Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Meet Dexter...

Today I picked up the newest addition to our family. A boxer puppy. I can't tell you how completely I adore this little guy. He is so sweet. Welcome home little one...

And I'm pretty sure nothing can be cuter than his pink nose with black speckles - and all of the wrinkles because his skin is too big for his body. Ohhh, and the puppy breath... Yep, I love love love him!

And as you can see, he's SOOOOOO sleepy (did I mention he snores? - there's seemingly no end to his cuteness!)...I'm sure he'll wake up and want to play just as I'm going to bed!

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's like CRACK on paper...

I'm obsessed. What a shock! I know, I know - this ALWAYS happens. Not since the Harry Potter series have I been so sucked into a book - but now, this Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer has me ignoring the fact that the world is still turning. I started book one a little over a week ago - and have been reading a few pages here and there. Friday night I started REALLY getting to the good part - by Saturday morning I was nearly finished. I came into the lab on Saturday and while I was waiting for various things, read some more. Saturday night I finished book 1 - and without missing a beat - started book 2. By about 10:30 on Sunday morning I had finished book 2. Now - most normal people don't sit and read a 600 page book barely moving, annoyed by the fact that every couple of hours I had to STOP to pee...but hey, we all realized I was NOT normal a long time ago...let's move on. After I had finished book 2, I took a quick shower and headed out to the store. On the way there I had this slight feeling of panic - what was I going to do if they didn't have books 3 and 4? That's when I realized that I had a serious problem. I KNEW they had them, I had seen them earlier in the week sitting there on the shelves - and figured I would pick them up in a couple weeks when I finished the others (at that point, I was only a couple hundred pages into book 1 - and SOOO NAIVE!!) - but still, the thought that they MIGHT NOT BE THERE actually worried me. I'm telling you, it's sick. Luckily I got there and both books were waiting for me (yes, specifically for ME).

I went home, put my snuggly sweats back on (had to wear real clothes to the store - you never know who might be there, looking for a cute, somewhat crazy, but very very fun new girlfriend) and situated myself back on my couch. After another couple of hours of looking outside feeling guilty that I was wasting a perfectly gorgeous day sitting inside with my nose stuck in a book, I did what any rational, perfectly sane, incredibly thoughtful person would do - I went to the park, found a perfectly acceptable tree in the middle of the woods and planted my nose right back into my story - hey, give me a break, at least I was OUTSIDE enjoying the weather...(oh, and I was sure to change back out of my only-to-be-worn-in-the-privacy-of-home ugly sweats first).

After another couple hours I went home and made some dinner, forced myself to read the journal club article I needed to present the following morning - and then tried to go to sleep...but I couldn't...not without....just....a.....few......more.........chapters................and then it was 1AM. Hours had passed in what seemed like minutes. I got up this morning when my alarm went off the FIRST TIME so that I could get into the lab early and get stuff done - because I NEEDED to leave early - why?? Well silly, because I only have a couple hundred pages left in book 3 and I need to end this madness - the only way I see that happening - is to put my life on hold and just get this overwith. And I'm more than happy to do exactly that...

HA! See, I'm being rational....right? right?? anyone??? Okay, fine - I can't even type it with a straight face, how can I expect anyone to believe such nonsense?!?! Now, if you'll exuse me - my vampire friends are waiting to tell me the rest of their CRACK on paper...hello, my name is Gretchen, and I am addicted to these books. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Lilly

My sweet niece turned 4 a little over a week ago. Due to various conflicts in everyone's schedule, her birthday party had to be postponed until this weekend. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I asked the little angel what kind of a birthday cake she wanted for her party. She came up with various things and then finally decided on a castle cake - with a DRAGON...because, as everyone knows, castles ALWAYS have dragons. (I have no idea where she got this, but there was no doubt in her mind, so we just went with it) After scouring every store I could find in search of a dragon (with wings, she's a detail-oriented child) I had to give up. I figured I would make her the castle cake and maybe, just maybe I would make her a dragon out of fondant (I'll save you the suspense, that didn't happen). So, woke up this morning and started baking the 4 cakes it would take to make the castle, let them cool, went to the store twice for ingredients (is there some reason I *always* forget something critical during the first trip?), and spent the afternoon building a castle out of cake. Here are some photos from the progress...

And here's the finished product. My kids suggested the windows on the towers, and I put sparkly sugar crystals on the top of each layer. By the time I got to the end - I was so damn tired of frosting, I got kinda lazy - and wasn't very careful. The truth is, the 4-year old isn't going to it's good enough. I hope she likes it - even without the dragon. Hey, life is full of disappointments, she might as well learn that lesson early. Happy Birthday sweetie!!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Finished Product!!!

Here's a quick (albeit blurry) picture of the finished cake!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake!!

The wedding cake. Angel wanted it to be huge. It didn't necessarily have to taste good, but it had to LOOK good. It was a challenge that suited my perfectionist disorder perfectly. So, in the past few months I have made a couple "practice cakes" and worked out some of the particulars of the whole procedure. The first issue was that she wanted it all covered in fondant. This isn't a problem except that once you cover a cake with fondant it can't be refrigerated. If you DO refrigerate it, when you take it out, condensation will mess of up fondant because the cake is cold and the air would be warm. SO, that meant that I had to use buttercream frosting, which is SUPER sweet. Then I thought that maybe I could use some sort of jam-type filling because that would make the cake more yummy - but it turned out to be too "squishy" and when the cakes were stacked, it mushed out of the middle and made a little bubble all the way around the middle of the cake. These are the types of things that you don't learn if you don't do a trial run...and luckily, there were lots of people willing to eat the test cakes.
I took two vacation days to make this cake. The wedding is on Saturday. Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) I left work a little bit early and finished up the shopping so that I had all the supplies on hand before I got started. I had 21 cake mixes (a couple extra, guess I couldn't count!), 5 lbs. of butter, a huge tub of shortening, 20 lbs of powdered sugar, 6 dozen eggs and a giant bottle of vanilla, lots of oil. In addition I had wooden dowels, pillars, cake plates in 5 different sizes, a cake leveler (looks like a hacksaw), 7.5 lbs of fondant, and some gumpaste for the flowers. we go.

I started baking cakes on Wednesday night and got 6 of the 10 done, saving the largest 4 for the morning. Each layer needed to be baked separately because the pans wouldn't fit in the oven otherwise. While those were baking, I made about 300 light purple royal icing flower and let them dry overnight.

This morning I got up and baked the last 4 layers and let them cool. While those were going I was making batch after batch of frosting - starting with the smaller layers. Each had to be leveled with the cake leveler, covered in frosting, then the fondant needed to be rolled out and put on each cake. Sounds much easier than it is actually.Here are some more pictures of the progress...The layers are:8" - red velvet cake, 10" - yellow cake, 12" - white cake, 14" - chocolate cake, and 16" - strawberry cake.

And here are the finished cakes. I have to make little green leaves tonight so that they can dry overnight. Tomororw, Angel and I are going to get the ribbon that goes around the bottom of each layer. Then I will "glue" the little purple flowers and leaves on with icing, and arrange the flowers that go in between each layer in the center of the cake. On Saturday morning I am taking the disassembled cake to the hall to "build" it there. OH BOY! I'll take some more pictures at later stages. I should have a rather entertaining blog post after the wedding Saturday!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dear Jackass,

Dear Jackass (aka, ex-husband),

I got your voicemail this morning informing me that I could "just go ahead and keep the girls overnight on Saturday night instead of worrying about bringing them back." While I completely understand that the response you want is a "thank you - I appreciate it" - unfortunately (for you) my response is "the girls will be dropped off at your house around 9 and your sorry ass better be there."

Let me refresh your memory of the last few weeks and our discussions regarding my brother's wedding, that you have known about for over a year. The original plan was for me to pick up the girls (since it turns out that this weekend they happen to be with you) on Friday night before bed. I offered you "replacement time" which you said you didn't want. Okay. Two weeks ago when it was your week to have the girls, you called me and asked me to keep them overnight on one of my visitation days (instead of you picking them up at 8pm) and I said that I couldn't drop them off at daycare the following morning, but that you could pick them up in the morning. You called me every name you could think of and hung up on my numerous times. My simple issue was that I needed to be to work earlier than I could have dropped them off at daycare. Your argument was that you had worked on a case for a long time and needed to be at the police station when everything came to an end that particular night. I have no problem with this - but your "needs" are not more important to me than my needs...and the "needs" of the police department is your problem. Let me repeat - YOUR PROBLEM. I was more than willing to work with you on the schedule issue - but instead, you just said "fine, then you can't pick up the girls until right before the wedding and you have to drop them off right after." At this point, I expect you to throw tantrums like a 4 year old when you don't get exactly what you want - I expect that you are unable to compromise in any way to make things easier for the kids...becasue, as you said yourself, "it isn't about what they need, it's about what *you* want."

So, in response to your little hissy-fit, I cancelled the babysitter I had lined up for Saturday night and I re-arranged stuff that I had to do, which is not by any means minimal. Then, this past weekend you call me to tell me that I can once again pick up the girls on Friday night. Well, I can't do that now. I have made arrangements already according to your last tantrum. I will, however, make arrangements to pick up the girls from you early on Saturday morning so that you don't have to get a babysitter. I did this to try to C-O-M-P-R-O-M-I-S-E (look it up).

This morning's voicemail is really the final blow. I cannot keep changing my plans around your mood-swings. Now, all of the sudden, you have to work Saturday night - and I'm supposed to view that as *MY* problem? No, I think not. I realize that you think I'm just being a mega-bitch about all of this - but what you don't seem to understand is that there is a LOT of planning going on here and your bullshit affects more than just me. Everyone has had enough. I offered to attempt to find another babysitter for Saturday night but you were too upset at my "this is your problem, not mine" reaction to even bother listening to what I was saying. So - my response is this "screw you - the girls will be dropped off around 9pm at your house - your happy ass had better be there to greet them."

Once again, thank you for reminding me why I divorced you.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Lazy Blogger

I'm afraid that it's time I admit to what you have been thinking. I'm an INCREDIBLY lazy blogger. I'd love to blame it on the up-coming wedding, and the preparations that go along with that...or on the kids that seem to somehow make time disappear almost instantly...or on my job that has become a mad rush to finish up experiments to get this damn paper finished...but that wouldn't be fair. After all, they could be worthy blog fodder. Instead, I am forced to just say, HELLO, MY NAME IS GRETCHEN, AND I'M A LAZY BLOGGER." I will try to do better.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Batman saves the day...

This tale begins on a very snowy day (the roads were terrible) in mid-January...(are you excited yet?? you didn't skip ahead to the pictures did you?? really, you should have more patience)...the girls stayed home from school, which meant I stayed home from work. I had been having pain in my abdomen off and on - sometimes just a weird ache feeling, sometimes lovely stabbing pains. I assumed, of course, that this was a result of my IUD being "not quite right." So, being the non-procrastinating person that I am (ok, you can stop laughing now) I called the doctor so that he could fix it. They just happened to have an appointment that afternoon. My lovely sister came over to watch the kids because I figured I might as well just go since I was home anyway and get it over with. I fretted all day about this appointment - thinking "oh no, I hope they don't have to take this one out and put another one in" and "maybe they can just adjust this one" - the point is that I thought the worst-case-scenario was dealing with the ouchies of them replacing the current IUD (not fun).

So, the doctor comes in, I explain the problem, he does the normal poking and prodding that the OB/GYN does and says "yep, the pain seems to be coming from your uterus." Oh gee, thanks doc...I knew that much already! He went on to say that there could be a few reasons for the pain (none of which were my IUD - CRAP!): it could be an infection, endometriosis, some other "osis" that sounded very similar; or uterine prolapse. He didn't think it was an infection but tested for it just in case - and the only way to figure out which of the other things it might be was to do diagnostic laparoscopic surgery. If it was either of the first 2 "osis" problems, he could take care of that while he was in there - if it was uterine prolapse (where the muscles holding your uterus up weaken and it "falls") then he would have to remove my uterus to make the pain stop. WTH??? I thought "holy crap, a little bit of pain and this guy wants to cut me open!" My alternative was to live with the pain - which was getting progressively worse. This all happened on a Monday - he wanted to know if I could come in on Friday to have it done. Uh - NO. That's not nearly enough time for me to worry and work myself up into a state of panic! So I scheduled it for the following Friday (since the jackass had the girls that weekend).

As you would expect, I completely freaked myself out - I've never so much as had a stitch and now they want to filet me like a fish! On top of that, if it was uterine prolapse (which wasn't unlikely since I had twins), I was going to lose my uterus. While it's true that I don't really want to have any more children, I still would like to have that choice! I'd like to keep all of my parts please, thank you. Not only did I have the surgery to freak out about - court was that week as well. The schedule was M-work; T-meeting with the lawyer to discuss the trial, eye doctor appointment for me and Olivia; W-custody trial; T-back to doctor to be double checked as "okay to be slaughtered" (goody, I passed); F-the mutilation was scheduled to begin at 9, had to be there at 7:30. By Friday morning I was just sick. Mom came over the night before and we went out to dinner - she stayed overnight and then drove me to the hospital in the morning.

Oh, did I mention that there was an ice storm Thursday night? Yep, everything was covered with a huge layer of ice - schools were closed all over the area, etc...Ok, off to the hospital we go, bright and early. I get there and get my oh-so-fashionable gown on, get my IV (could have done a better job myself-OUCH), then talk repeatedly to various doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists. I make sure to tell them that anesthesia usually makes me very ill - so they give me 3 different shots of "stuff" so that it doesn't happen. Ok, shortly after all of that, off I go to the OR...the nurse has explained to me that they keep the room 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the hospital - and they sure weren't kidding. In the OR they make me move from the bed I'm on onto the operating table and then strap my arms down with velcro straps and cover me with a warm blanket. My doctor comes in and asks if I'm ready - complete with his batman surgical cap on...I said "oh boy, THAT gives me a lot of confidence" - joking about his hat - he laughs and says to the anesthesiologist "this one's mouthy - knock her out, would ya?" - and a few seconds later I was out.

The next thing I know - a sweet nurse is waking me up asking me if I'm in pain. It takes me nearly an hour to be able to hold my eyes open, and during that hour she put 3 shots of some sort of pain medicine into my IV. When I was a little more awake I asked for my Mommy and they let her come in. A little while later they gave me some ice - then some crackers and ginger ale. She was a nice lady. :-) I asked her when I could go home and she told me that I could go whenever I wanted...well, I WANTED. I could lay on my couch just the same as I could lie there, and it would be a hell of a lot more comfortable. The nice drug lady gave me a Percocet and I got dressed. I was outta there.

My apartment is about 10 minutes from the hospital...but knowing how I react to anesthesia, I brought a bucket just in case. ;-) We stopped and dropped off my Rx on the way home and just when we pull up to the drive thru, the ice-crackers-ginger ale contents of my stomach decided they'd rather be in the bucket. Oh joy. Bet that pharmacy tech wished someone else had answered the buzzer. Mom took me home and I changed into super-comfy jammies and passed out on my couch. At some point my mom must have left because when I woke up, she had picked up my Rx, a heating pad, and some vanilla ice cream (YUM). She set me up with something to drink, my heating pad, some crackers, and a bucket within reach and went home. There was no sense in her staying there to watch me sleep - so I finally convinced her I'd be okay by myself.

The following day I was still very sick - and we determined it was probably from the Percocet that my doctor had prescribed, so Mom called him and he called in a Rx for my Mommy drove back out to Chardon, picked up my new Rx, and brought me some chicken noodle soup that she had made that morning. I love my Mommy. :-) For the next few days all I did was drug myself every 4 hours and sleep. On Monday I attempted to go to work, after all, it was only 3 tiny little pieces of tape and a belly full of gas (they "inflate" you so that they can see during the surgery - and the left over gas causes crazy pain in your shoulders...ouch). Mark picked me up because I was still very drugged. Oh, did I mention that there was a fresh coat of ice that morning as well. Mark had to walk me to the car like a small child so that I didn't slip and fall...pathetic. I actually got quite a bit done at work but was absolutely exhausted and in quite a bit of pain by the time we left around 2:30. On Tuesday I was still really, really sore so I called the doctor to make sure it was normal - he had told me I could return to work on Monday. He said that it was normal and he meant the FOLLOWING Monday - and that the cyst they removed was pretty big. So, I took up residence on my couch for the rest of the week. I was bored out of my mind. Daytime TV is terrible and I could never stay awake through an entire movie. The whole recovery period sucked.

But - I am back to work finally and all is well. I am still a little sore and get tired very easily - but overall MUCH better. The whole ordeal turned out to be so much more debilitating that I had expected. What a pain in the ass.

The pictures are of my uterus (the white thing), each of my ovaries (other white things), the cyst (black thing), and what was left after they removed the cyst. Mom said the doctor came out and showed her the pictures right after he finished the surgery and explained to her what had happened. He said that he also found some endometriosis and "cleaned that up" while he was in there. I should be all fixed now. Thanks Batman.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Coming soon...

...the heroic tale of my encounter with a knife or scaple of some sort and how I lived to tell the tale (minus one huge, icky-looking cyst) - and the batman hat that made it all possible. COMPLETE WITH PICTURES!!

I know, you can't wait...but tough, you'll have to - I'm sleepy and need a nap.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

So true...

"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance."

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Commune Christmas

As is the case every year, Chistmas at the Commune was a glorious event. The girls spent the time between the end of school and Christmas eve at their father's house. This was actually kind of nice because I had exactly 2 presents for each of them up until the Thursday before Christmas. I realize I tend to procrastinate - but not to that extent usually. I started to get a bit paniced. Luckily, they weren't hard to shop for and I found them plenty of fun (and inexpensive!!) stuff for Santa to bring.

On Christmas eve I went to the Commune for dinner - my Mom decided that she wanted to make prime rib - it was, of course, FANTASTIC. I brought with me all of the girls' gifts and an overnight bag for all of us. The plan was for everyone (me, the girls, my parents, Greg, Angel, Lilly, Liz, and Davy) to spend the night Christmas eve so that we could all have Christmas morning together. I was allowed to pick up the girls from their Dad's at 9pm - so there really wasn't any sense in driving them home to Chardon so that they could go to sleep, just to wake up and go back to Grandma's in the morning. The girls were AMAZINGLY excited to get to spend the night at Grandma's with everyone - although Olivia was extremely concerned that Santa wouldn't know where to find her. My mom assured her that everything would be okay. It took the girls a while to calm down after getting to Grandma's but I finally got them to sleep around 10:30. Then the "adults" (and I use that term loosely) sat around drinking yummy things and opening our presents. I think we finally got to bed around 2am.

Christmas morning all of the girls (including Lilly) slept in until nearly 8:30. They opened their presents calmly and were very happy with everything they got. Their big gift this year was an mp3 player. All 3 of them LOVED it...surely, that had to be their favorite gift, right?...if not, what could it be? was the $6 watch. Incredible. I will never again wonder "what time is it?" Nope, never...because now I am updated on the exact time every 2-3 minutes by at least one of them. And if one of them looks and tells everyone what time it is, the other two have to make sure their watches match - down to the exact minute. The good part is that Santa (he's so smart) ;-) bought them non-digital watches. So they are getting very good at telling time. They also got a bunch of "inside activities" like paint-by numbers, ceramics to paint, etc...they are very crafty and it keeps them busy for HOURS.

After the presents, Greg made breakfast for everyone while we drank Mimosas and White Russians. YUM. Then we pretty much just cleaned up from breakfast, chatted with each other, and started cooking dinnerwhile the kids entertained themselves with their new goods. Cooking and eating are real events at the commune - and we do them well - mostly the eating part. Poor Davy was so hungover from Christmas eve that he could only take the chaos in small doses and went home to nap a couple times.
Tiffany stopped over with her two adorable little boys for dinner. Overall it was a pretty calm day. The girls and I headed home (car packed full of crap!) around 5pm and went to bed early.

The girls were home from school until Jan. 2nd so I took a few vacation days so that I could stay home with them. I had to go into the lab for a few hours on Thursday but other than that - I was playing with my girls. It was nice to be able to see them, but I have to say - that much time alone with my girls made me very happy to come back to work this week! We did go see the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. I was impressed. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did...and now they girls are walking around singing "witch doctor" - makes me laugh every time.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and best wishes in the new year!