Blogging Again


Such a long time coming. Desire to write is always present, time to do it – rare. Tonight’s Motivation: tears. Feeling things that need to be written down and things that are the kind of stuff that should be shared. Things that are part of the fabric of life in the sense that they make we humans contemplate our similarities much more than our differences. Feeling connected.

Tears tonight…
In honor and memory of my lovely mother in law’s birthday and her beautiful smile and sweet, loving spirit. In seeing that smile in my kids and my husband and knowing she is looking down so proud. We will always love you, Joycie.

From both exhaustion and exhilaration of a 3 day Championship Swim Meet here in Knoxville and watching my 4 lil (okay, some big) fishies swim and leave it all in the pool! The culmination and success of an exciting, hot and sweaty, challenging swim season with some of the best families in the world and the pride of my children’s achievements.

For a precious friend who’s youngest son has Cystic Fibrosis and the manner in which they fight that evil disease. And for the reminder she gave me when I confessed about the disarray of my house and the needed home repairs. She said, “but is your family happy?” What an important and incredible reminder about what really matters. And how fortunate do I feel? Everytime I think about my babies and her baby and a chronic illness and the grace with which they are fighting it…tears do so come to my eyes. They are “Andrew’s Army” and they have shirts to proclaim it. I am blessed to know her and the whole family.

From the difficult task of teaching children to be good teammates and show sportsmanship when they are personally crushed. Seeing my lil 7 year old, Brady, tell me he should have been in that relay, with big tears in his eyes, but yet rising to the challenge and cheering for his friends in a competition he was not chosen to be a part of. Learning. We all are all the time.

Having a teenage daughter that likes to talk and share with us. And of being able to share with her openly about priorities and life and decisions. And being able to tell her and remember at the same time how conflicted I was when she was a baby and I was a working mother. Remembering her asking me to “put on you jammies” so that she knew I was going to bed instead of going to work my night shift nursing job. Learning about those decisions first-hand. Remembering trying to get my feel for how to be a good mommy and working so hard at it. Relishing that if she and I are having this discussion and talking and crying together, something somewhere went very right. I love you, Marlee. My first baby girl that started all this craziness…

Crying as I reassure my husband who recalls a job several years ago that he “failed” at. NO. He did not fail. He supported his beautiful family and provided us income and insurance so that, I, could take some precious time with our children. He most certainly did not fail. Maybe by the company standard of how many cars he sold. But never by my standards of always putting us first.

Tears when I think about ownership and what that word means and how I want to own my actions and my mistakes. Of thinking about what that means in friendships and families and that any relationship of value requires work.

And certainly a very important realization is that these tears are essential and valuable in keeping me human and in touch and thankful to be right where God has lead me. In this very spot, right now, crying these tears.


Try This: “I threw in what I had” Chocolate Cake


We wanted dessert last night and we needed it quick, given that it was already bedtime when dinner prep was in progress.  My daughter suggested the famous lava cake we’ve made plenty of times.  I didn’t have quite what I wanted for it, but I remembered a recipe for a pound cake in the microwave, also from Pampered Chef.  I found that one – which is called Sunshine Cake and has citrus flavors, in their cookbook – Casual Cooking and used it for figuring out times, improvising, etc. 

Here’s what we came up with and it turned out delicious…or I wouldn’t be sharing, of course! 


“Throw in what you have” Chocolate Cake:

  • Any chocolate, devil’s food, fudge, etc cake mix
  • Eggs/oil/and just a little shy of the water it calls for (ours called for 1 1/3 cups and I used 1cup)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 kids cup (indiv serving size) applesauce
  • 1/4 cup flavored liquid creamer (I used vanilla spiced rum)
  • approx 1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate)

Mix together well.  Don’t use the mixer – the batter should be thick and dense, as will be the cake.  Microwave cakes don’t rise and get fluffy like those in the oven do.  They have more of a moist pound cake type of texture. 

Pour into a bundt stone pan (or any micro safe one should work) that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Microwave on high for approx 15 minutes, turning 1/2 way through if yours doesn’t have the rotating tray in it.  It will still be a bit “wet” toward the center, but you should feel it mostly solid when a tester is poked in.  Flip while still warm onto a platter. 

I had some leftover homemade strawberry frosting in the freezer.  We served this cake with a pretty little swirl of icing to the side ( piped out of a ziploc bag) and with fresh sliced strawberries.  Any type of icing would work or ice cream or topping, etc.  It’s best to eat warm (although we agreed today that the leftovers were much better than other micro cakes we’ve had), so just serve your icing on the side so it doesn’t all melt and get messy. 

We felt pampered and quite extravagant with this dessert – a pretty big accomplishment for 15 minutes in the microwave. 

I’m sure you can mix up and experiment with flavors.  Good luck and enjoy! 

Today’s favorite funny


My work schedule is a bit erratic these days as Steve and I try to work around the fact that we are losing our lovely night Nanny, Ariel, to an IVY-LEAGUE grad school , Columbia, in the fall.  We are trying to need less Nanny days as that approaches and make schedule changes that work toward that end.  Anywho, it leaves little time for blogging! 

So, here’s today’s short and sweet funny.  Another Houkism. 

Brady’s newest term:  Punja belly

You are probably thinking this involves punching a sibling in the stomach or something similar, but think again. 

Say it real fast:  Punjabelly

It’s a dinnertime favorite around here and a classic everywhere.  Brady wants a punjabelly sandwich! 

P-nut butter and jelly, of course.  If you say it like a toddler in a hurry to eat with a lot words to fit in a short space, it makes perfect sense. 

Punjabelly for everyone! 


May I Recommend? A Yummy recommendation


Okie dokie, for those of you in the Knoxville area (or interested in shipping to you), I have found a new and most yummy recommendation for you.  This is an odd one to be coming from me, since I love to bake and usually do all my kids birthday cookies, cupcakes, cakes, etc. myself.  I can’t tell you how many times, however, friends and I have been involved in a discussion about where to get some tasy, quality real bakery stuff besides the grocery stores, especially for cupcakes.  While the grocery store variety certainly serves the purpose, it’s so far away from home made.  Wish there was some middle ground? 

I’ve just sampled a new local business called the Party Box, who’s motto is “to satisfy your cupcake craving.”  They are delicious, gourmet, beautiful, and offer free delivery.  Now, for all my mom friends who don’t want to bake, or have run out of time, or just want a yummy way to give themselves a break – here’s a great solution. 

They are on WordPress, too – you can salivate by visiting




“I had to”


 Brady at Cocoa Beach in February  Brady at Cocoa Beach in February


Little Brady, now 4, the baby of the crew and still the “runt of the litter,” comes running in from playing in the yard and states “I had to!”

Oh no, “had to” what?  Pee on yourself?  Cross the street and visit Cole without asking?  Throw something at your brother?  Sneak out my whole pack of gum and chew every piece?  What, Brady, did you “have to” do? 

“No, Mom, I HAD TO”

Okay, I’m confused.  He’s usually apologizing by now. One more time, “HAD TO” what? 

“UGh”, the a frustrated sigh and a small growl and a one-foot stomp.  “MOMMY, I HADCHOO and it’s on me!  I need the HATCHOO off!” 

I then I get it even before I look down and see the “snail trail” for lack of better term of snot on his arm.  He “a-Choo’d” or Hatchoo’d or Hadchoo’d or hadto or Had to or whatever.  Yep, he sneezed.  A nice messy one, too. 

Poor kid – all he wanted was a tissue, or as he calls it, a “bless you.”  I gave him the Kleenex kind, the verbal kind, and a kiss and hug, too. 

Bad Mommy


Okay, so I’ve done it again.  I’ve let one sneak up on me. 

Has it ever happened to you?  In all your lists, calendars, post-it notes, organizational tools, and attempt to keep it all together — you forget something important?  In this case, important to one of your kids? 

And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.  Harper Houk – role model 6 year old.  Gets himself up and dressed every morning.  Packs his own lunch and snacks and meets me at the door with his papers to sign for the next day.  He hates to be late and he likes to get things right.  He follows the rules.  He starts on me 2 weeks before field trip money and reminds me daily until I do it early to get him off my back.  Harper is the one who when offered candy, will say, “No thank you, I don’t care for any right now.”  The other 3 are happy to zoom in like vultures and take his also.  Faithful, reliable, polite Harper. 

I DID send the field trip money in.  I even sent it on time AND put the date in the computer calendar.  I also kept the part of the announcement that tells you what to bring, what to wear, what time the bus leaves/returns, etc.  It’s even hanging up on the bulletin board.  What I didn’t do is remember to look  at any of that! 

In all fairness to me, we’ve been on Spring Break.  We’ve been repainting and moving rooms and getting our new Caribbean themed family lounge together.  In the midst of that, 9 family members came to our house for Easter weekend.  We pushed the paint buckets aside and threw mattresses on the floor.  We partied hard – had a great weekend.  School was out on Monday, too, so we kept a niece a nephew a little bit longer and returned them yesterday. 

Harper woke up tired yesterday, likely from all the fun he’s had all weekend.  Forehead was a little warm, had a tiny cough, said he had a “throat” (which means a sore one), and in general just wanted to stay home.  He also wanted to go with us to drive my nephew and niece back (their Spring Break just started).  He’s in a pre-First Grade class – what could it hurt?  So he snuggled in, went back to sleep, took cousins home, went to bed early and all was good. 

I sent him out the door this morning with his excuse, his signed papers, his backpack and a hug and kiss.  Then I, recovering from an extra on-call shift last night and returning at o245 am, went back to bed and quickly back to sleep. 

Phone rings at 0740.  That can’t be good.  Collectors and telemarketers usually wait until after 0800.  It’s Haper’s sweet young intern teacher apologizing to me for not calling to remind me yesterday.  What a nice gesture, but let’s face it:  I’m nearly 38 years old with 4 kids, 2 dogs, multiple jobs and a household to run – should I really need a reminder?  The field trip is today.  Guess who has no lunch? 

Mr.  “I would have packed it myself if my mom had only told me!” Harper T. Houk has no lunch!  The field trip bus departs in 15 minutes.  Even if I gave up brushing my hair and teeth , I couldn’t throw something together, fasten Brady in the car, and get a lunch there in time.  Plus, I’m downright scary with my bed head and the luxurious 3.5 hours of sleep I got.  Never mind that Brady is not dressed and is sound asleep next to me and Dad’s at work.  Impossible.  Can’t happen.  Harper will have to remain lunchless. 

Kind, precious Ms. Meek tells me that they will be happy to put him together some crackers, snack, and a juice box, etc. — will that be okay?  Heck, he loves that kind of food.  It will be better than okay…IT’S CERTAINLY BETTER THAN WHAT HIS MOM PACKED HIM  — NOTHING! Ms. Meek is still apologizing and I’m assuring her that I’m the one who should do all the apologizing here.  I am as low now as the lint and dirty (or is it clean?) laundry scattered across my bedroom floor.  I have let down the kid that asks for nothing extra – my Harper. 

I just finished writing the apology note I will hang on the door for him to see when he arrives home in the next 45 minutes or so.  He’ll forgive me – he’s also sweet and caring like that.  Will I forgive myself?  Probably.  But today I feel pretty rotten about it.  It’s a symptom of having too much going on, when we forget something that is small, easily do-able, yet really important. 

And yet another year passes that my nomination for “Mom of the Year” will have to be revoked.  It will go down on the record books with the Halloween Party I forgot when Marlee was 2 and the lunch money I took to the wrong school a couple of years ago and similar incidents that are regretfully painful reminders that I really can’t do it all.

That’s okay, who needs an award.  I just need Harper T to come home so I can tell him HE is important to me, despite my Bad Mommy behavior earlier today. 


On Having a Teenage Daughter…


I’ve actually only had a teenageer since January, but, trust me, she’s spent the last several years working up to this title.  It’s given me a chance to at least see what’s coming – prepare me a bit.  Here’s a few things I’ve noticed in the last few days that I’m thinking probably has some commonality to others of you with teen daughters. 

  • “I’m sorry” doesn’t really mean that.  Especially if it is accompanied with a sigh, eye-rolling, hand on hip, voice-raising, or (my personal favorite) “I’m SORRY, but…”  That last one is just the prelude for “here’s why it’s really all your fault, anyway!”
  • Any suggestion, however delicately worded and no matter how necessary translates into “You just make me sound like the worst person in the world!”
  • If she didn’t hear you say it, or doesn’t remember you saying it, or just forgot it – then you really didn’t say it after all.  Especially if it was an instruction she didn’t do or complete.  After all, aren’t we old parent people just years away from losing our minds anyway? 
  • Doing what your teen wants is no guarantee you will make her happy.  In fact, it may be just the reverse.  The definition of happy changes moment by moment.  For instance – you take her shopping because she wants to go shopping.  Pretty, easy, right?  Oh no, no, no.  Say on this shopping trip – she finds “not one thing in this whole store I would wear (dramatic sigh).”  Now, apparently, the only thing that would make her happy is to leave right now and go shopping somewhere else.  You can’t win! 
  • If your reply is “no” – she instantly assumes that you perhaps didn’t understand her request and will go back over it again for you – just slower this time so it can sink in for us old folks.  If the answer is still “no” – you are completely unfair! (No questions asked!)
  • Most things that go wrong for her are somehow your fault.  And, even if not, you might as well just use that line of logic, because you are going to be treated as though it were your fault. 
  • She uses very clever arguments (and well-thought out, I might add) to try and convince you that the more expensive clothes are “much better quality” and “not that bad” in terms of cost.  Wonder what “not that bad” would be if we were discussing her money? 
  • She can’t possibly be expected to notice things – she’s way too busy with her hair and make-up.  For instance, that bag of trash that’s been by the door for two days (and trash is her chore)…”I’m SORRY, but…I didn’t see it, okay?”  You literally have to kick it out of the way to open the door. 
  • If pressed for time, wearing make-up will always win out over anything else.  Being late, missing the bus, and similar situations are all necessary sacrifices for the make-up.  “I CANNOT go without make-up, mom” 

To be continued, I’m sure… 

You haven’t written on your blog in long time


It’s true – I haven’t blogged in quite a while.  Not because there’s nothing to tell or that I have nothing to say (never!), or even that I don’t want to…but because time is so terribly short.  That, and the fact that fatigue, or mild depression, or procrastination, or something like that causes me to find myself in some kind of mindless state where I just  prefer to sleep or do nothing when I actually find a few moments. 

So, my now TEENAGE (oh, yes, so teenage) daughter asks last week, ” You know what you haven’t done in a long time, Mom?”

“What’s that, Mar?” 

“Write on your blog.  I wish you would.  It’s cool” she points out. 

COOL??!!  I’ve done something cool?  My 13 year old daughter finds something, anything that I do cool?  On a good day, I’ll settle for just tolerable.  It’s a compliment when she doesn’t roll her eyes at me.  “Where did you get that?”  usually means she hates it.  She sighs a lot.  She talks under her breath.  She uses words like “fine”, “whatever” and most of the time seems a little disgusted with most of us in the family and way, way too caught up in hair straightening, friends, loud music, expensive clothes, and similar items of importance.  But she finds my blogging “In”?  Cool?  Something about me she doesn’t just claim, but actually enjoys? 

And, therefore, blogging has risen on my priority list.  I finding myself hanging on to this precious commodity.  OMG (I can speak text/IM on some occasion) – this could be something that connects us.  And a connection is no easy thing to secure at the age of 13 – especially between a mom and daughter.  Here’s to my oldest daughter, the one scrutinizing absolutely everything I do these days.  I love you, Marlee, and by golly, if you find blogging cool and I enjoy it so much too, then blogging we shall go! 

Try This: Easy Pizza Rolls


Tried this one night in a desperation to find something for dinner and to have felt like I at least partially “made it” instead of purchasing and to use up the goodies in the fridge.  My kids now love it – who knew?

Start with refrigerated crescent rolls in the can.  You really can’t go wrong that way.

Sprinkle your pan with Parmesan cheese and remember, I must always recommend a Pampered Chef Stone for baking (yes, you can order one from me :).  But enough of that, sprinkle whatever pan you are using.  Separate the rolls into their triangles and press both sides into the cheese to cover.

Next, take some string cheese and cut the sticks into 1/2 or 1/3, depending upon your cheesy preference.  Place that cheese in the middle of the crescent triangle and roll it up like usual, except also pinch the sides up to keep the melted cheese from running out.  This is where you can get creative and stick in some veggies (my kids wouldn’t stand for it), pepperoni (one kid loved it that way), and garlic or Italian seasoning for a stronger taste.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  By the time they brown nicely, the cheese inside will be perfect.  Serve with warm pizza sauce.  Add a fruit and or veggie and a big glass of milk and  you’ve got a semi-balanced, kid-friendly meal.


Have you thanked a teacher today?


It’s the start of the school year here in Tennessee!  Yes, I know, early August, 96 degree weather with ungodly humidity, but really, school started here yesterday. 

We have 3 kids in the actual public school system here and 1 pre-schooler.  This is the year that they are most sprinkled out among the schools.  We have 4 children in 4 different schools! It makes for yet another challenge in our busy lives.

I sent a “get-acquainted”type email to the teachers a few moments ago and I ended it as I usually do teacher communications, with a very large thank you.  What these guys and gals do each day is truly amazing.  How many of us are glad to see school start again?  To have a quiet house for even a few hours?  To have our kids learning, enjoying it, and in the groove once again?  If we get tired of our own little darlings, imagine how teaching must feel.  Day in and out, their job is teach, mentor, direct, and some days just tolerate and survive our children! 

Despite that giant mission and all their best efforts, we all know how easily they are criticized.  Parents jump the minute they perceive that a teacher has stepped even a toe over some imaginary line they’ve created.  And that line changes to benefit the parent situation and viewpoint.  What a hard job.  Teachers hear frequently when they do something “wrong.”, but how many of us stop and tell them when they do something RIGHT ? 

So, here’s my little directive for today :  Notice the Teachers!  Notice the little things they do daily.  Notice when they encourage a child.  Notice when learning happens.  Notice how much they do as a part of a routine.  Notice how they handle it every day.  Notice all the things they do so well.  And then thank them for their time, their gift, their calling to this role, and the love and energy they do it with daily. 

And, just another little tip from me, don’t forget to tell their bosses – the principals and such, what a great job they do.  And don’t forget to thank and remember those who gave your child great starts, even though he/she may not be their teacher this year.  On a yearly basis, I try to send a compliment note for the teachers’ file, and in it, I always try to go back and compliment those who were outstanding from the previous years.  Quality work deserves recognition. 

If you haven’t already – thank a teacher today!  And, if you have super loving and caring ones as we do, go ahead and hug her, too!