New project!

Now that I'm an award-winning pie maker, I've embarked on a new project.

This time I'm out of the kitchen and back at my computer doing what I do best -- writing.

For years I've entertained the notion of writing a book called "The Apathetic Parent's Guide to Raising Children." Naturally, it will be the first in the series, "The Apathetic Parent's Guide to Meal Preparation, Financial Planning and Pest Control."

And eventually, a spin-off, "The Apathetic Wife," and subsequent sequel, "The Apathetic Wife's Guide to Lovemaking/Meal Planning."

I know. At this point, it's all just a pipe dream. I mean, really, I've got FOUR kids. When am I going to get around to writing a book?

So for now, this blog will just have to do:

Check it out sometime.

Dust balls, pies and toads

It sure is dusty around here.

I know it's been a while -- a long while -- since I was here last, but I've been pretty busy and haven't had time to write. Or do my nails. Or floss. Or pay bills.

Life with four kids, one of whom being a busy toddler, has really sucked up my free time. Sometimes I like to fantasize that I get paid to do laundry, cook and clean, but sadly it's not the case.

Even at minimum wage, I'd be rich, you know.

I've also been a little busy with my quest to dominate my local Fourth of July pie bake-off. I spent a whole year learning how to make homemade pies with the goal to dethrone the cocky old lady with the chip on her shoulder who won the contest for the past ten years.

Having never baked a homemade (or as I like to say, "ho-made") pie before, I had my work cut out for me. After baking nearly 50 pies in 52 weeks, my Classic Cherry Pie won first place in the fruit division. And while I didn't win Best of the Best, the top honor when to a sweet young girl and not last year's winner. (Hoo-rah!)

Anyhow, spending every last minute (and spare dime) baking pies can really take it out of you. Which is why I haven't made it over here in a while.

A lot's happened in the past year.

My fresh-faced, darling twin daughters finished their first year of middle school and have emerged iPod-wielding, Bieber-loving, flat-iron using preteens.

They're nearly unrecognizable.

Where once they loved me unconditionally, now these tweeny boppers are constantly trying to work me over. They've always go their hands out, palms outstretched for this or that. And there's no sense of gratitude either. As soon as we enter a store, they try to unload me.

"Mind if I just go hang out by the books?"

They're embarrassed to be seen with me, which I try to not take to personally because I remember trying to ditch my own mom 26 years ago.

Sweet Pea isn't a baby anymore. She's all toddler.

One minute she's sweet, cuddly and adorable, and the next she's a screaming banshee. She's not a bad kid -- she's just a year and a half. She doesn't have the words to get what she wants. And since she cannot carry on a civilized discussion, she resorts to screaming, throwing things and occasionally biting to communicate her needs.

It's what she does.

The boy, Crowbar, is seven and just finished first grade. This past spring, he lost his training wheels and found a new pet -- a toad he named Spiderman.

A note about Spiderman:

Spiderman was a wild toad we found hopping around in a window well a few months ago. Crowbar had been angling for a pet of his own (I'd already ruled out snakes, birds and lizards) and this was one pet who 1) cost nothing and 2) could eventually be turned lose outside guilt-free.

And so, we pulled out our old aquarium (RIP Stella the Gerbil, 2007-2009), made a little toad habitat, and dropped Spiderman inside.

After a few days, I suddenly remembered that Spiderman needed to eat, so I sent the kids out to find some bugs. They returned empty-handed because 1) they were too creeped out to touch bugs and 2) they argued that the only bugs they weren't afraid of are lightning bugs, which are too gentle and sweet to feed to a toad.

Annoyed, I took Crowbar to the pet store where the kind sales clerk told us we could feed Spiderman giant meal worms in lieu of bugs.

Annoyed and disgusted, I turned to young Crowbar and made him swear on my own grave that he would be the official Giant Meal Work Wrangler in our house, sparing me of the dreadful job.

He swore he would and extended his hand to shake on the deal.

I handed over $3.16 (yes, it's cheaper to fill my gas tank with giant meal worms) and we left with a small tub of the creepy critters.

And so, every other day, we give Spiderman four giant meal worms, depositing them neatly on a little white sour cream container lid. We watch as he hops out of his little hiding spot and snaps them up, one by one.

Despite our deal, Crowbar feeds his toad only about half the time, leaving me to do the awful deed. And over the past few weeks, we've robbed Spiderman of any natural instinct to hunt for food -- his idea of hunting now is hopping over to the lid and waiting for something to happen -- eliminating one of the biggest pros of owning the little bugger -- the whole letting it go guilt-free thing.

So, I've kind of had my hands full.

Hopefully now that the pie thing is over, I'll have more time on my hands.

You know, to mop floors and whatnot.

Overheard at the department store

The Deuce: Mom, I just saw a really old lady looking at the bras.

Me: Yeah?

Deuce: Bright pink bras.

Me: Really?

Deuce: Maybe she wants to make the most of the time she's got left.

Me: Oh my.

Deuce: I did NOT need to see that.

Big Girl

This sweet baby of mine isn't a baby anymore.

She's toddling around, jibber-jabbering and getting into everything.

I love everything about her, but must confess that Saturday mornings are my favorite. We're usually up early and, with the rest of the house sound asleep, indulge in some prime cuddling time.

She climbs into my lap with a cup of dry cereal and a sippy full of milk, and we just sit and rock and talk things over.

These are the good old days.

I knew what I was getting into.

When I found myself pregnant at 37, I was at once elated and apprehensive.

I mean, come on people, I'm getting old.

On more than one occasion, I've rejoiced in the fact that my kids were out of diapers, could be trusted to not put childproof outlet plugs in their mouths and had stopped eating bits of carpet fuzz.

I remember when the twins had been fully, reliably diaper trained, telling my then-sister-in-law that I was through with the baby stage. Forever.

Then along came Crowbar.

And so it began. Again.

Back to diapers. Back to spending dinnertime picking up the baby's cup.

Then the spoon.

Then a plate.

Then the cup again.

Back to blowing on (and cursing at) baby's food to cool it down while he howled in ravenous desperation -- and while inexplicably, my own plate was already ice cold. Back to scraping dried bits of macaroni off my kitchen floor.

And, thankfully, he graduated from that frustrating, socially isolating, house-destroying phase. And again I rejoiced and swore my baby years were behind me. For good.

And then came Sweet Pea.

Although, I knew things would be different this time.

For one, I wasn't entering the baby stage alone. My current husband -- he loves it when I call him that -- is able to help me much more than my ex ever was. (I never will take for granted working the same shift as my husband. I can think of no greater stress on a marriage.)

Plus, Mark's entering the game fresh. He's enthusiastic and energetic -- a perfect match to my grizzled, worn-out veteran self. Hell, he still thinks it's cute when Sweet Pea pulls every pot, pan and dish out onto the kitchen floor. While I have a tough time not just seeing more dishes to wash.

And knowing Sweet Pea is my last baby, I find I'm more forgiving of frustrating toddler behavior. The meltdowns, the sticky hands, the failure to respond to the word, "No!"

Honestly, as tough as the early years can be, I can think of nothing cuter than a baby -- my baby -- in footie pajamas, toddling over and lifting her arms up to me looking for a snuggle. Or a dance in the kitchen. Or to lay her head on my shoulder for a quick siesta.

It's rewarding and exhausting all together. And despite shooing my baby girl away from the dog's dish and the kitchen garbage 1,000 times a day, I'm right where I belong.

I knew what I was getting into. And I love it.

When potatoes aren't just potatoes

I've been playing with an app that allows me to take pictures and apply cool retro effects. I love it because it can make something as ordinary as a pot of red potatoes look absolutely lovely.

And that's kind of where I'm at right now in my life...taking time to appreciate that which is simple, yet lovely.