Friday, February 29, 2008

Being In The Moment

Sometimes I go to certain events for my kids sans any cameras. The reasons for this is because most times I am the parent behind the lens and most times I end up missing those special moments.

Yesterday I decided to leave the camera at home and let myself enjoy my son's first track meet of the year. He runs the mile and it's his second year. He is almost 13 years old and his nickname is "Flash" so that should give you some indication of his ability. Even so I get extremely nervous at these meets because the opponents are usually much bigger and much faster than he. Admittedly most times I sit back and enjoy the meets for what they are and don't get let my competitive side take over.

Unless the other parents or other team is taunting....then all bets are off.

Which is what happened yesterday. Now, remember, I did not have my camera to prove any of this but I truly got caught up in the moment and am glad I was not stuck behind the lens.

The mile started off nicely. With 8 laps required the boys took their first lap spaced apart and then were directed to "fall in" (hugging the inside of the track). My little man fell in at third position behind two opponents. The rest of the pack fell behind. As he continued on and ran by me on the sidelines I reminded him to keep his pace....concentrate....I was throwing out all kinds of commands to remind him of what he needs to do. But he does know what to do. He wasn't the least bit worried about when to "kick it in" (which means when to sprint to the finish). I found that as the race wore on and in the 6th lap my heart started going faster. The other team was cheering loudly for their first two runners. Their parents were high fiving each other. I thought "hey people, the race AIN'T over yet!" They don't know who they are messing with. "They don't know my FLASH!"

As the front three start the last lap, they all kick it in. UGH! My heart starts really beating and I find myself really caught up in the drama of this race. It feels to me like the Olympics. Two kids who are both at least 5'6" are ahead of my little Flash who is just shy of 5 feet tall. My little guy. He is trying so hard to keep up with those two kids. I want to run out onto the track and pick him up and run for him.

Instead I find myself cheering and screaming and encouraging. I hear everyone around me cheering too. And then something amazing happens during the last lap of this race. My Flash turns the speed on and pulls out ahead of #2. He is blowing him away. The crowd starts really cheering very loudly. They are cheering for my son and they don't even know him. But they are calling him "shorty." He is the crowd favorite because he is so small, tough, and fast.

I find myself screaming, jumping up and down, and hoping he can hear me. He is right on the heels of #1 kid at this last turn and gaining with every stride. More screaming "GO SHORTY GO."

The race ends in an almost dead heat. My Flash missed finishing first by inches. Literally. But in the end, the entire team came over to him and hugged and high fived him. And I was on the side, jumping up and down, laughing and telling everyone around me that the little kid with a lot of guts is MY SON.

At the end of the race I couldn't help but to run to the finish line and give him the biggest hug a mom could give to her little boy. Not for the victory but for the fact that he believed in himself and didn't give up.

In some ways I wished I had my camera with me but in some ways I was glad to have been able to be caught up in the moment.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dry Spell

Oh my. I just realized it has already been a week since my last post. I haven't abandoned my blog but have been really unusually busy this past week.

One of the things keeping me busy is an ebook that I am in the middle of writing. I got a lot of great feedback on my many marathon posts and many people asking me in person to talk about my first half marathon. I decided to write an ebook on the subject and upload it to my blog to give everyone a chance to read the story.

I am almost finished with the draft section and next week I will work on editing, revisions, and photos. My plan is to be done by mid-March.

In the meantime I hope to add a few more posts by the end of this week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Speaking With A Demanding 15 Year Old

Here is how the conversation went:

Me: Your birthday party is coming up. What kind of cake do you want me to make you?
Him: How about an oreo cake?
Me: Ok. You mean an oreo ice cream cake?
Him: No. A cake filled with oreo ice cream.
Me: Ok. I am having trouble picturing this. Can you explain it better?
Him: You make a cake out of cookies and then fill it with oreo ice cream.
Me: (thinking hard for a few minutes and still drawing a blank)....ummmmmm.....
Him: It's like one of those cakes you get at the Mrs. Fields at the mall shaped like a big chocolate chip cookie with oreo ice cream on top.
Me: So let me get this straight. You want one of those big cookies and on top you want me to put oreo ice cream? Because if you do it's a lot like cookies and ice cream.
Him: Yes but then you put another big cookie on top of that!
Me: Ok. I think I get it now. You want a big round ice cream sandwich with two big on top and one on bottom and oreo ice cream in the middle.
Me: Whew (sweating profusely)... I will give it a shot.
Him: Don't forget to put cookies on the sides too.
Me: Can we go back to cookies and ice cream?

If anyone has any idea on how I can possibly accomplish this please feel free to comment. He had me right until he asked for cookie around the sides.

Some Days I Fall Short

I woke up this morning and felt a stiffness in my neck area. As I got out of bed, I felt the muscle shoot a pain up and down my entire left side. Ahhh, the blessings of getting older. Muscles don't rebound like they once did so now I was left to deal with a stiff neck.

As I got my two youngest ones out of bed and into the kitchen area for breakfast they ultimately started fighting over my daughter's newest "Hannah Montana" doll. So much fighting, carrying on, wailing and crying. I could not process it all at 7 am. So I bark at them to stop fighting and just eat your cereal.

What a great way to start a morning.

As I go back to get myself ready for work, I stop by my computer and check up on my bloglines and I see this new post.

In spite of running late, I sit down and read. It's a great read and perfect for my morning of screaming at my littlest ones. As I am reading I am noticing that they are eating away at the table and finally quiet. Re-thinking my approach I go back over to my daughter and get close to her and down to her level and give her a hug. Instead of snapping at her for delaying getting dressed, I ask her to help me pick out what she is going to wear today. Delightfully, she jumps up and runs with me to her closet and happily picks out her clothes. She happily puts the clothes on and gleefully runs back to the table to finish her breakfast and somehow I feel less stressed because the dressing was so much less stressful than I anticipated it to be.

Maybe there is something to this post. Maybe I should re-read it and blog about it and remind myself that I am not perfect and my stiff neck hurts like a &%$#@ but nothing that a few Aleves can't take care of.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How To Make A Rue

A long time ago I blogged about making a rue which is a base for sauces or gravy. You can pretty much add anything to a rue to turn it into gravy. If you add cheese to it and macaroni you have a great macaroni and cheese dish. If you add chicken stock and mushrooms you have a wonderful mushroom gravy. The possibilities are endless.

I never imagined that this post would turn out to be the most popular page in the history of my blog. Back then I just posted the recipe but this time I am posting it again but with a video showing the method live and in person.

The quality of the video is pretty good but keep in mind that I am video taping and making the rue at the same time so if the camera is a bit shaky please understand this. If you have any questions regarding rue please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Here it is:

olive oil, one turn of the pan
3 pats of butter
3 tsp flour
1 - 1.5 cups of stock or milk (see HINT below)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter and stir in with a whisk. When butter is melted, add the flour and whisk the flour in with the butter until the flour cooks fully and no longer looks white. The flour might clump up but that is ok. Add the liquid and whisk to incorporate until all the lumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is at the desired thickness remove from heat and add to the dish you are making.

***HINT*** If you want to make a milk based rue or gravy (for mac n cheese for example) then use milk as the liquid. If you want to make a stock based rue or gravy (like for chicken or turkey gravy) then use chicken stock as the liquid. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Sweet Debut

It was a glorious day for baseball and birthdays. My pride and joy made his high school baseball debut on his 15th birthday. His team lost but he had a really great day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Start In The Kitchen With Appliances

As promised earlier this week, I am committed to sharing some of my organization ideas with everyone. I have found that the easiest place to lose organization is in the kitchen. That is probably because it's the hub of a home with lots of activity. But it's fairly easy to develop a system that can keep you on track, organized and clean. It requires much evaluation of what you do need and what you don't need and it requires a lot of creative planning on how to best utilize your shelves, spaces and pantry.

The very first thing that you do when organizing any space is to remove everything from that space and place it all outside the space. I realize that this is a tall order when you are dealing with a kitchen as most of us have a lot of things in our cabinets. But you don't have to do the entire kitchen all at once. You can tackle sections at a time. This is actually a better approach because I have found that if you try to do too much too quickly you can get tired and discouraged easily.

I am going to break down all of the many parts of a kitchen throughout various posts but I want to dedicate this space to appliances. The average kitchen probably has somewhere from 8-10 appliances in it. In my kitchen I have four. I just am not a big fan of them and don't really use them. However, I do have a crock pot, toaster, blender, and a small coffee pot for parties. All four of these appliances fit in one of the bottom cabinets where I bring them out only when I need them. My general rule of thumb is that if the appliance does not get used daily then it needs to be in a cabinet and off of your countertops. Keep in mind that the more appliances that you have out in full view the more visual clutter you have and the less space you have with which to cook and prepare meals. Analyze your appliances carefully and if you have not used an appliance in a few months, think about whether or not you really need it. If you don't need it, donate it to charity. If you do then keep it tucked away for the occasional times that you will use it.

You will find that if you narrow down the appliances that you own by 50%, you will magically have space leftover to store more things up and away from the kitchen countertops and that makes for more clutter free space.

Next time around I will talk about what to do with all of that tupperware. This is a quick solution to add lots of cabinet space. If you have any suggestions for future posts please leave a comment and I will get to it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Am Gentle?

What type of Mother Hen Are You?
by Educational Resource

Tell that to my kids who just heard me scream at them at the top of my lungs last night because the house was a chaotic mess!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New and Improved Photos

Here is a shout out to my blogging friend Corey who is giving some really great photography advice on her blog. She asserts that great pictures are not always about the camera but how you use your camera. So before I set off to buy a really expensive camera with a zillion dollar zoom lens, I decided try out some of her tips on my trusty Kodak Easyshare.

The first thing I did was her first rule and that was to get down to their level (my kids). And that was what I did. I got really close and sat on the ground. Here are the results.....a vast improvement over what I was taking before but still not there yet. I realize that it takes a great deal of trial and error and practice and I intend to keep it up. But for now this was my first attempt at a different perspective. I am hoping that Corey tells me how I did.

Cheap or Smart?

I am a mystery shopper. I have blogged about it here many times.

I love to mystery shop not because of the free stuff but because of the evaluation portion. Ok, it's neat to get free stuff. I am a true consumer and also aim to help Joe American by instructing big brass on how to improve service.

So in December I was assigned to be an evaluator at a 5 star restaurant on South Beach. I was excited because this restaurant was not only beautiful but the food was really expensive. I was scheduled to perform the shop the weekend after Christmas. I decided that I would give this to my better half for his Christmas present. Many people called me cheap and that I should be spending dollars for a Christmas present. Regardless, I took him to this lovely, expensive dinner and he really enjoyed it. Was I cheap or was I smart? You decide.

Just last week I applied for another evaluation to another gorgeous restaurant in East Fort Lauderdale in a lovely section of town. Another great and expensive restaurant. I have reservations for Friday. I am planning on giving this experience to my better half for Valentine's Day. Am I being cheap or am I being smart?

I like to believe I am being very, very clever.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Do Not Call Them Tumors

and neurofibromatosis is not a disease.

This is what I keep being told by my daughter's genetic doctor who is awesomely sensitive to children and how this condition is perceived. So I comply and it does make sense. If you have a child with neurofibromatosis you should understand that using the word "tumor" can cause your child to grow very self-conscious. I intend not to do that so I describe the spots as "freckles".

I have been receiving some hits recently on my NF tag and figured it was time for a more recent post about NF. First of all, if your child or someone you know was diagnosed with NF then realize that you are not alone. There are many people with this condition. It is not a disease. It is rare to die from it though you do want to be informed and aware of several things.

First, you should be seeing a genetic specialist who deals with NF patients. You should also be seeing an opthalmologist since NF can affect the optic nerve. NF is a condition that affects the nerve endings and therefore, there is a slight risk that the optic nerve is an area where fibromas can grow. A basic opthalmological exam is fine with children ages 6 and under. When the child reaches ages 6-8 you might want to consider a CAT scan to check the area behind the optic nerve. Check with your doctor and discuss options.

There is a website to go to for more information. Click here.

Understand that your child or loved one is not different or handicapped. They just have a defective gene. I call it the crazy gene. And stop by my blog every now and then to check on my princess because you will be happy to hear about how she leads a very wonderful, happy and typical 4 year old's life. I couldn't have asked for more.

If you need someone to talk to about NF, feel free to email me at mill2542 at bellsouth dot com.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Organize With Me

Very often I get asked how on earth I keep a well-organized house with 4 kids. "Ummm...errr...I don't know" is my usual answer but deep down inside I really do know.

Ever since I was a little kid I was fairly organized. You can call me an introvert and a geek (you would be correct on both counts) but I remember being a kid and organizing my book shelves in my room. Every so often I would clean out my closet and organize my toys and clothes. Many times I would clean out my drawers and straighten out my clothes. I was cleaning the house when I was 9. I was cleaning and washing my parent's cars way before I could ever reach the foot pedals.

I believe it was a clean gene that I was born with because I don't remember being taught how to be this way. I just was. Perhaps a bit of OCD tendencies though nothing that inhibits my life in any way.

Organization really elevated when I became a mother. I remember getting advice when I was first pregnant that organization was one of the key components to motherhood. Even though I believe I take it to the extreme, I believe that you can never be too organized.

Having said all that, I would love to share some of my organizing ideas with you all right here on my blog. So stay tuned for Organizing 101.

Happy Friday!

Can I Do It?

I am running in a 5K on February 24th. The problem is that my last 5K was during my half marathon training and I was consumed with distance as opposed to speed. Needless to say, my 5K time was horrendous compared to my previous runs.

Now that the half marathon is under my belt I am working to improve my 5K time. The goal is to finish in 30 minutes or less. I downloaded a program from the internet that helps combine mileage with speed.

The question is.....can I really do it?

Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fish Wednesday

The Catholics are handing out ashes today so in honor of today, I am posting a wonderful fish recipe that is so easy that you really cannot call it a recipe.

That said, are you one of many people who don't cook fish because you are either intimidated or can't get to the fresh fish market or you just don't know how to handle it? I used to be one of those people until I took a look deeper into the fish.

It all really happened when I went shopping at my favorite grocery store. It was having buy one get one free (BOGO) frozen tilapia fillets. I had heard on the news that frozen fish is really very healthy and fresh so I decided to buy a few packages of the fish. The fish is packaged very nicely in individual air-tight wrappings that thaw in just about 15 minutes (perfect for quick cooking).

After they are thawed, I sprinkle the fillets with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. If I have some lemons handy I grate some zest over them as well. Place the fillets in a heated, non stick skillet and cook the fish for about 5 minutes on each side. That's it. You are done.

To make the meal more complete, microwave a couple of baked potatoes or cook up some rice and serve with a veggie or salad.

Bon Appetit

Monday, February 4, 2008

Perfectville Population: 1 Founded: 1972

For those who are not Miami locals or maybe are not interested in football perhaps you are not familiar with the town of Perfectville, population 1, founded in 1972.

You can see it all here.....

As a Miami fan for all of my life and as a girl who was going to marry Bob Griese one day, it pained me to have to hear all over TV and on the radio how the 1972 Dolphin players were a bunch of grumpy old men who are really depressed now that their perfect season would have to be shared by the New England Patriots.

The reason it bothers me is not because of Tom Brady and his cocky, smirky attitude and the way he saunters around as if in slow-motion. It's not because he has been referred to as having the "perfect" life filled with money, fame and supermodels. Never mind the fact that he has a child on the opposite coast and I wonder how much he gets to see of that child. Doesn't sound perfect to me. Anyhow, it's not because of the cheating allegations or the fact that the head coach has the personality of a noodle.

It bothers me because a lot of people seemed glorious about taking away credit for doing something so many years ago and that perhaps with time these accomplishments that were once considered great and special somehow become less great. I think that is a bunch of hooey (is there such a word?). Why is that? When I listened to the 1972 Dolphin players talk they are not grumpy rather protective of something that they are proud of. Nothing wrong with that. Why does it have to be that the Patriots perfect season was deemed a better perfection than the 1972 Dolphins. Why couldn't they both be great in their own rights and at their own time frames?

Why is it all or nothing?

That said, today I am a huge Eli Manning fan for being the guy to wipe that smug smirk off Tom Brady's face and for exposing Coach Bill-whatshisname for being the poor sport that I always knew he was.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I Love An Underdog

No Fail Rice Dish

Here's to my brother who reminded me of how yummy this dish was growing up. And it is oh so super easy!

Rice and Peas

Cooked Rice
1 small can of Campbell's Chicken Gravy
couple handfuls of thawed frozen peas

After cooking as much rice as you need for your meal, add chicken gravy and mix well. The amount of chicken gravy will vary depending on how much rice you cook. You want to coat the rice and not make it soupy. Add the peas and serve.

Throw a couple of pork chops on the grill and you have a quick and easy meal.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sense of Accomplishment

I am very lucky to have kids who love to accomplish things. This past month was chock filled with this. Oldest teen made the First Honor Roll for the second semester this year and made the JV baseball team. Younger teen made a 3.3 GPA and made the track team. Princess learned how to tie her shoes! And little toddler is moving right along with his potty training. He goes all of the time now and is really enthusiastic to be doing it like a big boy. It looks like it is time to go out and buy him some big boy underwear and say bye-bye to the diaper stage.

It's natural for me to find these milestones bittersweet. They remind me that they are getting older and while my head knows these things are going to happen, my heart has not caught up yet.

So for now we take lots of photos and I take it all in. The enjoyment of watching the happiness on my kids' faces when they do a good job thrills me more than anything.

Easier Than The Last Recipe

If you thought the last recipe was easy, here is an even easier one. This one requires a crockpot.

Sausage and Peppers - Italian Style (feeds 2)

1 bell pepper sliced or diced
1 onion sliced or diced
2-3 Italian sausage links (can be frozen)
28 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Combine and cook high in the crock pot for 2-3 hours

Serve over cooked pasta with a side salad or garlic bread.

Now wasn't that easy!

Finding Your Love

I remember about eight years ago when I was dating this guy. We were really on and off breaking up two or three times that year. I was a total schizo about the whole situation. I was raising two small boys on my own and living out of a small 700 sq ft apartment. There was no place for them to run around. I could barely pay my bills. Things were tight. And as for my romantic life I had this guy in it who just wouldn't quit no matter how hard I tried to run from him. I was nervous about the whole blended family situation. This guy has little experience with small children and he kept promising a future that would be "super easy." I had lots of doubts.

I couldn't picture it. After all, he votes Democrat and I vote Republican. No way that can mix well. And then he came to my doorstep with a magazine article about him and her and I had to laugh.

If they can do it, so can we. Tomorrow will be 6 years into our marriage that gets better and better with each challenging day. My life feels so complete now that he is in it.

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