Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Polynesian Pork Chops

Polynesian Pork Chops
I’m rollin’ the dice here…another slow cooker meal.  If you read my first Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement recipe, you may remember that my husband usually responds to slow cooked meals as though I warmed a can of pork and beans and a hot dog over a camp fire and said “welcome home honey, dinner is served” …until he tasted the divine lime cilantro tacos from last week’s bit.  So, yeah, I thought I’d try again.
This week’s meal from my favorite recipe site is Polynesian Pork Chops.  After browsing enticing photos and skimming ingredients, I found a dish that I was excited about.  I feel duped though.  What I thought was a meal suggested by a hard-working mama experimenting with dishes that were sure to please her whole family, was actually from Campbell’s.  Aha!  That’s why they were so direct about me getting Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup.  I figured that out after I made the meal.  Nice!
What I love about this dish:  It was so fantastically easy!  I made it more difficult at first by using a fresh pineapple.  With the medley of tastes, canned pineapple would've sufficed.  But, now we have a few days worth of fresh pineapple.
What the hubs loved about this dish:  The familiar taste of the soy sauce (check out a quick story at the bottom of this blog post regarding said husband and soy sauce) blended with the sweetness of the honey and pineapple made a typically boring dish-pork chops-well, fun!
What I served with this dish:  Brown rice instead of the white; peas (my boys love them some peas) and warm fluffy biscuits.  I’m still not eating carbs and those biscuits were killing me!
Bon appetite!
J Leah

Polynesian Pork Chops

  • 4 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell's® Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (8 ounce) can pineapple chunks
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups cooked regular long-grain white rice
  • Sliced green onion
  1. Season chops with garlic powder.
  2. Heat oil in skillet. Cook chops until browned. Add onion.
  3. Add soup, water, pineapple with juice, soy and honey. Heat to a boil. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until done.
  4. Serve with rice and sprinkle with green onions.
Soy Sauce Anecdote - We had only been dating a month or two, Zac and I. We had scored a free breakfast brunch at one of the nicest bayfront hotels in San Diego. The one I actually worked at. They had everything...cinnamon french toast, baked goods galore, an omelet bar, fresh fruit you wouldn't believe, I almost think I saw ham, and then there was the sushi table. The glorious sushi table! Mid-conversation, Zac's eyes start to grow distant and I'm getting the idea he's not listening to me. Men! Then they start to tear up. He had obviously mixed way too much wasabi into his soy sauce. I think it took him a half hour to recover!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Very Veggie Skillet Casserole

Recipe for 8/28/11 ~ Very Veggie Skillet Casserole

Okay all, do not be moved by the name!  When I first made this dish...I'd run out of other options and thought I'd give it a try.  You see, my hubby is from the south and is totally a meat and potatoes, and anything fried kinda-guy.  So...veggie anything doesn't really appeal to him.

Turns out this is one of his favorite dishes, along with my kiddos.  It's a very yummy way to jam pack a meal with all the nutrients from several different veggies and whole grain rice.

1-Pound Ground Turkey Burger (if you hate turkey, use lean grd beef)
2- Tablespoonns of Olive Oil
1/2-Chopped Onion
2-Cloves of Garlic, Minced (I suggest fresh)
1-Medium Sized Yellow Squash -Chopped
1-Medium Tomato -Chopped
1/2-Cup Sliced Celery
1/2-Cup Sliced Carrot
Sea Salt or Regular Salt & Pepper (I also use a dash of Tony's Seasoning, it's spicy so use to your liking)
1-Cup Instant Brown Rice
1 1/2-Cups Water
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube Crushed

In dark nonstick skilled over medium-high heat, cook the ground turkey, breaking it up.  Once no longer pink, transfer w/slotted spoon to a bowl.
In the same skilled over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Add the onion and garlic, cooking for five minutes while stirring often until onion is softened. Add the squash, celery and carrot.  Cover, continuing to check every couple minutes to stir.  This softens the vegetables quicker.
Add the tomato, cook another minute or so.
Return the turkey and any juices to the pan, add salt and pepper (to your liking, I like a lot of both).  Stir in rice, water, and bouillon cube granules.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and then cook about 15 minutes or until rice and veggies are completely tender.

You can experiment with this dish, for instance, I added red bell pepper last night.  You can use spinach...add a little cheese if you like.  Whatever your heart desires!

Happy Eating Friends!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Squashing This All-American Dream

Don’t we all picture some fairytale, far-away mythical world where we imagine what our life will be like as parents?  We'll wake up with smiles on our faces, joyous to be able to make our kids pancakes; sitting around a large table for a big family meal to include fresh-squeezed orange juice.  Then, after carting the little ones off to school, we do whatever it is as moms we are inclined to do.  Clean, bake, sew…whatever.  That evening we cook a large meal, once again sitting down as a big family and discussing our favorite part of the day.  There’s never any fighting, turmoil, there’s no stress in these visions.  Just your standard All-American dream. 

Once you have kids; reality hits.  You realize that if you actually have time to squeeze fresh orange juice, then you have time for something else that is far more important, especially when you can just run down to the supermarket and buy some Tropicana (no sugar added of course!).  And if you sit down every night to a home-cooked meal, well, I’m sorry, but you must still be in that dream world.  

I do work full time, which then makes me envy the stay-at-home moms.  I wish I had all day to do laundry at my leisure.  Okay, who really wants to do laundry but since it’s a necessity, I’ll take it.  Or go to the grocery store when there isn’t five thousand people there waiting to trample you just to get their box of cheerios or can of green beans.  Then, I remember.  I remember those three months I stayed home on maternity leave with my son, when my daughter was three.  There was nothing done at leisure.  The dirty laundry sat because I had to chase my daughter around like a little mad woman, or I was breastfeeding my son, or I was cooking and doing dishes.  And when I went to the grocery store?  Oh right, I didn’t.  Not after that time I took both screaming kids who threw tantrums the entire time.  I’ll take the stampeding crowds thank you very much! 

I’m still learning every day.  If you plan each night’s meal, make your grocery list by aisle, and then go to the store once a week- you are less likely to get McDonalds and more likely to eat healthier.  Also, I enlist my husband to help me clean, we share some chores and that takes a bit of the load off.  I have given up trying to make sure the house is perfect, it never will be…but at least the toilets are decent and there is enough clean underwear to get you through today.

Life itself, not just parenting, is a whirlwind.  If we focus too much on the things we have to do, and not the things we have- what are we actually gaining?  We all create our own All-American dream...and that's perfectly okay.   

J Trina

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene in Charleston

The view from my window at work...and now I think I hear thunder.

5 Groovy Ways to Keep Your Kids Entertained While Being Hunkered Down During A Hurricane

These tips are versatile.  That’s what makes them great!  This fun will fit almost any situation that keeps you stranded in your own home for an insane amount of time.  Whether it be a hurricane, extreme heat or being snowed in during a Winter Wallop.  (You must know I’m addicted to The Weather Channel and totally dig the names they give to weather monstrosities).  When they don’t want to play with their basketball or race their Matchbox cars anymore.  When even Go, Diego, Go is getting old, when they’ve started eating their play-doh and have bored of coloring or painting.  With nowhere to go.  No park to let them run free.  No Target to explore in effort to pass the time.  When you’re stuck, you are forced to get creative with what you have on hand.
Disclaimer: The following activities entertained two wildly energetic toddler boys (age 19 mos and almost 3 yrs) during these last couple of months as we retreated from the record heat of this Charleston summer.  Though I reference “boy” or “him” as I illustrate the activities, I’m sure many girls would delight from this fun!   
1.      The Tunnel
a.       Supplies:  a crib/toddler bed mattress, 2 couches (or 1 couch and a love seat; 2 love seats may work, as well), blanket (see extra credit)
b.      How it works:  Strategically rearrange your living room so that the 2 couches are facing each other (seating area to seating area) with about a 2’ space.  Ever so gently-as to not crush your dog who refuses to get off the couch-balance the mattress over the 2’ space so that equal part of the mattress are touching each couch.
c.       Call the kiddos in and voila, the can crawl under the mattress (i.e. through the tunnel) as well as climb on the couches and walk across the make-shift bridge of a mattress. 
d.      Extra credit:  Throw a blanket over the two openings of the tunnel and they’ve got a cool little fort. 
2.      Iron Chef
a.       Supplies: 5-6 small child-safe (plastic) bowls.  Measuring spoons and cups.  A spoon.  A fork.  A whisk.  A potato masher.  Water.  Random ingredients from your cupboard…do we even use the word cupboard anymore?... that won’t harm your child.  Please no hot sauce, airway obstructing chocolate Whopper’s, or anything that tastes horrible because ultimately they will put it all in their mouths at some point.  I used the following: flour, sugar, rice, marshmallows, a cup of water, pasta spirals, bread crumbs and a banana.
b.      How it works: Have your child sit at the table.  Sure, naked is fine…especially if you plan on following this activity with the next on this list. Fill each bowl with an individual ingredient.  Place the measuring cups and utensils within his reach, including the cup of water in the measuring cup. I know you’re freaking out about your carpet or floors, right now.  And yes, it will get messy so while your kiddo is having all sorts of fun mixing, stirring, mashing, tasting….spilling; grab your vacuum and carpet cleaner/mop and standby. 
c.       Why this is educational:  Take a break and sit down with your precious one and talk to him about what each ingredient is, what happens when you combine certain elements (science), what the different numbers are on the spoons and cups (math!  And if your child is a bit older and already knows his numbers, figure out a way to teach him how to add or subtract or do fractions…I don’t know, you know how advanced your child is.)  If you want to get really educational, bring out the packages each ingredient was in and you can talk about the alphabet or teach him how to read.
3.      Tropical Oasis
a.       Supplies:  a bathtub, bubble bath, some bath toys, a coconut mango candle, lighter, a couple of tropical plants (if you already have some in your home…we do because my husband loves him some plants) and Jimmy Buffet or some reggae on your playlist. Pineapple, strawberries, cream cheese, marshmallow cream (see extra credit).
b.      How it works:  Light your Tommy Bahama coconut mango candle (no, I’m not getting paid for that mention).  Set your iPod or iPhone up high so your child won’t grab it and throw it in the toilet and thus change the tone for the rest of the day in confinement.  Prop it up high and crank it up.  Pour a nice warm bath filled with bubbles.  Make it different than boring old bathtime by having your kiddo wear his trunks.  Have him hop in the tub (not recommended literally, you should help him climb in) and toss in the toys. 
c.       Extra credit:  Slice up some fresh pineapple, strawberries and whip up some of that yummy fruit dip-a delectable blend of cream cheese and marshmallow cream.  Deliver on a tray to your little cabana boy.
4.      Bear Hunt
a.       Supplies:  a floor, imagination
b.      How it works:  I was just taught this by a friend of mine and it blew my mind that I hadn’t either (a.)  thought of it before and (b.) read or heard about it in my son’s almost 3 years of life.  So you sit on the floor with your child and you tell him you are going on a bear hunt.  You can use this time to explain in detail that you’re going to use your imagination and then describe the setting.  Are you at a campsite?  Adventurous hikers in the middle of the mountains?   The Bronx Zoo where there has been a bear escape?  Once that’s decided, you’re ready to act out the hunt.
c.       “Dress” for the occasion:  Explain step-by-step how you are going to get ready for your hunt.  Are you going to put your hat on first?  Then act that out.  A jacket, boots, and sunglasses are usually our accessories of choice.  I’m not really sure why we always go on this hunt without pants.  Curious.  I’ll have to remember that one next time. 
d.      Go hunt that bear!:  Okay, so then you finally open the door.  This is when it gets fun.  You look both ways and tell him you’re walking now.  You begin to slap your each thigh with your hands, alternating slaps.  Clip, clop.  Clip, clop.  Clip, clop.  “Oh no!” You exclaim, “there's the bear!”  Then your slaps get faster as if you are running, still alternating, but doing it so fast.  This is always when my boys get really excited and into the game.  Now it’s up to you, mom or dad.  Do you want to climb up a tree?  Swim across a lake?  Outrun the bear and have s’mores by a campfire?  The sky’s the limit.  And you’re an adult, so you know how to mime and act things out according to your life experiences.  We always end our hunt by returning home and taking off the items we had put on in the beginning.  Then a “high-five” concludes the game. 
e.       Why this is so great:  This game can go on as long or short as you need it to.
5.      80s Carpet Picnic
a.       Supplies: A picnic basket, a blanket, paper plates, sun hat, sunglasses.  The food is sort of subjective, but I like to make peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares (cut into bite size pieces, no crust – that’s how I roll!),  cheese and crackers, zucchini sticks (literally just peel the zucchini and cut into sticks), sliced apples and strawberries, Capri Suns, and a handful M&Ms to make it even more special.  Pack it all in your basket.  Cards or a game (see extra credit).
b.      How it works:  Basically, for me, if you throw the term 80s into any sentence, it makes it super rad!  So turn on your 80s music for this type of fun in the “sun.”  Talk it up all morning.  Have everyone wear their sun hats/sunglasses.  Lay the blanket out on the living room floor and have everyone chill.  Unpack your picnic basket so it’s a nice spread all across the blanket.  Let everyone take as much as they want, when they want.  No typical table rules apply.  Just have fun eating yummy morsels in between singing, dancing and enjoying one another’s company.
c.       Extra credit:  Pack a game or some cards and have fun playing after you’re done munching.  Delightful!
I hope being stuck inside during this hurricane weekend is now more enjoyable and depending on how long Irene hovers, more tolerable.
Our prayers go out to everyone seriously in the path of Hurricane Irene. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

Recipe for 8/24/11 ~ Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos
I just started the slow cooker an hour ago and our entire home is permeated in a fiesta of cilantro with a hint of lime.  It makes me want to grab an ice cold Corona, but alas, ‘tis only 11am.  I lift up the lid to stir the chicken breasts soaking in a tropical lagoon of salsa y taco seasonings. 
My husband has never much been a fan for slow cooked meals.  Unless maybe it is ribs or something manly like that.  But mostly he sees a slow cooker and chicken as a method of boiling and that does not sound appetizing to him in the least. 
However, I snuck this recipe in last month.  When my husband arrived home from work that evening, the first thing he did was raise a knowing eyebrow with a pleasing smile of the zesty, lustrous aroma.  The second thing he did was shoot an inquisitive glance towards the slow cooker as if he hadn’t enjoyed being welcomed home to a fine home-cooked meal.  Thirty minutes later, after the family gathered at our table, his eyes lit up after his first bite. 
“This is really great!  The lime, the cilantro!  It’s so flavorful.”  I’m almost positive he used the word flavorful.
Ah ha!  I thought!  I defeated the slow cooker skepticisms in his head.  I thought, I can use this delightful appliance and save time.  Hooray!  And the excitement didn’t end here folks!  He went back for seconds and even our pickier toddler threw down and polished off every last bite. 
It’s an easy recipe.  It’s a flavorful recipe.  It can be as healthy as you’d like.
Bon appetite!
J Leah
The creator of the recipe is my friend Ashley Wendt (  Though I have to thank our mutual friend, photographer Joanna Davis for insisting I try it ( 
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos
3 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Jar (16 oz) your favorite Salsa (We like Tostitos® Restaurant Style Salsa)
1 packet Low Sodium Taco Seasoning
1 Lime (juice from 1 lime)
3 T Fresh Cilantro, chopped (muy importante!)
6 Tortillas

In a slow cooker, mix Salsa, Taco Seasoning, Lime Juice and cilantro.
Add Chicken. Cook on low for 8-10 hrs.
Remove chicken and shred.
Serve with a tortilla Add any of your favorite toppings* (lettuce, onions, peppers, black olives, sour cream, taco sauce, etc.)

*I chose to serve ours with chopped tomato, chopped onion, sliced avocado (a MUST in our home), and sour cream.  As you now know, my husband determined there is so much going on in the flavor department…so hold the taco sauce.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Submit Your Favorite Recipes!

Do you know of a delightful meal you'd like to have us try out for the Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement series?

Please send us an e-mail at with your recipe suggestion.  If you have a blog or a business you'd like to promote, please include that information in the email.  If we try out your recipe, love it and decide to blog about it, we'll be sure to return the thanks and give you a shout out (including your links). 

We look forward to experimenting with all sorts of cuisines!

Their Happiness In Our Heart

If only you could package that look on your child’s face, the sparkle in their eye, those moments when you just know they are genuinely happy. 

I see it in my son’s eyes when he conquers the challenge of taking something apart then skillfully reassembles it.  That pride when he pulls himself up on the edge of the pool after finally swimming free from his floaties.  I feel the exhilaration in his little hand gripped in mine while we’re dancing to some 80s hair band I remember rocking out to on my walkman in middle school.  The glee which emerges in his smile as we watch Yo Gabba Gabba—glancing at one another in anticipation of the knock-knock jokes he has memorized.  I see it in his whole face when I put down the vacuum to sit on the floor and work on a puzzle with him.  Or, the rare moments when he shares a toy with his brother knowing that I’m watching and proud. 

While lying with me on the couch just before naptime, it’s the peaceful look that paints his face.  Or, the chuckle that escapes his lips when his brother does something amusing – something that probably would only be that hilarious to another toddler.  Or the wicked smile he flashes when he thinks he’s tricked me into giving him another piece of candy.  The quiet “I love you” as he squeezes his stuffed doggy to his chest while I tuck him in after a big fun day. 

Come to think of it, maybe his happiness is packaged.  As a memoir in my heart.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Everyday Lasagna Skillet

Recipe for 8/21/11 ~ Everyday Lasagna Skillet

This recipe is an old friend's that I converted into a healthy I try to do with just about any old recipe.  It's super yummy and easy!!

1- pd Lean Ground Beef
1/2 -pd of Turkey Burger
1 -26 oz jar of Pasta Sauce (I get the Heinz can w/Garlic)
1- Cup Water
5- Uncooked Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles Broken into 2-Inch Pieces
1- 12 oz container of Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1/2- Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1-Tablespoon dried parsley leaves
2-Cups Shredded Italian Cheese

Cook ground beef & turkey burger in nonstick skillet over medium high heat 5-7 minutes, until thoroughly cooked: drain any fat.  Stir in pasta sauce, water & uncooked noodles. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until pasta is almost tender.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley and egg.  Spread over partially cooked pasta mixture.  Sprinkle with shredded Italian cheese.  Cover; cook 10-15 minutes - cottage cheese topping will be firmly set and cheese will be completely melted.
Serve with Salad, and Homemade Garlic Bread (Wheat Bread Toasted on Broil in the Oven with Smart Balance butter & Garlic Salt)

Skillet Lasagna. Photo by loofHappy Eating My Friends!!!!!!!  *Trina

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why Do Boys Have Tails?

Rylie was two years old when her cousins, Clayton and Callie, came to visit from Colorado.  They’d moved when she was a baby so she hadn’t gotten to spend a lot of time with them, and we were all excited.  We all met up at Grannie Janet’s house for a day full of fun in the sun with their new kiddy pool.
Clayton didn’t have a swimsuit so his mom, Trina, just stripped him down naked and set him in the pool to swim.  Rylie kept studying him and I assumed she was just checking the new cousin out.  He was now over a year old, walking around everywhere and making noises as he tried to talk.
Rylie walked over to Trina and asked boldly, “Trina, why does he have a tail?”
Trina looked at her, confused, and asked what she meant.
Rylie pointed directly at Clayton’s privates and said louder, “Why does he have a tail!?”
Trina burst out laughing and looked at me in delight before answering my daughter.  “Why don’t you go ask your dad?”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bedtime Battles Continued

I’m sure there will be a time when I look back and appreciate the endearing moments of tortured screaming at bedtime.  Maybe when they’re thirteen and they don’t want anything to do with me.  Or when they’re sixteen and sleeping until noon (or maybe it’s the other way around and I don’t know it yet because my boys are 19 months and 33 months-or do I just say almost 3?).
Today, however, it’s the greatest thing in this insane world of motherhood that can get my anxiety to a level I’ve never felt.   The cries, screaming, pleading and bargaining.
During this madness, I’ve got the caring and firm mommy conflicting within me.
The caring and sensitive side of me wants to jump at every cry out and rush to their aide.
“I need my mommy!”  I’m there in a second!
“I have to go potty!”  We were so successful in potty training, how could I betray his trust of the system.
“I need more water!”  It’s summer.  He could be thirsty.  What if he’s dehydrated…I MUST check on him.
“Mommy!  Don’t. Do. This. To. Meeeeee!”  My heart is shattering.  I’m clearly setting him up for emotional disaster. 
And I return to his aide once again.
But then…the curtain falls, the precipitous silence envelopes crowd, the spotlight shining on the other half of me; exhausted, confused, frustrated.
I know I’m being manipulated and I question my reasoning in my coddling moves.   How can it be wrong when it seems so natural and motherly?  I need to be firm.
Yet each afternoon and each night for as long as I can remember, it’s a battle.  My husband, my mother, my best friends all think I should handle it in a different way.  I’ve always been labeled as too sensitive.  Being a firm and consistent mother has no room for the overly sensitive.  And now I feel outplayed.  I need to be stern.  I need to be more consistent. 
I know this is a phase or at least I’m pretty sure they won’t be crying and screaming like this when they’re home visiting us from college.  It’s got to end.  I just hope I can figure it out and do the right* thing along the way.  In the meantime, I’ll just battle my inner Jekyll & Hyde…which is appropriate since it’s my favorite Broadway musical. 
*If you know the right thing, please leave a comment or post on our Facebook page!  Luke, Zealand, ( two little stinkers) if you’re reading this…I’m onto your games and I WILL win this challenge! 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kiddos & Plane Rides = Disaster

Okay, so I remember, waayyyyy back in the day before I had kiddos;  I was soo not that person.   You know who I’m talking about!  The rude lady who cringes when you walk by them in the plane aisle with an infant-showing their obvious disapproval that you have chosen THEIR plan to fly on this time. 


Or, after seated, the man next to you who moves as far as he can in the tiny seat next to you; apparently in serious fear of some infectious disease your child may have.  No kidding, this is real stuff folks.  I’ve even had a man see me after I’ve been seated, groan, roll his eyes, and ask me,

“Can you sit somewhere else?  Please don’t let that baby spit up on me.  I’m headed to an interview.” 

I have to admit, part of me wanted my precious little angel to throw up the green peas she’d eaten for lunch all over his perfect suit.  My most recent bout with flying just so happened to be on a two and ½ hour plan ride (yes, I know what you are thinking. That’s not so long!! But oh, let me tell you…I saw the writing on the wall) with my 15-month-old and my four-year-old. 

By myself…did I mention that part? 

I thought; oh, grow up Trina!  There are plenty of moms who fly with four or even five kids! Stop being a wimp!
The trip to my hometown in Washington wasn’t so bad.  I sat next to a 12-year-old boy who appeared to have somewhat of a young puppy-love type of crush on me- or just found it amusing to attempt to help me with my two crazy and wild kiddos.  The help was nice; he entertained my daughter while I tried to corral my son on my lap.  My son who also was extremely fussy; the crying bouts he had from exhaustion only lasted about five minutes at a time which was perfect-by the time they ended I was only almost on the verge of insanity so everyone lived through the experience.
The ride home was the real kicker.

They had me and my daughter in seats that were two rows apart.  Obviously, that ain’t happenin.  Now any of you non-flyers, knows this happens a lot.  The difference?  A flight attendant who cares…I’ve had both and let me tell you, the one who cares will save your bacon.  Otherwise you are trying to convince someone to change their seat all on your own- not a lot of fun. 
After the lovely young pretty woman helped get myself, Callie, and my son Clayton next to one another in new seats…the trouble began.  A lady came along with her ticket that had her original seat number, one next to the window and that my daughter had been moved to.  After the nice flight attendant explained what had happened, I offered to move my daughter to the aisle seat so she could sit next to the window. 

“I don’t want to sit next to those children.” She told the flight attendant, as if my kids and I were deaf.  I have to admit…bodily harm didn’t seem that unreasonable at the time. 

Especially when Callie asked me: “Why doesn’t that girl want to sit by us?” Anger got the best of me-I couldn’t stay composed after that.  I answered loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Because she’s mean Callie.”

Classy?  No.  A proud mommy moment?  Not really…but it still felt good.  We were held up for 10 minutes from taking off because no one else wanted to sit next to us on the plane.  We literally had to move two times (yes twice; me, the diaper bag, purse, two blankets, and two kids) in the attempt to keep everyone happy.  We eventually took off…and I totally blame it on the stress and the mean girl next to us (yes, ironically we ended up sitting next to first snotty lady who didn’t want to sit next to us)  as both my kids cried and fussed the entire two ½ hours. 
It’s funny; I swore I’d never fly with both of them again alone.  But in two months guess what?  I’ll do it again.  It’s what we as mothers are forced to do…be resilient.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Speaking of Sleep...

I know you all have heard Samuel L. Jackson’s narration of Adam Mansbach’s Go the F*ck to Sleep, a vertible transcript of many a parent in the midst of their child’s bedtime idiocy. 
The very clip fell into my hands on the first eve of a new bedtime routine.  At no other point could I have related more.  Unless that point is now.  Several weeks later. 
But let’s flash back a moment.  In June, I took my first, very much earned and needed, trip away from all of my boys to spend a blissful weekend at a lake house in Tennessee with ten girlfriends, many of whom I hadn’t even seen since before I had Luke, almost 3 years ago.  The weekend was a mirror of the good ol’ college days… full of vivacious laughter, too much beer, gossip and reminiscence of a time when Hootie and the Blowfish dominated the air waves, everyone wondered if Ross and Rachel would end up together, and Drink & Drown was every Wednesday night at Mainstreet. 
With the precision of an anesthesiologist arriving just when you’re about to tussle with your husband in that “tranquil” birthing suite; I welcomed Sunday relaxed and ready to return to my family.   I’m sure I must’ve had some thoughts that their sleep would be disrupted with the brief change in our home.  I didn’t realize it was going to be a lasting change.  Night after night following my return, my 2 ½ year old refused bed.  He screamed and cried and kicked behind his secured door.  Then suddenly, one night it hit me; he wants freedom.  It occurred to me that my daytime-potty-trained son was becoming too independent to not have the freedom at night. 
Easy enough.  I’ve smuggly watched this one hundred times on Supernanny.  I was better than all of those moms.  I’ve got this under control, I thought.  I shared my master plan with my husband:  tonight, we set him free.  If he comes out, we simply put him back in his bed without a word.  He’ll get bored and we’ll win.
Excitedly, I share with my big boy that we have officially removed his safety lock.
“Honey, when you have to go potty, just come on out and we’ll make sure you go and then you just go right back to bed.” 
He seized the opportunity.  The freedom.  Immediately.  And five minutes later, he did again.  And again.  Each time, I did as I had studied and without a word, I returned him to his bed.  Before I knew it, almost two hours had gone by and I had lost my “me time” for that night. 
This continued.  Night after frustrating night, I felt myself losing.  I was no longer in control.  He was flat out manipulating me and my husband knew it.  Why wasn’t this working, I questioned my process wishing that Brit nanny was sitting with me, coaching me.  But she wasn’t.  I couldn’t process the situation any longer. 
I talked to my friends.  I talked to my mom.  Even now, I don’t exactly have an answer.  But we have found a compromise.  He gets three chances (and that is way too many chances!) to use the potty from the time we start our bedtime stories.  By the third chance, he gets to use the potty but the gate on his door.  For over a week now, he’s just been playing the game.   He will repeat our deal verbatim. 
“Three times and I get the gate.”  He recites.
“Yes, son.  But you don’t want the gate up.  You just want to stay in your room after the second time.”  I smile, encouragingly.
He’s playing the game.  He will reach the third potty break and say, “Okay, that was three.”  He hops back into bed, I have to tuck him in, put the gate up and then…finally…quiet.
I may not be able to actually use the F-word to enhance my wishes at bedtime, but you know as I picture my cushy couch and that empty wine glass awaiting me in the next room; I sure am thinking it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What has been your BEST summer moment with your family so far?

The day after the 4th of July, the aisles of Target were already spiffied with Back to School supplies.  Didn't summer start on June 21st or something like that?  What happened to summer?   Back in my day, we never started school anywhere close to my middle-of-August birthday.  According to my friends with school-aged kiddos, it sounds like many have either already started or are starting in next couple of weeks.  Forget about September! 

So with the summer quote-on-quote wrapping up as responsibilities take precedence again, we look back on another fun-filled, sweltering (for many parts of our country, at least) and delicious summer.

Though my actual family summer vacation isn't for another four weeks, in which I'll hopefully have a dozen of best summer moments in the making; for now, I would have to say my most enjoyable day would be introducing my boys to their very first water park. Both of them - possible future Michael Phelps, minus the pot scandal, of course - were outwardly thrilled with the sights of slides, fountains and swirly whirly rivers. 

My parents had treated us to the afternoon and along with my husband we found a shady spot near some sand to claim our bags and flip flops and towels.  Within minutes, Zac was escorting Luke down his first-ever waterslide.  The brave soul didn't think twice as he let the water whisk him down the chute, plunging into my arms.  Meanwhile, ZZ was splashing around some mini fountains gleefully "eeee-ing" each time the droplets would sprinkle his little face.  Grandma and grandpa sailed with them through the lazy river.  It was two-plus hours of pure joy.  My boys can't get enough of being in the water; be it the pool, beach or a bath, but just looking into Luke's blood-shot eyes, we knew it was time to call it a day. 

With the whole family dry and cozy, we concluded the dreamy day at my parent's house with the best New York pizza Manassas, Virginia has to offer.

Please share with us your best summer moment so far!!!


Starbucks Anyone?

Callie Jo Epp.  Where do I start?  She was one special little girl from the day she was born.  Our first-born child, and one of the first granddaughters, she was pretty much spoiled from the get-go.  I styled her in Gap and Old Navy–pretty pink dresses and fashionable matching shoes.  How could I help it?  Anyone who goes shopping for a baby girl can attest; they have the absolute cutest clothes available and it’s downright addicting. 
Another habit we started very early was taking my little girl to Starbucks.  You know you’re in trouble when your baby girl can only say a few words, including “Mommy” and “Daddy” and then “Starbucks!” as we drive by the familiar green sign. We were doomed!
Callie always knows exactly what she wants to order when we head to my all-time favorite coffee shop.  Kids’ hot chocolate, a vanilla milk box or chocolate milk box, and usually a vanilla bean scone.  Yes, my four-year-old happily walks up to the cashier and politely orders whatever her little heart may fancy that day.
Just the other day we were in a huge hurry.  I had to be to work in 35 minutes and had about a 25-minute commute, which included dropping my kids off at daycare.  I’d run out of creamer that morning, and let’s face it, folks, no coffee means zero brain power for this career woman.  So, off to Starbucks we went with an excited toddler pondering what she’d order.  When we got to the drive-thru, I sighed.  Three cars in line equaled me being very late to work, and oh, how I hated to be late! Callie couldn’t have said it better.  “Mommy, if these people don’t hurry, we are never going to be able to get our coffee, right?”
Thinking about how late I might be, I said in a monotone, “Yes, honey.”  
“Mommy, maybe you should just crash them out of the way!” 
I looked back and saw that Callie had a serious look on her face.  She meant it!
“Honey, we can’t crash into them. That’s not reasonable!  If we’re just patient, they’ll move soon.”  The funny thing was; I was also thinking how nice it would be to ram my car into the back of the person in front of me who evidently hadn’t decided what they’d order ahead of time, taking an extremely long amount of time in deciding.  Finally, the car moved and it was our turn to order.  Before I could tell the nice woman at the other end of the microphone what I wanted to order, Callie piped up as loud as she could, “Come on, people, move it!”
Our children listen to everything we say!  So I guarantee when you’re cussing someone out under your breath, or telling the people off in the drive-thru line at Starbucks, your children do hear you, and they’ll repeat it.  You can count on it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bliss to Be Savored

It’s 1:31 in the afternoon on a hot Friday in the middle of summer.  I’m home with the two kiddos while my husband is at work.  A thunderstorm just rolled through.  Something I love...but not exactly at naptime.  I knew better, so I kept them up with my eye on the radar.  About a half hour ago, my 19-month-old walked up to me with his blankie.  He wasn't waiting any longer for the storm to pass.  And both of my boys fell fast asleep, without a fight, in a matter of minutes.
For the first time since 5:30 a.m., it is quiet.   Not really quiet because the dishwasher and dryer are running simultaneously and I did switch Go, Diego, Go! over to the Singers & Swing music channel.  But it’s quiet in here from the hustle and bustle of “mommy” this and “mommy” that.   It’s quiet from my youngest toddler trying to climb up on the dining room table and then holler out “Mama! Mama!” with his arms open for me to carry him down, just so he could do it over and over again…no matter how many times I said no.  It doesn’t help that his big bro helps him by pulling the chair out for him, almost inviting him to get in trouble.
It’s also quiet from my oldest toddler playing with his Matchbox cars and military outfit.  It’s a blissful quiet.  Knowing they are contentedly asleep and snuggled in their beds.  Knowing that our afternoon will be busy with friends and fun in the pool.  Knowing that our evening will be bustling as we knock out our bedtime routine with two exhausted boys.  But for now, it’s quiet. 
I’m torn between relaxing and getting some work done.  Of course, more housework comes to mind…but no, not today.  It’s the start of my birthday weekend and the thought of doing another round of bathroom cleanings just to see it blanketed in SpongeBob undies, towels, floaties and miscellaneous shorts and shirts…no, not so much. I’m not going to use this amazing hour or two for that (Dear God, please let it be two hours).  I’m going to enjoy it.  If it were later in the day, I’d have a glass of wine… for now, I think I’ll pour a glass of iced tea, relax on the sofa with a book and listen to a little Sinatra.  These blissful moments in the world of Mommyhood are to be savored.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Mommy’s School Bus Jitters

If you're a mom about to bid adieu to your little one as they climb aboard that big yellow heartbreaker for the very first time, I wish you well.  I have no idea what it’s actually going to be like watching my son get on the bus to head to Kindergarten for the first time, but I do know it’s not going to be easy if I’m crying about it now and he’s only 21 months old. 
We read a few books every night at bedtime, and lately, our favorite book has been “Best Baby Ever” by David Milgrim.  In it, the parents are mesmerized as their baby grows from his first smile until ultimately, they watch him get on the school bus for the very first time with tears in their eyes.  I’m telling you, I’ve read this book probably every night at least once, for the last couple of months.  Yet, tonight, I couldn’t hold it back.  It seems like just yesterday when I had my little 7 lb 7 oz newborn baby boy.  He’s already grown so fast and if time continues to fly like this, I’ll soon be watching a five-year-old get on the bus.
My voice starts to shake as I continue to read this particular night; but I toughen up and tell the story until the end without my son noticing my voice choking up.  I conclude as I wipe the tears from my face that Kindergarten is a long way off, and I’m going to enjoy every single minute with my baby until then.  But, really, I know it's just right around the corner...on the corner some of you'll be standing on this month. 
In so many ways we can't wait to see our children grow into the people they are going to be; yet we want to keep them little.  Hug your little Kindergartner before they get on that bus and enjoy that moment for what it is.  A milestone.  A treasured memory.  And if you find yourself lost in a quiet house, go treat yourself to a hot stone massage!