Monday, February 28, 2011


First of all, I wanted to thank all the nice folks who commented on my last post about being the evil stepmother in our family equation. Getting a fresh perspective on it all helps. And while I wouldn't say that I'm really "over it," I'm trying to deal and move on. Besides, I think everyone needs a pity party now and again. That was mine. Onward and upward.

I have to admit, completely separate from our family situation, I've been wrestling with some pretty ugly depression lately. I'm not sure, but maybe it's the cold weather (we have snow.... AGAIN.)


I hate to admit how much the cold, grey days affect me. Or maybe I'm not taking good care of myself? Sometimes, I forget that I have needs, too. Oh hell. I don't know. Either way, I'm feeling stuck in neutral. Can't. Get. Going.

So, what do I do when I'm depressed and need to pull myself up by the bootstraps? I craft. I take pictures. I cook a new recipe I've never tried before. I do something... anything... that is just a little different than what I did the day before. That will be the order of the day. Different. Break the cycle of doing nothing because I just don't feel like it.

This morning, I was drinking my cup o' Joe (he's my not-so-secret boyfriend), sitting with Ella as she ate breakfast. She was stacking her Fruit Loops*. The blue ones ONLY. How cute is this?

She makes me smile. I guess I shall keep her.

* Yes, I feed my kids sugar cereal. I know that in many circles, that is a HUGE mommy no-no. But, at the moment, I'm picking my battles, and Fruit Loops isn't one of them. So, yeah. Hand over my Mother of the Year award. Please and thank you.

Friday, February 25, 2011

being real

Some folks may or may not know that this isn't my first blog rodeo. I've written a blog before. That blog was very, very personal. Tons of rants. Tons of raves. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. It was really me. Random and a little bit weird. It was gut wrenchingly private. I only let the very closest of my friends read it.

In January, I started this blog in an attempt to do something a little more "public". I wanted it to be fit for everyone's consumption. I wanted to post about crafty stuff, food, baking, family, and all the things that are considered okay to talk about. I promised myself not to curse (so much) or talk about controversial topics. I would keep more things guarded and private. But who am I kidding? That's not very "me" at all.

In fact, just this morning, a friend of mine emailed me and mentioned that the old blog was a lot more interesting to read. Of course, this person was a lot more tactful than all that, but the bottom line was clear. Where the hell have I gone in this blog? Honestly, I'm missing almost entirely.

So, I'm going to try something a little different. I'm going to be a heck of a lot more "me". I'm going to curse a little. I'm going to be more random. I'm going to talk about what I'm thinking instead of just the events of the day.

Here goes nothing.

Today is the day that I talk about how hard it is to be a step mom. I've talked about it on my previous blog, so some of my friends might want to skip this one. Or not. Up to you. :)

Background: Rhett and I have four children that live with us on a daily basis. Carter and Cole were from his previous marriage. Macey is from my previous marriage. Ella is "ours". I HATE labeling it that way, but it's the only way to truly explain how we all blend together into the family that we are today.

Rhett and I have lived together and/or been married for the last 6 years. During those years, we've tried a couple of different types of custody situations. In the end, though, the boys belonged with us. We provide a more stable home, which is the most important thing of all. Stability. Love. A place and a circumstance that they can absolutely count on.

If I had one impossible wish for myself, it would be that I could be Carter and Cole's "real" mom. Because being the step mom sucks ass. I get to do all the heavy lifting but don't get to have the same bond with them as the children that I gave birth to. I know that I'm not supposed to say that, but it's true. They will always look at their biological mom as their "real" mom. Always. Even though they haven't lived with her in years. Even though she can be irresponsible and frustrating and... did I mention irresponsible? They still remember what it was like to live with her instead of me. They remember that she's the fun mom that lets them stay up late and eat pudding for dinner. I'm the one that has a lot of rules and gets mad more often. And that I'm not cool with pudding for dinner. I will never be the "real" mom to them, no matter how old they become or how much they learn to appreciate me. And there will always be my lack of pudding cups to put up with. Oy.

For some crazy reason, I have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that they'll never think of me as their "real" mom. I accept that it's true, but I can't seem to be okay with it. It makes me sad and frustrated. It makes me mad at her. She gets to live her life without worries about their homework or chores or daily busy-ness. She gets to be the fun time mom. I get the heavy lifting. And the laundry. And the toilet cleaning. I know that life is never fair, but this all feels really, really unfair.

On the flip side, I get to really know those boys. I know almost everything there is to know. I bet she doesn't know what kind of oatmeal Carter always wants. I bet she doesn't know what size Cole's jeans are. I get to hear almost every joke. I know all the gross details about some kid throwing up in the school cafeteria last week. I feel their nervousness before a big test and see the look of sheer joy when they hand over an assignment with an A+ on it. She misses out on all those things. At best, she gets to hear about it after the fact.

I'm still not sure how to come to terms with the fact that I'll always be the #2 mom. When it all comes down to it, I just want them to love me as much as they love her. Can I live with the fact that may never happen? I dunno. That's the hard part, I guess.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

breathing deeply

The last several days have been a challenge. Macey had a small sleepover for her birthday. Lucky for me, the girls were incredibly well behaved and had a really good time (judging by the enormous amounts of giggling that came from Macey's bedroom!) But, truthfully, six kids in one house is a lot no matter how well things are going. Then, of course, we had a small-ish birthday party. Grandmas, grandpas, Japanese hibachi, presents and cake. The night before, I had the "Big Cake Debacle of 2011" in which I made a cake... and then it promptly crumbled into a million pieces as I was decorating it. Whoa, boy. I've made what seems like a million cakes and I've NEVER had that happen before. So, there was much freaking out. And there was VERY late night baking. And then there was even earlier morning decorating. And I had to completely change the design for the cake because there just wasn't enough time. *sigh*

So, while this cake doesn't look absolutely terrible, it certainly wasn't what I had wanted to do. I'd planned on a lifelike karaoke machine. Totally doable if I had more hours to work on it. Oh well. Macey survived. There were no tears (except mine.) She totally lived, and the cake was actually very tasty. So, we'll just chalk it up to Murphy's Law and push it all back into the recesses of my memory. You know... until Carter's birthday on March 2nd and I'll have to make another cake. Oy vey.

This morning, I was doing my daily blog reading with a cup of joe and my laptop. It's one of my favorite times of the day. I see what other people are up to. I hear about their successes... and their disasters. I see pretty before and after pictures of beautifully decorated homes. I see 101 ways to recycle toilet paper rolls. I get ideas and more ideas... and then even more ideas. I love it.

While perusing the internet, I visited a couple of my regular blogs and kept noticing a phrase that showed up over and over and over again in differing formats. The phrase?

There is nothing wrong with you.

It was on cute letterpress posters. It was on daily affirmations. It seemed to be everywhere. Now, it's not the newest internet "thing" (you know, like the posters that say, "Keep calm and carry on" with a crown on it.) These things were just hidden among all sorts of other bits of news/ideas/fodder for thought. For some reason, the Universe thought I needed to hear that. And apparently, I did. I heard it loud and clear. No matter how many cakes fall apart in my hands or dishes I don't get done or zits I get on my chin, there is nothing wrong with me. I'm perfectly imperfect and perfectly awesome just the way that I am. There is nothing wrong with me. And for the record, there's nothing wrong with you either.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


pity parties & pictures

Today, I'm having a pity party. I'm tired. I'm inexplicably sad. I have a nasty headache. I have a million things to get done, but I all I really want to do is sit and read blogs all day. But, I'm a mom. I will not sit and read blogs all day. I'll get up and do the dishes. I'll throw in a load of laundry. I'll sit down and answer emails. I'll keep on keepin' on.

It's okay to have a down day, right? Besides, tomorrow will be better. It pretty much always is.

Complete subject change:

I've been thinking. (Can you smell the smoke?) One thing that I've REALLY been enjoying about this entire blogging experience is taking pictures. Now, my pictures aren't always fantastic. I'm still learning to use the camera. But, I'm really diggin' it. I like trying to find a different perspective. I like looking for the beauty in the ordinary. There's something poetic about it.

What if I spent a week blogging with nothing but pictures? What if my normally Chatty Cathy self could just shut the heck up and only post pictures? I think that would be a little bit awesome. So, I'm going to try it. The only words I will type will be the title (because you really HAVE to have one of those.) The post will only be pictures. For one full week. Starting today. I'm going to officially play the blogging quiet game. Ready? Set? Go!

Monday, February 14, 2011

happy valentine's day

It sounds cheesy, but I love the saying, "Every heart has a story to tell."

It's true. Every heart has a story. Inevitably, as the years pass, our hearts are molded like clay... permanently imprinted with our experiences and ever changing.

My heart's story? My heart has been broken more times than I can count. It has been abused. It's been stepped on. It's been cast aside. But, on the flip side, I have also been loved fiercely. I have been loved with the brightness of a thousand suns. I've gotten to see the best and the worst of what love can offer.

I have taken big chances with my heart. Many people thought I was crazy. But, I have learned more about love than any book could ever teach me. I know exactly what love looks like... and what it doesn't look like.

Now, I'm happily married. My life isn't perfect, but it's really, really good. And for many years now, I've been completely capable of loving other people. I have learned to love with my whole heart. I give my love freely. But, I'm still been unable to love myself. I struggle with it all the time. And now, that's the part of my heart's story that I'm still writing. Time for a new chapter, I think.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

t shirts and valentines and sandwiches, oh my

Saturday has been good. Valentine's Day has been the focus. I spent the afternoon doing this:

And this:

Blatantly ripping off this*.

And then putting this Valentine** together in Illustrator:

I'll print it off on cardstock tomorrow. I would rather make a Valentine this year. Maybe it's because I'm scared of the last minute greeting card crowd? Probably.

Then, I roasted this in the oven:

And sauteed these:

So that we could eat these***:


Today was a good day.

*For the record, I ripped off this design. The original is here. Note to the Toddland people: I would have absolutely bought one of your delightful t-shirts if you sold them in XXL. But you don't. So, I had to do the best rip-off job that I could muster because the love of my life had his heart set on one. And I wasn't about to let him be disappointed on Valentine's Day. So there. And again, for the record, I'm NOT selling them. So, please don't sue me.

** I ripped this idea off, too. Big surprise, huh? I saw this card, and loved it. But, a lot of those "loves" did NOT apply to us. So, I made my own, with my own "loves." Am I going to copyright hell? I'm NOT selling them. So, please don't sue me.

*** Cripes. I ripped off this sandwich, too. The Loft (company cafeteria) at Collective Brands/Payless had this as their sandwich special one day. It was yummy, but not rocket science. So, I make it now and again. Loft, I'm NOT selling them. So, please don't sue me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

life is messy... and awesome.

I love a good mess. I'm convinced that every time Ella leaves crumbs on the bench in the dining room, an angel gets it's wings.

If you're not as cool as we are, and the mess bothers you, just be glad I didn't take a picture of the floor.

There must always be a sticky peanut butter knife in my sink... right next to the sandwich carcass and sippy cup.

Doesn't everyone keep their sock monkey pajamas on the floor? Macey sure does. It's a household rule.

Ella follows strict protocol and keeps her pink and green frog pajamas on the floor, too. Of course, they must be right next to the random pillows and toys. But not next to the tea party set. That old thing? It never gets any floor time like the lucky pajamas do.

You're exactly right. In addition to a pajamas on the floor policy, we also dictate that beds must remain unmade. And nightstands must be cluttered with things like a roll of paper towels, a Valentine's Day teddy bear and, of course, a hamster ball looking thingie. (We don't own a hamster.) Thank goodness Carter and Cole are following the rules! Good job, boys!

We must also leave all hobbies out on horizontal surfaces. I wonder what hobby involves an erector set, string, scissors, and a tiny yellow plastic surf board? Any guesses?

Our kids love rules. Especially the one in which we require them to leave random, empty plastic bags near the computer. You know... next to your crane and volcano making kit. That's just how we roll. Yo.

I would just like to go on record to cement the notion that *I* am the supreme rule follower in this household. Office envelopes? Check! Laser stud finder thingie? Check! Tiny stuffed animals that probably came from a Happy Meal? Double check! I mean, how else would I ever find anything if all these treasures were *gasp* put away?!

This snarktastic post is brought to you by the letters "L", "A", "Z" and "Y".

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

charlie bacon... the update

A while back, I blogged about poor Charlie Bacon getting hurt. There was drama. There were many stitches. There was a blizzard. Oy vey.

Here he is today:

He loves to sit on top of the loveseat and stare out the window. I swear he's part cat.

He's doing so much better. Thankfully, he's all healed. We had his stitches removed about a week ago, so we can no longer refer to him as "Franken-pup". He's still got a silly looking bald spot and a big ol' scar (chicks dig scars, right?!) But, he's pretty much back to normal. And we couldn't be more grateful.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

thumbs up on the chore chart

See this?

Carter is doing dishes. This, my friends, is the chore chart in full effect. Can I tell you how much I love the chore chart? It's taken a while for everyone to get the hang of having real responsibilities around the house, but they're definitely learning. And did I mention that I don't have to do the dinner dishes anymore? YAHOO!

Now that there are no more dinner dishes for me, I usually take that time to give Ella her nightly bath. We have more time to play that way. She loves the water. Even more, she loves not being rushed through bath time anymore. It's a win for everyone. (I suppose that the big kids would argue that they are NOT winning in this situation, but... well... you know.)

Me: "Ella, would you like to play with your yellow duckie in the bath?"

Ella: "Miss Sweet Potato Head*, this is the funniest duckie ever!"

Then, Charlie comes in to check out all the fun. He really is the life of the party anyway.

Me: "Ella, the water's cold, sweetpea. It's time to get out."

The end.

And for the record, the only reason the Ella is featured here so often? She's a ham. She loves the camera. The big kids just hide. But, don't worry. I'll catch them sooner or later. *evil cackle*

* Yes, Ella calls me Miss Sweet Potato Head. It's a reference to Toy Story 2, in which Mr. Potato Head finds Mrs. Potato Head's earring under the bed. He sweetly hands it to her and refers to her as "my little sweet potato." And since Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are the only toy parents in the movie (those crazy blue monkeys are their "children"), Ella playfully calls Rhett "Man Potato Head" and me "Miss Sweet Potato Head". She's been doing this for at least 8 or 9 months now. I will be gutted the day that she stops calling me that. :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

happy of epic proportion

Y'all, I just ran a mile. Okay, I didn't RUN it. I jogged it. A MILE. A mother f'in MILE!!!


I'm a big girl. I reach a whopping 5 feet, 3 inches tall. And I usually wear a size 16. And I'm exhausted all the time. And I hate to have my picture taken for any reason at all whatsoever. And I want to take my kids to the pool without having a panic attack about the swimsuit part. And I'm just really uncomfortable in my skin. And I don't want that for myself anymore.

I've been this way for a long time. I've yo-yo'ed a little bit either way, but for the most part, I've been about a size 14/16 for the last 15 years. It all started with a really unhealthy, unhappy marriage in which I found myself 1,300 miles from home with no  family, friends or support system. And since, I've always eaten my feelings. Happy? EAT. Depressed? EAT. Anxious? EAT. Truth be told, I've never managed to really turn it around.

I've had a rough day today. I'm tired of feeling limited. And sometimes, I feel downright caged. I don't want to feel that way at all. So, I decided I'm not going to. I'm going to change it.

While thinking about how in the world I could make things different, I was trying to think of something that I haven't done for a really long time... something that would make feel feel awesome and bold and unstoppable. I wanted to do something that I thought I probably couldn't do.

I said to myself, "Hey, self. What would you love to be able to do that you're afraid of? Something that you're pretty sure you'll fail at. Something that no one would believe in a million years."

And you know what self said? "RUN. Run a mile. Prove you can actually do it. Just put on your sneakers, get on the treadmill and do it already."

So, I did. I ran a whole mile. I didn't stop or walk even once. I did it, y'all. And I can't stop smiling.

little things

Sometimes, the smallest of things makes me happy. A really good movie. Finding my favorite hair product on sale. Holding hands. Lots of little things.

One BIG thing that has made me soooooo happy as of late is a brand new chore chart for my kids. At ages 12, 10 and 10, the "big kids" are absolutely old enough to do a lot around here... as they should. Because I'm the self-proclaimed "Queen of Fair", I try my best to make everything as equitable as possible when it comes to work around the house. So, we needed a chart.

But, here's the thing. If I'm going to hang a chart in my house, it has to look nice. I didn't really want to have some laminated thing on my wall. And I hated the idea of the chore chart being a piece of paper that just gets thrown up on the fridge. It needs to be IMPORTANT... because it IS important.

So, I bought this:

I dry erased to my heart's content. I drew careful, but still crooked, grid lines. I came up with chore titles. I planned who would do what on what day, making sure that no one got the lion's share of the work and that their jobs didn't coincide with each other. But it sure didn't look very pretty. Bummer. I couldn't leave it that way.

One cute Dollar Tree vinyl decal and a bunch of black, 1/4" vinyl strips later, I had a chore chart that was pretty, practical and wasn't accidentally erased all the time. It's all about the little things. Who would think a neater, prettier chore chart would make me so stinkin' happy?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

yuuuuummmmmm.... and other stuff

I'm such a dork. I just finished taking Charlie outside to do his business. My ensemble? A bulky sweatshirt that is at least 2 sizes too big, a pair of black capri pants, a brown ski jacket that I could barely zip because of the bulk of the sweatshirt, and my favorite cowboy boots. Oh, and my fancy sunglasses. Yes, sir. I went outside like that. But, in my defense, I'm in my "only at home" clothes. And Charlie REALLY had to go, so I didn't have time to change pants. May I say that I felt particularly awesome with yoga capri pants and cowboy boots? It was a sight to behold. I'm just glad that no one was around to capture all that awesome with a photo or a video camera. THANK GOODNESS.

On a side note: no wonder my neighbors rarely knock on my door. I'm sure they whisper to one another, "That's where the CRAZY lady lives!" My taking-Charlie-outdoors wardrobe gives them plenty of ammunition.

Okay, this is where I get to the real point of my post: soup. Now, I'm not talking about soup that is just "okay", or even soup that is "pretty good." I'm talking about soup that is so good and so easy that you'll wonder how on earth so few ingredients could yield so much totally kick butt awesome.

On another side note: I realize that the focus of this blog is not food. But, sometimes food makes me really happy, so it's totally fair game. And I want to make other people happy. And this soup WILL make a lot of other people happy. So, I'm sharing.

My first true food tutorial! YAY!

This recipe is adapted from Real Simple's Southwestern Chicken Soup recipe. I've switched it up a little, but the main idea stays the same.

Here are the ingredients:

Southwestern Chicken Soup

  • 1 jar salsa verde (the original recipe calls for 12 oz. jar, but I can only find 16 oz. jars.)

  • 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (a rotisserie chicken is the perfect amount, or you could use chicken breasts.)

  • 2  15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained but not rinsed (twice as many beans as in the original)

  • 3-4 cups chicken broth (one of those boxes of stock is exactly 4 cups and is what I always use.)

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (the original recipe says this is optional. it shouldn't be!)

  • 2-3 green onions, chopped up

  • sour cream (dolloped on top. light sour cream works really well, but I would avoid the fat free stuff)

  • tortilla chips (also listed in the recipe as optional, but TOTALLY mandatory if you ask me.)

  • First things first. Shred up the chicken. You can use breasts or any other kind of chicken you have around, but a rotisserie chicken is the perfect amount. See?

    The rest of this is basically a "dump" recipe. Pour in the salsa verde, the shredded chicken, cannellini beans, chicken broth, and cumin. It will look like this:

    Some notes about the ingredients:

    - The original recipe calls for 12 oz. of salsa verde. I use the entire 16 oz. jar. The only difference it makes is making the soup a little bit spicier... which we LOVE. Plus, we have a really small fridge, and I hate having 1/4 of a jar of salsa loitering in my fridge. So, feel free to do whatever you like here. I won't tell. :)

    - I double the cannellini beans in comparison to the original recipe. I actually *like* beans. Plus, I like the bean/chicken ratio better that way. Plus, they're cheap and help stretch this soup a little. Again, you can use only 1 can if you want.

    - Please don't leave out the cumin. Seriously. It is not at all the same soup without it. No. Really.

    - With the chicken broth, I just dump an entire box in (4 cups), making it a little "soupier." Again, this goes to saving a buck by buying the box (as opposed to the slightly more expensive cans) and then not having extra chicken stock loitering in my fridge.

    Cook this bad boy for about 20-25 minutes on medium heat at first, turning it down if the bubbling starts to get out of control. Stir it now and again to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of your pot. You'll know that it's ready when the shredded chicken starts to break down a little. Like this:

    Sorry this picture isn't "pretty", but it shows how the chicken will break down and look more... stringy? That sounds terrible in words, but you get the idea . Broken down = more tender. More tender = GOOD.

    Now, it's time for TOPPINGS! Add some crushed up tortilla chips/strips, a dollop of sour cream, and then some green onions on top. Unless you really hate green onions. Then, skip 'em. But, if you like onions, they make a big ol' difference.

    Happy in a bowl.