Beauty Tip of the Week: LORAC at Sephora

At the holidays, many high-end cosmetic companies come out with special sets or limited edition products. Today, at Sephora, I found the super-duper best buy ever:  LORAC Bejeweled Lip Gloss Collection 2011. The colors are lovely- at first I thought the red was going to be too dark, but they are all sheer, sparkly and totally wearable.

For $25 you get six (SIX!!) LORAC lipglosses. A regular LORAC lipgloss is $22. Yes, that’s right- $22- for one. I never buy them anymore for this reason- but this is such a steal if you like lipgloss- a must-splurge. I hesitate to even call it a splurge, honestly- because really, with the breakdown, it’s $4.16 each, and that’s less than a drugstrore brand for a super premium brand. LORAC contains no parabens, sulfites, pthalates or GMO’s and is a fantastic brand overall. Run, skip or cartwheel to Sephora and buy yourself a treat!

The Delightsome Aesthetic of Children Under a Certain Age

Look what fun my children had… Bean and Abby are entirely responsible for this living room. Jeffrey hauled the boxes up from the basement, and I set up the tree, then wandered off to do some homework. I heard them rummaging around, and delighting in some of the boxes, but I didn’t pay it much mind. When I surfaced for some tea and peeked in from the kitchen and was met with this delightful scene. They were so insanely pleased with themselves.

Other than that, school is swallowing me whole right now. One final done, three more looming. And I do mean looming. I have one more week and then I’m off until January. I’m counting the hours. This quarter has kicked my butt. Onward.

Is your tree up yet? Does it look like Christmas puked all over your living room at your house? Do you let your kids decorate? Am I insane that this didn’t bother me and I left it like that?

Recipe: Meatballs!

You’ll never buy the frozen meatballs again, I promise, once you make these babies. They are so easy and fast, it’s hardly any more effort than throwing down the frozen ones. Plus, you can freeze these yourself and be a perennial rock star!

Homemade Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 container of ricotta cheese
  • handful of grated parmesan
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or gluten-free crumbs, in my case)
  • salt and pepper (lots)
  • 1 tsp dried basil or a handful of fresh leaves, chopped

In a big bowl, mash everything together with your bare hands. Yep. It’s the only way to get a nice, well mixed meatball. Divide into 12 equal-ish portions, and roll into balls. Yep, they’re big. Two is more than enough of a serving. Feel free to make a bunch of mini ones if you prefer, but we like ‘em big in our house.

Place in a baking dish with a little space around each of them, and bake at 400* for 30-40 minutes, or until browned. Obviously they would need less time if you opt for the mini balls.  Serve with homemade marinara or whatever sauce you love best. Top with basil and more parmesan.

That’s it. If you want to freeze them, do so after they cool. Then just microwave or bake when you want to have meatbally goodness.

Fun With Autism: Part XVIII

Yesterday was our annual foray into parent-teacher conferences. Usually these don’t stress me out- I know my kids aren’t perfect, I don’t expect perfection, and I have my hands on the pulse of their lives enough to know how they’re doing. We go so I can see what they’ve made and they can show me what they’re excited about. I had them scheduled back to back to back. In what I assumed was brilliance, Bean was first, then Jeffrey and wrapping up with Abby.

I know what you’re thinking- but Bean’s went well. He’s made some terrific gains socially, which has always been the stumbling block, and his coping skills are gaining. He’s acing math and science, and while reading is still very difficult for him (might always be) he’s doing well. He even demonstrates, with help from his teacher, that he can now tie his shoes himself. A benchmark of a day for him.

We bid his teacher adios, and make our way to Jeff’s classroom. Sitting on the too-small chairs around the circular table, Jeffrey’s new teacher begins to tell me how he’s doing. But in the background, I cannot help but hear Bean starting to grunt and honk softly, as he attempts to try and tie his shoes. It’s escalating, as he becomes frustrated. He knows he can do it, but without his teacher’s prompts, he is unable to make his fingers go int he right order to make the sweet little taut bow. I am trying to pay attention to Jeffrey’s teacher, but I know if I don’t nip this in the bud, he’s going to start honking loudly.

The teacher tells me it’s important to focus on Jeffrey, that she’s had autistic kids in her class before, and she continues to talk. I can see Bean getting more and more riled, and mercifully, his OT pops in the room and offers to take him to her office while I finish my conference with Jeffrey. I feel like there are shards of glass in my mouth as I sit in silence.

The teacher asks me to leave her with just Jeffrey for a moment, and while this seems odd, I know I have to find Bean. He is in the OT’s therapy room, in a swivel chair, holding a therapy ball, but is still clearly distressed and vocalizing. When I inform him its time for us to go get Abby, he freaks out, throws the ball, and runs from the room honking and screaming. (all because I didn’t stop it when I had the chance)

In a nutshell: I missed Abby’s conference, a teacher reminded me that my other children need my attention too (really? really?!) and it took the principal, another male teacher, the OT and me to finally restrain and carry Bean to the car, wailing and screaming and kicking and clawing the whole way.

As pissed as the other teacher made me, the OT has my thanks in equal measure. She noted how long its been since Bean had an episode like this, and she called both Jeffrey and Abby in for a session with her so they could talk about how they felt and how having a brother with autism effects them and their family. Bean spent the day working with her, and his regular-ed teacher welcomed him back in the classroom with a smile.

How many ways can I succeed and fail in one day? I guess it depends on where you’re standing.

Rising Tides and Breathing Again

AWOL mama finally checking in here. Wow, so it’s been way too long, and I’ve been in water waaaay over my head. I need to breathe so badly- and while there is light on the surface of the water, it’s sometimes deceptive when you’re peering up into the glittering sunlight how far you actually have to go. My lungs are burning and I need to breathe.

First, thank you for all the emails of concern over my absence. I really am okay- just utterly worn out. The main reason I’m able to write right now is I’m flat-in-bed sick. My body just finally stomped its foot and sat down, refused to do another thing and let the cold take over. It was the only way I was gonna give myself over to rest, and my body knew it. Hence, I have the mother of all colds. It also means I’m laying in bed and resting for the first time in about two years. Evidently that’s what it takes.

Of course school is kicking my ass. I’m not sure my GPA is going to survive this quarter. Maybe 19 units was a mistake? Yeah, probably, but it’s way past the drop-by date, so I have to take it and own it- B’s and all. Oh well- hopefully I can still graduate cum laude. Sigma was out a while, Magna was still on the table, but maybe not now. Did I mention that? I petitioned and submitted and was signed off for graduation for June. Just over six more months, and I’ll have this degree and be headed to grad school. I can do this.

Which brings to me part of where I’ve been- I went to Washington DC to check out George Washington University for grad school. I know… who knows what will happen, but I’m considering throwing my hat in the ring and seeing what happens. There are still several other schools I’m looking at, and it will boil down to who a) accepts me, and b) makes me the best offer. I’m assuming someone will want me.

I had never been to DC, and fell immediately and hopelessly in love. I was able to crash at a friend’s house and jump the metro into the city and just wander. It was positively lovely- I was able to spend an entire day with my wonderful friend Heather O, and I was able to meet and spend some time with my friend Aileen, who is a marvelous DC area photographer and longtime friend. I ducked out of other commitments and just spent my days doing as I pleased, aside from school appointments.

(Incidentally gentlemen, the National Holocaust Museum is not the place to hit on a lone chick. Just so you know. *shaking head*)

Heather O and I were able to go to the Washington DC LDS temple one night, and it was a marvelous experience to be in the temple with such a dear friend. I don’t have any family members who belong to my church, so going with friends is the closest thing I have, and it means a lot to me. I found out several other people I know in the area were there the same day- Mormon world really is small. The truth is, though, I told almost no one that I was in the area. I knew my time was tight, and I was already stretched too thin.

I spent a whole morning before I left wandering around Arlington National Memorial. With a little help, I found my grandpa McKay’s marker and spent some time there visiting him. It was far more emotional than I expected it to be, and was quite overcome. When they say Arlington is hallowed ground, they really mean it. I wish I had had more time.

So while I don’t know if I’ll get into GW, it sure looks appealing, and I’m kind of of the mind “why not try?” right now. I know I’m not staying where I’m at, simply because there is no grad program here I want to be in, and it dawned on me that I can go anywhere. I’ve never lived off the west coast, and the idea of just tossing everything up in the air is more than a little appealing. I have friends all over the place, so why not give it a try?

Things at home have been solid, actually. I haven’t talked about it much, but the kids’ dad has had all restrictions released on his visitation, and has 22 months sober now. We’d been working towards this for a while and he watched them here at my house while I was in DC for the weekend; despite my nerves, it went very well. Everyone was happy and in good spirits when I returned, and as a retooled family, we turned a new corner. I am cautiously optimistic.

There are many other tides and waves swirling through my life, but I’m going to have to sit tight on many of them before I bring them to the surface to share with you. Things get born in their own time, and if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that patience is, indeed, a virtue. It’s one I have to work at, but I’m realizing its worth it.

So, that’s pretty much that. Thanks for all the love. It matters to me. It really does.

Admissions of Human Frailty

She feels like a hypocrite, vacillating between what looks like tremendous outward strength, and catastrophic inward crumbling. The stress is getting to her, and some days she can’t even keep food down. The stinging shame of this makes her want to hide, and, yet she is praised for looking good, and this confuses her even more. She can see how a young woman might get an eating disorder, and she is grateful she is old enough to know better- and then she laughs at her own hubris.

She is struggling with making herself do the right things- and procrastinating almost everything. Her grades are not what she wants them to be- but still certainly passable. She isn’t sleeping much, and maybe vanity might be enough to get her to start taking better care of herself. She hasn’t even been writing much, because she wants to put a good face forward- where did that come from, she wonders? She’s always been nakedly honest in her writing.

Some days she feels like she can conquer the world, that she is bright enough, driven enough, and strong enough to take it all on. Other days, she cowers in fear that she can’t actually do it, and if anyone could really see inside her, they would know what a broken mess she actually is. She fears she is failing her kids in the drive to finish school, but she cannot see another way- if she slows down, she doesn’t trust herself. A long trail of broken dreams and ashes litter the road behind her, and she fears stopping to breathe might cause her to drop her basket.

She doesn’t know what else to do, so she falls to her knees and weeps into her folded arms. How is it desperation is what breaks us and brings us to our God? Tears soak her cheeks and lashes and she pours her broken heart, her dark fears, and her fragile, thin hopes- and pleads with her God for his mercy. She only knows she cannot do it alone- and maybe, she wonders, if realizing this yet again is the first step to finding her whole self…

Her tiny mustard seed is this: she knows she has seen but a fraction of the light God has planned for her, but it’s up to her to trust and allow those hands to guide her life. There is simply no other way.

Doing Something Right I Hope

Jeffrey’s been a little sullen and mouthy lately. I’ve been chalking it up to hormones starting to kick in and cutting him a little slack, while still making it clear what I expect from him- and making sure he knows how much he’s loved. More often than not when I pick him up at school, he’s disgruntled and ticked about something his sibling did, or is somehow embarrassed. I generally roll with it and if I can get him to laugh, we’re all reset and good again. Today he tossed his backpack in and slumped into the seat next to me, but turned to me and smiled.

“Mom? You know what? You’re cool. I think you’re cooler than a lot of other moms.”

“Oh yeah?” I venture cautiously, slipping my sunglasses from the top of my head back over my eyes, and glance sideways at him. “What brought on this epiphany?”

“Yeah. I was just thinking, you know? Like, you go to school, and you write, and people want to hear you talk and you don’t look like the other moms, and you like playing Dropkick Murphys loud and you like Johnny Cash and sometimes you let us make big messes and paint stuff.” He’s digging Legos out of his pockets and piling them in the cupholder as he’s talking.

“Hmmm. Interesting. Other moms aren’t like that?” I’m trying not to smile, but I’m tickled at his observations.

He giggles, wrinkling his nose in a spray of freckles, “NoooooOOOOO! Other moms have tons and tons of rules and worry about the floor getting messy or things spilling or stuff. Rules and rules and rules.”

“I have rules!” I smile at him.

“Yeah… but only a few. We have to be nice to each other. We have to clean up any mess we make. We can’t say swears. And we have to clean up our room so you can have a path to our bed. That’s about it. Oh, and our laundry. I hate the laundry part. But I guess it’s okay.”

From the backseat, Abby hollers “Put on ‘State of Massachusetts!’” Jeffrey slides the disk in the stereo and turns it up. In my rearview mirror, I see Bean nodding his head to the rhythm and smiling, the autumn sunlight slanting deep through the orange trees into my children’s copper hair as we drove towards home.

Thank you, my children, for being who you are. Satisfaction seated in my heart and soul, at least for this afternoon.

That Kind of Day

On my bed right now is me, sitting criss-cross applesauce in my running clothes from this morning. My laptop is… in my lap. There are two remote controls, my cell phone, the regular phone, and my iPod next to me. There is a stack of sketches and outlines for a homework assignment I’m behind on, and a pile of textbooks with ragtag bookmarks and pages sticking out. My purse is plopped near a bright blue wig Abby tossed here earlier while chasing Jeffrey pell-mell through the house. My sunglasses, wallet and ATM card are scattered across the white comforter. There are opened bills and a confirmation code from two of them I paid online, along with a book on Renoir Abby was perusing earlier. A pencil and a red pen dot the landscape. There is a basket of clean laundry, for the cherry on top. It’s been that kind of day. Calgon, take me away….