Friday, November 30, 2012

Top 10 Ways You Can Tell I'm Not a Mommy Blogger

The Mommy Blogging trend is in full force. There are more mommy blog writers, sponsored bloggers, I will add, than any other blogging genre. I don't consider myself a mommy blogger, and when I did a little research into the ways that I am not, I was amazed at the sheer number of them. I was looking for trends in mommy blogging and was also shocked at how powerful the genre is. There are some huge advertising revenues being thrown at bloggers with loyal followings who are willing to support a brand or to stand behind a product. Cleaning and cooking products are marketed toward moms in the first place. Sponsors are finding advertising gold on the blogs of mommies. Which brings me to my list. Here are the top 10 ways you can tell I am not a Mommy Blogger:

10) I am not sponsored. There are no big name brands calling on me to endorse their products. I don't host any fancy give-away contests. I don't belong to a group of bloggers. Would I like to be paid for doing this? Heck yeah! Bring it on! But, until some corporation comes to their senses and begins advertising on my blog wall, I will continue to do this for the pure enjoyment of writing.

9) I do not own a fabulous SLR digital camera. I don't take artsy photos of my kids in charming, brightly colored outfits. I love taking pictures of my kids and I gladly share them, but they do not look like portrait studio shots. At all. In fact, I am usually hoping the person looking at the photos doesn't notice the full laundry basket in the background, or the pile of shoes, or the general chaotic mess. Some photos on lots of  mommy blogs look like they were shot by seasoned professionals for a magazine spread. Too much pressure, man!

8) Some mommy bloggers talk about the beautiful mountain views from their Provo home or the tragedy of beach sand on their hardwood floors. Others blog about travels with their families as they learn about new cultures during their mission outings. I do not live on a multi-million dollar ranch. I live in south Tulsa. Although Tulsa has its charms, attractions and museums, it isn't exactly an alluring backdrop for this blog, leaving readers thinking "How lucky is she?".

7) We think our kids are pretty great, but they are far from perfect. As parents, we are even further from perfect. I may leave out details and crumbs of stories, but I am not the mom blogger who dispenses advice on how to have kids just like mine. Sometimes I wonder about these moms with 2.5 kids who are barely out of diapers telling readers all of their super fantastic ideas on parenting and how awesome their babies are. I wonder what will happen when things get real. The ones with senses of humor will be fine, I imagine. The more serious ladies might not deal so well.

6) I do not have a beef with working moms or childless couples. Wow! There is some serious verbal sparring going on between mommy bloggers and working moms. The world needs less judging and more supporting our sisters, ladies! Yikes! They are vicious! And I found several blogs with titles such as "Dear Know-it All People Without Kids: Shut the F%#& Up!" And "Smug Mommy Bloggers are the Reason Why We Hate Parents". Mean! Shooting verbal daggers at one another like crazy people. I don't want to take part in that. I'm not here to judge. There's room on this here planet for all y'all!

5) I am not a Mormon. There are more Mormon mommy bloggers out there than any other identified religious group. They seriously corner the market. One article suggests that this may be because LDS women are taught from an early age that they should live virtuous and lovely lives, that homemaking is a virtuous life choice and to be engaged in activities that promote family happiness. The church also encourages creativity. Mormon mommy blogs are amazing. Witty, creative, lively and insanely popular.

4) I really have nothing much to contribute. I want to share information so that friends and family can keep up with our part of the family from afar, but I don't really have deep, meaningful and quotable things to say. If anyone is entertained at all by this blog, well, that is a bonus. I don't foresee Redbook calling me anytime soon for an article. I think my chances of appearing in any magazine are pretty slim, unless I make the "What Not to Wear" section of Cosmo, complete with the black bar across my eyes to disguise me.

3) I have no helpful hints to eliminate clutter from your home or get the whites whiter in your laundry. I suck at Pinterest. I look at the crafts and beautiful home decor ideas, but I don't actually do any of the stuff. I have tried a few recipes, but even the cooking pins are mostly just me looking, not doing. Mommy bloggers are the BOMB when it comes to Pinterest. And not just pinning cool things to their boards, but actually doing the stuff that people pin. It amazes me.

2) I don't have a bucket list. I don't have a "100 things about me" list. I don't have a list of tried and true strategies for doing anything. Oh, the lists those mommy bloggers can make. I have trouble creating lists. See? I have resorted to making a point on my list about not being a list maker. LAME!

1) This is my elf. He has hung on our Christmas tree since I was a toddler. He's old. My brother has one in a green suit. I always loved this ornament. Now, I know that the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon is hugely popular right now. He even had a float in the Macy's Parade. My elf, though...he sits firmly on the shelf. Sometimes I move him to a different shelf or hide him in the living room. Nothing fancy. Not like those mommy bloggers! Mommy bloggers all over the US are coming up with different sneaky surprises and tricks to play with their elves. Some of them are hilarious! Very creative. I just don't have it in me to make my elf do that stuff. My elf is lazy and can't follow through with things. He'd probably get up to some shenanigans for a week or so then quit. Yeah. Lazy elf.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's only Wednesday...

...and I already feel like hitting my head against a wall.

Me: Hey! Don't you have a Social Studies test tomorrow?
Child: Uh, yeah.
Me: Good! Where's your study guide?
Child: In my book.
Me: Where's your book?
Child: In my locker.
Me: Why didn't you bring it home?
Child: I didn't bring it home because I don't have any homework.
Me: But you have a test! Don't you think you should study?
Child: We did the bee today, so yeah. I did well. I'm ready for the test.
Me: What's the test over?
Child: (long pause) Uh.... Buddha and stuff.


Child: Mom? Can you help me find two references for my country report?
Me: Sure! What country did you get?
Child: Europe.
Me: Europe is a continent. Which country did you get?
Child: I know it's a continent, but that's what she wrote on my paper.
Me: Well, there are over 40 countries in Europe! Which one is it?
Child: I have to do Europe.
Me: Honey, Europe isn't a country.
Child: I know, but I swear, that's what is on my paper.
Me: Well, where's your paper?
Child: In my locker.
Me: -_-


Child in Passenger Seat: Ugh. I'm turning the station! This is terrible.
Me: (slapping her hand away from the controls) No! I like this! It's The Talking Heads!
Child: It's weird!
Me: Well, you like alternative music. In the 80's, this was alternative.
Child: I don't like it. It's weird.
Me: (in my head) Too bad, so sad!


Me: I need to take you to the studio early today. Your sister has class at 5:15 and your brother has basketball practice across town at 6:00. So, you need to be ready to go an hour early.
Child: I don't want to go early.
Me: You always ask to go early! Now I need you to go early and you say you don't want to.
Child: I just want to go at 6:15.
Me: Well, you have to go at 5:15. I can't run back and forth like that. I can't take you at 5:30 when I take your brother to basketball. And even if I did take you at 5:30, that's only 15 minutes less time to wait.
Child: No, it's still more than 15 minutes early. I don't want to be that early today.
Me: You aren't understanding what I'm saying to you. You either go early or not at all.
Child: That isn't what you said.
Me: -_-


Mike: I don't understand why we have so much mayonnaise in the house. There are three containers in the fridge and one in the pantry. And one jar of Miracle Whip.
Me: Because the squeeze bottle is almost empty, so there is another squeeze bottle in the pantry.
Mike: But there are two jars in the fridge, besides the squeeze bottle.
Me: Well, I don't like Miracle Whip. And when I make some recipes, I measure out of the jar. The squeeze is for sandwiches. The jar is almost empty and I thought I would need it plus the other jar for Thanksgiving, but I ended up not making the deviled eggs or that salad that uses...(looks around and realizes Mike left the kitchen) Well. Never mind.
(an hour later)
Mike: I still don't understand why we have so much mayonnaise in the house.
Me: -_-


I seem to be talking in circles lately.

I feel frustrated! I don't feel heard!

Must I always repeat myself?

Speaking of repeats, here is a great way to use up leftover pork roast.

Make barbecue sandwiches! Put the roast in a Dutch Oven with some water and bring it to boil. Then cover the pan and simmer the roast until the it shreds easily. This step usually takes about 30 minutes. Once the roast is shredded, add enough BBQ sauce to cover the meat and some (a couple of dashes) dry mustard and brown sugar. Add the brown sugar to your own taste. We prefer sweet BBQ, but if you like yours more tangy, add less. Simmer the BBQ until it is heated through and is nice and bubbly. Serve on rolls with slaw, hot peppers, chips and beans. Yum!

Do you prefer your slaw on the sandwich or on the side? I had never tried it on the sandwich until I was an adult. Now I can't think of a better way to eat a pulled pork sandwich. Of course, those kids won't listen to me and continue to eat theirs on the side...

Laundry and other disasters

A few years ago, I washed my son's jeans that were in the laundry basket. His ipod was in the jeans pocket. It was ruined. The rice trick didn't work. He was mad, but at himself. I think he was a little bit mad at me, too, but he knew better than to suggest it was somehow my fault. He used his saved gift money to replace it. He learned a lesson about taking care of his personal property and has not since lost or ruined an ipod or phone.

A couple of years ago, I washed a load of light colored laundry in which a red ink pen was pocketed. The pen successfully survived the washing machine, but exploded in the heat of the dryer. There were red ink smudges on every single article of clothing in the load. Given the size of our washer, a ginormous super sized front loader, you can imagine how many clothes were ruined. Many of the articles of clothing were uniform khakis and oxfords. Blouses and skirts. A couple of Mike's dress shirts. I tried a few suggested methods that were claimed to be fool proof for removing ink stains. They didn't work. I lodged a complaint to the family. I already spend a ton of time on laundry, I don't want to add time to that by checking every pocket. Please, I asked, check your pockets! Out of paranoia, I patted down the laundry for quite some time after that.

I have accidentally washed a couple of Nintendo DS game cartridges.

About a week ago, I washed a load of Mike's laundry. I now wash our clothes separately from the kids' clothes. They help fold and put away the clean laundry now, so it helps to keep theirs and ours apart. When the washer was finished and I pulled the clothes out, there was a wad of paper all stuck together. It was some sort of small notepad. I took it to Mike, apologetically. It turns out it was a very expensive section of psychological testing material. He was pretty unhappy about that.

Last night I washed a load of school uniform clothes. I grabbed all of the school jackets as well because they are navy blue and we have two cats and a dog and they need at least a weekly washing. I patted down the clothes quickly and determined them to be ink pen free. Before going to bed, I tossed the load into the dryer. This morning when I got up, I went downstairs to fold the clothes before the kids woke up so that their uniforms would be ready to go. There was a huge mess in the dryer, as a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies had melted and there were chocolate smudges on every article of clothing. I shouted a few choice words, then shoved them all back in the washer with a cupful of vinegar along with the detergent. They all came clean and were dry in time for the jackets to be worn to school. It turns out Dominic had a bag of cookies in his jacket pocket, so I couldn't really get angry at him since he didn't know I was going to be washing the jackets.

I just pulled a load of clothes out of the washer and found a mechanical pencil. It turns out that the learning curve is kind of low, here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Keepin' it real

I was chatting with a friend, and I told her that the previous night we had a bonfire in the back yard. She commented back, "You are so lucky.". Although it's true that I am really lucky and blessed (I had just spent the last 22 days extolling the blessings bestowed upon me and my family on Facebook after all!), the mental image she had of our family bonfire fell way short of what actually went down.

She admitted that she had a romanticized vision of s'mores, a von Trapp Family style sing along, togetherness...lovely! 

Well, we had s'mores. That much is true. But we also had a sullen teen boy who could think of about four other places he would rather be than outside with us. He didn't contribute to the conversation much and pretty much just put up the hood of his hoodie and tried to be invisible. 

The other kids seemed to have a pretty good time, but I did have to threaten to send inside the next person to use the "F" word. That's right. They wouldn't stop using the word "fart" and it was grating on my nerves! They were also cracking each other up talking about episodes of "Sponge Bob". I guess I was in a grumpy mood because I got tired of that, too. "Can we PLEASE talk about something else?" I asked. By now, it was apparent I was the wet blanket of the party. 


Mike then suggested to Mary and Clare that they grab their guitars or ukuleles and make some music. They didn't want to, but we both urged them. "It'll be fun!" we said hopefully. Well, once again, I think the kids had fun (except for Stephen) but they were singing silly and monotone. I was a little annoyed.  I tried to sing along to Blackbird, but it, uh, wasn't in my range. Translation: I am a terrible singer. They played a bit more, then put the instruments back in the house. Not a very von Trapp moment. 

There was a little bickering, a little bit of griping about smoke blowing in some eyes and a little bit of conversation. It wasn't a BAD overall experience, but after chatting with my friend, I realized that sometimes leaving out the details can leave a lot to interpretation. I don't tend to keep it real all of the time because I don't like to come across as a complainer or as someone who isn't grateful. Then I started to wonder if it seems like I am misrepresenting our family? Painting us with a broad, rosy paintbrush. We are far from perfect. We love each other but sometimes bicker with one another. We are sometimes boring. Conversations can get vulgar. We love to laugh, but sometimes nothing funny happens. I like to tell stories about our experiences, but I do tend to leave out the minute details. Especially the ugly ones. Sometimes for brevity, sometimes for the reasons I stated above. (gratitude, non-complainer) I want to be real, but there seems to be a fine line there.

 I will continue to write about our family and I encourage you to imagine everything I am telling you about, but then imagine a little backstage foofaraw. Because that's usually what happens. Sometimes the foofaraw is the story, but sometimes it is just the thing in the background keeping our feet planted firmly on the ground.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holiday season kick (and punch) off

If this is what the apocalypse will be like, I prefer to go down without a fight. Just like the drowning families in the Titanic. I don't have it in me to fight over things like this. Holiday season 2012...ready or not, here we come!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

There's always room for pie

We like pie here at the Basso house. Maggie has never ever wanted a birthday cake, but has always had birthday pie, candles and all. We picked a day in July and call it Pie Day and we make a bunch of pies then eat them. Pie Day. It's a good thing.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving an we are having PIE. We will start out our meal with some traditional fare, turkey and what-not, and we will end the meal with plenty of pie. All anyone has to do is ask for it and that type of pie will be made. I am thankful for many things in life, but today at the top of my list is the fact that my kids enjoy helping to bake pies.

Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy your friends and family. Do me a favor and choose to NOT shop on Thanksgiving and if you can help it, stay home on Black Friday. That is my gift to you...permission to skip out on the X-mas frenzy and prepare your home for a Christmas to remember. I don't want to get all rant-y and negative, so I'll spare you the preachy post I had previously written. (oooh....illiteration) Instead, I will wish you a happy Thanksgiving and let's prepare our hearts and homes for a solemn Christmas season.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Things that make me uncomfortable

People seem to like lists. I know I like them. I don't know why we find lists interesting, but we do. Maybe we like to look for relatable things in list form. Who knows? I was thinking it would be fun to do a list. Lots of bloggers do a list called "100 Things about Me". The thought of doing a list like that made me feel really uncomfortable, so I figured, hey...I could write a list about things that make me uncomfortable. Here it is:

1) Going to the store to buy a pregnancy test. That is a really personal thing to have to do, and I always feel like the cashier is judging me and thinking about how weird it is that I am buying carrots, milk and a stick that I will later pee on.

2) Even worse than the the pregnancy test, is going to the store to buy a lice removal kit. That is very embarrassing. Especially if there is a line behind you. And especially if suddenly, your head has an itch. You know what everyone is thinking.

3) Thinking about other people going to the bathroom. Especially famous people or the Pope.

4) When someone talks about medical procedures, stitches and band-aid removal.

5) When someone I am talking to has eyes that don't track. I'm never sure which eye to look at.

6) If someone I don't know very well plays a song on the guitar or piano and gives me direct eye contact, I'm never really sure what I should do. Smile? Nod my head to the beat? Makes me uncomfortable.

7) I'm a bit tactile defensive. The feel of chalk on my hands, playdough, fabrics that are "crunchy" like tulle, micro-fiber and touching cloth when my hands are dry all make me feel really uncomfortable. Even thinking about it...shudder...

8) Going to an unfamiliar restaurant which has a board menu, deli style, behind the clerks. The more complicated the menu choices, the more uncomfortable I feel. I always imagine the people behind me are irritated and the person taking my order is looking at me with an impatient look on their face. I always feel rushed and then have buyers remorse.

9) The words moist and slather.

10) Sometimes I'm talking with someone and I misunderstand them and answer in a way that doesn't make sense, and I can tell by the look on their face that I totally missed the mark but they graciously go along with my answer and suddenly it occurs to me what they really meant. Awkward and uncomfortable.

11) When I notice a booger in the nose or lipstick on the teeth of a person who isn't a close friend. I always wonder if it is more embarrassing for them to have me mention it or if I should just let it go.

12) Waving back at someone and realizing they were waving at someone behind me. Then having to smile and act like I was waving at someone behind them.

13) Compliments.

14) Lists that end in an odd number seem unfinished to me and make me feel squirmy and uncomfortable.

15) Unless the odd number is 15. Fifteen seems like a good place to stop. And so I shall.

Friday, November 16, 2012

We had seasons in the sun...

I was on the way home from dropping off the kids at school this morning when Mike called from the airport and dropped the bomb....Hostess is closing down. Going out of business. Selling off their stock of cakes and pies and selling no more. "You better go to the store and pick up some Ding Dongs and Twinkies." he said. I kind of chuckled. "I'm serious! Go today!" Then we laughed, remembering something he did with the kids one winter day.

Mike found this video on youtube and he and the kids watched it repeatedly, laughing hysterically every time. "Play it again!" they would yell. It was funnier watching them laugh about than watching it!

Then Mike grabbed a couple of kids and ran to the store. He came home with Ding Dongs and a spray can of whipped cream. They took turns sticking the whipped cream can's nozzle into the side of the Ding Dong and filling it up with more cream. They had such fun and made a huge mess. It was great.

To this day, whenever I have a shopping list magnetically attached to the fridge, someone will write Gofer Cakes on the list. Every time. I love that they have that memory.

When I was in college living in the dorms, my granny sent me a care package. I had been to her house for a visit, and, like always, I left something behind. I had forgotten my gloves and earmuffs. Granny was worried that I would freeze, so she got a shoe box and mailed them to me. When I opened the box, she had managed to fill the box with not only the gloves and earmuffs, but a whole bunch of foil wrapped Ding Dongs. It was the sweetest thing ever and such a treat!

Hostess treats are not a staple at our house. Occasionally, I will pick up a box of Twinkies or Ding Dongs to give the kids a surprise in their lunch box. And Maggie does love those Cup Cakes! It's not like the world will end (or will it?) or anything, but it just seems sad to me. Not only is a piece of pop culture going away, but so are quite a few jobs. American jobs. I know some people who rely on those outlet stores for bread, as well.

So, yes. I am feeling a bit nostalgic and let down over Hostess cakes. I better go get some Ding Dongs and whipped cream in a can for one last Gofer Cake party.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A (Wednes)Day in the Life

It's funny how you can be really busy one day then the next it can be relatively calm. Then there are those days...the kind of day where you fall into bed exhausted before the evening news even begins. Wednesdays are those kind of days for us. Our daily schedule is pretty fluid and we are pretty flexible. It changes from one season's sport to the next, just like the weather. And then there are some activities whose days and times remain the same all throughout the year, like dance classes and youth group. The schedule builds upon itself in layers, then, like a Jenga game, pieces are pulled one by one as things are added and subtracted to solid foundation. Wednesdays are pretty consistent, with only a couple of changes from week to week.

 This is a little peek into a typical crazy Wednesday.

5:00am - Alarm. Mike is a morning person. It's crazy how he just stretches, yawns and cheerfully asks if I want coffee. I have always admired/hated that about him. Why the animosity, you may wonder? Because I don't want to get up! I'm grumpy and sleepy in the morning. But, I am glad if I HAVE to get up, I get to wake up with a pleasant person. It makes a difference. This hour is the only time of day Mike and I get to spend alone together. Remember, we are exhausted at the end of Wednesdays. We have coffee, catch up on e-mail, read the news and just hang out. I jump in the shower some time between 5-6. Sometimes Mike runs.
6:00am - Time to wake up the kids, make lunches, let the dog out, feed the dog and cats, make sure all papers are signed and in folders, comb out hair, fix little girl hair and repeat these phrases again and again: Have you brushed your teeth? Hurry out of the shower! Your sister needs to get in there! Are you 100% ready to go? Put down the cat and get ready for school! Let's go! Let's go! Say goodbye to your dad. Let's go!
6:50 - Stephen has to be at work by 7:00, so either Mike or I will take him. This week, we added scraping windows to the time crunch.
7:10 - Time to load the van and take everyone to school. If we leave before 7:20, we will be in good shape traffic wise. If we are out the door after 7:20, we will be in traffic hell, and that makes momma grumpy and anxious. Oh, my gosh. We pass about 5 Starbucks on the way to school. Want!!
7:30 - Drop off the St Pius kids. Anna, Dominic and Maggie. Usually, we drop the high school girls, Mary and Clare, off first, but Bishop Kelley has "late start day" on Wednesday, so they don't have to be to school until 9:00. Traffic is a nightmare on the highway and home is too far to go back and forth, so on Wednesday mornings, I spend a little time with Mary and Clare. Sometimes, we get coffee and a donut from the little donut shop that is by St Pius. Every once in a while, we splurge and go to IHOP. It's pretty special since we rarely have individual time with these bigger kids. I love chatting with them with no distractions. They are funny and interesting and really good kids. I cherish this hour. Occasionally, I will have scheduled a dentist or dermatologist appointment in this hour, but I try to keep it open for girl time.
9:00 - Once everyone has been dropped off at school, I head over to St Benedict church in Broken Arrow. My friend, Carla, invited me to attend a weekly women's bible study with her. Though I have missed a couple of sessions recently because of schedule conflicts, I really enjoy this time. More coffee! Fruit and sweetbreads! (unless I've had pancakes, then I just have coffee. Honest!) We have been studying Mary, the mother of God. It's good for my heart and I love seeing Carla on a regular basis. Win/win.
Our mobile home
11:00 - My own time. Lots of things happen in this window before going to pick up the kids. Sometimes I have errands. There is always laundry to do. Simple household tasks. Wednesday is not a day for big projects. I may sweep, but not I will not mop. I catch up on correspondences (which is a fancy way of saying I get on facebook). I blog and read blogs. This is when dinner magic happens. The evenings are busy with kids coming and going, so dinner needs to be ready to roll. These three and a half hours go FAST. I always have time for a cup of tea, though. Lately, chai latte.
2:30 - Time to roll. First stop, St Pius X to pick up Anna, Dominic and Clare. Then we head over to the high school to get Clare and Mary. Sometimes one or two of their friends come home with us to get a ride to later activities. This is the time of day I get whiplash. (At least)Five people waiting their turn to tell me something about their day. Ping. Pong. The subject changes twenty times in the next thirty minutes. If a good song comes on the radio, everyone gets lost in the moment. Belting out a top 40 hit is a good way to release the stress of a long school day! Also, I usually clear my throat, ask for everyone's undivided attention and spell out the rest of the day's events.
3:30 - HOME! Now, I put the finishing touches on dinner and start barking at everyone. Get you homework going! Remember, we are eating early, so put the chips away! Change your clothes! Put your uniform away!!!! I think what they hear, is, Blah, blah, blah....
3:50 - This is new...Stephen gets off work at 4:00, so I have to run and pick him up. Can I tell you something? This kid needs a car. STAT.
4:00 - Time to eat. It's like herding cats getting everyone to the table. With homework started, clothes being changed, kids trying to chill, nobody seems in a hurry to sit at the table and eat. I'm a little nutty about wanting to have a family prayer and dinner together. It's something I feel we need to make time for. We are so scattered every day and evening and it is the one time we can all be together. Sometimes Mike makes it home in time. Those are the best Wednesdays.
4:50 - After everyone has eaten and the table has been cleared, I run Maggie up to the dance studio. She has dance from 5:00-8:30 on Wednesdays. Back at home, whoever has dish duty for the week is cleaning up the kitchen. Everyone else is finishing their homework. This is when I sit at the table with Anna while she does her homework. She also needs to read for a bit. Most nights, we read a chapter book. We take turns reading pages to each other, but on Wednesday, she reads a couple of books of her choice. Usually she has something from the school library to read. I also have to check Dominic's work at this time. If he isn't finished, I may not get back to it, but I try to remember.
5:20 - Time to head to St Pius. Mary and Clare (and sometimes a friend or two) have Youth Group every Wednesday It is well worth the travel and inconvenience. Mr Nance is an awesome youth director and we love having our kids attend this group in which the heart to serve is cultivated. They are excited about service to others! On alternating Wednesdays, Clare is also a youth leader for the diocesan Challenge group. Luckily, it also takes place at St Pius.
**If Mike is at home, I will have left Anna and Dominic with him. Otherwise, they are with me. So, if Mike is at home and it is my turn to drive the kids home after youth group, and the moon is in the 7th house and all of the planets are aligned, I will stay on this side of town until they are finished. There is a Target and a grocery store, so I can do some shopping if need be. I have also sat in the car with a book. This is rare. What usually happens is, I run back home because Dom needs to finish his homework and Anna has a musical theater class at the dance studio at 7:00. Now she and Maggie are in the same building at one end of town and Mary and Clare are in the same building in another part of town. Dominic is with me and Stephen is doing whatever 18 year old college students who have no cars do. We will go home where I barely have time to return a text or two, message a friend or two and log on to facebook and click the like button on a few pictures and snappy comments.
7:40 - Now, if it is my turn to car pool home, I run back over to St Pius. Youth group is out at 8:00. I will drive the car pooled kids to their house and then get over to the dance studio to pick up Anna and Maggie at 8:30. If it is my friend's turn to drive home, I will chill. Usually I fix mike a plate and tidy up the kitchen, check over Dominic's work, listen to some music, read some news, then head over to the dance studio to pick up the girls. Then back home to wait on everyone to be back under one roof.
8:40 - Everyone is usually home by now. I don't know about everyone else, but I am exhausted by this time. I am free to open a bottle of wine if I want to. Anna is finally old enough to get her own shower, so all I have to do now is repeat Get in the shower. Get on your pajamas. Take care of your stuff. about 10 times.
9:something - Everyone is in bed. Tired, yet content, I crash.

So, that is a typical Wednesday. Somehow, we were lucky and none of the basketball practices landed on a Wednesday night. I don't know how I would have managed that!

The Food
Yesterday morning, I put 2 roasts in the crock pot. One was a chuck roast and one was eye of round. They both can be cooked the same and have similar texture and flavor. I usually make two of the same kind of roast, but this is what we had. I put them in the pot, salted and garlic-ed them. Then I shook some Grill Masters pepper mix over  both. Before putting the lid on, I liberally doused them with Worcestershire Sauce and added about a cup of water. Done. Then I checked the fridge to see what we could have with the roast. There was still a huge amount of mashed potatoes left over from the precious night's dinner (meat loaf), so I decided we would reheat those. As I looked through the vegetable drawers to see what else I would make, an idea struck. Rather than just reheating the potatoes, I made a twice baked potato casserole. I stirred into the mashed potatoes, a pint of sour cream (fat free!), a cup of cheddar cheese and a bunch of chopped green onions. Then all I had to do was bake it when we got home from school. I also served steamed broccoli and Brussel sprouts. The girls brought home a friend and one of Mike's graduate students ended up being here for dinner and there was plenty for everyone. With the left over roast, I plan to make a minestrone dish that Mike's dad showed me how to make many years ago. I hope I can remember how to make it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Now You're Cookin'

Fried bologna on white bread with mustard
I'm pretty sure the first food I learned how to cook for myself was a fried bologna sandwich. I could also heat up a mean can of pork and beans. Sometimes I would even add a hot dog! Kraft Dinner mac and cheese was also a specialty. Once again, I would sometimes add a hot dog as the piece de resistance. I am sad to say, these are the meals I served my new husband when we were first married. I also made shoe leather out of chicken breasts a few times. Don't ask Mike about my legendary "Paprika Chicken" debacle. It wasn't pretty and tasted bad.

I still crave Skyline Chili
I wasn't very concerned at the time. I was a busy teacher, Mike was a busy graduate student and when our paths crossed, we would eat what we could throw together or walk to one of the many restaurants that beckoned. In DeKalb, we loved to go to a little Mexican hole in the wall that was cheap and within walking distance of our apartment. While living in Cincinnati, our favorites were Skyline Chili and a Chinese food  restaurant/storefront dive. The move to Ann Arbor brought about the end of my school teaching career, therefor an end to my salary. (Stupid teacher hiring freeze) I took a job working for a University of Michigan funded day care/preschool. I made minimum wage. Half of my paycheck went toward insurance, which we were lucky to have since that is the year I got pregnant with our first child. We may have gone out to eat once the entire year we lived in Ann Arbor, and that was the time were celebrating Mike and his friends' acceptances into post-doctoral fellowships. We ordered water and a burger. That was when I got a little more interested in cooking real meals. Then we moved to Columbus, Ohio. Mike's salary as a post-doctoral fellow at The Ohio State University was enough to allow us to live in a pretty decent little condo. I no longer worked outside of the home. This is the time we really started to learn how to stretch a dollar. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, I watched cooking shows, read magazines and cookbooks like they were dime store novels and started to pay attention. I made a couple of really great friends who were in the same financial boat as we were, however they had been doing it a couple of years longer than I. We took turns cooking for each other and shared recipes. We made home made baby food and made our own baby wipes. I started to ask a lot of questions when we would visit family in Illinois. I am lucky to have three moms to go to for recipes and cooking advice.

The times have changed so much in the last 20 years. If I had the resources then that we have now, (pinterest, recipes at the touch of a computer key, google) I would have been a slave to my computer. I never would have reached out to other people outside of food blogs and  I would have missed the friendships that formed over the common goal of feeding our growing families on a shoestring budget. I would have missed out on the bonding experiences of asking my mom about her famous chili recipe, having my mother-in-law teach me how to make Mike's favorite risotto, having my father-in-law show me how to make perfect minestrone, watching my step-mom make the best fried chicken you ever tasted and chatting with my dad about how many ways you can cook beans. Not to mention the recipes that Mike and I have tried over the years together.

Cooking together is a great bonding experience. I love cooking with my kids. I like knowing that they will have a good foundation of making real food when they venture out on their own. Aside from the time Stephen tried to heat a can of soup on the stove using a plastic microwave pan, they are pretty competent in the kitchen. We have all made cooking mistakes, some of them pretty memorable and perfect fodder for family ribbing, but that is how we learn! For example, Mary taught us all that olive oil does NOT make good brownies. And one tablespoon of cinnamon is NOT the same as one cup of cinnamon. Honest mistakes!!

Shortbread cookies
creative pie crusts

Clare is always stirring the pot


Cook with your kids. Cook with you friends. Cook with your grandma. It's fun with an added benefit of bonding and you get a good meal or a terrific dessert in the end. Everybody wins.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"HOW RUDE" and also I Like Food

When you have a larger than average family, you tend to get lots of comments. I have had complete strangers say the must uplifting things to me in church, in the grocery store and in other public places. Things such as, "You are so blessed!" or "I remember when mine were all young, and now they are all grown and still so close." We have even had people ask us how we manage to have such well mannered children. That's kind of a morale boost. And then there are those well meaning folks, complete strangers who are surely trying to be friendly, but their comments come off as a little insensitive. "You poor thing. Your hands are SO full. You must need a vacation." or "Oh, my gosh. I don't know HOW you do it. I only have 2 and I can't keep up." or "Better you than me. You must have the patience of a saint." I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me "Are they all yours?" No, I'm really into grabbing all the neighborhood kids to go stand in line at the post office. It's really fun! 

And then there are the people who think they are funny. "Don't you know what causes that? Heheh" or "Don't you guys have a tv in your bedroom?" One of my friends who also has a large family has a perfect response for that one. She always says, "Nope. No tv in our bedroom! There's too much sex on tv!". There are so many wise guys with snappy comments out there and they all seem to think it is the first time we've heard it when they let those comments rip. I am too polite to tell them what I think of their humor. There are also people who ask me questions I wouldn't ask even my closest friends. Complete strangers have asked me if I planned to get my tubes tied. Really? Are you an ob/gyn?  "Are you done yet?" is a common question. Give me your number and I'll be sure to give you a call when we decide! For some reason, having a large family makes others feel that it's okay to become over familiar.

I try to extend some grace to everyone who comments on our family. For the most part, people seem to think positively about us. There are a few who like to point out the size of our "carbon footprint", but they are rare. I have only had a few unpleasant confrontations, but that's a whole other blog post.

Many friends and family folks, as well as strangers, are concerned about the financial aspects of raising a large family. Admittedly, it is hard. People want "stuff" and "stuff" costs money. I like to think we are raising our kids to be thrifty and considerate. Needs come WAY before wants. In this throw away society, we have to try to fix things before we replace them. Or we do without. Maybe our kids will grow up being more careful of their things. Maybe they will grow up seeing the value of people, family and experiences over "things".

One of the ways we try to keep a handle on the financial situation is to try to stick to a household budget. I think I am pretty good at stretching the grocery budget, but I know I could do better. We cook mostly from scratch because convenience foods are more expensive than staples. Keeping staples supplied and the menu interesting is a challenge. I know my kids get tired of the same rotating menu, but certain things are just more large family friendly than others. (Spaghetti day....again!) There is one dish I make a lot and no one seems to tire of it. I kind of made it up, basing it on a few dishes I've had and recipes I've seen. It is so easy to make and versitile. You could make it for two or twenty people. We call it Italian Chicken, but I told the kids we should give it a cool name since we kind of invented it. Anna said we could call it That Good Chicken Mom Makes, but for now I'll stick with Italian Chicken. Here it is; give it a try!

Ingredients needed:
boneless/skinless chicken thighs; enough for your family. (for our family of 8, I cook about 16 thighs) You can use breasts, but they tend to dry out faster.
olive oil
Good Seasons Italian Dressing (dry mix)

Preheat oven to 350.
In a baking dish, place enough boneless/skinless chicken thighs for your family. If you use breasts, you won't need as many and the cooking time is shorter. Toss the chicken in just enough olive oil to cover each piece. Spread the chicken evenly in the dish. Pour a packet of the dry seasoning mix over the chicken. For 8 or more pieces, add another packet. I use 2 packets. Pour some water over the seasoned chicken. About 1/4 cup for up to 8 pieces, 1/2 cup for more. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and stick it in the oven. Bake for 2 hours.

That's it! It is simple and tastes like you slaved for hours. Best yet, if you use thighs, you can accidentally over cook the meat and it will still be good and moist. Breasts are trickier. They dry out quickly, so I rarely use them in this recipe. I always serve this dish with mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli or brussel sprouts and a salad.

"MAKE IT." -Clare Basso, age 14 (1/2), Certified FEWD CRITIC
(Clare edited this post and found that it needed a snappy ending)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Your #1 Fan

I had a strange dream. I was backstage at a Mumford and Sons concert waiting in a crowded hallway to meet the band. I was excited and nervous, unsure if I should play it cool, "Hey how's it going? Yeah...I'm just hanging out with you all. No big deal." or if I should gush. "You guys are SO awesome! I'm you number one fan! Please sign my cd!". Most of the dream consisted of my inner dialog, my anxious preparations to meet the boys. I woke up before I got in the room. I was irritated at the people pushing and smoking in the hallway so I woke up frowning. Talk about a let down! All that angst for nothing.

So, as I told my kids about this fascinating dream, before their eyes could completely glaze over (because, don't you hate when people tell you their dreams in tedious detail?), we talked about which singer, band or musical artist we would like to meet in real life.

Mary said she would love to meet the band members from Muse. The bass player has a guitar called a Katara that I believe she wants to get her hands on. You can see it in the video linked here. It is like a guitar and ipad together. Interesting! Muse will be stopping in Tulsa in March and Mary has asked to go to their concert. Unfortunately, that dream won't be coming true because the concert is on a Sunday night at the beginning of finals week. Boo! Whose idea was it to perform a weeknight concert? Adding insult to injury, the radio has been promoting Muse as the 'best live act in the world'. In the world! What do they do? Juggle fire? It makes me wonder. Anyway, I think Mary is interesting. She loves to play the guitar and is also learning to play the mandolin. She has pretty varied musical tastes. I have heard her finger pick beautiful tunes and strum chords in her youth group church choir. I know she enjoys alternative/indie/blue-grass music, but I had no idea she had an undisclosed desire to play digital dub-step. Get it? Undisclosed Desire? Muse? Okay, I'll stop.

Rivers Cuomo
Clare and Dominic both chose Weezer. Clare specifically wants to meet Rivers Cuomo. He is pretty adorable in this video. Or maybe it's the cute baby animals? I don't know for sure. Dominic said he would love to meet them because they always seem to be having so much fun in their videos and they are funny. I agree. I love their music. It's very pop-ish with great, catchy hooks. Rivers has a degree in music from The Berklee College of Music and recently returned to school and received a Bachelor in Arts in English from Harvard University. He's no dummy! Clare wants to write a song or two with him and maybe get a chance to perform on stage with the band. When we talked about his, Clare didn't even have to think twice about her choice. I think she may have already spent some time thinking about this very thing. Dominic surprised me with this choice. I know he loves Weezer, but I thought for sure he would choose Foo Fighters since he seems to like them most of all. I guess the "fun" factor of Weezer won out.

Maggie had a hard time choosing and in the end said she would rather meet a professional dancer and take lessons from them than meet a musician. She also would love to meet the girls from Dance Moms. I know, I know...that show is messed up. The crazy studio owner, the attention seeking moms, the over dramatic pauses and close ups. Yuck. But, those little girls are sweet and amazingly talented. Maggie follows a couple of the girls on Instagram and studies youtube videos of their dances. She has taught herself a few of their moves. She really likes this dance and tries to emulate the turns these girls do. It is fun to see her so focused and driven.

Anna surprised me most of all with her choice. She thinks she would like to party with the guys from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I bet you didn't know Anna was that kind of girl, did you? Me neither! I thought for sure she would say Taylor Swift or Ingrid Michaelson. She frequently asks to watch this video, or this video, or this one. But, when it comes to meeting a band, she decided without hesitation RHCP. She thinks Flea is awesome. He is, it's true. I love their music, and I guess I have played their albums a lot. But is THIS who you want your 7 year old daughter hoping to meet? What ever happened to "safe" boys? Well, at least they are all rehabbed and clean now. I chose a relatively tame RHCP video to share, by the way. Less scandalous that way! (What is up with the guys in animal costumes in the Taylor swift video. though? I don't get it.)

I wasn't able to get Stephen to pin down a band yet. He has been pretty busy going to school and working. I'll get his pick later. Maybe, if he'll play along...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Whatcha Readin'?

I love reading. A few years ago, I gave up television watching for Lent. It kind of stuck like a habit and now I don't watch anything on television, though I do occasionally watch a program or two on my computer. And movies. I watch movies. Anyway, I have always loved to read and usually have at least two books going on at once. When I gave up the tv, I thought my productivity around the house would increase with all that extra time for household chores, but it seems I have only doubled my reading time. I still call it a win, but my family may disagree.

Imagine my surprise when a couple of my kids announced they don't like to read. I don't get it. I certainly spent a ton of time reading to them as they grew from infant to school age person. What could be wrong with them? I just don't know. But that didn't stop me from writing this blog post.

I asked each kid a few questions about what they are reading. It went something like this...(edited for brevity and for your pleasure. Trust me)

MARY, what are you reading?
I was reading The Crucible for Lit. It was ok. Now we are reading The Great Gatsby. It's ok. I just finished a book called Boy 2 Girl. It was so bad! It was hilarious. I read To Kill a Mockingbird. It was good. I really liked 13 Reasons Why.
What did you like about it?
Like crack for Mary
I don't know. It was good and sad and relatable.
Why did you read Boy 2 Girl?
Because Becca said it was so bad I had to read it. (laughing) It was really dumb!
What will you read next? For yourself, not for school?
Probably My Sister's Keeper. I loved the Percy Jackson books and re-read them all and I am reading the Heroes of Olympus series, too.

CLARE, what are you reading?
"no thank you"
Is it funny good or funny bad?
I'm reading Boy 2 Girl now and it is really funny because it is so bad. I have to read The Glass Castle and The Lord of the Flies for Lit. I read The Glass Castle and it was really good. I really liked it. Now I have to read Lord of the Flies, but I don't want to.
What about October sky? (they have to read it as part of a Bishop Kelley reading assignment)
(both Mary and Clare) NO! It is so boring! Nobody is reading it! Everyone is just skimming through it.
What do you want to read next?
I'm not sure. I have to get through Lord of the Flies.

Maggie, how about you?
Loved it!

I'm not reading anything right now. I'm too busy doing schoolwork and taking dance classes. I have no time unless it is an assignment.
Okay, well what is the last book you read?
The Outsiders. I liked it a lot. The characters were interesting and it was based here in Tulsa.
What do you want to read next?
Maybe Between the Lines.

(takes off his headphones) Yeah?
What book are you reading right now?
Why? Who said something?
*sigh* I'm doing a blog about what we're reading.
I'm reading Holes for school. It is pretty good. Before that I read Big Nate and the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Those are funny.
What do you want to read next?
Perfect for a little girl
Butt Wars. The cover is hilarious.

ANNA, what book are you reading?
I'm reading Ivy and Bean. I like it so far. Before that we read Sarah, Plain and Tall. I read some Junie B Jones books, but I don't really like them.
Yeah, you said they are written weird.
Uh, huh. But I like Ivy and Bean. And the Skippy John Jones books. And the Bad Kitty books.
Yay! A reader! 

*there is no entry for Stephen. I believe he is reading American short stories for Literature. I'll catch up with him later.

Mike really enjoyed the Steig Larsson books and read all three this summer. Now I think he is mostly busy reading manuscripts and student dissertations. Not much pleasure reading going on for him right now.

The first of three books
I read a few good books over the summer as well as a few beach blanket paperbacks. Right now I am reading The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin. It is pretty soapy and unrealistic so far. A simple distraction from Mount Saint Laundry. I am also reading Sister by Rosamund Lupton. It is a mystery, which is not my favorite genre but I am enjoying it. I recently read Gillian Flynn's books Gone Girl and Sharp Objects. They are both very good. They are well written and the characters are interesting. I am not typically drawn to mysteries, yet I enjoyed them very much. I hope to read Dark Places next. I also recently read In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard. I read it with some friends and most of us liked it, though we all wished the ending was different, or more complete. I guess it is a good thing to be left wanting more, but in this case, the ending seemed premature, as if the author just ran out of gas. A series of books I recently read and enjoyed a lot was the Katie Nash books by Elizabeth Berg. They are Durable Goods, Joy School and True to Form. They each read like a memoir and I am very drawn to memoirs. They are engaging stories about friendships, heartbreak and family. Elizabeth wrote the first novel without any intention of continuing the story. I am so glad she did. I highly recommend them.

I love sharing books and reading lists with my friends. I have a long list of recommended books that gets longer every day. I am excited for the dreary days of winter when I can hunker down with a good book or two. Please feel free to share which books you are reading or have read in the comments.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Inside jokes

On the way to school today, we had the biggest laugh. Dominic confided that he thought an "inside joke" was one you could only tell if you were in the house. As if it just wouldn't be as funny if you told it outside. That is the way Dominic's mind works. Nothing makes him laugh harder than to say the name "Bob Saget". To him, that is comedic gold. He often uses his name in place of an angry oath. For example, if he were to drop his dinner on the floor, he would shout out "BOB SAGET!". It used to be "Bill Cosby", but that just didn't have the same panache, I guess. We are often left scratching our heads at his comments and insights. I'll tell you what, though. He is one awesome kid and we love him to pieces.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just one thing before you go....

This is a little list of things I want my kids to know. Things I wish I had known earlier in life. I probably heard these growing up, but in the tradition of kids everywhere, I probably rolled my eyes and carried on.

1) No one will ever be good enough for you. You are our favorite people. When you leave our nest some day, you will hopefully choose a mate and create your own family. I'm telling you right now, we will think you could do better. No offense to your future spouses, but you are awesome and I can't imagine anyone ever deserving you. I promise to treat them like family, though. Not only will they be lucky to get to be with you, they will have the best mother-in-law EVER!

2) You will never regret just being yourself. Friends and suitors will come and go. Pretending to like a band, tv show, genre of music, etc... just to seem cool or to have something in common with another person will not work. You are unique and fun. If the people you are hanging out with think you are boring and like dumb things, find NEW people to hang out with. As long as you are respectful of other people's choices, you deserve the same respect. You and your friends don't have to love the same things, but you should at least tolerate one other. Which leads me to....

3) If the person you are with makes you feel bad about yourself, hurts you or makes you feel afraid, get out NOW. Life is too short to spend it with someone who doesn't respect you. If anyone ever threatens to hurt you or hit you, please get away from them. Come home. You will always be welcome. And I will never be too old to kick an ass if I need to.

4) Some day in the near future, you will look back on your school days and none of it will matter. The times you were so embarrassed you thought you would die, the people who treated you less than awesomely, the boring stuff you had to learn, the crushes you had, the hurt feelings...all of it. You will be busy leading a life full of successes and kids and jobs. You will have good friends and surround yourselves with fun things and stay away from bullies. I'm not promising you a perfect future with no pain or embarrassment, but you will be able to deal with it because you survived high school. You will also come to realize that all those other kids at school, the ones you envy or don't like or seem to have it made? They feel the exact same way you feel about school.

5) Always be able to laugh at yourself. Life can be rough. It will be even rougher if you take yourself too seriously. If you don't have a sense of humor about yourself, you will be miserable. Being able to laugh at your mistakes will help you cope with the inevitable setbacks in life as well as make you a much more likable person. Nobody likes being around a grump who blames everyone else for their bad choices and crappy life. A "why me?" attitude is like poison and terrible to be around.

6) Contrary to the popular phrase from an overrated, poorly acted melodramatic 70's movie, love means saying your sorry and saying it often. Pride is a relationship killer. You are going to make mistakes. You will let someone down, hurt someone's feelings and forget to do something for someone. Don't be too proud to say "I'm so sorry." or "Please forgive me.". Even the hardest of hearts can be softened by someone who takes responsibility for their actions. By that same token, extending grace to someone who has wronged you and accepting an apology that has been offered will make you an awesome person. It does not mean you are stupid or weak. It means you have good character and a loving heart.

7) Faith in God is the best foundation on which to build your life. Remember what you have learned at church, at home and in religion classes. Cling tight to the Word. Live your life in such a way that it is obvious you live by faith without ever having to say it.

8) Respect your body. It's the only one you get.

9) Reach out to your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It sometimes stinks that we live so far away from family. Their lives go on while we are out here in Tulsa. Our lives go on without them. It is important to maintain a relationship with them. Your grandparents have been around the block a few times. Anything you are feeling, anything you are doing, they have felt and done. They know what life was like before computers, dishwashers, cell phones and indoor plumbing. Seriously! They had to go to an outhouse to go to the bathroom! They have so much knowledge and you could really learn a lot from them. Ask them what it was like to grow up in the days before television and video games were the center of the universe.

10) Face your fears. Go on the scary roller coaster, walk into a club meeting alone, sing out loud at church, play your guitar in the talent show, run for school office, try a strange food or drink, take that 3 point shot, try out for the school play. You will never regret putting yourself out there and stepping outside of your comfort zone. You will regret not trying, though. If you want to do it, but are afraid...DO IT ANYWAY!

11) Not everyone is going to like you...and that is okay. This is a hard one and I still struggle with it. It gets easier as you get older, but there will be people who, for whatever reason, just don't like you. Don't knock yourself out trying to change their mind. Just be yourself and enjoy the friends who DO like you.