Friday, April 27, 2012

Ring-a-ding.

Once there was a young couple who was very much in love. One day they went to the mall (okay, they did this a lot of days) and while strolling hand-in-hand past the Helzberg Diamond store decided it would be super fun to go in and look at rings.

Wedding rings.

Because they were young and in love and what the heck else are two 21 year olds going to look at together? Polo shirts? Bras? Stationary? No. Obviously wedding rings is the only right answer!

As they were looking and pointing and oohing and aahing, a very nice lady who was exceptionally good at her job asked them if they needed any help. They giggled and said, "No thanks, just looking," and went back to stumbling around the store like a couple of fat puppies.

"Are you looking for an engagement ring?" she asked sweetly.

"Uhhh..."

"There are some nice ones right over here," she said without skipping a beat. "What style wedding set did you have in mind?"

"I honestly don't even know what a 'wedding set' is," I said to no one in particular.

"Here's a very classic example," she said as she slipped two rings on my finger.

One, two.


And the rest is history.

(Seriously impressed by hand models right now. How do their hands not look like meat?!)

I figured I'd wear this ring the rest of my life (that's the deal, right?) but it started irritating my skin several years ago and now I can hardly wear it at all. I'm sure I could do something to fix the ring or my finger but I've been thinking lately that maybe I'd like to wear something completely different for a while. Is that weird? Part of me thinks it's totally wrong. That your wedding ring is symbolic and should remain unchanged like your commitment etc, etc. But another part of me is obviously like, "Who cares?" I mean, name one thing I picked out when I was 21 that I still like today. Besides my husband.

Anyway, as I told Liam tonight when he asked if I was playing Words with Friends and I told him no I was looking at cool wedding rings on Pinterest (I had a cold this week, gimme a break), I can't go running around town without a ring on my finger - people are going to want to ask me on dates!

And then I swear to you he said, "Mama, I think even if you have a ring on your finger, people are still going to want to ask you on dates. You're really pretty."

"Aw, thanks buddy. That's really sweet."

"In fact," all shy like, "even I kind of want to be your boyfriend."

"Wow."

"Yeah."

"So I should probably get a new ring then..."

"Yeah, probably so."

Here are some I found today that I think are really pretty:







And then there's this which is just so sweet (especially for Mother's day...):


And this:



(Okay, seriously, Pinterest is way too addictive.)

Wait, gold? I know, I'm surprised too. But ever since Bill gave me a gold karma necklace for Valentine's day (a pretty little reminder that what goes around comes around...) I've realized how much I really love it.


I like how it looks on my skin and it's just kind of me at the moment. Plus, if I get a ring like the pretty little braided number (my favorite I think/not a huge investment) it would totally do the job without feeling like a major commitment. Kind of a funny notion for a wedding ring I guess but I'm not talking about my marriage, just an accessory to my marriage. Totally different.

And then maybe, maybe, I'll do something drastic with my real ring one of these days. Like make it  stop irritating my finger or use the diamonds in a completely new, custom setting. Or I'll just keep it forever exactly as it is as a reminder of that young couple who was very much in love and liked to go to the mall and make impulse purchases like See's candy and engagement rings. Crazy kids... they had no idea how much awesome was in store for them.

We should totally thank that pushy sales lady.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Let them eat cake.

My husband has been out of town the past few nights so come dinner time, I've been all about the path of least resistance. We still maintain our regularly scheduled meal time and sit together as a (slightly smaller) family, but rather than racking my brain to come up with something satisfying for the adults that won't make Liam melt to the floor in a puddle of whine, I go kid-friendly all the way. Smart dogs and baked sweet potato fries? You got it! Mac 'n cheese with apple slices? No problem! A bowl of cereal and a glass of wine? What? Moms need dinner too, you know.

But last night, even with zero pressure to impress my fellow diners, I still felt like dinner time snuck up and bit me on the ass. We had walked to the neighborhood coffee shop after school where I was really hoping we could sneak in a super early "supper" (that's what Liam calls it when we eat earlier than usual) but they were no longer serving food food and a sugar cookie just wasn't going to cut it. So we walked home and played outside and bounced on the trampoline and watched the dog chase her tail and forgot about dinner until we finally came inside and realized it was 6:00.

Almost time for dinner.

A quick glance around the kitchen confirmed I was going to have to get creative unless I wanted to serve the exact same dinner from the night before or repeat what Liam had had for lunch. While I'm usually fine with stuff like that (I can do leftovers for lunch and dinner a couple days in a row no problem), last night I had a temporary case of OCD. I simply COULD NOT serve the same dinner twice!

Fortunately I had stumbled across a recipe in Parents magazine earlier in the day that I had all the ingredients for and thought the kids might actually like. Because it was a recipe for cake and nobody doesn't like cake. (My husband says he doesn't but we're pretty sure he's lying.)

The reason I felt I could get away with making it for dinner is because it was one of those sneaky chef kind of things so it was kind of like cake but it was cake with zucchini. And by the time I got done messing with it and substituting what I could to make it vegan (yeah, we're doing that again), it was practically a dinner all on it's own!

Practically but not quite. I couldn't just serve my kids cake for dinner. I had to come up with a side main dish of some sort too. But what? What...

Aha! That's it! An old family recipe passed down from my mom who probably learned it from her dad or her favorite aunt.

Beanie weenies.

Liam walked into the kitchen just as I was dumping the can of baked beans into the pot of sliced up Smart Dogs.

"What is that?" he asked, turning up his nose and eyeing me suspiciously.

"Dude. It's beanie weenies. Total kid food!"

"Ugh. It looks terrible."

"Well it's not. It's good. Trust me! This is the kind of stuff I was raised on!"

"That's...weird."

"Well, whatever. Go wash your hands."

While he was getting ready for dinner I sliced up a bunch of strawberries and an avocado and quickly made myself a kale salad. Then my boys and I sat down to a very nostalgic family dinner with plenty of time to eat before bed. Score!

And as for the meal? Rave reviews. I mean, rave reviews for our house. No one gagged or cried and the whining and fear-based negotiations were kept to a minimum. The strawberries and avocados disappeared first and after eyeing the cake and carefully taking a bike Liam said, "You know, you never can tell what something will be like on the inside by looking at it from the outside. For instance, this cake looked kind of bumpy and weird but it's actually really good."

It sounded like somebody's classroom had been visited by the guidance counselor so I went with it. "You're exactly right! It's a little bit like these beanie weenies. You're pretty sure you're not going to like them, but you haven't even tried them. They might be the greatest thing you've ever tasted! But if you never give them a chance you could go your whole life thinking they're gross."

"That's different."

"Well, think about it like this. What if someone thought you were mean for no reason at all."

"But I'm not mean."

"Well I know that. But what if someone just thought you were and never gave you a chance to show them that you weren't?"

"No, no, no, no. That's totally different."

"Why?"

"Because that's people. This is... dinner."

Eventually he took a few bites and I think he even liked it although I pretended not to notice or care. It works better that way.

Anytime Cake

1 zucchini, finely grated
1 banana, mashed
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbs ground flax seed
1-1/2 C whole wheat flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9X9" pan with nonstick spray. Combine wet ingredients. Add sugar and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients. (If you follow directions and like to combine all the dry ingredients together first in another bowl, be my guest. Me? I like to use as few dishes as possible. And NO ONE has ever complained that my baked goods could use a little pre-mixing.) Transfer batter to pan and bake for about 25 minutes. Enjoy with dinner, breakfast, lunch...anytime!



(I just made another batch since I hadn't really paid attention to what I threw in there the first time around so I know for a fact that this makes a fantastic breakfast. Particularly on a rainy Saturday morning in Nashville. Have a great weekend!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

A woman's right to choose.

You may have noticed that I'm not super political. It's just so irritating, you know? Like a bunch of stubborn, confrontational people arguing and spending money trying to convince me they're right instead of getting stuff done. I don't even blame the politicians themselves. It's probably crazy frustrating to have that kind of job. I mean, if you're one of the good ones who actually wants to get stuff done (it seems like a lot of them are just in it for the ego trip). I assume it would be like working at a non-profit times a zillion.

So anyway, I tend to tune most of it out. Because it doesn't seem to matter what I think or want or do, they will just keep arguing and spending boat loads of money telling me about our broken economy. Or whatever the hot button topic du jour happens to be. So I change the channel and let the powers that be keep going over the same talking points until they wear themselves out and move on to something else.

But today I couldn't change the channel. For two reasons. One, I tried and there was nothing else on the radio but commercials and the CD in my car's CD player was the practice CD for Liam's upcoming musical. If there's one thing I dislike more than politics it's 99% of kid's music. (The 1 percent? This song.) Two, the topic was "Mommy Wars" so I figured I'd better brush up in case I get drafted.

To be honest, I had never heard of the Mommy Wars before. (I wasn't kidding when I said I tune a lot of this crap out.) But once they described what they were talking about - stay at home moms "facing off" against working moms - I just sort of rolled my eyes. I mean, come on. Are any of us really "facing off" against one another? What does that even mean? Throwing punches at the playground or occasionally complaining to our friends that we're jealous of another mommy's choice? War? Please.

But I kept listening. It turns out the reason this "hot topic" got hot again is because some democratic strategist said Mitt Romney's wife Ann probably wouldn't solve the economic crisis (duh) because she's, “never worked a day in her life." She went on to say, "She’s never dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing,” which was probably all she really meant to say in the first place but, of course, the "never worked a day in her life" bit is the part they'll be talking about for days.

Well. I'm certainly not going to get into the whole, "raising kids is work" business because, duh. But what I did find completely mind boggling was Mrs. Romney's response. She tweeted or told Fox News or whatever that her career choice was to be a mother and that we need to respect the choices that women make.

Did you hear yourself, Mrs. Romney? Maybe say it one more time so everyone in the Republican party can hear you.

WE NEED TO RESPECT CHOICES THAT WOMEN MAKE.

Like, ALL the choices. If it's okay for a woman to choose to stay home and raise her children (which, I believe, they have all agreed is totally fine), shouldn't it be just as okay for her to choose whether or not to have children in the first place? Or to put off having them until she's good and ready? Or to have those children with another woman?

The fact that Mrs. Romney can defend her choice to stay home and raise her children (yes, with a nanny and a driver and a chef - who cares?! more power to her!) while not defending other women's choices absolutely blows my mind. All I can hope is that she'll suddenly hear herself on the 24 hour news cycle and be smacked upside the head by her own hypocrisy. Then she'll make the connection that a choice is a choice and turn this whole war on everything business upside down. Now that's the kind of politics I could get behind.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Consistency is (still) key.

When Liam was little, I had more than a few moments of feeling like I had this parenting thing down pat. He was so well behaved and sweet and smart. Surely I must be doing something right! He slept great, said please and thank you without being reminded, and went out of his way to do the right thing (he still does). And on those few instances when he was misbehaving? One glimpse of my patented look was all it took to set him back on the straight and narrow. Terrible eating aside, he was darn near perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that I couldn't help thinking, I should do something with this. I mean, I obviously had skills, right? No one else's kids were nearly as great as mine!

Fortunately for my ego, Finn came along and knocked me right off that high horse. From second one he was completely immune to my incredible parenting. I'd swaddle him perfectly; he'd scream bloody murder. I'd introduce a sleep schedule; he'd spend the whole night babbling to himself in his crib. I'd tell him to sit down in the bath 900 times; he'd smile sweetly and stand back up 901.

I was completely baffled. If anything I should have been more prepared to parent Finn than I had been for Liam. I'd had four and a half years of practice, a half dozen babies in and out of my home over the years, and a bookcase full of highlighted parenting books. But it didn't matter. It seemed all my tried and true tricks were no match for Mr. Finn.

But I couldn't just give up. Not that I didn't consider it. I mean, seriously, any time you have to listen to yourself repeat the same thing 25 times while a tiny human blatantly disregards and laughs at you, it's more than a little tempting to throw in the towel. But as many times as I tried to let myself off the hook (This is crazy! He's obviously NEVER going to sit down in the tub. Maybe in the grand scheme of choosing my battles I should just let this one go. I mean, just because Liam always sat in the tub does not necessarily mean Finn has to. Right? They're completely different people! Who even cares if you sit down in the tub...), something inside forced me to hold my ground. I sat him back down and sat him back down and showed him the face and sternly said no and pulled the plug and gave him timeout and, frankly, started bathing him less and less. But I didn't give in. I consistently held my ground!

And it wasn't just the bath. It was any (and every) situation that Finn and I had differing opinions. Like throwing food at me or running away from me in the store or hitting the dog with a light saber. As easy as it had been to teach Liam, it was a thousand times harder to teach Finn.* But I just kept plugging away, consistently laying down the law and delivering consequences and letting my expectations be known no matter how hilarious he thought Mama's mean face happened to be. If he wanted to stand up in the bath 901 times, he could be my guest. I would calmly sit him back down 902. Or, better yet? I'd pull the plug and let him deal with the consequences.

I had gotten so used to this routine that I was completely caught off guard when I suddenly noticed things were starting to change. Finn was being super adorable in the bath one day so I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures of him. It was one of the first times I noticed him really playing (without a big brother running the show) and it completely warmed my heart.

He had Liam's Toad (doll? action figure?) and was making him talk and jump into the water and give me kisses. (I love this age.) I was so busy snapping photos and admiring his cuteness that I almost forgot to auto correct when he stood up to catch a fish with his net.

But then I remembered and quickly said, "Oops, you need to sit down, buddy. We can't stand up in the tub."

You guys will not believe it but the kid SAT DOWN. Just like that! Just like, No big deal, when my mom tells me to do something I just do it. I never laugh at her or mock her or run away from her. I just listen and do as I'm told. Whatever...

I was so pleasantly surprised that I half wondered if it was a fluke. But then a few days later I was letting him wander around Target and when I stopped him from putting something into the cart and said, "Please put that back where you found it," HE DID IT! My jaw must have hit the ground. And when he started to take a coffee pot off the shelf and I said, "Ah, ah, ah," and gave him the look, he STOPPED AND PUT IT BACK. I swear! As he toddled off down another aisle, I just stood there laughing and shaking my head. The look actually worked!

But it wasn't just the look. It was the look and the warnings and the one-minute time outs and the rules and anything else I had been doing firmly and consistently a million times a day. It took WAY longer than I ever dreamed possible but eventually, thankfully, it actually worked!

And now that he's got the hang of it, things are going much more smoothly. My frustration has been replaced with many teachable moments.** And most of the time he's even willing to learn!

Although, to be fair, he still likes to learn on his own terms...

Oops. (Don't worry, that'a a parked car.)

I think that's his, "Hmm, maybe you were right," face.

*Of course parenting each child is a completely different experience. They are completely different people! Liam hates to hear the word, "no," so he does everything he can to avoid it, while Finn thinks it's hilarious. Finn seems to learn best by doing, leaping first and looking second, while Liam loves to observe and would just as soon NOT do something if he's the slightest bit unsure how to do it perfectly on the very first try. Not to mention, I'm probably a very different mom now than I was when Liam was Finn's age. Plus, I know it wasn't all roses when Liam was little, I just tend to remember the good stuff. : )

**I was about to say my frustration has been replaced with discipline but it really isn't discipline I'm after, it's education. The article that helped put words to what I've pretty much been doing all along? Here. Or should I say, ici.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter album, 2012.

Hope you had a "hoppy" weekend filled with lots of love and chocolate eggs!