Midwest Trip Highlights

Way back in August when I wrote this sentence…

Later this week, I’ll show you what else we did on our trip…”

I should have said

In six weeks…

Because that’s how long it has taken me to gather myself and beg Scary Baby to create the photo collages of our Midwest trip. I told you last week I’ve been a little crazy busy.

Seems reasonable to me since she was adding to my blog pressure by asking repeatedly when I was going to blog about the rest of our trip.

Without further ado, here is a baker’s dozen of photo collages created by Scary Baby to prove we did more than just eat our way through the Midwest. 😉

Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry

We’ll always remember how Scary Baby got a turn at the periscope in the submarine exhibit. Our middle school teacher friend handled that for us. Thank you Mrs. Bowman. We were so glad she drove from the Quad Cities to spend the day and one night with us in Chicago.

All the exhibits we saw were interesting but the whispering gallery was Scary Baby’s highlight.

Scary Baby’s bird’s eye view of downtown Chicago from our hotel room on Michigan Avenue.

Navy Pier

At night it looks very cool…

Lake Koshkonong

We spent one night in Wisconsin at my high school friend Terry’s lake cottage. She owns an antique shop and added all her special decorating touches throughout the cottage.

Scary Baby was excited to learn how to kayak on the calm lake.

Windmills of Indiana

Driving home, I was glad Scary Baby got to see the windmills in the day light. We saw them at night on the way down and we agreed that their red lights blinking in the pitch black dark night is scary! Either way, they still feel like a science fiction movie as you drive towards them. She took these awesome pictures in the moving car.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe

Finally, on our last morning before heading home, our experience in this Louisville, Kentucky restaurant was a highlight. Even though she did not want to participate in all the funky photo ops, she enjoyed the eclectic restaurant and gift shop as much as I did.

The ugly lamp contest is ingenious marketing. Our personal fav – the toilet lamp on wheels.

Did you go anywhere fun for a summer vacation? I know today is October 1st. Don’t judge.

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Blogging Milestone

While November of this year will mark my 5 year blogging anniversary, today marks a different milestone.

500th blog post!

I’m sure that many bloggers hit that mark much more quickly than I have. I’ve gone through surges of regular, consistent blogging. And I’ve been inconsistent and gone missing for weeks because real life comes first and I can’t always blog about it.

I’ve blogged through the ups and downs of the teen years of our first three darlings. This flew in the face of the millions of mommy blogs out there with young babies and toddlers. I see them now questioning how much they can blog as their kids hit middle and high school. They are getting uncomfortable with blogging. It is a parenting season that can be the hardest.

I’m here to say to hang on – there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we can see it. With our strategic family planning, those teens are now “the twenties” which is reason to celebrate. My parenting goal was to get them to 18 so they could be solely responsible for their own actions.

Then PhilBillPaul and I woke up on April 22nd of this year, only to find we are fully immersed in raising teen #4. Scary Baby at 13 may be more work than the first batch of 3.

The blog material never ends. It’s the time it takes and trying to figure out the balance of real life and some level of privacy.

The good news – I’m still not drinking.

The bad news – I’m still not drinking.

Special thanks to my friend Leigh Anne who encouraged me to start a blog. Thanks to my friends who keep up with me through the blog. Thanks to my new friends who found a kindred spirit through the blog. Thanks to everyone who has ever left a comment because the “google gods” pay attention to that.

We’re having an ice cream celebration here.

Photo by Scary Baby who believes ice cream is a grocery staple.

Disclaimer: We did have 7 college kids here on Thursday night and they made sundaes. Just didn’t want you to think it was all for us. My favorites are in order from the bottom to the top.

This blog has become our online digital family photo album where I can write the stories and upload photos and then print the whole blog as a book to add to our shelf of family scrapbooks.

Capture the stories. Even the bad ones. It’s what makes us family. And some day, sooner than later, I hope you will be able to laugh about the times that make us all stronger.

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Busy Fun

Taxes and three FAFSAs do not qualify as busy fun. 🙁

Busy fun is working from home on WordPress blogs.

I love to help other women with their own blogs!

The downside to this busy fun is that when I work on other people’s blogs, my own gets pushed down to the bottom of my “to do” list.

I seem to get computer fatigue and don’t write on my own.

Check out my latest blog makeovers. Just click the image to visit each one.

It’s always fun when clients are friends!

Take a minute and visit my portfolio. Maybe you’ll decide you want to start a blog – email me. I’d love to help!

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Snow Updates and Superbowl

The theme is still snow since I asked for Midwest blizzard snow pictures.

One came via my cell phone on Friday.

My cell phone only shows the phone number and no contact name so I opened the message.

“This is from my sister in Milwaukee area”

“Our mailbox is almost buried. The drift in front of my house is over my head.”

It took me a few minutes but I figured out it was from my friend Peggy. Wow, Scary Baby and Wizzy were impressed. They wanted more details on snow drifts and how they get out if the road and mailbox are buried in snow.

Thanks Peggy!

I sent some texts with a little bossy peer pressure for these next pictures.

My younger sister lives in a submarine

My niece sent me these pictures of their portholes.

Okay, just kidding. Submarines don’t have siding.

Did Grace do all the shoveling?

Abby said they didn’t have a yardstick or measuring tape. Abby is 5’7″ to give you some idea of snow depth.

My Shovel is Bigger Than Your Shovel

My friend Ann lives near the Quad Cities (Illinois/Iowa border) and they got a little snow too.

Some people don’t mess with wimpy, little hand shovels.

That is an 8 foot privacy fence.

Aren’t you suppose to store or cover your lawn furniture before the snow does?

That is a poor little wiener dog.

Superbowl Fun

This year it was really all about the food and being together.

Because we weren’t really fans of either team. But since we needed to root for a team and the Bears or Colts weren’t contenders we went with the Packers.

Excellent choice I must say.

Christina Aguilera messing up the National Anthem was a blooper we had to rewind several times. She kept singing and covered but it was cringe-worthy.

Our professional assessment:

Half-time show: weird.
Commercials: marginal.
Game: Pretty good to watch.
Food: Very good.

PhilBillPaul picked up some boneless wings that I thought should have been called nuggets. I made a hot dip and a cold dip.

Recipe for Deviled Egg Dip that I only used about a teaspoon of hot sauce in.
Recipe for Mexican Cheese Dip that is ridiculously easy and very mild and you could spice it up if you want.

Plus bacon sour cream roll-ups that Scary Baby and The Grunter wanted.

My friend Ann wanted the recipe so I created this handy photo tutorial for her.

Make four rectangles out of your crumbling expired reduced fat crescent roll dough on a cutting board or wax paper if you don’t want to wash an extra item.

Divide the chilled filling between the four rectangles and spread out.

Don’t spread it all the way to the edges or the filling will ooze out like this when you roll them up. I’ve only made these about 40 times so I forgot.

Slice in about 8 pieces per roll.

Bake until golden brown.

What?

Oh, you want the ingredients?! Sorry, this is not a food blog and I almost forgot that. This is a very complicated Midwest recipe I got from my cousin Sally many years ago.

Bacon Sour Cream Roll-ups

1 can of crescent rolls
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crispy
1/2 C sour cream
pinch of garlic powder

Mix up and chill 3 filling ingredients. Spread on to 4 crescent roll rectangles (pinch seams together first). Roll up and slice. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.

Scary Baby helped make the Knox Blox pennants.

With very little enthusiasm. She poked herself with a toothpick. I told her we can stop this 25 year-old tradition any time now.

Side note: Yes, that is eye makeup, Junebug. No, we don’t allow it except on Sundays when she is bored and no, she did not wear it to church.

I saw pictures of these cookies last week and I knew I had to make them.

Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies – yum!

They were so chocolatey that I thought we should have something “plain” to balance them out.

Browned Butter Cookies were the perfect choice.

Our standard chocolate vanilla Carvel ice cream football cake was delicious too.

We missed the darling twins but had a nice cozy family night. Did you watch the Superbowl? Have you dug your way out of the blizzard?

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Friday Food Fun ~ Snow & Soup

My high school friend Terry emailed me pictures of the giant snow drifts in the Midwest.

This one is a picture of her adorable little pink lake cottage in Wisconsin.

Looks like it might take a while to get in the front door. For you Southern readers, snow is very heavy and this drift climbed right up her porch and covered quite a bit of her front door. Add the brutal below zero temperatures and you’ve got a big project on your hands.

Maybe Terry will just wait until June when the weather warms up and the snow has melted so they can enjoy the lake.

Cold Weather Comfort Food

I’ve saved a recipe for cream of mushroom soup from a magazine for 15 years. I guess I was hoping that as time passed someone in my house would come to love mushrooms like I do.

Still hasn’t happened.

But in my weeks of illness and cold weather, I wanted soup. I wanted homemade soup.

So I finally decided to bust out the 15 year-old recipe and make it for myself.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the recipe made enough for 16-18 servings. I love soup but that seemed a bit excessive and I don’t think you can freeze cream soups…so I cut it in half which was still way too much since I was the only one who would be eating it!

After I finished a bowl, I decided it was the best soup I’ve ever made.

Have you seen these mini saltines? Why does everything taste even better when they make them mini? They were so perfect with this silky, creamy, hearty soup.

It was divine.

Then I looked over and saw how much I had left in the pot, I sent a text to my friend Steffani and asked her if she liked mushrooms. I know mushrooms are a touchy food. You either love ’em or hate ’em.

Lucky for me, she said yes though she’d never had cream of mushroom soup. I brought her dinner in a bag the next day – a container of mushroom soup, some adorable mini saltines and a little dessert.

I’m not going to bribe you to try it like I did Scary Baby. That was a $5 dollar mistake.

I’m just going to say if you like mushrooms, make this soup.

I also knew I needed a little dessert and loved those Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies I had made the week before for the college girls, I wanted them again.

But I didn’t want to take cookies in and out of the oven. And Scary Baby said she really liked them except for the cookie part. What a stinker.

I decided they would probably make pretty tasty bar cookies. One pan is a timesaver so I used a combination of the Tollhouse recipe and the Toffee & Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to make these.

Turned out pretty dang good. Steffani agreed and I thanked her for helping me eat the soup that would have gone to waste because of my family of picky eaters. (I had it three times!)

Side note: They didn’t have any problem wolfing down the cookie bars. The Grunter ate three when they came out of the oven.

Perfect duo for a snowy weekend if you can get to the store to buy fresh mushrooms.

Both recipes are below.

Now I’m off to shop for our annual family Superbowl party menu and make those team colored knox blox even though I’m not a fan of either team. Have a great weekend!

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I used Trader Joe’s frozen cubes – love those!)
  • 1/2 tsp dried, minced onion
  • 1/2 C butter, divided
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped (or sliced)
  • 3 C chicken broth
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 3 C milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

In large pot, saute garlic and onion in 2 Tbsp butter till lightly browned and it smells good. Add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and simmer for 20 minutes. In another saucepan, melt remaining butter; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in cream/milk mixture. Cook and stir constantly over low heat until mixture comes to a boil; boil for two minutes. Add to mushroom mixture; stir in seasonings.

The original recipe also included diced onions, celery and green pepper. Ewww…I left those out but feel free to add them back in.

My little secret: I had a few lumps in my flour/milk sauce so I put a strainer over the pot and poured it into the mushroom mixture.

Recipe inspired by Jim Cosgrove in Taste of Home August/September 1996

Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

  • 1 C butter
  • 1-1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/4 C flour
  • 1 C caramel bits
  • 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter in mixing bowl for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add in sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well and then add flour gradually. Fold in caramel bits and chocolate chips. Spread in ungreased 9×13 pan (I put parchment paper in bottom of pan for easy cleanup!) and bake for 18-20 minutes or until very light brown. I took them out when the middle was still not quite set because I like them a little gooey.

Recipe inspired by Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Pan Cookies and Toffee and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yay-hoo Snow Activities

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post to give you more Southern snow updates.

PhilBillPaul wanted you all to have accurate photos of the total accumulation.

There are some great perks of having an impromptu snow vacation.

I’d like to clarify that some of these activities you see on the news are not fully reported when they put up sound bites and funny pictures.

People tend to laugh at Southerners more than in other parts of the U.S.

I’m not denying that I’m right there with them sometimes.

On Monday the local channels pre-empted all regular programming for the entire day. How many ways can you talk about and show snow and ice?

Reporter #1:
“I’m here at this shopping plaza in Lawrenceville where you can see that all the shops are closed except the grocery store. But there are only two cars in the parking lot because you can’t drive on ice.”

Reporter #2:
“Marietta is experiencing freezing sleet. [reporter bends down to poke snow] See that? There is a layer of ice on top of the snow. This is not good.”

Reporter #3:
“There is another car that couldn’t judge the center median. Their car is stuck on top of the cement they couldn’t see and that’s why their wheels are spinning.”

ALL. DAY. LONG.

Even so, I feel like I need to defend some of the snow activities during this Blizzard 2011.

First, not only do we not have many winter clothes, we definitely do not have winter toys.

We must improvise.

If you don’t have a sled…

Have your dad blow up your inflatable beach whale.

Pictures are blurry since PhilBillPaul was using the zoom from the porch. It’s really, really cold here – some of us are watching all the fun from the windows.

Second, can you even imagine being a wiener dog born in the South and stepping out in to this stuff?

Hello, they have short legs. How are they supposed to go to the bathroom when the snow makes their legs disappear?

Poor Dudley.

Major News Update

The Grunter even went outside.

He and a friend had a snowball fight. Outside. Shut up.

The only thing better would have been if the darling twins had been home trapped with us. I know that’s what they are thinking too.

But they were already back up at college.

At least they sent pictures to show us how yay-hoo soldiers improvise up in the North Georgia mountains.

If you don’t have a toboggan…

Just blow up your raft.

Make the kids sledding on pieces of cardboard jealous.

I love their creative thinking.

The raft doubles as an excellent snow-hauling vessel.

Such talented snow-sculpting soldiers they are.

Side note: Roger Leroy why are you not wearing your gloves?

Love, your mother.

We’re embracing our third snow/ice day but The Grunter is getting nervous about our food supply.

In fact, I think he’s getting the shakes because this is the longest he has gone without some type of fast food since he started driving.

Stay tuned.

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Crazy Baking Tradition

Can I have an hour of your time?

Because this is really a 2 or 3 part post that I’ve crammed into one giant long post that may have the most words and pictures in my personal blog history. Accept my apology now. This is an important family document that I needed to write.

I’ve been discussing when this crazy baking tradition can stop.

It keeps getting bigger and bigger and I’m down to one kid’s teachers.

I’ve suggested that Scary Baby can take over next year.

She said I wouldn’t let her use the oven.

I said I would absolutely let her use the oven.

In previous years, we’ve used baskets or gift bags as the vessel that holds the baked goods.

I have to say we outdid ourselves this year and you must remember how NOT crafty I am.

That dang over-achieving crafty friend of mine inspired us to embark on a trip to Goodwill.

If I was trying to keep up with her craftiness, we would have been looking for men’s sweaters at Goodwill so I could whip up a skirt for Scary Baby.

Oh wait, I don’t own a sewing machine and am still stressed about that quilted vest from 8th grade Home Ec we had to wear to school so I’m probably not going to make a sweater skirt for anyone.

I know Scary Baby will thank me for this later.

Cake Plate Craftiness

Instead we chose a different crafty project. Scary Baby watched her video from way back in April. We actually practiced before Thanksgiving on our own plates and candlesticks from the dollar store.

Mostly I just want to brag about the cost of our little craft project because I love, love, love bargains.

We were on a search for candlesticks and some pretty plates.

We scored 5 pretty plates for $3.33. That’s .67¢ per plate for you non-math folk.

A coincidence that Scary Baby needed 5 teacher gifts? I think not.

No candlesticks so we headed to Hobby Lobby where I refused to pay retail for candlesticks but found these unpainted wood ones that I thought we could glue together to make them a bit taller.

6 pieces per bag and they were 50% off. Woo-hoo. $2.49 per bag and .50¢ for the round discs which meant $1.33 for each base. (Edit: math correction 2 bags of six at half off makes each piece .21¢ x 2 plus .50¢ disc = .92¢ per base. I know some math wizard will correct me.)

PhilBillPaul said he thought he should drive a screw through the three pieces for more stability.

Sure. That’s what I was thinking too.

And I totally requested that he countersink those screws before he spray painted them silver.

Not.

Bought the magical glue with a warning that the fumes can kill us and glued those suckers to the bottom of the plate.

The Baking

PhilBillPaul got his part done so he wouldn’t be in my way for the cookies, cake, bread, etc.

Chocolate dipped pretzels that Scary Baby needed 30 bags for the holiday party.

Chocolate and maple fudge. I swear packaging takes longer than the making.

Sugared pecans don’t photograph well. Everyone got about 3 pecans because pecans are expensive. I forget to save some for us.

Note to Granny: please send your 3 pecans back to Georgia when your box arrives in Texas.

Then we got into the serious baking…

One of Scary Baby’s jobs was unwrapping the Hershey’s Kisses.

Her other job was food photographer.

I think she did a great job and this pictorial essay will help her next year when she takes over baking all this.

These are our old-time favorites ~ Illinois Soft Sugar Cookies. Scary Baby loved sprinkling the blue sugar on these for the teacher cake plates.

These are a change from an Andes mint cookie I usually make ~ Candy Cane Kiss Cookies. I coarsely chopped the Candy Cane Kisses and spread them over the top after the first dozen with the Kiss in the middle. Not as pretty but we liked them better this way.

These are our newest favorites once we tried them last year ~ Chocolate Turtle Cookies. I mean they are the favorites for those of us who love nuts which means Wizzy and Scary Baby won’t go near them.

Leftover caramel with a little coarse salt is delightful on the top the chocolate cookie base when you run out of Candy Cane Kisses. Yum!

Poppy Seed Bread is a family favorite.

Let’s not talk about why the batter is smeared all over the pan because I forgot to put the 3 eggs in the batter and had to scrape 6 mini loaf pans back into the bowl and re-mix. Or the second batch when I thought the flour scoop was a 1/3 cup measuring cup and it was actually 1/2 cup. (Recipe calls for 3 cups of flour for math folks who want to figure out how much extra flour I put in one batch.) Ahem.

The third batch was perfect.

Mini Maple Cakes were a cute addition but it’s a shame I can’t frost anything worth a darn. It’s all about the taste, right?!

Let’s also not talk about the first batch of frosting that I burned so badly because PhilBillPaul called me from Kroger about what color sugar sprinkles to buy and I lost track of time. My rubber scrapper turned gray and smelled disgusting and I made him throw it away along with the bowl of molten almost black frosting.

I am a baker, hear me roar.

I can’t forget that I also made 4 batches of Cajun Chex Mix.

Everybody needs a little salty with all the sweet.

I also made these super simple Eggnog Muffins.

No one in this house will come near eggnog. I thought they were good.

Couldn’t get these creative Truffle Hot Chocolate Balls out of my head.

I did save these for our family. I rolled half of them in crushed candy canes. Don’t tell Roger Leroy they are in the freezer.

Scary Baby arranged the first plate with me and headed off to bed.

She loved picking out the colors and fun fonts for the tags. Yes, I must label all food because I am a freak about knowing what I’m eating.

We built a kind of tower of food.

In the end, even with the countersinking of the screws, the plates were wobbly so in the eleventh hour we added a small white plate to stabilize them and prayed they would be dry for transport to school in the morning.

They were.

Scary Baby was quite proud of our creations and PhilBillPaul helped her get them delivered to all the teachers.

I changed the blue and silver tags to red and green because I found these cute cardboard trays at Hobby Lobby. Again, total bargain for two trays at 50% off of 2.99 making each tray just .75¢!

I made up trays for some people at work and we mailed off six boxes.

I’m now going to sleep until the New Year.

Right after I get done wrapping Christmas.

I’ll have to show you later what the crazy baking family did this past weekend because we weren’t tired enough from last week’s baking.

Enough about our craziness…are you ready for Christmas? What are your favorite traditions?

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Friday Food Fun: Taste Test

Spent a little time baking last Saturday. One of the darling twins came home and I wanted to send some Fall treats back to college with her.

I had several new recipes to try. Thankfully, Scary Baby was more than willing to help me pick. I knew I had to make our family’s favorite Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting because everyone had requested them. I wanted to do something else with apples, maple and we needed a little chocolate.

For our chocolate choice, she voted for these Oreo Cheesecake Cookies and I knew these would be a winner for Roger Leroy who has a serious Oreo addiction.

Photo compliments of Scary Baby.

I had several different pumpkin whoopie pie recipes but since I was already making pumpkin bars, I was excited to find this Maple Nut Oatmeal Creme Pie recipe.

Of course I had to eliminate the nuts because two of the darling children have an aversion to nuts. I also searched for a different filling because I was trying to not repeat the cream cheese from the Pumpkin Bars. Scary Baby voted for this maple marshmallow creme filling which turned out to be extra delicious!

My, oh my! Combining those two recipes was a very good choice.

My final selection was Apple Sour Cream Bars because Leigh Anne had raved about them. They were still in the oven when Wizzy left to head back to school. Totally okay with that because these ended up being my favorite and left more for me! (Besides, they have nuts so she wouldn’t have liked them.)

Once all four items were done and PhilBillPaul picked up pizza for dinner, I thought it would be fun for Scary Baby and Cloret to have a taste testing party for two.

Great minds think alike because Scary Baby had notebook paper out and was writing the title as I carried the desserts in.

“The Tasting…”

I asked them to use a 4 star rating and not show each other their answers until they were all done.

Very amusing critiques.

Cloret and I agree across the board on our reviews.

Since she loved the Apple Sour Cream Bars as much as I did and the big girls missed out, Cloret got to take a plate home along with some cookies and oatmeal pies.

No comments on my bad white chocolate drizzling skill. Or lack thereof. Remember, this is not a food blog and we are eaters who don’t get hung up on presentation.

In case you didn’t get the recipe links above, here they are again:

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oatmeal Creme Pies (sans nuts) with Maple Marshmallow Filling
Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
Apple Sour Cream Bars

I’m so happy that it’s cool enough to use the oven again!

Let me know if you try one. What’s your favorite cool weather treat?

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Hello November!

The month of October is one of my most favorite months but this one was a blur.

I spent the past few weeks thinking maybe I should hang up my blogging hat.

My fun little blog was causing me stress. I couldn’t get into a routine.

I wasn’t laughing at our daily life and we had too many sad days waiting for updates from Texas.

I was tired. I was stuck.

I heard my own voice in my head saying “My blog, my rules” which is what I have shared with people whom I have helped start their own blogs. I gave myself permission to not blog knowing that I was tired.

I was stuck. I couldn’t write a post.

Besides, my 4 cousins, 12 friends and Junebug would probably be just fine if I went silent.

Then I realized my blog has become our online family scrapbook. I can actually “slurp” my blog into a bound book to add to our very full photo album shelf. (It’s on my list – great, more pressure.)

Our family scrapbooks are filled with photos and words. It’s how I tell our story. That’s always been the most important thing to me. So today, I’m catching up by telling our October story in one post. Just the fun stuff and the mini-crisis of the month for now.

It’s a bonus that friends and family peek into our life and feel caught up and laugh a little. Just remember you are still getting the sanitized, non-Jerry Springer version of life.

Buckle up – it’s a long one with the most pictures ever in one single post!

October Backwards

Scary Baby did her job of trick or treating and gathering 15 pounds of candy to bring home for her loving parents and big brother.

In fact, she kindly sorted it all out and gave us a shoebox full.

You gotta love the note she included in the box she left in her brother’s room.

If you can read it, you have good eyes and yes, they sometimes call him Fabio.

Does that really look like bad candy? She has an aversion to peanuts and does not like M&Ms plain or peanut. How did this child get born into this family? We love her discards!

Thankfully, I rescued the box before The Grunter got home. He actually went out on Halloween with a group of friends and came home with his own sack of candy. I’m surprised anyone even gave a group of giant boys/adults candy.

PhilBillPaul took her to The Dollar Store to get some lovely decorations for the porch the night before he left for Texas.

Scary Baby was some sort of spider witch thanks to the spider witch dress costume that her darling sister Wizzy bought her. This replaced the “Just in case my zentai suit that Roger Leroy ordered for me doesn’t come in time, I don’t need a costume, I’m going to be a hobo.”

The darling twins seem to like to spoil her.

Wizzy stayed on Friday long enough to paint Scary Baby’s face so she could go down to a neighborhood party with friends.

I sent them off with 2 plates of mummy dogs and a plate of cheese fingers.

On Saturday we had a lovely lunch at Cracker Barrel and she found the PERFECT witch hat to go with her spider witch dress.

Half off witch hat I gladly put my $7.50 down for. Feeling extra nice, she scored the half off matching gloves.

Gourd Man

PhiBillPaul has been busy cultivating another crop of gourds this season. (Thanks Uncle Jack!)


He somehow managed to squeeze in a gourd painting session with her before he started packing for Texas because that’s the kind of dad he is. Seems she’s looked at old photo albums and said no one ever painted gourds with her. The last child syndrome once again.

She drew the faces and is looking forward to turning them into Jingle Gourds after Thanksgiving. Because of the time constraints, they only painted a few. There are at least triple that amount in the garage and backyard.

Rugby

That sport we aren’t fond of because we still don’t understand it is alive and well and the darling twins re-joined the team this semester with enthusiasm.

We headed up to their college to watch them play in a pre-Halloween rugby game where we were told that the team was dressing up in costume and playing.

Roger Leroy looks a little disheveled here as a cheetah. Mostly because she played the first half of the game and was a beast. They played Emory and won 4-0. Roger Leroy scored all 4 goals? points? touchdowns? field goals?

Wizzy didn’t dress up and didn’t play because she has injured her back and neck. I praised her very mature decision to sit out. This is one thing the darling twins are not good at – they are tough nuts and play through the pain and bronchitis and pneumonia and any other ailments that they may have.

Side note: Wizzy has now gone to the doctor and had x-rays which revealed the most knotted up back with muscle spasms that the doctor had ever seen. Physical therapy twice a week. Praying that she rehabs and heals and will be pain-free soon.

While she heals, I suggest she audition for a Suave shampoo commercial.

After rugby, we headed to lunch and our favorite apple orchard but I’ll save the food pictures for another day.

Glorious Golf Weather

We were able to take full advantage of some absolutely beautiful days and somehow we coerced The Grunter to get up before 11:00 am and join us for some golf.

Wizzy doesn’t have class on Friday so she came home twice and we got to play.

There is something about golf that lifts my spirits like nothing else does. Golfing in Fall weather with the leaves changing is my most favorite time to play. It’s a real bonus to play with my adult big kids.

Only Wizzy – the kid with the worst luck could get hit by a golf ball TWICE. I’m all worried about the brutal sport of rugby and she gets whacked just below her knee cap by a range ball while riding in the cart!

On our next round, she was a bit skittish every time someone hit. I promised her I had never hit anyone and then promptly hit a shot sideways that skimmed by The Grunter.

It was no surprise that I looked up to see them both like this after I took another shot.

County Fair Fun

Some of my first country music concerts were at fairs up in the Midwest. We’ve been going to the Cumming Fair for many years now and this year we actually got to go twice.

We took Scary Baby to hear Little Texas and the next week we went back to hear Craig Morgan.

It’s a great evening if you are rich and can spend upwards of $100 on the price of admission, fair food, and carnival games. We boycott the rides because neither of us like to spin around and get sick. Lucky for us, Scary Baby doesn’t like them either.

I know I’m still in the 80’s but when did everything get so dang expensive? We could never afford to have all four children there at the same time. There are some advantages to being the last child.

Oh but those carnival games SCREAM her name. We gave her $10 to spend on games. That means she can play two games or if she chooses wisely, she can play three.

The fair is like Toys R Us on crack. We try to set realistic expectations with her and knew she would be overstimulated by everything.

We admit we were not prepared at all for this exhibit about 15 steps from the entrance.

She begged us to let her see the GIANT RAT.

We stayed strong. We said no. I know, I’m no fun at all.

As we headed back to the parking lot, we found the perfect vehicle with a “for sale” sign for Roger Leroy. She’s looking because her Blue Stallion needs a new engine.

Nothing says Georgia like a truck like this one.

Apple Orchard Time

While his brother was in our thoughts and prayers every single day, I knew it was important to make some time to take Phil’s mind off of Texas and taking a scenic drive in the North Georgia Mountains is one of his favorite things to do.

We can’t let October go by without a visit to an apple orchard and we decided to try a new route and headed to Blue Ridge, Georgia.

On our way, we had to come to a screeching stop to snap a picture of Scary Baby and her friend.

I promised she could have a big bag of boogers if we stopped at Booger Hollow.

We had never visited this orchard and it was fun to taste all their varieties of apples and apple cider. We headed to the bakery and had fresh apple fritters and ice cream.

It was 10-10-10 which happened to be our 23rd anniversary and it really was a lovely day.

Our little shopping cart was filled with a mixed bag of apples we had picked out and a half gallon of cider along with caramel and candy apples and some apple maple butter. Yum!

Just as we were about to check out, I remembered we couldn’t bring most of this stuff home…

How Does the Refrigerator Set Off the Smoke Alarm?

A frantic call from PhilBillPaul asking me how close I was to the house because The Grunter was home and was getting dressed to go to work when the smoke alarm went off and he went downstairs to find out why.

He said the kitchen was filled with smoke and it smelled really bad but he couldn’t figure out where the smoke was coming from.

Since he does have a tendency to be a wee bit dramatic, PhilBillPaul was calling me to see if I was close enough to see if his description was accurate or if he should have him call the fire department.

He then added,

“And if it’s really true, I’d really like him to start grabbing some photo albums and I want someone to roll my motorcycle out of the garage.”

HELL-O?!

Did he really just say that?

Did he really just say he wanted us to save his girlfriend if our house was going to burn down?

Did he totally forget that there were TWO wiener dogs in the basement?

I was minutes from home and I have a real aversion to fire as you may remember.

Scary Baby got off the bus at exactly the same moment as I pulled up to our house. I screamed for her to run in and get the dogs and get away from the house (I didn’t see any flames) and I ran into the laundry room off the kitchen where The Grunter was standing at the breaker box getting instructions from his Dad.

They had determined the smoke was coming from the REFRIGERATOR.

I’m confused because cold things don’t usually burn. But I do understand it is an electrical appliance. With a bit of screaming (on my part) we determined that we could roll it out and unplug it.

We opened all the windows and doors and waited for The Handyman’s arrival.

Here is what he found when he took the back off the fridge.

Well, that and a whole lot of dirt. Definitely the source of the putrid burning smell and the house full of smoke.

The Grunter a.k.a. Our Pumpkin was definitely OUR HERO on this day. If he had not been home, I may very well have arrived home to a house in flames. I get a little sick just thinking about it.

And I count my blessings about how lucky we are.

We are also thankful we had this little fridge in the basement that PhilBillPaul brought up and we made do with that until we could find a replacement.

Yes, that is the story of why we couldn’t buy apples or cider or anything else since we had very limited space in a compact refrigerator for almost two weeks.

Since refrigerators are a little pricey, I suggested we get a used one or a scratch and dent model. After spending an entire Saturday looking, I gave up.

PhilBillPaul didn’t and a few days later had a hot lead on one from Craigslist. I’m cheap frugal and said I didn’t want to pay more than $300.00.

I trusted his judgment when he said he’d found “the one.” He got a friend to help him and The Grunter was present to supervise – apparently he was resting on his laurels after saving the house from fire.

Look at this baby he found.

Way nicer than our old smoking one. Ice and water actually work. Woo-hoo!

It did take some intense cleaning. This will be the only time you will ever see the inside of my fridge or freezer but I wanted to brag on PhilBillPaul for doing such a great job cleaning it for me.


A smoking refrigerator and a tiny dorm sized fridge is great motivation to clean out and get rid of all the weird, sticky, old jars and bottles.

We are thinking of buying food to fill this new model but we’ve been a little busy.

Maybe I’ll tell you about our recalled Whirlpool dishwasher and the repairman who didn’t show up…next week.

Whew! Congrats if you made it to the end of this October chapter length post. I probably should have awarded a prize at the end for my most dedicated readers!

Here’s to November! May it be quieter and less eventful than October.

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Calling All Parents With College Kids

For us, summer really is over.

Because someone here in Georgia decided school should start on August 9th. What the heck? That’s way too early!

Scary Baby has completed her first week of middle school with flying colors. Oops, no first day of school picture because that’s what happens when you are the 4th and lastborn.

While I was away for a long weekend immediately after our beach trip, the darling twins not only got Scary Baby ready for her first day of middle school, they also got themselves ready.

EARLY.

Please understand these darling twins NEVER get ready for anything EARLY.

But when I got home, they proudly shared with me their stacks and piles of things ready to go back to college.

Small stacks…remember they are cadets at a military college and are allowed to have very little in their dorm rooms!

Are those cleaning supplies?

GASP

Yes, I’m well aware this means they are more than ready to LEAVE again. I could say this with a lump in my throat. And sometimes I do get choked up.

It seems like they just got home.

The darling twins’ summer was abbreviated since they didn’t get home from Arizona until June 25th. And now they are gone again as they headed back to college this past Sunday.

Mostly, I’m proud they want to leave.

Because it means I’ve done something right in the motherhood category.

Dear fellow moms (and dads),

They are supposed to want to leave. They are supposed to want to be independent. They are supposed to want to show you that you spent 18 years raising them up right so they can survive on their own.

You are supposed to be happy for them. Your job was to prepare them for this. Your job is to celebrate the leaving.

But I won’t lie – in so many ways, the years do fly by. And you find yourself second-guessing yourself. Did you teach them the right things?

I was reminded by a good friend whose son left yesterday that if other parents would have been more encouraging and in her words that it would have been helpful if…

“…people would say something like…”he is going to have a great time” or “this is so exciting” instead of looking at me, asking how I’m going to do “letting go of my first one” and then almost watching if I’m going to burst into tears!!”

Are you reaching out and helping other moms as their children leave? Reminding a mom that her child will be fine and she did a good job is exactly what she needs to hear at a time like this.

This parenting gig is still so tough. Let’s lift each other up!

The Leaving and Letting Go

I think this would be a great place to share any tips or hindsight you have if you have sent or are about to send a child to college.

  • What did you do right?
  • What do you wish you would have done differently?
  • How were the first few weeks after they left home?
  • How was the first semester transition for you and them?
  • What was the best tip another mom gave you?

Share your best tips or lessons learned because I promise you it will help another mom who is facing those same feelings and reading this today.

*******

P.S. I got this text from Roger Leroy tonight just as I was finishing this post:

RL: Having my own room is awesome.

Me: Oh yes it is. I remember it well!! And like u, I had never had my own room…always had to share with my sister Julie.

RL: It’s kinda like living in a little apartment…

There are so many fun things about college and leaving home!

🙂

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