Thursday, May 28, 2015

Have you met Meredith?

You may have noticed that some of my posts originally appeared at Mom of the Year, and you may be wondering why I'm always hanging out over there. Well, for one, have you met Meredith? I mean, she's charming, witty, sharp as a tack, and surprisingly down to Earth for being a blogging celebrity. She's practically royalty, people. Obviously, I have one hundred reasons to want to hang out at her place.
But in addition to my girl crush on Meredith, she gave me a chance to write for her blog before I decided to create Mondays Are Forever. On a particularly average afternoon when I was in need of a good chuckle, Meredith posted a hilarious selfie on her Facebook page that made me snort. On a whim, I posted an equally ridiculous selfie back and a few email exchanges later, The Art of the Selfie debuted at Mom of the Year. I continued to blog regularly for Meredith until I left the safety of her nest and went into the world as a fledgling blogger. Meredith continues to point me in the right direction and I am forever indebted to her for her endless encouragement and support.

So if you have a moment to jump over to Mom of the Year, for a less serious look at the world of parenting, you won't regret it. Trust me. You guys are going to be great friends.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Art of the Selfie

The Art of the Selfie

I have never been a popular girl. Not to say I’m not likeable, but I’m not exactly fashionable. (In fact, my little sister has been dressing me since I was in high school and still is.) In addition to my fashion ineptitude, I have very little interest in what (or who) celebrities are doing, what the best reality show is or anything else about popular cultural. College was probably the highlight of my trendy days; I ran with the hipster crowd, danced at underground clubs and listened to obscure bands that most people didn’t even know existed yet. I had an extremely cool boyfriend (who turned out to be gay which probably explains a. why he was so cool and b. why he was dating me.)

Now that I have entered the bubble of motherhood, I have even less time for TV, lollygagging on the internet, figuring out what to wear, or even the news. (Let’s face it, when you are forced to become an expert in sleep training, diaper changing and researching the latest kid shows that aren’t so obnoxious you want to throw up, (Ahem, Yo Gabba Gabba) it is hard enough just to find time to bathe and dress yourself, much less worry about what’s trendy.) Thankfully, my husband keeps me abreast of the popular memes and what’s going on in the news so that I can make conversation with the other moms at the park. But as my children get older, I realize more and more that I have to keep up - at least with what’s trending on the internet. First and foremost, to protect my children from the big, bad evils of the internet world, and second to ensure I am not so utterly embarrassing that my children refuse to associate with me through their adolescence. With that in mind, I’m on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and even Snapchat. (Though I really don’t understand the hype about Snapchat. The pictures are poor quality, there are plenty of alternative formats to share pictures on and the only kind of pictures I can think of that you would want to only last for 10 seconds are the kind that get Anthony Wiener in trouble.)

I digress. Now, given my lack of trendy mom credentials, you might think that selfies would not be my forte. (For those new moms who have been stuck in the blur of sleepless nights and poopy diapers, a selfie is usually a camera phone self portrait.) On the contrary, I was born for the selfie. I’ve had a knack for finding the spotlight and hamming it up since birth, which is what earned me the nickname “Hambone” as a kid. So without further ado, The Art of the Selfie:
Do look away from the camera in a thoughtful manner.

Don't do the duck face. Just don't.

Don't try to make a kissy face. It looks like a duck face.

Do send the sultry ones to your hubby.

Don't turn on the flash. If you do, see my friend Meredith over at Mom of the Year to see how long the temporary blindness lasts.
Do use natural light. Don't sit in front of your bay window trying to catch the last of the natural light at dusk. Your neighbors will think you are a weirdo.
Do take your picture from an interesting angle that makes you look more flattering. (I think this one makes me look deceptively skinny. Yes!) 

Do use props. Or just drink beer because it's good.

Do take them after your kids go to bed and you've had a few drinks with your husband. Don't post these ones on the internet.

Do beware of what’s in the background of your picture. I have a couple of little photo bombers in my house. How about you?
 This post was originally featured at Mom of the Year. For a less serious look at the world of parenting, meet Meredith

Monday, May 18, 2015

How to take a day off

Being a mother is a tough gig. Especially to very young children who show their appreciation for all your love, affection and hard work by throwing themselves on the floor screaming in the middle of the grocery store or smearing peanut butter and jelly on the one clean thing you had to wear to the pediatrician’s office. Frequently, I work hard to keep them happy all day, clean up after them in the evening, only to worry about them when I try to sleep at night. Do I have anything to pack for lunch tomorrow? It’s 2am and no one has cried for me. Are they still breathing!? (Followed by mini panic attack, checking frantically to ensure that they are indeed breathing, peeing, debating on whether or not flushing will wake someone, tripping over the dirty laundry on the way back to bed, putting that on my mental to do list for tomorrow, then wishing I hadn’t thought about my to do list because it is so, so long.)

Thankfully, I have a husband who is a STELLAR father; he works hard all day crunching numbers as a financial analyst and then plays hard with the kids when he comes home. He notices when my eye starts twitching because I just cannot hear the words “MINE” or “NOOOO!!” one more time and he takes the kids outside so I can cook dinner in peace. He knows that I eat, sleep and breathe children all day and when I don’t get enough of a break MEAN MOMMY comes out. (Imagine the Hulk with PMS. That’s Mean Mommy.) I’m a lucky girl to have a husband who gives me a break as often as he can, and sometimes without me having to ask.

But sometimes, on a Saturday afternoon, my awesome husband goes to fix a seemingly minor leak under the kitchen sink and discovers that a whole wall has to come out of the kitchen because the studs have completely rotted out. This spurs an impromptu DIY kitchen remodel that looks like something out of the movie “The Money Pit” and involves my poor husband spending every evening and weekend working on our kitchen for SIX MONTHS. (I know, I know. He’s smart AND handy. Did I mention he’s handsome too? Ok, I’ll stop now.) As you might imagine, constant kitchen construction + my utter ineptitude at anything involving tools + husband unable to breastfeed our seven month old = Mean Mommy on constant childcare duty.

For someone who was a social worker in a previous life, I suck at self care. My kids’ needs come first, my husband gets sloppy seconds and I get anything that is leftover, which most of the time is nada. But my husband’s sudden inability to give me a break forced me to make time for ME. It was hard. It made me feel selfish; when I felt better after having some alone time, I felt guilty about what I should have been doing and wasn’t. (Like how I should be doing dishes right now and planning dinner instead of writing. Whoops.) But I also realized that taking time for me made me a happier, more patient mom. It meant that the time I spent with my kids was quality time instead of just a countdown until bedtime. It meant that I was better at recognizing when Mean Mommy was about to rear her ugly head and I could do something about it before she snapped at the kids. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not the super mom I wanted to be, and that even the wonderful and glorious job of raising beautiful human beings is no fun when you do it non-stop.

 So how, you ask, do you take a day off amidst of the chaos of being a stay at home mom to a then seven month old and a two year old with no wall or sink in your kitchen?

Step 1: Take your to do list for the day and stuff it under the couch. Whatever is on there can wait. Accept that you are going to work harder on another day to make up for your lack of productivity today. The good news is you might actually have more stamina tomorrow after having a break!

Step 2: Put your most comfortable pair of yoga pants and a baggy t-shirt. Shower and bra are completely optional. If your ladies hang low and wobble to and fro, you might just want a little extra support. Your choice. When it comes to the shower, personally I like to save mine until the small humans are napping so it is long, luxurious and (hopefully) uninterrupted.

Step 3: Turn on the TV. Break out the iPad. Bring on the video games. I know. I know. You are starting to feel that all too familiar pang of guilt. Maybe you are starting to visualize your child’s brain melting like a crayon in your minivan on a hot summer’s day. Just remember that 364 days a year you rock your mom job. (Ok, maybe 345. Nobody’s perfect.) One day won’t kill ‘em. You may actually be surprised by how quickly they lose interest in the TV. Also try turning on some music. My kids can shake their groove thing for a surprisingly long time.

Step 4: Whip out your industrial sized box of goldfish. Place it on the coffee table and inform the children they can help themselves. For smaller folks, just pour about ½ the box directly onto the coffee table. For lunch, try peanut butter and jelly or cereal.  Whatever you don’t normally let them eat because you are a super mom, bring it on. The point is, feed them something that makes them happy. If you spend most of your days hiding carrots in your kid’s mac n’ cheese (guilty) or cheering your kid through every mother loving bite of vegetables until you open a bottle of wine so you can stop banging your head on the dinner table (ahem, GUILTY) then, take a break today. I’m not saying you should stop fighting the good fight over vegetables or chicken or just refusing to eat anything but cheese. I’m saying WAY TO GO. Way to fight the good fight. You’ve done SO well, that taking the day off today is not going to ruin it.

Step 5: If you build it, they will come. Gather together all of your cardboard boxes. (We constantly have stacks of empty diaper boxes and Amazon boxes hanging around our house.) Build a tower and let them knock it down. Add a sheet and build a fort. This is hours of fun.

Step 6: When the natives get restless, break out something new. Cars, legos, play doh. (Um, are Barbies still cool? I don’t know. I’ve forgotten what it is like to be girly since I live with three boys. Our house is like a mini testosterone fueled fart capsule. If you have girls, I’m sure you know what to do. Break out the glitter if you have to.) Basically, if it makes messes, it’s awesome. Repeat.

Step 7: Once your children are happily engaged, sit down on the couch with a nice (hot!) cup of coffee and enjoy a little bit of time for YOU. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in ages. Read a book. Pop your headphones in and watch your favorite TV show on your laptop.

The bottom line is we spend most of our waking moments doing our absolute best to be great mothers.  IT. IS. EXHAUSTING. We deserve a day off. Give yourself permission to relax. You may even surprise yourself when you find you have a little spring in your step tomorrow morning. Trust me, those dishes in the sink will still be there. (Or of you are really lucky, your husband will do you a solid and load the dishwasher for you. Now that is a win, win!) Besides, if you are doing your very best most of the time, one day of mediocre parenting won’t leave any lasting damage. And if it does, there’s always therapy. 
This post was originally featured at Mom of the Year. For a less serious look at the world of parenting, meet Meredith

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Soundtrack of Parenthood

Music is the soundtrack of our lives. - Dick Clark.

I love music. It flows through my veins like coffee and rejuvenates my soul. One good song on the radio can turn around my whole day. (Yes, I actually still listen to the radio in the car. After getting everyone locked and loaded in their car seats, it feels like so much effort to queue up Pandora for a 15 minute drive to preschool and I need something to drown out the insanity coming from the back seat.) If I can’t even put forth the effort to turn on Pandora in the car, you can imagine the amount of effort I put into seeking out up and coming bands. (Hint: zero effort.) So I’ve found myself listening to…Classics? Oldies? Anyway you put it I sound like I’m ancient. Let’s just call my music collection vintage. It’s like wine. It gets better with age.

So what might the vintage soundtrack of my life sound like, you ask? Currently, my life revolves around the exhilarating and yet exhausting task of taming my two little dare devils. We get up early, we eat, we play, we laugh, we destroy, we sit in timeout, we cry, we nap, we eat some more, we splash, we sleep and then we do it all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. I eat sleep and breathe parenting. So naturally, the soundtrack of my life is about the madness, the chaos, the sleeplessness, of parenting. Put on your dancing shoes, ladies!

 I Wanna be Sedated – The Ramones

After surviving the dinner rush, the tsunami that is bath time, and then wrestling them into their jammies, I need a VERY big glass of wine.

Where is my Mind – The Pixies

No seriously. Where is my mind? Maybe with my keys?

Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

All aboard! This one is particularly awesome played at maximum volume on the seventh hour of an eight hour car trip.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones

The seventeenth time my son asks me why he can’t have candy for breakfast I usually just break into this song. One afternoon I caught him singing it to himself in his room. For about 30 seconds, I won at parenting.

It’s the End of the World as We Know it – REM

If you’ve ever had a toddler… you’d know that running out of goldfish is the end of the world as we know it. And pineapple with breakfast (even though you LOVE pineapple.) And watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when you NEED Thomas the Train.

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

This is such a feel good power ballad. Your child will eat their vegetables without protest one day. Just don’t stop believing my friend.

We’re not Gonna Take it – Twisted Sister

Sometimes parents just have to make a stand. GO. TO. SLEEP.

No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn – Beastie Boys

Sometimes children make a stand. And there’s no sleep ‘til Brooklyn.

This post was originally featured at Mom of the Year. For a less serious look at the world of parenting, meet Meredith

Monday, May 11, 2015

Baked Spinach Meatballs

I am so very in love with this recipe. My kids love it. My husband loves it. It has superfood spinach hiding inside and it still tastes great. Serve them over pasta with marinara sauce or on a dinner roll to make a meatball slider. Eat them cold straight out of the fridge the next day. Delicious any way you eat them. 

Meatball Slider...Mmmmm
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (96/4)
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 whole egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs

Roll them about this big.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients. Using your hands, mix until well incorporated. Use immediately or place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
3. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds, about walnut size. Place in 9x13 inch glass pan spaced so the meatballs are not touching. Bake for 17-19 minutes or until golden and cooked through. 
Yield: about 35 meatballs

Freshly baked meatballs tossed into the crockpot

Notes: This is a great recipe to whip up at naptime. Once cooked, you can toss them into your crockpot on low with some marinara sauce. I recommend cooking them for a few minutes less (15-17 minutes) if you plan to keep them hot in the crockpot for later.

This recipe received three stars from my family.
*Plate-Licking Good
*Secretly Nutritious
For more about my rating system, head over to the Eats page.

Adapted from Alton Brown's Baked Meatball recipe.