Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not Quite Senior Senior Pictures

Last summer, my oldest daughter had a friend and fellow dancer, who is graduating this year, recommend her as a Student Ambassador for JS Studios  Class of 2014I, of course, had NO idea what that meant, and sadly enough neither did my daughter fully understand it.  But she was selected for her school and even without knowing exactly (we had an idea) what the details were, we thought it would be a great experience for her.  My daughter.  Who LOVES taking pictures of herself like she loves breathing.  I have two computers full of pictures to prove it.

Her mini session, which we learned later was just for promotional material, was scheduled for the same day she had a dance invitational but Jen, the photographer, graciously scheduled her first thing in the morning.  We got to the studio, which wasn't really a photographer's studio.  It was Onsite Muse Hair and Makeup Studio.  I'll be honest and say the location of the studio gave me pause, but after the session was over, I COMPLETELY understand why they are where they are.

So, we got to the studio and Jen and Heidi set up a  little breakfast buffet of cookies and hot apple cider while my daughter was in hair and makeup.  Yes.  They, well, more specifically Amber did her hair and makeup.  I know that my daughter was a little leery of this as she is used to doing things her way (go figure) and I suggested that she tell Amber how she likes her hair and makeup and let her do what she's trained to do.  Amber listened attentively to her suggestions, made a few of her own and went to work.  The end result was simply stunning.  Gorgeous, natural beauty shining through.  My daughter LOVED the final result.

It took about 45 minutes (have you SEEN how much hair my daughter has???) to do her hair and makeup and get her into one of two outfits she wore for the session.   During this time, I chatted with Jen and Heidi and got an idea of what this was all about.  They have about 10 students representing schools from about the metro area who act as ambassadors for their studio.  They give them promotional material in the hopes that others will see what type of work they do and come to their studio for their senior pictures.  And by "come to their studio" what I mean is they will go wherever the student wants in the metro area for their pictures. Initially we thought this WAS her senior picture session and she was worried because she still has her braces, she's pale from it being winter, she'd have to be more covered up than if it was warmer...oh she had many reasons why this was not a good time for her senior pictures (the least of which was she's not yet a senior...having made it less than half way through her junior year).  I think having it explained better (yes, she should have asked better questions from the start) helped her to relax and enjoy the experience.

If there was a down side to the day, it was the weather.  It was cold.  But Jen kept her moving from various textured backgrounds to keep her from getting too cold.  There were brick and corrugated aluminum, peeling paint and concrete walls and doors...FUN backgrounds that were a perfect backdrop to her pictures.  And I got to drink hot cider so it was no skin off my  nose.   Jen has a great eye for angles and light and body configuration and was able to point out how certain poses would give an ill effect and she would correct them.

She changed clothes once and went back out.  Luckily she had chosen to wear the dress first because the temperature dropped from the upper 40s to the upper 30s while we were there.

The final pictures were part of an experiment Jen hadn't tried before...the blowing of the glitter and small glass balls...I SO love how they turned out.

As we gathered up her clothes, Jen gave her a goodie bag filled with fun treats.  Seriously?  She treated my daughter to 2 hours of awesomeness and THEN gave her more?

OH...yeah.  You might note the lack of braces.  Yes.  Jen edited them out.  I had originally suggested it thinking these were going to be her senior pictures and Jen said that it's a lot of work just for promotional material, so I hadn't thought she would.  But OMG...her smile is like a million watt bulb.  Stunning.  

The difficult part was waiting to see the final product.  Then gradually, Jen started posting pictures from various Ambassador sessions on facebook.  The second my daughter's hit the page I think I squealed like a little girl.  During a movie we were watching.  Scaring everyone.

BTW...one of the last pics, of her leaning against a corner..that was done up against a boxing ring window and yes, that was a live cat in the background.  Talk about different textures!

Thank-you Jen, Heidi and Amber.  What a wonderful experience you gave us.  And for those who are looking for someplace to go for your senior's pictures, I can't recommend JS Studios highly enough.  True professionals who actually listen and relate to the kids.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

End of an Era (Error?)

Well, we finally did it.  We bit the bullet.  We pulled the trigger.  We sh!t...instead of getting off the pot.

We said adieu to our 15 year old white Whirlpool kitchen appliances.  It was a long run, and all things considering, we were very lucky that they made it.  OH, they were limping along, bearing the scars of battle  (you've never seen my husband attempt to cook), barely serviceable, but they were working.  Well, all but the microwave over the range that waited until it was one month outside of its manufacturers warranty to die.  And since it would have cost more to fix it than to replace it, and since we had already decided that our kitchen layout wasn't quite what we thought it would be, we figured we'd wait and redo all the appliances when we took down walls, and replaced floors and scraped the popcorn crap from the ceilings.  You know...when you have the money to do all that.  Which is why it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGGG 14 years.

So, no.  We didn't take down walls, or reconfigure the kitchen, or scrape the popcorn crap from the ceiling. What we did was what I call "step one":  new appliances.  To be followed by "step two": stone counter tops.  But, I'm getting ahead of my bank account...I mean myself.  These steps...they're baby steps.

I know, I know...you're anxious to see what we got right? Well, wait no longer.  First, we got the  Queen Mother of refrigerators.  It's an LG 31 cubic ft, water and ice through the door (originally, I had said no to water and ice through the door, then I caved and now I'm not sorry I did).  When they installed it, my first thought was OMG it's HUGE.  And in reality, it is 10 cubic feet larger than our last refrigerator.  So those of you who are used to seeing our fridge stuffed to the brim...well, I'm gonna need to win the lottery to fully stock it now.  Behold:
 Then came the stove.  Here is where I compromised.  What I wanted would REQUIRE me to completely redo the kitchen (maybe someday...when the kids are gone and I have two nickles to rub together again):  two ovens.  Ideally built in, but one of those gigantic Wolf/Viking numbers wouldn't be scoffed at.  Alas, that was not to be.  So, I took the next option available to me.  THREE ovens.  LOL.  Here is the picture of the LG range and microwave and then I'll explain:

The range is somewhat obvious.  Instead of the useless drawer at the bottom, I now have a second oven.  It is smaller, as is the lower oven, than a normal size oven but I think for what I need it will work admirably.  I've checked to verify that my large roasting pan works in the bottom oven which is also a convection and it does.  What I have now are numerous baking options available to me.  So, 2 ovens, 5 burners (there is a center burner for a griddle, which has taken some getting used to but once you do it works great) and one of the 4 burners is a "superboil", which is a fancy way of saying...HOLY MUTHER OF BTUS, that thing boils water fast!

So, where, I can hear you saying, is the third oven?  Well, the microwave is also a convection oven and can be used as a third oven.  And the things it can do...holy crap.  It can sense the amount of humidity in food and cook items on that basis.  No need to plug in a time, it will figure it out.  It can soften butter and ice cream.  OH, it can melt it too, but if you select the "soften" button, it will JUST soften butter.  I just haven't figured out how to get it to clean the bathroom but my husband assures me that if I just read the manual, it will explain all.  It is also the first time in 14 years we've had a exhaust fan and a direct light over the stove.  NIRVANA!

And finally the dishwasher.  The salesman at Best Buy (Matthew) talked me into a Bosch instead of the LG, mostly because of the engineering on it and the drying process.  If you knew what I know about the drying process in any other dishwasher you'd say what I said...EWWWWW.  No logo on the front so you don't see that it's different from the other appliances and the handle has the same curve:
To say I am excited (even though I compromised what I wanted) is a massive understatement.  And maybe, sometimes getting what you need helps you to see that maybe it is really all that you wanted. 

And yes.  I stocked up on stainless steel cleaner because, well, I have 4 children.  Enuff said.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 Holiday Re-Cap

Haven't received our newsletter yet?  Keep watching.  I'm hoping to get them out this week.  I've made the command decision NOT to include the picture and will take the $25 hit on the cards.  C'est la vie, n'est pas?

But I thought I'd give a recap (notice the lack of descriptive adjective "brief") of our Christmas break.  I think that with Thanksgiving falling so early this year, it offset my timeline and threw me off my game.  I never really got into the TRUE holiday spirit.  Except for Christmas Eve at the family service.  You can't NOT get into the spirit there.  Plus, you can't NOT laugh at the antics of at least ONE kid on stage who might not in fact BE the star of the show, but decides to make himself the star.  Yes, there's always one.

My oldest daughter ended up having a Gingerbread House Building night with 15 friends (who apparently ALL own Uggs and my front entryway looked alike an explosion of them).  We saw that they had food (walking tacos), some apps, and all the space they needed in the kitchen then left them to it.  I don't get OCD about many things but this would be one I would.  I would need for them to all look PERFECT.  So my lack of presence was a good thing.  For them.

Christmas Eve morning started out with a small amount of snow, which meant that both the boy and I were into work in the very early am.  He shoveled.  I worked back at the office timing in crews whose phones weren't working or switching routes to other crews.  Luckily, the small amount of snow meant that we were done by noon with plenty of time to get home and get ready for the evening at the ILs.

No Christmas Eve is complete without a family picture:
I threw in the towel and let them choose their own outfits.  Mommy can only pick out their clothes for so long.  I do need to make one comment...HOLY HEIGHT Batman...(thanks Dad...that is YOUR doing).

The rest of the day went pretty much as it usually does.  Tom and Jerry's (recipe here) , food, church, food, more Tom and Jerry's, kids opening gifts, adult White Elephant, clean up and home.  I think we were home by 11.  The White Elephant went well IMNSHO.  This was the boy's first time in and he bought his own gift to give.  I think he learned a lesson on that one.  All in all the gifts were pretty interesting but in the end, we ended up with: a box of hot pepper sauces, a cutco fisherman's solution, and a Louis Vitton purse (it's MINE and *I'M* going with it's real even though my BIL DID just return from China).

As for the rest...

Cookies...I only made two varieties this year:  a new one for me, almond raspberry thumbprint (which were DELICIOUS) and chocolate crinkles.  Oh, and peppermint bark.  I ended up throwing more than half of the chocolate crinkles away, a few of the thumbprint and a bit of the bark.  For which I am glad I didn't invest MORE time in baking, but sad that so much went to waste.

Gifts...still in dial'er back mode on the presents and I think everyone was happy with what they received.  Thank heaven for pinterest as my oldest daughter pins EVERYTHING she likes.  I needed only look there to put together similar style outfits then repeated the same type for my middle daughter.  A few things didn't work but on the whole it all worked out well. Even brought the husband into the 21st century with his Rock & Republic jeans, although I doubt he'll ever bid his Levi's adieu completely.  The boy had a fairly short list and was easy.  Beanie was also easy.  I was treated to a new point and shoot camera as my other one never survived its Caribbean dunking.

Dinner...we had a full house (both friends and family) for dinner and that was good because eating a 16 lb Prime Rib isn't something one wants to attempt on their own.  It was my "standard", Prime Rib, the Gravy®*, mashed yukon golds, drunken mushrooms, roasted asparagus and , of course, popovers.  My SIL brought a wonderful salad as well.  Dessert was Crème Brûlée made by none other than the HUSBAND.  Yes.  I'll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor.  As I was called into work that morning and would normally have made it then, it fell to him to make it.  And really, it's not THAT difficult.  If you have vanilla beans on hand (we didn't) and know how to temper eggs (he doesn't).  Even so, I give the man major kudos as he did it (albeit with a phone call to me about every 93 seconds) and it was DELICIOUS!   And yes, we remembered to take them from the oven before heading to the ILs.  You only do that once.

For New Years, we went another route.  We attempted a progressive with two other families.  Our house was the main course.  At the first house we had an Autumn Chopped Salad, Avocado and Goat Cheese with Lime on Toast and Marinated Shrimp and Artichoke Hearts.  Main course was Coffee Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Green Beans with Bacon in a Soy Garlic Sauce.  Final stop was for dessert which included Chocolate Martinis (that was for the chicks) and Bananas Foster with Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream.  We had SO.MUCH.FUN.  The time seemed to fly by and before I knew it, it was 2am.  An awesome evening spent with wonderful friends.

So, my tree is down and most of my Christmas stuff is packed away.  The card wreath (that daily reminder of my first failure in 20 years to get out Christmas cards) is still up, even though we have already chosen the card we will be framing this year.  A few ornaments still hang from my dining room chandelier.  They get replaced with Valentine's Day ornaments and I'm just not ready to be there yet.

My resolution for this New Year it to attack our laundry room and get the buckets of overflowing clothes that the kids have outgrown GONE.  And to clean out the closets.  And cabinets.  And if I get around to doing all this that means that I'll have less time for blogging.  Yes, this is quite the conundrum.

Whatever shall I do?

* Yes, the gravy is officially trademarked.  "The Gravy®".  It has earned the right.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Change of Course

From the time that our fourth child arrived, and college tuitions continued to rise at a rate that far exceeded our capabilities, we have explained to our children that, while we believe in the value of a college education, it would be their responsibility.  We would help but the bulk of the burden would be on them.  

Our reasoning for this was two fold.  First, with four children, we simply cannot afford a half a million dollars in college tuition.  It just isn't possible.  Second,  they NEED to be an active participant financially, a dog in the fight so to speak, for them to fully appreciate what they are receiving.    We truly believe that by doing so they will value the experience more  and be less willing to waste their time AND money.

In an attempt to help them, mostly through scholarships, we tried to steer our kids in directions that would help them achieve this goal.  Joining clubs, taking on leadership roles, volunteering, community activity in addition to the sports (we asked that they do at least one) would be a good place to start.  Working after school, on weekends and during the summer we also saw not just as a monetary benefit, but as character building.  Look for opportunities everywhere and anywhere and use them to shine.

This we preached.  For many years.  And as our oldest approached college age, we found that we didn't make the impact we had hoped.  We had the money to help with is first semester tuition and finally got through to him that we simply couldn't so much  more.  So, the boy took matters into his own hand.

Today, we took the day and drove up to Fargo to empty out his dorm room.  He withdrew from his spring semester classes.  We then drove over to North Dakota's 119th AirWing Squadron where my 18 year old son enlisted in the Air National Guard.*
He is officially a member of the armed forces.  This was not a quick decision nor was it painless, I mean paperless.  He spent a lot of time during fall semester talking with the recruiter, learning of his options, his commitment, and ultimately, he decided that this was a perfect option for him. 

So, he is taking the spring semester off.  He will head down to Lackland AFB in late March for  8 1/2 weeks of basic training.  From San Antonio, he will head to Ft Lee, Virginia where he will attend tech school for Air Transportation Specialist for 6 weeks.  Then, back to Minneapolis where he will undergo 30 days OTJ training.  By my calculations, he will be done and ready to return to NDSU in August with several semesters tuition in hand, the benefits of the GI and Marshall Bill, and hopefully a new purpose:  to serve his country with integrity and to finish his college education in the process.

His commitment will be for 6 years of once monthly weekend duty and a yearly 2 week commitment with 2 years of inactive duty after 6 years.  OR he can remain in the reserves and complete 20 years towards a reserve retirement.  During his school year, for each grade above a "c" he receives, he will be reimbursed.  Round and round and round in my mind I went looking for the catch but could only see this as a win-win.  He will graduate with an engineering degree and 4 years military experience with 2 years of active reserve on his commitment.  Now, I'm not a recruiter, but I have to imagine that if I was looking at two college resumes and one had 4 years of military experience WITH that degree, again, that's a no brainer.

I know there are parents would be disappointed that their child would interrupt their college experience for military service.  Not me.  I can't seem to keep the buttons from busting from my jacket.  Yes, that is actually a state of pride.  I looked it up.

And the squadron he is attached to, well...it is SO fitting:
 My son...you have chosen wisely.

*No comment on the hair cut allowed.  He knows it goes at basic and has decided to be a "bitter clinger" for the next 2 months.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's a New Year, It's a New Day...and I'm feeling fine.

With apologies to Nina Simone.

Well, I did it again.  I said I'd be back then I took a hiatus.  Again.  But if you got my newsletter, you'll see that I actually put in my newsletter my resolution to  keep my blog more active.  And if you didn't get my newsletter, NO, you're not off my list, they're still on the computer, waiting to be folded and envelopes addressed and stuffed in with cards that NONE of the kids liked (OK, I'm with them...it's a HORRIBLE card.  Well, except for the hat.  Seriously.  The hat MAKES it.) so hang tight, you will.

I'm not sure why exactly I'm having problems keeping the blog going but I AM going to explore that more deeply in another post.  I think the short answer is Facebook.  Yup.  I'm gonna blame Facebook.  Because Facebook makes it EASY.  I can put out there a one  line status and get IMMEDIATE feedback.  And that's nice.

I have  13 followers (yes, I'll give you a minute to pick yourself up from the floor) on my blog.  YES. That many (and oddly enough, not one is a family member and I'm not sure exactly how to take that).  Of those 13, 11 are different people (two people follow me twice which I happen to LOVE that someone likes me enough to follow me twice).  I also have 322 posts with 24923 page views.  Now I'm gonna get all "mathematical".  I've set up my page such that *I* don't get counted as a page view, but I only did that recently.  So, I'm going to say that I have gone back and looked at each post (and maybe corrected it), 5 times. So, take 1610 page views away and you get 23313 divided by 322 posts is 72 page view per post divided by the 11 (actual) viewers is on average about 6 views per post per person.  You guys ROCK!.

I know, that's not how it works, but I'm going with it because it makes me feel better about stopping and putting a piece of my life, my opinion, my thoughts, my frustration et al out there for your entertainment.  And hopefully it IS entertaining (you're coming back and re-reading FIVE times so I gotta think it has some redeeming value).

I then link the post to Facebook and get your reactions in Facebook postings. {insert strongly voiced opinion that falls slightly short of a rant}   I think those of you who "know" me, know that I was dragged into Facebook kicking and screaming.  I SO did not want to do it but there were circumstances that made it a priority.  And I had to lay some ground rules down for myself.  NO GAMES.  So if you have invited me to join/play games (and initially there were LOTS of invites), well, you've immediately been blocked (just the game stuff).  I know myself too well.  And this is where the onset of my love/hate relationship with Facebook begins but it's grown since I joined. I LOVE that it allows me to reach a larger audience and since I have (shamefully) constant access to Facebook (via phone) I can see those reactions immediately.  What I hate is that the reactions/responses aren't in anyway linked to the blog so I have to be logged into Facebook to see them*.  I guess ultimately, Facebook gets to take and store reactions to something that is not really part of Facebook.  And THAT bugs me.

Bugs me (yes, I said it twice for emphasis).  But I won't let it get the better of me.  I hope I can figure out a way to link those reactions to my blog because someday, I want to print the whole blog out and give it to my kids.  I'm going to call it  "Mom's Guide to Parenting" with heavy acknowledgement to the alcohol industry for their assistance in helping me retain a modicum of my sanityAnd then, when my kids say to me, "why can't I have nice things?" or "I feel like I'm nothing but a bank to my kids", or "how EXACTLY do you make that scrumptious Prime Rib?", I can point them to  "Mom's Guide of Parenting".  They won't always get the answer they want, or even need,  but they'll understand Karma a little bit better. 

Stay tuned folks.  I'll be back soon.  Still feeling fine.

*yeah...I edited that.  After reading it several times even I didn't understand what I was trying to say.  I blame Facebook for that.