Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bullying Sucks!

After dinner on Tuesday night my son non-chalantly mentions that his best friend since pre-school went to look at another school that day and that he is probably going there next year. I looked at him in disbelief. First of all that he could mention a thing so casually. Second of all because I thought he must be wrong. This boy's brother and sister went to OLGC from pre-school through 8th grade, and I assumed he would to. I was incredulous. I probed Ian for as many facts as I could. This friend had indeed shadowed students in another school for part of the morning. He seemed likely to be going there. But there was no reason why. Ian couldn't give me any and he didn't ask his friend.

So Tuesday night I had a pit in my stomach all night. I decided I would call this friend's mom and ask her directly what was going on. So yesterday I called and heard the sad news. Her son is indeed going to this other school next year. Apparently three of the boys in my son's class have been bullying him for at least a year, maybe longer. They haven't been physical, but have been very mean in saying horrible things about this child. They exclude him, or when he is included, find ways to both belittle him and set him apart from the rest of the group. When I heard this I was shocked, to say the least. I wasn't completely surprised at two of the boys involved, but the third one I had no idea about. She asked me if Ian had any trouble with these boys, and I said none that I knew of.

One of the big problems at Ian's school is that it is very small. There is only one of each grade. So there is no chance of relief from year to year with changing classroom make-ups. This poor boy is looking at five more years with these same kids. I don't blame them for switching schools.

But the more time I've had to think about it the more angry I get. These same three boys will just stay here and probably find a new target once this boy is gone. Meanwhile, a family that has supported this parish and school tremendously are having to move their child to another school because of pure meanness. And my son is going to lose a best friend. How is that fair?

I wish there was something I could do. I'm at a loss right now.

When I told Ian I had called his friend's mom and it was indeed true that his friend would be going to the other school next year, he asked why. I explained that three boys in their class have been repeatedly making fun of his friend. When I said that Ian immediately named the three boys. When I brought up a few of the situations that I was told about Ian confirmed that they had happened. I am so sick about this. After talking to Ian about this kind of behavior and why it should never be tolerated I asked him how he would feel about going back there next year without his best friend. He said it would be different but that he still wanted to go back.

Now I'm worried that he is next on this little posse's hit list. I'm also worried about what he'll do without his best friend. I have never understood why some children are very cruel. I especially don't understand it when they are going to a good Catholic school and I know two of the three sets of parents. Do I tell them that their kids are the cause of this student's leaving? Would they believe me? I think I would want to know if my kid was doing this kind of thing. Is it too late for these kids to change? They are only in third grade, for goodness sake. If they can't change, who can? I am so angry over this. And really, really sad.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Zoe and Frieda

I was reading Peanuts in the newspaper this morning and noticed a distinct similarity to the character Frieda and my Zoe.

Here's the comic:

Take a close look at the second panel. The little girl with the naturally curly hair is holding a cat the exact same way my kids hold our cat, Bumper.

Here is the panel:

Now, here is Zoe holding Bumper:

They look exactly the same!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cake Time

Over the weekend I had the privilege of making two cakes for two different celebrations. The first was a communion cake made for a friend. She requested a marble cake. Her only requests for the decorations were a cross of some kind and her daughter's name and the words "First Holy Communion." She also wanted some pink on the cake. I decided on a fondant covered sheet cake (equalling two cakes total). I made a yellow cake from scratch and combined it with a chocolate cake, then marbled it in the pan. I then made a vanilla buttercream that I generously covered the cake with. On top of that went a layer of my homemade marshmallow fondant, then my pink fondant flowers in the shape of a cross. I added the words in pink buttercream and finished the cake with white and pink fondant balls around the bottom. It was a lot of fun to make.

The second cake I made was for my husband's grandmother's 90th birthday. I was inspired by a variety of cakes from this cake designer, but mine didn't come out quite how I saw it in my head. I still like it, but I think the flowers around the base of the first layer are too big. The cake is a from scratch chocolate cake with homemade vanilla buttercream and then covered in my marshmallow fondant. The bottom tier is a single layer of cake, the top tier a two layer cake. I had lots of extra batter and also made 24 mini cupcakes that I forgot to take a picture of. They were frosted in pink vanilla buttercream and topped with a mini purple fondant flower.

Celebrating with Grandma Van was really wonderful. Two of her grandchildren and two of her great grandchildren came a long way to celebrate with us. We are so lucky that we live close and are able to see her more frequently. It was wonderful to see the joy and surprise on her face when she saw everyone at her party.


I used my new mixer yesterday! (I must admit, I planned my meals so that I could start using it.) I made homemade pizza and it turned out awesome! I used the bread hook and made a double batch of homemade pizza crust and then used my pizza stone (a product rarely used in my house) and my more traditional pizza pan. I have to admit, the pizza stone turned out a better crust, but my kids loved their cheese pizza made on the traditional pan. My son told me to make it this way from now on! I'm not only glad at how easy it was to make and use, but now I'm going to start using my pizza stone, which before this sat sadly under used. Yum!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cookbook Heaven

I have to come clean. I have an addiction. I am addicted to cookbooks. I love them. I love them a lot. I have an entire shelf of my kitchen devoted to my cookbooks (and one of my daughter's, but I digress.) I also have several cookbooks down in my basement, as well as too many cooking magazines to count.

While I have given up all but one of my subscriptions to these magazines, and I only have one cookbook left on my wishlist, I still love to sit and pore over a new cookbook. On those rare occasions when Brendan and I end up in a bookstore, I invariably gravitate to the cookbook shelf. I spend hours looking up recipes on the internet, and I have a folder bursting at the seams with printed recipes to try.

I can't help myself.

Then as I was searching pictures of cakes online I came across a great little blog of a woman who has started a cake business for herself. Her cakes are beautiful, mine don't even come close to comparing. But, she mentioned something about how she went to the library and checked out every book she could on cake making and decorating.

Then the light bulb went on in my head. (It never occurred to me before, despite the fact that I'm at the library every week getting books for my kids and dvd's for my husband and I to watch.) I can get any number of cookbooks out of the library. Cookbooks all about casseroles, muffins, or appetizers. They have so many, and if they don't, I can request it from another library and still pick it up in mine. I am in cookbook heaven. I currently have seven cookbooks checked out. It doesn't matter that I can't possibly read everything these books have to offer. I probably will only make a few of the recipes. But oh, the possibilities. And the looking. And the planning. Why did I never think of this before?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I See Some Gratuitous Baking In My Future

I did it! Today I went to Kohl's and bought myself a KitchenAid stand mixer! I started looking at them seriously at the end of winter and the more I looked the more I wanted to buy one.

I must first state that I have never owned a stand mixer. And while my mom currently owns one, I have never actually seen her use a stand mixer. All my life growing up she used a hand mixer. So when I got married at the ripe old age of 22, I saw no reason to register for anything besides a hand mixer. I got a KitchenAid hand mixer that I have used frequently since my wedding day almost 13 years ago, and it still works great.

But as I've begun baking more and more, making cakes, frostings, cookies, cheesecakes, cinnamon rolls, pizza crusts, bread and muffins from scratch, I've started to wonder how nice it might be to not have to stand holding a mixer and spinning a bowl for ten minutes beating royal frosting. How if I hadn't completely softened my butter or cream cheese, I could still start the mixer and it would be creamed with the sugar in no time.

So I started researching stand mixers. I had decided on the KitchenAid pro 5 mixer, but had a hard time finding it in stock at many stores, especially in the color I wanted. So, I waited and started looking around again. I watched Alton Brown use a KitchenAid stand mixer on his Food Network show, and found my desire to own one grow stronger. I grew impatient. I searched the internet for deals. I visited kitchenware stores to see if they carried my coveted stand mixer. I weighed my options.

Then, it happened. I received my Kohl's ad with 30% off on the cover. And inside, the KitchenAid pro 600 was on sale. With my discount it would be almost the same price of the pro 5 with shipping and handling (I was considering ordering it online for awhile). So I headed to Kohl's today and there on the shelf were two red ones, a white one, and my licorice black pro 600. I lifted it onto the cart, and carefully made my way through the aisles. I passed a man who said he wanted that one bad. We discussed stand mixers for awhile and he told me I would love it. I headed for the register and bought my pretty black mixer. I brought it home and cleaned a space on the counter for it. It fits perfectly under my cabinets and is waiting to be turned on and start mixing things.

I can't wait!

On a side note, I have to thank my wonderful husband for always telling me to save my two savings bonds I received as high school graduation gifts for something for myself. There have been many times during our marriage that I thought of using them to buy something for our house or for the kids. Instead I got to buy my dream mixer. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good Morning

Everyone should have the opportunity to spend a crisp Spring morning taking a bike ride around the block with your four year old daughter while she sings "Mary Had A Little Lamb" at the top of her lungs.

Best morning I've had in a long time!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Neighborly Good-Bye

For the last almost two years we've lived on an amazing street in a humble little subdivision in Illinois. Our neighbors are fun, and their kids are nice and always willing to play. This past Spring two of our neighbors on our side of the street have moved. One just to Michigan, but another good neighbor left today for Beijing, China.

Since we moved in these neighbors welcomed us warmly and always made us feel a part of the street. Their son and daughter played frequently with my kids and I talked to their mom often. I didn't meet their Dad until late this winter and managed to embarrass myself as I attended their daughter's birthday party wearing my Ohio State jersey and bragged about how Ohio State beat Michigan, not knowing he went to grad school at Michigan. He forgave me, since they scheduled the party to start before the end of the game.

Here is a picture of all the girls from our side of the street. The third one from the left is the one who played with my Emma regularly. Her brother was just as nice and sweet. We wish them a safe trip, an interesting and fun new life in China, and many wonderful experiences. You will be sadly missed by all of us here.
The good news is I've had lots of great things to do in the last week and a half! The bad news is that I've neglected this blog! Sorry. New updates coming soon!