My Kids Are The Best. And The Worst.

My Kids Are the Best. And Worst.

A friend was feeling bad yesterday morning. She had an epic fight with her three-year-old over the fact that he wouldn’t let her wipe him after pooping. They were late for preschool, she had other kids to load in the car, and she didn’t have time for his shit. Literally. She lost her temper, and after dropping him off at school, she still carried her remorse.

I listened to her story, laughing as I pictured her chasing her boy around the house trying to wipe his ass, because I had gotten all scary mommy on my five-year-old that same morning. He hadn’t put his clothes away like I asked, and his room was in shambles. Picking up his books and putting his clothes in his drawers is his responsibility, and I was pissed.

There are some things that set me off. I lose my temper and I say mean things. Last night in the car with both kids, my three-year-old daughter screamed. She has a scream worthy of a slasher film, and it pierces my skull. She screams when she’s happy (We get to go swimming today! Scream!), when she’s mad (No more cartoons? Scream!), or just for fun, like in the car last night. I yelled at her to stop (yes, I see the correlation), and told her that screaming and yelling in the car can distract the driver, who could get in an accident, and we could all die. That’s right. I told my girl that her screaming could actually kill us.

That’s not the only horrifying thing I’ve said to my kids. Not holding a grown-up’s hand in the parking lot or while crossing the street may get you hit by a car and your head will explode like a cantaloupe (stole that beauty from some friends). If you’re naughty on the airplane the pilot will kick you off and you won’t be able to see Grandma. I threaten to leave my kids places on the regular. I’m not proud of some of the things I say to them, but if it happens at my house, maybe it happens at yours, too.

I think it’s sort of endearing how we all think our kids are the absolute best but also the absolute worst. We feel more comfortable telling our friends the awful things our kids do. We have no problem one-upping each other with the bad stuff, but inside we all know that our kids really are better than everyone else’s kids. I am absolutely certain that my kids are cuter, smarter, funnier, and more clever than all other children in the entire world, but that they are also the biggest assholes. I know you get it, because your kids are probably also the goldenest of golden children.

I love my kids HARD. They get billions of hugs and kisses, they are frequently told that they are my very favorite boy and girl in the world, and I truly delight in them. They make me laugh, they make me proud, and I like them as people. But they can irritate me on a good day, and provoke my anger until I’m raging like a hurricane on a bad day. I think that’s why parenting is so exhausting. There is more emotional seesawing than a high school romance. At least this relationship will last till prom.

Why I’d Fail Kindergarten

Why I'd Fail Kindergarten: A funny and mostly true tale of a barely capable mom.

My kindergartner came home from school with his first report card yesterday, and after I was done congratulating myself on raising a child who is (so far) meeting or exceeding expectations in both academic and social markers, I honed in on one particular area. Work Habits. There are many of my husband’s traits that I hope the kids favor, but none more than this. I began to evaluate myself on the specific behaviors expected of a five year old, and I didn’t like what I found.

Listens attentively and applies information presented
I have an amazing skill of forgetting someone’s name the very second they introduce themselves. It is terribly embarrassing, and I am frequently asking friends what people’s names are, and then promptly forgetting the name again. I rarely call someone by name, because even if you are related to me, I don’t trust myself to get your name right.

Don’t even get me started on how many times the kids are talking to me and I’m not even pretending to listen. If they ask me a question and I’m not paying attention, my answer is always “I don’t know.” They think I’m a complete idiot, and can frequently be heard saying, “Let’s ask Dad. He’ll know.” Needs improvement

Follows directions
I follow some directions. How to install a carseat, driving directions, …well, that might be it. I see most other directions more like suggestions. I almost never follow a recipe completely. Sometimes it’s because I don’t have an ingredient on hand, other times it’s because the ingredients don’t list garlic. With the exception of most desserts, garlic makes everything better, and why would I blindly follow a recipe that doesn’t know this basic cooking fact? Even when I know I’ll be reviewing a recipe for Crock Pot Thursday, I can’t bring myself to follow the directions. Needs improvement

Starts and completes work in a reasonable amount of time
Hahahahaha. I am a terrible procrastinator, and I know it’s time to do laundry when one of three things happen: The Doctor runs out of socks, Graham runs out of pants, or we can’t get to the closet because of the towering pile of dirty clothes. As a girl, Lily’s wardrobe is so vast, I could avoid laundry for a month and she would still have clean clothes. After I am forced to finally wash some clothes, it takes me another day or two to fold that laundry. It may never get put away; rather, my family knows to shop the folded laundry out of the “clean” basket. My housekeeping skills are terrible, or to use the proper report card terminology…Unacceptable

Completes homework
Replace “homework” with “housework” and my rating is clear. In my defense, who ever completes housework? Even when my house is clean and company ready, it only stays that way for five seconds. After that there are dirty socks on the living room rug, pee splattered somewhere in the general vicinity of the toilet, and the tumbleweeds of dog hair have regenerated and can be found nestling against anything that stands still. Needs improvement

Demonstrates independence and initiative
I don’t know how I can demonstrate independence when I haven’t been alone for almost six years. I’d like to try peeing independently some time in the near future, but for now, we’ll set this marker aside, and evaluate it again in the spring. Not assessed

Demonstrates willingness to take risks and make mistakes
Sharing my words with all of you is one of the riskiest things I’ve done (while sober..duh!) and I chose to make two humans, which indicates willingness to make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Meets expectations

Strives to produce quality work
I strive to be an engaged and present wife and mother. I strive to create a safe and happy home for our children. I strive to be a respectful daughter and daughter-in-law, a loving sister and sister-in-law, and a fun and supportive friend. I hope I’m on target more often than not, but I know I sometimes miss the mark. Needs improvement

Demonstrates organizational skills

Unacceptable
Unacceptable

Applies technology appropriately
I utilize television and video games to entertain and placate my children when we are waiting for the car to be serviced, when I need to make an important phone call, or when I just need a little bit of quiet time, thankyouverymuch. I apply the hell out of technology. Outstanding

Seeks help when appropriate
I have my village and I use it often. I surround myself with women who make me laugh, listen to me vent, offer advice, and allow me to brag. Meeting expectations 

Here’s where I’m lacking: Friends offer to watch the kids so my husband and I can go out and we never take them up on it. What a couple of dipshits we are. Unacceptable

I’ve got a ways to go. While my boy is working towards learning and performing beyond his grade level, I’ll be working on demonstrating self-control and taking responsibility for personal actions. But right now, I’m going to be lying on the couch eating carrot cake. It’s not my fault. My husband shouldn’t have brought that cake home from work.



The Spiders On The Bus Go In Your Pants

I have a secret that you can’t tell my kids. I don’t like spiders. My kids don’t know this because I don’t want them to pick up my phobia, so for them I manage spiders without screaming. I knock them off walls and I kill them if necessary. I lie and say spiders aren’t scary, and that they are only living their lives, just like us. Leave them be, and they’ll leave you alone right back. But here’s the truth: Spiders are creepy and crawly and you never know where they are going to pop up. I don’t remember a time when I liked spiders, but I definitely remember the event that gave me the nearly thirty year heebie jeebies.

I was in second or third grade, and was riding the bus home like I did every school day. Our town was so small, even though almost everyone rode the bus, it was never full. I was sitting near the middle of the bus, slouched down, with my knees propped up on the forest green pleather bench seat in front of me. Bouncing along on my short ride home, something pinched me. In my pants. It hurt and startled me enough to make me cry out. Rosa, our driver, looked back through her rear view mirror, and saw me jump up.

“What was that?” she hollered. By this time I was crying and couldn’t answer. My overreaction prompted her to investigate, and she pulled over quickly (not hard to find a place to stop in our town that boasts one church, one post office, and one restaurant/store.) She lumbered back to my seat, her hips rubbing on the seats as she passed. She saw my obvious distress and asked me what was wrong. “I don’t know,” I answered, because I didn’t. Something hurt my butt, but like hell I was going to say that on the bus with everyone looking at me. Instead I went with “Something hurts inside my pants.”

Now, I don’t know how this story would have gone if my bus driver was a man, or if it happened in today’s culture, but here’s how it went down in mid 80’s: Rosa took me to the back of the bus, made everyone face forward, and I dropped my jeans. There, in the back of my Levis was a spider. A spider that bit my ass. I was on the way HOME from school. Was that spider next to my skin all day, just waiting for me to sit in that awkward, knees scrunched up position? I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to consider that probability until later. All  I could wrap my adolescent mind around was the fact that I was on the bus, with my pants around my ankles.

We got that spider out of my pants, and I pulled up my britches and slunk back to my seat. To my peers’ credit, they never spoke of the fact that while they heeded Rosa’s warning to face forward, she never told anyone not to watch through that big rear view mirror.

Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 12/10/12

Last week someone called me a writer. It gave me pause. I have a hard time wearing that label. Writer. In some ways it fits. I write almost every day, I spin words in my head throughout the day, and sometimes I have to stop whatever I’m doing, grab a pen and put those words to paper before they are lost in my disorganized mind. Sometimes the words are woven into a post that is popular. Sometimes my thoughts become a post that is quietly loved. I wrote two posts this past week that I love.

O Christmas Tree was a departure from my typical style, and I was frantically writing the beginning of that story not five minutes after our tree was in it’s stand. A family member told me it made her cry when she read it, and I didn’t share this with her, but it made me cry when I wrote it. A good cry. A calm and quiet cry, but a cry nonetheless. I’ve had a few posts that have brought me to tears. Little Boy Lost is the one that made me cry the most. If you’ve read it, you know why.

The other post I loved this week was born when the kids and I watched the movie Elf. I was glad my laptop was open when the opening credits rolled, because I was able to capture the awesomeness that was my kids’ introduction to Buddy. I love that movie, I love my funny little offspring, and so it should be no surprise that I love that post. I realize I’m not the first mom to transcribe her kids’ reactions to a movie, but I didn’t start blogging until late 2012. I’ll probably never come up with a unique angle to mom blogging.
I have shared, on more than one occasion, some of L’s wild outfits. It’s only fair that I share what she looks like 75% of the time. This outfit is all her doing, and she wears it well. She has more style than I do, and I now realize that when I was trying to manage her attire, I was just holding her back.
Last week’s Crock Pot Thursday recipe was Swiss Steak, and if your family likes beefy, stick-to-your-ribs recipes, you should give this one a try. It is a great winter dish! I don’t have a working camera, which pisses me off on the regular, but especially every Thursday when I try to photograph our Crock-Pot recipes with my lame ass phone camera. ARE YOU HEARING THIS, SANTA? I promise that I won’t break the next camera like I did the last two.
We spent a Saturday doing regular suburban family weekend stuff, and L declared it to be The Best Day Ever. Her statement, coupled with our complete enjoyment of our day, highlighted just how content our family is to just be together. Also, G talked to Santa about beer, which was embarrassing and hilarious. I’m guessing I should have thought is was more embarrassing and less hilarious.

Buddy The Elf Through The Eyes Of My Kids

buddy

It’s time! Time for Christmas trees, holiday music, and wish lists. Time for spiked hot chocolate, cheap televisions, and expensive holiday travel. Most importantly, though, it’s time for Elf! I love the Will Ferrell movie featuring Buddy the Elf, and was so excited to share the magic with my six-year-old son, Graham and my four-year-old daughter, Lily. Here’s how it went.

 

Lily: Tell me when the funny part is gonna come.

Graham: Elf! That says Elf!

Lily: That was funny.

Lily: Aww…a baby.

Lily and Graham: SANTA!

Lily: Where’s that baby’s mom?
Me: Quick explanation of orphanages.
Lily: Oh! Tears.

Lily: Where is that baby going? The baby’s gone. Tears. Again.

Graham: That baby is in that bag!

Lily: When is the scary part gonna come? Is there a scary part?

Graham: What’s a cotton-headed ninny muggins?

Graham: Buddy fell on that elf.
Lily: The elf did this. Pats herself on the back. That was nice. I hope Buddy’s okay.
Me: He’s fine. He just fainted.
Graham: What’s “fainted?”

Graham: New York City?! We’ve been there! Why didn’t you tell me it was a magical place?

Lily: His dad’s on the naughty list?!

Lily: This show is too grown-upy. Can we watch My Little Pony?

Lily: Elf’s sad.
Graham: His name is Buddy.

Lily: Why is his name Mr. Normal?
Me: It’s Mr. Narwhal.
Lily: Oh.

Lily: He just wanted a hug.

Graham: This movie isn’t silly enough.

Graham: What’s he eating?
Me: Old gum that naughty people stuck on that rail instead of throwing away.
Graham: Yuck.
Lily: Yuck.

Graham: He’s pushing all the buttons on that elevator! You aren’t supposed to do that.

Graham: What did he put in his mouth?
Me: Perfume.
Graham: What’s perfume?

Graham and Lily: Laughing super hard at the escalator scene.
Lily: He’s doing that funny.
Graham: Imitates Buddy by attempting to do the splits.

Graham: Ha! He said, “Hey did you see these toilets? They’re ginormous!”

Lily: He’s making a mess. Oh, he’s making those snowflake things out of paper!

Graham: Whoa! He made that whole thing out of Legos?

Graham: That girl’s in the shower. Smiling.

Graham: Laughing. He ran into the wall.

Graham: That’s not the real Santa. See! Buddy knows, too.

Lily: What’s happening?
Me: The fake Santa and Buddy are fighting.
Lily: That’s not nice.

Graham: Laughing. A lot. Look at the present Buddy’s dad got! That’s funny. Why did Buddy’s dad get a girl boob thing for a present?

Graham: Is that jail? Why is he in jail? Why is that guy playing cards by himself? Why isn’t the fake Santa in jail, too?

Lily: What is he eating?
Me: Cotton balls.
Lily: WHAT?!
Graham: I wonder why he likes cotton balls?
Lily: Elves just like to eat cotton balls.
Me: DO NOT try to eat cotton balls.

Graham: Can we watch something else?
Lily: Yeah! My Little Pony!
Me: No.

Graham: Why did he drink all of that? What is that?
Me: Soda.
Graham: Whoa.

Graham: I HAVE to try syrup on my spaghetti.

Graham and Lily: Laughing. Hard. 
Graham: That was a really long burp.

Graham: Why is he eating spaghetti for breakfast? Why is he eating it like that?
Lily: He’s being dirty. Dirty and messy.

Graham: Why is that boy ignoring Buddy?

Lily: Oh no! What’s happening?
Graham: Those kids are throwing snowballs at Buddy and that boy.
Graham: Whoa. He throws snowballs really fast.

Graham: They shouldn’t be running in a store.
Lily: Uh oh. They’re jumping on the beds!

Graham: That kid said he’s Buddy brother. He’s not Buddy’s brother.
Me: Yes he is.
Graham: Oh.

Lily: He pulled that Christmas tree down. Oops.

Graham: How does Buddy know all of those people’s names? What does “You just made my day” mean?

Lily: Why are they laughing?
Graham: They’re drunk. If grown-ups drink too much beer or wine, they get really funny.
Me: No they don’t. They get really annoying and think dumb stuff is funny.
Lily: I think it’s because they’re tickling each other.

Lily: He’s holding hands with that girl.

Graham: Mom! Look! It’s that statue we saw in New York City AND on that singing Christmas show! (Christmas in Rockefeller Center)
Lily: They’re ice skating. Ooh…now they’re kissing.

Graham: His dad is really mad.
Lily: Why is he mad? Oh. Buddy is sad.

Graham: A skateboard? Awesome! Do you think I’m Santa’s book?

Lily: Oh! There’s no Christmas spirit!

Lily: They have a baby!

Graham: Mommy? NOW can we watch something else?
Lily: My Little Pony!

Best Day Ever

We are a family of simple tastes. We enjoy each other’s company, and can find joy in seemingly mundane things. This past weekend was a two day display of this familial trait.

First up was the PTA Holiday Fair at G’s elementary school, where we ate overpriced doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches, and the kids played games that included a bean bag toss for prize tickets. They both walked away with cheap, plastic toys that they bought with their tickets, and could not have been more pleased with their cockroach, bubble wand ring, tiny car, necklace, and paddle ball toy. When it was time to go, they left reluctantly, but since our next adventure was getting our Christmas tree, there were no tears. My kids have a hard time with transition, and it is not uncommon for one of them to cry when it’s time to leave somewhere fun.

For the past couple of years we’ve gotten our tree from The Home Depot. The price is right, it’s convenient, and the trees look good. Cutting down your own Christmas tree makes for great pictures and a wonderful family story, but I don’t like to be cold, it costs more to cut your own, we would always get a tree that was way too big, and I can barely get L to walk through a parking lot, let alone traipse through the woods on a tree hunt.
On the first Saturday of the month, The Home Depot hosts a free kids workshop where they make a craft and get their own orange apron. We didn’t have time to stay for the craft, but the kids each got the kit to make a picture frame to take home. And the apron, of course. 
G telling Santa how he’s been helping out.
Santa was there, too. This was awesome, because L got to see Santa at her preschool last week, but G hadn’t had a chance to sit down with the big man, so I was thrilled to check that off my list, too. G climbed up on Santa’s lap with the confidence of a boy who has done this six times, and got right to business. He told Santa that he already has lots of Legos, but that he really wants the Harry Potter Hagrid’s Hut set for Christmas. Santa asked, “Have you been a good boy, helping your parents around the house with chores?” Grant nodded thoughtfully, saying, “Well, we went to happy hour last night, and I cleaned up lots and lots of beer bottles.” Wiping my tears of laughter, I nodded and confirmed G’s assertion. What I wanted to tell Santa, but didn’t, is that we got to the kids’ dad’s work party late, and there were many empties left from the many people before us. But I didn’t. I just had a good laugh with Santa, gathered up my kids and their project kits, and hurried out to the car to tell The Doctor that CPS may be calling.
We got our tree home, into the stand and some water, and went grocery shopping while the tree rested. I like to sing Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s 1st of tha Month while we’re rolling to our monthly Costco trip. I’m gangsta like that. 
My kids love Costco. I love Coscto. What’s not to love? Samples galore, AND a hot dog or slice of pizza afterwards? The first Saturday of the month at Costco is always super busy, but it also has the best samples. If you know me at all, you know that I may love free food more than anything in the world. 
After paying for our bulk packaged food products, we grabbed some lunch. Sitting at one of the many white tables, we admired our new Christmas cards, and shared stories. L said it best while chewing on her slice, “This is the best day ever!” Soon after, we hit the bathroom on the way out, and L got to dry her hands with one of those Airblade hand dryers. The cherry on top of her best day.
My kids love these hand dryers so much.
Our day was simple, but we were together. I hope my kids always appreciate everyday events. So much joy can be found by just looking around, and spending time with those you love. We like big fun too, but sometimes, little fun is even sweeter.
Sunday we decorated our tree, enjoyed the warmish weather, and cheered the Seattle Seahawks on to a win. I got a nap! Best weekend ever.

The Story of the Tree

A lovely story of a Christmas tree and a family

They walk by, but don’t see me. A man, woman, and two children.

The girl, three-years-old, says “This one, Daddy! Oh! Oh! How about this one?!” I try to stand up straight, but I’m leaning too far over, and am partially tangled with my neighbors. It’s a cold day, my favorite kind, but the cold is distracting the woman, and I can tell they won’t take more than a few minutes making their selection.

The man selects a tree, holding it at arm’s length. He spins it, and sets it back in place.

“What about that one?” the woman asks. He stands up the one she’s looking at, and they both quickly shake their heads. No. I feel bad for that one. He’s been looked at so many times and is rejected every time. The couple looks at several more, dismissing all of them for one reason or another.

“Look at me, look at me,” I plead, but I know they can’t hear me.

Or can they? The boy, five, looks at me. He walks closer, and stares, intently.

“Mom, look at this one,” he calls. She does.

“I like the top,” she says. The man stands me up, and gives me a spin. Then the woman gives me a turn so the man can look me over.

“Looks pretty good,” the man begins, running his hand over his chin.

“Good enough,” the woman agrees, tucking her face into her scarf. Not a ringing endorsement, but I shake it off. They picked me!

They pay the lady that’s been watching over me, and the man takes me to the car. I’m tightly strapped to the top of the car, but I barely notice the uncomfortable twine digging into my trunk. I’m too excited for my next adventure. The wind feels good in my branches, and I can see people looking at me. We pass another car with a tree on the top. My brother and I exchange silent hellos.

I’m happy the family has children. No one loves a Christmas tree like a child. I’m also happy the children are older; very small children sometimes love Christmas trees too hard.

The trip is short, much shorter than my previous trip in the big truck full of trees. The man carries me across the threshold, and I see a green tree stand in the corner. It looks like it will hold me tall and true. The woman and children have prepared a special spot for me right in the living room, where everyone can see me. I am also right next to two windows so I can see out, and so others can see me when I’m lit up.

the story of the tree 1

I’m pretty thirsty. The man must sense this, because after I’m placed snugly in my stand, he gets me a large drink of water. I see the woman looking at me. Her smiling eyes tell me that she’s changed her mind. She no longer thinks I’m “good enough.” She knows I’m just right.

The next two days are wonderful. The children touch me lovingly, the man and woman cover me in lights, and the entire family places ornaments on my branches. There is music, laughter, and excitement over rediscovering favorite decorations. Memories are shared. I see the man and woman sharing looks. They are happy.

As long as that dog of theirs leaves me be, I think I’ll like my new home. I know I won’t be here long, but that’s okay. There will always be pictures of me with my new family, and I get to spend the most magical time of year with them. Next year, when the family is celebrating the blessing of the Christmas season, they’ll think of me and smile.



A beautiful Christmas story of a family and a tree. Grab a tissue before reading this heartwarming tale.

For more heartwarming stories, click HERE!

Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 12/3/12

The water is always free, but on Tuesday so is lunch!

On Tuesdays, kids eat free at Ikea. Free totally fits our budget, so you can often find us there munching on some Swedish meatballs, sometimes with friends. After lunch, we moms may drop the kids off at Smaland (Ikea’s supervised play area) for 30 minutes or so while we do some shopping. Currently I am searching for some sort of organizational system to manage our entryway, which is overflowing with cold weather gear. Lunch may be free, but shopping with a girlfriend for a glorious half hour without kids is priceless.

I’m a mom, and I don’t work outside the home more than a few hours a week, so most people (myself included) call me a stay at home mom. This title doesn’t seem to quite describe what I do, but neither do the other options. What title says, “Book reading, dog walking, dinner fixing, laundry avoiding, husband embracing, classroom volunteering, social media loving, child nurturer?” I guess Mom will have to do.

A good friend has a Facebook page devoted to her four year old’s unique fashion choices, and she encourages others to share their loved one’s questionable outfits, too. L has a specific vision when it comes to her wardrobe, and now that I don’t stand in her way, some of her ensembles have been epic. I love Does This Match, and L feels extra pretty when I want to take her picture because her outfit is “so wow!”

This week’s submission to Does This Match.

I shared how almost six years ago I was late to my own baby shower because I choked while laughing, which caused me to vomit, which caused me to wet my pants. It was a great way for me to learn that, for a few years at least, my body would not be my own. It’s a funny story that would, in my opinion, be more funny if it had happened to someone else.

We kicked off the Christmas season by getting our tree and reading the first pages of the kids’ Advent books. My kids think it’s pretty awesome that they get presents for Jesus’ birthday. While decorating the tree, G put his hand up to a hand print ornament he made in daycare when he was eight months old. That tiny print underneath his five year old hand made my breath catch. It made me cry. I cried for the blessing of a child who continues to grow, and for the time that has passed so quickly. That ornament is next to an ornament from The Doctor’s childhood, and I am painfully aware that before I know it, G will be a grown man, maybe sharing that same hand print ornament with his own children.

My Crock Pot Thursday recipe featured The Doctor’s Sausage Stuffing. He got it from his mom, who got it from Emril, who got it from HIS mom. It has been modified somewhat, as recipes are, and I think it’s perfect. It is spicy, and sausage-y, and delicious.

Last Monday I grew a pair and took on The Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. I spent the first day worried that I was going to offend my elf loving friends, and the next two days enjoying the support from my internet village. On Friday, Why I Hate The Elf On The Shelf was featured on BlogHer, and along with tons of support, I got my first negative comments as a blogger. For the record, if you are an elf loving family, I don’t think less of you. We all make different choices for ourselves, for our families, and that’s great. It keeps things interesting. If you read this blog with any regularity, you will find things about our goofy family that make you shake your head. And I love that.

The Baby Barbecue

When I was very pregnant with G, my brother’s lovely wife threw me a baby shower. Since I was, and still am, a girl who bristles at the thought of a pastel-infused, game-filled, shower-type party, ours was a co-ed barbecue. The fellas watched sports upstairs while the women cooed over teeny tiny overalls, and nodded knowingly over gigantic boxes of diapers, and they made an appearance only after gifting was finished and cake was cut.

Because it was a baby shower/barbecue, we thought it was sooo clever to call it a baby barbecue.  BYOB: Bring your own baby! Hahaha! No, we did not barbecue babies. We joked about it though. Hahaha. I am not the only person who thinks it was the best baby shower in the history of the world. It was awesome, and I’m not just saying that because all of the gifts were for me and I got to take the leftover cake home.

My mom and my best friend were in town for the event, as was my mom’s best friend, who also happens to be my best friend’s mom. Follow that? Mother-daughter best friend pairs. My friend really is the best, but she and I never really had a choice in our friendship. We’ve been stuck together since we were babies, and now we both have daughters that are the same age. Since before our girls were born, we’ve been prepping them. “You will be friends. You will love each other, whether you like it or not.” Three and a half years in, and so far, so good.

Now, when the four of us ladies get together, there is lots of laughing. Usually lots of drinking, too, but unfortunately for me, on this occasion I was cooking up a kid and was on the water. We were ready to go to the baby barbecue  just killing time waiting for my husband to get home from a quick trip into the lab to feed his clones or cure cancer or something, and we were chatting in my kitchen. Someone said something funny just as I was taking a drink of my stupid water, and I swallowed wrong. I started choking and sputtering, while those three bitches just laughed harder, until I puked. I’m sure normally that wouldn’t have stopped the howling, but since I was extra super duper pregnant, they took pity. “Are you okay?!” my mom asked. My friend rubbed my back, while her mom grabbed some paper towels. I couldn’t answer, still coughing, and not done puking. I ran to the bathroom, fell to my knees and finished vomiting in the toilet, like a lady.

My humiliation wasn’t complete. The extreme force of the coughing and vomiting made me pee my pants. Not a little “Oh my goodness! I laughed so hard I piddled in my panties” action, but a full force, wish I would have been sitting on the toilet instead of hurling into it event.

The cute outfit I had carefully chosen for my very own baby shower was ruined. So was my pride. Walking out of the bathroom with drenched pants and a flushed face only made the women in the kitchen lose it again.  I smiled sheepishly, and chuckled softly. I couldn’t laugh. My throat and chest hurt, I needed to change my clothes and brush my teeth, and we were going to be late.

I WAS late to the shower, and at first I wasn’t ready to tell everyone why. I shouldn’t have been so embarrassed. Some nameless party goers got so drunk at that baby shower, my pants wetting episode wasn’t even close to the most embarrassing thing that happened to someone that day.

Crock Pot Sausage Stuffing

This Crockpot Sausage Stuffing recipe is a perfect Thanksgiving side dish!

I love Thanksgiving. Some people are in it for the turkey or the mashed potatoes and gravy, and some folks are focused on the pie. Me? I love all of those things, but my heart belongs to the stuffing. I’m never more attracted to my husband than when he’s whipping up a batch of his incredible Crock Pot sausage stuffing, and I hover near the slow cooker the entire time it’s cooking.

The recipe comes from my mother-in-law, who modified it from Emeril Lagasse’s mother’s recipe after she saw him make it on Good Morning America back in 2002. It’s been a family-favorite around here ever since. The sausage makes it great, but I think the fresh parsley is what really knocks this stuffing out of the park.

I like that we can make this in the Crock Pot, as our oven is usually full of the gigantic bird we roast every year, even when we’re only feeding ourselves and our kids. What can I say? We dig leftovers.

We make most of our Thanksgiving side dishes in the slow cookers, like these mashed potatoes or these sweet potatoes, and if you run out of space in your oven, you should consider using your Crock Pot, too.

This recipe feeds a good-sized crowd, or feeds two adults and two kids for almost a week. Happy Thanksgiving!

I used my 6.5-Quart Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker to make this Crock Pot Sausage Stuffing.

Crock Pot Sausage Stuffing

Crock Pot Thursday: Sausage Stuffing
 
Ingredients
  • 12 cups bread cubes
  • 2½-3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 large well beaten eggs
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2½-3 cups chopped celery
  • 1½ cups chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • ½ lb hot sausage
  • 1 lb mild sausage
  • 1 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Combine bread cubes, beaten eggs, and chicken stock to get those bread cubes nice and moist. Moist. I love how that word bothers so many people. Moist.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan and add the celery, onion, and garlic. Let the vegetables soften, but do not let them brown.
  3. Take the veggies out and brown up the sausage. Mix the two kinds of sausage so the flavors meld nicely. If you don't want your stuffing to have any kick, using all regular sausage is fine. The spicier it is, the less you have to share with the kids. Think about it.
  4. When the sausage is brown, add the vegetables back in with the sausage. Add parsley, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add all of this goodness to the bread cubes and mix.
  5. Cook on high for 1½ hours. This recipe can also be baked in the oven at 350 for 1 to 1½ hours.

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[Tweet “This Crock Pot Sausage Stuffing will put the rest of the Thanksgiving side dishes to shame.”]

Check out these other Thanksgiving favorites!

 These Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes are easy and delicious!
Slow Cooked Sweet Potatoes

Just A Mom

You know those forms that ask for personal information? Not just the basic info, but household income, employment status, AGE. About four years ago, those forms started irritating me. Not because of the age question, although I never like aging into a new bracket, but because of the employment questions. Also the family income question, but that one’s related to the employment question.

When I’m not writing or working at my part-time job, my job title is “mom.” Four years ago, I quit my full-time job and gave up my nice salary for a better job that pays zero dollars. Some people call me a homemaker, a stay-at-home mom, a housewife, or unemployed, but none of these really fit. I know some women who list “domestic engineer” as their job title, but that sounds as ridiculous to me as “just a mom” sounds to many mothers. I truly don’t mind being called “just a mom” but like “domestic engineer” it doesn’t quite capture the spirit or the actual responsibilities of my job. Let’s break down the options.

Homemaker
This one makes me laugh. Not only does it sounds like I should be wearing an apron and pearls, but to me “making a home” is a team effort. In our family, The Doctor is as much of a “homemaker” as I am. There would be no home to make if he didn’t pay the mortgage. Our kids actually do more “home breaking” than “home making” but they provide the essential energy that makes our home uniquely ours, therefore they deserve as much credit as the grown-ups. Alas, this is usually the best option for me in a check the box situation. Let’s make some homes, bitches!

SAHM
This one is funny, too, but the most commonly used. As a stay at home mom, know what I do very little of? Staying at home. And I probably stay at home more than other SAHMs. I love being at home, and actually prefer it to most things, but being at home all the time make for a boring (and unhealthy) lifestyle. There is fun to be had out there in the world….parks and libraries and play dates. Also, my kids would drive me completely nutty if we were at home all of the time.

Housewife
This one gives me the heebie jeebies. I picture the woman in pearls and an apron again, but this time she’s not allowed to leave the house. I understand that this is not the definition of  “housewife” but I can’t help the image it presents, and you will never hear me call myself a housewife. That is, unless The Doctor picks up an additional wife, and my duties are strictly confined to the house. “The outside wife will have to take the kids to that party at Chuck E Cheese. I gots to stay in this house!”

Unemployed
I’m not. Even if I didn’t have a teeny tiny job, I wouldn’t consider myself unemployed unless I was looking for work. Out of the workforce, yes. Unemployed, no.

My problem with these job descriptions is that they are terrible at describing my job. Even more problematic, I don’t know how to tell people what I do. Some days I don’t sit down unless I’m in the car. Other days I get to nap. We play. A lot. We see friends, we do fun stuff. I do housework, I read and color with the kids, I make cookies, run errands, talk to family members from back home on the phone or Skype. I exercise and walk the dog. I blog. But here’s the thing: If I was working full-time, I’d still be doing almost all of these things. Probably not the naps. Or the exercise. I don’t feel the need to explain, but sometimes people ask. It doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t have been offended if someone was curious about my daily responsibilities when I was a retail manager, so why would I feel that way now? If people ask what we do all day, I usually say “Whatever we want.” Generally, most folks think I’m much more busy or much more lazy than I actually am.

I’m glad I get to do what I do. I’m also glad not everyone makes the same choice. There are important jobs in our society, and there are mothers and fathers who are amazing at their jobs. There are parents who wouldn’t enjoy my typical day, and there are child care providers who do a fantastic job of nurturing children while those kids’ parents contribute important skills to the workforce.

How do you describe your job situation? Since I can’t come up with a better title, I used the job title generator from Bullshit Job and now consider myself a Human Identity Director.

Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 11/26/12

Before our move East, and before my current job of mom, I worked in retail. This time of year I am thankful for so many things, but one of the things I am most thankful for is that I am not chained to my store from mid-November to early January. I do work very part-time for that same company, so I knocked out a few late night Black Friday prep shifts, and was in my store for our midnight Black Friday opening. I love the energy of Black Friday, and have always enjoyed working that middle of the night shift, but I have never had the desire to actually shop.

When I get together with college friends, I immediately transport back to that time and think I can drink like I used to. I most certainly can not. I proved this once again when we spent part of the weekend with a college friend and her family. The kids played well together while we grown-ups did some liver damage and watched our college football team beat our in-state rivals. It felt amazing to be with friends from home, and celebrate an overtime win with people who could appreciate the significance of that moment. Boy did I celebrate.

The Crock Pot Thursday recipe was a hearty Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings from allrecipes.com. It is super easy, made with refrigerated biscuit dough, and adaptable to your family’s tastes. I modified it with Bisquick dough, vegetables, and spices, and the whole family chowed it down. I’ll bet it would be great with leftover turkey.

I shared why my kids love happy hour. Hint: It’s not because they are the world’s youngest alcoholics. My husband’s job sponsors a weekly happy hour, and I like to crash it about once a month. Over the past four years, it has become more than beer and adult conversation for me. It is about friendship.

The lovely ladies at BlogHer featured my disgusting bathwater story. I can’t get over how exciting it is to see my words on such a respected website. Go see how pretty my name looks as a spotlight blogger!

We enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving at home, celebrating in pajamas for the second year in a row. The only way our day could get any more lazy would be to eat Thanksgiving dinner in bed. It was glorious. Since I had to work that night, I was completely justified in napping the afternoon away.

I love the changing seasons, but there is one aspect of the weather change that makes me crazy. Our entryway is drowning in outerwear and shoes. All I want for Christmas is a mud room!

Parents love to complain about their little kids’ behavior, but what would preschoolers have to say if they had adult level verbal skills? I speculate in the post Parent-Preschooler Relationship Advice. It sounds pretty close to what teenagers sound like. Maybe the whining and roll-on-the-floor tantrums aren’t so bad after all.

My kids play crazy games. One of L’s favorites is Black Market Baby, where she sells babies for a very reasonable price. If your kids are getting on your last nerve, send them our way. L will get out her little pink cash register, and they’ll be sold before you know it. You’ll almost be able to buy a coffee with your profits. WIN!

Seasons Collide

A few times a year, the seasons collide.

Flip flops to snow boots and back again.

Coat hooks strain under the weight of snow pants and rain jackets, windbreakers and winter coats.

Backpacks and handbags are buried under scarves and sweatshirts.

I love the swings in temperature and the excitement of snow one day and shorts the next.

But this?

This I do not love.

Happy Hour

Happy Hour

There is a commercial on our local radio station for a bar that boasts the state’s best happy hour. When my kids hear that ad, they lose their minds. “Mom! That said ‘the best happy hour in the state!’ Can we go there?!” They are not the world’s youngest alcoholics, but they really do love a happy hour.

The Doctor’s department sponsors a weekly happy hour. It starts on Friday afternoon after a scheduled speaker or two present their current research project, and is usually made up of the same 30 or so department employees and graduate students. You know, the smart ones that budget their time to drink free beer every week. It is an opportunity to discuss projects, share ideas, bitch about science, and develop stronger working relationships with people in other labs.

My husband is not one to pass up free beer, so he’s in attendance every week. We are a one car family, and the kids and I pick him up every evening, so one or two Fridays a month, we pop up to say hi. Over the course of four years, our quick hello and one beer has turned into my bringing a simple dinner for the kids and a couple of hours of adult conversation with our “science family.”

The kids love happy hour. There is a chalkboard that takes up an entire wall. There are chips and cookies. There are two huge tubs of beer on ice, and the ice is fun to play with after the beer has dwindled. Many of the Doctor’s coworkers have known the kids since they were babies, and some have babysat a time or two. They enjoy seeing the kids, and sometimes other coworkers bring their kids. I don’t want to say I ignore my kids when we are at happy hour, but I really have limited interaction with them. They play with their Legos, draw with the chalk I bring, or watch a movie on the iPod.

When I first started attending happy hour, it was the only adult interaction I had, outside of my short conversations with moms at the park or library. I was pretty lonely, in desperate need of a friend, and even more desperate need of a beer. Science is a somewhat transient industry, with people commonly moving very far from home to study or work in limited time commitments, and almost all of our science friends are from other places, frequently from other countries. This makes for a very welcoming environment, as they are used to people coming and going, and creates very interesting conversations, since there are so many people from different backgrounds.

I have local friends now, and am not starved for adult conversation, but I still love happy hour. The Doctor’s coworkers are my friends, too, and I look forward to sharing a drink with them once or twice a month. I love that they like my kids, and that they graciously share their beer with me. They have welcomed us into their homes, have watched our kids (overnight!) and are listed at the kids’ schools as emergency contacts. They are our local family.

Parent-Preschooler Relationship Advice

Here’s the deal. Of course we love each other. We like each other even, but with Graham in kindergarten, things are different. It is quieter during the day, and it took some time to get into a new routine. We are getting to know each other better. I am glad we are still together, but things aren’t always great. We fight, we make up, there are tears, and hurt feelings. It’s not like in the beginning. When we couldn’t get enough of each other. Up all night, skin to skin, inseparable. Now? Now we are sleeping in different rooms. But what am I going to do? She’s three, and from my experience, and from what I hear from other moms of three-year-olds, this is how it goes.

Oh, you thought I was talking about The Doctor? No, no. Ours relationship has seen very few waves. My relationship with my kids, on the other hand, is ever changing. From the time they were babies, as soon as I was comfortable with anything-naps, potty training, food preferences-things would change. I was recently chatting with a friend, and she was commenting on how she’s struggling with her three-year-old daughter. The whining is getting to her, effective discipline tools are elusive, and there isn’t enough wine to make it bearable. I totally understand. While we were talking, my very own three-year-old daughter had thrown herself on the floor in tears over MY choice of gloves. She wanted me to wear my bulky ski gloves to wait outside for her brother’s bus, I opted for more weather appropriate knit gloves. I seriously don’t get her sometimes, and while her verbal skills are very good for her age, she’s still a preschooler and couldn’t explain to me why my glove choice mattered so much. Parents like to complain about their kids’ behavior, but what would the kids have to say if they had the advanced verbal skills to do so? 
Mom: You never listen to me. When I tell you we are leaving in five minutes, that means wrap it up and get your shoes on. 
Kid: Give me a chance to put my shoes on before you repeat your demand five times. I’ll get to it when I get to it. No one likes a nag. Besides, how am I supposed to have any concept of time? To you, “five minutes” can be anywhere from one to thirty minutes.
Mom: You don’t appreciate the things I do around here. 
Kid: I would appreciate you making something for dinner I actually like. I’ve told you a million times that I don’t like onions, but you still put them in everything. Dad hates mushrooms, and you keep them out for him. What the hell, MOM?
Mom: All I’m asking is that you put your socks in the hamper, and put your clean clothes away. 
Kid: Just because I didn’t put them exactly where you wanted them to go, like in the drawers, doesn’t mean they aren’t put away. Let me do it my way. I like my clothes on the floor in the corner. No comment on the socks thing.
Mom: Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking to Grandma. Why do you insist on talking to me when I’m on the phone?
Kid: You never listen to me. Why is Grandma more important than me?
Mom: I just want some alone time. Let me take a bath in peace.
Kid: I don’t get any alone time in the bath. Why should you?  
Mom: Stop playing with your toys and come snuggle with me.
Kid: Put your computer away so I can sit on your lap.
Mom and Kid: I love you so much, but you make me crazy sometimes.

Like any relationship, the parent-child relationship takes work. Give and take, understanding, and empathy. And snuggles. Even when you aren’t in the mood. Wine helps.

Crazy Ass Games My Kids Play

Like most kids, mine are always pretending. They hunt and fight bad guys, they are superheroes, or they are some type of animal. They are wizards, royalty, Star Wars characters, doctors, and scientists. They are babies. Or they are fighting.

When L is being a baby, she likes to use props. Recently she asked for a pacifier (lollipop) and I was so impressed by her cleverness, I gave it to her even though it was 6:45 am. I obviously didn’t think about the long-term ramifications of this choice, and now she wants to be a baby ALL THE TIME. Like a real baby with a real pacifier, stopping the paci cold turkey has resulted in more than a few tears. My kids didn’t really use pacifiers (there wasn’t room in their mouths since they were on my tit 24/7) so this is probably my punishment for my “I’m so glad we didn’t do that” attitude about pacifiers. That karma is a tricky bitch.

One of L’s favorite games is what I like to call “Black Market Baby.” Using both her vast baby collection and her pink cash register, she peddles dolls and stuffed animals to anyone she can get to play with her. Filling up her little shopping cart (carriage, buggy, whatever you call it in your part of the world) with tiny babies, soft babies, princess babies, and stuffed animals, she wheels on up, and asks “What baby do you want?” Her customer chooses the child of their choice, and then L gives them the money to buy it. She obviously doesn’t really know how consumerism works. Lately much of our purchasing has been done online, so her game has been revised to include cardboard boxes and deliveries. I’ve been getting so many babies from Amazon the past few weeks.

The newest game is a version of Doctor that never had a chance. L pretends to be unconscious and G drags her around the house by her arms or her feet. He lugs her to me, and drops her, like a cat offering a mouse. He checks for signs of life by tickling her or giving her zerberts. So far, he’s been able to revive her with these methods. She can hold her giggles for a bit, but is laughing before long. The kids love this game, but I don’t, and the entire time they played it, I was saying “Hey, guys…um, if someone is really sleeping and you can’t wake them up, you have to tell a grown-up right away, OK?” Or, “She’s just sleeping, right? You aren’t pretending she’s dead, are you? Because that’s not a good thing to play.” It’s hard to play a made up game when your mom’s up your ass the whole time.

Another recent favorite has L as the mommy and G as the kid. This game is good in that nobody’s dead, and is mostly L tending to G’s toddler-esque needs. She covers him with a blanket, sings him songs, brings him snacks, and rattles toys in front of his face. The only really annoying part of this game is that he is constantly calling out “Mommy!” and I respond. I’m not supposed to respond. I’m not the mommy in this game. Until I am again, and then they get all worked up that I’m not listening. That and the baby talk. The way my kids pretend to talk like a baby is nails on the chalkboard to me. It makes my ears bleed. Real babies sound sweet and adorable. My pretend babies sound like screeching owls.

My kids play well together. Most of the time. As long as they aren’t fighting, crying, or whining, they can pretend to be pretty much whatever they want. I can’t wait until the next time they fight so I can try this:

Photo credit: The Ellen Degeneres Show

Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 11/19/12

It’s truly ridiculous that when it’s time for me to compose my weekly wrap-up post I have to look back at my blog entries to see what I did just a few days before. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m the mom who forgets Crazy Hair Day for G, and Orange Day for L. I did remember Favorite Team Day this week. Ha! No I didn’t. My neighbor friend reminded me. I’m really lucky to have her. She’s definitely got her shit together, and since our kids are the same age, they attend the same schools and she makes sure I do the important stuff. No joke, the first week of school she called me to remind me to pick up L. I wasn’t offended. I too was worried I may forget. I wish she would remind me to pay L’s preschool tuition. It’s the only bill I’m responsible for, and it’s a few days late every month.

I admitted that I accidentally drank half of a Gatorade bottle full of dirty kid bathwater. I still can’t drink water out of anything plastic without gagging. That’s probably why I’m so dehydrated. I want to be mad at the kids, or The Doctor, but it’s really my fault. I guess it’s probably better this way. I have a really hard time holding a grudge against myself.

Our Crock Pot Thursday recipe last week was yummy and easy. For everyone else but us. I messed those French Dip Subs up good. Since the rest of the Crock Pot Thursday crew loved the recipe so much, and because I knew I would have to write about it, I repeated the recipe later in the week, with much better results. We’ll definitely make these subs again.

I gave one of my closest friends my user name for My Fitness Pal. This is a big deal. I would be more likely to let you see me naked than let you see my food journal. I WILL give you all an insider tip: Dinner on Saturday was beer. Operation Smoking Hot Body is still a focus, but not when our college football team is playing!

I wrote about how my summer job in high school bears many similarities to parenting. I was a lifeguard, and I spent  my days keeping people alive, managing children, and cleaning. All while sucking in my gut. Moms and lifeguards have very similar job descriptions. We may not get official training for parenthood, but our life experiences train us for this gig in so many ways. I plan on flipping this logic around when it’s time for me to go back to work. Maybe I’ll get another lifeguarding job. We’ll have to see how smoking hot my body is by then.

I wrote a post that was really a love letter to my mom friends. I surround myself with some amazing women, and I feel truly blessed to have old and new friends that really get me. BlogHer featured it last week, which was obviously very exciting. I’m pretty proud of my “Featured on BlogHer” badge. Look how shiny it is!

Mom Training

People love to remind us that parenting is the most important job we’ll ever have. It’s no wonder new parents are freaked out. I felt totally unprepared when I was pregnant with my first. I had no mom schooling, I received no mom degree, and I never even interned as a mom. I did read some books. Lots of books, actually, but so what? If I wanted to be a surgeon, I couldn’t just breeze in to the operating room and be all, “I read some books. Let’s do this.”

I did have some experience babysitting, but I never really liked it, and if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t especially like kids before I had my own. Some women want to be moms from a young age. I always assumed I would get married and have kids, and that I would like it, but it never occurred to me to start training for this job. Even if it had occurred to me, I’m too much of a procrastinator to have done anything about it. My first kid slept in a Pack N Play for four months before we bothered to buy a crib.

Looking back, there are other life experiences that trained me for motherhood. I worked in a clothing store where I folded and put away other people’s messes all day. Just like I do now. I’ve been wiping my own bottom for years,and it’s way bigger than the tiny tush I wiped this morning.

Even my summer job in high school was slowly training me for the biggest gig of them all. I was a lifeguard and while most of my time was spent sunning myself, jamming to Salt-N-Pepa on the hand-me-down boom box, and running away from the older boy lifeguards who thought it was hilarious to hold us down and rub the dirty flyswatter on our faces, my actual job responsibilities were similar to my duties now.

Keeping People Alive Pretty much the #1 job of a parent.

Child Care  Parents would drop off their 5-15 year olds for the entire day. To be watched by no one but some high school lifeguards. It was by far the cheapest unofficial child care in town, and it is no small miracle that everyone survived. I settled disputes, sifted through lies, counted to three, and dispersed punishments, all while keeping my eyes trained on the patrons in the pool.

Janitorial Duties  This obviously translates into parenting, but the kids at the pool gave us opportunity for special parenting training. On occasion  if someone would leave their towel or clothing in the bathroom/changing room, a group of preteen boys would put the belongings in the toilet. It was disgusting, and it gave me lots of experience fishing things out of the can.

Sucking In My Gut  I was in a swimsuit all day as a lifeguard, and sucking in is a must for a post-baby belly. I’ve been sucking in my gut almost all my life, but the most focused times were when I was in my swimsuit and when my belly was extra doughy. (Side note: I will never call it a bathing suit. Show me one person that uses those suits for bathing.)

Parenting is a complex job. It’s full of small, seemingly unimportant tasks surrounding big, life shaping events and choices. To all of you soon to be parents: Don’t fret. You’ve been training for this your whole life.

Crock Pot French Dip Subs

These Crockpot French Dip Subs are a family favorite! If you're looking for an easy crockpot recipe that will be loved by both kids and adults, here it is!

For those of you familiar with my Crock Pot Thursday series, you know that my mother-in-law, three of my sisters-in-law, and I take turns selecting a slow cooker recipe weekly, and we all make that recipe on Thursday. It’s our way of sharing a family meal when we can’t be together. My husband and I live across the country from our family, and we only get to break bread with our relatives several times a year, so Crock Pot Thursday helps ease that distance.

Sometimes our schedule doesn’t allow for slow cooking on Thursday, and on days when I am behind schedule, I get to modify the recipe based on the feedback of the other Crock Pot Thursday families. When it came to this Crock Pot French Dip Subs recipe, the only feedback I heard in messages from my in-laws was how amazing it is and how easy it was to make.

They were right, and this recipe is now a familiar face in our family’s meal rotation. Sometimes I serve it simply, with just the beef on a roll with au jus for dipping, but sometimes I slather on some horseradish, and add some grilled onions to the French Dip Subs.

These Crockpot French Dip Subs are a family favorite! If you're looking for an easy crockpot recipe that will be loved by both kids and adults, here it is!

This recipe makes a lot of meat, so if you’re cooking for two, maybe use a smaller cut of beef. We usually get two night’s of Crock Pot French Dip Subs from the recipe, and then have enough leftover for some vegetable beef soup, beef burritos, or beef tacos.

The last time I made it, I froze a quarter of the meat for another day. I love having precooked meat in the freezer for last minute dinner ideas. It’s saved our evening meal more than once!

These Crockpot French Dip Subs are a family favorite! If you're looking for an easy crockpot recipe that will be loved by both kids and adults, here it is!

Crock Pot French Dip Subs

INGREDIENTS
  • 2.5 lb chuck roast (or any cut of roast)
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 10.5 oz can of beef broth
  • sliced or shredded cheese (mozzarella, provolone, or Swiss work great)
  • 6 sub rolls, the crustier the better
DIRECTIONS
1. Put the roast in the Crock Pot, cover with dry onion soup mix, and pour beef  broth over the top.
2. Cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shred easily.
3. Shred meat with two forks, and let it sit in the juices for a bit before serving.
4. Butter the insides of the rolls, and place, face down, on a hot skillet or flat top grill. Cook until browned.
5. Add generous portion of beef to the rolls, top with cheese, and serve with the juices from the slow cooker (au jus) on the side. If you are heavy dippers like us, you’ll need lots of au jus. It’s that good.
6. Chow down.

Crock Pot French Dip Subs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The juices from this dish are delicious for dipping!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2.5 lb chuck roast (or any cut of roast)
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 10.5 oz can of beef broth
  • sliced or shredded cheese (mozzarella, provolone, or Swiss work great)
  • 6 sub rolls, the crustier the better
  • butter, for grilling the rolls
Instructions
  1. Put the roast in the Crock Pot, cover with dry onion soup mix, and pour beef broth over the top.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shred easily.
  3. Shred meat with two forks, and let it sit in the juices for a bit before serving.
  4. Butter the insides of the rolls, and place, face down, on a hot skillet or flat top grill. Cook until browned.
  5. Add generous portion of beef to the rolls, top with cheese, and serve with the juices from the slow cooker (au jus) on the side.

 


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Don’t Drink The Water

When you become a parent, you know disgusting things are going to happen. Poop and snot are obviously going to be an issue. Pee and puke come with the territory. There are things that no one warns you about, but end up being fairly common as well. Like kids sneezing in your mouth. Before kids, I never once heard anyone complain about this, but ask any parent and they’ll nod knowingly.

Last week something happened that completely blindsided me. A few things had to come together to culminate in this one disgusting event, and I’m mostly to blame.

The kids have had gunky coughs with on and off sniffles for weeks. Like a whiny kid hanging on your leg, these lingering coughs are annoying and unreasonably persistent. In an attempt to ease the congestion, the kids were taking a long, hot, steamy bath. My son was thirsty, so I gave him one of his dad’s water bottles, which are actually spent Gatorade bottles refilled with water. I told my boy he could keep the water bottle by the tub, but the bottle needed to stay out of the bath.

Since the bottle was perched right on the edge of a tub that contained two wiggly children, it took about three minutes before that repurposed Gatorade bottle was floating in the bathwater. At that point, it became a bath toy, and was filled, dumped, and refilled for the remainder of the bath session.

Now my kids are about 50/50 on cleaning up their own bath toys, and on this day I was tasked with cleanup. My boy had filled the Gatorade bottle with bathwater and capped it tightly, so I carried it to the kitchen to be emptied and put in the recycling. Listen carefully: Beverage containers filled with bathwater should not be taken to a second location. Much like a kidnapping situation, nothing good can come from going to a second location. That was my biggest mistake. I am easily distracted, and I forgot about that bottle of bathwater nestled snugly with the rest of the paraphernalia crowded around the kitchen sink.

Fast forward to the next evening, kids in bed, me lounging on the couch with my favorite blanket, watching some sort of crime drama. I was thirsty and my husband was up, so I asked him to get me some water. He brought me…you know what it’s going to be, right?…a Gatorade bottle of water.

I took a swig. No, not a swig, more like a triple-drink-super-long-college-style-chug. When I came up for air, I paused. It tasted funny. Kind of like soap. And smelled funny. Kind of like apples. Kind of like apple-scented kid shampoo. Horrified, I knew immediately that I had just pounded six ounces of dirty, kid-marinated bathwater.

My loving and understanding husband laughed silently, shoulders shaking, while I gagged and explained how filthy bathwater made it’s way out of the tub, into a capped plastic bottle, into the kitchen, and into my mother effing mouth.

I still get gaggy when I think about it.

Disgusting things happen when you have kids.

I Get You

Hey, moms! I get you.

I met my friend Kelly when we both belonged to a local moms’ group. One of the first group activities my kids and I participated in was a playdate at her house. Kelly has a cat, and at some point in the playdate, my one year old daughter was found playing in the litter box. We determined that she hadn’t eaten anything (litter or otherwise), and after washing her hands REALLY good, I released her to continue playing while I sipped my coffee, chatted with the other mothers, and kept a better eye on my kid. I was grossed out, but what was I gonna do? Leave? Haha, no. Enjoy my coffee and grown-up conversation, that’s what.

Kelly has since told me that seeing my reaction to that situation was when she knew she liked me. That we could be friends.

I understand what she means, and I also have vivid memories of situations when I knew a fellow mom was like me. Situations where I remember thinking, “I get you,” or “You do it the way I do.”

If you are the mom who picked a knife up off of my kitchen counter, looked at the bits on the edge of the knife saying, “This looks like it was used for food,” and proceeded to cut your kid’s hot dog with it: I get you.

If you are the mom who convinced me it wasn’t completely disgusting to dig Lily’s brand new tiara out of a public toilet, wash it off, and give it back to her to wear: I respect your parenting.

If you are the mom who told me years ago that the kids live in your house, not the other way around, and your main living area will not be overrun by kids’ stuff: I’m still looking to you as an example.

This is how I like a playdate to look.

If you are the mom of two girls who says letting your children dress themselves “builds character and sense of self,”: Thank you for helping free me from that particular battle.

If you are the mom who meets the kids and me for a day at the beach, and we both bring beer without even discussing it: I’m so glad we are East Coast transplants together. Sisterhood!

If you are the mom who said “I love the update on your kids. You need to blog this shit though.”: Thank you for encouraging me to take that leap. My first Crock Pot giveaway will be rigged in your favor.

If you are a mom who likes to laugh at her kids: Make sure you share the funny with the rest of us so we can laugh, too.

If you are a mom who understands that a light-hearted approach to parenting doesn’t diminish the fierce love we have for, and desire to protect our kids: Keep it up. Important jobs can be fun, too.

If you are a mom who takes time for yourself; to exercise, enjoy hobbies, and go out with friends: Good for you. It makes you a happier wife and mother.

We all parent differently, but there are some situations that cut through all of the noise and tell me we are more alike than anything. I live for those moments.



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Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 11/12/12

Since it’s supposed to be in the sixties here today, it’s hard to believe we saw the season’s first snow just a few days ago. The warm weather helped melt our almost foot of snow, and it disappeared nearly as quickly as it arrived. I love the magic of the first snow of the season, and I’m confident I always will. I also like to be warm, so I’m glad it’s already gone!

Our town sustained some storm damage from Sandy, so Halloween was postponed due to safety concerns. The make-up Halloween date was this past Wednesday, when much of the town was being blanketed under a foot of snow that was blown around by our Nor’easter. Not ready to give up on Halloween completely, our community hosted a Trunk-or-Treat event in the high school parking lot on Saturday night. Anyone who wanted to participate parked in the parking lot, brought candy and dressed up kids, and trick-or-treated out of the backs of vehicles. We weren’t planning on going, as we did some rogue trick-or-treating on Halloween, but we were invited to attend with some friends, and I’m glad we did. It was a fun night, and we were able to replenish our Halloween candy stash. Now that I think about it, that’s probably not a good thing.

I shared an original recipe for the first time for Crock Pot Thursday. My shredded chicken recipe is super easy, and can be used in a ton of recipes. I’m not usually a fan of chicken breasts, but prepared this way they are moist, flavorful, and delicious.

We took Lily to her first movie. We saw Wreck-It Ralph, and all four of us really liked it. She ended up on my lap during a scene that was too scary for her, and she cried a bit during a sad part. I cried a bit, too. Like me, both of my kids watch shows with active emotional reactions. Here is how Graham used to watch any scene that was too scary, sad, exciting, or funny:

Our matinee was fun. We put the hurt on a tub of popcorn, and I’m pleased that Lily’s first movie was a good one. Graham’s first movie was Tangled, another great kid movie.

My parenting strategy is to be just above average, as I am nowhere near perfect. I admit my top ten justifications that help me feel good about my mediocre goals. Feel free to adopt some (or all) of these excuses, and enjoy less laundry, more candy, and mostly guilt-free parenting.

Graham brought home some pictures he had colored of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney that I thought were funny, prompting me to do what I said I wouldn’t do. Write about politics. Since this is not a political blog and I’m not ready for mean comments, I didn’t share my political leanings, but instead shared some of my favorite political internet memes.

Graham got to come with us to cast our votes on Election Day, and he wanted to know why you can only vote for one person in each race. Trying to explain politics to a five year old is tricky, but we did our best to describe a few of the differences between the two main parties. His take-away? “When I grow up, I’m going to marry a boy and have three thousand guns.” I guess he’s an Independent. Or a Libertarian.

There’s Something About The First

There is nothing like the first snow of the season. I’ve logged thirty-five winters, and I still get wrapped up in the magic of those first flakes. The way they float, slowly from the sky; clinging to leaves, branches, and eyelashes. The hush that comes over the world when the air is full of snow. I don’t imagine there will ever come a time that I am nothing but thrilled by winter’s (or fall’s) first snow.

Everyone in our house loves a snowy day. The Doctor likes shoveling snow, G immediately sinks to his knees and slaps together an arsenal of snowballs, and L grabs a handful and chows down. Edgar loves the snow, too, and will play in it as long as we allow. As for me, I love the way it looks and love the way it smells, but since I don’t like to be cold, I’m ready to go in after a few minutes. I love snow, and I love it most from inside a warm house with my hands cupping a mug of tea.
We enjoyed our first snow day yesterday. If I was still working, a snow day would be a problem. Arranging back-up child care, missing a day of work, or fighting with The Doctor over whose turn it is to stay home with the kids would all be issues to manage. Instead, I woke up at 5:45 am when Lily climbed in bed with us, looked at my phone and saw the school cancellation notification. Our morning immediately became more relaxed. We lounged for a while, the kids helped their dad shovel the driveway and walkway, and I rewarded the hard workers with a big breakfast.
Snow doesn’t come without challenges. I drove about two miles last night and slid pretty much the entire way. Because it was 10 pm and the middle of a Nor’easter, I was the only one on the road, which was good because I was all over that road. Also, too much snow can result in too many snow days, requiring the kids (and their educators) to have make-up days all through June. Our area has experienced this issue in recent years, and no one wants to be in school at the end of June. 
As a  kid, snow days were awesome. As a working adult (with a 25 mile commute in a town with minimal snow removal capabilities) snow days were a pain in the ass. As a stay at home mom, snow days are awesome again. Despite my changing feelings about how snow affects my schedule, I’ve always adored the excitement, beauty, and peacefulness of the first snow of the season.
Sometimes we get LOTS of snow. This is from two years ago.

Crock Pot Shredded Chicken

This recipe is the easiest and most delicious Crockpot Shredded Chicken, and is great in so many dishes! Use it for tacos, soups, nachos, salads, sandwiches, and more! My family loves this quick and easy dinner idea!

Every week we join my husband’s four siblings, their families, and my mother and father-in-law in Crock Pot Thursday, where we all make the same slow cooker recipe. Each family takes turns choosing the recipe, and we all make it and enjoy it on the same day. It’s a great way for a family as spread out as ours to share a meal.

Last week, half of the Crock Pot Thursday crew was visiting us here in Connecticut, so we skipped our Crock Pot recipe for the week in favor of some New Haven pizza on Thursday. Did you know New Haven, CT has some of the best pizza in the country? Come visit me, and I’ll take you out for some truly magnificent pizza. Mashed potato and bacon pizza is our favorite, and I know it sounds weird, but ask anyone around here. It’s incredible.

I’m sorry the recipe I’m sharing today isn’t pizza. It is, however, my very favorite shredded chicken recipe, which would probably be good on pizza!

This Crock Pot Shredded Chicken is a hard working dish. The flavors are great, but they are subtle enough to go well with many different recipes. It’s simple to make, it’s fast, and it uses frozen chicken, which I love.

I like to make up a big batch of this chicken and have it on hand when I know we have a busy week, or if it’s going to be too hot to cook.

You’ll want to add this to your regular rotation, because it can be used in tons of meals and recipes. Enjoy!

Crock Pot Shredded Chicken

Crock-Pot Thursday: Shredded Chicken
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts FROZEN
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Place the frozen chicken in the Crock Pot, sprinkle the seasonings on top, and pour the chicken broth over everything.
  2. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.
  3. I shred my chicken in the Crock Pot so the shredded chicken can absorb more of the yummy juices.

I used my 6.5-Quart Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker to make this delicious Crock Pot Shredded Chicken.

 Now you’re ready to use that chicken in one of about a bazillion recipes. Shredded chicken is great in tacos, enchiladas, salads, soups, and my two favorites:

 

Chicken Pot Pie

Those individual pot pies were not only totally adorable, but everyone loved them. I got those ramekins at Target, and like most of my Target treasures, my husband deemed them “unnecessary.” To prove him wrong, I had to make them useful, and quick. I think it worked. They look small, but one pot pie recipe fit perfectly in these four ramekins, and they have both a top and bottom crust. I was only able to eat about half of mine, and the kids gutted theirs straight from the top (of course) and barely made a dent. The leftovers weren’t as pretty, but just as tasty. This recipe is fine with store bought crust or homemade crust.


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Justification Station

There are two dimensions of parenting: The right way and the real way. We want the best for our kids, and we know they aren’t getting “the best” because, let’s face it, they are stuck with us. My dad once told me that all that is expected of us as parents is to do a better job than our parents did. If each generation does this, we are heading in the right direction. Now, how do we make ourselves feel better about striving for just above average? Pull into justification station, and I’ll share my top ten favorite justifications!

  1. Skipping baths saves water. So does infrequent sheet washing and re-wearing clothing.
  2. Watching cartoons teaches rhyming, music, interpersonal relationships, letters, numbers, and problem solving. Playing video games and computer games teaches all of these things, too, and it readies them for a technology based society.
  3. It’s not a big deal that my kids aren’t eating a balanced diet today. They ate properly yesterday…or was it the day before?
  4. Letting a swear slip in front of the children is fine. They need to learn that some words are okay for grown-ups to say, and kids shouldn’t be repeating everything they hear.
  5. It’s healthy that we fight in front of the kids. Observing arguments teaches conflict resolution and teaches the kids to speak their mind. Marriage isn’t perfect, and you can love someone and disagree with them too.
  6. Returning items late to the library isn’t irresponsible. Look at all of the money I’m donating!
  7. My child isn’t bossy or bratty. She’s just super skilled at articulating her opinions. I’m sure it’s a sign of advanced intelligence.
  8. We don’t have our kids in lots of activities because we don’t want to over-schedule them. It has nothing to do with my reluctance to pay money to stand in the cold and watch my kid ignore the coach’s directions and play in the dirt.
  9. Stealing 93% of the kids’ Halloween candy is not great for my waistline, but I’m only doing it for the kids health. I’ve thought about it quite a bit, and I can’t come up with any other options. I have to eat it. Except the stuff I don’t like. That stuff I can send into work with The Doctor.
  10. I am incredibly busy as a stay-at-home mom. Right now I’m not watching Ellen in my yoga pants while surfing the web. And if I am, it’s part of my job. Shut up! It is!
What are your favorite justifications? Share with me! I need some fresh excuses!

Some People Won’t Be Laughing Tonight

I wasn’t going to write about today’s election. I have purposely avoided political topics on this blog because I am confident none of you will change your political views based on mine. If I’m wrong about that, contact me before you vote today, and I’ll tell you which way to go. 
Sometimes avoiding all hints of politics is hard, especially when there is a new meme trending. The internets are chock full of hilarious material about both candidates, and it’s been hard to resist. 
I didn’t comment on this

Or this
Or my very favorite
But my boy came home from kindergarten yesterday with this artwork, and I had to share.

His depictions do a good job capturing the self-satisfied aloofness of Obama, and the insincere smile of the spray-tanned Romney. His school is our polling site, and he got to vote yesterday. His teacher asked the kids to keep their vote private, but he did share with me when he got home, and he’s excited to see if his guy wins.

There is no doubt that most of the humorous material about the candidates is created by individuals with liberal leanings. A quick internet search will show that Romney jokes outnumber Obama jokes by a staggering amount. I have opinions about policy and have picked a candidate whose platform best reflects those opinions, but I also love having smart, witty people point out absurdities in an easy to digest platform. I feel comfortable laughing at the leader of our country. I regularly laugh at the most important things in my life: my family, my friends, my country, my religion, and myself.

Today is an important day. Election day makes me proud, grateful, humble, and free. Proud to be part of a democratic society. Grateful for the women before me who fought for my right to vote. Humbled by the collective process that helps me feel the weight of my vote. Free to make fun of the process.

Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 11/5/12

Last week was busy. The Doctor’s parents were in town, along with his baby sister, her husband, and our 16 month old niece  We spent the first two days of their visit looking out the window at Storm Sandy, and the next three days adjusting our sight seeing plans because of storm damage and power outages. We were disappointed to miss out on our planned Broadway show and Statue of Liberty trip, but so thankful that we never lost power, and we didn’t suffer any downed trees or flooding. Graham got to spend way more time with his visiting family, as school had storm related cancellations most of the week. I felt like a total douche when I felt sorry for myself that our plans were slightly inconvenienced while people are still enduring such significant levels of loss and suffering.

I shared my old lady tendencies, like my love for lap blankets, Almond Joy, and The Weather Channel. I really don’t fear getting old, because I’ve been old for years. I may as well get a few more gray hairs to match my behavior.

We all got sick. Most of us just got the sore throat/cough combination, but my poor boy spiked quite the fever and had such bad coughing fits he was making himself hurl. We managed his discomfort in a few ways: steamy baths, spoonfuls of honey, sips of water, lollipops (cough drops taste “kinda yucky”,) ibuprofen, and Vicks VapoRub. The rub unfortunately got rubbed where boys like to rub, and his “really cold penis” had to be washed off super quick. No harm, and lesson learned. Boys can’t keep their hands off their junk.

We spent some time in New Haven, CT and saw a real life skull stuck in roots of a downed tree. The New Haven Green used to be a cemetery, and in 1821 the grave markers were moved, but the bodies remained. It was a pretty eerie thing to see, especially on the day before Halloween.

Because of the damage from Sandy, our town postponed Halloween one week in order to ensure a safe experience for everyone. Our neighborhood had no safety issues, so the general consensus with our neighbors was to go ahead and celebrate Halloween anyway. Our neighborhood boasts both a ton of kids and a great sense of community, so Halloween around here is always fun. This year we kicked it up a notch with some school friends, some in-laws, and some beers.

Hermione Granger and Harry Potter with their adorable Piggy cousin.

For the last couple of years, I’ve marked the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving by posting one thing I’m thankful for each day on Facebook. I love looking back on previous year’s Giving Thanks Until Thanksgiving posts, and I’m having fun reading my friends’ thankfulness. Barreling toward the busy holiday season, I think it’s important to pause and reflect on our blessings. We are graced with so much goodness, and it can be easy to focus on the the bad things in life, rather than the good.

I picked the Crock Pot Thursday recipe, and was reminded that sometimes the low-fat, low-calorie, or low Weight Watcher points meals are sometimes not a suitable substitution for the original. I am still craving Chicken Tikka Masala.

We watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Lily has since channeled her inner Linus, and can be found packing her blanket with her absolutely everywhere. She even talked me into letting her bring it trick-or-treating.

Real Life Halloween Skeleton

Sometimes the past shows up in unexpected places. Yesterday we spent the day in New Haven, CT doing some sight seeing, and we came upon this downed tree in the New Haven Green. The tree is called The Lincoln Oak, as it was planted in 1909 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. 
We were checking out the huge hole left in the ground from the uprooted tree, when a man approached us saying a skull had just been discovered stuck in the root system. He was concerned we may not want the kids to witness a body. He was right. We didn’t want the kids to see, but I sure as hell wanted to take a closer look. 
The skull is just to the left of where the stick is pointing.
Part of the Green was used as a cemetery for early New Haven residents, and in 1821 the grave markers were moved, but the bodies were left behind. The bones that we saw appeared to have been there a very long time.  I was glad to read this morning that the body is being exhumed by professionals, and while we will probably never know who it belonged to, it is being treated with respect. 
It was a somber reminder yesterday that history is all around us. We carry it with us, often times without even realizing it. 
Read the New Haven Independent story here .

There Was An Old Lady (Who Lived In My Body)

I like to travel with a blanket on my lap and I love The Weather Channel, so no, I'm not afraid of getting older. I've been old for years.

I’m not afraid of growing old, in fact there’s quite a bit of evidence suggesting I’ve been an old woman for years. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was twelve. In high school, I would get up extra early to drink that coffee while reading the morning newspaper. Getting up early was difficult, as I would also stay up late watching Letterman. I like to think I was fairly cool back then, but I also acted like a sixty year old man. During Lent I would have to rush that paper reading, because for those six weeks I would also squeeze daily mass in before school. Just me, my younger brother, and about twelve devout blue hairs.

My old lady tendencies have evolved. We no longer get a print newspaper, but I still get up early for my coffee and the news. Now most of that news comes in the form of Facebook and Twitter, which is not quite the same, I know. My West Coast friends do a decent job of keeping me updated on anything I may have missed while sleeping, but I was really much more knowledgeable about current events when I was 16. If I didn’t have a kid or two with me almost all of the time, I would listen to talk radio instead of music in the car. Those folks on the radio do not talk nice to each other, and my littles don’t need to hear that.

When we take a road trip, I insist on traveling with a blanket on my lap. I like the temperature to be toasty warm, and the music at a comfortable level. I flinch when my husband follows someone to closely on the freeway, and when I see anyone younger than me driving recklessly, I shake my head and wonder “Why are kids so impetuous?” When cars speed through our neighborhood, I give them a stern glare, and sometimes even yell at them to slow down. Despite all of this, I’ll have you know, I do not drive like an old person. Most of the time (not in neighborhoods) I have embraced and celebrate New England’s culture of using the speed limit as only a suggestion.

This week I’ve been checking the weather like a junkie. Sitting in the recliner, blanket covering my lap, and flipping from The Weather Channel to our local storm coverage and back again. I need to be up to date on Hurricane Sandy, because it’s the first thing I’m going to want to talk about when I see the neighbors or an acquaintance at the store. We old folks LOVE to talk about the weather!

The past few days I’ve been dipping into the Halloween candy. My husband tells me my love for Almond Joy shows my inner age, but I don’t care. I’ll happily eat it while watching CSI like the old-timer I am. I’m not saying that getting older doesn’t ever faze me. I don’t like finding a gray hair, the lines on my face are pissing me off, and I accidentally ate a black licorice jellybean last week, and liked it.

Even for a girl who got her first AARP card in the mail at 24, that’s kind of a big deal.



Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 10/29/12

I swear, if I didn’t have this blog I would have no idea what I did this week. Let’s recap together, shall we?

We kicked off the week fighting the crowds at a popular local apple orchard and pumpkin patch. We talked the kids into teeny tiny pumpkins by enacting the rule, “You can bring home whatever pumpkin you can carry.” My kids don’t have a ton of upper arm strength, apparently. We did get some delicious apples, and no one peed their pants, so overall it was pretty fun.

In preparation for family visiting, I spent the better part of a week thinking about all the things I needed to clean. I did all of those things the morning they arrived.

I got fed up with one too many Facebook comments regarding how easy kids have it these days, and wrote a post highlighting all the ways being a kid sucks and being a grown-up is awesome. It seems we adults don’t seem to remember all the lame-o things that go along with childhood.

We switched our cable provider, and to clean out the DVR, I watched more TV in two days than I usually do in a week. I am not kidding when I tell you it felt like work. I live a hard life. Clearly.

I shared Skinny Fat Kid‘s quick and easy pork chop recipe for Crock Pot Thursday. I fell in love with that blog’s name, and the chops were tasty, too!

I took the kids to a Harry Potter birthday themed birthday party. My friend Becky made these adorable party favor bags and we especially loved them since the kids are going to be Harry Potter and Hermione Granger for Halloween. They were filled with Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans, disappearing ink, and an edible magic wand. That Becky sure is clever!

We spent an evening getting Lily’s forehead stitched up after she fell off of our bed and hit her head on a radiator. She had been jumping on the bed, and after five stitches, you’d think she would have learned her lesson. You would be wrong. I caught that little monkey jumping on my bed not twenty four hours later. She was a trooper, though. She barely cried, she charmed the emergency room staff, and she wanted to save half of her popcicle for her brother. We encouraged her to eat it, since it would have melted by the time we got home, and when her dad took a bite, she cried harder than she had all night. On the way out of the hospital, I saw a sculpture that stopped me in my tracks.

Bruno Lucchesi’s After Shopping

We bought so many beers and so many chips to be hurricane ready. You’ll have to stay tuned to see how this story ends. Did we buy enough beer? Will any grown-ups eat the fruit? Will my in-laws actually be able to fly in?

Crock Pot Fast Pork Chops

Fast Slow-Cooker Pork Chops are an easy and delicious crockpot recipe. Pork Chops are tender and make for a great dinner.

I know today is Friday, but I guess I was distracted yesterday by the story of Lily’s broken noggin, and I totally forgot it was Thursday. Luckily, this is only week two of Crock-Pot Thursday, so I’m sure no one went hungry yesterday waiting for this recipe.

Last week the Crock Pot Thursday crew cooked up these Fast Slow-Cooker Pork chops, modified from Skinny Fat Kid.  I shouldn’t have to tell you how much I love the name of that site. I was excited about this recipe because I had everything on hand except the wine. I’m always happy to buy booze, especially when only a little is needed for cooking. My husband doesn’t usually drink wine (unless the beer’s gone) so I get the rest to myself!

Why, you may wonder, would anyone want to have a fast slow-cooker recipe? This kind of dish is great for days when we have early evening activities, like soccer or cub scouts, and dinner needs to be ready as soon as we get home. I can start it when we leave the house, and by the time we get home, get changed, and get the table set, dinner is ready. There aren’t many meals we have in our rotation that have a two hour cook time, and everyone around here likes pork chops.

I used 3/4-1 inch thick bone-in chops, and cooked them on low for five hours. Four hours would have been better. My mother-in-law cooked hers on high for two hours and hers turned out really well. That’s what I’ll do next time. The sauce was good, and this meal got a thumbs up from both the adults and the kids at our table!

If you aren’t into mushrooms, skip them. This recipe is great either way!

I used my 6.5-Quart Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker to make these Fast Slow Cooker Pork Chops.

Fast Slow-Cooker Pork Chops

Crock Pot Thursday: Fast Slow Cooker Pork Chops
 
Ingredients
  • 4 pork chops (about 1 inch thick), trimmed of fat
  • 6 or so oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 clove minced garlic
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup red wine (I used a nice Shiraz)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
Instructions
  1. Brown pork chops in skillet on both sides, and add to slow cooker.
  2. In the same pan, saute mushrooms for a few minutes, and add in the garlic. Saute 1 minute longer, and transfer to slow cooker. Add in soy sauce, wine, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook until brown sugar is dissolved and add to slow cooker with chops.
  3. Cook in slow cooker on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours.
  4. Remove pork from slow cooker. Combine cornstarch and water and stir into slow cooker. Return chops and cook for another 30 minutes until you have a nice, sticky sauce.
  5. Serve with sauce drizzled over chops.


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One Little Monkey

WARNING: This post contains gory photos. Not the “it’s almost Halloween” kind, but the “my kid cracked her head open” kind.

My kids love to jump on the bed. I don’t like them to, but most of the time they disregard my directives. Last night my three year old daughter was doing just that when I heard a thud, a pause, and howling. Running into the room, I didn’t like what I saw. Blood pouring down her face, in her eye, and what looked like a star-shaped melon baller chunk out of her forehead. I managed to keep my voice neutral, although I’m sure my face held the bulk of my horror (that luckily she couldn’t see through the blood), scooped her up, and ran to the bathroom. After plopping her on the closed toilet seat, I gently mopped the eye area with a wad of toilet paper and was relived to see her eye wasn’t damaged, just her forehead right above her eyebrow.

It definitely needed stitches. I thought. Maybe. No, definitely. I couldn’t tell if my parental panic was clouding my judgement, so I called my good friend who happens to live directly across the street. “Lily just fell off the bed and cut her head. I think it needs stitches,” I started. “I’ll come get Graham,” she interrupted  and was in my house within the minute. I had called for a second opinion, not even thinking about what to do with my five year old son. She knew what I needed before I did. She agreed with my assessment, everyone put on shoes, Graham went across the street, while Lily and I headed to pick up my husband from work and go to the doctor.

Lily was a trooper. She held the paper towel to her head in the car, and told me “It doesn’t hurt so bad anymore.” She shared her story with the doctors and nurses. “I was jumping on my Mom and Dad’s bed, and then my legs were on the bed, and my belly and my hands were on the floor, and my head (slow, sad voice) was on the radiator.” Her sweet voice and endearing disposition charmed the nurses, the resident, and the doctor, and they could not get enough of her. She cried three times. Once, when a medical professional leaving for the night was walking through the waiting room, saw L’s bloody head, grimaced, and said “Oh my.” Immediate tears. Come on, lady. Everyone knows the number one rule of managing childhood injury is to pretend it doesn’t look bad. The second time Lily cried was when the nurse reminded her to not touch her cut, and the third time was the worst. By far the hardest I’d seen her cry all night. That was when her dad took a bite of her popsicle.

Here’s what I was thinking last night: Thank God we have outstanding insurance and access to good health care. I can’t imagine the terror that mothers must feel who don’t have these two things for their children. My husband’s employer provides insurance that requires no deductible and no co-pay except for prescriptions. Lily’s stitches cost us the same amount as the four days she spent in the NICU after she was born. Nothing. For a family that has pretty much no disposable income, this is a blessing.

Lily left the emergency room with five stitches, a stuffed bear, the hearts of the staff, and purple lips from her grape popsicle. I left with relief, gratitude, and a thankful soul. Thankful for friends who are available in a crisis, thankful for a child with a sweet spirit and an intact eye, and thankful for access to affordable and reliable health care. I saw this sculpture on the way out, and it could not have summed up my emotions more perfectly.

Bruno Lucchesi 

10 Reasons Being a Kid Sucks

We grown-ups are forever talking about how easy kids have it. How great it would be to have no responsibility and to have someone else feed, clothe, and house us. There is one group of adults not making these assertions. Prisoners. Because they have all of those perks, and they don’t seem to think it’s so spectacular. Being a kid isn’t as wonderful as we like to remember, and I doubt many of us would like to trade places with our children. Here are ten reasons I’m glad I’m not a kid anymore, because being a kid sucks.

Being a kid isn't all riding your bike and having someone else cook for you. When you think about it, being a kid comes with serious disadvantages.

10 Reasons Being a Kid Sucks

1. Someone else tells you what to eat.
Oh, you hate broccoli? Too bad. You want cereal for dinner? Too bad. As an adult, you can eat cereal for every meal, and no one can say a word. Cake for breakfast? Have at it! My husband hasn’t eaten a mushroom in the 14 years that I’ve known him. If he was my kid instead of my spouse, you can bet your ass I’d at least make him try one.

2. You don’t get to choose your wardrobe.
Eventually most kids get some say in their wardrobe, and the cooler the mom, the sooner that day arrives. But, there are still the years when kids wear whatever outfit their parents decide. These get ups get more ridiculous based on the importance of the holiday, and while yes, they are adorable, I wouldn’t want to have to wear any of them. Especially those garter belt looking headbands that so many little girls are subjected to. Even when kids are able to choose their wardrobes, they run the risk of attending a school with a uniform, and then we’re back to adults deciding the attire.

3. You are subject to city-wide curfews.
Don’t even get me started on curfews. Adults commit much of the after-hours crime, but kids are the ones who are bound by municipal curfews. Just another way being a kid is like being a felon.

4. You don’t get the good snacks. 
We think it sucks that we have to eat the good snacks while hiding in the pantry or after the kids go to bed, but it would suck way more to not get those snacks at all. Amiright?

5. Someone else decides when you’re tired. 
I would be so annoyed if I had to go lie in my bed with the lights off even if I wasn’t tired, so I get why my kids bitch about naptime and bedtime. As a grown-up, I can stay up way too late watching bad TV, and no one can tell me to go to bed. Of course I’m tired the next day, but the freedom to make that bad choice is mine.

6. Someone else controls the TV.
There are about fifty bazillion awesome cartoons out there, and kids get 30 minutes to an hour of screen time a day? It’s like adults don’t even care that the DVR is filling up with My Little Pony episodes way faster than they could ever be watched. Some days, my kids don’t get to watch any television at all. The horror!

7. The bad words aren’t allowed.
In my opinion, the bad words are the good words, and I would think it was such bullshit if some people in my house could use those awesome words and I couldn’t. I love to swear, and I don’t even let my kids say butt or fart. It’s not that they don’t know how to use the words properly. They’ve displayed proper usage of several off-limits words. Since I would never accidentally let a swear fly in front my children, they must have learned it from someone else, like their dad. Or at school. Anyone but me, really.

8. Someone is always watching.
I don’t like it when people stare at me. Babies get stared at all day long. Toddlers are watched like hawks, and preschoolers have adults watching them bathe and wiping their asses. Even some older kids are being watched with open door playdates, limited outside alone play, and supervised computer sessions.

9. Your treasures keep disappearing. 
Kids work their asses off at school to create the perfect Easter Bunny from paper plates, only to have them disappear the day after Easter. An awesome cardboard box gets played with for a mere 72 hours, and it’s sent to the curb with the recycling. Any kid will tell you, art and cardboard belong in the middle of the living room floor, not out with the trash.

10. No booze. 
Younger kids don’t know what they are missing out with this one yet. They are just sitting there, happily slurping their watered down juice. Older kids sometimes get into the liquor cabinet a little too early and don’t know how to do handle it properly. This one is better left to grown ups, which is why I’m glad I am one. Plus it makes paying the bills and doing all the work worth it, doesn’t it?



Being a kid isn't all riding your bike and having someone else cook for you. When you think about it, being a kid comes with serious disadvantages.

Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 10/22/12

If my mom is too busy to read my blog, some of you guys may be, too. Here’s a shortened version for y’all. And for my mother.

We had a little conversation about marriage in the car that went like this:
Lily: I’m not marrying anyone.
Graham: I am.
Me: Graham, who are you going to marry?
Graham: I haven’t met her yet. Mom? What if I meet a girl and she says she’s nice, and she acts nice so I marry her. But then, she’s not nice. Then what?
Me: Laughs.
Graham: Then I’ll wish I didn’t marry her.
The Doctor: (Shoots me a look) That could happen, son.
Me: Laughs some more.
After we were done cracking up, I told Graham that before he decides to marry someone, he needs to see her when she isn’t nice all the time, and then decide. Because no one is nice all the time. Right, honey?

I got four hand-me-down issues of People magazine from my neighbor, which prompted the post 10 Things I’ve Learned From People Magazine. It also reminded me that I need new mascara.

Graham has been extra tantrum-y since starting kindergarten, so I went my usual route of problem solving by reading my way to a solution. We got a book from the library called Feeling Angry, and some sweatpants clad children discussed anger management. The cartoon Ni Hao Kai Lan reminded the kids through song, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four!” This week has been more peaceful, with Graham managing his anger better, going to his room when he needs to cool off, and even softly singing the song to himself after Lily messed up one of his Lego creations.

I celebrated my one month blogiversary, and shared a few things I’ve learned in the past month. I’m kicking myself for letting a cake-appropriate occasion pass by.

My dad used to say “The biggest, ugliest ape is in charge.” The Doctor has adopted this parenting mantra, and Graham has taken it upon himself to be the enforcer. He reminds his little sister at least once a day, “Lily, you aren’t in charge. Dad is. The biggest, ugliest ape is in charge, and that’s Dad.” Lily probably put it best when she said, “Mom and Dad are the boss of each other.” I hope to never be the biggest or the ugliest, so Lily’s take on it suits me just fine.

I got nominated for a Liebster Blog Award  by Jen at Filling Up My Cup, and I shared a few things about myself, including my thoughts on the C word, and the gluttony that would ensue at my last meal.

I shared a Corn Chowder recipe that my mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law, and I made for Crock-Pot Thursday. We choose a recipe every week, and I’ll be sharing them with you. I love my slow cooker, and what’s a mom blog without some recipes?

I had a run-in with a cranky mom (grandma?) at the park. After I laughed, I got mad, I wrote about it, and laughed some more. Read An Open Letter To That Woman At The Park. Your feedback has reminded me that we all have stories of these situations, and it’s our reaction to the criticisms that is important.

Have a great week!

Liebster Blog Award

The lovely Jen at Filling Up My Cup nominated me for a Liebster Award! This is an award for blogs with 200 or less followers. It’s a way to say “keep up the great work” to each other. When you are nominated you post 10 random facts about yourself and answer 10 questions from the person who nominated you. Then pass the award onto 10 other bloggers you think deserve it.



    My 10 Random Facts

    1. My brother is 20 months younger than I, and one of my favorite people. I hope my kids get along as well as my brother and I always have.

    2. I think the word “fart” is gross, but have no problem with the C word.


    3. I think my kids are cuter, smarter, and more funny than anyone else’s kids. I know everyone thinks that about their kids, but look at me all saying it and stuff.

    4. I wrote poetry in high school. It was terrible and I adored it.

    5. I will never not cry while watching Charlotte’s Web or reading The Giving Tree.

    6. I look very much like my mother, and I like that.

    7. I consider it quite a compliment if you invite me to your house and it’s messy. To me, that’s true friendship. But please, please, please give me at least a five minute warning before dropping by my pigsty unannounced.

    8. My dad died of a heart attack four years ago. It was awful and horrifying and it changed me. My family was strong and steady. I was safe. And then I wasn’t. Losing a parent is truly shitty.

    9. I love a hot bath, but don’t really like hot tubs.

    10. I had severe morning sickness with both of my pregnancies and I get really awful hangovers. My family (and probably my neighbors) could tell you that I’m a REALLY loud puker. I sound like a dying bear. 


    Jen’s Questions

    1.If you were forced to cheat on your significant other with a celebrity, who would you choose?
    Let me bust out my Laminated List and try to narrow it down to one lucky winner…nope. Can’t do it. I have to list them all. Jon Stewart, Ben Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Neil Patrick Harris (I know, I know,) and everyone’s favorite, Ryan Gosling.

    2.  If you knew your next meal was going to be your last, what would you order?
    I would eat like I always want to. Prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes, a bacon cheeseburger with fries, and pad thai. Thinking about this makes me hungry and full at the same time.

    3.  What is your current favorite song?
    The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov. It pierces my soul.




    4.  What was your favorite song in high school?
    I can’t name one favorite. There are many songs from the early to mid-nineties that I love for the memories they represent. I did listen to The Counting Crows quite a bit.

    5.  Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip?
    Mayonnaise all the way. Miracle Whip is a joke.

    6.   How often do you change your sheets?
    I want you to like me, so I don’t feel I can be honest in answering this question. Let’s just say, not frequently.

    7.  What’s your favorite brand of shampoo?
    Right now I’m using Clear, and I like it quite a bit. 

    8.   Is the first person you kissed still in your life?
    Be right back, I gotta see if we’re Facebook friends. No.

    9.  What’s the biggest misperception people have about you?
    I’m pretty shy. No one believes that this is true.

    10.  Describe your biggest “foot in your mouth” moment.
    There are sooo many. I truly say so much stupid shit. The most recent was a few days ago, when I joked with someone about being pregnant who had just experienced her second ectopic pregnancy. She was very kind and understanding. I felt like a tool.

    Here is where I’m supposed to pass this award on to ten worthy bloggers. You guys, I’m so new at this I don’t know ten bloggers with less than 200 followers! Thank you, Jen, for recognizing me. As a brand new blogger, I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Liebster Blog award fun. Check out her funny and inspiring blog!

    An Open Letter To That Woman At The Park

    Dear Madam with the Pursed Lips,

    Thank you for your concern regarding my three year old and her coat yesterday. Yes indeed, I do know that it’s October. I have a working knowledge of time, as well as basic understanding of our calendar system. While it may be only a few short weeks shy of the anniversary of last year’s first snow, yesterday it was 60 degrees. In fact, if you’d noticed her red cheeks and heavy breathing, you’d see she had been running, jumping, and climbing long enough to elevate her body temperature; and I was confident that her 3/4 sleeves, tights, skirt, and fuzzy boots would keep her sufficiently protected from the elements (sunshine and breeze). Why yes, I DO let her tell me if she’s hot and wants to take off her jacket. She has a brain, and she uses it on occasion.

    I thought it was sweet of you to compliment that other mom on her adorable toddler. “What’s her name?” you asked. “Matteo,” was the response. It was hasty and rude of you to strongly advise an immediate haircut for that mom’s son, but it gave me a perfect opportunity to jump in and say that I loved Matteo’s over the ear locks, and offer my support for doing what she wanted (which we all knew was ignoring your cranky, busybody advice). You can go ahead and parent your kids how you like, but back off the rest of us. Oh, I’m sorry, are those your kids or grandkids? I honestly couldn’t tell. You seem sort of ageless, and not in the good way.

    I was pretty thankful you brought a book to stick your upturned nose into when you were done sticking it in everyone else’s business. More than that, I was thankful I brought my journal to start this letter. I’m sure I would have remembered the details of this experience long enough to type it up, but I truly enjoyed printing this title largely and boldly, and letting the page fall open, right in your line of sight.

    I should take a moment to thank you. You have inspired me. Whenever I’m not sure how to handle a particular parenting situation, I’ll imagine what you would do. And do the opposite.

    Sincerely,
    Amy

    P.S. Your skinny ass took up that whole bench. Next time, shove over.

    Crock Pot Corn Chowder

    My family goes crazy for this Crockpot Corn Chowder! Crockpot soup recipes are always a hit, but this one is so good my 7yo asks for it on his birthday!

    Every Thursday, my mother-in-law, three sisters-in-law, and I make the same slow cooker recipe for dinner. We call it Crock Pot Thursday (clever, no?) and take turns choosing the recipe. Since our family is flung far and wide, this is our way of sharing a meal once a week. As it is with recipes, we sometimes make small modifications based on tastes, time, and pantry contents, and we often discuss our individual results. It’s fun to have someone else choose my family’s meal for a night, and now you can play, too! I’ll be sharing the previous week’s recipe every Thursday, and giving tips based on our feedback.

    Last week we made a family favorite. This recipe is so good my five-year-old asked to have leftovers for breakfast. It’s pretty much his favorite meal. This chowder is also great when I make it in my dutch oven (cuts the cook time way down, and I can cook the bacon in the same pot.)

    I served it with green salad and crusty bread. Enjoy!

    This Crockpot Corn Chowder is a delicious and hearty soup you'll love! Try this quick and easy dinner idea today!

    I used my 6.5-Quart Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker to make this Crock Pot Corn Chowder.

    Crock Pot Corn Chowder

    Crock Pot Thursday: Corn Chowder
     
    Ingredients
    • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
    • 1 can cream corn
    • 1 can whole kernel corn
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 10 oz bacon, fried and chopped
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • ¼ cup butter
    • 2 cups half and half
    Instructions
    1. Place potatoes, both cans of corn, chicken broth, bacon, and onions into the slow cooker.
    2. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
    3. Mash the mixture to your desired consistency, and add the butter and half and half.
    4. Cook for an additional 30 minutes on high.

    Modified from Crockin Girls.


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    10 Things I’ve Learned From People Magazine

    10 Things I've Learned From People Magazine

    10. An “onlooker,” “insider,” and “gal pal” are all people with much to say. I’m not sure why famous people still hang out with these guys and tell them things. Those three bitches gossip like crazy.

    9. Three weeks is plenty of time to decide to get married, and a three year engagement is also appropriate. For marriage number one or marriage number eight. Better spend a crap ton of money on that wedding, though, if you want people (and People) to take it seriously.

    8. Childhood celebrities get a bad rap. The most important ingredient in the “future drug addict” cocktail is a pair of train wreck parents. I’m looking at you, Lohans and Culkins. Natalie Portman, Danica McKellar, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all worked as child actors and are productive adults. For every River Phoenix, there is a Reese Witherspoon, Ron Howard, Dakota Fanning, Shirley Temple Black, Neil Patrick Harris…

    7. Celebrities have lots of houses because they need lots of closets to hold their many handbags. How they can switch bags so frequently and still find anything is incredible to me. The only thing that manages to make it into every bag I use is broken granola bars and random Lego pieces.

    6. Pretty couples don’t always make pretty babies. Particularly when the daughters take after dad. Can you imagine how disappointing it would be to look like a supermodel and birth a daughter who looks just like the square jaw that will be your ex in a few short years?

    5. There are about 468 types of mascara. They are all amazing and if purchased will make your lashes four feet long.

    4. Celebrities pretty much only read non-fiction. Just ask them!

    3. J Lo has the absolute worst taste in men. Even Ben Affleck, who used to be number one on my laminated celebrity list, but is now a head-shaking, “what a shame” disappointment.

    2. work as a backup dancer or celebrity bodyguard, you can bang any celebrity you want. Fish in a barrel, people.

    1. Those crossword puzzles are a real ego boost.

     



    Blogiversary

    Last week I celebrated my one month blogiversary. Rather, I would have if I’d been paying attention to the date. When I realized I’ve been doing this a whole month, I began to reflect. Just a little though. I mean, I’m only talking about one month. In this time I’ve learned a few things about blogging, about social media, and about myself while sharing my life with those who care to listen.

    • Coming up with something to write every day is terrifying. I seriously don’t know how people can continue to find inspiration in daily life for YEARS. I pray that it happens for me, and at the same time I worry I won’t have anything to write about next week.
    • People either find poop totally hilarious or totally inappropriate. There are still people in my everyday life who are having a hard time making eye contact with me.
    • It no longer takes me half a day and 94 Google searches to add a new element to my blog. I feel empowered but still idiotic in equal measures.
    • Not one person besides me finds David Spade attractive.
    • My husband does know where the recycling goes, and resents my telling everyone otherwise.
    • Twitter is FUN. 
    • Putting words to paper (or fingers to keyboard) feels amazing, but having those words validated and acknowledged is truly magical.

    This past month has been incredible. Being a mom can feel stifling. I love my job, and I love my kids, but at times I feel like they take so much of me, the person that is left is dull. Wrung out. This blog is more than just my musings. It is a creative outlet that is bringing me back to life. Thank you for being a part of my reawakening. 

    Feeling Ragey

    My kids learned a song from the cartoon Ni Hao Kai Lan that says, “If you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four!” L finds it calming and helpful, but hearing her sing it enrages G. This is typical. Lately, he has been losing his temper more than usual. I was warned that his at home behavior would suffer since he would be exhausted from behaving all day at kindergarten, so while it may be normal, it’s still not fun.

    In an attempt to discuss and manage his anger and tantrums, I checked out a book at the library called Feeling Angry. I could only laugh when he got pissed that I got chose a book for him with a girl on the cover instead of a book about superheroes. This book from the Exploring Emotions series has a bunch of kids in sweatpants talking about feelings. G identified with the boy in the yellow polo, brown sweatpants, and black loafers who gets angry when his Legos don’t cooperate. L nodded when we discussed the little girl who screams when she’s angry. When we got to the page about the tired mommy who loses her temper and shouts over nothing, I asked the kids if I ever act like that. Both said no, which made me think they weren’t paying attention to the question.

    I most definitely lose my temper over little things. Multiple requests to put on shoes, too much bath water splashed on the floor, finding L with her hand literally in the jelly jar. These things can either roll off my back, or send me into a fury, and it has everything to do with my mood.

    So I understand when G and L freak out over something that seems unimportant. I also know that it feels yucky to be out of control, or to yell or cry in anger. I want them to know that it’s okay to be angry or upset, but some ways of managing those emotions are better than others.

     As an adult, I recognize that much of my life is spent choosing how I will react to situations. I have the tools to (sometimes) make reasonable decisions about how I manage disappointments and frustrations. With the help of the sweatpants gang and Ni Hao Kai Lan, we are working on these skills with our littles.

    Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 10/14/12

    A recap of what happened around here last week:

    I had a hard time narrowing down my list of baby must haves to only ten. I considered telling my mother I would have another baby if she bought me a Phil and Ted stroller.

    The Doctor and I went on a date. To a grown-up restaurant with no crayons at the table. Nothing spilled, and there was only one trip to the bathroom. It was by far the best hour and a half of my week. We rarely spend time together without the kids, unless you count me on the couch, him in his recliner, both watching TV and staring at our phones. It reminded me that time away from the kids is important, and it’s fun. 

    To celebrate The Doctor’s birthday, I posted a Britely highlighting things the kids could teach him. Cuz I like to make fun of people on their special day. Apparently.

    After battling with Lily to the point of exhaustion over her wardrobe, I threw in the towel and made the decision to allow her to dress herself. I expected some hilarious pictures of ridiculous outfits, but she disappointed me by matching. Mostly.

    I dug up some scary memories and shared an experience from this last summer when Graham went missing. Thinking about it still ties my stomach in knots.

    A girl in Graham’s class didn’t like that he pronounced the “L” in her name as a “W.” He practiced and practiced, and can now properly pronounce the letter “L.” The first of many times he’ll be motivated to better himself to avoid being nagged by a girl.

    I chaperoned Graham’s first field trip. It was 150 kids, kindergarten through fifth graders, at a state park. I supervised a group of five kids (including my boy) of various ages, and we completed a scavenger hunt. I loved it. The kids were thoughtful and inquisitive, and I came home telling The Doctor maybe I wanted to be a teacher. He reasonably and realistically pointed out that one hour with five kids at the park may not be the best situation to decide on a career in education.

    I launched Operation Smoking Hot Body, recommitting to healthy eating habits and exercising. I started on Wednesday, and Friday night I ate my weight in lasagna. It’s fine, as Friday is historically my free day. By that I mean, “Feel free to eat and drink about three times your daily caloric allowance.” Shit just got real, though. I accidentally put my skinny jeans in the dryer, and if that’s not motivation to get my ass in gear, I don’t know what is.

    Operation Smoking Hot Body

    Here’s the deal. I don’t like to exercise. I have such an aversion to it, I can’t even spell it correctly. Every time I type it, spell check gives me that glaring red squiggly line. I’ve never been very athletic, I have no rhythm, and I’m fairly clumsy.

    I dislike exercise, and I love to eat. I remember being at restaurants with my grandfather, and understanding at a young age the pure joy he got from food. His large stature and soft belly should have been an indication, but it was the look on his face that really stood out. I feel that way about food, too. These two facts about me, coupled with my inherent laziness, could lead to a disastrous result.

    To avert disaster, I am choosing to focus on other things I like. I like feeling good about my apperance. I like being able to fit into my favorite jeans. I like not having a muffin top, and being able to breath freely. Most importantly, I love the way I feel after exercising. And the way my body feels when I’m active on a regular basis. Strong. Energetic. Healthy.

    Therefore, this week commences Operation Smoking Hot Body. It’s really more like Operation Not So Lumpy Or Soft Body, but that doesn’t go well with jazz hands. Try it. You’ll see. My body will never be smoking hot without surgical enhancements, and that’s okay. I seriously have no problem with my teeny, tiny tops.

    My Fitness Pal app

    To begin OSHB, I had to bust out a few faithful tools. First, My Fitness Pal. This website and app are awesome. Food journaling is super important for keeping me on track, and as I mentioned before, I’m pretty lazy. I need this app to do the work for me. And boy does it. It has a bar code scanner that makes finding the nutritional information a breeze, and the database is extensive. You can add favorite recipes, or do quick add calories, or add frequently used foods or meals. It also makes it easy to track exercise and calories burned, hence the name. And it’s free!

    Second, my trusty Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred dvd. That bitch is tough, but super effective. The workout is about 20 minutes, which totally fits into a busy life, or into a life where the user can’t handle much more than 20 minutes of activity at a time. It combines strength, cardio, and abs in three difficulty levels. She has other workout videos that I hear are good, and sometimes even better, but I haven’t tried them.

    Third, getting outside and moving. This is predominantly walking our dog, Edgar, but will include some running. When G is on walks with me, he’s so fast on his bike I have to run to keep up. One of my most fit friends, James, once said, “Nothing flexes fat, soon to be muscle, better than being outside.” Exercising inside is fine, but there is something special about being active outside. It nourishes the body and the spirit.

    Operation Smoking Hot Body is three days in and all I feel is sore and hungry. That means it’s working, right?

    I Dressed Myself!

    Every morning I start my day with a battle. Not to get up, I love my coffee so much I can’t wait to get out of bed and mouth kiss that delicious brew. The battle is with my three year old daughter. We fight daily over what she’s going to wear. Some days it’s that she wants to wear something that isn’t weather appropriate, but it’s usually over style. Fancy dresses to the park. Yoga pants to church. Things that are too small, or in my opinion, butt ugly.

    I don’t have these battles with her five year old brother. He mostly dresses himself, and I rarely made him change. If it is a day I have a specific look in mind, I lay the outfit out the night before, and he usually allows my choices. Not Lily. We pick out her clothes for school together, and it takes ten minutes. We do this the night before, but if we forget to discuss shoes or socks, it becomes another battle.

    I don’t know why I care. I’m pretty sure my chosen parenting style requires a certain relaxed attitude regarding clothing choices, and I’ve never enjoyed arguing for sport.

    Last weekend, I decided to let my girl dress herself for one week. I was excited for some great pictures, and I knew I would get a funny blog post out of the exercise. I told my husband the plan, which was unnecessary, as he always lets her choose her clothes anyway. He listened to my idea with a smirk. “Even for school days?” He asked, teasingly. “Um, yeah?” I hesitated, wondering what her new teachers would think of her choices.

    Well, she didn’t disappoint that first day. Crimson college football t shirt; tight, neon yellow shorts; and brown, fuzzy boots. I knew it was going to get better, so I didn’t even bother taking a picture. I was wrong. Not until Wednesday did she bust out a camera worthy outfit. I wanted to make her a hat that says, “I dressed myself!” or one that says, “Please don’t think my mom picked out this ridiculous ensemble,” but honestly? It wasn’t so bad.

    This week has been a good reminder. Lily is only three, but she’s her own person. She has ideas about what she wants to wear, and since children have so little control over their lives, she deserves this one opportunity to show her individuality. As soon as I relinquished control over her wardrobe, I was able to look at her attire differently. The outfit she has on today is horrendous, but she loves it. Both pieces came from a fresh batch of hand-me-downs, and I will think of Lily’s friend every time she wears them. My girl was happy today, and comfortable with her clothing choice. We went to the store, and no one looked at us with judgement in their eyes. We were at Walmart, though, so that may not be saying much.

    This exercise was supposed to be funny, but it wasn’t. It was enlightening and freeing. I’m not a bad mom if she doesn’t match. I know we will still fight over clothing choices. She’ll want to wear flip flops or slippers in the snow, and I still have wardrobe expectations for church. The rest of the time, I hope I can remember that her clothes are her choice. She will be clean, her clothing will be (mostly) hole free, and it will be heavy on the pink. And heavy on the patterns.

    Little Boy Lost

    Little Boy Lost from @FunnyIsFamily

    “Is Graham in here?” I hear, foggy, from far away. I roll over, looking in the next bed for my five year old. “No,” I respond, in a sleepy voice. Head back on my pillow, mind already back in my afternoon nap. Some time later, only a few minutes it turns out, another family member, again looking for Graham. “He’s not in here” I tell them. Wide awake now. The third person is my husband, looking for our son, and telling me what I already know. He’s missing.

    It’s August, but the weather is dreary. Western Washington is experiencing an unusually cool summer, and we are in town for a family reunion. My in-laws have a big house, and an even bigger family, so there are big kids, little kids, babies, and adults sharing space and enjoying each other’s company. Graham and his three year old sister, Lily are loving being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. There is a rope swing, cows, a donkey, and tractors. Graham has been spending most of his time with his ten year old cousin, but has been making sure he has permission to go outside with her.

    I head upstairs, from the dark and quiet basement. The house is mostly empty. Still. This is unsettling, as there were at least fifteen people here when I put myself down for a nap. Lily is in front of the 60 inch TV  watching a cartoon. She looks at me, then back at the show. “Where’s your brother?” I ask her. “I don’t know,” she responds, not taking her eyes off the screen.

    I walk outside, and see various family members, wandering the property. Everyone is moving quickly, calling for Graham, actively trying to stay calm. I immediately go to the place I don’t want to go. The creek. Quick and deep, it runs through the ten acre property. There is a wooden bridge that leads over the creek, to the pasture. Looking into the dark water, I don’t see him. His small body isn’t in the tall grasses, and while I know that means nothing, I am able to breathe.

    We look everywhere. In the barn, in the gigantic shop, in the drainage ditch that runs parallel to the country road at the front of the property. I go back downstairs to the room we’re sharing with the kids. Maybe he’s in bed, and we just didn’t see him under the comforter? No. I look under both beds, in the closet. No Graham. I look under and in every bed in the house. Every closet. No.

    My breath is shallow and I can’t look at anyone’s face. I don’t want to see the panic in their eyes that I’m feeling. I’m not crying, but I’m losing focus. I go back outside, and look in all the vehicles. Back inside, back downstairs, back to our room. Under the beds. Again. Everyone is yelling for him, and my husband is saying, “If you are hiding, you need to come out!” If he’s inside, and if he’s awake, he has to hear us.

    Just when I’m about to lose it, his boots are spotted. All of the grandkids got a pair of rain boots for a family picture. He’s been wearing them the entire trip. His green boots with the orange tractors are by the door, and that means he’s inside. He’s been gone about a half an hour, but chances are, he’s here.

    I’m back downstairs, back to our room, and I look under the bed. Again. The one spot I check three times. I don’t see him. My sister-in-law does, though. He’s under that bed, tucked against the wall, with his brown blanket covering him. The dark and my panic made me miss him. Three. Times.

    I sink to my knees and sob. I gather my boy in my lap, rocking and crying. “I was scared” he says sheepishly. “Afraid I would get in trouble for hiding.” The news quickly spreads that he’s found. Graham spends a few minutes alone with his parents, fending off kisses, admonishments, and more kisses.

    We go upstairs, where Lily is still staring at the television. She looks over at us and exclaims, “I found him!”

    10 Baby Must Haves

    Having a baby? Congratulations! You are about to embark on a time-honored journey of filling your home, garage, and car with useful and not so useful baby paraphernalia.  You’ll want only the best for your little angel, and companies are counting on this. They will try to sell you on all kinds of ridiculousness, and they will be somewhat successful. There are times to save and times to spend, and with another mouth to feed, you’re going to need to know the difference. I’ve counted about fifty bazillion baby products out there, and here are my thoughts on a few favorites.

    1. Baby Trend Snap N Go Car Seat Carrier
    I wouldn’t recommend getting a travel system (car seat and stroller matching set.) We had the Snap N Go stroller base that the infant car seat snapped right into, and it was super lightweight and easy to maneuver. It only works with the infant seat, so you’ll need a different stroller for later. The travel systems are fairly bulky strollers, and a bulky stroller is a pain in the ass. Next time you’re at the mall, notice the poor moms trying to manage a travel system stroller through the clearance area in the kids department. It’s not pretty.

    2. Umbrella Stroller
    Pretty soon you’ll be ready for an umbrella stroller. The Maclaren Volo Stroller is a great one. Our umbrella stroller was an $18 number from Sears that was total crap. I wish we would have invested in a better one. I’ve taken this Volo for a spin on several occasions, and it’s a sweet ride. The passengers love it, too. The specs say it’s for six months and up, but both of my kids were cruising in an umbrella stroller by four months.

     

    3. Baby Carrier
    We had a BABYBJORN, which was good when the kids were little, but since it’s a front carrier, it is awkward in some situations, and it really hurt my back after a bit.  I suggest a carrier that you can wear the baby in the front, back, or hip, and that fits bigger kids. The Baby Wearer offers good comparisons.

    4. Playard
    You can’t go wrong with a Graco Pack ‘n Play. My firstborn used his as a crib till he was 4 months old, and both kids slept in it when we were away from home. It’s also great to have in your living room as another changing table and a place to keep baby safe while you pee or cook. There are some fancy models out there with lots of bells and whistles. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a playard. In fact, this would be a great item to snag on Craigslist.

    A basic model. This one won’t wash your car or make you a sandwich.

    .

    5. Swing/Bouncy Chair
    I don’t recommend buying a big swing; they have a huge footprint.  I like the take along.  Much smaller and easy to transport.  Some kids like swings and some like vibrating seats.  This Fisher-Price one has both!

    6. Booster Seat Highchairs are a waste of space and not portable.  ThisFisher-Price Booster Seat
    allows them to sit at the table with you. Probably the most used $29.99 item we’ve ever owned.


    7. Monitor
    Five years ago, I thought that people who got video monitors were crazy. I was wrong.  I would have liked to know if my baby was just pissed off, or had a leg caught in the crib slats before I showed my face during nap time. You definitely want a monitor, so you may as well get one that REALLY tells you what’s happening. My sister-in-law liked this Summer Infant Baby Touch Digital Color Video Monitor.
    .
     
     

    8. Nursing Pads
    Lansinoh.  These pads are the bomb.  You may or may not need them.  I needed them till about 4 months with my son and only a few weeks with his sister.

    9. Breast Pump
    used the hell out of my Medela Pump in Style Advanced Backpack.  If you plan on breastfeeding after you go back to work, then you need a good breast pump.  Pumping sucks, and pumping at work sucks balls, so you want a machine that gets the job done quickly.  Also, this one is a backpack so no one will even know what it is. Check with your insurance company. Sometimes these are covered.

     

    10. Breast Milk Storage Bags
    Lansinoh, again.  They lay nice and flat, which is great if you freeze them.  Big space saver in the freezer, which leaves more room for steak and ice cream.

    Something that is totally awesome, and therefore totally expensive (in case you have a wealthy and generous relative):

    Phil and Teds Navigator Buggy

    Here are a few more things you’re gonna need, and you won’t find these on your basic “diapers, wipes, onsies” list.

    • The biggest sanitary pads you can find. This is not an item you should send your poor, shell-shocked partner out to get, and you’re gonna need them right away.
    • A head of cabbage. Cabbage leaves are great for super sore, rock hard, “I look like a stripper” tits.
    • A really big water bottle with a straw. You are going to be more thirsty than you’ve ever been. The hospital may give you one. Take it home with you and never let it out of your sight.
    • While you’re snagging stuff from the hospital, take the pacifiers and bulb syringe snot sucker, too. They’re the best.
    • A few basic bra camis. The nursing tanks are great, but sometimes all you want is an Old Navy cami that you can wear around the house for three months. If you’re like me, wearing a shirt at all will feel like an inconvenience. More than once I lamented the fact that ours is a clothed society. Just for me. Not you guys. Gross.
    Preparing for baby can be overwhelming. There are things you need, things that are nice to have, and things that are completely unnecessary. Congratulations and welcome to a lifetime of trying to figure out the best way to spend your money on your kids!
    This post isn’t sponsored, but it does contain a ton of affiliate links. 

    Just Add Water: My Week Condensed 10/7/12

    A recap of what when down around here last week:

    The Doctor was out of town the first half of the week, and I planned on taking advantage of the fact that I wouldn’t have to pick him up in the evening by doing some solid drinking. Number of drinks I actually consumed? Zero. I have never been one to capitalize on a situation.

    My kindergartner uttered “Damn it,” much to my dismay. When asked where he heard it, he blamed it on a kid at school, much to my relief.

    I cracked myself up with a butternut squash.

    I shared one of my most embarrassing moments and tried to pimp out my brother-in-law.

    Lily yelled at a boy at preschool until he cried. I told you guys, she’s not as sweet as she looks.

    My mom got remarried a year ago, and last week Lily asked, “When’s Grandma’s going to have a baby?” Even my three year old knows how to nag a newlywed.

    I bravely shared my top five list from 1996. I spent the rest of the week defending the list to disgusted friends and family members.

    Graham drew a picture of a spider for his arachnophobic kindergarten teacher, and was so disappointed when she said she loved it. “I wanted her to be scared,” he lamented.

    The Doctor came home with gifts for his family. A big Lego set for the boy, a small Lego set and a Tinkerbell shirt that has more glitter than a strip club for the girl, and a gigantic meatball sub from Carmine’s for me. After all these years, he still knows what gets me going.

    I got misty walking through the toddler boy’s department at Old Navy.

    I participated in my first writing prompt, sharing a time when I got busted in high school.

    Bottling Memories

    Sometimes I get sad. Things like seeing a new baby, walking through the toddler boys department at a clothing store, or sealing up a box of hand-me-downs that no longer fit L can bring a lump to my throat and a mist to my eye. My babies aren’t babies any more, and sometimes that makes me sad.

    Don’t misunderstand. I don’t want another baby, and I love my big kids. At the zoo this past weekend, I relished being baby free. We had great discussions about the animals, they noticed things and shared them with us, they ran and jumped and played. WE HAD NO STROLLER! And while the kids were big enough to understand and enjoy the zoo creatures, they were still small enough to not notice the howler monkey getting wild with himself. Monkeying with himself. Putting on a show. Fine, fine. I’m done. (That’s what he said.)

    Babies can’t ride bears.

    The Doctor and I agreed it was an awesome day at the zoo with our big kids. I wish I could bottle that day and bring it out when my kids are really big. When they are spending more time with their friends than with us. When they stop asking for a snuggle when they are blue. When they are driving, going to college, getting married.

    Graham at 12 months

    If that were possible, I would put our zoo bottle on the shelf with the bottles that contained other experiences. Middle of the night nursing sessions, first wobbly steps, lazy mornings when the entire family was in our bed. The way Graham used to call Lily “Baby Geel.” He couldn’t say girl, so it was “Baby Geel make noise” or “Baby Geel wook at me.” The weight of a sleeping baby on my shoulder, or a tiny hand wrapped around my finger.

    4 month old Lily 

    I love my big kids, but I miss my babies. I’m going to have to remember to bottle these memories on the shelf of my mind. It’s probably less cluttered than my house anyway. They’ll be easier to find.

    Group Poop

    My brother-in-law is everyone’s favorite. Babies adore him, he never gets involved in family squabbles, and he’s hilarious. He’s my husband’s little brother and he does things like draw birthday cards for his niece and nephew that they carry around until their next birthdays. He laughs at my jokes (which is an outstanding personality trait) and plays with my kids. My college friends still ask about him, and moms love him. The only time he gets mad is when someone has wronged a person he cares about. Then he can be a real asshole. That just makes the rest of us love him more.

    But the reason I love him most is because he doesn’t talk about that one time.

    For a few years, my oldest friend was living in the same town as my in-laws. We were in town for Christmas, and my husband, his brother, and I popped in to see this friend at her apartment. This was before my husband was my husband, and my friend and my brother-in-law had met a few times. We planned on having a few beers and some laughs. 

    It was a cute little place, and we were having a nice time. Some people are just easy and fun, and this tiny  apartment was crammed full of four of those folks. I was a happy girl, until my tummy started to rumble. It was churning in that “it’s not super urgent, but you’re gonna need the bathroom soon” sort of way. Since my friend only had one bathroom, and it was damn near in the living room, I decided to wait till we got back to the safety of my in-laws’ three bathroom house.
    As it usually is in those one bathroom situations, my gut had a different idea than my brain. It became clear that there was absolutely no way I was making another hour, and I started doing some reasoning in my head. Taking care of business around my friend was no big deal. She already knew how disgusting I was. My brother-in-law was another story. I mean, he was cool and welcoming, but maybe he was one of those guys who didn’t think girls pooped? This was stupid of me, as he has two sisters, and is definitely aware of how we girls can annihilate a bathroom.
    I made my way to the bathroom, and that’s when the severity of the situation hit me. The bathroom door was propped against the hallway. It was broken, and completely unattached to the door frame. My friend laughed and gave a halfhearted apology. That bitch didn’t even feel bad that this was going to be a group poop. No door to muffle the sound or the smell. I had no choice. What was this? A frat house? I know that some of you fellas are used to stalls with no doors, but us girls are accustomed a modicum of privacy.
    They tried to ignore me, but the conversation kept faltering, and bursts of laughter hit me, much in the same way that the odor must have been hitting them. This was before we had smartphones to entertain us while dropping a deuce, so all I could do was sit there and listen to the people I love laugh at me and my rotten ass. I yelled at them to shut up, but that only made them laugh harder. They finally went outside to give me some privacy, but the damage had been done. 
    I reemerged, sheepishly, and everyone acted cool, but no one looked me in the eye. I was ready to go. It smelled inside, and I was exhausted.

    Attention single ladies: My brother-in-law is still up for grabs, and if I haven’t made it perfectly clear, he’ll put up with your shit.