Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Christmas, in pictures

Wow.  I feel like the last 2 weeks hit me like a truck!  We've been going nonstop, and I don't want another Christmas to slip by undocumented, so here, in blurry cell phone pictures (spoiler alert, the pictures get better at the end!) is our Christmas.

Things started to get Christmas-y at Emily's preschool show on the 18th.

In the middle, playing the angel just like her mama used to.  Blonde girls are always cast as the angel.
Glad she's short so she gets to stand in the front!
My girls <3

Next was a visit to Santa!
Charlotte was pretty unsure, but seemed ok once we sat her on the couch vs. in Santa's lap.  We are 0-5 for Santa-induced meltdowns!  And here, because I like to compare (and because these are really the only professional pics we have taken of the girls on a regular basis) are the pictures from previous years:
 The next day was filled with parties.

Birthday party #1 - Sam's 5th birthday at Pump it Up
Birthday party #2 - Nora's 2nd birthday at FISC
Party #3 for the day - The Dray family Christmas party at my mom and dad's house
Phew.  That was exhausting.

The Christmas festivities resumed on Wednesday with Emily's preschool Christmas party.  The moms didn't even know we were putting on this party until a couple days before, so we didn't have time to have meetings and offer ideas.  As a result, almost every activity involved candy :-(

Pin the nose on Rudolph
Decorating gingerbread houses...there was NOTHING I could do to healthify this :-(
Making reindeer candy canes (and getting sneezed on by classmates)
 I think that picture is about the exact moment when Emily contracted the nasty cold that started on Christmas Eve and STILL continues to make her miserable (and has sent its friends to live in my lungs as well).  The boy next to her (not the one in the picture, the one sitting to the other side of her) kept sneezing and sneezing and since his mom wasn't there it somehow became MY job to keep fetching him tissues.  As if I don't have to wipe enough noses between my own two kids, blech.

After the party, we went to my sister Krista's house to pick up Charlotte.  The kitties are getting big, but they still nurse on her throw blanket.  It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen!  All cats knead, but hers actually suck on parts of the blanket while they purr and knead.  Goofballs.

Emily imitating the cats
They really are awesome, patient little kitties
 Then, out of nowhere, it was Christmas Eve!
Making sprinkle cookies for Santa
Snack-dinner was served (and consumed with gusto) in the family room
There was much goofiness
Remy hoped we'd look away so he could grab a bite

The elves sneaked into the girls rooms and brought new pajamas!
Cookies and milk (plus, at Charlotte's request, beer and soft pretzels) were left out for Santa, with a carrot and some  half-eaten apples for the reindeer.
Stockings were hung
There was more goofiness
 And the girls didn't fall asleep until after 10 :-(

Christmas Eve is one of the most exhausting days of the year for us as we make all the preparations and food for that evening and the next day, especially because we know we still have all of Christmas to get through tomorrow!  Neither Will nor I slept well on Christmas Eve night...we were awoken by Emily freaking out that she couldn't breathe through her cold-clogged nose at 1:30, a cup falling off the counter in the kitchen at 5:30, and my phone (which  I had forgotten to silence) announcing that I had mail at 6.  But then it was Christmas!

Excited little girls were good sports about waiting for pictures to be taken
Being a parent has given me a new appreciation for all that MY parents went through to make Christmas happen for my sisters and I when we were kids.  Putting on a Christmas is hard work!  In my family, Santa always brought 1 present, whatever you wanted most (and whatever you told the Santa at the mall that you wanted) and then the rest of the presents were from my parents.  It's easier that way, plus I don't think I really even noticed as a kid amidst all the excitement. This year, Santa brought just what each girl asked for...
"A book" for Charlotte
"2 blue unicorns, a mommy and a baby that look just like the unicorns I already have" for Emily
Emily's oddly specific request required a desperate Ebay bid, a can of blue spraypaint and some glitter nailpolish, but Santa came through in the end.

After the first wave of presents, my family arrived with a fresh supply...

...then Will's family with even more.  

Will ended up juicing ALL of these oranges, plus some grapefruits!
After this, thank goodness, my pictures got a lot better because I GOT MY NEW CAMERA!  It's a Canon Rebel T1i and I'm in love.  I am still a long way from knowing how to take advantage of everything it can do, but in the meantime it is certainly improving my snapshots.
The first picture I took, yay!
 I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have a camera that takes pictures QUICKLY.  I have been able to actually capture some of my girls' faces before they realize I'm pointing a camera at them and look away/start pouting.

After 3 rounds of Christmas at our house, we went to Will's Aunt Dee Dee's house for the evening, praying that the girls would be able to hold out through dinner and presents before melting down for the day.
Charlotte with Papa and Pingu in front of the GIANT chocolate Christmas tree!

Emily, still excited about Christmas
Even my Father-in-Law was excited to try out my camera
After holding out on her all day, Emily finally decided to give Aunt Dee Dee her hug, and ended up knocking her to the ground.  And yes, I took this picture before offering to help her up.  Priorities.
I turn my back for a minute to pack up some presents, and my children have been helpfully supplied with ice cream and fudge sauce
So that pretty much covers Christmas.  Ever since then we've just been crouching in our house passing colds back and forth and enjoying not having to get up for school every day.  Oh, and fighting like cats and dogs over the new toys.  You would think being surrounded by an almost sickening number of toy choices would mean that the girls would play happily for hours, but in actuality they just spend all their time engaged in vicious combat because both of them HAVE to play with the exact same toy at the exact same time.

Now I have to go try to get some rest so I can kick this junk out of my lungs before attempting to stay up until midnight tomorrow.  Will doesn't think I can make it, so I have to prove him wrong.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How many people can say they built a trebuchet and won a wine review contest in the same day?

Probably one.  At least today.

And in case you hadn't guessed, that person is ME!

Let me explain.

My Dad has a dark sense of humor, which is no doubt where I got my dark sense of humor.  He has told us many times that when he dies instead of a traditional funeral and burial or cremation he would like us to trebuchet his dead body over South Mountain (the mountain his front porch overlooks).  He is the reason why I know the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet because he is very adamant that it must be a true trebuchet.  He is undeterred by our pleas that he consider what might happen to some poor hiker on the Appalachian Trail if he is suddenly smashed by a dead body falling from the sky.  And strangely enough, The Oatmeal's plans for his own funeral are almost identical, but my Dad came up with this idea YEARS ago.

This background is all to explain why I am building my dad a trebuchet for Christmas.  Because he already has everything else, and I enjoy the idea of him using it to fling little wooden balls down the hallways of NIST.  Plus I am a big fan of giving people homemade things for Christmas, and since I made this he is required to like it since he is my parent.

The kit arrived a couple days ago, and I eyeballed it dubiously.  I do not really enjoy building things but I decided to look at it as more of a craft and I dove in.  I managed to get about 3 minutes into it when I realized I didn't have any wood glue, and also that you're supposed to fill the counterweight with 78 pennies.  Since I had just dumped all my pennies into a Coinstar machine, the trebuchet would have to wait.

So last night and today I put it together, and it was surprisingly kind of fun!  Plus I now know how to tie a hangman's knot and a double figure-of-eight knot, skills that I'm sure will serve me well in the future.  It actually works, and it actually looks just like it's supposed to:
Check out all those knots
And even better, while I was building the trebuchet, I got a call from The Wine Kitchen in Frederick, informing me that Will and I won their contest to write a review for Alysian Chardonnay when we were on a date there a couple weeks ago.  We get a $30 gift card, and our review will appear on the cards they hand out when you order it in the restaurant!  I am extremely excited because #1 we LOVED the restaurant, but it's a bit pricey.  The gift card will help with that next time!  And #2 we were a bit (actually a lot) buzzed when we wrote the review and we felt the need to use the term "f*ck-ton" in the last sentence, then we left the card on the table and hurried out before anyone read it.  They seemed to enjoy it though, because the manager who called me said "Everyone who voted was unanimous that your review should win" and "We all appreciated your liberal-ness".  I am assuming they will be taking the last sentence off before they print it on the cards though.

So I am feeling pretty good about my varied talents right about now.  Possibly even good enough to consider keeping these shoes that arrived today that I ordered to wear in my sister's wedding:

I guess "4" heels" didn't register until I actually saw them in person.  At least I'll look super-cute for the 10 minutes I'll be able to wear them before my feet fall off.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stalker Santa

One of the things I really enjoy about our neighborhood (and especially our little corner of the neighborhood) is that almost everyone puts out Christmas lights at this time of year.  I love driving around in December looking at all the light displays, from the tacky to the tasteful.  I am trying very hard to make it a family Christmas tradition that we all pile into the car one night in our PJs with hot chocolate and drive around on a light tour.  We attempted this last night, and since our girls were involved it was fun but also highly stressful.  There was spilled hot chocolate (which luckily I had made sure was more like warm chocolate in case of spillage, but it still caused shrieking), stops to go pee pee, complaining when Emily realized we'd be driving by Dancing Bear downtown but not actually going in, girls screaming at each other and Charlotte's constant car jabber (including incessant requests for fireworks, please?) that is adorable but gives me a headache.  Will wondered why we even try to do anything like this, but it's something that I think we'll all enjoy having memories of.

One decoration I do NOT approve of is something my neighbors put out every year that I can see from my dining room window.  As I walk around my house at night, I am often alarmed by this sight:

 Looking closer (and blurrier, thanks to my phone camera's limited abilities) you see this:
 In the light of day, it looks like this:
Not so bad
I don't understand why they need to spotlight it with red at night.  Will thinks I'm crazy, but I say catching a glimpse of a glowing red humanoid face hovering in your neighbor's bushes at night every time you walk by the window is quite startling.  And I don't know about you, but for me feeling startled and vaguely unnerved does not inspire Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas magic

Over the past week or so I have been making a concerted effort to do a fun Christmas-y activity with Emily as often as possible.  I won't be so ambitious as to say I will do something every day of December, but I am giving it a shot.  My first idea was to decorate a green styrofoam cone with gems and mini-garland to make a little Christmas tree but it was much tougher than I had anticipated, and even though I didn't let Emily USE the glue gun she still managed to burn herself on the end of it and spent pretty much the rest of the day screaming :-(  The My Little Ponies have a nice Christmas tree now though.

Undeterred, I moved on to my next idea which was to make a gingerbread house.  Emily has been begging me for at least 2 years to let her make a gingerbread house, so I set out to altering gingerbread recipes to make them whole-wheat and naturally sweetened and collecting artificial dye-free and (when possible) naturally sweetened candy for our house.  The frosting was pure sugar though.  I still haven't found a way to make frosting healthy.  And let me tell you, gingerbread houses are tougher than they seem.  We eventually managed though, and Emily has been enjoying snacking on the house a little bit each day.  I tried to explain to her that gingerbread houses are not for eating, but she just looks at me like I'm crazy and to be honest, I see her point.  It IS kind of crazy to go to extremes making a large structure completely out of edible items and then not eat it.

We also made a snow globe out of a baby food jar.  The santa inside stuck to the bottom for about 5 minutes before the glue let go.  Now when you shake it poor Santa is just tossed around in a sea of glittery water (which is leaking out bit by bit).

Today, as I picked Emily up from preschool, she announced that she'd like to make peanut butter cups.  I was delighted to be able to tell her that yes, we could totally make peanut butter cups, because I had been planning on making buckeyes with her today anyway and the procedure for peanut butter cups is much the same.  Our conversation went as follows:

Emily: Mommy, can we make peanut butter cups today?
Sara: Why yes we can!  Why do you want to make peanut butter cups?  Did you have peanut butter cups at preschool today?
Emily: No, I just want to make peanut butter cups.

Later that day, as I am making said peanut butter cups....

Emily: Pinkie Pie is coming down and eating them every time you make one, but they are reappearing.
Sara: Uh oh, she'd better not eat all of them!
Emily: I'll talk to her.  Pinkie Pie, I know that these peanut butter cups taste good, just like the peanut butter log I found in the gym today, but you can't eat them all, Daddy and Charlotte need to have some!
Sara: Wait, what?  What peanut butter log?
Emily: I found it in the gym at preschool.
Sara: So you found a peanut butter cup on the floor of the gym at preschool?
Emily: No, it was a log.
Sara: Did you tell your teachers?
Emily: No, I ate it.
Sara: Emily, you can't just eat things you find on the floor.  What if it had been poop and you had put it in your mouth to taste it?  Then you would've had poop in your mouth.
Emily: I knew it wasn't poop, because poop is straight.
Sara: Is that why you wanted to make peanut butter cups today?
Emily: Yeah.

So there you have it.  Our magical Christmas mother-daughter togetherness activity for the day was initiated because of a piece of discarded food my daughter found and ingested off the floor of the gym at preschool.

At least they turned out pretty well

I am realizing I should've cut one in half so you could see the peanut butter on the inside, and maybe not have put a crooked cup on top, but hey, as I have said before, I am definitely not a food blogger!

Once Charlotte woke up I was very glad we had made them because they shortened her post-nap screaming period significantly.

Please forgive my crappier-than-normal pictures.  I have lost my camera charger, so once again I am facing a Christmas season armed with only a cell phone for my picture-taking needs.  Hopefully you will see a marked improvement in my photo quality after the Christmas holiday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Falling down

Hey everyone.  I've been hiding for a bit.  It's what I do when I get overwhelmed and feel like I can't do anything well.  I just don't do anything, that way I don't have to feel bad that I'm not writing interesting blog posts/keeping my house clean/planning ahead for all the things I need to do/counting points etc.

I have done well on the artificial sweetner/caffiene front.  The artificial sweetner part has been easy, except for Saturday when there was Turkey Hill sugar-free ice cream at my Father-in-law's party.  We used to go through GALLONS of that stuff.  It's the only sugar-free ice cream (that was also only 1 old WW point per half cup) that was worth eating.  But I resisted.  The caffiene thing went faster than I thought it would...I cut back to a half cup of coffee in the morning for 2 days, then since I hadn't had any side effects I cut back to 1/4 cup for the next 2 days.  That didn't bother me at all (aside from the chest tightness from drinking caffiene in the first place) so I cut back to 100% decaf and have been doing that for the past 3 days.  I get a touch of a  headache still at some point each day, but nothing a few ibuprofen won't fix.  How strange that even 1/4 cup of caffiene makes all the difference.

When it comes to eating though, I have not been doing all that well.  Everything I have eaten is healthy, but for the past 3 days or so I have been eating way too much.  I have my WW weigh-in tonight so I'll see what the damage is.  It makes me so mad, because after the first 2 days of not counting points I am still pretty sure I wasn't over my weekly allowance for the week yet, but I got convinced in my head that I had "blown it", so I've kept going.  Every morning I have started out with the best of intentions, but then I eat something I shouldn't and say "I'll recommit tomorrow so that I can eat all the things I've been missing today and I won't have to track them".  I've got to just stop! 

I discovered the blog Runs For Cookies written by a girl named Katie who has lost 125 pounds in 16 months, and I have been reading that for inspiration.  What got to me the most was looking at her weigh-ins over the course of her weight loss.  She didn't lose every single week, and some weeks she even gained quite a bit!  But she still lost 125 pounds because she kept going even after she gained.  I know that I am allowed to mess up.  I know that the single most important thing I can do is to forgive myself and get back on track as soon as possible.  But I still find it incredibly difficult to put that into practice!  I would rather sit around and beat myself up and end up gaining back the weight I have lost over and over and over, apparently.

It's also amazing how different it is in my head when I'm doing well vs. when I've slipped.  When I'm doing well, I am convinced I will succeed.  I picture myself at my sister's wedding rocking my bridesmaid dress (which will have to be taken WAY in, of course), I look forward to my next weight loss milestone, and I notice and appreciate the areas of my body that are changing.  As soon as I have a day when I snack a bit too much though, I immediately start wallowing in self-pity.  My younger sister (who only weighed about 118 to begin with) accidentally lost 13 pounds in the last 2 months because of a newly diagnosed thyroid condition and is afraid her wedding dress will be way too big.  I sure didn't have any weight loss when *I* was dealing with my hyperthyroidism.  My pants from this summer that were starting to get big are now a bit tight, a nice reminder that even though I've had an impressive 2 weeks of weight loss I'm still above where I got to a couple months ago.  I don't feel like working out because I feel gross from eating too much and it won't negate all the calories I just snacked on anyway.  I wish I could figure out how to kick my psyche in the face.

I am toying with the idea of only counting points every other week.  I did very well a couple weeks ago when I was just focusing on eating mindfully, so maybe I can just alternate my approach and that will keep me from getting tired and resentful of tracking everything?  I'll track this week and see how I feel after my next weigh-in.  I am so sick of losing the same 10 pounds over and over!  I want to start losing "new" weight!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why you won't be seeing me on Survivor any time soon

Yesterday as I waited to pick up Emily at Preschool I was excited to see the lead mom posting the sign-up sheet for Emily's Thanksgiving party.  "Hooray!", I thought.  "I will get first crack at it so I will be able to sign up for exactly what I want to bring!".  Except that my children, instead of engaging in a 5 minute long wrestling match that completely blocks the hall like they usually do, decided to bolt for the door and actually made it outside, necessitating a chasing-down dragging-back and scolding from me.  By the time I got to the list there was a large crowd of moms around it, and once it finally got to be my turn the things I was hoping to sign up for were taken :-(  I am now bringing turkey lunchmeat and bubble wrap.  The strange thing is though that the list was oddly specific.  "Pretzels, square or circle-shaped", it read, and "Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing", so I would've been very limited anyway.  I probably would have been obstinate and ignored the pretzel shape and dressing brand requests had I been fortunate enough to snag those two (aparently coveted) items, especially because I don't recall discussing such details at the meeting.

Despite my extreme irritation at my children who were miserable both at preschool pickup and in the car afterward (requests were answered with "No!",  juice boxes were thrown at me) I decided to stop by and drag them into My Organic Market on the way home because I hadn't spent money on groceries in 3 days!!!!  I was going through withdrawl!!!  And I was sick of drinking powdered milk!!!  I also had to break in my new credit card.  Luckily My Organic Market always has free juice and snacks sitting out, which kept my kids calm and well-behaved in the store.  I celebrated by going in to pick up 4 necessities and leaving with $124 worth of groceries.

In the afternoon, I decided to try and kill myself.  I headed to the gym intent on taking Bodypump followed by Zumba, then going to my Weight Watchers meeting afterward.  Only once I had scooped everybody into the car and driven away did I realize that I had only eaten 15 points so far that day, and none of that food had passed my lips in the last 3 hours.   The only snack I had brought with me was a tiny Siggis 3.7 oz plain yogurt drink.  "No matter!" I thought.  "I used to take step classes followed by 2 karate classes and then go home for a 9PM dinner!  People wander the desert for days with no food or water and live!  I will be fine!"  And through Bodypump I was.   Once Zumba started though, my body started to get mad at me.  Everything felt MUCH more difficult (surprise!) and my muscles got all crampy.  I had to power through though, because I was making a point.

Back when I took salsa classes from the legendary Kevan, people got pretty nasty.  There was shoving and fighting to get a spot, and it got to the point where it almost wasn't even worth it to take the class because you had to deal with so much cattiness and crap to do so.  Zumba is starting to be the same way, with people showing up almost half an hour before class starts to get a spot in line to get into the studio so that they can be first to select a spot once it's time for class.  I try to set a good example and get a spot in the front when I can, but also purposely stand in the back sometimes to allow others a chance to stand in the front.  I hate all the "this is my spot" business.  Taking Bodypump before Zumba allows you the unique opportunity to be the absolute first person in the room when it's spot selection time though, so I took advantage and stood wherever I wanted to regardless of who traditionally claims that particular square of floor.  Thus, despite my rapidly deteriorating physical endurance and bouts of dizziness I felt like I had to dance especially well to "prove" that I deserved to stand in the front line (which was very crowded, because the other fine lady whose spot I took refused to stand anywhere else and so just smashed in next to me.  I made sure to "accidentally" whack her a couple times).

After Zumba I had to sit through a 45-minute long Weight Watchers meeting about ways to make TV-watching time less detrimental to one's diet, which is SO not my problem.  I only get about 1 hour of TV time a day, I get my exercise in, and I don't snack mindlessly on chips while zoning in front of the TV so I am not interested in  hearing about healthier food substitutions or suggestions to do crunches during commercials.  With such boring subject matter I had nothing to distract myself from the fact that I was still dizzy and shaking.  I finally made it home and chugged a bowl of chili that was way too hot and upset my empty stomach. 

Lesson learned.  Remember to fuel body before asking it to perform strenuous exercise for 2 hours straight.  Also, I am not 23 anymore so don't assume I can do things right now that I used to be able to do at my all-time-fittest age and shape. 

I will get back in great shape again though.  I will need to, if I want to be able to fight off the other moms to bring pretzels to Emily's next class party.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Breaking my addictions

I  have a confession to make. 

As you know, I am not a fan of aspartame.  I was raised by a biologist father who was deeply mistrustful of the stuff after seeing the results of a research study conducted on Nutrasweet in the 80's both before and after the FDA got their hands on it and changed it into what was actually released to the public.  I was taught by an Organic Chemistry TA in college who described going to work with his forensic chemist friend and seeing white junk (which turned out to be aspartame) just deposited in the muscles of corpses.  I have suffered exactly 1 migrane in my life so far (thank God) and I strongly suspect that aspartame was to blame.

I have no documents to support any of this, and speaking strictly as a scientist I have never seen any undeniable proof that it is actually poisonous or deadly.  But speaking as a person who is in posession of a human body that I would like to continue living in for as long as possible, I say why take chances with something that DOES break down into poisons in your body but probably not in amounts big enough to cause a problem?  Aren't I exposed against my will to enough environmental pollutants and poisons on a daily basis that it makes sense to keep out even the tiniest bits of poison when I DO have a say?

Except that occasionally I willingly consume aspartame.

I am a total diet soda addict.  It's fizzy, it's sweet, it fills up my stomach and there are no calories!  What more could a habitual dieter ask for?  Luckily there is now Zevia soda out there (and in my fridge) that is still calorie-free but gets its sweetness from stevia and erythritol.  I can't say that this is 100% natural and fine for you either, but I feel personally that it is a better choice than the more mainstream sodas.  When I am craving a soda and I don't have a Zevia around though, I will sometimes, maybe 2-3 times a month, grab a real diet soda.  I try to go for sucralose-sweetened sodas if I can, even though I don't like sucralose either, but that's not always an option.  Neither sucralose nor aspartame have any place in a clean eating plan though.

I grabbed a diet Dr. Pepper at the dance studio yesterday as a "treat" because I was irritated and worn out.  And BOY did I have a headache later that afternoon, right as I was trying to make dinner (which is incidentally right when Charlotte gets extra-screamy).  It hearkened me back to the day, a couple weeks ago, when I "treated" myself to a Coke Zero and suffered the same consequence.  So I've decided to actually walk the clean eating walk and cut this junk out completely.  I will probably stick to my Zevia sodas for a bit, but my goal is to get myself down to just soda water or kombucha if I want something fizzy to drink.

And speaking of breaking bad habits, why not tackle my caffiene addiction while I'm at it?  It feels silly to even say I have a caffiene addiction because I only drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day and maybe sometimes a cup of regular green tea.  But if my body doesn't get that caffiene in the morning I end up with a splitting headache in the afternoon, and drinking caffiene at that point won't fix things, it has to be consumed in the morning.  I call that a symptom of addiction.

On top of that, both my dad and my paternal grandmother (who used to be a nurse and therefore is a big fan of the coffee) have spent some time in the hospital in the last couple months over suspected heart issues.  Neither of them turned out to actually have anything wrong with their hearts, but my dad's "spells" have always occured right after the consumption of a caffienated beverage and have improved almost 100% since he gave up caffiene.  And drinking caffiene too fast (as I usually have to do to get my morning cup in while getting everyone fed and ready and out the door) makes my chest painfully tight.

So no more artificial sweetners, which I definte as aspartame, saccharin or sucralose.  Also, I plan to break myself of caffiene gradually but completely over the next couple weeks.  After that I will probably allow myself an occasional cup of caffienated coffee or tea on a special occasion but I really don't want to get back into a situation where I NEED caffiene to stave off a negative physical reaction.

Do you think wearing my caffiene necklace and/or shirt will help with the withdrawl symptoms?  Or would that just make me a poser now that I have decided to swear off the stuff?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monument to my failures

BOY do I hate interactive phone voice menus.  Whoever thought of those was definitely not a stay-at-home-parent.  Every single time I have to call, it goes something like this:

Robotic voice: Please enter or say your credit card number, followed by your bank account number, followed by your social security number, followed by your birth date, followed by your zip code, followed by your favorite 6-digit number, then press pound.
Sara: Beep beep boop beep boop (etc. until within 2 digits of finishing)
Charlotte: BOT PLEASE MAMA!!!!
Robotic voice: I'm sorry, I didn't understand that.  Please enter or say your credit card number, followed by your bank account number....
Sara: (closing self in bathroom) beep beep boop beep boop
Emily: (banging on door) I NEED TO GO PEE PEE!!!!!
Robotic voice: I'm sorry, I didn't understand that... 
Repeat times 1000 until I have retreated to the porch and the automated system finally gives up and transfers me to a real live person
Real Live Person: Hello Mrs. Randall.  May I please have your credit card number...
Charlotte: (busting outside) MORE BOT IN!!!!
Real Live Person: I'm sorry, I'm hearing a lot of background noise, what was that?

Thankfully though I have yet to misplace my phone, I have a checkbook, and I have a credit/ATM card in my posession.  And as if that weren't enough, I even found my license that I lost back in March, which I have of course had replaced already, but I guess it's just a getting things back under control kinda week.  Which is awesome.  I don't have too many of those.

Since today is a Tuesday, which means I am shot from getting girls to dance and fed and peed and changed and entertaining the petulant younger of the two for 45 minutes while the other one dances, I've decided to just show you what is sitting on my kitchen windowsill.  I have to stare at it for what feels like hours every day as I do dishes, so I'm sure y'all'll be enthralled by it as well.

First we have some shells:
I am not sure why I have shells on my kitchen windowsill.  Having shells on one's kitchen windowsill implies that a person either enjoys collecting or looking at shells, and I'm honestly not either.  But people have given my daughters and me large, impressive shells over the years and I don't want to throw them away.  If I let the girls play with them though they get broken, so I think what happened is that I needed to clean up quickly at some point so I grabbed a nearby jar and threw some vagrant shells into it.  And voila, now I have a place to store shells.  Except that I should probably find somewhere else to store them so I can use this space to display something that is more useful, or at least more "me".

Next up is a cactus:
More specifically, 10 fluid ounces of cactus, as you can see on the label.  Mmmm, cactus fluid.  This cactus was purchased months ago along with another succulent, and is supposed to go into a homemade terrarium that I decided the girls and I would make for Will for Father's Day.  I was high on creativity and Pinterest at the time. Except that we WERE going to celebrate a Father's Day Observed sometime in July, but then the day beforehand Will bumped it up to ACTUAL Father's Day and the terrarium wasn't made yet so I decided I'd make it later.  This guy is the last survivor.  I still do intend to make it someday, if only to get the supplies off my kitchen counter.

Speaking of killing plants, next comes these guys:
On the left is dead-ish rosemary.  On the right is super-dead lavender.  In the middle is not-yet-dead sage.  I periodically decide I am going to have a windowsill herb garden because it makes good financial sense!  Why buy a single cutting of rosemary every time I need it for $4 when I can just buy a whole plant for $2 that will allow me to cut rosemary whenever and in any amount I want?  Except that this always happens before I can even use the plant much.  I guess I'm leaving the lavender there because I refuse to believe that even I can kill a plant in a mere 3 days and it might just be sleeping?  And the dead rosemary is there because, well, there's dead lavender right over there, so why not some dead rosemary too?  I admire the sage's bravery, still growing strong even with the bodies of its brethren heaped around it on all sides.

But!  Lest you think I am hopeless at growing anything, behold my fungus!

Yes, my first box of mushrooms failed to grow, but the second box I ordered (at the same time to get free shipping) is thriving!  Just look at all of those delicious mushrooms just waiting to become a stir-fry!  I hope they mature soon, because they kind of freak me out.  Clusters of things other than flowers always kind give me the heebie-jeebies.

 And speaking of other things I am able to easily grow on my windowsill:
My version of an ant farm
These guys have slowed down a bit, but basically from spring through fall we have billions of ants in our kitchen.  Here you can see them happily dining on Terro ant poison, which they gobble by the dropfull, carry off to feed their queen, and then return fat and happy to slurp down some more.  They are thriving on Terro.  They LOVE the Terro.  The only reason I feed it to them is because it keeps them pretty localized so I find fewer ants floating in my tea. 

No wonder I hate doing the dishes.  Every time I step up to my sink I am confronted by a monument to my failures.  I think a bit of redecoration is in order.