29 June 2009

...And He Turns 4...

Today (although I lied to you and told you this Saturday at your birthday party it was your "real" birthday, because darling, I was just so darn tired of hearing "am I four NOW?", that I chose to pick Saturday to answer "Yes, yes you are...."), you turn 4.

Four-years-old.


I remember being a mom of just one and you being a toddler, meeting other moms with kids around the age of 4 and thinking how grown-up they looked - how much bigger they were than you at that time and how far in the future it seemed before you'd be mastering the swing set or a game of tag without assistance like those children.

You can play tag now, but frankly dear, you still haven't mastered the swing. It's ok though, we'll work on that one.

You know what you want, and when you want it. You can tell me the longest stories about absolutely nothing, because finally... you have enough words in your little head to do so. And they are wonderful, imaginative stories with Bad Guys and Dinosaurs, Pirates and Star Wars, Dragonflies and Spongebob, Robots and Frogs... and I hope they never go away.

Your Lego skills challenge your Father's and those sharks you keep drawing? Well. They look exactly like sharks and I am so impressed.

My first born, you are no longer a baby.

This year, you picked your party all by yourself, steadfast in your determination to have a "Bowling Party". I just don't know where you get your stubbornness.... So, without any prior experience to bowling, I did as you requested. I also brought you to the store, and let you pick out a cake. Yes, you picked the most expensive one, but it was a hit.







Mommy and Daddy joke that your first memory is from the beach, a few weeks before your 3rd birthday. You and Daddy were playing with a medium-sized blue crab in the sand by the shoreline and that crab had had enough! Daddy thought he'd take on the challenge, but suddenly the crab struck and "bit Dada on his right foot" (your words...).

I laugh so hard to think that you tell no other stories about anything prior to that day at the beach, and surely you'll remember it forever. Hopefully the lesson about "not messing with things that have claws" and the lesson of "getting away from Daddy when he is messing with things that can hurt him" will stick.

Mommy was so very worried about people showing up to your party with it being so close to the 4th of July, but the turnout was amazing! We had, at one count, about 15 kids! And they were all there for you! (ok, Mommy likes to be honest, so some of those kids came because there was cake and pizza and bowling....) (... they ALSO like you...)

But either way, they sang Happy Birthday to you, and in true Conner fashion, your tiny little cheeks flushed bright crimson and you hid your head beneath the table for a brief moment. You came back up with a little help...

It took you one breath to blow out all 4 candles - all by yourself.

You are such a big boy now.

And I know you told me last night "I don't wanna take dis shirt off till I have anodder birfday potty", but baby... mommy is going to have to wash that shirt for you and it'll still be another year.

Sigh... another year... you really are growing up.

Mommy loves you and as cliche as it is to say this - you'll always be my baby.



1 week old







almost 3 months old







1st Christmas - 6 months old







shortly after his 1st Birthday







21 months








2 years old







EEK! He's 3!







And now... you are 4.

28 June 2009

General Tso's Chicken Recipe

As promised, here's that yummy recipe for General Tso's Chicken, which can be found at almost any Chinese take-out restaurant.


(Noteworthy: I have no IDEA how to pronounce "Tso". Please leave a pronunciation key in the comments section if you have an education clue, because up until now, I just said General "tzscho"
REALLYREALLYREALLY fast when ordering, preceded by the # on the menu. Help.)

To make this recipe, you will need:
1 cup (pre-cooked) white rice
Preparation: In a large bowl, rinse 1 cup of rice under running water. The rice will sink to the bottom, so use your hands to move the rice around in the bottom. The water pouring over the sides will be milky in color - this process removes some of the starch from the rice to make it sticky for Asian Recipes. Rinse for about 3 minutes, leaving some starch in (you don't want it to be one, unmovable bowl of rice, so the water should never be clear).

Anyhooters (I'm not a recipe writer, can you tell?), cook the now partially-rinsed rice as directed. Meaning, boil 2 cups water then add 1 cup rice and reduce heat to low. Cover and LEAVE ALONE (no peeking!!) (ok, I stir once just to make sure there's nothing going on in that pot that I don't know about... unattended rice tend to throw major parties... just so you know...).


Let the water cook out for about 18 minutes (the package will say 20+, but something about rinsing the rice means it takes less time). Then "fluff"... whatever that means...
Put the rice off to the side - it's now done!

Next, you'll need to make the marinade which will later be cooked to make the sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
6 tables spoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons rice wine (*substitute: apple juice - and I think it adds a nice flavor)
1-3 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped finely (more is better in this marinade/sauce)
3 tablespoons of minced ginger (I use the kind in a jar. You can find it in the produce section. MUCH easier than buying ginger and not using the whole thing and SO easy, did I mention easier?)
2 tablespoons of Sesame Oil or Wok Oil (I used the Wok oil)
Red Pepper Flakes (I used about a tablespoon, I like things spicy, but the kids can't handle much more than this)

Mix all these ingredients together. Set aside

Then:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
Chop this into 1-inch cubes. Place in the marinade. Let sit (in the frig) for at least an hour. I did 2.5 and the chicken was juicy and tender.

After it marinades, you'll need to bread and pan fry the chicken. Take the chicken out of the marinade. Take the marinade and put it in a sauce pan, but one large enough that you'll be able to fit all the chicken and some broccoli in later. (I used a large pan that I use for things like Hamburger Helper. Oh, that's right, I make Hamburger Helper.)

Add to the marinade (that's now in the pan):
4-5 tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
Beat with a whisk until smooth. Turn heat to medium. Watch this closely, stirring often. You want a slightly thick sauce. (I had to turn it down a little about halfway through)

While the sauce is reducing (and you ARE WATCHING IT, remember?)...

You'll need to coat and pan-fry the chicken, so heat 2/3 cup oil in a pan and:
1-2 eggs, beaten (if using extra large eggs, just 1 will do)
1/2 cup of cornstarch
Coat the chicken in the egg. Then, place 1/2 cup cornstarch in a large ziploc bag, and throw in the chicken/egg mix. Shake like crazy. Shake it fast, but watch yourself, shake it face - show em wat your workin' wid.

Add this to the (now hot) oil in the pan. It should take about 3 minutes to cook the chicken, since it's small. You are wanting it to be golden brown.

Check on the sauce, if it's starting to thicken, go ahead and add the cooked chicken to the sauce mix and turn it down to medium-low. (If it's not yet thick, set the chicken on a paper towel to drain).

Now grab 1 cup frozen broccoli florets and at it to the sauce/chicken mix.

Cover and put on low.

Within the next 4-5 minutes, everything should be glazed in saucey goodness and done.
Serve over the rice you made earlier and enjoy!

Yummers.

This makes, easily 4-6 regular servings. Add extra red pepper flakes if it's not spicy enough for you (I sure did!!).

26 June 2009

7 Quick Takes: Plus a Half Edition

--1--

Because I am STILL having issues with picking a color pallett for my living room, hallway, master bedroom and master bath makeover (noticed I said "COLOR PALLETT" because, guess what? I also have to buy CURTAINS or DRAPES or LORD HELP ME, CLOTHE TO COVER MY DINING ROOM WINDOWS, sigh)... I found this nifty little "tool" in my desperation.

It's an iPhone app from Benjamin Moore called ben. Really, it's more fun than useful, for me, but I can see where it'd have some practical uses.

Say, for instance, you have a son with the most amazing blue eyes, and you thought it'd be a sweet idea to repaint his room using said color. Well, we can't go scraping corneas out and placing them in the handy color matcher machine, now can we?

No siree.

In the ben app, you can find a picture, tap any point on that picture and it'll match it to a paint swatch from the Benjamin Moore collection.




Conner's eyes happen to be "Athens Blue".





--2--

Since we are on the subject of iPhone apps that rock my face off, or at least my children's faces off - mostly Conner's face... I had a little fun of my own the other day with the sweetest picture of my youngest child:



Might I present to you Chasadrian Alexandria? Heavens, I need to make sure to label this one for "delete within the next 4 years"....

This all stems from some photographs my grandmother brought over to show me just how much Chase and I looked alike as babies - and dudes! We SO do! It's amazing. So, naturally, she gives me the "Chase should have been a girl" speech, and I, in turn, gave him some beautiful golden locks and a precious little bow using Scribble Lite (the iPhone app)

Funny: I showed this to Conner, and he thought it was L. Which, in hindsight, is kinda disturbing...

(For those of you not clicking that link, because I'm a little link and picture crazy today, L. is his puppy crush from Pre-School...)



--3--

Enough about iPhone apps, mk?

Let's talk about how DEEPLY SATISFYING it is to prepare dinner at lunchtime, when you are ALREADY cooking lunch and over the stove? SO SATISFYING.

This past Saturday, while playing short-order cook, I managed to throw together this:





Baked Ziti! Just brown up some hamburger meat, add a large (26 ounce??) can of spaghetti sauce, simmer for a bit. While that's working, boil off half a regular sized box of ziti (make sure to salt the water well!) for 7-8 minutes, as directed. Then, mix it all together in a casserole dish, throw in some Italian Cheese Blend (Publix!), and throw it in the frig. I pulled it out an hour before dinner time, heated the over and baked for 45 minutes under a loose foil at 350.

Delicious (thanks MOM! Loved this dish!)





--4--

For Conner's 2nd (?) birthday, he received Darth Tater:





(Hysterical, no?)
He didn't quite get it then, but nowadays, as many of you know... he's all about some Star Wars.

So, it was no surprise when he re-found his toy. It was even MORE hysterical when he started to become one with the Dark Spud:




(iPhone quality + Jedi speed = blurry pics and one sorry blogger....)
May the Funny be with you.





--5--

Speaking of FOOD! I made General Tso's Chicken the other night, and it was DELICIOUS! I'm going to post the recipe tomorrow after Conner's bday party (or Sunday, whichever). It was so very good, and just as good as anything I could have purchased from take-out!

Here's a preview of my leftovers (sorry about that...)






--6--

I cleaned out the window seals yesterday, is that blog worthy? I feel like anything that has to be cleaned, but can't be seen AND breaks a sweat deserves a shout-out.

Feel free to leave your least recognized and unrewarded accomplishment in the comments section. I'll give you a virtual high-five for it!




--7--

You know who I find amazing? Ellie over at One Crafty Mother and her etsy store, Shining Stones. She's a self-described "former executive, proud SAHM of 2, artist, designer, and recovering alcoholic".

Her jewelry is amazing - SEE:


and her prices will floor you. Her story of recovery is even more awesome, so I'd suggest a gander at her site. Plus, she gives away a piece of her stunning jewelry twice monthly, so while you are there, go ahead and look into that too.




--7 1/2 --
The Church of Amanda post really hit home with a lot of you, and I really enjoyed your comments. If you are visiting from Conversion Diary, go ahead and take a look at that post too. It's all about finding your Church Home and what to do when that search has been exhausted. Let me know your thoughts on the subject.





For more quick takes, please visit the Conversion Diary.


24 June 2009

Church of Amanda

When we relocated to Montgomery from Birmingham, Michael and I soon noticed a trend. I don't even know if trend is the right word because trends aren't always followed by every single person, but I don't have another word and I refuse to google it right now, so deal, ok?

Great.

The trend-that-everyone-was-doing- and-I-mean-everyone, you might ask?

Well, people would introduce themselves, ask our names, where we were from and then ask one. more. question.

"So... what church do you go to?"

At first it wasn't odd, it set off zero alarms and we just answered very frankly that we were literally JUST settling in to our new surroundings and we would soon start the Church Hunt.

Each person, every person, would take that opportunity to invite our family to The Greatest Church on Earth (or at least one within driving distance). "Invites" came from all denominations - Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, etc. All with the same persuasive tone, eager invite and enthusiastic PR rant about their Church Home.

It took a few weeks before it went from "Oh, well I got another 4 invites today, honey...." to "Um, Amanda... does everyone ask you what church we've signed our livelihood over to yet when you are out grocery shopping?" (Michael was getting, at one point, no less than 10 DIFFERENT invites a day - he was meeting a LOT of new people opening up a new office here).

It became a joke around here, within the confides of our 4-sides brick. Not a JOKE joke, but something we found very Montgomery. Nothing said "Welcome to the Bible Belt" more than having to meet a new person and go through the "Name, Residency, Church Affiliation" interrogation routine. We know church is important, and that it has an EXTRA SPECIAL importance here, but in a large(r) city - like say, Birmingham - asking someone's church affiliation within 2.5 seconds of meeting them is just not normal (or the norm, if you will).

And soon we took the bait on several local church hooks, trying on a few different denominations and coming up a little short. We realized that we didn't really fit in here, and it would take time to "break in" to some of these very tightly knit groups of friends and that in this new, strange world, everything was Church-centric.

Here's the part where I break off and tell you that I have absolutely nothing against church - as a matter of fact, I miss having a Church Home. It's a wonderful place to meet like-minded and even different-minded people to share experiences with and worship the Lord. A place to become comfortable in and grow relationships with both your neighbor and your Savior. Church is a haven for raising children in the ways God has set forth for us.

Our problem, if you will, was that it's just so dang different here.

The children don't go to the same schools, the kids in the neighborhoods, ergo, don't play together unless they have something else in common - and in this case it is church.

That's apparently why almost 99% of Montgomerians felt it was so important for us to "pick one and pick one NOW".

When we DID pick, under a bit of pressure to do so, we kinda figured out the hard way we'd pick the wrong one for us (mucho emphasiso on the US-o part...o...). I don't really care to go into which church we picked or how it All Went Wrong. Honestly, it wasn't the church at all, but certain people in a certain group of people in that church. And What Went Wrong wasn't even church-related, but very non-church related and this is me stopping about this now because I don't want it to get all "Jon and Kate drama" on my blog about church and these people, because dude, that could go very very badly.

However, the drama surrounding that Church Break-up made us oh so hesitant about picking another one.

And when it came time to put Conner in preschool, I shopped around some more because I wanted him to go to a church preschool (just as I did). We "tried on" three more churches, and we finally picked what is known in Montgomery as Six Flags Over God, because people - it's huge. But, big has it's advantages.

I really like the place, I do, but it still doesn't feel like Home to me, and I don't think it can. It's, again, not the people and this time, not the drama.... but, it's nothing like what I grew up with and I think the only way to find that Special Something I am looking for in a church is to be comfortable. And there is ONE THING I am not in this New Place, and that is COMFORTABLE.

For me and my family, committing to a place that doesn't call to you isn't committing to the Lord in a way I find appropriate (Staci pointed that one out, as she is having the same problems in her "new place" and she's about to move to The Netherlands, so she's sure to have even MORE of a problem... nothing says uncomfortable like a church sermon in Dutch...).

And going home? Well, we all know that isn't an option right now.

And why, Amanda, have you ranted about all this for so long? Well, I'm glad I asked what you were thinking, because I'd like to present to you an idea:

The Church of Amanda

(GASP!) (Oh, calm down already) (it's not that bad, and we aren't worshipping me) (although...) (no seriously... moving on)

In the Church of Amanda (which is located in my house, because in my house, I am comfortable AND I like the people... most of the time, anyways), we believe in God as our Creator. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, died on the cross and was resurrected. He was sent here to pay the price for our sins.

In the C.O.A., we (ok, mostly me) like to mix a little Catholic in, and believe that Mary deserves some Special Title, because COME ON, she BIRTHED Jesus. So, she gets Saint rights or something similar and I didn't give them to her, but God did and the Catholic church and some other fine Godly peoples.

We, in COA, believe in lots of Saints, too... because they perform miracles through God on Earth and they deserve Special Credit. I'm just going to save my butt here and say that all the Saints in the Catholic doctrine are credible peoples, so they are good in the C.O.A. (Although, again, some of this is out of Michael's Baptist realm, so... he gets to pick the parts of aforementioned beliefs that he wants to believe, see how flexible we are here in the Church of Amanda?)

In the Church of Amanda, we worship how we want - whether that be through singing or dancing, music or no music, clothes or barely any clothes (because praying in the shower totally counts, and cleanliness is Godliness). There's also no real schedule, so pray when you need to, worship when you need to, confess when you need to... etc.

We also read from The Bible and try and teach the lessons within the Bible that are kid friendly through the Children's Bible with lots of pictures. As a family, we say the Lord's Prayer and several others when necessary, and since I am Catholic-lite, I also say Hail Mary's. But, again... this is all about comfort... so do as you wish in the Church of Amanda.

Oh, there's one issue that the Church of Amanda needs addressing - tithing. Since the Church of Amanda is temporary until we go BACK HOME, we tithe to the church that Conner attends school at a little, but mostly to OUR Church Home back in Birmingham.

The Church of Amanda is in no way a jokey-joke or making fun of churches at all, just a funny reminder that sometimes, when you just can't find your fit in a new place, maybe that place isn't for you. In life, you have to make the best of what you are given, so for now, I am doing just that.

I might even make cards. You know, for when people start introducing themselves. I just hope they don't show up expecting a riveting service......

22 June 2009

The Prettiest Girl

Conner came up with the idea for a bowling pary for his 4th birthday. It is most certainly noteworthy to point out that Conner has never been bowling.

It's also interesting to mention that Conner managed to pick out a $50 cake at Publix (which took every fiber of my kegel muscles not to wet the floor the second she told me the price...) and equally as noteworthy to point out that his (gigantic) cake is Spiderman (climbing a foot-high building with several bad guys below....). He's watched one of the movies once, maybe, and seen about 15 cummulative minutes of the cartoon.

But one thing I know for certain Conner wanted with all his tiny little might - L. and S. to come to his party.

In roll-call fashion, we addressed the invitations, albeit much later than I should have (we had that whole "oh crap, Conner needs to go to Children's" thing that kinda got in the way...). I would say a name and Conner would say "yes" or "no". It was a little a-la Mean Girls, but to be frank, he did pick the kids he normally hangs out with and I think he just shook his head or gave me a blank look for the names of the kids he honestly didn't know.

Two people stood out amongst the rest - one being the most adorable, blonde haired, always in pink little girl named L. in his class. In Conner's mind, they are soul mates. Or, at least, he'd share his snack without so much as a whimper.

And the second was his Bestie - S., a well-built, energetic boy from an amazing family of 3 boys, who's mom is the room mom and equally as amazing.

I was so incredibly nervous about calling each mom on Wednesday afternoon, leaving no less than 8 voicemails and not actually speaking to a single person. I filled out each invitation that night and had them at the Big Post Office by pick-up time, knowing that every child would most likely receive the invite on Saturday. I was so nervous that no one would come.

The first e-mail came in this morning, thank God. I caught myself gasp when the first words read "I am so sorry but..."

Then, I kept reading to learn that the apology was for "just now getting back to me" (pish, posh... I'm the Bad Mom that just sent out the invites! Who's surprised?), and that L. - the light of Conner's preschool life - would in FACT be attending.

I practically skipped to the kitchen to make Conner's breakfast just so I could wake him up, feed him and tell him the good news.

I called two people who might not care (they do, swear), because I was over the moon with excitement for my little man.

His birthday wishes are all coming true! (I am such a cornball today)

At this point, that cake could be a pink Barbie Princess with no icing.

We could end up with no pins and bowling balls that are too heavy to pick up.

I could accidentally forget to wrap and bring his Power Rangers shirt (I have no clue why he wanted a Power Rangers shirt, either... sigh).

His brother could wail the whole time and hog all the grown-ups attention.

And none of that will matter - The Prettiest Girl is coming to his birthday party.

20 June 2009

It's Summer and I'm In Hell

You walk outside and it hits you like a 70 lb weight. You take two steps and immediately, you are sweating. By the time you get the the mailbox, you realize that you have butt sweat - and no one can say they are comfortable with butt sweat. Face sweat, ok... I'm cleansing my pores ... arm sweat ... wooohoo, I'm burning calories, but arse sweat? Just for the mail? That's just absurd.

It's mid-June, and the weather for the past week has been just as I would expect Hell to be, minus the sulfur and the torture. Well, the repetitive torture, seeing as I can escape into the glorious abode known as my air conditioned house here in non-Hell.

The high for at LEAST the last 7 days has been between 95 and 100. The heat index, you ask? How hot is FEELS?

Well, this is from today:


That's right. It says 106. Friday, it said 111. That's one hundred and eleven degrees.

Here I am, a stay-at-home mom with two rowdy boys, who thought summer was a time to sit out in the yard, drink lemonade and play in the sprinkler. A time to enjoy their youth, chase crickets (and the dogs), and play tag. I pictured me tan, with my feet in our kiddie pool and snapping pics of the kiddos.

What I got though? Nothing even close.

Conner walked TWO ENTIRE STEPS out our front door this morning at TEN THIRTY - it was already 90 and the humidity was just short of a locker-room sauna. He was doing his favorite chore, taking out the trash with his daddy when he turns to Michael and says "It's weally hot". Michael told him he could wait under the cover of the front porch if he'd like, and by the time 10 seconds had passed and Michael had placed the trash in the bin, Conner had escaped indoors.

Our air conditioner turns on around 8 AM, and stays on the entire day, cutting off sometime around 10:30 or 11 PM - we keep it on 77...

Conner is halfway through his VBS/Summer School, and very much enjoying himself. He has less hesitation about going, and is enthusiastic about seeing his friends.

It's me that's hesitant.

I have scoured our church for the quickest route - the one that leaves us outside the least amount of time. I've found that using the side parking lot means I only have to walk about 25 feet from my car to the door with all 25 pounds of Chase on my hip (he can walk, yes, but it adds both time and obstacles).

In the morning, it's not too bad. At 8:45, it's still around 85-88 and the humidity is in the "just out of the shower but the bathroom door was open" realm.

It's the noon pick-up that's killing me. I park, it's scorching and we drudge inside. I march up the stairs, grab Conner and let him guide Chase to the doors that lead to the parking lot. Then, I pick up Chase, and briskly walk to the vehicle.

I have been gone, TOPS, 10 minutes.

The car is MINIMALLY 110 degrees.

I have to strap both children in, and by that time, I have pits stains, butt sweat, inner thigh sweat and my hair is ruined. Mascara is running down my face and my kids are yelling for the air conditioner.

(Which begs the question - Can I wear short-shorts and a tank top to church to pick up Conner? Because, I've been wearing shirts that cover my ta-tas and my "conservative" shorts, but people, 100 degree weather is grounds for "slutty" clothing, in my book. But, then God is all "Amanda, it's CHURCH" and I'm all "God, it's HOT! Can you PLEASE fix it?" and he's all "Amanda, I'm busy saving babies and puppies right now, and don't you have bigger things to pray about?" and I'm all "God, ok, you are right. You are always right. I'd like to take this time to pray for those babies and those puppies. But, if you get a second, could you lower the temp a smidge?" and then God, in his Big Daddy voice says "Amaaannddda... what did I just say?" and then I stop questioning God's plans for Southern Weather.) (But seriously, a little relief, God?) (and CAN I wear tank tops? Because I am RUINING shirts with all the pit stains) (cough... and get back to the original blog topic...)

Conner starts trying to tell me about his day, but he has to YELL just to get his voice over the roar of the A/C on full blast. I still don't know how school is going... it never gets cool enough to find out....

In the Winter, I hate the cold. In the Spring, I can't breathe. In the Fall, I'm in love, but in Alabama...well... Fall lasts 3 weeks AT BEST.

I'm done whining for now, but that's only because I'm sitting here blogging in my underwear.

19 June 2009

Amanda Talks About Why She is Still Talking About Painting

(no quick takes today, I felt like posting this instead.... such the rule breaker am I)


I've spent an insane amount of time obsessing over paint colors. I've consulted, FB chatted and twittered about it with more people than I can to honestly admit. I skipped nap last Saturday because I purchased one of those decorator magazines from Publix, skimmed through it briefly, salivated on all pages between 12 and 46, and then entered a short panic which caused me to pace my house, pointing out the things I wish I could change.

Then, I called my mom, who is good at this stuff. During our conversation, she managed to find a paint color that I do love (but haven't tried it on my walls, yet), how to make sure I am decorating correctly AND pointed out that some HOW, some WAY I did not, indeed, inherit this Interior Design Gene that every OTHER person in my family seems to possess.

It took all weekend to figure out two things wrong with this whole Amanda Picks A Paint Color Dilemma.

One: I can't determine my order in a Sonic drive-in. I have difficulties with which socks I should wear, even when it is very obvious that no one will see them. I'd rather write you a NOVEL than take a multiple choice test - I am being dead serious. In short - I'm very indecisive.

In school, I'd fail miserably (ok, not FAIL fail, but "not do so hot" fail) at multiple choice tests. There's just so many ..... choices! I could get to the "best two" thing, and in higher level courses "best 3", but when it came to penciling in that lettered bubble, I would choke. What if I chose the wrong one? I'd strike the two non-answers and then freeze.

Completely freeze.

I just couldn't make a decision. What if one looks so right, but the other is MORE right, and I didn't choose it because it's all a big trick? What if BOTH were right, and I could only choose one... so which one was MORE right? Is MORE right even possible?

Unfortunately, my life and my house are not and can not be an essay answer. I can't just churn out a paper about which color I like and how I think I'd love a custom-made toile print headboard for the master bed. I can't write 2,500 words on "what art needs to be purchased or made and hung in the kitchen/dining room/playroom". No novella will make me finally edit my pictures in photoshop, put them in their respective frames and hang them because a novella would not CHOOSE the pictures that NEED to be editing, printed and hung. I will never get those drapes for the dining room.

Then, there's this other problem.

It doesn't bother me, but it hinders me.

Problem number two: I have never lived in any place longer than close to 5 years - my ENTIRE life (and only ONE of those houses, I believe, I actually lived in for 5 years). It's no big deal to me, really, my parents were just moving into bigger houses every few years. The house they had when I was born soon became a house in an area that didn't have a good school system. So, they built a new home in a growing community and soon realized that a community right down the road was better, and we moved, again..... and then we moved once more just to upgrade.

Then, my parents divorced, and we moved twice. It took a couple of years of my mother working her hiney off before we moved (again) into a house behind the high school. It was like being back in a comfortable place with that house, but sadly, I was due for a "life change" and 2 years later, moved out to begin college.

Throughout the last 7 years, I moved an additional 8 times. EIGHT. You read that right. For a grand total of moving somewhere in the 20+ range.

So, I've always lived like a hobo. I have a million packing secrets, and difficulties getting rid of boxes. My brain can't process hanging lots of pictures, or customizing my space because until now, no space has been permanent enough to do so.

In this house, with my young children, I know this is currently home. Painting a house, decorating it to be home, and giving it all the little touches that make 4-sides brick a place for a child to grow up in is simply not a concept I have come to terms with.

Painting this house makes it more solidified - I live here, but also, my children live here. We are not leaving for now (sigh). My house is telling me, screaming for me to put my print on this space and make it a home.

I am not good at decorating and hanging curtains and picking out furniture because until now, it's not something I've ever needed to do - not something I could do.

That's not to say I lack a creative gene, because my passion for editing written (typed) word could fill an ocean (or maybe a large lake...). I can tell you when a spread needs more white space. It's a no brainer for me to dictate how a font is incorrect and the third column needs to be moved 30 picas to the left. Those pictures need to bleed off the page, just so you know. But this other stuff? This stuff you live in - this stuff blows my mind.

Needless to say, that magazine was very overwhelming. Every page said "yummy" and "welcome home". My house, currently, says "HI! We LOVE chaos and Amanda can't match a print to a paint sample, and doesn't have a clue where this picture should really be". I unpacked my last box a few months back. I didn't hang curtains in the living room till I was 8 months pregnant with Chase. As of this Christmas, we will have lived here for 3 years.

And I know .... it's going to take time (and therapy) (and a personal decorator) (and some chocolate) (please send me wine)....




Hi, my name is Amanda (Hi, Amanda) .....and I'm a move-a-holic.

17 June 2009

It's Not CF, Thank You, Lord

It's not Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Thank God.

I just wanted to get that out of the way before I get into our full (and long) day at Children's Hospital in Birmingham (this is me telling you that it's a long post) (and you can ditch at any time) (I won't judge you) (or know, really) (but God is watching) (just so you know) ...

Getting ready this morning wasn't odd, but loading Conner in the car felt like I was doing it with a pair of donor limbs. I was, surely, loading the wrong child. I started driving towards Children's just as I did so very early every morning after Chase was born and transported there. The same road, Michael and I in the front seat, but this time, there sat Conner - as the patient.

We were quiet for the first 20 minutes or so, when I finally let the elephant in the car get some fresh air. "We have the wrong kid with us," with a tinge of The Sad in my voice.

Michael agreed whole-heartily and touched my hand.

We parked on the 2nd floor, and got The Money Spot a few down from the walkway. I remembered to bring my parking ticket with me, but reminded myself that the green NICU bracelet was still in the pocket of the diaper bag, just in case I forgot to get the ticket validated. Both get you out of the deck free.

We made small talk in the breezeway and into the hospital. The hardest part is the smell - the memories and fears attached to that smell remind me with such intensity that I almost lost my son in that very building.

It's really an amazing place - full of helpful people, smiling faces, cheerful colors and decorations to make any child beam. Conner picked out his wagon for the day, and we headed for the elevators to the right of the main ones, those are fastest.


(on this episode of Pimp Your Ride: Wagon Edition...)


Downstairs, in Clinic 6, I signed in with all my cards ready, initialed the HIPA in record time and cut corners by having the receptionist pull Chase's contact information and copying it to start Conner's file.

We then were directed to X-rays and Main Lab and chose radiology first because there's a small elevator close to the clinics that is super fast. Conner, at this point, is very busy with his fruit snacks and apple juice and seems to be completely enjoying being dragged around in a red wagon. I checked to see if there was room for me, sadly no.

After signing in, we are called back quickly, but Michael left me in the waiting room. He is a little funny about me being exposed to anything "radiology" related because of the whole "I am carrying viable eggs" thing - isn't that just adorable? Hm. Yes, adorable is what I will call it....

Conner gets "pictures taken of his insides", as he puts it, and it rewarded with 2 stickers - an Elmo and Iron Man. We roll down the hallway, around the EEG clinic and into the Main Lab. Conner is still in the wagon and complaining that he is tired, so I pull out he laptop and load "MickeyMouse.com" (his words). After a 10 minute wait (actually, our longest of the day), we are called back.

Now, I googled CF a few times before this appointment, and knew that the standard test included a "SWEC" or "SWAC" test (can't figure out which of those it is), but I knew it meant they were going to somehow make Conner's arm sweat and measure how salty his sweat was.

What Dr. Google failed to tell me was exactly how they were going to make him sweat....

On one arm, the nurse rolled up Conner's short-sleeved tee to his shoulder blade and cleaned off his arm. Then, she placed a water-soaked, 1-inch square gauze above the bend of his arm on his bicep, placed a metal charger on top, and wrapped a velcro bracelet around that to secure the metal piece. Then, below his elbow, the nurse did the same thing, leaving the piece of metal above the bracelet.

Next, the fun part - she took out one black cable charger, just like what you'd use to jump your car (only much more tiny) and clamped it on top of the metal receiver. Then, she clamped a red cable charger to the red receiver on the bottom part of his arm and turned on the machine. It read "2 v" (2 volts, I suppose). He immediately began screaming, and the open skin between the two bound areas became visibly red and bumpy. He tried to rip off the bottom bracelet, only to restart the test.

For five minutes, he screamed. We promised him everything from ice cream to Neptune. I held his hand, blew cold air on his face and Michael rocked him. We counted down the final 30 seconds of the 5 minutes together.

The nurse took off the chargers and bracelets, wrapped each in a newborn diaper, plastic wrap, cotton and bright blue bandages.

And then.... she rolled up the sleeve on his left arm. I think I saw his soul jump through the second floor's ceiling. In a struggle, she cleaned and wrapped this arm the same as the right. She started the charge and I asked Conner if he wanted chocolate or vanilla ice cream. I even promised to top it with M&Ms and serve it to him during an African Safari while cruising the terrain in a Jeep made of gold.

In the middle of one long run-on wail, he managed to mutter "I want you to count with me again".

We counted, slowly, number by number. I would say "32" and he'd repeat me. I'm close to certain he's never counted this high, but it didn't matter and we made it to 70 before the 5 minutes were up. He earned 1 more sticker - The Incredibles.

During our 30 minute wait, we purchased a chocolate pudding parfait topped with brownies and whipped cream. He downed half of it in between post-cry air-gasps.



(Hey Look! A painted COW!)


At 11:10 we returned to have the bandages removed, the gauze carefully placed in a container for the lab, and obtained our second Incredibles sticker. We were really racking up today.

It was then that we headed back to Clinic 6 - Pulmonology, waiting no longer than 3 minutes.

The nurse came in, and we covered Conner's slightly-sorted medical history. RSV at 18 months that wasn't caught till way too late, a full month in before a doctor actually tested him. That doctor was our first experience with the medical community in Montgomery, a pediatrician who wouldn't take blood work from a child with a 104 fever for over 3 weeks. A pediatrician that should be counting her lucky stars that I am not currently writing my lawyer instead of a blog. A pediatrician that still just might receive a nasty, nasty letter and a little bad mouthing. As a matter of fact, it's this pediatrician:

Dr. Catherine Wood

and her practice is located here:

Partners in Pediatrics
8160 Seaton Pl
Montgomery, AL 36116
(334) 272-1799

DO NOT TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO THIS PRACTICE.

If she had taken ANY time to diagnose my son, after we'd come to her every few days for 3 weeks with a lethargic 18-month-old running a high fever, my son might have avoided nearly 20 rounds of antibiotics.

He could have avoided 3 cases of pneumonia.

Conner might have never had the Flu.

Conner wouldn't even BE at Children's today, and wouldn't have had to cry through a shock-test.

Conner wouldn't have Asthma.

This is our treatment path for now. It is believed that the damage caused by RSV weakened Conner's lungs and airways, leaving him prone to infection after infection. Most Asthma patients have "triggers" and we are under the hypothesis that any type of cold or respiratory virus/illness is his. Under this theory, Conner comes in contact with a common cold, his airways constrict, fluid builds in his lungs (causing fluid to show up on his chest x-rays) and he stays sick for 3 weeks rather than 3 days. His constant cough is his body fighting for a little "breathing room". His lack of growth is related to the lack of oxygen.

For now, we are on a "litmus test" if you will, using a twice-a-day inhaler along with a rescue inhaler in case he does contract any type of cold or virus. We will know that Asthma is his diagnosis if:
  1. His frequent dry cough lessens
  2. His energy level increases
  3. If he gets sick, he gets better within a week (instead of his usual 3-4 week colds...)

We have a follow-up appointment in 3 months and it is hopeful that this diagnosis is correct, and will allow Conner to be healthier, happier and maybe even taller and thicker!

If not, the other hypothesis on the table would be an auto-immune disorder, so of the two - we will take the Asthma.

(Oh, and Conner scored two MORE stickers after his diagnosis - Thomas the Train!)

**Edited to add: Erin asked a funny question in the comments section, saying "Where did he put the stickers when he got home?"
Answer: With every sticker obtained, Conner placed them on Michael's shirt - Elmo was first and got center stage on Michael's yellow polo. The rest soon joined Elmo and by the end of the day, Michael looked as if a sticker factory had attacked him. He wore them for Conner all day and it was absolutely precious.

15 June 2009

Connerisms, Pictures, Mom Tip and Pulmonology Appointment Tomorrow


A few 'Connerisms' before his appointment tomorrow:

While playing with his "people" Friday, here's the conversation I overheard:

Conner's 1st Person: Hi! How are you?
Conner's 2nd Person: I'm good. What is your name?
1st person: I'm Dard Vada
2nd person: Where did you come from?
Dard Vada: My momma.


---------------


Conner at VBS/Summer School on Thursday was playing with two 6-year-old boys, Matthew and and Landon. Chase and Conner were in a playhouse, when Matthew approached the door and knocked. I was behind the house, about 5-feet, but close enough to hear this:

Conner: Who is it?
Matthew: It's Matthew
Conner: Come in!
(Matthew walks in and Conner shuts the door)
Conner: Hi, My name is Tonna, dis is my friend Chasey.
Matthew: Is he like your 'friend friend' or your brother?
(This takes a minute for Conner to process and then, he picks an answer)
Conner: My brova friend.


---------------

Before bed last night, as he's falling asleep:
Conner: Momma, can I pet your eyebrows?

---------------


Oh, and a few pics of the boys:








---------------


And finally, since this blog is lacking all things of interest to readers not blood-related to me (or my sista's by otha mista's) (I'm so lame).... I'll give you an Official Mom Job Mommy Tip:

For lunch, or all any meal(s) that requires THE condiment, I offer Conner the choice of a letter of the alphabet to be squirted into his ketchup using mustard. It gets him interested in lunch, gives him a "choice" (which 4-year-olds love.... sigh...) and, obviously, drives home that alphabet!

He has several favorites:
"C - is for my name" (correcting my thinking that "C is for COOKIE!")
"F, for the froggies"
and "X marks the spot, Arrggg!"
- all direct Conner quotes.

When I wear my VS Pink pajama pants, and it says "TEAM PINK!" on the butt (they were ON SALE PEOPLE), he sometimes picks a letter off my arse. Isn't that lovely?

Here's a pic (not of my arse, sorry) (maybe someday) (or TOTALLY not):



Keep us in your thoughts tomorrow and if Children's has reliable wifi (which, if I recall, it does), I'll keep you all informed via Twitter (which, if you don't follow @themomjob, you can read my tweets in the sidebar to your left).

12 June 2009

7 Quick Takes: These Things Are Good For My A.D.D. Edition

--1--
Conner is absolutely horrible at Hide and Go Seek. Right now, he's under a gigantic Haverty's shopping bag, yelling out "I am in the kitchen!". I started my part of this game by responding "Are you in the kitchen?", and he answers "Nooooo... *giggle*"

We continue on this road, with me asking him if he is in the living room/bathroom/car/The Moon and he'll say "Noooooo... *giggle*"

In the end, I'll ask "Are you under a bag in momma and dadda's room?" and he answers in his giggly voice "Mmmmhhmmmm".

Love this kid. I never even have to move for this game. Win.

Here is Conner, after finally putting together his rockets properly without assistance and playing with them as directed:






--2--

Chase is ... brace yourselves.. officially weaned! Eek! I KNOW! (@ 17 months, for the record)

Yes, this is me talking about my boobies and breastfeeding, AGAIN, but seriously people - it wasn't easy. Luckily, it wasn't as "infection riddled" as weaning was with Conner. Since I took my DEAR SWEET TIME, over several MONTHS actually, I got down to about a week of only one TINY feeding... but I felt kinda... stuck.

I kept getting a little engorged, and right around that time, my little Succubus would come wandering in... crying... wanting in my lap... and then molesting my chest. And, I felt relieved.

But finally, I had enough last week, and broke him once he was done being sick. I was super busy with Conner being sick, so... it seemed right. Chase just spent his "crying because I miss my mommy's boobies" time with Michael and I left the room.

When he would come to me crying, I'll admit, it was hard not to just throw him on the breast. He comforts himself now by laying on my chest, which is just adorable.... and sad... and adorable... and sad... and...



--3--

I am so random.

But, people.... Kendra from "Girls Next Door"? The REALLY annoying and extra-slutty one? Pregnant? I thought I submitted the paperwork to take her off the Official Breeder's List. No? That's it! I'm writing my congressman....


But seriously, I bet the baby daddy is really this guy:


Ha. Ok... no... it's this lucky stud:



(Hank Baskett) (NFL) (Yeah, I don't know who he is either) (But he gets special points for putting up with her laugh) (Or he's a total moron) (Nevermind) (Juuuust a moron)




--4--
While on the subject of Stuff That is SO Not Important, The Fashion Show is NOT an acceptable replacement for Project Runway, Bravo. This is me NOT ACCEPTING it... get that? No el replacmento for Tim el Gun-o? Comprende?

Fix it.



--5--

I am, officially, addicted to Twitter. I know I am supposed to use it to post witty-banter under 140 characters in length, but instead, I seem to be abusing it as a means of instant communication.

I am baaad girl.

Almost as bad as a trip to the gas station just for KitKat bars. Five. For me. I've been having them for breakfast.







--6--

3 words: New. Iphone. Update

Swwoooooooooooooon.



--7--
Chase likes to assault the recyclables (those two brown sacks on the ground). It's kinda a hit-and-run thing, you might say:



And hit-and-runs are typically quick... which makes blurry phone pictures.
Red. handed. (and the caffeinated beverages in the background were for our guests and Conner's party.... which is now NOT happening at my house... Thank You, Lord)



For more Quick Takes, I'd suggest the Conversion Diary.

09 June 2009

Shirt or Dress? Eh?

I'm short. I've mentioned this before, and I bring it up often. Probably because in the ways of the world, the only thing I can "bring up" is written word... because I AM SHORT. Bad joke, Amanda.

In being short, I have always had an external dilemma - is this thing I am wearing really a long shirt or a short dress? And, when I would wear said item (back in the day...) to school or whathaveyou, I'd always be subconscious about what would happen if I ran into someone wearing the same item opposite of how I'd chosen to wear it (especially in the me: dress, them: shirt because that means me = skank).

And this was ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL before shirt-dresses started popping up all ova da place. Shirts started getting longer, and I began to think I was shrinking. Then, I fell preggers, and thanked Tha Lawd (I feel bad for even typing that - so - The Lord, I thanked) that I owned so many "long" shirts...

... Once un-pregnant and Just Fat, I thanked The Lord for my baggy, long shirts.

Then, I became skinny again - and wore them as dresses.

Then, I got knocked up again, and wore them as moo-moos.

But, still... THE CONFLICT? Shouldn't the LABEL just say "Dear Consumer, This here item is a shirt. Might we suggest these leggings...."? I think they should. 

Shirts are STILL getting longer, which only makes me more confident (thank you AGAIN God), because now? Well, now my 4'10" self can proudly wear these items (since it's 9o-freaking-2 out, already!?!) and not care whether they are shirt or dress because they reach my knees...

Yesterday I found this blog, which addresses "Shirt or Dress?" in a post and vote fashion. The site gets The Mom Job's Official "May Contain Some Adult Content" Warning, but in all - is freaking hysterical.

Have you ever found yourself in this pickle? My personal solution is this: when in doubt, put some other freaking clothes on. (I also heart leggings) (I tried to find a picture of myself in one of my shirt/dresses [in which I wore the item as a dress], but failed. Sorry.)

07 June 2009

"Shush Girl, Shut Your Lips..."

So, there I am.




.... heading to Haverty's to replace aforementioned couch with enough credit to buy more than a couch. 

Like maybe, this couch:



(which I am NOT in love with, but I only have 13 more days to pick one and I walked around this store for 2 hours, had a tiny panic attack and finally said "well, the heck with this". Mike and I had two prerequisites: dark and "nap" worthy)

But with these pillows:


(I did not miss my calling as an interior designer. Hats off to those people, but this stuff is so not me.) (and I also got a side table, a recliner, a vase and some really heavy bookends that are likely to end up as weapons for the boys... anyhooters...)


I'm listening to my new best friend - let's call her "Sarius" satellite radio (in my new car!)(squeel!). And let's also not call it a her, seeing I am totally in love. So, we will call him Saritri and he's Greek and has a boat. He also plays all the music I love, which makes him extra hot. 

So, yes.. there I am listening to the 90s on Channel 9, the 20s on 20 (which is the "20" in 2000... I know... just nod and keep reading) or the BPM (those might be the correct letters) which is basically "today's top music mixed with some ultra gnarly beats" (club music). Yeah, ok. It sucks. But really, it gets me moving, so sue me.

Anyways, I am singing along. Loudly. Hand gestures, a little window crackage and some wickedly pathetic dances moves from the waist up (remember: driving). 

It is worth noting here that I am obviously without the offspring and am totally rocking out with my music way up. I am singing at the top of my lungs to a song I am not prepared to disclose to Teh Internets for fear of tar and feathering and lots of laughter and maybe a "Wow, Amanda... you are such a dork". I will disclose this though: I can NOT sing. Like, for reals. CAN NOT SING.

It's then that I look up in my shiny new car over the top of my sunglasses and notice the OnStar microphone.

Hum. 

That little microphone-y thingy. Yup.

Music goes down a few hundred numbers and I stop my singing.

What if, on the reallllllly slow days, the nice people at OnStar do random car checks. Which, I hope all their days are slow because a busy day at OnStar means bad things, so if they are doing random car checks because the "crashing business" is slow, then by all means - eavesdrop on the stay-at-home 20-something mom who is rocking out to If You Seek Amy, Dance Remix a totally awesome song that makes me look hot.

But, seriously.

I stopped singing.

Then that song that goes "Shush girl, shut your lips... do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips" (google says: "Don't Trust Me" by 3Oh!3) and I could not resist. I mean, how many times have I rocked out at red lights without a care, fully aware that the people around me are considering calling 911 for what they believe to be a Grand Mal Seizure? 

A million would be a good guess.

OnStar still kinda freaks me out though.... but I'll never stop rocking out in my car. I'm also taking requests from OnStar employees. It'll be like a bad karaoke bar! On demand!

05 June 2009

7 Quick Takes: Sick House, Paint Decision and Conner Might Be Naked... Edition

--1--
New appointment, thanks to Donya for Conner's testing: June 16th. God heard your prayers and put Donya in action.



--2--
I don't have a clue how I've even made it through the last 2 weeks. It feels like a month, without weekends... 

What I realize now is how I never once just gave up and it wasn't even a thought! I just did and stopping wasn't even an option. I have held children down, wrestled them for 10 minutes just to get 5 ml of Tylenol/Ibuprofen/Amoxil/Cepha and Imodium more times than I even want to remember. At some point, I was carrying around the oral dispensers in my bra pocket, just so I'd remember to A) dose a child and B) wash them correctly in the kitchen. 

And then there was the yeast infection that came back because Chase was on antibiotics, and it took two grown people just to change his diaper and lube him up. I guess Monistat hurts (yup, we didn't bother with the Rx this time... just over the counter ladies' stuff)? Maybe it was the rash that was so sensitive? Either way... that boy gave me one heckofa fight.

I've washed and bleached and sanitized about 300% more things than in a normal week.

I've seen higher temps from both of my children than ever before.

I stayed up just to make sure Conner was breathing right... for hours... and never really thought of the missed sleep...

Then finally last night, I realized I haven't been sleeping well and my back hurts, and that it's been like this for a week, but that I am just now really paying attention to it. Guess this is what happens when your wee ones get sick.



--3--

The day before Conner starting showing signs of being sick, Chase was still having tummy problems from the antibiotics, and as a result needed a bath due to a "mess"... BUT! I was smack in the middle of making my Mom's World Famous Chicken Roll-Ups (maybe I should post the recipe...) and was in a time crunch. The chicken had to marinade for at least 20 minutes in the frig, and I hadn't shredded it yet.

So... with baby in the bath, I brought my culinary-ness to the bathroom. Yes, sounds gross... but dinner was delicious AND on time:






--4--

Conner started wearing my boots around the house. Too bad he doesn't wear them with pants (or that he isn't trying to shove his brother in the shower...):


 Of course those are real shorts.... his mother did not just draw those on in under 30 seconds in Photoshop Elements... Conner always has pants on...




--5--

Have you ever TASTED Pedialyte? Shiver. It's reminiscent of the goop they make you drink for the glucose test during pregnancy.

I found that mixing 2/3 orange Pedialyte with 1/3 red gatorade (and an extra splash for good luck)(and less vomit) and served extra-chilly makes the kids NOT gag, and actually rather much like it. 

Win.


--6--

You know what is one thing people never mention pre-children that they should? (Obviously, there are about 2.7 trillion answers to this question - like how I forgot/didn't know to warn Michael that there would be placenta. I just thought he knew.... Oops.)

The fact I would've like to have known: How many times you will be head-butted in the nose, eye socket, foreheard.

Like, that's just something I would have wanted a warning for. I could've sharpened my reaction time or something... Or bought a face guard and helmet.



--7--
We decided on Blue Opal (Behr.com):



The circled picture with the flowers is also Blue Opal, as is the swatch with the 'X' on it. I'm sorry for assuming everyone is a moron and couldn't figure that out on their own. Just one of those days.



For more Quick Takes visit the Conversion Diary.

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