Friday, November 27, 2009

$5.00 magazine subscriptions

I'm not a big fan of waking up before the sun on Black Friday to battle the frenzied crowds in the search of scoring the perfect deal. (In fact, Nate tried it himself for the first time ever this morning and it took him all of about 10 minutes in a packed store before he completely freaked out and came home...)

But the bargain shopper in me loves finding a great online deal and passing it on, like this, $5 magazine subscriptions through, now through December 1st.

(Make sure you read the details of the deal and order at least $25 to qualify for the FREE Super Saver Shipping from Amazon. The $25 does NOT have to be just magazines, BTW.)

Happy shopping, my friends.

Happy shopping!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A lavatory story

It's not for the squeamish, I promise you that.

Noah just marched up to me and suggested I follow him to see something in the bathroom. That's never a good sign.

"It's in the toilet," he said.

"Is it gross?" I asked, mentally preparing myself for the worst. (Stupid question. Of course it's gross, it's toilet related. What was I thinking?)

And I walk into the bathroom to see a clogged toilet, a nest of toilet paper still piled high inside.

Now, over the years and through much experience I would go as far as to say I've become quite skilled in my toilet unclogging abilities, if I may boast. (And really, I must not have much to brag about if that's high enough on my list of special talents to even mention, so just give it to me this time, okay?)

If a toilet is clogged around here, it's usually my job to unclog it. (I'm guessing it's due to my unusual upper body strength. Or perhaps the fact that Nate is rarely around.)

In fact, I hadn't met a backed up toilet I couldn't unclog up until a few months back when we combined teenage scouts, a pizza party, and our little bathroom. It was a volatile mix I won't soon repeat.

Apparently one of the scouts wasn't feeling so hot when he arrived and quickly locked himself in the bathroom. He was in there for quite some time and after a while, a few of the other boys needed to use the bathroom and started knocking on the door.

And there was no answer.

More knocking from the other boys, along with a few jibes that only teenage boys can come up with. Still no response.

Then, from behind the still locked door came an odor so powerful it filled the hallway and wafted into the kitchen. After several more minutes and still no answer at the door, Nate and I began to worry a little. Was this kid okay? Was he still alive in there, or he blacked out from the overwhelming stench?

With the pizza almost gone and the party winding down, the boy finally crept out of the bathroom and sheepishly whispered to my husband that the toilet was clogged.

And, oh, was that toilet clogged!!

Apparently trying to spare himself some humiliation, this poor kid had taken it upon himself to unsuccessfully try to unplug the toilet on his own and had failed so miserably and in such a way that I could neither comprehend, nor explain what exactly happened in there. I walked into this bathroom to find several inches of sewage on the floor, muck in the tub and all over the toilet, and a spray of feculence on the wall and cabinet next to the toilet.


Now, being the mother of two boys who potty trained ridiculously late (that's right, kids, I'm publicly calling you out) as well as the owner of an 80 lb. dog, and for other reasons I should probably not go into great detail here, I feel I've dealt with more than what I'd consider my fair share of poop. But this bathroom calamity, despite my years of training, was so far beyond even my capabilities.

Where to even begin? There seemed no point in cleaning up the floor around the toilet until the toilet itself stopped spewing waste like a volcano. And yet, the floor around the toilet was such a vile wasteland of liquid poop, it was nearly impossible to even get to the toilet to unclog it without wading right into the middle of it. I panicked and considered the possibility of hiring a disaster clean up company, although I'm not sure even they could handle something of this magnitude.

But, we didn't call anyone, at first. Nate, who was beyond ticked, and mumbling about how much it was going to cost us to get a plumber out here, and wondering if our pipes were somehow damaged, went in and made his best efforts, but I think he was too scared of getting contaminated by the sludge to really put some muscle into it. Amateur!

I decided to take things into my own hands. Wielding my trusty plunger, I held my breath and went in for the kill. And that toilet, despite all my jostling, coaxing, and cursing, remained clogged.

Nate then decided to call in his trusty friend Jeff to help out. Truthfully, though, I don't think Jeff had any clue what he was getting himself into when he showed up with his own industrial plunger in hand. As soon as we opened the door, and the vile cloud that now filled the entire house was released outside onto the front porch, Jeff's nose wrinkled, and he immediately pulled up his shirt and covered his nose and mouth. Yes, it was that bad.

Jeff assessed the damage, used some colorful language himself, and then went to work. It took him a while, but he did it. Jeff, my hero, unclogged the toilet. And I told him, had he not been splashed with feces, I probably would have kissed him right there. Poor man.

And then the real work began, the scooping, the scrubbing, the bleaching, and sterilizing of that bathroom from the ceiling to the floor. It took hours.

And it still smelled.

For a long, long time.

And despite scrubbing myself raw in the shower that night trying to remove the microbes I could feel crawling all over my body, I still had the heebie jeebies for a few days just thinking about what we'd been through.

That's a delightful little story, isn't it?

Doesn't it make you want to come stay at my house?

So all this potty talk got me thinking about how easy it was back when I just had to change a diaper every couple of hours, and for the most part, all this excrement was fully contained. Why was that such a bad thing again?

Now, I'm constantly reminding my boys to flush and wash their hands and pay attention to where they pee. I spend time scrubbing the toilet and floor only to discover it needs to be redone an hour later, or sometimes before my cleaner even has a chance to dry. And no matter how much bleach or Lysol or Mr. Clean I use, I still can't seem to rid that bathroom of the telltale smell of misfiring little boys. We honestly figure we'll just have to remodel the entire bathroom one of these days to get rid of that smell.

And I have to wonder:

"Why on earth was I in such a hurry years ago to get my kids to use the toilet?!"

(Oh, and yes, we realize now we totally need to get a plumber's snake.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Should I stay or should I go now?

The carpool has been getting a little out of hand lately.

(Truthfully, that's probably the understatement of the year.) It's been a complete and utter zoo.

And it's sucking my will to live.

I know I've said it before, but our carpool is no ordinary 5 or 10 minute commute. Each morning is a 12 mile expedition. Yes, 12 grueling miles with 5 children, each with their own personalities and often annoying characteristics.

What a way to start each day. Is it any wonder that I hit the snooze button several times each morning before woefully prying my reluctant carcass from beneath the covers?

Now, in our carpool, the decibel level, in my opinion, is really reaching unsafe levels for me to safely operate the vehicle. I should point out that as the mother of only 2 children myself, and as the second daughter in a family of 4 reasonably well behaved girls, I am just not equipped to handle that much noise. Particularly in such a small, enclosed area, and so close to my head.

In addition to the noise, there's the fighting. The fighting! I often find myself confiscating folders and water bottles and pencils and any other object that could be turned into a weapon to cause bodily harm.

(And really, with boys, any object can become a deadly I right?)

I don't know how you parents in large families do it day in and day out because I get exhausted just thinking about it.

For a while I've been debating the proper way to handle this situation and the way I see it, I basically have two alternatives:

Option A - Each time the children act in such a way that I find it hard to concentrate on the task of driving, I pull over and give the children yet another tongue lashing about the dangers of a distracted driver. Perhaps the driver's ed. department from my local high school could provide me with some graphic visual aids (remember those?!) that would really help the message hit home. And then we sit and wait until it's quiet enough to continue our journey, each second ticking on the clock just another second that they could have spent playing on the playground at school had they gotten there a little earlier.

Option B - I put the pedal to the metal and drive like a bat out of hell to significantly shorten the time the youngsters will actually remain in my car.

And both options have their disadvantages.

I mean, sometimes it's just not safe or feasible to pull over, what with all the construction they've been doing lately. And, since I've already tried this option many, many, many times already, it seems apparent that it's just not working.

Yesterday morning, while the kids were loading into the car, I reminded them that I expect good behavior, courtesy, respect, and heck, WORLD PEACE when I'm driving them to school. So imagine my horror when it was my own two children that started whacking each other with school supplies around mile 6 of our journey to the point where I had to pull over and get all psycho-mom in their faces.

Perhaps I need to print up and post a list of the rules in my car since no one seems to be able to remember them for any length of time. I guess I thought that most of them were just plain common sense, but we all know sense isn't so common these days..

Hmm, let's see:

Rule #1: If it isn't yours, don't touch it. This applies to all personal property including backpacks, folders, lunches, water bottles, jackets, seats, and most importantly, body parts.

Rule #2: No tattling. Seriously. I so don't want to hear it. Don't come whining to me that somebody punched you, because I'm guessing it's because you totally deserved it.

Rule #3: Zip it. No screeching, hollering, bellowing, or singing of that awful song with the alternative lyrics about Barney that's been so wildly popular in the car for the past few days. Ugh. And no jokes about body parts or functions. I get enough of that at home.

And really, that's about it. If those 3 basic rules were followed, it would be a delight to cart those kids around.

No really, it would. There was a day that I remember distinctly when the kids were laughing and singing in unison to a Raffi cd I'd checked out from the library. It was brief, but it was beautiful.

And it didn't last. Soon they were arguing over which song to listen to next and making up their own unpleasant lyrics to the songs using each other's names. The punching began, then the tattling. And the Raffi cd eventually had to go back to the library.

I suppose the next time the chaos starts in the car, and I'm ready to completely lose it, I can hang onto the lovely memory of 5 children cheerfully singing about "llamas eating their pajamas, down by the bay".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thank you, Sir, may I have another?

So, tonight I'm sitting down with Zachary and pleading with him for the millionth time to try to do his homework a little more neatly. I explained that he shouldn't be in such a hurry, and how it's important to do his best work... and blah blah blah...

(People tell me it's because he's a boy, and for the most part, boys just don't care about neatness as much as girls.

Is that really true or just a pathetic excuse for boys to get away with crummier handwriting?)

Anyhow, Zachary responds with:

"I know, but I don't want Dad to beat me."

"Er...what?" I asked, utterly confused.

"I don't want Dad to beat me."

Whoa, that doesn't sound right.

In an instant, my mind is racing to try to figure out what on earth he's talking about since we absolutely do not BEAT our children.

(I'm not saying there haven't been times when we've wanted to though...)

And then he tells me,

"I'm just trying to hurry and get it done so Dad doesn't beat me home from work."

Ah, THERE it is. He's trying to get his homework done before his dad comes home from work!


Good. That makes a lot more sense and doesn't involve CPS knocking on our door.

Now I just need him to be around to explain this to his teacher at the next parent teacher conference should the subject come up, don't I?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No Termites...woo hoo?

Thanks to a recent home inspection that was only slightly less invasive than the time I gave birth drug-free while a large team of medical students stood closely by and observed...

I can proudly declare our home is termite free. At least for now.

And, uh, I guess that's pretty exciting news, especially if you read all the junk mail we've been getting lately warning us about the dangers of termite infestation.

I don't know.

I'm just not sure what my level of concern about 'subterranean termites' should be right now compared to real threats like deadly flu strains, nationwide job lay-offs, and the upcoming remake of the classically nostalgic film, Dirty Dancing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunny with a chance of meatballs

I know that I've mentioned on more than one occasion that one of my son's favorite foods are meatballs, haven't I? And not just any old meatballs, this kid loves meatballs exclusively from IKEA. Forget those ordinary Italian-style meatballs that you can pick up at any grocery store - they just don't cut it around here. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but this kid is one-eighth Swedish, and has the meatball preference to prove his ancestry.

A few years back I was absolutely horrified to find him sneaking and eating these meatballs straight from the freezer - at least until I realized they were pre-cooked.

Then, I didn't care so much.

What can I say? Isn't it my job as a parent to teach self-reliance? And, who knows, maybe he was teething or something.

Anyhow, Noah has been sadly disappointed for some time now because we just plain ran out of meatballs a few months back and I just couldn't justify driving the 70 miles round trip to purchase a couple of bags of frozen, pre-shaped meat.

That, and I'm a little scared of getting sucked once again into the enormous maze of cool stuff that IKEA has upstairs in its showroom. You know how you walk around that place and see all the amazing ways things are set up and used? I walk into that and pretty soon I find myself thinking:

"Hey, maybe boxy, modern looking furniture is actually pretty cool!"

"Whoa! Wouldn't it be awesome if my kitchen was this sleek and organized?"

Pretty soon I'm writing down aisle and bin numbers of pieces of furniture with names I can't pronounce on a little scrap of paper with a tiny pencil, completely confident my home will soon be as clutter-free and chic as the display room at IKEA.

It takes about 45 minutes of me aimlessly wandering through the store before the panic kicks in.

Yes, actual panic. I swear, the room begins to spin. My heart starts beating faster and I break out in a cold sweat.

Noises become louder. Lights become brighter.




The realization hits me that I am nothing but a lab rat in a giant, decorated labyrinth.

Okay, I can see you're thinking,

Hello? Why can't you just follow the signs and leave the place like a normal person?

Yeah, you'd think that, which is a little judgemental of you, by the way, don't you think?

Because in that moment, I'm like a contestant on The Amazing Race. I'm in such a disoriented panic, I can't read a sign to save my life.

And I'm still a little distracted by all the cool displays.

Seriously, this plastic bag dispenser thingie they sell is pretty freakin' brilliant...

and at just $1.99, it's a smart buy as well!

And once I finally make it through the showroom down the stairs (or elevator, but I'm usually too woozy for the elevator at this point) and barrel my way through the kitchenwares and linens and ugly rugs (dude, what is up with all those ugly rugs?!) and plow past the candles and plants and finally emerge into the open air of the actual stock room itself, I find that I've usually lost that little slip of paper telling me just which aisle I needed to go to find the items I wanted to buy to spruce up my house. And if I DO still have the paper, I usually can't read my hastily scrawled numbers, or once I reach the proper aisle and bin number, I find that the item I want is out of stock, or only available in the one color I absolutely don't want, or is located on a high shelf, and there's not an employee who gives a darn about that within a half mile radius.

I've shed actual tears of frustration at IKEA. More than once.

That's why I don't go there very often anymore.

And because our home has sort of reached its maximum capacity of modular bookshelves.

And I really hate to dust.

But I still really like putting all those shelves and things together, despite their crazy directions, or lack of directions, really.

Yes, seriously. If you need help, you should totally call me. I'm kind of a pro by now.

It's probably due to the fact that I happen to be one quarter Swedish myself...

But back to the meatballs.

Isn't this funny?

Noah's persistence once again paid off because last night we scheduled our dinner and shopping plans around the Tempe area just so we could quickly stop in IKEA and stock up on meatballs.

Doesn't he look happy?! This kid is in meatball heaven!

And we totally scored, because when you bought a certain amount in the bistro section of IKEA you got a free t-shirt!

We're only sad it didn't come in Noah's size.

Yeah, it was my birthday...

and check out this totally awesome cake I got from the Porters! Heather swears Preston did it all by himself.

I'm so impressed. Not everyone gets a personalized, monogrammed cake for their birthday.

Lucky me!

And since we're on the subject of cute cakes, here are the cupcakes we made for Noah's "puppy party".

I got the idea here, but tweaked them a little because Noah isn't much of a chocolate fan. Too cute, huh?