Random Thoughts: The If I Had Known Edition

If I had known one of my car windows was going to crack into little, tiny pieces while I was driving this morning, I wouldn’t have made dentist and doctor appointments for my children this afternoon.

And if I had known a really hot brochure would have to be completely overhauled by Monday, I wouldn’t have made plans to leave work at 2 p.m. to get to said appointments.

I am resigned that I can’t see kate cheer at the school’s pep squad tomorrow, though. I have to use vacation hours to fix this:

image

Thank goodness for comprehensive car insurance is all I have to say.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

In the past two years, I have been getting beef and chicken from a local farmer. My CSA is affiliated with them, and I decided that when my family ate meat, I wanted it to be from here the majority of the time. Especially since Kate has decided she’s an omnivore.

I’ve decided that I am also going to eat it occasionally. Especially the chicken.

Yes, I’ve turned into one of those people. A suburban dwelling, CSA-produce getting, organic/local/hormone-free meat eating flexitarian.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. You raised me better than this.

In order to keep things simple, I’ll probably keep telling people that I’m vegetarian. After all, if the meat doesn’t come from this farmer (Lewis Family Farms near Cranberry Twp. if you’re interested), I’m probably not going to eat it.

Like I said: One of those.

Anyway, I’ve had a whole chicken in the freezer for a couple of months now, and I decided I wanted chicken and stuffing. I wanted to do it in the slow cooker — I love my slow cooker — because I figured that would be easiest.

And then, in a stunning lack of judgement, I decided I wanted to cut the chicken up before I put it in the slow cooker.

I have a strong dislike of preparing chicken. It seems to me even chicken breasts from the grocery store need a lot of handling. Dan likes them tenderized, and then they need to be marinated; if they are too fatty, I’m supposed to cut that off, it’s all slippery and all. I find the process of preparing chicken vaguely revolting.

I guess I made the decision to try to disassemble my chicken because most of the recipes I saw called for four chicken breasts, which is about two pounds of meat. The chicken I had was between 4 and 5 pounds. I figured if I cut it up it would work better in the recipe.

Let me just say, cutting that whole chicken up into parts was one of the grossest things I’ve ever done. And I’ve given birth, people.

Plus, I did a bad job. It probably takes practice.

Next time, I’ll either get someone else to cut up the chicken, or I’ll try this with a chicken that I roast whole and pick clean. Shorter time in the slow cooker, I would imagine. Possibly more liquid to make sure the meat doesn’t dry out.

However, the end result this time around? Was delicious. After 6 hours in the slow cooker, the chicken was falling off the bone, and the stuffing was incredibly moist. I had about two helpings of the stuffing alone, and I just had leftovers for lunch today.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Stuffing
Adapted from this recipe

4 pounds of chicken parts
1 cup broth (irony: I used veggie broth because that’s what I had)
10 ounce bag of stuffing mix (again, irony: I used a vegetarian stuffing mix, Arrow brand)
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

Put the chicken parts in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour the broth over the chicken.

Mix the stuffing, soup, sour cream, and water together. Place this mixture on top of the chicken.

Cook on low 6-7 hours.

Serve with bright vegetables such as green beans and carrots. Salad and bread optional.

Even Dan declared this recipe delicious. (Because I am a person who doesn’t cook meat often, I really feel for my guinea pig husband. Kate likes all the meat I have cooked, but she is a less experienced meat eater.)

So, how does one go about roasting a whole chicken?

2014 Word of the Year: Confidence

I usually wait until my birthday to write about my word of the year, along with presenting my uber list, but I’m jumping the gun this year, on the word, anyway.

I’m finding myself more and more willing — even wanting, needing — to go outside of my comfort zone. Which is good. It’s what I desperately need to do in order to do what I really want to do with my life.

But it’s scary as shit.

The talented @missbritt, who blogs here, put a question out on Twitter recently. I’m paraphrasing, but it was to the effect of, “What would you like to feel more of in your life?” My answer: Confidence.

Her follow-up question was, “What would you do if you had more confidence?” (She said confidence was a big one for a lot of people.)

I know the answer to that question, too.

I think the confidence I need may be a little bit of the “fake it until you make it” variety. I don’t think I would be described as unconfident, and I certainly am not lacking in self-esteem, as anyone who has met me could attest.

But that’s when I’m operating well within the sphere of my comfort zone.

So.

It’s time to have the confidence to get outside of my comfort zone. It’s time to stop being content. And it’s time to look at the fear I have about going outside the zone, face it, and assure myself that I am bigger than it is. A lot bigger.

Have you done something that terrified you? How’d it go?

To Kid or Not to Kid

Have you seen this yet? Short version: Couple takes 8-month-old to 3-star, Michelin-rated restaurant when babysitter cancels at the last minute. Baby cries.

I feel for these parents, and I think this writer gets it right. While I concur the parents didn’t make a great decision, I empathize. Having a babysitter cancel, especially at the last minute, sucks big time. However, here were a couple of details that really blew my mind about the story:

1. Who pays $470 for tickets to dine at an exclusive restaurant? These are not my people. I suppose that they could’ve saved up for a couple of years for the chance to dine at this restaurant, which further reinforces not wanting to eat the cost (see what I did there?).

2. The owner’s tweet about it after. He could’ve asked about starting a no child policy without mentioning details about his patrons. Sure, some people may have known what he was referring to, but otherwise he could have gotten very good feedback. Hey, if your policy is to require a lot of money to save a seat, you are well within your rights to say, “By the way, no children under 16 are allowed in the establishment.”

And, of course, the comments are full of the usual vitriol. “You had your brats, keep them at home if they can’t behave.” (Read: stay absolutely still and quiet in public.) “If you don’t like children, stay at home yourself.” Yadda yadda yadda.

Look, some parents could use a clue about their children and work to insure they aren’t actively disrupting other people’s experience in a public space (i.e. throwing food, running amok, screaming or having a tantrum for all the world to hear). And some other people could use a few deep breaths if they are someplace where children have to be (a non-fancy restaurant, the grocery store, Target, church).

I do a lot of mental calculations when I am flying solo with my three children in public. How vital is this shopping trip? Where are the exits? Can I get a table in view of the restrooms in case M has to go? At 9 and 7, the girls are usually okay. However, Flora tends to wander, and Kate will get jumpy, excited. M takes his cues from them.

I have gotten food to go because of my children misbehaving. I have scooped a yelling M out of a cart and told the girls to head for the door without completing my shopping. I have also stood over a tantruming child waiting for her to finish so I could leave (instead of wrestling with her and risk hurting her or her hurting me). I have used the cry room at church, or gone outside during Mass (if weather was okay). I, generally, am not one of *those parents* who think my children are the center of the universe and they can do whatever they want whenever.

But there is also expected behavior. I was recently in Eat ‘n’ Park, which is the family-friendliest of family friendly restaurants in this area, with four children (my three and my niece). The girls were giggly and a little loud, but not out of control. We got several disapproving looks from a senior woman in an adjourning booth. OMG the self control it took to not ask her to stop turning around and looking at the children like they were a blight on society. At one point, M really acted up, so on a wing and a prayer, I ACTUALLY LEFT THE GIRLS IN THE BOOTH AND WISKED HIM INTO THE LADIES’ ROOM. He settled down, and I got back to the booth in record time. As far as I could tell no one had rioted. The woman still had the temerity to say to the server, “Well, I sure hope they don’t leave you too much of a mess!” Apparently she doesn’t have grandchildren, or has never dined with them.

Any trip into the world is a crapshoot, and I am aware of that. But — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — every trip into the world is also a learning experience. For more than just the children.

++

Two small victories (knock on wood):

The girls are getting used to packing their lunches in the evenings. They don’t necessarily like it, per se — they whinge quite a bit, and Kate asks when they can buy again — but they are doing it. It’s a huge relief. Now to stay on it!

M is wearing most of the new pants I bought him. Not all of them are sweatpants, strictly speaking, but none of them have buttons, and they are not jeans. He calls them warm pants. I’m good with it. If we ever get invited to something fancy where we would take the kids, we’ll have an issue. But, I’m not really expecting that to happen.

++

For the record, if I had found myself in those parents’ shoes, I think I would have offered the seats to someone else, or sent my husband with his mother, or something like that. I would have declined to take the baby. But as I’m never going to pay nearly $200 a head to dine in a Michelin-rated restaurant — or at least anytime in the near future — I’m happy I didn’t have to make that choice.

What would you have done as a parent or as a patron?

Random Thoughts: The Short-Form of the Stuff I Could Blog More about If I Had More Time, Which I Don’t

1. Kate was off the charts last night. I was doing a favor — really, just doing what family does — for my SIL and her husband, so I had all five children at the house, and Kate just… She couldn’t contain herself. She was up, she was down, she was in my face, she was stomping away, she was all over the other children. It was hard to deal with. I yelled, a lot.

I wonder if I should talk to her pediatrician about hyperactivity. Or maybe go to some parenting classes with her or something. So far, I’m 0-for-2 on parenting books for “challenging” or “defiant” children.

2. I started Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which Flora bought me for Christmas. Flora wants me to read BFG by Roald Dahl, which was in the set of books that Dan and I bought her for Christmas. I also just downloaded Allegiant by Veronica Roth onto my Kindle Fire (from the library). Too many books to read! A good problem to have.

3. I also just started watching Orange is the New Black. I’m up to Episode 4 in Season 1. It is certainly compelling. The characters are strikingly sympathetic. And it’s also surprisingly funny. As well as graphic, sexual, and full of swear words. It’s kind of nice to have a grown-up show in my Netflix.

4. Working on my uber-list for the upcoming year. Just because I failed spectacularly last year doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to accomplish something this year.

Should Dan and I start watching Breaking Bad, Walking Dead (I don’t wanna!), or try to resume Mad Men?

A Completely Unsolicited Review of Frozen — Feminist Edition

I’ll get the gushing out of the way first: I love this movie. I love just about everything about this movie: it’s gorgeous, it’s funny, it’s moving, the soundtrack is amazing, the voice acting is delightful. I will also tell you right upfront: I was crying about 10 minutes into it. It hit me where I live as a mom, as a sister, and as a mom to daughters.

And what I loved and appreciated most about the movie was how girl-centric it was. Whether or not this will be a trend going forward, this is the first animated film I have seen where the girls are front and center*. The prince doesn’t ride to the rescue (quite the opposite in fact); a kiss doesn’t save the day. Frozen brings new meaning to “sisters doing it for themselves.” And I couldn’t be happier about that, especially as I took five little girls (little? They were 9, 8, 7, 7, and 6 — is that little still? Can it be little still?) to see it last Saturday.

The most striking theme for me revolved around Elsa. What her parents do to her prior to their untimely death is unconscionable in my opinion. “…be the good girl you have to be/ Conceal, don’t feel” — it’s a terrible message to give a little girl who has no control over what she is able to do.

And we, as a society, do it every day to our flesh-and-blood girls. “Be a good girl,” we tell them. “Be nice. Be quiet. Don’t be yourself.” We tell girls and women to just shush. Especially when it comes to social media and the Internet.

And it’s got to stop (or, as I put it in this post, “Down with Nice Girls!” ). For more reference points, read some Rachel Simmons (my take on her book The Curse of the Good Girl is here).

So when Elsa loses control and then takes control (or tries to), I was excited to see what embracing her power would mean.

I also found the sister relationship true to life (and heartbreaking): older sister shutting out younger sister. I’m sure I was guilty of it, and I see Flora doing it to Kate. And while I can’t make Flora act a certain way toward Kate, I hope that I can encourage them to stay close. I don’t know how Dr. Sis feels, but I like to think that we are pretty good friends now. My parents always stressed that family was the most important thing. This movie pretty much says the same.

[spoiler alert]

The other theme I liked seems like a direct contradiction to what Disney has portrayed all these years. It takes the idea of a knight in shining armor and turns it directly on its head. Apparently, some parents were very troubled by this, but I for one cheered. What teenage girl hasn’t fallen in love alarmingly fast? I’m sure my girls will too. Maybe this movie will come to mind when they find out their ‘true love’ isn’t. I certainly didn’t have to mop up any tears when Hans revealed his true motivation.

Do I think my daughters and their friends took any of these lessons away from Frozen? Probably not. When I asked about Hans’ betrayal, Flora and Kate both just shrugged. “He was the bad guy,” Flora said. Frankly, their favorite character was Olaf, the snowman who likes warm hugs.

Anyway, I would heartily recommend Frozen. Not only is it incredibly well done and entertaining, you might just learn a thing or two about yourself, just like Elsa and Anna do.

*If you want to cite Pixar’s Brave to me, go right ahead. I have issues with that movie, although I think it’s beautiful to look at and funny and entertaining. And I sobbed the last half hour.

Bad Habits

So far into 2014, I have picked up a daily chocolate habit, which is odd. And I also seem to be forgetting to drink water as frequently as I used to.

As per usual, the holidays completely upended our routine. The frigid weather did not help. Today was the first day my girls had their usual 8 a.m. start.

We were late.

So, I’m trying to take some deep breaths and get back to… well, to the new normal.

I am going to try a couple of different things over the next month to help with “the routine”.

First, I’m going to encourage my girls to pack their own lunches. We can do this right around dinner time as they are usually bouncing around the kitchen anyway.

Second, I am going to work on having the girls get everything ready for the morning the night before. Almost every morning, Kate UNPACKS her backpack to make sure she has everything. It DRIVES ME NUTS. So instead of that happening as we are ready to leave the house, I am going to have her do it before bed.

I need to ask for advice here: is there anything I can do to get my children to get up earlier? Flora was in bed until nearly 7:30 this morning. She ignores her 6:30 alarm; she ignores me shaking her and taking off her blankets. Kate is good about getting up and getting dressed, but she dawdles once she’s in her uniform with her hair brushed.

The other thing my girls have to start doing — that I have to encourage them to do — is to fix their own breakfasts. They drag themselves into the kitchen, plop down at the kitchen table, and then wait for me to wait on them. I would like to find a way to inspire them to actually pour their own cereal and milk and get their own spoons.

As far as my water and chocolate intake: Maybe it’s because the morning routine has been so weird. I haven’t been getting a glass of water at my desk until nearly noon. Gotta get back to my six to eight glasses a day. And for the chocolate: well, I’ve put that down to the fact that it’s been so cold, I’m craving sugar and fat. I haven’t been gobbling a candy bar or two a day, but I have been eating a piece or two a day. Again, it’s unusual for me. At the same time, chocolate is my mood booster. So I’m not going to fuss over it too much.

The other thing: I need to get back to my office walking, two little 10 minute jaunts a day. I think I’ve been ignoring my walk because I’m managed to keep up my workouts. And I haven’t been walking because walking inside is boring, and walking outside is deadly. So.

Picked up any bad habit you need to shake to start making good habits in the new year?

Kate!

I started this post on Monday — which was your seventh birthday. Here it is Wednesday, and I am just getting around to posting it.

And this pretty much probably justifies a lot of the way you are afflicted with “middle child” syndrome. Yes, I can give you all the reasons (excuses) why it’s taken so long to finish and post this letter to you. Work is ON FIRE; the weather is not, and has disrupted the routine we are trying to get back to. Plus, although your birthday is the first one of the year, because of its timing, it falls at the tail end of a lot activity. By the time we get to January, we are running on fumes. This seems patently unfair to you, and I hope by giving you birthday activities — just like we do for all our other children — we gloss over that fact.

Anyway, here’s your letter, my January star:

Dear Kate,

Every where we go, people know your name.

Usually because I have to exclaim it a few times. Your behavior is not always ideal when we are out in public.

And you know what? I am starting to not mind so much. You know why? Because you’re not hurting anyone. You’re not causing a general uproar. You’re not being bad. You’re being spirited, enthusiastic, and, yes, loud.

Now, do I let you behave that way in the library or in church? No, I do not. Do I let you run around screaming in restaurants? Absolutely not. However, you are 7 now, and you are starting to learn appropriate behavior. (You still want to hug everyone, though.)

You are well-liked. You are funny and smart. You are the best big sister that a little boy (who is also funny, smart, and spirited) could have. (With apologies to Flora, but let’s face it. She likes her quiet time.)

I still worry about you and have my parenting challenges with you. You ricochet and vibrate; you plunge into frustration and sadness. You hate to be alone — it crushes you, it makes you sad. You sob. Sleeping through the night has become a challenge, for all of us. Separation anxiety is wearing us all out.

But, you know, we saw Frozen this past weekend, and I look at the way Elsa was instructed to hide herself, and I just can’t do that to you, my Kate. You’re a little more likely to set things on fire than build an ice palace to be alone, but the theory is the same. You don’t have to be a “good girl”. You are a good girl — but “good” doesn’t in your case mean meek, quiet, and instantly compliant. Your dad and I are making our peace with that.

Anyway, this birthday letter is two days late. Just consider it payback for how long you made me wait the week you were born.

I love you, my spirited, fiery second daughter, my demanding middle. I gave you lots of happy birthday wishes this year, and consider this my last one for now. Don’t change, don’t hide. Be the person you are.

All my heart,
Mommy

2014 New Year’s Resolutions for My Family

Flora’s resolutions:
1. Stop letting your sister annoy you. Learn how to ignore the incessant noise that is Kate.
2. Stop flipping out. Start taking deep breaths. You’re not even in the double digits yet, and some things aren’t worthy of the drama.
3. Just do your homework. Okay?
4. That friend you have who won’t “let you” decide what to play or how to play it? You may not need her as a friend so much. I’m just saying.
5. Continue to delight in your brain, in your “odd thoughts”, in your difference. Enjoy it, sweetheart.

Kate’s resolutions:
1. Take a stab at being alone sometimes. Doesn’t have to be for a long time. But if I have to put M to bed, and your sister is in the shower, just… chill. Sit on the couch in the family room. Or hang out in your bedroom. Look at a book. I’ll be right back.
2. I understand your need for motion and sound. Just don’t use your need for motion and sound to annoy the crapsticks out of your sister — or me.
3. Remember that you are providing an example for your little brother, who loves and admires you. When you act up, he acts up. When you are calm, he is calm. You don’t have to be a perfect little lady, or a silent lump. Just remember, what you do is going to be echoed. Choose wisely.
4. For the love of all that is holy: please, please learn that a bad dream doesn’t mean jumping into bed with mommy and daddy. Come in, get a hug, let one of us bring you back to bed. Remember: you are safe.
5. Enjoy your energy. Learn to channel it into pep squad and creative endeavors at home. Use your powers for good!

Michael’s resolutions:
1. Learn to wear pants that aren’t sweatpants. I mean, I’m sorry, honey, but the meltdowns when all you have clean are jeans — your dad and I are OVER IT.
2. Stop hitting me, and stop pinching Flora. Just, NO, buddy.
3. Stop imitating Kate when she is being bad.
4. Understand that sometimes your older sisters don’t want you around. They want to play a board game themselves, or pretend with Littlest Pet Shops, or do arts and crafts. Come find me, and I’ll set you up with something of your very own to do.
5. Keep being my chatty little sweet boy. Keep giving me enthusiastic hugs and kisses, and climbing on my lap — maybe not so much when I’m eating. Keep growing into your sweetness.

Dan’s resolutions — HAHAHAHA. I’m not that dumb. Come see me, babe. We can talk about them. I will say, though: keep it up with the gym. Looking good!

If you could give your family New Year’s resolutions, what would they be?

2013 in review: The Blog Edition

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

This was a pretty fun read for me. Thanks, everyone who visited, read, and commented this year. Here’s to more good stuff in 2014, and also I hope I figure out how to post pictures again.