Friday, November 6, 2009

Twas the Night Before Bella's Birthday

Twas the night before Bella's 7th birthday and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for one crazy, frantic mama who unfortunately hadn't had enough coffee.

This year Bella opted out of a traditional birthday party (which I was thrilled about) and instead plans on going to "Build-a-Bear" this weekend with her Daddy. We thought this was the cutest thing ever. How many more years will she most likely want to forgo presents and festivities in lieu of spending some quality time with her father and some quality money in a creepy place filled with glass eyes and miniature clothing sets? Probably not too many. But we still wanted to do the old-school party from our child-hoods which consists of a favorite dinner, cake and perhaps the grandparents and/or one friend. So we were calling that the "non-party, party". This was working out perfectly. I was envisioning a total lack of effort, yet a happy, tranquil get-together.

Mmmm-hmmm. I was equating having the "non-party, party" with doing absolutely NO PREPARATION for her birthday until the day before. I had a few gifts, but that was about it. Most people could pull this off, no problem. But most people probably don't decorate more for Halloween than they do for Christmas. Which again would be fine if I hadn't taken down about 1/2 the decorations already and had them splayed haphazardly about the house like the Great Pumpkin himself had exploded.

I got home from shopping at 9 p.m. and realized that the "non-party, party" had just been a clever ruse by the Evil Birthday Troll to sucker me back in. Nonna and Baba (my in-laws) were coming, with my sister-in-law and niece and Bella's best buddy and his family. I still want my in-laws to like me and think I'm a good mom, so I couldn't leave the house the way it was. It could completely blow my last 12.5 years of work. It dawned on me at 9 p.m. that I still had about 6 hours of work left. This left me with a choice. Make up a pot of coffee and zip around like Cinderella with the birds as they help her do her chores or pretend that I only have 1 more hour of work and drink an EmergenC . I chose the EmergenC. Big mistake. 2 a.m. was really when my efficiency level dropped to zero. See below.

9 p.m. I turned on the oven to bake the birthday cake and pumpkin muffins that Bella wanted to take to school.
11 p.m. Both b-day treats baked, cake flipped to an aluminum covered cardboard pizza lid with wooden skewers masking taped to the bottom for extra reinforcement, then put in the freezer to ice the next day.

*See footnote at the bottom.

12. a.m. I start to put away the Halloween decorations that I usually throw into cardboard boxes. This season I had the bright idea to get orange and black storage containers to "better organize" my life. I wish I never had this thought, because now I felt obligated to do the organizing.
1 a.m. I start on the mound of laundry that had been stealthily working it's way up our basement stairs.
2 a.m. I start to carry the boxes up to the attic.
2:02 a.m. I get side-tracked and start to windex mirrors.
2:03 a.m. I get double-side-tracked and start to clean the toilets.
2:05 a.m. I lay down in the girls bathroom(so...sleepy) and notice a big treasure trove of missing barrettes under their stepping stool.
2:10 a.m. I get back up (I lost 5 minutes somewhere in there. It's probably hiding under the stepping stool) and drag the boxes into the attic, bloodying my knuckles in the process.
2:15 a.m I am organizing the attic, sorting through camping stuff and putting away old Bike2School posters from a fundraiser earlier this Fall, wondering "what is wrong with me?"
2:30 a.m. I hear the dryer buzzer and stumble down the stairs to hang up Aaron's work shirts and pants.
2:45 a.m. I start on dishes.
3:00 a.m. I realize that I'm standing with the hot water running over my hands, and there are no more dishes left in the sink. My pulse and breathing are slowing down and I feel like Elliot in the scene from E.T. where he falls asleep standing up with a handful of Reeses Pieces, wearing his long-underwear. Only I was eating chocolate chips instead. 3 a.m. fuel of champions.
3:15 I give the counters a final wipe, start the dishwasher and go to bed.

Now this is where it gets really sad. The next thing I know, Aaron is holding a cup of coffee under my nose saying, "Hey, honey. Maybe this will help you wake up." I'm thinking, "Oh, this wonderful, sweet man. He made me coffee to wake me up." But then he quickly swipes it away and takes it to the adjoining office where he was working from home that day. The coffee was not for me. He just cruelly gave me a whiff and then SNATCHED it away. Thanks honey. Thanks for that. Later he justified his cruelty by saying, "Well I know you don't like your coffee black. You wouldn't have liked it. It was just to wake you up."

That day was a blur of pumpkin muffins, spaghetti and meatballs, Winton's food coloring and the smell of Swiffer products. But all in all, I was happy I did it all, because the "non-party, party" turned out pretty sweet. I got to truly enjoy my oldest daughter turning 7 because I had done all the prep the night before. It was the perfect way to celebrate, even if my knuckles were bloodied and bruised. At least I bandaged them up so no one would gag when they saw me serving up the cake.

Birthday coming up? Do not make the same mistake I did. Do yourself a favor. Make up the pot. Don't even hesitate. Your 2 a.m. -3 a.m. stretch could be so much better.

*This time the cake flipped right onto the board like it was supposed to. Much better than the first time I tried it when Gabby was turning 1 and it flipped right onto the floor, where I quickly joined it, alternately crying...and then eating the floor. It was a good cake. I was able to save half.

Friday, October 23, 2009

40 % off at King Soopers!!!

Grocery shopping today took on a new level of importance. I was nearing the end of my list (organized by aisle, West to East, of course) and I came upon what I'd been anticipating for the last two days ever since I saw the weekly King Soopers circular in my almost extinct newspaper. 40% off of all bags of coffee. FORTY PERCENT!!! Also take into consideration that I regularly clip (usually rip in half) coupons, so I had a Starbucks coupon, a Seattle's Best AND a Caribou! I was almost twitching with excitement as I perused the selection. Usually we buy the Starbucks cheap brand at Costco, but it doesn't really give me the same satisfaction of holding and smelling all those cute lil' bags. They are kind of like chubby little babies that in addition to keeping me up all night, happen to have the pleasant quality of smelling like coffee!

So I stocked up on two Starbucks Espresso Blends, used the Seattle's Best for my friend as part of her Fall/Housewarming present--Cinnabon flavor!!! Something my husband, Aaron would definitely frown upon saying, "It's all just processed flavorings. It's not even real coffee." But I'm no snob. I'm a sucker for artificial flavorings and preservatives when it comes to coffee...but strangely not cereal and they are housed in the same aisle. And then I got a Caribou breakfast blend that gave me warm happy thoughts of standing in line at D.I.A. waiting to get Caribou coffee with Aaron at 5 a.m. before our flight to Calf. a few years ago for a wine-revelry vacation.

The irony didn't escape me that what I saved in coupons, I undoubtedly burned through earlier in the day when I stopped at the drive-through Starbucks on Hwy 93 for a small, I mean TALL Caramel Macchiato. But still. It made me feel so thrifty. And all those chubby little coffee baby bags in my cart made me feel so maternal! And the more coffee I make at my house, the less I'm likely to stop at Starbucks, insuring that I may get to be a stay@home mom forever since we won't need a second income. Thanks, King Soopers!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

She Broke Both of her Thanksgiving Drumsticks

My parents moved to Africa last Spring to pursue a Dairy Consulting job of my Dad's. This is all fine and good. I'm very happy for them. But as it turns out, it's the final straw that broke my (get-out-of-hosting-the-holidays-at-my-house) camel's back.

Back when we were newly-weds, didn't have kids and both our families liked us, we would joke in the early Fall to our parents that "whoever asks us first, gets us," as if it were a prize. 12 years have gone by, and many grand-kids now stand in the way of us being even slightly important to either sets of parents. We're most likely seen as an annoyance. I've known this for many years, but I pretend not to notice for one reason alone. Thanksgiving should be left to the experts.

Since I haven't made mashed potatoes for at least 6 years (to the shock and awe of my farm-raised family) you really don't want me starting now. And I anticipate with IMMENSE pleasure, this feast that I can in no way replicate. And even if I could, the odds are slim that I would. It simply takes too much time and I have to buy a kitchen full of things that I never use 99% of the year.

This usually isn't a problem. I can weasel my way into either family's spread just fine. My sister, who is an excellent cook/chef/baker, etc. used to be my automatic holiday fall-out shelter. But three years ago she moved with her family to Malaysia also for a job opportunity. Aaron's parents would be the next logical choice, but my poor mother-in-law tripped on a curb, and broke both of her feet. It would feel strange to see her wheeling her wheel-chair into the dining room with the turkey on her lap, "Here it...(bump the corner of the hallway, back-up, re-roll)...IS!" Not to mention that Aaron's sister and her 6 year old daughter have recently moved in with my in-laws, so again it would be a real shame to force anything else on the poor woman.

So let's sum it up. My sister left, my mom has abandoned us for Africa and Sally broke her two drumsticks. Looks like it's all on me this year. Feel free to post any and all of your Thanksgiving recipes. I will be needing them. You can bet I'll over-consume some Cranky Mommy's Home-brew for the day...until I make the noon switchover to wine.

Here is the apron you too can wear if you are in a similar situation; your mom and sister move out of the country and your mother-in-law breaks both her feet.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scary Spice Latte at the K-3 Rave

Last week I had quite a dilemma. I was inundated with a large amount of free time (approx. 12 minutes) and didn't really know what to do with it. I had just finished volunteering in my first grader's classroom but I had to be back in 12 minutes to pick up my other daughter from 1/2 day Kindergarten. Normally I would just sit on the bench by the playground and day dream (focus on all that I hadn't accomplished that morning, day, week, year, lifetime, etc.) and wait for Gabby's Kindergarten to be released. Then she'd undoubtedly run out, throw her backpack at me and yell at me for not remembering to pack her library book or something similar, then run off and play on the playground a bit. I'd chat with the other Mommy's and that would be it.

But today was different. I not only had to be back to pick Gabby up, but I had reluctantly agreed to come back with Gabby and join Bella for lunch with 65 other first graders. This is a treat in and of itself. You get to experience what a K-3 grade rave might be like.

First you enter and it's awfully quiet. But then they line up and file in. Just like you might outside an abandoned warehouse for a rave. Then they stand in line and get their treats. Just like a rave--only there it's a glow-stick and an ecstasy stamp, here it's food and a carton of milk.

Next, everyone sits down, but it's pretty much like they are standing up and dancing. Since recesses are slim and p.e. is slimmer this is time to bounce to an unheard beat. Then the lights begin to flash and strobe. Just like a rave. This is for two reasons: 1. to signal a time count-down and 2. to signal that everyone is too loud. This is funny, though, because the kids are at constant attention and worry that the lights will get flashed, so they watch the door with wary eyes while they chomp and talk and giggle and dance. Just like a rave where the door is watched for the cops to raid it at any minute.

Then when the time is up, everyone makes a mad dash to dump their milk in a 5 gallon bucket and their lunch in the trash and then busts it to the door. Also like a rave when the cops do come and everyone runs to the bathroom to flush their stash before making a dead sprint for the doors.

*See footnote at bottom.

So you can see why I didn't want to treat that 12 minutes like any other odd amount of free time. And how sad is it that as a mom 12 minutes is considered so much free time that we don't know what to do with ourselves? So anyway, I made the decision to make a break for a local coffee shop that I'm trying to frequent more rather than the one I usually do and then end up feeling dirty for afterward. It was approximately 2 miles from the school. I did the math. Even if I hit every light, I could still make it there and back no problem.

So I did. But. Having not been there tons of times, I got nervous at the last second when it came time to order because I don't really know the menu, so I made the mistake of ordering a pumpkin latte. Now let me start by absolving the coffee shop of any blame. The drink was fine. I was feeling a bit light-headed from not eating breakfast that morning (had to rush to pack the lunch for Gabby and I at the last minute that morning) and being in Bella's first grade class kind of always makes me feel nauseous because there simply isn't enough space for my big-mommy frame so I'm constantly knocking kids over and bumping into tables, etc. It makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland when she eats the cake. And I tend to get all nervous-sweaty when I'm around the girls' teachers anyway, so you can see that this wasn't a good combination to start. I gulp down the spicy latte while I'm flying back to school and I make it in just enough time to finish it before Gabby comes out and of course throws her backpack at me and yells "I HAD NO KLEENEX IN MY BACKPACK FOR THE BUS, MAMA!". *

*See second footnote at bottom.

Well, by this time, the pumpkin is not settling well. I am feeling greasy, sweaty and spicy. And now? Now it's time to go the K-3 grade rave. It's just like I said it was. Loud, flashing, throbbing, bouncing, and sticky floors. By the time Bella led me over to "Look at all the rotten milk, Mama!" I was not doing well. Not doing well at all.

I won't go into details of what happened in the school bathroom adjoining the cafeteria, but suffice it to say, I will be ordering no more pumpkin spice latte's this fall. And in my suffering (and Gabby's--she had to come with me while Bella ran blissfully ignorant out to recess) was born this shirt.

*I should clarify that most of my rave knowledge is extremely dated and murky. I attended one rave in my life and it was enough to scare me straight.

*I should also clarify that Gabby doesn't always throw her backpack at me and yell something, but we've all been sick as of late, so tempers flare, and melt-downs occur at a more frequent rate than normal.

The author of this blog is in no way endorsing that K-3 graders should attend raves. They are dirty, smoky, scary places. Like a haunted house that you can never find the door out of.