when the temperatures went crazy high again, and they could pack the snow into snowmen!  Now the snow is mostly gone, but I'm confident we'll get snow sometime this winter.

 Little Miss Two Braids, going off to school with her birthday backpack.  She's getting grown up enough, she chafes at the two braids, so I'll enjoy them while I can.  Thankfully for her, there's few mornings I have time to do much more than one basic braid.

 Happy boy!

 On the left is the new mug my mom bought me.  Books, books, and books!  Cheyenne thinks she needs to buy glasses so she can exactly match the red-headed bibliophile on the mug, and thus claim ownership.  On the right is the teapot Dana and Marilyn bought me when they went to England-- bone china!  I have kept it in my china hutch, using it occasionally, but I've decided to use it a lot more.  I'm casting about for somewhere to store it that is more accessible.  That could be a problem in my smallish, over-full kitchen.  In this picture, I was making Chai tea for when Cheyenne came home.  She likes tea with lots of milk and sugar.

 Rilla, showing me how the Froot-Loop blue matches the blue of her spoon.  I bought a box of Froot-Loops in an indulgent mood, and they disappeared like snow in a ditch.

 Rilla in a signature outfit-- polka dotted tights, black and yellow skirt, pink shirt, red sweater.

 You might have to click on this to read it, but it seemed tailor-made to me.  Cody was here the morning it was in the newspaper, and he drew it to my attention.

A rare moment of the three big kids playing together without angry words.  I am apparently the most clueless mother ever.  I was making supper in the kitchen (the floor of which is in the bottom of this picture), and Marilla managed to bring all three huge Little People houses up without me noticing.  I know I can zone out while reading or dinking around on the Internet, but apparently I can lose track of my kids while I'm slicing onions, too.

And, now for the bath.  And the book.  And the pleasant bed afterward.  Life is good!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Totes Awes. Christmas Vacay!

See, I managed to cram about 14 annoying phrases in one title!   It wouldn't be Christmas vacation without us Vaughans hitting on an obnoxious phrase to overuse for the week, and this week it was "totes adorb."  Livie mentioned in passing that she had seen someone comment on a Flickr photo with the phrase "totes adorb" instead of taking the time to type out the phrase "totally adorable."  She unwisely said something about "It just really annoys me."  Well, way to wave a red flag to gathered siblings!  We promptly worked "totes adorb" into every conversation, along with its cousins, "totes awes", "totes ridic" and "totes yum".  Bethaney, who was not there for the original conversation, added fuel to the fire the next day by telling us how stupid it sounded.  The sad part is, it's getting to the point where I find it hard to say the word "totally" even when I'm not trying to be all ironically funny.

This is going to be the most pathetic collection of pictures for a Christmas vacation, ever.  I got so used to Livie being camera-hungry and stealing my camera to take lots of pictures, I got out of the habit of taking many pictures.  But now that Olivia is all big and important with her new camera, my poor camera was neglected.  I took 30+ pictures the whole nine days we were up at Vaughan's.

 Cheyenne was still obsessed with cats.  This is her, Christmas morning, freezing her little tushie in the 12 ° weather to go cuddle the cat.  Cheyenne went outside every moment she could, to help feed cows or tag along with Owen and Ashley to the barn.  Quite the dedication for a little skinny minnie who can't stay warm for more than five minutes!

 Evan, serenading us.

 Cody and Evan decided we needed biscuits for lunch on Sunday.  Cody's buddy Anthony had made biscuits the last time he was there, and he left the recipe, so the guys decided to tackle it.

 Evan, self-sacrificingly tasting the dough.  They were stinkin' awesome biscuits.  The triple recipe disappeared in a heartbeat.

 A gaggle of people on the couch.  The kids were finding Livie's $5 webcam to be the funniest thing ever, since you could stick your tongue out at it, and there it would be on the computer screen.  Tee-hee.

 Then, for supper Christmas night, we had hamburgers with 60 minute rolls, and homemade French fries.

 Justin was the deep-frying MO-sheen, with two fryers going.  They didn't last about 30 seconds after he dumped them out and salted them.  Totes yum!  Right at the end, he made some potato chips that were deeply delectable, too.

 Monsieur Gilbert, in his big boy Carrharts.

 Olivia, modeling the fascinator Ashley made for her.  Très elegant!

 Dad decided to make pancakes one morning when all the cousins slept over.  Sticky chaos!

 Rilla's super-cool Aunt Ashley hairdo!  It lasted for longer than I should probably tell you.  It was a bit linty by the time I undid it to wash it.

 Cheerful Lincoln, despite the fact he had kept me up half the night with his cough and cold and general malaise.

 Rilla, exhibiting symptoms (i.e., snot), of the same cold.  I think every kid got it eventually.  It's pretty inevitable when there's that many people in close proximity for that long.  At least we didn't get the stomach flu this year.

 This picture is terribly blurry, which is tragic because it is utterly gorgeous.  I don't know why my camera is taking such blurry pictures lately, I don't know if I have lost all brains when it comes to taking pictures, or if there is something wrong with my camera.  If anyone would like to forward me $800, I will purchase a new camera to explore the alternatives.

 Cheesy grinned Orianna!

 Lily, all festive in her snowman jammies.

 Glasses dude.  I still think they are adorable.

 Cheyenne, looking all paparazzi-averse and teenagerish.

 Lincoln trying on Daddy's boots.

 He's got a little ways to go to fill those shoes.

 This is Cody's new truck, which caused an involuntary squeal of "Totes Adorb!!" when it was pulled in the driveway.  It's an old military truck, but it makes me go "Awww..."

 Evan couldn't spend the whole week up there, but when he was there, he was playing with the sugar shack.  Here it is, all sided with board and batten siding.  Again, totes adorb!

 And, my little traveling companions, on the way home New Year's Day.  Despite the fact she blithely sailed through the week with late bedtimes and a paucity of naps, this little monkey NEVER fell asleep the entire ride home!

This little tired bunny conked out within three miles, but he woke up again all too soon.  Alas.

So that's the extent of the photos.  Pretty lame.  I missed documenting the White grandparents coming up for a few days, and the influx of David and Rachel and their kids, and the general wonderfulness that the week was.  We played lots of progressive rummy, and even an entire game of garbage with Mom on one of her few days off.  Towards the end of the vacation, we got into a hearts craze, where I proceeded to shoot the moon.  Twice in one game, New Year's Eve.  Not to brag, or anything.  We ate lots of yummy mint cookies that Ashley made, and a couple batches of biscuits, and turkey, and ham, and spaghetti, and... it was a lot of food, which made sense because there was a lot of people there.  Not quite as many people as there was there last year, sniff, sniff (we missed you, AK and OR Vaughans!).  The cousins spent a lot of time saying " 'Tend I'm the mommy, and you're the little baby," or " 'Tend I'm the panther, and you're all scared," (that one is courtesy of Little House on the Prairie), or " 'Tend I'm the ROBBER!".  There was lots of 'tending.  Lincoln and Gilbert alternated bonking each other on the head with long, sincere hugs.  I missed Evan desperately when he had to come home to work for a few days, and we all missed Lindsey, who had to attend to stupid medical issues before the year was out (and the deductible had to be met again) instead of coming home as planned.  Several of the family went to Vermont to attend the wedding of the lovely Cristin McMillan, and those of us left at home felt weird in the semi-quiet house (well, as quiet as it could be with 7 kids.  But it did lack Livie, so a reduction in volume, overall), and waited anxiously for the pictures and reports from the wedding weekend.  Evan and Justin played with the new tractor, and dreamed sugaring dreams.  All in all, 'twas wonderful.  And now we're home, and the kids still have colds and are fussy, but it's nice to be in our little nest again.  Occasionally, it even snows and gets cold enough to remind us that it is winter!  Looking forward to the rest of January!