August 31, 2011

Down to the wire

Yes, we’re all FALL over here at Bushel & a Peck now...and it’s a day early.  But, I’m juggling a lot of plates right now, so early is at least better than say...never.  And also?  It’s like 346 degrees over here in Texas.  So, Fall is no where to be seen.  But I’m willing it, people...willing it to come see me.  It’s my favorite.  I don’t care that it’s sluggish and hasn’t shown up - I’m WILLING IT.  Come to me cool evenings, spiced coffee drinks, leaves falling, sweaters, and pumpkins on porches.  Come to me.


Tomorrow is the official start of 30 Days of Nothing!  Are you ready?  I’m still getting lots of e-mails requesting the Weekly Meal Planner and Grocery Inventory templates, so if you’re waiting - I will have those out to all of you today!  You can read the past four posts to get caught up on the Challenge and the rules/guidelines.  You can also e-mail me HERE to get copies of the templates. 

All you bloggers who told me you were doing this?  You’re up, batter.  I’m linking to you starting tomorrow - so be ready on your blogs so we can all follow along with you!  And it’s not too late to sign up - you have ALL DAY!  Just leave a comment or drop me an e-mail HERE.

Meanwhile, can I share an easy breakfast with you?  Something that might come in handy while your avoiding restaurants?  Super easy to make and my littles DEVOURED it.  That’s saying a lot for Q-man - he’s my picky eater...

And let’s just go on record:  in our house we love butter and calories.  Calories and butter.  Whatever order you want.  Cough.

Here are the ingredients:


First, preheat your oven according to the directions on the crescent roll package. 

Second, scramble some eggs.  I used four and that seemed to do the trick for a tube of 8 crescent rolls. 
You can increase as needed for a larger batch of rolls.


I left the eggs slightly "wet" so that they wouldn't over cook in the oven.  Set them aside.


Flour your board and lay out your rolls, but don’t separate them.  Leave the triangles attached.
Then roll them out gently - just a bit.  Takes two minutes.



Add the shredded cheese, eggs, and ham.  I used simple lunch meat ham because it’s FAST, but you could use crumbled sausage, bacon, or leave the meat out altogether.

IMG_5755    IMG_5757    IMG_5758

Stop.  This is too good...I have to linger for a minute...


Rolls long-ways.  Be very careful, because the dough is prone to tear.  Just pinch those areas together.
Place on the cookie sheet and pop in the oven.


15 minutes later, we had a fabulous breakfast that I served with fresh strawberries and blueberries on the side.  YUM...

And it was a lot of food.  We had left-overs.  Also?  Very, very filling...


Seriously.  Maybe it’s just my deep affinity for eggs/ham/and cheese - but when you wrap the three up in buttery croissant?  Get out!  Willpower = 0


See you tomorrow for Day 1 of 30 Days of Nothing!

August 30, 2011

One more day and some rules

30-Days of Nothing Challenge
That's right!  One day left before the Challenge begins (ok, technically 2 days if you count today)....I'm getting nervous.  Can't lie.  Thursday is the big START.  It wasn't easy the last time around, and now I have two kiddos instead of only one to entertain.  Gulp.  And I do confess to eating out a bit more than usual in the past week.  Double gulp.  I'm bidding it a very fond farewell, and we needed to have our moment - the restaurant industry and I.  Yes we did.  Sigh... (can you see where our money goes to?)

Moving on...

There are several reasons to take the Challenge – but let’s talk about why we (as in, AB and CB) are taking the challenge: Anton put it so well...
"I think what we are trying to do is discipline ourselves not to spend. If I have a Starbucks gift-card, or whatever kind of gift-card…that is actually going out and spending. We are not trying to save our back account, we are trying not to spend.”

Eek, even gift-cards?  He drives a hard bargain.  Still, there you have it.  That’s our personal reason.  You might have your own reasons that are completely different.  Whatever the reason you have for wanting to participate, I’ve compiled some general rules/guidelines to try and follow:

  1. Commit to do it, and then do it.  It will likely be difficult for you.  But don’t give up after like, I don't know, two days or whatever.  Any self-discipline is difficult to master, but you can do it.  Even in this day and age of over-spending. 
  2. Decide ahead of time what constitutes a necessity.  In our house, we agreed that milk, fresh veggies and fruit and eggs were necessary with two toddlers.  Coffee creamer, new mascara, an inexpensive desk light, a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, or a song from i-Tunes…not a necessity.  Gas for your car?  A necessity.  Prescriptions?  A necessity.  Obviously use common-sense.  But don’t try to bargain or rationalize your way right out of the challenge.  You will be tempted, trust me on this.  So avoid your pitfalls, whatever you know they are.  Do you really need to go to the Disney Store?  “Window-Shop” at Amazon?  Browse down the grocery store isles?  Probably not.  At least not this month.
  3. Be prepared going in.  That doesn’t mean stockpile food.  But it really helps to have the food and supplies you will need to feed your family for the month, while planning on emptying the pantry at the same time AND keeping you out of the grocery story as much as possible.  Our pantry is ready.  It’s full and appropriate for our family of four and yet still ready to be emptied over the next 30-days.  We should not need to purchase anything but necessities (see above).
  4. Have your first week of meals mapped out.  It really helps.  Really.  You can e-mail me HERE for the Weekly Meal Planner and Grocery Inventory Lists.
  5. Give yourself a heap of grace if things fall apart.  You could get two days in and a major event takes place – the car breaks down, the air goes out, the plumbing backs up.  Life happens.  You might have to “pause” the challenge to focus on crisis (God forbid).  If you have to step away, you can always try again next month.  It’s not do or die.  It’s an exercise.  But stick with it – as much and for as long as you can. 
  6. If you fall off the wagon, just get back up and climb back on.  Our reasons are about trying not to spend.  Yours might be to see how much you can save in a month.  Either way, one mistake will not kill the project.  It will only diminish the results a bit.  Still worth it. 
  7. If you hit a wall (and you might) – perhaps give yourself some kind of treat.  As with dieting, there is wisdom in having a small diversion now and then.  One night during our last Challenge, AB took us out for ice-cream.  Now, we chose to get a McDonald's cone – less than $3 total.  It was cheap and we got to take a small break from trying so hard to be good.  It was the best stinkin’ ice-cream ever.  Because it was hard-earned…
  8. Be creative.  This is a great time to try out recipes you’ve been wanting to try.  It’s a great time to get the craft supplies out instead of heading out to shop.  It’s a great time to read a book on a blanket in the park while your kiddos burn some energy.  And it’s a great time to LEARN about how you spend your money…
  9. Don’t give up.  (see #1)

A Caveat or two...

  1. If your kids are in sports, after-school programs, Awana, whatever it is - I am not suggesting you forgo those activities because they might require a uniform fee, or supply fee, etc.  I'm not suggesting you cancel cable - although we did two years ago and have never looked back.  What I'm suggesting is that this is not the month you go to the movie theater and buy an extra-large popcorn and drink.  Agreed?
  2. Last time around, friends who knew we were in the middle of the Challenge called us up and asked if they could treat us to dinner.  Not because they took pity on us - rather because they wanted our company and at the same time, didn't want us to compromise our goal.  Also?  Because this place we went to has the best fajitas eva'.  Just sayin'.  So, we happily accepted.  And it was like...oh my...heaven on a plate.  Because we were feeling uber deprived about right then.  So by all means, if someone offers to treat you - go ahead if you feel comfortable.  Just don't be soliciting the "treats" on a daily basis.  Ya with me?

If you want to join in, leave a comment and let me know.  If you have a blog and will be journaling your Challenge, please do let me know the blog address so we can all follow you and get great ideas.  You can grab the button above with a right click.  Please link back to Bushel & A Peck through your posts or the image.

Now we’re down to the wire – for those of you IN IT TO WIN IT (and there are MANY of you) – I’ll see you THURSDAY for Day 1 of 30-Days of Nothing!

For those of you just following along for fun…WELCOME!

For those of you still unsure…read the stream of posts leading up to this by scrolling below and decide if this is right for you.

Here we go!

August 29, 2011

Two days left

30-Days of Nothing Challenge

I’ve had SO MANY responses about 30-Days of Nothing – it’s been tremendous!  So first of all – WOWZA – and second – THANKS FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT!  For those of you hanging on the fence about it – this post is for you.  For those of you who signed up?  This post is your reality check.  

Sorry it's a little bit wordy...but I have lots to say...

Remember, if you want to take the 30-Days/Empty Pantry Challenge – you can do several different things:
  • You can participate and not tell a soul.  Just do it for yourself.  You’ll get plenty out of it.  But trust me, it catches on.  People are INTRIGUED by the concept of not spending.
  • You can leave a comment throughout the month telling me and my readers how your challenge is going
  • You can leave a comment telling me that you're taking the challenge AND blogging about it – be sure to leave your blog address so I can visit you and possibly feature you while we’re walking through the month.  Also be sure to right click on that little image above, save it, and use it on your blog.  Please create a link either in your image or in your post that take people to Bushel and a Peck! (winkity, winkity)
  • You can e-mail me HERE for the spreadsheets to my Weekly Meal Planner and Grocery Inventory List.  Those are free and very helpful.  You can see THIS POST for how to use them.
  • You can just follow me and see how it goes for my family.  Maybe you can try it another month and let me know how it went for you.

See?  Lots of ways to “play along”. 

Also?  Some other REASONS to do this:

  • You can do this just for fun, to see how it works and to see if you’re able to curb your spending
  • You can do this to help your family learn to make a dollar go farther
  • You can take this challenge to re-train the brain how to save and make-do with what you have
  • You can go the whole month and decide to make it a way of life (albeit, perhaps not so strictly)
  • You can get through the challenge and realize you never really needed it in the first place – you’re that good!
  • You can get through the challenge and realize you’re in worse shape than you thought and the finances need some “shape shifting”.

Last time we did this – I was taken ABACK by the urge to spend on the simplest thing.  I swear to you – a coffee…a Taco Bell run…an ice-cream cone…the stinkin’ Dollar Tree…they CALLED TO ME.  They beckoned me.  It took every resource I had (sans a monetary resource, of course) to avoid that deep urge. Sadly, I never saw that coming.  Never knew I was so bad off.

Having said that – let me prepare you for the “5 Stages of No-Spending”.  You might thank me for preparing you…(ok, tongue in cheek here...but sadly, too true)

1.  DENIAL & ISOLATION -   People…you are going to be in denial.  Trust me.  The first few days are great.  You’re like “this is a piece of cake…no problem…what’s the big deal”.  Then the denial sets in the minute you pass the Starbucks on your way to or from the carpool line.  The realization that you have committed yourself to NOT going there.  Can’t be happening!  Why did I sign up for this?  When you’re girlfriends are all meeting for lunch and they invite you?  Yeah.  It’s isolating to either pass it up OR to go and order water.  Yeah.  So fun.  Especially when they’re all diggin’ in to their Chipotle Burrito Bowls.  Ahem.  Sob.  Can be very lonely if you're used to spending as a means of comfort.

2.  ANGER – I remember on our last time around, I took Quint to the mall because I was desperate to get out of the house, and there was only so much I could do when we weren’t spending at all.  I decided to break my own rule, and use a gift-card to Sonic.  I carefully and painstakingly ordered from the dollar menu, because I knew I only had $5 on the card.  But when I went to pay – there was a balance due.  I had already used the card before, but forgotten.  I was FURIOUS.  I was cursing the whole stupid idea of the Challenge.  It’s my money!  I can use it if I want to!  I can buy a stinkin’ DOLLAR MENU lunch for my son and I.  What a stupid Challenge!?!  Well, I paid in change I had in my purse and whatever was left on the card.  But the entire time we ate, I was BITTERLY ANGRY that we had signed up for this stupid challenge.  Because I didn’t want to let myself down, but I also didn’t want to play anymore.  Angry doesn’t cover it.

3.  BARGAINING – Well, this is embarrassing, but I will admit that it was maybe a measly week into our last Challenge before I was begging (BEGGING) AB to let us eat out.  Just once.  Just ONCE, for crying out loud.  So strong was the tendency and urge to spend.  Or maybe to avoid dishes.  Or maybe just to be served.  But I was full-on crying.  Call me a baby, that’s ok – I can take it.  But I felt so deprived.  You wanna know why?  When was the last time you went on a hardcore diet plan?  You know how the minute you forbid yourself something is the very same minute you start to unravel?  You want to eat everything in sight?  That’s the time when you feel INUNDATED with opportunities to break your commitment.  And you bargain with yourself: “ok, but just this once…and tomorrow I’ll do better”.  Yes, this totally happens with 30-Days of Nothing.  Everything you never knew you needed will be on sale.  Every fast-food/coffee/splurge item you can think of will be calling your name every single one of those 30-Days.  Prepare yourself for it.  (Oh, and by the way – AB told me he would be happy to take me out to eat that night, but only if I really wanted to have to get on the blog that night and tell everyone that we had already failed the challenge.  Needless to say, we ate “in”.  Sniffle.)

4.  DEPRESSION – I really did feel left out of a lot of things that seemed SO IMPORTANT to me at the time.  (they weren’t really)  Anytime a friend invited me somewhere that would require me to spend money, I either had to get clever and revise the invite to exclude spending, or I had to politely decline – sometimes explaining why, sometimes not.  But there were several days on the journey that I actually felt a little depressed.  A little bit sorry for myself, if you will.  At the time, I was not working and it was just me and the little guy – home alone all day.  I had to get really creative not to climb the walls.  And some days, we just sat around.  Got very boring.  Other days, I cheated (keeping it real) and scraped some change out of the change-jar and took us to the local play area with friends.  While I don’t regret doing whatever I had to do to make it through the month, I do still feel a little disappointed that I cheated.  I mean, it’s one month.  How hard should that be?  Still, I can’t lie -  it was a bit of a pity-party some days. 

5.  ACCEPTANCE – The good news is – once you hit around the half-way mark, you do start to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at what you’re doing.  Let’s face it friends; it is very {very, very} counter-culture to avoid spending money.  It’s very much the opposite of what most of are doing.  Most of us are forgoing the frozen chicken we’ve had in the freezer for a month, and heading out to eat instead.  Guilty as charged over here.  Most of us are so used to spending that we think it’s a novel idea to take a challenge like this.  Most of us, if we admit to ourselves, are very accustomed to our fast-food lives.  Everything is always at our finger-tips.  We don’t need to go far for whatever ails us, whatever craving is kicking, or whatever luxury items we feel we need.  That’s why getting through this challenge is SO REWARDING.  So you do hit a point of accepting that you are doing something extremely WORTHWHILE.  Something that your kids can be a part of.  Something that you can point to as a big learning-curve about yourself, your own tendencies, and your ability to persevere.  And I have to say, you do feel a real sense of pride that you did what most people simply cannot do. 

You have two days left – two days left to decide you’re IN, two days left to decide you’re OUT (no judgement here).  You have two days left to get your first Weekly Meal Plan going, and two more days to decide whether or not you think you can organize and then empty that pantry. 

Here’s my advice:  you can DO IT!

For that matter – what’s so wrong with eating this kind of fare for a month?  Thank God for AB and his MADDDDDDDD cooking skillllllls.

Food -1  Food - 2

**TUESDAY – some final rules and advice from the other side about the Challenge to help you get through the month.

August 23, 2011

It’s official

and not just because I had already made up my mind to forge ahead into the challenge.  No, it was you!  My inbox was filled with those who want to play along, as well as the comments I received on the last post.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Head  HERE and read all about how AB and CB have lost their minds and decided to do the 30-Days of Nothing Challenge, once again.  The gist is there.  

30-Days of Nothing Challenge

Those of you playing along can still request my Menu Planner and Grocery Inventory sheets by EMAILING ME.  They might help you get started – and will definitely help you do the Empty Pantry portion of the challenge.

Just a few things to start preparing for – since we’re down to 8 days until the big DIVE….(gulp)

  • If you plan to Blog your way through the challenge – feel free to grab the button above and use it on your posts - just be sure to link over here to Bushel & A Peck.  Right click on that little piggy...

  • Don’t go out and do massive grocery shopping.  You can still buy fresh/perishable essentials as the month progresses.  You want to have an accurate idea of what you save – so bulking up in an out-of-the-ordinary-way will not necessarily help that.  Of course, go ahead and get some groceries – prepare yourself for the month of eating in and feeding however many that equals in your house.  I also recommend a few treats in there.  It helps on the tough days when you’re feeling deprived.  And you will.

  • Start organizing your pantry.  Use the Grocery Inventory Sheet (or make one of your own) to assess what you have on hand.  This will help you start prepping your meal plans.  You can scratch off items on your Grocery Inventory Sheet as you build meals for your planner.  That tells you what’s left at a glance to make your next meal with.

  • Not sure how to tell others that you can’t join them for dinner out?  Share the Challenge with them…most people are genuinely impressed and interested that anyone would tackle this. (don't be all scared or whatever now...)

  • And I know it might sound silly – but start preparing yourself mentally for the idea of not spending for 30 days.  You're essentially on a spending freeze.  That includes the gift-cards you've been hanging on to since Christmas.  You can't get an accurate idea of how to curb the INSTINCT to spend, if you're using gift-cards to appease your need.  You’ll have to take it from me – or better yet, those who dropped the challenge mid-way last time round’, because they just couldn’t believe how strong the urge/tendency to spend was.  Outside of buying absolute necessities, it can be a bit of a beating to really give up swiping that debit card.  
  • If you have to have a “moment” with a final Starbucks…or like me, have to pay a final visit to Chipotle…sniff…then go ahead and get it out of your system.  You have 8 days. It’s harder than you might think…gulp.

Leave your thoughts or questions below – Comments are OPEN through the end of September.


August 22, 2011

Back to 30 Days of Nothing

30-Days of Nothing Challenge

Remember when Anton and I went on our January 2009 30-Days of Nothing and Empty Pantry kick???  Anyone?  Crickets chirping??  Very challenging but highly productive in many ways – not only did we save money, but we got a firsthand TRUE look at how much we spend, how often, and how our impulses and schedule affect our choices. 

Well, with the economy in the tank and no end in sight - we’ve been feeling the motivation build up to have another go at it. 

So we’ve chosen SEPTEMBER as the month.  Yes, that’s about ten days away.  Who’s with us?  Anyone?  Crickets chirping??

Think of it this way – it’s before the holidays, it won’t affect your festivities, and back-to-school is a great time to get focused and hammer out your Fall schedule.  What a great time to clean the pantry, save some cash for the upcoming season, and get your family back around the dining room table.  Eh?  Anyone?  Crickets….nevermind.

If you’re interested – a couple things will be happening.  I’ll be opening up Comments (gasp!) for the month of September.  That gives you the chance to let us and other readers know that you’re participating as well as ask questions, etc.  If you leave questions in the comments, I will answer each of them in the following post.

Let’s get the basic premise down for a refresher and I’ll steel this content (with some revisions) from my previous 30-Day Challenge:

First of all - let me explain 30 Days of Nuttin, honey. If you're anything like us, then you will relate to eating out too much, shopping too much (even at Wal-Mart/Target - maybe especially so?) and overall just spending when you don't really need to. This challenge forces you to forgo all that extra spending and only spend money on absolute necessity items, such as milk, diapers, gas, etc. It motivates you to see just how much money you would actually have left over at the end of a month if you're spending was reduced dramatically. In addition, and let's face it – many of us need a reality check for how and why and where we spend our hard earned cash and how it affects our families in real dollars.

Much like the purging of too much stuff we did this past week - it might be time to look at purging poor spending habits and take a solid month to look at just how bad the habits have permeated our lifestyle. It's not extravagant living, I assure you. It's here and there and the dollar bins at Target and the this and that and the quick trip into Starbucks here and there (or everyday, if that’s your thing).  It's all the little stuff that just adds up and up and up. Before we know it, hundreds of dollars have mysteriously turned into picture frames, sodas, candles, jeans, and on too many occasions - dinner and lunch out.

I must give credit again to Mary at Owlhaven for the great idea. She did this with her family and with only a mere 10 children (yes ten, cough sputter hats off), how hard could it be? I thought, if she can do it on a razor sharp budget and make it thirty days with ten kids then surely AB and CB could do it with two little ones. Right?!? I mean, we could, couldn't we?!? Cough again. You can read about her challenge HERE. Make sure you scour through and read all the posts from that month so that you can appreciate all she did to stay up on her challenge. And you can get to know her and her amazing family HERE.

So, in addition to that challenge I have tagged on a little sumpin' I call the "Empty Pantry". This will only work if you spend lots of time and money grocery shopping and not actually eating or using what you buy. If you're throwing out more than you eat because of overdue expiration dates, etc. - then this is the tag-on challenge for you. Or maybe you'd prefer to do just this one instead. Maybe you're a saver and not a spender, so this will be more applicable.

The idea behind "Empty Pantry" is to literally avoid shopping for more than just the basics at the grocery store for a month. Your goal is to challenge yourself to quite literally empty the fridge, freezer and pantry by being creative and using everything you have. If you don't keep a lot at home in the pantry (and some do not, though my hips cannot relate to those types of people) then again, probably not for you. But for those of us who'd consider a fun date night a trip to Sam's Club - and you know who you are - then we can really have fun with this. I for one, am tired of throwing out food because we couldn't be bothered to make it and instead opted to spend 7 times as much to let someone else make our food.

So this is a temporary, at least, lifestyle challenge - combined. You're avoiding spending for 30 days of your life to see what's left over and in that process, you're getting creative and using up all those frozen chicken breasts, rice packets, and canned veggies.

The good news is that I created two things to help with the project. First, I took an inventory of everything we had. I mean, everything - food and drink wise. So I created a spreadsheet to help me organize that. Second, using my inventory sheet, I created a meal planner to help me set up meals for our family on a weekly basis. As items were used to create a meal, I removed them from the inventory. This way, I always knew what was left to create the next meal plan. I then hung the meal plan for that week on the fridge and we always knew what to expect on any given day. It took the stress out of trying to figure it out at the last minute ("I don't know, what do you want? I don't know, what do you want") Ugh. It also helped to avoid the frustration of not having anything thawed in time and then leading us to just "eat out" to avoid the delay and hassle.

If I knew we had plans on a certain night, I just listed that instead of a meal. We are flexible as well - if we want to switch a couple nights up because our taste buds aren't cooperating - we go for it. Whatever works to empty the pantry. We realized quickly after the inventory was done that we could literally eat for weeks with very little shopping. Aside from milk, eggs, and some fresh veggies - we would be self-sufficient living off our pantry for a while.

If you would like me send you the templates I have for the meal planner and the Inventory - keeping in mind you can change them to whatever works for you and that they are simple spreadsheets - I'll be happy to send them to you. E-mail me HERE.

So, that's the gist.  Wanna try?

We’re starting Thursday the 1st of September – and I’ll be blogging our way through the challenge – with daily menus, pictures of our food creations, and I’m QUITE SURE – blathering on and on about how much I miss Chipotle.  Though I will tell you right now – it is highly unlikely we will not eat out at all during the month.  It’s just our life.  Sad but true.  More so, the goal is that we will drastically decrease the occurrence rate of eating out, save wherever we can – including groceries, coupon when possible, and be more aware of how to cut corners.  Should be nothing if not interesting!  Julia vs. Julia move ova’!

Don’t be afraid!  I’ve survived it, and so can you.  You will be AMAZED how much you can spend on frivolity.  And you will stand shocked at what you have left at the end of the month.  Shocked, I tell you. 

It's all about making your best effort and seeing how much you can accomplish with it. What can it hurt? (sob...Chipotle...)

I’d like to feature other bloggers who give it a go – so please do LEAVE A COMMENT (yes, I’m actually encouraging it) if you’re up for the challenge and want to partner alongside us.  Even if you don't have a blog - chime in and let us know you're on the ride with us!  The more the merrier…

Ten days and counting to get ready…

On your mark, get set, go make a meal plan and check your pantry!

*More to come about how to prepare for the month without breaking the rules/being counter-productive to the challenge*

August 19, 2011

Everything in its place

I’m not the best house-keeper of late.  Oh no, I used to be.  Yes indeed.  If you scoured back through my pre-nutter-farm days, you would find what I would now call arrogant little posts from me about how to clean and organize your home.  Yes, you would.

But we’re focusing on the “of late” part.  The part wherein I have two small children and a full-time job and a husband who keeps long hours at work, and no extended family to speak of within a seven hour radius. 

And so my house does not, and cannot, and has no hope of staying clean for any length of minutes on any given day of the week.  Please, please don’t come over.  I asked nicely.

It’s not for lack of effort – I mean, I can be occasionally found in my down-time (what the heck is that anyway) to be sorting through yet another pile of laundry or scrubbing at another pot too large to fit into the dishwasher (why do they even do that?  why can’t they just make the dishwasher industrial or the pots smaller?)  The effort is mostly there.

But for all those other days in between,  I’m whizzing past that basket of laundry – that has been folded for a week and sits collecting dust now on the bedroom floor.  I am chagrining at those piles of dishes and wondering to myself if and when I will ever choose to make it a priority not to leave dirty dishes in the sink.  It doesn’t look promising, people.

Additionally, personal hygiene is on the fritz.  You heard me.  It’s iffy.  As in “if I have time to take a shower today, I will”.  As in “if I remember to comb my hair, then we’ll all be glad”.  As in “if I actually manage to change out of these clothes I’ve had on for three days…”  (the joy of working from home has its disadvantages).

For that matter, I have to tell you – piles of paper sit on my desk for weeks – months – maybe years.  I don’t know anymore.  I found a coupon in a folder today that expired in 2009.  I found a card I intended to send to my little brother for his birthday.  In April, people.  April.  Of 2010.  I can’t make this stuff up…

Things have stopped happening.  It’s like a museum around here.  Oh yeah, I meant to eat those Cadbury Eggs…from two Easters ago, but forgot I hid them so the kids wouldn’t eat them.  There’s those pantyhose…that I stopped wearing in the 90’s, but have tied the dresser drawers shut with.  What ever happened to my curling iron?  Oh that’s right – we used it to wedge open the bathroom door to keep the children from slamming it shut.  What the what?

And so all of this is life as we know it.  And you can’t keep up with it, and you can’t slow it down, and you can’t speed it up.  It just is. 

Laundry, dishes, curling irons…they all get jammed into a corner of “I’ll get to you when I get to you”.  Makeup and personal hygiene go by the wayside, baby wipes take their place at the dining room table – because we can’t seem to clean up a meal without them, goldfish are scattered underneath my couch and I know this because we had to lift up one end today to find a lost Batman figure – and lo and behold – goldfish aplenty that the dog scooped up post-haste.  Things that I used to think I could not ever live without – sleep, warm meals, uninterrupted thoughts - turns out I can.  Things I thought I would never do?  Catch vomit at the table, cheer for poop on the potty, say the word “potty” - turns out, I don’t mind them as much as I thought.  They have all integrated into our daily life.  They are, simply put, what is.

Sometimes I look around this house and I can still visualize the way it used to look.  Back in the day.  The pre-nutter days.  Everything had a place.  Everything was in its place.  I took great pleasure in that.

Today?  I can’t lie.  It still bothers me.  A little bit.  Because it’s such a departure from my instinct.  The instinct to have everything be just so. 

Biggest lesson in parenting?  Everything is not “just so”.  Everything is not in its place, nor does it really have a “place” any longer.  Put it where you can for now and we’ll deal with it later. 

Happy Birthday, little brother – hope that was a good one for you…back a couple years ago…

And the good news is, later will come.

And the bad news is, you’ll find that later will come much sooner than you thought. 

And suddenly, you’ll have your house back to your previous pre-nutter normal, and everything will have a place once again.

Yes, you’ll sleep.  You’ll probably even shower daily, have late dinners out and about, and be able to spend long hours reading books. 

And everything will be in its place.

Everything but them


…and you just might find yourself desperately missing these sweet years of chaos and cold meals and stray goldfish.

You just might.

Enjoy the mess, sweet friends...

August 15, 2011

Motherhood is like cake…

Christie & Grandma 1975
My Grandmother and I share cake, circa 1975

When I was young, we had cake regularly.  Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Banana Nut Cake with cream cheese frosting.  Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Sometimes all of these accompanied by a couple robust scoops of vanilla ice-cream. 

My mother loved (and still loves) dessert.  And so, my childhood was decorated with my mothers ability both to bake and her natural inclination to enjoy and share the fruits, errmm sweets of her labors. 

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to something else my mother taught me.  Something that I’ve forgotten in my day to day survival with little ones. 

It’s all about perspective.

My mother is a gentle woman.  She’s not a yeller.  She’s never been an angry person or prone to bitterness.  She’s gentle in spirit and sweet-natured.  Soft spoken.  Somewhat shy.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I grew up, how she managed all four of us, how she dealt with the hard stuff…

I don’t remember my mother letting very much get under her skin.  I’m sure there were times…I know she had moments of anger or frustration or exasperation.  Sure she did.  But she was a calm influence in my life.  Gentle.

And she loved to laugh, have fun with us, play with us…she loved reading to us, tucking us in, singing with us, baking with us, making great food for us…

She loved being a Mom.  Our Mom.  She loved the details of being our Mom.  Not just the sacrificial part.  She made it fun. 

I so long to know how she did that.  How she loved it so much.  How it came so naturally to her. 

If you ask her, she will tell you it’s because “you kids were so wonderful”.

(rolls eyes)

Ok, well I know what she means by that.  We all love our children.  That’s just part of the deal.  But who among us hasn’t gotten a bit testy by the fourth dumped glass of milk?  Or the baby powder squeezed all over the bathroom?  Or the pushing/hitting of the sibling for the umpteenth time?

And let’s just clarify – we four siblings rained down a lot more than some baby powder all over her bathroom floor. 

No…she was onto something.  And I think I might finally be coming to terms with what that was…what it is

Motherhood was like cake.  Like dessert.  She choose to make it that way.

She saw us as the sweetest part of her life, and the most rewarding -  amidst choking down all the hard stuff life can often throw at us. Because sure, there were rough times.  For all of us.  Things we would all go back and change if we could.  That’s just, well…life.

But we were her “dessert”.  The special piece of wonderful that came from her labor – both in the delivery room and throughout our growing years.  She made sure we knew that at the end of the day, in all the big ways and in all the little ways too.  She told us in as many ways as she could “I love you, and you’re the best part of my life”.

She choose to focus on how we enriched her life and not on the ways we perhaps (and maybe often) made it difficult for her.  She set her eyes on how we filled her up, instead of how we surely left her feeling drained at the days end.  She set about finding a means to express her love for each of us in our own space, instead of giving into the temptation she must have often felt to retreat within.  Who among us hasn’t felt the need to pull the covers up over our head and disappear on occasion?  I’m sure she did.  Many times.  She wasn’t perfect.  She might have felt sad or frustrated, hurt or angry – she was human after all.  But her love for us and her ability to express that love was undeniable.

In my own journey of motherhood, I admit to focusing on the negative a bit too much.  To being too harsh, or too stubborn with my children.  To not being nearly as gentle as I could.  Certainly, to not looking at the sweetest parts my children bring to my life and letting my heart settle there for a time.  Instead rushing about, forcing this and that, pushing this way and that way, and altogether being far too stressed out by the whole experience. 

I admit to focusing on the ways motherhood has left me feeling drained.  That I often want to retreat – either within or away for a time.  I admit to feeling that being a mother has left me sometimes adrift, like an island, unhappy, or that my life has become far too difficult.

I’ve forgotten something critical that my mother had down.

Behaving as if my children are the best part of my life and sending them this message very clearly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them intensely.  I cannot imagine not having them in my life.

But from one pessimist to all my fellow pessimists; this motherhood gig is no joke.  It’s simply put, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling.

Still, I know, that I know, that I know the utter regret I will feel when I look back on this time of my life – and can only see how foolishly I squandered my children’s most innocent years, while wallowing in my own bowl of cooked carrots. (apologies to those who like them)

Focusing on the wrong things.  Sweating over all the small stuff.  Rushing around willing time and milestones to happen so that I can get back to my (insert former life here).

Forgetting what my mother knew and lived out: that time is precious and painfully short, that we are not promised tomorrow together, and that children are a blessing.

I don’t think I want to even conceive of that kind of regret making its home in my heart.  I want to know that I made every effort not to waste a moment, rather than spending too much time chagrining the whole experience.  When it’s over, it’s over – (and it will be, much too soon) and then what? 

Instead perhaps we struggling mothers should live by this:

Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh. Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh. (do what ya gotta do but…) Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh. Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh.

Time to enjoy my wonderful dessert…

Time to eat some cake.

August 8, 2011

Little Miss Gets Sassy

Well, ok…I’m sort of misleading you.  She’s not really a sassy girl.  She’s a sweetie-pie. 
I’m really referring to the fact that my little darlin’ got her first real haircut. 
I just couldn’t take the straggly look anymore.  Try though I might! 
So, I gulped and got my “tools” and sat her in a chair…and double gulp…snip snip snip.


We have a bob.  And we are sectioning back some of those enormous amounts of bangs Missy has
to grow them out and go with a lighter look in the front. 


I think she’s pretty spectacular, even if the haircut and “stylist” were a little bit off. 

And maybe she is a little bit sassy….


August 5, 2011

Summer Snow

When I was a kid, we used to stand outside around 4pm, listening.  Waiting for it.  Listening for him.  And then, when you were dripping sweat from your forehead, and your eyes were squinting from the sun, and your bathing suit was itching…you could hear the faintest jingle.  The smallest tingle of what sounded like a music box.  And it got louder and closer and then he rounded the corner and we would all belt out our excitement. 

“Here he comes!”

“I know what I want!”

“Me first!”

And with the coins pressed firmly in our hands, we would rush to the side of his whimsically painted van and clamor for the first spot.  Looking over the pictures, scanning all of our choices.  Rocket pop.  Push up.  Big Stick.  Orangesicle.  Drumstick.  How to choose…what to pick?  One by one, he would reach out and collect our money, and one by one we would be given the momentary desire of hearts.  Sitting on the grass under a tree, sticky ice-cream or popsicle melting down our hands, stained red tongues and lips, happy and content for a moment in time – all of summer still ahead of us.

Times have changed quite a bit.  Ice-cream vans have become a little piece of the past.  My past.  Still, once in a while, I still hear the jingle around our neighborhood of the Ice-Cream Man.  It makes me smile, because it brings it all back to me.  And even though we haven't caught him just yet – we have enjoyed one of the most pleasurable parts of summer. 

Around these parts, the big summer treat is a Snow Cone!  We have a lot of choices around town – and even a fun “pirate ship” we can visit to get our icy treats.  I don’t know about you, but I had a “Snoopy Snow Cone Machine” when I was kid.  I know that right now a lot of you are probably remembering that you or a friend had one too.  It was Snoopy dog house and it was red and white.  The ice churned in the center and came out the middle into your little cup.  Then you poured the cherry or grape syrup on it and dove in with a spoon. 

I’m genuinely happy to see my children “digging in” to one of Summer’s ICONIC treats.  Sticky syrup dripping down their little chubby hands.  Delight in every bite.  Sharing and experiencing together.  Creating their own memories of childhood with Summer snow…


August 2, 2011

La Cabin Boating–Part Two–Tube vs. Me

Right.  So this is Part II of Boating – so if you haven’t read the previous post, just scroll on down…and then come back here.

Where were we?  Yes. Right.

So, everyone took turns (except me) and had a great time – 
and AB even spent some time “dare-deviling” on the tube 
until he took it up on one side and eventually lost his grip. 

It was impressive people.  I was a wife impressed.  Just sayin.  
Sorta sexy when your man does water sports.  

(raises eyebrows up and down)


It was great fun! If you’ve never done it, I would love to recommend it…except...


Except, everyone was like “you’ve got to try it, Christie” and “do it, Babe!” and “go Mommy!”

and I was all “no, no, no” and they were like “yes, yes, yes”.  And finally I caved. 

And all the while I was thinking that no matter I’m pushing 40, and never mind a girl of my…
shall we say “volume” shouldn’t be trying to bounce around on the lake on a floating tube, 
and let’s just forget that I have the dexterity of a clam. 

Let’s forget all that for a moment while I tell you that 
I was convinced to try in the spirit of “you only live once”. 

Yes.  Yes, I was.  And I got on that donut without the hole. 

Barely – which should have been my first warning sign. 

I was trying to gently ease myself down from the boat onto it, and well…

let’s just say that it was not the graceful transfer I had hoped it would be. 

It was more of a PLOP-FLAIL-GRASP.  Like “whoahhh, NO…oh…shoot….well”. 

And then I was like “What do I do?  How do I hold on?” 

My body was already slipping off to the back and the boat hadn’t even begun moving. 

This should have been my second warning.  But no. 

I decided it would be easier to attempt a ride (in the spirit of “how hard can it be?”)  than to hoist myself back up into the boat. 

Turns out, not so much.  No. 

Still, Anton took the obligatory picture of me trying to be brave. 

Mind you, the mind AND body were screaming “save yourself!!” 

but I was pretending to be calm for the sake of avoiding another “FISHGATE” incident.  (shivers) 


Then the boat started moving.  This is when I knew I was in severe trouble. 

At first, I laughed – because it took me off guard (as you will see in the evidence photo below).  

Then my paltry grip on the handles started to slide. 

Um, I missed the memo about supporting my own weight. 

Yes, I missed that. 

So my uh… “volume” started to slip towards the back of the dingy, and I realized in very short order
that I was expected to HOLD MYSELF in that position. 

Who does that?  

Who just sits around all day practicing the art of holding their own weight in a “hanging” position?

Not me, that’s who. 

I have about as much upper body strength as a piece of styrofoam.  

Because styrofoam has no upper body, people.

Slip.  Slip.  Slip.  Heading straight toward FISHGATE Part Deaux. 

I pulled up, and nothing happened.  I mean, that is to say…I just didn’t move at all. 

All my strength and not an inch.  Crap.  I had to keep myself from going in the water. 

Anton’s yelling from the boat (ages in front of me) to hold on – to right myself – to hang on. 

“Yes!  I know!  What am I doing here?  I’m holding on, for crying out loud!”

Only I didn’t say that, because I couldn’t.  

I could only think of how fast my….volume was sliding into the fish…I mean, the water. 

And so I did what anyone in my situation would do. 

I heaved – with all my might – to pull my body up to the front of the tube.  

With a big “aaaaaaaahhhh”I huffed my body forward, and that’s what I will remember. 

That last effort. 

It was a beautiful moment – slow motion like – and I was like Rocky Balboa and my mouth was contorted like all “nooooooooooooooo” (or “Adrian!” or whatever) and that’s when it happened. 

As I heaved upward, the weight of the…water, yes the water (cough-sputter), 
pushed the front end of the stupid torture device nose first into the lake. 


And when that happens – there is no recovery, folks. 

It’s like a bad sequence of water takes dingy, water wins.

The whole front tipped downward, and with it – mass water engulfed the tube-with-no-hole- 
and I went face first and head over heels into the dark abyss of LAKE water.

And the boat kept going.  Until I heard but did not see AB shout “stop!”


I *think* that might be my HAND you see off the to the right of the “Wheel of Shame”. 

As it tried to right its owner. Bless its heart.

I came up, sputtering and coughing – since I had taken on a mouthful of lake water. 

(Remember, I was doing my Rocky yell…)

And to be sure, that boat was WAY TOO FAR AWAY to swim to.  

I mean like, I can swim – but not like English Channel swim.  You know?

And I was all “what the….who the…why the frig…I HATE this thing!  

Why would anyone want to ride on this?” and I’m talking to no one in particular, 
because I’m the only one who can hear me, save the fish. 


I’m that far from the stinking boat.  I might as well send up a flare to communicate. 

And at first, they are shouting to me to “get back on” and doing crappy charades to indicate what I should do - imitating how I need to be pulling myself back on, or whatever.  

Let’s just take a moment with that one.

Get back on.

Get back on???

What is wrong with you people, I thought? 

I couldn’t even hold myself in position when I WAS on.  You want me to what?  

Catapult myself out of the murky water and onto this mockery of a water device? 

Somehow magically walk on water long enough to slide gracefully back onto 
the circle of doom, long enough to disgrace myself again? 

No, they mean heave/ho and propel my girth back to the center, so that I can ride again. 

As if!?!

Now, mind you – I make an effort.  I grab the handles and try to pull myself up.

Have you ever swam in the deep end of a swimming pool and tried to climb out using the ladder?

It’s no bueno.

It’s like all that floaty weightless feeling you just had being in the water 
and then you try to pull your full weight UP and OUT? 

Yeah that.

It pretty much makes you feel like your lifting 18 tons of concrete out of the pool when you scale that ladder.

Well, this is just like that. 

Except there’s no clear pool, just a mass body of fishy/creepy thingy infested dark water. 

And there’s no ladder.  Just some handles made out of material and a slippery rubbery surface. 

So I do what anyone would do.  

I attempt,  twice.Trying in vain to save what little bit of dignity I might have left.

And when my arms, which are now JELLO, tell me it’s not gonna happen - I start kicking. 

No, not for the benefit of trying to reach the safety of the boat.  No.  Meh. Forget that.  That's not gonna happen.  
The boat's like 45 miles away from me, or whatever.  
And a gal of my "volume" can't swim that far.

I start kicking because I feel like a sitting duck. 

And I can hear the jaws theme in my head.  Don't laugh.

And I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW that there are 
thousands of fish (et. al) in the water with me in that moment. 

And I am waiting for the bite.

So I’m frantically kicking my legs and going a big, generous NO WHERE.

Eventually, after what feels like they’ve sipped wine and had a nice chat, they start pulling the tube in, 
and I grab hold with all my might and let the powers that be drag me with it.

The whole while, I’m kicking like a mad-woman.  Because I CANNOT have another fish touch me.

That would be the final straw.

And I’m humiliated enough.

I reach the boat, and Anton reaches down to help me out of the water. 

“Why didn’t you get back on?” he says.  “Why did you lean so far forward?”

After my eyes bore through his skull and I announced to the boat at large 
that I was DONE with the Death Dingy,

I said to all within earshot – “that thing is ridiculously hard to hold onto”…
and then swung my venomous gaze back to AB,

“Why didn’t you tell me I’d need every ounce of what my mama gave me to make that work?  

Did you forget to mention it’s like scaling a rope in gym class?”

After I downed an entire helping of pride pie, I watched as AB had another go at it.  

And I marveled at his ability to stay ON the thing. 

Truth be told, I was the only one who fell off that day, 
until AB took a daring spill after a really adventurous maneuver.

Girls of, ahem…"volume", beware.  It’s not for us.  Take it from me.

Stick to the shore.

You’ll thank me.

And for the record, I prefer fish on my dinner plate and not nibbling on my legs.

But I guess turn-about is fair play.