Free Chicken Give-Away

So, one of my friends writes this Panini blog (Panini Happy) that has wonderful recipes and pictures that make your mouth-water. She recently held a Panini Grill Give-Away, one of several I have dutifully entered since in my mind I can't make panini until I have the right grill. Well, guess what? I WON! That's right. I actually won something I want to have! Yay! And I was so excited, jumping up and down and doing a victory dance with Liam in arms, that Kurt got all excited thinking maybe I had won a million dollar cash prize or something, putting an end to all our worries. (Sorry sweets, I'm really just easily excited!)

Well, it got me to thinking, perhaps I oughta have a give-away. Anyone want a free chicken? I have 4...

Speaking nothing of give-aways, we just got back from our 15 hour camping trip. I'm not sure whose bright idea it was to take 4 little children camping (Kurt's....it was Kurt's....let's get him!) but I have to say, it was one of those life experiences that made me realize just how crazy my own parents really were. Matter of fact, I got about ten minutes into trying to get the kids to bed when I called my mom (yes, I took my cell phone) and asked her why they ever took us all camping. Her response? "We had a camper." Well, gee, that explains it. 


I will tell you why. Because they were a little off. Because people who camp are just a little off. (I know, because we just went camping, sort of.) You see, I must admit, until today, it didn't make sense to me why you pack up all your clothes, and toiletries and sleeping bags and pillows and extra blankets and food and utensils and games and toys and a tent to put it all in and then extras of all those things, just in case they should get soiled (which, they will) and for crying out loud, why not just stay home for goodness sake?! At least at home you don't have to un-pack it all!

At any rate, we got to the beach campground where Kurt had taken Aidan a few months back and realized that we had forgotten to bring the directions to set up the 8-person tent (and by tent I am referring to the fortress, complete with separate rooms, that we lived in for all of 8 hours. You know you bought a monstrous tent when you are sitting in it thinking of what you could do to warm it up a little...maybe an extra rocker over in that room next to the baby bed and a little fold out sofa in the entry area with a little table and chairs for game playing and we may even have room for the queen sized air mattress in the sleeping quarters....again, why not just stay home?) 

After realizing I wasn't going to be much help holding a baby, I grabbed the first random stranger at the campsite adjacent to ours and asked if she'd like to hold a baby. (Thank God for bubbly babies and people wanting to be grandparents!) We then set forth to guessing how to correctly put the the tent up. After a few moments however, I realized I didn't know where Lily was and that was VERY BAD given that we were right on the beach! I started hollering for her and told Aidan and Madeline to go look for her when the kind neighbor holding Liam asked, "Is that her running around the other campsites with her pants off?"

I didn't even have to look. "Yup, that's her." And sure enough, there was Lily running wildly from campsite to campsite, pants-free and covered in black soot from the fire pit she must have been playing in. (We never did find her pants and those undies with the blackened crotch have seen better days for sure.)

We got the tent up, with the help of the local eagle scout who happened to be staying a campsite or two over and the husband of the Liam-holder. By this time it was getting dark and time for dinner prep. After Kurt started the fire, I realized the kids were sitting down wind from it and breathing in all that smoke. (Maybe this begins to explain why campers are a little off. It starts early: kids sitting happily in front of the smokey fire, breathing in all those toxins and well, they grow up to be campers too and it's just a vicious cycle apparently.) Kurt and I moved the table out of the wall of smoke and he got dinner ready while I made irritating comments about not having enough light and not bringing food for the baby and "Lily! Don't dump that dirt.....on the table....argh! It's all over everything! Kurt!" Because somehow, this is Kurt's fault. (And yes Kurt, you WERE in fact doing enough. I was just playing my inherited role a little too well. Sorry.)

That brings us to bedtime. Oh, there is no time like bedtime with 4 kids on a camping trip. Kurt had to run out for ice and I was on Liam (and kid) duty. I set up the pack-n-play in one of the side rooms, and got him fed and put down (not asleep mind you but at least he was quiet) by the time Kurt got back. However, the other three were a little crazy, running circles in the tent, squealing with glee and basically just being kids. I threatened to sell them to the local gypsies if they didn't settle down but unfettered, the energy just kept boiling over. This was made especially humorous by Lily's chimney sweep look (think Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) and she still refused to put pants on. After a couple trips to the bathroom and a few books, we got them to sleep, one by one. Not a single child would sleep inside their sleeping bag, Madeline refused to even get on hers and by midnight, Lily was so cold she went over to snuggle in between Aidan and Madeline, who awoke screaming at Lily to get off of her. Then, every ten minutes thereafter Madeline fussed about not having enough room. She changed places a half dozen times, told me she wanted to go home RIGHT NOW (it was then 2 a.m.) and finally settled at the foot of my sleeping bag for the remainder of the night. And I swear, I must have some princess blood in me because I KNOW I felt a pea under my bed...oh wait, that must have been that flipping rock under me. 

By morning, Lily was inside my sleeping bag with me and I doubt I slept more than a few hours total. And I couldn't sit up or get out of the tent without looking like a 90 year old from the spasms in my lower back! And this is fun. Campers are seriously out of their minds!
After breakfast, and what must've been the tenth trip to take Lily to the bathroom (which only accomplished the task of stirring some deep seeded longing in me to own an RV instead of a tent...I could practically smell the fresh, hot coffee) we were talking about the day ahead and I realized, there was nothing to do. NOTHING! We would be sitting at the beach....doing nothing with 4 kids all day

By 8 a.m., we were in the car headed home just so we could regroup. It was as the girls and I soaked in a hot bath that I realized just why people camp. It has nothing to do with the actual camping. Nothing to do with the tents and cool gadgets and gear and fires and roasting marshmallows and camp songs or any of that. Nothing to do with meeting other campers and experiencing peace by reconnecting with nature. Nope. It is all about coming home! It is all about remembering to appreciate all of the things we take for granted each and every day. I don't think a campsite has ever been taken down as fast as it was this afternoon once we realized we were not going to be doing another night this time around. And on the way home I found myself thinking, "Hey, that was kind of fun!"

And the chicks were just as thrilled to watch a movie while eating hot pizza and then exhaustedly stumble into their cozy beds, falling asleep faster than they ever have before, without so much as a hint of complaining. 

We are SOOO going camping again!


Lily Pad

Yesterday, the kids were playing with Polly Pockets; you know, those little, rubbery dolls you dress up and then strip and then dress up again...and since I am the only one who can seem to manage to get their clothes back on....the vacuum seems to rear its ugly head frequently.... "Sorry Madeline, the vacuum ate it...again.")

They seemed to be playing quite well without me when I overheard this: 

"Here, you be the lily pad," Aidan said to Madeline.

"What's a lily pad?" Madeline asked.

"It's a type of frog," Aidan replied, all-knowingly.

"Oh, ok," Madeline said. Then, in her most squeaky character voice, "Hi! I'm a little lily pad, ribbit, ribbit."

 Speaking of Lily pads, our very own Lily has finally completed potty training. She has stayed dry, day and night, for a week now and although she frequently goes potty hopping at night (think small child running through the house with her pants off so that she can sit on each toilet at least once during the course of a single, um,  movement....I guess you could call her the life of the potty, hee hee....) we are confident in her abilities and ready to send her off into the real world, diaper-free.  Of course, we still need to break her of the TV addiction she developed in the potty-training process. Having been rewarded with a 20 minute show every time she used the potty without an accident, she discovered Dora the Explorer and well, she now gets the DT's after about an hour without a fix. This past week, she would actually go potty, watch her reward show, run into the bathroom to use the toilet again, run out and say, "I get to watch again!" One day, she used the potty every half hour for the better part of the day just so she could sit in front of Dora. But, it was all worth it because:


Chicken Chatter

Overheard yesterday while the kids were busy wasting printer paper, er, doing an art project:

"Madeline, please don't talk," Aidan said as Madeline was jabbering away about her pet rock, complete with drawn on eyes, nose and hair.

"But I haven't been able to talk ALL DAY, AIDAN!" Madeline replied. "First, I was at school and they said, 'be quiet' and then I was at lunch bunch and they said, 'be quiet' and then we were quiet in the car on the way home and I WANT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION!" Madeline complained.

And I might've actually felt for her....but I happen to know what it means for her to be quiet and unless you are comparing her to the monkey house during a feeding frenzy at the zoo, well, she isn't what I would call a quiet kid. What she meant to say was, "I want to have a conversation, THAT NEVER ENDS!"

I am reminded of the cute little children's song from Lamb Chop's Play Along:

So on the way to Aidan's school this morning, Aidan was telling us about Indians when he stopped to ask:

"Mom, when Indians run out of food, do they just go to the store?"

"What do you mean, Aidan?" I asked, having myself missed the first two minutes of the history lesson.

"Well, when they kill all the animals in the forest so there's nothing left to eat, do they just go buy their food at the store?" he asked.

"Well...." I started. 

"You know what is nice?" Madeline interrupted.

"Rabbits!" she announced, enthusiastically.

Deciding this was an opportune time to teach Madeline all about rabbits, Aidan said, "Well, even rabbits can be wild, Madeline. And they can be killed and eaten," he added. 

"I like kitties, too," Madeline continued, unaware that the conversation involved more than just her. "Can we have a kitty one day, Mom?"

"Well..." I began.

"Madeline, I'm not too familiar with animals so we can't have any while we are kids," Aidan answered. "At least not in our house. Maybe when we are older and...."

And I guess, in her own way, Madeline got just what she wanted. 

Everybody now!
This is the song that doesn't end, yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was
And they'll continue singing it forever just because....


The Straw That Broke the Chicken's Back

There is a story about a camel you may recall. His back is loaded with so much stuff...and when at last he can take no more, there is a final piece of straw that breaks his back. Or something like that. 

I had an x-ray done recently of my back. You see, I have had this back issue since a dumb incident about 10 years ago sent me to the ER where an ER doc basically told me to get over it and then gave me a lovely little shot in my bum that put me out just long enough that I could totally forget about the injury, try to get out of bed as usual and end up flat on the floor in true graceful chicken style (yes, mine has been a long history of chicken-like behavior)...it's funny, back injuries never occur from really intelligent moves...it's always something REALLY stupid like, I dunno, picking up a kid who is on the other side of a double dutch door...instead of simply opening the door like a normal person and THEN picking the kid up. Nope, not me and my then 22-year old smug self...I can pick up a kid over a door....come on, who can't do something as simple as that...it's going to save me, oh, 2 seconds....and I will pay for it for THE REST OF MY LIFE! Well done!

So, almost 10 years go by and I am finally debilitated enough (meaning I can't run anymore and thusly I can't eat all the Ben and Jerry's that I want anymore....I am sure it has NOTHING to do with age either....) that I went to a doctor about it. He kind of blew me off about the back spasms, weakness and complete stiffness upon awakening each morning (what am I 80?)....something like (insert pompous man voice here) "Well, everyone has back pain if they live long enough...it's the most common kind of pain...and the least treatable, blah blah blah, here's the prescription for an x-ray, blah blah blah....and when that doesn't show anything, here's one for physical therapy, blah blah blah and try to stop carrying the kids and instead use one of those push thingies (yes, he actually said push-thingies) and we should draw some blood while we're at it, who knows, could be something crazy like, I dunno, high cholesterol or Lupus, blah blah blah, and don't forget to talk to me more about your asthma next time because we don't want you to end up with Chronic Pulmonary Lung Disease...then you'd really be in trouble..." (Wow, so glad I came to talk to you!)

Ok, seriously, I went in because my back is irritating me and I can't run anymore...he ordered 5 (that's right, f-i-v-e) vials of blood, a urine sample, a complete series of x-rays and told me to take some Naproxen or Tylenol and call him with any other questions. 

Well, yesterday I had the follow up. My blood work came back great (duh) and then he said, in a kind of bewildered tone, "The only thing that was positive for anything was your x-ray which shows you have degenerative disease in L5 and S1 and a 3mm slippage. Have you ever had an injury to your lower back?"

Well golly gee, no. I just took a lucky guess that it happened to hurt and spasm right there at the lower lumbar and sacrum region...WERE YOU NOT LISTENING TO A THING I SAID? So much for your Doctor of the Year nomination. Take some notes for God's sake. 

He then went on to tell me that all said and done, there's not a whole lot they can do for me so I should load up on Calcium and Vitamin D, lest I end up with full blown osteoporosis...by sometime next year. "Oh, did I test your calcium levels? No? We could run some MORE blood work if you want." You know, because I SOOOO love having needles stuck into me as often as possible! Something fun to tide me over until my early bout of lung disease I suppose. 

But I am guessing it isn't straw that has broken me (although it may have caused the allergies that caused the asthma that will eventually lead to the removal of a lung...or two)...but maybe those four chicken-littles that have appeared in that last 5 years have something to do with it....hmmmm....it's funny, the doctor never spoke about the fixing of THAT issue....then again, he did use the phrase "push-thingy."


Chicken Melt Down Under

I've always wondered why they call it a chicken melt....it seemed too simple to be just the melted cheese on top but alas, that is what the thousands of recipes seem to point to. But then today happened and I found out what "melt" REALLY means....

There is a book the kids really like, (yes, I know, another one...we have a lot of books) called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The book title pretty much sums it up: Alexander has a rotten day, nothing seems to be going his way, he tells everyone about it and all he wants to do is go to Australia. The end. My favorite part is that his day NEVER GETS BETTER. Seriously, how honest is that?! Some days just suck. Period. 

Let's take today for instance. Kurt's parents were out visiting for Madeline's 4th birthday, and they left yesterday, just as the kids were edging closer to the volcano. We were fortunate that right around the time I may have expected Mount Vesuvius to erupt, a big box came to our front door with yet another present for Madeline. Zizi Owl (and family) to the rescue! The kids delighted in the little pieces, I mean, ponies, and were fully entertained for at least half an hour. (Not to mention the extra roomy box which is still bubbling over with potential.) They liked this gift so much that they fully cooperated with the picking up of the billion pieces, I mean, ponies and after a brief bit of chaos (think Hurricane Katrina on speed) they were all asleep by 6:30. Phew. 

Now, the kids usually go through a bit of a rough patch when we have company in and out of the house. They are a bit on the hyper side to begin with when anyone comes to the door, then add days of extra sugar, relatives with gifts galore, parties, checked-out parents and well, it isn't pretty.  So, first thing this morning, I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (at least for the kids). Madeline and Aidan both went to school. Madeline had her extended day today (a 2:30 pick-up) and Aidan has been begging to stay late at school since he started so we chose today to be the day (4:30 pick-up time.) I knew things were going to be a little rocky so I chose not to fill our time with anything extra and I tried to be right down at kid level all day. It didn't prevent Lily from biting Madeline for trying to get into the big box or from Madeline tackling Lily out of the box mind you, but at least I was there to dish out the consequences, with a side of sympathy, at the right time. After holding each of the girls while Liam watched on, giggling at the whole scene, I decided we should go ahead and get Aidan. Why not, right?

The ride home went something like this:

"Mom, you picked me up too early," Aidan complained.

"La la la, twinkle twinkle, la la la," Lily sang. 

"Lily, I don't want to hear noise, please stop singing," Aidan said with as much calm as he could muster.

"How was your day?" I asked, trying to circumvent the inevitable.

"La, la, la," Lily kept singing. 

"Aidan, she is still singing a song," Madeline said in her sing-song voice.

"DON'T TALK TO ME! IT HURTS MY EARS!" Aidan yelled back. 

"Aidan, don't yell at your sister," I scolded. 

"WuuuuuuuuAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Madeline bursted, tears streaming. 

"STOP CRYING! IT HURTS MY EARS!" Lily screamed. 

"I'M HAVING A ROUGH DAY!" Madeline sobbed even louder. "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"


"La, la, la," Lily started singing again. "La, tee, da, la...." 

"Daaa daaa daaa, dee dee dee dee, daaa, daaa," Liam joined in, I am sure with a great big grin on his face.

"The only one I want to hear is Liam!" Aidan pronounced. "He is the only one who can make noise."

"Wuuuuuuuuuauaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!" cried Madeline. Then we saw a car stop on the side of the road and a woman got out of the car, close to where a horse was standing.

"Why is that person stopped in the street," Madeline asked calmly, no hint of emotion in her voice. For one split second, the car was silent. 

"Dee, dee, dee," Liam cooed. 

"La, la, la," Lily sung.

"BE QUIET LILY!" Aidan shouted.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Madeline wailed. 

And the chickens all melted....

If you need me, I'll be meeting Alexander in Australia. 


Graceful Like a Chicken T-Shirts!

When I told Kurt about my newest scheme to make us rich (under the McCain plan, not Obama) I got the strange feeling he was rolling his eyes at me....


Chicken Soup for the Man-Cold

On the way to take Aidan to school yesterday, I explained to the kids that we would be dumping their candy on the floor later, picking out their favorite 10 pieces each and then sending the rest overseas to our troops who are still fighting for us.

"Mom, are they fighting for just us for everyone in the whole universe?" Aidan wanted to know.

"Well, it depends on who you ask but they are fighting for the ideal of freedom," I explained. "So I would say they are fighting for everyone in the universe."

"Do you think they will still be fighting when I am an adult?" Aidan asked.

"I hope not but I don't know," I replied.

"Well, if they are, I want to be in the military so I can go help them fight," he said. It was one of those contradicting moments in life where my heart began a tug of war, both swelling with pride and constricting in anxiety over the thought.

Later, Liam had his 9 month well-visit so after picking up Madeline from her school and then rushing to get Aidan from his school, we headed to the office. 

"Why doesn't daddy play dollies with me anymore?" Madeline asked.

"Because he has to go to work," Aidan told her.

"Ahhh, poor daddy," Lily added.

"But he used to play dollies with me," Madeline said.

"But that is on his days off and he doesn't have the day off today," Aidan responded.

"Poor daddy....he's sad," Lily said with a big frown.

After the conversation switched to something involving food, with Lily yelling, "Daddy, where ARE you? Peek-a-boo Daddy!" a half dozen times, I told the kids that we were taking Liam to the doctor and that everyone was to be on their best behavior. 

"We will be having a Halloween treat from our bags afterwards but if you don't follow directions you will not get to participate," I said. The kids all agreed they would be quiet, calm and stay seated so that they could each take part in the special treat. (Ha ha...)

We checked in at the front desk, where I asked if they might give Aidan his flu shot as well. Aidan, overhearing the conversation, began his arguments about why he didn't need one this year. We were called back quickly and put in our room. 

After weighing and measuring Liam, who's apparently still on the Hobbit growth curve, the nurse came back to give Aidan his shot. He was very brave and didn't cry but in true male fashion, he started carrying on about how he couldn't walk because he had a shot in his arm. He rolled up his sleeve to show his band-aid off to the world and he whined until his nose started to bleed. At the very least, he was sitting still....much unlike Lily who had taken to jumping off the chairs onto the floor and screaming in delight. Madeline was throwing books around as if we were animals in a zoo and Liam was laughing hysterically at them all. 

Something about being told to be on their best behavior obviously struck a chaos chord and I had a choice to make: get mad or calmly redirect them. I chose to squat down, reminding them about our special treat and quietly read the books until they were all mesmerized and calm again. 

By the time the doctor came in, two kids were bleeding, two were screeching, one was complaining about his arm hurting worse than anything in the whole wide world and Liam was smiling away. 

"Looks like he's happy," the doctor says, looking at Liam and completely disregarding the other noise in the room. I tried to pay attention to the positive too and only once did I have to quiet the others down while the doc checked out our elf-baby. Point for the kids!

At the end of the visit the doctor told me he wanted to recheck growth in about 6 weeks. 

"I'd come in between Thanksgiving and Christmas to save your sanity," he said. 

Hee hee, I was flattered he thinks there is anything left to save!

This morning,  Aidan went in to his class with his sleeve rolled up to reveal his shot....and limping. I am not sure he will make it in the military but I am sure they will understand why he can't join when he tells them about his man-cold-shot when he was 5! Chicken soup anyone?


Mosquitoes and M&M's

On the way home from breakfast today:

"Mommy, mosquitoes and M&M's are candy, right?" Madeline asked. Focused on my driving (i.e. lost in thought), I only half heard her question and didn't respond.

"Mommy, I'm talking to you.....Mommy," she said. 

"Yes, Madeline, I'm listening," I replied. 

"Mosquitoes and M&M's are candy, right?" she repeated. 

"No, Madeline. M&M's are candy but mosquitoes are not candy," I said. 

"No, no, no," Madeline said, flapping her hands wildly by her shoulders, like little hummingbird wings. "Not Mosquitoes that fly," she said flustered. "I mean, mosquitoes you eat!" 

Kurt and I start laughing. "Oh, you mean SKITTLES!" he said. 

"Yeah, 'squitoes and M&M's are candy," she said.  

Close enough.