Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My First Kid Craft Challenge!

Oh boy! I am super excited. I submitted my name for the Mom Trusted Kids Craft Blogger Challenge and was lucky enough to be selected to participate for December. I love crafts and have been meaning to incorporate more into DJ's routine. This little set up made it pretty easy. So, here's the scoop...

MomTrusted.com has links and ideas for hundreds of kids activities. Each month they send some surprise supplies to mommy bloggers and we are supposed to come up with a fun craft for kids to do using these supplies and include pictures and instructions. And that is just what I did. Yeah!

I was sent an envelope full of multi colored feathers, pipe cleaners and small tissue paper squares. I decided, since it is December and all, that DJ and I should make a Festive Holiday Tree. A fun and colorful project for a month full of holidays (and Birthdays in my home). It turned out to be a great centerpiece that she is proud of.


pipe cleaners
tissue paper squares
white glue
paper plates
construction paper
cotton balls

Color the plate and make a circle out of a pipe cleaner.

Twist 6 to 8 pipe cleaners around the original circle. Daphne said it looks like the Sun.

Carefully bend the pipe cleaners up and then twist them together at the tip top. Take a moment to gently bend them into a nice full cone shape and glue the original circle down to the center of your colored paper plate.

Prepare a second paper plate with a nice big glob of glue and another pile of glitter. We love glitter!

Dip the tips of each feather in glue.

And then dip it in glitter, of course.

They will look like this. Ooh, ahh, pretty.

Then, dip the quill of each feather in glue and place it towards the bottom of the "tree" on a pipe cleaner, glitter tips facing down. We started with the larger feathers on the bottom and worked our way up to the top of the "tree" with the smaller feathers.

Keep placing feathers all the way around, working your way towards the top in layers.

After all of the feathers are glued on, you can begin decorating the plate. We used the tissue paper squares and cotton balls to make it look like snowy grass under the "tree". Using the flat end of a crayon or eraser end of a pencil, wrap one square of tissue paper around it and pinch it in place with your fingers.

Dip the tissue squares in glue and place them all around the base of the "tree". Press down gently on the crayon or pencil to secure each tissue square and then slide the crayon up and out of the tissue. We used a little dab of glue for the cotton balls, too.

Cut a star shape out of construction paper and glue it to the top of your tree, right onto the twisted pipe cleaners. Voila! A fun and colorful Festive Holiday Tree. It turned out just like I had pictured in my head. I only used 6 pipe cleaners for the body of the tree. Next time I would use 8 pipe cleaners so that the base of the tree would be a little more full with feathers. I can see through spots at the bottom of ours. Other than that, I am pleased with this project. DJ loves it, too. She especially loved the dipping things in glitter part.

If you try it out, I would love to hear how it turns out or even see a picture. Hope you and yours have an amazing New Year! Peace and Love.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Where Did a Whole Month Go?

Oops. Really? A whole month (just over, actually, but who's counting?) has passed since my last post. This troubles me a bit. Only because writing is one of my favorite things to do now and I obviously do not get enough time to do it. I haven't been slacking off or anything. I'm sure that is what you are all thinking...unless, of course, you know me and that I have five kids and how finding that "me time" can be very tricky. Very tricky, indeed.

A couple posts ago I had a...what should I call it...a "mini meltdown", perhaps? I have since deleted that post for reasons that are my own, although I saved a copy and will re-post it again someday when the time is right. I am not ashamed of my feelings or my words. I own them. I am human. I do, however, need to protect myself sometimes...for now.

The reason I bring up the "meltdown" is because I have put a lot of changes into motion since that day. I realized, after putting my broken self in black and white for the world to see, that I needed to deal with some things in my life. I needed to make changes, make decisions, have conversations and figure out what exactly I want from this new strange life. Fifteen months ago I was a full time working mother of three. Overnight I became a stay at home mother of five. Before the twins I was focused, organized, busy and determined...in a good way. Since the twins were born I have been scatter-brained, indecisive and a little lost. I have also been extremely happy, though. I love being a mom so very much. I've said it before and I will say it again: motherhood is my favorite. Picture me saying it like Will Ferrell's character in Elf when he says, "I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite."

"I just like to be a mom. Being a mom's my favorite." But at the same time, I felt the real me slowly slipping away. I have had moments where I felt like I might drown. I was giving up so much and taking on way too much, all at the same time. I had to prioritize. That is where I have been for the last month or so. I feel much better. I have refreshed optimism (with a healthy side dish of realistic goals and expectations.)

Image from: http://www.srednja.hr/Novosti/Svijet/Otkriveno-koji-tip-ljudi-ima-najvise-sanse-za-uspjeh-i-srecu

What specifically have I changed? The most important thing I have done since the "meltdown" is to have a heart-to-heart talk with my beloved husband. I will begin by saying that I try very hard to leave my marital issues out of this blog out of deep respect for his privacy. I am the one who chose to put my life in print, not him. I must also clarify that when I say "marital issues", we have very few negative issues. He is an amazing man and my perfect match in every way possible. I love him unconditionally and trust him explicitly and I know, without a doubt, that he feels the same way about me. How could we possibly go wrong with a marriage like that, right?

One thing. Since the twins were born, bless their little hearts, we have probably experienced the hardest thing that we have ever had to deal with as a couple. Five kids is no cake walk. And after a little while, instead of leaning on each other as we should have, we sort of both retreated to our own corners, in our own ways, to lick our wounds like beat down dogs and suffer alone in silence. So silly. We should know better. So, we spoke our minds, we shed our tears and we made some changes that have already begun to work their magic. All is well and we are the stronger for it, both as a couple and as a family. Yeah us!

Where are my priorities? I am only taking on one volunteer project for the school this year. I am the Scholastic Book Fair Chair for my son's middle school. This is something that we can do together; bonding with each other while doing something important at the same time. Win-win.

Instead of quiting The Mommies Network, I took a leave of absence from my volunteer posts. After speaking with the founder of the organization, this seemed like the right choice. After the holidays are over, I will continue as chapter manager for MinneapolisMommies but I have chosen to step down as their Blended Families Forum Moderator. This will allow me to focus on the part that is most important to me, which is building a local community of mothers who can get together, support each other and go out and have a good time every once in a while. If I need these things, there have to be a whole lot of other moms that do to.

I am making an effort to play my guitar more. I am even trying to write a song or two and have started to get callouses on the tips of my left fingers again, which I haven't had since high school. I am putting no pressure on myself and it feels good. Whatever happens, happens. I am not working out, trying to get the perfect body back. I probably won't get to fulfill a long time dream to be in a musical this summer. I am not going to be in a pageant and represent my town. There are so many things that I want(ed) to do, but I am learning to accept the fact that not all of these wishes will turn out to be. I am forcing myself to be much more choosy in my efforts. This will help me not feel let down or broken hearted. I don't want to be the girl that is all talk with no follow through. I am now trying to allow myself to really focus on the most important things. This will take some discipline.

I just celebrated my birthday. I am now 36. I am 100% okay with this. I embrace my aging. Although, a thought did cross my mind this week. I had a moment where I was sad because I realized how old I was and that I had nothing to show for it. No career, no degree. I had not accomplished a single dream that I had for myself from when I was a kid. I am not even remotely close to where I thought I would be. This moment of sadness was brief. Partly because many of those dreams were far fetched and a tiny bit unrealistic for regular people. But mostly, the sadness was brief because I thought to myself, "Ginny, don't be an idiot. Look at your life." I have a lot to show. I have an adoring husband and five of the best kids a mom could ask for. I have a house and two cars, health insurance, savings and investments. I have a huge family full of love and support for each other. I am healthy and alive. I get to be a stay at home mom! I have food in the refrigerator and clothes on my back. Not everyone can say all of these things. I am not saying it to brag or to pat myself on the back. I am saying it for perspective. I am saying it to remind myself that I have no reason to feel bad about what I have or have not done with my life.

I am going to digress for a moment...but when the hell did we become grown-ups? Seriously. Over the last year there has been so much change and loss and pain and happiness. I have lost old friends and acquaintances to cancer, suicide and death by natural or unexplained causes. People in my world have experienced abuse and divorce, marriages, births and miscarriages, custody battles and lawyer bills. New homes have been purchased and old homes have been lost or sold. There have been home improvements, both planned and not so planned. (Don't even get me started on my damn boiler heat issue) Jobs have come and gone. Life is in constant motion all around us and it can knock us on our asses at times by the pure heaviness of it all. I was out with an old girlfriend a few weeks ago and we were in total disbelief about all of the real "grown-up shit" that has unfolded itself before us, and people we know, from all possible angles. One day you are twenty years old and then you blink and suddenly you are an adult and real life just sort of happened all around you. Again, perspective. I really need to complain a lot less.

So, what do I want? I want to continue being a stay at home mom. I want to be more patient. I want to be a better wife and mother. I want to write more. I want to volunteer. And I have decided to go back to school and finish my two year Associates degree that I started back in 2001. I will officially be a full time student, entirely online, in January. This is my list to focus on. These are the things I have decided are most important to me. These are the things that made the cut. This is how I move from sink to swim. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Hallo-Weenie Weekend!

On Sunday I hosted the first Crazy Cousin Costume Contest & Halloween Party for my children, nieces and nephews. It was supposed to be for thirteen kids total but life happens and it ended up being for eight kids. I was a little bummed out about this at first but I was also very tired from partying late the night before, so it wasn't really such a bad thing. With the help of Evite.com, Pinterest (my new friend) and a family potluck style dinner, the party was a success. We had a blast but I am, admittedly, a little glad to have it behind me. This was just the beginning of the next couple months worth of holidays, gatherings and all the other typical end of year mayhem and shenanigans. One down, many more to go.

This party was for the kiddos using all of the money that they earned at their own lemonade stand in my front yard last July. (To read about that day, click here) The money was used for treats, prizes, decorations and games. They had all been looking forward to it for months. That is why it was a little sad that four of the nephews couldn't attend due to cold and flu season. It happens though and I was able to drive around yesterday and drop off all of their goodies and prizes. They had earned them, literally. I hope it helped cheer them up a bit.

I know that I have mentioned Evite.com before but I am going to do it again, anyway. I love this site! They just make it so easy and I need more easy in my life. Getting to the post office can be most difficult now days. Not to mention how many adorable invitation templates they have to choose from. Here is the invitation that I used this time.

Thanks to Pinterest (Which I only recently discovered...I'm a little behind, I know.) there was tons of ideas to choose from. I created a board dedicated to this party and was able to pick, choose and modify ideas to fit the kids ages and our budget. To see my board click here. I didn't use all of the ideas but there was definitely a lot of inspiration to be had. As guests RSVP'd I emailed pictures of Halloween themed party food for families to make and bring to the potluck. It was quite a handy tool. Here are some pictures of food that everyone brought.

Vegetable Tray Skeleton

Banana Chocolate Chip Ghosts, Clementine & Grape Pumpkins and Mummy Juice Boxes
Fruit and Veggies. Fun and healthy. Inexpensive and easy ways to make a fun kids party. I also made Worm Sandwiches but served the sauce options on the side to help please the kids better. I knew they would not all be crazy about barbecue sauce. I didn't get a picture of mine but here is where I got the idea.

Sliced hot dogs on a bun. How easy! Image from Pinterest
My sister-in-law made awesome cupcakes, too. Eyeballs!

Spice Cake with Cream Cheese frosting. Yum!
I also used some of the ideas from Pinterest for our Halloween games. We did the Dum Dum suckers stuck in a pumpkin. One sucker had a colored end for the prize. Plus the kids were able to keep all of the suckers they pulled out. We also did the toilet paper ghost bowling game. The older kids had less rolls of the ball to make it more fair for the younger children. Here are pictures of where I got the ideas.

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest
We also played Pin the Nose on the Ghost using a simple 97 cent door cover and stickers. And then we played a toilet paper mummy making race. Super simple and cheap. I was able to use the toilet paper for two different games.

A little blurry because he was trying to walk. Ha ha!
We ended the party with the much anticipated costume contest. Since some of my nephews could not attend, I decided to have my brother take pictures of his three kids in costume and email them to me so that they could still be included in the contest. I'm glad I did because one of them actually won one of the prizes. We had four winners: Most Original, Funniest, Scariest and Best Costume. Everyone at the party was able to vote and no one was allowed to vote for themselves. It was pretty fun and everyone received votes. Here are pictures of the winners.

Scariest: Werewolf

My daughter happened to win best costume. This was bittersweet. We announced the winners in the order I placed the pictures here. So, as soon as I announced the first winner, my sweet niece, my daughter started to bawl loudly because she didn't win. Ugh! Can you say "poor sport." I, of course, knew that she had won a prize at this time but my initial reaction, in my own head, was that I should not let her get a prize for putting on such an awful display. That was only a fleeting thought because I realized that she was on total overload. It was an hour or so from her bed time and she had been running around all day eating sugary treats and the like. I suppose a meltdown was to be expected. My husband and I did have a good talk with her last night, after a good nights sleep. Hopefully it made an impression. When we finally got to her name and announced her as the winner she immediately stood up with a jaw-dropped-smile and accepted her trophy with gusto, The Golden Owl.

She made up a song about it last night while banging away on the piano (no, she does not know how to play the piano) and kept singing loudly, "I won a trophy!" over and over. My husband and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads with a mix between amusement and concern. I said to him later, "Yup. That will be our daughter. Winning a Grammy someday and being the girl in poor taste who writes a very gloating song about it." We have a little work to do. Ha!

Because all of the kids were so darn cute, here are the rest of them in their costumes.

Creepy Jack-o-lantern Man

Skeleton Reaper

Alien Invader

Like I said...It was a success. I think they all enjoyed themselves. I was dead tired, though. My husband and I had attended a party at a friend's house the night before, on Saturday night. I was designated driver that night. (Next weekend is my turn to drink. Woo hoo!) We got home just before 3:30 AM and the second I stepped foot on the carpet, both babies woke up...of course. So, I had been up all night and then up most of the day cooking food and getting ready. Ah well. All worth it in the end. After everyone was gone and my three little ones were in bed, I sat back in the recliner with a crisp cider beer and fell asleep while watching The Walking Dead. Not a bad night, I must say.

** Also, I am reviewing a delicious popcorn treat that I received in order to taste test it and one lucky reader will win some and a nice new popcorn bowl! Click here to read the review and enter for your chance to win. Contest ends at midnight CST 11/6/2013. Thanks for reading. **

Snickerdoodle Popcorn. What!?!? Stay tuned.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Putting it Out There...

Is a little scary. I am including a video of my attempt today at practicing a song on my guitar while singing. This is a big step for me. Put me in a room with hundreds or thousands of strangers and I can sing without hesitation. Put me in a room, one on one, with my husband or someone else who's opinion of me that I really care about...and I clam up. Silly, I know. One of my many faults that I am slowly working on. This post is one of my baby steps at fixing this.

Music used to be a huge part of my life. There was a time, long ago, where all I pictured for my future was to be a professional musician. Then, life happened and this is one of my Tangerine Dreams that got pushed to the side. For the past many years, a girls night out to a bar for karaoke was one of my only singing outlets. Very fun but definitely not the same thing. I have also had an open invitation to play with my husband and his band(s) over the years. It is hard though, with kids, to find the time and the energy to add even just one more thing, sometimes. To justify paying a sitter so I can go along or even feeling motivated to be creative after all the kids are tucked in and asleep and a long day is behind me. Some think these are silly or even stupid excuses and they are entitled to their opinions. As am I.

After Christmas last year, my husband saw me goofing off on my computer, looking at Ovation acoustic guitars. My personal favorites. When I was ten years old and began taking guitar lessons for the first time, I used my Dad's Ovation to play on until I received my own brand new guitar for Christmas when I was eleven. A Fender Strat, white, I still have it. I love the feel of an Ovation and it also has great memories for me, very nostalgic. I remember, as a small girl, sitting next to my Dad and listening to him play for hours. That is one of my happy places in this life. So, when I started thinking about getting a new guitar, Ovation is where I gravitated to, my comfort zone. As soon as my husband saw what I was doing, he insisted that I get one. I already had my favorite picked out, but I was truly just wishing and window shop drooling for fun. I didn't really think I would get one. His enthusiasm was contagious and we bought it online that night. Her name is "Veda" (the guitar). This is a My Girl movie reference, in case you were wondering, and it just seemed fitting to me.

Isn't she beautiful? And there is Z, on my lap, because he wouldn't leave me alone long enough to try her out. Kinda cute though.

And there is my biggest problem. Finding time, undisturbed, to play, practice, write, memorize, think and make music. My ultimate goal is to learn a handful of songs and play them well enough to show my face at a local open mic night. I have no idea when this will be possible but I'll get there. I have even begun trying to write my own songs again, which I haven't done since, sadly, high school.

This video is a great glimpse into my attempts to practice here and there. The babies are in their highchairs for lunch, which is an opportune time since they would usually be grabbing, smacking and banging toys into my guitar while I try to play. They love it. It is adorable, but really not good for my gorgeous cherry burst finish. DJ is wandering around dancing, trying to talk to me and show me things and then begins banging around the baby gate off screen. Pretty typical. I push through!


(Here is the link to my YouTube video. Having technical issues trying to upload it directly to my blog. Apologies.)

Anyway, there it is. I put it out there. Eek! Just my way of staying on track in order to reach my dream. Taking myself out of my comfort zone and laying it all out there for anyone to see. Hopefully I will get more time to practice and find my way. Thanks for stopping by. You stay classy, San Diego.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Twins & Their First Year: A Celebration

Yesterday, my beautiful fraternal twin sons celebrated their first birthday. The whole day was almost surreal. A whole year has passed by since I felt the first real twinges of labor pains warning me that my babies were almost ready to officially join our family. A whole year has passed by since I gave birth to them in turn and experienced one of the scariest days of my life. (Click here to read previous post for details) A whole year has passed by since my life became so much harder and yet, so much better at the same time. The babies have no idea that it was their birthday yesterday and probably have no idea that the party was all for them. They won't remember it, no matter how hard I tried to make it a special one. They will see the pictures one day and think that it was nice. And that is how first birthdays are. Truthfully, I feel that first birthday celebrations are more for the parents and the families. It is a wonderful reason to celebrate. So, yesterday may have been more for me than for them. Looking back on the last year...I'd say I deserved a party. I will take a moment now to happy dance around my table and say, "Yeah baby! I f-ing did it!" For one whole year!

I am tired, exhausted and worn out. I am stiff, sore and maybe a little malnourished. I have been on an emotional roller coaster of depression, sadness and at times, self loathing. I drink a bit and smoke a bit, or as I call these vices to myself, I use my "mommy crutches". (Stupid, I know. Ah well, gets me through the days every once in a while.) But, believe it or not, I am so very happy and content all at the same time. I am in love. My heart overflows with it and the feeling can take my breath away. I have so much to be proud of and happy about and grateful for. I would not change a single moment of the last year. It is all part of the package that is this crazy life. It is all part of the process of being me, finding me and molding me. I'll take it. Every last second.

But, back to the party. I love to throw a party. This was, of course, my first time getting to throw a party for twins. I loved it. I thought a long time about the theme of the party. I asked around and the most popular theme that came up was Dr. Seuss' Thing One and Thing Two. I'd seen it done so many times before and wanted something a little more unique. I decided on a cartoon that my babies love called Bananas in Pyjamas, an Australian based cartoon we found on Netflix a while back. It was perfect because it is about two bananas named B1 and B2 and the twins just happen to watch it all the time.

Image from: http://malloftheemirates.com/press-release/mall-of-the-emirates-debuts-%E2%80%98bananas-in-pyjamas%E2%80%99-plus-%E2%80%98xtreme-festival%E2%80%99-shows-roll-on-dss-fun.aspx

I decided to make the twins outfits to wear for their special day so that they would look a little like these two cute bananas.

So cute. They wouldn't leave the hats on for very long but they did love to play with them. I crocheted them using a pattern that I found on Pinterest. I love to crochet and this ended up being quite helpful since I couldn't find bright yellow hats to purchase anywhere. Here is the pattern: Crochet Toddler Hat with Brim. Super easy. I did each one in a night while watching a movie.

We had the party at my In-Laws' house because I was worried that it would be too warm if we had everyone over in my house. We kept the food simple: Meat and cheese tray with buns, veggies and dip, fruit, pasta salad, etc. I found out that our local grocery store chain, Cub Foods, gives a free sheet cake for first birthdays with birth certificate proof. I thought about that but decided, because I know myself so well, that baking their cake would make me much happier. Baking and cooking is something I love to do. I baked for my first three children and didn't want to stop tradition now. I found a recipe for banana cake online. I turned it into cupcakes and added homemade cream cheese frosting. They turned out so good. I would definitely use this recipe again. Here is the recipe if you would like to try it: Banana Cake. For the frosting I used two eight ounce blocks of cream cheese, one stick of butter and about three cups or so of powdered sugar. I mixed it all together until smooth and creamy. It made about one half gallon in a zip lock bag. Delicious.

I am a big fan of Sherbet Punch so that is what I made for a fun beverage. You can make many different flavors and combinations. I bought pineapple sherbet, cream soda, pineapple soda and Apple Banana Pineapple Juice. In a very large punch bowl, place the half gallon of sherbet as one big lump in the center. I poured one liter of cream soda, two liters of pineapple soda and one quart of juice over the sherbet. It will be cold, foamy and tasty. As people scoop the punch, it is nice to scoop up a chunk of sherbet into the cup, almost like a root beer float. Yum! Get creative with the sherbet and soda flavor combinations. I usually pick something that will end up being a color that matches my party theme.

I had also seen a recipe on Facebook a while back and knew right away that I wanted to make them for this party. Banana slices sandwiched with peanut butter and then covered in chocolate. What!? Yes, please. I made them and they were scrumptious!

For party invitations I use a great website called Evite.com. They have hundreds of themes and occasions to choose from. It is very easy to use and create fun invitations that are emailed directly to your guest list. You can send messages to guests when you need to and can easily keep track of RSVP's. I very rarely mail out invitations anymore now that I found this resource. It is just so convenient. Here are a couple screenshots to give you an idea:

It was a wonderful day. A whole lot of work but a whole lot of fun, too. I will also take a moment here to publicly thank my amazing Mother-in-Law, Uli, for opening up her home and helping make the twins' first birthday a memorable one. Thank you, Uli. You are great!

Here are a few pictures, just because (Some are a little blurry, so much commotion, they barely stopped moving all day long.):

So, there it is. Party's over. On to the next year. Sigh. I will close this post with a few photo highlights from the first year of The L Twins. Love to you and yours.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Veggie Painting!

Hey all. Been away from the blog a while. Life...it happens. I have a long list of topics and ideas I want to write about but time has been eluding me. Today will be a quick post to share a cute craft project I did with my DJ today. The poor thing has been such a trooper this last year. I don't get nearly enough time to do these kinds of things with her and I need to work on that. It's a process.

I was looking in the refrigerator last night and had a couple veggies that were looking questionable and I was about to throw them away but then I remembered making potato stamps way back in my elementary school days and a light bulb turned on in my head. Veggie paintings! So here it is...

I cut the various vegetables so that they had nice flat stamping areas. I broke out our Crayola Washable Finger paints and laid out the newspaper. Easy. DJ was so excited, jumping up and down while I prepared everything for her.

I made a quick example for her.

And away she went...

Rabbit Head Potato Stamp
You can carve almost anything you want into a potato. After I cut out the rabbit shape, I squeezed it into a paper towel to get all the juices out which helps the paint stick better. All in all, it was a fun project to do with my best girl. Until next time. Peace.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Help Me Win Free Groceries!

Please and thank you.

Cub Foods (a local grocery store chain) is running a contest to celebrate their 45th Anniversary, open to residents of Minnesota and Illinois. It is a contest through their Facebook page. I had to enter of course. After all, I'm feeding five kids now. One grand prize winner will receive $4,500 in Cub Foods gift cards. All I had to do was upload a picture into the voting gallery and the polls are now open. People can vote for their favorite entry once each day until September 29th, 2013.

Here's where you come in. It would mean a lot to me and my family if you would take a minute out of your 17 days and vote for our entry. Our entry is titled "Feeding 5 kids = 5 lb. Lasagna" and is accompanied by this picture:

Ginny's 5 lb. Lasagna...Yum!

Every vote helps. Feel free to share this post or a link on Facebook. If you need a little more incentive...If my family does win the grand prize of $4,500 in grocery gift cards, I plan to donate 10% of the winnings to our local food shelf in nonperishable food items. This would make me very happy to be able to help others, too.

Thank you for your time and have a wonderful weekend!

Ginny's 5 lb. Lasagna Recipe


1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. sliced pepperoni
1 lb. your favorite shredded cheese
1 lb. Lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
2  14 oz. cans of your favorite flavor diced tomatoes, lightly drained
1 bag of fresh spinach leaves or 2 cans of spinach, drained

Cook ground beef in skillet. Add minced garlic, diced onions and/or any Italian style seasonings you like. Drain fat and then stir in the 2 cans of drained diced tomatoes. Set aside. Cook lasagna noodles and drain, then set aside. In a 9" x 13" deep pan, layer all of the ingredients. I start with 1/3rd of the ground beef/tomato mixture on the bottom, @ 4 - 5 noodles to cover, 1/3rd pepperoni slices, 1/3rd of the spinach, 1/3rd of the shredded cheese and then repeat these layers 2 more times. You will have 3 total layers and end with cheese on top. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for @ 30 minutes. Eat!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Goodbye Summer, Hello Reality

Image from: https://www.mint.com/blog/consumer-iq/top-back-to-school-shopping-mistakes-0813/

Goodbye Summer

Another Summer's gone away,
Upon the wind as yesterday.
Good intentions come and gone.
Memories forever fond.

Living lives,
Chasing dreams.
It never ends,
Or so it seems.

The bustling house
Now quiet and still.
Find something to do,
I must, I will.

Virginia Louden 9/3/2013

Hello reality. Party's over kids. It's back to routines and schedules, bedtimes and checklists. Screens and devices all suddenly kept in check to make room for all of the homework and extracurricular activities that are sure to fill your days. Expectations are high and rightfully so. I have faith in you both, my eldest sons. You are smart and important and capable people. Maybe you will roll your eyes and think this is cliche...but you two can truly do anything. I can say this, not only because I am your mother and slightly biased, but because I really know you. I've been paying attention. I've witnessed nearly everyday of your growth from newborn precious little infant cuddled in my virgin mommy arms to outstanding human being, ready to take on the world with each new day, with very little help from me.

I know you both hem and haw when it's time to go back to school, bummed out that Summer's over and real work is about to begin. But I also know that you toss and turn in your beds, anxious and excited to get back to it. You can tell me that you wish school wasn't starting again and again, over and over, but I see the not so well hidden smiles as you stare at the clock in the morning, counting down the minutes until it is time to rush out the front door, off to school, to see your friends, back packs full of fresh new supplies just itching to get used up, and to go out into the world to live your lives, away from me. I know you.

And is it hard for me? Yes and no. It's hard because I love you so much and I miss holding you in my arms, smelling your freshly washed infant hair. I miss kissing your every boo boo and cutting up your food. I miss your chubby little toddler arms wrapped around my neck as though I was a life preserver and you needed me so. I miss your innocence and your baby doe eyes. I miss you.

More importantly, it is not too hard. I love watching you turn into amazing young men before my eyes. I like dreaming of the future with you. I love watching you play ball and trombone. I love big kid hugs when your arms can reach all the way around me and you really mean it. I love looking at your shoes and being blown away by the fact that they are too big for me to slip on and take out the trash. I love that twinkle in your eye when you are texting a girl and don't think I am paying attention. I love helping you find your way in this world and being a part of your journey. I love you.

With all of that said...I am looking forward to another promising year. I am proud of you both. I hope today is wonderful. Good luck boys. I'll be staring at the clock, too.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Seemingly Meaningless

To passersby it would have been nothing. They may not have even noticed. If they had, they may have thought, "Oh, how sweet." or "That's nice." And then moved on with their day, never giving it a second thought. To me...it was everything. It was hard. It was exciting, nerve racking, heart melting and scary, all at the same time. Some of you will get it. Some of you will think that I am being silly. I'm okay with that.

I asked my oldest child, he will be fifteen in a couple of weeks, to take my three and a half year old daughter to the park for a bit so that I could get the dishes done. This was his first time taking her out of the yard, all on his own, and into the big wide world. He did not hesitate. She literally jumped for joy. I try not to place my insecurities upon them. They don't have a clue how I was feeling about it. And how was that, you ask? "Eek!" about sums it up.

My son is very responsible and kind. He is aware. He is trustworthy. My daughter is outgoing and sweet. She can also be very temperamental, sassy and at times, down right defiant. I knew that my son was ready to try and I really needed the help. So, I watched them walk away, hand in hand, down the hill and out of sight, happily together. And I am just fine. Full of mixed emotions, yes, but still just fine. So what's the big deal, Ginny? What are you rambling on about? Are the things you are thinking, I'm sure.

I know it is normal for older siblings to watch younger siblings. It will not be the last time that I ask him to. I also know that I love all five of my precious children more than I could possibly ever describe to you. They are my whole life. When I ask my son to watch my daughter, I will not take for granted what is truly happening. One of my beloved children is keeping the other out of harms way. Not only will he make sure she gets to the park and back safely, probably without falling or getting too badly hurt on the playground...he is also, in a way, putting his life on the line for her. He is keeping her from being struck by a vehicle or snatched by a kidnapper. He would probably place himself in harms way in order to protect her. He would take a bullet for his sweet baby sister. To me, this is a ridiculous thing to ask. Sometimes the feelings inside of me are just too much. I love them both very dearly and I don't want either one of them to be hurt or wronged or taken from me.

When I go out for the evening and my oldest is in charge for a little while, were the house to catch on fire, he would try his hardest to save his four younger siblings and get them out to safety. Deep down in my heart I think, "How is this fair?" and "What about him and his own safety?" He is just as important to me as the rest of them. As a parent, I have to let go of these fears. I have to decide that these thoughts are not going to cause me to shelter the children more than necessary. I can not stunt them because I am afraid. And if, heaven forbid, something ever were to happen on his watch, it would be up to me to make sure that he understands it isn't his fault and to never hold it against him. If the house burned down and he couldn't get in to save them or made the decision that it was too dangerous to try, I would have to trust his judgement...because by leaving him in charge...that is what I am asking of him. His judgement.

I know, I know. These are ridiculous thoughts. The chances of these things happening are very unlikely. But the truth is, I am a mom. Moms worry too much. We over think. We drive ourselves a little crazy when it comes to the love and safety of our cubs. And then...we let it go. We slowly cut the strings and send them into the world to try.

So, the next time you see a kid walking down the street, taking his little sister to the park and then out for ice cream (with his own money, too cute), please know that it is not "nothing." To a mother, out there somewhere...it is absolutely everything.

Image from: http://askmissa.com/2010/10/14/big-brothers-big-sisters-mentoring-a-little-makes-a-big-difference/

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

You Might Be a Super Mom If...

Image from: http://www.chicagonow.com/bug-coffee/2014/04/i-am-supermom/

You have only one child.

You have multiple children.

You are pretty sure you like the children that you have...you would just prefer to poop in private every once in a while.

You breastfed your child for a day or a year or even longer.

You made the choice to not breastfeed your child for personal or medical reasons.

Sometimes you wonder why you ever decided to have a child.

You feel bad that thought just crossed your mind and deep down you wouldn't change your life if you even had the chance.

You make it to every single school, sport or extra curricular function your child ever participates in.

You make it to the performances that you can and let your child know how much you wish you could see more.

You walk around with poop smeared on your arm for hours before your husband gets home from work and asks what it is.

You cook a balanced healthy dinner and sit around your dinner table every single night as a family.

You order pizza or stop at McDonalds on the way home instead.

You choose to be a stay at home mom.

You choose to have a career because you love it, need it or just have to have it.

You can make up elaborate stories and songs on the spot that your child insists on hearing over and over again.

You can't come up with stuff like that under pressure so you read them a book instead.

You are single and doing it all on your own.

You are raising your child with your village.

You spend all of your time fulfilling your child's day with crafts, learning and fun activities.

You take a little time for yourself and blog or play Candy Crush while the kids fend for themselves a bit. (Damn you Level 33!!!!)

You never go out at night because you want to be home with your child, need to be home with your child, or don't have the funds to go out for the evening anyway.

You get a sitter and head out for a night on the town regularly.

You allow your child to bang the back of your hand with a toy, no matter how much it hurts you, so they will lay still just long enough for you to change their damn diaper.

You live in a big beautiful home that you own.

You live in a tiny apartment or a shelter or in a basement of a family member or friend.

You get out and get a haircut or manicure regularly.

You haven't had a haircut or pedicure in you have NO idea how long.

You have a cocktail (or four) with dinner.

You are not a drinker.

You are following all of your hopes and dreams.

You have lost sight of all of your own hopes and dreams because you are focused on those of your child.

You conceived, birthed and carried your child.

You got pregnant by accident.

You adopted, inherited or otherwise acquired a child not from your womb.

You gave up your child for adoption because you knew that was best for them.

You had an abortion or made the conscious decision to never have a child for your own reasons, knowing it was best for the unborn child.

You loved every moment of being pregnant.

The thought of ever being pregnant again sounds like as much fun as being dragged from the back of a semi down the highway.

You love your child no matter how furious or disappointed they can make you, at times.

You home school.

You send your child to public or private school.

You have no idea how to help them with their math homework because it is nothing like the way you used to do it when you were a kid.

You travel with your child and show them new and exciting places around the world.

You have never even left the state with your child.

Travelling with children scares the ever living s#!t out of you or sounds like pure parental torture.

You run a "tight ship" and everything is scheduled and in order.

You have no schedule.

You keep an immaculate house.

Your house looks like a hurricane blew through it or you hire someone else to clean it for you.

You are tired a lot of the time.

You drank three Red Bulls to get you through the day.

You are a machine and need no substances to assist you!

You make s#!t up all day long, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.

You can see where I am going with this. We moms are as unique and beautiful as snowflakes. We know our children and our families and what is best for them. We all do things a little bit, or a lot a bit, differently. Our ultimate goals are the same, though. We are raising children to the best of our abilities. We can be so critical on ourselves with each decision, no matter how simple, hard or superficial they may seem. We can only do our best. As long as we love them unconditionally, there will forever be hope in our successes.

You are doing a good job. How's that for a daily affirmation?!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dear Pearl Jam,

Hey guys! Maybe you will get to read this message and maybe you won't...but my mom always taught me that the answer is always "no" unless you ask. So here it is. My name is Virginia Louden, but you can call me Ginny. I have been a fan since my ears heard your music for the first time during the summer of 1991. I was 13 years old and you rocked my world. Thank you.

When I heard about this recent tour I immediately messaged my husband at work and told him that if we could somehow buy two tickets to your show in Seattle on December 6th, that we should splurge and take a grown up getaway together. He, of course, agreed. Unfortunately, this particular show was sold out before I could blink this morning. We did have the pleasure of attending your show in Minneapolis, near our home, years ago and I can honestly say it was my favorite concert I ever attended. Standing in an arena with tens of thousands of fans all singing Alive together was one of the most moving experiences I have had in my life. It gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

As a youth it was my goal to grow up and be a rockstar. I can not even begin to count the hours I spent out in my family's music room singing along to all the truly amazing music that came out of Seattle in the early 90's. It changed the world of music and gave me hope for my future as a singer. Well, fast forward twenty something years, life happens, responsibilities reared their heads and five children later, I did not become that rockstar. I'm okay with it. But in my mind, for all of those years, I knew that I was going to be famous someday and my goal was to be like a female version of Eddie Vedder. The emotion, the range, the poetry, the artistry. Such is life. No regrets.

Getting back on track here, I am not looking for a handout, although I would except one, ha! If you read this message and have anyway of finding two tickets for me to your Seattle performance, I would very much appreciate it. My husband and I could really use a vacation and being able to see you in your home town would be a dream come true. We have five children ranging in age from fourteen years down to ten month old twins. Our lives have been a little turned around in the last year and a half, we have remained strong together, but a grown up break to reconnect and have some fun would be great.

Thank you for listening. If you are curious about me and what I'm all about, please take a moment and peek at my personal blog at www.ginnylouden.blogspot.com. I'm an open book.

I would be forever grateful.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Laughter & Tears

I'm going to give you a little of both. A typical day in my world contains the two. I'm not just talking about myself. There are, of course, the kiddos. Teenie weenie emotional roller coasters, in constant motion, keeping me on my toes. Going out on errands can be a trip, pun intended. When I have to take some or all of them out...I have to have a plan...and a s#!t load of patience.

The Plan: 

It takes me about an hour to get everyone ready to go somewhere. Therefore, whatever I am going to go and do had better be worth it. I have to really need something, want something, have to get out of the house, have specific people I want to see or whatever my reason may be. It is probably not going to be "just because." Not until the twins are a little older, at least.

Before I can go anywhere, I have to pack the diaper bag: diapers, wipes, pull ups, changes of clothes (at least one for each baby, depending on how long we will be out and maybe one for DJ too), bottles, formula, baby snacks, DJ's snack, a couple toys, blankets (depending on the season and weather), sippy cup, possibly child sized cutlery, Desitin, wallet, phone, sunglasses, keys, sometimes coupons/vouchers...and always Neno Bear (DJ's woobie). In the winter time...let's not forget hats, mittens, boots, jackets and snow pants for all!

Then I make sure all three little ones have clean butts and clean clothes on. I check on the dog and turn off all the lights. I may have to cover the giant stroller and bungee it on to the back of my Yukon. I bring the diaper bag and anything else we are taking along and load it into the truck. If I am home alone with the three little kids I corral one baby in the living room, bouncy chair, swing or somewhere else safe and carry the other baby to the car and then run back into the house as quickly as possible to grab the second baby and DJ. If my husband and/or my two teenagers are coming with, the getting into the car logistics are a little easier, but really it is just more people and more stuff. Away we go.

I also make sure to get as much into a trip as I can. The less total trips out of the house, the easier it is on me. A perfect example was three months ago. The babies were due for their six month check ups. I decided to make all of our family appointments for one day. Some might think this is crazy, but in my opinion it was so much better. We started out the day with five dentist appointments at eight o'clock in the morning. I had my husband go first so he could get to work as soon as possible...again, crazy, but the hard truth is we are a family of seven on one income. Daddy's gotta work. After the dentist, around ten o'clock, we went over to the pediatricians where the babies had well baby checks and my two older boys each had an appointment for something specific to each of them. We went out for lunch together after those appointments and then we had a little bit of time to kill so we ran into Walmart and the grocery store for a few things we needed. After all of that we went to the eye doctor where me and the two older boys had appointments at around three thirty or so. I believe we left there at five-ish. It ended up being a long day but I found it easier than doing it all in three or four different days. I have also been blessed with pretty well behaved children. Thank goodness. Pretty sure I ordered pizza that night, though. Who wants to cook after all that noise?

The Patience:

These pictures are from the babies nine month check ups, but it gives you a glimpse into what it can be like...

I gave up trying to get them to not tear up the paper roll within a few seconds. Ah well. As long as I kept them from rolling off the doctor's table, I was good. They can only wait patiently for so long. And most of you have been in a doctor's office...you can't see in these pictures, but my other three children are in the room, too. Think about it.

The Laughter:

I found a perfect example of the ridiculousness that can ensue while bringing multiple children out and into the world to go somewhere. This image is from www.ninjamomblog.com. I recently found her blog and I think she is great.

Image from: http://www.ninjamomblog.com/p/other-writing-and-pr-info.html#.UfLtCI1r2a9

Too true! I can't even begin to tell you. I laughed so hard when I saw this the first time. Thank you, NinjaMom!

I have also come up with a new way to decide who gets my grocery shopping business, if I have to bring all three little kids with me, now that the babies grew out of their car seats with carrying handles. I go to my favorite grocery store first, Cub Foods, and drive around their parking lot, checking in all the cart corrals until I find one of those shopping carts with the kid car on the front. Those carts have TWO baby seats with buckles in addition to the fun car. If they do not have one of those kinds of carts on the lot, I leave and drive to the next grocery store and drive around their lot. This is the only way to ensure maximum success and safety getting them all from my car and into the store. It hasn't happened yet, but if neither store had a cart like that available, I would either call it quits and go home, or if I really needed to, I could drive to yet another grocery store.

The Tears:

This is where it gets a little heavy. I am adding a link to a video I saw last night that someone had shared on Facebook. I sat in silence, with my headphones on, and watched it while tears trickled down my cheeks. I almost turned it off when I realized exactly where it was going but I decided to force myself to sit through it anyway. It is fake. It is portrayed by actors. It is not dramatized. In real life it happens too often and sometimes it is good to have a reminder. Watch at your own risk.


Some days can be hard or stressful. There have been times when I am driving home from somewhere and think to myself. "Oh crap, we are out of milk." or that I really wished I had something or another. But if I am not willing to take every single child out of the car and in with me to a store or anywhere else, I am NOT going to go! Absolutely nothing in the whole wide world is worth the risk of leaving a child in a car. I don't care about the weather or the location or the circumstances. It can be such a pain in the ass to haul them all around but I just have to deal with that. I will never do it. And I probably won't ever watch this video again. My heart can't handle it.

The End:

Parenting is joy and sacrifice. Pleasure and pain. I take one day a step at a time. It's the best I can do.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What the Funk.

"Just because I am awesome doesn't mean that I want to be awesome all of the time." - me

Image from: http://smartwomanonline.com/feature/2008/02/multitasking-run-amok/3/

I have been in a bit of a funk. I have so many things that I need to accomplish but don't have the motivation to do them. I found this piece of art online today and it looks just like I feel...

Image from: http://society6.com/LindseyPuddles/In-a-Funk_Print
And now I feel like a complainer for saying so. Ugh!

A fellow blogger, and old high school classmate, wrote a post recently that I related to almost exactly. The biggest difference is that she works and I don't, but other than that I know what she is feeling with my whole heart. It is titled Balancing Act and here is a link: http://beckyberry217.blogspot.com/2013/07/balancing-act.html

I feel completely alone and surrounded by people at the same time. I feel like I am strong enough to do anything but can't get myself up and moving to start. I feel extreme happiness for everything I have been blessed with in my life and that I have also become lost along the way. Some days I feel like I may have actually reached Super Mom status and then the next day I feel like the biggest raging B-word to have ever walked the planet and then feel sorry for my children because they deserve better than I gave. I feel like a walking contradiction.

I am obviously a little depressed. It has happened before and it will happen again. I'm not a doctor but I know that I do not need medication. I just need time. Pills won't make my kids leave me in peace for a bit while I clean a bathroom. Pills won't make my house in a condition to sell. Pills won't make my papers file themselves. I just need time. Luckily I am ridiculously patient, sometimes to a fault. Someday the picture that represents how I feel will look a little more like this...

Image from: http://antiworldnews.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/1-happiness-habits-for-busy-people/

"Meet Virginia" 
By: Train

She doesn't own a dress
Her hair is always a mess,
You catch her stealin' she won't confess
She's Beautiful.

Smokes a pack a day, but wait,
That's me, but anyway
She doesn't care a thing
About that hair,
She thinks I'm beautiful
Meet Virginia

She never compromises,
Loves babies and surprises,
wears high heels when
she exercises
Ain't it beautiful
Meet Virginia

Well she wants to be the Queen
Then she thinks about her scene
Pulls her hair back as she screams
"I don't really wanna be the Queen"

Daddy wrestles alligators
Mama works on carburetors
Her brother is a fine mediator
For the president
And here she is again on the phone
just like me hates to be alone
we just like to sit at home
and rip on the President
Meet Virginia, Mmmm...

Well she wants to live her life
Then she thinks about her life
Pulls her hair back, as she screams
"I don't really wanna live this life"

She only drinks coffee at midnight
When the moment is not right
Her timing is quite, unusual
You see her confidence is tragic, but her
Intuition magic And the shape of her body?

Meet Virgina I can't wait to
Meet Virginia, yeah e yeah hey hey hey

Well she wants to be the queen and
then she thinks about her scene
Well she wants to live her life
then she thinks about her life
Pulls her hair back as she screams
"I don't really wanna be the queen"
I, I don't really wanna be the queen
I, I don't really wanna be the queen
I, I don't really wanna live this

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Go Ahead. Make Their Day.

The other night I was baking cookies after the kids went to bed. We needed a couple batches to sell at the lemonade stand and that was just the time it happened to work out for me that day. House all quiet and peaceful, me in my personal space...my zone...the kitchen. No one underfoot, no one yanking on my apron strings saying, "Mommy. Mom. Mommy. Mommy." And so on. It was nice. It was peaceful. The rum and cola on the counter next to me was pretty good, too. I have to soak in these moments as I can get them.

While I was putting away the last cookie sheet full, I heard my three year old daughter in her room above me, moving around a bit. In the baby monitor I could also hear that she was making her usual voices for all her little stuffed animals, deep in conversation, still awake and playing at 11:30 at night. I stood there for a moment looking at the beautiful tray of cookies, perfectly zip lock baggied into groups of two cookies each, ready for sale the next afternoon. I had, of course, made an even number of cookies, forty eight to be exact. It only took a few seconds to say to hell with my undiagnosed OCD, forty six cookies should be just fine. I snatched up a snack size bag of two cookies, still warm and gooey-chewy, poured a small glass of milk and went straight up to DJ's room.

I gently knocked on the door and cracked it open. She saw me right away and was at first a little startled and a worried look flashed momentarily across her sweet face. That look left her face quickly because she doesn't really get in trouble for being up. She is allowed to fall asleep at her own pace. Some days she naps, some days she doesn't. She doesn't have to be up for daycare anymore. I may just have to sneak up and check her pull up or remind her to be quiet and in her bed. But this night she saw me come in smiling. I walked up to her and her entourage of fluffy animal friends and told her that I had brought her a surprise treat and then held out the cookies and the glass of cold milk. I wish I could have taken a picture of her face. That would have ruined the perfect spontaneity and sweetness of the moment so a mental picture will have to do. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and a little half smile on her face, cocked her head to one side and asked, "Why?" Only half caring about my answer. I replied, "Because I love you and I just finished baking all the cookies for our lemonade party tomorrow." That rocked her world. Her smile expanded across her face and she held out her little hand for me to place a cookie in.

And so we sat there, just the two of us, each nibbling sweet buttery cookie and melted chocolaty goodness. We talked about I can't even remember what, but we did. We laughed, we smiled, we hugged. We took turns washing our bites down with milk and giggled about our front teeth being covered in chocolate. She glowed. It was beautiful. I gave her a big hug and kiss, tucked her and all her little animals back in and went back downstairs, I am pretty sure she was asleep within minutes. I will never forget that little bit of time I spent with my daughter, for as long as I live.

I know that this is not something I should do all of the time. I also know that I need to make sure that I am taking blessed opportunities to have special one on one moments with each of my five amazing children. I need to put a little more effort into this side of motherhood. I am so busy and overwhelmed so often nowadays. I need to try harder...but to do so without trying too hard...if that makes any sense. I need to make their day, whenever I can.

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