Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The One With the Disclaimers

I've thought long and hard about what kind of content to provide on this blog, especially, what and how much to share about our personal lives here.

I've heard some complaints that my life as portrayed here seems too perfect and unreal and that it's setting an unrealistic standard for those who have an outside perspective. A few years ago a blog reader that I met in person was surprised that I wasn't all glitter and cupcakes and am actually a bit "snarky" - to borrow her impression.

Anyway, when I mostly post cute, fun things that my kids do or say, I am not trying to present an unfair view that they're always angels who never throw fits or hit each other or don't eat their vegetables. I choose to write about the good/funny/cute things because those are the things I want to remember. Just like everyone else, my kids make huge messes and color on hotel room walls and play in the toilet and break things and talk back and refuse to get dressed so we're late places and scream at the top of their lungs in grocery stores. They whine when I tell them it's time to come home from the park, or don't take their naps or whatever. They are real, human children with lots and lots of faults and shortcomings that point a bright light on my faults and shortcomings as a parent.  We all have bad days, weeks, months, even, and my children are no exception.

Working out a relationship with a child is tricky business. Each of us has needs, desires, and personalities that must be navigated through. And that's hard to do. In person, I discuss these things ad nauseam with friends, fellow parents, anyone really.

But in all the trickiness of navigating parenting, I have found it essential to me to keep things simple and positive. If I got bogged down in all the trials and repeated them here for you, lovely readers, it would start to consume my perspective until negativity and bogged-downness was all that was left.

I do believe that a bad memory is one of the most critical coping skills a parent possesses. We would be insane to ever have more than one child if we couldn't forget the fussy first weeks, or the waking up at night for the first year(s). There are many, many nights when I can't wait to put all my children to bed because it has been such a long, rough day. And then immediately I'll lay down on the couch and start wishing they were awake because I miss them so much! (Does that sound like a rational, sane thing to think? No. No, it does not.)

Long before I became a parent, a mother I very much admire told me to remember that "The days are long, but the years are short." I've found that to be the most true statement about parenting anyone has every said. The individual days are a long and hard struggle. Sometimes the weight of the responsibility of guiding my children towards independence, towards reasonable and conscientious adulthood, seems like a task I will never survive. Sometimes I can't take any more crying or screaming and I just want to curl up in a ball and cry myself. We all get mad sometimes, we lose our tempers, we handle situations poorly (even when we know we can and should be handling them differently), we think we won't make it to the end of the day,

But then it seems that in a blink each of them has grown into an unfathomable being, with their own thoughts and ideas. All at once one of them will turn and say something that is so completely their own, a clear sign of who they are, that it takes me by surprise. Far too quickly, they are growing and changing and being. And so, when I look back on this brief time I had with them, I know it will be easy to remember the struggles. It will be easy to remember that they were cranky, and sometimes inconsolable, and that at times they made me madder than I ever thought I could be. But I keep this blog so that I will remember the good things, too. The sweet things or the funny things. The little glimpses into their minds that they shared with me.

I do believe that deciding what we share on the internet is a delicate matter. For one, it's a very permanent thing. And for another, it reaches a wider audience. I have a general rule about not over-sharing negative things about anyone on the world wide web. If I had a disagreement with Steve about something, I wouldn't share it here. If a friend did something I didn't like, or hurt me in some way, I wouldn't write a blog post about it. I hold my relationships sacred enough to know that I wouldn't want a moment of frustration to be left a permanent mark against their character or mine. And I regard my relationship with my children as even more sacred. Someday they may read this blog. And I would want them to know that more than anything else, I loved them. I cherished them. I made myself crazy trying to think of how to do what was best for them. Because at the end of the day, that is what is true. That is what I hope will last and those are the thoughts that I hope will stand the test of time.

So, if you want the real inside scoop about my experiences as a parent, please, ask me in person (or via email even) and I will be happy to share my struggles and commiserate with those of you who are also in the trenches with me. (Or who have been in the trenches and think my portrayal of them is too rosy.) My children are not, never have been and never will be, perfect. Neither am I or my husband or anyone that I've ever met, ever. Because we are humans. And being a human is being a wonderful and complicated mess. And we respect each other's imperfections and give each other the benefit of the doubt as often as we can.

Normal state of the girls' room: chaos. This is only one corner.
We stay in our pajamas all day if we have nowhere to be.
Also, our floor is very rarely clean, mostly thanks to the littlest guy here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The One With Jude Tesla

Sometimes I have no words. No words and only photographs.

I love this new mama like a sister. Seeing her grow into motherhood with grace and thoughtfulness is a great privilege. And her baby boy is a little love bug. I'm so happy I get to be a part of their lives.

(And then dad came home. He's pretty awesome, too.)

Some of these pictures are getting scooted up to the top of my all-time favorites list. Love these three so much.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The One With the Mother's Day Portraits

It's past Father's Day and I'm telling you about the portraits I took of Steve's family for his mom for Mother's Day. It could have been disastrous, but considering these included 8 grandchildren ages 4 and under, I think these turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The One With A Boy and His Dog

There is nothing quite like the friendship between a boy and his dog.

My brother, Chad, had to say goodbye to his dog, Anni, last week. We were all heartbroken to see her go after a short illness, but I think she had a pretty good life being Chad's sidekick for the last 12 years. They were always on adventures together, constant companions, best friends.

I still remember the day my dad and I picked her up to bring her home to Chad. She was a little furball, just rolly-polly blonde fluff. She kept her furballness her whole life, and had such a loyal and gentle personality. And eventually she grew to love stealing chocolate whenever she could, even though it made her pretty sick afterwards. She was a big part of our family, and we'll all miss her.

Right now I feel like having a dog would be way too much work, but every time I saw Chad and Anni together it made me want to rush out and get a puppy for Henry immediately. Because every little boy needs a dog. They just do.

The One With the Brownie Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our friend Cara came to stay with us a few weeks ago. While planning the itinerary for her trip, she mentioned some Chips Ahoy cookies she liked that had brownies on the inside of the cookie. "And then I realized we could do that, too!" Yes. Yes, we can do that, too.

Behold: Brownie Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Okay, so you can't necessarily see from the pictures that they have brownies on the inside. But they do. And they taste amazing. You should make some.)

(I could be one of those people who writes 20 paragraphs leading up to a recipe, but I know you all just scroll to the bottom to read the recipe anyway. So I'm going to just keep the scrolling you have to do to a minimum. Isn't that so nice of me?)

Brownie Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brownie Filling:
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and beat in eggs and sugar until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour and cocoa powder. Add to the butter and egg mixture and stir in the vanilla. Place brownie dough in the refrigerator to set for 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make your cookie dough:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (With Malted Milk)
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine flour, malted milk, cornstarch, and baking soda and sift together. In a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture, in four increments, stirring throughly between each increment. Stir in chocolate chips. 

Once the brownie dough has chilled and is able to be formed into a ball, make the brownie filling by creating small (1/2 inch) dough balls. Wrap the balls in chocolate chip cookie dough to create one-inch balls and place two inches apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until just golden. Let cool before devouring. 

These are cookies best served out of the refrigerator.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The One With the Malted Milk and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't know about you, but I'm always on the lookout for secret ingredients. They make everything so much better.

But then they aren't secrets because I usually just tell people about them. But that's only because I can't resist because of the resulting goodness. You know?

This is how I feel about malted milk powder. I didn't know it was a thing you could make stuff with. I didn't even know where to find it in the grocery store. (Weirdly, it's by the hot chocolate mix, coffee, tea, that sort of thing. So now you know. And you won't have to confuse your friendly neighborhood grocer by requesting something they have probably never heard of.)

But now, malted milk is my new secret ingredient that gives cookies that je ne sais quoi deliciousness. Except that it probably isn't new to everyone. But it's new to me and I like it. A lot. That makes the following my new go-to cookie recipe. 

Malted Milk and Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (about 1 5 oz. box) chopped Whoppers candies (optional, add more
    chocolate chips if you skip these)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine flour, malted milk, cornstarch, and baking soda and sift together. In a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture, in four increments, stirring between each increment. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped Whoppers.

Place one-inch dough balls on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and then cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The One With the Tiny Ballerinas

Before you're a parent you have all these ideas about how your children will be. "Oh, they'll be so cute and they'll look just like me and they'll always smell good and they'll never throw tantrums like that kid," etc.

And then you have kids and it's really just nothing like what you thought it would be like. It's so much more. It's more difficult. And more fun. And more complicated. And more wonderful. But don't let me ruin the surprise for you.

Anyway, back before I was a parent and I thought about my future (at the time fictitious) children, I thought, "Oh, I'll have a couple of little girls and they'll be ballerinas! And won't they be so adorable in their tiny tutus! And they're tiny little top knots!" Well, as it turns out, I was right about that one thing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The One With Slimy

Here lies Slimy. 
A worm who dried up on his way to wetter pastures. 
We mourn his passing with heavy hearts and many tears.
RIP Slimy.

(Imagine that here you have a picture of a dead worm, which I didn't actually 
take because, well, ewww.)

The other day when we were coming home from preschool we found a worm on the sidewalk and the girls thought he was so cool and they talked to him for a while and named him Slimy and were generally enthralled until it was time to go in for lunch. I thought he would be fine there on the sidewalk so we left him there. But alas, it was a hot day and that little worm just dried right up before he made it to the grass. Being the scientist that I am, I mistakenly showed the dead worm to the girls thinking they would be intrigued and instead they were heartbroken. Ellie was moaning and sort of half-crying and saying, "Why isn't he moving? I love Slimy. Slomy was my best friend. I wanted to throw the ball at him. That was my dream!" and then, "Can we pray for Slimy? Dear God, please make Slimy like he was before."

That night at bed she was still lamenting the untimely passing of her slithering friend. And the next day, still torn up about that worm.

So today we go out to do some yard work. And in all of my excavating of our lawn, trying to get rid of the weeds that have grown everywhere, and the clover that has thoroughly lined only our section of the curb (sorry, neighbors!), I found a whole bunch of new worms for the girls to enjoy. And enjoy them they did. "Our best friends are back!" // "Oh look! It's Slimy! He's my favorite guy!"

And then there was this conversation:
Olivia: "Can we bring him into our house?"
Me: "No, worms like dirt much better than houses."
Olivia: "We can bring some dirt into our house."
Me: "Well, worms like to eat plants.  And there aren't any plants for them to eat inside. So they should stay outside in the dirt."

And then a few minutes later she brings over a shovel-full of dirt for her friend Slimy, so he can be happy. And when he wiggles out of the clump of dirt she threw on him, "Hey! He got out of his blanket! I need some more dirt!"

So you know. Now our sidewalk is littered with clumps of dirt. And the worms have been safely returned to their grass so they will survive the night. Because apparently, we love worms. Lots and lots of worms. And worms love us because we so rarely weed our yard or the curb around our sidewalk or do other things worms might not like. So I guess it's a win-win for us and our worm friends. And our neighbors are probably sad that our yard doesn't look as nice and trimmed as theirs do. But whatever. We have the worms on our side.

And here you have some pictures of Henry Bear playing in the dirt. He wasn't as in to the worms as everyone else was. But gosh, he's cute.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The One With the S'mores Pie

I don't know about you. But I'm a huge sucker for s'mores. And pies. Put the two together and you have pretty much made the best summer dessert possible. I'm making this for every barbecue and bonfire I go to these next few months. (So if you don't want to make it yourself, you can just invite me over.)

I've seen a couple recipes like a brownie s'mores pie that seemed like a good idea. But when I saw this one by Two Peas and Their Pod, I knew it would be delicious. (Plus, I like more graham cracker crust as opposed to less, and melted chocolate trumps brownies when you're making something s'moresy.) I've made it a few times and made some adaptations for extra goodness.

S'mores Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) browned butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 16 squares, crushed)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces marshmallow creme
  • 1 XL and 1 Giant Hershey's chocolate bar
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter and continue cooking until butter is amber in color and has a carmel smell to it. Be careful not to let the butter burn. Remove from heat, stir in brown sugar and set aside. 

In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, flour and baking soda. Sift together. Stir in butter and brown sugar and beat in the egg and vanilla. Divide the dough in half and press one half into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Save the other half for the top. 

Spread the marshmallow creme along the bottom of the crust. Break the chocolate bars into their separate pieces and press into the marshmallow creme. You won't need all of the chocolate pieces, save a handful for the top. 

Sprinkle the marshmallows on top.  Complete the pie by crumbling the remaining dough on top of the chocolate pieces and press it down slightly to seal up the pie. There will be little gaps in the top, but that's okay. Chop the remaining chocolate into little bits and press them into the crust.
Bake for 20 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 3 hours or so. (The longer you wait for this deliciousness to cool, solidify and meld together, the better it tastes.)
Steve thinks this is the best thing I've ever made. He has preemptively requested it for every birthday and special event from now until forever. It really is pretty delicious. I can't wait to be eating this while watching fireworks on the 4th of July. Perfection.
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