Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Canada, you've really outdone yourself!

I had a nice Canadian roommate in college. The poor girl walked in her first day and saw this.

I'm not referring to the three baby-faced college freshmen. I'm talking about what's behind us. It was an entire wall of President George W. Bush. The cute twin in the middle got mono and left us. Lame. She was the best of us, really. Without her, the twin on the right and I spiraled to a new Canada-heckling low. We asked probing questions like, "So...  I'm still not really clear on this... DOES Canada have a military?" and "If Canada was attacked, would the Mounties be your first line of defense?" And then we pretty much just made jokes about the Mounties. Because they're kind of funny.

(I feel that I should clarify two things here -  1. I bore no ill-will toward this roommate from up north, eh? She was quite lovely! 2. I knew exactly nothing about Canada.)

I assume that countries are expected to "contribute something" on a global scale every so often. Canada made their contribution in the form of children's television programming in the late 1990's, and I think it's safe to say they can keep coasting off that one for a least another five years. I discovered one of these gems, Popular Mechanics for Kids, at our local library.

It took me two episodes to figure out that that little baby blonde person was a 1997 Elisha Cuthbert. Then, I wasn't sure how I felt about Jack Bauer's daughter educating my children about safety... or anything... I sat front and center to eight seasons of Kim Bauer's angst driving her into the clutches of variously motivated terrorists. Let's take a moment to recount the angst. There was the typical teenage angst in "24" season one, then the "my dad works at CTU" angst, followed by a brief bout of "now I work with my dad at CTU" angst, and followed up with "I don't work at CTU anymore" angst. Then there was the "I'm dating my therapist, who is also my dad's age" angst, which ran simultaneously with "my dad doesn't like my therapist boyfriend who is coincidentally as old as he is..."

But, I digress. I owe a debt of gratitude to PMK. Thanks to them, my kids are now well versed in what to do in the event of a lightning storm or an unexpected Komodo dragon encounter.

But Canada's real crowning achievement is bringing "Rescue Heroes" to the world.

They have contributed so much to my life as a mother. How I appreciate the durable, brightly colored action figures that manage to withstand bath time. The clever names (Billy Blazes, Ariel Flyer,
Hal E. Copter, Jack Hammer, etc) are a funny little somethin' just for us parents, which somewhat makes up for the rotation of no more than three sound effects used liberally in each episode.

We love Rescue Heroes in our house.

That was why today was so very sad.

We went outside to play in the snow, and where we left this guy swimming happily in the sandbox back in September, we found THIS.

It was our own toddler version of Han Solo, frozen, crying out for help. Who rescues a Rescue Hero when they need rescuing?

Evidently not us. 

Sorry, Roger Houston. We'll see you in the spring, buddy. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 - a year in which I desperately need to retake high school English

I'm 28 years old, and I've reached the point where I'm far enough removed from school that I've forgotten everything. Aside from that, there are the areas of life where my attitude gets positively geriatric - I've done my time doing things the right way, and I don't care anymore.  By golly, I will begin sentences with the word "and". I will add "ing" to the end of every noun, thus inventing brand new verbs. I will abandon the proper use of apostrophes! (Actually, not that last one. I consider appropriate apostrophe use a hill to die on.)

I hope I'm not the only one who struggles here. Based on my time spent on social networking, I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume I'm not alone. Maybe you can relate to some of my grammatical failings of 2013.

1. Sounding cray because I think dumb slang is hilarious.

This meme about sums up my life.

I'm in deep, friends. I latch onto the worst of the worst, and then I use these words and phrases for at least two years past even the "ironically funny" expiraton date. I recently exclaimed, "awesomesauce!" in a professional, business setting. I don't know how to stop, I need an intervention.

2. My use of the word "irony".

This is just about the only source of conflict in my marriage. When the new i101 radio station put Alanis Morisette's "Ironic" in frequent rotation, it could have been our undoing. (I exaggerate, but there is heated debate EVERY single time). My dear Aaron's standards for what constitutes irony are impressively high, while mine are... loose. Our conversations are something like this."

Aaron - "Rain on your wedding day is NOT ironic."

Me - "Fine. I'll give you that one, but 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife? Come on. Ironic. And Mr. Play It Safe's plane crashing when he was so afraid to fly? SO ironic!
Aaron - NO. Unfortunate, yes. Ironic, no. I just read that "ironic" is one of the most misused words in the English language. Right beneath "literally".
Me - You know what's ironic? Ombre hair.
Aaron - What?
Me - You know, my roots were growing out, so I literally just paid money to have my hair dyed to look like my roots were really, really grown out. Ironic. And stop it - I absolutely did use "literally" in the right context."  

We love each other a lot, but we will never agree on this one. (I actually know he's right, but shhh, don't tell him!) 

3. I can't decide what side I'm on in the Oxford comma debate, so I do whatever I feel like.

It hurt me a little bit to say that. I have utmost respect for the laws of the English language, and I hate to go all E.E. Cummings with punctuation. I really can't decide where I stand on this issue, though. I was taught to use the Oxford comma in school, but when I started doing medical transcription after high school, the company's policy was to not use it. Now I'm a conflicted hot punctuation mess (see #1).

4. Even 28 years into what I consider to be a fairly literate life, I would not venture to write the words "necessary" or "vacuum" without spell check. We all have our words. These are mine. I would love for 2014 to remedy this.

I can't wait to hear what grammar rules you're prone to forget! And take some time today to thank the dear Lord I'm not your child's teacher, because this is what I would teach them. Unless you're Aaron, in which case I AM your child's teacher. Whoops!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pinteresting Dinner Planning

I have memories of my mom making my dad's lunch for work, either the night before or early in the morning. If this is a 'good wife' gene, it must skip a generation, because I've sent lunch to work with my hubby probably thirty times in seven years of marriage.

In an attempt to be sweet to him/not let him starve, I really would like to step up my lunch-sending efforts, and this will probably be done best by meal planning and sending leftovers.

{Note to husbands: your wife is a rock star if she makes you lunch every day. Rise up and call her blessed, already, will ya?}

So, as I wait for a massively huge work file to download, I find myself passively avoiding -

1. Dishes in the sink
2. The man-child who is supposed to be napping, but has been singing in his crib for an hour
3. The two flies antagonistically buzzing around me. They've set out to taunt me - despite five days of unrelenting efforts to kill them, they are still freaking alive

No worries. I will not be distracted from meal planning this afternoon.

Meal planning works like this, if you haven't done it before.

1. Log onto Pinterest.
2. Spot an adorable pair of boots a friend pinned.
3. Click through to see how much said boots cost.
4. They're too much.
5. Remember you're "meal planning".
6. Scroll through your delicious looking "Recipes" board
7. All that delicious-looking food is making you hungry.
8. Stop for a snack.
9. Pick five or six main dishes from that "Recipes" board. Honestly, it's time to make use of some of these things you so laboriously pinned.
10. Confirm that you have the majority of the ingredients for each recipe on hand so you don't have to spend a small fortune on groceries.
11. Make a grocery list.
12. Spot a pin for a scarf sale on another website. (!!!)

So, as you can see, there are roughly twelve very important steps to meal planning like a pro. :)

Here's what I picked.

This Chicken Yakisoba is something I've been wanting to try for a while. I am an aficionado of both real Chinese/any-type-of-Asian food as well as extremely westernized/processed/not real Chinese food. "Toss it in soy sauce, it'll be fine," are words to live by, in my book.

 If you happen to follow this link, you may see that the website implies this is a paleo meal. I'm sure you'll see the first picture for this recipe is of a frothy, boiling pan of ramen. So, this is more "poor college student" and less "paleo". Don't judge me, it's my meal planning list, and it took me twelve grueling steps to pick this!

This Chicken Parmesan is a little something my friend Bernice whipped up one night when we went to her house for dinner. It's only one of the best things I've ever eaten.
No big deal.

I went home and promptly scoured her Pinterest activities until I found the recipe. I'm real creepy. It's amazing I have the friends that I do.

I would like to introduce you to Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken. I haven't tried it yet, but I love it already. Tenderized chicken, breaded and deep fried and then coated with a delectably sticky combination of honey, garlic and my old friend soy sauce. And wouldya look at that garnish. Rosemary? I don't know, but it's lovely.

This is the only recipe of the week that looked remotely appetizing to my five-year-old. He's got a rough week ahead of him, as his mother is not indulging the picky phase he finds himself in.

Beef with Broccoli will be a nice dish after three days of chicken. This will have broccoli carry-over from the Yakisoba, which is one less ingredient I will need to buy. Bonus!


I appreciate their enthusiasm, so I went ahead and stuck it on the list.}

This is a knockoff Red Lobster Shrimp Scampi. I'm going to skip the chardonnay called for in the recipe. Can I use the sherry I will need for the Beef with Broccoli? Anyone?

I put my little shopping list together, and am hoping for some good deals.

10 chicken breasts
1 jar marinara sauce
1 package garlic croutons
1 head cabbage
2 lbs broccoli
Fresh ginger
Soy sauce
2 packages ramen noodles
Angel Hair
1 bag frozen medium/large shrimp
1 bar mozzerella cheese

This will all get really interesting if our kitchen is being renovated next week, as planned. 

Happy Thursday, everyone! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shut the Front Door: When My Kids' Discipline Issues Keep Me Under House Arrest

Anyone who knows me knows that I have pretty normal, very young children. Therefore, I am definitely not a parenting guru. There are a few things that have been passed on to Aaron and me in these past five years of parenthood, though. One of our starting points in our journey to parent well is to call behavior what it is, instead of wrapping it up in the beautiful excuses we are so often tempted to, like "he's tired", "he's going through a phase", or "he's super special and you normal people just don't 'get' him". Rather, disrespect is disrespect, willful disobedience is disobedience, and sneakiness is lying.

My mother-in-law was a self-confessed "groupie" of a lady named Bea Moss who did parenting seminars in this Illinois area. Bea was from an older-school generation of parenting, but I really agree with so many of the things she taught.

One of these things is that when your kids are being disobedient and need consistent discipline, it's time to hunker down, cancel some plans, and do the grandest and most significant job we have been given - parenting. I concur. I do not discipline well in the aisles of Target. It took my biggest little about 22 months of life to figure that out and take full advantage of it. I do not discipline well on playdates, even with my least judgmental friends. I do not discipline well with my mom over, giving her two cents. Nothing against her two cents, really!

There are parts of being a mom that make you want to die of happiness. Sweet, sleeping infants who leave milk-drool stains on your shirt. Babies who sleep well and wake up happy to see you. First babbling words. Snuggles. This whole discipline aspect of parenting has not been one of those things for me. I think I have a pretty good understanding of this - when your little person is still babyish and a toddler, it's totally tempting to put off the unpleasantness of discipline. We still have the upper hand mentally, and we are really good at redirecting, coaxing, bribing, and cajoling. BUT ONE DAY, one inevitable day, your sweet, milk-drooling, easily bribed child will realize they have a will of their own. There you will stand, facing an army of un-fought battles, armed only with sweet-talk and empty threats. That's frightening, and it motivates me in the same way that watching "The Hunger Games" motivated me to start running again. Because, you know...

Carson was three when he started really hitting these rough patches, and I had to start skipping some errands and playdates until we got things under control. He was like other kids and struggled with the same things, but just because something is normal doesn't mean it's okay. I remember last summer, we were going to go to a baseball game with a bunch of new friends. We were going to pick up one of our nephews to go with us and hang out with Carson. I was excited to get to know everyone better, Carson didn't totally understand what we were doing, but he just knew he really wanted to go. It was time to leave, and I was enthusiastic that these new friends would witness one of my few good hair days! Landon's napping and nursing schedules were skillfully orchestrated. The diaper bag was brilliantly packed to sustain a months-old baby and a toddler for three hours of baseball. We were even walking out the door on time, glory! Carson spotted suckers in the bag, and asked if he could have one. We told him that he could have a couple of them at the game, but he needed to wait. I had to run upstairs for something, but I put the diaper bag up on the counter and told Carson in no uncertain terms that he was not to take any candy out yet. By the time I came down, he was running to hide a half-eaten sucker, and he looked guilty as heck. I asked him, "Carson, did you take candy?" Without missing a beat, he answered, "No." But he was caught, and as I confiscated the candy, he threw an angry fit. Sometimes I know he doesn't understand something I tell him, so I have a lot of grace. Sometimes he would throw a fit because he was completely worn out and not in any condition to handle disappointment. This time, I was just looking in the face of one willful little boy. We had been working with him through his disobedience, sneaking and angry fits for a couple of weeks, but I just knew that this was an important moment. We could scold him and go on our merry way, or we could make a statement that what he did brought consequences. It was really disappointing, but I kept him at home with me while dad took his cousin to the game. I pulled my 'good hair day' back into a ponytail and got back to the most important thing on my schedule, being a mommy who wanted to build character, even in such a little guy as our Carson was. It was a good lesson for both of us. Those were the things that helped him see that we meant business, and it helped me see that I wouldn't actually die to stay in for a night, a few days, even a week.

We want the best for our sweet boys. We know the issues kids deal with just get bigger and badder, so we want to try our best to win these smaller battles before we take on the next one. Heaven help us!