>Valentine’s Day

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Last night I realized that two of my brothers are trying to tip toe around me regarding Valentine’s Day. Bro #1 stopped by yesterday afternoon with his girlfriend; she sat on the couch while he fixed my son’s RC truck. I then asked him to put my new license plates on and he and I started talking about how cool my new vanity plates were. His girlfriend interrupted and told him to hurry up because they had to leave. I hadn’t realized it then but I think they were celebrating Valentine’s Day yesterday because today is Monday. I said “oh, what are you guys doing tonight”? My bro responded with “nothing, just relaxing before work tomorrow”.
Later that night Bro #2 called me and asked me to do him a favor. He sounded nervous to ask me and said if I “didn’t feel like going out he would understand”. He wanted me to take his wife to her OB appointment. I didn’t understand why he would think I wouldn’t feel like going out!
It wasn’t until late last night that I realized both of my brothers thought I was going to be sad without DH here. It’s nice that they were being considerate but it wasn’t necessary. Not for this holiday at least. There are so many other days that are hard to get through; Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. The small holidays don’t bother me much. In fact, they aren’t a big deal to me even when he’s home! I’d rather make the big days bigger and have less of the novelty holidays. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my way of making myself feel better; but it works!
Last night I was up until 0200 addressing Valentines for the kids and making special gifts for Z and B’s girlfriends. I bought little $5 necklaces and a box of chocolates for each. B is also giving his girlfriend a Beanie Baby dog.
They are very cute, everything had to be perfect. I am running on little sleep right now but it was worth it to see them so excited with their little girly gifts in hand as they waited for the busses.
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>Gettin’ Right Back Into It

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So, R&R is in full swing. The boys and I are really enjoying having him home. It’s funny how we can get right back into our groove within 24 hours. We actually argued today about whether or not we should chop the ice on the driveway or let the rock salt melt it. We then settled the argument with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Actually, it’s a variation of that. We call it Odds or Evens. Very similar concept. We’ve used Odds or Evens to settle disputes since we were teenagers. OK, I am way off topic here, hang on while I get myself back on track.
AHEM.
As I was saying, we are back to our routine. Every Christmas Eve around 1600 he starts to get a little grumpy. He’ll start mumbling about not wanting to stay up all night wrapping and bringing the toys from storage. The first couple years were rough because he is SO not a night person. Over time we have learned to compromise and we’ve come to a happy medium. So, today, right on time, he yawns and says “so, you haven’t wrapped ANYTHING yet”? I laughed and told him to go take a nap. He looked at me and I could see the excitement in his eyes. I don’t know if he thought this year would be different because he’s on R&R or what, but he knew he better go before I changed my mind. He’s sleeping now and I will wake him up around midnight or so. Then we’ll go to Bro #1’s house where we have stashed all the goods. We will show up with coffee in hand and wrap until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer. Then we will drive home and unload everything under the tree, giggling about the annual prank we will pull (still don’t know what this year will be but we’ll figure it out at some point after we’ve hit that delirious point tonight). Then we will go to bed.
I am letting the boys stay up late tonight. The later they stay up the later they will sleep which is a very good thing for me. One good thing about the kids getting older is that they seem to wake up later and later every year. One Christmas the boys woke up as we were coming up the stairs. We had just set up the presents and we were exhausted; it was about 0330. We heard the baby moving in the crib and we hoped so much that he would go back to sleep. That was not to be though, the toddlers woke up about 10 minutes later and we began our Christmas day at 0400. That was a very longgggg day. Last year I think they slept until 0800, I’m hoping for 0830 this year. We’ll see.
This is a pic of us yesterday, we had just pulled up to Sam’s Club and I insisted that we take a picture so I could change my Facebook profile pic (yeah, I’m a dork like that).

I am about to go make breakfast. I found this recipe for a breakfast casserole online a couple months ago. I figured it would be perfect for Christmas Day because I can prepare it the night before, throw it in the oven while the kids are opening presents and it will be done when they are. This way I don’t have to deal with making breakfast and cleaning up all the dishes before getting started on Christmas Dinner; which I am hosting. Anyway, if it comes out decent enough I will put it up for you all to try.
We are getting to the rough part of the night, I’m tired and I want nothing more than to go crawl into bed beside my husband but I know if I do neither of us will get up. What makes it worse is that I started off the day tired. See, I’m dog-sitting for Bro #2 and his mutt started barking at 0330. I got up, took it out, it ran around for 20 minutes but apparently didn’t have to go anymore since it had relieved itself in the living room. DH was so good, he helped me clean up; oh it’s so nice to have help. We tried going back to bed but the dog barked for a good half hour after that. I am SO not a dog person.
So, I’m off to clean the kitchen from the cookie baking and prepare breakfast for tomorrow. See you all later and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

>Good intentions falling short

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The boys and I went to my Mom’s for a sleepover last night. We had fun; the boys played video games (like they always do) and my Mom and I cooked. She made this chicken pasta thing for dinner (mmmmm, food always tastes better when I don’t have to make it) while I baked cookies with her new Kitchen Aid mixer. That 6 quart series is SO awesome I was able to mix 2 batches of chocolate chip cookies at once. By the time we left this morning there were four cookies left on the plate. I guess that’s what happens when you let three boys and my step father loose in a kitchen. Of course, it wasn’t me, I would never eat that much garbage (you do know I am lying right?)
I left this afternoon because my leg was acting up and that always puts me in a foul mood, plus C’s asthma was making a comeback because he is allergic to her cats yet refuses to stop petting them. So, anyway, we walk into our house and you can imagine our surprise to realize it is colder in my house than it is outside! The furnace is down AGAIN! Hopefully it starts working soon because nobody likes to take a shower when the temperature is 51 degrees.
I made a stupid mistake today, Bro #2 and my Mom are only just now starting to talk again after a long argument. Things are very tense and I am trying to ease the tension by going back and forth with them explaining things. I hate when my family isn’t getting along. Especially at this time of year because the holidays are about family and it’s awfully hard to have a Christmas Dinner if nobody shows up. So, I’ve been trying really hard to get them talking again.
Here’s the situation: A few months ago my mother sent an Edible Arrangements basket to my brother for his birthday. They were already arguing, but she tried to make it up to him by sending a very expensive basket. When it arrived my brother realized that he was allergic to most of the fruit and all of the nuts in it. He couldn’t eat any of it. He told me that he thought she was being mean by sending him stuff he couldn’t eat. He told me this last week. I said that that is absolutely ridiculous; who spends that kind of money just to be mean? Who thinks like that? I told him that more than likely the order had gotten mixed up and they had delivered the wrong basket or something like that. I told him that I really didn’t think she would send something to him just to be mean. I honestly believed that; so I decided to tell my Mom what had happened and I figured she would appreciate me telling her because now she could clear it up with the Bro.
Quite the opposite happened. I wound up looking like a jerk.
My Mom got sad and said that she spent over $100 and she had assumed that there would have been something he could eat. She then explained that she didn’t realize he was allergic to strawberries she thought it was just apples. Bottom line: he received the correct basket and she was still upset that he hadn’t thanked her for it.
My stepfather then made some comment about “grinding the axe in deeper”. At that point I realized that my good intentions had resulted in hurting my mother’s feelings and making me look like a jerk. So I just sat there and said nothing more. What could I have said that wouldn’t have dug my hole deeper. Ugh, all I want is for my family to get along but I guess I should stop meddling. It doesn’t always work out the way I want and sometimes (like this time) I make it worse.
So my mother in law just called me. She has decided that she wants to spend “one on one time” with my husband during R+R. That is perfectly fine, I understand that. I told her she would absolutely have time with him. She then told me that she wants Christmas Eve. She wants him to go to church with her and spend the evening with her; alone, no kids, no me. I want to tell her that’s fine, it is her son after all but Christmas Eve??? We have to go pick up Santa’s presents at Bro #1’s house and then bring it all back to arrange under the tree! How does she think there will be time for him to just hang out with her all night? I asked her if it would be possible to do it another night and she said no. Then she told me “well why can’t you just do the presents, you’ve done it before”. Yeah, I’ve done it alone when I HAD to but it’s something special that he and I do for the kids. It’s meaningful, it always results in us talking about past years and future years. It’s a really special time for us and she wants to take that night. Of the 14 days he has; she wants the most important one. Of course, I don’t want to upset her so I told her it was fine. She is his mother, I don’t fully understand what it’s like to have to share one of my sons with another woman. I can’t dismiss her feelings because I don’t honestly know what she’s feelings. Anyway, hopefully he will be able to get her to compromise somehow.
All right, now I’m off to study for my final exam on Tuesday.

>Taking a break from baking

>So much baking… ugh, my lower back and shoulders are screaming for me to take a break. So, here I am.

I surprised myself by making the best cookies ever, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies click the link to see the recipe, if you like chocolate and peppermint, you HAVE to try these. Yummy! My diet is not going to be adhered to tomorrow, I can promise you that.

Anyway, this is what I have been working on:

Yeah, I made a few appetizers that are in the freezer, and I promise I will make the veggies, but the most important, best, most fun part of the meal is my cookie buffet. There are two more plates of cookies but they have to be made the day of, so those aren’t in the pic.
All right, back to the grind, I have to get the meatballs ready to be baked in the morning. I am trying to do all the preparation ahead of time so all I have to do is throw the sides in the oven tomorrow.
I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving.

>Recipes – Blog Style

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, holy smokes I don’t have much time! I went to the store today to purchase the ingredients for the cookies and spent just a hair less than $200… ON COOKIE INGREDIENTS!!! I must be out of my mind. I plan on making about a billion and a half different varieties. Why? Well, I guess just to make things harder on myself, my life wouldn’t be complete if I weren’t tearing my hair out and clinging to my sanity for dear life.
I am going to make things early and freeze them to take the pressure off last minute cooking. Anyway, the reason for this post is to let you all know that I have begun a second blog. This new one will be all about recipes and the chaos that comes with preparing a holiday dinner for a large family. I didn’t want to clutter up this blog with recipes, but I want to document the process with pictures of the baking process and final outcomes so I can either add it to my permanent recipe book or ditch it.
So anyway, if you are interested (I can’t promise that it will be super entertaining, but I sure will try) come on by and check me out. There is something about seeing that big fat 0 next to the word followers that makes me a little sad when I sign on to that blog. So, come on, help a baking challenged girl out. I need the support, haha.

>It’s Christmas Time at our house.

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This deployment has been hard. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. After going so many years between this one and our last one, well, I guess I forgot a lot of the things that make deployments suck. This summer was the hardest; it dragged on FOREVER. The school year is flying by though, and while that’s great because it means I’m not watching the countdown timer it’s not so great because I don’t have any time to do the things I used to do.
My youngest son used to play the viola. We quit around June or July. That’s really too bad, he had been playing since he was 4 years old but we just didn’t have the time to go to lessons twice a week and practice 30 minutes every night.
The kids and I used to play board games. Nope, not anymore, no time. Homework and laundry take precedence.
The boys and I used to laugh a lot, but even that has been limited lately. Stress, lack of time, etc.
As I mentioned yesterday I decided to go ahead and decorate for Christmas early. I LOVE Christmas and I figured it would help my mood.
This morning the boys and I rearranged the living room to fit the tree in the window, we dug out all the boxes from the attic and discussed outdoor lighting colors. It was a nice morning; we all worked together because we were excited to be doing this.
I went to the store. $266 later I am home with more lights than I’ll ever need, but hey, at least I won’t run out. Right?
I have a giant living room window. 12 feet by 6 feet, divided into thirds. I used single color rope lights to outline each third of the window in red, white and blue. With the thermal backed curtains pulled closed they light up the entire window in color. How patriotic. I bought the candle lights for all the bedroom windows. I put up prelit multicolored garland in my entranceway and started putting out all my Christmas knick knacks. B wanted a mini tree to decorate himself, so we also have an 18″ tree under the TV with over 100 lights on it. It looks like a giant lightbulb, but he’s so proud of himself. It really is kinda cute.
Anyway, as I’m working on getting the last of the candle lights secured on the window sill I hear a familiar sound coming from the hallway. It’s B, playing his viola. I almost cried, it’s been so long since he’s played, but he said that all the Christmas decorations made him feel like playing. Afterwards, we all went out into the front yard to admire our work. We laughed and made jokes and everyone was getting along. ALL THREE BOYS! It was amazing.
We went inside and I told them that I was so happy because I had no idea how a few lights and candles could do so much. B read me a story, then Z read a story. We took turns playing Connect 4, and I taught them a new card game; 52 card pick up. Big hit, let me tell you. I will probably be finding cards for months to come in very odd places.
At bedtime C told me that seeing me happy made him happy too, and that he will help me put up the lights on the roof this weekend. What a kid he is. I guess I didn’t realize how much of my emotions were actually affecting the kids.
Decorating early was a good idea, one of the few that I’ve had recently, but a good one nonetheless.

>To decorate or not to decorate…. early.

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I love Christmas. It’s always a fun, exciting time of year. I wish it were Christmas all year long, although that would take the excitement out of it. Which brings me to my current dilemma. I am SUPER excited about Christmas this year because even though we may not be celebrating on the exact calendar date, we are hoping to have R+R at some point during the winter. That makes this year super great.
Another thing is that the boys and I have decided not to celebrate Thanksgiving this year because he’s not home. We are going to have a nice dinner and spend some family time playing board games or maybe watching a movie but we are not going to do it with extended family. Just us skyping with their Dad.
So, typically I wait until after Thanksgiving to start decorating for Christmas, but due to our current situation I am seriously considering starting early…. like…. now. I am certain that it will help me not miss him so much because seeing the decorations will make me super excited about seeing him soon.
In fact, I’ve already put snowflake stickers on the living room windows. I just couldn’t help myself. Thank you Amazon.
We have two fake Christmas trees in the attic, even though we always get real trees because I LOVE the smell. Not really sure why/when we got them, but we have them. So, I want to temporarily put up the fake trees until we can buy a real one.
What do you think?

>Halloween

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Exhaustion is setting in, but before it fully overtakes me I figured I’d give a quick rundown of our Halloween.
It was ok, well, as good as it can be when their Dad is deployed. Fun, but not the same as when he’s here to be a goofball with them. Not only that, but I tend to be a bit scatterbrained and I always forget something or mess something up; so when he’s here it’s not a big deal. With two of us we can usually fix the problem without the kids realizing. Not this year.
OK, well, it started a couple days ago with the pumpkin carving. That went ok, I allowed the boys to carve their own pumpkins. C decided that this year he was too old to partake in the festivities so he refused to get one. The carving went well, no fingers were severed so I think that counts as a win.
Mistake #1 I did not take pictures of the finished product.
Mistake #2 Not opening the boxes from Amazon until it was too late.
See, in our house the Great Pumpkin comes while the boys are trick or treating. He blows out the candles in the pumpkins and leaves small gifts. So, I decided that this year I would order the stuff from Amazon (along with Christmas gifts) because that way I can leave it in the big brown box and the kids will think it’s clothes or something uninteresting. So, when I received 8 boxes between Thursday and Saturday I stacked them all up and assumed the Great Pumpkin stuff was in one of them. WRONG! I did not find this out until I was scrambling around with seconds to spare before the kids came outside. Anyway, back to the beginning of the today.
The past two years Bro #2 has gone trick or treating with us. The boys love it. He’s fun! He told them all that he would go with us this year too. His girlfriend also agreed talking about how she was going to dress up as Scooby Doo again.
Mistake #3 Getting the kid’s hopes up and then letting them down when the Bro decided to back out without an explanation.
He met us for breakfast this morning (a Halloween tradition of ours is to go out for breakfast). Just last night we had talked about how he was coming back to our house afterward to get ready for the big night. As we walked to the truck, he got in his truck and said “have a good night, get lots of candy”. The boys were devastated. They asked him why he wasn’t coming and his girlfriend replied “we have to get home, we have dogs”. Seriously? And you hadn’t thought of that at all in the past two weeks every time you SAID you were coming with us????
So, we come home and B’s friend calls to ask if we’d like to go with him at his Aunt’s house. We agreed to go.
Mistake #4 insisting on bringing my Suburban because I figured it would be bigger and more comfortable.
The driveway of the Aunt’s house was over grown with the bushes that scratched the side of my truck like a thousand razor blades. You try fitting a land yacht into a driveway only wide enough for a Smart car; not gonna happen.
OK, we go out, the boys are getting a decent amount of candy, but because we wound up getting a late start because the friends mom wanted to chit chat with the Aunt for about 9 hours they didn’t get as much as they would have. That’s ok though, less sugar high nights to deal with.
Mistake #5 Not setting up the Great Pumpkin before leaving the house.
When we got back home they wanted to run to the back deck so I had to literally YELL at them to stop where they were, go in the front door and shower before going out to check. That was not easy. In fact it was impossible so despite the fact that I have never admitted to my kids that he’s not real I had to admit it tonight. See, C and Z still refer to them as Santa and the Easter Bunny even though they know the truth. They do this for me, which I appreciate sooooo much. I’m not ready for them to grow up yet. But B still believes, so to keep it real for him I had to explain to his bros that I hadn’t done it yet so they agreed to keep him busy in the living room while I dug through the boxes (refer to Mistake #2 for more on that).
Basically, the Great Pumpkin brought C two shirts, Z got a mini light and a Pictionary game and B got a Spongebob Connect 4 game (all were planned gifts from Santa). Nobody was thrilled, but C and Z were amazing. They played 6 games of Connect 4 with B which made B very happy.
Mistake #6 Letting the boys eat 4 pieces of candy a piece when we got home. SUGAR HIGH! On a school night.
I do not even need to elaborate on that blunder. 2230 bedtime anyone?
OK, well, after running around the neighborhood, plus getting up early to meet the Bro at the restaurant he chose I am exhausted. I have to go to bed.



>The Plan for the Day

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My house is trashed. It’s incredible how bad it got so fast this weekend. I was swapping bedrooms and had a bit of work done to the bathroom which forced me to “store” things in random places. Now I have to put everything back where it belongs. My goal is to have the house done by 1500; it’s already 1100 and I haven’t done much of anything yet so I’m really going to have to move. I have my Dunkin Donuts Dark Roast coffee sitting here and once that is consumed I should be ready to go.
I caught myself humming Christmas tunes this morning. I can’t believe it is that close. I am so excited to start decorating this year, I’ve already bought two new sets of ornaments and a military themed keepsake ornament from Amazon. I am debating on outdoor lights this year because I’ve never put them up before. Now, with DH not home and my brothers not around as much it will be up to me. The boys are not happy about that; in fact Z offered to do it himself which is not going to happen, but I guess that shows how much he wants lights on the roof. Maybe I should just suck it up and do it. I manage to do everything else during deployments, why not this?
Speaking of doing things that I wouldn’t normally do… my toilet is clogged. Ughhh. As I have mentioned before we only have one bathroom in this house so it is a big deal to have a clogged potty. Sometimes I wish I were still in military Housing, then I could just call maintenance and not worry about it.
OK, I’m off.

>To Tell; or Not to Tell

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When the boys were young I LOVED Christmas, I loved the talk about Santa and the elves, I even welcomed the questions they had such as “how do reindeer fly if they don’t have wings” or “this house doesn’t have a chimney, how will he get in”. Well, I enjoyed them until they started throwing actual scientific reasoning behind their arguments, but even that I wiggled out of.
So, as the years went on it hadn’t occurred to me that at some point they would have to know. My oldest son is a very smart kid, he is very analytical and scientific in his reasoning. When he was about 9 or 10 he began questioning Santa’s existence a bit more, but the difference was that when he walked away I didn’t feel that he was satisfied with my answers. Another Christmas came and went and I began to realize what was happening. HE KNEW! But he also sensed that I wanted him to believe…. so he pretended. He was doing it for me! Talk about a great kid! He is 13 now and I have never actually admitted to him the truth; it’s just an unspoken thing.
2 years ago, my middle son came to me and gave me the same line I had given my parents 2 decades ago “all my friends are telling me that it’s not true, please don’t make me look like a fool in front of my friends”. So, of course, I sat him down and had The Talk. I made him PROMISE that he wouldn’t say anything to his younger brother. I threatened to only buy him educational toys rather than fun toys if he did. lol. So far it has worked.
So, here is my dilemna:
My youngest is 9 years old and he still believes.
He believes because his older brothers tell him it’s true.
He believes because I would never lie to him.
He believes because he is a sweet little boy who WANTS to believe.
I am not ready to be out of the Santa Stage. I am not ready for all of my kids to know! I know this is a part of growing up, but I’m just not ready!
Last year B (youngest) came home and told me that his friend down the street told him on the bus that Santa wasn’t real and that it was his parents because he had SEEN them do it. I told him that he must not have behaved because if Santa thinks you are a bad boy he won’t bring you anything at all. I explained that his parents probably didn’t want him to be sad so they put stuff under the tree to make him feel better. The very next day B comes home and tells me that that same friend had “admitted” to lying and that Santa was, in fact, real!
Of course, I am sure I know what happened. The kid went home and said “this boy believes” and the mother must have forced him to tell B that he had lied. So, obviously other kids in his grade know, but he doesn’t. I don’t want him to look silly in school, but I’m also not ready to tell.
I will absolutely NOT do it this year during a deployment. I think it would hurt my husband more than it would me if he weren’t here for The Talk. But that leaves next year when B will be 10 years old! Is that too old? I still can’t believe my kids are this age anyway, just yesterday I was changing diapers and juggling car seats. Now I’m shopping at special shoe stores for a size 14 and I am paying outrageous amounts of money for unlimiting texting on our cell phone plan. Where did my babies go?
Any advice for a Mom of 3 tween/teens who is refusing to admit her boys are growing up???