Monday, June 30, 2008

Tethered

I like to think that I multitask when I'm on the phone--sweeping or mopping the kitchen, or cleaning out a junk drawer, or switching over my spring decorating accents to summer ones, but the truth is that I don't. I might unload the dishwasher, or fold a load of laundry that I've heaped on my bed, but that's about as far as I can take it. Generally I get so wrapped up in my conversation, that I sit and listen (or talk).

We have one of those cordless phones that has two receivers. Obviously, we got both of the receivers at the same time. Within a week, both batteries went completely dead--unable to hold a charge.

Fortunately, I keep a corded phone on hand, in the event that we loose power. Cell service is spotty for me at my house, and since I use Tracfone*, I don't have unlimited minutes, so that's another reason I don't consider it to be a substitute for the landline.

So, for the last few days, I've been tethered.

There's one phone that works, and it's plugged into the outlet upstairs. That means that each time the phone rings, I have to run upstairs to answer it, and then sit there while I chat. I don't really miss the multitasking, but I do miss the ability to get around my house--get a beverage if I want one, negotiate peace between the siblings, or what have you.

I would have gone to buy new batteries for the phones today, but my car was getting a tune up, so I am not only tethered, but stranded.

To add to that, I am suffering from a bit of a stomach ailment, so I was tethered, stranded, and ailing.

And complaining?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kyle's Brother



Kyle and William are fast friends. They didn't really have a choice.

William was born eight months after Kyle. Lee was one of my first friends here in Connecticut, and having two little guys close in age, we soon began to swap babysitting favors (as well as just hanging out together with the little ones in tow).

At first they seemed worlds apart in age, but soon they were able to play. By the time they were toddlers, any time they saw each other, there would be an excited, "William!!!" answered by an equally enthusiastic, "Kyle!!!"

At three and four, they play well together (when they aren't beating on each other like true brothers do), and instead of being a burden, babysitting has actually become a bit of a blessing.

Kyle has stayed the night over there quite a few times when I needed help, and William has stayed the night here.

One time after Kyle had been over there a couple times in a week, William was asking about him and told Lee, "Kyle is my brother." Lee has called Kyle her fifth child for a while. It's reached the point where neither of us has to be sure that the house is in order or that we are serving something other than PB&J for lunch (or dinner) when they're around. It's easy and natural.

Recently, I've realized that not only is Kyle William's brother, but I am his mother in the same fashion. When we are all together, either boy is as likely to ask either mom for help. I walked into Lee's house yesterday, and William came up and asked me, "Do you know where my swimsuit is?" Later that day, he came up to me (while his mom was also on the porch), and asked me to put on his shoes. Similarly, Kyle asked William's dad to refill his juice when his own dad and I were only 2 feet further away.

The family comparisons don't stop there. In the four years that I've lived here, Lee and I have experienced the ups and downs of motherhood, stressful situations outside the home, fun trips (camping with our kids and getting away as couples), and just a whole lot of daily life. These kinds of ties have cemented us together in a way deeper than friends. There's a connection there and a knowledge that we are always there to help when needed.

Lee's my sister, too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Destination Disney -- Fireworks Shows



Before I get to this week's carnival, I have a few things that you might be interested in. It's the commercial before the movie, if you will.

Someone at Disney contacted me and wanted me to pass on the information about the new Disney YouTube channel. When you're over there, find out how you can win a trip for 4 to Disneyland, including a night in the Dream Suite in the castle.

One of our Destination Disney participants, Living Life Where Shoes are Optional, is trying to start a new carnival, Mondays with the Mouse. Those of you who were sad that we slowed down here should check it out. She's a Florida local, so she's sharing some of her favorite tips and tricks and inviting others to do the same.

And finally, my Disney buddy Lori is a great photographer. Many of the pictures that are posted on our Disney Mom Blogger Flickr page are hers. Anyway, she's been discussing photography and is holding a Friday photo carnival on her blog Just Pure Lovely.


Now back to our regularly scheduled carnival. . . .


Which fireworks shows have you seen? Which are skippable? Did you find a great place to view it? How early did you arrive?

When I was there in April, we saw the Epcot Illuminations show. Our seats couldn't have been better. We were ushered to a patio right on the water just minutes before the show began. We were so close that we could feel the heat from the fire.




They tried to have a real program here, telling the story of the earth or something. It was okay, but I can see young kids getting antsy, but then again, Epcot isn't really a "young kids" sort of place, so I think that they've stuck with the informative Epcot theme with this one.

What about you? Link up your fireworks' shows tips and tricks, raves and rants, or as always if you don't have a blog, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

The next carnival will be July 11. It's a photo carnival and the topic is "Wow!" It could be an expression on someone's face, something you saw that you couldn't believe, or anything. Disney is a "Wow!" kind of place.

You can find the complete schedule of upcoming topics HERE, and just click the Disney label below to read all of the past posts and carnivals about Disneyworld.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Call Me Mr. Greenjeans

Kyle was admiring the corn in our garden. He was excited in a typically Kyle way, "The corn is growing so big! You're doing such a good job!" (Then he actually said something about I should have a corn blog--but when I asked him what a blog was, he couldn't tell me. That cracked me up. He's FOUR.)

Actually, Mother Nature is doing an excellent job. Our garden didn't do very well last year. It was pretty cold and wet, so the tomatoes just didn't ripen. This year, these moderately warm sunny days and brief rainshowers that we've been having regularly are an amateur (and lazy) gardener's dream. The corn seems to be growing taller by the hour.

I have high hopes for the corn. I'm not holding my breath on the many yellow flowers on the tomato plants, but if they ripen to maturity and have that ripe sweet tart flavor of a perfect garden tomato, Kyle and I will be in heaven.

Earlier this week, we ate broccoli that we harvested from our garden.



I also made up that pizza pasta full of peppers and onions (and cheese and pepperoni) based loosely on a recipe that Barb posted regularly.

This post is quickly becoming quite random. I took these pictures on the green in New Haven when I took my friends there, and I just think that they are cute.

Edited Friday to add that my Disney buddy Lori just started a Friday photo carnival, so I'm including these cute photos in there. Even Kyle said, "That's my favorite," when he saw the one of him looking up at me. I guess if I ever did any photo editing, I could lighten it up? Maybe I need to be reading Lori's blog as she explores photography.




I figure that poor quality blogging will keep me from getting too big for my bloggy britches--the aforementioned green jeans--as a result of the cool events I've been a part of lately.

Seriously--a conference call with Nicholas Sparks? A cool NYC press event? A trip to DisneyWorld? and that call with Janet Evans that I was just on was a small affair including none other than Jill Asher (whose blogs I've been stalking--particularly NYC moms and NJ Moms), and Dooce. Super-bloggers and an Olympian who still holds many of the records in her events--who would've thunk it?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For Harrison

I wrote about the fun part of my day in NYC yesterday, but now I have to force myself to write about the hard part.

Hearing Gary Neal's story about his son Harrison--who experienced respiratory failure leading to his death after mixing a prescription drug with over the counter cold medicine when he was seventeen--made me feel so ill-equipped to deal with the teen years. More than feeling unequipped it made me afraid--afraid of what's to come.

This is coming from me--a non-worrying, laid-back kind of mom--and yet the facts are there. Being a parent--that's what hard. Thinking about the decisions that my children will make with their underdeveloped teen brains (click through that link to read an interesting study) makes me want to lock them in their rooms until they are 25, but of course that's not possible.

You can hear Gary Neal's story in his own words here. Sitting across the table from him, as well as his daughter (Harrison's big sister) Jordan, I heard about everything that he did once he realized his son had a problem to try to help him, including counseling, random drug testing, and an intensive outpatient rehab. I heard about a normal kid, a good kid who enjoyed spending time with his family and was involved in charitable work, who happened to have a drug problem.

Hearing Harrison's story put a face to the problem. It made me resolve not to become a part of the problem and to take the steps that I shared on 5 Minutes for Mom to protect my kids and other kids who come into my home. What's more, it strengthened my resolve to stay educated--to know what my kids are facing and to talk with them about it.

Dr. Anthony Wolf is a teen psychologist. He shared some wonderful tips on communicating with your teens, which I felt like I could immediately apply to my relationship with Amanda.

  • Persist--Even if your child doesn't seem to be listening to you or value what you've told them, keep talking to them. Studies show that the teen who rolls their eyes at you, and taps their foot and sighs, waiting impatiently for you to finish "your speech" take the information that you have shared into account when they are making decisions.
  • Stay focused--Don't let your child distract you from the issue at hand. Don't respond to their efforts to change the issue or their objections: "You don't trust me. Why would you think that I would do that?" Know what you want to say, and say it.
  • End on a high note--In belaboring the point by demanding a response from your child, we weaken our message. "Now tell me you won't ever use prescription drugs. You won't, will you? Do you know anyone who is doing this? What would you do when faced with that choice?" Trust that they are hearing and respecting our information, even if their actions don't reflect it.

I admire the Neal family for taking the bold (and difficult) step to share their tragedy so that others might avoid the same. That's what a strong parenting community is all about--that which we are building in the blogosphere and over cups of coffee everywhere. If we share our triumphs and our tragedies in equal measure and with equal honesty, we can build stronger families. We can't change the horrible things that have happened to us, but we can use them to learn and to educate others.

*****

Amy posted her thoughts and more details on her blog.

Olympic Fever? Celebrity Circus?

Are you counting down the days to the Summer Olympics?

What about Celebrity Circus? Have you tuned in?

Tomorrow I will be on a conference call (actually some sort of Web event that I'm going to have to figure out before 4pm EST) with Janet Evans, multi-gold medal winner. She is also currently starring on Celebrity Circus on NBC, and is a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson's new Thanks Mom campaign.

Do you have any questions to ask Janet Evans about motherhood (she has an 18 month old daughter), competitive athletic training for children, the Olympics, or Celebrity Circus? Leave me a comment, and I'll try to get them answered.

I Heart New York

Leaving NYC--the George Washington Bridge out my window

One of the reasons we can't imagine leaving New England is our proximity to New York City. We absolutely love it. We live about 70 miles away, which means we can take the train into Grand Central station and be there in about 80 minutes (80 minutes of reading, or relaxing, or chatting--quietly in honor of "the code" of business travelers), or in about an hour and a half if we drive (the last 30 minutes of which occurs in the final 5 miles once we enter the borough of Manhattan).

We usually take the family into "the City," as it's known in these parts, at least twice a year. Terry and I go in on our own every few months, and I've been able to go in with girlfriends a few times a year as well. What do we do? Walk, people-watch, eat, see Broadway shows, go to bookstores--we just soak it in. The first time we took the kids was in December 2004, a few months after we moved here. We had taken the train in and then walked through one of the tunnels. As we reached street-level, six-year-old Amanda's eyes lit up. "Do you like it?" I asked. "Of course I like it. It's New York City, what's not to love?" she answered. That about sums it up for us. I don't think that any of us have stopped experiencing the wonder.

Yesterday I was invited to be a part of the new campaign launched by Abbott Labs and the Partnership for a Drug Free America called Not in My House, which focuses specifically on the rising use of prescription drug abuse among teens. Later today, I will post an informational post about all that I learned and the lessons I took away from that inspiring afternoon, but first, I'll focus on the light side of the day.

The bloggers who were going to be covering the event were invited to lunch at Markt by the PR firm Remedy. We met Lisa and Carol, who were interested to hear all about Mommy Blogging--specifically why we blog and about how the community connects. Natalie from Blue Suit Moms was there, and I got to reunite with two of my Disney Mom Blogger Mixer buddies: Gabrielle, Kirtsy co-founder and Design Mom blogstar, and Amy P. who runs Long Island Parentsource and blogs at One Mom's Memos. I also got to meet Kim from Jogging in Circles.

Gabrielle, Amy, me, Natalie, Kim
(Can I say that we are one awesome looking group?)

In lieu of taking the effort to pull all of my thoughts together in an eloquently cohesive way, let me share a bulleted list of topics we covered and observations I made:
  • Marketers are still taking note of the buying power of Moms. So many of them don't know how to reach out to us, but they want to tap in to the market. Blogs are a first-step for many of them to figure out how to use word-of-mouth marketing.
  • I'm old. This realization comes to me each time I meet these young whippersnappers in PR. I'll get over it, but seriously, when did it happen? I'm not a fresh young college graduate any more I'm the mother of a tween. I've been married for fifteen years. I'm closer to 40 than to 30.
  • Social networking media is moving too fast for us. My Space, Facebook, Twitter--there's something new each month, and it's exhausting to keep up with it all. Kim mentioned Plurk, which I had not even heard of.
  • I love meeting up with bloggers (and marketers, for that matter). Moving fast or not, it's so interesting to have a front-row seat in all the excitement, and although we each come from different perspectives--how we blog, why we blog, where we blog--there is a common experience that instantly bonds us. I guess that always happens with moms, but blogging moms have even more of a connection.
  • How someone reacts to being stuck in a rainstorm says a lot about them. We've had so many thunderstorms spring up here in New England over the last two weeks, and in spite of that, I let the beautiful clear day convince me that I didn't need to take my umbrella with me. Just before we were to leave at 3:00 pm, we saw thunder and lightening through the cool modern Chelsea penthouse windows where the event took place. Gabrielle and I walked together in the rain for four or five blocks to the garage where we had both just happened to park. We were ready to leave, and although none of us had an umbrella, we just hit the streets. When I wondered aloud if we should go for it, Gabrielle said, "I'm not really worried about it." Gabrielle is one of those together women, who somehow spreads her confidence and laid-back cool by default instead of intimidating others. It's a great talent to have. So, instead of scurrying back to the garage, which I probably would have done if I was alone, Gabrielle and I chatted as we dodged raindrops at only a slightly-faster-than normal gait. How sensible. What use is running? We got a little bit wet, and had we been further away, probably would have gotten a lot wet, but running frantically would not have made a bit of difference.
  • I really love New York. It bears repeating.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Popping the Question

In honor of the June 24 release of Definitely, Maybe Universal Home Video is giving away a 3-pack of romantic DVDs including Definitely, Maybe; Love, Actually; and Notting Hill.

All you have to do is submit your proposal story on 5 Minutes for Mom. As an intro to the post, I wrote mine and Terry's story. Go check it out--I bared the deeply disturbed soul of a twenty-one- year-old old maid and included some pictures of us through the years--from pre-engagement to our wedding to our anniversary trip last month.

If you don't want to enter, you can still find out more about the movie and get a coupon for $5 off at the Definitely, Maybe site.

Now It's Summer

I had been sliding into summer, but today it's really here.

Amanda's last day of school was Thursday, but Friday our visitors were here, so that wasn't a normal day.

This is summer:

This morning I let myself sleep in until 7:00am.

It's 9:00am, and my tween is still sleeping (either that or she's reading in bed).

Kyle and I are still in PJs.

I'm buzzing from my third cup of coffee.

I do have quite a few things on my plate for this week, but because my summer days start slowly, it doesn't bother me a bit.

Today we will try to get to the library to return some books and stock up on some others.

I need to get to the grocery store after I figure out what I'm going to cook the next couple nights for dinner.

But now I guess I should just focus on showering and getting dressed.

******

I had a blast putting together the Creative Summer Days event at 5 Minutes for Mom. Today is the last day to enter, so if any of these products sound like something you or your kids would love, enter today on the individual posts:


csglgbutton2.jpg


  1. The first creative idea is to Cook! with the opportunity to win one of 5 copies of Yum-O! The Family Cookbook.

  2. The second challenge is to Play and Learn with two winners receiving two computer games -- Mia's Reading Adventure: The Bugaboo Bugs and JumpStart Advanced Preschool World.

  3. In our third giveaway, you can provide a creative summer adventure for your child if you win one of 5 Giftventure gift certificates.

  4. One of you could win a great prize pack to help fuel your child's imagination from education.com.

  5. 5 of you will give your child the safety to Explore with a cell phone package from kajeet.

  6. Are you always trying to encourage your kids to eat their veggies? Enter to win one of 5 Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden books.

  7. Our seventh giveaway invites those of you who can travel to New York City on August 2 the opportunity to Experience Walking with the Dinosaurs (sponsored by One2One Network).

  8. Education.com is sponsoring another great prize pack to keep your kids' creative juices flowing this summer. Enter here.

  9. Three of you could win 2 new books from Maple Tree Press designed to encourage your kids to Exercise!

  10. One of you will win three CDs that will encourage your whole family to Sing and Dance.

  11. Three of you will win a set of three audiobook CDs to Listen to as a family.

  12. We have five Trip Flix DVDs so that the whole family can Travel (Virtually).

The Wonder of Words

Aren't words wonderful?

Something about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) opens something up in me. I still don't have the time and mental energy lately to fully develop those thoughts, but I'm working on it.

I've been reading a lot lately, and reading beautiful words opens up those same feelings for me.

I just visited a blog that prompted me to leave this comment:

I'm not sure what to make of this post--I think it's quintessentially Beck--that alluring combination of wistfully sad, brutally honest, and charmingly amusing.

Go read her posts Jiggity Jog (which sparked my comment) and Stillwater (about the role that books and a particular author played in her life).

Then you can click over to 5 Minutes for Mom and read my post about books as Comfort Food.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Tale of Two Six Trips



Martha is my no-longer-stealth (blog-reading) former college roommate.

I visited Martha first. Another college friend was getting married, so I stayed with her and her husband and baby Hannah.

A few years later when Amanda was born months after we moved to Portland, Martha said, "I'm coming to visit you! I'm going to help you with the baby, and see your new house." So she left her two kids at home with Dad, and came to visit.

When we moved back to Houston a few years later, I extended an invitation for her to come see me now that I was back in the state. I encouraged her to bring the kids and escape the Texas heat and swim in our new pool, and they did.

The following summer, Amanda and I returned the trip and hung out with her and her family in Plano.

After Kyle was born, Martha said, "I have to come visit you again. I came to see Amanda when she was born, and it wouldn't be fair if I didn't come see Kyle!" As it turns out, by that point, we were in the throes of preparing for our move to Connecticut, so she was there as I was sorting through boxes.

When we moved up here, she hoped that they'd be able to visit, because they've been wanting to come to New York City as a family. They spent four days in New York City, and then came here for two. Kyle immediately took a shine to 13-year-old Hannah. He kept staring at her braces, and said that he was going to get some and go to Hannah's house so that she could put them on him. When we got out of the car to go to the restaurant, he asked to hold her hand instead of mine in the parking lot--a rule he is pretty good about obeying.

When we got back home, 8-year-old Jason was so pleased to be older than someone in the house that he played with Kyle all afternoon. Later he tried to console him when he had a dramatic fit at the dairy where we get ice cream.





Big brother Michael, 11, introduced Kyle to his Pokemon figures, and liked playing with his trains.

When Amanda got home from school, she was amazingly anti-social. By Friday afternoon, they were all playing outside together (yes, even the teenager).



They say that people experience a special bond when they face death together.

Friday afternoon we went to New Haven. Steve wanted to see the Knights of Columbus museum that is there. I think I jotted something down wrong in the directions, so we had already backtracked, but then Mapquest failed me. Due to some one-way streets, a river, and a convergence of highways, we were having trouble getting to the intersection of Union and State streets. We finally got to the point that we could see where we were supposed to be, but the sign said, "No Right Turn." Frustrated I said, "Too bad, I'm turning right. That's where we need to go!"

A beat too late, Martha said, "Jennifer, it's a one-way street!"

Fortunately we were at a good spot in the traffic pattern, so as three lanes of cars were coming at me, I had the chance to do a quick U-turn.

The children laughed, and we eventually made it to the museum and the town green in New Haven as well. We capped off the day by grilling and chilling.

She and her family are now on an airplane back home to Plano, Texas. I guess it's my turn to visit her in Texas now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fish are Friends, Not Food

Okay, the title has not much to do with this post, except that I like it. I always love a quiz, and I just saw this one at Susanne's blog.




What Your Fridge Says About You



You like to be surrounded by things you love. You aren't exactly greedy, but you can be materialistic at times.



You tend to be a fairly thrifty person. You splurge occasionally, but you're mostly a saver.



You are a very adventurous person. You love to try new things, and you get bored very easily.



You are responsible, together, and mature. You act like an adult, even when you don't feel like it.



You are likely single - and spending many nights alone at home.



On a more serious note, Jo-Lynne is asking Got Food? It made me wonder--have higher food (and gas) prices changed your habits lately?

I am thinking about it. For example, if the sole errand I have to run is to return my $1 a night Redbox rental, I just keep it another day. I am definitely more conscious about where I'm driving and why, unless I just want to go somewhere out of the way, in which case I go anyway.

As far as food, I do look at the prices. There are certain things that I only buy if they are on sale, and so if something is not a necessity, I just do without if the price seems too high to me.

What about you? Are you doing without because of the higher prices?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spring Reading Thing 2008 Wrap-up


Here was my dilemma I posted for my SRT list:

Since I've been writing my book column at 5 Minutes for Mom (almost a year now!), it's much harder to predict what I might be reading three months in advance, so my Fall into Reading participation was sort of "off."

These are my original predictions and I've added the results in bold. I had some ambitious goals--trying to accurately pinpoint what I'd read--and I am quite pleased overall.

See you in the Fall!

These are some of the fiction titles sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I predict that I will read 6 to 10 novels with many of them from this list hopefully. Read 8 and listened to one audiobook--GOAL!

Payback
by Melody Carlson--Not read
Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck--Review
Girls in Trucks--Yes
Carpool Diem--Read half of it, and stopped because it didn't grab me.
The Host by Stephanie Meyer--Review
Mrs. Perfect--Review
Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert--Started and didn't enjoy--somewhat reviewed HERE
Harry Potter number 5 (and maybe 6 and 7)--Nope, but my daughter just started #1, so I gotta get with it again, because I want to read ahead of her.

Additional:

Certain Girls -- Review
One Good Turn -- review
The Thirteenth Tale -- review
The Quickie by James Patterson (audiobook) -- review
Sweet Caroline -- review

Biography/Memoir/Humor/Travel--I predict that I will read 7 or more from this genre. Read 6 (I'm not sure what I was thinking with that goal?)--Good enough.

The Middle Place (I'm halfway through this one now)--Review
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs--Review
Three Cups of Tea--Review
Three Weeks with my Brother by Nicholas Sparks--No
The Film Club--No (never got the review copy, although I still really want to read it)
Beautiful Boy--No
The Woman Who is Always Tan and Has a Flat Stomach--Review
Honeymoon with my Brother--Review
Road Map to Holland--Review (great book and you can still enter to win a copy through Sunday)


Other Non-Fiction--I predict 4 to 8 of these will get read. Read 2 1/2 books and only 1 1/2 were on the list. Fell down on nonfiction that time. I'm okay with that.

Sacred Marriage--Half of it--Review
The DNA of Relationships--No
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World--No
Experiencing the Resurrection -- Read most of it
Mom, You Make it All Better--No, never got the review copy
Date Night in a Minivan--Review
Gorgeously Green--No
The Busy Mom's Devotional-Didn't really read it, just looked through it.
The Next Level--No
Generation NeXt Marriage--Read parts of it.

Additional:

Trading Places by Les and Leslie Parrot -- review

With Amanda--Didn't reach this goal.
A Wrinkle in Time --I started it, but Amanda read it all and has requested the next books in the series, which I picked up.

We did all read Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach together (review).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blankie

It used to be a white and barely blue and pink variegated color. It is now a dingy gray, even fresh out of the washing machine.

It used to be tightly crocheted with an open weave pattern on either end. It now has bigger holes and a stretched appearance.

It used to be an it. He slept with a blanket--with the devotion and constancy that some of us show our God--but still it was just his comforter, his transitional object.

Somehow over the last year, it has become she. His blanket is now Blankie. Blankie gives and asks for hugs and kisses when I am giving them to Kyle at night. Blankie does things while Kyle is away from his room during the day: "Blankie is still sleeping." "Blankie's going to play with the dinosaur while I'm gone."

At first I just thought it was cute and imaginative. Recently I've only come to recognize it for what it really is. It's magic.

The magic of childhood affects everything that they touch, but especially that which they love. There are rules that we as adults are forced to accept: "Toys don't talk. That's just a blanket. Walk, don't run." If our children accepted these rules--adhered to these rules--there would be no magic, and I think that life around my house would be a lot shabbier.

He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real, shabbiness doesn't matter.

from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

*****

New Jersey Moms blog
by SV Moms is hosting a Writing Motherhood book club today, based on the book by Lisa Garrigues (a book I've been meaning to review). They invited us to link up and share our thoughts on a time your child broke the rules, or an outrageous or inexcusable mom moment (of which I have a large sad store of ideas).

The idea for this particular post was sparked after reading Monica Brand's evocative post about her daughter's beloved bear.

BooMama's Before and After Featuring My New Living Area

BooMama's at it again. She's inviting us to make some goals and let all the world see what we need to do to create House Beautiful. Click on over to see the full explanation.

This is perfect for me right now.

Here's the story--
We live in New England in the kind of home that all New Englanders want to have--a center hall Colonial (okay, a few people want a Cape Cod), but the kind of houses that I bought, and loved, in Texas--brand new, bright, open living areas--just aren't the going thing (certainly not in our price range anyway).

It has a fantastic porch (which many people envied in the original BooMama Tour of Homes), which is great, but it makes a dark pieced up house with low ceilings even darker. After living here almost four years, this spring we just knocked out the wall between our library and the too-small living room. We also got the floors refinished. We LOVE it. It's much more open. Oh yeah, and the new furniture doesn't hurt much either (see below).


Before

After (after remodel AND after all my hard work)

And AFTER with new furniture (the last picture was taken looking into the new open space there)





Here's what I need to do:

I need some artwork to give the room a finished feel. I really love it, but it needs that to pull it together. I'm actually thinking of framing and enlarging some photos I've taken, and so I've delayed, but now I'm putting it out there as a real goal. New rugs would be nice (I do have the old rug down now in the living area, but I don't love it), but I'll have to see if there's budget for that.

See you on July 25.

Sliding into Summer

Yes, Amanda's still in school, so summer has not yet officially begun here. I imagine that there are a few other Northeasterners still in school, but I know the rest of you have been out a week or three. I have been gradually sliding into summer ever since May.

First, BSF was over (I will be returning as a leader again next year). That's always creates a big let up of my perceived responsibilities and busyness level, and leaves Monday nights free.

Then, we went on our vacation, and I do think that lying around reading and soaking up the sun did wonders to skyrocket me into that relaxed mindset of summer, even though when I returned Kyle still had another week and a half of preschool and Amanda still had three whole weeks. I also feel so summery each time I look down at my tanned arms.

Last week, due to "extreme weather!" Amanda had early dismissal from school on Monday and Tuesday, and no soccer practice on Monday either. I understand the school thing, since some schools don't have air conditioning, and it was over 90 degrees both days, but I don't really understand why they couldn't practice soccer for 60 minutes at 4:30pm. As I said in my newest giveaway post at 5 Minutes for Mom called "Excercise!" summertime is meant for running and playing and getting sweaty. I enjoyed having her home early as a little taste of what it was going to be like to have her around every day.

So, for whatever reason (and after writing it down, I think it's the relaxation that seeped into my blood on vacation), these last few weeks have been a delightful slide into summer. Amanda has early dismissal on Wednesday and Thursday, so today is her last full day of school. We don't have many plans. I do want to sign Amanda up for a couple camps, but I haven't done it yet, because we were unsure about visitors schedules and our own vacation schedule (which I think is still up in the air as well).

But most of all I'm looking forward to no schedules, no practices or extra-curriculars, days on end where I don't have to leave the house (and with gas costing over $4.25 here in Connecticut, I can easily adapt to that). Maybe the kids will sleep late, or even if they don't we'll lounge in PJs, and I'll let them gorge on TV in the mornings while I spend time on the computer. I like that setup. It works for me.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Monday, June 16, 2008

She's Not Perfect

When Amanda was born, she was perfect. My labor was pretty short, so her head was nice and round, not misshapen from a long trip down the birth canal. Her cheeks were round and full, and her skin was smooth and rosy.

At her two week doctor's appointment all was well, but at her two month appointment the doctor noticed her swollen eyelid. Over the next month or so her left eyelid was swollen and a little bruised looking. Concerned (or just nosy!) strangers and relatives had questioned me about what it was. They gave me advice, "It's probably a clogged duct. Use cold or hot compresses," or simply asked, "What happened to her eye?"

The problem is that I didn't know. The doctor had looked at it and had an idea about what it might be, but that she'd take another look at her four-month appointment. In those two months, what I later found out was a capillary hemangioma--a vascular tumor on the top eyelid of her left eye--became more and more obvious--sometimes it was redder and more swollen than other days, but it was always something that was "not normal." I had to field questions and advice from strangers without having a definitive answer as the doctor was waiting to see what would develop in the next two months.

When we returned to the doctor two months later, she confirmed that it was what she had thought. I asked her what caused it, and she said without thinking, "It's just a birth defect."

"A defect," I thought. "My first-born child is defective. She's not perfect."

That led to a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist who we saw at least every eight weeks, and frequently more often than that. We patched her "good eye" for half her waking hours so that the tumor wouldn't rob that eye of its sight. Before she was six months old, she was prescribed her first pair of glasses. The glasses on such a young baby and the patching along with the appearance of her eye continued to attract questions and stares.

As we drove out of the doctor's office after I had picked up her first pair of glasses, silent tears welled up. "My baby," I thought. Loss brought the tears to my eyes. Loss over what, I'm still not sure--the idea of a perfect baby, the problems that wearing glasses might create for her (and me), concern for the long term affect on her vision?

When we changed doctors when Amanda was about four years old, all signs of the tumor were gone (they generally shrink on their own)--so much so that the doctor would not even had known if I hadn't have told him.

She still wears glasses, but at nine-and-a-half years old, so do many of her classmates. She no longer has a visible imperfection, but I've long since given up the idea of having a perfect child.

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Reading Jennifer Graf Groneberg's book Road Map to Holland brought up these memories. I reviewed the book over at 5 Minutes for Mom today. You can win one of three copies, too. Please go check out this book that I could not recommend more highly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

This and That--From my Front Porch

Not to brag (too much), but weather.com just informed me it's 79 degrees and sunny (feels like 79 degrees) here on my front porch. Well, they don't have a weather station here on my front porch, and I suppose it's cooler because of the shade and the delightful breeze, but it's a gorgeous day nonetheless.

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I've been out here for 2 hours with my little laptop friend, working on some Creative Summer Days giveaway posts. It's another of my little brainchildren that Janice and Susan are so gracious to let me produce at 5 Minutes for Mom. Have you checked out these giveaways? Lots of fun, and some really great products and ideas I've enjoyed, which will hopefully give you some inspiration to chase away the "Mom, I'm bored" syndrome.


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I am holding tightly on to their coattails at 5 Minutes for Mom, hoping that their success will continue to bring new opportunities to me as well. I have been spending a good bit of time the last couple weeks on two special new projects. It's a secret for now, but hopefully there will be big news announced soon. I am so pleased at the opportunities that I have been offered simply because a little over a year ago Janice was looking for someone to do reviews and the fact that I reviewed books at Snapshot popped into her head, so I started the column over there, and then, and then, and then. . . .

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On a more serious note, I was just multi-tasking (as I always do when I'm on the computer), and saw a yahoo headline that Tim Russert just died. It literally made my heart stop when I saw that headline. It can happen at anyone to any time, and as I (and my family members) get older, I think it's hard not to be stricken with that grave thought.

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I can't end on that note, so here are some recipes that I've come across this week in the blogosphere that I hope to try out soon:

Darcie
posted her recipe for Chicken Stacky Uppy and other things her family will eat. The funny name reminded me of our own family's favorite, Goo (self-titled), which I thought I had posted the recipe for, but I couldn't find it. I did find the recipes I had posted for two of our easy always-on-hand staples, Baked Ziti and Skillet Supper (which I made last night).

L.L. Barkat not only posted a recipe on her Green Inventions Central blog that I'd like to try, but as she always does, she gave me a kernel of truth to chew on while I was thinking about how my family would react to a soup with chickpeas and floating eggs. Sometimes because I'm the chef, I get to decide. We'll see if I give this one a go, but it sure does sound good to me.

Ann Kroeker is also sharing more than just a recipe for a Spaghetti Pancake. She's sharing some great wordcrafting.

Destination Disney -- Characters



Destination Disney is back! It will appear every other Friday alternating a photo with an informational post. This week's theme is a photo post on characters, so do whatever you like with that theme. You can post only a picture, or you can explain. The goal is to have fun sharing Disney love.

When I visited Disney in April it was the International Flower and Garden Show at Epcot. I loved seeing these Disney characters in foliage.





How about you? Have a photo (or three) to share? Use this Mr. Linky to put in the url of the direct post. Please link back to this post so that your readers know where they can come for more Disney fun.

The next carnival (June 27) will be a regular posting on Fireworks shows. Which one is the best? Which one is skippable? How early do you need to arrive? What's the best spot to view? Let us know all of your tips and tricks. And of course, photos are always welcome.

The entire Destination Disney schedule for every other Friday in 2008 can be found HERE.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Neighbors

"I'm going to go see what Efan is doing." Kyle could hear but not see the much-admired seventeen-year-old neighbor in his front yard due to a downward slope of their yard and a thick hedge of evergreen trees separating our yards. He walked up the driveway and peeked through.

"Hi Efan. Why are you not dressed?"

"What?"

"Why are you not dressed?" Kyle repeated.

"He wants to know why you aren't wearing a shirt," Ethan's older brother Justin translated as they continued playing catch.

"Because it's hot," Ethan finally explained.

"Why is your dog Tanner in the bush like that?" Kyle continued to question.

"He's getting the ball," Ethan again explained.

With all his questions answered, Kyle walked back down the driveway to continue his game--swinging the plastic Wal-Mart golf club like a hockey stick with a Monica Seles grunt to try to hit the plastic golf ball as far as possible.

Perhaps in ten or twelve years the as-of-yet unborn children of the young couple across the street will ask Kyle the same kinds of questions. I can only hope that Kyle is as patient and matter-of-fact and accepting as Ethan has been.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In the Name of Love

Children's joyful shouts drifted through the air. The slap of wet feet on pavement running to the diving board echoed throughout the fenced-in space. We claimed a small spot against the perimeter to leave our bag holding our towels and other essentials, removed our cover-ups and sandals, and prepared to enter the water.

Kyle was excited, but also reticent. As I descended the stairs into our town pool, he giggled, yet still clung to me with the death-grip of fear. The heavily chlorinated water was cloudy with chemicals and teeming with bodies: moms being held by toddlers and preschoolers (in varying degrees of death-grip), young children swimming to the side and jumping in, older children brushing my legs as they navigate the bottom of the pool.

Amanda found friends to talk with as they bobbed in the water. She tried out various poses as she leapt off the diving board again and again.

Kyle took small steps towards independence in the big pool, trusting me to break his fall as he grabbed my hands to jump in. Then we tried the baby pool. It was warm--too warm due to the several days of super-90 degree weather. He tried out kicking in this safe environment, knowing that he could sit and walk at any time. We watched Amanda jump from the diving board again and again, and his mind pondered the possibilities of that new venture.

For the first time in our four years here, I broke down and bought the family summer pass, instead of just expecting to pay the day fee once or twice for the year. Our schedule is pretty open this year, and I'm going to try to be more open with my time as well.

It was crowded; it was noisy. I got splashed (and gripped). It would not be my choice to spend an hour and a half in this venue, but it wasn't as bad as I expected either. There are worse things in life than spending your evening at the town pool with two excited kids. There are better ones, too, but I'll brave the crowds and chemicals and clinging again soon. . . in the name of love.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mammaw

I just came across one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I've read in a while. First sentences matter, and this blog post began "I wore a wedding dress to my grandmother's death bed." As Shannon went on to recall memories of her grandmother's life and death, all I could think of was, "Did she call her Mammaw?"

She talks about learning to drive in her grandmother's big 'ole Buick. I didn't learn to drive Mammaw's big Texas Cadillac, but my memories my grandmother are steeped in her cars. The first I remember must have been a Buick. I don't remember the car itself, but the 8-Track that came with it, featuring songs like "On the top of the world looking down on creation and the only explanation I can find. . . ."

One Cadillac I remember was dark gray with dark gray leather interior. I think that the Texas legislation requiring everyone in the front seat to wear seat belts must have been passed while she had that car. My law-abiding grandmother put a post-it note on the steering well to remind her to buckle up. She was less concerned with the safety behind the ruling than with accidentally breaking the law by driving around untethered.

But the one that I will forever picture in Mammaw's carport is the pink one. Yes, Mammaw drove a pink Cadillac. Actually, it wasn't really pink. The color was called Desert Sands, and if we were anywhere near my grandfather, we'd better make sure that we were not calling it pink, because there was no way that he would consent to being the owner of a pink car. But when the sun hit the beige glittery paint, it had an undertone of a coral-y pink color. So we dubbed it the Pink Cadillac.

Like Shannon, I remember what she taught me. On one weekend visit, she took my sister, my cousin and I into her room to sit on her big King-sized bed as she gave us a notecard filled with her neat schoolteacher handwriting. It was the words to the Lord's prayer. She also helped to teach us Bridge and Canasta, so that we could join the adults at the card table set up in the living room.

I didn't wear my wedding dress to Mammaw's death bed. She made it to my wedding. She was becoming frail, and a bit addled, but she was there, and I was so glad. Not too long thereafter, they moved a hospital bed into her living room to make it easier to care for her. She passed away about a year after I married. Terry didn't get to spend that much time with her, so he didn't know all of this about her. But I remember. I know. And now you do too.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Creative Summer Days


I was thinking about all the cool products I had to review: books, CDs, computer games, and more. I thought about how everyone wants some cool new ideas for this summer.

So, I put together a giveaway event at 5 Minutes for Mom with some products and ideas to keep you and your kids happy, busy, and healthy this summer.

Tune in every day for suggestions and giveaways.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Little Linky Love (It's About Time!)

In my first year of blogging (when it consumed every waking thought and moment of my day), I frequently linked to posts or bloggers I liked. I would read a post, and that would spark ideas of my own, so I'd write about it (giving due credit to the source of inspiration, of course). I remember very clearly early in the blogging game, many of my classmates (those who jumped in the blogging fray in the spring of 2006) also began participating in Works for Me Wednesday (which was just a shadow of its current self).

I had tried one of the oh-so-creative Beck's ideas, and so I shared it, and she left me a comment saying, "Oh I'm famous!"

When people linked to me, I felt that same thrill, "Cool! People like me, and they are telling their other friends about me!"

Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife is one of my Disney blogging buddies. She's delightful if you haven't "met" her. She recently included one of my posts in her Links and Shout Outs, and I felt that familiar thrill once again.

Community--It's the thing about blogging that I loved that first year, that I didn't even know existed when I first began writing. However, it's also the thing that caused me to get in too deep, like jumping in a body of water with cement blocks on my feet. The need to post every day, and the need to read all of the posts that my other blogging buddies were writing every day. . .it just got to be too much.

So, I have made an effort over the last few weeks to get back into the blogging community:
  • Returning visits to new commenters (I am thankful that people come and read my blog, and more thankful when they let me know they were here, so going over to meet them is the least I can do.)
  • Trying to leave comments when I visit the blogs I do get to read regularly (I used to not be able to stop in without leaving a comment, but yes, I am now a sometimes-lurker)
  • And I'll be trying to spread a little link-love, pointing to stuff that's going on in the blogosphere or just posts that I like.
So I just found out about a biggie: Kailani at An Island Life is hosting the Bloggy Hoss Awards, and some of my friends are nominated. If you don't know who to vote for, I'd like to share some of my suggestions:

My real-life buddy and blogging cohort Katrina at Callapidder Days is nominated for Nicest Personality. She is nice. The nicest.

**Edited to add that Steph at Adventures in Babywearing is also nominated for Nicest Personality, and she's another one of my Disney buddies, and is indeed nice. The funny thing is that after scrolling through all the entries, I was honestly surprised that she wasn't one of the nominees in any of the categories!

Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife is nominated for Most Talkative (and she certainly is a prolific poster), and also Class Clown.

Not only creative, but deep--Beck at Frog and Toad are Still Friends is nominated for Brainiest Blogger.

5 Minutes for Mom is nominated for Head Cheerleader, Most Popular and Most Likely to Succeed. Wow--they are all fitting in different ways.

So, head on over to Kailani's to vote. You can vote for my favorites, or you can check them out and find some new favorites--that's one great thing about blog awards. Metropolitan Mama is a blog that I've checked out a few times recently. She's nominated for Most Likely to Succeed. She's a fairly new blogger, but she seems to be taking the world by storm. Definitely one to watch!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Destination Disney Schedule



The people have spoken.

People who love all things Mickey would really like to keep it going. I'm going to take some of the suggestions and put together a schedule.

I was thinking monthly, but I think that I will go with every other week, with the week in between simply being a photo roundup with a theme.

Thinking about the topics offered, and going every other week, I managed to fill up a schedule for the rest of the year, and that doesn't even cover all the topics that were mentioned. I reserve the right to cancel it at any time if it fizzles out along the way, but hopefully it will keep growing, and we'll just add to these topics in January 2009.

June 13: Photo -- Characters
June 27: Destination Disney -- Fireworks Shows
July 11: Photo -- Wow!
July 25: Destination Disney -- Other Orlando Activities (not other theme parks)
August 8: Photo-- Hot
August 22: Destination Disney -- Animal Kingdom
September 5: Photo -- Cool . . . .
September 19: Destination Disney -- Hollywood Studios (MGM)
October 3: Photo -- Star struck
October 17: Destination Disney -- Universal Studios
October 31: Photo -- Dressed Up
November 14: Destination Disney -- Epcot
November 28: Photo -- Thankful
December 12: Destination Disney -- A Disney Christmas
December 26: Photo -- Decked Out

Friday, June 06, 2008

WOW

Yes, Wow.

Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a giveaway courtesy of www.WOWonline.com of 18 CDs--one of each of the artists on the Wow Hits 1 CD, plus the Wow Hits 1 CD itself.

Living up here in New England, I'm a little out of the Christian music scene. I don't get good radio reception from the one station which is far away. My husband's car has satellite radio, so I hear a few new artists on the Christian station when I'm driving in his car, but who am I kidding? My car CD player only hosts kid-pleasing fare these days.

So it comes down to word of mouth for me to hear about new artists or new CDs from artists I love (like Matthew West). In addition to his CD, I would love to have Barlow Girl's CD, Brandon Heath's, and I've never even heard of Cadia, so I'd love to hear his/hear/their music as well.

You have until tomorrow morning to enter by linking to WOWonline and linking up to Shannon's post.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Feed Me, Seymour

I've had people ask me about my feed before. Recently a reader commented, "I want to keep up with you, but can't find your feed."

This is frustrating to me, and a bit confounding as well, but I do want people to be able to use whatever they like to keep up with me here. I burned a feed on feedburner, which should insure that their aren't any problems.

So, I've updated my sidebar. If you click Subscribe to my RSS feed, right by the cool RSS logo, it should take you to the page. From there, you can choose how you want to read it--Google, Bloglines, my Yahoo etc. It's one stop shopping.

I have never used any sort of reader myself, preferring to just use the links on my sidebar (which are finally appearing in a neatly collapsed fashion), but I am experimenting with Firefox live on my toolbar to check for new content of the few blogs that I try to check daily. So far, I like it. I'm also going to try out "My Yahoo" since I'm always in my email. Bloglines has just never done it for me.

If you are currently subscribed to me one way or the other, you shouldn't have to change anything, but if a week or so goes by and you're not getting any new posts, please leave me a comment so that I can look into it.

If you aren't subscribed, consider jumping on the bandwagon like I did. It still hasn't left the station for good (even though the wagon is going to keep morphing--a motor car, a super-fast train etc). If you like old-fashioned methods, you can get it in your email inbox through feedblitz (also on my sidebar), but there's at least a 24 hour delay on those.

What's your blog-reading method? Are you satisfied with how it's working for you? Have you tried other methods in the past?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kyle's Doctor Loves Bruises

I took Kyle to the doctor today for his four-year-old appointment. All is well. He's grown quite a bit in the last year, but is still firmly in the 50th percentile in height and weight.

She said the same thing I remember her saying last year: "He has just the right number of scrapes and bruises on his legs. That means he's staying active!" I love that about her. She's a mom of four kids who are all in school. She knows how it is. That's why I feel that I can trust her recommendations in other areas.

I asked her about poison ivy, because he's already had it once this year and had it a couple of times last year. She said to wash it well and keep it covered to keep it from getting infected from scratching, which is what I've been doing.

I asked her about his lisp, which is pronounced on the esses, especially at the end of a word. She said that he could be tested, but probably wouldn't be covered through the schools, because it doesn't affect the ability to understand him. She said we could work with private speech therapists. I was actually kind of surprised to hear her say this. I asked her if I could keep working with him at home, and she said that was a good idea if that's what I wanted to do. I wonder if she gave me that option because she thought I was worried about it and wanted additional intervention? Do any of your kids have lisps? Did they outgrow them or did you work with them or send them to speech therapy?

She listened to his cough (our well-child visit happened to coincide with his nasty summer cough), and confirmed what I've always known--coughs last forever (it could take 2 weeks to go away).

I always love watching my kids on the exam table. They both get so still and serious and compliant. However, Kyle did have to have 4 vaccines, and they really hurt. I've never been one who got overly concerned about my babies crying with vaccines, but with these (especially numbers two and three, probably the worst ones were stuck in the middle), he said, "Ow, ow," as tears filled his eyes when he was trying to be brave. I also loved the way the doctor administered them. I was seated in the chair, and she had him straddling me and giving me a big hug, while she gave two in each arm.

What do you like about your doctor?

Monday, June 02, 2008

That's Amore

We love pizza here at the Snapshot house.

One thing that we like about living in New England is all the great pizza spots. Dominoes and Pizza Hut have become a thing of the past. Instead we get takeout from our favorite Greek-owned diner or Italian take-out joints.

We always have a pizza in the freezer (Tombstone pepperoni) for a quick Sunday evening meal or at the ready for a quick meal when we can't cook a full meal from scratch.

Because of those two things, I had stopped making homemade pizza. It used to be one of my staple meals--a real yeast crust, topped with rich sauce and lots of veggies and cheese. But if we got takeout two or three times a month and perhaps had a frozen pizza once or twice, having pizza on the meal rotation seemed a bit too much.

I love dinners that can be pulled together without advance preparation--you know, defrosting, marinating, anything that needs to be done more than an hour before I want to eat. Homemade pizza is one of those for us.

I got this crust recipe from Fleishchmann's Yeast Best Ever Breads book (which I remember sending away for when I was a new bride).

Master Pizza Dough

3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 package Rapid Rise Yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees F)
3 Tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil, but I always use olive)

Combine 2 cups of the flour, undissolved yeast, and salt. Stir in very warm water and olive oil. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Cover; let rest on floured surface 10 minutes.

Roll out dough, top as desired. Bake at 400 for 20 to 30 minutes or until done.


Some Snapshot techniques:

I rarely add much more flour to the bowl initially unless it's a completely wet mess. Instead, I dump about 1/2 cup of flour on my kneading surface and incorporate it this way. I keep adding flour until the dough is smooth.

While it's resting, I cut veggies--I love peppers and onion and mushroom.

I roll out the dough onto my Pampered Chef large pizza stone, and top with sauce. My "pizza sauce" is jarred spaghetti sauce--it's cheaper than pizza sauce and richer as well (I personally love Prego Onion, Tomato and Garlic or Ragu Robusto Sauteed Onion and Garlic sauce, but my daughter told me today she likes the Ragu pouch sauce, because it's smooth).

I also use bagged, sliced pepperoni and pre-shredded mozzerella.

Tonight Amanda made the dough on her own. Pizza dough, like all rising bread, can be a temperamental creature (much like Amanda the tween), but it came out quite nicely.

We missed you, homemade pizza. We won't keep you off our menu for so long this time.