"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - Ronald Reagan

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Forget Disneyland...

...Goblin Valley is the coolest place on earth!

Have you seen the movie Galaxy Quest? Hilarious! Loved it. Remember the part where the crew goes down to the alien planet to get a replacement barilium sphere? And the Captain ends up fighting the pig lizard?

Did you know that wasn't a Hollywood set? Nope. It's a real place, located in Utah. It's call Goblin Valley and is possibly the coolest place I've ever visited.

We drove down one afternoon during Boo's spring break, after having the worst luck getting ready. Seemed like everything went wrong. The Man and I were both frustrated. He was ready to call the whole trip off but the kids would periodically rush up to him and gush about how excited they were to go camping. So we persevered. It was supposed to be fairly nice while we were camping but that wasn't the case. When we arrived at Goblin Valley, the wind was so strong and so cold that we piled on as many layers as we could before getting out of the car. Once we got down into the valley, it wasn't so bad. Besides, we were too busy looking at each other and saying "This is so cool!" to really notice the weather. We're geeks like that.

I told the Boy to pretend he was a Goblin. I love the face he's making! And really, he doesn't have to try hard to be very goblin-like.

Da Boo tried being a Goblin, too, but she's just too dainty to pull it off.

The kids had a great time running around the rock formations, trying to find actual goblins or at least where they might live. While we were there, we managed to find a couple geocaches (which are the real reason we even go outside at all). Then The Man decided to test my strength...

While Baby and I waited below, The Man took our two eldest and climbed the green dome. Remember how I required Happy Pills to prevent irrational freak outs? Remember how I stopped taking them? I tried to only look while taking the picture but I ended up staring the whole time they climbed and scooted. Can't remember if I actually breathed, though...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bad Idea

Dear Culprit (and don't think I don't know who you are!),

If you are going to disobey me, then it's best to not do it when I'm looking for something to post on my blog.

the person who is going to give you the smallest slice of cake

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Product Review: Naturally Nora's Surprising Stars Cake Mix

I'm addicted to reading food blogs. But even in the blogosphere, I'm a picky eater. In real life, I wouldn't eat shrimp - much less shrimp with it's head still on and dripping with wasabi. So I don't want to read about that, either. I prefer Bakerella and Gourmet Mom On-the Go. You know...real food. And lots of cake.

A little while ago, Gourmet Mom had a contest giving away a year's supply of cake mix and frosting mix. (Well, a year's supply to normal people...might have lasted me a month.) The mixes were from Naturally Nora. I'd never heard of those so I checked out the official site. These are all-natural with no preservatives, no dairy or soy and kosher to boot. Sounds good but what really got me intrigued were the choices: Sunny Yellow, Cheerful Chocolate, Alot'a Dots, Cookie Cookie, and Surprising Stars. I was immediately hooked.

I didn't win the contest but I did go to Amazon and ordered the Surprising Stars, thinking I would use it for the Boy's upcoming birthday. Because a cake with stars in it? How cool would that be? His head might explode over all the awesomeness.

I baked the cake as soon as we got back from our camping trip - the day before the Boy's party. And that's when I realized I was out of milk. Ordinary cake mixes require oil, water and eggs. Naturally Nora's require milk (or whatever milk substitute you use), eggs and oil. Oops.

Before making it, I dug out one of the little stars in the mix. It didn't photograph well but it looked like a chubby little star, a little smaller than a pencil eraser (but much tastier). Adorable!

The true test of any good cake mix is how the batter tastes. And Naturally Nora's was delicious! When I finished licking off the beater, I was eyeing the mixing bowl, weighing the costs of getting batter on my forehead against the benefits of getting more of that batter. After baking, the cake looked good. It didn't rise really high in the middle, leaving the sides thin, like a lot of commercial mixes are prone to do. Then I took my cake leveler to it, preparing the layers for stacking.

Hrmmm...where are the stars? It looks more like globs. A little disappointing. To cheer me up, I ate the trimmed-off piece of cake. Oh my...this could give your mother's scratch recipe a run for it's money! In fact, Naturally Nora's tastes much like homemade. Very moist without being too soft, firm without being crumbly. Absolutely fantastic.

Tastes fabulous - before and after baking.
Great texture.
Fun flavors. I am definitely going to try more of these!

Stars are gone once it's baked.
Difficult to find at your local stores.
(and be sure to check for milk before you make this!)

Overall, I give this mix 8 out of 10. It would have scored higher if the stars didn't go supernova after baking. And I will be trying the other cake flavors...just not sure about those frosting mixes...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Igniting the Volcano

So you may have noticed that there's been a drop in posts around here lately. Or maybe you haven't noticed and I should just get over myself already.

...it's been hard for me to find anything interesting to write about. Sure, stuff's been going on and such. Even have some pictures but I just couldn't think of what to say that you might consider reading.

See, I've been taking what I call "Happy Pills." They help with my post-pardum freak-outs, keep my chronic shoulder pain at a low level and just generally make going through each day tolerable. But it was just tolerable. It wasn't wonderful. In fact, there are some not-so-great side effects that come with these pills. When I was taking them after having the Boy, the side effects were at a minimum and seemed worth it. This time around, the effects are worse. MUCH worse. And really, you don't want to know the details...at least my parents don't want to know and they read my blog. (Okay, well, some of you might want to know the details...you can email me...)

For one thing, I wasn't having any dreams. Normally, I have incredibly vivid dreams and get amazing ideas from them. But not lately. Also, my imagination was pretty much dead. The other day, I couldn't think of any good comebacks for something the Man said that left himself completely wide open. I had nothing. That is so not like me. And? I wasn't writing anything. I write constantly.

So I stopped taking the pills. I slowly weened myself off them and now I'm back to taking only vitamins and the occasional Tylenol. And I couldn't be happier. Sure, anytime I hear someone whispering, I think they're talking about me. And sure, I still think that every knock at the door is a potential serial killer, but I feel more like myself.

I'm having dreams again. And they are beautiful.

I am writing. And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At It Again

Remember how I got all crazy and signed up for several swaps at once? Actually, it was pretty fun. I love getting fun stuff in the mail! So I did it again...

Hooray for the Favorite Things Swap! I'm already trying to decide what items I want to put in it this time around...and the packages don't go out for another month. Can't have the Cadbury Creme eggs since Easter is over but I think I'll still include the Fry Sauce. Gotta put in a Tide-To-Go pen but not sure about having a movie in there this time (I had Sahara because it based on a novel by one of my favorite authors and Matthew McConaughey doesn't wear a shirt and it was only $5 at Wal-Mart)...not sure what else to add.

What one item would you definitely include in a "Favorite Things" swap?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tiki Time!

I have the best, most wonderful readers! All of whom are very attractive, too. Thanks for you encouraging words...I really needed to hear them, even if I was totally fishing for the compliments.

Saturday was the Boy's 4th birthday party. A couple years ago - which seem like only a couple weeks ago - we had a big BBQ to celebrate. Well, it was so much fun that we decided to do it again. I forced convinced the Boy to go for a luau theme (since I already had a bunch of decorations from the Man's 'Survivor' party - which we had before I started this blog so sorry, no pictures - and I am nothing if not cheap). We had to limit the number of people invited because we weren't sure what the weather would do (we got over six inches of snow a few days before!) and can't fit that many people in the living room of our house and be happy about it. Then I had to decide what to make for the cake that was a) unique (I've made too many volcanoes) and b) would make the Boy happy. I decided to shift the theme to tikis and made the cake to reflect that. Wanna see the cake?

As people began arriving, I had plenty of help getting the food ready and the chairs set up in the backyard. I should have done a LOT more prep work but we had just returned from a camping trip the evening before. It was all I could do to have the cake baked and cooled before collapsing onto my much-missed bed.

Da Boo's job was to give leis to our guests as they arrived. One little boy took it upon himself to show his sister how much he likes her.

He was very proud that he emptied the lei box. It was too funny!

It turned out to be a lovely day and we stayed outside for the most part, enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers, chips, fruit and the Boy's favorite drink: Black Cherry Kool-Aid (soooooo glad that was outside!). There was only one game. The Boy - during our argument discussion on the party theme - had insisted on having bowling. So I suggested coconut bowling - with a real coconut.

The kids loved it and I got hit with the coconut only once. I taped the tiki printouts to empty soda cans. If I do this again, I might try to make them a little heavier. After bowling, it was time for cake!

I'm going to do a product review on the new kind of cake mix I used but it was very tasty. There were only a couple cupcakes and one slice of cake left. I served it with vanilla and chocolate crinkle ice cream.

Since the house was getting a little crowded with all the sugar-stuffed kids, we moved outside to open the presents.

Shortly thereafter, our guests began to leave. The treat bags were kinda lame because I spent most of my budget on the food. But hey! There was candy inside so the kids were pretty excited.

We got everything cleaned up and let the Boy bust through the packaging on a few of his presents and start playing with them. He got a lot of cars and a big walking monkey/King Kong type toy. It didn't take him long to start sending King Kong crashing through his new car lot...

Oh, the imagination of a little boy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

When the Sunbeams hate you...

For those of you not familiar with the LDS faith and the names of it's Sunday School classes for children, you might think that I am referring to actual beams of lights from the sun and their apparent aversion to me. Nope. Mormon kids aged 3 to 4 years old are called Sunbeams. And since my beloved Boy is one of these, I occasionally get asked to teach his class when the assigned teachers are unavailable. Normally, it's fine and I enjoy it. Normally, the kids have a good time and even learn a little about Jesus. Normally, I don't spend the rest of the afternoon fighting back tears as I scour my many hiding places for more chocolate.

The Man says I shouldn't let it bother me. Then again, he is a man. He is also emotionally stable and has a healthy sense of self-esteem. But when a small child spends the better part of an hour muttering an endless - albeit creative - list of reasons why he doesn't like you, it tends to wear you down. I even brought candy! What kid's devotion isn't easily purchased by candy?

I'm just glad that when his parents picked him up from class they didn't ask how he was or I might have burst into tears and clung to his mother, asking her to tell me I am nice or funny or pretty - anything to make up for what her son said.

I'd write more but I think I'll go make some brownies...

Friday, April 17, 2009

April Fool's! What? I'm not late...just building the suspense

Yeah, so I finally got the April Fool's Day pictures on my computer! I think I might have had a little too much fun that day...

First off, I switched their clothes in the morning. I usually lay out both of the kids outfits in specific places so when I tell them to go get dressed, there's no whining about what to wear. They thought that was all I was going to do to them.

While da Boo was at school, her room was quarantined and the door locked. She didn't notice until nearly dinner time. Not the most observant of children. Would have been better if I had some yellow "caution" tape on there, too.

The Boy and I played a joke on the Man. He gave him a card that was glued shut. Then the Man played a joke on me. I have a wireless mouse and he put a sticky note on the sensor. Unfortunately, he did this after the kids had been playing on my computer so I thought they had done something to it. Not as funny as he intended but I'm proud of him for getting into the spirit of the day.

Dinner was normal. The kids were looking at me out of the corner of their eyes by now, wondering what I was up to. But all seemed well. Then the Boy asked for a drink. I told them that since they'd been pretty good all day, I had strawberry soda for them.

So what's so tricky about this? Well, the picture is upside down. That's strawberry jello in their cups!

Then came bedtime treat. Imagine their surprise when they sat down to this:

Chicken nuggets with french fried? Has Mom completely lost it? Actually, it was Oreo cookies covered in peanut butter and coated in crushed corn flakes. The fries were made from thin strips of breadstick dough that had been rolled in sugar and baked. The "ketchup" is strawberry jam. These are all ideas from FamilyFun magazine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Happenings

Easter snuck up on me this year. It seemed like I only had a couple days to prepare and even then, I didn't get everything done. Only one spring decoration was put up. Oh well...

And I found my camera charger! It's a story for another blog post but I blame the gnomes. So I have a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

We decorated eggs with our Aunt Denise and the Co-ed on Saturday night. That's always eventful. Afterward, we made our traditional Resurrection Cookies. The kids look forward to these. Their favorite parts? Da Boo likes taping the oven. The Boy likes tasting the salt.

Here are my beautiful girls, wearing matching Easter dresses, courtesy of Grandma G. Wanna know the reason why Baby is smiling so big? Because the Man can get her to smile and laugh like no other. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a little jealous.

And here's how the Boy was dressed for most of Easter Sunday, thanks to an early birthday present. You can see the collar of his dress shirt underneath...I promise I didn't let him go to church like that.

As usual, I like to try something new and crazy for Easter's dessert (and having Peep Wars doesn't count). I love and adore Bakerella (and if you aren't already drooling over her site, then what is wrong with you??) A little while ago she featured a 14 Layer Cake and I was immediately hooked. So I tried it.

It took me 2 1/2 hours to make but oh my! Isn't it pretty? The scalloped effect was created by the disposable pans I used and I must say, it really made it look spectacular. Go see Bakerella's pictures of the inside of the cake because mine all came out blurry. It's definitely got the "WOW!" factor! And the taste? WELL WORTH the time involved!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mothering Moment...for Mothers of Teens by Jessica G.

If you notice your teenage boy suddenly stop sulking and start staring at the mother carrying her infant in a carseat, please, please inform that poor woman that she missed a button (or three) after her last nursing session and is baring her ultra frumpy nursing brassiere to the world. This may help you avoid an awkward conversation with your son later.

And she will appreciate it immensely.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jubilant Jessica Judges Jazz

I can't think of anything halfway interesting to post. It's kinda like this flair that I have on my Facebook page (because flair is awesome). It says "I can't brain today...I have the dumb." So I am going to make all of you suffer through my dumb and read this meme. I've seen a couple different versions and thought it would be fun.

Apparently, everything has to start with the first letter in your first name and you can't copy what someone else wrote but no one else was a J so I can't cheat anyway (darn it).

1. What is your name: Jessica
2. A four Letter Word: Jump (for my love)
3. A boy's Name: Jackson (or if you live in Utah, Jaxon)
4. A girl's Name: Judy
5. An occupation: Jury rigger
6. A color: Jade
7. Something you wear: Jeans
8. A food: Jelly beans
9. Something found in the bathroom: Jewelry
10. A place: Jamaica
11. A reason for being late: Just woke up
12. Something you shout: Jerk! (but only while driving and to people I don't know)
13. A movie title: Jumanji
14. Something you drink: Juice
15. A musical group: Jimmy Eat World
16. An animal: Jaguar (thank goodness my name doesn't start with N!)

So the next time your brain has the dumb, feel free to post this!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Overheard Conversation

This conversation took place an hour and a half after bedtime.

Boo: Tell me how many people are in the Mother Hen.
Boy: One? Two? Three? Four?
Boo: No, three.
Boy: Three?
Boo: Yes. There's God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.
Boy: The Holy Ghost?
Boo: Yes, but you can't see him. They are three people who all look alike.
Boy: Oh.

I'm not exactly sure where she got the name "Mother Hen" but at least she's certain about who's in it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

FHE: Bedtime Routine

We're having a struggle with bedtime. It seems to take the kids forever to get ready. Then once they're in bed, they keep getting out again because they forgot to kiss Baby goodnight or they need yet another drink of water. And nothing ruins the mood for family prayer when you have to haul a kicking a screaming child back down so we can pray together. Yeah, not exactly conducive to a reverent environment. It was something we needed to work on and needed to do it now.

Opening Song: Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree

Opening Prayer: Boo

Lesson: In preparation for this, I surfed the web for some ideas and found a few. One showed a flipbook made for preschool-aged kids using pictures cut from magazines to illustrate each step in the bedtime process. I wrote out a list of the different bedtime activities. It took some time but eventually I found pictures for each step. These were glued onto colored construction paper with a description written in marker. Easy enough for the Boy to understand and for da Boo to read. (The photo is from the article and taken by Kelly Pfeiffer.)

I started by asking the kids to name some of the things we did when I told them it was time to get in jammies. They did pretty good naming them, even getting some of the harder ones.

Next came the stern discussion, where I told them that bedtime isn't going well, that they aren't listening to us, and most nights someone ends up crying (like me). I told them it didn't have to be like that. Instead, they should be all ready so I could read them a story - which they love but is frequently withheld as they drag out getting in pajamas.

I showed them the flipbook. We went through each step, talking about what we should do and what we should not do.
1. Eat a bedtime treat.
2. Get your pajamas on!
3. Put away your shoes and clothes.
4. Use the potty.
5. Brush your teeth.
6. Read a story.
7. Family prayer.
8. Hugs! Kisses!
9. Get a drink of water.
10. Put your glasses in their case.
11. Get in bed!

Seems basic. You'd be surprised at how long they manage to drag this out. Unless, of course, you have younger kids and then you know exactly the sort of ridiculousness that takes place in lieu of listening to parents. And #6 is the reward because all the hard stuff takes place before it. If they get ready in a reasonable amount of time, they each get to choose a story. If one is misbehaving, the other gets to choose one story. However, if they are co-conspirators, then we skip to #7.

We started this process Monday night. So far, they've had a grand total of four stories read. I'm going to start some sort of reward process for getting finished, which I know will inspire da Boo to great things but of which the Boy could not care less.

Closing Song: When the Family Gets Together

Closing Prayer: Daddy.

Treat: Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. (And there's still some left in the freezer...but it will probably be gone shortly after I've published this post.)

** Sorry for the delayed April Fool's pictures...my camera battery died before I could upload all the ways I tortured the kids. Hopefully, I'll get those up soon!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Baby

I think Mother Nature got in on the April Fool's Day fun...there's new snow on the ground this morning. March is certainly going out like a lamb - a big, fluffy, white, cold lamb.

Sorry I haven't been around lately. My computer refused to open a browser window. No worries, the Man is a computer genius. He'll have it working in no time, right? Well, it's kinda like the plumber's wife who has the leaky faucet...eventually he got to it. I have an FHE post for you! Aren't you so happy?

And of course, I have something planned for the kids in honor of April Fool's Day. Can I just say that I love Family Fun magazine? They are awesome! I really wanted to do this prank but I have a hair appointment tonight and I might not be back in time for dinner. No worries. I got dessert covered. My kids are so going to need therapy after today. Mwahahahah!

Did you play on pranks today?

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