Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Best Medicine

Last night my dashingly handsome husband walked in the door with a brand new iPad. Sometimes there is an occasional perk to being a high school teacher, because his school distributed iPads to all of the teachers to familiarize themselves over the summer. It sort of felt like a Christmas gift in May, and since we are not an iPhone family, we were slightly over the moon about the whole thing. What are all of these things? Apps? Face time? Games? OH MY! Word on the street is that kids these days are using iPads in high school. You know, as opposed to paper & writing utensils. Children, what happened to good old fashioned glitter pens and mini personal pencil sharpeners?!

Anyway, we fumbled around for awhile and eventually came across the "Photo Booth" program (or is it an app? who knows...) and had some quality family photo shoot time. You guys- I have never, EVER laughed so hard in my life. Or if I have, it's been years. I was out of control, tears streaming down my face, belly aching hysterical over the twisted & distorted photos we were able to take of ourselves. I mean, really. Can you look at these pictures and not laugh out loud?

Yes, I'm aware that I resemble some sort of evil cartoon villain.

This is the one that sent us all into level 2 hysteria. Look at my sweet, beautiful baby! She looks insane!

After the laugh-fest was over, it took me some time to recover. Honestly, it was physically taxing expending all of those tears and giving my abs a much needed workout. And when I was ready to move on the the regular duties of the evening, I felt like I just took a one week cruise around the world & back. Exhausted, but so full of happiness for the memory we had just created.

God bless the iPad. Amen.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Shrimp, my Savior

A steamed tail-on shrimp.Image via Wikipedia
Today is one of those days. This house has fallen victim to the "worst season of allergies we've ever seen" (welcome, Spring!) and I'm in a ridiculous antihistamine-induced fog, barely able to keep my eyes open. This is bad news when it comes to the "bewitching hour", as my Mama refers to it, also known as "what in tarnations shall I make for dinner tonight?" Seriously, if I had a dime for every time I've asked myself this question....

Good thing I have some delightfully easy recipes stashed away for days just like this. Amongst them all, there is one that takes the prize for being the most low-maintenance dinner in my repertoire, while still being one of THE MOST delicious. Enter the brown-rice shrimp bowl! It's one of those meals where you put it all into one bowl, and simply commence eating. No side dishes necessary. I haven't officially calculated this, but I'm pretty sure it hits all the main food groups, so it's also a very smart dinner.

You should probably make this tonight, even if you aren't on allergy medication and on the verge of tears because you're so tired and your children are miniature Energizer bunnies. It's a tasty, healthy, fast, easy dinner and your taste-buds will insist on writing me a thank-you note for sharing it with you.

Brown Rice Bowl with Shrimp, Snow Peas and Avocado (Adapted from Everyday Food, Jan/Feb. 2008)

2 cups water
1 cup brown rice (**Alternatively, and much more efficiently, we use 2 packages of Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice, found in the freezer section. Each "packet" takes 3 min. in the microwave, and it comes out absolutely delicious-- a true staple in our house!)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil (can use olive oil instead, depending on preference; we just like that slightly toasted/smoky taste)
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp (again TJ's sells these guys frozen, already peeled & deveined, thanks be to God)
8 oz snow peas, ends trimmed and halved on the diagonal
1" long piece fresh ginger, peeled and diced small
1 avocado, cut into chucks

1/2 bunch green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp. sesame seeds (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil - add rice and salt (to taste). Cover, reduce heat and cook until water has been absorbed, anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. (**Or just make your 3 minute TJ's organic brown rice.....)

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar.

In a large skillet, heat sesame oil over medium-high. Add shrimp, snow peas, green onions, garlic and ginger - season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cook until shrimp are opaque throughout and snow peas are bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Evenly divide rice among four bowls. Top with shrimp mixture and avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Drizzle with the soy mixture or serve on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Birthday Prep

I love carrying on family traditions. One of mine from childhood is when someone in the family is celebrating a birthday, they 1) do not have to make their bed, 2) get to select from any of the typically forbidden "sugar cereals" from the grocery store, and 3) get to choose their own special birthday dinner, which Mama will cook upon request, and serve with lots of love. This is the background information that led to the conversation I had with Ben today, whose 5th birthday is less than a week away.

Me: Ben, I want to talk to you about your birthday dinner. If you could have anything, what would you like me to make for you? I can make you anything you want! It could be tacos, or I could make you a special pasta dish, or we could have homemade pizza. What do you think?

Ben: Hmmmm. Well, how 'bout you just make me some McDonald's? Okay, Mama?

Me: Ouch.

Ben: What?

Me: How about you sleep on it, and we'll talk about this again in a couple days.

Ben: Okay. But I want a toy with it too, okay Mama?

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Thursday, May 5, 2011


Photographic proof that spring has absolutely sprung around here:

A visit from these two, for starters! Dan's folks made the long (1,046 miles, to be exact) drive out from New Mexico to spend spring break with us, arriving the day before Easter. I don't know who had more fun- us or them. It's heavenly to have an extra set (or two) of hands in the house, helping us with the kids, ready to give countless hugs, share jokes, read books, and help with the everyday business that this house incurs. We all just soaked it in and relished in the cozy family time we'd been missing.

Here, "Opa" is reading to the kiddos, who are quite busy trying to find that impossible Goldbug . Sometimes I wish I could take the energy my father-in-law has, and bottle it up. I'd take a small dose of it everyday after breakfast. The man is 81, but I'm fairly certain he thinks he's still 50.

Easter morning! I realize they both look less than thrilled in this picture, but here they were that morning, moments beforehand shrieking with delight at what the Easter Bunny/Angel left for them. I think they were both irritated that my picture taking was interfering with jelly bean consumption.

Ella learned a lesson in accessories. Here she is with her first pair of sunglasses, and matching necklace/bracelet set. (Thank you, Target $1 section!) Since receiving these on Easter morning, she commented a few times, "I can't see! The sun is hurting my eyes! Need my sunglasses, Mom!" The "jewelry", however, has not been as popular; she vacillates between wanting to wear them while playing dress-up and wanting to stretch them to the point of destruction, hoping to watch the beads go flying everywhere.

My first lemon meringue pie of the season! It was an Easter sweet treat success! (Also, why do people say this is such an easy pie to whip up? I found it a bit complex, actually. Meringue? Lemon curd? Pie crust? Don't burn the meringue, but get the curd cooked all the way through, but also make sure the pie dough isn't raw, all at the same time? Sheesh). It was fabulous and consumed by all in one evening.

These two lovebirds clearly have Spring Fever. And a bit of a California tan, wouldn't you say? Alright, fine. It's just the "warmify" photo editing effect I applied to our skin tone. But isn't my husband handsome? And for the record, I absolutely have SOME form of fever called, "I can't wait for summertime to get here so we can co-parent and potty train that crazy daughter of ours, ASAP."

It must be Spring, because this kid has some major preschool senior-itis. It's the last few weeks of preschool, before he graduates and practically becomes an adult overnight. He is literally one week away from turning 5 years old. FIVE YEARS OLD!!!! If Dan & I had made a 5 year plan when Ben was born, it would already be time to move on to another 5 year plan, THAT'S HOW GIANT OF A BIRTHDAY THIS WILL BE! This boy has an imagination you would not believe. Example: he woke up at 4 a.m. this morning, convinced that bugs & snakes were crawling all over him, and even though he was awake and talking coherently, he would not believe me when I told him it was all a bad dream. "Mama, you don't understand. You weren't here, you didn't see them. They were huge snakes, and they probably went to hide under my bed when they heard you coming." Oh, dear.

Spring = warmer weather, which means family ventures out to new parks, hiking trails, etc. Last weekend we took the kids to Dennis the Menace Park for the first time (a park I went to visit on field trips in elementary school!), and it was as if we took the kids to Disneyland. In fact, we probably should have just told them that's where we were.....Anyway, the older Ella gets, the more the 2.5 year age difference shrinks between the two of them, and the more they learn to play together. Ben is so preciously protective of her, and wants to help her with everything, and she is sassy but affectionate with him, and the fact that they are holding hands in this picture while exploring a park from my very own childhood melts my heart into a puddle of butter. Mmmm, butter.

Speaking of this girl.....good gracious. I don't remember having this much fun with Ben at 2.5. I also don't remember being this exhausted with him. This girl is hilarious and ridiculously independent and passionate and a huge fan of major tantrums, and silly and loving and insists on wearing a tutu to bed at night. She's still a huge thumb sucker, and has brown crazy curls, and the most wonderful toddler tummy you've ever seen. We are enjoying her and falling in love with her all over again in a way we didn't see coming.

Yet another sign of spring: per my demands, lemonade has infiltrated our house for the first time this year, even in various forms! This stuff is just so darn delicious, and after some hard playtime, nothing else seems to quench our thirst. Also, it's delicious with vodka....

And then there's this; the ultimate sign that spring has sprung. Hang-dry laundry time has returned! I don't know what it is-- maybe it's seeing all of those beautiful colors up for display in the confines of our yard, or perhaps knowing that we're saving a couple bucks by doing so-- it just brings me so much joy to bask in the spring sunshine, hanging up wet laundry, listening and watching the kids run around while they play and destroy our backyard.

Notice how I did not mention "spring cleaning" as one of the signs that spring has sprung around here. I'll get around to it....maybe.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

So He Thinks He Can Dance...

What do you get when you mix river dancing with martial arts, sprinkle it with robotic movement and a dash of hip hop? You get my son, dancing interpretively to "Aqueous Transmission" (Incubus).

I realize probably every parent has this same thought about their child, but do you see why I think this child is destined for great things? Oh, Ben. I don't want you to grow up anytime soon, but I sure can't wait to see what you do with your life. Also, a special shout out to Ella, who has mastered the art of backup dancing & overall cuteness.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Inner Martha & L-O-V-E

In November of last year, one of my dearest and most fabulous friends got married. It was a wonderful celebration, full of tricky weather, and some of the most witty & creative people I've ever met. We had a ridiculous amount of fun, and I'm hoping that the bride & groom have a wedding party reunion every year (I suppose this is called an "anniversary") so we can recreate the magical fun that was had by all. (Did you catch that part, Alicia?) Before I continue, have a look at the darling, radiant couple, dancing a very saucy little tango at their reception. Also, you can't so much see this in the photo, but the beautiful bride literally had crystals dangling down her back. She really thought of everything, even back decor:

This was a very special wedding for both Dan & I. Not only did we get to leave The Kidlets behind with grandparents (our first weekend "away" in......oh gosh, years), but also Dan had the honor of performing the marriage ceremony, and I had the honor of being the Matron. Of honor. There was a lot of honoring going on.

Of course I wanted to gift them something special, but as the day got closer, I began to panic. Why hadn't I planned better, and thought of making them super unique, like a quilt (because I'm totally a quilter, remember?) months before? The registry items were rapidly dwindling, and nothing was exactly grabbing my attention. And then I came across an idea on Amy Butler's website. Well hello, gorgeous WALL ART!!! And then the crafting voices spoke to me. I will channel my inner Martha Stewart and craft them a wedding gift!

For those of you who just got uncomfortable with the thought of me crafting, I'll come right out and tell you (spoiler alert!) that it actually turned out fantastic! I could tell just by reading the pattern that not only could I actually pull this off, but I could also do so in a couple of days. And that's exactly how much time I had before it was time to hit the road for wedding weekend extravaganza. One of my charms is my ability to thrive on impending deadlines.

The first step was choosing the various fabrics I was going to use. Moment of truth: this step took me longer than all of the steps combined. Is there a medical diagnosis for people who cannot make decisions, especially in fabric stores? I walked around and pulled fabric bolts off the shelves and then walked away, around in a circle, back to pull off more bolts, then back to study the pattern for hours. It's really difficult to make such important decisions when in the presence of so much beauty. Sue me.

Ultimately I decided that almost half of my fabric choices would come from my own fabric stash at home, because they're the ones I liked best. Go figure!

Here, I've made a verbal and monetary commitment to the following fabrics, and thus began the unfolding of the Amy Butler "LOVE" wall art wedding gift. I love how happy each of the fabric choices are, and while they're a far cry from "match-y-match-y", they all go together so nicely:

Next it was time to print & cut out my pattern, tape it together, and assign fabric to each of the 4 "LOVE" letters. This was also one of those steps that took way longer than the entire project. Who knew cutting out letters was such a time commitment?:

Next, I cut out my letters and laid them out to make sure I was still in L-O-V-E with them. I was. Can you blame me? Have you ever seen such beauty in the form of letters?

Once I was able to finalize my letters, it was time to build the frame for the stretched canvas that would lay underneath the fabric background. I won't lie; this was one of those moments that a man sure comes in handy. And when I say "man", what I really mean is "man plus 2 kiddos", as this quickly became a family project. The family that crafts together, stays together! (right?!)

Any time Daddy pulls out the hammer, the kids flock to him.

 The look on Ben's face says it all: Isn't Daddy the greatest frame builder you've ever seen? And Ella's like, "This is more fun then I know what to do with, so I'll just sit here with my darling tummy and look cute."

The next step involved some tricky canvas stretching + stapling + background fabric stretching & stapling. But I didn't take pictures of that step, so just imagine me stressing out and trying to make my staples even and getting nervous that I was going to somehow break the beautiful frame that my husband had just assembled. Silly me- not even My Inner Martha could break that frame. Here's the finished product:

Up close & personal:

Cute, right? The Bride (who lives many hours & hours away) claims it now hangs in their bedroom, and this warms my heart a million times over. I hope it serves as a reminder to L-O-V-E each other every morning they wake up together.

Feel like making your own pretty wall art? Here's the free Amy Butler pattern for your creative crafting pleasure. Have fun-- and seriously, if I can do this, really a-n-y-o-n-e can. For reals.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Some Good Ideas

Me: Ben, you know what I was thinking? When it gets warmer, closer to summertime, we should start making our own ice cream again. Would you like to do that? We can come up with our own flavors and make a new batch everyday!

Ben: Yeah, that's cool! OR!!!!! (Cue wide eyes & wide grin) I know! Daddy could cut out all the concrete in the backyard and dig a pool for us! Wouldn't that be even better?

Me: Wow. Yes. You win.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sweet Dreams

I know they say money doesn't buy happiness. But don't you sometimes think "they" are not entirely correct?

Because I sure wish I had enough money to give my husband an entire day of pampering and relaxation. At this very moment he's sound asleep on our bed, curled up in the fetal position, and snoring away (a rarity; usually reserved for evenings of intoxication or extreme exhaustion. In this instance, it's the latter). Sometimes I wonder what it feels like to be the primary bread winner of the family, the man who singlehandedly holds an entire family together. The man who comes home from one job, and immediately changes clothes to prepare for his second job. This family could not work without him. I'm fairly certain I would crumble under that much pressure.

Looking in from the outside, it might appear that I'm the independent, free-spirited "strong" one. But this man is my rock, and anchors me so beautifully, so perfectly. I wish I could wake up in the morning and surprise him with a professional massage-- this I know would make him happy. But for now, I'll cuddle up next to him, cover up his cold feet that have escaped the warmth of our blankets, gently nudge him to breakup the snoring, and whisper in his ear,

"Thank you".

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Facts of Life

A couple of months ago, Dan was driving around with the kids in the car doing errands, while I was at home eating bon-bons and working on my tan. Naturally.

When they got home, Dan nonchalantly mentioned that essentially Ben asked where babies come from, but not to worry because he "totally handled it". Immediately I panicked, for two reasons.

1) Ben is not yet even 5 years old. I was fairly convinced that this subject wouldn't even cross his mind for like 10 more years. This means that we've greatly underestimated his curious little brain by not planning any age-appropriate responses as of yet. How could we let this happen! People, may I remind you that this is what I went to school for? I mean, not specifically to explain sex to children, but I went to school to understand their little brains. My  Early Childhood Education courses really could be renamed, "how to explain things to kids in an age-appropriate manner". It should be noted that I got A's in all of these courses.
2) Dan & I handle things quite differently when it comes to this stuff. I tend to use my E.C.E. voodoo magic and redirect the conversation (some might label this "avoidance"), and Dan tends to tackle things head on, even if he doesn't have a plan.

So here's how his impromptu sex-ed conversation unfolded.

(Um, and for the record- NO, I AM NOT PREGNANT)

Ben: Daddy, I think that Mommy is going to have another baby sometime.
Dan: You do? Why do you think that?
B: I just do. I think that she is gonna get a baby in her tummy soon.
D: Well, it doesn't really work that way, buddy. Mommies & Daddies have to want a baby- they don't just magically appear in Mommy's tummy.
B: Does God put the baby in Mommy's tummy?
D: Well, yes. Sort of. But Mommy & Daddy have a big role in it as well.
B: Like what? What do you do?
D: Well, Bud. There's a special hug that Mommy & Daddy do to make a baby.
B: Oh.
D: Yup. It's called the "marital embrace".
B: Ohhhhhhhh. I see. Do you like, put one arm around her neck, and Mommy puts her arm around your back?
D: Uh, sure Buddy. There's lots of ways to do it, but that's certainly one way to do it.


When I gave Dan a hard time about this interaction (and by "hard time", I mean that I shrieked a lot and used his full birth name), he wanted to know what I would have done differently.

Aside from EVERYTHING, I said, "Dan, if Ben wanted to know about where babies come from, I probably would have told him they are a miracle, and therefore an inexplicable mystery. And then I would have changed the subject to Star Wars and trucks."

So, um.....who's got a good book on explaining where babies come from for me us to borrow?

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

In my mind, if a new wine aerator arrives on your doorstep just minutes before lunch prep begins, clearly it is a sign that God wants you to have a wine break with lunch. So that's what I'm doing. After all, it is Lent, and I wouldn't want to be disobedient. And who knew a glass of aerated wine would go so nicely with carrots & turkey slices, anyway?

In other news: Thank God I didn't give wine up for lent. Because then this would be a terribly tempting and ultimately disappointing afternoon.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Current Events

When I was in junior high, I distinctly remember my best friend at the time posing one of life's most thought-provoking questions:
"Okay, if you HAD to choose-- like if your life depended upon choosing-- would you pick Charlie Sheen or his brother, Emilio Estevez?" (Note: when you're about 13, to "pick" a guy basically means: who would you fall in love with, marry, and then buy a house and have lots of babies with).

There was a long pause as I carefully considered my choices. There was much to weigh; both teen heart throbs, both entertaining actors, both quite rich. Heck, I'm not sure there was a "wrong" choice. But something about Charlie- the cool name, the darker hair, the rebellious image- it all screamed my name.

And so, much to the shock of my junior high best friend, I had to follow my heart and go with Charlie.

Fast forward twenty years to the Charlie Sheen of today, and the unpleasant train wreck that inevitably follows him and his "tiger blood". I think you know where I'm going with this.

So Melissa, if you're out there, I'd like to take this opportunity and officially change my Estevez brother selection. And I don't want to push the envelope here, but I'll go ahead and say: 2011 is going to be all about Emilio Estevez. Shame on you, Charlie. The 13 year old in me is raining on the inside.
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mother of the Year

Truffles with nuts and chocolate dusting in de...Image via WikipediaAs a matter of fact, YES.
I am breaking into my son's Valentine's Day candy generously gifted to him weeks ago by his tiny preschool friends, all while he sleeps peacefully (and without clue) just down the hall. It's all in an effort to keep my resolution this year of eating 1) more kale (speaking of, try these and season it like crazy and have a party in your mouth) and 2) more chocolate. Because who wants to be on their death bed one day, regretting their under-consumption of chocolate? There are dozens of other things I'll be too busy regretting, so I refuse to let a lack of chocolate be one of them. So obviously in this instance, the ends totally justify the means. My son needs a strong, determined Mama who sticks to her resolutions, right?

Anyway, as I was picking through the precious heap of Valentine's, I noticed that his friends gifted mostly name-brand chocolate this year. Nice touch, kids. This has not gone unnoticed in this house. Buddy, you are such a great judge of character. Clearly, friends like yours who gift name-brand chocolate are friends you should hang on to forever. Because when it comes to chocolate, one should really go big or go home. Who has time to mess around with Hershey's when there are dozens of Dove chocolate hearts screaming your name?

And this has been another motherly pearl of wisdom I pass down to you, my darling son.
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