Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Art of Being 2 1/4

I got brave, ya'll. I brought out the liquid watercolors again!

Instead of loading the bingo markers (DISASTER!), I used an ice cube tray to hold the colors and paintbrushes for application. This was MUCH better. I also borrowed from The Artful Parent, and gave Lily Ruth a salt shaker...

The salt 'chases' the color, and adds a cool texture... until it all dries and falls off... whatever. It was big fun! Jean at The Artful Parent uses the salt in a different way (with wonderful results), but my Darling is younger than hers, so we're making it up as we go :-) When she's a little bit bigger, we'll try some of the more structured stuff. Until then...

We just added color and water and salt until we (*ahem* me...) were done.


By the way, check this out ;-)

Bubble stickers as body art! She's had them on all day, and had forgotten about them until just now when she watched me add that photo. Now I have to go - Her Nibs requests my assistance measuring things with the tape measure and moving her body stickers around. Duty calls!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brain Clearance ... and a RECIPE!

It has been a while since I posted a recipe. I still have an unpublished post that contains three of them, but it's so mind-numbingly boring that I am going to have to trash the whole post and start over. For now, you may either read through the detritus of my head, or skip to the recipe. It's a good one - Borracho Beans!


For her entire life, if Lily Ruth is tired or even just really relaxed, she flexes one set of toes and points the other. Usually, she flexes her left toes and points her right toes. Not her whole foot, just her toes.

Remember when I was worried that putting her into 'big girl shoes' would mean losing all of the silly things that she does with her feet? Like most of my trivial motherhood concerns, it was baseless. She still does all kinds of things with her feet. If she's sucking her thumb, she reaches for either her daddy or I with her feet to make sure we're still close and/or to draw us in closer. When she's asleep in our bed, she periodically checks our locations with her toes without even waking up. While rinsing her hair in the bathtub, she wraps her feet around my neck like a baby monkey. I love it.


I know that parenting is hard. It's not a secret. But right now, I feel like a truly bad parent. I have allowed my personal stuff to seriously get in the way of my patience. As a result, my darling daughter and I have been butting heads BIG TIME for close to two weeks now. Instead of backing off from my anger and suggesting acceptable compromises or even just backing down on things that mean nothing (yet are currently irritating me), I've been stubborn and ill-tempered. So has Lily Ruth... if you've ever needed proof that kids are little sponges who model their behavior on that of their parents, just come on over here. It's been awful.

I'm trying to step back and separate out my own emotional struggle and grown up crap from my day-to-day, moment-to-moment life with Lily Ruth. I'm making a conscious effort to make her laugh as many times as humanly possible each day. I'm working on my level of frustration and (once again) battling the urge to shut activities down because they're not going the way that I planned or they're too noisy or too messy.

A blog friend uses the phrase 'Don't kill the Joy'. I'm borrowing it and interpreting it to mean 'Don't act like an asshole just because you can. Let the moment play out - you might enjoy the result.'


I've decided not to attend any of the formal events surrounding my 20th (!!!) high school reunion. As soon as I made my decision, I felt lighter... so I know I made the right choice. The dang thing is still a month and a half off, and the 'ya'll need to get your money in NOW' and catty remarks about the supposedly 'anti-reunion' party that a good friend and I threw last time (and are repeating this time) just finally got to me. This has been an incredibly hard year for me. I don't need to PAY for and extra helping of drama. I'll just sit back and deal with what I've already got on my plate, thankyouverymuch.


I tried to get all crafty today, but my lack of actual knowledge about my sewing machine means that the thread tension is all out of whack, and my (never once replaced since I got the dang thing) needle is so dull that I have dropped stitches and pulls in the fabric. *sigh* Time to haul out some of that extra patience (HA!), and learn how to properly maintain my machine. Whatever. I'll pay you ten bucks cash to come take care of this for me. I'll even throw in a massage. Just make it happen.


SO! On to the recipe. This one comes from my housekeeper. She is a wonderful lady who works her butt off every day cleaning for rich white ladies (and me). Then she goes home and takes care of her large extended family. Then she uses all of her (unpaid) vacation time to take things like donated clothing and household goods back to friends and family in Mexico. Also, she is an incredible cook. For years, she has made these beans for us any time we ask. My grandmother finally followed her around one day recently and transcribed the recipe so that we could quit bugging her and make them ourselves.

I need to tell you that these beans are so good that even my bean-hating husband loves them and requested them for his birthday. They're that good.

Janie's Borracho Beans

2 Cups dried pinto beans
1 1/2 onions
10 slices raw bacon
4 large garlic cloves
1 fresh jalapeno pepper
1/2 of a green bell pepper
3 small tomatoes
1/2 of a cilantro bunch
1/2 of a beer (optional)

As with any dried bean, pick through them and discard and shriveled/discolored beans and/or rocks (I have no idea why they're in there, but they are). You're going to need hot water soon, so here's what I did. I put the beans in a pot and covered them with water. Then I poured that water off into a smaller pot - that way I knew that I had enough - and set the small pot on a back burner over medium-high heat. Then I covered the beans again, and put them on to boil. Once the beans boil, pour off that water, and add the hot water from the other pot. This step is what gives you gas-free beans, people, skip it at your own peril.

While the beans are coming back to a boil, chop the garlic cloves and the bacon and add them to the pot. Cut the ends off and remove the outer skin of the whole onion. Push it into the middle of the beans. Cook at a low simmer until the beans are done. I kept them covered. You can leave them uncovered, but you'll have to watch the water level. Too little water will cause your beans to burn/stick/go horribly wrong...

When the beans are almost done, chop then saute the 1/2 onion, peppers, and tomatoes. Add a small amount of beans and juices to the saute pan near the end. Remove the whole onion from the bean pot. Add the saute mixture into the beans.

If you would like to add beer, do so now (I used Shiner Bock), but be sure to continue cook it long enough to burn off the alcohol.

Add chopped cilantro when you take the beans off the heat.

By the By, if you make this a day ahead and allow it to mingle in the fridge overnight, it's even better. You're welcome. ;-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Open Letter to the Ginger Cats

Dear Feral Gingers that the Batty Old Lady Next Door Feeds,

Remember when we had decided to buy this house and my Mama walked past it every morning and reported that a bazillion of you had daily meetings on our lawn?

Remember when we moved in and we didn't forcibly evict you, but chose to let you wander in and out of our yard(s)?

Remember the times that you kept me, my husband and my dog up all night having cat sex behind our air conditioning unit?

Remember when one of you had kittens behind that same air conditioning unit (more than once)?

Remember how I allowed all of this because I felt sorry for you?

Well, my days of allowing you casual access to my yard and my life are O-V-E-R. You assholes have shredded my air conditioning intake and output ducts. During one of the hottest summers on record in this town, my family has been paying close to $500 every month so that your cat-sex-den could be air conditioned. You're outta here, you jerks. Do not come back. I am so very serious, and you do NOT want to test me on this one.

One PISSED OFF, Overheated Mama

Monday, September 12, 2011

Soapbox Alert!

I read a couple of blogs. Not enough so you'd call me obsessive, but a few more than... say... my mom. My mom reads several blogs that are not mine, but I think that I can safely say that I read more blogs than my mom, but fewer than your mom (<---- that was a joke for my mom who used to giggle indulgently at each wave of nonsensical  'your mom' jokes that swept through a group packed with teenagers who adored her). My point is, I read some blogs. Some are Mommy Blogs. Some are Crafting or Cooking Blogs. I even follow a few blogs that aren't about being a mom who crafts and cooks.

Today I was looking at a blog that I found when one of her posts went viral last year. Her blog is called Nerdy Apple Bottom, and she is known only by the moniker 'Cop's Wife' (she is obviously more internet savvy than myself since I use everybody's real name...). Last Halloween, the author's young son chose to go to school dressed as his favorite Scooby Doo character - Daphne. Her take on motherhood, her approach to life and her aplomb in handling the tornado of media that followed that post make me want to move in next door to her so we can be friends. Her post today made me stop and stare at the computer in silence. Then I wanted to cry. Then I wanted to wake Lily Ruth up so I could deliver a lecture on love, tolerance and acceptance. Not that she needs a lecture, but one was building up, and she's the only one home who uses English as their first language - the dog and the cat use their so-called 'lack of language skills' as a reason to ignore me and/or lick themselves when I start to rant.

So, here's the deal in Nerdy's post, she links to a blog - this blogger describes herself as a 'scientist turned homemaker and joyful convert to Catholicism'. According to her, she is practically afraid to take her kids out in public as there are too many openly gay people in her community.

You can click on the link that I embedded above, but I doubt that the writer will have the courage to leave her post up for much longer (especially since I'm fairly sure that it has already been edited since I first read it), so I'm pasting the body of it here:

The same people who say I shouldn't impose my morality on them, are imposing immorality on me and my children to the point that I literally have a hard time even leaving my home anymore to do something as simple as visit the park. And this is freedom?

I am a Catholic stay-at-home mother of seven, and I live in the state of Massachusetts where "gay marriage" has been legal for seven years and it's just one aspect of the larger secular agenda. Because we have so many little children, it takes a phenomenal effort to go anywhere. We have only filled our truck with gasoline twice this entire summer vacation. We go to Mass and we go two miles up the road to a small outdoor swimming pool. That's pretty much it.

At the pool this summer there were homosexual couples with children and, while I was polite as my own young daughters doted on the baby with two "mommies", I also held my breath in anticipation of awkward questions - questions I'm not ready to answer. My young daughters are all under the age of eight and they are not old enough to understand why a baby would have two women calling themselves "mommies".

When there were two men relaxing at the side of the pool unnaturally close to each other, effeminately rubbing elbows and exchanging doe-eyes, I was again anxiously watching my children hoping they wouldn't ask questions. They don't see Daddy do that with anyone but Mommy. We haven't been back to the pool for a couple of weeks, except once but it rained. The truth is, now I don't really want to go back.

So what am I harping about?

Today we decided to go to the park. We live near a nice park that is safe, clean and quiet. Two of my daughters were in the sandbox, one on the slide, the other on the swings, and as I lifted the baby out of his stroller I looked up to see four women laughing at a baby boy as he was swinging in one of those bucket baby swings. That seems harmless enough, but I'm so sensitized to the strangeness in my community that I've developed this ever-present jumpiness whenever I'm in public. Sure enough, two of the women, so happy to see a baby boy laughing, embraced and remained standing there rubbing each other's back in a way that was clearly not just friendly affection.

This is my community. I find myself unable to even leave the house anymore without worrying about what in tarnation we are going to encounter. We are responsible citizens. We live by the rules, we pay our taxes, we take care of our things. I'm supposed to be able to influence what goes on in my community, and as a voter I do exercise that right. But I'm outnumbered. I can't even go to normal places without having to sit silently and tolerate immorality. We all know what would happen if I asked two men or two women to stop displaying, right in front of me and my children, that they live in sodomy.

So now I go on a rant.

Our taxes are being used to fund contraception, abortion and IVF already. That offends me in ways that are inexpressible. I read last December in the Wall Street Journal how two men near us are raising two assembled daughters after announcing to the world how they killed two other siblings in surrogate mothers in India. Let me guess? I shouldn't offend them though, right? And what's next at the park? A needle exchange drop-box for heroin users? No joke. These things are not isolated, it is all the same issue at a fundamental level. We're being pushed to accept immorality and it's not just on TV and in Washington D.C. It's right in front of us too.

We fund a lot of illegal immigrants here (just ask the President about his auntie) and helping people who really need help is not something I'd ever oppose. But it's still haunting me that just this week I learned of anillegal immigrant who killed a young man innocently out for a ride on his motorcycle. The illegal immigrant, who didn't have a license, was so drunk he didn't notice when he hit a motorcyclist and then dragged the 23 year old college graduate a quarter of a mile while people were yelling at him to stop. When he finally did stop, the young man was still alive until the drunk driver put the car in reverse and backed up over him before driving away. He's charged with vehicular homicide and "reckless conduct creating a risk to a child." He had a six year old in the car with him.

Do you think knowing this happened about seven miles from my home makes me afraid to leave the house? You bet it does. But that just adds to everything else I'm being asked to tolerate. Seriously, is this freedom?


Honestly, I don't even know where to start. I guess mostly, this kind of thing makes me so sad. Then it makes me angry. Then it makes me want to go out and publicly rub elbows with every gay man who will tolerate me and rub the back of every lesbian within arm's reach. 

I loathe it when 'faith' is used as a cover for fear, ignorance and intolerance. As Bono said: "The God I believe in ain't short of CASH, Mister." My God is a loving god. My God is a tolerant god. My God created us ALL in his image. That's right, my God looks like every single person on this planet, and he loves us all... except the dummies and the haters. All right, fine. He loves the dummies and the haters too. 

Why is that poor woman so afraid? What is so scary about loving parents? Why does she think that lesbians commit sodomy?

So I let my daughter nap, and I send up a prayer for her. That she live her whole life surrounded by true, real love in any and every form. That she recognize that love and honor it. That she notice and embrace the differences in the people around her. Amen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

TWO, Glorious TWO!

There is a reason that this time is commonly called The Terrible Twos. It's a hard time to be a parent. It's also a hard time to be a toddler. There's just so much going on in their tiny heads that they occasionally just lose their cool. O.K. fine - more than occasionally. Some days I really hate it that my job is to be the 'grown up' and stay calm. Some days I am unable to perform my job and I throw a toddler sized temper tantrum myself.

Still,  I've chosen not to refer to it as The Terrible Twos. I feel like it's a self-fulfilling prophecy to do so. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's loud. Yes, I feel like I may not be up to the challenge some days. But I'm not willing to simply say 'there's no way around it, it's just going to be awful, so put on your helmet and hope it ends soon.' That's not what I believe. I believe (and I fervently hope) that while this is a part of parenting that I really wish I could opt out of, it is also an opportunity for incredible wonderment and joy... if only I can stay calm...

My daughter has exhibited more mental growth in the past few weeks than I would have thought humanly possible. From enhanced vocabulary to a startlingly clear recall (often of things I was unaware I had said!), she blows us away every day. It's exhausting. She's worn out. I'm worn out. We're like two limp dishrags - no drive, no spark.

Between the heat and our attitudes, it has been harder than usual to leave the house. We used to bounce out of bed, eat breakfast then jump into clothes and start our day. Lately, we wake up late, stagger out of bed, Lily Ruth announces that she wants to stay home then she starts listing the movies that she wants to watch. My attempts to cajole her into motion are met with tears and high-pitched wails. My attempts to order her into motion are met with shrieks and slammed doors.

Today is a prime example. Now, while my Darling Daughter did manage to take one of my pleas to heart, she did so in what I would consider a half-assed way. Since she's not a teenager yet, this came as a surprise. Yesterday I told her (for the billion-th) that I didn't like waking up to whining. I let her know that it would feel much better to me if she said nice things like 'good morning, Mama! I'm so glad to see you!' instead of whining 'I'm hungry' or 'I want out of here!' This morning she managed 'Mama, I'm awake' in a neutral tone. Since there was no whining, I decided to count it as a win. While nothing overtly awful happened after that, it was the last win for a while. Every. little. thing. is a battle right now. Bath, clothes, food, shoes, getting in the car. Each step is like pulling teeth. If I agree with her, she cries. If I disagree with her, she cries. If I offer her a choice, she refuses to speak to me. And I wonder why I'm so wiped out every day...

Yet these incredibly dragged-out days of stubborn craziness are filled with moments of ridiculous happiness. There's the girl who asked politely for her sunglasses, then wore them to push her doll on the 'big girl' swing (before having a full blown melt down in the library):

There's the big girl who asked nicely and therefore received a treat (following it up with 'Don't WANNA leave! NO go tiny car!!!!):

There's the dueling egos who put aside their battle of MINE long enough to share a chair and a some books:

**Side note: You may have noticed that she has the same hairdo in each picture. It's our new go-to-'do. It keeps the sides out of her face, and makes it clear that I put at least some effort into her grooming each day. It also makes her habit of working intense amounts of her own saliva into her hair slightly less obvious :-/**

There's also the girl who woke up from her nap and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her day snuggled into her Mama... and the Mama who wanted nothing more than to hold her big girl close.

Oh, and the girl who (completely unprompted) shouted 'BAD CHOICE, DADDY!!!' then collapsed into giggles after her dad chose to check the college football replay before joining her in the pool.

Let's not forget the girl who sings the theme to The Muppet Show in the cutest monotone drawl you've ever heard.

Or the angel who just laughed her way down the hall to read stories with her 'Dahd'.

It's those happy interludes that I'm working on keeping in the front of my mind. Especially during days like today when my greatest urge is to go back to bed... or cry... or both... because it really is still worth it. Every minute of it. Reading over this post, I'm struck by the almost audible hum of my frustration. My nearly palpable sense of need. This is a phase. It will pass. Not that the next phase will be any easier, but it will be different. Mostly, I need a little perspective, a deep breath and some sleep. Not only can I do this, but I'm honored to do so.

Still, if you have a spare case of patience just gathering dust in your garage, please send it my way. I will also graciously accept donations of stylish clothing, money or alcohol. Thank you in advance for your support.