Thursday, December 22, 2011


So in the mail a few months ago we got a report. It was on our natural gas usage. Now, they have started sending them to my email! So this is what I got today:

James F Kane

We are pleased to provide you with this personalized report for Nov 10 - Dec 08. Additional information is also available online.
You used more natural gas than your neighbors.

Efficient Neighbors 73 CCF*

All Neighbors 95

You 109

* CCF: Standard unit of measuring natural gas volume, also called one hundred cubic feet.

Sign in to see how your usage changes over time.


The actual email contains big horizontal bars to illustrate the hugeness of "109" as opposed to those saintly souls who used *only* "73".

These reports piss me off.

I guess they're from our gas provider, although I thought that was Arkansas Western Gas. The reports come from SourceGas.

I wonder how true they are. Are they REALLY our neighbors' usage rates or are they just trying to get us to click on their website and read stuff about how to be efficient?

And who is my neighbor, dare you ask?

Our neighbors are empty nesters. Some are retired, some aren't. Others are young, married couples without children. We really don't have that many families with young children around here although there are a few.

We have 3 kids. And a dog. I do 15+ loads of laundry EVERY. WEEK. With a gas dryer, I might add.


So at the end of the email, I read the fine print and saw a wonderful word:


Yes! I clicked it and now I will no longer be burdened with the guilt of ruining the planet because my family wanted clean clothes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cake Pops Success!

I did it! I made ROUND cake pops! Pristine spheres of fluid candy sweetness. Mmmmm!

True to their word, they really were pretty easy. But the devil's in the details.

LOTS of details.

Regular reader(s) of my blog will remember my first attempt back in the summer. They turned out ok. They tasted ok. But they were gloppy and not very pretty.

At Thanksgiving, my cousin, Kayla, made some cake balls. YUM! I ate TOO many. (But I counted them on WW points!) We discussed how difficult they were to get right. We had both had the same problems with the stick not staying stuck and the coating not, well, coat-ing.

So last Monday I went Googling. I found a video by the master herself, Bakerella. When Bakerella dips hers, she goes straight down into the coating and then straight back up. She doesn't swish the ball around or use the spoon to pour the coating over it. She also sticks them into a styrofoam block instead of laying them on wax paper. Those two things totally changed the way my cake pops looked this time.

I also found a blog post by Pioneer Woman. Her Halloween cake balls were cute, but not as smooth as Bakerella's. However, I did find two secrets on her website....

1. She didn't use all the icing!

She said she only used about 3/4 of the can of icing. Aha! That's the mistake I made last time. I had so much icing in there that the sticks kept sliding out.

2. She suggested thinning the coating with shortening.

Eureka! THAT is how Bakerella gets hers to look so smooth and round. Her coating goes on seamlessly. With thinner coating, it really is possible to dip the ball into the coating and pull it straight up and have it be completely covered. Then you tap off the excess and put it in the styrofoam block.

So I took some pictures. You'll be amazed! LOL!

Ok, so this is a can of frosting. Not so amazing. But the secret is to start with a little frosting and only add more if you need it. You want to make the cake/frosting mash up to be about the consistency of playdough. I didn't measure my frosting exactly. But for 1/2 of a 9x13 cake (I didn't feel like rolling and dipping 70+ balls again), I used maybe 1/3 of this can of icing.

Here are my finished cake balls. With less icing, they rolled into perfectly shaped balls. I popped (heh heh) these in the freezer for about 15 mins per Bakerella's video instructions. From 1/2 of a 9x13 cake, I got 36 balls.

While they were in the freezer, I melted the candy coating. I tried two kinds.

Wal-Mart was out of Wilton white candy melts in bags, but they had this nifty dipping cup of them. So I bought it. I also bought some green ones which you can see in the background. Those are for later.

I also used up the rest of the almond bark from the ones I made in the summer.

Boy, was there a difference! I began with the Wilton melts. Wilton has been in the cake decorating business for DECADES! So I figured they would be better. But no. They weren't. The dip was so thick that when I held up my spoon, it glopped off. It didn't stream off or roll off. It took forever for part of it to plop off. I even tried heating it longer in the microwave thinking it wasn't melted enough. That didn't help either.

So I switched to the almond bark. Perfection! Oh my goodness! You should've seen it. It rolled off my spoon with the consistency of cake batter. It fell in perfect ribbons and was reabsorbed into the remaining candy seamlessly.

Another tip I picked up from Bakerella was to dip the ends of the sticks into the candy coating before sticking them into the balls. This was a big help. It helped the sticks to stay in while being dipped.

After the sticks had a minute to set, I started dipping. Like Bakerella's video, I went straight down and then straight up. Tapped off the excess and placed it in my foam.
Yes, I used floral foam. I didn't have time to go to Hobby Lobby and Walmart didn't have any white. I figured this was as good as anything. (And I love how it's labeled "desert foam". I thought it just needed another "s" to make it "dessert foam". LOL!)

When I ran out of almond bark, I turned back to the Wilton melts. I got some shortening and melted it in the microwave. I stirred it in to the Wilton melts and voila! Perfection! Here is what it looked like after the addition of the shortening. The almond bark looked like this, too.

And now, here are my finished, beautiful, perfectly round, cake pops!

To make the white ones, I sprinkled white sanding sugar over them. I called them "snowballs."
Aren't they pretty?
Beta and I decided they were almost too pretty to eat! Almost.......

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bah Humbug!

So here I sit. November 17. The weather has finally turned cooler, but is nowhere near frightful yet, thankfully.

Thanksgiving is one week from today.
Christmas is 5 weeks and 3 days from today.

I've bought 3 Christmas gifts for extended family members. I've bought maybe 5 gifts for the kids.

I hate christmas.

With a lower case "c". Not the big Christ-mas that helps us to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. That one I like.

But the whole shebang. The gift buying, the holiday parties, buying gifts for holiday parties. Shopping, wrapping, scheduling. All the STUFF I have to do.

I didn't used to be this way. But that was when I was younger and everything was done for me. Christmas was fun then! Now, though, I'm the mom. And the wife. So everything falls to me to make sure it's a "perfect Christmas!" To make sure no one gets left off the list. To make that list and check it 3, 4 times. Probably more. To make sure each child has personal, unique gifts that will cause her to squeal with delight when she opens them. They must be fun, useful, educational, and be something she'll play with beyond December 26. And they shouldn't cost too much either.

To figure out where on earth we're going to put all those gifts once they're unwrapped.

I feel trapped. Part of me wants to just say "to heck with it!" and go give all my Christmas money to charity. I think Jesus would like that.

But I think I'd be disowned. And my kids would cry. And maybe this will sound hypocritical, but I do kind of like getting some gifts myself.

In one of the first Financial Peace University lessons, Dave Ramsey talks about saving up money throughout the year and paying cash for Christmas gifts. About Christmas, he says, "Did you know it's in DECEMBER this year?" LOL! In that same rant he says jokingly, "Jesus said buy the little children plastic things!" He's kidding, of course. He's trying to make the point that you don't have to go broke every year buying things for people.

What I'd really like to do is buy things for my friends and family that they REALLY need. Like a new washer and dryer. Siding for their house. A new (to them) car. Diapers for a year. Or something similar.

So here I sit. I'm just not in the Christmas spirit. Maybe that's because it's only NOVEMBER. I don't know. But for the last few years, it's just gotten to be too much work. And I really start questioning whether this is what God had in mind when He sent His Son.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ate

I'm borrowing (nay, stealing) from Hungry Girl today. She always lists her "Top Ate" lists. They're like David Letterman's Top 10 Lists, but have only 8 things (ate, get it? um, yea) and are about food.

So, here are the Top Ate Things I've Learned Since Starting Weight Watchers

1. I was eating WAY too much.
I kind of knew that already. Sort of figured that was why I was gaining weight. But I didn't realize how much of "WAY too much" I was eating. Wow.

2. We are bombarded every day in America with TONS of food images, shows, ads, suggestions, and the like. It's almost no wonder most of us are overweight. It sometimes feels like that's all we see! Food!

3. Jeans weigh 2 pounds.
Yep. A full 2 pounds. Found this out last week when I wore jeans for the first time and was up 0.8 pounds. I was probably down a pound last week but the jeans made it not show.

4. Have a light-weight weigh-in outfit and wear it every week.
So this week I put on exercise clothes which added a mere 1/2 pound. (weighed myself at home) I was down 3.4 pounds! Now I have to wear this same outfit every week. But that's what most of the women there do. The leader was discussing it last week and said that she would know we owned other clothes and that we had washed it. :)

5. Every Weight Watchers meal I have made for my family has been delicious! They have all loved every bite. Now, no one else in this house needs to lose weight (except maybe the dog who is getting pudgy from eating all of J4's tossed off morsels), but that doesn't mean they don't need to eat healthier. Of course, see my previous post for some discussion on what "healthier" means.

6. I don't need as much fruit now as I did that first week.
I'm not starving any more. My mom and I have long known this phenomenon. Your stomach seems to get accustomed to a certain amount of food. If you eat more than that, you feel full. If you eat more than that for a couple of days, your body starts to expect that amount every day. So if you have a couple of days where you overeat (cough cough, Thanksgiving, cough cough) when you get back to your normal routine, you are hungry! It works in reverse, though. Now that I've quit snacking so much during the day, I'm actually not hungry until nearly supper time.

7. I like Greek yogurt!
Never thought I'd say that. But I DO like Greek yogurt. Now, I don't like it plain. I treat it like sour cream and cream cheese. I can't stand those things plain, by themselves. Cream cheese on a bagel? yuck. Sour cream on a potato? Ew. But mix those things with salsa for the former and sugar for the latter, and MAN! I could eat entire tubs of those things. Well, Greek yogurt is now my go-to for a sour cream substitute. I think I'll make it a staple in our house like I had been doing with sour cream. I used it in poppyseed chicken casserole last night. An entire CUP has only 3 points. Wow.

8. Weight Watchers is awesome!
I saw a story on the national news back in September. (at supper time, no less) Someone had done a study pitting various diets and programs against one another. People on WeightWatchers lost the most weight and kept it off the longest. That perked up my ears and made me look them up online. It only costs $12.50 per meeting until you lose a certain amount of weight. (forget how much, maybe 10%?) Then meetings are free. Somehow, I just KNEW it was time. I knew I needed to get control of myself and get my weight under control. Like most if not all moms, I spend every waking hour taking care of my husband, kids, and house. I make sure everyone is fed, clothed, safe, and happy. But when I do I ever take care of myself? I've always avoided spending money on myself because there are so many other things we need to spend money on. But I knew I needed to do this. And I'm so glad I did!

As of today's weigh-in, I've lost 8.2 pounds. I'm excited, yes, but what I really want to do is lose even more. Of the 20 pounds I gained while pregnant with J4 and lost in just a few weeks, I had gained 16 of that back. To top it off, my pre-pregnancy weight with him was already 20 pounds higher than my pre-pregnancy weights with the girls. So while I'm very happy that it's headed down, I will be EXTREMELY happy once I pass the 16 pound mark. That's when I will start to lose some real weight that has been with me for about 5 years now. In fact, I predict that's when things will start to get very hard and just eating less will not do any more. But I've still got a ways to go until that point. And hey, 1 pound a week is still 52 pounds a year!

9. I tend to write more the longer the list gets......Hmmm..... :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We ate healthy tonight! Uh, maybe.....

We had a yummy supper tonight! It consisted of grilled trout, caught by Jim and his dad a few weeks ago, (and frozen since then), broccoli florets with parmesan and herb topping, and Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice. Yummmm!

But was it healthy? I don't know any more.

This all started a few weeks ago when I was bored one afternoon. I had some laundry to fold so I turned on Netflix. We get it through our Wii. Innocent, little naive me went searching for something interesting. I found a documentary entitled "Forks Over Knives." Ok, it's about food. I'm doing Weight Watchers now. Maybe this will teach me something.

Boy, did it ever!

"Forks Over Knives" is a documentary espousing the benefits of a plant-based diet. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I just accepted that idea and went with it while watching the whole film. It wasn't until about 75% of the way through the film that I started to wonder just exactly what they meant. It was also about that time that they first said the word...


Yes, a plant-based diet means Vegan. I feel stupid for not recognizing it earlier.

There are several good reviews of this film on various blogs. I wouldn't even begin to try and review it here. My first overall impression, though, was WOW! You can REVERSE heart disease? That caught my attention. I've got a family history riddled with heart disease. I've been on Lipitor for the last 4 years or so (except when I was pregnant with or nursing J4). So I was intrigued.

But after reading Denise Minger's review on her blog, Raw Food:SOS and Rhys Southan's review on the blog Let Them Eat Meat, I'm coming down from the plant-based mountain.

And really starting to question whether anyone knows what's good for us or not.

The premise of this film was simple: ALL animal products are bad and will kill you. No, really. That's pretty much it. Watch the film and see for yourself. But what about fish? One time in the film, some guy (don't know names, but he was a professional looking fellow with credentials) says that if it walks, runs, swims, or flies, then it's bad for you. Really? Fish? I thought fish were ok.

So that's one view. Here's another:

My Weight Watchers program has you eating lean protein. (22 slices of Hormel pizza-style Canadian bacon are only 1 point! woohooo! Had them at lunch today with crackers and Laughing Cow cheese thanks to Hungry Girl.....) Fruit and veggies are all (well, almost all) 0 points. They figure that even though some are high in sugar or fat, no one ever really got fat by eating too many fruits and veggies.

Hungry (my newest food find) claims to "provide a happy medium -- a bridge between the average junk food diet and the idealistic way of eating perfectly healthy at all times." Ok. Most of her recommendations are good, natural foods. But she lists some that are low fat and no fat. I thought we'd moved beyond the "fat is bad for you" stage. She also lists plenty of sugar-free foods. But these usually contain artificial sweeteners. While I'm nowhere near being a health nut, I still don't want these chemicals in my body.

Then there's the whole organic, local food movement. Strawberries from the corner of Joyce and Crossover? Good! Strawberries from Walmart flown in from California? BAD!!!

So what's healthy? What's "good for you?" When I was growing up, popsicles, cookies, and candy were all junk food. They still are. But Hamburger Helper was healthy! Today, it's not. (too much salt, possibly too much sugar, white pasta, red meat, processed, processed, processed!) But that's what I grew up learning was "healthy!"

Peanut butter is healthy! No, it's junk food, No, it's healthy!

Alpha had some dental work done the other day so I fixed her some jello. I've always heard that it's good to eat when you can't chew because it's a good source of protein. While calculating the WeightWatchers points on it, right there on the back of the box next to the 2g of protein it said, "not a significant source of protein." ****sigh****

So what am I "supposed" to eat? What do I feed my family? Am I killing my children by giving them chicken? Only if it's fried, but not if it's grilled? (oh, wait. Charred parts cause cancer...) What if it's already diced up and cooked and comes in a bag so that I can have supper on the table in about 20 minutes Tuesday night when I have to go to a meeting at 6:00? Is that bad?

I bought Pillsbury Halloween cinnamon rolls for our breakfast tomorrow. I'm probably going straight to mom hell for that one.

So I'm confused. I don't know what's healthy and what's not. It depends on who you ask. And no one group seems to have any better evidence than any other group. You can show almost anything with a "study." (I worked briefly in the biostatistics field. I've seen it happen.)

But for now, I'm going to enjoy having eaten our fish dinner! I'm going to try and have us eat more fruits and vegetables and maybe a little less meat. My family doesn't know it but they've all been put on Weight Watchers! Muhahahaha! (except that they've been able to eat almost endless amounts of early Halloween candy while I've had to count all of mine.....) Is this the best plan? Who knows? But it's the best I can do at the moment. I guess only time will tell.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Creamy Mexican Dip

So I've been on Weight Watchers for a month now. I've lost 4.2 pounds! Isn't that awesome???? I can't wait until I lose more. I hope it continues. I'm afraid that right now the pounds are coming off b/c I was just eating SO much and have now gone back to a more reasonable amount of food. I think I'm going to hit a plateau at some point and then need to increase the activity. Which I'm trying to do now, but I'm still leery of doing too much with my knee. And I'm just lazy....(for those who care, I go back to the orthopedic doc this Thursday. Maybe he'll clear me for more activity.)

So each week at our meeting, we get a little brochure/magazine/handout thingy. The ladies at my regular meeting refer to it as the "weekly reader" because its title is Weight Watchers Weekly. I smiled when I told them I was old enough to understand why they'd call it that. :)

This past week, the weekly contained an awesome recipe! It's called Creamy Mexican Dip. I have just found my salvation from sour cream! Look at the recipe below:

Creamy Mexican Dip
1 cup plain, fat-free yogurt (Greek variety recommended)
1/2 cup salsa, hot chipotle variety suggested in the weekly. I just used medium heat Pace b/c that's what we had. Would also be good with homemade salsa, too.
1 medium avocado, diced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (Walmart Market didn't have any so I just used dried.)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste (I used Kosher salt.)

1/4 medium avocado, diced
1 Tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped red onion

In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt and salsa until blended.
Stir in remaining ingredients except garnishes.
Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.

When ready to serve, transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with garnishes. Yields about 1/4 cup per serving. 1 points plus value per serving

This dip was YUM! I mean, I wondered how many 1/4 cups there were in the entire bowl b/c I wanted to eat the whole thing! (ok, so that's not exactly WW's intent.....) I've heard before about substituting yogurt for sour cream. Yogurt? Yuck! I hate yogurt. Can't stand it. It has this wang that is just disgusting to me. So I've never used yogurt instead of sour cream. But this time I decided that if it was mixed with enough stuff, I might like it. I did. I LOVED it! I will definitely be buying more Greek yogurt to have on hand and use in place of sour cream.

I even ate the avocado! I've never cared for avocado before either. Guacamole doesn't interest me. But covered in this dip, it was delicious! It added just the right amount of creamy, smooth texture. The onion was ok, too. Not a big fan of large pieces of onion. I like onion flavoring, but not onion pieces. But this red onion was ok. Bonus: I bought a container of already diced red onion! It was not that much more expensive than a whole onion. I've got plenty left over so I may freeze some to use the next time I make this dip. (like Tuesday......)

But the best part? THE GIRLS ATE IT! Yes! Both girls dipped chips and their quesadillas in it for lunch. So it's healthy AND the girls (and Jim) will eat it. WIN! WIN! WIN!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Turning a corner

I can't believe this is happening. I actually missed vegetables last night.

On Wednesday nights, our church has a children's Bible study as well as several adult classes. It starts at 6:00 so they serve a meal beforehand.

Last night's meal was grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots along with dessert and drinks. The food was good. Not great, but ok. However, as I'm counting points, I thought, "oh no! This is going to be a whole lot of points for not a lot of yum." Sure enough. When I got home I looked up the points. These sandwiches were two Texas Toast-style slices of garlic bread with a slice of cheese in the middle. One slice of garlic bread is 6 points. So 2 was 12 points. The cheese was an extra 3. So my total sandwich came to 15 points! Then there were the tater tots.....I tried to share with J4, and I did. However, the girls kept handing me theirs to feed him so I had a lot on my plate. I ate some. Not a ton, but more than a few. So I had to factor in those 7 points as well. I should've had water to drink, but I like their lemonade. Another 3 points. So my total meal came to 25 points! Yikes! Luckily my week starts over on Tuesday so I have those 49 weekly points to use, but still.....

What I noticed myself doing, though, was asking, "where are the vegetables?" The meal had none. Nothing even close! I ACTUALLY WANTED SOME VEGETABLES!!!! What is wrong with me? I NEVER actually WANT vegetables. I'll eat them if they're there, but I've never missed them before.

So I think I've turned a corner. By beginning to eat healthier, I actually WANT to eat healthier. Now, I'm not against the occasional vegetable-less meal. (Hellooooooo, cheeseburger and fries!) But I truly did miss eating vegetables last night.

This is new for me. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This is harder than I thought.

Well, yesterday was Weight Watchers again.

And it went well!

I lost 0.2 pounds.

Which brings my total weight loss to 1.6 pounds!

So I didn't lose another pound this week, BUT I also didn't gain anything either. Yay me!

I did not get to exercise as much this week as I did last week. A rescheduled piano lesson, work, and a sore throat all conspired to prevent me from taking an hour long trek anywhere interesting. I did eek out 15 mins on the treadmill and a 30 min walk with the dog and the boy. But I still need to do more than that. Ah well. This week will be better!

Yesterday was interesting. From weight watchers, I headed down to my piano job. I had to stop and get J4 some McD's on the way b/c it was his lunch time. I did good and only got a smoothie. I wouldn't have gotten anything except that my throat (sore, as I mentioned above) was killing me and I was very thirsty. I didn't want a soft drink.

Ok, so I had a few of his fries. And his last chicken mcnugget that he wasn't going to eat. But I did better than I would have before WW!

Then last night, there was an ice cream social we were invited to. Jim took the kids while I was at PTO. Then I showed up later. AND I SHOULDN'T HAVE EATEN ANYTHING!!!!! But I did. I had half a bowl of mostly melted chocolate ice cream that Jim had gotten for me....and two cookies.

When I got home, I had to account for all that stuff. So I did. Thankfully, my "week" restarted yesterday so I had those 49 "extra" weekly points "so you don't feel deprived." I ended up using about 10 of those points because of the McDonalds, ice cream, and cookies.

So it's not like I went off the plan. Or even did that bad. However, that was basically just mindless eating. Well, maybe not the McDonald's. (I was STARVING.) But the ice cream and cookies I could have (should have) skipped. Basically, I hate to use those points on stuff that's not just "the most awesome thing you've ever put in your mouth!"

This is going to take more discipline than I thought. You just don't realize how many times you are faced with food until you have to count every morsel!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1 Down!

Well, I did it! My small meals, no frills, and counting all those points paid off. I lost 1.4 pounds last week! So my first goal has been met: To Lose 1 pound.

Yep. 1 pound.

That might not sound like that big of a deal to the rest of you. But it is to me because of this story from my past:

Back in 1998, I worked at DHS. They had a company-wide healthy employee initiative to get their employees to lose weight and be healthier in general. You could register a team of coworkers so I did. Along with various other ways to be healthy, losing weight was a prime component. I resolved to lose 10 pounds.

So I started exercising. And exercising. AND exercising. The next week, I hopped on the scale and had lost.......0 pounds. So I changed my goal. I said you know, 10 pounds is an awful lot. How about I just try to lose 5 pounds.

So the next week I exercised. And exercised. AND EXERCISED! And I lost.......0 pounds. GRRRRRR!!!! I was so frustrated! I thought if you exercised you were supposed to lose weight. I got so mad that I exclaimed, "I just want to lose 1 freaking pound!! I just want the scale to MOVE!"

So the next week, I ate smaller meals. I cut out candy. I exercised harder and more intensely than I had the previous 2 weeks. I hopped on the scale and had lost.........1 pound! FINALLY!

Of course, then I realized just how hard it was to lose 1 pound. I was happy for that, but also frustrated because I had to do all that over and over again for 10 MORE TIMES! But then, I don't know if I read this somewhere or just thought it, but I realized: If you lose 1 pound a week, you'll lose 52 pounds in a year! Wow! Wouldn't losing 52 pounds be nice? (heh, back then I didn't have 52 pounds to lose but I might have that much now.....)

So from then on, I realized it's all about the baby steps. That's how babies learn to walk -- one step at a time. That how Dave Ramsey helps you get out of debt and get your finances in order -- one step at a time. So that is how I will lose weight and regain my health -- one step (pound) at a time.

Friday, September 23, 2011


There. I said it. I finally admitted it, came to terms with it, and resigned to do something about it.

I joined Weight Watchers.

Never in my life have I joined Weight Watchers or even wanted to. Of course, never in my life have I weighed this much either. Unless you count the end of my pregnancies. I think I'm still under that ceiling. (I would always quit counting when it got towards the end so I don't know an exact amount.)

I went to my first meeting on Tuesday. It was good. It was all ladies which seemed to help. I wasn't even the youngest! There was at least one other lady there who had kids 13 and 11 years old. Most of them were grandmothers, though. But that's ok. They all seemed really sweet. :)

When I stepped on the scale, I was almost apologetic. I told the lady doing the weigh-in that I didn't know how or why I had allowed myself to get this big. She smiled and sweetly said that that is what most of them there that day would say, too. It made me feel better. Well, until the scale groaned. But at least someone understood.

So I've been counting my points and eating my fruit for 4 days now. Tuesday was fun. I had that initial energy. That newness about things. That "this time it's going to be different!" feeling. I also had to come home and bake a german chocolate cake for Jim's birthday. And eat a piece. Which I calculated using my nifty new PointsPlus (tm) calculator they sold me. It was 12 points. For one piece. My daily points allotment is 29. Yep. You do the math. Luckily, they also include 49 "extra" weekly points that you can use at any time during the week. So you don't feel deprived, they say.

Wednesday was ok. Fruit is all 0 points. So you can eat as much of it as you want, within reason. I've never downed so many pieces of fruit in my life! (well, ok, it was only like 2, but I haven't eaten 2 apples in the same day in a long time.) I had to go out yesterday and buy more just so I'd have something to eat!

Thursday, I failed. I did ok until supper time. We were having spaghetti with meatballs. While it was cooking, I looked up how many points meatballs have. Two meatballs have 10 points! (gasp!) I'm used to having 4 or 5 meatballs. All of us are! J4 even likes them! (But that's ok b/c he's a baby and needs the fat. Oh to be 1 again!) I served myself less spaghetti than I normally do, but probably not as little as I should have. Then, I got so frustrated, I caved. I had 3 meatballs, parmesan cheese, AND a roll. I had 7 points remaining for the day, I think. I went in the hole about 13 points. And that was WITHOUT dessert, people!

I'm hoping this is just my body freaking out over having lots less food to work with. These 29 points are not very many. No wonder they say that if you stick to the program you WILL lose weight! They don't let you eat anything!!!!! Hopefully my stomach will "shrink" and I'll be happy with less food. Then I'll be eating normal amounts and get back to a normal size.

But tonight we're going out to eat like we do every Friday. This is what those extra 49 weekly points are for. But I'm down to about 15 of them. And they've got to last until Tuesday!

So I'm going to chronicle my journey back to thinness, or at least away from fatness for all of you who care to read about it. I hope I don't embarrass myself with these postings. Encouraging comments are welcome! But please don't tell me to start eating sprouts or asparagus. Life is too short, you know?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This year alone, I have known personally 2 families that have lost a child. I've also known 2 others who had their babies WAY early. Like at 24 and 26 weeks.

As I sit here watching J4 pull all my papers off my desk and make a huge mess on the floor, I wonder why. Why did I have a healthy, full term baby while these other women did not? Why is my baby living and thriving while theirs did not? I feel guilty. Kind of like survivor's guilt, I guess.

These other women are very healthy. They aren't crackheads or on meth. They have college degrees and jobs. They are all Christians. They probably read the Bible and pray more than I do, too.

So, why?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Something (an update)

So I haven't blogged in over 2 weeks. I should write something. So I did. (see title of my post)

I thought I would give everyone (all 4 of you) an update on my life and my family.

Jim is still working at Acumen Brands, and he is as busy as ever! He keeps websites like, Toughweld,com, The Baby and others running. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 365 well, you get the idea. It's not unusual to hear him up at 3am fixing something. He works so much, in fact, that they are considering hiring him some help. This would be great! Although, my mother reminds me that the fact he works so much is why they pay him the big bucks that allow me to stay home. Hmmm. She does have a point. I guess I'm like Joe Walsh of the Eagles, "I can't complain but sometimes I still do"...... :)

Alpha has started 5th grade. At her school, 5th grade is considered middle school. She LOVES it! I think it is the perfect balance between elementary and jr. high. They have lockers and change classes, but they are in the same "pod" of rooms all day. So they don't have to trek all the way across campus to another building while stopping by their locker and the bathroom. She feels so grown up. It's cute to watch! At church, she is continuing as an acolyte and also playing handbells. This summer, we got her a book on how to play the recorder and she enjoyed furthering her skills in that instrument. (I enjoyed playing around with it, too!)

Beta has started 2nd grade. She is in a class with several of her friends so she's excited about that. She's also starting GT (Gifted & Talented) classes this year. So far she loves them! Jim and I are excited for her because we were both in GT. Over the summer, she was bitten by the music bug! We've been doing "piano lessons" for about 2 years now, off and on. She pushed herself to get past where Alpha was in the book, and then continued to push herself to learn music that was actually on a staff. She ended up finishing the Primer level book and is now in Book 1. I have to do lessons when she asks for them, otherwise she will be stubborn and refuse. But like I said, the music bug has bitten her and she wants to learn to play even more songs. Needless to say, I am VERY excited about this!

As you probably saw a few months ago, J4 is walking! He's been walking for 3 months now so he's really getting good at it. Which means I'm getting faster, too. :) We've also determined that he loves cars and trains. Anything that GOES. He plays with his Thomas the Tank Engine toys several times a day. He also has to be holding a Hot Wheels or Matchbox car whenever he's not playing with Thomas. He is still not talking, exactly. However, he can say the first syllables of several important words such as: mama, dada, bye bye, girl, car, cracker, dog. He learned some of the baby sign language and uses signs for "more" and "drink" constantly!

My life goes from one extreme to the other. I am either sitting around hopelessly bored, or am I so busy I don't know whether I'm coming or going. Staying at home this time around is different from 10 years ago. Back then, it was just Alpha and I. She didn't go to Mother's Day Out until she was 2. So we had LOTS of time together and I ended up BORED. This time, that's not the case. I didn't realize how busy it made you to have 2 kids in school. We aren't even involved in any after school activities, really. There's just so much more to think about and do now.

One thing I have started is teaching piano lessons. To kids who aren't my own. :) I've got 1 student so far and might possibly have 2 more. After teaching Beta this summer, it got me inspired to try and teach others. I've seen several requests from my friends on facebook for piano teachers so I know there's a need. I'm also seriously looking into doing taxes on my own for this upcoming tax season. I would love to do just enough to keep my skills up and earn enough to cover the CPE (continuing professional education) required for my CPA license.

Our schedule really starts up next week. Alpha's handbell practice got changed from Sundays to Mondays. So we'll be at church on Monday afternoons. I'm hoping to convince Beta to do piano lessons in one of the other rooms while we're waiting on handbells to finish. Otherwise, Mondays will be very long days. Next Wednesday, our church's Wednesday Nite Live starts up again. This is when the girls go to Timothy Team, the children's Bible study, and the adults take classes as well. Jim and I will be teaching another Financial Peace University class. This time, though, we'll be the only coordinators. We've very excited about that! Please pray that we'll strike the right balance between teaching and cheerleading (motivating) so we can really help the participants change the way they handle money. We also teach Beta's Sunday School class. That has been going on for 3 weeks now. We've had 27, 25, and 24 students! If these numbers stay high, they will split the class into 2 classes. Historically, the number of students attending drops significantly after Labor Day. Which is sad from a Christian perspective, but looks pretty good from a teaching one. :)

So there you have it. You knew we were up to "something", didn't you? ;)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Beta Back-to-School Retrospective

Well, since it's the 2nd week of school I guess I should do the 2nd kid's photo retrospective. We got kind of busy last week. :)

I've got more digital baby pictures of Beta since we bought a digital camera right before she was born. So I'll include some early pictures, too!

The early months:
First Day of Mother's Day Out (she would have been about 18 months old here)
Pre-school graduation
First Grade
Second Grade
Wow! I can't believe how much older she already looks! Doing these posts is going to make me cry.... *sniff*

Monday, August 15, 2011

Alpha Back-to-School Retrospective

First Grade
Second Grade (or as close as I could get....I looked and looked and could NOT find any pictures from that year. I wonder if I didn't take any? That wouldn't be like me...)
Third Grade (didn't have one of Alpha by herself...oops)

Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade
And now, because I am feeling nostalgic, here are even earlier pictures of her:

Age 2
Age 3
Age 5

On the First Day of School, my true love gave to me.....

Well, here we are. Another First Day of School done. Ours went smoothly around here. Having been at our current elementary school for 5 years now, and beginning our 6th, we are pretty familiar with how things work. Both girls walked themselves in this morning. Jim even dropped them off, like he usually does. The only noticeable difference between June 10th (last day of school) and August 15th was the girls' backpacks.

I still wonder if I should have walked them in. There really was no point. They don't allow anyone but kindergarten parents to walk their students to the classroom. Everyone else has to go to the cafeteria for the "Rise & Shine" Assembly. Then, they walk together down the hallway to their class. So it's not like I could have taken any cool pictures of them at their desks or with their new teachers or anything like that. But it won't be long before they don't want to be SEEN with me. So maybe I should have taken advantage of one more year.....ah well. What's done is done. C'est la vie!

So here are the pictures of them from this morning:

Here is what kept me busy the rest of the day:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cardboard Boat Races

This past weekend, I did something I've never done before. The fam and I attended the cardboard boat races in Heber Springs!

It all started when I got a call at 10:00 pm on July 2. We were sitting in the parking lot of the Northwest Arkansas Mall. The fireworks had just finished and we were waiting to leave. My brother starts telling me about cardboard boat races, math, formulas, and telling me he'll email me this thing. I'm like, what? My brother has a history of not really being a "math person" so I was a bit confused at first. I won't go into details here, but there are 2 formulas used to calculate how much the cardboard boat will sink when it's placed in the water with people in it. He wanted me to do the calculations for him. So I did.

And I had great fun! I made a spreadsheet and everything. I'm sure he thinks I'm even weirder than he thought. The truth is, I love doing stuff like that! Excel is my program for sure.

After putting in all that work, I told him he'd better not back out and that we were coming to watch. He said ok. So here are the pictures from that day. It was so much fun!

This is just a shot of the road we walked in on. It was a beautiful day. There were TONS of people there.
Here is my brother's cardboard boat:

It's the Delorean from Back to the Future. The races had an 80's theme this year.
The back of the boat. Note the license plate. :) They also put dry ice down the pipe when the race started so that it looked like smoke was coming out of it!

Here is his friend, Casey, dressed up as Doc.
He also had another friend, Drew, help him. I don't have any pictures of him, which is unfortunate. He was a real sweetheart.

Here is Matt. No pictures, please!

I got a few pictures of some of the other boats, too. This was from some Wal-Mart employees.

This was one of the other TV stations boats.

This was one of the other TV stations boats. (I have no idea which was which so I'm not labeling them.)
This one was just funny.
(it says "dead weight" on the side!)

The parenting highlight of the day came when I turned around and saw what was keeping J4 so quiet.
AACCKK! So THIS is what it's like having a boy. My girls never would have done that. Nor would we have let them. But he was quiet and I figured, if you can't play in the dirt when you're a 1 year old boy, then when CAN you play in the dirt? Besides, after the races, we washed him off in the lake. He got a bath later at home.

FINALLY, after waiting until the very last heat, they were allowed to race. Look at them go!
I'm sorry to say they didn't win anything. But it was great fun! My mother told me that Matt said it was the most fun he'd had in a long time. He plans to do it next year. We plan to be there!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bakerella's Cake Pops

So a few months ago, I stumble across a baking website, I think I followed a link from my Manic Mommies podcast. Anyway, she has these little desserts full of awesome cuteness that she calls cake pops! When I read the recipe, it sounded super simple. So simple, in fact, that I thought to myself, "how on earth did this lady make a whole website off of this? That's not hard or complicated, and doesn't take any skill!" Well, I suppose I am now about to eat my words, because these are a little harder to do than they look. :)

Well, the decorating part is. The recipe is still pretty simple. I will summarize it here, but you can go to her website to see how she makes cake balls and then how she turns them into cake pops.

1. Bake a cake and let it cool completely.
2. Get a can of frosting.
3. Crumble up the cake.
4. Mix in the frosting.
5. Roll mixture into millions of tiny balls. (I got about 6 dozen+)
6. Insert sticks.
7. Dip in Wilton's candy melts or almond bark or dipping chocolate.
8. Decorate however you'd like.

Simple, right? Well, here is how mine turned out.

I started with a Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix and Cream Cheese frosting.

Then, I crumbled up the cake.
Then mixed in the frosting.
I left some cake in the pan so we could all have a taste. This may become important later.....
Here is the mixture all balled up and ready to go into the fridge overnight. Her website says several hours, but it was getting late and I figured overnight couldn't hurt. Plus, I'd have more time the next day to do the dipping.

The next day......

Here is where it gets tricky. I think my first attempt at making the balls was not good. I made them too big. I also had trouble getting the sticks to STICK. They kept coming out of the mixture. My only guess as to why was in the amount of cake I used. I'm wondering if leaving that 2 inch wide piece of cake in the pan made the balls have too much frosting and not enough cake.

So I ended up cutting all the balls in half. I kept the sticks in one half, but then just dipped the remainder as cake balls, instead of turning them in to cake pops. I still had trouble with the sticks not sticking though.

Here is the dipping chocolate I used. On the left is Wilton's chocolate candy melts, in the middle is vanilla flavored almond bark, and on the right is chocolate flavored almond bark.

Wilton candy melt coated:
Vanilla almond bark coated:
Chocolate and almond bark coated:
(I had to get creative somehow!)

And lastly, the excess I removed from the sticks to form regular cake balls:
Here is Beta holding up her favorite: the Wilton chocolate coated ones.
How did they taste? Good! Incredibly rich, though. So I could only handle a few before my sweet tooth craving was more than satisfied. Today, the majority of them are residing at Jim's office's breakroom. Or at least they were this morning. :) I kept a few here for us. We all like them! Including J4 who had 2 last night and wanted more, but I put my mom foot down and decided he didn't need that much. :)

As for the decorating, go look at her site. Her Pop Stars page has TONS of cute pops! I guess these are professionals submitting these photos? I mean, mine looked fine for homemade, but the ones on her site (and that she does herself) are out of this world! How do they get the balls so round? How do they get the coating so smooth? How on earth do they decorate like that? Where do they find the time??? (these women must not have children.... or they are professionals and do this at work, I guess.)

Well, there you have it. My foray into the world of cake pops! I think I may stick with making cakes the regular way. It's easier and way less time consuming. But these were fun to try on a boring, hot, summer afternoon. Try some yourself!