Friday, October 31, 2014

Netflix, Cakes, and Birthdays

*As a reminder, I am part of the Netflix Streamteam. I am being compensated for sharing with you, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

On Tuesday, my oldest baby turned 15.

Okay, so she's not a baby anymore. But, I still remember when she was so very tiny. 

Her birth day
When I was pregnant with her, and I found out her due date was at the end of October, I was determined that this baby would NOT come on Halloween. 

You see, my family owns and runs a pumpkin farm. So, we do a lot of Halloween stuff. We think about it long before October arrives and those who work there are cleaning up from it after October 31. 

Halloween when she was 5

I'm not sure why, but because of all of this, I did not want my first born to arrive on Halloween.

Thankfully, she cooperated and came on October 28. 

Now, at 15, she is so upset that she didn't wait to be born until Halloween. She thinks nothing would be better than a Halloween birthday! She loves Halloween.

Another cake I made her
This extends to her movie/tv selections. She likes horror films, scary tv shows, and all sorts of things I do not like (because I am a big baby and this stuff scares the living day lights out of me!). She recently watched American Horror Story (the first two season) through Netflix. I stayed on a separate floor of the house and watched more uplifting shows like Criminal Minds. Well, okay, maybe not more uplifting, but less scary and less gory and more crime show (which I love). 

(Side note: So thank goodness, Netflix allows us to stream on two devices at once, so we can both get our fix!) 

But, one thing we can all sit down to watch is Nightmare Before Christmas. Now, my 15 year old LOVES Nightmare (Before Christmas). And Jack. And Sally. And it's a show we can all watch together! 

Her cake this year
It seems that Nightmare is especially popular now. Or maybe it's always been and I just didn't notice. So with her upcoming birthday, and knowing that Nightmare has streamed on Netflix more times this month than I can count, I knew her birthday would have a heavy Nightmare presence. 

And then she asked for a Nightmare cake. Well, actually, she e-mailed me links to these gorgeous, fabulous, and very professional cake pictures she found with subjects like "Can you make this?" "Or this one" "Oh, I bet you can make this for me."

Um. I like to bake. I can bake a cake. I can frost it simply. I am not a cake boss or the next great American baker or even a cake decorator. But I dove in head first and gave it my best effort. Because she is, after all, my baby

So I set out and had an amazing awesome cake in my head, that I pulled some parts out of some of the pictures she sent me. 

My gorgeous 15 year old!
Naturally, the cake didn't turn out how I pictured it. But it turned out. And I think I did an okay job. And she liked it - since it is her day, that is all that counts in my book! 

I'll spare you all my weepy thoughts about my baby growing up, but I will say, she's turning into a pretty amazing woman, despite all the horror movies she watches ;-) 

And, I've been warned that Nightmare Before Christmas will be watched many more times between now and Christmas. Which is fine by me! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Perfect Moment

"Mom," he called to me as I was standing on the bridge taking his picture, "You have to come down here! It's beautiful. Quick! Come!"

An elderly couple holding hands was passing by us. The man looked at me "Mom, he's not lying. It is very pretty down there. You should go look. Have a good day!"

So I walked down and I saw a great waterfall that wasn't visible from the bridge (though it was audible). And I saw a beautiful little creek going down the path.

But mostly I saw a boy, who was clearly in love with nature. We stayed in this spot for about 20 minutes. He splashed the water with sticks, wondered if he could jump onto rocks, and watched leaves and sticks travel down the water to see if they would go to the right or the left. It was a glorious.

It is a small moment of our day. But it is a good moment.

Without going in to too much detail, mister man is struggling with some areas of responsibility and I am struggling to parent him these days. There is often not enough laughter. There is me getting frustrated, mad, confused. There is him getting frustrated, mad, confused.

He is an eight year old boy. The world is so big and there is still so much he doesn't know. And even more stuff he doesn't know he doesn't know.

He's not a bad kid - on the contrary, he's a great kid. He has a good heart. He cuddles with me still. He shares his stuffed animals with me so I have something to sleep with at night.

But he can be wild, active, bouncy, he doesn't always listen and he doesn't always do what he's supposed to.

He's only eight. And yet, he's eight years old! We've joked that he tends to act about five.


That's important.

He was five when I was diagnosed with cancer. Just five years old. Old enough to know something was up. Old enough to be scared when I was sick. Old enough to know I was at the hospital. Old enough to know that people were worried about me. Old enough to worry about me himself.

And yet, so young. Too young to fully understand it. Too young to have to deal with all that crap. Too young to have so much time with a mom who was sick and wasn't always capable of doing what she should have done in that moment.

It didn't dawn on me until the spring the connection between things. I didn't get it.

Now I do. And my heart breaks. My heart breaks for him ... this boy who I feel confident will grow up to be a great man, and yet, we have such moments of struggle.

As I've said before, I feel I'm supposed to tell you that cancer was a gift! And my kids came out the other side better than ever! And it's awesome! And great! In some ways, they have come out better - they have empathy, sympathy, they understand that bad things can happen in the blink of an eye. But, even with that, it's still tough. It was hard on all of us, and that includes my children. 

So I've been trying to do better, to parent him better, to help guide him. I try to get him outside more. I've reversed tactics and have given him more responsibility. Initially I thought well if he can't do what we're asking for, ask for less. But no, he doesn't need lower standards, he needs higher ones. New rules are in place. New rewards are in place.

He's been spending time in the kitchen with us. He comes alive in there. He wants to help, he wants to do well!

And we had this moment, out at a local forest preserve last weekend. And it was glorious. Truly, truly glorious. I spend a lot of times these days thinking about all the things I've done wrong for my kids (some things I have no control over, some I do). I know it hasn't been all wrong. But this moment at the waterfall, was perfection. It was a perfect moment. I will hold on to it in my heart.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Oh, hi

So, um, hello.

How is everyone?

It's been a while since I've been around.

The end of September and October have been crazy months. Lots of ups and downs. And busy. I can't even tell you how many doctor office's I've been in - between myself, the kids and granny.

The husband is working two jobs - his normal and one seasonal (at a pumpkin farm! In the haunted house! He is literally a monster this month!)

And me? Well, I've just been trying to get through it all.

October is kind of a weird month for me. Because there is pink everywhere. And well meaning people want to talk about breast cancer. And friends want to share links with me of October campaigns done right, and some done horribly wrong. This month? I just want to avoid it all. I want October to be the month of Halloween and fall and baking apples and seeing the leaves change colors! Not the month of boobs and cancer and pink and all the crap about how I'm such a survivor because I fought hard and ra-ra-ra-sis-boom-ba-breast-cancer-is-awesome! (No, no one actually believes that, but sometimes, I'm not going to lie, I really wonder if maybe some people actually do think that).

It's been a month of ups and downs. One kid had to go to a specialist. I thought I would die taking him as it was a hematologist/oncologist and, well, I had a lot of baggage to carry into that appointment. But the doctor feels that everything is okay and that we should just go home, relax, and carry on with life as normal.

Which is funny because I still have no clue what normal is. Things change a lot around here.

I have one child in school. As in she gets up every day, gets on a bus, goes to school, comes home and does homework. I always knew she'd go to school for high school, but it's here now, and I miss her. Okay, most days I miss her being home all day. It's different and it's new and she is adjusting so well, but there were some bumps along the way. It's to be expected. School is different than what we did here. But it's also good.

I went in to see a hematologist, who while was a very kind doctor, couldn't offer really any more information than my oncologist in regards to my low iron. So I decided to bite the bullet and start working with an allergist to desensitize me to iron. Except I called a couple and they said they couldn't do that. So. I'm back to where I was before and kind of feeling really annoyed with it all.

And then there is everything involved with helping granny. I haven't talked about it much here - it's awkward because I never know what to say really because I don't want to share her stories here. But the gist is, when we sold our house, it was to move in with her and help her out. There is more to helping her than I was expecting. And she has her own fair share of doctors appointments. So I'm trying to juggle everyone's schedules. A few weeks ago she fell twice in a week and broke at least one rib (though I really think two, except we never x-rayed the other side because lungs sounded okay and there isn't much they can do for that anyway). She's healing, but she wasn't feeling well for a while. And I slept on the couch to be close in case she needed something. All things out of our control. And granny is one of the sweetest people ever and constantly thanking me (even though it's not necessary), so it's not hard to help her. But it is sometimes because it's another thing to juggle. (But mostly it's not).

Basically, October has been a month where I've pretty much managed to do only what needed to be done.

Plus some knitting. Because it is cheaper than therapy. I've been taking pictures of things, but now I have to just actually post them! Soon ... at least, I won't let another almost month go by before I share them!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pizza (Rolls) and a Movie

*As a reminder, I am part of the Netflix Streamteam. I am being compensated for sharing with you, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Pizza and a movie. Movie and a pizza.

They go together so perfectly, don't they?

We are entering our busy time of year. Or I should say, to be more accurate, a busier time of year.
For the next few weeks, the husband works a second job. Which means we don't see each other as often as we'd like to. Which is okay, because it's a small amount of time.

But we've been spending time just doing nothing with each other in preparation.

So a movie night is a perfect way to hang out together, while cuddling on the couch!

Recently, we sat down to watch Manchurian Candidate.

He picked it out, after seeing what Netflix had available.

I whipped up some pizza rolls.

Okay, I didn't just whip them up. They take planning. And I had never made them before. To be honest, making them for my family was the test run, since really, my goal was to make them for some friends. They get them when family from out of state visits and brings them because they can't find them locally.

I have never had them before our friends introduced them to me. And I was banging my head against the wall when a google search for a recipe for pizza rolls came up empty. Well, okay, it came up with lots of things, just not what I was looking for.

Until another search (that was just a jumble of ingredients) turned up the fact that I was really eating pepperoni rolls - which is exactly what my friends called them, I just forgot until I read it. So I went to work a little after lunch to start the dough. I used the recipe I found here, but modified the fillings for my family.

The vegetarian in the family got two-cheese rolls. The non-pepperoni fans got sausage and cheese rolls and the rest of us ate some pepperoni rolls. Except, in our house, we now call these pizza rolls for sake of not having to be specific. And who knows, if I make them again, I might throw some pizza sauce in there to see?

And then we sat to watch Manchurian Candidate. Which was a good movie. Except, I'm still not sure I fully understand all that happened. Because here's the truth about our movie night. Husband and I were both exhausted. About 65% of the way into the movie, we looked at each other, realized we were both moments from falling asleep. So we stopped the movie and went to bed. Two nights later, we sat down to watch the rest of it.

On one hand, it sounds kind of pathetic. On the other, we live in this world and we are busy and tired and often taking care of other people before ourselves. And sometimes that means we're really tired and that it's time to take care of us. And if that means we pause a movie half-way to go to bed, so be it.

Of course, this is why Netflix is a beautiful thing for us. There is no time limit on what's in our queue - as long as Netflix has the movie (or tv show) it's there waiting for us to come back. And Netflix remembers where we were. No guessing on our part. No trying to remember. Just select the movie again and tell it to continue playing. Or restart it from the beginning if you need to.

It's a wonderful thing. Even if it means that we feel old as we climb into bed before 10:00, not having been able to stay awake long enough to watch a movie. ;-)

Monday, September 22, 2014

All Aboard!

In front of sleeping car
In front of our train car
Two weeks ago, I was able to get away and take a mini-vacation.

My (now) 12yo wanted to spend her birthday in New Hampshire. So three weeks ago, we put her on a plane and sent her out to New Hampshire.

Don't worry, my in-laws live there and picked her up when she deplaned. She got to spend a week with graham and pop all by herself. Three years ago, at a similar age, our oldest daughter went out and did a similar thing for two weeks. So, technically, we were just keeping up the tradition!

Right side of Amtrak Roomette
right side of the room
She had a great week with them all to herself. I suppose, she got to pretend to be an only child while in the care of grandparents who thoroughly spoiled her (as it should be!) which was fabulous for her.

I wasn't opposed to her being out there for two weeks alone, except the second week was when her birthday hit. And I didn't want to be away from her for her birthday. I'm not ready to cut the cord that much yet!

So late Friday night, the 8yo and I headed into the city and boarded an Amtrak train headed for Boston. {The husband had to work and the 14yo had school so they had to stay behind.}

We do this because a) I dislike flying. A lot. No, scratch that, I hate flying with every fiber of my being and b) we enjoy taking the train. This is not our first train trip and I hope it won't be out last!

Chicago River outside Amtrak windowLeaving from a big station like Chicago, means we get to check any luggage we want, but we also brought one small suitcase on the train. Not all stations are big enough to have the staff/space to do checked luggage.

We splurged this trip and got a roomette. We've ridden in coach before. It's not bad, but it's not as good as getting a room. Plus, when we get a room, our meals are included in the price (they are not in coach seating - you pay when you eat like a restaurant). The roomette is the smaller of the rooms available on the train we were on. But with just the two of us, the smaller room was the perfect size!

Amtrak roomette bunk bed
bunk bed down!
Our train left right on time at 9:30. Mister Man and I hung out for a little bit. We came well equipped with a book each, tablets, a ds, a few toys for him, and some knitting for me. When we were ready for bed, we had the attendant pull down the bunk bed so we could get some sleep.

It's kind of peaceful sleeping on the train. I suppose it must be similar to why babies like to be rocked to sleep? Some parts of the track are bumpy, but it wasn't bad at all! We both slept for quite a while (though I stayed up knitting and watching some videos and just enjoyed the peace and rhythmic rocking).

In the morning we went off to the dining car to get some breakfast. The dining cars are community seating - each table has 4 seats. They will fill the 4 seats up - so if you are traveling as a pair, you can get another pair (or single rider) at your table. Most people who ride the train are pretty friendly and will chat with you, and it's kind of fun to get to meet someone new! We arrived right before breakfast ended, so we sat alone. But we also learned at breakfast the train was running late due to a slow-moving freight in front of us. {As a side note: the train also has a cafe car on it, which has soda, snacks, simple foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, so you can get food on the train without needing to sit down for a full meal!}

We went back to the room and played some games, watched some Dino Dan (a show my son is in LOVE with), and spent time just looking out the window. It's really pretty to watch America go by the train window! We also kept pulling up google maps on my phone so we could see exactly where we were. Mister Man had fun seeing where we were and how far from home we had made it!

Lunch on Amtrak train
our lunch!
This is how most of our day was spent - hanging out, lunch, hanging out. Just before dinner time, we got into the Albany, NY station. This stop is kind of a special stop for the Chicago/Boston run. Because the Chicago/Boston run is also the Chicago/New York City run. From Chicago to Albany, it's one train. At the Albany station, they actually split the train into two trains. One to New York City, one to Boston. We didn't get to watch the trains split, but we did watch our train get the new engine hooked up to it. It was kind of fun!

Amtrak train at Albany StationThen it was back for dinner (which was a bit late). We got back to the room, did one episode of Dinosaur Dan and the 8 year old was tired. I told him to go to sleep. We were supposed to arrive in Boston at about 9:10, but I knew we were running late. I figured better to let him sleep and wake him up than to keep him awake and make him overtired tomorrow. I sat and got a bunch of knitting and reading done! I managed to finish my first vacation read (which isn't too impressive because I brought light, easy, quick reads!).

View outside Amtrak window
view outside Amtrak window
Finally, at about 1:15am, our train pulled into Boston (and yes, for those keeping track that 27 hours on a train factoring in the time change). I won't lie, I was pretty exhausted by this time and not happy about getting in so late. I wasn't quite mad either - there can always be delays when traveling: planes take off late, get rerouted, traffic jams on highways, etc - it was just so late at night and I was tired!

That said, overall, I loved our train trip. It's relaxing (okay, maybe not 100% when it's late). On the way home, it's kind of like a mini-vacation - you can't cook or clean or do laundry yet. You just get to hang out and read, play games, knit, watch videos, chat with the kids.

Brain QuestOn the way home, it was Mister Man, Miss M and me. We had a lot of fun asking questions from a set of Brain Quest questions, in addition to all the other stuff we brought with! It was some good bonding time.

I highly recommend a train trip or two. I know, I know it takes longer than flying. And sometimes it can even take a bit longer, but it's so worth it!

View outside Amtrak window
View outside Amtrak window
PS - this post was not sponsored by Amtrak or anyone. That said, if they ever want to send me somewhere, I'll gladly go. I hope to someday take the train out of Chicago and go to New York City when it splits! ;-)