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    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Wuthering Wednesday

    “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.” –Charlotte Brontë

    I can’t read this quote without picturing feathers poking out of my ears.

    I know we're all struggling to get back into routine after Thanksgiving plus get a leg-up on all the holiday stuff. I’m certainly hurting for sleep, but when I finally go to bed, my mind scours endless lists. Last night I actually prayed I’d remember to call the insurance company and pay the toll bill today. I know. Lame, right? Here there’s famine and loss and disease and I’m like, “God, help me remember to pay the stupid bills.”

    Every year I tell myself I’m going to be smart, restrained. I’m going to make time to enjoy what really matters in the Christmas season. And every year, I spend way too much money, frantically bake a bazillion cookies, and make one or two poor gift choices.

    For instance, last night I was determined to take advantage of any and all Cyber Monday deals, even if that meant sitting glued to a chair, endlessly clicking through clogged websites. My mom’s been looking for a new handbag, and Sam Moon had free shipping. I figured, if I can’t find something there, then the right bag just doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, Chunky kept trying to help with my Cyber Monday shopping. His tastes run a little flashy.

    Once I reigned in my 7-year-old fashion guru, I clicked through page after page of purses. And you know what? I DID NOT find the right one. So I didn’t buy anything. For me, this is growth. I still went to bed and imagined all the names on my list and mentally arranged purchased a yet-to-be-purchased presents beneath them, and, then, yes, prayed about the bills. Come to think of it, I’m sure I’m not the only one doing that right about now.

    It’s not all fuss and bother though. I love opening our box of Christmas books every year. I love that my boys still let me read them aloud. I love that every year we wonder how in the world we’re going to put up a 12-foot tree in our living room and every year it fits.

    I love that Kory and I have the same argument about white lights versus colored lights. We'll be in our nineties, and he'll still be trying to string those obnoxious neon LED lights all over the house, and I'll shake my cane at him and say, "You can put those outside! Only classy white lights on MY Christmas tree." And I love that we watch the same stupid movie every year—Just Friends, which is NOT a traditional family film but somehow has become a tradition for the two of us.

    I look forward to the annual Christmas party our friends' give that lasts longer than planned because of a board game or heated round of Guitar Hero. Inevitably, several children lose the battle to exhaustion and have to be carried to the car, arms dangling limp over Daddy's back. I think I may have exited the party in the same manner a time or two.

    And then there are the dozens of letters Chunky will write to Santa. (This year he discovered the Amazon wish list and asked me what Santa's email address was.) I look forward to the hours Monkey will spend quietly absorbed with new Lego sets on Christmas day. Legos are the only thing in the universe that CAN quietly absorb Monkey. Oh dear! I just had a horrible Lego/Borg mash-up vision starring my ten-year-old pop into my head.

    It's time to put the feathers to rest.

    So what about you? What gets you ruffled this time of year? And what bits of craziness do you savor?

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Not As Planned

    I have survived another turducken feast. I’m a little bit terrified that this will become a family tradition for my mother’s birthday. It all started last year when she announced she wanted to order a turkey, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a duck. And she wanted me to cook it. Being a turducken virgin, I listened wide-eyed, mouth agape. People really eat such abominations?

    It turned out to be much less grisly than I thought. You can read an account of Turducken: Year One here.

    This year, things did not go as planned. A few weeks ago Mom informed me that she’d ordered two turduckens with seafood stuffing. I reminded her of Kory’s shellfish allergy. She rang up Cajun Grocer and changed the order to pork-stuffed turduckens. That’s right, turkey, chicken, duck AND pork. Oh, my!

    Imagine our surprise when two giant Styrofoam crates containing FOUR turduckens landed on our doorstep last week. The Cajun Grocer shipped both orders, and I had four, obscenely-filled birds to wrestle into my freezer. Luckily I hadn’t been to Costco in awhile. Mom’s assistant, Becca, and I rearranged, hoisted, hauled, and grunted all that poultry into the chest freezer. At one point I thought of sitting on the lid while Becca tied it down with a rope, but in the end we declared victory over mutant barnyard fowl.

    Our two extra turduckens found homes of their own without us having to set up a pen in the Wal-mart parking lot, trusting their cuteness would ensnare passersby.

    We cleaned and cooked all weekend and Sunday evening our guests arrived. The five boys immediately suited up in a mixture of Clone Trooper gear, knight costumes, and Nerf weaponry. Then they staged a medieval Star Wars smackdown before dinner. In the process, 7-year-old Chunky got his feelings hurt. You know how these political conflicts can be.

    We sat down to eat, and I noticed Chunky sitting in an armchair, refusing to take his place at the table. But I was too busy serving to deal with it. A few minutes later I looked over and he’d vanished. I found him in his room, underneath his giant pillow pet, bawling. He explained the situation in Snot Cry, which most people can speak but very few can interpret. Distracted, I gave him a hug, delivered the you-have-a-chance-to-forgive speech, and told him to come down to dinner when he’d finished crying.

    I returned to our guests wondering how I could get Chunky into acting and siphon some of the drama from his personality. He never came down to dinner, so when all the other kids finished eating, I called Monkey over and told him to go up and tell his brother that the others were done and he should come down and eat.

    Moments later Monkey returned with a note from Chunky. It said, “Tell her to bring it up.”

    I laughed. Ah, the audacity of a wounded 7-year-old. I sent Monkey up again but he returned with another note.

    “And bring a table.”

    Clearly Chunky was enjoying his role as little lord of the manor.

    I sent Monkey up again and after awhile he came back with yet another note from his brother.

    “I’m still hungry.”

    This time I went up. Chunky and I had a chat that included more Snot Cry. Eventually, he pulled it together and appeared, pale and sniffing, to devour two turkey legs. Drama makes a boy hungry.

    Thankfully everyone else behaved much better and we had an enjoyable evening. When our friends went home I collapsed on the couch, only waking when Kory said he was going to bed.

    This morning I awoke to a terrible realization. I never put the rest of the turducken in the fridge. All that meat gone to waste. I felt like a pile of discarded gizzards as one by one my family members asked, “Where’s the turducken?”

    I can only hope this means that next year I will not be trusted with the bird of many names. With my luck, we’ll go luau and I’ll have to roast a pig in the back yard. Can I just say now that I don’t want to wear coconuts and a grass skirt in November?

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Wuthering Wednesdays

    For some time I’ve wanted to incorporate a weekly post sharing fun and interesting Brontë quotes and facts with you, my hapless blog readers. In order to give you fair warning, I’ve come up with the tidy moniker Wuthering Wednesdays. So when you see Wuthering Wednesday in your inbox or on your blog feed, you’ll know the post will be Brontë related.

    As I said, I hope to make Wuthering Wednesday a regular thing here on Breathe In Breathe Out. Naturally this means it will be hit and miss, half the entries will show up on Thursday because I’ve forgotten whereabouts in the week Wednesday is, and I will likely go off on tangents about footwear or cheese.

    As an introduction, the Brontës were a nineteenth-century family living in Yorkshire where Patrick Brontë was a curate. The siblings’ creativity is legendary, with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights hailed as classics of English literature. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this extraordinary, tragic family so I’m not going to give you a history lesson or rehash any of my college essays. I’d rather give a brief background or relevant info with each quote, so let’s get to it.

    “A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o’ clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.”

    This quote is from Wuthering Heights. Nelly, who plays many roles in the novel—from nurse, to servant, to confidant—is chiding Mr. Lockwood, renter of Thrushcross Grange, for staying up late and sleeping in come morning.

    In the scene, Lockwood begs Nelly to continue her story—that of Heathcliff and Catherine—even though it’s eleven o’clock and Nelly wants to go to bed. After all, she’s the housekeeper and she probably gets up before everyone else.

    I have to say, I have sympathy for both the characters. Like Nelly, I’ve been on the receiving end of pleading eyes and “it’s not that late really,” and “please, just one more chapter.” Of course, those requests come from my kids, not from a grown man who is also my employer. But I feel for whiney ol’ Lockwood, too. I’ve become engrossed in a story and stayed up way too late greedily consuming every word. Last night was one of those nights. I blame Lisa Bergren and her River of Time series for that.

    The difference, of course, is that Lockwood can sleep in, and neither Nelly nor I can. We have work to do. And a ten o’clock deadline, apparently.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Of Birthdays, Bags and Robots

    Yesterday was my birthday but I believe in celebrating pretty much all week. I started on Saturday by shopping with my friend, Steampunk Beth. Here is what you should know about Beth:

    1. She has an engineering degree and a cool math/science brain. She actually understands what my husband does for a living.
    2. In an extremely unfair double sprinkle from the talent shaker, Beth came into some wicked creative skills. She writes fantastic fiction and non-fiction.
    3. She’s an artist who specializes in octopi. Yes, octopi. Multiple octopuses.
    4. She has great legs that make me jealous.

    Ok, I think that covers it. Hmm, it sorta looks like I hate Steampunk Beth. I don’t! She’s awesome and even though she’s off-the-charts talented, she’s also really nice so I don’t club her knees or anything when I see her.

    So Beth and I have been trying to go to The-Store-That-Is-Never-Open for months now. I’m not sure how Beth learned of this little place, or if she’s ever actually been into the store, or if anyone has for that matter. But we’ve both stood staring into the window at normal times of the day, like 11:00 AM on a Saturday or 2:30 PM on a Tuesday. The sign on the door helpfully proclaims their hours as 10:00 AM-4:00 PM Monday through Saturday, or something like that. And yet, they are never open.

    Saturday was no exception, so we window gazed at the retro fashions and intriguing items that hinted at steampunk flair possibilities in the hands of someone fabulous like Beth.

    Then she took me to the surplus store in Old Colorado City. I have never been in a surplus store and rather wondered if they’d take a look at my high-heeled, lace-up boots and make me leave, especially when Beth disappeared and left me--surrounded by racks of camo--alone in a foreign land.

    Turns out surplussy folks are nice, and they really admired Beth’s handmade-by-her, embellished military messenger bag. You can buy one of these cool bags on Etsy. I, however, am getting one for my birthday. See, it IS possible for people with shapely legs to be incredibly sweet and not at all worthy of incineration by death ray vision.

    Next we hit Manitou Springs, which, if you’re not in The Springs and don’t know, is where cool people shop and hang out. I pretended I was cool and bought this hat!


    When I got home, Kory and I went out for a celebration date. We saw Real Steel. If you’re wondering how it is that I ended up seeing a robot boxing movie for MY birthday, let me just say, you’re not the only one. But it had Hugh Jackman in it and turned out to be pretty good, if a little manly.

    The next evening, Sunday, the boys insisted on celebrating my birthday by watching a family movie. They informed me that I got to choose the movie, as long as it wasn’t girly, grown-up, or scary. As you can imagine, it was pretty hard to choose given such freedom, but we ended up watching Despicable Me, which has one of my favorite lines: “That book was accidentally destroyed maliciously.” The same thing may have happened to one or two of my boys’ books over the years.

    Yesterday, on my actual birthday, Mom and I went out for pedicures and Greek food—finally some girl time! Then Chunky helped me bake a chocolate chip cookie boy when he got home from school. Using the gingerbread boy pan was his idea. So was using extra chocolate chips to make hair, shoes, hands, etc. Willie the Heeler decided she should help celebrate by eating one of Choco Boy’s feet while he was cooling on the counter. Thankfully, she didn’t get sick.

    And there you have it, my very self-involved blog about my birthday. But maybe it’ll be okay if I end by saying thank-you to my awesome family and friends for celebrating with me. I am blessed.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    The Peanut-Free Ninja

    Like most moms I don’t buy candy on a regular basis, so Halloween is a big deal for my kiddos. It’s funny because they actually don’t gorge themselves. It’s all about numbers. They love counting their candy, sorting it, and hording it, much like Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit.

    And I can’t complain because for me Halloween has always meant an excuse to eat Snickers, Peanut M&Ms, Reese's, Butterfingers—anything with peanuts! With Kory and our youngest son both allergic to peanuts, it’s always been my job to purge dangerous goodies from Chunky’s stash.

    But this year, Chunky wised up.

    Dressed as a fire ninja (red costume with black wrappings I kept calling ribbons much to his chagrin), Chunky bolted from door to door like a tiny streak of lightning. When the door opened, he'd holler, “Trick-or-treat-I-can’t-have-peanuts!”

    He said it so fast that most people didn’t understand, so Monkey (dressed as Bobba Fett) stepped in to explain. Naturally, this baffled the average person who just wanted to get back to their dinner or Castle episode as quickly as possible.

    House after house, we heard some variation of the following:

    Ding dong.

    Chunky: Trick-or-treat-I-can’t-have-peanuts!

    Unsuspecting neighbor: What?

    Monkey: My brother can’t have peanuts.

    Neighbor: You can’t have peanuts?

    Monkey: No, I CAN have peanuts, but he’s allergic to them.

    Chunky: I’m also allergic to eggs and grass.

    Neighbor *confused silence, awkwardly rifles through candy bowl*: Do Butterfingers have peanuts?

    Monkey and Chunky: YES!

    At this point they'd take matters into their own hands, pointing to acceptable candy and sometimes just relieving the person of the candy bowl and pawing through it themselves while Kory and I winced from the driveway and called out vague reminders to be polite.

    It probably took us twice as long to trick-or-treat. At first Kory and I chuckled at the boys’ routine, but it got old fast, especially when I realized there’d be no stash of peanut-y goodness for me.

    Recognizing my growing alarm, Kory swiped a Reese's for me at a neighbor's house that had games, a bonfire and other distractions to cover adult candy pilfering. I jammed it in my pocket, but it must’ve fallen out at some point because it wasn’t there when we got home.

    The boys counted their candy. (Monkey=126, Chunky=116) I whined about my lost Reese's but tried to be grown-up about missing out on my usual haul. Then Monkey disappeared to the other room where he’d stowed his pile and returned to present one Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and a package of Reese's Pieces to me.

    So it looks like our Halloween tradition has changed a bit. We may have left confused neighbors in our wake, but Chunky learned to be proactive in his candy quest. Monkey not only looked out for the brother he usually tortures but also shared some of his bounty with his deprived mother. And next year, I'll know to buy my own bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.