Monday, November 30, 2009

With Sprinkles on Top

I've been busily trying out recipes for the home-baked (hand-baked?) gifts I intend to give out this year. So far the cranberry-white-chocolate-oatmeal cookies were too bland and the first batch of mint brownies were a disaster (although the second recipe I tried shows much promise) up are the pumpkin pie bars, or maybe I'll just default to my old stand-by, cracker toffee, which never disappoints.

But, I've said too much. What I really wanted to share was this photo of this perfectly festive cupcake because it is, well, perfect and festive.
So if you happen to be in Seattle, heading back to Minneapolis, with time to stop at Cupcake Royale and you feel like bringing me one of these puppies, I'd be mighty grateful. Every baker needs a little inspiration. And every girl needs a cupcake. Just sayin'.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Season's Greetings

Happy post-Thanksgiving! I intended to write a post on Thursday, in which I mentioned some of the many things I am thankful for...then I didn't. On the off chance you've been sitting there wishing you knew what I was thankful for, I will refer you to last year's Thanksgiving post, as it still rings true, although you'll have to replace "Las Vegas" with "Hawaii" this year. Yes, that statement alone tells the tale of my gratitude.

But seriously, I am more thankful than ever that everyone in our immediate family has their health this year. I know too many people with cancer. I am thankful not to have to wake up every morning ready to fight something so painful and unjust. And I am thankful that those who do are able to continue to find the strength.

Also, I am thankful that I can look back and say that the teenager is in a much better place than he was a year ago. Our relationship with him continues to be redefined, but I feel hopeful that it will settle into something comfortable...eventually.

But really, that's not what I wanted this post to be about. I wanted to say that I've snuggled into that pocket between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I am in the mood to watch holiday-themed romantic comedies. Got any recommendations?

I'm also open to retro TV holiday specials and family dramas à la "Home for the Holidays." I think I'm going to show the boys "Home Alone" for the first time. We already watched the Garfield Christmas special on YouTube.

My poor children have been seriously deprived in the Christmas TV special department...they haven't even seen the Charlie Brown special, although to be fair I think our generation's Snoopy-induced nostalgia far outweighs the quality of that particular program.

Anyway, I'm all about Christmas at the moment. Our tree is up, much of our gift shopping is already complete thanks to Black Friday and the Internet, and I've decided that immediately following Christmas might be the best possible time to go on vacation. Counting down to Hawaii totally takes the pressure off of Christmas and makes it more fun. Plus, knowing we're going to Hawaii in less than 5 weeks eliminates both the desire and ability to spend wildly on extravagant gifts.

Next week, I might be over it, but this week, I'm buying into the whole "most wonderful time of the year" schtick. Bring on the mistletoe and John Hughes!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude, eventually

Are you busy building your "I am thankful for..." lists? I assign myself this task each year for no reason, it seems, other than to give myself something else to procrastinate on.

See, every year we host Thanksgiving brunch.

It started the year we had the boys because they weren't really supposed to go anywhere that winter due to their fragile immune systems. Having no interest in learning to make a turkey, I chose brunch so that I could make pumpkin pancakes. Six years later, they continue to be hit and we've got ourselves a full-blown tradition.

So every year I imagine all of us sitting down and contentedly going around the table with each guest saying what they are thankful for. Everyone will say something deep and meaningful, the boys will provide heart-warming comic relief, and then I will say something so poetic that it brings everyone to tears...and then the credits on our Lifetime movie roll.

We've never done anything remotely close to this, of course. I don't even think we've ever made any kind of a fact, there really isn't even a "Thanks for coming! Let's eat!" I'm lucky if I can get both sides of the family to make chit-chat (my mom would prefer to read the newspaper than speak to anyone), let alone reveal a small piece of their souls. Still, it's nice to imagine it. And, hey, if it ever happens, my moving speech about love and togetherness will be prepared.

Wait, no it won't.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Swimsuit Parade

As the long-awaited Hawaii trip gets nearer (44 days, but who's counting?) , I have become increasingly obsessed with the swimsuit riddle.

You've given birth to twins, led a sedentary lifestyle and love beer, now you must fit into something made of lycra. Okay, it's not a riddle, I just like that word better than, say, debacle. The swimsuit debacle.

I've been trying the exercise route in earnest. For more than three months, I've treadmilled regularly, even working my way up to running an entire half mile without dying! And it's helped a little...a really little.

But now it's come time to actually purchase that dreaded swimsuit. Despite not having worn one in 8 years, I really pictured myself in a bikini (ok, not myself, but someone like me who is in much better shape) just because, I don't know, it seems like Hawaii calls for a bikini. Plus I think in my mind I pictured it being some kind of pay off for pushing through my hatred of reward for actually sticking with something for, you know, three whole months...turns out walking a mile, or even run/walking a mile doesn't produce miracles...I know that you are as shocked as I am.

Alright, so I should admit that I am saying all of this having already ordered the damn bikini. It came in the mail and, while the pattern perfectly fits my picture of Hawaii, my belly in it does not. This caused me to realized that if I'm going to be spending 75% of my time in a swimsuit for a week, then I probably need to feel good enough to leave my hotel room.

This has induced a sort of feverish spree of swimsuit ordering. Suddenly I want to try on every swimsuit, in hopes that there is, in fact, one that will give some illusion that I'm skinny...and possibly not flat-chested. This journey has led me to discover that swimdresses have made a comeback. Or possibly they never left and I am just old enough to actually consider one. Seriously, if I wear a swimdress in Hawaii will I be announcing to the world that I have given up? Or possibly that I have senior citizen envy? Hey, if it was good enough for Marilyn...

What will the outcome of this swimsuit parade be? Will I find a suit that is comfortable, flattering and does not add 25 years? The suspense is killing me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


We had parent/teacher conferences on Monday. Interesting thing: they are both doing great in their separate classrooms - excelling in reading and math - but they both need to work on their handwriting.

Aidan's writing is just messy because his brain works faster than his hand, so we need to work on getting him to slow down enough for it to be legible.

Owen, on the other hand, just doesn't want to do it. He hates the act of writing. This seems to be his only major source of meltdowns in the classroom. He can write - it's actually one of the few things he mastered before Aidan did - he just doesn't like it and has been refusing to do it. We think part of it is that he struggles to form his ideas into words, but thanks to this uncannily-timed story from NPR, it turns out that it might also be that the physical act of it is more difficult than we realized.

As a parent of a child with a disorder so confusing and mysterious, I can't tell you how exciting it is to read an article about it and actually go, "That's our situation! That's Owen!" Of course, the story doesn't exactly offer solutions, but even just identifying it as a common issue is helpful (mentally, at least). I am anxious to see if teaching him to type could help him get over the handwriting hurdle and let him focus on learning alongside his peers.

Because seriously, if writing turned out to be his biggest obstacle in school, well...I could deal with that.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Let There Be Health

My house was a sick bay all week. The illness started on Halloween, but I was in denial until the day after Halloween when the fevers arrived.

At first I held out hope that the kids would be back in school by Tuesday, but the illness wanted nothing to do with that plan. The school nurse called us on Monday to ask about symptoms (she's trying to keep track) and let us know that 13% of the school was absent. Tuesday night we got word from Aidan's teacher via email that 60% of his classroom was out sick.

On Wednesday, I decided to try sending Owen to school. His fever was gone and he seemed much improved, but alas, he was returned to us midday by the school nurse, who always manages to imply that you should have known better when informing you that you need to come get your child. He didn't have a fever, but his cough had magically grown worse since boarding the school bus that morning and by the time he got back home he sounded like an 80-year-old chain smoker.

Having listened to the school nurse list the smorgasbord of maladies floating around the school - flu, strep, stomach virus, lice, even two cases of pneumonia - we decided to give up on school for the week. By Friday, I was so used to the boys being home that I forgot to call them in sick.

I'm not really looking forward to sending them back to the petri dish on Monday...I'd much prefer that they shut the school down for two weeks, give everyone time to recover, hose the place down with Purell, and then basically start over. I know we'd all get sick again eventually, but I'd just like a break. I have to imagine that the poor teachers would like one, too. And maybe, just maybe, if the schools were closed, employers would have to be a little more lenient in letting parents stay home, or work from home, or something, and then maybe fewer adults would be getting sick, too.

And then we would all join hands, sing kumbaya and achieve world peace...or, you know, something really good like that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Quest '09

Have you ever tried to buy a pumpkin on Halloween? I don't recommend it. I imagine it's a lot like trying to buy a turkey on Thanksgiving, only since most frozen turkeys are edible, that actually might be easier.

You see, I planned ahead. We had our compulsory family outing to the pumpkin patch two weeks ago, where we each chose the most perfect pumpkins ever to be seen (seriously, mine was awesome) and carted them in from the field ourselves.

As always, we kept them outside for maximum freshness. But when I went out to our front steps on Halloween morning to fetch them, I found that three out of four of them had turned to mush. Mush! Was it the surprise snowstorm we had in mid-October? Did they freeze and crack and then start rotting? I have no idea - I've never had this happen before, but there I was.

At first I entertained the notion that maybe the boys didn't even really want to carve pumpkins (honestly, I find the whole process messy and unfulfilling, but I used to like it back when I was little and didn't have to scrape out the gooey insides), but that was quickly shot down when the chorus of "When are we carving pumpkins?!" began.

And so, I began my quest for pumpkins on Halloween.

SuperTarget had none. Our fancy grocery store right up the street didn't have anything bigger than an acorn squash. At last, I tried the behemoth Festival Foods. They had two sad crates sitting outside the front entrance, one-quarter of the way full of pumpkins...sad, half-rotten, mostly green pumpkins. The fact that they were selling these things rather than giving them away was ethically questionable, but since I had little boys at home waiting for pumpkins, I knew it wasn't the time for argument.

And so, I sorted. I was nearly vertical, leaning over the side of the crate to comb the dredges of the pumpkin crop. Rotten, rotten, green, green, rotten. Finally I found one decent-sized pumpkin with just one half-rotten dent in its side, a dent which I knew we could hide by carving the opposite side. Knowing this was the best it was going to get, I resigned myself to having to arrive back home with only one pumpkin (my husband would have to give up his perfect pumpkin, which somehow was the only one to survive the mysterious rot).

I headed inside to pay. (I thought about just walking away with it, but figured the whole thing would rot while I was busy getting arrested for shoplifting.) Next to the registers was a table of Halloween candy and then I spotted it: under the table sat a picture-perfect pumpkin complete with a curly stem. Just sitting there on the floor! Under a table! As if someone had put it there. Hid it there while the rest of us searched through rotten pumpkin carcasses.

With one quick glance around, I snatched it up and scurried to the register to pay. Whoever hid that pumpkin there was probably sad when they found it missing, but I couldn't be bothered with hurt feelings - these were desperate times. Plus, if you're going to hide a pumpkin, maybe try somewhere less obvious, like the pet food aisle.

And so, we had pumpkins. And all was well. But it's a good thing Christmas presents don't rot.