Friday, December 30, 2011

The Waiting (is the Hardest Part)

Griffin patiently waits for his best buddy to wake up.

Being five is hard.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gearing Up for the New Year

We had a wonderful Christmas! For whatever reason, things came together smoothly this year, so there wasn't any crazy running around at the last minute or any of that. The anticipation just about did the boys in on Christmas Eve...poor ol' Griff appeared to be in physical pain a couple of times -- he just could not stand the waiting! I am happy to report that they both survived though, and had such a fun day. Unfortunately, Camden woke up the day after Christmas sick to his stomach, but luckily it passed quickly and soon he was back to his old self. Just glad the poor thing wasn't sick ON Christmas day...that would have been a major bummer.

Santa did not bring me a new laptop, so I am still blogging via Smartphone, I fear. I really miss my computer! The impending New Year has given me the motivation I needed to do some organizing, which has been great. I have been getting rid of things I don't want or need anymore and I hope to tackle more drawers, closets, etc. in the coming weeks.

It has also dawned one that I will be turning 40 in 37 days. How did that happen?!? I am not exactly sure how I feel about it. I don't remember caring one way or the other, when I turned 30. I think somewhere around 38 I might have raised an eyebrow. I think I am mostly thinking, 'Holy cow, I can't believe I am 40!' It just seems so odd to me. The good news is, I am in better shape than I was at age 30, feel better about myself, and am more content than I have ever been before. This past year in particular has been a year of letting go -- letting go of disappointment, letting go of things and people I can't control...still a lot of work to do in that area, but it is a start. So, I suppose I am looking at the coming year as a challenge (the good kind)...with my health being at the top of the list (physical, mental, and otherwise). Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Making Progress

As you can see, a bit of progress has been made in the Roy/Smokey area. Don't get too excited though...they still spend the majority of their time wrestling and yowling. This was the first time, however, that Smokey attempted laying on the sofa at the same time as Roy. Baby steps, kitties, baby steps.

I have finally started letting Smokey outside this week. The boys are not happy about this at all, especially Griffin. He is afraid she will leave and won't come back. So far she hasn't even attempted to leave the yard. She does love it out there, though, and I am happy to report that she zeroed in on the pesky Squirrel Brothers in the blue spruce almost immediately. I hope they are shaking in their nasty little squirrel boots.

As for Riley, I don't know if he is experiencing a second wind, or if the old boy is just excited for Christmas. He has always loved a good squeak toy, and has quite a collection of them, but he stopped playing with his toys all together, a few months ago. However, for the past few days, he has been back to digging through his toy box and dragging out random toys throughout the day. It has been good to see him doing that again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blogging: Smartphone Edition

This post comes to you via my Smartphone. I am beginning to realize that my computer problem isn't going to be solved anytime soon, so I figured I had better see if I could blog from this thing. I can't believe I even figured out how to upload is crazy! Anyway, the above picture is of Camden and one of his classmates, reading instructions to their class on how to make a Christmas Cracker. The third grade classes are doing 'Christmas Around the World' this year, and his class is studying Australia. He has had a lot of fun with it. I have Pavlova baking in the oven as I type, for the feast at his school today. Then, at 3:30 p.m., we can all breath a big sigh of relief and I will probably have to sit and stare off onto space for a couple of hours! After that, the boys and I will get down to the fun stuff...getting our own family traditions in order, and get ready for the Big Day.

*Post edit: It turns out I had a crazy spelling error in the above post, thanks to Auto-correct. Unfortunately, editing is not something that is easy to do via Smartphone, and it took me about 45 minutes to finally erase that one word. So, I'm thinking that Smartphone blogging may not be for me after all! Ha!

Monday, December 19, 2011


Well I have been without my computer for a week now. The battery has not died (yet), but unfortunately we are having a modem problem, that, oddly enough, only affects my laptop. Right now I am on Steve's work laptop, which is leaving with him to go to work for the week in about 5 minutes. Boo! So, if I am not responding to email very quickly, or blogging, or any of that fun stuff, it is because I am really bad at typing on my Smartphone. I miss my computer! I may even try to get the archaic desktop working.

This week is going to be busy. I will be working at the library this morning, followed by volunteering in Camden's class. Will be doing that again tomorrow, and then he is on Christmas vacation, yay! Griffin's vacation already began last week, so he is busy chomping at the bit, waiting for Santa to hurry up and get here already. Steve has five days off starting on Friday, so we are all looking forward to a nice, long holiday weekend. Hope you all are busy with Christmas preparations and enjoying this time!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Three years ago, this week

I am getting really excited for Christmas! Thinking back, I would say that Christmas day last year was probably the most depressing day of Steve's entire deployment. Of course, I so enjoyed the boys and their excitement, but I just wanted a distraction from missing Steve. I remember we were able to Skype with him in the morning, but there was no Christmas dinner, or company, or anything like that. I remember wanting so badly for the phone to ring that day. Oh, I am so happy that is behind us! Now that we have Steve home with us, I am so eager to get back to our family traditions. We do Christmas pretty much like my parents did when I was little - - very laid back. I like to make some sort of egg casserole or cinnamon rolls the day before, so I can pop it in the oven the next morning when we get up, but not have to fuss in the kitchen. I like to stay in my pajamas as long as possible on Christmas morning, too. So, that is what I am looking forward to. So, SO happy that Steve is here with us this year to enjoy it all, too!

Speaking of Steve, he has been in Colorado this week for work. Both of the boys were pretty upset about him leaving, but I'm happy to report that they have done just fine. He is actually coming home a day early but they don't know that...can't wait to surprise them tomorrow!

Don't know exactly what happened with my Christmas shopping this year, but I managed to do 95% of it online, and I am pretty much done! I feel like I found exactly what I was looking for, for everyone on my list and it is so nice to have it done early and not be scrambling! I also tried something new and have been wrapping as I bought things, rather than leaving it all until the last minute. Should have tried this years ago! Ha!

Next week will be crazy with Cub Scouts, school festivities, baking for Steve's office party, and the like. I am hoping to get a good plan in place this weekend so I will be ready. I am itching to get baking some Christmas cookies but haven't gotten around to it yet. Anyone have any favorite recipes?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Week in Review

This week was a humdinger, to say the least. It started out like any other week really, with school, karate, and Cub Scouts on Monday. This was the first pack meeting that we were able to attend this year, and it was a lot of fun. I think we are in for a great year of scouting! By Tuesday morning, I was making a call to Riley's vet to make an appointment to have him euthanized. He is 14 1/2 years old now, and in the past 6 months his health and well-being have failed quite a bit. Over the past couple of weeks I had talked with the vet a few times, trying to decide what was best for ol' Riley. Such a hard thing to have to think about, but I also don't want to make the mistake of having him suffer. By Wednesday morning, I was driving down the vet clinic to cancel the Thursday appointment. By lunchtime on Wednesday I had called back and rescheduled it. I was pretty much a wreck. Whenever there weren't children in sight that day, I would get all choked up at the thought of Riley not being here. So Thursday came, and Steve took the morning off to offer some moral support. He took the boys to school and at 9 a.m., the vet and one of his technicians showed up. I could tell almost as soon as they came in that they were thinking maybe it wasn't such a good idea. I just love our vet - - I am so thankful for his wisdom and for how deeply he cares for animals, but also for their people. He decided to draw some blood and run some labs to see how Riley's liver function was, among other things, and we talked about a new schedule of medication that will allow Riley to sleep better at night and be more comfortable during the day. Riley still eats really well, so that isn't an issue for him.

I have to admit, when the vet said he didn't think euthanizing him was a good idea after looking him over, I felt like an awful dog mom! I struggle so with not wanting to be selfish (keeping Riley around because I don't want to let him go) and doing what is best for him. So, now Riley and I have a new lease on life. I don't know how long Riley has left, but I am going to make sure that it is high on quality. I sure love that pup, and I'm so thankful that we get to spend more time together.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Vicious Cycle

Ugh...I really dislike blogging droughts, because for me, the longer I go without writing, the harder it becomes for me to actually sit down and write. Then the day comes along where I remind myself that I only keep this blog to remember what is going on in my life and it suddenly becomes appealing again. I am just not a pressure girl...if I feel the slightest bit of pressure to do something, then I don't want to do it anymore. Mind you, my blogging pressure is 100% self-imposed, but anyway, here I am.

One of my big problems is that I feel like I have at least one picture in order to write. I'm going to try to get over that and see if I can actually produce more writing.

Another problem I am currently facing is that I am getting that message from my laptop that says, "although your battery can still charge normally, it is reaching the end of its usable life". In other words, one day soon I go to turn on my laptop and it will be dead. I have already decided No More Batteries for this sucker...they are soooo expensive and I have already been through three. So then it will be back to a 9-year-old desktop that doesn't like to blog so much.

In September, I got a Smart phone. This keeps me from even turning my laptop on, most of the time. I can quickly check email and news on it and get on with my life. So it has cut way back on my computer time, which isn't a bad thing, y'all.

Life is BUSY. After two months of relaxation and reintegration, Steve headed back to work in mid-November. This was the point in which I had some adjusting to do. I will tell you that the first week was very hard for me! It took some getting use to. I am happy to say that we are now officially back into our old groove of family life and it feels good. That being said, any spare time is consumed with karate, Cub Scouts, homework, gymnastics, and the like. But it is all good.

So, here I am, playing Russian Roulette with my laptop. Here's hoping this battery will hang on for a couple more weeks, since I am feeling a renewed sense of creativity and all. As for now, my coffee cup is empty, which means it is time to wake up some little boys and get this day in motion.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Kitchen Therapy

Butter makes everything better.

Oh goodness, my heart has been heavy these past few days. It seems my mind has been bogged down with worries that are fruitless, and situations that feel to be beyond my control. I do wish that I had that ability to look at something, place it into the appropriate compartment, and move on, but alas, I am not that good at it - - never have been. All I can do is keep trying, I suppose.

In the meantime, whenever I am feeling out-of-sorts, a bit of time in the kitchen is usually just what I need to feel like me again. I love to cook, and I love to feed people - - it makes me happy. So, this past Sunday morning, while all of my boys were otherwise occupied, I holed up in my yellow kitchen and turned a bunch of ingredients into food for my family. I made honey wheat bread. I made rosemary bread. I filled my crock pot, and set some beef stew simmering. Best of all? After ten years of marriage, I'm happy to report that I finally cracked the code to the perfect apple streusel pie, as declared by Steve on Sunday evening. The apples were soft, but not too soft. The pie sliced perfectly, with no runny mess left in the pie plate. Pie nirvana, I tell you.

Music is always an important part of a kitchen marathon. I am all over the place in that area - - I like a little bit of everything. Through the sifting, dicing, slicing, and kneading, I listened to Nora Jones, Jessie Colter, Margaret Whiting, Doris Day, Pink, Miranda Lambert, George Jones, and Justin Timberlake. See? All over the place.

When all was said and done, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders, somehow.

What do you do, when you need to reset your frame-of-mind?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Date Night: Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemon

Steve and I have never been good about making time to hire a babysitter and go out together. We don't really know anyone who babysits around these parts either, so that doesn't help. We both like to cook though, so recently we've taken to making some mac & cheese, getting a Redbox, and banishing the children in the family room so that we can have 1.5-2 hours of kid-free time to cook and have a meal together (the kind of meal that the children would most likely gag and make faces at). I'm on a personal mission to make sure we do this once a week. It will become especially important when Steve heads back to work in a couple of weeks, and the stress level around here goes from zero to about 250. Not exactly looking forward to that. But, I digress...

I think I've mentioned before that I love the magazine Everyday Food. I look forward to receiving my subscription every month, and I always end up making something from every issue. For last week's date night, I made Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemon. Below is my own adaptation of the recipe - - I made a couple of changes to suit our tastes. You can find the original recipe in the November 2011 issue, on page 16.

Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemons

10 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced crosswise in 1-inch pieces

2 large leeks (white and light green part only), halved lengthwise and sliced thin **

3/4 lb. short pasta, such as orecchiette or fusilli

2 large, fresh eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (plus more for serving)

1/2 - 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest, depending on taste. I used 1 Tbsp. and liked the flavor; Steve could have done with less lemon.

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

** Leeks can be a pain to clean. Dirt likes to hide between the layers. If you cut them crosswise, then hold on to one end firmly, you can separate the layers under running water and wash away all the grit. You can also Google "cleaning leeks" and find all kinds of different ways to clean them without a lot of effort.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel. Remove all but 2 Tbsp. of the bacon grease from the pan, and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring often, until leeks are beginning to brown, approximately 10 minutes.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Whisk in the Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove 1/4 cup of the boiling pasta water, and whisk it into the egg mixture.

Drain the cooked pasta, and immediately add to the egg mixture, along with the bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Tastes even better the second day!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Quick Trip to Maine

A few short weeks ago, my dear friend Jen's husband (hi, Chad!) contacted me, to see if there was a chance I could come to a surprise party for Jen's 40th birthday (in Maine!). I mentioned it to Steve and he thought I should just go for it. After going back and fourth for a few days about it, I found an airline ticket that would work, and started planning. It was pretty spur-of-the moment, but Jen and I have shared some unique and crazy adventures together over the years, so it all seemed fitting. It would be a weekend trip, and with two full days of travel, that left me with little more than two days in Maine, but boy, did I make the most of it!

Even though it was the quickest trip ever, I was determined to see Kate. Kate and I have known each other since the fourth grade ~ definitely one of my oldest friends. Every time I've been to Maine in the past 10 years we attempt to get together but have never been able to make it happen, so I was thrilled to see her. I got off the plane and met her for dinner (yay for real seafood!) and wish we could have spent more time together, but I sure was happy just to see her at all. Kate will most likely disown me for posting the above picture, but I'm willing to take the risk. I had to do some photo-editing because my face was so darn shiny from being on an airplane all day. Lovely! On a side note, if you've never visited Kate's blog before, do yourself a favor. Lots of creativity and dry wit. Kate, you're the best!

After dinner with Kate, I sped down to Topsham for some sleep and some time with my mother (who, I didn't get one single picture of). Next, I set off for the southern tip of Maine (more or less) and the scenic town of Wells. Somewhere between landing in Maine and arriving in Wells, I learned that Jen actually knew all about her surprise (stinker!). At least the pressure was off to make sure nobody blew my cover, and I even got to arrive a little early and spend more time with Jen.

We had a wonderful birthday dinner at Pedro's in Kennebunk, and I even got to see an old college friend (Darcey, on the left) who I hadn't seen in probably 18 years ~ she was just as I'd remembered her! If you live in the Brunswick/Topsham area, you may recognize her, as she is a doctor at Midcoast Hospital.

Had to get a picture with my favorite sports writer.

The next morning, Jen and I had a late breakfast and then headed to Ogunquit and a walk along Marginal Way. The weather was perfect and I'm so glad that I got to see the ocean.

That evening, I zoomed back up the coast to Topsham for dinner with my mother, and some sleep. Monday proved hectic with packing, a trip to the post office, and then a mad dash to see my nephews and sister-in-law. I had never met my youngest nephew, Oliver, before, so I was really glad to have the chance. My sister-in-law is lucky I didn't stuff Max (on the left, below) into my suitcase and take him back to Idaho with me. What a sweet little boy.

After leaving Dani and the boys, I zipped over to the Tontine Mall parking lot, for a lightening-speed visit and hug with my friend Heather. Heather, along with Kate and Jen, was a huge support to me while Steve was deployed, and I was so happy to see her, even if only for a few minutes.

Next it was off to the airport and back to Idaho. By the time I landed at 11 p.m. that night, my head was spinning. I can't believe how much I managed to cram into those couple of days, while still keeping the pace enjoyable.

A huge thank you to Steve, who really made the whole trip possible. He held down the fort for me while I was gone, and I came back to happy children and a clean house. Hooray!

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Little Anniversary Celebration

Steve and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, he was still at Ft. Lewis on the actual day of our anniversary, so we waited for a few days until he was settled at home. We like to cook together, so we decided to get the boys a pizza and a movie and send them to the family room, while we cooked up a storm. It was fun thumbing through some of our favorite cookbooks last week, trying to decide what we wanted to make. We settled on Julia Child's Coq au Vin for our main course, and it didn't disappoint. We'd planned to make a lovely appetizer from Bob and Melinda Blanchard's "Cook What You Love", but alas, those plans were spoiled by our local supermarket, who seems to have a problem stocking fresh ingredients at times. Boo!

Above is my corny little table display ~ the chapel we were married in, the inn where we spent our wedding night, and the picture of the boys that I gave Steve as an anniversary gift. Tin/aluminum for the tenth anniversary proved to be a bit tricky, so I went with a tin-ish looking picture frame and an impromptu photo shoot with Steve's best boys. I'm afraid Steve really out-did me when he gave me a beautiful strand of pearls ~ something I have always wanted.

When Cam and Griff's movie ended, Camden offered to be our butler.

Things got really crazy when we decided to dig out and try on our wedding attire. I would like to point out that Steve is wearing Camden's bow tie. I'm also pretty sure facial hair is against regulation with that uniform. I would also like to point out that my wedding gown is now too big for me. Not quite sure how that happened, but I'm not complaining. Ha!

We had a great evening that I will never forget. So glad to be blessed with such a great husband!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bronze Star Ceremony

A few days after Steve came home, he held a little ceremony for the boys, to award them for their bravery while he was deployed. He cooked this whole thing up on his own, making up the certificates, and ordering the certificate folders and bronze star pins while he was still in Iraq.

Anyone who knows Steve won't be surprised by any of this ~ he is completely and utterly dedicated to his role as father, and he doesn't take it lightly

He missed his boys so much while he was away, and didn't waste any time at all, jumping right back into family life. He's been taking Camden to school every morning, and picking him up in the afternoon. During the day, he pretty much does whatever Griffin wants, which of course, thrills Griffin to no end!

I love seeing my three boys together, and I'm so proud that I married a man who sets such a good example for our children.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Griffin Turns Five

A certain little boy I know turned five recently. Griffin Peter has been counting the days until his birthday for about the past two months. Every morning upon waking he'd say, "Mom, how many sleeps until my birthday?"

We were really lucky that Steve made it home in time to celebrate with him. (As you can see, Steve is taking full advantage of the fact that he doesn't have to report back to work until mid-November, and therefore opting out of shaving).

Griffin wanted to put his Transformer "from Nana and Papa" on top of his birthday cake, so that is what we did. It was so big that I didn't have room to write his name. He proclaimed it his "best birthday cake EVER!"

Our dear Margaret spoiled him rotten, and he loved every minute of it.

Riley hasn't been feeling great lately, but he perked right up when he smelled birthday cake, and saw presents being opened. That dog loves a good party.

Griffin had a great time with his friends. I just can't believe my little Griff is five!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

At Last

Steve has been home for a little over a week now, and we are slowly settling back into a normal routine around here. The ten days or so before he arrived were a bit on the frantic side, and the time since then has been spent on lots of family togetherness and time away from the normal hustle and bustle of daily life. Now it is time to get back to our new "old" normal, as we are all craving some structure, so that is our goal for this week. As for my blog ~ it needs some work, and some catching up. So, I am hoping to have the opportunity to attack that this week. I fear my laptop is mired down with too many files, too many pictures, as well as feeling its age, so it hasn't been exactly cooperative lately. Hopefully it will allow me to eek out a few blog posts before it throws in the towel completely!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Done (okay, not really)

Back from Iraq ~ the first time ~ October, 2005

Oh my goodness...I am so done with this deployment. I just want Steve to be here NOW, so badly. You would think I could hold it together - - I mean, he's been gone for nearly a year, but this last little bit is just about doing me in. I am not a patient girl when it gets right down to the wire, and although it appears he will be coming home right around the time we've thought he'd be coming all along, all I can think about is, "why isn't he here now? why can't he come home earlier?" I seriously need to get a grip.

The boys (including Steve) and I have been through a lot this year. We were very lucky to have both my parents and my in-laws both come out for extended visits during that time. We've experienced kindness from the most unexpected places. The hardest parts of a deployment, though, are the parts that nobody else can help you with. Camden and Griffin have both struggled emotionally, in different ways. At times it has been so heartbreaking to watch, and really, there hasn't been a lot I could do other than listen. I really, truly was not prepared to deal with the effect that Steve's absence would have on the boys.

Long separation is rough on a marriage. Even a really good marriage. It is difficult to parent children from opposite sides of the globe, and to make decisions regarding your children. Stress certainly plays a major factor in making it more difficult, and I know that Steve and I both went through a period for a few months where our stress levels were so high that it was difficult to accomplish much at all. I think the worst time for me was after Steve had been home on leave, and it kind of carried on through the end of the school year. Never have I ever been happier for summer vacation and being able to have lots of fun with the boys ~ what a great distraction!

In the end, I'm proud of how we pulled through. Over the years, Steve has been gone a lot, so I knew before he left this time that I was completely capable of caring for the boys on my own. That being said, life is just a whole lot nicer with Steve around. Can't wait to have him back.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Riley and Smokey: An Update

After much barking, whining, yelping, and pouting, I'm happy to report that Riley finally threw in the towel yesterday, and decided to be friends with Smokey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 Years

Today marks five years since I became a stay-at-home mom. It just doesn't seem like it has been that long but I suppose it has, since I stopped working just a few weeks before I had Griffin. I cannot get over how much life has changed between now and then.

I don't have many memories of those early days, probably due to the fact that I had a newborn at home, and I was trying to keep a 3 1/2 year old happy, too. I do remember that in the first few days, I called Steve at work A LOT. He must have thought I was a nut. I remember that it seemed like the days were dragging by so slowly. I literally counted the minutes until he would come home at night. Thankfully, that feeling didn't last awfully long. I also have a distinct memory of being faced with attending some sort of military function that fall, and I actually had a good cry about it. I didn't want to go, because I just knew that someone would ask me what I did (as in, what I did for work). I didn't want to have to say that I stayed at home, because I guess I worried about what people would think of me. Just typing that, I cannot believe how silly that sounds to me now, but at the time, it was really upsetting to me back then. I had worked all of my adult life - - all through high school, through college, and after that. I suppose my identity and probably my self worth were pretty tied up in my job, although in the years immediately before I became a mother, I had a series of jobs that I really didn't like at all.

Since then, my viewpoint has obviously changed a lot. Not without struggle though. Five years later, I cannot imagine the day that I go back to work. I suppose that when both boys are in school, I will search out some sort of part-time job, but I hope that I'll be able to find something that will allow me to be home in the morning, and also in the afternoon when they get home from school.

I have never gotten so much satisfaction out of anything I've ever done, as I do from being home with my boys. I worked full-time until Camden was 3 1/2, with two hours of commute time each day, and I can definitely tell you that being home is far more work! It is a common misconception that stay-at-home moms lay on the sofa, eat candy, and watch t.v. all day...maybe some do, but I can assure you that I'm not one of them! I take a lot of pride in how hard I work every day. From time to time, I do miss the adult interaction, the distraction, and frankly, the freedom that came with working outside the home, but definitely not enough to wish that I was working again. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do and I couldn't be happier. Life is good!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Day of School, Third Grade Edition

Can't believe my big boy is in the third grade! Here's to a wonderful school year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New Family Member

The boys and I were having a back yard camp out a couple of weeks ago, when this young lady waltzed up to us, well after dark. I immediately thought she was too small to be outside, wandering around by herself. Upon closer examination it was clear that she was a stray, which made me pretty sad, but our entire city is riddled with strays, unfortunately (spay and neuter your animals, people!!).

As you can probably guess, once Camden got a load of her it was all over. She was equally infatuated with him. We kept her in the laundry room of our rental for a couple of days until I could get her to the vet and have her checked out. After getting her ears cleaned, some flea repellent, and some antibiotics, she moved in and was dubbed, "Smokey" by Camden and Griffin.

So far, things are going well. Roy pretends like he doesn't like her, but when nobody is looking, he wrestles with her and he can't make me believe for a second that he isn't having fun, having a kitty friend to play with. Riley isn't as impressed, and mostly spends a lot of time barking at her. He doesn't like it when Roy and Smokey wrestle, when the boys play with Smokey, when I play with Smokey...he pretty much just doesn't like her. Camden did catch him giving Smokey a lick on the back of the head yesterday though, so we may be making progress.

Steve has reminded me that I've gone over his preference of a 2-pet household by 3 pets since he's been gone (lets not forget Gary and Junior, the hermit crabs). So for now, we're maxed out in the animal department. I'm pretty happy that Smokey found us ~ she's a nice addition to the family.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting Ready for the Third Grade

We have reached that weird part of summer where I am not ready for Camden to be gone all day, every day again, but at the same time, we are all in need of getting back to our school-year routine. So, I guess it really is time for back-to-school. I think we are all ready ~ we will be going to "Meet Your Teacher" night tomorrow at Camden's new school. Camden wanted to make "survival kits" like we did last year, so we tackled that last week. All of the items, including the box, can be found at your local dollar store, and I just made a tag to tie to the top. Camden has two teachers this year (one teaches the a.m. portion, and one in the afternoon) so we just doubled up.

This past Friday, I had a special dinner for the boys to celebrate back to school, which has sort of turned into a tradition around here. I always make a special treat, and really wanted to make some cake pops, but wasn't really looking forward to it. This was due to the fact that I've made cake balls before (same thing, only without the stick) and they were a messy, messy disaster. I guess I just wasn't making them properly, because these cute little apples were easy to make and came out so cute! I followed the instructions found here, and the only thing I did differently was to stick the cake pops in the freezer for about 15 minutes, after I'd attached the sticks and before I'd dipped them in the candy melts. The boys loved them. Warning: using a regular cake mix will produce a TON of these things. Going forward, I think I will use one of the mixes you can find at the dollar store for 12 cupcakes. I now can totally understand why people have blogs dedicated solely to cake pop-making...they are addictive!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Lovely Saturday

We only have four more days until Camden heads back to school, so yesterday we headed to Boise to scratch a couple more items off our 'summer fun' list (more about that, later). Camden loves, LOVES a good museum, and he's been wanting to go to the Idaho Historical Museum for a long time. I'm so glad we did it ~ it was wonderful! The boys had a great time and the weather was great. They have also always wanted to eat at Burger King (not sure how they got that in their heads, but a commercial on t.v., I am sure), so we accomplished that, as well. When we got home, we had a relaxing evening and a little swimming in the pool. Can't believe that by this time next week, we'll be back to the grind of the school year.

My garden is bursting at the seams these past couple of weeks, and this has been my standard dinner. Bright red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of pesto (made from the basil I grew earlier this summer), and some Udi's gluten-free bread on the side. Yum. I think today I am going to roast some more of the tomatoes and freeze some more pizza sauce.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer's Winding Down

Behold, the mammoth pile of school supplies that signals the start of the school year. I have mixed emotions about summer coming to an end. I love, LOVE summer vacation with the boys, and so enjoy having them with me. I can't get over how quickly it sped by. On the other hand, Camden has been mentioning the last couple of weeks how he just can't wait to see his friends, and frankly, the boys are hitting 'summer burnout' ~ they are bickering a little more than usual, it is super-hot out (so lots of time spent inside) ~ I don't like to say it out loud but I'm afraid we are ready to get back to our school-year routine. Most importantly, for the past year I have said over and over, "When school starts, Daddy will be coming home", so the end of summer means End of Deployment to us. I'm hoping that Steve will be back with us by late September, but unfortunately we don't (and won't) know when he is coming, until he is almost here.

Tomorrow, the boys wrap up their second session of swimming lessons for the summer. This year I decided to try private lessons instead of taking them to the city pool like I have in years past. I am so glad I did ~ the instructor was wonderful and the cost was the same as going to the city pool. The big plus was that the lessons were one-on-one, rather than with a big group of kids at the city pool. I seriously have two little swimmers on my hands now and I couldn't be happier!

My garden is coming right along. I just finished making and freezing some pizza sauce, using the over-abundance (2.5 lbs.) of cherry tomatoes I had. I had made a couple of pasta salads with them but didn't want all the rest to go to waste. I just tossed them on a cookie sheet with some garlic, peppers, and a little balsamic vinegar and roasted everything. When they were done, I added some seasoning, then threw it all in the blender. Now it is stored away in the freezer, waiting for pizza night.

I'm trying to get back into the routine of blogging ~ I've struggled for months with that and I think my biggest issue is time. I don't often get a chance to sit and organize my thoughts during the day, but there is a lot I want to get written down so I suppose I will just have to work harder at that. As for now, I need some sleep!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mom School

The boys and I have been loving these Summer Express books from Scholastic this summer! All three of us do much better when we have structure to our days, so I decided that part of our summer structure this year would be "Mom School". Every morning at 9:00, the boys sit down and tackle a new worksheet for the day. The books are geared for "between" grades, so Camden is working on the "between 2nd and 3rd grade" book, while Griff has the "pre-K and Kindergarten" book. Each week has a corresponding sticker chart where they track their completed worksheets, along with their daily reading goals. I can't recommend these workbooks enough ~ they are wonderful.

My mother found some great books in the dollar section at Target ~ Junior Classics for Young Readers ~ she picked some up for Camden and so far he's read White Fang and Pinocchio. He loves these books and I hope I can come across some more titles for him. He has a reading goal of 30 minutes each day, but he usually averages at least 1.5 hours ~ I'm so proud of my little reader! Griffin's reading goal consists of him looking at books on his own, as well as me reading to him.

I'm hoping that our extra work this summer will have both boys in good shape at the start of the school year. It has been a lot of fun for all of us, and I definitely plan to do the same thing next summer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Great Visit

(photo by Camden M. Arnett)

My parents went back to Maine today, so the boys and I have been kind of down-in-the-dumps today. We had such a good visit with them ~ they arrived on June 1st, and having them here was just what we all needed. My parents are so laid back, good to me, good to the boys, and I love being with them. Camden and Griffin had some good sleepovers, mastered my mom's IPad, coaxed both of my parents to get in the pool with them, had some movie dates with them, Happy Meals every Tuesday night, foot rubs, endless amounts of ice cream, and Camden had a standing Tuesday night date with my mother to watch, "America's Got Talent". The boys were pretty much in and out of their house all day, every day, which is just how my parents like it. Riley got in on the action too ~ I think he stayed at their house about 95% of the time that they were here. He'd come home from time to time, but then would head right back next door, where Nana gave him biscuits (and always had a dish of food waiting on the window sill for Roy). My dad did some projects that Steve had been wanting done, and I am really thankful to him for that. Just a great visit. It went by too quickly, though. We miss you already!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Swimming with Papa

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Dip (and some gardening blogs)

My little garden is coming along nicely this summer, but more on that later. This is my third attempt at having a garden ~ the first year, pretty successful, the second year, a big ol' bomb, and this year...I think this is the year that will have me hooked. I am already envisioning more raised beds next year, and expanding on what has been successful so far. For gardening inspiration, I have two blogs that I am just loving right now.

The first is Seed. Sow. Water. Grow. and is written by Angela in Oregon. She includes recipes, and I recently tried her Lemon Ricotta Dip ~ it was fabulous (I called it dip, although it is Lemon Ricotta Spread in the original recipe - - mine came out with a dip consistency but maybe that had something to do with my technique...who knows!). I also made the pita chips, and I can tell you, I will be making this over and over. I just checked to see if I have the ingredients on hand (I do) so I think I'll whip up another batch today. Yum!

The second is Sweat Bread, written by Jordan in North Carolina. She also includes recipes, and I just love seeing what she's growing in her garden and serving at her dinner table.

The only thing I've harvested so far is a ton of basil, mint, and rosemary, and one little cherry tomato! I think in about a week I should have some zucchini, and I already have plans for that!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pizza Bianca

I love making pizza on Friday nights. It is a quick and easy dinner, and all three of my boys look forward to it. I usually try to make one "kid friendly" pizza (always pepperoni, or half pepperoni/half cheese) and then one pizza that's a little out of the ordinary. Since Steve's been deployed, I've kind of gotten into the habit of making a pepperoni pizza for the boys, and then a small pizza for myself on a gluten-free crust. I'm trying to get more adventurous again, in preparation for Steve's return, so I tried a new recipe last Friday, which was featured in the June 2011 issue of Everyday Food (my most-favorite cooking magazine). I really liked it, so I will definitely have to try it out on Steve when he gets back.

Pizza Bianca

1 lb. pizza dough (this is my new favorite recipe ~ it makes 1.5 lbs though, so just remove 1/3 from your ball of dough and make a thin crust pizza)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/3 cup grated parmesan (fresh grated preferable)

2 oz. baby arugula

2 tsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ricotta, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Par-bake your pizza crust at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spread ricotta mixture over crust. Top with mozzarella and parmesan. Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes, until it begins to brown very lightly. Remove from oven. Toss arugula with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper and apply to top of pizza.

If you don't care for arugula, you could also use baby spinach. I think this pizza would also be great with some prosciutto or some sausage.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Daddy Jars

It has been tough-going in these parts lately ~ especially for an 8-year-old that I know. He struggles so with his Dad not being here. Camden is a sensitive little guy, and the older he gets, he tries to hold it in, which never seems to work out for him.

Going through a deployment with children who are old enough to understand that Daddy is gone for a long period of time can be so heartbreaking at times, but I know it is nothing compared to what the boys feel on the inside.

For whatever reason, we've just come out of a particularly rough patch, where not only was Camden not wanting to talk to Steve, he wasn't wanting Steve's name mentioned. He said it made him too sad, so he was just going to try not to think about it. He worked it out in his own way though, and seems to be feeling a lot better lately.

I was trying to come up with something that would help the boys see that we were on the downswing of this deployment, and that Steve would be coming home soon. So I got some pint-sized canning jars and a big bag of M&M's. I have a general idea of when Steve will be back, so we counted out those days in M&M's. The added bonus was that we soon saw that the pint-sized jars were way too big, so we grabbed some 8-ounce jelly jars instead. I made some little labels for the jars, and now, each day, the boys take their jars off the shelf in the living room and take out an M&M, one day closer to Daddy being home again. I think the visual of it has helped them to understand that, slowly but surely, we are getting there.

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