To Everything, There is a Season(ing)

We’ve FINALLY hit some typical Fall weather in our fair city. After facing record highs this summer that threatened never to end, even into early September, I can’t say that I’m disappointed to see highs only in the 50s and 60s.

This, my friends, is my favorite season of the year. I love nearly everything about fall–the clothing, the food, the activities.

Of course, that’s not really the kind of season I want to talk about today.

The Diva Husband and I have been together for 15 years, and married for 13. One of the areas in our relationship that took some serious adjustment (and still takes some adjustment!) is food. I’m a self-proclaimed foodie, and love to try different types of food. I love to plan meals and cook.

He would eat the same darn ten foods every single week.

Sometimes he more picky than the kids. At least The Tweenager is developing a somewhat adventurous palate, and he seems to enjoy cooking.

But I digress.

One meal that our whole family agrees on is Taco Night.

The very first time I made tacos for Diva Husband (Fiance, at the time), I was so excited. I cooked up all the components, and proudly set the table with all of the fixings: ground beef, tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, rice, beans, onions, cilantro, avocado, and tortillas.

He took one bite of the meat and said “What.Is.This?”

“Taco meat”, I replied.

“What’s IN it?”

Now, you have to understand that I am a Midwestern girl of primarily German/Slavic/Finnish descent. When we had tacos at home, it was Old El Paso or nothing. I thought I was doing pretty good by serving soft corn tortillas instead of the hard taco shells I’d grown up with.

So I said, slightly irritated at the inane question, “Taco seasoning. You buy a pack of it, mix it with a pound of ground beef, and you have taco meat.

After he choked a bit on the meat, he said “Uhm, yeah. You don’t put taco seasoning in meat for REAL tacos.”

Thus began my schooling in the finer points of taco cuisine. Apparently, REAL taco chefs only use salt, pepper, and garlic (fresh, of course) in their taco meat. One might, if available, add cilantro or even some potato chunks. But under NO circumstances, is packaged taco seasoning used.

Over the years, Diva Husband has come to appreciate a somewhat “healthier” version of the taco meat. I can get away with ground turkey, ground chicken, and the like. I’ve done mixes of lean ground beef and ground turkey, and he can’t even tell the difference if all of his favorite toppings are available. We’ve even been known, on special occasions, to buy some steak or boneless pork chops to cook for taco fillings.

But I’ve not purchased packaged taco seasoning in 15 years.


Unconditional Love

I have a friend who, in his motivational/educational presentations, would often bring up his dogs. He used them as examples of unconditional love. You know, always excited to see you arrive home after a long day. Thrilled when you show them any sort of attention. Allow the children to swipe their treats without fear of death. Refrain from smothering you in your sleep when you insist on dressing them like humans.

You get the idea.

Now, his dogs, you must understand, were Mastiffs. If you’re from my generation, you’ll forever associate that particular dog with Hooch. That breed’s idea of unconditional love involves lots and lots of dog slobber. While I’ve heard they are loyal, loveable dogs, all that dog spit grosses me out. I have enough bodily fluids in my life with three boys. I don’t need it from my canine companion as well.

Apparently, though, our very own Princess (the Wonder Dog) is a great example of unconditional love as well. She puts up with the “love” that The Manimal and Little Darth dish out, and she even forgives Little Darth when he runs off with her beef-flavored “bones”. They share their food with her, and she, as I explained to a very mortified Manimal, shares her *ahem* treats with us…

If you’re eating right now, you may want to look away…

I’m warning you, it’s not pretty…



Sorry for the quality, but trust me when I tell you that you wouldn’t have appreciated a clearer shot.

Yes, Princess (the Wonder Dog) brought us a bird. Thankfully, she’d already put the poor thing out of its misery by the time she made it to our living room. Even more thankfully, it was The Manimal who discovered it, rather than Little Darth.

This unconditional love thing is more disgusting than I thought.


Works For Me Wednesday: Giving Again?

If you’ve been around my blog for any time or know me in real life, you know that I have three children. All boys.


I love my crazy kids. The Tweenager is a sweet, sassy, musical, athletic eleven year-old, caught in that weird pre-pubescent phase where he’s not really a child anymore, but not really a teenager. He has a tender heart, which makes me tear up when I see him reviewing sight words with The Manimal or playing peek-a-boo with Little Darth.

The Manimal is my study in contrasts. He is the only one in our family who is both a big brother AND a little brother. His black-and-white approach to life challenges me to think differently when it comes to teachable moments in our home. He loves Star Wars. I mean LOVES Star Wars. He may not recall why he got in trouble at school, but I’m convinced that his ability to remember the names of obscure Jedi Padawans and functions of little-known Droids will translate into an ability to memorize obscure historical facts or crazy geometric proofs. He wants to be a big boy, but he still loves his evening snuggle with Mommy.

Little Darth is developing into a stubborn youngest child who refuses to be left out of any activity. When the big boys wrestle, he’s right there in the middle of things. He has absolutely no use for actual words yet, but seems to get his point across with grunting, fussing, screaming, or when all else fails, pulling a chair across the kitchen floor and climbing to the cupboards to get just what he wants.

Although my children make me crazy, I love them all to bits. And we have truly been blessed in so many ways. Knock on wood, we’ve not had any major health concerns. Sure, we’ve had some scares; what parent hasn’t?

I don’t take my children’s lack of medical issues for granted. Not for one single day. And I especially don’t take for granted my good job with good medical insurance. Because I know that, especially in this economy, our situation could turn on a dime. A major medical concern could arise, which would require ongoing care, or a major surgery that isn’t covered by regular insurance.

Anything could happen.

My friends Todd and Kim Pierson are blessed with two beautiful daughters. Their younger daughter, Brooke, is in seventh grade. She’s a musician, a dancer, and a lover of fashion. She loves wearing high heels because she feels that the world towers above her. She longs to be grown-up, and gives her mom crazy fits when she launches into tweenager attitude, but she’s such a good kid, she usually comes back down to earth fairly quickly.

Their older daughter Leah, is fifteen, and has a heart of gold. She is always looking for ways to give to others; to make others happy. She doesn’t often realize that her cheerful hello and mile-wide smile is enough to lighten anyone’s heart, and brighten an entire room. She is so very sweet and kind, and loves acting in school plays, dancing, and participating in our church youth group. She volunteers in the nursery at church on Sundays.

She’s a good kid.

Who just happens to have a wicked case of scoliosis. When Todd and Kim first found out about Leah’s diagnosis, they did what every parent would do. They tried to learn all they could about the disease. They researched various treatments.

And of course, they did this all through the lens of their health insurance. You see, Todd and Kim are self-employed (he is a photographer and she is a graphic designer). And if you’ve ever been self-employed, especially with children, you know what a challenge it can be to find affordable health insurance. So in order to be able to afford health insurance, Todd and Kim took a high deductible policy and worked really hard to keep their family healthy.

So back to Leah. With all previous treatments exhausted, Leah is now facing surgery to correct her scoliosis. In addition to the mental stress of helping Leah prepare for this major surgery and extensive recovery period, Todd and Kim are looking square in the face of an $8000 deductible.


I wish I could adequately convey just how much this family has given to their community, their church, and their friends. And the kicker is they KNOW that there are people far worse off than they are. But the reality is, Leah is going to have this surgery. And the family is going to have to find a way to pay the medical bills in addition to all of their regular monthly expenses.

So here’s where we all come in. As I mentioned, Todd is a photographer.

An a-ma-zing photographer. Especially when it comes to children and families.

Todd and Kim have set up a Portrait Day to help raise money for Leah’s surgery. If you’re local to the Chicagoland area, you NEED to do this. For a suggested donation of $100, you’ll get three beautiful jpeg files of your family, spouse, kids, dog, purple-spotted squirrel…whomever you want to bring to the shoot.

If you’ve ever had professional portraits taken, you know that is a STEAL.

However, through the miracle of the interwebz (which I still don’t completely understand…heck, I don’t completely understand faxing, but this isn’t about me), many of you (perhaps most of you) who read this, aren’t anywhere near the Windy City.

YOU can still help. Todd has set up a blog to tell Leah’s story and raise money. Go meet Leah now. You can come back in a minute.

Why are you still here? I’ll wait for you.

Isn’t she beautiful? Now, in case you didn’t see it on your first visit, there is a “donate” button on the right sidebar of Leah’s blog. Won’t you please help this wonderful family meet that crazy $8000 deductible? Any amount would be so appreciated, I know.

And remember those three beautiful boys of mine? I’ll bet some of you have some pretty neat kiddos of your own. What if you were to donate even $5 for each child you have? Believe me, it would make such a difference.

And yes, I know money is tight. Really tight. People are struggling to put food on their table and gas in their car. Some are on the verge of losing their homes, have lost their homes. I get it.

But for many of us who are able to access the internet? Write a blog? Go on Facebook? We can afford to give a bit. Or a bit more. Let’s help this family.

“What? Giving again?” I asked in dismay.

And must I keep giving, and giving away?

“Oh no,” said the angel, looking me through.

“Just keep giving until our Lord stops giving to you.” (Anonymous)

Giving again. It’s what Works for Me.


Now We Are Six


The Manimal had a birthday on Sunday.The previous two weeks were spent talking about the party. I would say things like “How’s my big almost-six-year-old doing?” To which he would reply “Don’t call me that. Call me what I am. I’m only five.”

On Saturday I said “Oh, wow, Manimal. You’re 5 years and 364 days old today! You’re almost SIX!”

“No, Mommy. I’m still just five.”

Always the black and white thinker, that one.

After MUCH discussion of party location, we ended up at that childhood birthday party Mecca,  Chuck E. Cheese. Honestly, I was less than excited, but looking at all of the options, CEC had the best price for a party of 15 kids.

And when I say “best”, I mean, the one least likely to overdraw Mommy & Daddy’s checking account.

You see, I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to birthday parties. I have a hard time swallowing $15/kid if they’re not gonna include food, birthday cake, balloons, or a bottle of wine for Mom.

The last time I did a birthday party at CEC was when The Tweenager was six. It was, well, kind of meh. The Rat has really stepped up his birthday party game in the last six years. The Manimal and 14 of his closest friends (well, 12 of his closest friends, along with a big brother and one of HIS closest friends) had a blast.

From pizza to birthday cake to ticket blasters (where The Manimal will tell you that he


and he


They give each birthday kid an inflatable crown with tokens in it. The Manimal grabbed it as soon as he arrived and only took it off when they had to put the safety goggles on so he could do the Ticket Blaster.

He also got a Birthday BATALLION, which, to the rest of us is known as a “medallion”. They had a little crowning/conferring ceremony for the four birthday parties. It was really cute, although a bit disconcerting to see The Rat roaming to congratulate each child.

The best part of the party was loading all of the gifts into the car and heading home, knowing I wasn’t going to have to clean up after 15 kids.

And now he is six.


Lost in Translation

Little Darth is a classic third child. He’s a bit spoiled (in part due to birth order, in part due to the fact that he’s a baby). We’re pretty laid back about things that we NEVER would have allowed when The Tweenager was his age (some of his very first solid foods were strawberry yogurt and peanut butter…both of which he sucked down like manna from Heaven…I mean, he actually bent his head and LICKED THE TRAY when we fed him peanut butter).

But probably the most clear indication of third child syndrome is that he doesn’t speak. He doesn’t need to. With three adults and two older brothers in the house, his every need is anticipated. He points, lifts his arms, grunts, and his will is done.

Well, it’s done after we figure out what he wants.

Since he’s fifteen months old and doesn’t talk.

He’s pretty good with “thisssss” (in reference to ANYTHING he picks up), but nothing else with any consistency. Yesterday I was getting him dressed and ready for his 15 month well-child visit, and The Manimal said “Mommy, when is Little Darth gonna start talking human?”

I guess it kind of makes sense since The Manimal is pretty convinced that Little Darth is some sort of alien sent to make his life miserable.

I’m not too worried about it. The doctor will probably do an evaluation if he’s not talking by his 18 month visit. In our house he’ll eventually talk out of sheer self-preservation.

Speaking of speaking, I came across this fun poem this week. Well, fun is relative, I suppose, but if you’re a lover of words, like I am, you’ll appreciate it. It’s much cooler if you read it aloud, but you probably should do it out of earshot of friends or family.

Or they’ll probably think you’re weird.

Or an alien.

English Pronunciation by G. Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!