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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hypothetically speaking...

Let's just speak hypothetically...

Should one be concerned at all if one discovers that the Department of Homeland Security, from Washington D.C., hit one's blog, surfed around a brief bit, and spent say... about... 14 minutes on aforementioned hypothetical blog?

This is all totally hypothetical of course.

a completely benign, God-fearing, regular ol' soccer mom who dearly loves her country (and who took her kiddos to the park this morning, then came home and made chicken 'n dumplings for dinner, all the while debating whether or not to grow her daughter's bangs out.  See... just a plain ol' soccer mom here... hypothetically speaking.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It was one of those days that I was pretty sure I messed my kids up for good.  I won't go into specifics, but there were some big mess up's that led me to the only conclusion I could come up with at the time...
that I'm miserable at my job as a mother and completely ineffective in teaching my children anything of consequence.

I know for certain that I'm exaggerating, that there are bigger problems, and in hind sight, all of this will be only a blip of nothingness.  But being a mama 24/7 for almost 17 years now is sometimes draining.  OK, it is really rewarding and the best job in the world, when it goes well and your hard work pays off.  But there are times when you do the very best you can, and with every good intention, and it just isn't enough.  Then being a mama is hard and unrewarding.  Why am I still like that?  42 years on the planet and I'm still in it for the reward.  Someone pass me a bag of M&Ms, (plain please. We don't need to go messing up a perfectly good snack food with nutritions peanuts) and tell me I'm doing a good job.

That miserable day has now turned into two, because honestly somethings just don't "go away" if we ignore them and as a family, were just not sure where to go next. I'm praying and trying to crawl out of the hole that I have dug, my hole of despair.  'Cause we're healthy, and we're together, and we really do love each other so much it hurts.   No pity party for me, please.  Maybe just a note that I'm not the only mama that has days like this.

I'm gonna regret putting all this in print.  Maybe one of my kiddos will look back at this 30 years from now and it will help them, somehow.

I'm climbing out now.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Winner winner...

... chicken dinner!
Look at what I won!

This absolutely darling toddler coat for Tess!  It's custom made, and I got to pick the color and everything!
I follow this blog, and someday when I get bored, I want to try about 4,421 new craft projects.  They had a little give-a-way, and amazingly I won a $50 gift cert to Up To My Knees In Crafts a little Etsy shop with the cutest things for kiddos!

Can't wait till it shows up in the next couple weeks!  Now if the weather would just dip below 100 degrees!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Snapshot {MeKong Market}

Hind sight is 20/20.  I should have chosen #5.  I didn't.  I held 1 finger up and chose #1.
It involved one of our favorite things to do, a trip to the Viet market.
We walked in, and Papa said, you can take all the pics you want, but you're never going to capture that smell.  He's right.
Gotta love any market that offers 10% off everyday.  I'll clarify... this is NOT a sale.  It's been 10% off your whole purchase since it opened!
Shelf upon shelf of fish sauce.  Chili sauces.  2 whole isles of rice noodles!  Produce I can't find anywhere else in a city of 2.4 million.  Hundreds of mysterious canned juice drinks with gelatinous stuff!  It's like a scavenger hunt for adults.
Maybe things started to go badly here... like where Patch is trying to man-handle a shoe-less Tess.  (Yes, for you Ohio fans, Tess IS wearing her Buckeye cheerleader uniform!  GO BUCKS!  If your from Michigan, never-you-mind!  And if you're from OH, and you just happen to know what, or more appropriately who Max and Erma are, drop me a note, and I'll tell you my one and only very distant claim to fame.)
You see, we LOVE the Viet market!  Don't get me wrong, we stick out like sore thumbs there, but we love it never the less.  It's only about 20 minutes from our home.  It's clean and filled with lots of jars and cans that I can't even come close to pronouncing.  The produce is cheap, the meat is cheap, for crying out loud, it's all cheap!  Then there's that 10% off!  And I always dream that I'll gather up the courage to ask one of those older Viet women to let me come to her home and give me a cooking lesson!
The meat section is full of everything imaginable.  Live crabs and lobsters.  Beef, lamb, crustaceans, pork, chicken, duck, and all sorts of "parts" from all the aforementioned proteins.  At least half of the meat counter is fish.  Whole fish, live fish, fish steaks, and fillets.
I always have aspirations that I'll increase the frequency I serve fish to my family.  And this day I came prepared with a grocery list that called for 2 lbs of fish.  And I had a lot of choices how I'd like my fish prepared.  #1-8.  They make it so easy!  Look at the chart, point to the fish you want, and tell them the number.  Easy peasy.  Point to a fish and hold up as many fingers to indicate how you'd like it.  Whole.  Filleted.  Butterflied.  Filleted and deep fried.  You see... it is a fabulous place!
Go for #5!  #5 please!  Please Caucasian Crazy mama!  Don't do it!  Your family is hungry!

I was feeling so confident, falsely so, about this fish thing.   I held up 1 finger.  Grand visions of red snapper Veracruz style, but with lemon grass Vietnamese style were dancing in my head.  Yes, #1, please!

Browse through the meat section some more.  If you're squeamish about exotic meats, you can stop here.  Really.  I won't spare you after this warning!
Wonder what I could make with these?  They're "special!"
Or maybe some pork chops!  Those pork chops strangely look a LOT like duck feet!  Weird!
I swear this place is awesome!  Never you mind this!
Let's just say that at some point during the frying, Papa accidentally ripped the fish lips off the body.  It was eerie the way those lips just sat at the bottom of the pan, bubbling, detached, while the remainder of the body lay on a plate a 18 " to the right.

The oil was too hot.
You'll notice an absence of photo from here on out.  I can't even bring myself to show you the images.

Everyone at the dinner table, including 2 teenage guests, was so gracious that night.  All tried it.  And it was tasty.  But there was just something kinda unappetizing looking about it.  Then there was the lazy Susan, and it was kinda like a bad game of spin the bottle.  Such an eerie feeling as the lazy Susan spun, leaving someone starting at a fired fish head... a lipless fried fish head.  Everyone left the dinner table a bit hungry.

They're so good to let me try.
So far, I've worked this recipe 3 times.  Still don't have it quite right.  But soon, I assure you.  An easy Viet recipe for fish... without a head... or lips.

#5 next time.  Yes, definitely #5.

Ni Hao Y'all

Friday, September 24, 2010

If Martha made Vietnamese-- Bún Thịt Nướng (Grilled Pork over Vermicelli Noodles)

This was one of the first dishes I had in a Viet restaurant that I fell in love with.  Papa and I tried to find the recipe for the marinade for years.  We tried several and asked a couple Viet chefs only to be told it was a "secrete" recipe.  We were SO SO happy to figure this one out, and now this dish is a staple in our home during the hot summer months.  To me, it is just the perfect summer dish, a little savory, but it has the coolness of a salad. It is light enough to eat on a warm summer day but will still satisfy your appetite for a lunch or dinner meal. 

This dish is a dichotomy with multi-layered flavors, something cuisine does so so well.  It's warm and cool.  It’s crunchy and soft.  It's sweet and savory all at the same time.  It is not difficult to make but it does take some time preparing.  

I hope y'all enjoy it as much as we do!
Bún Thịt Nướng or Vietnamese Grilled Pork over Vermicelli Noodles 

(Yes, I realize that is an extraordinarily large jug of honey.  Must have been on sale... 
or more likely Papa was doing the shopping!)
Marinade for the pork---
2 T brown sugar
4 T fish sauce
2 T honey
1 T soy sauce
1 t freshly ground black pepper
6 spring onions-white parts only, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
In a large bowl, combine marinade.  Add pork (1 - 1 1/2 lb Pork - shoulder, chops, pork neck...) and stir to coat all meat.  Cover are refrigerate at least 45 minutes (up to 24 hours to get more flavor)  
Stop for a brief moment and rub noses.
Sorry.  I got a little distracted there.  That happens.  Often.  

While pork is marinating, prepare lettuce, cucumber, nước chấm, and mint.  

3 c fresh lettuce shredded (iceberg or Romaine)
1 cucumber, halved seeded and sliced
4 sprigs of fresh mint
Roasted chopped peanuts for garnish

A quick note about the nước chấm.  It is SUPER easy and quick to make.  Don't let this scare you off from this recipe!  The recipe is here.  
To prepare cucumbers, peel, slice in half, and use a spoon to remove seeds.  Then slice.  Be sure to wear dark glittery nail polish.  It's part of the recipe, so you gotta do it!
Grill meat until a caramelized golden brown on each side (time depends on cut of meat, but don't overcook to avoid drying out the meat.  Slice thinly across the grain.  

To assemble-- In a bowl, place the cooked vermicelli noodles (cooled to room temp), about 3/4 c. lettuce, a small handful of cucumbers. Place the warm grilled pork on top of the bowl.  Individually, each person will dress with their preferred amount of nước chấm, usually a few tablespoons.  Garnish with roasted chopped peanuts.
PS-Does anyone think there is anything genetic about using chopsticks.  This boy has been bound and determined to figure it out when ever they're around.  And unlike us pasty white folk, he doesn't let hunger or failure tempt him into using a fork!  In the end, he usually picks up a piece of meat, sticks it on the end of the chopstick, then brings it up to his mouth.  Persistent little booger!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Naughty Monkey!

So I came around the corner and found this-
At first she wouldn't even make eye contact with me!  She just was catatonic... being caught and all!  1 piggie in and 1 piggie out.
And I know it's wrong, but it was really funny!  Her sneaking off and all, caught literally with her hands in the Nutella jar!  I know I should have been like, Tess, we don't eat Nutella straight out of the jar with our hands!  It doesn't matter what you saw Mama doing, you must use a spoon!  But like I said, it was just so funny, so instead I was all like, You go sister girl friend, dig in, hands first and grab your self some chocolate goodness.  I've had that kind of day too!
Cause really, you ever had one of those days, when you just wanted to steal away and dive in head first into the Nutella and put yourself in a sugary coma just to escape it all?!
And Jude, being of the Y-chromosome variety, looked at her with panic in his eyes.  Not because she had been naughty, but rather because of the mess of it all.  Sticky hands, gooey face and a very messy shirt.  He actually started to cry on her behalf.   Ya, we're pretty sure he's gonna be one of those dry cleaning, hanger spacing, car dusting, book alphabetizing, hair product using, anal retentive, control freak males.
Ya, I been there!  We women learn the powers of chocolate early I guess!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jude's Roll Call

My boy seems to be obsessing about our family members lately.  We've been calling it his roll call.  I guess he's just at a stage in his attachment, that he just has to check to be sure.
Check to be sure he has a family?
Check to be sure he's still one of many?
A need to secure his heart, I guess.  And he does it quite frequently, several times a day, especially first thing in the morning, just as he wakes up from his nap, and as he's being tucked into bed each night.

He's starts very concerned.

Where's Papa?  At his office working.
Where's Boo?  At school.
Where's Patch?  He's also at school.
Then he might have to pause a moment to think because big families can be like that.  They require some additional purposeful thought lest we forget someone.  Lest we leave someone behind at the grocery store.  Or in a crowded restaurant after church one Sunday, only to get 5 miles down the road and have a younger child tell you a seat is empty in an otherwise packed SUV.  Not that I would know anything about things like that.  I'm just sayin'!
Where's sissy?  (He calls Liv sissy.)  At school, Jude.
Think think think...
Where's Sunny?  She's at school too.
Where's Tess?  Eating lunch.
With all this thinking going on, there's practically smoke pouring from his ears.  
Often, but not always, he includes our dogs in his roll call.
Where's Hawkeye?  In the back yard.
Where's Spit?  Laying by the couch.
He also has several special people he thinks about, and sometimes he will inquire about them too during his roll call.
Where's Granna?  She's at her cabin.
Where's Jake?  Probably in his dorm.
But it usually ends the same.  Having secured his heart, he gets this sneaky little smirk on his face, looks me dead in the eye, knowing the answer even before he says it and asks...
Where's Jude's mama?  I'm right here silly!
But he has to ask it again, cause it's just too too fun...
Where's Jude's mama?  I right here lovin' on my Jude!
And the crazy mama goes in for some sugar!
So he's gone to calling me, Jude's mama.

Not mommy.
Not mama.
Not mom.
Jude's mama.  Like it's all one word.
Good night Jude's mama, he tells me as I kiss him goodnight.
Jude's mama going in car?  He asks me, making sure I'm coming along on an errand.
I give him a cup of milk, and he looks at me and says, Thank you, Jude's mama.
Jude's mama kiss please?  How could I deny THAT!

and her?
He now calls her My Tessy.  Complete with that ee on the end and the my in the beginning.
Where's my Tessy?  He asks.
Someone toss me the tissue box!

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better and my heart couldn't get even one tiny bit happier... did!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Little Feet

Really... does it get cuter than these?

Tess doesn't think SO!  And I don't think so either!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My new favorite photographer...

Long while back, I posted a suggestion to you wanna be photo enthusiasts to find your favorite photographers and stalk them.  They won't mind.  It's really all just a form of flattery anyway!

Well maybe just find their blog and stalk that!  Following photographers in this way has helped me define what I like, inspire me to create and provides me with lots of eye candy!

I have about 5 photographers I stalk follow.  Lately and unknowingly, I stumbled in to one that is right here in my back yard.  Litterally I watched followed her blog for more than a month before I figured out that she's right here and Scottsdale and shoots all over the valley.  Super Sleuth I am not!

Sandi Bradshaw does a lot of fun urban fashion stuff.  Think vibrant colors and fun-loving people and even some grunge thrown in!  I love the images she creates with high school seniors!  But her family portraits are to die for too.

And guess who's gonna to be in front of her lens?  My Sunny!  She was looking for some teens to do a mentor shoot, I emailed her on a whim, and off my Sunny goes!

Can't wait to see the images she creates of my baby!  Not sure if I'll be allowed to post them, but I certainly will if I can!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crazy 8 Highlights

  • It took Boo 29 hours to clean his room last week.  29 hours.  29 longs hours.  I'm exhausted, but I was not going to give in.   
  • Final potty training update - Jujube had many accidents, a couple a day for weeks.   Initially he just stood there and cried while wetting himself.  But then most of the accidents were while he was running to the potty and we couldn't fault him for that!  It was ok, but still accidents that I had to clean up.  Each time I made him change his own underwear, which is a bit difficult for him, and reinforced his need to run run run as fast as he could when he felt he had to go potty.  Now about 4-5 weeks later, accidents are very few, 1 every 4-5 days and usually only when he has trouble getting his pants down, poor guy!  Strangely, #2 has been a non-issue with no accidents.  For this I'm grateful!  And only one accident in preschool thus far.  Then to top it off, he seems to have nap time and almost nighttime trained himself.   On to Tess, the real challenge!   
  • Cause it's my blog and I can if I want to...
Smile for the camera, Jude!
  • The birthday blitzkrieg is finally over.  I've frosted cupcakes, baked cakes, wrapped presents, hung streamers, and sang happy birthday 5 times in 36 day.  Throw in one anniversary and one forever family day, and you've got one tuckered out mama.  Let the holidays begin!  {Someone help me, please!} 
  • As you may have noticed, I've started writing about the 14 days that brought us to T&J in VietNam.  Looking back, I realized that I have yet to put it all down, my memory is fading fast, and I think they deserve to have every link to their past that I can give them.  I have journals and photos to refresh my memory, but I really think T&J deserve to have it all written down.  In celebration of our forever family day, my gift to the babes really, I'm putting it all in print, and will have it bound into a book when I'm done.  The joys and the fears and the love and the uncertainty.  I started posting it all here, the 2 year anniversary of when it all started.  Then the big trip started on August 30, the day we left.  I was going to try to post the story daily as it happened, but see that thing above re the birthday overload. 
  • Jude is completely convinced he's 7 years old.
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