Colorado or Bust! Day 1

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

 

COLORADO OR BUST: DAY 1

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to start our trip out west in search of higher altitudes and cooler temperatures.   Goal for the day?  Make it to Amarillo, a mere ten hours away.

Ten hours.

In the car.

With three kids.

Oy vey.

Still, we were optimistic.  I had spent weeks preparing “busy bags” for the girls.  I’d trolled Pinterest with pernicious passion searching for the right combination of activities guaranteed to buy us thirty-two hours of peaceful driving.  I’d even bought them “surprises” to open once we were on the road (I call them surprises, but we all know that they were bribes for good behavior).  I loaded our DVD case chock-full of animated delights, and packed a large reusable grocery bag to the brim with snacks.  We were prepared for every eventuality.

Well, almost.

I wasn’t really prepared for how quickly the girls would buzz through each activity….and how quickly they would toss said activity to the floor of the car once they were finished with it.   Or that A would throw EVERYTHING that I handed her, be it books, toys, or food.   And that she would refuse to nap in the car. And that the only DVD she had the slightest interest in watching was “Backyardigans”, resulting in us watching the same four episodes for ten hours straight (I should mention that she also liked “Maisy”,  but after thirty minutes of listening to random trumpeting from Charlie, the special needs alligator, we had to turn it off).

Oh, and the poop.  In retrospect, we really weren’t as prepared for the amount of poo-splosions that occurred as we should have been.   I mean, I expected a few from A, if not quite the volume that actually occurred.  And believe me, there was volume.  Then we hit the long stretch of road between Childress, TX and Amarillo.

Middle of Nowhereville

Also known as No-Toilet Land.

My poor, sweet oldest.  The combination of travel and juice boxes did not set well with her tummy, and she had to go.  Like, RIGHT NOW.  We sped down the highway  as fast as we could, but there was literally nothing.  She held it as long as she could.  Then, about five minutes from Amarillo, it happened.

Poo-Splosion.

She was horrified.  This child has been potty trained since she was two, and has had maybe two accidents in her entire life.  We pulled to the side of the road to get her cleaned up, only to realize that the side of the road was covered in stickers.   We kept L in the car, balancing on discarded coloring books and squashed granola bars, and used a pair of fingernail clippers to cut her underwear off.  It’s really amazing the many ways that one can use fingernail clippers, don’t you think?   After a box full of wipes and some stories of how everybody poops in their pants, we finally got her clean and the poo-splosion panties contained in a trash bag.  I got to spend the next twenty minutes dislodging stickers from my flip-flop clad feet.

Nine and a half hours after we pulled out of our driveway, we pulled into the parking lot for the Big Texan.   I had never heard of this restaurant until my dad mentioned it to me, but apparently it’s kind of a big deal.  It’s been on Man vs. Food  and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.  They’re best known for their 72 oz steak, nicknamed “The Texas King.”  If you finish the entire steak along with a salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and a roll, you get your meal for free.  It’s very reminiscent of “The Great Outdoors”, when John Candy eats “the ol’ 96’er”.   Around  50,000 people have made the attempt, and only 8,000 have ever finished.  We watched three, ahem, large gentlemen take on the challenge while we were there, but even they couldn’t do it.

Finishing that steak is now on my Bucket List.

The restaurant is hilarious, full of stuffed animal heads (including a huge bear) and boardwalk-type games.  We had to play Zoltar, even if the girls didn’t get the “Big” reference.    The wait staff is dressed like old ranch hands, and they look completely miserable about it.   There’s a huge cow out front for photo ops, along with a larger-than-life neon cowboy to beckon Route 66 travelers.

The Big Texan

The food  itself was surprisingly good!  We’ve learned from experience that most touristy attractions have blah food, so we were pleasantly surprised at how good this was.   We had steak (of course) that was cooked perfectly, a baked potato with some sort of butter/sour cream/chive combination that was to die for, and salads with homemade ranch.  L had steak, because she is Queen Carnivore in our house, and even the kids’ steak was a really nice cut.  C and A split some chicken tenders, which looked, you know, chickeny.  We had chocolate chip cookies for dessert that were cuh-razy rich and topped with whipped cream.  And the best part? All of the kids’ meals come with a free cowboy hat.  And it was a really cute straw one, not a crappy plastic one.  Big Texan, I give you two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Oh, and  did I mention the rainbow?  When we started out that morning,  we passed a beautiful DOUBLE RAINBOW !  I don’t think that I’ve ever actually seen a double rainbow.  I felt like God was smiling on our trip….and laughing a little, too, because He knew what we had in store for us.

Double Rainbow!

And that, my friends, was Day 1.  Stay tuned for Day 2, where we encounter New Mexican rest stops, a Poo-Splosion Snack Time, and finally, FINALLY…COLORADO!

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A Fine Dining Don’t

In retrospect, taking three hungry girls – who had been up since six this morning and were all jacked up on cinnamon rolls and soy milk – to an upscale Indian bistro was not the brightest idea.

Turns out, most upscale Indian bistros do not have a kids’ menu.  The lone highchair hidden in the back of the restaurant was spotless – a sure sign that this was not going to be a “kid friendly” dining experience.  But it’s my husband’s birthday, and he wanted Indian food.  So we persevered.

We asked the waitress (the only waitress, in fact, in the bistro) if we could have a basket of naan to keep the natives from getting restless.  Apparently she’s not used to dealing with such plebian requests, because that was completely ignored.  I resorted to digging out every half-eaten snack from the bottom of my purse and doling it out like it was Christmas candy.  Everyone loves to eat four month old Mum-Mums, right?

Wrong.

A decided to express her displeasure in a physical fashion, since she’s too young to whine (don’t worry; L and C covered that.  No dining experience would be complete without it!).  She crumpled her Mum-Mums into miniature fragments and confetti’d our table.  Raisins rained on the floor.  And the naan, when we finally got it, was hurled across the room.  I’m sure that our fellow diners, sitting at tables for two in their business wear, appreciated the show.

Especially once the shrieking began.

We tried to order the most kid-friendly dishes possible.  The birthday boy got vegetable fritters as a starter, and I got potato samosas (mmm….samosas).  Neither one of the big girls would touch a fritter, but A actually seemed to enjoy it.  The samosas, on the other hand, were immediately spit onto the previously immaculate black tablecloth. (An aside: if there are tablecloths and actual napkins, then it’s not a restaurant one should take children.  Lesson learned).  For our entrees, he had the chicken Korma and I got chicken tikka masala.  Both (relatively) child friendly, both (relatively) mild.

It was met with a resounding “YUCK” from all parties (all parties under 4’5″).  L, our adventurous diner who lives for shrimp and is known to eat sushi, actually tried it.    She popped a piece of chicken Tikka into her mouth, made a face, and daintily wiped her mouth while whispering, “No thank you”.

At this point, it is one o’clock in the afternoon.  Did I mention that the girls had been up since six?  And that we were already entering nap time?  We were a runaway train headed straight for Meltdownville.  So, I did what all desperate parents do in this situation: I promised them McDonald’s in exchange for twenty minutes of good behavior.

It was a feeling of beautiful relief when we walked back out into the oven we call Texas, leaving a trail of saffron rice and fritter crumbs in our wake.  And we went to McDonald’s.

My First Pattern

Pre-puppy, when life was (relatively) calm, I finally got back behind the sewing machine.  I haven’t done anything since my skirt attempt a few months ago, and since that went (relatively) well I decided to test my skills and do something that totally frightened me: A Pattern.

Now, patterns are frightening in a myriad of ways.  First, the instructions.  They read like freaking Greek.   Second, the laying out process.  What direction does it go?  What does a fold have to do with it? What on earth is nap? And finally, there is the inevitability of having what I made look absolutely NOTHING like the picture on the front of the pattern.  But I faced my fears and lived to tell the tale.

I went shopping at Hobby Lobby (aka the greatest store EVER) during a ninety-nine cent sale awhile back and came home with what I thought were going to be easy patterns.  It even had the word “easy” in the title!  Turns out….not so much.

I called my  mom in defeat, who very kindly searched patterns online until she came up with a list of beginner patterns that she thought I should start with.  Back to Hobby Lobby I went (patterns were still on sale!) and came back laden with patterns, fabrics, and “notions”, a sort of catch-all word referring to anything that isn’t fabric.

I was enthusiastic,  but still nervous.  All pattern instructions operate under the assumption that the user has some basic sewing knowledge.  Which I don’t.   It’s written in an obscure Sewer’s Code for which I don’t have the cipher.

I Googled frantically, searching the Web and YouTube for SOMETHING to break this thing down for me, but alas, my quest was a failure.  I would have to rely on myself (and my mom, via phone). I painstakingly went through the process, line by line, until I had my Eureka moment:  I broke the code.

Just in case I can save somebody else the same heartbreak and woe that I went through, I’m going to walk you through the pattern the way that I did.  Now, I could very well have done this COMPLETELY the wrong way (and if I did, somebody please tell me), but in the end I did end up with a wearable garment!  It’s not “Project Runway” ready or anything, but it’s a start.

Here’s what I did:

I bought Simplicity pattern 2228, which is a pillowcase dress. On the back of the pattern, it has a chart telling you how much fabric and what not you’ll need for whichever size you’re making.  For instance,  I made it a size 7, which means that I used 7/8 of a yard of fabric for the main piece of the dress, and 5/8 yard of different fabric for the contrast band along the bottom.  I also needed thread, 2  3/8 yard of 5/8″ wide ribbon, and a  package of 7/8″ wide single fold bias tape.  I’ll get to the bias tape thing in a minute, but it’s ridiculously confusing.  Hint: it’s over by the thread.  Last freaking place that I looked.

Okay, so the first thing you do is pull out the pattern pieces and cut them out for the size that you want them to be.  Just follow the little black lines; this is the easy part.  The instructions say to press the pattern pieces with a warm, dry iron, but honestly I skipped that part.  In retrospect, I probably should have done it.   Also, make sure to pre-shrink your fabric by washing, drying, and pressing it.   One thing I’ve learned about sewing is that it makes you VERY familiar with your iron!  In some cases, too familiar, as is evidenced by this loveliness:

But I digress.

Now take your nicely pressed fabric, and fold it like the little diagram in the instructions.  Then lay your pattern piece with the arrows pointing right to your fold, pin it, and cut it out.  Next, take your pattern piece, flip it over, and cut it on the fold again. I know that I’m not explaining this part very well.  It’s really better if you can see it.  Do the same with the contrast band piece.

Once you have everything cut out, it’s time to start sewing!

Step 1: Sew the front to the back at the side seams, making sure that you’re sewing the fabric with the RIGHT SIDES together – the wrong side of the fabric will be facing out.

Step 2: Break out that bias tape!  Here’s what the package looks like:

I got pink, to kind of match my fabric, but I really don’t know if the color matters or not. It’s going to be folded like this:

Now what you have to do is UNFOLD it and press it flat.  Next, fold the tape in half, lengthwise with the raw edges even, and press that flat.

Step 3: Take your dress and spread it out at the side seams with the RIGHT side of the fabric facing you.  You want the armhole to look like a big “U”.  Now pin the bias tape to the armhole edge, trying to keep the raw edges even.  Sew the tape onto the armhole with a 3/8″ seam.  Trim the seam, and clip the curves (this was a tricky part for me – turns out curves are harder to sew than straight lines).  Repeat on the other armhole.

Step 4: Turn the tape over to the INSIDE (wrong side of fabric); press it and pin it.  On the OUTSIDE (right side of fabric), top-stitch the tape.  Repeat on the other armhole.

Step 5: Keep that bias tape handy, because we’re using it again!  Get a piece that still has the weird little fold on it – like this, remember?

Now open out just one of the edges and press it.

Step 6: Next,  we’re going to make a casing for the neckline of the dress.  With the RIGHT sides of the fabric together, pin the tape to the upper edge with the raw edges even.  Turn it under when you get to the armhole on each side.  Stitch in a 3/8″ seam.

Step 7:  Fold the fabric over to the INSIDE of the dress and press it.  See? It’s like a hem or a waistband because now you’ve got a little casing.  Pin it, then stitch close to the inner edge (make sure you’ve got enough room to slide in that ribbon!).  Do the same on the other side of the dress.

Step 8: Cut the ribbon in half for the ties.  Insert the ribbon through the front and back casings, making sure that the ends extend evenly (you’ll tie them in bows at the shoulders when it’s worn). It’ll look like this:

Step 9:  Time to get out that contrast band!  This part was really confusing for me, so I have no idea if I did it the right way or not.  You’re going to stitch the front part of the band to the back part of the band at the side seams.  Fold the band in half lengthwise with the WRONG sides together, having the raw edges even.  Press it and pin it (the instructions say to “baste”.  I have no idea what that means.  In my little world, it means pin).

Step 10: On the OUTSIDE of the dress, pin the band to the lower edge of the garment, matching the centers and side seams.  Stitch the seam.  Stich again 1/4″ away from the first stitching.  Press seam toward the garment, pressing the band down.

Step 11:  On the OUTSIDE, top stitch the front and back close to the seam.

And voila! You have something that is actually wearable, albeit way too large in my case.  Here it is:

 

 

I may even try to re-use the pattern and making matching dresses for the other two girls.  Eventually.

 

 

Complications

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the moment things in my life start to become slightly easier, I feel the compunction to complicate things.  It’s summer vacation, which means no school to deal with.  L learned how to tie shoes.  C can entertain herself for hours.  A is walking and talking, which has cut down on the tantrums considerably.  Things were going well for us.

So of course, we had to complicate things.

We got a puppy.

“Got” is a relative term.  In actuality, my husband called me to come outside on Saturday night after I’d just put A to bed. He and the big girls had gone out for ice cream, and were playing in the yard until bedtime.  I walked outside, expecting to see a rainbow, or maybe a wild bunny.  I certainly didn’t expect to see a six-week old rat terrier puppy nestled in my husband’s arms.  And I CERTAINLY didn’t expect to hear these words out of his mouth: “Do you want a puppy?”

Now, my husband has had to be coerced into just about every pet that we’ve gotten in the past nine years.  Emmitt, our ten year old Boston Terrier, was mine before we met, so the hubby had little choice in that matter.  And as for the cats, let’s just say that L’s “Please Daddy?” works a LOT better than any of my attempts.  Even earlier that day the girls and I had peeked into a Petco adoption day, where I texted “Do you want to adopt a puppy for Father’s Day?”  He responded, “You might need to adopt a new husband, too.”

So you can imagine my surprise when he actually suggested that we take this puppy that had been so kindly offered to us from our neighbors.  He was the last of their dogs’ litter – the first one chosen, apparently,  but the prospective owners never showed back up.   The puppy parents were so well trained that we usually saw them around the neighborhood walking with their owners, sans leash (apparently rat terriers are very intelligent).

As soon as I took that little bundle of fur into my arms and inhaled the intoxicating scent of puppy breath, I was hooked.  There was no going back.  We named him Woodrow, Woody for short.  Sure, I could pretend that we named him after someone noble, like Woodrow Wilson, but let’s be honest – we all know that he’s named after the character from “Toy Story”.

And now, we are the proud managers of a menagerie consisting of  three kids, two cats, and two dogs.  I spent nap time Googling “how to get your puppy to sleep through the night” and taking the puppy outside to tinkle every hour instead of working on the five piles of laundry waiting to be folded.

Like I said.  Complicated.

But look at this little face and tell me if it’s worth it:

Searching for Super Recipes: Hawaiian Meatball Sandwiches

I know, these sound a little weird.  But they were actually pretty fantastic, if I say so myself.  They are an amalgamation of several different recipes, mixed in with a little bit of “I watch Top Chef, I should be able to put together a recipe”.

And here is the result.

Here’s what you need:

Sauce:

1/3 cup of barbecue sauce (any kind will do)

2 Tbsp soy sauce/tamari

1 Tbsp grated gingerroot

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp sesame oil

Meatballs:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1/3 cup plum sauce

1/3 cup Panko

3 Tbsp finely minced green onions

1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro

1 egg

2 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp grated gingerroot

1 tsp sesame oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Sandwiches:

1 package King’s Hawaiian rolls

Approximately five chunks of pineapple

1/2 bell pepper (any color), sliced

1/4 white onion, sliced

 

Here’s what you do:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Spray a rimmed cookie sheet or large baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2) Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Form meat mixture into approximately 30 1 to 1-1/2″ meatballs.  Place on prepared pan.

3) Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and browned on the outside.

4) While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the sauce.  Whisk together all sauce ingredients and set aside.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Cut a Hawaiian roll in half.  Spread a dollop of the sauce on the bottom.  Top with a meatball, followed  by onion, pepper, and a slice of pineapple.  Put the other half of the roll on top and voila!  Hawaiian meatball sandwich!

I served three sandwiches per adult, and one per kid with fries and salad on the side.  We even played Hawaiian music via Pandora, until it began to get annoying (which was about five minutes in).

Aloha!

 

 

Somebody’s Got a Case of the Mondays

Cover of "Office Space (Special Edition w...

Cover via Amazon

That is probably one of my favorite lines from “Office Space“, which is one of my favorite movies.  Not only is in filmed in my hometown of Austin, TX (they actually drive by my husband’s old apartment in one of the scenes),  but it’s got to be the most quotable movies of my lifetime.

But I digress.

Normally when somebody says that they’ve got ” a case of the Mondays”, it’s a bad thing.  It’s a grumpy, depressed, weekend-is-over kind of thing.  In my case, however, it’s the opposite.  I LOVE Mondays.  I love the return to our regularly scheduled programming after the general mayhem of the weekend.  I love that my house is clean, because my fantastic husband has helped me scrub it.  I love that I’m the best version of myself, because I’m rested and restored from having a second set of hands around the house for two whole days.

On Mondays, I sing.  I bake.  I cook elaborate meals.  I let the kids make messes without going (totally) ballistic.  I concoct games and craft projects.  I’m even in a halfway sociable  mood by the time that my hardworking husband gets home, and may actually have enough energy for a conversation.

This is a far cry, however, from Fridays.  By Friday, I am the very WORST version of myself.  I am tired.  I am grumpy.  I am overworked, overtired, and burned out.  I cannot wait for the weekend to come, for the respite from being with three very young and very active children by myself for twelve hours a day.  At the end of the day on Friday, I want nothing more than to lock myself into a dark, silent room and wait for the stress to seep out of my system.

But today is Monday.  So I’m going to enjoy it while it’s here.

Summer Sanity Saver

It’s summer time. And I LOVE summer time.  I love sleeping late, going to the pool, eating copious amounts of popsicles, and everything else that goes along with summer.

One thing that I DON’T love about summer, though, is the boredom.  Not my own – I don’t think that I’ve been “bored” in almost six years, when L came into the world (because when you’re a parent, there’s no time to be bored).  No, I’m talking about my kids’ boredom.  On the first day of summer vacation (you know, yesterday), I heard the phrase “I’m boooooooooored” at least two thousand times.  And that’s a conservative estimate.

So I have decided to repel summer boredom.  The girls and I are going to make an “I’m Bored” book.  Basically, I’m going to re-purpose L’s three-ring binder from school and fill it with pictures of things to do when the dreaded Bored Syndrome strikes.  It’ll be like my household management binder (https://searchingforsupermom.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/householdmanagementbinder/), but for kids.  I’m in the early planning stages right now, but I’ll share it as soon as we’re finished.   Don’t worry, it’ll be finished soon – there are few things in life that I get as excited about as a good binder!

In the meantime, though, we decided to implement our first “I’m Bored” project, which I got from an old copy of  The Toddler’s Busy Book: Tape City.

This has got to be the easiest project ever.  Do you have masking tape? Do you have toy cars?  Then you, my friend, are ready to make a Tape City.

I took a roll of masking tape and laid it across the carpet in our dining room in a road-type fashion:

Obviously, not a lot of forethought or artistic planning went into this.

Add a box full of old Matchbox cars and you’re in business!

 

All three girls – even my 16 month old – played with this for HOURS.

And I got to make dinner in (relative) peace.  Then, when clean-up time game, we just peeled the tape up and threw it away (warning – don’t leave it on overnight or it could gum up your carpet).  It was so easy, we might even do it again tomorrow.