Rough Night

Warning: The last half of this post is about a whole lot of grossness exiting my son's sweet patooty. If you are at all squeamish, thanks for stopping by and I'll see you tomorrow.


You've been warned.

Man, I need to catch my breath after the evening we had around her today. It was brutal. Things started going south when I was outside with the kids. Z was driving the little motorized Jeep. She's still a bit of a spaz behind the wheel, but she's shown a lot of improvement from her first time or two driving around the yard. We had been up and down the (looooong) driveway a couple of times when I got the bright idea to go around our neighbors' house, through their backyard and through the gap in the trees that is a shortcut across our lawns.

All was well for the first two legs of the journey. But things went horribly awry when cutting through the trees. The undergrowth hadn't been cut back since last summer, so there were a couple of small branches in the way. I went ahead and was holding back the worst of them. Z kind of lost her mind when she saw the branches. Instead of going through the gap I had made for her, she panicked: she put the accelerator to the floor, cranked the wheel to the left, and tucked her head under the dashboard. Running directly into me.

Now normally, I would have just jumped out of the way, but we were on a small incline and the bumper of the Jeep and me pinned by the knee - doing its best to make it bend in ways knees were never meant to bend. Also, I had stepped into the brush - a sticker bush, no less - and had no where to go. I am hollering for Z to take her foot off the pedals and in her panic she totally didn't hear me. I finally had to give her a whack to get her to listen to me. Kind of like in the movies where you slap the hysterical person to get them to calm down. Same thing.

I blew this particular knee out one frosty March afternoon in high school. I dislocated my kneecap and was in a cast for months. I have re-injured it multiple times since. Suffice it to say this knee is a sore spot (pun entirely intended). All I needed to complete my ensemble this evening was the eye patch to go with my gimpy pirate leg.

Then, to add insult to injury, as I was limping around the (poorly arranged) kitchen making dinner(!) - thanks, T, for stepping up! (Oh, yeah. He didn't) - Q yanked open an ankle height drawer and totally creamed my shin. I let out a yelp like a dying yak and scared Q half to death. Yet another example of my stellar parenting skills!

Q was super crabby all through dinner. I finally got him out of his seat, only to have him cry for the food he'd left on his plate. I gave in and handed him a carrot stick. I guess it went down the wrong way, because he started coughing and choking. He turned an alarming shade of red. At the time I was strangely detached. My inner Red Cross volunteer was whispering that if his airway was blocked, he wouldn't be able to cry or cough, so I didn't need to worry that much.

Finally, he hacked up a carrot, but continued to cry inconsolably. I draped him on my chest and patted and soothed for probably half an hour. Then I noticed that he was gasping for breath. A phone call to Dr.-Dad-in-Law later, I was assured that it probably wasn't anything to worry about, but nebulizing him wouldn't hurt.

In the throes of his crying I had felt a series of poots, so when he calmed down I put him on the ottoman to change his diaper. He'd been having, erm, liquid poops all day and this one was no exception. I got him all cleaned up and was doing the final wipe down when his butt opened fire. It was the mother of all poojinks. He got me, the couch, the carpet, the decorative throw, and the ottoman. Thank goodness I had put the changing pad down. Then, as if that weren't bad enough, he started leaking from every southern orifice. Now there was poop and tinkle on the ottoman. Yay! Bring on the Nature's Miracle!

At this point, the little guy is laying in a disgusting puddle of goo that needed cleaning. After the first gush, my hysterical screeches brought T running with paper towels. As I roll him on his side to mop under him, I see a penny. From in his diaper. WTF? That certainly would explain a lot, but it did not show signs of having passed through his digestive tract. It just slipped in his diaper. Whew! Oh, and his tiny little butthole was bleeding.

Another phone call to Dr.-Dad-in-Law, who assured me that it was nothing to be alarmed about, and we got him cleaned up and into jammies. He was still struggling for breath, so T brought me the nubulizer and I gave him a treatment. The hum of the compressor put him right to sleep. Thank goodness.

Oh, did I mention that Z kept trying to get into the middle of the proceedings? She was practically in the splash zone before her father banished her to the guest room. Or that as Q's crying escalated, she retaliated by singing just as loudly? And that she became compulsively affectionate to me when T told her not to touch me or Q might wake up? Good times.

I am so glad that they are both in bed asleep. I am going to take a cue from them and head up to my nice soft bed as well. You know, after I burn my clothes and boil my skin to get rid of the poop cooties. Blech. Motherhood is so glamorous.


Racial Profiling

I'm guilty. It makes me feel dirty to admit it, but I am guilty of racial profiling. Of dogs. (Would that make it breed profiling?)

The offspring and I were out in the yard this afternoon, playing on the swing set. Our swing set is in the side yard, as the fenced part of our yard contains the pit of despair a pool. I was pushing Z on the swing and Q was playing with bubbles in a lawn chair near by. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a white dog trotting over toward us. Bear in mind that we live in the sticks, and lots of people don't fence their dogs. I just assumed it was the neighbor's dog, Gracie.

I did a double take when I saw that the dog in question was not the harmless basset-cross Gracie, but a huge unfamiliar pit bull. His ears were clipped and he looked very menacing. Now, I am not one of those people who thinks pit bulls are the devil. A dog is what you train it to be, and I know that there are lots of sweet pit bulls that make great family dogs. This dog, however, was a completely unknown quantity.

With any dog, my first instinct is to pet it. But his stance wasn't overtly friendly, so I decided to ignore him and see if he would just go away. But he didn't. He was getting too close for my peace of mind to Q on the lawn chair, so I snatched Z out of the swing, grabbed Q and headed for the elevated fort portion of the swing set. Yes. I let a stray dog tree me in my own yard.

I figured that when we were out of reach that he would head off on his merry way. But nooooo. We stayed up in the fort and piddled and blew bubbles for what seemed like hours, but I'm sure was closer to 15 minutes. By now, I am just freaked the flip out. Q kept trying to escape and was losing patience with me for blocking his exit. The dog just kept circling the swing set and looking up at us. Yikes! Finally, a neighbor across the street pulled into their driveway and the dog headed off toward their house.

Q immediately went down the slide. The dog stopped and made a beeline for Q. My heart started pounding. Q, having no fear since he's been surrounded by all manner of dogs since birth, reached out and gave the dog a pat. The dog didn't react, so I released a pent up breath of relief. Only to see Q grabbing onto the dog's hindquarters. Twice.

My heart leapt into my throat as I shoved Z aside and vaulted down the slide (I had been trying to go down the ladder, but my hips were too wide for the opening. Ack.) By now the dog had knocked Q onto the ground and he had started crying. I snatched up the crying Q, helped Z slide down the slide and headed for the house. I had freaked Z out enough that she wanted to run, but I restrained her. The dog followed right behind us all the way into the garage to the door to the house, and would have followed us in if I hadn't closed the door on his face. (We lost a Pomeranian to a Doberman once, so I was freaked out that he might eat one of my dogs in addition to my children.)

I have no idea why this dog scared me so. He was never aggressive. No growling or barking. He had his tail tucked, which indicated to me a nervous/not happy dog. He had no collar and was hugely muscular. I guess my survival instincts were just saying "better safe than sorry," but they convicted that dog without any cause.


Today I am thankful for:

1. That even though I overslept 45 minutes and got Z to school late, all she missed was breakfast and a little free play.
2. That I have finally gotten the ball rolling on birthday party plans for the kids next month. Z is going to have a princess party. Q will have either a monkey or a construction themed party the week after.
3. Outlook made me mop.
4. I got to talk to Sister K. It seems like I haven't gotten to chat with her since Christmas!
5. That even though it makes him sad, T is going to sell the money-sucking boat that has only been in the water twice in the eight years I have known him.


Story Time at the Library

Who knew Small Town had such a kick ass library? (Or lie-BRRR-ary, as Z says.) Not me! Slacker mom that I am, I have never managed to drag myself, Z or Q down there. In my defense, they are very clear that story time is for three-, four-, and five-year-olds only. Being the rule follower that I am, I didn't want to crash with an almost two-year-old.

Libraries have been in the air around our house lately. Z watches a lot of TV (I know! Slacker mom, again!), and libraries are a popular topic. We also have several books about libraries, including one about Curious George. The final match to the fire was when Z's reading-readiness magazine, Tessy and Tab, arrived, they too were headed for the library.

Today I finally gave in to Z's constant nagging heartfelt pleas and took her to story time. Two of her classmates were there, so Z felt right at home. I have to give my girl props. Her behavior was excellent. She sat still and paid attention and was quick to answer questions - even more so that kids quite a bit older than she!

Q, on the other hand, was a big fat pill. Huh. I guess that is why story time is for three-, four-, and five-year-olds only? Go figure. Anyway, he sat nicely through the first book and the first rendition of The Itsy Bitsy Spider, but then he was done. Two books and three songs too soon. He got up and started wandering around. Quietly at first, but then he started going behind the puppet stage and dragging out props. Oy! So I scooped him up and took him out into the main part of the children's section. And by doing so, breaking another rule: children MUST be accompanied by a parent at all times. Man, I can't win!

I spent the remainder of story time hovering in the doorway so I could keep an eye on both kiddos. The children's librarian was totally cool with Q being there and even thanked us for coming. (It was the other parents/grandparents who were giving us the hairy eyeball.) I'm guessing this wasn't her first rodeo and I'm not the first parent to struggle with multiple kids.

In the end, we got a library card and checked out a ton of books. The kids selected the books themselves. I was impressed with Z's selections. She picked titles I had never heard of: Traction Man is Here!; The Good Babies; and Moon Rooster, to name a few. I have read seven so far, and anticipate reading them a LOT before they are due next month!

A Whiff of a Move

Moving is in the air once again. Even though we talk a good game about not counting chickens, etc., we can't seem to keep ourselves off of west Texas real estate sites. In the name of not getting too excited before we know anything, that is all I am going to write about this for now. We should know something by the end of next week.


Today I am thankful for:

1. That even though our town is small, it has a really nice library with fun stuff for the kids.
2. The drive-through pharmacy at Wal-Mart. I can pick up the crazy meds without having to go inside (and go crazy).
3. The frozen casseroles I have been stockpiling in the big freezer. I make a regular casserole in two pans and freeze one. All I had to do was throw it in the oven. Instant home made dinner.
4. A two-parter: that the chemo my dad is on is effective on his CLL and that it doesn't make him feel too awful.
5. All the nice commentors who keep telling me to cut myself some slack.

6. Two bloggy awards from my friend Jamie!


Bring On the Mother of the Year Award

Z's first dance class? MONUMENTAL PARENTAL FAIL.

After a week of being asked each morning, "Is it dancing day today?" I managed to blow Z's first dance class. I would like to blame it on the crappy directions (I should know better than to trust Yahoo Maps!), but no, it was all me.

I had planned on leaving at 5:15, but last minute piddling saw us off at more like 5:20. I decided to go ahead and follow the directions to the studio given to me by Yahoo Maps even though they seemed a little squirrelly. Turns out they sent me down a road that had been blocked off with the new loop around town, so I was forced to backtrack halfway home to get on the right track again. Arg!

Then, when I was in spitting distance of the studio, I realized that my directions did not include a street address! Ack! One panicked phone call to the hubs later, I had a street number. I walk up to the very NOT dance-studio-looking door and ring the bell. We are greeted by a chorus of barking dogs and a strong odor of cigarette smoke. Great!

Turns out, this is the home of the teacher's mother. The (not doggy or smokey) studio was two doors down. I hustled us in, about 15 minutes late. Or so I thought. I am scrambling Z out of her coat and sweats and into her skirt and ballet shoes while the other little girls are running and leaping across the floor.

I finally get her dressed and the teacher asks if Z wants to take a turn. She runs and leaps and looks totally cute, then returns to her spot on the floor. One more little girl does her thing, then, much to Z and my mutual dismay, the teacher gets out the stickers.

Class was over.

Stellar parent that I am, I got the time of the class wrong. It started at 5:00, not 5:30 . After building dance class up all week, I got my baby there just in time for the last exercise of the day. Just. kill. me. now.

She was so confused when the other girls started leaving. I felt like such a loser. I must have apologized to her 20 times. By the time we got to the car she was in tears. I SO totally have this mother business down.

In an all out bribe, we took her out for pizza and ice cream. By the time she went to bed, I think she figured that she got an okay deal. Next week, we will be waiting outside the studio door at 4:50.

But even in that brief time, there was MUCH cuteness.

While we were there, I paid for her recital costumes. Holy cats, they skin you on the outfits! But, OMG! They are SO cute. I wanted to attach a picture, but the site won't let you copy them! Darn copyright laws! They have a red sequined body suit with black and white polka dot trim. She'll wear a fringe skirt for the tap dance and a red tutu with polka dot trim for the ballet part. Nom! Must. eat. mah. baby! She is going to be beyond cute.

When she found out that I knew how to do the basic ballet moves, Z was super excited about practicing at home. Looks like I have some ballet in my future!


After a brief hiatus, 365 Days of Grace in Small Things is BACK!

Today I am thankful for:

1. That I didn't really have to go anywhere this morning in the icy conditions. Z stayed home from school and we watched movies and ate cinnamon rolls.

2. T had the day off and didn't have to work in the afore mentioned conditions.

3. How adorable Z looked in her dancing togs. LOVE!

4. A warm bed and a long nap on a co-ho-ho-old day.

5. A hubby that understands that ice cream does make things better. Both for me and Z.


2009 Challenge Update

Year of the Mom - Pass. I'm not showering every day, but I am doing better than I did last year. I even shaved my legs this week. Oooh, fancy!

Mission: Organize and Declutter - Pass. I have entered all of my household chores onto Outlook and my computer reminds me to do them each day. I know. I'm a computer geek, but it works for me.

New Me Challenge - FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! Haven't made the slightest progress - unless you count totally breaking a sweat vacuuming 40 acres of carpet.

365 Days of Grace in Small Things - Fail. Gone, but not forgotten. I will get back on that tomorrow. I did say at the outset that the days wouldn't be consecutive!

My Friend Amy's Book Challenge - Pass. I even reviewed two books!

Sound Mind, Sound Mom Book Club - Partial fail. I am reading the book, but I haven't made an appearance at the discussions.


PhotoShop Geek Out

My dad gave me my first copy of PhotoShop shortly after Z was born so that I could pump a continuous stream of baby pictures onto our family website. I don't remember which version it was, but I soon worked around the clunky interface and the non-user-friendly-ness. I figured out how to do the things I needed to do, and the other 95% of the graphic capabilities were completely wasted on me.

Then I got my new computer and installed PhotoShop version 5.0 - which isn't even the latest version! - and was blown away by ALL THE NEW STUFF. The Help on this version is much more helpful, but there is still a TON of stuff I don't know how to use.

Today, I was rummaging around the internet looking for some cool graphics for a button I am working on, and I stumbled across the COOLEST BLOG EVER. Okay, maybe it is only cool if you are a total technogeek, like me. But I thought it was awesome. The site is called Easy Elements. It a blog totally dedicated to PhotoShop tutorials, demonstrations, and FREE PhotoShop tools. Love, love, love!

I spent 20 minutes noodling around with the Brushes tutorial while I was defrosting the meat for dinner. I learned more in those 20 minutes than I have in the entire four years I have been using this program! And there was FREE stuff!

I am over the moon about having found this blog. I am such. a. geek.

1000 Words Worth a Picture?

The story you are about to read is real. No pictures were included to protect the innocent (that's you).

Picture, if you will, a pony-tailed, bespectacled, almost middle-aged roly-poly gal dressed in her underwear, a t-shirt that didn't quite reach the top of her drawers, bobby socks, running shoes, and pink rubber gloves with mod polka dot trim. Now, if that didn't make you shove a pencil into your brain, picture that gal down on all fours with her dimpled tush in the air scrubbing the shower Cinderella style.

Yep. That was me this afternoon. I was going to give the shower a quick scrub*, when I realized that the cleaner would likely bleach out the navy sweatsuit I was wearing. So I took off the sweatsuit. I was left with what I described above. When I caught sight of myself in the full length mirror, I had to laugh at myself. Now you can, too! Enjoy!

*Quick scrub my cleanser-fume watering eye! I had to soak the dang thing in soap scum remover THREE times before the shower floor was reasonably clean. My arms and hands are sore from scrubbing. Hey, I got a clean shower and a bonus upper body work out!


Z Speak

I grew up in a family where we were expected to speak grammatically and pronounce words correctly. No cutesy baby talk of any kind. (My mom was a speech therapist. Mispronunciation was like nails on a chalkboard!) My husband, on the other hand, comes from a family who embraced his every idiosyncratic utterance. To this day, they pronounce the word "turkey" as "tiktee" because that was how T said it when he was little.

The jury is still out on whether our family will use Z-isms for the long haul, but I think we probably will. Here are some of the unique phrases I heard her use today.

Mote = Remote control. I bet this one is a keeper.

Mento cheese = Pimento cheese. Her favorite lunch!

Disrepeer = Disappear. As in, "Mama, my shoes have disrepeered!"

Hand muffs = Hand cuffs. She was playing with her brothers police dress-up gear and asked if I would please open the hand muffs.

I'm sure there are others, but now that I sit down to the computer, I can't think of any more. I am equally sure I will be visiting this topic again!


Rite of Passage

When I was in fifth grade, my mom signed me up for ballet lessons. Unbeknownst to me, she signed me up because I was chubby and awkward and she thought ballet might give me some confidence. And I was going to go if I wanted to or not. The joke was on her though. I LOVED it. By the time we moved, I was taking five classes per week and dancing on pointe. (This would be before the advent of boobs and, ahem, the blubber layer before I became a round person.)

Zoe is going to start dance lessons next week. Her class will be a combination of ballet and tap with other four-year-olds. Unlike my mom, I am signing her up because I think she will love it. Everything at our house is, "Mama, watch my new running dance!" or "I have to practice my jumping dance!" I figured that was a clue that she might enjoy a more formal dance experience than jamming out to the Imagination Movers.

I took Z to get her first pairs of ballet shoes today. I can't believe my baby is big enough for dancing already. Sniff! Sentiment aside, the actual purchasing of the shoes was a bit of a trial because Z is going through a phase where she thinks shoes should not touch her feet. Anywhere. So I put these shoes on that she is positively swimming in and when I ask her how they feel, I always get the same response. "They are too small, Mama." I end up having to guess which ones are the best fit. According to the Payless put-your-foot-in-the-right-sized-hole sizer, she is an 8 1/2. But dance shoes run small, so she ended up with 9's.

She was very excited about her new shoes and wanted to wear them to the grocery store. Can you imagine an overexcited almost-four-year-old wearing tap shoes at Wal-Mart? I shudder to think! We picked up a couple of pairs of tights and a leotard. And a little chiffon skirt that I just couldn't resist.

I am dying to dress her up in her new dance togs. Just like a dolly! They have a recital in May. I can't wait to see my baby on stage with all of the other uncoordinated pre-schoolers. I hope she loves it as much as I did.



In a departure from the last two full-of-suck posts, today I am going to write about something cheerful! Chicklette! Two months later, I finally get to hold BFF Chica's little girl. (The first time I visited her, I was outranked by a grandmother.) She is gorgeous! And tiny! It is amazing how quickly you forget how small babies are when they are new. I still think of Q as my baby and he'll be two next month! Chicklette is so small that she fits in the crook of my arm. All of her! It made my uterus ache she was so precious.

Chica and her husband, Tall, seem to be above average in the coping-with-a-new-baby department. Chicklette is an "easy" baby and is already sleeping for up to seven(!) hours at a stretch. Also, Tall is like one drop away from being a woman where babies are concerned. They really do split the work down the middle. Wow. I wonder what that is like! On my last visit, he was holding Chicklette when I got there, passed her to me, made dinner for all of us, then fed Chicklette and put her to bed. OMG, I think that one sentence contained more domesticity than T has managed in the entire five years of our marriage!

Anyway, the visit was lovely. Chica is SO happy - if a little tired! I'm surprised I didn't sniff all of the (red!) hair right off of her head. Gotta love that new baby smell! And the teeny tiny butt! LOVE! And the perfect little baby Flintstone feet! Nom, nom, nom! Must. Eat. That. Baby.


For Sale: One Kid. Defiant. Mouthy. (written on 1.15)

I am glad to see the sun go down on this day. It was a LOOOONG drive to the ranch, made longer by Z’s near constant refrains of “I’m hungry” and “How much longer?” interspersed with seat kicking and “I want to get OOUUTTTT!”

Holy Hannah, I don’t know when I’ve seen so much blatant defiance radiating from one kid. She would say for the millionth time, “When can we eeeaattt?” and I would tell her that we would eat when we got to the next stopping place. Ten seconds later, “I want to eeeaatttt!” but if you offered her a sandwich, she would immediately backtrack and say she wasn’t hungry. She wanted a cookie.

She objected to every suggestion/request/order/command that was given to her by any adult in the car. The blatant disrespect she showed her grandmother – who allowed it! – made me see red.

In my former life as a teacher, I could handle anything but outright defiance. If a kid looked me in the eye and flouted my authority, I would see red and get. Really. Scary. Kids did not often defy me. Interestingly, I was not a yeller. I ran my classroom without raising my voice except on rare occasions.

Somehow in becoming a parent I have completely lost my how-to-deal-without-losing-my-shit gene. Outright defiance is a daily occurrence at our house. As is yelling and ever escalating consequences. My child has NO fear of any outcome of her behavior and would rather do what she wants and take the punishment than live within our family’s fairly easygoing boundaries. No amount of discussion/persuasion/consequence seems to make a dent in her hard little head.

I know that she is a precocious three-year-old and not an entirely rational being, but I just don’t understand her drive to have her way and damn the consequences. Why can’t she see how much more pleasant her life would be if she would just do what she’s asked/stop hitting her brother/stop breaking everything she touches? Why?

As I said, I am glad today is over. Maybe tomorrow she will be over what ever bee she had in her bonnet today. Man, I hope so.

Mama Jeckyl, Mrs. Hyde

If you have spent any time around here, you know that housework is not my strong suit. For me it is an endless uphill battle: me versus the marauding hordes of dirty dishes, towering piles of laundry and tumbleweeds of dog fur. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to keep up with it all - not that I would - and most of the time I'm okay with that. Then one day, I'll get caught up in a fit of industry that would make your head spin. Today was one of those days.

Kitchen - from such a mess I wouldn't let anyone see it to so clean you could do surgery on the counter top.

Laundry - Every stitch washed. Most of it folded.

Attic - Christmas boxes (finally) put away instead of making our hallway a fire hazard. (I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't get our Christmas lights down until this morning either.) Christmas bags and boxes reorganized. Then for good measure, I rearranged the attic so we could actually get to our stuff.

Dinner - Wholesome and from scratch.

Living room - No stray Little People to be found.

This all sounds great, but nothing comes for free. The price my family pays for my productivity is that I morph from lazy-laid-back-sloth-Mama to scary-screamy-stabby-Mama. I may or may not have screamed at my two-year-old until my head spun around for climbing into the laundry basket with the clean clothes. I may or may not have delayed feeding my oldest child until I had disinfected every surface in my kitchen. I may or may not have had violent thoughts about my husband for even entering the (poorly designed and easily crowded) kitchen. Good times.

Surely there is some happy medium between slovenly and psycho. I have yet to find it.


Blog Addiction

74%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

I don't know about you, but it takes me a while to get back into my groove after returning home from traveling. Yesterday, I was so busy catching up on Button Box correspondence, that I completely forgot about Critical Mass! Sacrilege!

So today, I am easing back into the blogging pool with a silly graphic. 74% doesn't seem too obsessive, does it? How obsessed are you?


Back from Nowhere (originally posted 9.7.08)

I married into a family of latter day gypsies. We spend what little time off we have traveling from place to place throughout the state, never staying anywhere (including home) for very long. I have just returned from our monthly trip to the family ranch in the middle of Nowhere, Texas.

It is a long boring drive. Have I mentioned that portable DVD players are a gift from god? Laaa! (That was the angels singing.) The purchase of the DVD player has allowed us to keep our total number of children at 2 by preventing me from killing my firstborn after she asks, "Is this Grandma's road?" or "What number will it be when we get there?" one too many times. We pop on Finding Nemo or Lilo and Stitch (aka: baby crack) and, TAH-DAH! up to two hours of relative peace and quiet. Lest you think I am a cold and heartless mother for not wanting to hear my daughter's sweet voice, bear in mind that it is a six hour drive from Small Town to Nowhere - one way. And that we spend, on average, 20 hours per month driving off to Somewhere Else (not including tooling around town, of course). As an added bonus, the movies give me a chance to actually finish a conversation with T, which is a rarity given the weird schedule cops keep.

This is all a long lead up to why I haven't posted lately: I was in the middle of Nowhere with no phone, cable or internet. Eek! What we did have? lots of fine red dirt that permanently stains clothes, herds of deer (including little tiny spotted fawns!), catfish so large they are practically evolving into land mammals right in front of your eyes and so fruitful that you could almost walk across the pond on their backs, snakes (!), bulls who were always, ahem, WAY too glad to see me, and many, many 4-wheel drive vehicles. We also had my in-laws (LOVE!) and the entire herd of dogs from biggest to smallest.

The best part about visiting the ranch is all of the animals. This ranch is primarily for hunting (we are raging carnivores. Get over it.) and the diversity of wildlife is amazing. There are deer, wild turkeys (who are much smarter than you would think), dove, duck, quail, armadillos, foxes, bobcats and coyotes. If you can eat it, my husband will shoot it (not that we eat armadillos, foxes, coyotes or bobcats). I'm not too wild about game birds, but deer are just good eats. (I have no part in the transition from woodland creature to table food and like to believe that deer just comes in the nicely shrink wrapped package.) There are also cattle. The ranch is used as a nursery in the spring and the calves are just adorable. Another great thing about the ranch is that my mom-in-law is the uber grandma and allows me to sleep past the crack of dawn and to eat an entire meal without getting up from the table.

On the down side, there is no phone, cable, or internet. And lots of the "fun" stuff to do at the ranch is remarkably like manual labor: filling feeders, building blinds, maintaining T's fleet of ancient Jeeps. And of course, the demands of parenting are all still there, minus the conveniences and schedules of home. Ack! Z is wired for sound from the moment we arrive until days after we get home, fueled on Grandma's cookies and staying up past bedtime. Q sleeps the whole drive there in preparation for never sleeping again once we arrive. T and his dad do everything together, totally getting on each other's nerves by the end of the visit, which sends his mom into a tailspin. By the time we leave, T is grumpy, the kids are whiny and we have a six hour drive ahead of us.

I am glad to be home.


Good Thing She's Cute (originally posted 12.5.08)

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the carpet's so delightful.
Since I know that you love me so,
On the rug, on the rug I will go.

Now that winter has officially begun here in Small Town, the indoor peeing season is upon us. Izzy, the smallest/fattest dog in our herd, is what we like to euphemistically call unreliably house-trained. Her little Pomeranian self is very low to the ground and she really prefers not to have anything brushing her underbelly. God forbid she should get cold or wet!

I guess she is smarter than we are, because every summer we think, "Wow, she's doing really well. I haven't seen a puddle in the house in weeks!" We pat ourselves (and Izzy) on the back and hand out lots of treats as she trots out to the short, dry grass to do her thing. Then, at the first cold snap, Izzy says, "Um, I think I'll just stay in here and pee on the nice wool rug, thanks."

We are SO trashing that rug when we move.

You would think, what with us being at the top of the food chain and all, that we would be able to outsmart (or at least out wait) one tiny little fur ball. You would be wrong. She is wily. At all of eight inches tall, she disappears behind a bush, the retaining wall or a particularly lush (read: unmowed) clump of grass. We go out with her and hang around until all the other dogs have done their thing - or until our lips turn blue and our feet freeze to the deck - and (stupidly) assume that Izzy has, too.

We'd just leave her out there and come back into the house, but out here in the country there is the very real possibility that something could EAT her. (I know for a fact that we have a pair of large owls in the woods behind our house and coyotes are regular visitors to our area. I'd way rather bust out the Nature's Miracle that spring for (another) dog casket. (We lost Izzy's sister when I was seven months pregnant with Z. Horrible. But that's a post for another day.)

So I am resigned to cleaning up puddles until it gets good and warm again. At least she confines herself to one rug in one room. Blah. It is a good thing Izzy is so cute. Otherwise she would make a fine slipper.


Greetings from Green Acres (originally posted 9.15.08)

Can't sleep. Cows too loud. Seriously.

Oh, and there is frog p*rn going on in my swimming pool. I've gotten into the habit of flipping on the pool light when I take the dogs out for the last time just to see what late night partying might be going on in the pit of despair. On stage tonight: two frog couples swimming in a synchronized water ballet of procreation, both with a tiny little guy frog on top, desperately clinging to a giant frog gal's back. So I guess ship size... ocean motion... well, you know. It is kind of like watching a live nature documentary. Only with more money shots.

Frogs 3 - Rae Ann 0 (originally posted 8.31.08)

Ah, young love. Apparently, my pool is the lovers' lane of the frog world. When I went out there this morning, there were three more clumps of eggs. Sucker that I am, I scooped them up and took them to the pond. Somehow I feel like I am singlehandedly reversing survival of the fittest. Or, given that they were spawned in a fully chlorinated swimming pool, perhaps I am helping to create the X-Men of the frog kingdom. Yay! Mutant frogs! And I am their queen!


Frog Rescue - Complete (originally posted 8.30.08)

I live in Small Town, Texas. Actually, I live out in the county near Small Town, Texas. There are woods. And pastures. And all manner of critters, both wild and domesticated. Behind our house, we have what we fondly refer to as the pit of despair: an in-ground swimming pool. Since we bought our house in 2004, we have had to replace the pool pump three times. We are on a first name basis with the nice folks at the pool store. T keeps threatening to blow it up after the next malfunction (he's that kind of guy).

Anyhoo! Frogs. Last summer while we were gone to Colorado for three weeks, pool pump number three died. We returned home to a green lagoon teeming with wildlife. Specifically, frogs, from tadpoles on up. Hundreds of them. And mosquitoes! A 20,000 gallon vat of West Nile Virus! Yay!

I called my home-schooling friends and invited them over to catch tadpoles for a hands-on lesson of metamorphosis, then I called the pool people. They said they would send a guy out to take care of it. Imagine my surprise when I get home from the grocery store the next day to see the pit of despair has gone from swampy to foamy(!).

The pool guy had come and fixed the pump and dumped some, I don't know - Agent Orange, maybe? - in. Oh, the humanity! It was a freaking frog holocaust. I totally wig out and scoop out as many as I can and rinse the frog death off of them in the baby pool. I saved maybe a dozen or two. The rest died a terrible death there in the pool and had to be scooped out of various pool orifices. So. much. trauma.

When we returned home from Colorado this summer, the pool was, predictably, green. And this year? Giant clumps of frog spawn (eggs). So before I called the pool people, I go on a frog rescuing mission. Because I? am humanitarian (amphibitarian?).

With my tiny aquarium net, I scooped out three groups of eggs, put them in a pitcher (ew! Bring on the bleach!), and drove them to the nearest pond, which, this being the country and all, was not very far. I released them and thought my duty was done. There was much patting of my own back and congratulating myself on averting another massacre.

Then today Z and I go out for a swim. She is paddling around on her little float and says, "Look, Mama! A tiny little frog!" And so it was.

Further inspection found it to be several tiny frogs, another clump of eggs, and a pair of giant frogs getting it on in the skimmer basket. Whee! Out came the tiny net, lather, rinse repeat. I am hoping that this will be the last round of frog refugees I have to transport. But if not, I have a net.


Critical Mass (originally posted 8.28.08)

Critical Mass Perhaps this post should be subtitled "Critical of My Ass" since weight loss is a major motivator for this blog?

So here's the thing: my feet hurt. A lot. And what athletic thing did I do to injure said feet? Well, I have a gold medal in emotional eating, silver medals in watching an embarrassing amount of television and finishing up my kids' meals, and finally a bronze medal in never losing my baby weight. In short, my feet hurt because I got fat.

Now I am not a willowy kind of gal under the best of circumstances, but someone who is 5'3" should not be this round. At my fittest, I was what my grandmother called "sturdy." Think the cheerleader at the bottom of the pyramid. That was me. I aspire for that to be me again - sans polyester miniskirt and matching bloomers.

What I really want is to set a good example for my daughter, Z. She is three and a half, totally precocious and way too observant. I know that I learned my lessons about food at my mother's knee and want the example I set to be somewhat less neurotic. (Totally a post for another day!) I am striving for a healthier lifestyle, not just a diet. You know, one that includes fresh vegetables and more exercise than walking to the kitchen to fill a sippy cup.

In keeping with this desire, I have joined Weight Watchers Online. I would like to go to WW Live, but in the small town where I live, there are only two meetings per week and I can't swing the child care. As it turns out, the interface with WW Online appeals to my inner computer geek and has totally kept me on track so far. I plan to lose around 60 pounds. I am trying to hit the gym more regularly. You would think that chasing after two kids under the age of four would be enough exercise for anyone. But somehow, I have managed an economy of movement to rival a three-toed sloth, so it is into the pool for me.

So far, so good. The picture was taken at the end of my mountain vacation this summer (the pink and green looked a lot cuter when I was wearing the jacket). That was my starting point. I'll put up other pictures as my weight loss progresses. Three pounds down, 54 to go!


Budding Sense of Humor

Z and I were in her rocker reading The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, and the conversation turned to wolves.

Z: Are there wolfs (her pronunciation) in my woods?
Me: No, we don't have wolves in this part of Texas. We do have coyotes.
Z: What's a coyote?
Me: Kind of like a wild dog. Bigger than Griffin but smaller than Blackie.
Z: If a big bad wolf or coyote came in my house I would run get Daddy to protect me.
Me: That would be a good thing to do, but I don't think you have to worry too much about it.
Z: Why not?
Me: Well, we don't have wild animals in the house.
Z: (a gleam in her eye) We do, too! They are called Izzy, Blackie and Griffin. They run wild through the halls! (giggle)

It was an intentional play on words. She amazes me. You know, when I don't want to throttle her!

. .. ... .... ..... .... ... .. .

We are headed out to the ranch until next Tuesday, so I thought it would be fun to re-post some of my favorite posts while I am gone. Those of you who have just tuned in can get up to speed! Enjoy!


At Least She's Honest

T came home for lunch today, and Z was literally dogging his steps and talking a mile a minute. She has recently noticed that there is a pattern to her school attendance (she's learned the days of the week) and was asking her father why she wasn't in school today. He replied, "You had to stay here so that Mama could have the pleasure of your company. Have you been pleasant company?" Without missing a beat, she replied, "No."

Delurking Day 2009

In a quest to feed my comment habit meet my readers, I am declaring today to be Delurking Day! So when you read this post (and I can see you have) you are REQUIRED to leave a comment. How totally exciting (for me)!
Just leave a comment and say hello, so I can see who is out there. I am a total comment junkie - I just can't get enough! Thanks for the blog crack giving me my daily fix!



Today I am thankful for:

1. The gorgeous Texas winter day - sunny, 50's and breezy.
2. Q waited until we were done grocery shopping and on the way to the car to melt down.
3. Two more customers at The Button Box!
4. A healthy and yummy dinner: Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole from the WW cookbook.
5. My awesome new computer... and a dad who can talk me through small glitches.

Chasing Rainbows

For a few minutes every morning, the sun is at just the right angle to shine through the beveled glass in the front door. The light makes rainbows all over the front hall. This morning, I looked up from making breakfast to see Q running from rainbow to rainbow trying to grab them in his hands, giggling all the while. He reminded me of nothing so much as a kitten pouncing on a string. Too. Cute. For. Words.


She Knows These Things

We were watching a DVD of All Dogs Go to Heaven and had gotten to the very end where Charlie is saying good bye to Anne-Marie. A blue dot of light appears and Z asked what it was.

I told her that I guessed it was an angel. She said, "No, its not an angel. She has feet. Angels don't have feet!"

Z knows these things.



Today I am thankful for:

1. MY
2. NEW
5. TODAY!!!

AND! I got my first customer at The Button Box!

Can't write more. Must set up my NEW COMPUTER! (In case I didn't make myself clear, I'm just a little excited.)



Today I am thankful for:

1. Getting to connect with my awesome neighbor - even if it was on the phone. It is amazing that we live so close but have such a hard time getting together!
2. Q slept until 9:30 this morning, giving me time to drop Z off at school, pick up a surprise doughnut for T, and watch Grey's Anatomy on Tivo.
3. Getting the email notification that MY NEW COMPUTER will be arriving next week.
4. Getting off my rear and finally getting the master bathroom put to rights. It is huge and recently got a new piece of furniture, which threw everything else into chaos!
5. All of the laundry has been put away. Just in time to start another week's worth!

My Friend Amy's Book Challenge - Poison Study Review

Here it is January 9, and I have read not one, but two books, thus fulfilling the reading requirement for My Friend Amy's Book Challenge for January. Yay me

This month I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. This a fantasy novel opens up with the main character, Yelena, in the dungeon having confessed to killing a man. She is rescued from the gallows and offered a position as a poison taster for the military dictator of Ixia.

I slurped this book down like a Sonic Coke on a hot day. I simply could not put it down. I liked the heroine because she was plucky and smart. The plot moved quickly and there were many surprising twists. Action. Intrigue. Romance. A little something for everyone. When I did put the book down - a girl has to sleep, yes? - I literally dreamed of the characters.


As a matter of fact, I loved it so much that I immediately dived into the second book in the series, Magic Study. In this book, we follow Yelena's not so easy discovery of her native land of Setia, as well as her magic skills. Again, fast paced, lots of action and never predictable.

In my life before children, I would have read these books in a single sitting. If you like the fantasy genre, I highly recommend these books.

There is a third book in this series: Fire Study. I do not have it yet, as I am too cheap to buy it in hardback. I can not wait to read it!

Snyder has also started a second series set in Setia/Ixia. The first book is called Glass Storm and is based on a character introduced in Magic Study. I look forward to many books to come. I do love a book in a series!


Blog Love

I got my very first blog award! It is the Lemonade Award and I received it because Mel from A Voice For Moms thinks I demonstrate a good attitude with my blog: if life hands you lemons, make lemonade! This is especially humbling to receive from Mel, as she is unfailingly positive and supportive even when her own life has taken a difficult turn. Thank you so much for thinking of me, Mel.

The rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Nominate at least 10 5 blogs* that show great attitude and/or gratitude.
3. Have your 10 5 pass it along to 10 5 more!
*I am a little on the shy side and worry that people I don't know well might think this was all chain-letter-y, so I reduced the number to 5.

So here are my 10 5 nominees:
  • Dodi from It's a (Dodi's) Life - She gave me my very first comment from someone to whom I was not related. Her blog makes me laugh and wish we lived in the same town.
  • Blue Violet from A Nut in a Nutshell - She always has an encouraging word when life with Z is tough. Plus, she doesn't hold my total blond moments against me!
  • Jennifer from Rundpinne - We seem to be on the same wavelength and she has given me so many good ideas for my blog.
  • Jamie from Kids... Me & RAW III - She cracks me up! Also, it was she who encouraged me to branch out and start The Button Box.
  • Dana from Cherry Soup - She was my very first follower and always has something cheerful to say.

Also? I will call this my thankful list for today. I am thankful that I stumbled across all of these lovely ladies out there in the great big blogosphere. And to Mel, who warmed my heart.



Today I am thankful for:

1. My mom-in-law putting Z down for her nap.
2. My mom-in-law watching the kids so T and I could have an actual date.
3. My mom-in-law feeding the kids dinner.
4. My mom-in-law getting the kids to bed before we returned from said date.
5. My mom-in-law cleaning my kitchen - not in a bitchy you-are-such-a-bad-housekeeper way, but in an I-love-you-and-this-is-a-nice-thing-I-can-do-for-you way.

Man, I love her.

Oh, and the date was fun, too, even if the movie (Valkyrie) was a total downer. We actually had stuff to talk about besides the kids. Huh. Guess that's why I married him!


Hide and Spank, Anyone?

Jeez Louise! Z is trying to send me to jail. I understand that she is strong willed, but I don't understand how such a smart kid consistently makes choices that make her life so unpleasant.

This morning, for example, she was playing on the floor of my office with her brother. Whenever he would reach for a toy, she would snatch it just before he could get to it, making Q howl in protest. I told her that if she did this again, she would have to leave my office and go to her spot. (I have a laminated circle on the floor at the entrance to the living room that says "Thinking Spot." That is where she goes for time outs.) Not two minutes later, Q is howling again and Z informs me, "I don't want to share." Like that is some sort of excuse for defying my instructions. So she went to her spot.

Now this next part is partially my fault. I'd sent her to her spot, but remained in my office to finish up what I was doing. When I walked into the living room, she was on her spot, but she had gathered up a bunch of contraband to take with her: a doll, the vacuum cord, and a toy suitcase. I told her to put the toys down because we don't have toys when we are on the spot. She looked my right in the eye and said, "No! I won't do it!" I gave her the choice of putting down the toys or going to her room (she hates playing by herself). I believe her response was something along the lines of "No! No! Never ever!"

I am really trying to cut down on the raised voices around here, so I took her hand to lead her to her room. She went limp, so I picked her up. I managed to make it upstairs before she managed to squirm out of my arms. I picked her back up and placed her on her bed. As I was setting her timer, she ran past me into the hall and bolted for my room. The little dickens HID from me. When I found her (she's a good hider), she got three swats on the hiney and I carted her back to her room and increased the time on the timer.

When the timer went off, she came downstairs. I asked her if she had learned anything. No response. Instead she shrilly demanded a treat. Wait, huh? I asked my question again and she said something incomprehensible in whine/wail mode. I told her that if she couldn't talk to me she would need to go back up to her room and think about it some more. At which point she started again with the "No! No! Never ever!" again. So back up to her room she went.

In total, she was up in her room for about an hour for what started out as the tiniest of infractions. Arg! I just don't understand why it has to be so unpleasant.

When I was teaching, I said the secret to classroom management was to maintain the position of head cat. You know, to let them know who was in charge. Hint: it wasn't them. My dad asked me the other day why I wasn't letting Z know who was the head cat. So I said, "Oh, I'm the head cat alright. It just isn't pretty. She is really challenging me." To which he responded, "Yeah, everyone I've talked to about it and I agree that she will be a challenge for her whole life."

Why does that feel like a life sentence?



Today was one of those days that the 365 Days of Grace in Small Things project is all about. Nothing big happened, but it was a good day. The kids had a cease fire. They both took long naps. It was rainy and gray outside, but I got to snuggle in my super comfy bed and read an AWESOME book (My Friend Amy's Book Challenge review to follow soon!).

Z came into my room about half way through nap time and asked if she could sleep in my bed with me. I was skeptical, but I said that as long as there was no talking and no wiggling she could stay with me. She promptly fell sound asleep. Z looks like an angel when she is sleeping. Griffin climbed up with us (a miracle in itself, as he has been wary of Z for her whole life) and rolled over on his back. Too. Cute. For. Words.

I looked up from my book and was overcome with a sense of well being. I have a good life. I do not love every minute of it, but it is mostly awesome.

Life is good.



Today I am thankful for:

1. Super cool bloggers who say nice things about me.
2. Naps.
3. An affinity for computers that allowed me to throw up a business website in one evening. (Woot!)
4. Christmas Crunch makes a reappearance. We had to make the second half of the batch from before Christmas so that all the cereal wouldn't go stale. Unfortunately, tomorrow when the diet is supposed to start, I won't be so thankful.
5. Adobe Photoshop. See number three.

Did I Say a Button Was Born? I Meant a Business.

After almost no consideration, I have decided to open a little side business. (Emphasis on little!) After I created a button for Jamie over at Kids... Me and RAW III, she convinced me that there might actually be people out there willing to pay me for my button making talents. Since Mama could always use a new pair of shoes, I decided to give it a go.

So if you would like a new blog button, head over to The Button Box. I work cheap! Only $7.50 for a custom blog button designed to your specifications. Quick and easy payment with PayPal! Quick turn around! (Do I sound like an infomercial, or is it just me?)

If I see you at the Button Box, I'm sure it will be a pleasure doing business with you!


Good News. Bad News.

I was reading an article in a parenting magazine this afternoon about the exact behavior issues that Z is having right now. The good news? Z is way ahead developmentally. All of this back talking/name calling/boundary testing is right on track for a 5-YEAR-OLD. The bad news? Apparently she skipped right over the friendly fours and went right for the fearsome fives.

Uh, yay?


Today I am thankful for:

1. Vets, particularly my vet, that are open on Saturdays. Blackie, the lab, has been licking her unmentionables non-stop. Blech. I was afraid that it was something dire, but she just needed to have her glands expressed. Again, blech. But at least it was cheap to treat!
2. Da Vinci diet vanilla syrup. It makes a plain coffee or coke taste like a treat.
3. Blowing bubbles. It never fails to lift my spirits to see all of those bubbles floating on the breeze. It is fun to watch the kids blow them, too.
4. Nap time. Z's in particular, today, but any nap at any time is a good thing.
5. Having the Christmas tree out of the living room. It makes it seem like a whole new room - especially with T's recliner replacing my beloved leopard chaise. (I didn't get rid of it. It just moved upstairs to our room.) Now if I could just get rid of all the pine needles, I would be set!


Oh, Yeah. Thankful.

Whoops! In all of the excitement of the holidays - ironically, the time of the year to be most thankful - I dropped the 365-Days-of-Grace-in-Small-Things ball. But I'm back! And more thankful than ever!

Today I am thankful for:

1. T letting me go back to sleep for an hour this morning, then letting me sleep for three hours instead. I lurve him.
2. Z's preschool being open today so I could send her to school and not have to sell her on eBay (she is having a most unfortunate phase right now).
3. That Griffin, my male Pomeranian, has seen the light and is no longer trying to eat the children. In fact, today he growled at one of the other dogs who was trying to horn in on his pats from Z.
4. The nebulizer that helps my baby boy breathe better. He has a chest cold that just won't let go and might be trying to morph into something more menacing.
5. Flavored, diet, instant tea. (I know, SO trailer park! But I love it.) Particularly a peach and lemon combo.

And a bonus number 6! That someone saw my button and paid me a HUGE compliment.


A Button is Born

I finally got around to making a Critical Mass button. If you are interested in a button exchange, grab the code from my left sidebar. I've been trolling for buttons all day. I added buttons from the blogs I follow in the left sidebar. I'm such a dork. While I did manage a shower today, I almost missed my opportunity because I was noodling around on the computer during the precious time both of the kids were sleeping. Maybe that is the problem I should focus on fixing this year!

Resolution 2009

I guess it wouldn't be the New Year without resolutions. I've got all the usual suspects lined up: lose weight, exercise more, be a better wife and mother. I've made some or all of these resolutions for as far back as I can remember. And yet, here I am weighing in at almost as much as I did when Q was born(!). As a matter of fact, the only resolution I have ever kept was one I made 13 years ago to take vitamins.

So what is different this year? I have enlisted help. My friend Dana over at Cherry Soup is sponsoring The New Me Challenge 2009. I have signed up and I think that the support of bloggy friends will help keep me on track. Health management through shame? I like it! I am planning on checking in on Mondays with a diet/exercise/weight loss report. I hope to lose the 60 pounds that inspired me to start this blog, but I would be quite pleased with even half of that (that would put me back at my wedding weight. Not slim, but much healthier).

I am not proud. I will take whatever help I can get. Weight Watchers for sure. I am not opposed to supplements. I have a few in mind, but I'll take suggestions if anyone has any. I saw an infomercial (I know!) for something called a Full Bar that made sense to me. Or maybe I'll just eat less and exercise more. That would certainly be revolutionary!

I'll start on Monday. Because, you know, all diets start on Monday. At my house, anyway.

Happy New Year!

Have you had your black eyed peas? If not, eat up! You wouldn't want to start the year without a hefty helping of luck! I grew up eating black eyed peas and cornbread for dinner every New Year's Day. It wasn't until I was out of college that I accumulated a whole New Year's good-luck-mojo meal.

One year I went to visit my grandmother over New Year's and she added quite a few things a few things to the must-have menu. So, black eyed peas for luck. She said that you needed to eat cabbage for folding money and carrots for coins. Lastly, you needed poppy seeds for health. So I have developed a menu that incorporates all of them. My in-laws refer to it as my 'special New Year's meal.'

The menu? Black eyed peas with ham, coleslaw with cabbage and carrots with lemon poppyseed blossoms for dessert. This isn't a cooking blog, but I just can't help myself. Here are the recipes.

Rae Ann's Healthy, Wealthy and Lucky New Year's Meal

Black Eyed Peas - Cover one pound of frozen peas with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then turn down to a simmer. Add one chopped onion, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic, 1 cup of salsa. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the peas get soft, about 45 minutes. Add one boneless ham steak , cubed, and simmer until the ham is hot. We usually eat it with corn bread. I like mine with ketchup, which my parents consider heresy.

Coleslaw - This recipe is all about the dressing. It is neither too savory nor too sweet. Mix together half a cup of Miracle Whip, 2 tablespoons sugar, two tablespoon apple cider vinegar, a generous dash of celery seed, a teaspoon salt, and a dash of pepper. Mix with a pre-bagged shredded cabbage with carrots. Or to be true the the coin part of the luck, cut carrots into thin coins. Toss together. I usually serve the dressing separately so you can put as much or as little as you like on it.

Lemon Poppy Seed Blossoms - This is a modification of a recipe from Paula Deen that you can find here. The original recipe calls for yellow cake mix and instant lemon pudding, but I have a hard time finding that at the store, so I changed it to lemon cake mix and white chocolate pudding. (I love lemon and white chocolate together!). Mix the mixes, 4 eggs, and 3/4 cups of vegetable oil and one and a half tablespoons of poppy seeds until smooth. The batter will be very thick. Fill muffin tins half full. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes for small muffins and 20 minutes for regular sized muffins. They are yummy on their own, but it is the glaze that makes them amazing. Mix 4 cups powdered sugar with 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, the zest of one lemon, 3 tablespoons water and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. While the muffins are still warm, dunk them in the glaze with a fork, covering all surfaces. The glaze will harden in about an hour. This glaze is to die for. I could eat it by itself.

Enjoy! I hope that your new year is filled with luck, wealth, and good health!