Friday, February 26, 2010

Reliving the Old Days

I was at Michael's the other day and amongst all the crafts I found a blast from my past.

Candy cigarettes. 

Man, did we love these as kids!  But I was faced with a moral dilemma.  Do I buy these and present my children with candy cigarrettes or do I be mature and pass on something that could possibly lead them toward a path of death and destruction.

Obviously I bought them.  And I was so excited when I got home and told Mike - who looked at me and raised and eyebrow and said, "Nice mothering.  You are going to need to stress that we don't condone smoking."  I thought he might write up a contract for them to sign beforehand, but I told him I had a plan.

So after dinner and, conveniently when Mike left for work that night, I pulled the kids aside and told them I had a treat.  The conversation went:

"I am stating from the start that I DO NOT condone smoking.  It will kill you.  That being said, I got you some candy like we had when I was a kid."

Then I told them what I did condone:

Shopping at Target:

Watching and cheering for the Olympics:

Can I spin things or what?  I should have been in public relations.

And so we shared some stories over our "cigs".  They got a good chuckle when I told them we used to stand outside and pretend to "blow smoke" when it was really cold out.

Maddie came home the next day and said, "I told my teacher that I had a cigarette last night."

[Insert brief heart palpitations from me and Mike's voice in my head saying, "I told you so..."]

She finished it with, "But then he just looked at me and said, 'I bet you had a candy cigarette.'"

Whew.  I'm still up for Mother-of-the-Year.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lucky Wreath

This week I took on the challenge of updating our "holiday wreath".  My self-imposed goal was to do it with supplies I had on hand.  An unintended goal came from the fact that I started this project at 2:20pm on a day when I start teaching at 3:30pm. 

I wanted something different than just things hanging around the wreath's edge.  Of course, there needed to be a four-leaf clover.  A couple days prior I had decided I would add something hanging into the middle.

I went to work in my Photoshop Elements.  I created a four-leaf clover pattern that I sized onto a 17x11 sized project.  In essence, I made something the size of two regular sized papers side-by-side.

I then went and made two separate documents.  I outlined a rectangle that was 8 1/2 x 11 sized and moved it to the left of the above pattern.  I copied the pattern, and pasted it onto a new sheet, sized the same as a regular sheet of paper.

I did the same for the right side.

I cut these out.  I left a little extra bit of white paper next to the right side to have something to lay the left side on top of.  The black circle was placed in the middle to make sure I had all my edges lined up based off the circle.  I'm not sure it was totally necessary, but I got the idea off my purse pattern and it was a nice extra line to make sure things worked out.

I found a piece of green fabric from my stash that was big enough to fold in half to give me two sides to sew together.  I traced my pattern, then drew a little dashed line inside 1/4 inch for my seam allowance.  I think I would sew a little less seam allowance next time.

I actually had stuffing and I stuffed my four leaf clover. 

I didn't want all green or my door was going to look like Christmas so I added some brown ribbon I had.

I was running out of time at this point; I needed to eat my snack of cheese and crackers before teaching or my students were going to have percussion playing along with them when my stomach growled.

I stitched the clover closed and looped the ribbon around the wreath and tacked it to the back with small stitches.

For the third holiday in a row, the brown "M" makes an appearance, though it's location was changed. 

Without further adieu:

I swear that fabric has green in it.  I didn't have anything darker that was also big enough for this clover.  But next time I'd definitely go for something a little more green and solid-colored.

But this will do for now.  And it was free.

I made a point to tell Mike I changed out the wreath.  Why?  Because my mom stopped by one day after I had added the hearts for Valentine's decorations.  I was gone and my mom commented to Mike how pretty the wreath looked.  He thought she'd lost a few marbles that day and couldn't figure out why she was making such a big deal out of a wreath that had been up for two months.  A week later he read the blog and discovered we'd left Christmas behind and had changed decorations for February.

We are nothing if not great communicators.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Morning Routine

For the most part we have things down to a science here in the mornings.  There was the one exception where we all took a simultaneous mental break for 10 minutes and somehow time didn't stop and the kids missed the bus; but that's only happened once to us.

Welcome to our morning:

7:25am:  Wake the kids up.  I'll spare you that picture.  It's often not pretty.
7:30am:  Feed Sadie.  Afterward she will be a nutcase for 30-45 minutes.

7:32am:  Kids walk down and make breakfast.

Jake eats Cocoa Puffs 97.8% of mornings.  He also prefers to read but we've found this to be far too distracting in keeping up with our time schedule.

Grumpy Pants Maddie hates to eat breakfast.  I can buy her favorite cereal (and have boxes to prove it) and she'll suddenly hate it after one morning.  Lately she's managed to make toast with peanut butter.  Mostly we all try to leave her alone until she resurfaces after getting dressed.

I mean...don't they look like the picture of happiness?

7:35am:  Mike comes up to join us for breakfast and to get his first cup of coffee for the day - Unless it's been an excrutiating morning of meetings so far and he's already made the first batch.

7:45am:  I announce the first warning of time.  "You have to be getting ready in 15 minutes."


7:47am:  I make one or two lunches.  These generally include a note.  Lately they've enjoyed the jokes I've written which means at about 7:50 you can find me on my computer looking up decent kids' jokes.

7:50am:  Second warning.  "Jake, for goodness sake, stop eating Cocoa Puffs and get dressed!"

7:51am:  Mike or I sign Maddie's planner.  Despite our daily pleas she still leaves this until morning.

7:55am:  I make my breakfast.  A half bagel with peanut butter and a cup of coffee with a scoop of protein powder. 

7:57am:  Kids come down with their dirty clothes and deposit them in the laundry room.  One of my favorite chores they have; it saves me a trip on Monday mornings!

8:00am:  Last hugs and kisses to Sadie.

8:03am:  Get dressed for the bus.  Inevitably it is at this point that at least one of the children will remember something they forgot to pack and I'll race around trying to find it while they get on boots.

8:06am:  Stand at the door and wait for the bus to arrive at the bus stop on our left corner.  With this route the kids can see the bus arrive at that stop, wait from our door inside during the winter and walk to their stop before the bus arrives on the right corner.  No more frozen patooties.

8:10am:  They leave for the bus to start their day and I get to begin eating my breakfast in peace and quiet. 

Except for the dog who is jumping around like a grasshopper.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

End of an Era

I'm not sure what the era would be called:

"Our Cooler Days" (notice I didn't say "Cool" days...I've never hit that era in my life.)

"Sportier Days"

"Easy-to-get-a-speeding-ticket-but-luckily-never-did Days"

Yesterday we said good-bye to an old friend.

It's been four years since we drove this baby home.  At the time we had been looking for a car because we were tired of paying so much for gas.  However, we weren't sure a car was exactly what we wanted for a long-term vehicle.  So, we leased it. 

And we were right.  A car just isn't our first choice right now.  We can easily take our children places, but they can never be neighborly and invite someone along unless we stuff that someone in the trunk.  And that's just not being neighborly.  So, we are currently on the lookout for a 7-passenger vehicle of some kind.  One of my large preferences is All-Wheel-Drive.  After driving Mike's truck a lot the last two winters, I just feel better with that option.

But I loved this car. 
I loved the color.
I loved the buttons/dashboard.
I loved the heated seats.
I loved that the doors automatically unlocked when I turned off the car.
I loved that I could lock the doors when I exited but it would delay locking for 60 seconds; I didn't have to wait to lock anything while the kids were poky getting out.
Did I mention I loved the heated seats.  Loved.  Capital "L".

But here's what I'll miss most about this car:


A manual transmission.  This was a requirement when we shopped for this vehicle.  I love to drive stick-shift cars.  And this one was extra fun because it was a 6-speed, which I'd never driven.  I may have extended my test-drive on the night we were comparing two cars by "accidentally" missing the exit ramp to get back to the dealership.  I was having too much fun in this car and was afraid Mike was going to tell me we couldn't get it.

But he was sold on it too.  He was sold on the sun-roof.  It was a panoramic opening roof which meant that basically it opened all the way back.  Actually, I would be lying if I didn't say I absolutely LOVED that in the spring, summer and fall months.  I would also be lying if I didn't say that on the first few 40 degree days of spring I would drive around with the top opened up after being cooped up all winter. 


Now it's gone.  I took it for one last drive back yesterday.  When we got to the dealership Mike said, "I'm surprised that you didn't have the top opened up."  I told him I honestly almost did, except I'm just getting to the point of being able to lay down and sleep at night after having this awful stuffed head, so I didn't want to risk it.

We aren't really in any rush to get a second car.  We both work from home and for the most part can adapt our schedules to make one car work.  Mike doesn't think we can make it with one car as long as I think we can.  He's already researching all our options and we've already test-driven a couple cars.  Nothing that really made either of us too excited.  I didn't like how they handled and he didn't like what they cost. 

But I'll end on a happy note.  I still have this:

This is the first keychain I was given when I turned 16; I'm 36.  I hope to have this when I'm 80.  Actually I hope to still be driving when I'm 80.

Anyway, this movie had just come out and each of my friends bought me a little something having to do with "The Little Mermaid" because I loved it so much (still do!).  This keychain has been my companion through all five cars I've owned. 

Mike hates this keychain.  Actually he hates when he's forced to use the keys attached to it because we can't find the other set.  You can imagine his sheer delight when he asked me what I was going to do with it and I told him it was going on a set of keys for his truck.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Date Night

Sunday afternoon Mike slipped me a piece of paper while we all sat around eating snacks.  It said that our friends had invited Mike and Maddie to join them at the Timberwolves game that night.  Mike nodded his head towards Jake silently telling me, "I don't know how to tell him without upsetting him."  I was pretty sure he wouldn't feel too bad if we approached it right.  So I said what Mike & Maddie's plans were and Jake looked at me.  I told him, "This means it's a date night for us.  What's our plan?"  Then I brought up bowling.  He sat up straight and it was game on.

We decided to try out the lanes at Dakotah! which is our gym.  They have a teeny-tiny 3-lane bowling alley in the basement.  It's brand-new, does not smell like smoke, was practically empty on this Sunday night and cost us a whopping $8 for two-games each.  Perfect for me. 

Jake got bumpers.  His first turn yielded a spare.  I didn't get bumpers and my first turn yielded a spare as well.  To follow that up I got two gutter balls, and started rethinking the use of bumpers for myself.

At the end of game one, I squeezed by on a narrow margin.

At the end of game two, Jake was victorious.  For those thinking his mom was being generous and partly throwing the game, think again.  Kids have to learn how to lose fairly.  So do moms.

Afterward we headed to dinner.  We had thrown out a lot of options: Culver's, Dairy Queen, McD's, even Perkins.  Jake decided on Jimmy John's. 

For dessert we dined on Dairy Queen.  Well, one of us did.  The other one got home, ate two bites, and declared he was full. 

Then we headed downstairs so he could teach me how to play Lego Star Wars on the Wii.  Sadie had other ideas and was nuts, so I just got to watch both her and him.

Mike and Maddie had a great time at the game.  Maddie couldn't remember who they played, and Mike had never heard of them, but the T-Wolves lost just the same, though it was close.  Maddie was quite chatty at bedtime (which, if you read this, comes as no surprise....)

Not the night I would have planned given the term, "date night", but one we'll definitely plan on again!

Monday, February 15, 2010


It's no secret to any of my family and friends that I love to take pictures.  I was pretty excited last October on my birthday (a day I planned on doing NOTHING unless it absolutely moved me) when it was overcast and there were still a few pretty colors left of the fall.

Last week I finally sat down to look through them all.  Then I started playing.  I'm trying to expand my Photoshop skills, but only base those skills off photos that are already decent; just trying to learn how to tweak an image. 

Here's what I came up with:

1.  Most of what I was trying to get was something really sharp, and other stuff out of focus (I've learned that is called "Bokeh").  This is out near a lake by our house.  It's one of my favorite areas to go take pictures.

2.  Soon I happened upon a cornfield.  It's not hard to find in this area.  I was trying to learn how to add texture to this picture.  Hopefully you can see it.  But I like the more muted colors of this one.

3.  More corn.  More Bokeh.  I really upped the texture on this one.  I actually entered it in a little contest, though after looking at the others, I'm not expecting anything.  It did get me started on looking through my pictures though so I'm especially happy about that.

4.  This would have been a way better shot if the colors in the trees had been a little more vibrant.  I can only tweak what existed though; hard to make something appear out of nowhere.  I think if I'd walked into the middle of the field and taken the pic to get a bigger image of the barn it would have improved it also.  And really, I did consider walking into it.  But I don't like getting arrested.  Or mice.  Or other creatures that I'm sure inhabit this field.  So, I stayed safely on the dirt road.

5.  I thought this bid itself to a good "old-time" photograph.  I thought it was a little more sepia toned before adding it here, so I guess I need to work on that.  It's one of the few photos from that day that I think actually looks decent in black and white though.

6.  I was probably only out about 1 1/2 hours.  It was late October and very chilly.  I didn't think to bring gloves or a hat.  And I was wearing a thin jacket.  Needless to say, my fingers were frozen, so I headed home.  On the dirt road to my house though I spotted someone's remnants from apple picking and I couldn't resist stopping.  I'm not sure about the whole Photoshop on this one - I was trying to think outside the box.  I think I broke the box instead.  It actually reminds me of winter which is probably not the image apples should conjure up.

7.  This is better for some fall imagery.  Anyone remember green grass?  Those were the days, huh?  I was basically trying to figure out how much color I could make pop without it looking ridiculous.  I think I actually have a better angled-shot somewhere, but I was too lazy to look it up.

8.  I think the pickers missed.  But I like these colors.

And there ends your Tour de Shakopee circa October 22, 2009.

Please come again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

We don't really celebrate the day here.  We might do something all together like play a game or make a fun dinner.  This year the kids got a giant Hershey's Kiss; everyone deserves one of those once in their life.

Last week though, Jake came into the house to show us his ice creation for Valentine's Day.  He carved it all himself and it's been sitting by our doorstep welcoming people into our house all week.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine Treats

This year Maddie really wanted to make her own valentines with a picture of Sadie included.

We got a little busy, but yesterday morning we threw this together for her:

The caption was her idea.  We made one for her teachers too that replaced "classmate" with "teacher".  Clever, huh?

Not to be left out, Jake wanted one as well.  We were on a bit of a time crunch since they were leaving in about 2 minutes, so we came up with this original:

The best part?  This cost us $3.47 cents total.  And we don't have any extra candy in the house to munch on.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Things We've Learned This Week

Sadie the little lady has been with us almost one week.  There have been trials, tribulations, a couple accidents and some whining.  But in my defense that was at 5am when I had been up and outside with her every hour since 11pm.  Here's a few things we've learned so far.

1.  We have learned how to make human barricades.  Generally we like to keep her in the kitchen on the vinyl floor.  It's already in really bad shape, so a couple accidents won't make us feel too bad and it is soooo much easier to clean than carpet. 

2.  She prefers the absolute tightest spaces to relax and take naps.  She looks like a centipede when she curls up to a take a nap; I don't think she could get in a tighter ball.

3.  Dogs really do chase their tails.  Frequently.

4.  For about 30 minutes in the morning she's nuts.  She jumps like a grasshopper all over the place.  There is either some caffeine in her kibble or she is the only one well rested from the night before.

5.  Jake is starting to warm up to her more and more each day.  He was a little apprehensive around her and I finally found out that he was nervous she was going to bite him.  However, last night was his evening to be in charge of her and he was chasing her around and playing with her and cuddling up with her.  I think we are over that fear.  And bonus:  we told him this morning he could go out after school and dig up the "remnants" from her outings and he's quite excited.  I hope this enthusiasm lasts until he leaves for college.

6.  The toy next to her is her favorite.  And now that I see the picture, I mean both toys - the braided rope and Mike.

7. Maddie and Jake are finally starting to realize there's more to raising a puppy than playing but they are doing okay. They each have been assigned certain evenings that they are completely in charge of her. They play with her, take her out and make sure no accidents happen on their watch.  All while getting their homework done.

8.  We've learned not to think about the embarrassment.  We are trying to teach her to bark to go outside or come inside.  I'm sure my neighbors are getting a kick out of seeing me in my pajamas, in Mike's jacket wearing a stocking cap and his shoes - all while I stand next to her in 20 degree weather and bark at her.  I try not to think they are at their windows with binoculars enjoying their coffee over a good laugh.


Monday, February 8, 2010

How Are These Related?

I had three images in my head this afternoon.  Seemingly unrelated, actually:

How are they possibly related?

Well, we are getting a lot of this today and tomorrow....

This afternoon while I was out shoveling with Jake and barely able to throw the snow to the top of the already existing mounds at our driveway's sides, I thought about her...

I realized with some sadness that we should have named her:

Because it's now about as close as we are going to get to one this year.