Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas comes early

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Kelley household. In a lot of ways Christmas has come early this year with Wes learning new words every day and Mimi and Pa (Brian's parents) coming for an early Christmas visit. The kids (and us!) were all very excited and were spoiled with rides in the big rental van complete with dvd player, diners out, and lots of quality time to hang out.

I think Wes would have been content to spend the entire visit in the van watching Cars on a constant loop and using the automatic door opener button feature. We could have easily just tossed in some french fries and cheerios twice a day and he would have been happy as a clam.

Because of the extra help I got to run and shower without accompaniment. Despite concerns, it turns out I don't actually need a spotter at all times. I mean don't get me wrong, I tend to do awful and slightly dangerous things when left alone, like watch documentaries about Korean death camps and ugly cry into my arm while eating bulk bags of popcorn, but still I think I can handle some solo time.

So we have been busy bees picking out and cutting down our tree, baking and decorating cookies, wrapping presents, and discussing the protocol for Advent calendar chocolate consumption. Jack was pretty adamant that it was just fine to open the 24th door and eat the contents. It was an OCD sufferers worst nightmare. Don't worry I flipped the living room lights on and off exactly 24 times in the hopes that his transgression would be forgiven.  It still bothers me when I look at it.

Last Friday we went to get our Christmas tree at our favorite local Christmas tree farm. Because we went on a Friday we avoided the crowds and still got to enjoy the experience. You pretty much can't go wrong with a fire pit, marshmallows the size of your head, gifts from Santa, tractor rides, and a surprise gator ride!

Always a highlight of the Christmas tree farm-marshmallows
as big as your head and an outdoor fire pit! 
Getting our Christmas tree! Kids baled free! :) 

A a line of Kelley men carrying the tree through the farm

The boys were lucky enough to get to ride the "Gator"
 and go over bumps. They loved it! 

An awful picture of our decorated tree 

The kids wanted a tree this year so we set up a mini one in their room. They insist on keeping it lit while they sleep so their room has started to resemble the Vegas strip.

We are short two days away from winter break which means no more rushing in the morning, no more twice weekly speech therapy, and lots of quality time to drive each other equally bananas. My children excel in the driving me bananas department but here's hoping that some new toys and a break from routine serve as a novelty and we can coast on that until the new year. 

Merry Christmas Y'all!

They will always remain my greatest blessings and gifts! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I don't want Chinese band aids for Christmas.

Its that time of year where the Christmas lights are out in full force, glowing tinsel snowmen bedeck the aisles of every store, and Christmas carols are blasted from convenience to grocery store.

The Christmas creep is in full effect. I suspect that by the time my children are grown Christmas trees will be put up in August and black Friday will be before Thanksgiving.

We came home two days before Thanksgiving to find a bag full of gifts from our thoughtful landlord. The kids were so excited. They delightedly ripped into the first one only to discover it contained a six pack of Chinese band aids. Jack's face fell and his brow furrowed. "I don't want these French band aids for Christmas." I laughed for exactly 11 minutes and collapsed on the kitchen floor because it was just all too much. Christmas presents before Thanksgiving! Band aids for Christmas! It was all so perfect.

After I wiped away my laugh tears we had a nice chat about being thankful for what people give us. They remained skeptical.  Despite their looming skepticism they remained and remain true fans of all that the holiday season has to offer.

It doesn't matter what store we are in we have to carefully inspect and view every single Christmas decoration. Every. Single. One.

This can make routine trips to Target epic in length. Sometimes we are there so long I feel like it would be reasonable and kind if Target set up watering stations like they do at marathons. Shopping has become an endurance sport.

Never mind that my children insist on picking the biggest carts. The kind where there is a normal grocery cart bolted onto a separate cart that has children's seats.  Seats that my children sit in for 3 minutes and then bail out of scattering in different directions.

I don't have a license to drive the behemoth cart and always end up taking out a display of some sort. The aisles and displays are not made for Cadillac sized carts with a turning radius of a barge. I like to imagine I'm burning extra calories pushing it.

Evidently not riding in the cart and viewing every Christmas ornament and decoration ever invented since the beginning of time burns calories too because at this point in our trip the children need snacks. Clearly they need to refuel. Its been exactly 15 minutes since their last snack.

If I'm smart I have packed Wes's backpack before leaving the house. I leave the house in much the same way I would if I were going on a long distance hike. Multiple snacks, enough water for a camel, blankets, flash light, band aids-Chinese of course, a change of clothes, GPS locating beacon. You know the bare essentials.

 Truth be told its all good because its free entertainment. Thanks Target I owe ya. On second thought since I can never leave your store and spend less than $50 I think you owe me. Hmmm well I guess I did plow my cart into that entire display of Christmas outfits for dogs so lets call it even.

 P.S if you are in the market for doggy sweaters and formal wear Target can hook you up.

Because Jack has announced that Christmas is a short twenty pounds away, we have begun preparations by making our Christmas lists, deciding what cookies to bake, and talking about plans for the Christmas tree.

But what does one get a child who likes to watch videos of people playing Angry birds on you tube in Russian? How does one even begin to determine what he would find interesting? Poorly lit black market Russian cartoons? We know he doesn't want band aids so I'm stumped. Worse than that I am Russian stumped.

And what about Wes who has limited speech? Never fear! They have both completed a Christmas list with the help of our neighborhood toy store that offered a promotion last weekend where if you filled out a wish list in their store you would receive a $5 gift card.

I had visions of the children taking their time in the store, looking at all the fun toys, and writing large lists with wild abandon. They had other plans. Jack asked for Angry Birds seasons......I should probably add that we already have Angry Birds seasons........and its not available for obvious reasons at the local toy store.

After explaining this to Jack, he earnestly searched the store in search of something he really wanted. He ended up choosing a small white rabbit puppet. Ohhhhhhh kay! I mean lets not go nuts or anything! He then announced he was done. Finito. Needed nothing more.

 Don't we try and instill this exact thing in our children? Don't we strive to make sure they understand the reason for the season? Don't we go to great lengths to make sure our children understand the holiday spirit has less to do with receiving than giving? Then why did it feel like a let down?

Wes followed suit and picked out two small hot wheels type cars and then proceeded to be quite upset that we weren't leaving the store with them that moment. I explained we were putting them on his list for Santa. Wes then repeatedly tried to place the cars on top of the actual list, concrete little fellow that he is.

So this morning when I came downstairs I wasn't surprised when I saw the boys watching a clip of Despicable Me 2 in Russian, and I wasn't surprised when Jack then asked me how to say "hilarious" in Russian, instead I had a light bulb moment. Along with the impossibly modest white rabbit puppet I will hope that Santa has the smarts to include a Russian to English dictionary .

Watching someone in Russia play Angry Birds. Playing the game is so last year. 

The kids are content little beings which in the end makes me feel so content and I can't wait to celebrate the joy of the entire season with them instead of just the one day. The light of the season comes not only from feeling the love but seeing that twinkle in their eyes and watching as it makes everything brighter. 

They are so excited for their felt advent calendar, for sugar cookies and our cinnamon roll baking marathon. They love seeing the lights on large Christmas trees, decorating our own house, watching me wrap presents, getting big boxes in the mail, drinking hot cocoa, and snuggling on the couch while we watch Elf four hundred Russian.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


As the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches I have been trying to have more conversations with the kids about gratitude. I get the distinct sense that this subject matter is a little deep for them.

"So what are some things you are happy that are in your life? Things you're thankful for?"


"Anything else?"

"Nope, not really.......Wait! Crayons! I'm happy I have crayons, and Christmas, yeah, Christmas is good."

And perhaps Wes is thinking big grateful thoughts in that little mind of his and just can't get the words out.

"Wes? Are you thankful for things?" I say this with complete assurance that he will just nod his little head.




This is Wes's new word. No. I think he is quite concerned that since he is about to turn three and hasn't until this point been able to use the word "no" that he is in danger of not being allowed to get older.

He has started a vigorous cross training program aimed at building up his stamina in the no department. He's excelling. I don't want to brag but he's no-ing on a pretty advanced level.

"Wes is your favorite word no?"


See? See what he just did there? We all know the answer is in fact YES but he is slipping in an extra no just for dramatic flair. Advanced I tell you.

While I too am thankful for Christmas and crayons my list includes being thankful for the "no's" and the perspective that life is a journey and not a race.

I am so thankful that I can be privy to watching my children learn and grow and that they have the support they need to do so in a positive and consistent manner.

I am beyond thankful that we seem to have found a medication regimen that is working pretty effectively for Wes's digestive issues and that we might just might be seeing the light at the end if the tunnel.

As I sort through the last year of photos I see that the boys have a deep appreciation and love of many things.

They are thankful for Legos
I am thankful they are old enough to clean them up 

I am thankful for naps
even if it means having a sweaty neck

and peaceful faces
I am thankful for sweet eyelashes

Jack is thankful for the vacuum
I am thankful he likes to vacuum

Wes is thankful he can get away with................ 
wearing no pants!

Wes is thankful for bread

really really thankful for bread

I am thankful for little hands who hold mine while they sleep telling me without words that I need to slow down

We are all so thankful for Daddy

I am thankful for these little heads

I am wishing you and your entire family a very happy Thanksgiving! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The day Jack came home from kindergarten Chinese

Jack came home from Kindergarten Monday and announced he was Chinese.

After a brief and intensely confusing conversation about why he was not in fact Chinese he showed me his latest school assignment.

We sat down together and read the information and Jack informed me we would be making flags together. Hence the Asian confusion from earlier.

 This month his class is celebrating their shared heritage and the teacher wants each student to note theirs and draw the corresponding flag for each country they hail from. Attached was a short survey about cultural customs, dress, meals, and holidays that we observe.

So after lunch Jack and I got down to business and we started discussing the various countries both sides of our families are from. Surprisingly enough none of these countries or lands of origin are Asian in nature. Jack remained steadfastly confused. I don't blame the child.

The first flag we drew was the Spanish flag and he wanted to know why we didn't speak Spanish if we were from "the Spanish," as he calls it. I told him I didn't really know why but that we could both learn it. He remained unimpressed.

Then, when we moved on to Ireland and he wanted to know what language they spoke and I told him mostly English, his confusion deepened. We topped this all off with the grand old English flag and his confusion reached an entirely new depth not yet achieved by the Spanish and Irish flags.

Jack: "What do they speak in English?"
Me: "You mean England? English."
Jack: "Can you speak English?"
Me: "Yes and you can too. We are talking in English right now."
Jack: "How are we talking in English?"
Me: " We just are........"

Thankfully he stopped his line of questioning. So we stood back to reflect on Jack's flags and he was quite proud of his handy work.

We then got cracking on the survey that accompanied the flag project. It wanted to know what plants grew in his countries of origin.....oh dear....Then we got to what cultural customs do we practice in the home.....ohhhhhh dear. And we ended with a nice what holidays or traditions do you observe from your native land......ohhhhhh crap.

 I wrote palm tree for plants because lets get real what the heck else can I put? I don't think Ireland or England have any super awesome flora or fauna we don't have here and well palm tree seemed cool, maybe even exotic. Spain is our only shot at a non W.A.S.P heritage here.

Big money no whammies SPAIN! I'm putting all our culturally cool eggs in one basket and that basket is named Spain. Never mind that the closest Jack has ever gotten to eating Spanish food was trying a tortilla once, he can say Adios and that has to count for something. Right? RIGHT? Si? SI? I'm speaking in Spanish now for added authenticity.

When Brian came home from work that night and Jack started showing him the flags he had drawn he proudly announced that tomorrow we were going to draw the Chinese flag.

Oh well. Maybe I will embrace the new Asian side of the Kelleys and fire up the wok. I can understand his level of confusion. Jack's kindergarten class is one of the more ethnically diverse groups of children I have seen and its a delight.

There are families hailing from the Philippines, Japan, China, Columbia, Vietnam and India. Its diversity at its very best. His best friends name is Sevin. He sits at a table with a boy named Pi and a girl named Chmoi. I'm told, by Jack, that I pronounce her name incorrectly. I'm pretty sure everyone that tries to say that name is not saying it correctly. I guess that's the risk you run when you name your kid Chmoi. Pi's parents had the right idea.

Because of Jack's level of confusion about his heritage, I felt the need to send a quick email to his teacher giving her a heads up about his muddled beliefs about his cultural ethnicity.

Dear Mrs. V,

I just wanted to write you a quick email to let you know that Jack has expressed some confusion regarding his cultural heritage and the flag project. He remains insistent that he is Chinese. You may or may not have realized that we are not of Asian descent. Jack remains unconvinced. We are rather, of a more European descent, and hail from Spain, England, Ireland and various other European countries. We just wanted you to be adequately prepared for his level of confusion regarding his country of origin. I will be sure to work with him in the days leading up to his presentation but thus far he remains at best distinctly confused.

Jack's non Asian mom Lily

I'm a bit concerned for his presentation to his class this Friday. He cannot remember which country belongs to which flag or what countries he is supposed to belong to for that matter. He believes Spanish is a country and is still completely covered in marker but he quite enjoyed himself which I think should be the point of a lot of school work for his age group.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lesson #12: Content with the uh ohs

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Children are wonderful at being in the moment. They are naturals at mindfulness. When they play they are fully engaged and they let the real world slip away preferring instead to become intent observers of make believe. They aren't worried about running that errand, paying that bill, doing that assignment, or making that appointment on time because for that precious increment of time their priority is focusing on that singular moment and nothing else. I'm not sure when this slips away from us and when we simply decide that being present is no longer a worthwhile endeavor but its something I have personally struggled with for some time. I tend, like others, to project out and think ahead. I like to map things out and predict what the next task to complete is. While this can be a beneficial trait it can also be the undoing of quiet moments I should be enjoying. How do I learn to enjoy this moment instead of worrying about the next? Why do I shatter the calm of this moment in the hopes that I can change the outcome of the next? Why do I become so disenchanted with the newest accomplishments or successes and press on for more and more?

We find ourselves in a society where we should be constantly evolving. Ideally we are all learning, advancing, absorbing, expanding. We can get sort of obsessed with that notion. You should be smarter by now, you should be achieving more. This ever constant buzz that hums about your ears has a consistent message. "Don't be content with what you have." This is such a dangerous mentality and one I have been far too guilty of listening to. If you are also a parent you know all to well that this desire to better ourselves can all too easily translate into pushing our kids to learn more and more. You find yourself trying to teach your kid how to count in different languages, or do fractions before they are ready, not because they are interested in it, but because they should be doing it. I certainly don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't be teaching our children, of course we should, I just mean that as a parent there is this insane pressure to make sure our children know enough, are exposed enough, are cultured enough, are polite enough etc. They should be pushing for more. So we push, we struggle, and we strike on. But what would happen if we all just gave each other permission to tread water? What if we just sat back for a moment and breathed into those moments of success? What would be different about your life, my life, if we just lived in the most successful parts of our day? I would probably be a lot less cranky.

 This topic has been spinning around my head for awhile. Wes, who will be three in January has and is struggling with a significant speech delay. It took a year of weekly speech therapy for us to get to the point where he could say, "pa, ma, ha, ah" back to back. We aren't even at the point in therapy of speaking actual words. A year of hard fought syllables. For months he struggled to switch from one consonant sound to the next and for many sessions we just had to work on the letter we started with. For instance if we started out by asking him to say, "Ha," he could only successfully say syllables with the H sound. We have just now rounded the bend of being able to switch, with some ease, in between consonant sounds and we are noticing a definitive increase in his ability to spontaneously use words without us having to prompt him. He can now say, "wa," for water, ""Mmmm" for milk, "ca" for car and "bye" for goodbye,  and his favorite and perhaps most used, "uh-oh" for pretty much everything else that goes wrong.

But as good as those words are, there are so many more that he needs to convey the complex things he is thinking and feeling. I can't help but feel he is locked in a room with no way to get out. I want nothing more than to hear I love you, to hear what he wants from Santa, or to hear about his good and bad dreams. I want to hear him babble, I want him to tell me what he wants, what he's scared of, what he needs, what angers him or makes him laugh. I want these things so much it hurts. But perhaps the real problem is that I want those things for him so much that I am in danger of missing the special moments that are now. What I would have given last year to hear him utter anything let alone use signs and now I take these things for granted and push on wanting more and more. What if I gave the Uh ohs space in our life and gave them the celebration they deserve. What if, just for today, I decided to be content with the speech Wes does have and set the worries aside for another day. I want to tell you all to do it because miraculous things might start happening. For instance a little boy might grab your face while loading him into the car and point at the moon. You then might say, "yes thats the moon! Mooooooooonnnnnn. Can you say Mmmmmooooo?" The little boy might then make the sign for eat and point emphatically at the moon. "You want to eat the moon?" you might respond. The same little boy might shake his head and then point at the moon, make the sign for eat, and then the sign for toast. "The moon is hungry and wants to eat toast?!" That same little boy will shake his head vigorously up and down and "Mhhmm." as you get him buckled in. He will then grab your face softly with both of his little hands and make the sign for thank you. He's not thanking you for buckling him in, but for understanding him and what he is saying. You might then let a little tear slip down your face as you slowly back out of the driveway and give thanks for the little uh ohs you have previously been so dismissive to.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chocolate chip cookies (That won't break the calorie bank)

When we had to convert to an egg free household the first thing I tried to tackle was the chocolate chip cookie. I first tried subbing egg with Ener-G egg replacement powder and I found the cookies dry with a slight after taste. I wanted a cookie that didn't taste lower in calories, but was, and tastes like a rich yummy treat. Also while I am at it I want to eat three dozen cookies and lose weight. I figured I would put that request out there while we are being all demanding. Someone get on that, stat.

I tried adapting my favorite light cookie recipe but found that I was having a significant problem with the cookies spreading when they baked. They looked sad and were crispy instead of moist and chewy. They needed some bulking so I ground up some oats and that did the trick. The thing I like about this is that you get a slightly nutty taste from the oats, the added health benefit of oats, the bulking and moisture from the oats, but because they are ground up you don't chew the oats so it isn't an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Also because they have chia seeds in them instead of nuts I have basically made a health food and you can feel free to eat a bowl of them for breakfast. I kid.

Also if you aren't coping with an egg allergy feel free to use eggs and you won't notice much of any difference in the taste.


1 cup flour
1/2 cup oats (grind in blender)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP chia seed + 3 TBSP warm water (or one egg white)
1 tsp vanilla
4 TBSP butter or shortening melted
1/3 cup chocolate chips

1: Preheat oven to 350.
2: Melt butter or shortening and add sugars. Stir or beat until light and fluffy.
3: Add chia seeds mixed with the hot water or egg and stir to combine.
4: Add vanilla.
5: Combine dry ingredients, including oats which you have ground in either a blender or cuisinart. You can add the oats whole if you prefer.
6: Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and stir until combined.
7: Add chocolate chips and portion out onto baking sheet.
8: Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just golden brown.

Make them your own by changing around the ingredients to suit your taste and the allergies of family members! As is these cookie are egg free and nut free and if you use shortening rather than butter they are easily converted to dairy free.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 95, Fat: 3.1, Carbohydrates: 16, Protein: 1.1, Sugar: 10.5, Fiber: 0.3

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lesson #11: How to be a battery cheater

When I was a kid I had this sweet brown fisher price cassette player. I would rock out to kids music and listen to books on tape. Mostly it ran out of batteries right at the good parts and all of a sudden everyone would start talking or singing really slowly. No worries I would just pop the cover off the battery compartment and pop those D batteries into my battery charger. Boom. Problem solved. Can you even remember the good old days when batteries died in a toy and you could just pop the cover off and replace them? I know the mere thought or memory of this is giving you some sort of awkward blood rush. The sheer freedom of being moments away from taking something from inoperable to operable can tend to make one drunk with power. Can we not find a way in this hyper modern world to replace the damn batteries in kids toys without unscrewing 89 miniature screws? Can we seriously not figure this out?

If you're a parent then you have been there. Your child brings you something that needs new batteries. Sometimes you just lie and say its broken and don't even mention the whole new battery idea. Don't worry that makes you normal. When my children won't buy that particularly unconvincing explanation, and instead insist that a repair is possible, I break out in a cold sweat as I realize the impossibly tiny battery chamber is held tight with about eight screws. Two just won't do here. Clearly most children have the fine motor skills to expertly wield and operate multiple tools up to AND including screw drivers so we have to take the utmost care that we put as many tiny screws in the damn compartment as possible. I mean really. REALLY?! Are we going for some sort of record here? Do the toy companies get paid per screw? Once I find my impossibly tiny screw driver, which by the way was left in the most logical place imaginable, the bathroom cabinet, I then spend fifteen expletive ridden minutes extracting said tiny screws. Then and only then do I realize the damn toy takes AAA batteries. Who the hell even has these on hand? What sort of black magic is this? So now I am rummaging around in my junk drawer, checking the glove compartment of my car, the bottom of my purse and the bathroom cabinet which I am now pretty sure has magically qualities. This feverish hunt produces two AAA batteries....but I really need three. SO I cheat. Battery cheating involves adding two new batteries and one old dead one. I'm told this is a bad thing to do. I'm lead to believe this is disastrously inefficient and potentially dangerous. May lightning strike me down then because I am not coping with putting a child to bed without his beloved and slightly trippy Dreamlite turtle. You know the ones that project stars onto the ceiling in different colors so your kid can spazz out instead of going to bed.
Why sleep when you can trip out?

So now that I'm an official card carrying member of the battery cheating club I do the only sensible thing and eat a cookie. Ok maybe two. If lightning is going to strike me down I would like to go out on a calorically dense high note. It seems only right. Ok, so cookie in hand, or mouth, your choice, and I go to retrieve my tiny screws. Oh dear God. I have only six of the necessary eight. Well crap. Have you eaten them? Have I lost them in the couch? So now I am searching for satans screws and finally find them and get them back in the damn holes and screw them back in using excessive force because after all I know the cold panic of losing a tiny screw. Then I press the button in order to see the brilliant starry sky in the only way it was meant to be seen, projected off of a giant sea turtles back, and............. nothing happens. What fresh hell is this? Is it finally time I am being made to pay the battery cheating piper? Crap I knew this day would come! I got cocky. So I unscrew the impossibly tiny screws AGAIN and realize I have just installed the batteries backwards. Phew. Rectifying my grave battery error and replacing the screws yields me the starry night sky I need to put the darn kids to bed. Good news this whole process took me a quick hour and the kids are now going to bed at 9 instead of 8. This is going well.

On behalf of all parents I am going to say they obvious, THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. I need the rip cord version of battery replacement so I can get on with my day and my very important business. I don't know if you know this but I am a skilled zester of oranges for potpourri and I am very very busy. I also have quite a lot of trashy T.V to watch while my children make each other sea sick with their spinning turtle lights instead of going to sleep.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lesson # 10 Pin all the things and some bad stuff happens

I blame Pinterest for convincing me that I can do stuff. I too have floated a precious magic eraser in one of my toilets hoping against hope that the sponge would magically clean my toilet overnight. The magic eraser fairy must have been on a serious bender because I ended up with no such clean toilet.

Pinterest offers us this marvelous opportunity to pin hundreds of ideas and recipes and DIY projects in the hopes that we can be this person we have always wanted to be. The person who has it all together. The most perfect version of you. You know, the person whose house looks like it comes straight from the pages of Pottery Barn (but guess what she whittled all her furniture from re-purposed logs she found in her back yard!), the perfectly coiffed hair and face (She makes her own makeup out of crushed berries and stones and it only takes 43 seconds,) the mom who makes gluten free hand dipped shortbread cookies that also have no sugar (This mom secretly drinks.....Shhhh we can't all have it together.) Pinterest makes us promises. It whispers to us that its as easy as one two three. You can do it! Lies! All lies! My friends I am here to tell you I fall for this every single damn time. I tell you I pin something and I become convinced I have found my next crafty project.

"Oh my gosh I am going to secretly become really good at felting and embroidery and then maybe I will have some left over time to make some orange zest potpourri. I always knew that I was good at making potpourri. I can just feel it."

Never mind the fact that I have not even begun the project that I am already secretly convinced I am pretty stellar at. I mean I don't want to brag but in my mind I am zesting on a pretty advanced level.

So I try a lot of things I find on Pinterest. Sometimes I come out a winner. Other times? Well other times I make the "Pintrosity" hall of shame. For instance on one such occasion I became rather convinced (read obsessed) with the notion that I could clean between the glass of my oven door. If ever there was a time for that blessed lady to shout, "Ain't nobody got time for that!" this was her moment to shine. But she didn't show up to stop me, so I followed the directions so I could have a gleaming oven door. Having a clean oven door would pretty much complete my life. Pretty much.

First Step: Get a screw driver and remove oven door by unscrewing screws and gently lifting door off its hinges.

What it should have said: Find one of your 900 screw drivers. This will take you 43 minutes. Wait until your children are both hungry and tired and then begin trying to remove this impossibly heavy object from your oven. Don't worry this will only take another 28 minutes and the danger that the door will crush a member of your family ranges from approximately 23% to 49% depending on who you ask.

Second step: Locate the screws on the back of the oven door and unscrew them all. Gently lift off the glass.

What it should have said: See all those screws that are crusty and gross and filthy? Yes those ones. Unscrew them all but don't gouge your arms off. I know it seems impossible given that they are covered in chicken fat and grease. What the hell do you cook in your oven woman? Once removed, try to put them in a safe place where you won't forget about them. No, not there, that place is complete rubbish. No wonder you can't find your 900 screw drivers. OK now gently remove the glass and put it somewhere safe. Wait, scratch that. Just tell the kids not to touch it. Hahaha, I kid, I kid, they won't listen. They are now covered in chicken fat.

Third step: Clean the pane of glass that is embedded in the oven door and replace other pane of glass, replace screws and place door on hinges and then replace those screws. Voila! Perfectly clean glass.

What it should have said: Note how the glass that is embedded in the door is also double paned and will in no way shape or form allow you entry to clean it. Oh you can certainly try to bend a coat hanger and shove it in that random crack and see what happens, but I will give you a hint, you won't be anywhere near the glass lady. Replace the other pane of glass and curse Pinterest for making you think you can do these things. You can't. This is why we can't have nice things. Wait to replace the oven door until your husband comes home because you will lose a foot otherwise. Also if possible try not to let the children play in the oven even though it now doesn't have a door. Voila! Perfect Pinstrosity!

Or maybe cupcakes are more your style? Delicious cupcakes that look like cute little candy corn?! Just in time for Halloween! The kids will love them! And OK so you need to make them egg free so the little guy can partake but that seems easy enough. Oh they will have such warm fuzzy memories of holidays with their fun mom who made them cute little treats.

What they should have looked like:

What they looked like:
They look just like candy corn don't they?
Jack's expression says it all 
Epic flop. The kids were good sports and told me they were delicious and they enjoyed decorating them but I needed redemption.

Desk before
So as I wandered my local Goodwill looking for redemption and anything that looked like it needed rescuing I found this little beauty. Beat up, chipped, and badly in need of some TLC. It was a manifestation of my Pinterest ego. It needed a boost.To Pinterest! It took me two months of weekends sanding away in the garage and countless trips to Home Depot to buy things I have no business purchasing, but I just finished staining it this weekend and I am so happy with the results. At last a Pinterest success!

Desk after
 I am hopeful that with the new desk comes the renewed energy and time to write more. So huzzah my fellow Pinners. Never give up and remember you can always come here to share your Pinterest related woes because I too know the bitter sting of a Pinstrosity.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jack: An 85 year old man trapped in a five year old's body.....but not in a creepy way. In other words, five year old snapshot

Egads Jack you are almost 5 and a half. This concept confuses you and you have told me on multiple occasions that you are, "just five, no half." Things like dates, and increments of any measurement can be a confusing concept for you. Sometimes you look at something, measure it with your hands and succinctly inform me that its 5 pounds long. I go with it. I go with it mostly because you have informed me that I weigh 36 inches. Sounds good to me. Oh and you guys should probably start shopping now because Christmas is a short "300 pounds" away.

School: You love school. I mean I think you love school. You come home all glowing and full of life but you can't exactly relay what it is you have done there. I ask you how your day was or what you did and you usually tell me that you're "very busy," at school. I believe it. You come home covered in ink, paint, glue and markers. Maybe your teacher just swipes all students with art materials as you leave to give the illusion of intense work but I tend to think you are hard at work making art projects, learning to spell, and hopefully learning the difference between pounds and inches. Wait a minute, maybe don't work on that one, I kind of like weighing 36 inches.

You take the bus and feel quite proud that you get to do this. You insist on sitting by the window so you can wave goodbye to me and Wes and blow us kisses. The problem with this, is that every other kindergartner on the bus insists on the same method. Seeing a pile of kindergartners battle it out for the coveted window spot is both hilarious and frustrating as the poor bus driver waits patiently as upwards of five children attempt to cram into one seat, flailing their arms and knocking heads. Never mind that there are forty plus seats mere feet from you. Those seats don't exist....JEESH don't make me explain bus real estate to you, Mom.

You are quite taken with school spirit, and when I failed to send in money for your jogathon, you were incensed. You ran 8 whole laps and I couldn't even give you a five dollar bill. Sorry. To be fair though you got a grape flavored Otter Pop after your run so I think you still came out ahead.

You are learning sight words, spelling every word you see, and I can see how you absorb information like a sponge. Its a pretty cool thing to bear witness to. Also your teacher thinks you are a hoot and she got a real taste of your personality when you had your first fire drill at school the other day. Evidently you could be heard loudly proclaiming for all to hear, "THIS is not a good idea. Not a good idea!"

Play/friends: On your second day of school you announced you had made a best new friend. I was thrilled! I asked who your new friend was and you told me his name was Seven. Hmmmmm. Could we perhaps be confusing names in the same manner we do measurements?

"Devon you mean?"
"No mom, SEVEN." Gah. Get it straight.

Then I met another parent while waiting for you to come back from your first field trip and guess what? It was Sevin's mom. So your best new friend is Sevin and you guys get along like a barn on fire. You have a mutual love of all things angry birds and love meeting up at the local park to run around like lunatics.

So lets review: Your best friend is a number, I weigh 36 inches, and window seats are the most important thing ever. EVER. Don't get it twisted.

Here are my latest favorite Jack-isms.

Mess with the bull and you might get the horns.

Can you please keep it down in there?.......Just kidding I'm being obnoxious.

Me: Jack can we please talk about something other than Angry Birds?
Jack: Mom, Angry Birds is in our life. Its in our life.

I don't like pizza jam (Pizza jam AKA pizza sauce)

I don't think you are making a good choice right now Mom. (for the record he was sort of right.)

Never change little man!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blackberry Lemon Muffins (egg free, dairy free, nut free)

Have you picked up an allergy cookbook lately? The problem with most of them is that they are honest and sincere efforts to put forth recipes for all allergy sufferers. The problem with this is that you end up with gluten free, egg free, dairy free, nut free, sugar free, raw, free range, organic type recipes that are trying to mimic your old favorites. For instance you might find what sounds like a tantalizing recipe for peach muffins only to realize its peaches mixed with couscous and honey. Or how about a delightful grain free cookie that is really just pulverized chick peas mixed with molasses? Ummmmmm yeahhhhhhhh. That ain't gonna fly in this house. I do not point this out to mock anyone who has to follow a diet free from the top allergens but simply to point out that I have developed a certain fear of "allergy" type recipes.

 My most successful recipes were those that only eliminated the things we could no longer eat and kept all the other ingredients. For the most part this meant finding substitutions for eggs since we rarely baked with peanut butter anyway.

My favorite substitution for eggs have far and way been chia seeds. This marvelous little seed, when ground up, and mixed with water turns into this gelatinous blob of goo that resembles the consistency of an egg white. At first my children were skeptical about why their waffles had little black flecks in them but after explaining it was chocolate all was forgotten. Why, yes, lying to your children is perfectly acceptable, preferable, in fact to explaining to them that there are weird seeds in their food. "No, Jack, seriously its ok, the Aztec people were really into this ancient super food called chia seeds. Its been cool for eons. ALL the cool kids are eating chia seeds." I might remind you that I am the mother to the child who would not consume ice cream until he was three because it was too cold. Case closed. Lying forever about everything.

This recipe is both low calorie and incredibly moist. Those two things don't usually co exist but this recipe delivers. I have always shied away from light muffin recipes because quite frankly I don't want a dry muffin. Nothing worse than feeling like you can't swallow your muffin because its choking you out. The quick oats add incredibly density and moistness to the muffin and because the base doesn't lend its own flavor to the recipe it can be incredibly versatile. Add blueberries instead of blackberries, or even apples! Mix it up! I have two every morning for breakfast and I feel like I'm cheating at life. Also the muffins freeze very well so we always make a double batch and then pull a couple of them out from the freezer each night for breakfast the next day.

Lets review:

1: Anything questionable is chocolate
2: Lie forever about everything
3: Dry muffins should be thrown away or kept in a basket by the door to chuck at door to door solicitors.

                                                              The cast of characters

      Blackberry Lemon Muffins      


  • 1 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup skim milk (soy or almond milk for dairy free muffins) 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 TBSP ground chia seeds plus 3 TBSP warm water
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 cup blackberries or blueberries
              Recipe adapted from

1: Preheat oven to 400
2: Pulse/blend oats for several seconds in either a blender or food processor and leave to soak in the milk/soy milk for 30 minutes. I rarely wait this long....I'm an impatient muffin woman 
3: Combine sugar, chia seeds, warm water, applesauce, vanilla and oil and stir to combine. 
4: Zest one lemon and add to the sugar mixture. 
5: Once the oat and milk mixture has soaked for a bit add to the sugar mixture and stir to combine. 
6: Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the sugar mixture and stir just until combined. 
7: Fold in the blackberries. Fresh OR frozen work just fine. 
8: Portion into muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray or have muffin liners and bake for 22-24 minutes. I like to sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar because I am a health rebel like that. 
Nutrition Information:
Calories: 135
Fat: 2.2
Carbohydrates: 27.5
Protein: 2.7
Fiber: 1.4

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Food, glorious food

I have a love hate relationship with food. I love food. I love food far too much. Food loves me back. I am in a sincere and constant balancing act of trying to enjoy my love of food but not pile on weight. Like everyone else out there it's a balancing act and some days I am better at it than others. Add to that the fact that I have two children who can eat endless amounts of food and not gain an ounce and you have a recipe for disaster. If you want to get really nuts, add to that a child who is clinically severely underweight, and needs to follow a diet intensely high in both calories and fat. 

Wes gets to eat all the foods our inner fat child screams out for. Hagen Daz. Mac and cheese with heavy whipping cream and full sticks of butter. Toast with both cream cheese and butter. Heck, Wes used to drink cream instead of whole milk. At one point his Occupational Therapist and Pediatrician felt his need to gain weight was so urgent they advised me to offer him dessert after every meal. Every meal, peoples! I was offering my kid cookies after his breakfast. Now before you get all high and mighty with me about how you only feed your children a diet based solely on what you can grow in your back yard and your children think beets are a dessert, I must remind you that more than likely you haven't been the mother of a child whose thigh is the same size as his ankle. Or maybe you have. If so, you know the sheer desperation you feel at times when you need to get them to gain weight. You will also know the agony of finding pants that fit and you find yourself wondering if they sell suspenders for toddlers or if boys can just wear leggings instead of pants. I digress. Every lick of Wes's leftovers, every taste of his dessert and every hastily snuck "sample" of his meals adds up. 

So imagine my horror when Wes was diagnosed with allergies to eggs and peanuts. I mean crap. Really?! Do we REALLY need another layer of complication? Nothing felt safe anymore and even though I spent time methodically clearing out the cupboards and reading every single ingredients label I was even more worried about what to feed my family and how to get Wes to gain weight in the process. 

This diagnosis lead to a lot of baking experimentation as we decided to put the entire family on Wes's allergen diet. It didn't seem to make sense to cook separate meals and baked goods for one part of the family and it also meant a lot more work.There were some tremendous flops. I made a billion batches of waffles before we found the right one. Every time Jack would sample a batch he would remark with disgust, "this is not the right one mom." He was horrified and didn't understand why I couldn't get it straight. I didn't really either. I mean a waffle should be pretty straight forward. 

As any parent of a child with an allergy can tell you the first weeks are completely daunting. You find yourself on a roller coaster of emotion. One minute I was crying because I worried Wes would always feel left out at birthday parties because I would have to bring his own separate cupcake. I wanted more than anything for Wes to just do normal kid things and not have to think about whether they were going to be life threatening. On the other side of that fearful place was a sort of resolve to make things normal. I can't change the fact that we still have allergies but I can sure try and make the kid a waffle he can enjoy.

 I want to share some of the recipes I have collected and tweaked to be allergy safe because I know how difficult it can be to find recipes that are both healthy, kid friendly, allergen free AND tasty. The recipes I will tend to share here will veer towards the healthier lower calorie side of things. After all, Wes can always add butter to his portion. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sometimes life just gets in the way

Sometimes life just gets in the way. Sometimes I just get in my own way. Its been a long time since I've written anything. Truthfully I stopped writing the more I discovered that both my children were in their own ways coping with a sensory processing disorder. Simply put, children with Sensory Processing Disorder interpret sensory information from the environment in a very different way. Noises might be too loud, tastes might be too intense, lights are too bright, clothes might feel too scratchy and eating chips might cause physical pain both because they are crunchy and too loud. These are just some examples of what a child experiencing S.P.D might experience. Like many disorders it is on a spectrum and we have been lucky to be on the milder end of that spectrum.

 As I sat in a room hearing Wes's new Occupational Therapist announce he was on a spectrum I immediately started to internally seize.....OK scratch that, I freaked out. Any time I had heard the word spectrum, it was always in conjunction with autism, and my mom anxiety went through the roof and I almost couldn't wait to barrel roll out of the room to get back home and Google excessively. Is it polite to stop a therapy session prematurely to announce you need to comb the Internet to find out whats really wrong with your kid even though you are feet from a licensed professional? Probably not, but I'm no Emily Post.

 Dr. Google is a harsh master. Mere keystrokes away, us moms have the answers to any question we might have ever dreamed up. The real trouble is that when you start a search you find stuff you weren't even worried about to begin with but now are. You emerge from your googling session bleary eyed, twitching and convinced you both have the bubonic plague and that all plastic in the house is slowly emitting some sort of gas that will slowly erode all your dental enamel. Also, you clearly don't love your kid, because you have knowingly fed them food additives, let them watch television, fed them sugar, and let them climb alone up to the tippy top of the play structure at the playground. Clearly put? You suck. That little niggling voice in the back of your head that questions your ability to successfully parent becomes a loud fog horn in your living room and shouts for all to hear that you have somehow failed.

 When I was over my little pity party and returned to the OT's office the next week for our next session, I brought my all together too reasonable husband along. He asked all the questions I should of, but couldn't bring myself too, and I was told all the right things. No your son isn't autistic. No this isn't something you did. Yes this is something he will out grow with a lot of hard work. So, I have grappled with where to draw the line. What is funny in my life versus what is disordered in my life. What do I share what do I hold for myself? What do I chronicle what do I wish to forget? Truthfully I started to write here because I wanted a spot to put all the little milestones and stories, but what if some of those stories and milestones are downright ugly? Do I want to remember the tears, the struggles, the painful stuff? I guess I didn't realize until today that I want to remember it all. The heartache. The struggle no one else will know or see. The thrill of seeing your child master something that has been months in the making.

 On its simplest day Wes's Sensory Processing Disorder typically involved only his oral sense. For months after his first birthday he rejected all foods and would in fact vomit or gag if we tried to get him to taste something. He didn't swallow his first baby food until 14 months.On a good day he would eat three cheerios and two bites of yogurt. He wouldn't drink out of a sippy cup, an open cup, or a bottle. Thankfully he never had any issues with nursing, but the strain of being someones sole source of nutrition is a bit daunting.

 We struggled. Lord how we struggled. Last winter Wes's immune system took such a beating and whatever weight he had been able to gain was completely wiped out by an awful flu bug. We saw months of meticulous work completely wiped out in a week. He lost a pound and a half. For an 19 pound kid that's almost 10% of your body weight. He didn't eat for four days. He barely nursed. He was lethargic and the skinniest of the skinny. I will never forget calling his pediatricians office tearfully asking them if we needed to take him to the hospital. The nurse told me to try getting him hydrated. I explained I couldn't get him to ever drink more than an ounce a day from his cup when he was at his healthiest.

"Well you might just have to work with him on that," chirped the patently unhelpful nurse at the pediatricians office.

WORK WITH HIM?! This kid works so hard for things most kids master in mere moments. I was so furious. I felt such a grave sense of injustice for Wes. Why where things so hard for him? Why was this his life? Why did the very people who were there to help us not even understand what he struggled with?

 Wes worked hard though and with every new food he tried, every shred of cheese he got down his gullet, and with every aversion he overcame he progressed. He used to gag when we even brought out food and now he was chowing down regularly on avocados, spinach, balsamic chicken and spaghetti sauce. He tried everything we put in front of him and even if he didn't like it he tried it at least twice without even being prompted. He drank out of a sippy cup and a straw.

It took a year and a half of OT appointments and feeding clinic visits but we got there. Though still under weight he has now graduated OT and is on the weight charts. Simple pleasures I would have given anything for when he was younger.

 Weeks before Wes graduated from his OT program he was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as well as a motor planning disorder which prevents him from speaking most of the time. He still grapples with a yet unnamed gastro intestinal disorder. It is hard to not feel like my child hasn't been dealt a bum hand. He has. Do others have it far worse? Absolutely. I have struggled with how to handle these different challenges and while I would like to say I have handled them with grace and humor I am quite sure I haven't. In grappling with how to best cope with the above diagnoses I keep coming back to what I want Wes to take away from these challenges. I want him to know that hard work never goes unrewarded. More than that though, I think I want him to remember that humor can heal. Looking at the bright side or light side of any challenging situation has been key to maintaining sanity around this house. If you don't laugh you will cry has never been more true. How you face adversity can define the outcome. It's how you rise to the challenge that matters. 

Tonight as Wes devoured string cheese, mac and cheese, rice with bacon and peas, balsamic chicken with shallots, and a dessert of raspberries I could not have been happier. It can be so easy to get lost in all the work that is yet to be done, instead of celebrating the obstacles you have already cleared. So my dear Wes, you are brave, you are strong, you are tenacious and you have never once let anything stand in your way. I'll try my best to never let life get in the way of celebrating your successes. Knock 'em dead kiddo!