December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Mooch was super excited this morning and kept waking us up. I have no idea what time it was the first two times she came in, but by the third time I figured we had better get up.

This was after I shouted, "Never! You will never get me out of this warm bed!" I then threw my Christmas orange at her. I never was a morning person as my poor family can attest to. They used to come into the room with protective gear on and an escape route mapped out. Incidentally, she threw the orange back and told me to "get your butt out of bed".

I have no idea where she gets that from. You'd think she was raised by two snarky parents who are bossy and forward. Sheesh.

She did throw in a festive, Christmassy tone though. I do declare that girl is getting my attitude and feistiness and her father's moodiness, obstinacy, and overbearing deposition. It's a ring of fire combination. But we've thrown in a few good things like generosity. I think she was more excited to see us open the gifts she got us, than she was to see if the box she thought was just puzzle, was actually a pink Zune.

That was her only gift this year, besides the traditional Christmas orange, pomegranate and candy that all the kids get in their stocking. I also put in some mint foot cream since the girl is obsessed with lotion and sloughing off her feet. She's quite fanatical about home pedicures and she loves to show us how much dead skin she's collected in this little contraption that looks like a miniature cheese grater. It makes me want to vomit. In her shoes.

My grandma also got each of the girls a charm bracelet to go along with the cash she got them so I tossed those into their stockings as well.

The Huband got Rock Band on Friday and I was going to open the big box and wrap the individual boxes inside, but instead he carried it into the house before when J was home and when J saw him trudging it in he said, "Oh. Well, I guess you see we got you Rock Band. Your seventeen now, you're a big boy. Merry Christmas." In part, he's right, J will be an adult soon, but he'll always be my little boy and I like to surprise the kids. Its part of the whole gift giving for me, watching their happy faces and hearing their squeals of glee when they open their gifts, even when they've been so bad all month that I've wanted to take back all their gifts two dozen times a day.

We came downstairs around 9ish and the kids started opening their presents. J seemed tired and entirely disinterested and he didn't even open his Rock Band as he knew what it was anyways so he let Squishy open it.

Money was tight this year and even though this year we didn't get to give them some of the traditional things that we usually do they got the one big thing they wanted and they get stuff all year anyways. Even though my kids can be difficult and a little insane, they have good hearts and are usually thankful. Well, most of them.

Squishy has always been very easy to please. I don't think he knows what a big ticket gift even means because he's never asked for one. He's always asked for little things like Star Wars figurines and simple sort of stuff like art sets and play sets.

This year is all about transformers with him. We've been looking for Megatron for months now and I finally got one about a month ago. He also got Scorponok We also got him a new watercolor pad, art pad, watercolors, Charlottes Web coloring book, moon sand, mini play dough tubs, two halo figurines, some candy, a traditional Christmas orange, and an Xbox live subscription, which made him extremely overjoyed and a little choked up all a once. Who would have thought that a piece of plastic the size of a credit, representing online game playing, could make a little boy so happy?

He's been wanting to play Xbox live on his own account forever and now that his uncle in San Diego has our old Xbox he can play with him online. He also got an Alvin and the Chipmunks CD which you would have thought was a new car as far as he's concerned. I rented the old 80s chipmunk DVDS from Netflix months ago because I loved them as a kid and I'm one of those sentimental moms that likes to give my kids things from my childhood. I about had a fit when I saw Care bears, Rainbow Brite, and Strawberry Shortcake in the stores a few years back, but they came out just shortly before my girls were getting too big for that kind of stuff. I'm such a dork that my husband got me one of the dolls. I'm so going to buy me some Care bear unawears from Wal-Mart now that I remember they're there.

I knew Squishy would love the Chipmunks too. What seven year old boy doesn't love a singing chipmunk? We saw the new movie the night it opened up and he's been singing the songs everyday since. I might regret this gift, but that's what we do as parents. Part of being a parent is having to endure years of annoying toys, fads, and corny Disney shows starring incredulously rich, preteens with almost no acting skills whatsoever. You know its love when you've watched Follow That Bird for a total of 28 hours in one week without smashing the movie into a million pieces and telling your child that the VCR ate it. Not to mention watching a gazillion reruns of The Suite Life of Zak and Cody, Kim Possible, Rugrats, That's So Raven, and now, Hannah Montana.

Squishy also asked for his very own copy of Charlottes Web which has been his favorite book all year. I read it to him last fall and then wondered if I was some sort of sadist mom who liked to inflict pain on my own kids when he bawled for days when he found out Charlotte died. Than I took him to see the movie because he was so excited that he had been drawing pictures and uploading them to the website and playing the games online every day. He bawled at the end of the movie too and I was glad for him that we were at the back of the theater. He's been reading it all by himself since then and he checks it out at the library every time we go.

I do declare he's the sweetest seven year old boy on the planet at the moment and his interests are so well rounded. He loves to play video games with the boys, toss around a football, snipe us with his Nerf gun, go into battle against Storm Troopers, whip up a batch of pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting, read a great book with strong themes of love, sacrifice and friendship, give a great hug, sing a silly song or old hymns, pray for others, and draw fabulous pictures of his family, dog and his ultra ego-Spiderman-saving the town. What more could a mom ask for? Well, come to think of it, it would be nice if he'd eat something other than plain pasta with butter and cheese, white rice and butter and chicken fingers.

We also bought him the The Chronicles of Narnia pop-up book by Robert Sabuda. His pop-up books are amazing and Squishy loves The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and as The Husband reads him the series it will be fun to go through the pop-up book and see the images come to life through the art of Sabuda.

Snoo wanted a personal DVD player this year and we also got her headphones, the farewell CD from Jump5, the new Barlow Girl CD, and Ella Enchanted. Then we downloaded the soundtrack for Ella Enchanted and The Bridge of Terabithia, which is one of Snoo's favorite books.

Vinny scored with a new fleece blanket from Target's dollar section and three Christmas squeaky toys. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was the most excited member of the family this morning as he rushed around the living room with a frenzy trying to figure out how he can chew all three toys at once. He's simply mad about the fleece blankets from the dollar section. Last year we got him one and since then he's been like a toddler attached to a blankey. He drags that thing around everywhere and insists that everyone around him play with it and love it as much as he does. He also has to sleep with it and needs to make sure that the cats haven't run off with it. And just in case the cats get the idea that they're missing out on his fuzzy fun, he pees on the thing every now and then for insurance purposes.

That's about the only difference between a toddler and his security blanket and our dog and his. Unless of course your child is marking his wooby and if that's the cause, you have more problems than me.

I insisted The Husband not buy me anything this year and I told the kids not to either. Alas, you all should know my kids don't listen that well so three of them used some of their Christmas money to get me "store bought" gifts. Mooch got me Josh Groban's Noel CD, Snoo got me the new Martina McBride's White Christmas and Squishy got me a pair of super soft, fuzzy, pink slippers with black and white polka dotted dogs.

They were overjoyed that they actually surprised me with a store bought gift that their father didn't buy and say it was from them. The real kicker was that both of the girls bought me the CDS while I was at the store with them and I never even noticed. Apparently I am raising sneaky, steathy young women. Too bad for them that my skills are far more evolved and on par with Mrs. Incredible's.

To see the expressions on their faces while I opened their gifts was one of the best gifts I've ever received. Sometimes as a parent, you wonder if any of the virtues you try to instill in your kids ever really sinks in. Especially on the days when they break a pool stick over someone's head, smash another's toe in the door, or give you demon possessed looks when you ask them to pick up their own stuff off the floor.

There was one set back earlier in the day though when The Husband got a bit irritable because he was up half of the night playing Xbox. He was starting to grump at J who was acting like he knew more then anyone when it came installing the Microsoft Zune. As I was getting the traditional Monkey Nut Bread going, I asked him a question and he snarled a rude sounding WHAT? Which was met with me snapping, why don't you just go take a nap!

Being the pouty man that he is, he went upstairs to indeed go to sleep, which is what my husband does when he's annoyed. This response has always been puzzling to me. Perhaps he was sent to bed a lot as an ornery kid and therefore he's programmed to think that one deals with being annoyed or angry by going to sleep. Who knows? I personally believe in the speaking your peace and getting it out and over with. That comes from my southern grandma. She's not the southern belle that most people think of, but more of the Duke's of Hazard-Yeeeeeee-Haaawwww-I'm-a-gonna-whoop-your-behind kind of southern woman. Her influence wrecked any chance that I'd turn into a meek, docile, quiet kind of woman. I don't tend to fit in with most of the women in the Christian circles around me or in the churches I've been too. I can barely hear some of them when they speak. I'm really more like them then they think, I just have to work at being content with B.S more than they do.

Fifteen years ago I was always the one to go to him and play the hero or be the martyr and say whatever it took to make up and move on. That's when I was more of a girl and cared more what people think. But after almost nineteen years and four kids later I don't have the patience, time or energy to care. It's Christmas. Just be happy, pretend you are, or don't speak. I brought up some Christmas quiche to him, thinking he was just watching some TV and he was still in the mood to be a pouty jerk face, so I left. I confess that I was a bit mean when I left with the quiche still in my hand. If he wanted breakfast he was going to have to be nice or make it himself.

He's immature and I'm stubborn and this combinaton has made for some interesting fights and reconciliations in our years together. Eventually he came down with a better attitude and I let him have some Monkey Nut Bread because I'm a sweet, forgiving kinda of gal. We called it a truce and I accepted his-sorry that you were being a brat and made mad-brand of apology.

In all, this Christmas was a sweet, quiet, family Christmas and the kids got what they wanted and everyone shared nicely and enjoyed each other. No one threw up, poked another's eye out or broke the toilet. What a wonderful life.

December 04, 2007

Makin' Us Proud

This is national news. I'm sure Jose Sanedoval's Momma is proud, he's certainly given the country something to talk about. Now when people think of Wisconsin they'll think of beer, cheese, and blow-up dolls?

Mr. Sanedoval is accused of stealing "dolls" from an adult store. Apparently he was being drunk and stupid, which I'm sure is the least of his problems.

A criminal complaint that has been filed in Dane County says Jose Sanedoval, age 26, of DeForest Wisconsin, smashed through the front door at Naughty Novelties last month. He took some dolls, various items, and the big prize- what a talking love doll of course-with a $270 price tag.

His "naughty" behavior was caught on video surveillance and the tape was turned over to investigators who got a look at the car outside store. They pulled Mr. Saneoveal over just ten days later. Perhaps if you like to steal ridiculous items from adult stores you should borrow the neighbors car. Especially if you don't like him.

The official complaint says Sandoval tried to deny committing the burglary, then he began blubbering like a baby and led the detectives to an abandoned semi behind a motel. The items were recovered and I'm sure the store is happy to have their inventory back. Unless of course it's opened, then not so much.

I really don't know which is worse. The fact that this man broke in to actually steal these things, the fact that such a thing as the "love doll" even exists, or that someone -somewhere-for any reason whatsover-would actually pay $27o for the thing. Can't you like get a Russian mail order bride for less? Heck, she'll talk to you for free and the best part is, you won't even be able to understand her when she's telling you you're a creepy loser.

Local news is a bit less interesting tonight. I got my tree up finally and I do declare it's decorated and ready to be knocked over.

Pictures to follow.

December 03, 2007

Chaos Among Order

Today is the first day after Thanksgiving vacation that I have attempted to get back into our routine after having spent the last week sick with the flu. Today was also a day for a little s*x education. I'll get to that later.

Sticking to a routine and schedule is extremely hard for my kids. People with ADHD tend to reject order, routines, planning ahead, and waiting their turn- not to mention a host of polite and socially acceptable niceties. My kids are no exception and the only reason my husband-who also has ADHD- has it 90% together is because he managed to force himself to form a daily schedule accompanied by little rituals for organization and structure. If he strays at all from it, it's danger Will Robinson time. He won't even remember to take his medications if a step is out of place.

I've been trying for years to get these kids adopt a daily regime and it's like butting heads with a ram all day long. You'd think that every day of their life is their first and they don't know what they're doing. This is the second year I'm homeschooling the girls and the third year I'm homeschooling J, I'm really over this crapola. J is seventeen, Snoo is fifteen, and Mooch is fourteen. Good Lord already. I feel like I'm constantly barking out orders.

Go back and make your bed!
Haven't you worn those same clothes for three days?
Did you sleep in that? Where are your clothes?
Go get dressed!
Did you wash your face?
Go brush your hair for goodness sakes!
You need to eat right now, we have a schedule..get moving!
Go brush your teeth!
Get out your devotionals..What do you mean you don't know where your book is? How many times have I told you to put it in the same place every day!?
OK, what are you doing now? It's time to read..not time to pop your blackheads!
No, you can't interrupt a science lesson to go wash your underwear, you should have done that on your laundry day!
Where are you going? You need to get these fractions done! Uh, NO, you can't go "get dressed" I thought that's what you already did this morning? You don't get dressed and then claim you have to get dressed again for youth group which is five hours away!!!

It's like this almost every day and for a perfectionist like me who craves order and control, it drives me literally insane. They all seem to need to be micromanaged, yet they fight it at the same time and I can't stand having to micromanage anyone. J actually thought he should get a sick day today because "he didn't sweep well". Oh good Lord, get up and get over with it already! I see a lot of their behavior has avoidance tactics, but in general even when they studied outside the home they were still like this. The neighbor used to give Snoo a ride to school and it got to where she was just leaving her because every single morning she was running behind and doing everything at the last minute. I would start pushing her out the door because I was going to pull my hair out and go bonkers at the sight of it. Once I sent her to school in her pajamas. Yes, I am that kind of mom.

Monday nights the girls have AWANA and they're always a bit distracted and wound up. J is usually recovering from staying up all night on Friday and Saturday playing XBOX. I had a lousy nights sleep but I got my tired self moving because I have to. There's this thing called a work ethic. You don't whine about it, you just get it done fast and efficiently and then you move on to the next thing. With this kids everything that's out of sight is out of mind. They rarely follow up on things or study anything after the fact. They have no concept of time whatsoever and it's nothing to see them spend two hours on four math problems or five hours on one page of vocabulary. J will spend five hours trying his best to get out of doing the dishes until he ends up having the job for a week due to his whiny, cry baby behavior whereas he COULD have gotten them done in like eight minutes and be done with it. It's no wonder I don't drink.

Thank God I made chili last night because I could barely keep a sense of order among their chaotic energy and there was no way I was going to get anything cooked today. I took a break at about 2:30pm which was the first time I actually took a drink of water and sat down for a bit. I watched Molly Ringwald and Martha Stewart making mittens out of moth riddled sweaters. And I have no idea why because I have no intentions of ever sewing my own mittens out of old sweaters. When would I find the time? And I'm all out of patience and sweaters anyways. I did get to see Lidia Bastianich make sausage with fennel along with Odette Fada who made Raviolo with Egg Yolk Truffle Butter and Gina DePalma of Babbo who made a yeast bread called Gubana. I was salivating the whole time. I don't usually watch the Martha Show but lately I've been recording them and this show was worth watching for the whole hours. I have an Alta pasta maker and I can't wait to try Odette's recipe for Raviolo and the other recipes.

And if I'm lucky enough maybe I'll get to visit their restaurants if The Husband ever goes out to New York to see the Rangers play. He's downstairs now going through every strand of Christmas lights like a good husband. I hate doing the lights so if I can pawn that job off onto someone else I'm a happy girl.

And because my day wasn't crazy enough I ended up having to give a lesson on how chicken procreation. Apparently I need to give Snoo a little more tutoring in the area of biology. While I was making egg salad sandwiches in the kitchen Snoo was watching me from her usual spot and then said, "I've always wondered how eggs get like that. I mean, how they get to be the kind of eggs we can eat since they were baby chickens."

"Those weren't baby chickens. The eggs you buy in the store are meant to be sold for consumption, they were never allowed to form into baby chicks."

"What do you mean? How did they get like that then?"

"We've talked about this before, remember, they aren't fertilized?"

"Yeah, I know, but how is the egg fertilized, I don't get it."

"By the rooster, Snoo, the male has to fertilize the egg in order to make a chick."

"I don't get that, so what, does like the rooster like go poop on the egg or something?"

...background heckling from siblings

"Say WHAT? Why in the world would pooping on an egg fertilize it? That's a totally different bodily function coming from a totally different area of the body which has nothing to do with s*x. Goodness child."

"So what do they do then?"

"They do want what most creatures do to have babies, silly girl."

With a look of mortification and disgust on her face.."You mean they have chicken s*x? That's disgusting. Oh my gosh. Yuck!"

...hysterical laughter coming from the diningroom at this point

"Yes my dear child, they have chicken s*x."

The things kids say, I tell you, there's never an end to the amusement and surprise.

By this time I can't stop laughing and now I will never be able to look at an egg again and I already have issues with eggs as it is. After that was settled lunch began with J refusing to eat his egg salad sandwich and muffled giggles about which was funnier, the idea of chickens having s*x at all or the question of a rooster pooping on an egg as a feasable way to make baby chickens-and then admitting this thought outloud.

Yes, we're all crazy, no need to email me to confirm this widely known fact. At the end of the day though, my darling daughter can be assured she learned something new. Roosters, in fact, do not go around pooping on the hen's eggs. At least not that I know of. And chickens have s*x.

Ew, gross.

November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Without Martha

I will driving to Michigan either tonight or tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my grandma. We're very much looking forward to being with her, but not to the strange smells during the eight hour car ride or the horrid traffic through Chicago. Not to mentoned the bazillion tolls on the way through. I tell you the truth that you might as well just drive around flinging dollar bills out the window for three hours from Milwaukee on through to Indiana because that's about what you're doing. Oh, and since my cousin said she might come up from Detroit, which I doubt, because she says a lot of things that never seem to come to pass, like how the Lions will win the superbowl one day. Or crazy things like how organizing everything in Tupperware modular mates is not only a wise investment but a great way to stay tidy, even if the contents include 800 pounds and twenty years worth of clutter. Not that she does that or anything.

We will be dining off of paper plates this year, which I know would disgust Martha's daughter, but my litle granny has a little kitchen without a dishwasher. Not uh. There's no way we're pulling out the china. Even if she had any.

Finding this comforting, if you too are going to focus more on good food and quick clean ups.

Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. I'm telling you in advance, so don't act surprised. Since Ms. Stewart won't be coming, I've made a few small changes:

Our sidewalk will not be lined with homemade, paper bag luminaries. After a trial run, it was decided that no matter how cleverly done, rows of flaming lunch sacks do not have the desired welcoming effect.

Once inside, our guests will note that the entry hall is not decorated with the swags of Indian corn and fall foliage I had planned to make. Instead, I've gotten the kids involved in the decorating by having them track in colorful autumn leaves from the front yard. The mud was their idea.

The dining table will not be covered with expensive linens, fancy china, or crystal goblets. If possible, we will use dishes that match and everyone will get a fork. Since this IS Thanksgiving, we will refrain from using the paper Easter plates and the Santa napkins from last Christmas.

Our centerpiece will not be the tower of fresh fruit and flowers that I promised. Instead we will be displaying a hedgehog-like decoration hand –crafted from the finest construction paper. The artist assures me that it is a turkey.

We will be dining fashionably late. The children will entertain you while you wait. I'm sure they will be happy to share every choice comment I have made regarding Thanksgiving, pilgrims and the turkey hotline. Please remember that most of the comments were made at 5:00 am Thanksgiving day upon discovering that the turkey was still hard enough to cut diamonds.

As an accompaniment to the children's recital, I will play a recording of tribal drumming. If the children should mention that I don't own a recording of tribal drumming, or that tribal drumming sounds suspiciously like a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer, ignore them. They are lying.

We toyed with the idea of ringing a dainty silver bell to announce the start of our feast. In the end, we chose to keep our traditional method. We've also decided against a formal seating arrangement. When the smoke alarm sounds, please gather around the table and sit where you like. In the spirit of harmony, we will ask the children to sit at a separate table. In a separate room. Next door.

Now, I know you have all seen pictures of one person carving a turkey in front of a crowd of appreciative onlookers. This will not be happening at our dinner. For safety reasons, the turkey will be carved in a private ceremony. I stress "private" – meaning: Do not, under any circumstances enter the kitchen to laugh at me. Do not send small, unsuspecting children to check on my progress. I have an electric knife. The turkey is unarmed. It stands to reason that I will eventually win. When I do, we will eat.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind my young diners that "passing the rolls" is not a football play. Nor is it a request to bean your sister in the head with warm tasty bread. Oh, and one reminder for the adults: For the duration of the meal, and especially while in the presence of young diners, we will refer to the giblet gravy by its lesser-know name, Cheese Sauce. If a young diner questions you regarding the origin or type of Cheese Sauce, plead ignorance.

Before I forget, there is one last change. Instead of offering a choice between 12 different scrumptious desserts, we will be serving the traditional pumpkin pie, garnished with whipped cream and small fingerprints. You will still have a choice; take it or leave it.

November 17, 2007

Kickin' Off the Holidays

This is our third year going to the Milwaukee Christmas parade and it has become a little tradition we look forward to every year. My husband's company provides bleacher seats and complimentary peppermint cocoa, apple cider, coffee, and Christmas cookies. The children must have cast on a spell on me this year because I actually volunteered to take two of their friends without their even bringing it up. J brought one of his friends and then I let LiL' J brought his best friend. They've been in school together since K4 which is a long time in kid years.


C is on the left in that photo and he's an adorable little guy.

Every one thinks he's too cute for words so the girls were excited that he was coming. I mean, look at that face, and tell me you don't just want to gobble him up. Or at least pinch his cheeks. Shhh, don't tell her I told you so, but Mooch thinks his big brother is "hot" and LiL' J thought he would be a match maker so he told C's brother when he was at their house. Little brothers are are helpful like that.

The parade started at like 9:30AM so we picked up C at about 8ish and waited which seemed like forever for him to find his shoes. His mom made The Husband a great cup of coffee with the cadillac of coffee machines. The thing made expresso, lattes, cappuchinos, indiviual cups of coffee, folds laundry, and is working on world peace. Envious? I know I am, and I am just now making my way into the world of coffee.

The Husband told me it was my fault that we were running behind because I'm always doing crazy things like brushing my teeth, putting on shoes, and trying to find clean articles of clothing to cover up my nakedness before I leave the house. Such silliness I tell you. Why I don't just leave the house as is I don't know.

Oh wait, that's because I might scare people to death or at least be responsible for my kids dying of embarrassment. Doesn't everyone try to make sure their appearance isn't going to scare the general population when they leave the house? No thats right, I get to run around fishing Star Wars Trooper helmets out of the dogs mouth, insure that my little boy isn't trying to pass off transformer underoos as a winter hat, and explain to my teens that hoodies really do nothing to keep you warm in below zero weather, no matter how cool they make you look.

Apparently he said I would have plenty of time if I get up sooner and get moving faster and that I finally get around to making myself look presentable at very inconvient times, like say, two minutes before we are set to leave. I prefer to convince myself that he's making this up, but it's true that he may perhaps have witnesses to this fact. Don't believe them, they're lying. Remember, these are some of the same kids that told my neighbors that they were hungry because we were poor since their brother was born and we had'nt fed them that day, when they saw that they had hotdogs, when in fact they had just eaten a McDonald's happy meal.

Why did they do this? Who knows. Probably because I made them eat lima beans, brush their teeth, and wash behind their ears. All of which are very undesirable things to do when you are under 4ft tall and this was their way of seeking revenge. And when you really want a hog dog, because your then vegetarian mom, won't buy them due to her fear of seeing her child choke on a long, suspciously brownish-pink colored hunk of unidentifable meat, you're willing to say just about anything. At least I found out why those neighbors used to give me funny looks. I thought the woman was just a beeotch.

After C found his shoes we were on the road and grabbed some croisantwiches at Burger King and headed downtown hoping we'd find some place to park that wasn't five miles away and worth two kidneys.

We scored big time by getting a FREE spot just a few blocks away and we were in fact, not behind our game, but one of the first ones there. We in fact, had to wait forever to anything to happen since we were at the end of the route. (See, dear, I was right this time.)

The weather was lousy though as it was last year and it kept sprinkling off and on which irked me. I have my dream camera this year and I had to keep putting it away so the lens wouldn't get ruined. I so need to get a lense hood. I missed the shot of the man pushing cheap, plastic Dora balloons that are sure to give your child lead poisioning, while wearing a Playboy bunny hat. Because nothing says Christmas like p*rn*graphy symbols.....? I must have missed that memorandum. Ew.

It was jolly good fun though as you can see in this picture.

Why is he leaning on me?

Don't they all look festive? This was clearly after being up half the night and B.C. Or, Before Coffee. I should note that the friendliest, happiest, most affectionate looking child in that photo doesn't even belong to me. At least the frigid wind held off just until we got to the car after the big man himself rolled on by. We skipped the notion of lunch downtown and grabbed some frozen pizza and the lil' boys played some xbox 360 for awhile.

I finally dropped C off and I was able to get into my flannel jammies and fuzzy socks to settle in for some Christmas movies. It's true that I'm easily amused. When you're only 34 and you've been married for what feels like forever, have four kids- presently three of them teenagers-and one grade schooler, you kind of have to be. I have no choice but to be. Any time I'm not cleaning up poop, dog throw up, or preventing a wrestling match on my diningroom table, I'm livin' the life. If I can go to the bathroom without there being a knock on the door to inform me of some freak accident or imagined travesty, I almsot don't know what to do with myself. It's like a holiday.

I've already been feeling like Christmas for awhile now, but I'm forbidden to decorate until the week after Thanksgiving per The Husband's wishes. Each year though I end up sneaking out my Christmas goodies a day or two earlier and he's none the wiser. You know how well some men pay attention to details. I could come home with a red mohawk, one green eye, one brown eye, and four legs and it might take him five days to notice. And that's only after the neighbors have called the police to my house to find out if my husband was aware that a supscious looking mutant freak has been checking our mail and driving our kids around in the family minivan all week.

So I've snuck a few things out of their storage bins and we've already been watching our new favorite Christmas movie, Elf, for about a week now. Squishy is contemplating whether he will tell Santa that he "smells like beef and cheese" and "sits on a throne of lies" like he did last year. Yep. You heard me right. My darling son, did indeed say that to Santa last year. His father offered him a dollar and my son made good on his word. Mooch didn't need any coaxing though. She knew what she wanted and told Santa,"I want a Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time." She got the world's tiniest camera phone instead. And it indeed tells time. Although, I can happily report that she has yet to shoot her eye out with the thing. Every year The Husband's company throws a family Christmas party for employees with kids. It's a huge spread with pizza, chicken fingers, hot dogs, fries, soda, cookies, ice cream, punch, crafts, and a cookie decorating station. Watch, our kids will probably end up being banned from Santa. Unless there's a new one, which there probably is because oddly enough Santa gets an Extreme Makeover every year and looks almost nothing like he did before. I just used to tell all the kids that Santa's a trickster. (And could really use to pluck his eyebrows and find a decent stick-on beard.)

And now for the pictures, to see more of our life in Milwaukee check out the slideshow. And remember kids, gum on the pavement is NOT free candy.

October 31, 2007

Sugar Highs and Bad Wigs

Another year has almost come and gone. This year I'm not that big on Halloween. LiL' J wants to know why we don't have scary spiders, vampires, and ghosts like the neighbor kid has. I told him to go ask his father.

I'm too busy keeping up with the scariness of my own house. I got Squishy's (an alternative nickname) costume at the new Costco in Grafton, Wisconsin, about a month ago. He's the black spiderman with "mus-culls". That's what his big brother called them and so we've said it ever since. We do have issues with made up words in this house. I'm aware of this but I have given in.

Mooch is Hannah Montana and Snoo is Lily or whoever the friend is on the show. I've tried to block it out. I was forced to watch more Hannah Montana reruns then anyone should ever have to watch and I am secretly convinced they did it just to torture. Because watching rerun marathons of the Hannah Montana show could be used as a form of torture. Just take my word for it. 'm still recovering. We got a wig for Mooch from and J ran off with it and put it on and then sat down on the livingroom floor brushing it much like a four year old girl brushes barbie doll hair. She had to hide the thing in her closet because J wanted to play with it. I'm not sure if I should be concerned or not.

It would have been a blackmail shot for sure and I ran for the camera but he's got the speedy joints of a seventeen year old. I'll get him back though. I know how to get into his facebook account and I'm handy at uploading various preschool photographs of say, a certain boy breastfeeding his preschool's dolls.

Mooch was mad because apparently the wigs can't be brushed and so now it looks like a fuzzy white rats nest is on her head and when I tried to help her pin it on I was laughing so hard that I literally almost peed my pants. Which I hear is normal for a woman who has had four kids.

The Husband had to come and take over because I was so hysterical that my face was red and I just couldn't stop, despite the evil-eyed stares of my hormonal fourteen year old daughter who didn't find it as amusing. I tried to be positive about the situation and encourage her it would be alright like a good mom, I truly did, but then I'd make the mistake of looking at her head, and I'd bust into laughter again. I kept having to leave the room. I suppose I should be ashamed of myself, but I'm not. In fact, I'm still laughing. However, I did resist taking a picture, unlike the time she got her finger stuck in a baby wipe box when she was six years old, mostly because I believe she might have tried to choke me with the thing. She's pretty strong.

J and his friends actually went out. I can not believe people actually give them candy, but I suppose a 6ft tall Kermit the Frog is hard to resist. The mother of J's friend made it for her husband and J's friend was going to wear it, but he got sick. They never came to our house though. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fear of my getting a picture of him in a giant frog costume. I'm sure he meant to, but he was just too busy avoiding Ms. Piggy.

They're starting to outsmart me and I'm getting quite annoyed when they get out of getting traditional photographs taken. When they were little it was all "look at me", "watch this", "take my picture" ievery other minute and now that I have this great camera I am having to hunt them down like the paparazzi. That's the way it goes.

With four kids the house is now full of more candy then should ever be allowed. This is just Squishy's loot and the basket is like six inches deep.

Picture 024

Snoo is allergic to chocolate so The Husband and I get all of it and that means five more pounds added to my butthigh because Almond Joys are addictive. Mooch gets a little OCD with her candy and she has to separate it all and keep each kind segregated which is handy when I want to sneak a Reese Peanut Butter cup and I don't want to get caught from the sound of my hand rustling through a pillow case full of candy. Vinny wanted to know what all the fuss was about and he was hoping someone would give himi some. He likes skittles.

vinny wants candy

At the recommendation of my dentist, I let them have as much as they want the first night and so they have at it until they look like this.

sugar blah

It's a rather good system and I've been doing it for years now. Then afterwards they get a handful every day at the same time to avoid the constant acid attacks they get on their teeth when they have two or so pieces of candy several times throughout the day. This way, they sit down and have their little splurge and brush their chompers. Candy also somehow always seems to make its way elsewhere like to the teachers, school secretaries, youth groups, and elderly neighbors. They don't know this though. Until one day they find this blog and realize that-yes, in fact-their candy bowls were a little smaller when they got home from school and-no-they weren't just being paranoid.

I don't have any pictures of pretty Jack-o-lanterns like the years past for you, because I didn't pass out candy this year, and felt it would be sort of mean to confuse the kids with glowing pumpkins in front of a house with a sign on the door that says, "Sorry, no candy this year." Plus I was too lazy.

Squishy did design his own this year though and we scooped its slimy guts out and ate the seeds. Which I burnt. But, I told the kids they are better burnt. They don't believe me, however.

Jake's pumpkin

jake pumpkin 2

All in all though, it's the beauty and wonder of buckets of free candy.

Picture 026

After dad inspects it all.

inspecting candy

October 29, 2007

Dogs are Moms too

It’s a girl! Oh wait; it’s a boy…and another boy! Congrats to Holly Bear of Waterford, Wisconsin.

She's now a first time mom of three. One of our best friend’s Boston terrier just had a litter of pups. This is her first litter and will be her last. Holly is a tiny thing and was bred with Max of Brian’s Bostons. She’s the daughter of Nika the 2nd and she’s the most adorable little purse Boston you ever did see. Just don’t expect to use it again because it will smell like butt. And something that died. Sort of like my utility closet right now.

Every time I go to their house I want to sneak her home with me. She’s a little cuddle bear and loves to nestle on your lap where upon she’ll demand belly rubs and reward you with a notorious Boston terrier kiss. Only she insists on sneaking some tongue. I don’t mind dog slobber, but this one eats poop. In fact, she has a penchant for poop. This is her dirty little secret. Poop is a delicacy in her diet. She’s not at all discriminate as every turd is gourmet in her book. If it comes out of something’s rear end, it’s better than any Scooby snack, that’s for sure.

Somehow though, when you have four legs, are adorable and sweeter than honey, people over look the fact that your favorite snack is poop and they love you anyway. I’m debating on whether or not to buy the little girl because I’ve wanted another Boston for awhile. Vinny, whose dad is Biker Boy, needs a sister or brother. But, I’m broke and much too lazy to house train a dog in the winter.

It really isn't the right time for another pup, but oh, they’re so cute and so soft and so cuddly and so adorable. And yes, so much work. Squishy couldn't wait to meet them. He’s been patiently waiting to see the puppies and since I photograph every litter for their portfolios we made a day out of it. There was food, six kids, four dogs, Guitar Hero and three puppies. In other words, total chaos.

Squishy was the first one of us to visit the mama and her babies and he was joined by my friend’s three year old. She’s got a preschool crush on him. What girl wouldn't? (He'd better start saving his allowance now. That girl has sixty different Gymboree outfits. And the purses to match.)

Holly bear is just glad someone else is there to give her a minutes rest. She’s not making that much milk of yet, but that doesn’t stop those puppies from munching on her like little piranhas. Kids tend to do this. They suck you dry of both milk and money, and the magical part is, they leave you fuller than you've ever been. She’s quite the pampered new mom though as H is making her this insanely rich pudding that smelled so good I almost got a bowl. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you're extremely tempted to steal pudding intended for a lactating animal. But there, I said it. I licked the spoon. Twice.

If I begin lactating, well than poetic justice will be had.

Here A is introducing Squishy to the littlest puppy.

I've never seen a child who could articulate full sentences with a chewie in her mouth, but this child can. She's rather talented.

“Look at her pretty neck. I have a pretty neck too.”

Uh huh, can I hold her?

“You kiss her like this."

"Ok, can I hold her now?"

Like most guys, Squishy doesn’t have any use for all that talking and wooing, just wants to hold that sweet black and white fur-ball of love.

So he found a puppy of his own.

Awwww. Squishy would make such a great big brother.

Squishy wants her SO bad and he promises to take care of her; he does, he does, he really does. It’s true. Really. He promises to feed her, really, he does. Oh, oh, oh, he will clean up her poop, he will, he will, really he will.

Hmm, but you haven't touched Vinny's food bowl in months. Back when you turned it into a swimming pool for your super heroes, remember? It's still missing.

But please, mom. pleeaaaassee, pretty please!

We’ll see. Well talk about it. Later.

Ergh! Mooomm, 'we'll see' and 'later' mean no. Grown ups always say that when they mean no.

I'm clearly raising a genius. I better work on new stall statics.

As I was taking the pictures of Holly and her triplets, I realized that dog mamas are a lot like us. Some of them breastfeed and some of them bottle feed and some of them do both. After all, what’s a girl to do if her spare nipples get bit off? And even though they have no idea what they’re getting into, somehow their maternal side kicks in.

holly litter 1

They endure all kinds of discomfort for the benefit of their baby. Even if it feels like a tiny bear claw is shredding up her cleavage.

holly litter 5

They also have to endure incessant whining. This mom just prefers to ignore it. After all, once baby bumps into the wall, he'll figure out he's going the wrong way. We hope.

holly litter 6

They relish time with baby. But look forward to nap time too.

holly litter 7

They also have to clean up after baby's yucky bits. Thank God for disposable diapers.

holly litter 8

Or in this case, nature's version of a baby wipe.

holly litter 9

I think I just vomited in my mouth a little. Excuse me while I look away.

They sneak in a little pick me up throughout the day. What mom doesn't need a coffee break? Or, if you prefer, a stinky rawhide.

holly rawhide
Mmmm..Mmm.Does that come in mocha flavor?

They also end up sharing their goodies.

holly rawhide 2

I don't know of many moms of small children that ever managed to eat a full yogurt without help. A wise mom once told me to keep a secret stash in my bedroom, which I tried. It works pretty good too, occasionally my offspring leave me a few pieces of leftover chocolates. Along with their wrappers.

Duty calls again. They get used to being an all night diner.

holly litter 10

Sometimes they get snarly when the kids don't share and play nice.

holly litter 11

"Quit your whining! I've got eight nipples and there's only three of you!"

They love to pose for family portraits and show off their brood.

holly litter 12

She's off to a good start. After seventeen years of parenting and 800,000 photographs, I'm lucky if I'm in four of them.

They find that they can love another baby just as much as the rest.

holly litter 13

Only, they have to nurse them all at once, again, for the fourth time in an hour. Try that for patience.

They’re often exhausted, but they hang in there.

holly litter 14

Until they just stay awake one more minute.

holly litter 15

(At least their babies can’t roll off the bed. All but three of mine did. Ker Plunk! Don't worry, somehow they turned out alright, their just a little weird is all, but I like em' that way.)

Get your rest, Holly Bear. And don’t worry about that poochy tummy, it makes a great baby pillow. And Hooray for push-up bras.

October 26, 2007

I've Learned My Lesson

As some of you may know, my threshold for caffeine tolerance is low. In fact, up until a few years ago, I couldn't even tolerate one cup of chai without going bezerk. Let's just say the house has never been cleaner then when I've had a bit too much of the stuff. Not too mention I hate like a crazy person.

Which isn't really unusual, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. Over the last few years I've been working on my tolerance level and it's improving quite a bit. There are some days that I can have a cup of chai or tea after 3pm even and still get to bed a decent hour.

And for a night owl like me, a decent time is like 11pm to midnight, on a school night.

Yesterday however my whole routine was thrown off. The state of Wisconsin has district wide teacher's conventions for Thursday and Friday. Therefore the kids have off of school. Our church is hosting a Fall Teen Retreat which some of the kids from our church and school went to.

They were to leave on Thursday morning. This would imply, for those like me-who think logically-that our school is also out. The oldest are homeschooled, but LiL' J is still at the Christian school. Since the camp hosted a Fall Retreat, with the idea that all the kids would have Thursday and Friday off, we just assumed that meant our school too, which is majorly connected to the camp.

We even asked the kid if he had school. He said no, because he overheard his brother telling everyone that all the kids have the days off. You'd think we'd double check but, you know, it made sense. Why would the church participate in this retreat knowing that more than half of the kids going attend the Christian school, if they didn't in fact have the days off?

So I sleep in a little later than usual, I tidy up, make my to-do lists, and make some coffee. Yes, you read that right. I, Melissa, actually not only know how to make coffee now, but I intended on drinking it. I guess in my absence I never really thought about blogging about this minor change in my life. What with my whole person and life being a constant metamorphosis, such a tiny detail, like becoming a coffee drinker at 33, seemed insignificant. But I have and I am and so that's that. Maybe when I'm not feeling like a drug user in withdrawal I'll share my journey into the world of java. The kind of java that doesn't involve frothy-icy-goodness with 54 grams of sugary chocolate sauce that is which was the only way I'd touch coffee before. Although, I do take cream and sugar, thank you for asking.

I thought you should know that, you know, in cause I ever get invited to your house for a grown-up tea party; grown-ups only of course.

So where was I? Yeah, so I'm a flakey mom that didn't get her seven year old off to school. Instead I let him watch The Chipmunk Adventures pretty much all day. No, they don't play The Chipmunks on TV anymore. But, uh...Hello, I am a child of the 80s and what kind of mother would I be if I didn't share the adorableness that is the Alvin and the Chipmunks? Tchah. A very uncool one.

My children have a crazy mother. I think that is enough. I might be certifiable some days, but darn it, I'm cool. I can't believe I let the boy miss school though. Not only did I listen to my husband, who took the word of a seven year old and a seventeen year old, but I also let him eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and jalapeƱo Crunchers for breakfast.

OK, you can all stop gasping now. I know it. What WAS I thinking? Goodness sakes sometimes I'm patting myself on the back and other times I wonder why God saw fit to give me four children. I know some of you aren't judging, you know you've done it too. What do you think pop-tarts are? It's candy disguised as a breakfast food. And if the school can serve ketchup as a vegetable now, then my child had a vegetable for breakfast. Potatoes are vegetables. True enough, that's a weak excuse, but my husband made up for it later when he brought the kid a burger. Hmm, my child's diet today consisted of candy and burgers. Maybe I should just shut up now.

Anyways, J and Mooch were at friend's houses. I was trying to clean, make phone calls, occupy Vinny, and corral LiL' J into something more productive. He felt the need to rewind the movie over and over to the same part. "We're the boys, we're the boys, we're the boys of rock-n-rowllllll...yaw" Then I had to call the insurance company because for some reason or another (it's always something) they can't find The Husband's license on file. In all that, I guess I didn't notice that I had drunk way too much coffee. I drank three full cups in fact, and I never even paid attention to how late in the day it was.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I have been up ALL night. I haven't slept in 22 hours. Yes, it's 10am and I'm going to finally go crash. J will be happy; he will have gotten out of school after all. They are old enough to do most of their book work without my having to hold their hand, but I can barely get J to concentrate on his studies while I'm sitting right next to him. Never mind if I'm sick or out of sorts.

I've learned my lesson.

I won't drink more than two cups of coffee.
I won't get off of my schedule
I will only drink caffeine before noon.

I won't, I won't, I will.

On a totally random note, it's a rainy, overcast, blustery kind of day. I want hot cocoa with whipped cream, a big bar of dark chocolate with almonds, a pair of fuzzy-wuzzy knee-high socks, and my Pride and Prejudice DVD.

I do, I do, and I do know that I am stubborn.

August 29, 2007

1st Day of School

Today was LiL' J's first day of second grade. He goes to a small christian school which is part of our church. It's a K4-12th school. Like all schools, it has its good sides and its bad sides, but I'm very thankful and grateful that LiL' J is there and that he does so well. I am going to miss him during the day, but it will be a lot easier to homeschool the others and get back to more housework. Today is almost my 34th birthday. I have requested no fan fare as this summer has been brimming with fun and lots of spending. I will clean house, run errands, browse Wal-mart with Mooch, and do ordinary boring things like grocery shopping. It's a far cry from 32nd birthday and my 33rd.

I'm very happy with LiL' J's school experience so far. His teacher's genuinely love him and they've done a fabulous job educating him and enriching his life. The three oldest are homeschooling again this year to my shock. I really thought we'd be able to put J into school this year. This is his junior year, but he didn't do what he needed to do to get able to transfer.

Next year he WILL be going to the chrisitan school with his brother, where he went from 4th to 8th, or he will be going somewhere else. I want him to have that senior year experience and I know he does too.

The girls both want to keep homeschooling and they've been working pretty good so far. They're in the 8th grade and when they put their minds to it, they can get most of their work done in four to five hours. J just makes it miserable because he hates school work and resents being home with me and his sisters. I can't say I blame him, but he's put himself in this position. I want go through what I did last year. At least while unmedicated.

This year LiL' J's school has opted for polos for the kids. It's not a full uniform program. The kids get to choose from many different colored polos with slacks or skirts. LiL' J loves his shirts. He loves looking nice and dressing up. He loves that his shirt has an eagle on it. He requests shirts and ties and he wants me to iron them, including the crease in his pants. He'll make a great little republican one day. Or he'll at least dress like one.

Last night I had to go and get some last minute school stuff. Like always, LiL' J was so excited for school to start. He loves school. When the last day of 1st grade came, he came home crying. He didn't want it to be over. He had a great teacher. His 1st grade teacher was the mom of his teacher for K4 and kindergarten. He learned so much, had a ton of fun, and felt safe and secure. He hated saying good-bye to her and to his friends. Two children are gone this year. One boy moved and another is being homeschooled. There's a new boy though. There are four girls and the rest are boys.

There are four Jacobs. How's that for challenging.

I drove LiL' J to school this morning, which means I had to take The Husband to the bus at 6:30am if I wanted the car. Yes, we STILL have only ONE car. This must change and fast. Like every year before, he's so excited and anxious to get to school that I can barely convince him that we don't need to leave forty-five minutes early. I made him scrambled eggs which he gobbled down with ketchup. He took his two gummy-vites and made me rush out the door. I barely got to take a picture. He wanted a transformers lunchbox this year. Last year it was superman. How times change. And usually with kids, it's in sequence with movie releases and post popular superheroes.

1st day of 2nd grade

Here I snuck a picture of him at his desk.

Snuck a Desk Picture

The children got to choose where they sat as long as their feet touched the floor. This sounds simple, but some of the kids are quite a bit shorter than others and they had to switch chairs or desks. Oh, and my son has a highschool musical folder and pencil. What can I say? His sisters are into radio Disney and the Hannah Montana/High School musical shows. A matter of fact, they've watched so many episodes this summer that I think I know them all by heart. I can't take it anymore. My husband assured me it's not that bad. They could be into MTV or Jerry Springer.

But, if you thought Billy Ray Cyrus was a terrible singer, just wait until you see him try to act. It's cute though in a naive sort of way and harmless enough so I'll enjoy this phase with them. It has been worse. Think Barney and the Wiggles.

At any rate, LiL' J is at school and he's a happy boy. He's going to have another great year. I can tell. Call it mother's intuition.

August 27, 2007

In Sympathy

I just found out via round about way, through an email sent by my mom, that my aunt's husband of twenty years died of cancer two weeks ago. He was fighting the cancer for over a year and a half. He left behind a seventeen year old daughter and a daughter who I think is about twenty years old.

I had no idea. The real kicker is that the email wasn't really about the death itself. The email wasn't even sent exclusively to me. It was the kind of email that one sends to a bunch of people updating them on a bunch of different topics, all of which are totally unrelated to each other.

As I'm reading the aforementioned email, and as anyone who receives such emails knows, it feels really just like I'm reading an email intended for someone else. Who? What? Where?

To Anyone On My Contact List:

For anyone who cares, this is what is going on with my life. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Blah Blah Blah. Oh, by the way, your uncle died.
Keep in touch.

I'm not an old friend, former co-worker, or peer. I'm not even a "contact".

This is is how the news is broken to me. I was totally stunned and shocked. I not only had no idea that my aunt's husband was even sick, but I didn't know that they were new grandparents. That's right, apparently my cousin, all of about twenty years old, is a mom. Or maybe it's the seventeen year old that's a new mom. Not likely, but how in the world would I know the difference? My crazy family never keeps me updated on anything. It's nuts.

And it has always been this way. We all say we should keep in touch, but we never do. My mom's one of eight children and I have five first cousins and six second cousins. But I haven't a clue as to who is dying, giving birth, getting married, getting divorced, moving, or even still related to me.

Do they sell belated sympathy cards that say, "My Dear Aunt, sorry you lost the love of your life. I had no idea that he was even sick. Congrats on the new grandchild. Your thoughtful and sympathetic neice."

I don't think so.

August 24, 2007

Sure, Go Ahead, Eat the Grass

Today I took the kids to an edible plants field trip. I'm not sure it was entirely all that interesting, but it got us out of the house and we did learn a few new things. Like, mosquitoes are taking over the world, or at least southeast Wisconsin. Oh, and you can eat certain plants in the wild. You just need to know which ones won't give you the runs or make you want to sandpaper your tongue off.

This will be my second year of homeschooling the three older children and even though J is 17 and enthusiastically indifferent and uninterested in such an outdoor adventure I dragged him along. He may be taller than me, but I'm still the one in charge so he has to do whatever dumb things I tell him to. For now.

Since I'm a member of a local homeschcool group thing, I received notice of this trip and went ahead and signed up. The girls have been taking botany for awhile now and LiL' J is still not in school and I thought he'd like going on a school trip with the big kids.The field trip was at and the science and nature center of Timber-Lee Christian Center in East Troy, Wisconsin. I got to use my new handy-dandy GPS system in getting there. Which is nice, because it gave me a chance to get lost going somewhere other than the grocery store. I'm getting so of bored of having to make u-turns at all the old familiar landmarks, you know. After getting my GPS system I'm an adventure girl now.

Because the instructor didn't have a flyer printed to overview the plants we actually studied, we can't remember a good portion of some of the names, which is OK, because neither of my children ever truly plan on nibbling on wild plants. They prefer the Panda-hut buffet on Lovers Lane to mulberries. Surprisingly though, LiL' J actually was a very good sport on this trip. He was very shy and self conscious at first, which is a new thing since he turned seven, but then he found his groove and he was actually trying the vegetation and even enjoying a few. So, I can't get the kid to sit and eat his roast beast and vegetable medley, however he'll suck on Sumacc proclaiming, "Yum! Tastes like Kool-Aid!”

What does that say about my parenting? I haven't a clue, but I'm sure it's probably not a good thing.

I think the highlight of the trip though was the nature center which housed all kinds of creatures like snakes, turtles, more snakes, dead spiders, dead butterflies, bones, skulls, and some rat like creatures in cages. Or maybe those were bunnies? Same difference.

The instructor and her helpers were pretty cool. In other words, she didn't make my children want to laugh out loud or cover their faces in embarrassment. This is a good thing. We didn't know any of the other parents or children by the way. So the kids were extra shy and quiet which is so not normal for them. Perhaps I should drag them to these things more often.

All in all, if you are in the Milwaukee area and you homeschool or your kids just like nature things I'd recommend Timber-Lee Christian Center's classes.

However, I think Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is probably better. Their hiking trails are superior and it's near the lake. They also have classes for families, adults, and students. You can go there on your own or you can organize your own field trip. Sometimes they can even add you in to another group's trip if you ask.

Here are some memories in pictures:

Here's one of the turtles.

The turtles were quite popular and we all agreed they needed little pleather wetsuits and sunglasses, but we held our peace.

Here are the snakes, which are one of my least favorite creatures.I propose that we exterminate all the mice and rats of the world so we don't need the snakes. Then we can just use child molesters as lab rats. I'm just sayin'.

This one was huge.

One of the things we like about Timber-Lee is that they encouraged the children to touch the artifacts. Almost nothing was off limits.Here is LiL' J and Snoo. She's wearing her Rescue Zone shirt from when she helped teach VBS in Staten Island, New York earlier in the month.

Here the instructor is teaching us about this plant with spicy leaves. I have no idea what it is now though so I guess we won't be putting into our salads. I do not know the girl in the background, but she volunteered to carry the cottage cheese tub of wild grapes, which are very tart by the way.

timmer-lee instructer

We also learned about the wild cherry trees of southeast Wisconsin. They are tiny and very sour.

wild cherry tree

The Sumac tree was sort of odd. I guess people used to take these buds and plop them into water and then they'd stir it around until the water resembled something like a diluted punch. The best way I can describe this plant is that the red flower buds are like furry pomegranate seeds. You don't actually chew or swallow the kernel like things, but you suck on them and then spit it out. This was an interesting experience considering we’re all on a rather narrow path with some 20+ kids. I'm still checking my socks for red stains.

sumac tree

Mulberries anyone? And yes, you will have the song stuck in your head now.

mulberry tree

Here the instructor is telling the children that they will need about 4.5 million berries to make two ounces of jam. Then she asked for volunteers to climb the tree which sounds like a recipe for a permanent stain if you ask me.

That's my child in the forefront. Snoo is always bound to take the most unflattering pictures. It's a curse she gets from her mother.

crazy snoo

J thought he was too cool to pick berries and Mooch tried her best to hide from the watchful eye of my camera all day, but I got a shot of Snoo.

Picking Mulberries

Another shot of the teacher and a learner sniffing the specimen. I just noticed she has a Creation Museum shirt on which is from Answers in Genesis. We passed the museum on the way to and from Whitesburg Kentucky for the reunion trip. I wanted to see what all the controversy was about, but I didn't have time to stop.

Here are a few nature shots from the marshes. Here we learned that we can eat part of the cat skills. The bottom of the plant tastes like a spicy cucumber. The instructor said they are good in stir-fry which is a nice bit of trivia, but a complete loss on me because I have no desire to go plucking up cat skills for my stir-fry. Did I mention they were extremely hard to get out of the water?

As you can see it has been a very dry summer.


They had a huge butterfly collection with butterflies from all over the world.This is just one frame. I'm jealous.

I covet

Here is Ortoise who we all wanted to take home.

ortoise the tortoise

Here's a shot for all you arachnaphobes.


Here is more nightmare material; a drawer full of spiders. This is lunch if you’re Andrew Zimmerman.

drawer full of tarantulas

Here's LiL' J again with his new friend. All of my kids are animal lovers, but I think he's probably the biggest one of them all.

j pets ortoise

admiring ortoise

All in all it was a good day. No real meltdowns, I haven't come down with the West Nile Virus-yet-and nobody broke anything. At the end of the trip we made some tea out of white pine needles, some wild grape juice, and something like mulberry jam.

And since I was in the area I stopped off in Mukwonago to get some goodies at the Elegant Farmer, the famous home of the apple pie baked in a paper bag. I have gotten their pies and breads at the grocery store for years, but I have never actually been to the store. My friend, Ali, even stopped by there last year when she was in town. The place is a foodie’s dream. That place is dangerous I tell you. After a full day out in the sunny outdoors we were all hungry. I ended up getting a berried-treasure pie, a mini caramel apple pie, and a mini apple cobbler. Then LiL' J and Snoo both chose giant cookies. I also got some golf ball sized peanut butter chocolate concoctions that tasted like buckeyes. I also got a dozen ears of corn and some Door County cherry pancake syrup. Not to be eaten together of course. Unless you're Will Farrow.

I had to show restraint because the place was stocked full of must-tries. If you haven't visited the Elegant Farmer yet you should. It's a cute, cozy,little place out in the country, but it's still close enough to I-43 that you can make a run out there easily enough. They had a ton of great fresh produce and frozen fruits. It's a haven for people who love to bake. I think I've gained like ten pounds already. Perhaps I should call Timber-Lee and ask if they have a fat flushing plant available?