Monday, May 14, 2012

The crabby morning fix

I could hear my five-year-old howling at my husband; I just didn't know why. It could have been anything: an insult from his brother, a request to get dressed, Legos that wouldn't snap together properly.

Today, as it turns out, it was my husband's order that he report for breakfast.

"AHHHHHHHHHHH! Noooooooooo! I'm not hungry!!!!!" Tears, wailing, gnashing of teeth.

I found him hiding under the dining room table.

Me, whispering: "Can I hide under the table with you?"

Pumpkin, whispering back: "Okay."

Me: "Why are we hiding?"

Pumpkin: 'Cause I was playing on the computer, and Dada said I hafta come eat, and I'm NOT hungry!"

Me: "Not even for waffles?"

Pumpkin: "No."

Me: "What about peanut butter toast, or cereal?"

Pumpkin: "No."

Me: "How about a smoothie?"

Pumpkin: (pause) "I want chocolate smoothie!"

Okay, then.

So we (very gladly, in my case) departed the confines of the table hideout. Given his oh-so-cheery-and-cooperative mood, I knew that this smoothie would be the sole nourishment the pumpkin would have until lunchtime, so I wanted to "health it up" as much as I could while keeping it chocolatey and 5-year-old yummy.

I mixed it while all the boys walked to the bus stop, so nobody knew about the secret ingredients (except me).

WILD SUCCESS! Crabby boy tried it and yelled, "YUM!!!" and slurped up his entire cup. Hubby and I drank the rest of it happily.

So, here, friends, is my gift to you: morning chocolate. Yum.

Crouching Chocolate, Hidden Spinach Smoothie (aka Chocolatey morning smoothie)

2 cups (tightly packed) baby spinach
3 very ripe bananas, peeled
4 Tbl. Chia seeds
1 cup chocolate almond milk
1 Tbl. Unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups very cold water
1 cup ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a high speed blender (Vitamix or comparable; see note). Increase variable speed to 10, then flip to high speed. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis (courtesy of My Fitness Pal): Serves 4. Per serving: 181 calories, 5 g fat (0 saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 66 mg sodium, 416 mg potassium, 35 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 18 g sugar, 4 g protein, 47% Vit. A, 36% Vit. C, 20% calcium, 14% iron

Notes: This is a thin smoothie, about the consistency of milk. If you like yours thicker, either replace a cup of water with ice cubes or leave one cup of water out entirely.

The spinach will give the smoothie a slight greenish cast; it's less noticeable in colored glasses than in white or clear cups (y'know, just in case you have green-averse kids).

Also, a high speed blender is really recommended anytime you're blending greens. I've used a standard blender (actually, I blew up a standard blender after making one too many green smoothies -- true story), and they can't quite get the greens smooth -- there are always little chopped bits in there.

I hope you enjoy the new recipe!

Do you have a favorite healthy smoothie recipe? Please share!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mom vs. Mom Enough

Okay, so we've all seen the TIME magazine photo by now.  I ran across it on Pinterest last night, and, boy, in just 24 hours, it's EVERYWHERE.

"BWA-HA-HA-HA," laugh the executives at TIME.  "Just as we planned."


The cover mom, Jamie Lynne Grumet, says that a controversial shot was chosen to "get the dialogue talking" (and, yes, unfortunately, that's the actual quote).  Editor-in-chief Rick Stengel agrees with the sentiment, saying, "you want people talking."

But, really, has anyone who's seen the cover been inspired to talk about attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding in an intelligent way?  Every comment I've seen has been either angrily against it ("Even a cow knows when to wean their child") or staunchly in favor of it (it's "high time" we make "mainstream America less squeamish").

Let's be honest: a calm and open exchange isn't the point.

What TIME has presented is a young, slim, attractive woman in tight, black, Misson Impossible-appropriate garb looking at the camera with an expression that says, "I dare you to say anything."  She has one hand firmly planted on her hip, and the other wrapped around the back of her 3-going-on-10-year-old son, who's decked out in a gray thermal shirt and camo pants.  Oh, and he also happens to be attached by the mouth to her left nipple.

No doubt it's an effective photograph -- it hits you in the gut one way or another, as the best of them do.  But let's be honest: it isn't meant to start a dialogue.  Gut reactions are very seldom eloquent.

Wasn't a gut-punch photo enough?  Oh, no.  Add the utterly in-your-face headline of "Are You Mom Enough?" and you've successfully galvanized pretty much everyone in the U.S. into two opposing camps.

I confess, I was shocked enough to play straight into TIME's strategy and repin the cover onto Pinterest.  Almost immediately, a friend of mine commented that it was "just sick."

My feelings on the cover weren't strong enough to term it sickening.  No doubt, I do find breastfeeding past a certain age off-putting to some degree; I'm definitely in the "cut them off before they're 2" camp, because somewhere around a year and a half, when they're running around and talking, it just feels a little creepy to me. But I absolutely respect every parent's right to do what she thinks is best for her child.

It's a moot point for me, anyway, because the thing that I found most objectionable with this cover was the headline: ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?

It harkens back to that most insulting of male insults: "Aren't you man enough?"

And it makes me want to say what most men would say: "F*** you!"

I mean, really. What does that (male) editor-in-chief know about being a mom, much less about being "mom enough?"

And what does that mean, anyway?  What is it to be "mom enough?"

Do you have to be a hot, militaristic, breastfeeding-until-they-leave-for-college mom to be "mom enough?"  If I'm a flabby, less-attractive breastfeeding devotee, am I still mom enough?  Or if I'm hot but wean my little biter from my breast at eight months, am I mom enough?  And what if I didn't breastfeed at all?  Does that make me an insufficient failure of a mom?

Exactly what are the criteria?  Is there a class I can take?

The fact is, most of us moms take affronts to our motherhood very personally, probably because we're constantly critiquing ourselves, comparing ourselves to other moms, and wondering if we're doing irrepairable damage to our offspring.

If we don't pipe Mozart into our wombs, are we missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?  If we turn into screaming loonies when Junior plugs the toilet with three of our best silk scarves, is he doomed to a future of psycho-therapy?  If little Susie isn't reading at a first grade level when she starts kindergarten, will she forever be behind all of the other over-achievers?

We are our own worst enemies, but morning news shows, self-help books, and hyper-competitive moms (think Violet Beauregarde's mom in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) aren't far behind.

It's Mother's Day weekend.  Here's my suggestion for a gift to ourselves: Let's ignore TIME, and cut ourselves some slack.  Because here's the honest truth: If your kid knows he's loved, you are mom enough.

If you've ever dried tears shed over a skinned knee or a broken heart, you're mom enough.

If you've paced the floor with a crying infant or waiting for an hours-tardy teen, you're mom enough.

If you've ever shuttled kids to soccer or a movie; helped with homework or volunteered in home room; worried about a babysitter; thrown a birthday party; read a bedtime story; dispensed bandaids with hugs and kisses; worked a double shift to pay the bills; spent a sleepless night with a fevered child; pretended to be fascinated by a bug, a Barbie, or a cartoon character; cried yourself to sleep; or despaired that you just aren't a good mom: You are mom enough.

If you've done the best that you can with what you have and still feel like you're messing it up, just trust me that you aren't.  Or maybe you are, but so are the rest of us.

We are moms.  We are doing our best.  And f*** you, TIME.  We are ALL mom enough.

A little Mom's Day craft

I'm having no deep thoughts today -- I'm too busy getting Mother's Day presents together. BUT, I'm so enamored of the little gifts that I've made (oh, the cleverness of me!), that I decided to put together my first-ever, one-of-a-kind, limited-edition tutorial for those of you with a crafty streak.

I know, I know, this blog is completely schizophrenic -- food, random thoughts, crafts. But then, so am I. Or, to frame it much more gently, consider me a Renaissance woman. Or perhaps a Jane of all trades/master of none.

In any event, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make your very own "Just Rosy Frame." (This message will NOT self-destruct in five seconds.)


The only skills you need are basic crochet (chain stitch, single crochet, half-double crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet), a smidgen of sewing (to fasten off the roses), and the ability to write reasonably neatly.

The idea for this came from a wreath I saw on Pinterest (OMG, do you just LOOOOVE Pinterest?  Me too!!!!).  It was a lovely craft -- you can check it out on the Thankful Heart blog -- and I thought it would make a great Mother's Day gift.  However, when I visited JoAnn Fabric, I couldn't find a wooden ring the right size to use as the base of the wreath.  They had styrofoam, but they were $5 a pop!  Seriously?  Five bucks for a piece of styrofoam?  Thank you, but no.

Since I had very limited time (gotta get big boy off the bus!), I couldn't go hunting at other craft stores.  I did, however, run across these very cute little frames; they were a great find at just $2.99 each (not to mention the 40% and 50% coupons I had)!  I thought that with some colorful crocheted roses and a sweet hand-lettered message, they'd make lovely gifts.

Was I right or was I right?!

One warning about the frames, though: They were wrapped in plastic, so it was impossible to tell that they do not include glass.  You can always use some from an unused frame or substitute a piece of heavy clear plastic (or cut your own glass to size if you're super-handy), but it was an extra step I wasn't expecting.  Consider yourself warned!

What you'll need:
-  Small amounts of yard (I used worsted weight) in various colors
-  G-size crochet hook (or whatever size suits your chosen yarn)
-  Yarn needle
-  Scissors
-  Hot glue gun and glue sticks
-  Pencil and clean eraser
-  Permanent fine-tip marker
-  Wide, white washed picture frame

So, the first thing you'll need to do is crochet some roses.  I made a wide assortment of colors and sizes.  I won't reprint the pattern here since it's already posted at both Thankful Heart and Lion Brand Yarn.  I will add this, however: Lion Brand lists only three sizes of roses, but truly, you can make ANY size.  The smallest I made (the buds you see) are with the starting chain of 17, but to make intermediate sizes, just add any multiple of 4 to the original 17 chain starting size and follow the pattern from there; for example, chain 21, or 25, or 29, or 33, or 37....  You see where I'm going.  So make what suits you and the frame you're using.

Once you have a good assortment of rose colors and sizes, lay them out on the frame until you hit on an arrangement that you like.  Remember to leave a margin around the photo opening if you're going to add a quote or phrase -- you don't want the flowers covering your sweet little message.

Next, crochet some leaves.  My leaves look awfully dark in all of these photographs (thanks, iPad!), but you'll just have to trust me that they're actually a pleasing shade of green.  I used the pattern from Thankful Heart, but also made up a smaller leaf, as well, based on that pattern:

Make a slip knot
chain 5
SC in second chain from hook
HDC in the next chain
DC in the next chain
3 hdc in the last chain (with the third worked on the other side of the chain)
Then, working up the other side of the chain:
DC, hdc, sc, slip stitch in the last.

Cut the yarn and thread it in a large-eyed needle.  From the back of the leaf, bring the yarn up through the top center of the leaf.  Work it all the way down through the center of the leaf to the very end, then tie it off with the other loose end.  Working it through the center like this will give you a nice "vein" for your leaf!  I used this method for my larger leaves, as well.

Now, add the leaves to your flowers, again leaving room for your lettering:

Carefully move your arrangements off to the side.  It's time to work on adding a message to your frame!

I found that the little photo insert was exactly the right size to act as a guide for my lettering.  You can use that, a ruler, or even lightly pencil lines around the photo opening -- whatever will help you keep your letters neat and even.

Use a pencil to write your message.  My frame says, "These flowers will never fade, like our love for you."  Yes, my heart is full of cheezy goodness.

You could also use a favorite quote (Shakespeare comes to mind), or just leave off the lettering altogether.  This is no wrong answer here.

Feel free to erase (be sure to use a CLEAN eraser!) and redo as many times as you need to get your words neat, even, and aligned to your liking.  I decided to start our message at the left and go clockwise, but you can do whatever is pleasing!  Here's how it looked in pencil (this is a close-up, not actual frame dimensions):

Now, use a fine-tip Sharpie or another permanent market to go over your pencil lettering.  Take your time -- it's permanent ink!

Again use a nice, clean eraser to remove any stray pencil marks.  Take a moment to admire your handiwork and excellent penmanship!

Now that your lettering is complete, put your flower arrangement back on the frame.  Adjust as necessary so you aren't covering any of the message.

Now it's time to start gluing your flowers and leaves onto the frame.  I started in the lower right-hand corner; if you start with your corner flower, it's easy to radiate out from there and you won't have any weird open spaces or crowding.

Heat up your hot glue gun, and be sure to put newspaper down first to catch any drips.

Trim any excess yarn from your flowers and leaves (just make sure you have a good knot in the ends first to keep them from unraveling down the road).  For the flowers, put a ring or two of glue around the base of the flower to ensure a good bond.  You don't want your flowers flopping around or falling off.  Do one flower at a time; hot glue dries FAST.

For the leaves, I used glue on about the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaf, and then tucked it under or between the flowers.  Again, remember to work quickly and know where you're putting each element BEFORE you put glue on it.

Here's what the frame looked like with the bottom portion trimmed and glued:

At this point, I knew I was going to be pretty happy with the end result!

Now, work on the top left of your frame (or whichever portion you have remaining).

All that's left is putting in a favorite photo!  In our case, I specifically staged a photo of the boys with a big bunch of wildflowers; it seemed to suit the message.

Let me know if you have any questions about the project.  I hope you enjoy it!

And Happy Mother's Day to all moms -- young, old, and everywhere in between.