Halloween Weekend

It was a full weekend around here! First, there was a going away party for my parents. Most of the family was there, and everyone was in good spirits. Things got really silly and we had a great time!

My niece, Lauren found out what happens when she leaves her purse unattended around her mom and Auntie Terri!

My mom seems completely unaware of her son's and granddaughter's strange behavior.

Kacey is not bothered by the fact that Uncle Jim is sitting on her.

My brother, Craig and I... don't ask why... singing "Close to You." Yeah, these are the kinds of things that happen at our family gatherings.

My sister and sister-in-law wanted some Mike's Hard Lemonade. We ran into "Axl Rose" at the liquor store and he let us take pictures!!

Kacey and Lauren seem embarrassed and amused by my sister, Cory's behavior.

Later in the evening, Kacey and friends gathered at our house to get ready for a Halloween party. Don’t they look great?

Heather, Andi, Kacey and Haley - usually the four musketeers - dressed up as M & Ms for the evening.

M & Ms with attitude

The day wrapped up with a get-together with Gina, her husband, Jeff and some other mutual friends. We had a fun evening, talking, laughing and catching up. Of course, it was over too soon and there were tears when we hugged goodbye. They’ll be back for Christmas. I’m counting the days already!

The Weather is Turning

It was 29 degrees outside when I left the house this morning. The days are changing now. Earlier in the week the temperatures started dropping from the warm fall days we’ve been enjoying. We’ve seen high winds this week and gray skies. Today I had to break out the lightweight winter jacket. (Yes, here in Minnesota, it’s necessary to have varying weights of winter jackets. I have three. The heavy-duty jacket is ugly and only comes out when the temps fall below zero and I get desperate.) It’s a windshield scraping morning for those who left cars parked outside overnight.
At home, the fleece pajama pants have been put to use and the down comforter is back on the bed. (I love the down comforter. I bury myself underneath it and sleep like a baby. It’s really difficult to talk myself into coming out from under in the mornings though.)
In spite of all of these signs of the impending winter, I am happy today. There’s a family party at my parents’ house tomorrow. It’s their going away party. They leave for Arizona next week. (Luckies!) A family party means time with my sis, which is always a blast. And even better, some of my very favorite people in the world are back in town this weekend! My best friend in the world, Gina and family are here for the weekend and I’m totally looking forward to time with Gina. Look out, world! :D

Busted My Slump

I’ve been in a bit of a slump with my bowling lately. Of course, I should make it clear that on any given day, I am far from being a rock star bowler, even though I often proclaim to be a rock star bowler. Whenever I tell you that I bowled like a rock star, you have to remember that when I say I did well, I mean that I did well “for me.” Wouldn’t want any really good bowlers reading this stuff and thinking, “She thinks that’s impressive? Pffft!” I’m still in the early stages of my bowling career though, so I can still fall back on that whole “only been bowling for two years” thing. I’ll use that excuse as long as I can get away with it.

So, now that we’ve cleared that up, you have to understand that for me to feel that I’ve bowled well, I really want game scores in the 150s. Ideally, I’d love to score much higher than that, and I have, a time or two, but I’m trying to focus on truly manageable goals. Bowling a 150 is achievable for me, in theory. In reality it has been out of my grasp for the past several weeks. I’ve tried focusing on my starting point, my stance, my grip, my release, wearing the wrist brace, not wearing the wrist brace… all to no avail.

In our mixed league, bowling partner, Jim has been suffering the same problems. Two weeks ago, he was so mad at his scores that he claimed he hated bowling and was quitting. But like me, Jim decided to focus on remedies for his particular problem. Jim’s focus was not on the mechanics of his bowling though. Jim decided that the only time he bowls well is when we play poker while bowling. Oftentimes, another team in close proximity to us will invite us to join them in a game of poker. Everyone puts in a dollar. Every time you bowl a strike or spare, you get to draw a card and discard one. After the tenth frame, the person with the best hand wins the pot.  Jim claims he bowls best when we play poker, but no one on our team ever brings playing cards. Jim claimed that he could start bowling better if one of us would just bring a deck of cards to bowling.

Sounds simple, right? There’s a catch. Have I mentioned before that the playing cards typically used by bowling teams are naughty cards? They are. And being the good team-mate that I am, I went out and bought Jim a deck of naughty playing cards. And guess what! Jim bowled like a rock star last Saturday! (Yes, I went out and found girly playing cards for Jim. How and where they were found is another story. The point is, am I a good bowling partner or what???)

The naughty playing cards though, did not help me in the least. So I continued to pay attention to my mechanics. Thanks to my new work schedule, I was able to head down to the bowling alley a full hour earlier than usual on Monday. It was actually quiet there, and I got myself a lane and began to practice all by myself.  My little buddy, Andy showed up and kept me company, shouting encouragement from the table at which he was sitting, and proclaiming his confidence in my ability to pick up the messiest of spares. I like Andy. No matter how bad I bowl, he always thinks I did great and he’s always got a high-five waiting for me.

I bowled like crap. I threw three games, each of them looking promising through the fifth or sixth frame, and then falling apart in the end. I figured all I had done was worn myself out, pretty much guaranteeing that my league games would be even worse.

But remember that saying, “Practice makes perfect?” Apparently there’s some truth to it. No, I did not bowl anywhere near a perfect game. But I made an adjustment to my release and it was just what I needed. I bowled a 466 series! Know what that means? I consistently bowled between 150 and 160 all three games!

I’m a rock star! Woot-woot!

I love bowling :-)

Understanding Female Crabbiness – a survival guide for men

In the interest of fostering harmony between the sexes, (and because Wreggie asked me to help him understand,) I have decided to attempt to shed light on the issue of female crabbiness.

The first thing I want you men to understand, is that it is not your fault. Except, really? It’s gonna be your fault no matter what.

Now, you men, I know that you just roll your eyes and try to stay out of the line of fire when your woman’s emotions take a turn towards the ugly. When her mood has reached this point, there’s not much you can do but ride out the storm. As the great Pat Benatar once said, “Love is a battlefield.” My advice to you? RETREAT! It’s probably best to leave the house for a while. If there are young children or small pets in the home, you’d best grab them on your way out the door in order to minimize the trauma they might suffer due to prolonged exposure to excessive female mood swings. When you are brave enough to return to the home, come bearing chocolate. Or wine. Or, if you’ve got yourself a simple girl like me, a pack of light beer. Play it safe. Go with all of the above. Gifts are a quick and easy way to melt a cold heart.

(Honey, if you’re reading… you know how I love my gadgets. I’ll take an iPhone, please.)

While evacuating the premises during episodes of female crabbiness may help you avoid various battle wounds, you may find that prevention is a much more effective tactic. Knowledge is power, people. Knowledge is power.

And so, I’m going to bestow upon you men, the secrets of the female psyche; secrets that may help you head off ugly mood swings at the pass or simply know when to turn tail and run.

First and most importantly, you need to be able to recognize the signs of impending crabiness.  There doesn’t have to be any logical explanation or cause for these symptoms. Do not question them. Just know that they are indicative of a major personality change and your patience, not to mention, your sanity are about to be severely tried. Indications that a female mood storm is about to overtake your woman include, but are not limited to the following:

  • She begins to emit deep, mournful sighs for no apparent reason.
  • She utilizes the “tsk-sigh” in response to all household and/or family situations or any and all words spoken by you, the man. (I don’t believe the “tsk-sigh” requires any explanation, but I do have to give credit to the man who created its self-explanatory name.)
  • Pursed lips
  • A major crease between the eyebrows
  • Responding, “nuh-thing” when asked what is wrong. May be uttered either in a sorrowful or forcefully angry tone. May or may not be accompanied by either of the aforementioned sighs. Warning: You may be tempted to keep asking what is wrong in an attempt to secure a real answer. Do not; I repeat, do not fall prey to this line of thinking. It will only cause you further trouble.
  • Meeting any attempts at communication by you, the man with an icy stare.
  • Proclamations that begin with the words, “Am I the only one who a) cares… b) knows how to… c) gives a _____.

Now that you’re familiar with the signs of female crabbiness, let’s delve into the causes. These causes fall into two categories.  The first category includes things that are the fault of you, the man. Don’t be too disheartened by the fact that you have fault in this matter though. It goes back to Adam and Eve. Adam was an idiot and he passed on that gene to all future generations. And let’s be honest here. The causes in this group are simply too many to list. We’ll just touch on the basics.

Things men do and/or do not do that make women crabby:

  • Help your buddies with home improvement projects while neglecting the “honey-do” list.
  • Think it is romantic to grab her butt or other body parts while she is cooking at the stove, washing dishes, ironing or participating in other domestic chores. Trust me. She is not having fun. Your grabby-hands will not lighten the mood.
  • Use her bath towels and then neglect to replace them with fresh, dry towels afterwards.
  • When it’s her day to sleep in, you take forever to shut off the alarm clock, make a big ruckus opening drawers while searching for socks and underwear, and then plop down heavily on the bed to put your socks on so that she has no further hope of falling back to sleep.
  • Leave your empty soda cans sitting in various locations around the house.
  • Shave and then leave your whiskers in the bathroom sink. Who do you think is going to clean that up? The whisker fairy???
  • Drape your jacket over the railing rather than hanging it in the closet. (It’s okay when we do it, but not okay when you do it.)
  • Don’t put drinking glasses, dishes, pots and pans or Tupperware back in their proper locations. This is an especially heinous error when upon opening a cupboard, items contained within fall all over the floor.
  • Insist on keeping leftovers, then neglecting to eat them, leaving them in the refrigerator until they are overtaken by mold and/or until the female member of the household finally disposes of them.
  • Crossing the line from your side of the bed to hers, hogging the blankets, rubbing the bottom of her foot with your toenail, or any other bedtime annoyances.
  • You have yet to master the art of reading her mind.
  • After years in the same house, you have no idea where to find the Windex.
  • Thinking the road to romance is paved with the words, “Do you wanna have sex tonight, or what?”

Again, this is not an all-inclusive list, but hopefully will give you some idea of the habits and behaviors you’ll want to avoid in order to maximize the level of contentment in the home.

Now let’s talk about the second group of crabbiness causes. This group includes causes that are beyond your control. These symptoms include:

  • Her inability to avoid having to deal with stupid people… at the grocery store, at work or any multitude of other places one might encounter stupid people. Her patience is shot now. There is none left for you.
  • Telemarketers
  • Having to deal with family. (May be of the immediate type or the in-law type.)
  • The children pushed her limits and sent her over the edge, making her feel that she is a complete and total failure as a mother.
  • Aunt Flo showed up early, late, stayed two weeks, or came twice in the same month.
  • Cramps!
  • Bad hair days
  • When she’s feeling fat and decides she hates all of her clothing

The important thing to remember here, men, is that, although these causes are not your fault, they are all your fault. The sooner you can get used to that fact, the less painful it will all be for you.

Let’s recap:

  • Some causes of crabbiness are your fault.
  • Some causes of crabbiness are beyond your control, but are still your fault.

It sounds hopeless, I know. But there must be something about us women that is redeeming, because you guys have a habit of sticking around and putting up with this crap.

Or are you just gluttons for punishment?

Whatever the reason you are able to persevere through life with a female, I hope this little guide will make that life just a bit easier.

You are welcome.

Disclaimer aimed at my husband: Please do not take this personally. It is meant to be humorous and is written almost completely tongue-in-cheek. …ALMOST… And remember honey, when I’m crabby, it’s not always your fault. Just most of the time.

I was crabby, but I’m better now

I was crabby on Saturday and Sunday, through no fault of my own.

Okay, I’m lying. I was crabby through some fault of my own and through some fault not of my own. We won’t go into the details. It doesn’t matter. But I was so crabby I couldn’t stand myself and was actually sort of looking forward to the arrival of Monday.  I was hoping I’d be just a ray of sunshine when I opened my eyes this morning. Sadly, I was not. There was residual crankiness. GAH! I hate when I’m so cranky it carries over for days.

But then I went to work and started my day, and at some point realized that I was on my new schedule starting today. I only had to work until 3:00! (Trying not to think about the fact that I’ll no longer enjoy a mid-week day off anymore.) I was very busy and the hours flew by and out the door I went at 3:00. I got home in time to see my kids and make some dinner, all before everyone took off for the night.

Next week, I get to sleep in and work 9 to 5!

And tonight is bowling night. The week is looking up already!

Contemplating College

We’re having us a four-day weekend here! In Minnesota, there is an annual teachers’ convention, known as M.E.A.,  held on the Thursday and Friday of the third week of October and therefore, there is no school for the K-12 crowd. Our family has developed some annual traditions around this little break. When the boys were old enough, Mark began taking them hunting over M.E.A., carrying on a tradition begun long ago with his own dad. Kacey and I began our own tradition of celebrating mom and daughter time, and so I always take these days off of work.

This year, there was some question as to whether I’d be able to have the days off, due to the recent job cuts in my department. We had all been asked to be flexible about our vacation time and I knew I might have to give up the days I had long been planning to have off. But it all worked out in the end. I was very grateful it did since Kacey will be graduating this spring and this will be the last year we get to enjoy this particular mini-vacation.

I guess I’m sentimental this year as every day that passes, I am reminded that my baby will soon be leaving the nest and life as we know it will drastically change. So it was all the more important to me that I be able to have a couple of vacation days to enjoy this last M.E.A. break with my girl. And this year, we’re doing something a little different as well as doing something that has become a tradition.

The new thing this year involved a college visit, which we did today. A few weeks ago, I told Kacey we needed to take advantage of the time off from school and go visit a college. I wanted to do it while classes were in session and we could see what a typical day at college looks like. She hasn’t decided where she wants to go yet, and application deadlines are fast approaching. She had a little trouble deciding which school to visit, but she did tell me that she had decided it was important not to be too far from home, meaning, not more than a few hour’s drive. So she knew she wanted to pick something that was a manageable drive. I was doing the happy dance inside when she told me that! I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m going to be the one feeling the pain of her living away from home when the time comes. She’s not just my daughter, she’s my friend. And as much as I want her to go out and take on the world, I’m going to miss her “like the deserts miss the rain.”

So Kacey searched college websites and debated where to go, and I finally told her to just pick one, any one. I told her it was just one day and one visit and didn’t mean she was making any serious decisions. So she picked the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, about an hour and a half from home.

With a decision finally in place, she wanted to know if she could bring a friend, and it was no surprise that she picked Hailey, one of her closest friends. Hailey is a high school junior and has another whole year to make decisions about school, but she was more than happy to tag along for the tour.  We left home around ten o’clock this morning and had a very enjoyable drive. The girls were talkative and kept me laughing and soon I found myself telling them stories of when I was their age. Next thing I knew, Kacey was telling me one of those things that a mom always hopes her daughter will share with her, but never knows for sure. I won’t embarrass her by getting into too much detail about what she told me. It’s nothing too worrisome, just relationship stuff that so many kids her age have to face; things that often wear on the heart more seriously than many adults would remember about that time in their own lives. When she told me her story, I felt so proud of her for handling things maturely and doing her best not to hurt another’s feelings, as much as it is possible not to hurt another’s feelings when you have to tell them that the things they feel for you are not the same things you feel for them.

Anyway, the story made me think about how I would never have been able to talk to my own mom about such things at that age. I felt honored that Kacey felt comfortable telling me her story and I told her so, and thanked her for being open with me. And do you know what she said?

“Why wouldn’t I? I tell you everything.” She said it so matter-of-factly and I don’t think she had any idea what a gift that little exchange was to me.

The drive to the school was only an hour and a half and soon we were navigating our way to the designated parking lot, checking in and filling up bags with brochures and information. We sat through a short informational session and then were on to the good stuff – a campus tour. We had a really personable tour guide, a college senior named Kristen and she made the tour fun. UW Eau Claire is a medium-sized school – about 11,000 students. The campus itself isn’t overwhelming in size and there were many things with which I was impressed. But I knew that what was more important was whether or not my daughter was impressed.

After the tour was over and we left campus, we stopped for a bite to eat and had a chance to talk. Both girls had found many things about the school that they liked and I was impressed with the thought they had put into it. The dorms, of course, were of great importance and were a big part of the conversation.  Throughout the day, as we toured the campus, I couldn’t help but think about how capable and confident my daughter can be and I could picture her going to classes, eating in the cafeteria, participating in intramural sports, and generally making friends and spreading her wings. But another part of me pictured her in those dorm rooms at the end of the day and I wondered if she’d feel at home there, or if she’d find herself homesick. That last thought broke my heart. For the most part, I know she can handle college. I believe she’s going to love it and she’ll embrace this new phase of her life. But what if she doesn’t?

These were the thoughts that were weighing on me as the topic of dorm rooms and room mates came up. The girls talked about how they knew it was possible they might find themselves in a dorm with a roommate with whom they aren’t compatible. It was then that I mentioned Heather, another friend of Kacey’s who has placed this school as one of her top choices. Honestly, I think it is best if Kacey goes to school and learns to thrive in a new environment with new people and not relying too heavily on friends from home. I’ve known kids who have gone off to college and roomed with high school friends, only to find the friendships didn’t last and feeling as if they’d missed out on an important college experience.

Kacey seemed to know where my thoughts were. She told me right off, “Oh, Heather and I already talked about this. Even if we both end up going to school here, we’re not going to room with each other. We’re going to take the room mates we are assigned, make new friends, and then introduce our new friends to each other.” Hailey was in full agreement with this plan. I felt so proud of these girls. They really have it together. I was so different from them at that age – so lost and uncertain. It makes me happy that they are so comfortable with who they are, so open to new possibilities and much less afraid of change than I ever managed to be.

And an added bonus… during the car ride home, I just listened to them interacting with one another. They are the kind of friends who can finish one another’s sentences, who share silly inside jokes and who very simply enjoy life. I couldn’t help but be happy just to spend the day with them. It was a great day!

Tomorrow we’ll enjoy our traditional thing… a day of shopping. I’ll have my sister for company and Kacey will have another friend, Brianna. The Shops at Albertville is our destination – a huge outlet mall which boasts many of our favorite stores and then some. I’m quite sure we’ll find something to buy ;-)

This week’s excitement? SOUP!

I would just like it to be known that I cooked this week.

I know. Mark that one down on the calendar.




Alright, so technically, I cooked once this week so far – on Sunday – and technically, I didn’t cook soups. I cooked white chicken chili and bacon chowder that doesn’t have any bacon in it. I thought it sounded better with kielbasa, so I substituted. (Alright, I didn’t think it sounded better. I was just too lazy to cook up the bacon and didn’t want to make a huge greasy bacon mess in my clean kitchen, and the kielbasa was easy to chop up and not greasy, so I substituted.) But hey! Kudos to me for cooking two meal items all at once!

So, the meals in question were indisputably from the soup family. And the ulterior motive was that these foods were things that could be cooked all in one pot and also that I’d be willing to take to work in my lunch (because otherwise I will be at Asian Express every other day getting the world’s greatest sesame chicken of which they give you three pounds of food and then you feel guilty for eating so much) and also that they were things the family might be willing to eat as leftovers, which they have done, which makes me feel good because as much as always think I should cook more and then don’t anyways, because no one is ever here to eat the hypothetical cooking I might do, I always feel the slightest bit guilty when I learn that the kids have eaten hot dogs or pop tarts or Peanut Butter Crunch for dinner. Although, I had some Peanut Butter Crunch two weekends ago after bowling. Technically it wasn’t dinner, but it was a late-in-the-day meal and it was really tasty. I love Peanut Butter Crunch. Best cereal ever. Except maybe Count Chocula. Or Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Okay, we’ll save the cereal discussion for another day, because, as the title of this post states, we were clearly talking about soups. Sort of.

(I think I may have violated the laws of run-on-sentences in that previous paragraph. Several times.)

I don’t know why I don’t cook more. I actually do like to cook. And I’m pretty good at it too.  Oh yeah. It’s that lack of time thing and that lack of anyone here to eat it thing.  Those are some big de-motivators.

So anyway, two days later, there has yet to be any other cooking happening in our kitchen. Because that’s what we do. We don’t cook. (De-I, I can feel your disappointment. Don’t judge.) We are experts at heating things in the microwave though. Although, some members of the family have yet to nail down the dos and don’ts of covering splattery and explosive foods with a paper towel or sheet of wax paper, thank you very much. Can you guess who cleans the microwave every week?

But it’s okay that I haven’t cooked again since Sunday. Because we have leftovers! And, encouraged by my daughter’s praise of the chowder she was enjoying (again) this evening (and which I made, as you might have noticed, I mentioned earlier,) I am actually considering cooking again this week.

I know! I’m a maniac!

Kacey has requested… go figure! More soup! She now wants me to make my famous cheesy ham and wild rice soup with potatoes, for which I am sort of famous. (Not really.)

And I am seriously considering cooking it! WHOA!

And in case you’re wondering, the reason I am rambling on about cooking and soups is only because I bowled so badly last night that I can’t bear to talk about it.

Yes, I just wrote a whole blog post about cooking soup. Stay tuned next time when we discuss cleaning the lint from the dryer vent.