Several years ago I met a woman who is amazing… the type of woman you hear Oprah describe as fearless. The type that you stand back in awe and wonder, “How does she do it?” The type of woman you admire. The type of woman you may want to be. Not just Wonder Woman, but Wonder Mom! A breast-feeding-run–my-own-business-with-one-hand-tied-behind-my-back-mom. Nicchi’s is a natural parenting expert, an advocate, a coach for healthy lifestyles and (drum roll please) she admits to being scared. What? Gasp! Scared?
What is it about our society that admitting we are frightened is just not okay? We can scream at our kids, slam down the receiver on a telemarketer, drive like a maniac and act crazy, angry at our spouse for minor infractions of our self-imposed rules. Admit we are ever scared? No way!
What’s there to be scared of? Global warming? Thankfully--not happening here today in 30 degree Minnesota. Cyber bullying? Only if your child has access to a phone, computer or iTouch. Oops, maybe no problem. Terrorism? No job? Crime? ARGH!!!! Maybe we have something to fear, but is it fear itself? Author and therapist, John Friel, PhD has said that beneath the surface of all that communal and personal anger is much more: shame, guilt, hurt and yes, fear.
As parents, I’m convinced we are given an extra helping of child-related fear. Am I really that mad the sixteen year old hasn’t cleaned her room? Perhaps underneath the annoyance is the hurt that they didn’t listen (insert: appreciate our efforts), and FEAR that we have given birth to the next star of Hoarders. Do I really care that they hate my vegan, organic basil cookies, or do I fear that my secret Milk Duds and PopTart addiction will soon be found out by my every-so-healthy friends? Is the anger really about the college kid driving my car on icy roads at all hours? Do I care about a dented fender, or do I fear a dented offspring? Am I afraid I am going to come up short as a parent/ daughter/ friend/ worker/ wife, or am I just in a monthly bad mood?
I’m supposed to be the optimistic one. Looking on the bright side has its benefit, but you can get burned from too much sunshine without a cloud of realism. Sometimes, it’s OK to be afraid. There are scary things out in the big, bad world and we fear for the child in ourselves and those we have birthed. So, I look to Nicchi’s blog and reflect that yes, I can look fear in the eye, acknowledge it and leave my “crabby” on the shelf. Wow! I do feel better!
Please take a moment to reflect on the article below from Saumya Arya Haas from the Huntington Post. As a first generation European American married to another first generation Indian American, the thoughts she shares really spoke to me. Our household had a get-together the night before Thanksgiving jokingly referred to as the real Indians and Pilgrims: Bollywood songs, veg and non-veg dishes and an eclectic group of friends trying to beat one another in the latest board game. Such a mix of food music, culture and experience would have rarely been found twenty years ago. What a loss! Thankfully, this is the new America! This is the new family normal. This is wonderful. I hope you enjoy Saumya's thoughts as much as I did, and forgive me for continuing with the Thanksgiving theme! A Hindu Ameican's Thanksgiving
I have an immigrant's dream: a Better Homes and Gardens Thanksgiving dinner. One perfectly choreographed meal of American bounty and perfection. This photogenic fantasy meal represents something else: proof of my worth. Although I was born here, I used to feel I came up short on this most American of holidays. I am vegetarian. I am American, but there is no turkey on my table.
What I really want on Thanksgiving is to be accepted, embraced and appreciated: by my family, and more vaguely, by my country. Cooking my heart out may or may not be part of that.
It's ironic, since this is an immigrant's celebration. All I know about Thanksgiving is the primary-school, construction-paper-Pilgrim-hat and beneficent-Indian version. That's the other kind of Indian, a point which caused no end of confusion to my childhood. As with most things, I am woefully ignorant of the historical truth (if there even is a truth at all), so I've cobbled together my own present-day version -- a Hindu Thanksgiving. But I'm Hindu in an American way, so it's really a Hindu-American version, which of course, is really just American.
We create the community that we want to be accepted into. It is already there, before us, if we can just pause and let ourselves see it.
I grew up in a Hindu home that was open to any and everyone in our Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood-at-large. At Thanksgiving, my house today is as confusing, chaotic and lively as my childhood. But it's not "turkey day." Traditionally, we make lasagna. I'm not sure how that started. But it's perfect: an Italian dish, a Hindu cook, an American table.
I also make the whole, expected, shebang: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, about four different kinds of pie and chai. My family would rebel if there was no chai.
My family experience of being Hindu is deeply rooted in inclusiveness, social equity and community service. Chai-party values, if you like. Giving is part of being thankful: We acknowledge our own bounty and share with those who have less. This year I am achingly aware of those who have less, those who struggle to put everyday food on the table. I can't imagine the anxiety that Thanksgiving, with all its demands of abundance, must bring to those who have no abundance. I am shamed by my shallow vision of perfection.
Bounty is not only the material: it is the strength of our hearts, the power of our intellect, the wisdom of our traditions, the poetry of our being. Community is the communion of sharing these things. Sharing means giving as well as receiving. We are intertwined; our actions reverberate and echo and come around again. No one only gives or only receives.
Everyone brings something to the table.
On Thanksgiving, I have been surprised by unanticipated guests, interesting food, odd drinks, badly-behaved pets, talented teenagers, amazing stories and conversations both warm and contentious. More than anything, I have been surprised by the thrill of the unexpected amid the familiarity of ritual. My expectations are always challenged.
I have to surrender my image of perfection. The reality is far messier, but it is warm and real, unpredictable and delicious. It is the abundance at my table.
There's pumpkin pie on the table and chai on the stove. This is America, after all. We create our own truth, if there even is a truth at all. We are all poor in something. We share with those who have less. Everyone brings something. We are imperfect, real, enriched
The article in it's entirely can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saumya-arya-haas/a-hindus-thanksgiving_b_788237.html
I don’t know about you, but am really feeling like a lump after the Thanksgiving feeding frenzy.Am wondering how to avoid the Black Friday craziness at the malls, but still find something fun to do with my family over the next three days.Came up with a few ideas to share with you.They don’t cost much, if anything, and beats hearing “I’m bored.”Enjoy!
1. Bake cookies, or take the fast and easy way out and add frosting and sprinkles to purchased ones.You can also have the kids decide what’s for dinner and let them help cook.
2. Go to an indoor playground.Invite the other parent, have coffee and TALK! The Eagles Nest in New Brighton, Maple Grove Community Center and Edinborough Park in Edina are all great Twin Cities Metro options.
3. Call a friend and meet at a park.Even babies in strollers are fine, if bundled up, if the temp is above zero.
4. Go rollerblading or strollerblading.If it’s not too icy, you can go around the Twin Cities lakes, or try out the Metrodome for an indoor option.
5. Try bumper bowling.There are coupons online and in the Happenings/Entertainment books that make this a cheap fun option for ages five and up.I love the bumpers, because then even I can look like a pro!
6. Explore your local wildlife park.In the northern Minneapolis suburbs Springbrook Nature Center and Silverwood are great options.
7. Go to the zoo.The Como and Minnesota zoo have indoor and outdoor choices.
8. Grab your bike helmets and go for a bike ride.You can even do this in the winter if the streets have been cleared and it’s not icy.
9. Organize a Kid-Swap with friends. They take your kids for a morning and you take theirs for an afternoon.
10. Go to a local museum.The Minnesota History Center or Gibbs Museum is a great to show the kids how things use to be.The Minneapolis Art Institute is free and is next to the Children’s Theatre.Rush tickets are half price and if the kids aren’t too tired after the museum, it’s a perfect add-on.Get in line a half an hour before the show!
11. Go ice-skating at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis.
12. Have a movie afternoon. Rent a couple of good kid’s shows, make some popcorn and snuggle up with blankets and enjoy.
13. Stop down at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.They are open until Christmas and even have hot coffee and cocoa.
14. Cut your own tree at a Christmas tree farm.
15. Try Horseback riding or a sleigh/wagon ride.For an easy short option, try the Forepaugh’s area in St. Paul or down by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
16. Visit a farm and see all the farm animals, you maybe be able to feed and pat some of the tamer ones.Emma Krumbees in Belle Plain has a nice one that is perfect for smaller kids.
17. Take a day trip to a historic town.Red Wing, Afton and Stillwater are fun year round!
18. Try winter camping at Baker Park.They also have fun family classes and year round campfires.You can even try a campfire in your own back yard!
19. Have an indoor picnic lunch.Let the kids help pack their own, break out the picnic basket and spread out a blanket.We have even put on shorts and sunglasses.
20. Smile! Get out the digital camera, let the kids take some pictures, download them and create a slide show.You can also give them the video camera, and have your own Oscar-winning production.
Note to self, husband. There are certain things better left unsaid, especially to a young woman! I don't know why, but keeping a foot out of your mouth with family can sometimes be near impossible. Let's add in hormones, holidays, personalities, and good intentions: a recipe for major up-to-the-ankle insertion.
Daughter number two, back from college, is on the couch cuffing her jeans in the latest (I think) style. Small talk is flying, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is blaring in the background and my husband and child are bonding.
Husband: "That's the new look huh?"
Child #2: "Yep."
Husband: "Cool. Maybe I should try it." Conversation is going well. He's showing engaged interest. They've established eye contact. Wow!
Husband (now confident): "So, did you have to go up a size?" WHAT?
Child #2 two stares. Smiles fade. Husband not sure why, but like a cornered animal senses danger.
"What? Thanks a lot for noticing I needed a bigger size."
Husband (Man who has given impassioned and applauded speeches before crowds of hundreds begins stuttering): "No I only meant, um, uh, to roll them…um…up." Gulp. "I didn't mean you had gotten fat. Just thought you needed a bigger size."
Oh please quit while you're ahead. Just stop talking. Like they said in When Harry Met Sally, it's already out there. Duck, cover and run! Husband senses my thoughts via the marital mind-meld.
Child #2 standing up and stalking out of the room: "Fine. I know what you meant."
He meant well, but risking sounding like a sexist, I think it's a guy thing. Blessed with little cultural crap about dimpled thighs and pouching tummy fears, for him weight is just a fact. Like eye color, a middle name and his eternal hope for the Vikings: what you weigh JUST IS! Reminiscent of the year he joyfully gave me a 3x sweater for Christmas, or the time he insisted I needed to go to the club more, he just doesn't get it. If you love me, pretend I am a size 2.
I don't know if it's a gender thing, a family thing, or a culture thing. We all have our sore spots. We assume if our family loves us, they'd know our insecurities and avoid them. In family there is no balding head, directionally challenged outing, or burnt pasta. All is good in happy family land and kind denial rules. So as we head over the river and through the woods for the Thanksgiving meal at Mom's, am preparing for a bit of gravy and salt with the inevitable foot that comes with extended family love fests. Remembering to step lovingly over the landmines of self-doubt, I always can follow it up with a piece of humble pie.
The house isn't clean. Dogs bark. Child in wetsuit, snowshoes and a face mask is ready to hit the frozen tundra for his next adventure. Child number three is at high school, paying less attention to the teachers than the iTouch hidden in her uniform pocket. Offspring one and two are working and finishing up exams.
The freezing rain is on its way, and I have fifty people showing up in seven hours for a party of the Pilgrims and the real Indians (you'll get it if you check out my last name!) So, am taking the easy way out and posting an oldie but goodie article I wrote in March. It was carried in three local papers, including the Asian American Press: How to Choose a Kindergarten Program. Enjoy and get that house cleaned-pack up the children-load the car-make the turkey for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!
Columbia Heights, Minn. (March 4, 2010) – Spring is nearing and now is the time that parents must begin to register their 4 or 5 year-old for school. Kindergarten is often a student’s first step into the world of formal learning, so finding the right program for a child is an important decision. With private schools, public schools, half-day and full-day programs, how can a parent decide which kindergarten is the right for their child?
Mrs. Cara Miller, a kindergarten teacher from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Columbia Heights, provides several tips for parents.
“Based on research from top educators, we know a kindergarten should be age appropriate, encourage self-esteem, cultural identity, individual strengths and independence,” states Miller. She continued by saying that teachers with a background in early childhood education and child development can best provide a child what they need. Additionally, research shows more consistent, positive, long-term, academic outcomes for children enrolled in all-day kindergarten. “It’s clear that these kids in all-day kindergartens do better throughout their entire school career,” she added.
According to Miller and The National Association for the Education of Young Children, here are 10 signs of a good kindergarten program:
• Children are playing or working on projects with other students. They are not forced to sit quietly for a long time or merely wandering the classroom.
• Children have many different things to do throughout the day (i.e. singing, reading, coloring, and puzzles). All children may not be all doing the same thing at the same time.
• At times teachers teach individual students, small groups, and the whole class. Instruction is not limited to the entire class all at the same time. The class size is small enough that children receive individual attention.
• The classroom is decorated with children’s work and brightly colored materials.
• Children learn in the course of their regular class activities. Reading books, taking attendance, and serving snack are all meaningful learning experiences. Enrichment programs such as computers, music, art and foreign languages are offered.
• Children work on projects and have long periods of time to explore subjects. Filling out worksheets is not the main educational activity.
• Children have an opportunity to play outside every day that weather permits.
• Teachers read books to children throughout the day.
• Curriculum is adapted to the ability of each child.
• Children look forward to school. Parents feel safe sending their child to kindergarten. The care before and after school, if used, is safe and comfortable for the child as well.
While there are numerous kindergarten programs available in the northern suburbs, it’s important to explore a family’s options. Private schools may offer tuition assistance, so income is not a barrier to many area schools. For example, Immaculate Conception Catholic School waives registration fees for new students and offers generous tuition assistance to many school families. Parents who do not attend a kindergarten open-house event should ask to visit a school and kindergarten program during the day. Schools that embrace the philosophy of individualized teaching, a calm, safe environment and offer an all-day program can often provide the best opportunities for your kindergarten-aged child.
Cara Miller teaches at Immaculate Conception Catholic School. Immaculate Conception Catholic School is a private Catholic school located near 40th and Central Avenues at 4030 Jackson Street Northeast in Columbia Heights, educating students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. Located ten minutes from downtown, ICS offers affordable tuition, extended-day morning and afternoon child care, tuition assistance, fine arts, athletics and Spanish language instruction. Free busing is available for families residing in the Columbia Heights School District. The school is currently accepting enrollment for the 2010-2011 school year. Mrs. Cara Miller is a former preschool teacher, and current director of the kindergarten program at Immaculate Conception Catholic School. She received her degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Saint Catherine’s University in St. Paul.
You know what I am talking about. The parent who gets the date- event-time-location wrong, or is caught in traffic- lost- stuck in a meeting- keys locked in the car- ALWAYS LATE. You either ARE that parent, or have watched with pity (subtext: disgust) as that certain person slinks in the side door. You don't know, but we slink because we're praying no one notices the tardiness, especially our own lovely kid! Well he noticed. They all noticed. Unfortunately, my husband was in tow and noticed as well.
Eight minutes late for the first grader's two minute Thanksgiving play. Although I walk into the hall, excited to see all the parents still lined up, I realize within seconds that the time was magically changed. Unfortunately, husband and I were only one of two families that didn't read the teacher's new memo. Enter the 6 year old wearing a crumpled construction paper turkey perched on his head. One look at the LATE ONES and he bursts into tears. Another couple tries to ease our embarrassment with, "It was on our fridge for 2:45 too!" Thanks, but neither the hubster nor the kid is buying that one.
So, today I get to face up to the fact that even with a lot of time and practice, sometimes I stink at the job of motherhood. I make kids cry, I lie about seeing every moment of their sporting event, and I have been known to doze off during a dance recital. You know, as parents we have been given the oldest "practice child" to screw up. Some how, I had always hoped that by number 4 I'd get it right. Well the boy with the speech about the turkey waddle will tell ya: it just ain't so, and he's the fourth practice model.
As I stood wiping first grade tears with the sleeve of my coat, I realized something. Even though times are changing I still haven't caught up. We are all just works in progress and for that I am thankful. So for today I can be nicer to myself and realize I'm not the only one under construction. So, counting my blessings gets easier, and I still can say with a straight face, "Better late than never!"
Happy Thanksgiving everyone out there in blog-land, and take a minute to be thankful for what we are becoming, and remember you're never too late.
Sometimes Onyx, as the middle child, doesn't get as much attention as Quartz or Sapphire. So here is a post entirely about dear Onyx.
Onyx has an imaginary friend named Atrillion. He is sometimes accompanied by his friend Eviss. They are Star Wars guys. Atrillion and Eviss get to do all the things Onyx wishes he could do. If Onyx sees a Lego toy that he likes that is very expensive, he says, "Atrillion has that. He bought if from a store that is only for Star Wars guys and it costed one dollar". If Onyx has to wear his seatbelt, he says, "Atrillion never wears a seatbelt. He rides on top of the car and never falls off." If Onyx wishes he could have a birthday more often, he says, "Every day is Atrillion's birthday except school days." Atrillion has a space ship called the "Sign Catcher", and he eats cake for every meal.
Here is a story Onyx told me about Atrillion, transcribed exactly.
"There was a sea monster. It had lots of tentacles. It killed Atrillion's hand. It was trying to get Atrillion but it did not. Then Eviss was on the sea monster and then he tried to kill it but he did not and Atrillion fell in the lava pit and then they pulled the little stick with a hole in it and then they saw his hand. Then they got him out. Then the sea monster got smaller until it turned into a not very big dolphin, and then the crane picked it up and put it in the lava pit."
The bonding and closeness of cuddling up on the sofa creates a strong relationship.
It helps develop their vocabulary, comprehension and listening skills.
They are more likely to read more on their own as they grow up.
Once in school, they will be more prepared to learn.
Encourages curiosity and creativity.
So, is reading a book before bedtime every night a good idea? Of course, but the real question to ask here is do you know HOW to read to your kids?
Yes, I know you can read. If you couldn't you wouldn't be here on my blog. Duh.
I'm talking about active reading with your child. When you read a book, you might be telling a story, but the best way for your child to learn is for you to really display what the story is about. I'll give you a few examples so you get the idea.
Let's start with an alphabet book. At a young age, these are usually books that simply show each letter and a picture that begins with it. An A would have an apple next to it, and so forth. The way to turn this into an actual learning experience is to spend a moment on each page talking about what you see. Help your child trace the letter with his finger. Point to the letter where it's found in the word. What other words start with "A"? Talk about the color of the apple. Where can you find apples? At the store? In a tree? This is also a great technique for making the book have a different story every time you read it.
How about a book with a moral? The Berenstein Bears and the Little Critter books are some of our favorites that usually tell a tale that ends in some sort of lesson. As you read, take the time to find out if your child understands what is happening. Ask if a character is mad, sad or happy and why. Point to different parts of the pictures to discuss what is going on. Ask if your child knows what will happen next or what the character should have done. This is great for instilling good morals and decision making.
Another category of books to read, my personal favorite, are Dr. Seuss books. Any silly, funny, nonsense type story that may not appear to have a lesson can still help your child learn. Name colors in the pictures. Ask your child if she thinks that could really happen. Have them repeat a word or phrase that seems silly for a good laugh and a great lesson in pronunciation. (Fox in Socks is superb for this one!)
Learning doesn't start at school, it starts in your home. When you build a strong foundation before sending them off to school, they are much more likely to succeed. If you feel like life is too busy to sit down and read, make sure to at least do it at bedtime. A bedtime routine helps your child settle down and fall asleep easier each night. They will even be less likely to put up a fight when it's time to get their pajamas on because they know it means some quality time with mom or dad.
Let me start by telling you that Coach doesn't do Christmas lists...usually. As long as I've known him it's always been the same old thing- just khaki pants, Carhartt pants, and long sleeve t-shirts. That's it. Every. Single. Year.
It's frustrating. There's all the pressure of finding just the right gift because oh my word what if he doesn't like what I get him? And if you think I'm buying another pair of khakis or Carhartts you're just wrong. We have two closets full.
So anyway, he doesn't do lists. With two exceptions.
Two years ago he asked for a very large hunting knife, a flint, a compass, and a tent (in addition to the khaki pants and the Carhartts, of course).
I was convinced he was going to gut me and make a grand escape into the woods to live out some sort of twisted Red Dawn fantasy of his.
And this year.
This year, the list is a bit longer and far more unnerving than the crazy murder list of 2008. It came in the form of an e-mail. It was numbered. 20 items. Not since the Sears Catalog days have I seen a 20 item Christmas list. In consideration of your sanity I left off the normal items (shirts, ties, etc.) But the others are just another exhibit of the crazy that lives at our house.
It should be noted that, as he states at #14, he is rambling. It should also be noted that he obviously has some sort of fitness theme going here. And finally, I'd also like it noted that I have no idea how gymnastic rings and Lacrosse balls made the list, but I'm intrigued.
The List: 3. Body Science recovery tights – L
4. Abmat – againfaster.com
5. 20lb. med ball – againfaster.com
6. Jump rope – againfaster.com
7. Running shorts – not the short kind but something not as floppy as bball shorts. Size?
8. Anything we need for the house that may need to take the place of anything on this list.
9. Foam roller for recovery – like ones on againfaster.com (running stores may have)
10. Gymnastic rings – againfaster.com
11. Any shirts like the two Columbia shirts Traci got me (she knows what type)
14. I am rambling
15. 3 lacrosse balls – don’t ask!
16. Pull-up bar for garage – againfaster.com
17. Recovery bands for stretching – like ones in our weight room
18. INOV-8 shoes – 11 black or blue – againfaster.com
19. Anything to keep me warm now that I have become cold-blooded
So our boys won another game and now we're getting ready to play in the semi-finals for the state championship. It's kind of big. We play in the most difficult division in all of Tennessee, and we play teams that are nationally ranked each year.
Soooooo. We have to travel to Chattanooga Friday for the game. Originally I had planned on trying to meet up with LP- The Southern Drama Queen. We haven't had an adventure since the cupcake tryst back in the summer.
But today my principal asked me if I'd mind chaperoning the pep bus for the 8th, 9th, and 10th graders.
I can't think of anything I'd rather do.
In theory, it's actually a great idea. Since G is in 8th grade, it would provide me with a means to make sure he didn't get into any sort of Greyhound nonsense. I still have vivid memories of some unfortunate drama on a bus trip to Washington D.C. when I was in 4th grade. Anyway, like I said, chaperoning the pep bus is a great idea.
The reality? The reality is that I am going to get on a bus with fifty 14-16-year-olds who are all currently in a deodorant no-man's land somewhere between novelty and necessity. You know the kids- the one's who are still using that first stick of Right Guard that Santa put in their stockings when they were 10? And while the boys play fast and loose with hormones and body odor, the girls have all just discovered Bath and Body Works.
So, I'll spend 4 hours of my Friday in a bus that smells of feet, arm pits, and Tranquil Mint Body Lotion.
And no, the irony of that sentence was not lost on me.
It's a pretty good deal. In exchange for my chaperoning duties I get a free ride to Chattanooga, a hamburger, and hopefully a ticket to witness a little football history at our school.
And then I should probably get up and run on Saturday.
Probably is a key word in that sentence. I signed us all up to run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning. I planned on resurrecting my running last week. AC went with me. I thought it would be disastrous. I thought she would cry and flail and feign some sort of medical ailment to avoid running.
She didn't. As a matter of fact, she ran without stopping for two miles. She also talked without stopping for two miles. And she didn't get tired. Or winded.
I didn't fair as well.
So, while I say I should get up on Saturday to run, the reality is that I won't. I'm going to go with a "man up and put your big girl britches on" approach. If that doesn't work, I'll trip AC, bring her to tears, and make it look like I'm holding back in the name of love and good sportsmanship.
Here is some pertinent information you'll need in order to make "hide nor hair" of what I'm a bout to tell you. I don't know what "hide nor hair" means, nor do I even know if I spelled it right, because I don't know if I'm talking about the hair on my head or a hare that scampers about my yard trying to avoid Ivy the Huntress.
Incidentally, Ivy caught the devil squirrel yesterday. The devil squirrel has been taunting her since spring. Yesterday she reigned victorious. She brought me her booty. That's the second squirrel I've been given in the last two weeks. Although, the first gift was actually just a squirrel head sans skull and eyeballs. One of my students gave it to me as a gift after I talked to him at length about his love for hunting. He told me I could use it as a key chain.
I think that's weird.
Anyway. All of that is to say that I am not up to snuff on my southern sayings and don't know if hide nor hair is spelled correctly, but my mom says it all the time, so there.
Also, you need to know that I called my grandmother Buddy.
Her real name was Daisy Wynelle. I was in high school before I knew that. She was always just "Buddy."
The second thing you need to know is that my rear-end, though not huge by cultural standards, is larger than it once was.
I blame Buddy. She liked to cook. And read magazines. And get stuff in the mail. I laugh every time a magazine comes to my house because I'm addicted to them, and I get a few monthly reminders about the cloth from which I'm cut.
I'm frighteningly like Buddy. Sometimes that aggravates my parents. Sometimes they find it endearing. All I know is I'm like her. And I'm like my aunt Kitty. And apparently also like my sister-in-law Shelley because my mother calls me Kitty and my brother calls me Shelley, and my kids call me mom (and occasionally Woman when they are feeling brave and humorous and I am unconscious or out of arm's length), and Coach calls me Babe or Hey.
At this point my real name is superfluous and only complicates things.
Sorry for the rambling. It's been a while. The important things to remember are 1) I called my grandmother Buddy and 2) My butt is bigger than it used to be 3) I blame that on Buddy 4) Buddy died in 1994, and it needs to be noted that my butt was minuscule at the time I have forgotten why I started writing this post.
I think it had to do with Cranberry Sauce and Jam Cake.
I'm pretty sure that was it.
So, how about I go on about my day and try to remember where I was going with this post. Tonight I'll post Buddy's recipes for Cranberry Sauce, Butterscotch Cookies, and Jam Cake (all the things that make the holidays the holidays) and maybe by then I'll have remembered what I was going to tell you.
I think it was going to be sweet and sentimental. As you can see, my mood is not sweet, nor is it sentimental right now. In the meantime I'll just say hi!
When Halloween and Thanksgiving come around, my family always looks forward to all the pumpkin goodies. Pumpkin lattes, cookies, ice cream and pie are the most obvious favorites. While we drool over most of these at the store, I have one recipe I love to use that can double as a great party pleaser.
You will need: 3 eggs 1 cup vegetable oil 2 cups canned pumpkin (about 16 ounces) 1/4 tsp baking powder 2 tsp baking soda 1 & 1/2 cup sugar 2 tsp vanilla 2 cups flour 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1/4 tsp cloves 1/4 tsp ginger
Preheat the oven to 375.
Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the oil, sugar, pumpkin and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves and ginger together. Then add to the pumpkin mixture gradually until well blended. It should be thick and well mixed like cake batter.
Make sure you have greased two loaf pans thoroughly.
See? WELL greased
Pour the mixture into the pans as evenly as you can. You don't need to measure exactly. Do the ol' Rachael Ray with it....you know..."eyeball it". Go ahead. I trust you.
Then bake them together, side by side is fine, in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes. The original recipe said to bake at 1 hour, but my oven is an overachiever and was done in 45. I'm not sure how old the recipe is, I got it from Mom. (Thanks, Mom!) However, ovens today run a bit hotter, it seems, so it's best to know your oven and check on the bread at about 45 minutes.
I'm not much of a cook, but I love to bake. If you don't know the tricks to being able to tell when something is done, a toothpick inserted in the middle is a great tester. If it comes out clean, you're good to go. Another telltale sign is if you can see the sides of the bread pulling away from the pan. You can get them out before those edges start getting dark.
When all is said and done, you should have two gorgeous little loafs of holiday goodness that look like this:
As a parent, what is the one thing you can't get enough of?
I have never been very good at sleeping. Some people can hit the pillow and be out cold for a solid 8 hours feeling rested and ready to go in the morning. Others are like me. I toss. I turn. I generally have strange dreams that wake me up, or even make me feel like I've been awake.
One of the worst problems I was having was I couldn't quite get comfortable. Whether on my stomach, back or side, some sort of pain ailed me. If I was lying on my stomach, a spring would poke me in the ribs. If I remained on my side, my shoulders, hips and knees would hurt from the pressure. And let's not forget about the mid-bed abyss. You know...when you lay down on one side of the bed and somehow roll into the sagging center springs. When I was pregnant with my daughter over 3 years ago, all of this made trying to sleep completely futile.
My husband and I set out to the stores to find some relief. I immediately gravitated to the memory foam choices. They were a rising addition to the market and I had heard nothing but praise about them. However, even though sitting on them seemed like a seat on a cloud, the price stabbed me like springs that pierced my sides every night.
Finally we decided on the Sealy Posturpedic True Form mattress. All the comfort of the most popular brand at a fraction of the price. It has been 3.5 years sleeping on this bed and I fall in love with it every time I climb in. When you first lie down, the lack of springs is an obvious benefit. You don't actually sink in to a soft, fluffy mattress, though. It's firm enough to maintain it's shape and provide give where your body needs it. And in the morning, my body was surprisingly pain-free. Any position you choose is a comfortable one. The bed will mold to you.
If you have difficulty sleeping, this mattress could be a great solution for you. It has made a tremendous difference in my life while sleeping or awake. Getting a better night's sleep has helped me to be more awake and attentive during the day. Without the joint pain, I am much happier and able to concentrate on helping my kids start their day out right.
You might even feel good enough to skip that morning coffee.
Two weekends ago AC and I witnessed a real live bank robbery with guns and police and all manner of hoopla. We also shopped for jeans and the final pieces for the greatest Halloween costume of all time. I bought her a cookie at the mall. We played in the shoe department and she tried on all the high-heels and boots. She put on lip gloss and blush at the makeup counters. I even put the XM radio on Radio Disney. And that was just Saturday.
I was a shoe-in for Mom of the Week. (I don't aim for Mom of the Year anymore- too much pressure. I'm more of a week to week kind of gal.)
So you can imagine my surprise when my mom asked her what she did over the weekend and her reply was: "Oh, not much. But, oh! Guess what? We did see one really cool thing."
I was waiting for the bank robbery story. Or maybe the Ugg Cardy boot story. (That is a short story by the way. I want some. Ugg Cardy boots that is. Grey ones. Size 7.)
She told neither the bank robbery story nor the Ugg story.
She told this story.
"Oh, it was so cool. We were going to get a scary movie, but then G wanted to get a movie for school. So we did. And then we went home to watch it. And guess what? It was BLACK AND WHITE."
You could hear laughter from my mom's end of the phone.
"No, seriously. It was all black and white. There was no color. It was the same people as the ones on the cover, but they didn't have any color. Have you ever seen that before?...You have? You did? It was? Well, when did they get color? Huh. You're old."
The laughter from my mom's end stopped.
But that child has gone on and on about the wonder of the black and white movie for two weeks. We watched To Kill a Mockingbird if you're wondering. If you haven't seen it with your kids, I would highly recommend it. It equally mesmerized the 14-year-old and the 10-year-old.
And y'all? We talked.
We talked about why people get embarrassed when they don't have the money to pay for things they really need. And why it's important not to make people feel badly because they don't have a lot of money. We talked about why everyone was so mean to Boo Radley just because he was different.
And that little 10-year-old who vacillates between being some sort of 21st century sage and a JerseyShore reject observed that all the adults in her life encourage her to be different. Unique is good; sameness is bad. But then people are mean to you for being unique. People really just want you to be like them. That's what she said. I just fell into a deep depression because she was right, and I realized that perhaps the innocence was fading quicker than I'd like. I asked her why she thought that was the case.
Her look of disgust and disbelief that I didn't know the answer was priceless.
"Duh. Boo Radley scared everybody. He's supposed to show you that different is scary, and if you don't want people to tell the neighborhood that you stabbed your father with scissors, then you need to be like everybody else."
Told you. Sometimes she's Aristotle, sometimes she's Snooki. It's a toss-up.
Anyway, I've been thinking about that movie and that conversation for two weeks. I've also been reading Modern Parents, Vintage Values by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff. My aunt, who has one of the coolest jobs around working for Broadman and Holman, sent it to me in the mail. She told me to let her know what I thought.
So I will. And I'll let you know too.
Genius. Pure genius. Some of what they have to say about parenting seems to be common sense, but we all know that common sense was removed from our culture a while ago, so it bears repeating. But they also reveal quite a bit of information about teen/tween culture that I didn't know. It's vital information for me. I have two kids who are currently in those two categories, but I spend almost every waking minute of my life with 14-18-year olds. It's pertinent.
It's also practical. They do tell you what's going on, what it looks like for a teenager in today's culture. But they don't leave you hanging there scratching your head and thinking that your only hope is to home school them and never let them out of the house.
Matter of fact, they encourage things like Facebook, and cell phones, and various other pieces of technology. They give suggestions to parents so that we can be culturally relevant and our kids can be culturally relevant without being devoured by it.
It's good. If you have children I would go so far as to say it's a MUST READ.
So, I'm giving two away.
If you want a chance at winning, leave a comment below and tell me you're biggest parenting challenge.
**I'm closing comments at 5:00 pm CST on Thursday.
I'll admit it; I have gotten a lot of mileage out of Coach's OCD. We've all laughed at his dustbusting and laundering. He's been an awfully good sport about it, and I'll even admit that all of us benefit from his brand of crazy- it's a practical crazy.
Mine? Not so much. I obsess and come unglued when the spices aren't put back in alphabetical order, or the when the ginger ends up in the savory cabinet rather than in the sweet cabinet. Untidy closets and drawers bring me to tears.
I don't like internal messes; Coach doesn't like external messes. Oh, the things you could read into that statement.
Anyway, I also obsess over the Christmas card. I start thinking about it in early spring. Usually there is an idea by late spring. Last year Coach tried to thwart my idea by suggesting we dress up like ninjas and don throwing stars and nunchucks. (Incidentally, I had no idea until today that nuNchucks was spelled with an "n"- I've called them nuMchucks since the early 80's)
In his world nothing says Merry Christmas like illegal street weaponry.
So, anyway, I worry about it. I wish I didn't, but I do. To the point of losing sleep.
Call it vanity, call it crazy, call it whatever you want. I still worry about it.
And because we can never top our friend Coach P's cards; my only hope in the Christmas Card extravaganza is to be the first one in mailboxes every year. So that's what I do. I have those babies printed, addressed, and stamped by mid-November.
And then? Part of my Thanksgiving tradition is to go to the post office and put those cards in the mailbox so they are the first things out on Friday morning. Told you, it's a sickness.
Coach P is single. There's really no good reason for that either. He is DARLING cute; he's educated, self-sufficient, gainfully employed, he has no weird attachments to his mother or poodles named Precious, and as evidenced below, he has himself a sense of humor.
Because most of his friends are married and have children, he receives mailboxes full of Christmas cards featuring little ones in smocked dresses and John-John suits. (Oh, how I miss smocked dresses and John-John suits.)
But, back to Coach P. He has no children who wear smocked clothing. He would like some though- so if you're willing and single, and decidedly NOT crazy- send me an e-mail, I may be able to help.
But in the meantime he uses the Christmas season to showcase his sense of humor and mastery of Photoshop. He gets the award at our house every year for the best Christmas card.
See, I told you? Cute and funny. And one of my favorite people.
If you tend to put out a more conservative card that is free of ninjas, street weaponry, and Michael Jackson, you should check out Shutterfly's Christmas cards.
Here are a couple of gratuitous Halloween shots. Never has there been a costume more appropriate for a child in all the history of Halloween. I'm not even kidding.
Life is totally infringing on my blogging. I can't even remember the last time I wrote anything down except a grocery list. There's always a grocery list. The irony of weight loss is fascinating. I have never spent more time making lists or wandering the grocery store aisles in all my life.
Well, maybe I did, but I spent quite a bit more time on the Little Debbie and Hostess aisle then. And it was so much more fun. It's hard to get as excited about a bag of apples and Kashi cereal.
The Swiss Cake Roll is a hard act to follow, I don't care how many nutrients you have.
Anyway, our microwave broke last Sunday. I was pumped. I thought Santa would visit early with a new microwave/oven combo- you know the shiny stainless steel kind with the microwave/convection oven. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't spend the better part of my Sunday evening looking at new recipes to cook in my new oven.
Until the oven repair guy came and toyed with my emotions on a Monday morning.
Not cool, oven man, not cool.
He looked at it and said "Gollee, I haven't seen one of these in years. You can't get parts for these anymore. You might have to get a new one."
Cue the music and fairies. Giddy I was.
"Oh, no. No, it looks like you just need an electron and she'll be good for another 30 years."
(And he might not have said electron. He may have said neutron...or voltron...I don't know it ended with tron and began with "Oh no, I can fix it.") This is another one of those times that being a cussing kind of woman would have come in handy. But I didn't. I refrained.
I think I even said, "Oh good. I would hate to lose this 37 year old oven made by Hot Point. What a tragedy that would have been."
But, getting the part in for the oven that supposedly is so old that parts are not accessible took far longer than expected. So, I didn't have my popcorn dinner last night, and I've had to be quite creative with the leftovers. But, before the darn thing blew an electron, I made Potato Soup. It was good. It was really good. And it was easy.
But you'll need a microwave with working electrons. (Or you can peel potatoes and boil them and mash them, but why do that when Ore Ida has taken all the misery out of potatoes?)
Potato Soup 1 Onion, chopped 4 Tablespoons of Butter 1/3 Cup Flour 4 Cups of Half and Half (I used fat free) 3 Cups of Milk (I used 1%) 2 Bags of Ore Ida Steam and Mash Potatoes (Russet) 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch Salt (to taste) Pepper (to taste)
Toppings: Bacon Cheddar Cheese Green Onions Sour Cream
Melt the butter and saute the onions until they are translucent. In the meantime, put the potatoes in the microwave (follow the instructions). Add the flour and stir until it is smooth. Add the Half and Half and the milk. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a fork. I like mine a little but chunky, but you can do whatever consistency you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste. My soup was a little "wet" for my preference, so I added cornstarch to thicken it up a little more.
Then we topped it with the toppings and ate until we were ill.
And I slept soundly while visions of convection ovens danced in my head.