We survived…the highlights and the gifts that fail to delight

The holiday went well. Yesterday was trash day, and I was slightly embarrassed at the full dumpster surrounded by 13 bags of trash, a full recycle bin (full size dumpster), a Little Tikes kitchen box full of recycle, and since our neighbor was out of town, we used their trash cans too – thanks Kristi LOL!

Starting with the youngest…
Maggie – favorite gift – Little Tikes Smart Kitchen, she loves putting the food in the pan or on the cutting board and hearing it tell her what the item is. She also loves taking apart the fruits and cooking like Mommy.

Liam – favorite gift – this is a toss up between the Fisher Price Smart Fit Park and his MP3 Player (Disney Mix Stick). The Smart Fit Park is like a Wii for little kids aged 3-6. He has spent several hours racing through the park, splashing in puddles and playing jump rope. Last night he was so tired when he finished that he fell on the floor and said, “I nearly broke my favorite leg.” Hmmm…I had no idea that he had a favorite leg, but I sure am glad it didn’t break. The MP3 Player is outstanding, very easy to load songs too, easy to operate, and seems very durable already. We bought some output reducing headphones made for children to go with it so that he doesn’t hurt his little ears. His favorite song is “Kiss a Squirrel,” if you listen to country music, you may recognize this tune as “Kiss a Girl,” by Keith Urban, Liam just sings it wrong.

Dorothy – favorite gift – a suitcase full of Littlest Pet Shop animals and accessories or the Barbie Baby Doctor set. She immediately removed all the little animals, organized them, set them up by which ones fit into which families, and pulled out her book of identification and personalities. Who knew so much was involved in the world of little animals?! The Barbie Baby Doctor has a million little pieces and two little babies with the stuff to weigh them, diaper them and so on. She really enjoys playing pretend with both of these and I think this may be the last year for toys like this being so exciting. She was thrilled with all the clothing and I see next year’s gifts being more clothes, necklaces and accesories than toys. She really hasn’t expressed too much interest in gaming systems, but we’ll see if that changes.

Dustin – favorite gift – Wii. If you have one or have played one, you understand. Dustin’s gifts are getting more expensive by the year, but he has really shown some responsiblity in taking care of his things and I’m awfully proud of him.

John – favorite gift – I have no idea. We gave him a lot of stuff so that when he moves out in May he will have a well stocked kitchen with hopefully everything he needs from a small crockpot to a knife set.

I got John, my husband, a 14 drawer rolling tool chest. He loves it. He put it together in the freezing cold garage – temps outside were about 25 degrees and our garage is neither heated or insulated well. He wasn’t surprised, he knew I got if for him this year, but it was something he really wanted. I’m glad I could make him happy.

He got me a diamond ring. I didn’t have one, and I had asked for a right hand ring. I didn’t expect this and it made me cry. I love it and I love him. I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful husband.

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Fails.

I didn’t fight crowds or pay more than $8/piece for the Zhu Zhu Pets. Thank Gawd. All 4 of the small kids opened a little hamster. Dustin opened his, looked at it and handed it to Dorothy. Dorothy wanted to love hers, both of them since she now had Dustin’s, but they just aren’t that exciting. She thinks they are cute and has played with them for a few minutes, but the ball keeps falling apart and other things are more exciting. Liam likes his *Little Fella*, but other than a few runs in the car, it has become an accessory to The Bat Cave and can frequently be seen hanging from a rope waiting to be saved by Batman and Robin. Maggie has taken the most interest in her little Zhu Zhu pet. She wraps it up in a blanket and carries it around like a baby and she pushes it in a stroller. She enjoys the noises it makes and likes to let it run on the kitchen table and fall off. Final review: Though this toy holds the interest of my 19 month old she isn’t in the intended age group for the Zhu Zhu, nor does she use it for it’s intended purpose. My three children who this was likely marketed for are completely uninterested, and I am so glad I didn’t pay the largely inflated internet prices for them.

Fail: Gloves for John the Dad. Yeah, they are still up near the tree. LOL!

Fail: Presents for MIL….she has yet to get them or to give anyone at this house a gift….so much for celebrating the holiday as a family.

Fail: Gingerbread house. Cute, but not $40 cute.

When one kid licks the plate and the others ask for leftovers: Chicken Tetrazzini

When one kid licks the plate and the others ask for leftovers, you officially have a winning recipe. THere aren’t too many casseroles that 100% of the family loves, but this is one for sure! I honestly was surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response for this fairly easy Chicken Tetrazzini. Leaving the skin and bones in and on the chicken while cooking helps to maintain a very moist, flavorful chicken.

Chicken Tetrazzini———————–
5 chicken breasts with skin on & bones in
1 lb rotinni noodles
1 cup shredded cheddar
2.25 cups water
2 cans cream of chicken
2 chicken boullion cubes
1.5 tsp italian seasoning
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp paprika

1) put chicken in crockpot. Coat with italian seasoning, garlic & paprika. Cook on high 4-6 hours until chicken shreds easily with a fork. Add NO liquid.

2) Preheat oven to 350, grease a casserole dish (i use the deep covered baker from PC, but i think it is a 4qt capacity), boil 6 cups of salted water.

3) Cook noodles to al dente. Debone, remove skin and fat. Shred or chunk chicken, letting seasonings seap into pieces as you cut it.

4) Drain noodles, put in casserole, cover with chicken.

5) In saucepan add water, cream of chicken and boullion. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Pour over top of chicken and noodles.

6) Cover with cheese. Place lid or foil over top of dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

7) Remove cover, bake 10-15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Falling into the money pit

We are done Christmas shopping. Finally. Five kids, a *promised* future daughter-in-law, family, and each other. That was a fun, but expensive endeavor, and not what I’m refering to when I discuss a money pit.

Nope, that gem is saved for untimely expenses that are urgent right after and/or during the Christmas shopping season.

Item 1) Prior to a 120 mile trip, John took the Suburban in to find out why my 1 month old tire was low. Answer: A screw. Fixable? Nope, it was located in the sidewall. Nice. $200.

Item 2) Plumbing problem. Yup, that’s right. Today I will be calling our “good buddy” Isaac at S&G Plumbing in St. Charles. Isaac is a real personable fella, super nice, and very reasonable with his rates, and he has quality work. He was refered to us by a friend, and we have continued to offer his name for plumbing work. So, it’s a good thing I kept his card because this morning when I went down to work on laundry at 5:30 am, I noticed not a little drip, but a multi-point drip and a soaking wet subfloor surrounding our stack that comes from the 2nd floor kids bathroom. John went down, checked it out and said, “this isn’t good.” Oh. Hell. John can fix EVERYTHING. Seriously, I’ve only seen 3 things in 6.5 years that he was unable to fix: 1)Sewer line when I shoved 9 potatoes and 2lbs of carrot skins down the garbage disposal (Isaac fixed that), and 2)when our tree needed dropped quickly because it was sprouting pecans (a tree man named Mike came and took that down), and when his MAF sensor had issues, he took his car into the shop for the work. That’s it. He has put in an entire bathroom, rewired switches and outlets, added a gas line for my dryer, fixed my washer and dryer, replaced ceiling fans and fixtures, put in new faucets, replaced toilets, fixed drywall, put in a new subfloor, retiled multiple kitchens, changed oil, rotated tires, replaced engine parts, rebuilt the carborator for a lawnmower, changed struts, and pretty much every other thing that can go wrong with a house or engine operated vehicle. So, when John says something isn’t good, that I need to call the plumber I can only believe that this is going to be expensive, time consuming, and beyond the scope of a normal household problem.

Funny things from the kids

Dorothy neglected to do her chores. I went to my bedroom and on my nightstand was a note from her. It said, “Mommy, Here is a dollar that I owe you for not doing what I was supposed to do. From Dorothy.” On top of it was a tightly folded dollar bill. I’m not sure why she thought she owed me money, but i put it and the note away for storage with the note from several years ago, pre-lettter-formation that said (per her reading it to me), “Dear Mommy, I am sorry I was such a little asshole.”

Go ahead, nominate me for my mom-of-the-year award now LOL!

On the way to the hair cutting place Liam asked if he was getting a hair cut. I told him not this time to which he replied, “But MOM, my hair is just HIDEOUS!”

On Friday, John took Liam and Maggie for the H1N1 vaccine. Liam was visibly upset at the thought of a shot. He asked his Daddy if he would be getting one as they walked into the doctor’s office. John didn’t want to upset him further so he told him that he wasn’t sure. They get called back and the nurse pulls out a needle and asks if Liam wants to go first. John said his eyes were rimmed in red, that he was obviously going to cry. He shakes his head without a word and John puts Maggie up on the table. Her shot is administered, she howls for a moment and then settled down quickly. I wish there had been a camera to capture the look on Liam’s face. The nurse told him he was next and he tries to shrink into the wall, she says, “I’m just going to put something in your nose and you have to sniff real hard.” What? Liam climbed up onto the table and was shotlessly vaccinated and his fears were put to rest.

Dorothy got her H1N1 at school. They gave her the choice, shot or nasal mist. What 8 year old choses the shot? She told me, “It didn’t even hurt.”

Family meals

Our household goal is to have at least 3 family dinner meals per week. I would like more, but John’s work schedule keeps him away several evenings. Football tossed a bit of a kink into the family time and into my home-cooked meals. We were still able to catch a couple of meals, but they were generally delivery, take-out or fast food, and occasionally quick, preassembled foods. This weekend, I made a resolve to get back to the kitchen for the majority of our meals. Activities will continue, as we have resumed martial arts, but I think with better planning on my part, home-cooked meals will prevail.

Saturday night we had meatloaf, fresh cooked carrots and onion soup baked new potatoes. The meal was an overwhelming success. The night before, I put the meat into the fridge to thaw – no last minute microwaving, and ensured that I had everything on hand.

Meatloaf – 2 lbs ground beef, 1 TBS dried minced onion, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 sleeve saltine crackers, 1/2 cup + 2 TBS ketchup. (if you are going to bake this, combine all ingredients except the 2 TBS ketchup, put into a pan – i used the deep covered baker from Pampered Chef, smooth top, then cover with remaining ketchup. cover and Bake at 375 for about an hour. remove cover and Broil on low for about 3 minutes)

Carrots – 2 lbs carrots, 1 TBS butter, 1/2 cup water, salt & pepper (peel, place in pan with all ingredients, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer till fork tender)

Onion Potatoes – 4 cans new potatoes, 1 pkt Onion Soup Mix, 1/3 cup oil, no-stick spray (dice potatoes, place in bag with soup mix & oil, shake. Pour onto a well greased jelly roll pan, bake at 375 for about an hour or until golden & lightly crispy)

*I used to use real onion in my meatloaf, but found that dried/minced have the following benefits: 1)the loaf is fairly homogenous, which means kids won’t pull it apart in search of the elusive onions, most kids don’t consider minced onions *real onions*, 2)There is enough onion powder in the dried onions that it adds a great deal of additional flavor, and 3) I never open up a container of dried onions only to discover that they have *gone bad*.

Last night more of the same yummy goodness – sweet & sour meatballs (jelly & chili sauce in the crockpot), sticky white rice, and asparagus.

I have prepared a menu for this week so that I won’t be caught last minute wondering what to make.

Plans to break it to her gently

PLEASE STOP HERE IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN PEERING OVER YOUR BACK.
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This will be the last year for the Santa Clause for Dorothy. I will no longer let the imaginary man take credit for the good gifts that I spend so much time selecting and spending my hard earned money on. Last year Dorothy got only a couple of gifts from Santa, this year she will only get one gift, an outfit from Gymboree, from Santa. Then, when I tell her in January, she won’t be so upset, heck, he didn’t leave her much anyway. THis will pave the way for the Easter Bunny and the Toothfairy to no longer exist. Sad, yes, but it’s time. She asked my mom the other day if Rudolph was real….she knows…I’m just going to confirm it.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Seeminly unlike most people these days, we didn’t decorate for the Christmas season pre-Thanksgiving, or even on Thanksgiving day. We waited, and started to decorate the house last night, well, we hung lights outside on the last unseasonably warm day after Thanksgiving, but that is weather related. Anyway, we put our silver Christmas tree with the color changing lights on our front porch in front of our bathroom window. Seriously? Who puts a bathroom on the main level where the window peers out onto the front porch? And, it’s not a small window.

We plan to put our big tree up this week. This year it is going into our master bedroom because we have run out of space on the main level, and I don’t want Liam and Maggie redecorating it continuously. The kids aren’t allowed to play in our room, so this should work. The added bonus is that for the first time, our tree will be visible to the street. I always drive by homes and you see their Christmas tree in the window and it makes me feel all warm and bubbly inside.

The rest of the decorations are trickling out. Anything terribly new or exciting will attract attention, and at 18 months, Maggie thinks everything is hers and she’ll carry around a piece of trash if she thinks it is somehow important to someone. Normally she just carries around things with faces though, they are all “babies”. I can see her hijacking every snowman in the house if I’m not careful.