Friday, June 21, 2013

"That Mom"

Yesterday I woke up feeling so run down and exhausted that no one would guess that I had slept a solid eight hours with zero interruptions.

When Man Cub approached my side of the bed and asked for breakfast, I told him to climb in next to me and go back to sleep. Because that is what every 5-year-old boy wants to hear at 7am. When he asked again, five minutes later, I didn't even open my eyes. I whispered "Go ask Daddy." You know, Daddy...the guy who is busy getting ready for a morning meeting. Yeah, I was that mom. 

I did get out of bed when Girl Child began to yell "Mama, Mama, Mama!" from her crib. Blessedly, my fella had already poured dry cereal for them. A cup of coffee and a sugar and butter laden muffin did nothing for my energy level, so I sat and watched my fella finish getting ready instead of doing any of my own morning routine.

By 8am I had decided that I had to take the kids to the water park. Not necessarily for their own enjoyment, but rather because I knew that the water park would entertain them and tire them out...and I needed them to be too tired to require much effort on my part in the afternoon! I was that mom.

My plan to sit in a lounge chair in the sun and merely supervise their activity (that mom!) did not go over very well. Girl Child decided that this was the day to take on the water slides. I did not count the number of times she insisted that we go "again! again!" but I am relatively certain that we climbed those stairs about 87 times. At least. Finally, I decided to let her brother take her and I waited at the bottom to catch her. The first time it went wonderfully. There was hope! But the second time, she fell on the stairs and another mother carried her to the lifeguard to find out which heartless, neglectful mother this pitiful, crying toddler belonged to. Oh, that would be me. You know, that mom.

Around the time her tears and my guilt subsided, the kids started complaining of hunger. I had not packed a lunch. No biggie. But I also had not packed any snacks or drinks to hold them over until lunch. Very out of character for me. So we headed over to the snack bar and, forgoing the many healthful menu items, shared a plate of loaded nachos and a humongous Dr. Pepper. Yeah, I was that mom.

After some more play time, we headed home. I put Girl Child down for a nap and started a cartoon on Netflix for Man Cub. My plan was to let him watch one show while I did a hair cut, and then engage him in some sort of non-electronic activity for quiet time. Well, over the course of the afternoon he watched four full-length movies. And ate cookies. Lots of cookies. I was that mom.  

Sometime during this movie marathon, he asked "Hey mom, why didn't we have lunch?" Oh, I guess because I fed you nachos and soda and cookies all day long and forgot to actually feed you a meal. Yeah, I'm that mom. 

And speaking of meals, something needed to be done about dinner. Spaghetti! Spaghetti is low effort! I pulled out the ingredients, started boiling water, and headed back to the couch. When I heard it begin to boil, I dragged myself up. But, just as I was about to open the box of noodles, my fella arrived home with Chik-Fil-A for all of us! Hallelujah!

So, after a day of nothing but processed convenience food, I fed my kids Chik-Fil-A for dinner. And not even the nuggets-with-fruit-and-milk version that they are used to. No. Kid's meals straight up with french fries and soda. Yep. That mom. 

After running a quick errand, we were back home again. And it was only 6:45. This day was slower than the last day of school. Slower than the DMV. Slower than listening to that guy Mountain Man on Duck Dynasty. So, I put my daughter to 6:50. That mom. 

And then I put on another movie for my son. And then another after that. And I sat on the couch and read blogs and blogged. That mom. 

Truth is, I don't even feel that bad about it. Because, some days, it's okay to be that mom. 

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's not that I love diapers....I just hate potty training

Maybe I am the only one. I'm sure that the majority of mothers look forward to the day when their little one begins to show signs of potty-training-readiness. That probably explains all the stories of "I started before he/she was ready" that I hear. I, on the other hand, loathe those pre-potty indicators. So much so, in fact, that Girl Child has been asking to use the potty for weeks, and I have been ignoring those requests. Here's why:

  • There will be a new baby in this house in approximately 6-9 weeks. I don't want to put all the work into potty training just so that, a) Girl Child can revert back to diapers because of the upheaval or, b) I will be totally overwhelmed and not have the time/energy/hands needed to assist a newly potty trained toddler.
  • A potty-trained child is a lot of work! Not just the initial training, the weeks and months afterward. Requests for "potty" right as I finish strapping her into her car seat or just as we sit down at a restaurant, or [my favorite] halfway through a crowded grocery store.
  • Potty training is disgusting. Yeah, so are diapers, I know. But at least a diaper is a carefully contained mess. Between the tiny (un-flushable) potties, uncoordinated hands trying to wipe themselves, and the inevitable accident of the #2 variety.... I shudder. And this is coming from a cloth diapering mama. Yeah, I said it; I find potty training ickier than washing my child's poo off of a cloth diaper.
  • I'm not any good at it. It took me ONE FULL YEAR of diligent training to fully house break.... er....potty train my oldest child. I read all the books, tried all the " fool proof" techniques, and still nothing. I once read that high-IQ children are harder to potty train.... so we'll go with that theory.... yeah.
I met a mom at the water park the other day that proudly proclaimed that her 19-month-old is completely potty trained. I congratulated her on her awesome parenting and told her how bright her little one is. And then I enjoyed the pool while that rookie took her little prodigy on, no lie, five trips to the bathroom. On the other side of the park.

So, when Girl Child approaches me with her hands on her backside and says "I poo poo," I choose to praise her emerging verbal skills and ignore what her pediatrician would call " Early Toilet Training Readiness." If that lady wants to point out signs of readiness, she can come over and bleach out the tiny potty and help with all the extra laundry. Until then, I'm standing my ground on this one.

**Please note, the title picture was taken on the day that my fella finally insisted that I end the mommy-denial and at least let her sit on the potty when she asks. She sat there for like an hour. And then she got up and peed all over the floor. I think my point was made.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Non-Recipes: Kid's Favorite Ranch Chicken Strips

This recipe is always quickly devoured at our house. I serve it with a simple veggie and some macaroni and cheese usually. Because this dish is fried, I only put it in rotation about once a month or so, and I always fry in Smart Balance oil. Don't worry about the hot sauce in the egg mixture, it does not make the chicken spicy, it just adds some flavor and balance to the coolness of the ranch.

2 lbs. chicken breast tenders or chicken breast cut into strips
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
dash of hot sauce (I use Louisiana brand)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
salt and pepper
oil for frying

  1. Whisk together egg, milk, and hot sauce. Salt and pepper your tenders generously, and place in egg mixture. Soak for 10 minutes.
  2. While tenders are soaking in egg, mix flour and Ranch seasoning. Remove chicken from egg mixture and toss or dredge in flour mixture.
  3. Fry in 1 inch of oil at medium heat until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Non-Recipes: Cheesy Bean & Rice Burritos

Lately, I have been seeing lots of supposed "recipes" on Pinterest that can barely live up to the name. Other than the list of ingredients and numbered instructions, there isn't much to them that would warrant being called a recipe. Most of them are just ideas for how to put together packaged foods and make a meal. But, here is the real truth: those are the ones that I love to make! Most of us do! When I click on a recipe link and see lots of ingredients, steps, and words like "julienne" and "braise" I tend to file those away for someday-when-I-have-more-time use. But, when I open up a page and there are just a few ingredients, all of which I can easily identify or already have and they are put together in a way that I hadn't thought of, those are the things that make it onto my weekly menu. So, for the next few weeks, I thought I would share a few of my personal "Non-Recipes." Creations of my own that don't require much skill in the kitchen and are always requested around my house. 
The first one is a recent family favorite:

My fella loves Taco Bell, and they used to have a burrito called the Cheesy Bean & Rice. They don't sell it anymore, so I now make them at home. Mine are better, in my opinion :)
Yes, my kids do eat this. They love it! This recipe makes 14-16 burritos, and they freeze great! We each eat one and then individually wrap and freeze the rest for lunches. Way better (and cheaper) then store-bought freezer burritos!
16 burrito-sized flour tortillas
2 large (16oz) cans of refried beans (I buy vegetarian, low sodium)
1 packet Spanish rice mix (I use Knorr)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
whatever toppings you like (salsa, sour cream, lettuce, etc)
  1. Prepare rice according to package instructions. Begin heating beans in a sauce pan over low-medium heat. As they warm, melt 1 cup of the cheese into them.
  2. Fill each tortilla with approx 1/3 cup of beans, half as much rice, and a sprinkle of cheese. Roll.
  3. Place burritos seam-side down in a hot, ungreased skillet or on a griddle. Cook approximately 2-3 minutes on each side to seal and sear. 
  4. Top as desired and enjoy or freeze for later!
I always make sure to save the little packets of sauce leftover from visits to Taco Bell, so that I always have a few packets of Fire Sauce to stick in the Fella's lunch box with his burritos!
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Tee Ball: The End Of The Season

The end of the tee ball season has arrived. This year, we have been blessed with wonderful coaches! They worked hard to teach the kids real baseball skills, make the season fun, and keep things fair. They put extra effort into rotating the batting line up and the positions on the field, so that each child had an opportunity to play all the positions as well as the thrill of being "first batter" and "last batter." All of that would have been enough on it's own, but then they planned a great end-of-season party at a local restaurant with lunch and ice cream and paid for everything out of pocket. They also gifted the children with awesome trophies (twice the size of anything he has ever received on any other team) and a goodie bag full of baseball stuff, like a real ball and baseball tattoos. These people were seriously the best coaches in the league!

I really wanted to show our appreciation for the excellent job that they did, but my budget was small and I had three of them to appreciate. I decided on simple but cute baseball-themed baskets. Each plastic basket contained a baseball-topped tumbler, sunflower seeds, Cracker Jacks, and Big League Chew bubble gum. They were embellished with raffia basket filler, ribbon reading "Batter Up," and a handmade tag with their name. I wrote a personal note on the back of each tag, and Man-Cub signed his name to them. My total, including ribbon and filler, was a whopping $22! (Thank you Dollar Tree!)
As we were loading into our van after the last game, the realization hit me: this was Man-Cub's last tee ball game....ever. Sigh. Next year he moves into machine pitch and before I know it, he will be playing "big boy" baseball. I can't believe how time flies sometimes. I often think to myself that I'm not one of those moms that say "Where did the time go?" but in this case, I really felt it. Wasn't I just telling a disappointed 3-year-old that our local league wouldn't let him start until he turned four? Now, all of the sudden it seems, he has finished his two years of tee ball and is moving on and up.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

How To Make Popcorn on the Stove

By request, to follow my post Snack For Pennies, here are instructions for making popcorn on the stove top. 
You will need:
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1-2 tbsp oil (I use Smart Balance)
a medium-sized sauce pan with a lid
salt if desired (you can buy ultra-fine popcorn salt next to the regular salt and pepper)

Add your oil and kernels to your pan, shake around a little to coat the kernels in oil, and turn the heat to the highest setting. Do not cover yet. When the first kernel pops, put the lid on. Begin shaking the pan back and forth, maintaining contact with the burner. You want to keep the kernels moving to prevent burning. Remove from heat when your pan becomes full or when pops are about 2 seconds apart.

A few hints:
-If steam builds up in the pan, the popcorn may have a tough texture. Choose a lid with a vent if possible.
-I have purchased store brand kernels and all the name brands. They all taste the same. Some claim to be fluffier, but I have never noticed any difference. Buy whichever is the best value per ounce.
-Spritzing your popcorn with a little cooking spray or Kernel Season's popcorn spray will help your salt or any other seasonings stick.
-You can make kettle corn by adding about 1/4 cup of sugar to the kernels and oil before popping starts. Sprinkle with a little salt afterwards for the perfect salty-sweet combination.
-To make a sweet treat, salt your popcorn a little bit, and then drizzle with melted chocolate. Stir to coat as you add any mix-ins you like. We like milk chocolate with M&Ms or Sno Caps and white chocolate with slivered almonds.
-Some other yummy flavors to try; chili powder and lime juice, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, or experiment with anything else in your spice cabinet!

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Snack For Pennies!!

I am not going to give you a whole long post about all of the ways that microwave popcorn is bad for you. If you just begin to Google the word "popcorn" you will see things like "cancer" and "Alzheimer's" in conjunction with the word. I don't want cancer or Alzheimer's, but that isn't why we stopped eating microwave popcorn.

A little over a year ago, I was combing a grocery store ad for deals. I noticed that they had 1 pound bags of bulk popcorn for $1. Yes, one dollar! For a pound! The fella and I had popcorn for snacks several times each week and we always made a bag or two for family movie night on the weekends. That meant that I was buying one box (10 bags) every two weeks. While microwave popcorn is not terribly expensive, I was spending approximately $8 each month on popcorn. The ad for bulk popcorn got me wondering just how much money I could save in my grocery budget if we tried it the "old fashioned way."

My family did not have a microwave for most of my childhood, so my parents always made popcorn on the stove. A quick call to my mother gave me the info that I was looking for; I would only need about 1/4 cup of kernels to make a bowl full of popcorn. Guessing about 2 ounces, this would mean that I could make this snack eight times for a dollar!! I really can't think of any other snack for the whole family that costs less than 7 cents! That's not 7 cents per serving or even per person, that's [to be exact] 6.25 cents for the whole bowl!

The fella was skeptical when I announced my big idea. But the very first bowl had him convinced. It tasted better and was healthier. Not to mention the novelty of "homemade" popcorn. We made popcorn on the stove top several times per week for about 6 months before I stumbled upon the Nordic Ware Popcorn Popper at Target.

This awesome bowl and lid give me everything that I love about non-microwave popcorn, in the microwave! Quick, convenient, and you don't even have to add oil like you do in a pan! As an added bonus, it only cost $8.99.

We have accumulated quite a collection of Kernel Season's popcorn seasonings and have become quite the popcorn chefs at our house!

I can't imagine buying the bagged stuff ever again. We eat popcorn even more often now, and I have had fun making chocolate popcorn with all sorts of mix-ins (almonds, M&Ms, Sno Caps) for special treats and parties! I even had a little popcorn buffet at a baby shower I hosted last year!

Whether it's for health, taste, or budget, I challenge you to try making real popcorn for yourself!

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