Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here We Go Again

Today I officially return to freelance writer status. Or stay-at-home mom status. Or both, I guess, depending on the situation. 

It was my last day at the nonprofit. My co-workers and boss there are awesome and it was sad to leave them, but I'm looking forward to another summer with my boys. Well, looking forward to and dreading simultaneously. 

I am feeling the panic creeping in over once again having long stretches of days at home...with my boys...with no school. However, rather than responding to this panic by scheduling an activity for every day of the week, I'm trying to hold on and let it pass, reminding myself that having no plans means you can do whatever you want! Well, anything I want that includes my children. 

It will be fun! I will savor every moment of their fleeting childhood...enjoy all the time I have with them while they are still so young and sweet...and then when I've had enough, I'll send them to grandma's and go have happy hour with some adults. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"City" Rhymes with a More Appropriate Description

I'm pretty sure Party City is the antidote to wanting to have a party. Seriously, I took the boys there today to get the decorations for their solid gold extravaganza (a.k.a. their golden birthday party) and the whole experience made me want to stop having parties in protest. 

I suppose they think the stuff they sell is so "fun" that there's no need to organize or label any of it...or even restock. Maybe they also think the "party atmosphere" they represent makes up for the apathetic employees they hire. When I asked if they had gold balloons shaped like the number 5 (a must-have for a 5-year-old's golden birthday), the employee actually laughed when he said no. They had 2s and 6s and 0s, but no 5s. Was it funny that I wanted such a thing or was he just happy that he didn't need to bother helping me? I couldn't tell.

But the final straw, after spending 30 minutes sifting through party supplies, was getting my cart -- my cart with two almost-five-year-olds bouncing off the sides of it -- to the only register with its light on (you know, the lights that indicate which ones are open?) to find that there were no employees in sight. Then after a line had formed behind us, a woman comes strolling from the back and informs me she would like to ring me up three registers away...she said this as she looked at the contents of my cart, which had been carefully loaded onto the counter of the register with its light on. "Awesome," is all I could muster. 

As we left the store with our bags of golden pseudo-treasures, I couldn't even wait until we got outside to say to my boys, "Let's never shop here again, okay?" Okay.

Team Owen Returns

Team Owen is back in action raising money for Autism Speaks. We're trying to duplicate our success surrounding World Autism Awareness Day, only this time we're going to get out and actually walk.

Those of you in the Twin Cities area are welcome to walk with us on Sept. 20. Those of you in other places are welcome to pledge your support. If you are unable to do either of those things, you can still help by spreading the word and by educating others on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: ASD is a mysterious disorder. There are millions of children who have it and no one has any scientific evidence to explain why. It's difficult to hope for a cure when we haven't even figured out a cause. 

Every single one of these kids has something special inside of them. Many of them may never be able to express that gift because of this disorder. It doesn't have to be this way. We need more research so we can get more answers so we can help our kids.

Thanks for any support you can give. 

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sweet Dreams

You know what it's like when you tear a recipe out of a magazine and then you try to make it yourself and it turns out exactly like it looked in the magazine? Right, me either. Except now I do(!) because yesterday I made this Upside-Down Sunshine Cake and, well, just LOOK! It was a thing of beauty. 

I realize this is a far cry from my dream of being a world-class pastry chef (you know, my dream that is not based on any innate ability and is therefore not actually being pursued), but I'm still pretty proud of myself. And it tastes good, too. (Don't we all need a little sunshine cake in our lives?)

Speaking of dreams, last night I dreamt that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were giving me a ride somewhere. You know, because we all happened to be in the same place and they just thought it'd be nice to give me a lift. And I was sitting in the passenger seat of their black SUV (Brad was driving, of course) and I was turned around talking to "Angie" (whom, I should note, I have loved since "Hackers") about how I have twins and she was asking me all sorts of questions about what she should expect. Brad didn't want to divulge a lot of details about their plans (for fear, no doubt that I would blog about them), but Angie was relating to me as a mom and thought he was being silly...

I, of course, think this must mean that Angelina and I are meant to be BFFs...however, I'm open to your interpretations.  

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Long and Winding Road

I hugged the teenager yesterday. While I have no doubt that he’s already forgotten it happened, this was a momentous occasion for me. Maybe more important than the hug was just having the chance to tell him that I miss him…not the fighting, not the stress, just him.

He’s doing a little better. He hasn’t lost the bad attitude (which I suppose is reassuring), but his behavior is taking a slow but steady upturn. I am relieved, of course, and also sad that I’m not part of it. It’s hard enough to feel like there’s nothing more you can do to help your child…it’s exponentially more difficult to see that you were somehow making the problem worse. I’m oversimplifying, yes, but that’s what it feels like.

Still, I’m trying to stay focused on the goal of ending up with a healthy and happy young adult. Whatever it takes…no matter how many times my heart gets broken in the process. Here’s hoping he’s got another hug for me when it's all over.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

He Won!

I don't know what to say other than that was the first time I've really been surprised by a results show...and genuinely happy for the winner. Yay DC!  And btw, how awesome is it that he got to play with ZZ Top?


Did everybody place their votes last night? I think DC might need them...despite his songs being far more listenable than those of his wee competitor. 

Really, if we're judging on entertainment and enjoyment, then DC is the clear winner, but I guess technical singing ability wins out over all else...well, technical singing ability and the unlimited free time and disposable income of tween girls.

I'm still cheering for you, DC. I'm hoping all of us old folks (and I mean 30 and up), who find Archuletta just a little creepy, came out in force last night. Can't wait to find out. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gonna Set my Soul on Fire

Monday kind of smacked me in the face after my vacation - next time I will have to schedule an extra day off to recover and hang out with the kids before attempting to re-enter real life. 

On with the Vegas recap! As you may have guessed, food was a major focus on this trip. Our first night, we ate at rumjungle in Mandalay Bay, which is one of the few restaurants in Vegas that I repeatedly visit thanks to them having the greatest pineapple-coconut rice ever. My travel companions indulged in the Brazilian fire pit all-you-can-eat insanity, which meant there were spits of meat being carted to our table every 10 minutes. I chose to focus on the rice in anticipation of our next adventure...

The dessert prix-fixe menu at Payard Bistro in Caesar's Palace...that's right, three courses of dessert. It's like Chef Payard can read my mind. We spaced our dinner and dessert three hours apart, but it still wasn't quite enough. Still, we knew we must power through and show our support for a menu devoted entirely to dessert.

So what did we have? Well, each of us got to choose any three desserts off the menu, which was separated into four categories: Harmonie de Fromages et Fruits, The Orchard, Tout Chocolat, and (my favorite) Coffee, Caramel & Nuts. There were 17 choices...I was in heaven.  Here's my personal menu:

Course 1: Seared Pineapple with Thyme, Tapioca & Coconut Sorbet and it's appropriate wine pairing (I mentioned heaven, yes?). Never has a piece of fruit with a scoop of sorbet been so delicious. 


Course 2: Coffee Éclair, Milk Chocolate Mousse & Flaky Sablé. (Sorry about the poor photo quality, we were trying not to draw attention to the fact that we were photographing our food.) Not only was this beautiful, it was perfect. I wanted to eat it all, but was worried I wouldn't be able to fit in the final dessert.

Course 3: Devil’s Food Cake, Cardamom Pot de Crème, Chocolate Pudding & Whipped Crème Fraîche (those are fancy Rice Krispies in the bowl). This photo really doesn't do justice to how amazingly delicious this was. 

Yeah, so all that was just the first night. 

Our second day in Vegas we played it a bit more casual, getting in some much needed reading-by-the-pool time and then heading to the casino where I won $113 on a penny slot machine!!!!! That never happens to's taken me eight trips to Vegas to finally learn that it really is better to bet the max number of lines on each spin. Or maybe I always knew that but was too scared to lose my precious pennies and nickels to bet big (you know, 60 cents vs. 5 cents). Anyway, winning is awesome. 

We ended day two by seeing the Dropkick Murphys play poolside at the Hard Rock. I know I am old because all I kept thinking was what a huge liability it must be to put a punk band and a mass of drunken fans next to a pool. The men folk in our group headed off for the pit (despite me reminding them they were too old), while Rachel and I lucked upon one of the poolside beds, which we stood on and got a clear view of the entire show. Nice. I even picked up little band T-shirts for my boys, who are big fans. 

Day three started with a little more reading-by-the-pool time (btw, I was reading "Service Included" by Phoebe Damrosch, which I finished on the plane and loved), then back to the Strip, where I won $121 on my favorite nickel slots, The Price is Right!! Oh, how I love Plinko. It was going to be a good day. We came up with a plan in which I would play slots to make money and my husband would sit at the bar, where at least he was only spending $10 every half hour vs. losing $100 in 10 minutes at the craps table. 

And this, my friends, brings us back to Craftsteak, the perfect end to a fabulous trip. (Well, okay, I also got up at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning and went down to play some Monopoly slots, but the image of the gourmet dinner seems like a better ending than me sitting in the empty Star Trek-themed casino in the LV Hilton on a Sunday morning.)

In the name of fiscal responsibility, I have now sworn off Las Vegas until 2010...we'll see how that goes. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Life is Sweet

This photo kind of sums up my trip to Vegas. So good, so sweet, so much

This is what I ate for dessert last night (not just me). It was the final course in our surf and turf chef’s menu at Craftsteak. Yes, that's apple crisp...and molten chocolate cake...and bread pudding...and vanilla bean cheesecake...and fresh fruit...and (my fave) six scoops of homemade ice cream and sorbet. Thank you, Tom Colicchio for this gift. Six desserts at once? A rainbow of frozen goodness? It was a dream come true. Oh, and the other two courses were amazing too.

There is much more to be said about my fabulous trip, but I am exhausted and my squirrelly little boys are having trouble settling back into their own beds after their vacation to grandma's, so I will have to provide my recap in installments. Hope you don't mind. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vegas, baby

As predicted, it'll be a D vs. D showdown next week on American Idol. I am conflicted because while I want David C. to win, I feel like maybe he'd be better off not winning since winning American Idol doesn't really add to your rock cred...

Anyway, back to real life...tomorrow I am leaving for Las Vegas! You dedicated readers might be asking, But weren't you just there? Yes, it's true. I was there for St. Patty's Day. I should be clear: though I love Las Vegas (probably too much), I don't usually visit every two months -- or even every year. This was just kind of a happy (lucky?) fluke. 

Really, it couldn't come at a better time. I'd describe the situation with the teenager as being at a standstill, which isn't really good, but at least it's not going further downhill. However, the events leading up to this standstill have left me in need of a getaway. 

And so I am off to fun in the sun! 97 degree sun! Good thing those casinos are climate-controlled. Highlights from the itinerary include a dessert tasting menu (that's right, 4 courses of dessert, no dinner), seeing the Dropkick Murphys play poolside at the Hard Rock (I have no idea what we're getting ourselves into with that one), and dinner at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak. Not to mention all the laying by the pool and playing Price is Right slots. 

Expect a full report when I return. Viva Las Vegas!

I Got No Idols

Were we all just a little underwhelmed by last night's American Idol? The only really entertaining moment was David Archuletta attempting Chris Brown's "With You." And I mean entertaining as in totally awkward and cringe-worthy. But hey, he's a kid. At least he provided some comic relief. His other two songs were boring as could be.

Did Syesha look older last night? It's like they transformed her into a 35-year-old. Again, I was really hoping she'd blow me away...instead, I think she's sealed her fate as the third place winner (was it Paula who actually referred to her as "number 3"?). But that ain't too shabby. She can go to Broadway and belt it out on a nightly basis alongside all the other former Idol contestants. 

As for David Cook, he is still my favorite, but I feel like he's just my favorite by default at this point. I mean, I like him, but he's started screaming a lot. Add in the scrunched-up face thing, and it's getting to me. I thought he did a nice job with the Roberta Flack song, but the other two seemed like regurgitations of the last several weeks. Come on, DC, I wanna be inspired!

On an unrelated note, I've failed to mention that I am leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow morning (!!!!!!!!!!!). This means there will have to be a second blog later today...stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Grand Slam

Good morning. How could it not be a good morning with such a lovely sight? Thank you, Cakespy for starting off my morning right. If only this doughnut could magically appear at my door...

Ok, so anyway, last night I played my second game as a Skirt Turtle. (Unfortunately, we've had to miss several games because they kept getting scheduled at the boys' bedtime.) We WON! I played on a winning team! But wait, there's more: I actually scored a POINT! Me! 

Somehow I managed to hit a ball that got me onto first base -- which I would have considered a triumph in itself --  but then Mike hit a home run and suddenly I was part of a GRAND SLAM, which also included my husband. How cool is that? And my boys got to see the whole thing, which made it even better. Go Skirt Turtles!

We only have one game left -- perhaps I can still conquer my fear of the outfield.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Today is bittersweet…more sweet than bitter* thanks to my husband and beautiful boys, who have been showering me with love and took me to a fabulous brunch, where I ate everything from eggs Benedict and shrimp to chocolate covered strawberries and crème brulee.

The boys have also been treating me to exceptionally adorable banter today. When getting dressed for brunch, Aidan didn’t really want to put on his pants. We told him he had to wear pants to brunch. He considered this and said, “If we brought a suitcase with pants in it, the waiter would sure be surprised.” Owen immediately chimed in with, “Or if we brought a suitcase full of lunch.” Ahhhh, nothing like plotting to surprise your waiter.

When we got to the fancy French buffet at Hotel Sofitel, Aidan announced that “Buffets are very special.” And when I returned to the table with my second heaping plate of food, Owen exclaimed, “Mommy, you sure are a good eater!” Sweet as can be.

But, of course, there’s the bitter fact that I am celebrating motherhood without the child that I’ve mothered for 11 of his 16 years. He declined the invitation to brunch. I knew he would…but I hoped he wouldn’t. I told myself not to take it personally, but it still hurts. It hurts even more trying to explain to my boys why their big brother isn’t here.

It’s just a day – just one of the many that will have to pass in order for things to improve. But it’s a harder day than others.

So go hug your mom. Thank her for putting up with you during those times when you probably didn’t deserve it. It may have been her job, but I promise it wasn’t easy.

*Thank you Big Head Todd

Friday, May 9, 2008

Circus Peanuts - with video!

Last night my boys made their circus debut! They've been taking classes at Circus Juventas since September and this was their chance to show off what they've learned...while wearing sparkly red cowboy outfits. 

The whole thing is actually taken very seriously, even with the little ones. They don't simply put on "recitals," they put on full-fledged Cirque du Soleil-style productions with kids from ages two through 21. It's pretty amazing. 

Perhaps more amazing is that my little Owen...the one who supposedly needs extra help with his motor skills...the one you'd think would melt down with all the lights and up in front of a crowd of hundreds, swung on a trapeze, walked on a balance beam and loved every minute of it. As usual, he reminds me that anything is possible. 

It should be noted that I am not playing favorites here: Aidan did an awesome job too, but he's a ham, so we had no doubt.

Behold the cuteness below. Owen is the one getting on the trapeze with the little girl at the beginning. (Aidan has his own video, which I'm not spending another 24 hours trying to post - just know that it's equally as cute).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My TV Hangover

Hooray for another fun-filled Wednesday night of reality television!

First the American Idol results...I fast forwarded through 90% of the show, but I was glad to see Jason go home. He seemed happy as well, so I guess that's a win-win. But dude, if the idea of singing three songs in a row is too much for you, maybe you want to pick another career.

It almost seems pointless to make them sing next week since it's SO obvious that Syesha is going home, but of course, I'll watch anyway just in case something shocking occurs. Maybe David Cook will just bow out so he can go start his real music career without the albatross of being an American Idol winner.

Next it was time for the real highlight of my Wednesday: Top Chef. For some reason they decided to shake things up by replacing the signature Top Chef challenge, "Restaurant Wars," in which the contestants have to actually open a restaurant, design a menu and serve restaurant food, with the lame-ass "Wedding Wars."

What could possibly make the producers think that watching the chefs cater a wedding would be as entertaining as watching them launch an entire restaurant concept? I'm sure there was some delusion that they'd piss the bride off and we'd get some great clip of her screaming, "You ruined my wedding!" while throwing canapes. But of course that didn't happen because the contestants actually can cook - they're all professionals and they know how to make a wedding buffet. Lame. Lame. Lame.

I don't watch the show so I can see them make buffet food! I like to see what crazy fancy things they can create with, like, a piece of fruit, a bag of flour and a steak. They are chefs - let them cook the good stuff!

Still, I wasn't sad to see Nikki go. She wasn't going to win it. I don't even know who I'm rooting for...none of them are really that endearing, but I guess I'd say Richard and Stephanie are my frontrunners at the moment. Any guesses on who the hot guest judge is next week? It can't be Rocco again.

Alright, back to real reality with me. Until, of course, it is time for LOST tonight. Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Idol Chatter

I don't know why I haven't been blogging about American Idol the whole season - it would have been an easy way to guarantee an entry every Tuesday and Wednesday. Oh well.

In lieu of wallowing in the situation with the teenager, I'm hereby making a concerted effort to blog about something else for awhile.

So let's talk about American Idol. If I understood correctly, they had the entire song collection of every Rock and Roll Hall of Fame what was up with the song selection? I know this makes me sound older than I am, but I think these kids need a little rock education. Anyway...

David Cook: I want you to win, but Duran Duran? Really? Out of all the choices? Nice job with "Baba O'Reilly," though. I am hopeful that the irony was intentional.

Jason: Ok, so you finally revealed yourself to be a stoner above all else. I don't think even those pretty little eyes can save you this week. But no worries, you've secured your place strumming stoner anthems in college campus coffee shops across the country. That's probably all you really wanted anyway, right?

Syesha: You did good. Honestly, I'm still waiting for that voice to really blow me away, but you definitely deserve the make it to the end.

David Archuletta: You seem like a really nice kid and I bet you kick ass at the high school talent show, but I can't for the life of me figure out why the judges keep loving you. I just don't think you're superstar material. I don't even think anyone above the age of 12 would sit through an entire concert of that sappy school-boy thing. I just don't get it.

If you made it this far, then there's a good chance you share my inexplicable adoration for this show. Please, share your thoughts. I'm always up for an Idol discussion.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Time Out

We are in an exceptionally low spot with the teenager. I am exhausted and sad and I can't keep going round and round, making myself sick with worry and watching him slip farther away.

I'm familiar with the kind of pain that feels crushing and infinite. My boys were born 14 weeks early and spent their first 3 months in the hospital - nine months later, my father drank himself to death.

And yet this pain is different. The fear is there, but it's more keeps changing on me. The feeling of helplessness is there, only this time there's a guilt that comes with maybe I'm wrong...maybe I'm not helpless, maybe I just haven't done the right thing yet. And, of course, the feeling of obligation to give and give until I have nothing left. These feelings are eating me alive.

So we're calling a time out...a ceasefire in the parents vs. teenage war...time to think and recharge and hopefully avoid doing anything any of us will regret later. And I hope it will help. I am hopeful that it will help. Right now, I'll take hope wherever I can get it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We're having a midday thunderstorm. My husband is out of town on business. The teenager will likely be busy with things I don't want to know about until much later this evening.

I want to make buttery popcorn and pile the kids into my bed and watch TV for the rest of the day. Is that only okay if someone is sick?

More than likely, the TV trick would only last for an hour max anyway, as we tend to have trouble agreeing on what to watch and I am only physically capable of sitting through two episodes of "Little Einsteins," "Handy Manny" or "Super Why" per 24-hour period. My tolerance for Dora and "The Wonder Pets" is even shorter.

Really, my proverbial prayers would be answered if there happened to be a "Glutton for Punishment" marathon on the Food Network today. Have you seen this show? A Canadian foodie travels the world, gets 5 days to learn an odd food custom or skill and then has to show off his mastery of it, usually by entering some local competition devoted to said custom or skill. I started Tivoing it just because I like travel and food, but then my kids got into it, so now it's a weekly must-watch.

Favorites include the egg frying competition (where they fried eggs using the heat of the sun in the desert) and the watermelon seed spitting episode. The Gloucestershire cheese rolling was also entertaining, mostly because a bunch of grown men tumbling down a hill behind a piece of cheese seems just as bizarre to my 4-year-olds as it does to me. The only episode I wished I'd pre-screened was the Fugu (those freaky poisonous blowfish) one, just because there were frequent mentions of the possibility that Bob (the beloved host) could actually die if he didn't prepare the fish correctly...that maybe was a little too tense for the preschool set.

Anyway, I haven't been smart enough to save all the old episodes on Tivo for a rainy day, so if I do attempt to enact my TV-in-bed plan, I'm afraid the best I can hope for is an "Ace of Cakes" rerun...unless maybe I could lure them into a Muppets movie marathon.