Cinnamon Toast

My children do not like whole wheat bread.  I’ve tried many recipes, and last night tried yet one more.  I even changed the proportions of whole wheat to white flour heavily in favor of white flour (2 cups to 1).  No dice.  Looked whole wheaty, tasted whole wheaty.

The biggest problem with such experiments is that I now have a whole loaf of bread that only I will eat.

I really don’t need a whole loaf of bread.  My hips don’t need a whole loaf of bread.

What to do?  Somehow, the children must be lured into consuming this bread.

My husband, after years of claiming that he did not like sweet potatoes in any form was finally convinced otherwise at Thanksgiving dinner several years ago.  After I poked him in the ribs and told him he really had to sample a dish a guest had brought, we learned that all you have to do is add enough sugar.

With that in mind, I googled cinnamon toast and the first link was this one.  I knew it would be a winner before I even read it (Pioneer Woman’s reputation precedes her).

It was.  The bread is being devoured.  I even have one procrastinator who is quickly doing his assignments to earn another piece.

And the whole wheat flour will move to the back of the pantry until I feel like making cinnamon toast again.  (Does the whole wheat factor offset the high amount of butter and sugar used?)

No Naps Allowed

This week, we’ve been playing a lot of the game called “Keep the 3 year old awake.”  If you’ve ever had a 3 year old, you might know what game I mean.

Sometime between their 2nd and 3rd birthdays, that afternoon nap starts to come later and later as the tot fights it.  There is, after all, so much excitement going on.  I had fewer problems when I had only 1 or 2 children who were all napping.  But these younger ones know, no matter how quiet the house is, that older siblings are not sleeping.  And they don’t want to miss out on…whatever.

So, by the 3rd birthday, I throw my hands in the air and give up trying to put a child to sleep after lunch.  And at 4 pm, I get a tot in meltdown.  I go back to naps.  I give up naps.  This goes on for months until we get to where I am now. 

Now, the meltdowns are less common, and she sleeps later in the morning…what a blessing.  Still, though, she doesn’t get quite enough sleep, and if she’s had a busy day (and with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, they’ve been running around outside for hours), then by late afternoon, she’s exhausted. 

If I let her sit in front of the TV, she falls asleep.  If I have to drive some child to an activity, she falls asleep.  If the TV is off, and I’m not driving anywhere, she wants to sit in my lap and fall asleep.  If my lap is unavailable, she’ll crash on the bottom step leading upstairs or on the trampoline or under the dining room table. 

And her sleep is not like most sleeps; it is a special comatose sleep.  Words do not penetrate her little brain when she falls asleep.  I can promise candy, ice cream, pony rides, a pedicure…and get no response.  Tickles, rubs, jostles, a bed of nails, medieval torture devices…do nothing to stir her.

Cold water is somewhat effective.

Yes, I have put a cold wash cloth around her neck.  Yes, I have put her hair under cold running water at the kitchen sink.  I am not proud.  I am desperate.

Because if allowed to sleep, she will take a nice long nap and wake up…at bedtime.  Her bedtime.  And 2 hours later, at my bedtime, she will still be happily wide awake.  And although she will go to bed, in my bed, and settle down and eventually go to sleep, she will be in my bed, between my husband and I, and she will have spent two hours with us, time which we use to talk and discuss the day and relax and plan and not entertain a 3 year old

I jealously guard my grownup time.

So, the best thing is to not let her fall asleep.  Most afternoons find me asking, frequently, “Where is Mary?”  The kids know I don’t suspect mischief; they want me to make sure she’s still awake.  If in the car, siblings maintain a vigil to make sure her eyes don’t droop.

Yesterday afternoon, the pizza was baking and I was sitting at the computer.  Mary crawled into my lap and snuggled nicely against me.  Oh, it was so lovely.  How I enjoy the feeling of a tiny body contentedly relaxing in the soft comfort of my lap.  Unfortunately, 430 pm is not a good time for this.  “No sleeping,” I said, sternly.  “I not,” she insisted, eyes at half mast.  I made her sit up.  I poked her in the ribs.  I talked about the pizza that was almost done. 

This went on until we were ready to eat.  After perking up for 5 minutes to eat most of a slice, she started to doze, leaning back in the dining room chair.  Then we had to drive Fritz to baseball practice.  Her eyes drooped in the driveway.  I started an argument with her.  I told her she had beautiful brown eyes.

“They’re not brown, they’re green!”

“No, they’re brown!”

This kept her going the whole way there and home.  It even sustained her afterward.  She was still awake when we went back for Fritz and didn’t fall asleep on the way home.  She went to bed promptly at 8 pm, and did not get up until 730 this morning.

After grownup time last night and this morning, I am ready to take on the world.

Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Today is a HUGE local holiday.

HUGE.

Some people even get the day off.  Many soldiers have a 4 day weekend this weekend.

Not mine.

But he did take the day off.

We attended the parade in Savannah, which is, according to some source I saw online, the second largest in the nation.

Did I mention HUGE?

The parade started at 10ish.  It got to our spot around 1030 am.  When the tail end came, it was nearly 200 pm.

Three and a half hours of parade. 

I actually almost wanted it to be over.  Thank goodness, I had packed drinks and snacks.

We took 238 pictures today, Bill and I.  I will only share half of them.



The Knights of Columbus led the parade.
The parade began after Mass.



Mary had a great seat.

If you’re a red-headed Irish woman and you march in
the St. Pat’s Parade, you better have a green sling.

The Budweiser Clydesdales were very popular.

They are massive and gorgeous.

The dog is cute too.

McGruff the Crime Dog was a hit as well.

Notice the kids swarming McGruff?  It’s quite common for the audience to run into the parade and interact with the marchers.  Savannah has a very small-town feel.  One woman a few seats down from us seemed to know everybody who was anybody in the parade.  She was up more than she was down.

Besides just saying hi to your friends, the audience, especially the female members, run into the parade and hang beads around the necks of marchers.  And they kiss them.  And they leave evidence behind.

Drum majors get kissed.

Drummers get kissed.

Young guys get kissed.

Old guys get kissed.

Ladies get kissed.

Big guys get kissed.

Texting firefighters get kissed.

If you’re “lucky” the parade will come to a halt.
And you will get kissed.

Or maybe if you’re “unlucky” the parade will come to a halt.
And you will get kissed.

The JROTC cadets got it worse than anyone else.

Seriously.

Maybe because many of those distributing kisses were
high school aged.

But soldeirs got kissed too.

She is not high school aged.

So dignified.

How could you not want to kiss a Marine?
Don’t they look great?

Unfortunately, I forgot my lipstick.  Maybe if I’m here next year…

I did run out once.  More on that later.

Other sights:

Orange shoes.

A goat.

Cream pants with shamrocks.

Pretty jeep.

Cute pram.

Bicycle built for two.

Cute wool coat.

“What color was that Harley?” asked one man.
“Brunette!” replied the other.

A very tall leprechaun.

A kazoo club.

They were “playing” God Bless America.

Very green hair.

Uncle Sam.
Uncle Sam’s shoes.

Of course, no Irish themed parade would be complete without bagpipes.

I know this post is long, but still a few more (dozen) pictures.

The woman wearing these socks had to be at least my age.

This balcony is on the house next door to my future house.
(Just need to win the lottery.)

The kids with the cymbals are clapping them
UNDER their legs.

They kept good time.

I thought we were in Philadelphia for a minute…

One option to tour Savannah. 
Very green.

The military got many cheers and usually people stood up when they (and veterans) went past.  Some generous but misguided people kept trying to give beers to the soldiers.

He said, “Thank you,” and then put it down…I swear.

While many of the marines were plastered with kisses, none of them were wearing the beads.  If someone gave them beads, they thanked them and put them in their pockets.  ONE marine had beads on, but he was the boss, so he could get away with it.  (Side note: Bill noticed an error with his uniform.  I’ll bet the guy was mortified when he discovered it.)

The bars in the area opened at 7 am.  For those marching, it was best to BYOB.

This rolling cooler PROBABLY just had water.

Now THIS is a great idea.
I’ll bet they don’t have just water in there.

These guys had a grill on the top of their float.
Smelled yummy.

I’m not a big movie personality person, but this guy really looks famous.

He was just marching along, toward the end.  No big sign saying, “Hey, look at me!  I’m Johnny Depp.”

He was standing right in front of me…maybe 10 feet away and nobody in between.  If it wasn’t him, then they found a darn good impersonator.

Lastly, Fritz and Billy did not get to see the parade.  They marched with the Scouts.  I tried to convince Katie and Jenny to run out to them, but they wouldn’t go and kiss them. 

So Mary and I did.

Fritz is actually in this picture, just to the left
of the far-right flag bearer.

When the boys found out at drop off that girls KISS the marchers, they were terrified.  Billy stood in the middle of a bunch of tall boys so you couldn’t even see him.  I had to hunt really hard.  When he heard me say, “Kiss him!” he ducked, until he saw it was Mary.
Fritz was easier to spot.  And somebody else found him later on.

Oh, we are tired.  What a fun day, though.

Fencing Match

Our Saturday was so busy, I needed 2 posts to talk about it.

Way back when I was in college, I dated this guy on the fencing team.  I think he was one of the captains.  When the team manager graduated, I volunteered to take her place, mainly because I could then spend more time with this guy.  I know, pathetic.  I hope my daughters have more dignity when they are older.

One of my duties was to occasionally drive one of the 15 passenger vans filled with the team and equipment to the away matches.  Little did I know that my adventures navigating the narrow streets of Newark, New Jersey, in a large van were a foreshadowing of my future life.

Yesterday, after the parade, I loaded Team Reitemeyer up in my 12 passenger van and headed into Savannah to watch my husband fence his first real competition since 1992.  When I arrived, one of the first things he pointed out to me were the girlfriends there watching their boyfriends fence.  Bill wanted to go up to the couples, point to our six kids, and say, “This is your future.”  {The one redeeming thing about fencing-team-groupie days was that I did end up marrying that boyfriend.} 

Getting ready for the first bout.
Bill and his opponent were both left-handed.
Catching his breath after his first victory.
How Mary spent the first part of the match.
Defending a lunge.
34 seconds into the second bout and Bill leads.
He won this one, too.
Crushed by his third opponent.
I think he was an A-rated fencer.
It took him less than two minutes to beat Bill 5-0.
Can’t breathe…
Sweaty, happy to be up 2-1.

My batteries were dying, so I turned off the camera.  Bill placed second in his pool with 3 wins and 1 loss.  He went on to the direct elimination round.  Won his first bout, but lost his second.  The guy he lost to ended up winning the whole competition, so it was a respectable loss.

I’m glad I saved my battery power.  Bill placed 6th overall.  The top 3 guys were all young, college-aged.  The 4th, 5th and 6th placers were more than double their age.  The guy in 5th had left already.  He had to be 10 years older than Bill.

I had a great time.  The younger kids, not so much.  Next time, I’ll leave them home.

Neighborhood Parade

St. Patrick’s Day is BIG in the Savannah area.  Our neighborhood held it’s annual parade yesterday.

Lining up to march
Dressed in green
The fire truck leads the parade
Everybody seems to own a golf cart.  There is no golf
course in my neighborhood.  It’s just what you do.
Bill says it’s because it’s so hot in the summer that you
need a golf cart to get to your mailbox.  You have to experience
the heat to really understand what he means.
I don’t know this child, but he’s really cute.
I DO know this kid, and think
he’s really cute too.
After the parade.
Mary was posing in an arabesque, of sorts.
If you look closely, you can see Peter’s green shirt
and head peeking from behind.  He wanted to be in the
picture, but she did not want him to.  She would stop
her pose to push him out of the way.  It’s the dual
nature of little girls: grace vs. grit.
Enjoying the after-parade picnic.
A private repast in a shady locale.

Haircuts

Bill had been needing a haircut for some days.  Two boys had been needing haircuts for some weeks.  One boy had been needing a haircut since his last haircut.  I had hoped haircuts could be accomplished in a joint session, one that did not involve me, at Bill’s favorite local barber.  Instead, I found myself driving my shaggy husband to the airport for a trip with my shaggy boys riding along behind.

The dog decided to come along too.

And I happened to realize on the way that I had left my cell phone behind.

After dropping my husband off amidst so many tears you might have thought he was heading off to war, I returned to our little town and went to the barber shop.  Mary and Peter had fallen asleep, so I left Katie and Jenny in the car, parked right out front, to monitor them.  I got the boys in line.  Jenny kept going from the car to the shop and in no time at all, Peter was awake and playing in the corner with the toys.  A few minutes later, Katie comes in with Mary on her hip.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty big shop.

After Katie deposits Mary on my lap, she says she’s going back to the car for the keys.  It was a warm day, and I had left the car running with the air on.  A second later, she returns to tearfully tell me she had hit the automatic lock on the way out.  So, the keys are in the car, which is running and keeping the dog cool.

And my cell phone is at home.

I have several friends who would happily respond to my need for help, but I don’t know their phone numbers.  That’s what the cell phone is for, right?

Right.

The barber shop had a phone book, but a quick flip through it did not reveal the names I sought.  That’s the problem with having transient military friends.

While Fritz had his head shaved and Billy had his hair trimmed, I sat and thought.  I estimated I was 3 miles from home, and the road, which I have biked and run, is not a good one to walk with children.  I have AAA, but that would have taken up to another hour of my day which was rapidly approaching dinnertime.  Fortunately, I do live in a small town, and my dentist is also my neighbor’s dentist and was located about 200 yards down the street.  After Fritz was done, I sent him to the dentist’s office to ask them to call our friend who was able to get spare keys from our house and drive them over with very little waiting on our part. 

I really hope my husband can take the boys to get their haircuts from now on. 

*******

Meanwhile, my husband, visiting Texas, has some free time.  He finds a barber shop which bills itself as a man’s barber shop.  When he tells me this, I immediately think of pinups on the wall, but he describes the pool table in the corner and the strong smell of aftershave.  As he takes a seat, someone asks him if he’d like a beer while he waited.  And not just any beer, no, a bottled local brew.

“And it was free!” he tells me.

“How much was the haircut?” I ask.

“Twenty-six dollars,” he responds somewhat sheepishly.  That’s about double our local barber.

“Then it wasn’t free,” I tell him.

Fortunately, we’re not moving there any time soon, so it won’t be a habit.

*******

Back to Fritz: when he got his ** “high and tight, skin on the sides” ** the barber finished him up with a good dousing of aftershave.  He smelled so good and reminded me of his dad every time he passed near me that afternoon and evening. 

Of course, he hated it, and happily took a shower at his first opportunity just to rid himself of the stench.

** For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology of a military haircut, a high and tight is when the sides and back are very short and most of the hair is on top.  Skin on the sides means that you shave it all the way down.  Fritz got this cut nearly a week ago, so you can see it’s growing back already.

Better living through Apps

During the summer months, I’m a pretty good housekeeper.  But when school is in session, that necessary work takes priority, and cleaning house takes the back seat.  Oh, the basics get done…the kitchen gets cleaned and the toilets get scrubbed…but the detail work like fingerprints on walls or chaos under the bathroom sinks does not.

And it makes me grumpy.  I go about my day noticing all these things that I should be cleaning…would be cleaning…if only my darling children were off at school freeing me to polish the chandeliers and take a toothbrush to the gunk around the sink faucets.

If you’ve read Sink Reflections by FlyLady (a good book, by the way), she breaks the home into zones and every week you work on just a little bit in that zone.  Instead of getting annoyed, frustrated and upset at the fingerprints on every wall in the house, you only worry about the ones in that week’s zone.  In 15 minutes a day – only 15 minutes – your home will begin to look better, one zone at a time.  I read Sink Reflections years and years ago (after failing to make heads or tails of the website), and made a Control Journal – a checklist of things to do throughout the day or week.  I copied her detailed cleaning lists for the various zones off her website and for some time used the FlyLady program to organize my cleaning.

Then, in 2003, my husband deployed, I began homeschooling, and my 4th child was born.  I quickly realized that FlyLady wasn’t going to help me survive the year, so I took a very practical approach to housework:  I hired a cleaning lady.

And for 7 years, in 3 different states, I continued to support the local economy and my personal sanity by outsourcing the grunge work.  These fabulous women didn’t do fingerprints any more than I did, but every now and then, instead of finally tackling that sticky kitchen floor (which wasn’t sticky because it had been mopped recently by someone else), I would spend a few minutes vacuuming the couch or decluttering a closet.  Life was good.

Then we moved here, and I weaned myself off my domestic help, cold turkey.  It’s been a year.  I’ve survived.

I don’t have an infant.  I now don’t even have a toddler.  I now have capable helpers, not just mess-making helpers. 

But I still have 6 children at home 24/7.  And I still have fingerprints on the wall.

And after a year, and especially after half a school year, I have clutter build-up and a disorganized pantry and a thick layer of dust on the ceiling fans.

And I’m grumpy and I start thinking of sending my children off to school just for a month, just so I can clean.

However, a few weeks ago, I actually made it onto Facebook, an infrequent occurrence, but the timing was perfect.  One friend mentioned an iPhone / iTouch / iPad app to another friend.  The app is HomeRoutines which is basically FlyLady for your personal handheld device.  No more Control Journal.  No more spinning your wheels and not having any idea where to even start on cleaning your house.  The app is fully customizable…I even have a to-do list for glasses of water per day (I am very bad about drinking enough water).  It’s exactly what I needed to prioritize my cleaning and inspire me to do just a little bit at a time.

Now, once again, I am not getting annoyed, frustrated and upset at the fingerprints on every wall in the house.  Now I am only annoyed, frustrated and upset at the fingerprints in that week’s zone.  I’ve been using the app for 2 weeks now, and I have to admit that I haven’t done much additional cleaning – it really shouldn’t be that hard to find 15 minutes a day, right?  But at least, I am letting go of most of the mess and just focusing on one area of the home.  It feels better, even if it doesn’t look much better.  Over time, I expect improvements. 

And when summer comes, I’ll know exactly where to start.

Homemade Valentines

Fritz, my boy
You are half a man
Omelets you make
In a pan
Soon you will be
Taller than me
Fi fi fiddle dum
Fiddle dum dee.

*******

Oh my Billy
My sweet, my sweet
When you walk by
The birds do tweet
The sun does shine
And life seems grand
Especially when you
Hold my hand

*******

O Kate
You do so rate
High in my esteem.
You help me cook
You help me bake
And you help me clean.

*******

My daughter Jenny
Doesn’t cluck like a hen-ny
We didn’t name her Benny
‘Cause she’s a girl.
She has big green eyes
She is quite a prize
But she doesn’t wear ties
‘Cause she’s a girl.

*******

Peter Peter
Gumbo spice
Come over here
And kiss me twice
Once on this cheek
Once on that
Now I’m happy
How ’bout that!

*******

Mary, my little cutie pie
If you were sad, then I would cry
Usually, though, you’re very happy
Especially when you’ve had a nap-py.

Just rambling

Despite having taught 3 children the poem, The Duel, it is only on my fourth child that I really “get” the line The Chinese Plate looked very blue.

Maybe I’m just feeling punchy, but that line has me LOLing.

*******

I was trying to help a friend out by watching her baby so she could have a break.  When I started mentioning weekend times, she hemmed and hawed and finally said that another friend was trying to help my husband out by watching my kids so we could have a date.  She made me promise to act surprised.

Then the babysitting friend complains that my husband hasn’t called her to arrange the date, but I’m supposed to be surprised.

Last night, talking to my husband, I mentioned that my friend told me to tell him to call her.

“Do you know why?” he asked.

I paused to think how best to answer that question.

“Why?” I responded.

He then told me all about the possible date. 

I wondered if he was going to ask me to act surprised.

*******

I found a great way to save money at the grocery store: get there 10 minutes before closing time.  You will only buy what you absolutely have to.

Unfortunately, milk, butter, flour, sugar, a few boxes of cereal (with coupons), and canned tomatoes for Saturday’s chili will still cost you nearly $75.

*******

Speaking of grocery stores, several weeks ago, I was in the produce section of our local store at the same time that they were having some sort of meeting.  As the meeting was wrapping up, someone said “Gimme a K!” and the employees said “K!”

“Gimme a R!”

“R!”

“Gimme a O!”

“O!”

I thought I would die of embarrassment on behalf of these adults.  But the worst was yet to come as they concluded their cheer:

“Gimme a GRRRRRR!”

I don’t think adults should have to growl like a wild animal in public, do you?

*******

I’m so glad the weekend is here.

Not ready to take on the day

Lying in bed in an early morning haze, I ask myself, “Is it Friday or Saturday?”

Saturday?  Please, oh, please, oh please?  Please let it be Saturday.

It’s too early to think, but I force myself:  “Was yesterday Thursday or Friday?”

It had to be Friday if today is Saturday.

“What did I do yesterday?  School…”

You do school on Fridays!

“Isn’t that noise Bill’s alarm clock?”

No, no, you’re only dreaming…

“If that’s his alarm clock, it can’t be Saturday.  It must be Friday.”

NOOOOOO!

“Bummer.”