The Easter Bunny has risen, he has risen indeed

The Hare’s innocence had been bruised, tarnishing our world of make-believe, after last year’s Easter debacle. Christmas was certainly changed, the thrill of Santa and reindeer left an unexpected emptiness. I assumed Easter would be the same.

“Now don’t forget,” I reminded, “some of our guests still think the Easter Bunny is real.”

“I KNOW, Mom!” snapped The Hare.

Two families were coming for Easter dinner. These are families that we have grown attached to through gymnastics. They each have two girls, about the ages of our two girls. It couldn’t be a more perfect match. Plus, we are all some what family less at Easter. This marked our second annual Easter potluck. We stuffed our selves silly with tacos, borracho beans, guacamole, salsa, queso, chips and various other non-healthy choices. I love how the house fills with the smell of fresh cilantro while the beans simmer for hours. Each room gets a quick makeover in preparation of entertaining. I love sharing my home with friends and family, especially those that truly know that “my house is their house”. No one asks where things are or if they can rummage through the fridge looking for the sour cream. Every one is comfortable enough to take their shoes off. These are the moments I hope my children remember the most about holidays, sharing it with others over good food and fun conversations.

“You know, Mom,” said The Hare, while I was putting groceries away, “it would be a lot easier to play along tomorrow if I actually got an Easter basket. You don’t want me to have to LIE, do you?”

I looked at her in stunned amazement.

“Of course, I don’t want you to lie,” I replied, smiling and shaking my head.

The Easter Bunny made an unplanned trip to Target at 7pm Saturday night.

Think Happy Thoughts

Two New Year's Resolutions postcards
Image via Wikipedia

January is typically celebrated as a fresh start. But while many moms are busy making New Year’s resolutions and breathing a sigh of relief from the busy holidays, I struggle with a sort of post-holiday grief. It seems like I spent from October to January treading water through class parties, baking, shopping and decorating only to find myself still gulping for air on the first day back to school. Shock and denial shroud my judgment; I bitterly take down the last of the holiday decorations. Bills needing attention get pushed to the back of my desk and I avoid my bathroom scale. As the post-holiday shock wears off, I’m overwhelmed with mommy-guilt thinking about all the opportunities missed with my kids, and for myself, because I was too distracted with crossing things off my to-do list. Anger bargains with my sub-conscious, striking deals with myself while trying to justify why I wasn’t more emotionally available. A few weeks into January, and all I am usually left with is a sparsely decorated house and days void of errands and holiday gatherings. I feel empty. Alone.

This will be my ninth winter in Michigan. Perhaps it is the lack of sun that aggravates this post-holiday grief, or maybe it is my anxious over-exaggerated emotional personality. But no matter what causes this sometimes debilitating annual behavior, I decided to take control of my January jaundice and create an attitude of empowerment and possibilities for 2011.

First, I must stop whining about what I think I missed out on or incomplete goals. Instead, I will picture my children’s beautiful smiling faces Christmas morning and how they gazed in delight at all of our whimsical decorations. My children don’t know how much time and effort everything takes, all they saw was the end result and they were thankful. Secondly, I must accept that weeks of holiday parties, savory foods and little exercise cause weight gain. I bought a couple of well-fitted outfits that make me feel great and chose not to focus on all the things that temporarily don’t fit. It’s a lot like pregnancy, right? Three months on, at least three months off! (Okay, maybe my addiction to Salt & Vinegar Chips with a tall glass of wine started a little more than three months ago.) And last, but not least, I decided to start the New Year with a  “buddy”, someone I can be accountable to for keeping on task both physically and emotionally. We check in with each other every couple of days to see if we met our exercise goals and just to say, “Hi – I was thinking of you today”.

January can be about new beginnings and finding contentment, but first you have to find your resolve, create an attitude of success and not buy any more chips for the New Year.

Friday Flip Offs 12/17: Wants Vs. Needs & Things Moms Shouldn’t Say Out Loud

4:55am. I woke up 5 minutes before the alarm. My body groaned, begging me not to get out of bed. I think I mentally flipped off this day before it even started. Obviously, I pulled the heated blanket over my head, snuggled with Luna and hoped DW hadn’t noticed that I was not getting out of bed.

“Aren’t you going to run this morning?”

“um…yeah…no.”

A muffled laugh.

I mentally flipped off a vague memory of blabbing the night before that I was going to get up at 5:00 am even after DW said, “Oh no you won’t.”

Sigh.

My second thing in the morning flip has to go to the cranky old lady that yelled at me at the airport this morning. I was helping a cousin get home for the holidays. She goes to college near me but lives out of state. She packed a rather large, hard to manage, duffel bag. It took two of us to carry it successfully through the airport. We rode to the far left of one of those moving walk-ways. It just happened to be where we plunked down the gigantic duffel, but we were careful to leave plenty of room to walk around us. There wasn’t a soul on the people-mover when we first got on. Out of NO WHERE, I very grey-haired woman whizzed by us, grumbling and jostling her wheeled suitcase. She looked right at us and said:

“YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO STAND ON THE RIGHT SIDE!”

Yes, I just flipped you off as you walked away. Well, at least in my mind I did, although I did say rather loudly, “Really? ‘Cuz it looked like you got around us JUST FINE!”

Christmas is a week away and I’m done with my holiday shopping. I think. At least I keep telling myself that everyday, and yet those damn stores keep calling me back. I shake a very spent, chenille-gloved middle finger to everything being on SALE! It is next to impossible to shop for everyone else and NOT shop for myself. There are deals everywhere. Great prices on things I want and things I didn’t even know I wanted. Flip you limited time only and rare finds, like the awesome Keen boots I bought today for more than 60% off their original price. A fleecy flannel flip to Old Navy for putting all of their pajama bottoms on sale for $5 a piece. Next year…I will shop solely on-line and avoid having to decide between wants and needs.

The most unfortunate flip offs must sadly go to me, again. A two finger salute to my unfiltered mouth. It has betrayed me several times this week. Things bubbled over uncontrollably, and I am a little bit ashamed that I could say such stupid things. Learn from my mistakes people, lest they have been said in vain.

Scenario 1: Driving home from a few errands, The Hare kept insisting we needed to stop for donuts. She just wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Please mommy…please, please, paaaallleeeeaaaze can we stop for just ONE DONUT?!”

My response?

WE can not stop for a donut because it will just make my butt big!”

Her response?

“Then YOU can just watch me eat the donut, besides, your butt is already big.”

Scenario 2: The Tortoise came down to breakfast wearing the same outfit that she had on the day before. I insisted she change; she insisted nobody would notice she wore something two days in a row. I tried to explain that it was just gross to not pay attention to personal hygiene, that she should shower everyday and definitely put on different clothes. She pouted and refused to go change.

My response?

“Then be the stinky kid then. What do I care?”

Her response?

“Then I’ll be in good company. You wore that yesterday too.”

Scenario 3: No detail is needed other than to say that we are dealing with tampons, a pre-teen girl and swim practice. There is no tactful way to talk about this, it is just uncomfortable. I tried to coach her from outside the bathroom door, she yelled and cried at me from inside the bathroom to just go away. Then suddenly she yelled, “I know I’m holding it in the right place but it JUST WON’T GO IN!”

My response?

“Well, you gotta PUSH it in! Your body isn’t a vacuum you know. Your vagina isn’t going to just suck it up!”

Her response?

“Oh.”

We made it to swim practice on time.

Scenario 4: The Tortoise is now responsible for all of her own laundry. I moved her dirty clothes hamper into her room and have literally washed my hands of it. She continually was putting clean clothes back in the hamper so that she didn’t have to put them away, living out of a basket of folded clothes, and leaving dirties all over the bathroom floor. Now, she just leaves the dirties on her own floor. She also puts much less clothes in the hamper when she remembers to use it. And of course the reason she wants to wear outfits two days in a row? So that she doesn’t dirty something else that she will have to wash. Welcome to my world baby!

However, Luna frequently finds her underwear cast-offs and carries them around the house. It’s just gross. I know it is normal for dogs to lick and sometimes even eat the crotches out of underwear, but it still disgusts me. I’ve told her many, many times to put everything in her hamper or at the very least, just shut the door. This week I found Luna buried in stinky underwear. Did I mention we’ve been dealing with pre-teen menstrual drama? With underwear in one hand and the dog in the other. I stormed into The Tortoise’s room.

My response?

“I’m so tired of reminding you to put your things in the hamper! Now Luna smells like crotch!”

Her response? None.

The Hare’s response?

“What’s a crotch?”

I’m predicting I’ll need to pay for a lot of therapy for my kids in the near future.

It’s Good to Be Me

I refuse to refer to myself as “old”. That word is reserved for expired food, pants with split seams, frayed sweatshirts and out of date shoes. None of those words describe me. I’m mature, seasoned,  worldly. Although, I do feel a little split apart at the seams sometimes. And occasionally my frayed hair isn’t just a morning attraction but I can assure you that my shoes are never out of date.

From Left to Right: Brother M, Me, Cousin K, Cousin J

Last week I hosted Thanksgiving. My parents ascended Saturday. We spent a few days finishing meal planning and grocery shopping. On Wednesday one of my brothers and two of my cousins joined us for the rest of the week. I’ve always felt like either “the youngster” around family or at least “one of the guys”.  Age has been irrelevant, just a number. But somewhere between last Saturday and Thanksgiving, I got “old”. I became the woman with the kids and the house. The one who did laundry and made sure everyone had enough to eat. I set out slippers, towels and blankets for everyone’s comfort while watching the “youngsters” giggle and joke about school, parties and boys. I heard myself give advice about professors and campus safety, and worried about everyone’s travels home. I put myself to bed at a “decent” hour, not because I had to get up early the next day, but simply because I was dragging ass.

This past Friday we all spent some time on the University of Michigan‘s campus. I marveled at all of the beautiful architecture and wondered at the history of each building, daydreaming about past lives that had crossed these sidewalks. I tried to picture what it would have been like being a student in these classrooms, while listening to my young cousins reference their current school experiences. I had a very different college environment. It was a commuter college, the University of Texas at San Antonio. A good education,  but not the same as a school the size of U of M or of even a smaller residential university. For a moment, a tinge of jealousy and longing filled me while we walked back to our parked car.

But as I unlocked the car, and helped my youngest daughter into her seat, my heart trembled at the smell of her winter breath. I looked over at her sister next to her and smiled. The realization that my generation has aged, that I am now in the adult circle, was more than a feeling. It was a tangible fact. But surprisingly a comforting realization. I can hug and kiss on these extensions of myself, the fruits of my years of labor. I don’t have to muddle through finding my first job, my first love and my first real heartbreak, I’m not still waiting for my first house or relying on others to pay my bills. I don’t worry about writing ridiculously long papers about things that I am not interested in or deal with packing up my belongings every holiday or even each year. I don’t share a bathroom with a floor of girls (well, maybe a couple sometimes). I still get to giggle about boys with my daughters, share a special date night with my husband and party in my pajamas over a glass of wine with a girlfriend. The talk of graduate school has been on the table, but now I get to choose the things I really want to study.

I enjoyed being reminded of the simplicity of my youth, sharing a few stories about great parties and frustrating teachers. And even though I am in continual awe over their energy (so cliché, but true), their  world views and their passion, I am also glad that I get to set an example of their futures. Hopefully it is a good example – a life that they picture for themselves. One day.

Although sometimes, it is nice to get carded when ordering a beer.

(Savory Saturdays) A Vegan Friendly Thanksgiving Part 1: Irish Oatmeal

This was our ninth Thanksgiving in Michigan. It took a few years before we really settled in to our own family tradition. There were a couple of Thanksgiving dinners shared with friends, some with DW’s parents and even one at a restaurant, I think. But at least the last five years or more have been spent hosted in my home with my parents. It has always been a day of cooking, with the exception of the turkey and ham which we order from Burgers’ Smokehouse in the Ozarks, an annual gift from my parents. My mom is in charge of the pies (pumpkin and brownie), while I am in charge of most everything else. (Don’t worry, I have mastered the art of delegating).

Last year was a little different in that both of my brothers and my sister-in-law joined us for the first time, but the menu remained the same: turkey, ham, cream cheese mashed potatoes, sweet potato streusel, traditional green bean casserole, corn-bread stuffing, white cheddar and pepper biscuits, Waldorf salad and homemade cranberry relish. However, this year only my middle brother M came with my parents. We also added a couple of cousins. One of my cousins is a Vegan, and that was a challenge.

Or so I originally thought. It actually turned out to be one of the most healthy and tasty Thanksgiving dinners I think I have ever concocted, even starting with breakfast. There are just too many recipes to include in one post, so I’ve decided to divide this up into breakfast and dinner. Unfortunately, there will be no recipes for the non-vegan pies because we ate them too fast. However, you can find the blueberry/apple crisp recipe  we used for my cousin’s dessert. The only difference was substituting  a Vegan Butter Alternative for the butter in the oatmeal topping and serving it with frozen vanilla coconut milk instead of ice-cream.

For breakfast, instead of our usual egg and sausage taco bar, we had an Irish Oatmeal bar. And since this recipe cooks in the crock pot overnight, there was virtually no cleanup.

Topped with Vanilla Rice Milk, Brown Sugar & Raisins

Irish Oatmeal
Makes about 8-10 servings
*Use a small to medium slow cooker, lightly greased.                                                   

2 cups steel-cut oats
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups water

In prepared slow cooker, combine oats, salt and water. Stir well. Place a clean tea towel, folded in half (so you will have two layers), over top of cooker to absorb moisture. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or overnight. Stir well. Serve with raisins, maple syrup, nuts and non-dairy alternative.

*We also had sliced bananas, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, brown sugar and soy nuts.