National Adoption Month Ends with a Book Giveaway

I'm a wee bit late on this....but I want to say a big Happy National Adoption month to my adopted friends and to the friends I know who have adopted.

I received this book on adoption to review:
Adopted Ed by Darren Maddern

This was a great little story about Ed, who learns he was adopted. His parents are honest and open about it and you can't help but love big-blue-eyed Ed as he works through his feelings about it. He does meet up with some school bullies and he smartly deals with them in a way that works quite well!
This is a really cute story with great illustrations. It's a new author, one who was adopted himself and he writes this from the heart. Yay for new authors and yay for stories with a purpose!

The only thing Andrew and I thought was a bit much was the picture of a  baby Ed in the womb....however, we are prude Americans and that might just be how we are, that doesn't make it right or wrong. And the bully scene in the book might be a little strong of a topic for really young kids, but life is full of bullies, right? This age is geared towards 9-12 year olds so they might be old enough to deal with the bully scene just fine regardless. I think this book would be interesting to kids, not just those who have been adopted but for all kids-as it introduces the idea that being adopted doesn't make you different or weird.

I think this is a great story and if you are interested in owning this book, let me know in the comments and I'll pick a random comment on Dec 15th and mail you the book. I think you'll like it!

I received this book (and a real note from the author) via the One2One Network.

Scenes from My World

I am unspired to write anything.
So here are the last three pics on my camera, with a short story on each:

This was a gorgeous day last week! I filled our yard bin with leaves from the yard, but only one of five sections of leaves mind you, which means I would need five weeks still to remove the leaves from my yard before winter. Ha-wish me luck. I suspect mother nature has a different plan. As I was working in the yard, Andrew and his friend came by and they very happily (too happily) agreed to climb up on the roof and sweep the leaves and needles off. We only have one outdoor broom though so Andrew's friend grabbed a large tree branch and made great work of it. 100 points for being creative! (for the record, I do have gutter covers and they work GREAT and I just have to brush things off the tops sometimes, WAY less stress and mess than reaching in and digging out the nastiness!)

This is Andrew and my niece, Alyssa, on Black Friday after a very busy morning not sleeping. We all just hit a wall about 10:30am. It's weird how big these guys are. Just the other day, they were super cute and we could just push them around in a stroller and dress them up like we wanted and do their hair. And now they are just these teenage creatures who have a mind of their own. Time just flew right by! People always say that when you have a baby and you think to yourself, "yeah, yeah, I've heard that already, blahblah," but then you just wait a few years and you learn that holycow, a whole year just went by?? Where did my baby go???

This is Whiskers - adorable right?? He loves to snuggle up on this blanket. I'd like to take a moment to point out that the big blue lump at the bottom of the pic is not my stomach, but rather the blanket is folded over onto itself, which acts as a wrist rest for my hands when using the laptop on the couch. And please disregard the pile of junk on the ottoman.  The blue blanket is of note's a heated electric blanket and we keep it on the couch where we typically watch tv together. It's wonderful - you turn it on and you sit back and suddenly you are in this cocoon of warmth, however, what's not wonderful is that it makes you want to go to sleep...note Whiskers, who was not tired when he jumped up here. The blue heated blanket casts some kind of spell over you and you suddenly have this urge to close your eyes. I have learned to never turn the blanket on when I'm working from home. Or if I want to do anything at all the rest of the night. And....I have had it on for the last hour and now I must go to bed....

Celebrating the Hostile Takeover of the Native Americans Land

We visited my parents house up north on Thanksgiving for a big family dinner on Friday evening. It went a little something like this:

FUN in the kitchen (HOURS in the kitchen)

Andrew and I dancing for the camera. Still cameras don't quite capture this as much as video might.

My niece, Alyssa, helping with the best broccoli dish ever.
OMG the best broccoli dish EVER. Recipe to follow later this week.

Yumminess. I only had two of these-yay for self control! (I don't have a good reputation for self control where oreos are concerned!)

Extreme Yumminess!!! Blackberry brandy slush - LOVE this.

Team Kitchen (minus our honorary member Alyssa who wouldn't come back to the kitchen once she was bored of it). We had a great time and made a great dinner!!

Team Kitchen gets to eat first!

One of the best Thanksgiving meals I have had as a non-turkey eater.
Our day was shopping (4am!), napping, cooking, playing Spoons (my newest favorite game), cooking cooking cooking, eating and cleaning and then more games. And then Andrew and I settled into my little radiator-leaking CRV and drove 3 hours home, arriving at our destination about 11:30pm. Long day!!

How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was as fun as ours!

I Survived Black Friday 2010!

Yeah, I did it...I braved the crowds of crazy shoppers at 4am on Friday morning to go save some money...and save some money I did!!  I am estimating that I saved close to $450 by shopping on Friday morning. Part of it was for Andrew - he got a couple new dress shirts and ties, two sweaters and a winter coat (he paid for 1/3 the cost though, so I didn't spend that much on clothes).

We, of course, went to Fred Meyers and got socks at 50% off - you can never have too many socks!

I got 3 new pans, which were needed and will be well-used now that I am loving this new cooking hobby.

We got 4 gifts for family members for Presents Day, which is in 28 days??!! Yikes!

And I got a new wonderful printer which has wireless capabilities, so we don't have to email ourself our documents and then log on to our main computer to print (irritating), and I can print photos directly from my phone (magic!!), AND it has a scanner so I don't have to go through the hassle of borrowing my friends scanner when I start on my next photo project. AND it is also a copier (right, same thing as a scanner I know), so Andrew can make copies of the sheet music he uses to teach his guitar student.

On top of all the amazing features and my deep love for it - it's a $200 printer that I got for $69.00. Is there any way this could be better?? I don't think so.

We didn't have any problem with mean or rude people while out and about, just the opposite really. And some of the stores had amazing coordinated efforts to keep things moving along quickly so we didn't spend most of our time standing in lines.

Black Friday was started to help stimulate businesses and the economy and I feel pretty good about doing my part.

And I'm excited to spend most of tomorrow printing and scanning!!!

Multi-Tasking My Life Away

I was part of a discussion the other day that centered around whether or not it's possible to multi-task.

I usually have the tv or music on in the background while I'm working and I have no problem listening to NPR while I read a book. I am able to block out one or other things when I need to focus, but does that mean I'm not doing my best possible work if I'm multi-tasking?

I can have instant messenger conversations all day while I work and I never feel like it's interrupting my work or setting me back, but I know some people do. Is this just because they haven't been using messenger for a decade like some of us? Or maybe some people are just better suited to do multiple things at one time?

I think that kids these days are probably going to be great multi-taskers - since they never seem to be able to sit and do one thing....I think in some ways this is a really good thing, a progression for human kind.

Your thoughts?

Disclaimer: I feel like I may have blogged about this before...and if I did, I hope I put more energy and thought into than I did this one! (it's late, it's been a hard week and I'm tired!!)

Parent of the Year Award Goes to....ME!!!

Fair warning to all you new parents out there:

At some point you will *yell at your child about the fact that they can't hang their towel to save their life. Or how they come inside after being in a snowstorm and toss their (new) coat on the kitchen counter (wtf, right??). And you will yell at them because somehow the lid to the new toothpaste somehow made its way to the floor down the hall from the bathroom. Regardless of why you are will yell.

But heed my warning:

If you go to yell at them about how they are leaving for college soon and that they will not make a good roommate for someone, you might end up yelling this:

You are going to be a horrible, horrible roommate.

But because you sometimes talk fast when you are flustered, you will end up yelling this at your bouncing baby boy:

You are going to be a horrible whore-mate.

And your son will giggle and your point will be lost.

*and by yell, I mean raise your voice slightly in a stern manner.

Recipe of the Week: Chicken and Zucchini Rice Casserole

I can not tell you how excited I am over the new recipe I tried on Sunday night. It was by far the very best dinner I have made in a long time.

I wasn't even that excited to make it because I don't really have a loving feeling towards zucchini and Andrew has never been one to have interest in casseroles (he's the same towards soup). It was a low calorie recipe though and my foodie friend Jason felt like it was a good one. So I made it and ohdearbabyjesus---it is DELICIOUS!!!!!

It seemed simple, but was more work than I normally prefer, but WAY worth it. And it makes me think that maybe I can make other wonderful meals! I used to be the kind who could not make a recipe turn out well, but I think those times are a-changin!

Zucchini zucchini zucchini! I used 3 1/2, but next time I'll use all four.

Squash of some sort. I used 1.5 because I wasn't sure what it would taste like..I know nothing of squash. Not even the sport.
Two peppers, any variety. I will probably use three next time, but it was okay with two.

And that's where the pre-dinner pictures end because time was ticking and it takes an AMAZING amount of time to chop all this stuff up. Next time I will be enlisting some help with the prep work. I also had to chop a full onion, and did I mention I have carpal tunnel? If I didn't before, I certainly do now. That was a lot of chopping. It literally took me about 40 minutes to do all the prep.

By the time I realized how much time I had spent prepping the veggies, it was getting really late and I had to make the decision to either have a really late (for us) dinner or find something else for that night. I made a quick stir-fry for that night and saved all my chopped veggies for the following night.

Which made for an easier night the next. It was a matter of heating the chicken broth and then mixing the veggies, broth and rice in the pan and then tossing in the oven for 45 minutes. The original recipe says to have it covered in the oven for 45 minutes and then uncovered for another 35, however, that seemed like a LONG time for rice to be in the oven. Have I mentioned I'm not a chef and not really qualified to stray from any recipe? True. However, I lived in Korea and so I am very qualified to make anything that involves rice. So after the original 45 minutes, I uncovered and then turned the oven down to 300.

The original recipe called for turkey sausage, which I'm sure would be fine, if you like turkey. Or sausage. Or turkey sausage. None of which I we used chicken. Not a shock for anyone who knows me because I eat chicken about 6 times a week. I love me some chicken. And the chicken was just fine in this recipe. I used about 1 1/2 chicken breasts (diced), as that's what I had on hand, but next time I could see using two full breasts. It also called for jalapenos, I left those out just because I don't like them.
I didn't really get a great picture of the casserole when it came out of the oven because Andrew just walked in the door from work as I pulled it out and we both marvelled at it for about 30 seconds and then small animals dashed out of the way as we attacked this with our forks. But TRUST ME - it was A-EFFING-MAZ-ING (radio edit for little ears).
This looks like a mess. It tasted like gold in food form.
We could have eaten the entire pan in one sitting.
Yay for new recipes turning out well!!!

Here's the recipe my way, or visit Eating Well for the original:

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 cups diced zucchini , and/or summer squash (about 1 pound)
2 red or green bell peppers, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 chicken breast meat, diced
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Pour rice into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir hot broth into the rice along with zucchini (and/or squash), bell peppers, onion and salt. Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove cover and turn oven down to 300 for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk milk and flour in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbling and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 1 1/2 cups Jack cheese and corn and cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add chicken. Cook until lightly browned.
  5. When the rice is done, stir in the chicken and cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Jack cheese on top and dollop cream cheese by the teaspoonful over the casserole (I ended up mixing in the cream cheese dollops at the end because they were just big blobs that didn't melt or ooze anywhere).
  6. Return the casserole to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Per serving: 248 calories; 9 g fat (5 g sat, 1 g mono); 34 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrates; 13 g protein; 2 g fiber; 491 mg sodium; 273 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (56% daily value), Vitamin A (20% dv), Calcium (16% dv).
2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 high-fat meat

 Make it!! You'll love it and you will thank me!!

Grandpa's Cat is Bigger Than....

This is my dad's cat:
Petite little kitty.
Her name is Kitty Four and you might notice something....
She's a big girl.
Which would be great if she was a cuddly and soft lap cat...but she is not. She's a beast that sits in the corner of the room and gives you the stink eye.

Andrew and I, of course, enjoy her. She's great fun.

Last time we visited, we played the game: Grandpa's cat is bigger than...
The game involves finding things that Grandpa's Cat is bigger than....which is most things.
Bigger than a decorative coke glass.

Bigger than Andrew's mammoth size shoe.

Bigger than a jet fighter plane.

Bigger than a fresh tomato.

Bigger than a half-drunken can of Sierra Mist.

Aha! Not quite bigger than a cube of soda cans!
Cats are fun.

Notes From Korea - June 1st - Korean Schools, Korean Gangs, Korean Age (aka funny math)

Once upon a time a thousand years ago (in 2002), I took a year long teaching job in South Korea. I packed up my 9 yr son, his little white cat and 4 huge bags of "stuff" and we got on a plane and flew from Washington state to South Korea. We lived there for a year, came home for Xmas and then my son stayed in the states for 8 weeks while I flew back over the big pond to finish my contract(the first time I've ever been away from him for more than 2 weeks). We lived in a small town, with no native English speakers, no familiar food, and no real clue of what we were going to do. It was a great adventure!

I wrote long, sometimes boring, letters home. These are them, unedited except for the removal of the whining and begging to my parents to please send this or that. You can click on the pictures to enlarge.

June 1st, 2002
Andrew and I are doing well. It's hard to believe we've been here five and a half months already!! Andrew commented the other day on how it feels like we've only been here a short while, but it's been almost half the year! We have learned a lot of Korean since I last wrote. We have taken to each learning a word or phrase a day and then teaching each other our word(s). My director is wonderful at teaching us things throughout the day, but I have the memory of a goldfish and tend to forget things if I don't write them down. Andrew picks up a lot from the kids, as expected, and his vocabulary is far beyond mine.

It's been getting quite hot here lately. I hear that the temperature will be getting near 100 degrees in August! It's been pretty humid during the day and then raining in early evening. I LOVE when it starts to rain - it's still quite warm out so the rain is good to cool you off. Most Koreans will not walk two feet in the rain without an umbrella and they get very nervous/disturbed when they see us just walk and not sprint in the rain. My director said he just "doesn't like water."

We made another trip to Seoul last weekend. It was a short trip-mainly for books. We went through the Namdaemun market again - a wonderful place to buy a present for my friends b-day, then went to a used book store and a park. It was the most perfect day outside for it, as if we ordered the weather!

We sat down to consult the subway map at one point and met two Koreans from the southern region. It turned out that they were bonafide Korean gangsters! Whatever that means...guns are not legal in Korea and there are very few of them out there. I don't know much of anything about Korean gangs, except the word and that they LOVE tattoos. The man we were talking to refused to take his coat off (it was sweltering!!) because of his tattoos, but his wife told us about them and they apparently cover his body. It's the first time we've even heard of a tattoo here-it's just not accepted.

They were fun to talk to, and as usual, couldn't keep their hands off Andrew. Everyone is always touching his face or his leg or his arm...he's just so cute you have to reach out and touch him! Ha! As we were leaving, the woman came over and gave Andrew her name brand sunglasses! He was excited, though they are adult size and fit me better (which means I have a new pair of sunglasses!!).

We have made some new friends in our town this past moth. A few Korean women who are fairly fluent in English and a few children who don't know much at all. Speaking of friends, our friend Brian, from Oregon, is now here in our area. Unfortunately, we have drifted apart and don't speak much at all. It's strange and sad that someone who spent a good portion of last year in our home/lives is now fifteen minutes away and we don't speak anymore. Such is life, I guess...

My classes are all going well. I teach children from 3:00-7:00pm and then on Mon, Wed & Friday, I have an adult class from 7:00-8:00pm. My favorite class by far is the kindergarten class. They are so much fun and you can see that they really want to learn English. My middle school students are a bit difficult to deal with most days and it's obvious that they don't really want to be in an English class.

But you can hardly blame them. Most days, they go to school from 8:30am - 3:00pm and then go to a private class until 5:00pm. (TaeKwonDo or a music lesson). Then they come to my English school  for an hour. After that, most of them go home to eat, but then have to go to another hogwan (Korean for private school) for another hour from 7:00-8:00pm!

And all Korean schools are open for half a day on Saturday!! So their weekends are only a day and a half...and I won't even get into how much homework they have!! No wonder they aren't excited to sit in class each day with me. I don't take it personally and I feel bad for them. I usually bring snacks in once a week and we have a game day on Fridays. I found that they are much happier students if they have that Friday to look forward to.

Andrew and I haven't tried very many new foods lately-we're totally slacking! We had set out to try one new thing a week, a reasonable goal for a picky young boy...but we've fallen behind. I'm going to have one of my Korean friends teach me a few recipes next week so I can actually make our own Korean food. I don't really eat much of anything myself and have found that my once-too-tight khakis are now perfectly fitting-yay! We both eat more fruit and the chocolate here just isn't "right"-thankfully! Koreans aren't big on desserts, so we've cut way back too. Also, there are no fast food places around (though we do order pizza every other week), so I think our general diet is so much better here. Part of my goal in coming was to shed some weight and I now feel like I'm getting it done!

Another goal was to pay off bills, which would be done a lot faster if we didn't travel so much. I didn't realize how many places we've visited, until a man in Seoul asked us what cities we've been to since we've been here and our list was quite long for five months. I think we'll cut back from two trips a month to one for a bit so I can get rid of a little extra debt. We have fun just hanging out in our little town anyway. Andrew knows quite a few of the kids now and can usually find someone to play with fairly easy. My students like to come over so he makes plans with them. The ages of the kids vary so much-this morning he played with some of the youngest students-about 7 yrs old each-at our house and now he is at the home of the 14-yr old students.

Ages are a little confusing here...Koreans go by the year you were born, not the month & day of your birthday, and also, when you are born you are considered age one. SO-if you were born on Dec 31st, 2001, on Jan 1, 2002, you are now two years old! Very Andrew was pleased to learn that he is actually considered 11 years old!

Homeschooling is going well. Andrew and I have had our ups and downs, but for the most part we have settled into a schedule. He really loves to learn new things and loves the one-on-one attention. I thought he would miss being part of a classroom the most, but earlier this week, he said that if we go back to the states next year, he still wants to be home schooled!

I think that's all for now. It looks like I might be buying a laptop next week-a fairly old one from a teacher in a neighboring town. I am only buying it because it's so cheap and it will be a good tool for Andrew to use in his schooling.

That's all for now...

Whatcha Readin? Nothing? Oh, You Must Have Angry Birds All Around You Too...

I have read exactly one book in about 4 wks. This is totally unacceptable and very rare for me.

The reason:


Have you heard of this?? Its an addicting (and stupid) game where you use a slingshot to fling these angry birds across your screen to knock down barriers to kill the green pig heads.
Sounds intriguing, right?  Like something you would lose sleep over?
I am not a big video game kinda girl, and I have never played games on my phone on any regular basis at all, but this's like heroin. Or crack. Or vanilla bean ice cream with hersheys syrup.

Once you try it, you will have to keep go try it!! And then tell me how to get past the level I've been stuck on for days now. Those mean green pig heads are haunting my dreams!!

I Am A Super Shopper, aka I Bought A Guitar and Now I'm Poor

I am not one to drive all over town to save 50cents on a product and I don't usually spend a lot of time scouring the ads for the very best deals and planning my menu around what is on sale each week. However, when I do go grocery shopping, I try to make note of any sales tag in front of items I like. If something is on sale for more than 20% off, I stock up. Which is why you might sometimes find 12 bottles of bbq sauce in my pantry. I try to only stock up on very frequently used items, as there are only two of us in the house and my pantry is only so big.

But I'm thinking I might start planning meals based on sales.

This is a recent sales receipt from Albertsons:

Things to note:

I had $36.93 in savings.
I paid $28.53 total.

SCORE!!!! I saved more than I spent! Without even trying, or planning ahead (except for the big sale on asparagus).

I feel like I should do this EVERY time I go grocery shopping. I suspect there are people out there who do this on a regular basis.

How about you? Are you a coupon shopper, meal-planner-based-on-sales?

Crochet Fun, Anyone?

Is anyone reading this that knows how to crochet?

I am co-hosting a big project in January, working with families to teach them different life skills, like cooking, crocheting, first aid, volunteering, etc.

We'll have separate "stations" for each thing - and I am teaching the crochet station!

I haven't actually crocheted anything since maybe 1997...but I'm sure it's like riding a bike, right? I'm going to practice and then practice teaching someone, to see if I'm even qualified for this. I think it will be easy. I've known how to do it since I was little-maybe 9 or 10. I made some blankets, but I'm not sure that I've made anything beyond that. Once you have the basics down, it's easy to do other things.

I think for my class, I'm going to work on pot holders.
I wanted to do sock monkeys, but I think that would take too long. Like ten hours too long.
Baby blankets was another option, because it's just a really large pot holder right?

SCARVES! Those might be fun to make!!

Who wants to help me strategize? I would love any advice you might have. Feel free to comment below or email me your suggestions.

And if you happen to have a bunch of crochet hooks laying about, I need about 99.

Pipe Cleaner Dalai Lama Extra Credit Project

Andrew called me while I was out and about earlier tonight. He wanted to know where he could find some pipe cleaners.

I gave him the info to find them and said, what are you doing with them?

He said: Logan and I are making the dalai lama for extra credit for anatomy.

Huh?? What kind of teacher asks this of children?

I said, DALAI LAMA? You're making the Dalai Lama?? And then I heard him repeat the same thing, so I just said: Oh. Clean up your mess when you're done.

Apparently he said diorama the first time. But because he thought I was being ridiculous for hearing the wrong word, the second time he said they are making "diarrhea" - but I STILL heard Dalai Lama.

This is a sign of age, right?

For the record - the diorama is boring and it would have been way cool for them to make the Dalai Lama.

Betty Crocker Coupon and Giveaway

Has anyone tried potatoes from a box? We have and I was quite surprised about how "real" they actually taste! I'm trying to cook more from scratch lately, however, these are good to have on hand for those nights when you need a quick side dish.

Betty Crocker makes these two flavors: Creamy Butter and Roasted Garlic and I'm gonna just throw it out there that ya'll should give them a try.

Here's a coupon where you can save $0.55 off one package.
OR - it would be easier to just leave a comment and then win some.

The Prize:
A prize pack that includes two boxes of Betty Crocker Boxed Instant Mashed Potatoes (one Roasted Garlic and one Homestyle Creamy Butter), a serving bowl, a trivet and a serving spoon.
This bowl and trivet are my newest favorite kitchen items!

To Enter:
Leave a comment about your way to make mashed potatoes special. (I love to add chives-yum!)

For Extra Entries:
Leave an extra comment if you are a google follower of my blog.
Leave an extra comment if you entered my other active giveaways in the last 30 days. (see the giveaway tab at top for current giveaways)

Giveaway ends on December 1st at midnight.
Please make sure your profile is public or leave your email in the comment.

Special Episode of The Amazing Race - Birthday Edition

Andrew's 18th bday turned out to be a week-long celebration!
Monday last week, he got his beautiful new guitar.
Tuesday, we went to the casino with my mom.
Wednesday, we went to the casino with my mom, dad, and my nephew.
Thursday and Friday, no school!

Saturday, SURPRISE PARTY!!!!!!!!

I have been planning this for about two months. Andrew didn't know, but claims that he thought I might have a surprise party at some point (whatever).

Andrew had ten friends waiting at one of our favorite thai restaurants.
We had this elaborate setup planned to get him there: He had a guitar lesson with my friends 11-yr old daughter, Cassidy, and so I told him that I was going with her mom to do some fundraising stuff for our volunteer project, and we were all going to meet up for dinner - so just meet us at the restaurant. Great, sure, whatever, mom.

And off I went, 6pm on a Saturday night, wearing a sweatshirt - to do fundraising??
Yep, believable.

Anyway, you know how the rest goes. Here's some photos:
The Kids Table

The Adult Table

Super-cute baby!
The Birthday Banner made an appearance!
Dessert was brought out, and with it was a handful of clues for The Amazing Race, which Andrew knew nothing about...and was confused, shocked, and excited all at once.
Thanks to Fed Ex for having the envelopes that have a zip-pull opener-thing so it was more like the tv show!
Once we got everyone paired up in teams and went over the basic rules: no breaking the law, be respectful in stores, etc (nobody listened to these) and then I tossed the clues on the table and they lunged for them and the second they had one, they sprinted out the door as if their life depended on it. It was a fast exit.
And fast was the theme of the night.
Clue one led them to our local Bullwinkles (kinda like a Chuck E Cheese place) where they had to exchange 38 tickets for their next clue.Andrew's team had this done in just a couple minutes by begging some kid for some of his tickets. Had I really planned better, I would have made it a HUGE number, but I gave them all money for that leg of the race and didn't want them to have to spend any personal money and I suspect Bullwinkles wouldn't have been so happy to help if I had groups of teens harassing their customers.

Clue two led to a park down the road, where there were ribbons tied on the monkey bars. Each team had to untie ribbons until they found one with an X on it.
The next clue led them to Andrews cousins house where they had the biggest banana splits ever:
Other clues had them searching for the total price of a number of items in Fred Meyers, finding my friends daughters in the store for their clue after they get the right total;
Singing to us in the park:
Counting letters that appear on the park sign (557!!);
Filling a water bowl using a little dipping sauce container and water pooled in a fountain area:
And then ending at the bowling alley with the winning team being whoever bowled a strike first!

I originally had a few more clues, but took them out of the race because I felt like it was going to take FOREVER, but instead, we ended up with one team zipping right through everything - Andrew's team - and they finished all the tasks an hour earlier than we could get to the bowling lanes!

But in the tv show, The Amazing Race, sometimes they arrive at a location and find that it's closed and they have to wait until it opens....and that's what happened in last night's race with Andrew's friends. Who knew they would go so fast???

Anyway, the race ended and the team in second place actually won, beating out Andrews team.
Everyone said they had a great time and I even got a few thank you emails today from some of the teens! 

And THAT was proof of a successful birthday party!

Stay Tuned for Something Exciting!

By the time you read this (thank you for scheduled posting blogger!), we will be at Andrews favorite local thai place with 11 of his friends and 8 family friends and we will have just yelled SURPRISE!!!

I have been planning a surprise party for Andrew for about a month and a half and TONIGHT is the night. I don't think he knows--I really hope he doesn't!--but you would think he was trying to thwart my plans given how much he's been hovering around the house the last few days.

I'll share more details tomorrow, but here are some details - it's a 5 hour party and involves dinner and then this:
Wish me luck - this could be super-fun, or super-lame!

Some Advice For Absent Fathers

Try harder.
Try and try and try some more.

And if you choose not to try....don't complain that your child doesn't want anything to do with you. Or that your child won't return your calls.

And don't ever tell the child's mom that you are having a hard time---because whatever you are going through is nothing compared to what it's like to be a single mom. A hard time is having to take your 5 yr old to a food bank and asking for grants for gas to get to work, and having to tell your son that his dad isn't coming after he's been looking forward to a visit for weeks. A hard time is dressing your child in hand-me-downs and hearing about what a fabulous vacation your ex-husband had with his family in another country. A hard time involves your heart breaking over your child's heart breaking.

And don't assume that the child's mother is telling your child negative things about you. Some single moms just sit back and let you dig your own grave...and then you have no reason to be surprised when your child doesn't think highly of you-because we all make our own footprint in the sand.

Oh--and if you miss your child's birthday, or multiple xmas's, don't expect the child to send you a birthday card. Ever.

And just because you have one fun weekend in four years with your child, like, say a fishing trip, don't expect that child to just dismiss and forget all the hateful words you've spewed out to him in the past. Because he won't forget words that a child should never hear a parent say.

And if you happen to marry someone and that new spouse soon thereafter spews mean things to that child-I can assure you that it will take a lot for the child to forgive your new spouse, especially when your new beloved pretends nothing happened.

And while you have your child visiting for a rare weekend, and you let him know you are having to struggle to buy dinner, but then ask your child if you can borrow money from him for beer - mark that down as a time when you have lost a bit of respect.

I could go on...but if there were an absent parent (mothers can be assholes too) reading this - I suspect they will not acknowledge that they have done anything like this, and would never, of course.

I have no words to express how frustrating it is to have to deal with someone who is so selfish.
As a mom who is devoted to her child, I just can not grasp the concept of a parent who doesn't try their hardest to show their child they love them more than anything in the world. I would give up my last breath for my son, and it's difficult to believe that his father can't take the time to mail even a card, much less a present, for his 18th birthday.

Mind-boggling, right???

The One Where.....

This is the one where I have nothing to say.
It's funny cause on this date in 2008, I also posted the same problem.
And in 2009....SAME issue (but one day later)!!

Apparently, all of the post-Andrew-birthday hangover hits on this day and I'm incapable of writing all of the amazing words that typically keep you riveted to my blog.

Since I can't entertain you verbally, here's a great picture that was taken my senior year--my GLAM SHOT!!!
I'm not kidding...I did this!!

Look at that hair!! Yikes, and those eye such a young age-those eyebrows were there!

And is that really supposed to look like I'm wearing a ball gown? Cause someone failed here - I'm not wearing a shirt (well, I think I was but we somehow pulled it down below this beautiful scene) and they just draped this fabric over me. They did a horrible job of it. Whoever the fabric draper was deserves to be fired---they were not good at their job!

Please note my perfect and lovely teeth though!! And this is proof that my teeth really were aligned at one point in life. My jaw is slowly shifting over time and I have an overbite, my teeth in the front no longer touch and my jaw is defunct. I sound like an ogre....sometime I feel like one.

But not back on that day. On that day, I felt glamorous for my glam shots.
Go ahead, feel free to leave a comment admitting that you had this done too!! I know you did!!!

Crappy Andrew Wins All The Time!

Andrew is 18!!

And in our family, that means we are due for a trip to the casino!!!  So off we went...and, in continuing with our theme of "Andrew is the luckiest boy ever," Andrew did a bunch of this:

I have no idea how to play craps, but apparently Andrew was on a winning streak with the dice.

And he walked away with a bunch of these:
Better than doubloons.

We went to the casino with grandma on Tuesday night, where grandma won $125 at a slot machine. Andrew walked away (after two hours of playing) with $8 extra dollars. Kaylen walked away $33 less than she went in with.
We love the bonus games!

Then today we went with grandma, grandpa and my nephew Tyler, and Andrew had some action at the craps table (hence "crappy Andrew") and walked out with $280. I have no stats on the rest of us because nothing we did compared to that so why even bother talking about it.

Exciting action shot!
Yay for Andrew!

*Yes, I am aware that gambling is not necessarily a good hobby to teach young adults, however, Andrew is the most careful person with his money and I have no qualms about him donating a little to the native americans whose land we stole and in return we gave them a tiny bit of land where they wisely built a place where they can steal the white mans money back while making that white ma think it's fun. Haha, joke's on you, white man!

**All the photos are blurry because I'm not entirely certain you are allowed to take photos in the casino so I pretended to be on my phone each time.

A Happy Birthday Post for My One And Only Andrew!

Wow, remember these days?
I loved this sweater he's wearing!!
I can barely remember a time in life when I didn't have Andrew by my side. I literally went from being a kid in my parents house, to having a kid in my own house. And it was only possible because I happened to be lucky enough to get the best little boy ever.

When Andrew turned one, I got this large plastic Happy Birthday banner from some craft store, and it's been up at every one of his birthdays (minus the birthday in Korea). I wasn't that organized about it back in the early years, but it was there.

Here's my 3 yr old little boy.
This was the year we held the party at the local skating rink. For a three year old. Hmmm...most three year olds aren't known for their exceptional skating skills and I'm not sure we really considered that in advance, but it was still a lot of fun. One of the most memorable moments from this party was that one of his friends from daycare came, she was maybe four, and her mom just dropped her off and left. A 4 yr a skating rink. We spent a lot of time babysitting her-she was like a newborn giraffe with tall legs and she could NOT stand on roller skates, but she really wanted to try. The entire party. It was a party of making sure that little girl didn't leave with marks on her.

My young Andrew was four when we moved for me to attend college and he helped make my college years fun in a way that most college kids don't experience. I wasn't out boozing it up, I was spending entire evenings pulling out a tub with 90 action figures and recreating large and detailed battle scenes from Andrew's head. Or we would unfold the couch-bed and have a movie night: me, Andrew, a white cat, a black cat, and 56 beanie babies all cuddled up together under the covers. Or we would both ready our backpacks in the morning and then head off to school together.
Toy Story - best movie ever.
Andrew has touched many lives. He was always a fun kid to have around and he could hang with me in any situation. My friend Courtney (below on the left) offered to babysit for me a couple times in my time of need and I took him right on over to her dorm and they set up a great game of hide-and-seek on two different floors of the dorm building. I had another friend who lived in a sorority house and she babysat during one of my tests one night and I nearly had to drag him out of that house. Apparently, boys like to be with a house full of sorority sisters.

Andrew has enriched my life beyond words. He's taught me how to love unconditionally (though he has tested this well), he's taught me to stretch my imagination (how long can you really play with action figures??), he's shown me that the best things in life are not things you buy-it's the moments in life, because my moments with him far outweigh any item I could ever possibly purchase. My love for him grows every day and I can't imagine how anyone survives this world without someone like Andrew in their lives.

I would not be who I am today without Andrew being who he is along every step of the way, and for this, I am grateful. I am grateful for my Andrew.

It is so amazing that he is so wonderful in every possible way. My biggest gripe is that he can't hang a towel after he showers....really...that's it?? He's just got so many wonderful traits about him.

He's kind-hearted and he cares for others.

He's oh-so-smart!!!

He has determination like you wouldn't believe.
The year he got Whiskers the cat for his bday!

He is funny, but not always because he means to be (haha-remember when you thought the SS on a car was a 55 and pondered how that company had been around for 55 years. Ha!).

He can cook! He feels so at ease in the kitchen, I don't ever worry about him making meals for his future family.
In the midst of a sock fight with cousin Alyssa. Andrew is the long-haired one on the couch!

He's creative - he has great opinions on things and often helps me problem-solve.

A 2-night bday excursion that involved a rental van, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, and a LOT of boy smells.
He loves to read (I would have had to send him away otherwise) and values the need for books. Some of my favorite memories across every single age with him has been curling up in his toddler bed reading book after book, or taking books with us on vacation and just sitting down in the shade and reading side-by-side.
Grandpa and Andrew - 2009

He tries really hard to be the best he can be.

I have loved him from the moment I saw him, and I will love him forever.

Happy 18th Birthday to my bouncing baby boy, Andrew B! You are the very best and I wish you the very best.


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