Monday, December 31, 2007

Peek-In-Monday...

Here's why teenagers hate their parents...

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I'll be heading out of town for the holiday so, SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Great Playroom Purge

Tis the season for an overloaded playroom. Christmas always dumps piles upon piles of useless crap toys upon our homes and clutters them to near bursting. As we have covered before, I hate clutter. I hear a lot from moms trying to figure out how to organize and tame the toy box, and I think in my self-righteous, judgmental little brain of mine, "Why don't you throw most of this crap away??!!" I regularly purge my playroom of unwanted, unused, or otherwise useless toys. I especially do it before birthdays and Christmas.

This year a couple of weeks before Christmas I did a major purge. And coincidentally, two moms I know asked how I go about doing it. So, I figured I'd blog about it and give you the method to my madness.

First and most importantly, do not form emotional attachments with your children's toys. You know what I'm talking about. You have to be honest and ruthless. Look at the playroom realistically. What are the toys your kids actually play with? Not the ones you spent a lot of money on. Not the ones you think are so cute and want your kids to love. Not the ones that are in style or all the rage. I mean, what are the toys your children play with on a regular basis? I'm not telling you to get rid of any toys that your children have emotional attachments to. No, those are the ones and the only ones to keep. (I adhere to this very strictly except in the case of the moose. When Chowder and I were on our honeymoon in British Columbia we bought a stuffed moose. This was going to be for the child that we just "knew" we had conceived. Over the next three years during the infertility treatments and the miscarriages, that moose comforted and tormented me. None of my children have ever loved it. No matter how hard I tried to force it upon them, it didn't stick. Now, I didn't get rid of the moose. I consider the moose to be mine and it lives in our nursery, permanently.)

Second, you have to do the purge while your children are sleeping or out of the house. If you want to do a serious purge, your children cannot be around. They will claim attachments where there are none. If it's your first purge and you don't if you have the swing of it yet, you can always put the toys in a box in the basement. If your child does not ask for any of the toys within a week or so, you'll know it's safe to get rid of them. You'll be amazed at how much they won't even notice is gone!

Third, give yourself some time. Be thorough. Have a box for trash and a box for donation. You can sell them if you want, but I think it's a big PIA so I just donate them. There are plenty of places that accept toys. Be sure to keep good records for your taxes. When I got rid of all our Little People play sets (my kids love carrying the animals around but never "played" with the sets. In a casual survey on one of the parenting boards I belong to, showed that the vast majority of kids do not every really play with them.) I was able to deduct almost $200 from my taxes.

Once you get everything out and are keeping what you need, rearrange and organize it all. Another great feature of regular toy purges, is you get to know what your kids actually play with and that begins to effect your toy buying choices for the future. Once I began to notice how much was just clutter, I really began to examine how I spent my money. I now refuse to buy something just for the sake of having something. We have begun to focus on quality over quantity. I know this will be too severe for many people, but each time you do it you will be able to cut out a little more.

Here are a couple of videos I made of my playroom pre-purge and post-purge. (Ladybug got a nice wooden doll cradle for Christmas and I got rid of the crappy plastic graco one. I also moved the Fisher Price Play and Learn house into the basement for now. Ladybug really doesn't play with it, but I'm keeping it for now to see if she'll play with it when she gets a little older.)


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Saturday, December 29, 2007

What you should know about the new Sweeney Todd movie...

I've seen this movie twice and both times I noticed an awful lot of confusion among the members of the audience. They didn't seem to know what they were going to see. So, if you are planning on going to see it (And I encourage you to do so.) let me give you three things you need to know about this movie.

1.) It's a musical. Not a pseudo musical like Moulin Rouge, but a full on Broadway Musical by the great Stephen Sondheim. Many consider it to be his masterpiece. It is based on the Christoper Bond's stage play based on the original Victorian story. They sing in it. There is actually more singing than speaking in it. Tim Burton purposely cast actors and not singers, but they do a great job.

2.) It's dark and brooding and graphic. If your only experience with Sweeney is the 1979 original Broadway version, it's not like that. And I love the 1979 version with Angela Lansbury. I have many fond memories from high school watching this movie with my best friend Gretchen while eating cherry pie. But, this is Tim Burton's version through and through. And there is lots and lots of blood. I had to hide my face in my shirt during the kill scenes.

3.) It's a comedy. A musical COMEDY! Laugh, already! Yes, like I said in #2 this one is very dark, but the comedy is still there. It is still funny. Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett singing about the way the different types of people would taste, is FUNNY! So, laugh.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post Christmas Wrap-up...

We had a great Christmas! and you? Our Christmases are pretty low key, believe it or not. Our kids get one present from Santa, one from us, and one from one of their siblings. We hang out around our house all morning and then head to my mom's around 3pm. This year was the year of the bike. Porkchop, Jellybean and The Meatball all got bikes from Santa. The weather was actually in the 50s so the kids got to ride their new bikes all morning. And yes, after much searching I was able to find Jellybean a bike that was not either covered on Bratz or Barbie, or a stripper pole on wheels. But, it cost me. At least Ladybug will get to ride it, too.

Ladybug got a baby doll and a new pram. I don't know if I'll have any woodwork left after the next couple of weeks.


Skaterboy got a new phone (that he can't use because his line is blocked until he gets a job and can pay for any overages that might occur. burned this summer.), Five blank skateboard decks, and grandpa gave him a new fishing rod.


And in classic pastor family fashion, Chowder got called away to the hospital right before dinner. Porkchop cried for him nonstop until he got back. Later that night he was called back and the member ended up dying. What is it about this time of year?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Peek-In-Monday...

Why I love Annie...
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are they fooling you?


'Cause I've got three large boxes of packing peanut "snow" all over the living room floor that says differently.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Mother's Sacrifice...

I have always loved the story of Mary and Elizabeth. It might be my favorite part of the whole bible. scandalous, I know. Two women, cousins, one excruciatingly young, unmarried, and pregnant. The other excruciatingly old (advanced in age. Hey wait a minute! I was Advanced Maternal Age my last pregnancy!), given up, and pregnant. Both excited, scared and irrepressibly in love with the sons now growing in their wombs.

I imagine their 3 months together. Soon to be first time moms, talking about clothes not fitting, swollen feet and feeling baby moving. Putting their hands on each others swelling bellies and sharing the wonder and amazement. I can see them preparing meals and chatting about their hopes and dreams for their sons. Almost forgetting their Divine conceptions and the prophecies they are both fulfilling. Maybe even wanting to forget. Because both knew in the darkness of their hearts that there would come a day when their sons would be demanded of them in sacrifice.

As I read this story now as a mother, it fills me with anger. If you have read any of my reflections on my faith, you can't help but notice that I have some anger issues with God. Especially since the lives of 6 of my babies were demanded of me for no good reason. I see myself as Elizabeth saying to God, "No way, Buddy! You can't make me wait for years and years and finally give me a child only to take him away just to serve some stupid prophecy! HE STAYS WITH ME!" Like I said, I have some anger issues.

Another part of it comes from the prevailing plight of women and children around the world and the way they are used as pawns and weapons by men in their wars and rivalries. The men get their panties in a bunch about a border or a religion and soon the women and children are left in the middle to be raped, butchered and displaced. (Is that oversimplification? sure. but, it's the gist.) I want to tell the men, "You know what? Go ahead out into that field and kill each other, but leave the women and children out of it!" And in many ways, that's what I want Mary to tell God. We talk all the time about God sacrificing his son, but it isn't just God's sacrifice. It is a mother watching. powerless to stop it.

There is this children's song on one of my kids' Christmas CDs called The Seven Joys of Mary. When I hear it, it sparks a deep rage in me. The sixth verse goes like this.

The next great joy that Mary had, it was the joy of six
To see her own son, Jesus Christ, upon the crucifix.
Upon the crucifix, good Lord, and happy Mary be.
Oh Father, Son and Holy Ghost for all eternity.

How can they even sing this?! How can they portray this mother at the foot of the cross of her son who is dying a grisly & painful death and sing, "Happy Mary be?!" AND PUT IT ON A CHRISTMAS ALBUM! *pant pant*

I can't help but picture Mary and Elizabeth plotting to sneak their babies away to keep them safe. I guess we all know now why Gabriel never came knocking on my door.

But, since it's Christmas, I'll try to focus on the joyful part of this mothers' story. And put them back lounging in the courtyard complaining about in-laws and giggling about angels and baby names.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Cakes Family Annual Christmas Photo Shoot Slide Show

And people wonder why we don't pay for professional pictures. I can't imagine paying for this. We barely got a doable picture this year.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hard Lessons Learned...

I was getting Ladybug ready for bed and the kids were all in the bathtub supposedly washing their bodies and hair. Suddenly, I hear screaming and then see 3 naked and wet children running out of the bathroom...followed by a very wet and indignant kitten.

Lesson 1: Kittens do not make good bath buddies.

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Lesson 2: Know when to leave.

This is one of the top five lessons parents need to learn, in my opinion. Life with children is so much easier once you have this mastered. For example, my in-laws always go shopping on Black Friday (for you non American consumer crazy readers, that's the day after U.S. Thanksgiving aka beginning of the Christmas shopping season ) and I usually tag along. Well, not along completely since they start at 4am. I meet them for lunch. This year we went briefly into the mall because I had to get this year's Hallmark singing snowman. As I'm walking through, this woman in yelling at her 4 or 5 year old son because he is running around and whining. Exasperated I hear her say, "Why did I have to get such a rotten kid!" to which I responded, "You didn't get a rotten kid. You got a kid. He's done. It's time to go." She shot me a well-deserved "mind-your-own-damn-business" look. But, it was true. She had missed knowing when to leave.

So, last week we were spending our 3rd day that week at the great Christmas train exhibit near my house. It's a great exhibit our garden puts on every year and since we are members we get in free. We go quite a few times during the holidays. The kids really enjoy themselves and it's just a nice low key activity to keep us in the Christmas spirit.





Chowder and I were split up trying to keep track of everybody while they ran from train to train. After they spent about an hour watching all the trains, I came around a corner looking for Porkchop and The Meatball. That's when I found them. I couldn't figure out what they were doing at first, they were repeatedly falling onto the ground, but my mouth was already open to tell them to get off the floor. Then I saw the sign. And heard The Meatball pointing to the sign and encouraging Porkchop who had just flopped onto the floor with his arms flailing. "Almost. You just need to stick your foot up more like this."

I knew it was time to go.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Peek-In Monday!

Here's two for you...A little taste of the Christmas season

After a long day of sled riding and snowman building and rebuilding nothing says winter like snuggling up in you jammies for a bedtime movie


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And is every kid's favorite Christmas song The Little Drummer Boy?

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our pathetic excuse for a snow...

Every time we get this little hint of winter, Chowder starts looking for jobs back up north. Look out Canada! He's focusing his sights on Ottawa. or Buffalo. or Vermont. or...

Here's our dinky snowman.





And you know, I can take the occasional stolen car. The periodic smashed out window. Even the random mugging. But today when we got home 2 hours after building our snowman, some little buttholes had knocked it down. I can't begin to tell you how this filled me with the worst kind of rage. My kids were crushed. We are building another one...in the fenced in backyard.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Man of the Hour

Today after school got out at 11:30am, we invited the class upstairs for pizza and cake and ice cream. The kids had a great time running around like crazy people. And though I had to field another interrogation about the size of my family from one of the parents, and 3 of the kids speak little to no English so directing them was a bit of an issue (luckily their teacher was there to help!), and twice as many kids came as RSVP'd, we really enjoyed ourselves.

Here is the picture I took of Porkchop with his class...



and this was the second take in case the first one wasn't a good one...



and the proud owner of one new rocketship...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

4 years ago tonight...

I was in the middle of a cookie baking marathon with my sister-in-law when I felt the first contraction come hard and fast. I went upstairs and laid down for awhile only to end up at the OB triage only to be sent home because they said I wasn't in "real" labor. I knew of course that I was, but I wasn't dilating so they sent me home. 2 hours later I was back with contractions 2 minutes a part, begging for my doula (this hospital supplies them...once you've been admitted) but I still wasn't dilating.

Chowder and I walked the hospital halls while I labored. Finally, my water broke outside the elevator on floor 6, where I yelled, "HA! Take that Nurse Ratched!" Seconds later, I was overwhelmed and out of control. By the time they checked me (2cm) and got me upstairs and out of my clothes, I was a complete lunatic. 15 minutes after the first check, they checked me again. I was completely dilated. "Oh," they said. "No wonder you were acting like that. huh."

It then took me 3 hours to push the little bastard out. (My fault. I just figured out how to push with the last one.) 15 minutes after that Chowder was out the door to get to Skaterboy's City/County soccer Championship (he won!) and I curled up with my brand new Porkchop and
took the first of many warm and wonderful naps. *sigh* heck! We had one this afternoon.

So, tonight we made gingerbread men along with 5 other kinds of cookies. If I had to describe the differences between Jellybean and Meatball I could never describe it as well as this picture. Want to guess whose is whose?



And then there's this little cherub. I'm afraid she has weaned. Just like that. It makes me sad because it kind of came with no warning. If I had known that was the last time...

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not to keep harping on this but...

A few pictures for your comparison

2005


2006


and...2007


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...or whatever

Can anyone guess why my husband and two sons can not contain there fits of giggles every time we walk under this glass sculpture?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Peek-In-Monday...

Sorry, I've been scarce. But, I will probably only get a chance to post a few times a week. A pastor's family is crazy busy this time of year. So far it's been good busy not a bad amount of busy.

Here is a clip from post bath time last week.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Charlie Brown's got nothing on us...

We've had to put off our usual trip to cut down our Christmas tree three times, now. We usually go the 1st weekend of Advent but each time we thought we could go, something has come up. The children were ready to cut down the neighbor's tree and drag it into the living room, so we decided to skip the long trip and just get a tree from our parish boy scout's lot. Last year, we had to go there as well because we had a huge ice storm and all of the trees at the farm were covered in inches of ice. We bought a tree still bound up from under a tarp sight unseen. It was surprisingly close to our usual tree.

What our usual tree lacks in beauty and form it makes up for in sheer size and girth. We buy the big dumb ox of the Christmas tree world. If our trees had legs they would be galumphing around like giant dumb cyclopses. I give you examples from a few year's worth of our past Christmas cards...








ok, so you can't really see the tree so much, but trust me. They are curled over at the top and completely shapeless. But, we love them.

This year we all pile into the car and head to the pizza place and then out to the tree lot. First, we haven't been to the pizza place in awhile and I was shocked at how much it cost us, but I figured we were saving it on gas not driving out to the country to the tree farm. So bellies full and trips to the bathroom before we left, we headed to the tree lot. oh wait. That's right. Someone is going to have to pee before we drive those 2 miles. Yep, there it is. Jellybean screaming from the back seat that she is going to wet her pants right now! just minutes after having gone. So, we swing by our house where the power of suggestion overcomes the Meatball and Porkchop. With everyone's bladder empty, we arrive at the lot. We are a bit skeptical because already it is slim pickins. I'm about to suggest we wait and go to the farm on Friday, but I catch Chowder's eye and turn to see the kids gleefully winding through the sparse aisles. I knew we wouldn't be leaving without a tree.

Did I mention it was 29 degrees? It was. It didn't take long for me to give up any hope of getting a galumph a tree and told the kids to pick out whatever tree they wanted. I didn't care. If they liked it, we would buy it. They found a tree in about 5 minutes, I snapped a quick picture, gave Chowder the money, and coralled everyone back to the van. It didn't look that bad at the lot but once we got it home to our 10 foot ceilings, the poor little thing seemed to shrink. But, isn't that the beauty of children and Christmas? Look at Jellybean. Do you think she gives a crap that this is a mere imitation of a Cakes Family Christmas tree? Of course she doesn't even notice.

ok. So maybe I can love that cute little feller of a tree. But next year, I want a gigantamungous tree.



Please note: Since last year I didn't get all my decorations down until early March, I decided that we would decorate with ornaments made from recyclable paper so we could just throw it all in the recycling bin and be done with it. Let's just hope that Chowder doesn't get creative with the tree removal again this year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Happy Peek-In Monday!

4 years ago I bought our first Hallmark snowman thingy for Jellybean and the Meatball. Chowder was disgusted. Thought it was awful....and annoying. I explained that it was this kind of cheesy stuff that children will remember from their childhood. Not the elegant decorations so tastefully strung over the fireplaces, but the tacky, silly singing snowman. He disagreed. Now we have 4. oops.

I pulled them out while the kids were sick in hopes of lifting some spirits.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Finally...

We've had a rough round of illness hit the Cakes house. I haven't had a night of more than 4 hours of sleep in three days. Hoping things go more smoothly tonight.

On a happier note...


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apparently she needs her finger in her nose for balance.