Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The highlights of 2011....

January 2011:


The year got off to a great start when Ivy, one of our cats, "wrote" a guest post on why it sucks to be the family cat.

I shared ten of the things I've learned from my children and recalled why doing a photo shoot with 9 kids is nothing but an agonizing form of torture.

February 2011:


This month came in with a bang as I blasted the people at Disney for the mixed messages some of their movies send to overly inquisitive kids, like my daughter.

When Tim failed to buy me a personalized license plate, I came up with my own Helene'isms.  And in another post, I talked about all the...well, interesting things you may hear coming out of our house if you were my neighbor.

I poured my heart out in a gut-wrenching post about betrayal and its ugly aftermath.  In another emotional piece titled She is Ready But I am Not, I wrote about the experience of taking my only daughter to get her ears pierced.

March 2011:


March began with the silly realization that my kids would still love me even if I didn't bake them birthday cakes anymore...yeah, right.  It was the end of a wanna-be cake artist who desperately wanted to be Supermom.

Another emotionally draining post as I poured my heart out about something that is a daily struggle for me.

Then, of course, there was the confession about the time I laughed at my daughter as she cried watching a Justin Bieber video.

Cole and Bella shared their thoughts about family vacations.

April 2011:


With my birthday at the very beginning of this month, we celebrated by taking the kids on a road trip to Disneyland.  Ever wonder what a 7-hour road trip is like with 4 young children?  Read this post.

I shared some wisdom in a post titled How To Survive Spring Break With Your Kids and chatted about a very frustrating conversation I had with one of my kids.

And then there was the 28-second video that proves that motherhood is a thankless job.

May 2011:


This month began with a post titled Well, Who Died And Made Them Boss...as my kids waited for me to screw up so they could enlighten me with their wealth of knowledge.

I shared why my engagement ring is my favorite piece of jewelry and the crazy excuses my kids come up with to avoid bedtime.

I also poured my heart out again in a difficult piece about my battle with depression.

And May ended as the kids and I planted our summer garden...and I discussed why I have a love/hate relationship with gardening.

June 2011:


This month zoomed by with hardly any posts but definitely not one to miss, especially if you have a teenager who thinks it'd be super cool to get pregnant with twins, is the one where I show my twin belly pics.

In a post titled This One Time, At Band Camp, I wrote about my very first (awkward) kiss.

July 2011:


I started this month off with why it's never wise to sing "Leaving On A Jet Plane" to a 6-year old child before....uh, leaving on a jet plane.

In this Rockin' the Baby post, I shared my favorite pics of the kids from when they were younger.  And in an attempt to make myself feel better about my mothering skills, I discussed the 10 reasons why I'll never be Mother of the Year.

I poured my heart out when I feared my marriage was permanently broken.

August 2011:


Summertime means it's time for our annual "same shit, different location" vacation to Lake Tahoe, where we encountered greedy geese, rabid chipmunks and wild bears.

In honor of mine and Tim's 9th wedding anniversary, I wrote a piece about what I wished someone had told me about marriage...dripping with humor and sarcasm, as always.

September 2011:


As the school year began once again, I wrote a post called They Said What?!, where I shared some of the hysterical things my kids have said.

Not much else exciting going on this month as I struggled to balance everything.  Hey, maybe I should've written about that...

October 2011:


Remember back in March when I swore I would never bake another birthday cake for my kids ever again...well, I lied.  Read this post to see what creation I came up with for Cole and Bella's birthday.

After melting off 35 pounds, I shared the REAL secret to losing weight.  I also poured my heart out about a time where I made an extremely stupid decision which put my safety in serious jeopardy (a good read for those of you who know a teenage girl who will soon be driving).

I wrote about what went down at the pumpkin patch this year, as I struggled to get a semi-decent picture of all 4 kids for our Christmas cards.

And, finally, our kitchen remodel was complete!!

November 2011:


My heart broke as I wrote about how badly words can hurt, after I yelled at one of my kids instead of following my gut and taking a breather.

And then there was the trespassing incident, where I tried to convince my straight-laced daughter to bend the rules a little.

On one of the days where the kids were driving me crazy, I ended up embarrassing my husband...One of the Reasons Why Husbands Should Never Work From Home.

December 2011:


December was more of a serious month for me, as the gray clouds loomed and the depression hit once again.

I reflected on why it's so important for me to create happy childhood memories for my kids, even if it killed me and that exact moment when I feared we had made a huge mistake during one of our IVF cycles due to the desperation of infertility.

Lastly, I wrote a gut-wrenching post about what's hidden behind the smile, where I shared graphic details of the thoughts that go through my brain when I hit rock bottom.


And that, my friends, concludes the highlights from 2011.

It's been a wonderful year...full of humor, good times, and some not-so-good times.

I'm looking forward to what's in store in 2012!

Wishing you all a very happy (and safe) New Year!



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Friday, December 23, 2011

Interview with the Experts: The 2011 Christmas Edition

Let's see what the experts, Cole and Bella, have to say about Christmas, from a kid's point of view.

What does Santa look like?
Cole: He has a white beard, his hat looks like an elf hat but it's red.  He has peach-colored skin.  And he has big black shoes and a red button shirt and red pants.
Bella:  He has peach skin.  A jolly nose.  His belly is big like a bowl of jello and it jiggles when he says "ho, ho, ho".

Where does Santa live?
Cole:  At the North Pole with Mrs. Claus and the elves.  He has no kids but maybe the elves are his kids.  It's still a mystery.
Bella: Hmmm, at the North Pole.  He lives with reindeer, elves and Mrs. Claus and Mr. Claus.

What is Santa doing right this very minute?
Bella:  He and his elves are packing up for Christmas because it's 3 or 4 more days away.
Cole:  I don't know.  But I do care.  Why the heck would I NOT care about Santa?  That would be mean and hurt his feelings.  And I'm not like that.  

How does he keep track of what you want for Christmas?
Cole:  Santa sends his elves to everyone's house and the elves spy on us.  Then they go back and tell Santa.
Bella: He watches us on the motion detector in the corner of your living room.  When the light is red, it means an elf has spotted you being bad.  Except me.  I'm not bad.  I wonder if the elves can hear us when we fart?

How does Santa get to every single house in one night?
Cole: That's a good question but I don't know.  I think his elves must help him or his sled is really fast so it can get around the world.
Bella: Maybe his elves help him.

Is the Grinch real?
Cole:  Um, nooooo.
Bella:  Nooooooo
Me:  How do you know?
Bella:  Because there's no such thing as green skin.  So there you go.  Plus, I think the Grinch is supposed to be a monster and there's no such thing as monsters.  Or vampires.

Do most families have a special dinner on Christmas day?
Bella: That's a good question.  Probably they have special dinners.
Cole:  That's a good question but I don't know.  We'll most likely have pot roast even though I don't know what that is.
Bella:  Is it a cockroach?
Me:  No, a pot roast.
Cole:  It's a roast that roasts stuff.  I hope we have mashed potatoes cuz those are the bomb.

Does Santa bring gifts for parents?
Cole: Um, sometimes, if the parents are good.  
Bella:  It depends on if the parents has been good or bad.  Like you said you want peace and quiet.  I heard you tell Santa that.
Me:  Yeah, do you think Santa will bring me peace and quiet?
Bella:  I don't think so.  But maybe he'll bring you a necklace.  

Is it customary to leave food for Santa on Christmas eve?
Cole: Yes, it's the nice thing to do.  Cookies, donuts and other kinds of junk food that you can think of.  Oh, carrots for the reindeer.
Bella: Um, cookies and carrots but this year we're leaving real reindeer food.

How does Santa know if you're good or bad?
Bella: I already told you.  Through the motion detector.  The elves watch us and then they tell Santa.  We each have an assigned elf.  Mine's a girl who wears pink nail polish.
Cole: The elves watch you but it's not creepy or anything.  Well, it's kind of creepy.  Sometimes I lay awake at night and feel weird that they're watching me.  Don't the elves ever sleep?

Have you ever been on the bad list?
Cole: Yes.  Uh, no.  Well, once.  But I can't remember what it was for.  Okay, wait.  No, I've never been on the bad list.
Bella:  Last year, I was on the good list but just barely.  I'm on the good list now because I've been real good.  Helpful and stuff.  And I'm trying hard to read better.

Why do we celebrate Christmas?
Bella:  I forget.  Oh yeah, it's Jesus' birthday.  We make him a birthday cake every year but he never comes over to eat it with us.  Probably because he's dead.
Cole:  To hang out with family and you celebrate Jesus being born.  I'm glad Jesus was born because if he wasn't then we wouldn't be here.  What would the world be like then?
Bella:  How did God make the world if no one else was alive?
Me:  Go ask Daddy.  He went to private Catholic school.
Bella:  Okay.  Daddy.....

Feel free to ask your kids the same questions and share it on your blog!

Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season!!


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Confession, courtesy of Brad from Papa Two Twin Girls

If there's one thing that there is NOT enough of in the blogosphere, in my opinion, it's Daddy bloggers...or, better said, dads who blog.  I love reading about parenting, marriage, and life in general through the eyes of the male gender, especially when he can tell a story like nobody's business, such as  the blogger I'm about to introduce you to.



Meet Brad from Papa Two Twin Girls...not only is he the devoted father of beautiful twin girls, but he is also a loving husband (and hopefully very soon, a published author) with a wicked sense of humor and wit.  If you haven't discovered his blog yet, you are missing out!

I know you'll enjoy reading his Christmas confession just as much as I did...

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For those of you that have followed Helene for any period of time, you already know if she follows your blog she FOLLOWS your blog.  Her comments and posts always have the same feel - they're real and sincere.  She says what she thinks and means what she says - at least that's my interpretation. 

A few weeks ago, I bugged the hell out of her asked her how she had so many followers in such a short time frame.  She had some great advice, and even offered to let me guest blog if I wanted to.  True to form, she said what she thought, and meant it.

Thanks so much, Helene, for letting me share my own confession with your readers.  

I would think it's safe to say that everyone who celebrates Christmas has Christmas memories.  Some are good, some are bad, but all are memories.  Thanks to This Daddy's Blog post for getting me thinking about the past and remembering what I am about to confess.

The jury is out on this one.
When I was young, I was sneaky.  If you've read any of my vacation posts, you've probably realized this is not the confession.  I need to build a little anticipation here, so I'll drag it out as long as I can.

Back in the day I was one of those kids that went hunting through the house to find my presents.  I thought I knew all the hiding places my parents used.  Actually, I did know most of them at one point.

I'm not sure if they got wise to my hunting skills, just started mixing it up on their own, or if they forgot where their hiding spots were, but at some point I stopped finding all of my presents early.  This is probably because they started wrapping the gifts as soon as they got them, which leads me to believe they were onto me.

The only exception to this was the big gifts.  Those I almost always found, until they started hiding them at other people's houses.  Even at a young age I wasn't willing to risk a breaking and entering charge to find my presents, so they were off limits to me.

What is a mischievous kid supposed to do in that instance when all the fun of hunting is taken out of the holiday season?

Here's what I did - I found ways to be alone with the presents.

Sometimes I:

1 - faked an illness so I could stay home from school.
2 - played upstairs by the tree while the rest of the family was downstairs.
3 - came home early from a friend's house when I thought our house would be empty.
4 - grabbed a present and took it to the bathroom.
5 - grabbed a present, hid it in my room, and got up in the middle of the night to check it out.

Sounds like someone had to try to figure out what he was getting before Christmas morning, doesn't it?

I never tried to figure them out.

I simply unwrapped them, saw what I was getting, rewrapped them ever so carefully (being sure the paper that pulled off with the tape went back exactly where it came from), and put them back under the tree.

My work was much better than this.  Amateur.
There's the confession.  I'm sure my mom and dad are going to love finding this little nugget out like this!

Why would I open presents early?  I have no idea.

Maybe I wanted to string out Christmas over the course of a few weeks instead of just one morning.  Maybe I just had to know what I was getting so I could plan out my morning in advance.  Maybe, just maybe, I did it because I wasn't supposed to.

I'd put all my money on that last choice if I were you.

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Please leave Brad some comment love and then visit his blog Papa Two Twin Girls to show your support for dads who blog!  And be sure to follow him...you won't be disappointed!


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Monday, December 19, 2011

That moment when...

1)  you laugh hard at something that someone just told you and a little piece of snot comes shooting out of your nose.

2)  your husband is on speaker phone with his mom...as you walk into the room, unknowingly, and say, "Good God, your mother can be SO freakin' annoying".

3)  you give your kids free reign to choose whatever board game they want you to play with them...and they pick the one that has tons of little pieces and tons of fake money.

4)  your cell phone call gets cut off while you're out in public but you don't want to seem like a total loser so you just say, "Okay...well, talk to you later".

5)  the elevator doors close and you look at the person next to you and wonder if you could handle being trapped with him/her for even a couple hours in the event of a major elevator fail.

6)  you're 6 months pregnant with twins and someone asks you when you're due...and you pretend to be horrified as you answer, "Uh, I'm not pregnant" just because that's your idea of entertainment.

7)  while waiting in your car with the windows down in the school's parking lot for a couple of your kids to get out, your other kids are arguing in the car when one of them shouts, "Well, you have wrinkly old man balls"....just as the principal happens to stroll by.

8)  you're singing a Justin Bieber song in your car and notice the person in the car next to you is staring...and laughing hysterically.

9)  you're in the middle of telling some friends what you thought would be an interesting story...only to realize halfway through that, in all actuality, they will probably find the story pretty damn stupid.

10)  your daughter is happily swinging herself around a pole at the crowded playground...and then she bellows, proudly, "Mommy, take a video of me dancing on this pole and send it to everyone."

11)  you're at the store and a woman walks over, greets you by name and then starts chatting you up...and you can't remember who the hell she is because neither of you have your kids with you, which is pretty much the ONLY way you remember most people these days.

12)  you take your kids into a public restroom where they shout, "Eeeeew, someone took a massive dump in here"...right as the guilty person comes out of the bathroom stall.

13)  you brag to your kids about how you used to ride your bike with no hands when you were younger...right as you attempt to do it as an adult and swerve into a street light.

14)  everyone sits at a 4-way stop waiting for the other person to go and then they all try to go at the same time...only to have to slam on their brakes and do the "no, you go" courtesy wave all over again.

15)  there's an awkward silence after you've asked someone how they are and they simply say, "fine" without asking how you are in return.



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Thursday, December 15, 2011

What's hidden behind the smile...

* I just want to put it out there now that this post is about an unpleasant topic, in which I share graphic details.  I wrote it mostly to process my own thoughts...a purging of emotions, I guess you could say.  I know most of my readers come here expecting a good laugh but not this time.  If the topic of depression is difficult for you to read about, you might not want to stick around today.

I peer out the window and feel my heart drop as I see nothing but a gloomy, overcast sky for the third day in a row.

My soul cries out for sunshine.  It craves the brightness, the happiness, the natural high that the sun's rays provide.  I desperately need it to lure me out of this disheartened shell, which holds me captive.

The booming sound of children arguing downstairs makes me cringe.  Closing my eyes, I wish it were possible for me to lay in bed all day and do nothing but stare at the ceiling.

I've come so far, only to find myself back at square one again.  What was once postpartum depression has now become clinical depression and it still hurts.

"Moooommmmmyyyy....."

With a heavy sigh, I head down the stairs and enter the war zone.

"Just push through the pain," I tell myself.  "Be strong.  You'll get through this."

But, somehow, I can't be strong today of all days.  There is simply no more fight left within me.

My head feels blurry and begs for relief as the phone's shrill ring adds to the chaos.  A friend is leaving a message, "Hi, it's me.  Haven't heard from you in awhile.  Just wanted to say hello."

Lacking the desire it takes to fake the blissful front I put on for the outside world, I choose not to answer it.  I need to conserve what little energy I have left for my kids today.

As the hours pass and my endurance fades, I want to throw my hands in the air and give up.  There's an itching within me that begs to pack my bags and run away...far, far away where I'm no longer a threat to my children's happiness.

But a good mother wouldn't run away.  No, she'd stay and fight the monster....she would fight it so courageously and she would win.

I'm trapped.  Trapped between desperately wanting to be that good mother who will fight no matter what it takes and that bad mother who would easily give up her family for just one measly hour of solitude and peace.

Only one thought continues to run through my brain and that is "You are such a fuck up.  You have no business being anyone's mother."

I've raised the bar much too high this time, even for myself.  My feet are grounded to the floor...there's no desire to jump as high as I can to reach it.  Instead, I want to sulk and lay in a dark room where I can contemplate ways to escape.

The pain is unbearable and menacing.  It feels hollow and dark...twisted and sick...lonely and ambivalent.  It's not easy to understand how one can feel this way in a home full of people...amidst children's joyful laughter, a husband's loving arms, pets who can offer warmth and unconditional love.  

There comes a point where it becomes a fight or flight situation.  The finality of the darkness can be alluring, especially to someone who feels trapped and weak.  It beckons to the deepest part of your aching soul and promises to relieve the pain.

But even then, there is still some little bit of rationality inside me, in which I can see the long-term effects of a permanent absence.

I turn to the only immediate yet temporary form of relief I know of as I hold the blade of a knife against my skin...just piercing it enough to release the pain.  As the blood dribbles out slowly where my skin gives way, I can breathe again.

There's an instantaneous euphoria that gives me a sudden burst of liveliness and  pulls me forward out of the darkness long enough to evade the thoughts which had haunted me merely a few minutes prior.

However, soon enough, that euphoria gives way to shame, guilt and disappointment...which only feeds into the negative self-talk once again.

I know what I need to do and that is to force myself to reach out for help.  Better sooner than later.

So as uncomfortable as it is, I take that first step...and then another and another until I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Good always conquers evil, so they say.  You just have to dig deep within yourself to find that good, sometimes.


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Monday, December 12, 2011

There's a reason why I always check my hot chocolate for floaters...

The year was 1979 and my sister, Erica, and I had been invited to eat breakfast with our grandparents at a hotel in Miami, Florida.

We weren't especially close with them but she and I took advantage of the opportunity, as it was immediate relief away from our parents.

While we waited for our breakfast to be served, our grandparents engaged us in small talk, where my sister and I complained about how mean our parents were because they never let us drink hot chocolate.

Finally, breakfast arrived at our table. My mouth was drooling as I stared at the plate before me...a decent sized stack of pancakes, smothered in gooey syrup and fluffy whipped cream. The waitress set a steaming mug of hot chocolate next to my plate, as I watched 5 mini marshmallows bob happily at the top.

My sister brought her mug up to her lips and immediately yelped, "Ow, this is hot!", as if she somehow hadn't seen the mist of hot steam rising from the mug.

"Why don't you start on your pancakes while your hot chocolate cools off," our grandmother suggested.

We began digging into our stacks of pancakes and shoveling fork after fork of syrupy goodness into our eager mouths.

Erica began to dip her finger into her hot chocolate but our grandmother warned, "You need to wait just a few more minutes. I still see steam rising from your mug".

The small talk continued...what were we learning in school, who were our best friends...the usual crap that grandparents want to know.

In between bites of my breakfast, I stirred my hot chocolate, as the marshmallows melted into a creamy white swirl along the top.

My sister continued to eye hers with avid anticipation, just waiting for that moment for the little cloud of steam to dissipate.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity to young children such as ourselves, our grandmother announced, "It's probably fine to drink your hot chocolate now."

Our grandfather had just shoveled a forkful of scrambled eggs into his mouth, as he said, "Go on...your grandmother said you can drink it now."

And that's when it happened.

My sister frowned as she peered into her mug.

There, floating at the top of her hot chocolate, was a tiny smidgen of scrambled egg, which had flown out of our grandfather's mouth as he spoke to us.

I kicked her under the table, teasing her, "Well, aren't you going to drink it?!"

She kicked me back...hard. "Uh, no...I'm kind of full from the pancakes," she answered.

"You've been anxious to drink that hot chocolate since the minute the waitress served it. Go on, drink it," our grandfather commanded, spitting another piece of scrambled egg onto the table.

Our grandmother said, "Well, at least take a few sips. After all, we are paying for it."

My sister clutched her belly and complained, "My stomach is really full."

"Is there something wrong with your drink?" our grandfather asked, a piece of crusted scrambled egg barely balancing on the outer corner of his mouth.

"Uh, no. It's fine. I'm just full, really," Erica insisted.

After a few minutes, we left the restaurant and as we walked ahead of our grandparents to their car, my sister remarked, "Man, that sucked. I really wanted that hot chocolate, too. Did you see that big hunk of egg he spit into my mug?"

"Yeah," I answered. "Totally gross, huh?"

And that is why, even to this day, I can't drink a mug of hot chocolate without thinking of that incident.

Also, probably the reason why I drink it AFTER a meal. Because you never know when someone's going to spit in your hot chocolate.



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Friday, December 9, 2011

How to survive making a gingerbread house with your kids...

Well, you came to the right place.  Oh sure, there are tons of tutorials out there, explaining how to make an adorable gingerbread house with your kids.

But none of them explain how to SURVIVE making an adorable gingerbread house with your kids. Because, really…what’s the point of doing a craft like this if you’re not going to live long enough to enjoy the outcome?

Here's where I come in...to save you some peace of mind.  It's what I would've wanted someone to do for me so let's just say this is me, paying it forward.

And I'm joining in with Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land for this awesome festival linky, where you can find a ton of other super fun Christmas crafts:




So, first thing...you know all those cardboard boxes that Santa's elves keep bringing by your house and you have no clue what to do with them once they're empty?  You can use them as the foundation for your house.  Just cut out a square, rectangle, circle...whatever shape you fancy.

This is a great job for the kids and it'll keep them busy for quite awhile.  That's a good thing, as Martha would say.

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In the meantime, while they're busily cutting the cardboard (and preferably not cutting each other's fingers off), you can begin to cut the graham crackers into the house shape you like.

I found this amazing tutorial on Pinterest, which gives really good details on how to carve the shapes.  The key is a finely serrated knife and lots of patience.  Lots and lots of patience.  This blogger also shows how to assemble the house.

Try not to bang your head against a wall when you realize how many graham cracker scraps you'll have in the end...because you know there's no way your kids will accept a broken piece of cracker as a snack.

Just make a pie crust with it...in all your spare time.  Come on, you know you have a total June Cleaver complex, just like I do.

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Okay, now that you have your cardboard foundation and your graham cracker pieces (and your sanity, I'm assuming), cover the foundation pieces in foil.

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Empty all your candy, crackers, pretzels, whatever you're using to decorate with into bowls or plates.  This makes it much easier for those little hands to grab whatever they need.

One year, we used those little square pretzel pieces for fences and long wafer cookies for the roof.   We also used marshmallows to make snowmen, upside down ice cream cones to make Christmas trees.  The ideas are endless...most importantly, just have fun!

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In the tutorial that I mentioned above, the blogger advises using melted white chocolate to mold your houses and to decorate with because it dries more quickly than royal icing.

While this is accurate, if you're working with young children, I suggest using the chocolate to mold the houses BUT use royal icing to decorate, especially if you like having a full head of hair (because, trust me, you WILL want to rip every single piece out of your head each time you hear your kids complain, "Mommy, the chocolate is too hard")

I use the little white chocolate discs made by Wilton, which you can find at your local craft store or online.  They're super easy to melt in the microwave and then I pour it into disposable pastry bags...but you can also just leave it in the bowl and use a small knife to spread it on your crackers when assembling your house.

Whatever works best (and doesn't drive you to drink an entire bottle of wine before 3:00 pm) is my motto.

While the houses are hardening (I said "hardening"...heh, heh), go ahead and get started on making the royal icing since it takes about 10-12 minutes.  If you have a kitchen aid mixer, take advantage of it!!  If not, a hand mixer works well...in fact, if you're feeling risky, let the kids hold the mixer to give your hands a break.  Make it even more intriguing for them by saying, "Whoever walks away from this project with all 10 fingers intact gets a prize!"

I use this royal icing recipe, which is totally no-fail and only requires 3 ingredients.  The meringue powder can be found at Joann's, Michael's and any other craft type store which sells baking supplies.  Oh and I never bother to sift my powdered sugar so don't feel like you need to either.

The royal icing will harden (I said "harden" again...am I frisky today or what?) quickly if it's left out uncovered so you should spoon some into a bowl and then cover up what's left in your mixing bowl with a damp towel.  And then go back and fill up your bowl as you need more.

This is what your house should look like once it's assembled, minus the beautiful, bubbly child peering into the camera (though she could be yours if the price is right)....

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This might also be a good time to warn your kids that if they ever repeat any of the "colorful" language that Mommy used while helping them assemble the houses, there's a good chance they'll end up on Santa's naughty list.

I set the houses towards the back of the cardboard so the kids can have some space to build a walkway, a marshmallow snowman, a mother desperately running away from her children or whatever they want...

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Okay, people...here comes the fun, stressful part (fun for the kids, stressful for the parent).  The decorating!

Put on some holiday music and get wild, have fun, be creative, drink some shots.  Oh wait, maybe not.  Unless of course it's just you and your girlfriends, then shots would be totally cool.

Once the decorating is underway, feel free to excuse yourself as often as necessary to go to your room and scream into a pillow.  Get the frustration out in a healthy manner.  No need for the kids to know you'd rather be pulling out your eyelashes one by one than listening to them fight over who gets the last green gum drop or why someone else has more pretzels than they do.

Good memories, people.  You're trying to create good memories for your children to look back on and cherish.  You want them to remember you smiling your way through this activity and not recalling, "Hey, remember that time we made gingerbread houses and we caught Mommy about to stab herself in the eyeballs with a fork?"

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Aren't the finished products adorable??

Once they're done and the kids have gorged on candy as one of their main meals, you can display the houses anywhere for others to enjoy.   Believe it or not, they'll keep for an extremely long time (as evidenced by my MIL, who still has a gingerbread house I made her over 8 years ago).

Don't forget to pat yourself on the back for partaking in a wonderful holiday ritual with your children, even if they appear to be ungrateful.

And never fail to recognize how good it feels to step outside your comfort zone and do something wild and crazy...and live to tell about it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something"...

Steel Magnolias.

This movie does it for me every single time.

photo courtesy of IMDb
From the beginning to the end, I cry and I laugh...and then I cry some more.  It's safe to say it's one of my all-time favorite movies.


For those of you who have never seen it, it's the story about a group of close-knit women who experience the highs and lows of life together.  It's filled with humor, sarcasm, wit and, unfortunately, sadness.  


One of the scenes, which causes me to cry a river is the funeral scene where M'Lynn (Sally Field's character) is trying to make sense of her daughter, Shelby's, death.  


At first, she begins to explain calmly, "I find it amusing. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something. I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh god. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life." 


And then, she becomes angry when one of her friends ask if she's okay.


"I'm fine!  I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't!  She never could!  Oh God, I am so mad, I don't know what to do!  I want to know why!  I want to know why Shelby's life is over!  I want to know how that baby will ever know how wonderful his mother was!  Will he ever know what she went through for him!  Oh God, I want to know why?  Why?  Lord, I wish I could understand!"


Now that I'm a mother myself, watching this scene is absolutely gut-wrenching simply because, through M'Lynn's words and actions, I can imagine how painful and deep this type of heartbreak and sadness must feel.  


You just want to make sense of such a tragic loss but you know deep down it'll always be something you fail to understand.  You're forced to go through the natural steps of the grieving process, although I would imagine I'd get stuck somewhere between denial and anger for quite awhile. 


Towards the end of the movie, there's a scene where Shelby's toddler son becomes frightened and runs through a crowd of people until he runs safely into the arms of his grandmother, M'Lynn.  It's such a sweet, heartfelt moment...and that's the part where I always breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that everyone will be okay, even though they're still reeling from the grief of losing a loved one.


This movie makes you FEEL...it takes you to places in your mind and your heart that you don't really want to ever go.  


I don't think any one person can watch this movie and not be affected by it somehow.




*  For this workshop, I chose the prompt, "What is it about that movie that makes you cry every. time?"


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pouring my heart out....The Desperation of Infertility



I can still recall the exact moment where I thought, "Oh shit, what did we just do?!"

Tim and I were driving back to our hotel room after the embryo transfer for our 3rd IVF and my RE's words were still ringing in my ears, "I would strongly advise you against transferring this many embryos."

However, like many infertile couples, Tim and I were desperate.  This cycle HAD to work because we were financially, emotionally and physically exhausted.

When we decided to move forward with what we hoped would be our last IVF, I cried to Tim, "We have to go for broke this time and do everything in our power to make sure this cycle is successful.  I honestly don't think I can go through this even just one more time."

"Everything in my power" meant subjecting myself to acupuncture, following a Traditional Chinese Medicine diet which meant drinking lots of horrid black tea and other warm foods in order to heal my spleen xi deficiency or some shit like that, trying my best to focus on a positive mind-body-spirit connection even when I wanted to scream at God, and going through a painful oreo withdrawal   because a friend had warned me that there was something in the creamy center that could cause a miscarriage....and so forth and so on.

Conquering infertility was a full-time job.

I spent hours online researching all the possibilities of why an IVF cycle might fail and then I would shoot off an e-mail to my RE asking all kinds of crazy crap like, "If I drive over a pothole after my transfer, is it possible for the embryos to detach from my uterine wall?"

His nurse would often e-mail me back, "Helene, my sweets...while you are very funny, you are not that powerful.  Not even the wildest roller coaster ride could cause an embryo to detach.  Relax, everything will be fine."

Relax?  I don't think so.  Not when we had so much riding on this cycle.  It had to work.

So when the discussion came up over dinner a couple nights before our transfer, I told Tim, "I really think we should transfer as many embryos as we can.  I'd love to transfer four.  What do you think?"

He had nodded his head in agreement.  "I think we have to be aggressive this time, just like you do.  But aren't you scared.  We can't have quadruplets.  Or even triplets.  I don't think we could handle it."

"Sure, we could.  People do it all the time.  Yeah it would suck for a little while in the beginning but we'd find our groove.  We can do this," I assured him.

"Well, let's wait and see what Dr. Sher thinks," he advised.

"Uh-uh,  no way.  I already know he's going to recommend putting only 1 or 2 embryos back in.  The nurses all told me he's very conservative because of the fear of high-order multiples.  But dude isn't the desperate infertile one...WE are."

After a phone call with one of the nurses and hearing her out as she explained that all the embryos were such excellent quality, that we were going to have an extremely difficult time convincing Dr. Sher to agree to transfer 4 embryos, Tim and I ultimately decided on 3.

The day that we had waited for finally arrived.  The day where we would put all our eggs (pun intended) in one basket and deal with the aftermath later.  

After listening to Dr. Sher's explanation on why he felt strongly that transferring only 2 embryos was the wisest, most sane decision, I begged him to let us transfer 3 instead.

With tears in my eyes, I pleaded, "I know you think our decision is reckless.  And I realize it can have a severe impact on my health but you have to understand where we're coming from.  We are tired, we are drained, we don't have it in us like other infertile couples to keep repeating IVF after IVF.  Not only do we not have the money, we don't have what it takes to maintain the drive we have right at this very moment."

He looked at me intently, nodding his head as he listened to my reasoning.

"You know what we went through with our last IVF," I continued.  "I'm finally at a place where I'm excited, even joyous.  I cannot go back to that dark, ugly place where I was a few months ago.  I know I won't survive it, I'm not that strong.  We can handle however many babies we are blessed with from this cycle but what we cannot handle, Dr Sher, is another failure."

After a long, thoughtful pause, he responded, "I completely understand where you're coming from but you also have to know that I'm not comfortable with transferring more than 2.  So, I'll tell you what...I'll agree to transfer 3 if you'll agree to sign a waiver releasing the clinic from liability."

He repeated again why transferring even 3 embryos made him nervous and mentioned...again...the serious ramifications of a triplet pregnancy both for me and the babies.

Suddenly, I felt my first pang of fear.

"Uh, you keep saying you're nervous which is making me nervous," I admitted.

"Do you need some privacy to discuss this?  I'm happy to give you a few minutes if you need it," he suggested.

Tim and I declined to discuss it further but wanted to talk percentages.  Dr. Sher broke it down for us, like this:  80% chance of a pregnancy occuring (resulting in a singleton), 70% chance of twins and 20% chance of triplets.

"Oh, only a 20% chance of triplets?  That's not a big deal," I exclaimed.

Dr. Sher stared at me as if I had lost my mind.  "20% in any IVF cycle IS a big deal," he said.

Ultimately, we signed the medical waiver and he transferred the 3 embryos we wanted.

And then it was on the drive back to our hotel where I had that "oh shit" moment.  Tim and I were both quiet the entire time until we got to our room and I said, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" and he silently nodded his head.

Then we spent the rest of the day trying to convince ourselves that God wouldn't give us more than we could handle.  Or would he?

We were blessed with twins, much to our relief.  Even then, throughout the pregnancy, I found myself wondering about that 3rd embryo and what might have been, knowing that having triplets probably would've been an extreme hardship for Tim and me.

We would've survived it but it wasn't until then that I could see how desperate I had become in my quest to become a mother.  When you're infertile, you will walk the ends of the earth to become a mother...making decisions that later you'll realize might have been irresponsible and even dangerous.

It's at times like this when the heart is leading where the mind doesn't want to go.


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Monday, December 5, 2011

My kids will have happy childhood memories, even it kills me (which it probably will)…

"Mommy, how do you know how to bake cookies?  Did your mom teach you?" Bella asked me one afternoon, as she and her brothers helped me prepare a batch of sugar cookies.

I smiled at my inquisitive daughter, "Not exactly.  I taught myself how to bake."

"Why?" Cole asked.  "She didn't like you being in the kitchen with her."

Because she didn't like me being with her period...the gruff words danced on my tongue.

"Uh, well, Nanny didn't really like to bake," I explained in kid-friendly terms.

Landon sat at the counter, his eyes shining brightly while watching the mixer magically whir the ingredients together.

He spoke up.  "That's sad you had to teach yourself, Mommy."

"It's okay.  I'm not sad about it," I lied.  "Baking just wasn't her thing."

Kids weren't her thing either...I kept that to myself, as well.

Cole inquired, "So you taught yourself how to bake so you could bake with us, like we're doing now?"

"Exactly," I confirmed.  "This is how I always imagined what it would be like when I had kids.  We'd be in the kitchen, baking cookies and listening to holiday music, just having a great time together."

They each beamed at me, their smiles radiant enough to brighten even the darkest of rooms.   But certainly not the darkest of hearts.

Why didn't my mother want to create such warm memories with me, I wondered.  I had spent a majority of my life convincing myself that it was because we simply didn't have the same interests or because she worked full time and was just too exhausted.

Ultimately, I speculated that she just didn't like...well, me.  Plain and simple.

It seemed natural to want my children to have a different upbringing, even if it meant pushing myself to the brink of insanity.

There are times where I feel like I have nothing left to give them.  But then they'll come up with an amusing game of Cops and Robbers, begging me to play with them.

My brain screams, "Woman, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Tell them you'll play another time."

But my heart cries out, "Don't let this moment pass because you will regret it.  You can rest once they're in bed.  Drop the dishtowel and go play with them."

My children giggle with such bliss and delight the entire time we play, as I chase them down shouting, "Who stole all my cookies?!  I'm going to get you little cookie robbers!!"

Once I grab a hold of the mischievous robbers, we engage in a tickle fight until I'm laughing so hard I practically pee in my pants.  And then we're all cackling hysterically at the thought of Mommy peeing in her pants.

Why didn't she ever play with me like this?  Did I ever share delightful moments with her that perhaps I just don't remember?  Though I highly doubt it, I can't be completely certain.

So as Christmas is thrust upon us, I find myself baking more often with them and enjoying our annual tradition of building gingerbread houses together.

It's not relaxing nor peacefully quiet, like perhaps reading them a book might be.  And let's be honest, sometimes even reading books with them isn't exactly like being on a sandy beach all by lonesome, basking in the warm sunshine and taking in all the calming sounds of nature.

Sure, the last of my brain cells are begging for relief from the chaos and disorganization, as this kid wants the green gumdrops just as that kid grabs them from the bowl.  Sure, I could be doing a million other things instead of picking out all the red M&M's for one child and helping another child drizzle icicles onto his house.

And, sure, there have been a few moments where I've had to leave the room and shriek into my pillow, absolutely positive that I will never survive the next 30 minutes.

But I'm creating memories with them.

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Even though my kitchen looks like a blizzard hit it and I'm itching to get in there and clean it up...

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I sit at the table, delighting in sharing this tradition with them once again and finding joy in the sounds of their merriment.

Later, when I ask the kids, "Tell me what the best part of your day was", a question I try to ask them on a daily basis, they each grin and remark, "Making the gingerbread houses and eating candy for lunch!"

In that instant, I feel no more sadness, no more regret, no more bitterness over what I lost out on as a child.  I've moved forward.

Now, I feel nothing but happiness and peace, knowing my kids will have happy childhood memories, even if it kills me (which it probably will).

Friday, December 2, 2011

I confess....

It's been awhile since I've confessed so here goes....

1)  I confess that I failed to take a picture of my kids on Thanksgiving, as we sat around the table enjoying a delicious dinner and talking about all the things we were grateful for.

But you can bet your sweet ass I remembered to take a picture of my scrumptious 16-pound turkey, which I cooked to perfection...



2)  I confess that I'm envious of those moms who (wisely) have one baby at a time.  Yes, the circus freak in me desires to be "normal".   Who knew?

3)  I confess I watched the series premiere of Kim and Kourtney Take New York.  Like, I'm not proud of this admission but it was like a train wreck that I could not tear my eyes away from.  Like, you know?

4)  I confess that while watching that God-awful reality show I found myself wondering why no one has come up with the "Like, you know" drinking game.  Like, you know, every time Kim or Kourtney says the phrase "Like, you know", you have to take a shot.

But then again, you really wouldn't be able to keep track of the word because like, you know, you'd be drunk within the first 6 minutes of the show.

5)  I confess that I threatened to use the picture below of Cole on our Christmas card since he refused to give me a decent smile...


However, after he cried for what seemed like an eternity and accused me of forever ruining his life if I dared to follow through on my threat, I couldn't continue with the "evil" act.  I chose another picture...a much more friendlier picture of him.

And, yes, he now owes me his first born child.

6)  I confess that when my sister told me that my 14-year old nephew said, "Helene's so funny on Facebook.  Where does she come up with this stuff?  Why aren't you like that?", I actually felt superior to her for once.  


My first thought was, "Hahahaha, your kid thinks I'm cool.  I actually have this whole 'cool parent' thing in the bag!"

Don't worry.  I was hit square in the face with the realization that no matter how cool other kids might think I am, my own kids will probably be mortified by my every action.

6)  I confess that as witty and sarcastic as I can be at times, I was at a total loss when Garrett came home from preschool recently and announced that one of his little friends told him that Santa Claus was not real.

I freaked the hell out and immediately put out an S.O.S. on Facebook for suggestions on what to do. Most everyone recommended the "you don't believe, you don't receive" method of handling such an extreme situation, which I did.

He had already told his siblings the bit of juicy information that his friend had shared with him so I sat down with all of them and gave them the speech.  They fell for it...hook, line and sinker.

Until the other day, when Bella told me they're plotting to capture Santa Claus when he enters our home on Christmas eve.  And if there's one thing I know about my children, they will not rest until they have him in their clutches.

These kids are going to drive me to an early grave.  Lord help me.



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I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr



 
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