Thursday, July 26, 2012

Define "inappropriate"

There are three things Tucker has done recently that I need to blog about. I jotted down some notes about them on the back of a receipt, and I think I may have thrown that receipt away today. So I think I'll just start writing and see if I can remember them all.

Tucker is a smart, smart kid, and he really, truly believes he can do anything. For example, yesterday he said, "Mom, I think I'll compete in the Olympics some day. Don't you think that would be cool?"  I mentioned that he may want to start considering which event he will be competing in, and he started listing the pros and cons of each. Keep in mind that this is certainly not a person who thinks getting to and competing in the Olympics is easy, it's simply a person who believes that if he decides to do something, then of course he will do it very well. We may all be voting for him some day.

This preface is appropriate because Tucker has been in rare form lately. Maybe I've just noticed more because it's summer and we've been spending so much time together, but he is a funny kid.

Tucker moment #1 that I remember from the back of my receipt (this is the order in which I remember things rather than the order they actually happened): We've been pricing full size beds for Tucker's room. He has a bunk bed, and it doesn't have a lot of support - no box springs or anything. I've debated whether or not I think a used mattress is creepy, and I've researched how to disinfect mattresses. We've also been to just about every store in College Station that sells them. Trey's mom saw an ad in the paper for a moving sale that included a full sized bed, so she texted Trey a picture of the ad. He read it. I read it. Tucker read it. Here's the conversation that followed:

Tucker: We can't get that bed.
Me: Well, Tucker, if it's nice, then it could be okay. I've been reading about how to disinfect a mattress, and it might be nicer than what we would get new.
Tucker: No, we don't qualify.
Trey: Yes, I think they'll sell it to anyone who wants to buy it.
Tucker: No. It clearly says it's a "moving sale." We're not moving.

Trey and I looked at each other, and we laughed and laughed. I think after we finally explained it, Tucker laughed, too. I'm glad he can laugh at himself.

Tucker story #2: The boys had been total and complete hellions one day this week, and it occurred to me that I could sell them on ebay or perhaps just leave them on the side of road with a sign that said "free kids" or something like that. They are easily as cute as puppies, and people do that with puppies, right?

On this particular day, I was cleaning out the garage and they boys pretty much had free reign. As long as they weren't killing each other, I would have left them completely alone. I did start talking to them around noon about how I wanted their stuff picked up before three because someone was coming over to talk to me about replacing the floors in our house. They both looked at me with that, "Sure, lady, we're going to clean while you're not even in the house. Yeah, right," look, but I was certain, certain that they would do this one thing for me.

I reminded them every ten minutes or so. I yelled. I begged. I lectured. I knew this would happen. I just knew it.

But I was dumb.

Because at exactly three o'clock, I walked into the house to check on the time and found Tucker, building a fort out of every blanket and pillow we own, in my bedroom. His stuff was strewn from one end of the house to the other. I lost it.


There was a long pause, and Tucker looked a little perplexed. Finally, he spoke.

"Wait. You counted?"

Tucker story #3: After that little episode, the boys were grounded from tv and computer and video games for the rest of the day, so they were forced to go out and ride bikes and play. Surprise, surprise, they were both in a much better mood. Tucker can't stand to be in trouble with anyone, ever, so he was working very hard to be friendly and nice to me. Trey was out mowing, and I was eating dinner at the kitchen table by myself while Tucker made his own dinner (probably a jelly sandwich - have I mentioned what a fantastic mom I am?). Here's how that conversation went:

Tucker: Mom, you might think this is inappropriate, but I'm going to tell you anyway because it's funny.
Me: Well, if you think it's okay to tell me, then let's hear it.
Tucker: Okay, it's a joke. A little boy was taking a shower with his mom, and he looked up and his mom said "Don't look up, you'll see my flashlights."

(pause for a minute any of you remember this joke from when you were a kid?  I do, and it is a dirty, dirty joke. It is at this point that I realize my nine year old son is telling me a dirty joke. And he knows it's a dirty joke because he already told me I would find it inappropriate. I'm trying so hard not to laugh, and I'm beginning to sweat a little because I know where this is going.)

He continues: Later, the boy is taking a shower with his dad, and his dad says, "Don't look down. You'll see my snake."

(Tucker is laughing so hard that it's difficult to understand him. It's clear he finds this joke hilarious, even if inappropriate.)

He continues: Later, they are in the car, and the son says, "Mom, turn on your flashlights!  There's a snake in the car!"

And then he almost falls down he's laughing so hard. I'm laughing, too, mostly because he's laughing. He doesn't usually get jokes, so the fact that he finds this one so stinking hilarious is very, very funny to me.

Also, I remember a MUCH dirtier version of the joke, and I'm a little relieved that this is the best he could come up with.

Being the awesome mom that I am, I mention that while I thought his joke was quite funny, I did think it was probably a little inappropriate and shouldn't be told at school. He told me he knew that it wasn't school appropriate, and not to worry because they were not at school when his friend told it to him.

Should I be comforted by that?

It seems the way Tucker makes it back into my good graces is by telling me a dirty joke.

Should I be comforted by that?

(I would like to point out here that  I just started writing and I remembered all three things!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting my art on...

Dude. I'm an arteest!

I've heard through my awesome friend April about this place in The Woodlands called Painting with a Twist. She has said for a while now that we need to get some girls together and go, and she's been several times. So when Trey came home with an invitation to the VIP Grand Opening of one in College Station, we immediately RSVP'd. It was last night, and it was awesome!

Here's the concept: You sign up for a painting class, get some friends, some wine, some munchies, and you show up. All of the supplies and materials are set up and ready to go for you, and there is an art teacher who guides you through making your very own work of art.

Now, I don't consider myself to be very artistic, and I am most certainly not a painter, but I was happily surprised to learn that I could totally do this!  The teacher demonstrated a step, and then he cranked up the music and we completed the step on our own while chatting and munching and laughing. The teacher was ever available to help, and the process was just downright fun!

Here's my painting after step one:

In order to let this dry, we hung out and chatted and munched and laughed.

Here's step two:

Drying and chatting and munching again (See a pattern here?), and then step three:

It was really unique and fun and I loved it!

Here are my favorite things about Painting with a Twist College Station:
1) You can personalize the painting with your own colors and flair or whatever. The lady across from me used blues and turquoise colors for the background, and her work was beautiful and different from everyone else's. I was a little afraid to do this my first time out, but I definitely will next time.

2) The owners were so incredibly super-duper nice. They wanted everyone to have fun and be happy. It was like being a guest at a paint and canvas party thrown just for me. They were great!

3) The teachers were funny and helpful. They made jokes and gave great instructions and demonstrated everything. They kept our paint refilled and our confidence up with lots of "That looks great!" comments.

4) According to the web site, they have some family days. For a slightly lower price, we can take the boys and our whole family can make paintings together. My boys will LOVE this!  (We've already told them they can't have wine during family time, though.)

5) Date night!  I guess I can't imagine Trey and his man friends getting a case of beer on happy hour night and going to get their art on, but I CAN imagine fun date nights there. It's way better than a movie because we actually get to talk to each other. I also like the fact that we're doing something instead of talking about kids or schedules or something like that, which often happens when we get time to go out together. We laughed and painted and had a late night stop at Taco Bell after we were done, and it was awesome fun with my hubby. It could even be a fun couples shower or something. Men, take your women!

6) The price - a 2 hour class is $35 according to the web site, and that's comparable or cheaper than buying canvases, paint, brushes and/or going out for dinner and drinks with the girls. Plus, you get to take home your art work!

7) Maybe my favorite - all the fun without the clean up. Let's face it...the worst part of any project is cleaning up after. At Painting with a Twist, you paint, you take your art home, and someone else cleans it all up. Yay!

Here's the web site, and you can also like them on Facebook. On the web site, you can see which paintings they're doing at which times and sign up for the one you want to do. I'm especially excited about the holiday ones - I think it will be fun to add those to my decorations!

I can't wait to get my girls together and schedule a session!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Givin' em the Bird

I am 35 years old, and today I did something I've never done before.

I had an intimate relationship with a 4 1/2 pound chicken.

Back story:
Occasionally the boys or some other kind person will ask me what my favorite part of summer is. I usually answer that it's spending more time with my boys or reading book after book or just being without a schedule for a while.

The truth, however, is that my favorite part of summer vacation is Kathie Lee and Hoda.

I love them. I laugh uncontrollably when they are on tv. Sometimes I schedule my day so that I can be in front of the tv between 10:00 and 11:00, so I don't miss a single second. They are my tv best friends. I want to be on their show so that it's the Kathie Lee and Hoda and Stormy show. I want to drink cocktails at 10 a.m. and say what I really think on national television.

Case in point: Today, the healthy food guest brought on some crap that she claimed was a powder that you mix with water and it tastes just like Nutella but only has like negative 600 calories or something. Kathie Lee wouldn't even try it because she "doesn't trust powders." Hoda tried it quickly and then swigged her cocktail of the day.

I could have someone do my hair and then sit on tv with a cocktail telling people when food is gross!  I totally could! They should fly me in a couple of times a month to do book reviews or to try new recipes for the first time on air. We could be great friends, I know it!

So, my summer guilty pleasure is pretending to be on Kathie Lee and Hoda. I won't admit to setting up a card table and chair in my bedroom with a cocktail in a pretty glass and talking back to the tv, but let's just say it's crossed my mind.

Back to the bird.

Yesterday, New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark demo-ed three recipes that everyone should know how to do. One of them was the perfect roast chicken. Being the task-oriented, instant gratification person that I am, my favorite part of this recipe is that it only takes 45 minutes. I bought a chicken when I grocery shopped this week, so I decided to give it shot.

Here's the problem. Raw meat grosses me out. I never, ever, ever touch it. I cook plenty, but I always use tongs so that I don't have to make actual physical contact. Also, I've never cooked a whole chicken by myself because it is the epitome of raw meat grossness.

Who thought, "Hey, what are we going to do with this chicken's heart and liver?  Oh, I know! We'll stuff it back up the chicken's butt and let the person who buys it figure out what to do with it!"


For this reason, Trey always manages the raw chicken and its parts. I usually leave the room and come back when it's done and deboned so that only delicious, fully cooked white meat chicken exists in my world.

But I was inspired my my idols, Kathie Lee and Hoda, and I decided that today would be the day I formed an intimate relationship with a chicken.

I asked Tucker to document the occasion. Clearly he needs a little more practice before his career as a photojournalist.

Here's a blurry picture of me and my chicken.

I unwrapped it and inspected the contents of the chicken's interior. I knew I had to remove the guts, but I just didn't think I could it. It was so slimy and disgusting looking. My stomach turned and I felt a little sick. I thought about just throwing the whole thing in the trash. Then I thought about putting it back in the fridge until Trey got home.

Finally, I decided that maybe I could just shake the guts out of the chicken onto the packaging so I wouldn't have to touch them at all. I grabbed that baby's little legs and shook the heck out of it.

Sure enough, that nasty stuff just slipped on out. I expected a heart, liver, and neck, but I didn't see a neck. This concerned me a great deal. Can you imagine starting to eat a chicken and discovering a neck sticking out a thigh or something?  Ew.

I inspected the empty chicken hole, and saw no neck, so I hope it didn't come with one.

I thought I should do something to add some flavor. The NY Times columnist added lemon, but I didn't have any lemons, so I added some cloves of garlic and jalapenos. Somehow I managed to toss these into the chicken's hoohah without ever touching it. I'm pretty proud of that.

Here's my masterpiece, pre-cooking. If you see a neck hiding somewhere in this picture, please call me right away.

This is a link to the video from the show, and this is the link to the columnist's article which has WAY better directions, such as the temperature of the oven.

And, here, friends, is my very first roast chicken!

See, I should totally be on Kathie Lee and Hoda and Stormy. Where's my cocktail?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It began at 3:00 a.m.

It's 4:40 a.m. I've been wide awake since 3:00. I enjoy sleep a lot, so this is not like me.

We're leaving on Sunday for seven days of vacation, and I think I must be worse than the boys about being excited. I awoke at three a.m. thinking of things to take care of tomorrow before we leave. Then I thought of things to take care of when we get back. Then I thought of the last six months or so and how it's just been a great year for us. We settled into the changes associated with my new job and a new school for the boys, and life's just been, well, easy.

I found myself with a grateful heart and then I started thinking of something else. When was the last time I was up in the middle of the night pondering spiritual things? Thinking of things I could do for others or to increase my witness to those around me?  I've got to be honest, if I've ever done it I certainly don't remember it.

By this time it was 3:30, and I was wider awake than ever. I thought of my mother who would probably get up and start cleaning house, and I promptly decided that was a bad idea.

So I grabbed my ipad and began browsing "Christian-y" stuff. If I'm feeling less connected or lukewarmish (for lack of a better made up term), then I need to do something about it. After all, God is always the same, and I know that if I seek Him he'll be there.

I went to my Twitter account and read some Max Lucado tweets, which then led me to his web site where I read some devotionals, which then led me to sign up for a daily email which will allow me to read the Bible in a year. I have often laughed at myself (tongue-in-cheek, I suppose) about wanting to read something about faith and first turning to some author or preacher instead of the actual Bible, and tonight was no different.

At that point it was 4:20, and I decided I should try to sleep, so I crept back into bed to stare at the ceiling.

Then I remembered the sermon from two weeks ago. A sermon I vehemently disagreed with about 80% of.

It was over the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and our minister interpreted it to mean that one could lose his salvation if his metaphorical oil ran out. I firmly believe that salvation is a result of God's unending, uncomprehendable grace, and that the belief that salvation can be lost by lack of works implies that it was somehow earned in the first place. Christ did not ask me to earn my salvation. He asked me to accept it on faith.

I was so worked up over the sermon that I came home and began studying. How could a learned minister and student of the Bible believe this to be true?  I was troubled. Disturbed, even. I went so far as to contemplate whether this particular dogma was inherent to the Methodist church, and questioned whether or not it was a deal-breaker for me in a community of faith. I want my children to be taught about grace and service, not about a God who is just waiting for them to mess up so he can bring the hammer, as it were.

I discovered that according to theologians there is scripture supporting both sides - the lose your salvation side and the once-saved-always-saved side. I read lots of scripture and commentary that day. Probably more than I have in the last wonderful, easy six months of my life.

And so, at 4:35 a.m., I was grateful for a sermon I thought (and still think) was wrong. I remembered that challenges are what makes us question and reaffirm our belief systems, whatever they may be.

(How many times have I preached this to students or parents who disagree with high school novel choices? Good grief!  I don't think I could count.)

It appears I need a challenge. I need to find some book or something that is a little "out there" in order to dig my own heels in a little and allow God to continue to shape my own spiritual journey. I need to find out how others continue to challenge their own faith and learn from them. I need to be challenged. All it took for me to realize it was one sermon and being wide awake at (now) 5:06 a.m.

Perhaps I'll go stare at the smoke detector light in our room again.

PS - In the interest of fairness, you can make your own judgments about the sermon in question. Go to this link, launch the media player, and listen to the 6/24/12 sermon on "The Wise and Foolish Virgins."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Time!

My last official day of work for the summer was last Thursday. I'm a free woman until July 30th, and, as usual for me in the summer, I've become obsessed with doing "stuff." Exactly what that is changes from day to day, but it's like I can't do enough things that have nothing to do with school.

Project #1 - my office door wreath. I actually bought the stuff for this with a gift card I got for my birthday way back in April, but I just finished it last weekend. The wreath I had on my door was very brown, so I needed something with brighter colors for the summer.

The flowers came about as a result of this tutorial I found on Pinterest. The letters I just bought at Hobby Lobby and painted white. I intended to put the letters a little higher, but I wasn't convinced that hot glue would hold them on, so the first time I tried I didn't pay much attention to where I put them. Whaddaya know!  They stuck the first time, so they stayed put. I really super love this wreath.

Project #2 - a Kindle Fire case for my niece Peyton. She got a Kindle for her birthday, and we were supposed to get a case to go with it. After shopping lots of places, we discovered that there aren't really any cute cases at local stores (I'm sure there are some online). So we bought a functional case at Best Buy, but then I used the instructions here to make a case that looks more like a little girl's. The tutorial is for an ipad case, so I adjusted the measurements. I didn't put the velcro down low enough, so I had to add some adhesive velcro and hand stitch it in. I hope it stays!

I wish you could see the glitter in this picture - it's not just pink and flowery, but glittery, too!  I had so much fun making this case that I bought some quilt squares today on a fabric store trip so I can make some more. I'd like to try adding a strap so it's more of a purse-y carrying case, but I haven't totally thought that through yet. I'm not sure what I'll do with them once I have them made, though. I spent less than twenty bucks on enough stuff to make three or four cases. I figure it's a good investment on my summer leisure time. Anybody need a Kindle case?

I love to bake, but eating healthy foods doesn't exactly lend itself to making cookies, so I haven't baked too much lately. I splurged this weekend, though, since we were going to visit my new niece, Charli Rane, and I cooked up a few sweet treats. The cream cheese oreo cookies were very easy, and they were delicious, if I do say so myself!  I made sure to give away as many as I could so we didn't eat them all. We had the cinnamon roll french toast bake for breakfast at mom and dad's, and it was good, too. It's a little dangerous, though, because you can just keep walking past it and picking off a bite at a time.

I've been saying for a while that I need to learn how to make jellies and jams. It seems like my parents are always making a new batch of something, and I want to learn. I had what I thought to be lots of jalapenos from my garden, so I asked dad to make some jalapeno jam with me so I could learn how. Here's the recipe we started with. It turns out I didn't have quite enough jalapenos and sweet peppers (we used these), so we improvised and made up the difference with pickled jalapenos. It was a happy accident because the jam is mouth watering!  Hot and spicy and sweet all at the same time!  I also helped dad with a few batches of grape jelly - he picked the grapes himself the day before and this is the best grape jelly I've ever had. It's perfect! (I've decided I need to keep an eye out on Craigslist and at garage sales for a canning set up, so I can try it by myself.)

And then there are the two food fails of the weekend. For dinner tonight I planned to make a stuffed cheddar meatloaf in the crock pot. I didn't get it in the crock pot this morning, though, so I decided to just cook it in the oven. That part was perfectly fine. The meatloaf even tasted pretty good. The only problem was with presentation. This will forever be known to me as "Severed Leg Meatloaf."

Here's the recipe for Severed Leg Meatloaf (also known as Stuffed Cheddar Meatloaf) from Today's Creative Crock Pot:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used extra lean)
2 cups bread crumbs (I used whole wheat)
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup yellow onion (Trey doesn't love strong onion flavor, so I just added a little onion powder)
2 eggs (I used egg whites)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
8 slices American cheese (I only used 5 slices, and it was the 2% milk kind)
2Tbs. tomato paste

I mixed up the meatloaf, spread it flat with waxed paper, added slices of cheese on top, and rolled it up. I cooked it at 325 for 40 minutes, then added the tomato paste on top and cooked it for 5 more minutes. It tasted good (for something that looked like a recently lost limb).

And finally, there was this recipe for grilled eggplant and tomatoes I found on Pinterest. I'm trying to find new vegetables to add to my repertoire, and I've never purchased, cooked, or eaten an eggplant. It seemed easy enough, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Here are the problems I had. 1) I love feta cheese, but when you first open a container of it, it smells like farts. Sorry for being crude, but there is no other way to describe it. 2) Eggplant sort of tasted like cucumbers to me, and I'm not a fan of cucumbers. 3) I didn't exactly follow the recipe. They were minor adjustments, but I just did things a teeny tiny bit differently than it said to.

The resulting dish looked beautiful and healthy and delicious, but to me it was just farts and cucumbers.

Now, what to do next?  I really like this bag, and I may have to try to make it. I have another project in mind that involves a large piece of wood and some skill with the saw I got for my birthday. I'd also really like to learn to make bread and butter pickles using my grandmother's recipe.

Now, if I can just manage to try to NOT do all of that tomorrow.