Monday, June 30, 2008

Grocery Game Update......Week 3

Mary Ann asked for an update, so I am happy to give one. Although pretty soon you might be begging me to just shut up already; once I start talking about the Grocery Game, I have a hard time stopping.

So first of all: My totals for this week were good. I went to two different stores, spent $60 total and my house is bursting with stuff. I got several items for free, and several more for nearly free. It was really great!

Second of all: I am really getting my system down. I've figured out which cashiers are the nicest, what time of day is best to hit the store, how many papers to buy, and how to organize my coupons. More on that later.

I also wanted to address the fact that the Grocery Game is NOT for everyone. If you
a) stick to organic, fresh, healthy foods
b) don't want to clip coupons or
c) don't have the time to grocery shop

then you are not going to find a lot of success with the program. It's not like the list is filled with junk, but you will definitely find more convenience foods than fresh foods. Although I have had several kinds of produce on my list each week (watermelon, kiwis, grapes, etc) and a few organic items. But not enough to feed a whole family. If you don't have the time/energy/motivation to clip coupons and grocery shop, you might have a hard time as well. I currently spend about an hour each week clipping and organizing, and an hour-ish grocery shopping.

BUT....even if you don't want to do it for the groceries, you should consider adding JUST a drugstore like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc because you can really get fantastic prices on home and beauty products (some even free). It may be worth it just for that reason alone! And don't be afraid to try a store you don't usually shop at. The main grocery store on my list was Albertson's, which I do not usually shop at. BUT...they have great rock bottom prices, a good coupon policy, and mostly friendly cashiers and managers.

Ok, so now more on how I do things.....

-I buy four newspapers. I also get 3 additional coupon inserts from family members, and can usually find one or two sitting on an abandoned table at Starbucks or McDonalds. Each $1.50 paper has anywhere from $20-50 dollars of coupons inside.
-I go shopping on Sunday morning, and I tend to go to young male cashiers, or friendly older ladies. They just seem to get excited with you when they see your final total and your full cart.
-I have a coupon binder I use to organize and sort all of my coupons (more on that tomorrow....). I take it with me to the store so I can have all my coupons at my fingertips.

This weeks totals:

Shelf: $150
Out of Pocket Price: $60
Savings: $90 or 60%

Man Beans

Some kids don't like veggies. It's a fact. Some moms worry about this, some moms don't.

One of my monkeys really enjoys vegetables. She likes carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc, she mostly likes them raw though. The smaller monkey hates veggies, but hey whatev. I try to plan my meals with lots of veggies and make them tasty.

But the hardest part of my vegetable mission is getting The Hubs to eat something green. He really does not like vegetables. He will eat them occasionally, but he is more of a meat and taters kind of man.

Last week we had green beans, just boring ol' ones from a can. The girls and I like beans, so we just eat them plain. But The Hubs would rather stick a sharp knife into an electric socket than eat plain green beans.

So I butched 'em up. Fried some bacon and cut it into thick chunks, added that to the pan, a splash of Tabasco sauce, lots of salt and pepper, then drained off the water and sprinkled pepper jack cheese on them. Seriously, it looked disgusting, so don't think I am recommending this for a tasty side dish. But he ate it. He ate all of it (after a gentle scolding from me).

It's a sad day when I have to smother healthy food with fat/cheese/spice for my husband to even glance at it. Meanwhile my kids had finished their plain portions and were asking for more.

After washing the dishes and heading to bed, I laid there wondering if I was his mother or his wife. After a little contemplating I decided that I was NOT his mother because that would be just...well...sick.

Beans, beans the magical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel,
So lets eat beans for EVERY meal!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Burgers, Fries and a Shake

Tonight we indulged in big, fat, juicy burgers, a generous helping of fries, and thick, sweet shakes. It was the yummiest meal I've enjoyed in a long time.

And the healthiest.

Yes, you read that right. Our entire dinner tonight was nutritious and DELICIOUS!


-Lean ground turkey, a small sprinkle of salt and pepper, and McCormick's burger seasoning
-Done just like regular burgers, shape turkey into patties, cook over grill, or on stovetop. I just used a big skillet and cooked ours inside since it is rainy today.


-Sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into fries. Shake in a bag with seasonings (I used a little bit of seasoning salt, crushed red pepper, black pepper) and a few sprays of cooking oil (The original recipe calls for oil, but I subbed non stick spray and found the results were great!)
-Laid out on non-stick sprayed cookie sheet and stuck in 350 oven for 45 minutes, turning once.


-1/2 a bag of whole, frozen strawberries. 2 cups of skim milk, blended together. More or less depending on thickness preferences.
-I also add a scoop of sugar free strawberry jam, which adds just the touch of sweet strawberriness!
*You could totally add in bananas, kiwi, peach, etc.


Reduced fat cheddar atop our turkey delights, fresh baked whole wheat buns from our grocery store's bakery, thick slices of juicy tomato, and fresh, crisp lettuce leaves.

Seriously, I was in heaven. Super super yummy, not dripping in fat and calories like it would be from a fast food joint, and the kids dug into their plates!

**Another Kid-Friendly Tip: Deconstructed burgers. Seriously! Neither of my kids will eat a burger if it is in traditional burger form (ya know.....bun, meat, bun) so I deconstruct. They get half of a hamburger bun, cut into chunks, 1/4 of a patty, again in chunks, some shreds of lettuce, a slice of cheese, and chopped tomato. Ketchup on the side because when you are a kid, everything pairs well with ketchup. They eat way more than they would if they were looking at just half a burger on their plates.

So seriously, if you are looking for a healthier alternative to the burger/fry meal, you gotta try this! The shake adds just the touch too, it made the entire meal a real treat for my whole family.

Lastly, because of my new Grocery Game skills, my entire meal costs $9 (everything was sale, clearance, or couponed!), so $2.25 per person. Try that at your local restaurant!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


It's blogging tradition to post one hundred little factoids about yourself on your 100th blog post. Since I don't like following rules, I am posting 99 things about myself on my 99th post! I can't believe it took me a year and a half to blog one hundred times. I kept taking long breaks and I messed with the 'flow.' Ready?

1. I was four months pregnant when I got married.

2. I was only 18 when I got married.

3. Everyone thought we wouldn't make it more than a year.

4. We will celebrate four years this summer.

5. I have a broken back, literally.

6. My doctors don't know how I fractured my vertebrae.

7. I was 3 days overdue with my first pregnancy, and 6 days overdue with my second.

8. I didn't experience heartburn until I was 19.

9. I thought I was having a heart attack.

10. My hubby and I were friends with 6 other couples when we were first wed.

11. 5 of those couples are now divorced.

12. My best friend was 9 months pregnant at my wedding. I was 8 months pregnant at her wedding.

13. I hate my name.

14. I read a new book every other 2 days.

15. I often stay up until 1 or 2 AM reading.

16. Last night I read a 250 page book in one sitting.

17. No, I don't consider myself a geek.

18. I sleep alone since DH works graveyard shift.

19. When he sleeps with me on the weekends, I feel cramped even though we have a king sized bed.

20. My first kiss was during spin the bottle.

21. My first real kiss was behind a church.

22. I went to church five days a week during my junior high years.

23. I went to Disney World in 6th grade with a group of friends. We won a creative acting competition and got to compete at Nationals.

24. That was my first time on an airplane.

25. While I was gone my sister got engaged.

26. I have one niece and one nephew, and one more nephew on the way.

27. I would be terrified to have a son.

28. If we ever have a boy, he won't be circumsized.

29. If I won the lottery I would have as many kids as I could.

30. I rarely listen to music.

31. I drive a Durango that gets horrible gas mileage.

32. Every time I fill up my gas tank I nearly vomit.

33. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment approximately the size of a cardboard box.

34. Our rent is DIRT. CHEAP.

35. I enjoy cleaning the bathroom.

36. I've never spanked a child.

37. I was an honor student by day.

38. And a total party girl by night.

39. I didn't shoplift as a kid or teen.

40. I've shoplifted as an adult.

41. I'm allergic to bananas and all kinds of metal.

42. I've never been stung by a bee.

43. I might be allergic to bees.

44. I was assistant manager at two different jobs by the time I was 16.

45. I dated the same guy from 8th grade to 11th grade.

46. He just recently got out of prison.

47. I was friends with pretty much everyone in high school.

48. I have been in too many car wrecks to count.

49. I was voted "Most Likely to Wreck the Driver's Ed Car" in junior high.

50. I hopped a curb in the driver's ed car 2 months later.

51. I still have problems figuring out left from right.

52. I had an eating disorder for many years.

53. I think NASA and the space program is a waste of time and money.

54. I could easily eat hot and fresh French Fries for every meal for the rest of my life.

55. The smell of pickles makes me sick.

56. I decided to use my children's real names on this blog.

57. I am going to school to be a high school geography/social studies teacher. Or an English teacher.

58. Although I really want to be a high school counselor.

59. I went on vacation with my family to Northern Idaho when I was 4 months pregnant with my first daughter.

60. I threw up on the airplane.

61. I haven't been on an airplane since.

62. I had severe post partum depression after my second daughter was born.

63. I have thousands of freckles.

64 . I tried to count them once and got to 200 just on one leg

65. I get sunburns really easily.

66. I love to cook and bake.

67. I enjoy doing homework. And taking tests.

68. I love love love scrapbooking.

69. My favorite number is 11.

70. I am a total homebody.

71. I feel guilty all the time over stupid little things.

72. My favorite two TV shows are Friends and ER.

73. My sister is my best friend.

74. I am the complete opposite of my sister.

75. I grow my nails long.

76. And then go on a biting frenzy and chew them down to nubbins.

77. Although I told everyone I wanted to have a boy, I really wanted my second child to be another girl.

78. I have really intense dreams.

79. I know a little bit about a lot of things.

80. But I know nothing about cars, science, technology and electronics.

81. I type 85+ words per minute.

82. I'm a HORRIBLE housekeeper.

83. When the kids spend the night with my in laws or parents, I sleep until noon.

84. I have a bleeding disorder, my blood does not clot properly.

85. I have been life flighted before.

86. I love learning about other cultures.

87. I am a Democrat.

88. I am a total cheapie, I never buy name brand things.

89. I love yard sales, but not when I have to drag my kiddos along.

90. I can name 140 of the world's countries in five minutes.

91. I love watching documentaries.

92. I'm scared of change.

93. My favorite holiday is Christmas, followed by Thanksgiving.

94. I am named after my paternal grandmother.

95. I'm a total procrastinator.

96. I worked at Dairy Queen through most of high school

97. I gained sixty pounds during my first pregnancy.

98. I am addicted to sunflower seeds and caffeine.

99. I rarely wear shoes.

Thanks for reading! Cheers to 99 more!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Great Grocery Game Experiment

I've been hearing about the Grocery Game for awhile now. At first I thought it was a game show like Supermarket Sweep. Remember that show? I just loved watching the people racing around the stores piling expensive things in their cart and solving peanut butter related riddles.

But after asking a few questions and utilizing my brain (read: Google) I discovered that the Grocery Game is a coupon/sale tracking program.

Eh...not for me. First of all, I shop cheap (say that five times fast!). Really, I stalk the clearance sales, we don't do name brand stuff, and we go without luxuries (who needs that silly old TP anyway?). So when I checked out the message boards on the Grocery Game website, I was still skeptical. Most of the coupons and sales were on name brand items, and some of the boasted savings just didn't seem, well, believable.

But it was only a dollar for a four week trial so I decided to grudgingly fork over a buck (I'm serious, I really am that cheap!) and try it out.


How it Works:

You get a list of stores in your area (drug stores and grocery stores). Each week you receive a list of all of the sales in the stores, both advertised and unadvertised. Teri (the creator) matches up the store sales, the store coupons (which you can get in weekly fliers) and manufacturer's coupons (which you can find in the Sunday paper, or through coupon clipping services).

What you have to do:

When you get your Sunday paper, clip the heck out of the coupons. You can also buy extra papers, or beg some off of your neighbors/friends. Print out your Grocery Game list, organize your coupons for the trip, and head to the store. After you have picked out your items, hand your cashier your coupons, pay and leave. Simple as pie, right? (Mmmm....pie!)

Why it's so fantabulous:

Without the grocery game, you go to the store and find a store brand toothpaste on clearance for 94 cents. That's a fantastic deal, so you snatch it up!

Now, with the grocery game, Teri already knows that toothpaste is going on clearance, AND she knows that there is a $1 coupon in your Sunday paper. So you get a tube for free. BUT...then you ask for your neighbor's and your grandma's coupon inserts and get THREE free tubes of toothpaste so you can stockpile for the next few months.


So, after reading the rules and going through my list, I had a pretty good idea of how it worked and what I needed to do. I also dug through my grandparent's huge stack of used papers that hadn't gone out for recycling yet. I scored dozens of coupons from past papers, some really valuable!

This week I got:

1 box cereal

4 laundry detergents (32 loads each)

2 boxes pasta

2 power toothbrushes

2 full sized bottles of dish soap

3 boxes of kleenex

All of these items were name cost: $12.50!! This is such a huge savings because the laundry soaps alone are twice that amount (original cost).

Sooo...needless to say, I'm hooked. I really think this is going to help our family significantly this summer, what with me having to sell my kidney so that we can fill our gas tank.

If you want to join (please do!) go here and look around. The message boards have a lot of great insight too. If you decide to jump aboard, feel free to use my email as a referral (

(I just looked back through this post and discovered A LOT of parentheses (I love these things!). Sorry 'bout that!)

(Stay tuned next week for my second week of savings!)


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Crawling into my well lit cave......

Last week I aced my first Biology test, I'm talking aced.

Once the euphoria wore off and the confetti settled, I realized that I was really screwed. See, the moment after we finished that difficult test? Yep, we jumped right into the next unit which consists of blah blah meiosis blah blah and then the chromosome blah blah (at least that is what the three hour lectures sound like).

So for right now I am finishing up assignments and lab sheets, studying for a test, working on a big project due Monday, and researching all kinds of biology-related-crud on the internet.

My head is swimming with words like bacteriophage, RNA polymerase and aneuploid. Somewhere in there I am trying to figure out babysitters-vacuums-dishes-laundry-bedtime-bathtime-dinner-storytime-errands-etc. Yeah, things are crazy around here. (Although I've only threatened to throw my ten pound Biology textbook at The Hubs once today, so things are looking up!)

So I will be MIA for at least three or four days, maybe more. I really need to get a good grade in this class to keep my GPA up for more financial aid next year. College ain't cheap!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Insane Pregnancy Moments

Don't let the title fool you, I'm not knocked up, and I don't plan to be in the next 3 years or so. My two crazy monkeys keep me busy enough!

No, my family and I were reminiscing tonight about when we were pregnant, and some of the silly things we did. My sister is 7 months pregnant and is a tiny bit emotional. When I say a tiny bit, I mean a tiny bit. She also reads this blog and I really don't want to tell you how emotional she is because I am afraid it might make her bawl hysterically, so we just won't go there, k? Love you sis!

As we were talking about how funny it is that we have cried over cheeseburgers, or threatened our husbands with divorce over a dirty sock left on the floor, I had to laugh at my best(worst) irrational pregnancy moment.

I think I was in the ninth month of my first pregnancy, very large and uncomfortable. I was spending my days napping, half-heartedly cleaning, talking to my sister for hours on the phone, napping again, and watching hours of terrible daytime TV. Then, ten minutes before The Hubs would be due home, I would scramble around throwing away the empty chip bags and candy wrappers. Yeah, it was a pretty sad sight. I still can't figure out why I gained sixty pounds in that pregnancy. Hmm...

One day I was sprawled on the couch watching Oprah, when the commercial break began (pre-TIVO did we all survive???). And it hit me...I wanted muffins. I wanted muffins NOW. I jumped up (or rather..awkwardly twisted and turned my large body off of the couch) and waddled raced to the kitchen. I fumbled around in the cupboards, scrambled through drawers, and finally found what I so desperately needed. Two boxes of muffin mixes, one apple cinnamon, the other blueberry.

Now, the serious problems started. They both sounded equally delicious, but I knew I couldn't make them both. I also knew I needed to get them in the oven so I could have a fresh plate of hot muffins waiting for The Hubs when he got home. After spending an eternity changing and re changing my mind, I finally picked apple cinnamon and set to work whipping up a batch. The house was soon filled with the heavenly aroma of baked apples and sweet cinnamon. I sat cross legged on the floor watching the muffins sloooowwwlllly rise. The moment they were done I yanked them out of the oven and burned my hand slightly trying to get them out of the muffin pan and onto a plate. I was salivating, my eyes were glazed over, every bud on my tongue was screaming "I NEED A MUFFIN NOW!"

I can still feel the agony, the pain of having to wait five minutes for the muffins to cool. The first muffin was still steaming, but I couldn't wait. I think I went into a bit of trance, my memory is a little fuzzy, but one second I was delicately biting into a moist muffin, and the next second I was surrounded by a nearly empty pan and a large amount of crumbs.

I panicked and counted the last of the muffins. Four. Four? FOUR??? I ate 8 muffins in one sitting? Ok, this is not such a big deal, The Hubs will come home and enjoy the last four muffins, problem solved. But wait, he is going to see that there are only four muffins left, which means he will see that I ate eight of them.

If you have ever been pregnant, you might see where this led me. Obviously, I needed to either A) eat the last four muffins or B) throw the last four muffins away. This way The Hubs would never even know they existed, and therefore would not see that I was a total hog. The thought of throwing the four muffins away really pained me though, I just couldn't do it. So I ate them. The last few had to be nearly forced down, I was stuffed so full, but they were still soooo good.

Ok, great. The pan is washed and put away, the crumbs are swept up, everything is fine. I stepped outside to get some fresh air and walked back in to discover that baking smell I mentioned before? That wonderful sweet scent? Yeah, the house reeked of it. I could smell it from the door, it was very obvious someone had just baked something wonderful.

At this point I started crying. I just knew that The Hubs would walk in and say "Oh, you made muffins. Oh, they're gone. You ate twelve muffins. You ate TWELVE muffins?????" So I did what any irrational and emotional woman would do. I made the second batch.

And then I ate one out of that batch, just to make it look believable. Because I knew he would be suspicious if there was a fresh batch of muffins and I hadn't tried one yet.

When The Hubs came home, he gave me a quick kiss and headed for the muffin plate. I held my breath wondering if he would notice the scent of cinnamon that didn't match the blueberry muffins, or see a smudge of apple residue on my face. He grabbed a muffin, muttered "Thanks." then went to take a shower.

That night I cried myself to sleep. Partly because I was upset with DH for not praising me more for my muffin efforts, partly because I knew I was being silly. And partly because I was stuffed so full of muffins I thought I would explode.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Today I made our vegetarian meal of the week, and it was gooooooood!!!!

I made homemade Mexican pizzas, and it confirmed my decision to go vegetarian rather than vegan, as my pizzas were ooey gooey with cheese.

Cheese = Happy!

I made a version of these last year, but was not happy with them, so I just kind of winged (wung?) it with my own recipe. Very very delish!

Mexican Pizzas

8 Flour tortillas
2-3 TBSP oil (I use canola), divided
2 cans (or one large) fat free refried beans (I use Rosarita)
2 cups reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 cup salsa, any kind
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 head lettuce, shredded or chopped small
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Ok, so first add refried beans to a small saucepan, heat on low and stir occasionally. They just need to be warmed. Next, heat your oil on high in a frying pan. You really only need enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add your tortilla, fry on each side for 1-2 minutes. Stay close though, as these can burn easily. When tortilla is crispy and browned, remove from pan and put on cookie sheet, place in a 200 degree preheated oven. Fry additional tortillas (Add more oil if needed) and add to oven. This keeps them warm and prevents sogginess.

When tortillas are done, you can start building your pizza base. Pull the tortillas out of the oven and turn heat up to 350. Start with one tortilla on bottom, spread the warm refried beans on top, add a small handful of shredded cheese, then top with second tortilla. It's best to push them together so they are thin, but use a hot pad holder because they will be warm. Place the pizza base back on the cookie sheet (You can maybe fit three pizza bases on each sheet) and place back in oven. These take 5-10 minutes so while they are crisping up, prepare your toppings.

Chop the lettuce, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and grate your cheese. We skipped tomatoes because we weren't in the mood for salmonella, but next time tomatoes will add the perfect touch.

Ok, so once pizzas are out of the oven, spread the top with a spoonful of sour cream, then spoon salsa on top of that. Then add a small handful of onions, bell pepper, tomato, another small sprinkle of cheese, and lettuce on top. Feel free to mess around with the order, or omit/add anything you like. They are your pizzas, ya know?

Then I like to use a pizza cutter to split them, it makes the pizzas easier to eat. And ta da! Delicious, not all that bad for you, and sans meat...perfect meal. The only small criticism I have is that the pizzas got a little bit soggy while they were waiting for toppings, so I think next time I will fry them a little longer.

We served ours with fresh jicama. Now, I am not really a jicama person, in fact I have only had it once before, but The Hubs ate jicama as a child quite a bit. He peeled and sliced them, sprikled a little fresh lime juice over them, and added a small sprinkle of chili powder (not on the kids' plates, although both of them like spicy foods). Perfect combination of sweet, sour, and spicy.

My kids really enjoyed this, but I did omit salsa from theirs. I replaced it with ketchup, because both of them will eat anything they can dip. They both gobbled up their food and asked for more jicama, so I was happy.

Try this, and let me know what you think!!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Last night Chloe was REALLY pushing it with bedtime. She needed a drink, then she wanted another story, then she got up to tell me that her bed had a crumb in it and it was hurting her. This girl can stall like nobody's business.

So after about half an hour of catering to her every whim (I joke!) I firmly told her "If you get up again, or ask for something, you are going to lose your cartoons tomorrow." That really got her and she rolled over with her eyes closed.

I retreated to the living room where I spread out my notebook, Biology notes, textbook, and notecards and started studying. After a few minutes of quiet, broken only by the rustle of my papers, I was startled by Chloe at my side. I opened my mouth to tell her how upset I was and she put her little hand on my shoulder and said "Mommy, don't be angry. I want to say I love you and goodnight!"

I had to laugh though, hearing "don't be angry" out of her mouth was just too cute, she has never said that before. Then I walked her back to her room, gave her a kiss and a cuddle and tuck her back into bed where she went right to sleep. I am 99% sure that when she came out to the living room she was intending on using another stalling tactic, but changed her mind when she saw how "angry" I was.

After she went to bed I still had a little grin on my face. She is so witty and sweet. But the grin faded after a bit when I realized just how significant that emotion is. Anger. The word itself sounds harsh and mean. In her three year old mind, anger means Mom is upset that she won't go to bed. Or she is angry at her sister for taking her toy. Or angry at the pedal on her trike that she can't get to rotate fully. I've always tried to acknowledge her feelings, while also teaching that she needs to control herself. It's okay to be angry, but it is not okay to push Baby. It is okay to be mad, but you cannot yell at us. Etc. Etc.

So in the past year that the topic of anger has come up, I think we've done a good job in helping her express and control her emotions. And even though she feels mad several times a day, how wonderful that her anger is still innocent.

She hasn't yet experienced real fury. And she probably will, sooner than I imagine. But when is anger truly justifiable, when is it real?

In grade school when a classmate humiliates you?

In middle school when your best friend blabs your biggest secret?

In high school when that same best friend steals your boyfriend?

I can think of only two instances in which I have felt true fury, felt so completely out-of-control and filled with rage. Both times the intense emotion was a mask. A cover up for the grief.

In high school I was very close friends with a boy named Garry. Our friends all hung out together, he was the funniest guy. We partied together, we talked in the hallways, my close friend was his girl friend. Everyone in school knew him, just an all around cool guy and class clown. On January 9th, we were all shocked to hear that someone in our town had killed himself. He was a sibling of one of our friends, and quite a bit older than us. The news shocked our small town. That night I spoke with a friend on the phone and said "Can you imagine that happening to one of our friends? I don't think I would be able to handle it."

Five days later, on January 14th, I left school and went to my boyfriend's house. We called Garry to come hang out and when his father picked up the phone he was sobbing. When my boyfriend became alarmed and said "What happened????" Garry's father revealed that he had just walked in on Garry, he had killed himself.

It happened so quick. I was laughing and talking and then my world shattered and then the next moment I was walking out of the house, almost in a trance, to where Garry's girlfriend worked. I walked into the resteraunt and grabbed her hand. I was crying and couldn't choke out the words I just sobbed "Garry....Garry". It was one of the worst moments of my life.

It didn't happen that night, or the next. It was the day after his funeral that the anger hit. I was furious. Furious at some stupid boy who thought his problem couldn't be solved. Furious at a God who would allow so much suffering. Furious at myself and furious at everyone else who didn't see it. A fit of rage that left me exhausted and ragged, and feeling well beyond my 16 years, because no one on Earth could possibly feel that much pain and hurt.

The fury slowly subsided, the pain ebbed away, and the memories started to fade. Long periods went by and sometimes I thought I had forgotten what his face looked like. But I still feel a little ache, a tiny pull at a once angry heart.

Last night, after Chloe was back to sleep, and I got up to get a kleenex, my thoughts turned to the second time I felt true rage, just over two years ago. Two close friends had gone partying, they were driving too fast on too dark roads and they were too intoxicated. Even now, if I close my eyes I can hear the tires squeal and hear the screams and then hear the sickening crunch, even though I was nowhere near the horrible scene, or the lifestyle.

I worked with Bree, I partied with her, we confided in each other, we even raced our cars against each other. We went skinny dipping, we walked through the county fair laughing and joking, and we spent many sleepovers together giggling and whispering. When I decided to move away, get married and start a family, she stayed behind and continued the party life. Sometimes I envied how carefree she was (especially when I was spending my nights changing diapers). We still saw each other occasionally, and laughed over our days as crazy girls. She was so beautiful.

I knew Shanel for many years. We went to school together, hung out with mutual friends and laughed together. I still have a videotape that we made in fourth grade, so young and innocent. When I watch that tape I search her face for some clue, some hint that she wouldn't live past 18.

The fit of anger was similar, but so different. I was older, I was a little more distanced, and too familiar with grief. But I couldn't help feeling furious with Bree. What a stupid decision to make that cost her everything. It took a very long time for the anger to fade. Now I wonder if I spent too much time feeling furious, and not enough time remembering and loving.

Last night, after the second round of Kleenex's, I had to smile again at Chloe's words "Don't be angry Mommy." Her little grip on my shoulder and her half toothless smile, her bedhead and her nighttime stalling, her middle-of-the-night wakings, and naptime antics......they remind me that too much time is wasted in anger. Is it all sunshine and butterflies and rainbows? Of course not. But I cherish this time when three year old 'anger' still means a dropped popsicle or a stubbed toe.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Brooke's Best Bombshell Brownies

I discovered this recipe several months ago, and it is hands down the best thing I have ever made from scratch. I can whip up homemade noodles, I can bake a good cookie, and my cakes are light and moist......

But never before have I been able to make a really. great. brownie. I've made them all, really. Dense, fudgey, eggless, cake-like, burned around the edges, raw in the middle, flat, huge, you name it. Some have turned out good (usually the ones that originate from the box) and some have set my smoke detector off. But I really wanted a knock-your-socks-off brownie, one that was chocolatey and rich and had just the right amount of crust on the top-one that didn't require complicated methods to create. So when I googled "Best brownie recipe" at the beginning of this year, I was not let down. I discovered this recipe from All Recipes (with glowing reviews), then found that I had all of the ingredients in my cupboards.

After the brownies came out of the oven, I had an attack of the Can't-Wait-Syndrome. You know the one where you have a smoking hot dish of something that is supposed to be 'cooling' but is really wafting it's delicious aroma all over the house? And you know you shouldn't get close to it as it is about 5746 degrees hot, but you really, really want to sink your teeth into it? Even though it is about to burn off most of your taste buds? Yeah, I had that.

But these bad bombshells are worth waiting for. So dense, so fudgey, so so chocolatey. The best part is that they get better as they sit, so when you sneak out of bed at 3 AM to have a tiny snack, you will not be dissapointed. Your kids might be though, when they wake up in the morning to find you sitting on the kitchen floor, licking the crumbs out of the empty dish.

Here is the link to the recipe, you can also read the hundreds of five star reviews, some from expert chefs vowing to never try another recipe. My suggestions will follow the recipe.

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.

*Some of the reviewers have suggested substituting this insane amount of sugar with 1 1/2 cups brown, and 1 1/2 cups white sugar. Not sure what it does for the calorie factor, but it does cut the sweetness a tiny bit for those without a raging sweet tooth.

*Another suggestion is to add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. Adds just the right amount of crunch.

*If you don't like big chunks of chocolate in your brownies, you can also sub the chocolate chips for mini (also try peanut butter chips...yum!) or use your knife to chop up your chips before adding.

*And lastly, a brownie or five, goes great with a super tall glass of ice cold milk. Or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you are feeling wild.

Ok, so there you have it. As I am writing this a batch of brownies is in my oven and I am just starting to smell that "Come eat me" scent.

One more thing, even though this recipe sounds incredibly fattening and heart-disease-causing, it only has about 250 calories per serving. Ok, that is a lot if you are dieting. But really, it is not *that* much. You probably shouldn't eat the entire pan, but it's okay to indulge a little. Brooke said so!

By the way, I totally picture Brooke as a beautiful, 105 pound woman who can eat whatever she wants. Or she could be a 460 pound man who parks his recliner in the kitchen next to the oven, I don't really know. All I know is you have to try these brownies. Really, you do.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Parade of Fools.

Our annual 'Western Days' parade was last weekend. The parade is meant to celebrate our Western heritage, and each entry in the parade is supposed to be Western themed, so lots of covered wagons and horses and cowboys.

The past few years the parade has slowly become a little more, well, parade-like. As in, more marching bands, cloggers, local business floats, and candy being hurled at young children.

It wasn't really cold, but it wasn't warm either. Jackets were definitely needed.

We arrived at the parade a little too early, so both kids were restless. Chloe threw a huge temper tantrum because she wanted to sit in baby's stroller. You can see that I am very tough and never give in to her whining.

Meanwhile my mom held Alivia, who did pretty well until 2 minutes before the parade began. Major meltdown time.

Because I live in Idaho, The-Hicksville-State, we saw a group that had entered their mud covered trucks in the parade. For the sole reason of umm...showing off how dirty they were? The group does a lot of 'muddin' and I guess they wanted to show the city how classy and cool they are. Don't believe me?

And I am not even joking, there were about 10 trucks in a row that would rev their engines and fling mud as they paraded down Main Street. 80% of the drivers had a mullet and no shirt, and I am pretty sure I saw several cans of beer nestled in their laps.

It was sad. Just sad. Even worse was the group of pot-bellied rednecks lining the street that cheered "HELL YEAAAAAHHHH" as the trucks passed.

Chloe loved the horses, but was completely shocked that they were allowed to poop in the middle of the street. Every other minute she would check to make sure the poop was there, and loudly proclaim "Ewww, that's nasty. There's poop in the road. Look at that! Poop there. The horse pooped, look, look. Ewwww!" But she was secretly delighted.

After the parade we walked across the street to the city park to enjoy the food booths (hush puppies, mini donuts, elephant ears), then we all laid down and nearly died from the overload of sugar and grease. It was great!

The best part of a busy parade?

Coming home with exhausted kids.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why My 1 1/2 Year Old DOESN'T Rock!

First check out why Chloe rocks and doesn't rock the house.

And why Ali has some major rockage going on. Now here is why Miss CrazyGirl doesn't exactly rock my world.

-She has slept through the night four times in 16 months.

-She is on a MAJOR food strike.

-She hates milk.

-She tosses food all over the place.

-She throws blue-in-the-face, kicking-and-screaming tantrums several times a day.

-She jumps up in the middle of diaper changes and takes off running.

-She bites. HARD.

-She says "Baby..NO NO!" while she is doing something naughty (throwing her pacifier in the trash, pulling all the wipes out of the container, dumping out a basket of toys, etc).

Yeah, I should probably stop now, this could go on for a while.

But she is cute!

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Nearly two years ago, The Hubs and I were talking about names. He's never been the type to devour name books, make lists, or agonize over decisions, so he is darn lucky he married someone who takes care of the obsessive side of name-choosing.

We came down to three names; Alexia, Olivia, and Allison. I wanted a child that we could call "Allie" so the first and third choices were mine. He was standing firm on wanting Olivia. I wouldn't say we fought about it, but there were a few slammed doors, screaming fits, and divorce nothing major really (I joke).

Finally on November 19th, 2006, we made our decision. I remember the day so clearly because we were at my nephew's 6th birthday party. We were sitting around with our extended family, enjoying cake (well I was 7 months pregnant so I was shoveling cake in my mouth without pause) and we announced "We've decided to name the baby Alivia. You know, like Olivia with an A?" Everyone kind of smiled halfheartedly and said "Oh that's great." Although my mother made a bit of a face and asked "Really, are you sure???" My dad, the horrible speller, thought that was how it was spelled anyway. Even though we had mixed reactions, I felt good about our decision.

The thing with her name is that most people pronounce Olivia like "Uh-liv-ee-uh" and not "OH-liv-ee-uh". That is exactly how we say our daughter's name, with a soft A, so most people don't even know her name is spelled differently.

So, after she was born I settled down in my hospital bed to finalize paperwork. I poised my pen over the official sheet of paper (with one hand grasping the open front of my hospital gown so my boob wouldn't flop out) I asked The Hubs "Are you sure?" Without hesitation he said "Do it."

So she became Alivia Mae. Her middle name is mine, and it is also my paternal grandmother's (more about that later). So as I wrote the name down carefully, I felt a bit of apprehension. I was worried about her first day in school as the teacher stumbles over her name or calls her "ALIVE ee uh" or "A ummm liv ummm err ah umm" or telling strangers her nickname is Ali (like Allie, not like Muhammed) which doesn't make sense if they think her name is Olivia. Sigh.

So after all of the agonizing, worry, stress and explanations, I feel like we chose the right name.

As for what we call her on a daily basis....that's a whole 'nother post!