Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Hope It's Gonna Be a Long, Hot Summer

If you live most anywhere in the US, chances are you're feeling the cold. And you're tired of it.  If you have small children, like I do, you are running out of ideas for keeping them busy (and the fighting to a minimum.)

Recently, a friend of mine posted art activity ideas on Facebook. One of these ideas was to make homemade paint.  I am not crafty.  I don't even like art.  (Not true...I like looking at art.) I'll happily color a picture in a coloring book, but you can forget about free hand sketching, painting, or really anything else artsy.  However, my children LOVE art and painting is probably their favorite creative outlet.

You guys, my kids sat at our table and painted for over 1.5 hours.  No fighting.  No whining.  No crying.  Nothing but sweet peace for me and a good time for them.  We have so much leftover that we're painting again tomorrow.  Once again, school has been cancelled.  It's been a cold, cold winter.

Would you like to try homemade paint too?  Here's how you make it.  (It's so easy!)

All you need is sweetened condensed milk and food coloring.  That's it!  You may also want to put some newspaper down on your table.  This stuff is a bit sticky and food coloring may leave a stain.  If you have elementary school aged children, you'll likely have some Scholastic fliers hanging around.  I save ours just for projects like these.

Divide the sweetened condensed milk into whatever cups or bowls you wish to use. I used two cans to fill 11 Dixie cups 1/2 full.  Add food coloring according to the color guide on your package, or make your own combinations.  I halved the amount of drops suggested.  Ex: if it called for 6 blue and 2 yellow, I used 3 blue and 1 yellow.  Mix well with a spoon.  Look at all the wonderful colors I was able to make from 5 small bottles of food coloring!

G3, getting their art on.


Today's work.  As you will see, the paint dries super shiny.  This was an incredibly easy way to make my kids happy today.  I hope it goes as well tomorrow.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

That Perfect Girl Is Gone

Thanks to an incredible internet link, the kids and I have been watching (and re-watching) Frozen.  If you haven't seen it, I'll try not to spoil it for you.  I love this movie.  It speaks to me.  The music is wonderful and I cannot get it out of my head.  It's a flipping cartoon, but I think about it all the time.  I wonder what I'm missing.  Every time we watch it, I notice something new.  And AMAZING.

My children love it too.  The boys are mad for Anna and Elsa and spend much of the day pretending to be them.  At any given time, you can hear Jo singing, "do you wanna build a snowman?" or see Jake, blanket thrown over his shoulders, waltzing through the living room, shouting, "I am free!"

Elsa and Anna - Aren't they lovely?

You guys, I'm developing an emotional attachment to this movie.  Anna and Elsa are sisters.  If you've been following my blog, you know I have sister issues.  Elsa is the older sister and heir to the throne.  (Did I mention they're princesses?  Of course they're princesses....it's Disney!)  Anna is the younger sister and is a bit naive about the world and how dangerous her sister is.  Elsa has been cursed with the ability to make snow/ice/wintry weather.  Anna is normal and just wants to play with her sister, but Elsa is too dangerous to play and stays locked in her room. Although they did not spend much time with each other, there is a deep love between them.  The movie highlights the importance of the sister relationship.

Remember when the princess always needed a prince to save her?  I've always thought that was stupid.  Disney has caught on too and corrected it.  Both Brave and Frozen have female heroes.  They save themselves. I love the message this sends to my daughter.  I've yet to watch Frozen without crying.  Buckets.  Damn you, Disney, for making me feel things.

My sibling relationship much different.  For most of it, my sister and I shared a bedroom.  There was a clear division between sides of the room.  My side was neat and orderly.  Her side was a sty. I insisted on being furthest from the door.  I have no idea why.  I always had to wade through her crap to get out of the room.  Perhaps, I thought her mess would flow through to my side of the room if I was closer to the door.  Who knows?

My sister and I had daily access to each other.  While we are not twins, we were in the same grade, often had the same classes and made the same friends.  It wasn't until our junior year, when she went to the vocational school and I stayed at the high school, that we had any real time away from one another.  I wish I could say her absence bothered me, but it didn't.  I was glad she was at another school.  We weren't friends and basically survived by tolerating each other. She was the perfect child.  I was difficult, running wild, longing to be free. I no longer run and that perfect girl is long gone.  Perhaps she was never real to begin with.

We haven't lived together since 1995.  I moved in with my dad that year, after a failed runaway attempt.  It saved me.  I'm close to my dad.  He's been a support source for me throughout my life and a really good man.  He's not my sister's biological father, but he raised her, and continued to do so long after my parents divorced.  He's a grandfather to her child.  He loves my sister just as he loves me, even though she has used and abused him.  He could be free of her, but he chooses to allow her in his life because he loves her.

My mother often says that my problems with my sister are my fault.  She thinks that I'm jealous of her relationship with my dad.  That couldn't be more wrong.  Dad and I have a great relationship.  We've spent a lot of time and energy fostering a friendship.  I harbor no resentment or jealousy of my father's love for my sister, nor do I feel threatened by their relationship.  In fact, I think it's wonderful.  He's a man that was willing to raise another man's child.  He loves her with his whole heart, despite that she's stolen from him, lied to him, and greatly disappointed him. If anything, it makes me treasure him even more.

Unlike Brave, Frozen doesn't reveal much about the princesses relationship with their parents.  The story remains focused on the sisters, their separation, and their journey back to one another.  And that sits heavy on my soul.

I feel guilty for not having a healthy relationship with my sister.  I think we liked each other when we were really little.  I remember always having someone to play games and ride bikes with.  We were once protective of each other.  If one of us was about to get in trouble, we'd hide the paddles...she'd hide the belt (Mom's choice for disciplining me) and I'd hide the wooden spoon (Mom's choice for disciplining her.)  I have a clear memory of tackling a girl who called my sister "fat" and bullied her, daily, on the walk home from school.  She took care of the neighborhood brat that always tried to wreck me when I rode my bike.

I'm not sure when that changed.  Somewhere between elementary school and high school, we stopped protecting each other.  By junior high, even I called her "fat."  She became self absorbed, obsessed with her hair and makeup, and put me down for have simpler tastes.  She called me, "butch" and often made lesbian references/jokes.  We were cruel to one another.

In high school, she was deeply unhappy.  She did not socialize like other kids.  She stayed home, watched TV, read books and ate. She was well over 300 pounds by our graduation.  Then we went away to college.  I went to Muskingum and rarely came home.  She went to Hocking, but didn't go to class or do her assignments, and failed out.  Having no where else to go, she moved into my old room at Dad's house.

While at Dad's, she brought him into the 1990's by convincing him to get cable and internet service.  We used to play online chess with each other through Yahoo Games and chat with Messenger. I loved that!  We became more friendly.  When I got married, she was my maid of honor.  Once, she even sent me $12, all in one dollar bills, with a note that said "Here's a little mad money. I'm sure you can use it."   I used it to fill my gas tank (yes, $12 bought a lot of gas in 1999!) and drove to New Lex to visit her.  We were able to support each other while our mother battled leukemia from 1999 until 2001.

After she had bariatric surgery, I thought we would become friends.  She was more outgoing and willing to do things.  I wasn't prepared for how shallow she became.  Vanity sank deep in her bones and it's still there.  Even now, after heroin and pills have stolen her teeth and caused her to look a decade older, she's incredibly vain.  She's a storm: wrecks everything in her path and moves on to the next victim, careless about the mess she's left behind.

And despite this, despite the pain she's caused, I love her.  There are still days that I just can't believe that my sister, my sister, is a heroin addict.  She's in a rehab facility in Columbus.  It's been relatively easy to block her from my mind.  Until I watched Frozen.  Seeing the love those sisters have for each other makes me so sad.  We should have that.  We should be friends.  But you can't be friends with a heroin addict.  And you can't be friends when you have an anger buried deep inside that you just can't seem to get out.

I'm angry that she's wrecked her life.  I'm angry that she joined her husband in using drugs instead of getting him the help he needed.  I'm angry that she's been giving her daughter away since the day she was born.  I'm angry that she stole my identity and wrecked my credit.  I'm angry that she did the same to my dad, probably my mom, and so many others.  I'm angry that she's in rehab.  I'm angry that people continue to enable her.  I'm angry with her.  I resolved to find a way to forgive her, but I'm struggling with that.

I just can't seem to let it go.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I was so Hard to Please

I wonder what you thought when you read this title.  "Is this another self exploration?  A deep revealing portrait of her murky past?"  Or maybe you think it's a spoof because, in reality, I'm really not difficult to please and am easily impressed.  Unless you're married to me....then yes, I'm hard to please.

Pleasure is directly correlated to expectation.  In truth, I expect very little.  I've had a lot of adversity in my life and have learned to never, never, never rely on things to be given or returned or earned easily. Life's a struggle, right?  Usually, I accept that.  However, even with my cynical nature and full acceptance that most people are total a*holes, and that the worst that can happen will happen, I have found this year, this winter, to be so disappointing. And it's only January 14th.  Despite the glorious sunrises we've had these last few days, I look around at a hazy shade of winter.

This winter was so promising.  I had a sleepover for Mason's 6th birthday at our local Hampton Inn.  She invited 2 friends to come along for swimming, celebration and sleeping.  I had hoped it would be the best night of Mason's life since she has no memory of staying in a hotel before and was so excited about it.  It did not turn out to be all I hoped it would be. One girl chewed a hole in her flotation ring which required all of us to get out of the pool, another fell out of bed which was incredibly frightening, and the room was a bit too small for 3 girls to play in.  An event like this really requires a suite with room to move around.  You may think these glitches are not a big deal, but trust me, to 4-6 year old girls, these things are upsetting.

But with the disappointment, there was also a lot of fun.  The girls made crafts, sang along with a karaoke machine one of her guests gave her, ate lots of junk food, told jokes, jumped from one bed to the other (a million times) and laughed.  Little girl laughter is pretty special.  In case you are wondering, I also learned that little girls are just as gross as little boys.  There was a lot of gas passing and talk about gas passing and giggling about gas passing.  The difference is girls outgrow this and boys NEVER do.

Then Christmas came.  My kids had a wonderful Christmas. It was the first Christmas morning that the boys, now 3 years old, really participated in opening presents.  There was so much laughter. My dad spent Christmas morning with us for the first time since 1999.  That year was sad.  My mom had leukemia and wasn't doing well. The hospital allowed her to come home for a couple days.  I still have pictures from that day, but can't bare to look at them.  She looked so sick and my sister was so healthy.  It's heartbreaking now to remember them both that way. A piece of me still lives in Christmas 1999 and the memory haunts me a bit.

Back to 2013....The kids slept in Christmas morning.  We crawled out of bed around 9am. It was great.  The wrapping paper frenzy began shortly after.  Followed by brunch.  And then everyone left.  My dad returned to his town.  My mother went to visit my sister in rehab.  John left for work.  The kids enjoyed playing with their new toys but asked (about a million times) why they weren't going to their paternal grandparents that day.  The technical answer (the one that gets me off the hook): our car had broken down and John had the van.  I physically couldn't get the kids to their home.  The real answer: I'd rather eat glass than spend one minute with my mother in law.  I spent 14 Christmases with those horrible people.  It wasn't happening this year. Not after the hell the mother in law put me through.  I just didn't have it in me.

Christmas passed and we planned to celebrate New Year's Eve at the First Night celebration in our town.  Music, food, children's programming, fireworks...what could go wrong?!  It was the first year since who-knows-when that John did not have to work New Year's Eve.  I was looking forward to hearing a piano and organ concert and taking the kids to a magic show.  However, around 5:30pm, I became so ill I could barely move.  I was in bed by 6pm.  I listened to the fireworks from my bed and my very first New Year's kiss in years was on the top of my head. It's better than nothing, I suppose,  but I had high expectations.  Lesson learned.

Christmas break was extra long.  A cold spell kept the kids home for a few extra days.  I was very excited for them to go back.  They needed a break from each other and I needed some time for myself.  I can't get anything done when I spend my days stopping fights, finding crafts and other forms of entertainment, and kissing boo boos.   Or that could be an excuse.  It's January 14th and my Christmas tree is still up. Apparently,  I don't get much done when they're back at school either.  (Although, I didn't put the tree up OR decorate it this year so maybe it's not my problem.  Get on it, John.)

Fast forward to January 11th.  I got sick again.  Another stomach virus.  This one hit me hard, made me weak, and left me begging for Spring. AND the icing on my sour, rotten cake:  someone I thought would never upset me is breaking my heart.

So here I am, January 14, 2014 and I can't wait for winter to get the hell over with.  High expectations.  That's what I had.  Next winter, I will expect nothing but doom and gloom and feel quite pleased when it's over.  (As it turns out, this post is a 1011 word pity party.)

Here's some pics to make up for that.

On our way to Wildlights!  
The best pic I could get of the 4 of them at the Columbus Zoo.  I don't know how photographers do it!

John and Drea.  She's so easy to have around.

At the hotel sleepover.  The 3 cutest girls I know.  

Christmas morning:  Ringo got trapped in all the new toys and clothes. 

I bought all 3 kids, even the boys, princess shoes for Christmas.  They love them. This is also the ONLY picture I got with all 3 of them.  How sad.
If you leave the kids alone with Grandma, you will end up with slime on the ceiling.  Does anyone know how to get slime off paint? 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Open Up Your Mouth and Feed It

Warning!  Warning!  Obligatory food post!  I'm trying to become a better blogger.  I read blogs.  Lots of blogs.  One thing they all have in common is, from time to time, each author shares a food post.  How do you become better?  Mimic the experts. Writing about dinner is out of character for me.  However, I probably spend more time focused on food, specifically how to stretch my food dollar to feed this family of 5, than I do any other motherly duty.

Being a survival mom means I do what it takes to get through a day.  It doesn't mean that I cater to every want my children have.  One of my strictest rules is that I will not cook multiple entrees at each meal to satisfy everyone.  I've heard of mothers doing this. What? WHAT?!!! Who has time for that?  Like our sweet technological, everything-at-your-fingertips, society isn't making it nearly impossible to raise a bunch of entitled brats already. Therefore, this mama builds (I like that term.  My dear friend, Celia, uses it.) one meal and my kids know they better eat it. 

My favorite holidays are New Year's Day and St. Patrick's Day.  Maybe I like them so much because my favorite meals are traditionally served on those days.  I love pork and sauerkraut.  Love, love, love.  We had to delay our traditional meal this year because I was ill and needed a few days to handle the smell of it.  Most people bake a pork roast and surround it with sauerkraut (often making the mistake of putting brown sugar in their kraut) and let it roast in the oven or slow cooker for hours.  It's delicious, but when every dollar counts,  a pork roast may not be in the budget.  Here is what I do.

I purchase bone-in pork chop and hope to find a super good deal.  Last week, I purchased a 1.3lb package of chops for $2.86 at Aldi.  I found a large can of sauerkraut for $.98 at our local IGA.  I cut the bones out of the chops and cubed the meat.  In a 3 quart casserole dish, I put the cubed meat in a pile in the middle of the dish.  Next, I chopped one apple and 1/3 of a fresh onion and arranged the pieces around the pork.  After rinsing and draining the sauerkraut, I smothered the entire dish in it.  Finally, I poured a 12 oz. can of light beer, I'd been saving to use for cooking, over the entire entree and covered the dish.  I cooked it in a 400 degree oven for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, I also peeled, chopped and boiled 1/3 of a 10lb bag of potatoes. We enjoy mashed potatoes with our pork&kraut. I purchased the entire 10lb bag at Aldi for $1.49! I paired the meal with green beans, canned from our garden, and fresh fruit we already had in the fridge.

The total cost of our meal was about $4.34.  It made enough to feed the 5 of us AND have enough left over for John to take pack for lunch at work.  I think $4.34 is beyond awesome.

Shopping smart, by using coupons and taking advantage of Aldi prices, and finding cheaper entree alternatives help me meet our weekly $75 budget (which includes paper products, cat food/litter, and toiletries) and I'm often under it.

Here's a pic of my pork and sauerkraut.  It doesn't look particularly special, but it was so, so delicious. Yes, I draped the background with flannel.  Doesn't this seem like a flannel-esq meal?  It's warm, filling, and down-home comforting just like flannel.