Friday, September 27, 2013

I'm Not Complaining, I'm Just Suppressing My Crazy

To those of you who sometimes feel badly about yourselves due to the romanticizing of people's perfect lives on Faceboook, I give you reasons today to celebrate your life. Today is (not was...still going) a parenting day that is challenging me like an addict faced with their poison. It's one of those days where you realize why some people are in prison, but you are not, based on the exceptional levels of self-restraint you are exhibiting. My children are whittling me down to a point where I feel like I am the most powerless person in my home. Because I am...and I am letting them... *sigh*

Today, like many, after heading to school to pick up the kids after work, I was convinced I was a Mute. I even checked with my voice recognition software on my Android to make sure I could actually be heard. When I shouted it was time to leave, they responded to me like a school of minnows would to a pebble being thrown into a lake. When they came back together they wrestled, punched, whined and cried, only to be separated and immediately drawn back together with that obnoxious, but special, sibling magnetic force. "Stop hitting your brother," "Keep your hands to yourself," the repetitious statements persisted. I am yelling from a deep hole. I get louder and louder yet no one can hear me. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

I made dinner - the same Mac and Cheese that I always make- but tonight it's elbows and not shells and suddenly it's disgusting and tastes bad...even though it's EXACTLY THE SAME brand and flavor. I am called into the bathroom to wipe the bottom of my little one, who has proceeded to unroll the entire roll of toilet paper onto the floor with a smile on his face. And the cherry on the cake of my day? After doing a load of laundry for my incontinent senior dog, I find that even after I shook out all of the blankets, I still succeeded in washing and drying a few large balls of dog poop. Yes I said drying....on high heat.

I'm not really sure why I am writing about this, but I'm blogging instead of rocking back and forth on the floor psychoticly. I am ignoring my kids at the moment and now they are playing nicely. We clearly all needed a "time out." 8:30pm cannot come soon enough. I love my kids like nothing else. I ask for no sympathy. I know I am lucky to have them. I am just offering you parents out there one thing... Solidarity.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why Whole Foods Makes Me A Better Parent

It's not for the reason you think.

April has been insanely busy. Why? Well, I think most of my time was spent trying to bake Hayden's three birthday requests - including the not-so-perfect, perfect cake. Hayden's birthday post is going to be delayed due to my wanting perfect photos. Perfect photos that will be edited perfectly by my perfectionist, Artist husband. This is perfectly fine. Our lives are always perfect online. We post family awesomeness on Facebook and Instagram, and somehow even the funny moments look great in photos, but the actual real-time experience may be oh-so-imperfect.

I read a blog post today about being an imperfect parent, and it told me (yes, she was speaking to me) that I am probably doing a better job than I think. You can read about me it here. I was the epitome of this at Whole Foods today - a place where I somehow feel the need to turn on the extra sensitive, gentle parenting persona. I think the broken window theory extends well beyond destruction and devastation in my case.

The broken window theory in basic terms, suggests that a small amount of damage can result in a snowball effect of greater destruction over time. I have always used Whole Foods vs. Walmart as a basic analogy. While Whole Foods has staff constantly restocking shelves and building perfectly crafted pyramids of apples, our local Walmart, which I avoid like the plague, has items strewn about, things rolling on the floor, open boxes, you get the picture. A spill on the floor of Whole Foods is quietly whisked away, ala Disneyland, while Walmart's could fester for an undetermined amount of time. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. But this has been my experience in the locations I have visited. Bottom line is, I drop an apple at Whole Foods, I pick it up. I drop an apple at Walmart, it's 50/50 (the apple was made in China anyway).

Today, I found myself at Whole Foods with 2 young kids that were having different issues. One was cranky and one was dissatisfied. The common thread was that they would both not stop "touching" each other, causing us to take up the width of two carts in the aisle, which we know at Whole Foods after 5pm becomes excessively aggravating to EVERYONE. I found myself trying extra hard to choose my words and control my tone. My surroundings were to blame for my "better" behavior. But it made me think. Why would this place, this clean, above averagely priced place, curb my instinctual poor parenting efforts? Remove the fact that there is someone I know around every turn, and I realized that this perfectly perfect grocery store was influencing me. This was the real problem.

My surroundings and being in public influenced my parenting choices more than the want and need to do what is best for my children. To be clear, I don't come home and beat my kids to a pulp, but I do yell, I do firmly hold them and I don't always frame poignant teaching moments or use the best choice of words. I also know, that no one always does the right thing, and if they tell you they do, they are full of it... or they are lying that they even HAVE children.

So, my epiphany here is this, if I can think of better ways to handle these kids in public - and in varying degrees based on my surroundings, than why can't I be the same parent at home? Now, I can't control my personal variables. I can't always be happy, or stress-free, or have peace and quiet during a Giant's game, but what I realized, is that I am capable. It's not about being perfect. It's about being capable.

From now on, I am going to pretend I am at Whole Foods.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Foray into Fondant

It's. Just. So. Perfect. On Pinterest. Barf.

I have been wooed by the concept of creating a cake covered in beautiful fondant for a very long time now. As you may have deduced from my history of self-deprecating posts, my innate ability to cook is non-existent. I also lack the patience to really do things correctly at times in the kitchen. This blows me away, since I am also the same person who reads the 4 steps on the back of the Duncan Hines box three times to make sure I am doing things right. I'm a conundrum... Anyway...

I used every shortcut possible. I was armed with several boxes of white cake, pre-made creamy vanilla frosting, Pre-rolled fondant, everything pre-done to help me make this process work. No matter what. We were celebrating Hay's birthday after Easter brunch, so I didn't have room for failure, as we were hosting as well. I screwed up from the get-go. Here's how not to do it.

Hay wanted a Batman themed, Ombré Cake, inspired by our friend at Siriously Delicious. We were going to do a 3 layer Yellow cake, but when baked, the yellows weren't "ombré" enough for my liking, and then the lightest layer fell apart. This was my fault, I was too impatient and didn't let cake #3 cool enough before removing it from the pan...or that was my first theory. Now I needed a 3rd layer.

We (Hay & I) decided to add a blue layer to Batman-it-up. Once baked, yet again, the blue layer turned out to be too fragile for me to level and started to crumble as I was slicing it. In a fit of desperation, I had idiotically tried to layer three unleveled cakes...resulting in a lot of cake splitting and other atrocities. Becoming slightly discouraged, I frantically tried to glue it together by doing a crumb coat and refrigerating it. My plan was to frost the bejesus out of it until I could make it flat. Right.

It was a mess, a mess that NO amount of frosting could have fixed. Hoping for a miracle, I left it to chill in the fridge on the bottom shelf. THEN... I heard this from the kitchen.

"HAYDEN!!!!!! NO!!"

Daddy caught Hayden red-handed, standing behind the refrigerator door with a giant chunk of cake in his left hand. If the cake was perfect, I clearly would have cared more. *Sigh* I lopped off the evidence and cut some slices for the kids. Four cakes down, and no Batman cake.

Here was my Robert Frost moment. Which road should I take? Do I throw in the towel and head to the 24-hour Supermarket? My options were limited as it was now evening and Easter was creeping up. All reputable (and non-reputable) cakeries were closed. I reflected on how many difficult trips- with kids-in-tow- to Michaels and Target I had taken to collect all of the necessities. Then, add the mere fact that I have been dying to execute this task, and I think we know which road I traveled. All the while realizing that the word "execution" may more resemble a slaughter than an effort. Two more white cakes entered the oven.

In the meantime, I sent a quick note to a Real Chef friend (thank you Gigi), who quickly alerted me, after I frantically messaged her via Facebook for the umpteenth time about this topic, that I shouldn't use boxed cake. Whaaaaat? And that I shouldn't make 3 layers of it. Whaaaaaaat?

It was too late for the box cake, but not for one less layer. I decided to stick with 2 layers and let the two pans cool for an extended period of time. I carefully removed the cakes, trimmed off the top and with barely any crumbling, layered them and added my crumb coat to the cake. This WAS going to work. It's quite possible that the one missing ingredient was...cue Guns and Roses...a little "patience."

I put the cake aside and bravely unwrapped the fondant. I had used this once before to decorate these, so I was vaguely familiar with its consistency.

Cutting out features is much different than covering a cake. Let me tell you...this was actually the easiest part. I know it took us a while to get here, but I just really needed to put you through some of my pain. Thanks for listening.

I checked a quick tutorial. Martha Stewart has a good one, of course. Note that when rolling it out, you will need to add some powdered sugar or shortening to the surface. I chose sugar. It serves the same purpose as flouring the dough does. Other internet instructions say that you don't need either if you are rolling out on a Silpat mat. I didn't find this to be true, mine still stuck to my mat so the sugar helped a ton.

You want to make sure you roll it out enough to cover the cake and then some. Also, keep in mind it will stretch even more as you lift it. So measure the diameter as well as add the height of BOTH SIDES. So a 10" cake that's 2" high, should have over 14" diameter of coverage. Roll it out to the desired thickness. I'd love to give you a measurement, but I have no clue. Once I got it large enough, the hardest part of the task was getting the fondant up onto my giant rolling pin to flop it onto the cake. See the video on how to do this.

As you can see...not that bad! Cut off the major overflow quickly to alleviate the extra weight on your cake. I Googled a lot of different instructions on how to do this, but it was pretty straightforward. The Fondant Smoother worked well, and you really need to work pretty quickly since this stuff dries out. I've now used the word "quickly" a few times. Get it? Move fast!

Now, this was not wedding beautiful. It was not perfect. I'm sure there were some dents, air bubbles and fingerprints, but I thought it looked pretty darn good, especially after all I had been through during the day.

Okay. I'm pretty tired of this blog post so I will make this last part quick. I wasn't sure how to attach the fondant to the fondant...I used vanilla extract because I thought I had read that somewhere...but DUH, I just read that you paint it with...wait for it...WATER. Anyhow, I had to make the Batman emblem. There are many tips online about using stencils, tracing, etc. Google them, read more than one post, and THEN choose the one you think you can do best. Trust me...I search for the easiest way to do everything.

Two more tips for you...

Do: color the fondant with food color gels. I like these. Wear gloves or you'll stain your hands me.

Don't: use fondant paint, or do, I don't care, I just wasn't good at it. I painted my bat black and thought I couldn't let it dry because I was afraid of the fondant drying out. You can imagine trying to move a wet black bat onto a white cake. Lots of fingerprints and smudging, resulting in the addition of many giant colored star sprinkles to cover it up. Black fondant would have been way cleaner. Next time.

I threw some more stars on the sides of the cake, grabbed some action figures, and called it a day. A very long day. Originally, I wanted to make something like this. I had sifted through so many ridiculously amazing cakes online that the one I had set my sites on seemed easy enough (it said Easy in the title for crying out loud), but by the time I actually got to the decorating part, my enthusiasm and patience was toast. My end result became whatever I could just get done. And do you know what? My 4 year old loved it and so did our guests. I of course saw all of the flaws and said that it sucked and that I would never do it again.

But now that a week has passed, the memory is akin to that of the pain of childbirth...maybe it wasn't that bad...I'll probably go for it again.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Birthday Part Deux - The Classroom

School birthdays are the best. This is primarily true in our home because my poor, late-August-birthday husband still complains about how he never got to celebrate his birthday at school. This was of course, back in the day when schools began after Labor Day weekend. I comfort him by explaining that if he were a child today, he would not have had the pleasure of the "spanking machine," a dead tradition.

Side note: Do you remember the Spanking Machine? It was a line of kids with their legs straddled that you would crawl through and get whacked on the bottom... When did this fine tradition end? Call CPS.

Hayden's school birthday began with this beautifully illuminated sign that he was very excited about. Next, he turned his focus to "when is it going to be snack-time" so he could get his much-requested Cake Pop.

It's been 2 years since I made cake pops. I think after Ry's Ninja party, I was ready to retire the cake pop pan. Yes, another shortcut. I use box cake and a made-for-tv cake pop pan. It works great. You definitely need to add an extra egg, a box of instant pudding and use half of the liquid that the recipe requires in order to dense them up. At any rate, Hayden requested them, and it WAS his turn.

My candy melts were not cooperating, I think I needed to add shortening (see yesterday's post about me not taking the time to do things right). The plus side was that I ended up only coating the pops halfway which I am sure the preschool teachers appreciated. The kids only went half-crazy.

The Cake Pop is a great idea for school. It's a few bites as opposed to a sugar bomb cupcake with a mountain of frosting. The only setback is, as they get older you will run out of space to put the candles. Hay Hay's skilled teacher successfully stuck the little pop with 4 candles, which then resembled some kind of illegal 4th-of-July looking firework. The flaming pop-torch was a hit. Hay loved it! So did the others, because as I was walking out, they swarmed me in the play yard like an army of "walkers" from the Walking Dead. I HAD to make sure I referenced this AMC masterpiece somehow. I. Love. That. Show!

Two down, one party to go, and I owe you my Fodantacide post.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

One hundred and ten!

April 1st! It's no joke. My baby is four. Even more insane, my grandmother on my Mother's side is 106! Not to outshine my little man, but 106 is pretty impressive. We were amazed by 100, astonished by 102, and by 103 we were pretty used to idea of this tough matriarch being what would be considered "well-into-her-hundreds." Now at 106, I am thinking we'd better get some DNA samples and bottle this stuff. Therefore, this post is titled, 110, to give credit to both the 4 and the 106.

Here she is!

Ok, I'm 3 days late in writing this, but we hosted Easterover on Sunday (doesn't have quite the ring of "Chrismukkah" does it) and Hayden's birthday in simulcast. Plus, I made an egg bake (I know, easy for you), 6 cakes- of which we ate 2 yes, there's a story there, and 35 cake pops. Why? A little person asked me to. I am also feeling really guilty that I haven't written a sappy synopsis about how amazing my four year old is, nor re-capped his entire year in a romantic, my-kid-is-perfect, look-at-my-awesome-life-on-Facebook kind of way. The truth is, my life is a bit of a shit-show right now, and the kids have a starring role...but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Meanwhile, I would love to write more, but I am prepping for Haydenpalooza! I have so much to post, including my foray into fondant, or what I am lovingly referring to as Fondanticide, as well as a recap of Hayden's Super Duper Hero Party...coming this Saturday. To tie you over, here is picture of baked good request #2, the Classroom Party Cake Pops. 

To be continued...

Friday, March 29, 2013

This is Happening...

"I'm a boxer,  I'm a sumo wrestler, I'm Charles Dickens."

Trampoline Soundbyte on this bizarre muggy, hot, March afternoon...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Some Things Should Be Left to the Professionals

We recently went to get Ry's hair trimmed. We had to coax him into going, because his latest quest for individuality has been to grow his hair "very" long and dye it white - yes white... Dumbledore white...not Marilyn Platinum. My passive response has been, "OKAY, you go ahead and grow it out and then we'll decided if white is the best color. BECAUSE IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!" I am clearly banking on the fact that the duration of actually growing his hair "very" long will last longer than his yearning for it to be white as snow.

Daddy's response was more succinct, "NO."

Anyhow, in an effort to not spend a fortune on kids' haircuts, I have "cut" corners by whacking off a chunk here and there to relieve some eyesight, free an ear, etc. I am a hack. Occasionally, I accidentally do alright by "good from far - far from good" standards, but to the skilled eye, it's garbage.

Anyhow, I explained to Ry that even when we are growing our hair out, we still get it trimmed to keep it healthy. He obliged. We went to our usual Kid-Cut place with both Hay & Ry in tow. We had our usual stylist - the ONLY one I will let touch my kids' hair (besides me of course). As Ry sat in the chair, she started picking through his length.

"Did I do this?" she said.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gluten-Free Wannabes and a Yarny Thing

Ry: I want to be Gluten-free like R and "Aunt Judy."

Me: Really? Well, you'lI have to give up some of your favorite foods.

Ry: Like what?"

Me: Like sourdough bread and Alana's pancakes

Ry: What? Forget it!

So, although we are not a Gluten-Free family, we do try whenever (well sort-of) possible to replace foods that have good-tasting GF alternatives. Like...

These Annie's Snicker Doodle Bunny Cookies are AMAZING! We're devouring a box of them as we speak! Grabbed them at where else? Target!

If you like the flavor of a corn tortillas, you will love this pasta. There are several pasta shape varieties, and they are deliciously inexpensive. Available at Trader Joes.

Lastly, my kids LOVE the "squeezy cheese" version of store-bought Mac and Cheese. Oh look, Annie's makes a Gluten Free rice pasta version with the same velveeta-ey goodness! It's good, AND I can get it at Target...with some detergent, a picture frame and a shirt.

And by the way... I made my first crocheted "Garment" over the holiday break. I made this little sweater for my ADORABLE niece, who now won't let me hold her. Clarification: not because of the sweater... Pattern here.

Honestly, this post was really only created to tell you about the Snicker Doodle Bunnies. And while we are being honest, I will have you know that the new box is almost gone.

Happy New Year!