Mother’s Day Madness

When did Mother’s Day become “Christmas Day in May for Mothers”?

Not that I would mind getting jewelry or an iPad for Mother’s Day, but it seems as if big, expensive gifts are compulsory these days. My inbox/Twitter feed have been inundated for the past two or three weeks with The Perfect [Quite Pricey] Gift for Mother’s Day!

I’ve been a bit taken aback.

(I’m sure my own mother is quite disappointed to read this, by the way.)

Mother’s Day this year is especially busy. I would like first and foremost to sleep in, but that is probably not going to happen. (Dan is a worse morning person than I am, and I am only a morning person because I’m a mother — and gainfully employed).

I would also gratefully accept a future spa day or an Ergo baby carrier. However, those probably aren’t in the works, either.

In lieu of expensive gifts or a day completely to myself (also not going to happen, probably for YEARS, and I’ve come to terms with that), I told Dan I just wanted cards  and, maybe, flowers would be nice. We have far too much to do Sunday, so low-key gift-giving is acceptable.

But the other thing about Mother’s Day and this sudden explosion of marketing to Mother’s Day is the inadvertent pain marketers, who are focused on the bottom line, are causing lots of people — many of them women, some of them mothers themselves.

Mothers (like myself) of still babies, for example. I am fortunate in that my motherhood became tangible after Flora was born, it is no longer the amorphous motherhood of lost babies/pregnant women, like it was in 2003 and 2004.

Children who have difficult relationships with their mothers. Maybe after years, an adult child has come to terms with the fact that her relationship with her mother is a lost cause. It has got to be difficult to face ad after ad extolling Motherhood with a capital M and warm fuzzies.

Birth mothers of adopted children. Children of mothers who have died. Motherless mothers.

This Hallmark holiday cannot be easy on those mothers and those children. It’s not the rosy picture of kids bringing Mom breakfast in bed. I wish marketers and retailers had the sensitivity to realize that, and just scale way back. I know that’s not going to happen, but some days, I just wish the almighty dollar didn’t trump all.

But it’s this awareness I carry (that many, many people carry) that “Mother’s Day” can be tough that makes the littlest gestures from my husband and my children even more precious than diamonds.

Diamonds I’ll take for Christmas.

Meatless Monday: The Thanksgiving Thursday Edition

Somehow or another, it turns out that I am baking for Thanksgiving. Which is weird, because — hello. It’s me.

I am making two things (and bringing a pumpkin roll my mom gave me last weekend when she was here). I’ve had some mini puff pastries in my freezer for some time, so I searched around online, and decided to make these chocolate and marshmallow tarts. The kids can fight over them!

I am also making sweet pumpkin cookies from the moosewood restaurant new classics cookbook. With a few of my own tweaks. (This is my second time making these cookies, and they went over so well the first time, even with the kiddos, I decided we’d do it again.) Makes about 42 cookies.

1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree*
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips**

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and mix until well blended. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt, and add to the mixing bowl. Stir well to form a soft batter. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a large, unoiled baking sheets, allowing a little space for the cookies to spread as they bake. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cookies just begin to brown slightly on the bottom. Use a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack or plate.

* These call for pureed pumpkin, but I got SO MANY butternut squash from my CSA, I decided to bake ’em up, puree them, and use it in this recipe instead.

** The original recipe calls for a cup of chopped toasted peanuts and a cup of raisins, with a 1/2 cup chocolate chips as optional. I decided to forget the peanuts and raisins, and went straight for the chocolate. Hey, I’m pregnant, and I was pregnant last time I made them. Sue me.


Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for in-laws who trust me enough to ask me to bring dessert, but know me well enough to not expect pie.

I am grateful to my whole family, as always, for everything.

I am grateful for the best midwives and doctors in Pittsburgh, and for having a plan, even if I’m a little scared of the plan.

I am grateful for my friends, IRL and on-line, because I know they are all looking out for me, wishing us well, and praying heartily for the best outcome.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Have a grateful day.

Random Thoughts: Notes

I haven’t meant to have disappeared like that. Things are super busy. Which is, mostly, good.


Potty training Kate continues to be a disaster. I blame inconsistency on our part.


On the other hand, I have a post in mind called “Control Freak”, all about Kate, and how she wants to be in control of EVERYTHING right now, right down to her poop. And I don’t mean whether or not to poop on the potty — I mean that she doesn’t care to choose to poop at all right now, and will hold it… for long periods of time. If you’ve ever potty trained a stubborn toddler, you know the catch-22 this behavior leads to. Yeah, we’re there. Advice welcome in the comments.


Also, advice on helping my children fall asleep when they need to. The bedtime coups continue. Dan is ready to turn to melatonin? Melanin? Something like that? Help me out here, Interwebz. A 10 p.m. sleep-time is BAD for growing children. And their mommies.


Finally, Kim Z recommends the Fiery Furnances in my music post, and then adds that some people can’t stand them. So I checked them out on YouTube, and if you seriously are annoyed by this, something is wrong with you. (IMO.)


Happy Easter weekend, peeps. See you on the other side.

Ladybugs and Butterflies and Candy, Oh My

Yesterday was the first of several Halloween parties/events that my children are attending this week.

Wednesday is the Halloween party at St. J’s for Flora. Thursday is trick-or-treat in our neighborhood (and WHY it’s not on the actual day is a post for another day), Friday is the Day School’s party for Flora and Kate, and Saturday is actually Halloween (ironically, we have no plans right now for Saturday).

I am ready for the onslaught of Halloween activities, although we are, sadly, without carved pumpkins. I don’t know if that’s going to happen this week. The girls will be decorating pumpkins tomorrow evening — permanent markers on small pumpkins that we picked at the Pumpkin Patch.

I have treats, stickers, treat bags (although I have to put them together — twice), and the girls have costumes. I love their costumes this year, for a number of reasons:

1. They are not trampy little-girl versions of trampy adult women costumes.
2. I got them at a consignment store weeks ago.
3. They cost $10 (Flora’s) and $5 (Kate’s). Talk about getting our money’s worth.
4. The girls love them.

Of course, the very fact that I am so very prepared for this week’s festivities, combined with the fact that my girls have had multiple exposures to H1N1 in the past week, means we’ll probably all be sick by Wednesday. I put the chances at about 75 percent.

Meatless Monday: My Simple Easter Addition

When my MIL hosts an event, there is enough food to feed about 50 people. Possibly more. Not because 50 people are coming, but just because that’s how my MIL cooks. She married into an Italian family, and that’s how Italians cook. Trust me.

So I often feel bad offering to bring more food over, but I also consider two things:

1. Six of us are vegetarians (my girls and me, and my SIL Earthmother and her two children) and
2. It’s important to have something that the kids will actually eat. (This doesn’t always work out, however. Regardless of what my children will eat at home, if there are enough people and/or enough snacks and candy available, you can bet that getting a healthy protein or vegetable down their gullets is a foregone conclusion.)

Earthmother contributed a fabulous quinoa salad (most overheard quotes of the day regarding her dish, “What’s that? Keen-wa? What kind of food is that?” I am eagerly awaiting her recipe because it was good.

I decided I wanted to do something simple and tasty, so I went with a white bean salad. The beauty of it is that you can pretty much do anything with a white bean salad — it’s like a canvas to make something pretty and fresh tasting.

I used cannellini beans (white kidney beans; other options are great Northern beans or navy beans) as my base. I added a few thin stalks of broiled asparagus (asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, and roasted at 400° for about 6 minutes in the oven), one radish, 1/4 cup fresh dill, and vinaigrette. My vinaigrette was 1/2 cup olive oil, three tablespoons vinegar (2 sherry vinegar, 1 balsamic — I would have used red wine vinegar if I had any), one clove garlic, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, salt & pepper. Just toss everything together, and let marinate for a few hours.

It was very good, and I have a little left over for lunch sometime this week.

Easter Cookies

In lieu of being able to wish you a sincere Happy Easter due to many mitigating circumstances including (but not limited to) being very tired and sick myself and an extended tantrum by a certain 2-year-old during Mass today, I offer instead Easter Cookies.

I’m not sure the blue ones will go over well, but ya work with what ya got.

Mommy’s Little Helpers

Making a Mess

Bunnies and, er, Eggs

Random Thoughts: The 40 Days Version

Lent officially ended yesterday, and we began the Easter tridium: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.

I didn’t do all that great this Lent — although I was seldom on Plurk (I didn’t even have a perfect run) when I should have been with my children, I also was not wholly with my children. I cleaned the kitchen early, or tried to tackle laundry. Despite my reason for my Lenten vow, I just feel that it wasn’t easy to change the mindset of getting other things done even when I only get a couple of hours each day (during the week) with the kids.

I’m going to keep working on that. Mostly so I can keep doing fun things occasionally on the weekends.


I love the fact that I live in such an interesting time, and that the idea of community has expanded so greatly due to the Internet. I’m still not crazy about Twitter, but I check it out every now again again (yes, you can follow me as redpenmama if you want; I don’t post there often).

There was a lot of online community regarding Pittsburgh’s own fallen officers (the best tribute I read was here — please feel free to leave more in the comments). Tons of people watched the memorial, held yesterday, “together” online.


Witness the power of the Interwebs: The other huge thing that happened that brought people together and made a bunch of us hug our kids a little harder (and made me sorry to know there are another pair of grieving parents added to the ranks) was the passing of Madeline Alice Spohr. The online community’s response — primarily but by no means exclusively blogging moms and dads — has been tremendous. And humbling.

I’ve decided to join the Burgh Moms and Dads team marching for Maddie and the March of Dimes on Saturday May 9. If you can, please make a donation, or walk a few miles. So fewer parents know what it’s like to lose a baby. Thanks.


The holidays are upon us, and I have been seeing and hearing talk about what people will be eating on Thursday.

Obviously, as a vegetarian for almost 20 years, my Thanksgiving meals are a little different. But even looking back, I can see that my family is just a bit untraditional.

The most glaring example of this is the green bean casserole. My mother has never made the green bean casserole. I have never eaten green bean casserole. I think for the past couple of years when my mother has had her Thanksgiving meal catered by her country club (which makes her sound a terrible snob, I realize, and she’s not), I think they have sent something akin to green bean casserole: green beans in a cream of mushroom sauce. It doesn’t come with those crunchy onion thingies, though.

The crunchy onion thingies: aside from green bean casserole, what are they used for?

Another example is sweet potatoes. I dimly remember some goopy sweet potato dish with marshmallows from my youth. I don’t remember eating it. At some point, my mother’s traditional sweet potato dish was simply slices of apples and sweet potatoes baked in their own juices together. Very tasty.

Occasionally, my mother serves raviolis with Thanksgiving dinner; they are traditional fare at Christmas time. She does all meat, all cheese, and/or cheese and spinach ravioli (“ravs” as they are referred to in my household); the past few years she also has been experimenting with meat-substitute fillings, with tasty results.

Of course throwing a vegetarian daughter and grandchildren into the mix has provided its own challenges. Hence the ravioli upon occasion. I have brought my own dishes (Chick Pea Tahini Casserole, Lentil Roulade with Chestnut Stuffing — which I am making again this year). We’ve had Tofurky, but we’re not crazy about it. It’s okay. Some of the sides are prepared separately from the turkey, although I do remember about 12 years ago having to make my own potatoes because my mom threw everything in with the bird.

The one dish that my mother absolutely clings to is cranberry relish. She makes it every year, and every year puts it in her relish dish (which is a rooster for some reason), and every year, her children make fun of her. No one in her family eats it: not Dad, not my brother, not my sister, not me. God Bless the outlaws, DearDR and WonderSIL because they eat it, and purport to like it. The first couple years, I figured in DearDR’s case is was kissing butt, but I may have underestimated his true love for cranberry relish. Or for his mother-in-law.

One tradition we definitely hew to is eating all day long. We start at noon with a soup course, in our case Italian wedding soup (with a Thai vegetable and tofu soup for the vegetarians). Around 3 or 4 p.m. we have salad. The main course starts at 5 p.m., and if we’re lucky, we can sit at the table for an hour. (I probably won’t be that lucky, with speed eater Bun in the mix.) And then, dessert around 7 p.m. And plenty of libations, of course: beer, apertifs, wine, coffee with Baileys, and cordials.

It’s exhausting! We work off a few calories cleaning, of course. And there will probably be some running around in the snow in which to engage with the kids. Football is usually background, not something we watch seriously (unless the Steelers are playing).

Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, have a happy one. Travel safely. Be thankful. Eat well. Drink moderately. Love one another.

Happy Thanksgiving.