About Me

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I am a stay-at-home mom of two sons, 12 and 10. I used to be an advertising manager. I love my new career and have thrown myself completely into it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teachers With Children Vs. Those Without

Now that the new school year is well underway, I want to pose a question:

Do you notice a difference between teachers who are parents and those who aren't?  I've talked to other moms about this and in general, I've observed that teachers with children, especially those who are grown, seem to be more understanding, patient and flexible than those that don't or whose children are too young to be in school yet.  For example, teachers with children tend to be more patient when children are acting up in class and they tend to resolve the issues more often themselves without getting the parents or principal involved.  They also seem to understand the struggles parents face regarding homework issues, sleep issues and discipline issues more keenly.

I'm not saying you have to be a parent to be a good teacher - there are many caring, motivated teachers out there without their own children.  But in general, it seems that a teacher who has years of parenting experience just has a more well-rounded view.

What's your opinion? Have you found this to be true?

Monday, September 13, 2010

We Have A Puppy ...

and this is what happens when one of us forgets to close the bathroom door. Our puppy LOVES going through the trash basket, and the laundry hamper for that matter. I have tried to teach the hubby and the boys to close all bathroom and closet doors. When someone forgets, this is what happens. But this is not all. He then proceeds to take whatever he has in his mouth and go under one of the beds or sofas. So I periodically have to look under all beds and sofas and clean up whatever gunk he's taken under there. Ah, the pleasures of owning a pet!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kitchen Counter Organized (finally)



OK - the kitchen counter is finally organized!! Woo Hoo!! The "before" shot doesn't actually look as bad as it was. There was a pile of paperwork and mail that had to be sorted under the present. Also, the spice rack was overflowing with items so I needed to go through and throw out some spices that were too old or I just was never going to use.

Organizing the counter took a lot longer than I expected. There were a few things that were going on that held me up. First, good friends of ours moved out of the country, back home to the Netherlands (boo hoo). They brought over 3 boxes full of pantry and fridge items in case I could use them. So in the middle of my organizing project, I get handed more stuff! I appreciated that they were thinking of us but it did take awhile to sort through everything and then figure out where to put items we were keeping. You should have seen the kitchen counter during that process :}

Once I sorted through all their food, I decided to give any we weren't keeping to a local food bank. I decided this would be a good time to go through my pantry and add some items. So I was able to do some organizing of our pantry, although not completely.

Then, I needed to finalize some upcoming vacation plans so we would have a place to stay. I get really into planning for vacations and love reading travel books about the area and looking on the web so this took a lot of time. I got it done, though, and I've got to say, we got some great deals! I learned that it pays to not only look on the web for deals but to call the actual properties, too.

Finally, we had conferences with both my sons' teachers last week. My sons go to year-round school so it was conference time. That always takes up a chunk of time. So there were a few things that slowed me down during this part of my organizing project.

But I love the way the kitchen counter looks now, and so does my husband. I learned a few things during this process. First, I need an "office" area in my kitchen because I need these items on a daily basis. So I set it up in the right-hand corner. The trick is to keep it organized so it doesn't overflow to the rest of the counter. Second, I need an area where I can stash mail and paperwork that I need to work on during the week. I want it out of sight or it looks too messy, but there was nowhere to put it. So I cleared out one of our drawers so I can stash these items there. The biggest challenge of that will be to make sure it's not "out of sight, out of mind" - I need to regularly look through that drawer. Finally, the mail and the boys' schoolwork really piles up quickly and I need to tackle that on a daily basis to not get overwhelmed, which is sometimes hard to do when things get crazy.

Now I'm going to work on our living room. A lot of items (books, toys, etc.) get piled up on side tables and a chest. I want these to look streamlined and get everything to its proper place. On to the next project...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trying To Teach My Kids To Be Less Materialistic and More Grateful

This is a topic I've been struggling with for awhile and have talked to a lot of other moms about. My sons, like many other children, always want more stuff. They always want new lego sets, new DS games, new whatever they see on TV or hear about through their friends. It gets so bad that sometimes they want to go to the store to buy a new toy a week after they have received one. My husband and I have talked extensively about this and feel that they don't value enough what they do have. They are developing a sense of entitlement that is becomming troubling. We don't want them to grow up feeling entitled to get anything they want when they want it. We want them to be grateful for what they do have and not take it for granted. We also want to teach them that their comfortable lives are not what everyone experiences.

Like many parents, we always wanted to give our children many opportunities. We focused mainly on giving them experiences that would enrich them and also to introduce them to different activities so they could decide what their interests were. They have tried all kinds of sports and activities like soccer, tennis, swimming, softball, basketball, tae kwon do, guitar lessons, cello lessons, violin lessons, acting lessons, etc. We've also tried to broaden their horizons with different trips like taking them skiing, river rafting, going to Yosemite, Hawaii, the desert, etc. In addition to all of this, they have a number of aunts, uncles and grandparents who have always been very generous with them for holidays and birthdays.

My husband and I have talked to the boys about how fortunate they are and the fact that not everyone is so fortunate. I feel,though, that it goes in one ear and out the other - it just doesn't sink in. So I've been thinking about what I could do to try to SHOW the boys what we are trying to teach them. I remember visiting orphanages near Tiujana, Mexico when I was 13. That trip changed my view of the world and left a deep impression on me. However, I'm not willing to take my sons down to Mexico to show them extreme poverty because of the current dangers. Trying to show them images of poverty, like on TV or the internet, doesn't get through because they can't really relate to it. I realized that there are examples of people struggling to get by in our own community and if I could show this to my sons, hopefully they can relate to it better. So I decided that we would donate food to a local food bank in our city that serves about 500 families per month.

I collected a box of food, then brought the boys with me to the food bank. I explained to them that some families don't have enough money to eat three meals a day, even in our community, which is in an affluent area. I talked to the boys about how they would feel if they couldn't eat three meals a day, let alone having snacks. Then when we dropped the food off, I asked if we could look through the warehouse so they could really get a feel for how they were collecting and distributing food to needy families. One of the most impressionable sights we saw were shopping carts that the families come to get. They can come once per month and the cart has a box and a couple of bags of food and one bread item. As we went home, we talked about how that was not a lot of food for a family for a month.

I think actually seeing everything helped make these ideas sink in. Only time will tell. It was definitely very different than just bringing in canned goods to school during food drives. That's a very useful thing to do, mind you, but there isn't much of an emotional tie to it. To see what these families are actually getting and to see that some of the shelves of the food bank are getting low on food really brings home the point that there is a real need right in our backyard.

Have any of you done anything to try to teach your children to be grateful for what they have? What have you tried and was it successful? It would be nice to get some other ideas.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week 3

I did OK with my goals for Week 3, but not wonderful. I tried to get an electrician to our house that was referred by a neighbor, but the phone number is no longer in use. So that didn't work. Then I looked in the yellow pages but I really hate that because it just seems like you're picking someone blindly. So I hemmed and hawed and ended up not getting anyone over. However, maybe it will work out OK because some new neighbors just moved in today and they seem nice and he's a contractor. So maybe we'll get to know them better and I can see if he knows of an electrician. At least we can go for awhile without a light in our bedroom closet. It's a nuisance, but manageable.

Another goal I had was to clear the clutter on my kitchen counter. I did some of it and went through most of the immediate clutter. However, I was surprised at how I resisted completing this. I kept having other tasks to do but if I'm honest with myself, I didn't want to keep going to the point of finishing this project because I'm not sure what to do with everything. I'm afraid it's going to become more of a mess before it gets better as I try to spread everything out to figure out where it should really go. I'm also afraid this will really take a large chunk of time. So I have more to do on this and I need to push myself through my mental block - I get tired just thinking of it.

The last goal I had was to exercise 5 days. Well I made it for 4, so that was pretty good. It was a hot week last week and I lose motivation to work out, even in the morning, when I'm starting to feel too hot. Last week it seems I was feeling hot most of the time.

I also ended up planning a vacation our family is going to take in a couple of months. I looked on the internet but wanted more information so I ended up at Barnes and Noble looking through travel books. I really enjoy doing this and get really into it when I'm planning a vacation. However, before I know it, I've been there for a couple of hours because I get so caught up. I did end up securing a reservation at a hotel that usually gets booked up to 13 months in advance, so I felt I really accomplished something there.

For this week, good friends of our family are moving back to Holland (boo hoo) so I feel a little sidetracked. We're trying to see them as much as possible before they leave and we keep having their son over so he can play with our sons a lot. I'll still try to get some organizing done, but my focus isn't as sharp this week.

So the good and bad for last week -

Good -
Went through most of the clutter on the kitchen sink
Exercised 4 days
Secured a difficult hotel reservation for an upcoming vacation

Bad -
Didn't get electrician out, but I'm going to table this for a bit
Didn't finish the clutter-busting kitchen counter project

Goals for Week 4 -
Spend as much time as possible with our Dutch friends
Finish kitchen counter project
Keep planning the rest of our vacation (will need to figure out where we're staying at another city)
Exercise 5 days
Pay bills

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Week 2

My focus for Week 2 was to get the following repair people out to our house: plumber, air conditioning repair person and an electrician. I got two out of three: the plumber and the air conditioning person. The plumber came 1st and he took apart the faucet in our master bathroom to see what needed to be done to fix the leak. He told me the repairs would cost $225. That sounded really expensive to me for a faucet leak. When I asked him if there was a warranty, he replied that there was for 90 days. So I'm going to pay $225 for a repair with a 90-day warranty?! I think not!! If the faucet starts leaking in 91 days, I'm out of luck. So I'm going to look around and get other estimates. I asked my husband to ask people at work if anyone has a plumber they like. Funny thing is, ever since he came and took the faucet apart then put it back together, the leak has been much better. In fact, some days, it doesn't even leak at all. So I guess I'll hold off for now on the plumber.

The air conditioning repairman came later that day. He was referred to me by my neighbor. He was an odd guy. He said the unit needed freon and that our filters were fine. He said he couldn't guarantee that the motor wouldn't just die at some point and we would need to replace it and maybe the compressor. He said if that happens, we should replace the parts of the old unit because installing new units now are extremely cost-prohibitive because there are a bunch of new regulations that went into effect as of January 1st. Now you have to replace the whole heating/air conditioning system and pay for various inspections to make sure it's done right. Anyway, I've got the air conditioner on right now and it's working so-so. Air is coming out but it's not as cold as I would expect.

I didn't get the electrician out so I'm going to work on that this week. I'm also going to work on clearing out the clutter on our kitchen counter. One of the problems is that I don't have a place to put some of the paperwork that I have stored there. So I'm just going to find a temporary home for it until I get into this project enough to clean an area in the office to store paperwork like it.

I did unexpectedly clear out some of the clutter near my bed so that was good. I just started working on it one day and decided I better finish so I feel I accomplished one "clutter-busting" activity. So I'm proud about that. One thing that got sidelined last week was my exercise. I only exercised three days instead of five, so that wasn't good. Each day I at least walked our puppy. However, walking the puppy entails a lot of stopping, so it can hardly be considered cardio. At least I'm moving a bit.

So here's the good and bad for week 2:

Good -
Bathroom leak is at least temporarily doing better
Air conditioning is working somewhat
Cleared out clutter near my bed
Saved $65 (about 35% of the total) when I did my main grocery shopping trip

Bad -
Didn't get electrician out last week
Don't know if bathroom leak and air conditioning will stay OK or if these are just temporary fixes that I'll have to deal with later
Only exercised 3 out of 5 days

Week 3 Goals -
Get electrician out
Tackle clutter on kitchen counter
Exercise 5 days

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Week 1

OK - so I really should have posted this on Saturday or Sunday, but I got crazed this weekend. Well my first actual week of trying to be more organized went OK, though I wish I had gotten more done and had been more efficient with my time. I realize I get sidelined when I get on my computer to check e-mails and such. It just seems to suck up time and before I know it, an hour has gone by.

For Week 1, I was really focusing on the boys going back to school and making sure they had all the supplies, clothes and shoes they needed. This has now been accomplished and I told them yesterday that I won't be buying any more items for them for awhile. This process took longer than I would have liked, mainly because I couldn't always find what we needed and there were multiple times when I had to return items to the store. That was mostly clothes that didn't fit. But sometimes it's just easier for me to pick up items when I'm out and about that to drag both boys out shopping with me. Actually, I don't like shopping with both of them because they inevitably whine for things like toys and candy and they usually end up fighting, loudly and with hitting. So I end up stressed out and embarrased and vowing that I'm not doing that again. So all that shopping is now done, except I bought a new shirt for my oldest son and he put it on for the 1st time this morning and we found a rip in one of the seams. So I have to take that shirt back, probably today or tomorrow.

Also the 1st week, I had 3 evening meetings for school, so that took a lot of time. I helped the boys set up a new homework routine and am monitoring that they are doing their homework. I also took them to the library to pick up some books since they kept forgetting to go to their school library.

For Week 2, I'm going to focus on making appointments for things that have needed repairing in our house. I need to get our air conditioner checked because it's getting old and hasn't been working wonderfully. I also need to get a plumber to fix a leak in our bathtub faucet that was supposedly fixed by another plumber just last year (I won't be calling that plumber back). Last, the light in our master bedroom closet went out over a month ago and changing the light bulb didn't fix it. So it looks like I need to get an electrician out to see what's going on. I can see this will turn out to be an expensive week.

So here's the good and the bad for Week 1:

Good -
Finished getting boys all the stuff they needed for the start of school
Paid all our end-of-month bills on time
Helped the boys organize their homework and made sure they have some books to read
Exercised 5 days (woo hoo!)

Bad -
Wanted to get on my blog before today
Got sidetracked too many times on the computer and therefore wasted too much time
House looks like a mess - haven't kept up with daily pick-up well enough

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time To Organize

When I began blogging, I focused on my experiences of being head room mom in both sons' classes for the year. It was very rewarding, but difficult and exhausting, too. Along the way, I didn't always have enough time for my home. So now everything is in disarray.

The boys are starting school tomorrow because they go to a year-round school. I thought I would be able to do some organizing while they were home on summer vacation. We didn't go on any trips because we got a new puppy and didn't want to take him with us because he's not completely potty-trained yet and didn't want to leave him at a kennel. I didn't sign my sons up for any camps or activities because there wasn't anything that really interested them and therefore it just seemed a waste of money. So I erroneously thought we would have time to go through their toys and clothes and get rid of some and maybe even sell some on e-bay.

But things always got in the way of this well-intentioned plan. The boys were always running off to a friend's house or having friends come over and the puppy is a constant distraction. I find that when I'm trying to focus on a project, it's time to take the puppy for a walk to see if he has to go to the bathroom. Also, he's had a lot of accidents. So invariably, I hear "mom, Lucky peed" or "mom, Lucky pooped" and I have to stop whatever I'm doing to go clean it up.

So now I'm giving myself a goal for this year to really try to get as organized as possible - as organized as one can be with two tween boys, a new puppy, a cat and a husband. And when I talk about organizing, I'm talking about many aspects of my life: the house, the toys, the boys' clothes, my clothes, household items, exercising, our finances, etc. Today I'm organizing all the supplies, forms, checks, etc. that the boys need for the first day of school tomorrow. Tomorrow, I have to go through that stack of mail that has piled up on one of our kitchen counters and pull out the bills since it's near the end of the month and they all need to be paid.

This is the start and I will keep chronicling this throughout the year and posting any tips I come up with. Focusing on this on my blog will hopefully keep me on task throughout the year and I'm hoping that by this time next year, my house (and even myself) will look measurably better.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Party's Over

OK - my experiment with being room mom in both my sons' classes officially ended about two weeks ago. It's taken me this long to catch up with things and actually get back on my blog again. Things got really crazy after we came back from spring break, which was April 19.

Let me digress for a moment before I go into the details of the last two months of school. When I signed up to be room mom in both classes, I meant to be a room mom in both classes, like out of 3 or 4 moms. However, I somehow became HEAD room mom in both classes, which surprised and kind of worried me because I had never been room mom before. For some reason, the teacher from my son's 5th grade class signed me up as the head room mom and no other moms signed up for my other son's 3rd grade class. I think the 5th grade teacher picked me because I talked to him in person about my interest rather than just filling it out on paperwork that came home in the beginning of the year. I was scared when I found out I was the only room mom in the 3rd grade class. The teacher asked two other moms if they would help me and they agreed. They ended up helping a lot and I became friends with one who I hadn't previously know and better friends with the other one. So I ended up being in charge of all the money for the two classes, sending letters to parents, planning parties, figuring out teacher gifts, etc.

So this is a summary of the last two whirlwind months of school. We got back from spring break and the 5th graders were having an event in about a month (May 25) called American Heritage Day. It's a fun day where the moms get various speakers to come into their classrooms and talk about what it means to them to be Americans. We had an Auschewitz camp survivor, a Pearl Harbor survivor, a woman who lived in a Japanese internments camp, a woman who grew up on an Indian reservation and others. Then the children have a performance that they put on for their families in the evening. Well, we had different committees to help plan this day because it's fairly complicated to put together. I signed up for one of the committees, but didn't want to be the head of it. Well, suffice to say, I became the head of it. So I was very busy for a month getting information for a letter sent home where each student would select which speaker they wanted to hear for each of 3 sessions, then assigning each student to specific speakers each session and creating programs and nametags. There were many details and it was very time-consuming. Everything ended up going smoothly and the day turned out great!

Then the next week, the 5th grade teacher had a baby shower at school. The week after was the 3rd grade teacher's birthday. I was also putting together scrapbooks for each teacher as an end-of-year gift. Now that was quite a feat because I'm not a crafty person and have only done one scrapbook in my life and that was a collaborative effort. Thankfully, all the room moms in both the classes really helped me out with that.

The week after the 3rd grade teacher's birthday was a lunch I organized for the whole 5th grade, then the day after, we presented the end-of-year scrapbooks to both teachers. The final week, I helped plan and came to a pool party for the 3rd grade and the last day of school, I planned and organized a lunch for both classes.

During this time I had to send multiple letters to parents in both classes, get money (birthday gift) and scrapbook pages from the kids, get kids to sign cards without the teachers knowing (baby shower and birthday), buy gifts, cards, food items, etc. The amount of details was staggering! I woke up a number of nights with details swimming around in my head because I was so afraid of forgetting something. I had a long to-do list and then would break it down by day so I wouldn't forget important deadlines.

Somehow it all came together and it was all successful (whew!!) I had good help from a number of moms, which made it manageable and more pleasant.

OK - so now would I do it again?
If I had the same choice at the beginning of the year, I would do it again. I formed some new relationships and built some closer relationships. I got to know the teachers much more personally than I would have and I was fortunate that I really liked the teachers! My sons enjoyed that I was so involved and enjoyed seeing me in their classes so much, although I do know they have no idea how much behind-the-scenes work I was doing. The best part of this experience was that the boys did get a sense of pride having me be "head" room mom in each of their classes and I really enjoyed building the relationship I did and know that will continue. I also enjoyed the sense of accomplishment from actually achieving success in this endeavor. I haven't worked officially for almost a decade and this taught me that I still have marketable skills, namely managing, organizing, planning and negotiating. It felt good to use these skills again and know that they haven't atrophied from non-use.

Will I be room mom again in either of their classes? I won't say never, but I've done it, it was successful and why push fate. The down-side was that family issues came up during the year that I wasn't able to put my full attention to or effort into. And that sometimes made me sad. I also realized that I did this mostly for my sons and if I neglected other issues that affect them because I'm caught up in details and busy-work, then I'm not really doing what I set out to do - I'm not reaching my real goal - to stand beside them with support and guidance.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cleaning Up For A New Friend Visit

Right now my boys are downstairs playing with a new friend. This is his first time here. My sons met him through another friend and he likes to play Yu-gi-oh as do my sons, especially my younger one. We happened to see him with his mom and sister a day after they met and his mom and me agreed that it would be nice for them to get together sometime. So after a week or so, we invited him over.

Since his mom has never seen our place, I wanted to straighten up and make the place look nice and neat, like it always looks like that (ha,ha). So beyond the usual picking up, I vacuumed, cleared tables and counters (as much as possible), wiped down sinks and counters and re-folded the bathroom towels. Then I brushed my hair and put on new lipstick. It was as if we were having company. Mind you, I do not go through all of this for all their friends. Once we get to know them well and feel comfortable with them, I relax.

Do you find that you do this too? It's just that I want to make a good impression on a mom that I'm getting to know and I want her to feel comfortable having her son at my house. I like when we get past this stage because it's a lot of work and truth be told - I really don't like cleaning, although of course it's a necessary evil.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Yu-Gi-Oh Tournament - Oh My!

My youngest son is currently obsessed with Yu-Gi-Oh. A friend of his got him into it and now he collects the cards and watches episodes on the computer. He's even gotten his older brother into it, although he's not quite as interested. So his friend told us about a card shop that has tournaments on weekends. He's been going about every other weekend for about a year now and my son really wanted to try it out so I agreed.

We met the friend, his mom and another boy there to try it out. It started at 2pm on Saturday and the mom told me it could last until 6 or 7! I already told my sons that we would only stay for a couple of hours, not the whole time. Well, all I can say is that it was strange. There were probably about 25-30 people there and everyone except for my sons and the two other boys was in their teens or their 20's. The guy my youngest son played (he's 9) seemed to be in his mid-20's. My 10-year old played a guy who seemed a little younger, like his early 20's. Of course, my sons couldn't compete with these guys and the one playing my older son seemed nice but the other guy was strange and not very nice and my son said later that he was mean and he didn't like him. After the first game, both sons had had enough and didn't want to continue with the tournament. That was fine with me! The whole scene kind of gave me the creeps. It seems odd to me that men in their 20's would be so into Yu-Gi-Oh. I didn't think the tournament would be like that - I thought it would be a bunch of kids playing together and that it would be kind of cute. Boy was I wrong!

Have any of you had any Yu-Gi-Oh experiences or similar ones with other games or collectible items? What were your thoughts?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Last Quarter of the School Year

Well, I can't believe the last quarter of school is here. This year has gone by really fast (they all seem to when you look back on them). My experiment of being room mom in both my sons' classes is coming to an end soon. I'm kind of sad about it. I've had fun, although there have been some hectic times. I'm gearing up for things to get really busy at the end of the year.

Right now I'm heading a committee for a day-long celebration for the 5th grade called American Heritage Day. This is a day where we will have various speakers talk to the children and their parents about their specific experiences of being an American. I'm not sure who the speakers will be yet but in the past they have had people from various countries talking about what it meant to them to become American citizens, someone serving in the military and a politician. There will be three sessions throughout the day with three speakers per session. My committee is in charge of sending out sign-up sheets for the children to select which speakers they want to hear each session. Then we will assign the kids to the various speakers throughout the day and make a program highlighting the speakers and the schedule and registering the children the day of the event. The next few weeks will be busy getting everything organized for this. Everything seems to be fairly quiet in 3rd grade until June, so I'll be able to focus on this.

I also need to start working on the end-of-year gifts we'll be giving to the teachers. I'm planning on putting together a small scrapbook for my sons' teachers with each child making an individual page with a note to the teacher and any pictures they may want to include. I'll also put together some pages with pictures of events throughout the year like field trips and parties. Unfortunately, I can't find our camera - it's been missing since Easter. So if I don't find it, I'll need to rely on pictures from other parents.

I'll keep posting the goings-on for the next couple of months. More to come!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why Is It So Hard To Roast A Chicken?

I really am a good cook. I used to be even better, but now I'm always rushing and cooking unfortunately has become more of a chore - it used to be one of my hobbies. One dish I just haven't truly mastered, though (I'm ashamed to say), is a roast chicken. I've tried a number of times because roasting a whole chicken is economical, delicious and every good cook should be able to master it (I've been told). So I tried again last night. I follow the recipe from The Joy of Cooking and I had even seen an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" show which showed how Thomas Keller roasts a chicken. It all seems simple enough.

I had the chicken sit on the counter for about half an hour so it would warm up. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I rinsed, patted dry and trussed the bird. I put melted butter all over it and sprinkled some kosher salt on it. When the oven was ready, I put the bird in. After 5 minutes, I turned the heat down to 350 degrees. I basted it 2-3 times and let it cook for over an hour and a half (it weighed 4-3/4 lbs). During the last 10-15 minutes, I turned the heat up to 400 to try to crisp and brown the skin more. Then I took the chicken out and let it sit for about 10 minutes, while I tented it with aluminum foil.

It still had some pink (even red) areas that looked undercooked. My husband absolutely hates that and was getting turned off as he was carving it. Also, even though I truss the bird and baste it a few times during cooking, the sides of the legs don't get crisp and brown. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong unless my oven just isn't working right. Maybe my oven's thermometer is off and I need to increase the heat the whole time to 375.

Any ideas? Any opinions or tricks that have worked for you? I'm getting gun-shy about trying roasting a chicken again but I sure would like to figure it out?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Action Replay and Skateboards

My two sons are in the middle of a 3-week break (they go to year-round school). I thought things would slow down a bit and I had a (apparently delusional) plan to sort through our clutter during this 3-week hiatus. Instead, I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off and dealing with the strangest issues that I had no idea were going to come up.

First was Action Replay. If you don't know what this is, it's for games played on Nintendo DS and it gives players cheat codes to help them figure out how to play the game and get more points (I think - I don't know it as well as my son does). With previous games, he's just used Action Replay when he's wanted to and everyone's happy and I don't have to get involved - because I know nothing about these games or how to operate a DS. Then he got a new game: Pokeman Soulsilver. It just came out recently and I was surprised he wanted it because he hasn't been interested in any of his other Pokeman games for awhile. Well, Action Replay doesn't have codes for Pokeman Soulsilver. I was told that I could go on their website and manually download them. I went on their website, my husband went on their website, my son went on their website. We couldn't figure out how to download these codes. I tried calling their customer service number for about a week and even tried their automated help line when I couldn't get through to a live person. It was just so frustrating! I tried talking to the store where we get all our games (Gamestop) and after talking to three different employees, nobody seemed to know how to do it and they referred me to Action Replay's website (not going to help!) Finally, finally, one morning I just kept clicking on different areas on their website and got to an area where it seemed to tell you how to manually download codes. I called my son and had him get me to the right screens on the DS as I followed the instructions - it worked! Hallelujah!! However, you should see how many numbers and letters you have to download! I told my son I would download maybe 3 or so a day until we had them all. I felt suddenly very tech-savvy and proud of myself. Now a week later, somehow everything's gotten erased on his DS and he's not sure how. So, I get to re-download all the codes and cross my fingers that it doesn't happen again this time.

Then there's the skateboard. I had the foolish notion that you could just go out, buy a skateboard with your son and be done with it. Silly me. The first skateboard was fine at first, but after a couple of days, it started veering to the left. My husband tried fiddling around with various screws and such and nothing helped. So we took the board back and bought a different one. This one started veering to the right almost immediately. When we went back to the store, an employee told us to spray graphite on the wheels. We tried that and it didn't do anything. So we took that board back and went looking at different stores. After going to about four various sport and board shops and talking to various people, we bought our third board. We made sure this board rolls straight and my son tried it out and liked how it feels. All this took about a week to finally figure out. Is he outside riding his board now? No. He says it's too loose, even though the person at the shop said it was a tight board after he got on it. So my husband will tighten the d#mn thing and hopefully my son will decide it's fine to ride. Otherwise, he pays us back.

One more week of Spring Break to go. Will I ever get to our clutter?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Wow, it's been a long time since I've published a post - sorry. Things have gotten absolutely crazy around here! It's hard to get computer time since my husband's been unemployed. Between him and the kids, I get squeezed off of it. There have also just been a lot of little things, big things, annoying things to take care of on top of the everyday tasks. Some of these things are big time guzzlers too.

One of the most annoying and frustrating items I've been dealing with since mid-February is COBRA. I've been on COBRA twice before and have never had a problem. The problem is not with the COBRA program but with a company my husband's former employer uses to administer COBRA for them. I mailed them the sign-up paperwork and a check, but they never received it. We had to get about three people involved from my husband's former employer to get it sorted through so we would actually be signed up before the expiration date. I finally had to Express Mail a new set of forms and another check. God only knows what happened to the 1st check and my bank wants to charge me $29 for a stop-payment - not what you need when unemployed and doing things correctly in the first place.

Another annoying problem has been trying to start one of my prescriptions on mail-order with a new insurance company that we got as of 1/1/10. For some reason, they won't send me paperwork to mail a prescription to them. They prefer for it to be faxed to them directly from my doctor's office. However, my doctor's assistant has tried to fax it to them four different times throughout a 3-week period. Every time, they say they haven't received it. We've double-checked the fax number and it's fine and the fax from the doctor's office says it went through successfully. It just seems to fall into a black hole on the other side. So I'm still dealing with this issue.

On top of that our refrigerator is leaking water from the top freezer into the fridge below. So I'm constantly sopping up water and placing cups in there to try to catch it. We decided to just buy a new fridge because this one is about 13 years old and we've spent about $100/year for the past four years trying to fix different problems. We spent $100 about five months ago because the motor went out. The repairman said it would be "good as new" with the replacement motor and might have about ten more years left - HA!! We're sick of continually putting money into this moneypit so we bought a new one, on sale, with a $50 instant rebate for getting an Energy Star version. That whole process took a couple of weeks and I'm waiting for the new one to be delivered right now. It's supposed to come some time between 9am - 1pm. So I'm to just sit tight until they decide to arrive. No problem - four hours out of my busy schedule is nothing - nah.

So on top of all this and the everyday items have been the following: planning, shopping for and helping out for both my sons' classes' Valentine's Day parties, which did overlap, buying special pants and shoes for my son before a special field trip because he's out-grown the others, trying to find items for my son's upcoming play, having a pre-scheduled annual doctor's appointment without knowing if insurance is going to pay, having some major homework/schoolwork issues with one of my sons and planning two parties for my son's birthday (one for family, one for friends).

I didn't sleep much last night because I woke up around 2:30, then my head just started going. There's so much clutter I need to go through and projects I need to start and keep working on like putting pictures into an album from years ago and doing some spring cleaning. I worry about how my sons are doing, how we are doing financially, any unforseen bumps in the road in the future, etc., etc. Everything seems more unmanageable at 2:30 in the morning. I'm gearing up for parties on St. Patrick's Day in both sons' classes and my younger son's two birthday parties the weekend before. Hopefully, I can stop, breathe and remember to actually enjoy all this even when I get stressed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It Feels As Though My House Is Falling Apart!

Right now I'm waiting to get a new garage door opener installed. It's been sounding strange for a couple of weeks now. Last night my youngest son accidentally opened the garage door, then closed it - only it didn't close all the way and when we tried to push the button, it did nothing, just made a weird, quiet humming noise. So we manually tried to open the door and the chain to the opener started falling and completely twisting itself. We finally opened it enough for my husband to get his car out. At first we thought my son did something to cause it to break, but it just seems that it was going to happen the next time the button got pushed and he just happened to be the one to do it. In the last seven years we have had the springs on that opener replaced twice. I'm getting very angry with this opener.
On top of that, in the last year or so we have had to fix our furnace, our air conditioner keeps not working and we'll need to replace that, we need a new refrigerator and have spent about $100 per year trying to fix various things wrong with it for the last 3-4 years (the last fix was about 5 months ago and now the freezer keeps leaking fluid into the fridge), our toilets keep backing up, especially the downstairs one which was replaced about 4 years ago, we had a leak in our ceiling caused by a faulty plumbing job (the repair to the ceiling took about 4 months, no kidding, because they kept messing it up), we had to replace our gas stove, replace our microwave handle and a few of the cupboard doors in our kitchen keep falling off. And these are just the ones I can think of at the top of my head. Our dishwasher sounds kind of funky every once in awhile, but I just try not to use it much and hope for the best. I feel that every week there is a new problem to handle. Of course money is really tight right now because my husband became unemployed as of early January so we're trying to hold off on everything as long as possible.
Do you ever feel as if your house is starting to fall apart? Our house is only about 16 years old and it seems the lifespan of everything is coming to its end. It definitely seems that things don't last as long as they used to. I'm going to buy a bunch of duct tape soon and wrap it around the house to try to hold it all up before it all disintegrates!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tried to Be Healthy (Failed Miserably)

So last night I made a nice fish dish. I usually make fish on Tuesday nights because the garbage comes on Wednesday and I don't want the fish smell in our garbage for too long. I try to cook fish at least once a week because it is so healthy. So I went to a very good fish market in our area, which I do every Tuesday, and picked some fish called Rex Sole.

Rex Sole is a tasty, very flaky fish. But the hard part about it is that it has bones. You have to cook it and then cut through it and remove the spine and bones in one sweep-through, if you can. Now these aren't large fish. So to feed four people, I had about 10 fish. You have to do this with all the fish and when you try to remove the spine and bones, they sometimes fall apart, which makes it a lot more messy and difficult.

Anyway, it was done and we finally sat down to eat. The kids weren't excited about what we were eating - fish is never their favorite thing, but we made them eat some of it. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The fish was very fresh and when Rex Sole is very fresh, there can be a wonderful brininess (salty-seawater flavor). We very much enjoyed our meal, but there wasn't a lot of fish flesh after removing all the bones and skin. So we ended up hungry. After dinner, the whole family was still hungry.

Well, the weekend before we had a couple of our sisters-in-law over and one of them brought over a couple of Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches (can you see where this is going?) They were wonderful!! Filling, meaty, cheesy - just got to you where it matters. So we were all feeling a bit unfulfilled and decided as a group that what would fulfill us at this point would be splitting a couple of, yes, Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches.

So off to the restaurant I went to pick up a couple of orders and I realized my evening of trying to eat healthy went bust - oh well~

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter's My Second Favorite Season

Fall's my favorite season, although nowadays, Fall gets really hectic with planning for all the holidays with the kids and the fact that my husband's, my, and both my brothers' birthdays happen during the Fall in addition to my husband's and my anniversary. So Fall's a bit of a whirlwind, which sometimes makes it so stressful that it's hard to appreciate it as much as I used to. When I was a child, I looked forward to the weather getting chillier and the days getting darker earlier - it made me feel cozy. I also liked all the upcoming holidays - I loved them all - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

Winter has always been my second favorite season because I really like colder weather. Now let me explain that I've grown up in Southern California so when I say the weather gets colder, I'm not talking about snow storms or below freezing temperature. I'm sure that would change things for me a bit. I'm talking about getting some rain, which I love! And temperatures in the 60's, maybe the 50's. You can start putting on sweaters, which is a treat in Southern California. Also, I get sick of all the sunshine. When you have sunshine most days of the year, it does really get boring. You start to crave the excitement of real weather.

Well we had a week of real weather last week. We actually had five straight days of rain, which I never remember happening in my 41 years of living here. Some of the days had heavy rain. We had a lot of flooding, to the point where we actually made the national news. We even had a couple of small tornadoes, which is unheard of. We saw a car that was stuck in a flooded street and there was an ambulance trying to figure out how to best get the trapped person out of the vehicle. We had a couple of neighbors whose backyards and garages flooded. We got lucky - we stayed dry.

I love the rain and so do my two sons. When it's raining hard, they love to run out into the rain and get sopping wet. I let them because it happens so infrequently. Then they come inside, strip and go straight into the shower to clean and warm up. Now my husband is even starting to have fun with the rain. He's always liked hot weather, not cold, because he grew up in Waukesha, WI and had to deal with freezing winters. But since the boys and me enjoy the rain so much, it's kind of rubbed off on him. Now he's saying he's looking forward to more rain and he's never said that before.

So now the forecast is saying clear weather until Thursday (about 5 days away). We'll get some logs ready because it's so fun to get a fire in the fireplace to feel extra cozy. I'll plan on making some kind of stew in the crockpot to go along with the cozy theme. If it's raining in the morning, we make our boys hot chocolate before school and they love it. We'll take advantage of all this right now, because in a couple of months it will go back to days on end of endless sunshine. I know that may sound like heaven to some, but really, it does get a bit boring.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Party's Over

Geez, it's January 15th and I finally got a chance to get back onto my blog. First, we had the holidays and the boys were home from school and the hubby had days off work and we were busy with activities and they all hogged the computer when we were home. Then, the boys go to a year-round school and they had three weeks off, instead of two, which most schools in the area got. So we went skiing the week of 1/4, when everyone had to go back to school and work. It was great because the slopes weren't very busy and we didn't have to pay increased holiday prices. In fact, we found a great mid-week deal at a resort which included lift tickets, breakfast and 50% off coupons for equipment rentals, so it was a steal. The day after we got back from vacation, the boys had the beginning of their winter football season. So we were on the field all day with both their practices and games, then there was a family party immediately after because my husband's aunt was in town for a week (from Wisconsin). Then we had one day to get ready before the boys started school again and I really needed to unpack everything and get some laundry done. By the time the boys went back to school and I could reasonably get back on my blog, it was already 1/11.
However, my husband then accepted a layoff offer from his company. We're in the middle of a huge recession and my husband is currently unemployed (officially, I am too). So he's been home all week and on the computer constantly. He's getting in touch with a lot of current and former associates and has a pro-bono project he's doing with a former associate in the hopes of it turning into a paying gig. So I haven't had a chance to get onto my blog!! Sorry about that, although judging from the number of comments from previous blogs :( I'm not sure anyone has noticed. Well, now I'm going to try to get more followers so I don't feel like I'm just talking to myself. I'm still fairly new to this so I need to learn a lot as I go.
Ok - now to get back to the whole room-mom thing, things are quiet on this first week back from school. I just got back from volunteering in both kids' classes and there are no projects or parties to plan until Valentine's. Then we'll see how it goes because I'm sure their parties will happen on the same day. I'm looking forward to it, though, because Valentine's Day is just a fun, happy holiday. I love all the pink and red and chocolate and sweets and cards. So I'll be happy to run between the two classrooms (I presume). The week after, I've volunteered to chaperone a field trip for my younger son's class (3rd grade) and in March, I've volunteered to chaperone a field trip for my older son's class (5th grade).
March might get a bit crazy because I think both classes want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and my younger son's birthday is the day before. I'm sure there will be a celebration for the extended family, one for his friends and a little class celebration (I'll probably bring in cupcakes or hand out goody bags). For St. Patrick's Day, because I'm Irish, I'll also have to make the obligatory corned beef and cabbage. Oh, by the way, did I also mention that it will be both our sons' last day of acting class? So we will be in both their classes to watch a performance (which probably means me at one class and my husband at the other unless he's gainfully employed by then, PLEASE!) And of course, since it's the day after my younger son's birthday, I'll need to bring treats in for his acting class. Yikes! March is going to kill me!! Oh and wait, on top of that, that week is conference week at school so the kids get out early all week and I'll have to set up a meeting with both teachers.
I really better take advantage of the downtime right now.