Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushrooms, Peppers and Goat Cheese

I made this tonight and the boys ate it up!!  It was amazing!!!! 
Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushrooms, Peppers and Goat Cheese– Guy Fieri
Guy Fieri

Picture of Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushrooms, Peppers and Goat Cheese RecipePhoto: Roasted Acorn Squash with Mushrooms, Peppers and Goat Cheese Recipe
Rated 5 stars out of 5
Total Time: 1 hr 10 min

Prep 20 min

Cook 50 min


Acorn Squash:

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups cabbage (core removed before slicing)
  • 1 cup 1/4-inch-sliced sweet onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced in 1/4-inch julienne
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced in 1/4-inch julienne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish, optional


For the acorn squash: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Trim the tops and bottoms off the squash. Cut in half horizontally so the cut-ends will keep the pieces flat. Clean the inside of the squash. Separate the seeds from the membranes and rinse well. Dry the seeds with a paper towel and set aside.

Place the squash cut-side up on a baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Place the seeds on a separate baking sheet or foil. Roast the squash 30 minutes. Roast the seeds at the same time, checking and moving them around after 10 minutes and again after 20 minutes. Depending on the size of the seeds, they may be done after 20 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. Sprinkle the seeds with the remaining salt, and set aside with the squash.

For the filling: Set a large saute pan over high heat and add the butter. When melted, add the cabbage, onions, peppers, sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently toss to combine. Allow the cabbage to wilt down, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and toss to combine. Saute 2 to 4 minutes longer, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

For assembling: Preheat the broiler to low. Fill the roasted acorn squash halves with the filling. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top, then top with the roasted squash seeds. Broil just until the cheese is warm. Garnish with a small amount of Italian parsley, if using, and serve.

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don’t vote, can’t bitch

With the 2012 Presidential Election less than a month away I am reminded of the rules I live by:  In the rules of Jen’s life this one is up in the Top 5–Don’t Vote, Can’t bitch.  Essentially if you vote (i.e. voice your opinion) you can bitch about the government until you are out of  breath.  You can criticize, mock or generally berate any government doings thanks to the 1st Amendment and because you were a part of the electoral process.  But after last nights debate I have a few more comments about voting in the next Leader of the Free World and their Congressional Lackies.

Our government has come a long way since 1776 when people volunteered to help run the country and the fall Congressional break was to harvest crops.  The Senate and House of Representatives still take a fall break but its more to vacation in Barbados, which – by the way- is not a U.S. Territory and my hard earned Tax Dollars (i.e. their salary) aren’t even coming back into the U.S. Economy.  The U.S. Government has turned into a Greedy Corporate World Bully and frankly if I wasn’t so passionate about my “don’t vote, can’t bitch” policy I would chalk up the whole election to frivolity.  The whole process of electing new officials to “serve the people” is nothing more than a Political Circus run by clowns in rainbow wigs.  Its a big show of ‘washing’ clean dishes in a soup kitchen and kissing babies and being liked.  Its not about listening to the people; its about the candidate bettering themselves, their agenda and their political party.

The politicians spout off their numbers and statistics and facts but we need to stop and think who is feeding the candidates these “facts”.   These statistics come from people hired by the candidates taking the facts and manipulating the numbers to get their point across.  Republicans have their statisticians, Democrats have theirs — and both can twist the numbers to say just about anything they want to better their cause.  Stats can be looked at from several points of view and even though the numbers sound impressive being spouted from the mouths of Politicians, those numbers don’t really mean squat.  Because for every 20% decline in XYZ there is probably an 80% growth in ABC that the politician is ignoring to get HIS point made.  We aren’t privy to the same numbers and facts and information as the politicians and their math gurus.  We have no way of fact checking or knowing if their numbers are right, wrong or indifferent.  We are too busy working and paying taxes so they can argue like Kindergartners on national TV.

If the presidential candidates truly cared about the American public they would truly LISTEN to the middle class, help the middle class and reform just about everything possible from social security to medicaid (which the middle class pays for). Every aspect of the U.S. government should be scrutinized.  Nothing is how our founding fathers wanted it and nothing is being done.  Spouting rhetoric on TV isn’t going to solve the problems and neither is electing a president for a mere 4 years.  There is no way on earth that one man in the presidency can change ANYTHING in 4 years.  The U.S. is TRILLIONS of dollars in debt — trillions.  We hear Balanced Budget being tossed around in the campaign but that means squat too.  If I cant balance my personal budget while working part time, raising kids, paying my mortgage (not walking away from it even though my house is worth $75k LESS than I paid for it), paying off credit card debt and adoption expenses in 4 years how in the world is the president going to balance the U.S. budget in 4 years? They aren’t– its TRILLIONS of dollars.  Their budgets are written for 8, 10, 12 years and yet they are only in office for 4.  So then the next guy is going to come in, Save the Economy and Balance the Budget with his own 8-12 year plan that could or could not be wiped out 4  years from now.  Its all political mumbojumbo and its almost becoming pointless.

Think about it — Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world.  He founded a company that has sustained a recession and he is stupid rich.  But I seriously doubt everyone who works for Microsoft is stupid rich like Bill.  He employs thousands of middle class Americans and he uses his company to look out for their well being.  Those middle class citizens are his income – we are the government’s income, they should be finding ways to work FOR us, not make us feel we work in vain.   The middle class pays for just about everything and we are taxed at the highest rate.  This has been the case for most of my adult, tax paying life.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer while we all live paycheck to paycheck making sure we actually pay our debts.  Now, I don’t mind paying taxes.  I like my kids to have good public schools, I like to have clean parks and I love to live in a safe neighborhood.  What I don’t like  it all the lying, cheating and stealing the U.S. Government is involved in and how the Presidential Election has turned into a Dog and Pony Show.  How they talk talk talk talk talk talk and never do do do do do do do. But yet somehow they are working for our wellbeing.  Nope.  I don’t see it.

I have no idea how to run a country and I will never be president for the following three reasons:  I do not have the ambition to be a leader of the Free World, I do not have the economic background to be the president of the U.S. and Spring Break 2000 (oh, that was a good one).  But I am a tax paying citizen and I should be heard by my government.  If I am going to pay my taxes I expect something from that.  I expect to elect someone with my own beliefs, I expect to see progress, I expect to keep my money here in the U.S and I expect more than Presidential Candidate Bullies yelling at each other on TV.

Voting for elected officials has come down to not who we want to be President but who we do NOT want to be President.  Its choosing between the Lesser of Two Evils and it has been since the Clinton Era ended.  Its not who is going to do better by the U.S. but who can do the least amount of damage in 4 years and that’s plain sad. We are a hard working nation full of good, hard working people and we should have adequate representation in the Government.  Representation like when the original 1879 GW took office – for the people, by the people. Today’s politicians have no clue as to what the people want or need.  They throw around phrases like “tax breaks” and “saving social security” in the same sentence.  That statement in itself is an oxymoron and anyone can see it if they stop, look and listen.  So, why bother spouting the poo?  These presidential candidates need to sit down and THINK about how the U.S. got in this mess and what we need to do to get out.  This is not the vision of Freedom that our Founding Fathers sought.  They didn’t seek lobbyists, personal gain or political self agendas.  They wanted what was best for the Country — and that is where we need to get back to.   We don’t need more government, we need smarter, less greedy government. I can be happy working day to day at a job that has WAY more social impact than a bobble head crap talking politician so maybe its time for more than economic reform, it might be time for complete political reform.  A change in political mindset that goes back to the people that support the government by paying their taxes.

I do not have the education and background to fix all the political problems, but I would like to elect a representative who could make a difference.  I support my community as a tax payer, a mom and a nurse.  I would expect that public official to do the same.  All that said because I do vote and plan to vote because if you don’t vote you can’t bitch.  Thank you.





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yelling vs entitlement

Recently I read an online parenting article about yelling.  On how yelling is wrong and it demeans the child, gives them a poor self image and leads to social isolation later in life.  It was written professionally, articulately and it generally pissed me off.  I have been brooding over it since I read it and that was well over a week ago.  This blog has been festering in my mind and since the minions are folding clothes behind me I have time to sit down and let my opinions ooze from my pours.

I didn’t 100% disagree with the article, it was more like 90% disagreement – because you shouldn’t yell at your  kids 24/7.  Not every word out of your mouth should be bitter and biting.  I could see that leading to low self esteem and social isolation because no one wants to be demeaned and belittled all the time.  But yelling has a time and a place in parenting, and I am sorry if you disagree.  Because when little Timmy runs out in the street and you yank him back just before the SUV-driving-teen-texting-her-beau runs him over I don’t see how sitting him in the drive sweetly saying “Now, Timmy.  You almost died because you ran out in to the street.  We have talked about not going in the street before and this is why you need to listen to mommy”.  Timmy ain’t gonna learn squat from that.  He’s not going to be scared out of his toddler mind.  He’s not going to know what almost-dying means because he’s about to go inside, have milk and cookies and watch Spongebob.  Now after you yank Timmy back to the street and you are still holding him up by his hoodie and you shriek “OMG TIMMY THAT CAR ALMOST HIT YOU!!!!  WHAT WERE YOU DOING????!!   I HAVE TOLD YOU NOT TO GO IN THE STREET AND YOU DIDN’T LISTEN!!!!  YOU ALMOST GOT HIT-BY-A-CAR!!!!!  REALLY??????”.  Then you take Timmy inside and put him on the couch sans milk/cookies and Spongebob so both you and Timmy have time to calm down.  THAT is a lesson Timmy might learn.  Because the next time that street beckons, Timmy is gonna remember that you scared him shitless  last time he did that; and he really doesn’t want to go there again.

Now I have bought and read “Scream Free Parenting” and I agree with alot of its points.  It has alot of good ideas of consequences for actions and I have applied some of those Scream Free principles to my parenting style.  But nothing is more powerful than a quick YELL to get their attention and keep their attention for the point you have to make.  And I am talking the big life lessons that have to be learned:  the 10 Commandment style lessons.  Not the ‘clean your room, brush your teeth, tie your shoe laces’ lessons.  Those can be taught with online viewing of “Hoarders” or a dental website of rotting teeth or going on You Tube and cacheing “untied shoe laces accidents”.

I really believe that yelling at your kids during the Big Life Lessons moments has an impact and not necessarily a negative one.  It makes them stop and think about doing or not doing the same thing next time.  I don’t believe that kids LIKE to see their parents mad because kids are naturally giving and loving creatures.  And they aren’t learning hate from yelling they are learning the power of love:  I yelled at you about repeatedly hitting your brother with a baseball bat because I love both you and your brother and I don’t want anyone hurt.  I yelled so you would KNOW it was wrong and I want to communicate my disappointment in you.  Those are the kind words that need to follow “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? GET IN HERE NOW AND TELL ME WHAT YOU WERE THINKING WITH THAT BAT??  IS YOUR BROTHER A BASEBALL?????”.

Lets apply Newton’s 3rd law of physics here:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Meaning that brother 1 will continue to hit brother 2 with said bat until acted on by an equal or opposite reaction (parental yelling out the back door).  Then brother 1 will think twice about hitting brother 2 with said bat tomorrow because he was shocked and startled by the sudden shriek (and subsequent consequence) from the backdoor yelling.

Let me get to the real point of this blog.  The no-yelling article set me off but then I started thinking about the complacent parenting style the article touted and suddenly A+B=C.  No yelling parenting has led to this ridiculous generation of Entitled Kids.  The Age of Entitlement is upon us, parents, and if we have nothing else to combat it we have this:  We have the ability to raise our voices to let them know they are still kids, they don’t know everything and they best sit down and LISTEN TO US NOW BECAUSE WE ARE THE PARENTS.

My kids are learning the hard way I am anti-entitlement.  We have more “stuff” than I had when I was a kid (that is the general motto of parenting) but my kids aren’t ENTILTED to any of it.  They need to earn it- everything they get.  You want a new Skylander, clean my bathroom.  You don’t get a Skylander just because you want one.  You earn it.  And I have already talked about the Entertain Me status of our kids (see previous blog).

Kids today need Constant motion, constant stimulation, constant entertainment.  But you know, kids, the house needs cleaned and the laundry needs done.  Learn it now because your laundry currently “magically gets washed by itself” but that isn’t always going to be the case.  Figure it out now:  everyday isn’t a party and a trip to the park and the movies and the bounce house.  Some days you have to take-care-of-business at home then just chill.  WITH OUT the TV on or the background chatter of a video game.  My kids start asking about 10am “what are we doing today?” and I reply “you see it, there is the vacuum, there is the dust lets use one to combat the other. we are waging a war on filth, isn’t that exciting?”.  For today’s kids its all about the YOLO party and then in adulthood they have to find $$ for college or they need $$ for that YOLO mountain biking summer in Utah.  They are ENTILTED to that.  Uh, no.  Sorry kids- not entitled.  Remember when you hit your brother with a bat and had to unload the dishwasher for a month?  Remember when I yelled at you about that?  Remember that lesson learned?  The consequences of your actions? Extrapolate those principles to your situation today (get job to earn your mountain biking $$) and get back to me on your conclusion.  Thanks.

Then our non-yelled-at-no-lesson-learned-entitled kids have get a job with entry level wages (what???? no 6 figures with a Bachelors Degree?)  that only has 2 weeks of vacation a year and they think “what the hell just happened?”.  Talk about having no life skills — that is a harsh reality for a 20-something to take in.  Now, if they had been YELLED at every once in awhile as kids to bring their entitled selves back to reality– yelled at teaching the Big Life Lessons– well I think more good than harm was done during the formative years.

In conclusion, you can agree with me or disagree with me.  You can shoot a dirty look at the mom in the grocery store yelling “touch ONE more box of cereal and I will tie the ends of your sweatshirt together and shove them in your pockets” or you can look at her with a Right On Mom confident smile that says “teach em right, make em listen, ground them to reality now”.  Because when that kid in the grocery store grows up and enters the working world and has a boss that says “stop touching the cereal” that kid better have the Life Skills to realize the boss meant what they said.   The Life Skills to realize the hierarchy of respect was established early in life by a parent yelling the big-life-lessons at their kids.

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When I worked in the ER we had names for the hours past 6pm.  At 6pm the “after workers” came in.  7pm was the “rash hour”.  8pm was the “fever hour” and 9pm was the “idiot hour” because you never knew what was going to show up between the fevers and the drunks that started rolling in after 10pm.  Now 9pm has a different connotation for me that I am a day worker, full time mom and overseer of everything from cleaning the hamsters cage to putting air in the tires of the minivan.  Now 9pm is the “are you kidding me — I am DONE hour”.

Now I realize that the girls from Sex in the City didn’t go out for dinner until 11pm and even in my college days you didn’t show up at a party before 10pm unless you wanted to be labeled with an “L” on your forehead.   But neither Miss Bradshaw or my college self attempted the tasks of job, laundry, dinner, groceries, more laundry, the dog puked in the hallway, bathtime, reading homework and bed in a 24 hr day. Just the before bed ritual teeth brushing alone wears down my soul so when those lights go out for the minions at 8:30pm you can pretty much count me out 30 min later.

Now I have given several bold attempts at staying up past 9pm — especially during football season and when the Bears on are Monday Night, but the best laid plans of mice and men never quite work.  I have tried folding laundry to keep me up, I have tried a quick walk w/ the dog around the block to perk me up, I have saved the dishes to wash until after the kids go to bed.  None of these things have worked because by 8:35 my ass just wants plunked down on that soft spot on the couch and I want to listen to —- nothing.  That sweet sound of children breathing at a slow and even pace.  Their angelic sleeping faces that make me forget all the wrong-doing and “learning opportunities” we had during the course of the day.  Make me forget that they pulled off 30 of the 200+ glow in the dark eyeball bouncy balls that I painstakingly pinned/glued to a wreath last year for the COOLEST Halloween decoration ever because “they bounce really high so we threw them all down the driveway”.   Also their sleeping sighs that make me forget that they decided the bathroom was a gymnastics mecca and tore the high bar/towel rack clean out of the wall.

That sweet sound of nothing as the day winds down that eventually puts me out in approx 30 min.  My poor n-FLS husband wants to talk but I want — nothing.  No TV, no radio, no music.  The white noise of a fan and I might possibly allow a cricket or two to chirp but other than that its– nothing.  I don’t think its exhaustion that puts me out at 9pm –its relief.  Relief that I can stop thinking, policing, cooking, cleaning and reprimanding for a few minutes and once that brain is off it ain’t coming back on until 6am the next day.

I have given up on being cool and hip and going out because its pretty much just mom survival mode.  The other day my babysitter started laughing at me because I walked in the house and started a load of laundry before I even set down my purse or kicked off my shoes.  Its survival mode of “get’er done”  because there is always something to do.  I should be snipping the boys shoe laces and hot gluing the ends so they aren’t too long and won’t trip on them during a hard-hitting game of Tag.  I should be organizing the legos into sizes and trimming the dogs nails — but for some reason I can’t.  I just can’t bring myself to keep going like the pink bunny on TV.  I know some mom’s who can and they shock and amaze me.  Their survival threshold must be on a logarithmic curve compared to mine and my hat is off to them.  But for me, you can pretty much guarantee I will be cashed out by 9:05pm latest.

I have tried to read after I double check on the angelic sleeping minions tucked soundly in their nice, warm beds.  Reading offers quiet time and reflection and keeps the mind sharp, but that doesn’t even work sometimes.  I find myself engrossed in a book and then I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over like its new and exciting each and every time! Add a glass of wine at dinner and its like going under anesthesia — count down from 10:   10, 9………….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Its not that us moms try to cram everything a single day.  We don’t cram more than what necessary into that day.  Like making sure clothes are clean and the bathroom doesn’t smell like a tollway rest stop (not an Iowa rest stop, those are always so spotless- guess the Iowa DOT pays their workers well).  I digress, the point is that stuff needs done, the bills need paid, the job needs attention and the dinner needs made.  Nothing worse than hungry minions and Lord knows they will regress to cereal when “starving” and that sugar high is OK to send them to school on (my kids teachers LUV me) but not during the end of day, quiet, wind down time.  There isn’t enough Miss Clairol in the world to color my hair if they ended the day on a sugar rush.

In conclusion, we should accept the inevitable — moms are rarely up past 9pm.  We just aren’t.  Its physically and mentally impossible to sustain that endurance of mommydom for over 14 hours (and, yes, my kids are up at 6am- ugh).  Most of the time my kids aren’t tired at 8pm but since I am tired of them its bedtime.  See ya tomorrow and we will do this dance again and maybe, just maybe, if one thing gets taken off my plate during the day I might be crazywild and make it to — lets say —- 9:30!



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Entertain Me

There is an excitement to the beginning of summer.  Its a time of wondrous opportunity and endless “what if’s”.  Its a time for sleeping in, lemonade, and splashing around in any body of water that is available albeit lake, river or pool.  Its supposed to be a time of family vacations, relaxation and good old chillin out.  But in this age of instant gratification Internet and constant stimulation electronic media the kids just have one agenda:  Entertain Me!

Now let me tell you we are an active family.  We do alot of things.  We do alot of things that don’t cost alot of money because I don’t see the point of going broke every summer with the Entertain Me mentality.  I load them up for the $1 movies but then get flack for the movie being “old” or “outdated” cause they want to see Madagascar 3 for $1 not last years Yogi Bear.  What every happened to “wow, we are at the movies and this is COOL”.  Its always biggerbettermore for today’s youth.

We are avid campers.  Its fun, its cheap and we get to go explore different areas all the time.  We are trying to teach the kids to live w/out the TV and Wii and DS for at least 48 hours — to unplug them and see if we cut the electronic cord if they will wither and die.  So far so good- haven’t lost one yet.  Been on a few camping trips this summer and no one has perished from lack of electronic stimulus but in the woods the Entertain Me status reaches new heights.  There is no “look at the trees, listen to the birds or look for rocks” like I remember.  Its we need scooters, we need soccer balls we need we need we need we need.  Do you what you need?  To sit.  To think.  To relax and to breathe.  Just Breathe.   Breathe in the trees and the dirt and the lake and the food cooked over a fire.  A real fire.  One that mesmerizes your eyes while it dances over the wood.

We got alot of “we are bored” on the last camping trip.  So we showed them how to play cards, sketch leaves and watch for bats at dusk.  But the sugar from the s’mores always kicks in and we end up walking around the loop umteen times telling their sugar rushed heads to “sssssshhhhhhh, there are OTHER CAMPERS here that don’t need to be bothered with your s’more filled shrieks”.  We really feel as if they just need to take a minute for what it is, a minute – and enjoy that minute where they are -doing what they are doing.

Don’t get me wrong, there is work associated to getting to those relaxing minutes by the campfire but that work isn’t cumbersome its just planning, executing and making sure the tent is up (shelter first).  Cooking may take extra time but its over a FIRE and its cool.  Its the Entertain Me status that is the most work of all.  Entertain Me without TV or video games!  Good luck cause that board game looks like it sounds — bored.

So, we are up with the birds and down at the lake fishing because that’s entertaining.  Two with dad in the canoe and two with me on the pier.  And the dogs illegally leashed in a corner of the pier because I am totally baffled as to what I am supposed to do with them while I entertain the minions.  I am furiously baiting and rebaiting hooks because the bluegill and small mouth off the pier are master bait stealer’s when I hear a huge SPLASH.  I am excited that its the most giant fish of all coming for that wormy tidbit on the end of my kids line but then I realize a leashed animal has launched herself off the pier and is frantically swimming in place still tied to said pier.  I drop the bait and save the dog then continue to bait hooks with a pounding heart and the idea that the scene just played out in front of me will possibly be funny later on tonight by the fire.  As I am contemplating the funniness of the dog jumping off the pier and baiting another hook to gently feed the bluegill I hear another SPLASH but this time have no delusions of grandeur that its a big fish.  I turn and see dog #2 in the same swimming in place spot dog #1 had just been doing the exact same thing.  I once again pull a soggy dog to the pier, this time with a baited hook embedded in my thumb and I think to myself — if this isn’t entertainment I Don’t Know what is!!

But instead of seeing those dog paddling in place as a possibly funny campfire story, especially with the fact mom  had a fish hook shoved in her thumb they started with the following:

Why aren’t we catching BIGGER fish?

We forgot the water toys and I don’t know how to play in the water without toys so I am going to have a stress headache and pout in the shade.

I am going to say “I don’t like this” to every thing you try to feed me because I want to go get a hamburger at a fast food place (uh, nope, no way, nada)

I am not going to listen about the dangers of poison ivy and I am going to tromp thru any part of the woods I want.

I am going to go into hyper-drive since I don’t have electronic stimulation and be the biggest ADD bouncing off the trees (no walls, we are camping after all) mess you have seen in a LONG time.

It must be a perspective thing  because from where I am sitting all that is pretty damn entertaining.  Just seeing the diversity of whining is enough social experiment to keep me thinking for awhile.  Thinking while sitting around the campfire and breathing and smelling and relaxing.   Breathing, sitting, relaxing: This is the mantra of the unplugged non-Entertain Me summer – and it falls on deaf ears.

If they wanted entertainment they should have made the 6:15a bathroom march with me on Day 2 of camping.  I am taking an ansty dog (the chipmunks are very active and chatty at 6:15a) and a full bladder on the 200 yard walk to the FLUSH potty (yea for no outhouse) when a shirtless, tattooed man comes up from behind me.  Naive me, thinking its another camper smiles and keeps walking.  Then Shirtless Tattoo starts talking to me about where the closest town is to the campground.  Me, thinking he needs ice or a fishing license politely says “I am not sure, my husband was driving and I was reading a book and I totally wasn’t paying attention as to how we got here (see, I was already shutting down MY brain before we even got to the campsite). But you can ask the camp host – they are in site 601 and they know the local area quite well”.   He looks at me and says “thank you” and keeps walking in my general direction.  We pass a bend in the road and I see a Sheriff’s car parked in a campsite and I think “wow, that’s odd”.

Apparently Shirtless Tattoo thinks its odd too because he takes off at a full sprint  while said Sheriff is busting out of her car talking into the radio says “Suspect is spotted in the 700 loop of North Kettle Moraine, Long Lake” and she takes off at a full sprint after him.  Naive me, dumbfounded, was kinda glad at my lack of attention getting to the campground because I didn’t want to be the one pointing a fugitive in the direction of the nearest bus stop!  Although I don’t think there were many buses that run thru the local town since the entertainment there last weekend was a Pig Wrestling Contest with a Rib Cookout and PBR.

Now if that’s not entertainment I don’t know what is!!  I am not sure why the kids were “bored” or went to Entertain Me status because I was having a very stimulus filled weekend in the woods! I have told several friends about my brush with danger while headed to the pisser and everyone has said “wow, I am glad he didn’t hurt you”.  And to this I am thinking “HUH, no one would attack a fat woman with an audacious pier jumping dog who’s spent two unshowered nights in a tent”.   I guess I am just still  naive but thoroughly entertained by the scenario.

In conclusion, the kids survived yet another unplugged weekend with their minds and spirits intact.  They will hopefully eventually find a way to be Entertained with out the need for electronics because I will not stop unplugging them for Summer Adventure weekends.  I will point out the symmetrical beauty of a spider web, I will patiently wait for the bats to come at dusk and I will put a band-aid over my fish-hook thumb while I wait for the next daring move by the insane dogs.  And I will be entertained by it all.




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Road trip update

Now that we are in the last 120 miles- 2 hours- home stretch of the first big summer road trip I feel as if I need to pass along the knowledge/ wisdom that we have gathered during 18 hours in a mini van together:

Listen closely: In a car with 6 people and 2 dogs, a radio and general “rubber meets road” noise sometimes it’s hard to really hear what someone is asking. When you hear “mommy, what is sin?” and you think “wow- I have a captive audience to talk about God and goodness and sharing and they can’t get away”. Then you start to launch into that sin is a blight on God’s good faith and you get bigger then normal blank stares. You ask “what- I thought you wanted to talk about sin”. You then realize Ice Age 2 is in the DVD player and they want to know what Sid is– Sid the sloth. Sid is a sloth kids- enjoy the movie.

Boys peeing in empty water bottles is funny: At first I though this was going to be gross and nasty and foul but for some reason it turned out to be funny. It’s probably the RN in me but the whole logistics of it was funny since their seat belt had to stay on and they were responsible for storage until the next rest stop and disposal at said rest stop. The “want some lemonade- zach has some” never ever got old! However if said “lemonade” been spilled it might not have been so funny!

I am not as young as I used to be: I don’t remember being so stiff and sore after a long car ride when I was younger.  I remember being able to drive from Chicago to Colorado with out so much as a toe cramp. However age has taken its toll and 9 hours practically hobbled me.  Ibuprofen to the rescue of these old creaky muscles! My n-FLS husband blamed my unusual sitting style of seat reclined- feet on dash pose and he’s probably right. I was sitting in a yoga reverse downward dog for 9 straight hours- no wonder my hammies were screaming the day after we arrived! This could have been eliminated by more stretching at more rest stops but that would have meant prolonging the driving time and that wasn’t happening. If I didn’t have a captive audience to talk about sin we were gonna keep trucking! :-)

The honeymoon period lasts less than 24 hours: The good behavior of excited kids on vacation takes about 24 hours to dissipate into normal bickering. Once the bed assignment is made, the bellies are full, a dip in the pool is done and everyone is angelically sleeping on the 1st night of vacation good behavior is over. They will wake up to their same old “moooooom- he touched me” or “mmmoooooooooom – he thew my bathing suit in the toilet” and thus it begins- the fighting and all you have is idle threats because you just drove 9 hours are you REALLY going to take away the activities you suffered long and hard driving to get to!? Just don’t let them know the threats are idle it chaos will reign supreme.

Mom means what she says in the car: Nothing is more annoying in the car then kids trying to be more annoying than the previous annoying kids antics. That’s a whole lotta annoying in a little space. So when mom says “cut out fighting over the Lego ninjago man before he becomes a permenant resident of mile marker 176 on I-80″ you better listen. Because as much as I loved Kai the blue ninjago warrior he really is a better place now. Better for me because now there is nothing to fight over. Harsh- yes. But point well made for a mere $3.99. And pretzel goldfish expertly thrown to the middle of a forehead can also bring a bickering session to a quick halt! Listen up when mommy starts talking about her softball days and that she’s had uncanny aim since the age of 9……. That goldfish is a-coming! Or if they are really fighting- peanuts and corn nuts may be used.

Even a 23 lb dog can feel heavy: I love the 4 legged traveling companions as much as the next person but even the smallest cuddle puppy feels like a lead weight after a few hours. Not to mention the rhymythic panting that is associated with a pooch in a window seat. It’s cute for the first hour- the second hour is tolerated out of pure love and hour 3 your legs are cramping and crotch is sweating so bad you disregard all cuteness and drop 23 lbs of furry love onto the floor next to the cooler and resume the reverse downward dog feet on dash position.

You will never ever ever make everyone happy at the same time in the car: It is enivatable that no one will have to pee at the same time or that the same movie will want to be watched by everyone. But the real conflict comes from temperature control. Because a perimenopausal woman and a 6 yr old have different needs in 103F temps. It will never ever ever be cool enough for the perimenopausal woman while the 6 yr old can no longer feel his toes. So a delicate balance of cranky, sweaty mom vs whiney kid has to be met. It’s somewhere around duel climate control cranked in front and off in the back.  I bet dual climate control for the mini van was developed by a brilliant perimenopausal female engineer – no doubt in my mind on that one.

So those are the lessons I have learned on our first big family summer road trip. Will it keep is from subsequent road trips- nope. Live, learn love and prosper. We will continue our road trips- maybe with a tad more forethought into car entertainment and activities but we will always have lemonade jokes to fall back on! Keep on truckin!

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Road trip

As we embark on our first big family road trip I am reminded why I haven’t planned any previous big family summer road trips. The mantra “half the fun is getting there” is running thru my head as I have images of Clark Griswold in the Family Truckster.

While all the dogs are accounted for inside our car, it sill has been less than a stellar start.  It’s the age old “men vs women” mentality to ensure every last detail is Done. I felt as if I was required to pack myself, the kids, the dogs, the food and the cooler. While my n-FLS husband concentrated on himself. Because the rest of everything is “magically” accounted for. Now us moms travel  with kid-in-tow constantly. Groceries, pool, park, mall and skatepark. We think ahead. We anticipate the wants and needs of everyone involved in the summer road trip. We fashion sleeping places for the dogs inbetween the front seats, we think about snacks for each individual and we know what’s going to happen when (approximately). Adding a male brain into this mix messes up our woman mojo and we are tense.  Tense for reasons like when child #3 had a stomach ache 2 days prior to leaving- female mind thinks “are we going to have to have an emergency appendectomy 1000 miles from home” while the male-psyche says “just fart- you will feel better” .

This is the time when “would you just calm down, this is a vacation” comes out of the male mouth into the female ears. If this comment doesn’t make our heads explode it does make us think: no this is not a vacation. This is mom-work in a completely foreign environment. No comfort zone of “go to your room” and no hiding in the bathroom pretending to “go” to have mental mom break.  We are in the car- for hours! Then in a non familiar place with non familiar roads and you end up shouting “YES THERE IS A MC DONALD’S SOMEHWERE SOON BUT IDK EXACTLY WHERE- you will not die of mcnugget dehydration before we find it”. Then you have to define mcnugget- dehydration.  Whoo hoo- road trip!

And this is how the initial 15 min on the road goes- Me: Are we stopping for food!? N-FLS husband: no. No one is complaining. Let’s just go. Me: it will be a matter of time and they will be soooooooooo hungry at the most inopportune time. n-FLS husband: would you calm down.

We are on the interstate approx 4 miles and child #2  says ” when are we stopping for food”. I just smiled.

I have a whole bag of food and a cooler. But n-FLS husband said that food is “for later”. He’s a parenting genius!  I am too uptight. It’s vacation and I need to calm down. No. You need to listen and then maybe things would run smoother.  Now I normally don’t husband bash you have to remember this is the FIRST LONG road trip. This will determine the fate of all subsequent long road trips. It’s a tad nerve-wracking. Because while my children can’t remember  to brush their teeth after breakfast everyday they will inevitably remember every last detail of this trip. Every last swear word that was muttered out loud or under our parental breath. Every miserable little mishap that is bound to happen.  Then road trips will forever be a source of frustration for more than just mom- it would become a van full of whiney kids. Let’s not go there.

Who ever said “getting there was half the fun”?! Hemingway on his way to Spain to drink wine from casks and watch bull fights!? Could the boat ride there really have been half the fun of that rocking vacation!? Doubtful. I will tell you who didn’t say “getting there was half the fun”- a mom with a car full of kids and dogs. That mom counts each and every minute to Are We There Yet!  There are really not enough dvd’s or DS games to account for a long road trip. The whining will come eventually. Hopefully the stash of DVD and DS games will minimize the whining and make the road trip tolerable.

Three hours into the ROAD TRIP–  Legos spilled. Headphones for DVD are 1/4 in working mode. Fights over DS and the dearth maul mask keeps randomly speaking from the waaaaayyyy back of the car. We’ve had one pee in an empty coffee cup and another scratch a scab that is bleeding like mad. :-) One kid was blamed for a wretched smell that he vehemently denied until on the verge of tears- then we determined we wee behind a large livestock truck of cows! Aaahhhhh yes. The family road trip!

We are about a third of the way there and we have had “how much longer” about every 20-30 min.  The dogs are fairing well so thats a bonus. The first ever long road trip is going as expected- and half the fun is being had as I type.  No one except for me was impressed with the mighty mississippi river and we are headed into rain.  I can type faster than my iPhone can think (that’s a first) so we will keep on trucking and see what happends from here.  May the force be with us! Updates to follow…

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Mommy Brain

I have heard many of expectant mothers describe “pregnancy brain” where the overload of hormones makes you forget even the simplest of tasks, like brushing your teeth or taking your keys with you when going to drive the car.  While I was never pregnant and wasn’t privy to this most glorious pregnancy experience, I have had the pleasure of developing Mommy Brain over the course of the past 7+ years.

I used to be organized.  I used to be productive.  I used to look presentable in public.  I used to sit down once a month with the bank-statement, pay  bills and balance the checking account.  Now I am happy when winter shows up so I can pull on snow-pants over my pjs to go out and walk the dogs or to the grocery store in “proper” attire.

In our hyper-vigilance of taking care of everyone except for ourselves we lose track of the simplest things.  We can’t remember our ZIP code but we know that there are only 1.5 gallons of milk left in the fridge and that milk will be on sale for $1.79/gallon this coming Weds at the Jewel.  We can’t remember how to spell “remember” (it took me three times and spell check to get it right) but we know the shoe sizes of each of our kids.  Just in case Payless has a BOGO and they blow a hole in their fav gym shoes.

We make sure that no one gets hit by a car while crossing the street, we monitor the use of bike helmets while riding bikes and we make sure to teach double knots when tying shoes so no one trips while running and gets hurt.  This hyper-vigilance takes its told on our psyche and doesn’t allow for other daily functioning to occur.  Daily functioning such as “did the water bill get paid” or “did we miss Grandma’s birthday”.  We do have the use of AutoPay for bills now thanks to Al Gore’s development of the Internet (he said he created it, who am I to doubt it- hee hee). However, we have to apply Pythagorean Theorem of Complicated Math to make sure that the auto-pay corresponds to payday so that nothing is overdrawn, missed or that we have at least have $1.79 in the checking to buy that sale milk at the Jewel on Weds.

We forget what its like to be sexy and carefree.  We think our husbands boxers and a T Shirt is lingerie.  Because at the first sign of romance someone is going to have a bad dream or the dog is going to start making that retching “i am going to puke on your carpet” sound that will make you move faster than an Olympic 100M dash sprinter. Each of these events makes wisdom vanish a tad and the Mommy Brain to get bigger.

We lose our minds little by little with the proverbial WHY of raising kids.  With every proverbial WHY we lose just another tiny fragment of our judgement, reasoning and sanity.  The proverbial “why is there mustard on the ceiling” or “why is there marker on the dog” followed by the never answered “who put mustard on the ceiling” and “who drew on the dog”.  These real yet hypothetical, never answered with words but answered with Open Mouth-Blank Stares replace common sense with more Mommy Brain.  During the course of the day there can be several occurrences of the Proverbial Why followed by the Proverbial Who scenario.

Why is the door open when we have the A/C on?  Are we personally fighting the Greenhouse Effect from our backyard?  Who left the door open? (repeat this scenario at least hourly if not every half hour).  Open mouth, blank stare.

Why are their 22 plastic cups in my sink?  Do we really need to get a clean cup for every sip of water we take?  Who was dumping cups in the sink?  Look at brothers, open mouth, blank stare.

Why does it smell like cheese left out in the sun in your rooms?  Who was wearing their new BOGO gym shoes w/ out socks again when its 100F outside?  No open mouth (too stinky) but Blank Stare accounted for.

I finally instituted a policy in our house.  Each blank stare is followed by “Its a question, it respectfully deserves an answer” and approx 50% of the time it works.  Thus cutting the further development of Mommy Brain and allowing for the quiet return of common sense.  Because I honestly don’t care what the answer is as long as its:  #1 – honest/genuine or #2 – what really happened.  If you drew on the dog because you thought she looked good in pink that’s fine.  She does look good in pink, just DON’T DO IT AGAIN.  Aaaaaahhhh, feeling of accomplishment and diminishment of Mommy Brain.

Being the mom of 4 boys I also instituted a daily bathroom rotation.  My thoughts — I don’t pee on the floor, I don’t feel as if I need to clean it up.   Walking into the downstairs bathroom and stepping in pee was making Mommy Brain rage with “why is there pee on the floor?” followed by “who thought peeing on the floor was a good plan?”.  It was more than an bi-hourly occurrence.  Sanity was losing its battle with Mommy Brain on this one but after the installment of “you guys pee on the floor, you clean it up” the amount of pee on the floor was greatly reduced.  Amazing how that worked — Reasoning – 1, Mommy Brain -0 on that battlefront.

I talk as if Mommy Brain is a bad thing.  It isn’t in some capacity.  Mommy Brain shows our dedication to our children and our diligence in keeping them safe, fed and happy.  However, for an OCD previously organized person Mommy Brain can be a source of frustration.  But with all of Motherhood, dealing with Mommy Brain is a learning process and a go-with-the-flow mentality.  Never in a million years would I think I would have an empty gallon milk jug in my minivan so I didn’t have to stop at every rest stop on long car rides, but I do.  That in itself should be a dent in my sanity, judgement and reasoning but its the Mommy Brain taking over that says “that is BRILLIANT”.  So, in some ways the balance of Mommy Brain with Everyday Life that keeps us rationally thinking and moving.

Mommy Brain takes over when you have one nerve left and someone is about to step on it.  Mommy Brain overrides us when we have been FINALLY sitting down for 5 min and hear the never-ending “Moooooooooooooooooom”.  Mommy Brain does laundry on autopilot and in some ways keeps Sanity in check.  So to all your mom’s out there, lets Embrace our delicate balance of Mommy Brain and Wisdom like we embrace all of what Motherhood entails:  from feet that smell like cheese to homemade mothers day cards.  Lets take reasoning and judgement out of the picture when we are cleaning mustard off the ceiling and let Mommy Brain take over for a few.   Lets put hooks by the garage door so we always know where our keys are and lets take an extra 10 min to make sure that double knot in the BOGO gym shoes is super tight before they head out into the world.

FYI:  I had to spell check “remember” but spelled “Pythagorean” right the first time —- figure that one out!





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Responsibility is a hard lesson for kids to learn.  As parents, we pound it into their heads day after day after day after day hoping one day they will wake up and be responsible little people.  That they will understand when you do “A” then “B” will happen and they will stop and think about “A” before moving forward.  We say the word RESPONSIBLITY about 100x a day with examples but for the most part we are talking to a moss covered rock.  For a kid the term RESPONSIBILITY is just a really long word that takes FOREVER to sound out when placed on paper for them to read.

Lets have an example of responsibility.  After shutting the hamsters cage door 5x a day the parent repeatedly says “If you leave the cage door open the hamster is going to get out”.  But the hamster is still there day in and day out because the parent is being responsible and looking at the cage every so often.  But one day the parent is distracted and waaaa-la the hamster has escaped.  The word responsibility comes flying out of the parental mouth loud and at warp speed.  To the parent this is annoyance because they are going to have a non-potty trained animal paroosing the house and/or a soon to be dead animal in a closet.  But its an opportunity: the child is FINALLY learning about responsibility as they frantically search the house, right?

Nope.  The child is too upset to learn about responsibility.  They lost their precious furry hamster and how are they going to live with out him.  There is no responsibility lesson. For the child its simply sadness followed by “Can we get another hamster? We still have the cage”.  Insert loud parental sigh here.

As grown ups we have more responsibility than we can shake a stick at:  bills, jobs, cars, houses and kids.  Responsibility oozes from our pores and claims our souls.  We want some of that ooze to rub off on the kids and sink thru their skin but it just doesn’t happen.  We teach by example, we give examples, we search for the hamster but the responsibility concept just doesn’t sink in.  We think to ourselves “What has to happen before they LEARN”– ER trips? Broken bones? Bad grades? Taking away Wii for a month? More  chores than the kids can shake a stick at?  Nope – time and perseverance teaches responsibility and that ……. well ….. that just sucks.

We have a phrase in our house that I should tattoo on their forearms and I must say it 100x a day.   “I don’t care what you play with, as long as you put it away”.  Simple, to the point and responsible.  They have the power and choice to play with ANYTHING (well, not knives and matches) as long as they put it away when they are done.  But the concept is lost.  I have tried yelling my responsible phrase and I have tried singing my responsible phrase. I have whispered, talked like a robot, sounded like Elmo, spelled it, wrote it for them to read — nope I can still walk into an empty room full of crayons and cut pieces of paper on the floor.  However, maybe the paper will lure the lost hamster out of hiding so he can make a nest of the “snowflakes” left like a blizzard in my dining room.

Side note on crayons:  my someday-responsible kids will clean up the mess when asked (yea for that) but they always always always leave the token crayon on the floor.  The “F you” crayon as I like to call it.  The crayon that says “Yah, we kids picked up our mess but we left one here to show you that you don’t own us, mom”.  I used to make them come back and pick it up.  But finding them and getting one of them to be responsible was like hunting Bigfoot in the Canadian Rockies.  So I started picking up the F-you crayon and analyzing the color to see if it was a bold color, pastel, primary color or metallic.  Just mentally chart the color to see if it matched their mindset.  Nothing correlated.

Then I got smart — I starting LEAVING the F-you crayon on the floor to see if it stayed or multiplied.  Another small parental science experiment going on in my responsible mind.  And guess what—– that crayon stayed on the floor for months without another F-you crayon appearing!  They vacuumed around it, they picked up around it but they left it.  Maybe in their minds they were pulling-one-over on good ol’ mom but I came to love and cherish the F-you crayon nesting in its spot between the buffet and the corner chair. As least I knew where it was, unlike the still MIA hamster. But then one day they needed the F-you crayon because it was the perfect shade of blue they needed for their artistic endeavor.  So, now I am missing my F-you crayon and the hamster on a daily basis.  But I am sure after the next art project a new F-you crayon will appear because the kids are irresponsible but at least consistent.

In conclusion we have to stand parental-ly united on the responsibility front.  We have to present responsibility day in and day out til our minds are responsibility numb.  Because those kids ain’t gonna learn responsibility from osmosis of the primordial responsible ooze that seeps from every cell of our grown up existence.  We have to repeat- repeat -repeat and remind- remind- remind and show by example- show by example- show by example.  And one day, although it won’t be soon, they will grow a responsible bone in their body and learn to use it.  Probably the same day the hamster reappears and then THAT lesson will be lost……..




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germ warfare

After two weeks of fevers, vomiting, medications, seeping/gooey eyes, more fevers and vomiting and medications and doctors visits I have decided that I am an expert on germ warfare.  I am capable of bleaching a bathroom in black pants and not end up with a single brownish blip of drained color on my pants.  I am carrying Lysol around in a holster like Jesse James carried his six shooter.  I am able to wipe off counter-tops with water so hot that it would poach an egg but my well calloused hands are hardened to the heat that can kill the germs. And yet the germs were winning — 4 cases of strep and 2 cases of pink eye later Clorox was thanking me for upping their annual profits and I felt comfortable eating straight off any surface in my house.  Thank goodness for Alexander Fleming and his lack of attention to that one moldy petri dish until it was ready to change the world.

As I was cleaning I was wondering how I could use these germs to my advantage.  I was wondering if the government would want samples of these ever vigilant germs that inhabit schools and infest homes.  I was thinking a federal lab could take the pillow cases and carpet square and culture them.  From these few items they would get enough resilient germs to replicate and use in small “germ bombs”.  It wouldn’t take much.  These damn strains of strep and pink-eye are evil.  They are tumulchuous.  Virulent.  And oh-so contagious.

I would have to make a scale for selling the strep infected carpeting squares (obviously prior to steam cleaning) to the government.  Its a sliding scale on how close the carpet is in approximation to the bathroom:    beside the bed 12″ x 12″ square is cheaper because chances are its not too bad right next to the bed.  But the measured distance from the bed to the bathroom the cost goes up.  Half way to the bathroom carpet: double the price.  Right before you get onto the bathroom on the easy to clean tile:  triple the price cause they can never seem to quite make it those last 6 inches into the bathroom.  The rule in our house is  puke IN the bathroom.  Don’t care where:  floor, sink, toilet, bathtub.  They are all smooth tile surfaces and easily cleaned/bleached.  The carpet right outside the bathroom:  not the easiest to clean.

Pillowcases would be especially golden to sell.  Especially a pink-eye pillow case.  When pink eye it present I seriously wear gloves to strip the beds and my hot water heater/washing machine is on over time killing those germs.  I should don a Michael J Fox “Back to the Future” yellow suit and play Van Halen when I am stripping the pink eye beds.  At least then it would be funny.

Now that the government has their perfect biological weapons extracted from my –snot filled, can’t keep their fingers out of their mouths, or out of their eyes children– we move onto the concept of the government using that technology of Germ Bombs for World Peace.

Forget hunting down foreign enemies and trying them for their crimes. Forget agent orange.  Forget napalm – drop a Germ Bomb of pink eye/strep into the air duct where the high up evil general & his cronies are having a big war meeting.  And wait.  Anyone, I don’t care who, that gets the double whammy of strep and pink-eye once will rethink their war plan.  Especially if they know it could happen again and again.  I know the evil General & his cronies are tough men, but that combo of strep/pink eye will wipe out the most hearty of men.  They will end the war and surrender peacefully.  They will state the end of the war was because economic difficulties or loss of life but its really because a febrile night while wanting to scratch your eyes out with a hairbrush will undo pretty much anyone. And all this thanks to kids who can’t keep their fingers out of their mouths.  The biggest problems are sometimes solved with the simplest means.

We are all finally well and the meds are finished and I never ever want to go thru two weeks of strep again.   Although Clorox may think differently once I stop hoarding bleach and their stock value drops– ooohhh maybe the cleaning companies already have germ bombs and drop them in schools to keep us buying their products? But that is a conspiracy theory blog for another time.  And chances are our kids are just germy messes that like to snot on the couch.

The strep was so rampant that my n-FLS husband had psychosomatic symptoms of strep and I actually googled “Can Dogs Contract Strep-A from Humans”.  Luckily, the adults in our house remained germ free (AMAZING what hand washing can do) and the general consensus on the Internet is that dogs are relatively immune to Strep A.   The house is clean, the doorknobs /light switches Lysol’ed, the carpet steam cleaned and the kids are healthy so the government is going to have wait for their carpet samples and pillow cases.  However, the sliding scale of carpet samples to the approximation to the bathroom will still apply because I am sure the next round of illness that reigns supreme the kids will still only make it to the 6 inches of carpet just OUTSIDE the bathroom.  Sigh.  Stay healthy and keep your fingers out of your mouth! Oh and wash your hands.  Happy Germ Fighting!


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