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Starting off the New Year on the Wrong Foot

Over the weekend, I was afforded the rare opportunity to slip out of the house and do something on my own.  I chose to visit our local Goodwill.  (Keep the bar low.)  Without the minions.  Who, by the way, have not discovered the joy of the hunt for uncovered treasures, that await most every visit to Goodwill.

To bad for them.  And not having anyone trail me with the repetitive “ARE YOU DONE YET MOM?” was icing on my cake.  My mother and grandmother introduced me to thrift stores, garage sales, dumpster diving, and auctions before I ever cut my first tooth.  And I was hooked.

The Goodwill was unusually crowded late in the afternoon.  I had to abandon my cart midway through the store.  Generally I have a few things on my wish list when I enter the store.  On Saturday that list included, but was not limited to, calf high black boots, and some cute tops to wear over stretchypants.

Immediately I headed back to the shoe rack.  And there they were.  Or rather, it was.  On the top shelf sat the perfect black boot.  Brand: Candies (can never go wrong there), rubber sole in perfect shape.  Quickly I checked the size.  EUREKA!  WHAT LUCK.  IT WAS MY POST-CHILDREN size of 8.  I was a 7.  Until 3 pregnancies.  I’ve heard it’s an old wives tale that your feet spread during pregnancy.  I’m here to dispel that idea.  They not only swell, but permanently change zip codes.

BootNotice a problem?  There was only one boot.  ONE BOOT.  I searched the black shoe/boot aisle high and how.  Not an easy feat since there were two women who took up residence in that tiny space trying on EVERY black stiletto they could find.  And then discussing them at length. I went to the other shoe aisle just so that I could reach through to the black shoe aisle, searching for the boot.  I got down on my hands and knees and looked underneath all the racks.  Nothing.

I tried perusing the reading nook, where the only chairs are located, in case someone tried the boot’s mate on.  Nothing.

I looked in the golf bags, located next to the shoe aisle.  (At this point I was getting desperate.)  I then reclaimed my cart and decided to go in search of the cute tops to wear over stretchypants.  Still, I kept the lone boot with me in case I were to discover the other in another part of the store.  At one point I stopped an employee and asked her if a boot was missing, where I should look for the other.  She shrugged, “It could be anywhere.”  WHERE WOMAN?  IN THE STORE?  IN THE CITY?

A good hour and a half went by.  Still no boot.  At last it was time to try on the 3 lonely shirts that I found.  Which, btw, would have looked FANTASTIC with the boot.  Nothing can ever prepare me for what I look like under the fluorescent lighting in a Goodwill store.  No shirt, no matter how cute, or what size, will EVER look decent on me in that lighting, in front of that fun-house mirror.

Depressed, I left that room of horrors.  And reluctantly, I took the lonely boot back to the top rack of the black shoe aisle.

I left the store, only purchasing a package of neon #2 pencils.  The clerk gave me the senior discount.


I think crawling around on the floor of Goodwill for an hour plus change can render one rather haggard looking.

When I got to my car I discovered that Fiddledaddy had been trying to reach me.  I may have been hyper-focused in my search, and didn’t hear the 3 phone calls.  Or the 4 texts.  Evidently the children were in a state of panic, thinking their mother was dead on the side of the road leading to Goodwill.

However, this is what Fiddledaddy posted on his Facebook page.  With the caption, “She’s gone shopping and left me with all three children. No really, I’m fine.”

Tom_selfieTo appease the offspring, he called Goodwill and asked to have me paged.  The clerk answering the phone asked him, “Sir, is this an emergency?”  He looked at the starving/worried faces of his 3 children.  The answer of course was YES, but he replied, “Never mind.”  Then he called me once more, and this time I was in the parking lot, forehead on my steering wheel, wherein I answered the phone.

I like to think of myself as the anti-Cinderella.  My Prince was back at the castle minding the children, but my glass slipper eluded me.



New Years Eve Fondue

We have a family New Years Eve tradition that began before we had children.  My brother-in-law and his sweet wife invited us over on a New Years Eve, long long ago, right after we first moved to Florida.

They had established a family Fondue Night tradition on New Years Eve.  This was my first foray into tempura and fried vegetables and meat.  I knew nothing of the chain restaurant The Melting Pot.  Needless to say, because of my abiding love of All Things Fried, I was hooked.

By the next New Years Eve, I had a newborn Emme.  And the chances of us staying up to watch fireworks, much less cook our own food over a vat of hot oil were nil.

And the children, they kept coming.  Our dusty fondue pot sat unused for many years.  I had to say nay to hot oil and extension cords in the dining room.

Last year, we thought it might finally be safe to reinstate the New Years Eve Family Fondue/Movie Night tradition.  The teenagers of course scoffed, and the boy wasn’t all that happy at the sight of all the vegetables on the table.  However, the evening was a success, and everyone enjoyed the fondue.  And the chance to stay up extra late.

Despite a back spasm that took me down for the better part of a day and a half, I rallied in time to pull everything together and we enjoyed an evening of Fondue.  The movies will be shown once the kitchen is cleaned.  (I sit at the keyboard with a heating pad while a teenager has cleaning duty.  #Winning #minions.)  In the spirit of full disclosure, and because Fiddledaddy threatened to rat me out, the cause of the spasm was my overly enthusiastic battle of cleaning the garden sized bathtub in our masterbath.  Which I now am unable to enjoy. 

Fondue_NightTwo of my kids are gluten-free, so I have a GF recipe that I can share:

GF Tempura Batter

  • 3/4 Cup white or brown rice flour (I make my own with my Vita-Mix grain attachment)
  • 1/2 Cup Corn Starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 Cup Sparkling water

It helps the consistency if all the ingredients are chilled first.  Simply mix well.  I doubled the recipe for my family of 5.

I buy pre-cooked packages of fajita steak and chicken, so no one has to visit the ER on New Years Eve.  I’m guessing that would be gruesome.  And besides, we’ve had two ER visits in the last week, so I’m over that.  (Another story for another day.)   I add raw zucchini, okra, sliced onions, mushrooms , and cheese cubes for dipping into the tempura and frying (all done at the table by each family member).  I have color-coded fondue forks.

I’m happy to report and no was set ablaze, scalded, or stabbed.

If I’m feeling particularly spry, I add melted cheese and melted chocolate for dipping as well.  Tonight, everyone will be making their own popcorn in a bag.

On this New Years Eve I’m grateful for my family, my precious friends, many many blessings, Extra-strength Tylenol, and stretchy-pants.

Happy New Years my friends!!!!


The Christmas Picture

When the kids were very small, we made it a Christmas tradition to take our Christmas photo ourselves.  In other words, a “selfie”,  before the term was coined.  Most of the time we would simply set the timer on the camera and go with whatever showed up on the screen.

Here is perhaps one of my all time favorite Hillmann Christmas photos.


This one was a close second.

Christmas_photoAfter Jensen entered the fray, all bets were off and pretty much all Christmas photo (selfie or otherwise) ideas were out the window.  We’ll just call it survival mode.  We were happy to get a tree up.

This year, Fiddledaddy decided that we needed to reinstate the sometime annual selfie Christmas photo.  To be taken on Christmas day.

Florida has chosen not to celebrate December with, you know, cold.  Instead, our temperatures Christmas week hovered in the mid-80’s.  I’m not complaining, I know many many of you are suffering through ice and snow.  Okay.  I am complaining.  I  spent many growing up years in Cincinnati, and COLD is synonymous with Christmas.  Of course, as my dad loves to remind me, I never had to shovel or drive in the snow.  Whatever.  White Christmases are magical.

To celebrate my love of a white Christmas, we headed to the beach, about 10 minutes away.  If it weren’t for the sand (which is really not all that white), the beach would be fantastic.  (Sarcasm alert)

Okay.  I’m not a fan of the beach.  Fiddledaddy wonders how this never came up in pre-marital counseling.  Along with the fact that I never saw any of the first 3 Star Wars movies.  But that’s another story.

Using a brand new selfie stick, here’s what we came up with:

Christmas_2015For fun, Fiddledaddy had us walking for an action shot.  This meant that I had to walk, in the sand, without looking down, while smiling into the camera, which I really couldn’t see because of the GLARE OF ALL THE SAND.  This is secretly my favorite picture.

Christmas_beachI just wish I had thought to set my favorite inconspicuous black 35 cent Goodwill purse down before we trotted out onto the sand.  I look so happy and well adjusted.  A Christmas miracle since I’d had not a drop of laced Egg Nog yet.

Other beach going families had the same idea.  I saw one intrepid family in their speedos, bikinis, and santa hats at the waters edge taking their Christmas picture.  (I’m pretty sure Egg Nog was involved.)

We’re totally doing that next year.

Merry Belated Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Should you be prone to Squeemish, you might want to skip this one. You know how I live for a good vomit story. Consider yourself warned.  The following is a post from December, 2009.  In an interesting twist of irony, we’re heading for the cabins again, just prior to Christmas.  Let’s hope that history does not repeat.


Since we all spent Thanksgiving quarantined because of the plague, we thought we’d continue the tradition and contract a stomach flu the week of Christmas.

Which is awesome timing, really.

The trouble began last Friday, when we were to depart from Fort Wilderness at WDW.  Jensen woke up puking at about 4:30 am.  And it continued while we packed up and for the entire 75 minute ride home.

We had taken the middle seats out of the van to house ALL THE CRAP that one needs for camping for 5 people for 5 days.

And by camping I mean that we stayed in a cabin that had running water, AC and heating, cable, a dishwasher, microwave, full fridge, stove, and most importantly a coffee maker.

Oh.  And internet connection.

Anyhoo.  Jensen had to endure the ride home in the back seat sandwiched between two sisters.  Who are not fond of vomit.  And the two sisters had to administer aid to a little brother by holding the throw up bucket (a rubber maid container that could be sealed for freshness), and handing out wet wipes to clean a small boy’s mouth when finished.

He threw up the entire way home.

The girls rose to the challenge, and other than turning green, they did a fabulous job.

A Christmas miracle.

We thought he had contracted food poisoning. Until I threw up that night.  But I seemed to be okay on Saturday, and chalked it up to a sympathy vomit.

But by Saturday night, I hit the floor.

I was sick all night.

And because misery loves company, Cailey came into our room at 4 am announcing that she threw up in her bed.

She lives on the top bunk.

She was covered from the top of her strawberry blonde head to the tips of her fairy pajamas. This was a two parent job, so I rose to the occasion and got Cailey into the bath, while Fiddledaddy took care of the top bunk.

I didn’t even want to know what THAT was like.  I do know that Fiddledaddy got acquainted with Mr. Washing Machine in a hurry.

Since Cailey has a twin sized sleep number bed, and it is light, Fiddledaddy set it up in the family room for her.  It is much easier to vomit over the side if you are closer to the ground.  And you don’t have to worry about hitting an older sister who sleeps below you.  Just sayin’.

She then threw up all the next day.  Sunday was a bad bad day in the House of Fiddle.  Fiddledaddy was our primary care giver, and when he started to feel ill, drastic measures were called for.

He loaded us all into the van and we headed for the Urgent Care facility.  They know us my name.  My sweet SIL met us there, and kept Jensen and Emme in their van to watch a movie.  Emme kept everyone entertained with vomit stories until Jensen announced that he wasn’t feeling good, so the vomit stories had to come to an abrupt end.

We were diagnosed with a stomach virus, and had to ride it out.  Shoot me.  Literally.  When the doctor offered me a shot of something that would bring about a merciful end to the nausea, I leaped up and dropped my drawers.

This is important because I am not a fan of The Needle.  My father loves to tell the story of how it once took one doctor, three nurses, and two exasperated parents to hold me down for a shot.

Cailey wanted nothing to do with the shot.  And she’s even more strong willed than I EVER was, so the parents didn’t have the strength to restrain her.

WE’LL TAKE THE SUPPOSITORY FOR THAT CHILD. (Sometimes revenge is sweet.)

By nightfall, Fiddledaddy was in full STOMACH FLU mode, and I was loopy from the shot.  It’s a wonder we made it through the night.  Oh, and Jensen threw up once more for good measure.  I suspect he was reliving Emme’s vomit stories from earlier in the day.

I haven’t even seen Fiddledaddy yet this morning.  He hasn’t emerged from the infirmary our room yet.  Not a good sign.

I’m actually able to lift my arms to the keyboard, so I think I’ve turned a corner.

And the children are bickering and threatening to vomit on one another as a new fun means of torture, so I think they’re on the mend.

On the bright side, Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Christ.  And family togetherness.  And this family is all about TOGETHERNESS this week.

The Stomach Flu, it is the gift that keeps on giving.


Words that Rhyme

We will have mercifully reached the end of our 1st semester on Friday.  My students have had a bit of catching up to do.  Well.  The two younger students, who have an aversion to writing WORDS, have had to put in a bit of overtime to make sure their writing assignments are turned into their Co-op Lit/English tutor this week.

Jensen had to write a Thanksgiving essay.  I gave him a little free reign on the subject matter, so that he would stop spontaneously falling from his chair whenever I asked him to pick up a pencil.

He wrote a heart warming 5 paragraph essay about a farmer who came out one cold Thanksgiving morning to pick out his dinner from among his flock of turkeys.  But the turkeys were, sadly, missing.  He searched for clues and found an odd set of footprints around the pen where the turkeys were last seen.  He followed the footprints into his barn.  The hapless farmer heard crunching sounds behind a bale of hay.  Just then a Velociraptor jumped out, and in his jaws was a fresh turkey.  The Velociraptor enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and slow moving farmer.

I’ve paraphrased.  And left out the more gory portions of the story.  But there you have it.  Oh.  And he drew an illustration.  I’ve not included that either.  Your welcome.

Then I heard Cailey gnashing her teeth and beating her head against the wall (okay, not really, but all the angst that would have accompanied gnashing and beating was present) over an assignment that included writing a Christmas poem.  Her sister (the writer) was feeling festive and gave her some ideas.  The following is what Cailey will be turning into her tutor:

A Christmas Rhyming Poem

Santa watches you in your sleep
Santa wants to eat your soul
You better not make a peep
Or he will swallow you whole
Make sure you’re on his nice list
So never make him mad
Don’t try to make a fist
Or things will turn out bad

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be getting an email from their tutor.  I’m guessing she will also give me a wide berth while passing in the hall.

We’re not unlike the Addams family.  Therapy is going to be very very expensive.


Super Mom, in my mind

Every once in a while I have a flash of brilliance.  I’m having to go back a ways, but I thought I’d share the rare moment when under duress, I executed a really really good idea.

Our church hosts Trunk or Treat on Halloween each year.  Usually I host and decorate a trunk.  I found this to be especially useful after my kids were old enough to wander around the event with their friends.  If I host a trunk, I get to pretty much stay in one spot.  All The Wandering does not appeal to me.

I did have a poignant moment this year when I realized that 5 years ago, I had to attend Trunk or Treat with my children, while I sat in a wheel chair.

Not so this year.  I’m not doing handsprings, but I’m fairly spry.

My teenagers had aspirations of dressing up as princesses and decorating our trunk to match.  The day prior to the event, I realized that while they were going to look stunning, no thought had been given to the actual trunk.  I also knew that a gaggle of their friends would also be there and I’d likely only catch glimpses of them as they sashayed to and fro.

In other words, I’d be sitting in my lonely camping chair with a naked trunk.

I took matters into my own hands.  I fired my decorators and hired myself.  On the day of Trunk or Treat, I wriggled into my SuperMan t-shirt (replete with red cape), put my hair in rollers, slipped on yellow rubber gloves, and went as SUPER MOM.

The trunk was a snap.  I rolled out an area rug, dusted off the ironing board to use as a table, filled a wash tub to hold the candy, threw the laundry baskets filled with laundry onto the pavement, strung a clothesline across the back of the van and hung some towels with clothespins.

Whole set-up was decorated in less than 10 minutes.


And then the fun began.  As the children filed past, I gave them candy and then yelled at them to remember to brush their teeth and BE NICE TO THEIR MOM.  I didn’t get to do much sitting, but I had a fantastic time.

Super Mom will likely make a return appearance next year.  But with BIGGER AND BETTER props.  I want to bring a barkalounger and work in a toilet brush somehow.  I may even serve wine to fellow harried moms.  Oh wait.  Church event.  Nevermind.

Who says Halloween is for kids.


Decking the Walls

For the first time in the history of, well, me, I have all of our Christmas decorations up AND IT’S STILL NOVEMBER.  Generally the deed trails on long into December, and I’m tripping over decorations boxes for weeks.

Not so anymore.  I spent one dedicated day to putting the tree up, with the help of two reluctant elves who were grounded and had nothing better to do.  I also decided to simplify.  I’m not putting the Christmas village up this year.

Jensen nearly had a heart attack at this intel, because he looks forward to the dinosaurs overtaking the village and dining on hapless villagers.


I did set him loose on the manger, but I drew the line at giving him the baby Jesus (who makes a surprise appearance on Christmas morning).  The dinosaurs destroyed the manger, and wise men were scattered near and far.  I pried two baby sheep out of a T-Rex’s jaws and declared the manger off limits.  It now sits atop the kitchen counter where I can gaze upon it as I slave over dinner.

But something is amiss, I fear.


The biggest time saver this year is the application of the outdoor lighting.  No more climbing up precarious ladders.  We have discovered the joys of “laser lighting.”  Recently one of our camping  friends brought this to light up the forest.  Spectacular.  Hardly any of the camping boys lost the use of their eyes when staring into the laser beam.

Behold, the front of our house.  Okay, this is not really our house.  But it’s what it would look like.  If the yard were well kept.  And it belonged in a magazine.

And the Starshower Laser Light is portable.  I can move it to the backyard during bonfires.  Or to freak out the wildlife in the nature preserve.  It’s  available at Walmart for right around $40.  WORTH IT.

Fiddledaddy was quizzed by a neighbor who was concerned by the number of electrical outlets needed.  ONLY ONE, MR. GRISWOLD.

Now on to the Christmas shopping.

Which I haven’t even started.

Baby steps.


Clean as a Whistle

(In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote this today thinking it might be inappropriate for Thanksgiving.  But I think I’ve reached the age wherein I’m totally okay with All The Inappropriate.  And besides, it may be a slight step up from past Thanksgiving posts that I’ve re-posted.  And with that, I will bid you a  Happy Thanksgiving!)

My elderly father-in-law recently went through rehab after a fall.  Fiddledaddy’s siblings all set about the task of doing what they can to make him as comfortable as possible while living at home.  He is a stubborn New Yorker who transplanted to Florida in the 1960’s with his bride and 4 children.  In that home, two more children were added and a lifetime of memories were made.

It is understandable that he wants to live out his days in that sweet house.

One of the more globe-trotting of the siblings purchased and installed a bidet in PopPop’s bathroom.  To make that area of his life a little easier.  Enough said.  And if you are unsure of what a bidet is, just let Dr. Mercola explain what our European cousins already know.

At first there was a good deal of chatter among the siblings, but one by one they all filtered over to PopPop’s house for a close-up inspection of the bidet.  Most scoffed, “It’s all well and good until one of the great grandchildren use it as a drinking fountain.”  I just hope I’m there for that.

Fiddledaddy went nearly immediately to Amazon.com and purchased a bidet for our Master Bath.

At first I was dubious.  Change is hard, after all.  But I’m nothing if not adventurous.  But let me just give you a word of warning:  keep the dial set to “low” for beginners.  I do not need to elaborate.  I’ve heard stories of fancy bidets that warm the water and then offer a gentle blow dry.  I say nay.  To the basic bidet model, I give a hearty WOOHOO.

Sing with me, in the key of C, “Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you.”

Then he purchased a bidet for the kid’s bathroom.  Hoping above all hopes to cut down on the amount of toilet paper my son blows through.  I’m certain that many forests have been felled needlessly.

The girls pretend it doesn’t exist.  Jensen thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.  Until a certain sister sets it to “girl mode” just to mess with him.

I don’t know, maybe it goes back to his toilet obsession of long ago.  But the kids spends a lot of time in the bathroom.  A LOT OF TIME.  We know he’s still alive in there only because of the constant singing, and occasional roaring.  We’re hoping the installation of the bidet lessens his time in the bathroom.  Hope springs eternal.  However, I fear it could have the opposite effect.

But Houston, we have a problem.

Fiddledaddy is so proud of his bidet installations, he has forbid anyone in the house from ever using the toilet as a receptacle for vomit.

Think about that for a moment.

It’s not like, once you feel the urge to let loose, you have a lot of time to think about, hmmmm, what shall I use instead?

The sink?  The floor?  My hands?


Since Jensen is still dealing with nausea from his ear infection, I had to tap into my inner-Pinterest and gave him a 6 gallon paint bucket lined with a large black trash bag.  It has a wide open mouth to collect deposits and would be a snap to clean up by wrapping it closed  and applying the lid when the deed is done.  Thusly ensuring freshness.  I think it will work, that is, if he actually HITS the opening.

It’s a conundrum that I will need to ponder prior to flu season.  I’m guessing that if Fiddledaddy is the first to succumb to the flu, all bidet bets will be off.

In the meanwhile, I promise not to discuss vomit for a very very long time.  Pinky swear.

Bidet stories, I’m sure, will be fair game.  Any other bidet converts?