When my kids were young - way back in the days of the blur, as in my entire life was a blur of feeding and changing diapers and scheduling naps and so on - when we went places as a family
it was a spectacle.
We all arrived in one large extended 15 passenger white van - think airport van. And everyone piled out, one after another. And the people, man, they would STARE and they would COUNT and they would whisper and talk and ask us if they were all ours and if we knew how we had so many kids
which, by the way, is the single most demeaning question anyone could ask a parent of a larger than typical family, in my mind. As if you are too dumb to know how those kids got there, too slow to know how to avoid it - and the thought that people actually, consciously, could have CHOSEN to have a big family -
well, that's just not done, doncha know.
My big kids used to get SO EMBARRASSED, anytime we went anywhere. And the thought that their MOM had to go to Open House at high school carrying a 6 month old baby - well, that was mortifying beyond belief.
We no longer have the van. We no longer go places together, even though everyone (still) lives at home. (I think I will be the first to move out. Seriously.) We go places in groups, singly and in pairs, and arrive at multiple times. We leave on different schedules and aren't often all at the same place at the same time.
We went to my 18 year old daughter's graduation yesterday - she graduated from THREE schools with a 3.9 GPA, earned $26K in scholarships and garnered early acceptance into the nursing program at the college she will attend in the fall - and it was
a non event, family wise.
Wait - I don't mean a non event, I mean a non staring event. Does that make sense?
No one counted, no one stared, no one even noticed. It might have been because there were large extended families there as a norm. It might have been because we arrived at different times, and it might have just been because no one cares.
And that's the interesting thing to me - when you have family of 8 teens and adults, it's somehow not as alarming as a family with 6 under 11. Why is that?
I no longer go to the store with people trailing behind me. I go clothes shopping with no one else in the dressing room. I can take myself to lunch and sit at the bar if I want and I don't cut anyone's food anymore.
I don't have to hire a baby sitter and beg that sitter to tolerate multiple kids. I don't have to grab the biggest table at any event, or save an entire pew at church. Sometimes, it's just me. Sitting by myself.
It's so weird.
At night, I just - go to bed. People might be home, people might not be home. They know their curfews (if they have them), know to lock up and check in and I just - go to bed. If I'm tired, I go to bed early and the world continues to revolve.
It's so weird.
I have a friend who is expecting - any day now, I'm SOOOOO excited - and it's taken me back, down memory lane. It's not always been a pleasant ride, and it's been a little bumpy at times - but despite the super need for a seatbelt, it's been a learning experience for me.
My WHOLE LIFE is a LEARNING experience. I am so full of the learning stuff.
Think back. Way, way back - back when you were expecting your very. first. baby. How excited you were! How full of PLANS and JOY and CERTAINTY that you were going to be the ONE. The very best ONE, the very best parent for the very best baby and no one would be able to be a better parent than anyone else, ever, in the history of parenting.
Or, maybe, you know, that was just - me.
I think I've said before that Hubris and I are justlikethat. We have long been best friends. Hubris never leaves my side, kind of like that lonely boy in high school who is convinced you had a relationship, even though you passed in the hall once, back in the day.
Hubris makes it all about him, is what I'm saying.
Any time I think I've learned the lesson, Hubris comes out from behind and steps in front of me and just - stops dead - forcing me to run straight into him like a drunken relative who just will NOT get out of your way no matter how hard you try to just walk around and ignore and keep the peace and take the higher ground, all the adulty stuff.
Nope, Hubris wants to make sure you know that you really don't know it all, really aren't an expert, and you really need to just keep your focus down and try again, silly head.
No, one thing I've learned in my parenting career - is that I do not know it all. In fact, the only thing I *do* know is that I do NOT know anything. Because, the reality is - that person, that kid, isn't you. It's another person, another individual.
I know you know that, I'm preaching to the choir here - but hang tight with me for a second.
You will do everything you can to make sure that your baby eats organic baby food, lovingly prepared by your kind and gentle hands - and then you open a lunch box, several years later, to find a black banana, empty soda can and two empty Frito bags, along with half a crushed Oreo - and you know you didn't buy those foods.
You will use the safest car seat, buckled just so. You will pick the best sneakers, teach him to walk his bike across intersections, go over and over and over safety instructions so as to avoid even the smallest of injuries - and one day, your kid will skateboard down a 70° angle into a back flip and land on his head. Or jump into a Jeep with no doors and no roof and no seatbelts (!) and hear, later, about off roading straight up an incline so steep the Jeep backslid
and it was so cool, Mom.
Or she will, despite your best, most severe warnings and dire predictions, will drive a boy she's NEVER MET BEFORE home from a blind date, and wait outside his house while he goes in to grab his gear, leaving his phone and his DOG in her car and making her wait for 30 minutes.
Those different choices, man. Those different choices, made by people you work so hard to make the best, most perfect replicas of the best parts of you. You will get rid of the bad parts of both parents and only keep the good.
Sometimes, you dream about your perfect baby, who will sleep deeply in 8 hour increments, smile angelically and eat all the foods, but most especially the green vegetables and the fish of the seas
And you, instead, are awarded a child who hates to sleep, is a head banger in the literal sense, and subsists solely on water, graham crackers and plain spaghetti noodles. And thank the Gods above that you don't know your future self, for you would be appalled if you saw yourself in ten years - but one day you will just - let said child pack water and graham crackers and spaghetti noodles for lunch, anything to get her to stop talking about icky foods that smell and taste strange and gross and to just -
stop the battle.
Those brains, the very ones you force fed fish oil and anything else that might help brain development, so you could have a smart AND healthy child - those brains are wired differently.
One day you will realize that those people you tried to make the very best humans possible will think daily showers are optional, smelly socks are fine, and face wash is for losers. They will find it admirable to burp the alphabet, laugh at Will Ferrell so hard they snort, and snap bra straps and pull wedgies with the rest of their friends.
They are different people. They are not you, as hard as you try and as much as you love the parts of you which you tried to imprint on their souls. You will definitely, undoubtedly, stand in shock at least twice - if that's all it is, you are a saint - and say to yourself, "What did I do wrong, to make someone think that is the right thing to say/do/think/feel/act on?"
But it's not you. Good OR bad - it's not you. Those are individual humans with brains that haven't had your particular shaping but instead - must go through their own shaping and education and fire.
Not you, with your experiences and color and view. You have to let go of that internal vision, the one that saw you applauding the perfect person as he announced a Cure for all Cancers everywhere. You let go, and hope, that when all is said and done
you can meld the imagined with the reality and be at peace
because sometimes, your best isn't enough but it's all you have.
Ahhhhh, yay! The winter is over and the spring is here and that means, my friends, it's time to put in my garden. I absolutely love putting in my garden.
I always plant tomatoes, because tomatoes are the very best - but fresh, home grown tomatoes are the very best thing. This year, I vowed that I wasn't going to go overboard - I always plan to just put in a few tomato plants and a couple of herbs, but then I see pumpkins! cantaloupe! green beans! carrots!
And then, about July, I tell myself to chill out the next time I visit the nursery.
But then I see cute things like this:
(Spoiler alert: I stayed strong and did not succumb to the pressure of a pepper named after me, no matter how perfect of a pairing a pepper named Carmen might be.)
It's rained every day for I think three weeks, and I was afraid I'd not be able to plant anything - or if I did, it would wash away.
But we had one day without rain - hi, it's raining off and on right now and we are supposed to get 2" of rain on Saturday, sigh -
and here are the results:
Six tomatoes. Two peppers, One zucchini. Lemon balm (from last year, the big plant). Basil. Rosemary and
I really need to paint the garden box. (Not shown - one watermelon planted in another part of the yard, which my kid told me happens to be the exact spot she buried her hermit crabs last year.....)
Are you planting this spring?
Soooooooo. Yeah. Lots to say. Kinda have to be circumspect, which is SO NOT my thing. I'm more of a "shout from the rooftops" kinda gal, but I'll take a whack at it.
In my life, I deal with this "thing". Actually, this "thing" is really something that is a part of someone I love very much, and it's a "thing" we've known about for a long, long time. It's a "thing" that affects all of us, has for years, and it is a big "thing", but we've learned to adapt and adjust and the person who has the "thing" does an awful lot of masking and adapting and so
people who don't live in our house don't know that there even is a "thing". In fact, when I share with other people that there is an actual, honest to God "thing" - they inevitably say, "Are you sure? I could never tell!".
So let's say that the "thing" is a set of purple horns with iridescent sparkles. Just for shits and grins. And let's say everyone else in the world has gray horns. And to some people, having a kid purple horns with iridescent sparkles is the worst thing to ever happen.
Which it totally isn't, because, duh, if someone in my house had purple horns with iridescent sparkles, that would be so awesome. I'd probably call this blog "Mom of someone with purple horns with iridescent sparkles" or some such.
And the "thing" that this person has isn't as rare as purple horns with iridescent sparkles, out in the real world - roughly 1 in 68 have this "thing". So, if you have, say 544 Facebook friends - roughly 8 of your friends actually have purple horns with iridescent sparkles. You just don't know, because they've gotten to be legit pros at masking and adapting and fitting into the real world, where having purple horns with iridescent sparkles means that you might be loud or annoyed by things that don't affect other people and those people might stare at you because your purple horns with iridescent sparkles are really crazy and you don't like to be stared at
so you just, you know, mask and adapt like a rock star.
But, occasionally, people with purple horns with iridescent sparkles go to public places and spend large quantities of their awake time - like, say, 8 hours of that awake time - in those public places. And the leaders of the Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns, well, you might not want them to know that your horns are really purple horns with iridescent sparkles but you've covered them over with gray fabric - being that those leaders of the Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns have literally NO IDEA of how to handle those really weird looking purple horns with iridescent sparkles - and so you do the best you can to blend in.
Because, maybe, you really love that place and enjoy being at that place, even though your horns are different. The others at that Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns, they don't know that your horns aren't really gray - or maybe they do, because they've known you your entire life and they remember you have purple horns with iridescent sparkles but they just think you are cool and funny and have a wicked sense of timing when it comes to jokes and they know that you will do everything you can to help anyone
and life goes on, and it's really pretty good, until one day, you struggle with something, let's say drinking lemonade. Really, those who have gray horns are struggling as well, being that the Leaders of the Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns have ZERO idea of how to pass out lemonade, say, hypothetically, and those Leaders get really, really annoyed that no one can just pick up the stupid lemonade and drink it - but they aren't handing it to you in cups, but instead, in an opened baggie, and the lemonade is just - falling everywhere, willy-nilly, like uncaptured lemonade does
but those leaders, those who think your horns are gray - when your adult person reminds them that, hey, your horns aren't gray, but purple horns with iridescent sparkles and people who have purple horns with iridescent sparkles might need their lemonade in a cup instead of loose, those Leaders of the Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns decide that the problem isn't that you have purple horns with iridescent sparkles, but that your horns are backwards. Despite the fact that your adult person can prove that you have purple horns with iridescent sparkles, and that they aren't backwards, but that they are just a different color, the Leaders of the Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns decide that the best way to handle the lemonade crisis is not to give everyone a cup, but to tell you that your purple horns with iridescent sparkles don't really exist and instead, you have backwards horns.
That's the type of situation I've been dealing with. Loose lemonade, all over the place. No cups, and the reason the lemonade is falling all over the place isn't due to any fault except for mine - because I should know better than to think cups are necessary, and I'm wrong to bring up any discussion about purple horns with iridescent sparkles - in fact, I'm probably making up the purple horns with iridescent sparkles, because the Leaders of the Corralled Place for People with Gray Horns don't believe that the purple horns with iridescent sparkles ever even existed - maybe, you know, I made it up. For attention. For special treatment. Because I'm looking for attention.
I should just accept the fact that the purple horns with iridescent sparkles are really just gray horns, mounted backwards, and realize that the backwards fact means the individual can't capture the lemonade - that if I would just LISTEN to the Leaders, I would realize this. Clearly, they are the experts. They've seen it before, and they know better
than the person who's watched over the purple horns with iridescent sparkles for a long, long, long time. I mean, they have DEGREES in dealing gray horns and therefore, the Leaders are experts. Go away, delusional person who insists that the gray backwards horns are really the purple horns with iridescent sparkles - no one has time for a person who doesn't know what they are looking at.
Meanwhile, the person with the purple horns with iridescent sparkles - that person is really drowning in lemonade, and the cup to hold the lemonade - it's just, you know, not there.
And, yesterday, the discourse between the camp of "The horns are backwards" vs. "the presentation of the lemonade" came to a head
and instead of hearing that I was making up the purple horns with iridescent sparkles, looking for attention, sticking my head in the sand and refusing to face facts
i was told by an independent, third party MEDICALLY TRAINED WITH LOTS OF LETTERS BEHIND HER NAME that I'm right -
my person has purple horns with iridescent sparkles. Which is a joyous thing - to be told that your person is exactly the way that you thought they were, and although many years ago, you desperately wished your person didn't have the purple horns with iridescent sparkles, because life was hard and you despaired of it ever working out,
it did and you can't imagine your person without purple horns with iridescent sparkles.
And the lemonade isn't being presented correctly. And the person with the purple horns with iridescent sparkles has done such a great job at masking and adapting that literally few would know said person has those horns - but those horns are still there, and will be there forever and ever.
For a person with purple horns with iridescent sparkles, whose stomach has been acting up and has been crying multiple times a day over the fact that the horns are purple horns with iridescent sparkles and they can't capture the lemonade and a person with purple horns with iridescent sparkles is dumb and stupid -
the fact is, no one, purple horns with iridescent sparkles or gray horns - can capture loose lemonade.
A bit ago, I posted about my trip to NYC with my youngest daughter. It was her first time, and we crammed an awful lot into the three days.
It was her first time on the Amtrak.
Which left really early - we got up at 4. She was a bit springier than I was.
And super excited to be there. She was in love with the seats, the roominess of the overhead bins, and the ginormous size of the seat tray tables. (She's also the queen of selfies, angles and all, as you will see soon.)
She had absolutely no separation anxiety as she waved good bye to her dad.
My other kids, however, didn't fare so well. Here is the text she received, about 45 minutes after the train pulled out. Apparently, should one desire to shake a bottled protein shake, it's preferable to leave the top on - who knew?
The business class car was last, which gave us the luxury of looking out the back window. Great fun!
We made it into the city by about 2:30, and then the fun began. Every building we saw was the EXACT building that Jessie is filmed in! She just knew it was the one right behind her in this picture - or maybe it was another. (Yes, I know what building that is, and where the show is actually filmed.)
She also said that there weren't as many people on the streets as she thought there might be.
She had very few "must do's" while in NYC - and we were there for a work event for me, and I needed to visit the office, and had a few ideas of my own - but one of her goals was visiting the Hershey's store - and of course, the M&M store is just right across the street....
One of the other BIG goals was to visit the Today Show plaza and, of course, you simply MUST have a sign. So we went to a Duane Reade and picked up poster board - she'd brought all of her markers and such - and drew herself a sign. She decided to decorate it with a slice of pizza and an apple, duh. She pulled images off her iPod to make sure she drew just the right things.
We got up really early to grab breakfast before - and she took a backseat of the cab selfie -
And we made it to the Plaza, where we managed to slide in up front and she took another picture of us, and I took a couple of her with Dylan and Shanelle from the Saturday Today show.
(Apparently, I make all the goofy faces in the world when I take a selfie. Gah.)
We went to the work event, and by the time it wrapped up, we were pretty spent. We went back to the hotel, changed, and went for a piece of pizza. Then she said she really, really, really wanted to see Central Park, and so we went there, and she found the rock climbing area, and it was a really great, centering and calming activity - for someone who doesn't like crowds and had a couple of stressed out points on the trip, this was the perfect way to get everything back under control and in order.
And we walked and walked and she bought a strawberry juice pop and we listened to a ton of pop up musicians and drummers and she gave them money from her wallet and we killed both of our phone batteries and had to beat feet back to the hotel in the dark
Sunday we got up and went to Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral - one of my goals, I try to go to Mass there every time I'm in the city - and then it was time to get back on the train.
Which was probably the most stressful part of the trip, filled with a broken shopping bag, losing my lunch on the sidewalk (not throwing up, but my lunch fell out of the bag and rolled away), rude people on the train, a total and complete falling apart which was way overdue, and then, finally, we did homework and missed classwork and I caught up on my work and she slept for two hours and I read and reflected on our trip.
It was fantastic.
Several years ago, when I realized that many of my kids had allergies, I decided that I'd work more diligently on my cooking and baking. I wanted to be a better cook, wanted to enjoy my food more and be proud of it - and I like things to taste the way I like them. Bolognese should taste this way to me, a steak should look like that, and a cake should be pretty AND delicious.
It worked. I'm a really pretty good cook - man, trying to be humble and modest is hard. What I mean to say is that I'm asked to bring food to places, I'm asked to contribute to meals and events - and people seem to be happy when I share food with them.
And sometimes people ask me to make cakes for them - or I offer.
Such was this week. A very good friend and a wonderful lady is celebrating a birthday, and she invited me to her party. I offered to make a cake, and coincidentally, she had shared a recipe for a cake that she was really wanting - so I decided to make her this Smore's Cake.
Cake went great. The instructions were clear and precise and easy to follow, although it was somewhat time consuming.
I did the graham cracker layer, mixed the batter, and baked the cake. I decided that the third layer, the rounded layer, hadn't risen evenly and so while it was cooling, I made another set of graham layers and cake batter. I had six layers total, and made two cakes - one for her, and one for us. I made the ganache, let it cool, and started the marshmallow layer and assembled.
(Ignore the meringue powder - it's not in the recipe but I was using the container to hold down the parchment)
Making Marshmallow is FUN and messy. And yummy - and did I say messy? And so PRETTY.
I assembled both cakes without too much difficulty, until I came to the last step - browning the marshmallow. I don't own a kitchen torch, but I knew I had both long fireplace matches - somewhere - and a handheld fire starter - you know, the wand that you click to start a flame? (Yes, I'm so sciencey and technical.) Slight problem - the long matches were nowhere to be found, and the click wand thing sputtered out after two minutes.
Self, this is no problem at all, I said. Just grab a lighter and use that!
Except that the lighter would overheat and my thumbs would feel as if they were the objects on fire after about fifteen seconds.
I could stick it under the broiler - no, the ganache would melt off the sides of the cake.
Let's try lighting a piece of spaghetti! That might work!
That will work if you want ash on your marshmallow, which I emphatically did NOT. Back to the lighter.
FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER -
I had browned approximately 1/28th of the cake. And I had no more thumb prints, because I'd burned them all off, so if you need a crime committed, I'm your gal.
Finally a friend took pity on me, being that I'd whined about it on my Facebook, and she offered up a kitchen torch.
Which took roughly one minute to make the cake look like this.
The cake itself is delicious and I would totally recommend that you make it for yourself or your friend or because you like marshmallow.
But do yourself a favor and beg, buy or borrow a kitchen torch from the start. It's easier on everyone.
One of the best parts of being a blogger is attending events. One of the best parts of my job is working with awesome people to put on said events. Last weekend, both halves of my life were able to connect in a whirlwind 48-hour NYC trip for my youngest daughter and me.
We attended the premiere of the upcoming move, Ratchet & Clank.
We did Red Carpet photos before - my kid absolutely LOVES the camera.
Modeling the spiffy 3D glasses - yup, the movie was shown in 3D, in a Dolby Laboratories Screening Room which featured Dolby Atmos®. I'd never heard of it, but it really made the movie seem lifelike. The amazing sound and fantastic 3D effects really made the movie pop!!
Before the movie began, we had a fabulous buffet spread.
I am a long time fan of charcuterie, yum!
What movie is complete without popcorn?
All of the bloggers and their families, ready for the movie. Gotta love 3D glasses!
The film follows Ratchet, who is an ambiguous animal but most closely resembles a cat - or maybe a fox. In fact, one of the characters pokes fun at Ratchet because he is unable to distinguish what sort of animal he might be. Ratchet is fiercely determined and sets his sights on becoming a Galaxy Ranger, which is like a policeman of the universe. He overcomes a variety of obstacles including species discrimination, and ultimately triumphs when he meets his partner in crime, a robot named Clank.
Riley's favorite quote from the movie? "You don't have to do big things to be a hero. Just the right things." That's a lesson I've worked hard to incorporate into my kids' lives.
If you are looking for a great flick to watch with the kids, you'll enjoy this movie. Themes of heroism, friendship, and the importance of discovering your own identity abound, but it's not in your face preachy - it's a light lesson that really hit home.
There's also a great cast of voice talent such as Sylvester Stallone (it took a minute to figure out who he was!), Paul Giamatti and John Goodman. And of course, super sci-fi nerds will recognize Armin Shimerman's voice (he played Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as the super-cool mad scientist Doctor Nefarious.
If you're ready to "Kick Some Asteroid," then get your tickets now and set your sights on Ratchet & Clank, IN THEATERS FRIDAY.
Watch the trailer here:
It was just - there - when I was shopping at the grocery one day.
I turned a corner and the end cap was full of boxes of it, just staring me right in the face.
I mean - Krispy Kreme donuts are probably my favorite, even though I don't really eat donuts all that often. But. A cake that supposedly tastes like an original Krispy Kreme donut, the closest food to heaven in the South?
SIGN. ME. UP.
I bought the box, brought it home, and the kids were super jazzed to make it. So we popped open the box and mixed it all up.
First thoughts? Well, the batter tasted very, very sweet - but it did have the flavor of a Krispy Kreme donut, at least somewhat.
(Side note - did you know you can buy Krispy Kreme donuts on Ebay? Donuts shipped to you would, I think, not be such a great idea. I might be wrong.)
It didn't look like the mix made much batter, but I went ahead and poured it into the prepared cake pan, where it came up a disappointing third of the way. I'm used to cake batter that fills the pan and you've got extra to make cupcakes and eat and whatnot - oh, hush, you know you eat batter too, raw eggs be damned. I thought maybe the batter would rise substantially, and waited not so patiently for the cake to finish.
When the timer beeped, the cake was probably 2/3 of the way up the pan - so, an improvement, but not huge. I turned the cake out onto the plate and coated it with the glaze and
We had ourselves a cake. A small cake, but it was truly a cake.
Did it taste like Krispy Kreme donuts? That's a mixed verdict. One kid said yes, one kid said no. I tried it, and thought it was - meh. Overly sweet for sure, which is much what I say about donuts - but it did have a bit of that elusive KK donut flavor.
I really much prefer my pound cake recipe, which I can share at a later date, but if you aren't a baker and you are looking for something sweet
This could work.
I'd give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars, although the kids went as high as 3 stars.