My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Quick Thought: Queen Bees and Wannabees

I am finally reading “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman. You know the book, it’s a non-fiction account of Girl World, written by a woman who started an empowerment program in the nineties. She did workshops all-over with adolescent girls and her book is essentially a sociology experiment (anthropology experiment??): Cliques, social hierarchy, bullying, etc.

I’ve only just begun, but I had this thought: It gets better.

You know the Dan Savage program out there for gay adolescents? Well, really, maybe we could extend the same message to all adolescents.

I am only 35 pages into this blessed book, and already I’m having flashbacks to my own awkward middle school years, where I started out a petite girl (I remember wearing size 3 pants) and left in eight grade at my present height (5’9″) and weighed 135-140 lbs. That’s saying nothing about the friend drama, only the body trauma.

Sometime soon, I will have to write letters to my own daughters for them to open upon the beginning of fifth grade. It will start with the line, “Before you roll your eyes…”

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Gettin’ Crafty: Recycled Art Owls

You know, I found this idea back on Pinterest about 6 months ago. And it’s taken me this long to realize that 6 months worth of saved toilet paper rolls is probably enough to make a go of this project.

I bring you Toilet Paper Roll Owls. And they are cute (say it like this: cue-oooot). This is a perfect project for a preschooler, but clearly I had a great deal of fun with it, so don’t rule it out for the thirty-five-year-olds in your circles either.

Here’s what you do:

1. Collect a bunch of toilet paper rolls and fabric or paper scraps. You’ll need scissors, glue (preferably a glue gun, as I figured out), a hole puncher, masking tape, paint (we used a washable tempera paint made by Crayola),paint brushes and markers. Alternatively, you could use googly eyes (I took the slacker approach and used a hole puncher to make holes and a marker to color them into eyes). It’s helpful to plan for a bit of a mess, too–so aprons, newspaper, paper towels, etc. are nice to have around, too.

We’ve collected our gear, now they anxiously await the painting… No, really, it doesn’t look it but they were TOTALLY into this. Really.

2. First step, prepare the toilet paper rolls. Pinch the top of the roll together, and bend the edges in towards one another. Tape with masking tape to keep this in place. Now paint.

Painting is fun! We used a paper plate leftover from Christmas (hi, Santa!) as our palette.

3. Let the owls-in-waiting dry completely.

I found it was easier to hold the roll from the inside and paint it while holding it.

4. Cut your fabric scraps into wings, cut little triangles out of orange construction paper, and punch out circles to use as eyes (or use googly eyes).

We had a helper to make our owls–one of my daughter’s friends was over!

5. Time to glue. Now, I used both glue stick and hot glue. I think the texture of the toilet paper roll combined with the fact that you’re gluing things to a cylinder and not a flat piece of paper did make it a little obnoxious. Pull out the big “gun” if you have one. (I’m such a dork, making glue gun jokes is not even the worst of it.)

They are coming together.

6. Well, lo and behold… an owl. OWLS! What a hoot!

“WHO” loves crafting???



Guilty Pleasures: Still I’m Gonna Miss You

Many, many nights I spend far too many minutes (hours sometimes) catching up on shows after the kids are in bed. We use streaming Netflix and HuluPlus to do this, because we are cheap and somehow figure we’ll watch less TV if cable is not available to us. (I’m betting that’s untrue. At least for me it is.)

In any case, tonight I caught up on Saturday Night Live. I watched the one from May 19th–the episode was hosted by none other than Mr. Mick Jagger. I ironed, I watched, I laughed, did a little laundry, I watched. And then, there at the very end, I had my heart broken.

Because Kristen Wiig is leaving the show.

I love her so much. I will miss her adorably gross physically and cognitively disabled songstress (“small hands”) on the Lawrence Welk show, her duets with Fred Armisen on Weekend Update, her Suze Orman impressions, her digital shorts with Andy Samberg, her Kathie Lee impressions, and Judy Grimes (“just kidding”). Among others.

But one of my recent favorites, and maybe it’s just because I have young girls and it’s an omni-presence in our house, is my girl Kristen as Cinderella on “The Real Housewives of Disney.” Quote: “I’ve got some advice for you–don’t ever marry a guy that’s really into shoes.”

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure? What show/movie/music/magazine/blog helps you make it through the day?



Camping: A progress report
May 21, 2012, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

We made our maiden voyage with the ol’ JayCo Swift this weekend. Dare I say it was a success? Sure, I forgot my flip-flops, and it did rain a bit, but the kids and my husband–oh, my husband–had such a fantastic time. Therefore, I had such a fantastic time.

My list of why I now love camping is expanding every time I think about it, but here’s a general run-down of our fun times:

The weather, when it cooperates, lends itself to happy hikers.

Ruby was shaking it right up the hill

The weather, when it doesn’t cooperate, lends itself to cozy inside time.

The kids got to watch a movie, my hubby and I got in a game of cribbage and I got to finish my book!

The weather, even after it doesn’t cooperate, does make amends.

Aw…

The best dessert in the world might just be roasted, toasty marshmallows.

The roasters loved the flames, but not the smoke (hence the sunglasses)

Taking all of us away from our everyday routine proved restorative.

Throwing rocks on the beach

This camping thing might be a very fun hobby for all of us.



Read an essay, have a thought: Paid maternity leave

I’m instituting a new category called, “Read an essay, have a thought.” I feel it’s fairly self-explanatory. It’s prompted in part by all those links people post on facebook that I want to talk about, but I feel like a 1000 word comment might be a bit much.

There is this fabulous essay on the Moms in Maine website written by a woman named Michelle. It’s a thoughtful and eye-opening response to the Time Magazine cover. (Yep, the same cover that I talked about here.) Michelle’s thoughts are this: Who the eff cares? What you should be worried about is the fact that the US is the only developed country to not have paid maternity leave as law.

This essay brings up a bunch of different thoughts for me. Namely, my decision to quit my job would have been different. If I could have the benefit of staying home with my baby for 50 weeks at 55% of my salary (as Canada does), I would have absolutely hands-down taken the leave and came back to work nearly a year later with a smile on my face.

How do I know? Well, because that’s basically what I did, only 7 weeks after my first child was born. But I was one of the lucky ones, because my awesome employer allowed me to bring my daughter to work with me. And that’s what we did at least 2 days a week for the first 6 months that I returned from work. (I was afraid I wouldn’t get any work done at all if I kept her with me all day every day–as I said earlier, she didn’t nap all that well.)

This was my set-up in July of 2007: Pack-n-play and bouncy seat in the office

It’s interesting though, because returning to work when your baby is 7weeks old is challenging. But the next year-and-a-half of being a working mom was so much more challenging. I think that if I had been afforded 50 weeks of leave (or possibly even 12 weeks of leave, which my awesome employer did not have to offer me because they didn’t have to abide by FMLA), my life would have been so different. Maybe I’m just seeing everything through rose-colored glasses, but I feel like I barely knew what was going on, who my baby was, what her needs were, and I had to drop her off some place new with strangers, and then get myself over to work. Would a few more weeks of the parenting gig without the pressure of the daycare schlepp have made the difference? I’d like to think it would have.

But as it was, I was afforded a “private” lactation area (my office with a curtain).Time afforded to pump was a given. Storage of my expressed milk went in the fridge, and no one ever said a word about it. I was given a great deal of flexibility from my employer, including being able to work from home occasionally when my daughter was sick and she couldn’t go to daycare. I was allowed to bring my daughter to work functions and all of my colleagues were supportive of this. To be fair, I worked for a child advocacy organization, so it was very appropriate of them–not every company can do that. My first few months of working are filled with wonderful memories of my co-workers holding Scout, helping me, offering me wisdom, and cheering us both on.

And yet, I still quit my job.

So, Michelle, I would like to add something to your fabulous essay. Not only do American families need paid maternity leave (and paid paternity leave, while you’re at it), but American families need high-quality, affordable daycare.

As I said, I would have happily taken more leave after the birth of my first child. I think that would have made us a more stable family, and given us a little more time to emerge from the transition of becoming a family of three. As it was, we did a lot of racing around, and that first few months especially felt like a whirlwind. Would it have felt that way even if I wasn’t working? Sure. But would it have been a bit less stressful? Absolutely. Less balls to juggle means, well, an easier time juggling.

But the biggest issue for my family, one that my husband and I knew from the get-go, was that the cost of daycare for one kid was manageable, but the cost of daycare for two kids was unreasonable. I paid $900/month for high-quality daycare. This was actually $100-200 less than what some of my friends paid. I used a daycare center, not an in-home daycare provider, and the director of the facility was an RN. This place had a lot of space, toys, outdoor recreation, sleeping areas with dim lights, and most importantly a qualified staff with low turnover. It was a check I wrote willingly. In my opinion, daycare is not where you want to save a buck. I’ll sacrifice many things to save money, but my personal philosophy is, “Do not be cheap when it comes to doctors, dentists and child care providers.” But with two kids in daycare, after subracting $1800 a month from my take-home pay, my average hourly wage at that point is $3.75/hour. Add to this quandary the fact that part-time daycare is so difficult to come by (especially for a newborn), and the part-time employment offered to me by my employer as a happy-medium was actually not as good an option as it sounds.

Though the choice to become a stay-at-home-mom wasn’t entirely dictated by financesĀ  (you can read more about that here), it was heavily influenced by it. I had a great job, with supportive colleagues, but it still wasn’t a great situation. I think if I had been given the opportunity to stay home longer with my baby, I would have. If there had been government subsidies in place to assist with the cost of daycare, I could have justified working. And I would have jumped at the chance to work part-time. As it was, I felt like my time with my daughter was limited and–if we chose to have another child–I’d be working to pay for daycare.

It’s my dream that my daughters, if they choose to have children of their own, won’t have to make a choice about their employment the way that I did.



Kitchen success: Kid-friendly party menu

Occasionally, we will have people over. I say “occasionally” because if it were up to me, we’d have people over daily, but as far as my hubby is concerned, he’s happy to live his life sans people, er, I mean complications. We are the merging of Chatty Cathy and Thoreau. Don’t think it’s escaped me how odd this is, but as they say, “Opposites attract.”

Um, yeah, back to the party…This is super-easy, I promise.It does take some prior planning, but when the guests arrive, you’ll not be stuck in the kitchen. Here’s your menu: Fruit kabobs, hummus and veggies, and chilli dogs. Eclectic and weird, just the way I like it. The best part of this “party in a flash” is that nearly everything can be made in advance, and once the friends arrive all you have to do is grill up some hot dogs. Simple, right?

Fruit kabobs:

The spears stick into a large piece of watermelon, but alternatively you could use pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, or even a big ol’ block of styrofoam if you don’t want to use the fruit.

I used blackberries, blueberries, kiwi chunks, cantalope, pineapple (fresh), and strawberries. Plus, I used a huge slice of watermelon to hold all of my kabobs. I threaded these fruits in various combinations onto large wooden barbeque skewers (found in the grilling section of our local grocery store) and cocktail spears. I liked the varied lengths.

Hummus:

Oh, Ina, I want to thank you for making the world a better place with this hummus recipe.

I need to give credit where credit is due, and this recipe is mostly inspired by the delicious Barefoot Contessa’s recipe that I couldn’t for the life of me find on her website (do you think it’s a plot to withhold the world’s best hummus recipe from the masses?). Lucky for you, I’m like a steel trap when it comes to remembering the ingredients to my beloved recipes.

Use 1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), 3 cloves of garlic (minced), the juice of 3 lemons, 1/3 cup of tahini, 1 tsp. of salt, and a little squirt of Sriracha (that part is all me!). Whip it all up in a food processor, let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Serve with veggies (I like carrots, celery, cucumber slices, sliced peppers, kalamata olives, etc.) and some chips (tortilla chips, pita chips, I really love the mult-grain “Food Should Taste Good”-brand chips). Seeing as though I think hummus is kid friendly, but not everyone might, kids can eat their veggies without the hummus, or you can offer them some–gasp–ranch dressing as an alternative.

Chilli Dogs:

First, the chilli. This is actually BETTER a day or two old. I made ourĀ  batch of chilli in the crock pot the day before we used it for the party. I know that many, many people have strong feelings about chilli, so I will just warn you that this is the standard, tomato-based, ground beef and beans deal. I am sure somewhere they serve green chilli or white chilli on top of hot dogs, but not at my house.

My chilli in the works the day before.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef

3 cans assorted beans, rinsed and drained (I like kidney, black and pinto, myself)

2 cans (28 oz) of crushed tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen roasted tomatoes, yum)

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 T cocoa powder

1 T cumin

2 T chilli powder

1 tsp. molasses

1-2 tsp. salt

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Brown your ground beef, breaking into tiny crumbles as you go 7-10 minutes. Drain. Throw all of this and all the other ingredients into an 8-qt. slow cooker and cook on low 7-8 hours. (Note: I have a 6-qt slow cooker and I can barely make it all fit if I leave out one can of beans.This recipe makes A LOT.) Ideally, you’d make the chilli a day (or two) ahead, store it in the fridge, and serve it up warm on the day of the party in your slow cooker.

As for the hot dogs: Grill ’em or boil ’em, it’s your choice, I suppose. There’s a better answer here and I’ll let you discern for yourself. (No judgement. Sometimes you do what you gotta do.)

To serve a chilli dog, you’ll want a dog, a bun (my hubby prefers a grilled bun), chilli, shredded cheese (cheddar or monterey jack are good choices), and diced onions. Another bonus is that if the kids turn their nose up at chilli dogs, you just serve them a hot dog without the chilli. Alternatively, if someone is not feeling the hot dogs, offer them a delicious bowl of chilli. See–you’ve got options with this meal!

Ta-Da! I told you this would be easy!

I can take no credit for this one (although mine were delish!), but I slacked and got no photo of my dogs–here’s one from simplyrecipes.com

Now, you’ll want to serve all of this with some delightful lemonade for the kids and some “grown up drinks”, too.

Lemonade: Juice from 3 lemons, 1/2 cup sugar (alter to taste), 3 cups of water. Make this in a container where you can shake it up without spilling all over the place (I use a nalgene bottle). You’ll want to shake shake shake until the sugar is pretty much dissolved. Chill. Serve over ice. Throw in some delightful lemon slices, too.

Grown up drinks–Tequila and tonic: You’ll need limes, margarita salt, ice, tequila and tonic. Using a lime to wet the rim of your glass (I serve these in Ball pint jars), salt your rim. Dump in your ice until flass is nearly full of ice. Add 1 1/2 to 2 oz of tequila (brand doesn’t need to be stellar since you’re just going to dump a bunch of tonic water in it). Add a the juice of 1/3-1/2 of a lime, depending on taste. Fill remainder of glass with tonic water, being careful that the carbonation fizz doesn’t run all the way up to the top and dissolve your carefully plotted salt-rim. Throw in a little lime slice to pretty it up. Voila, now we’re all set, right?



In defense of naps
May 14, 2012, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Family, Just making conversation | Tags: , , , ,

I know that it was Mother’s Day recently. Maybe you had the same request that I had. When my husband asked me what I wanted to do, I laughed and said, “I want to take a nap.”

That actually didn’t happen for me, but I did have a lovely Mother’s Day complete with a delectable breakfast–that I didn’t have to cook!! But what is it about a nap that is always so enticing?

Oddly, my children never understood the beauty of resting during the day. Scout gave up napping around the time her sister came along (so, two and a half) and Ruby pretty much gave up napping right around the age of 2. Most people are shocked, and some have even suggested that it’s way too early for these girls to be cutting out their naps. I couldn’t agree more! But they won’t listen to me.

What you’re seeing here is akin to witnessing the snow leopard in the wild.

Here is a consolidation of my many nap issues:

  1. When they were little babies–Scout was worse than Ruby, but still–they didn’t nap for long periods of time. I felt duped. Aren’t babies supposed to sleep all the time? Scout would take a 20 minute catnap, tops, and sometimes three times a day.
  2. Once they went down to one nap a day (for Scout this was around 15 months, and for Ruby it was 11 or 12 months), that’s when I finally got a solid nap out of them. Seriously, over an hour and I’d be in heaven.If they did two hours ever I would totally go check on them to make sure they were still breathing.
  3. My personal policy on naptime is that it’s “me” time. A Stay-at-home-mom gets very few breaks during the day, and as we all know, rarely even gets to enjoy the bathroom alone. I felt it was imperative that I took the naptime as my downtime. Sure, there was all sorts of stuff I could have been doing–laundry, cleaning, baking, cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning–but I felt like my “me” time could end at any moment and so I’d better enjoy it for what it was worth–not waste that time on superficial things like tidying up the place.
  4. Naptime always messed my kids up. Scout did this weird grouch thing. Spending 30-45 minutes of my day watching her come out of her crabby nap-funk is not worth it, in my opinion. Ruby, on the other hand, seems to have a set limit on the amount of sleep she gets in any given day. Should she take a nap for an hour, that meant she’d push her own bedtime back an hour. A nice rest for her during the afternoon meant that I got to a) watch one kid instead of two, and b) put her to bed at 10 pm instead of 8 pm. Yeah, um, thanks but no thanks.
  5. Even though a break in the afternoon would be lovely, I’d trade naptime for a decent night’s rest for both of them any day. Some days, it did feel like if they got a decent nap, then we’d sacrifice on bedtime in some way. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works. Somedays are just crummy sleep days, what are you gonna do? But as it is around here, Scout sleeps 11 hours a night and Ruby sleeps 12 usually. Due to the benevolence of the Lord and the likely knowledge of the sub-par treatment they would receive if they did, they do not get up at 5 am, 5:30 am or 6 am. Usually, they sleep until 7:30 am, sometimes later. Like most things in parenthoodland, I find that this is my trade off. I never had good nappers, but I got some kids who sleep in. I best be knocking on some wood right about now.

What about you? Do you have amazing nappers? If so, keep it to yourself. But seriously, do you too harbor secret dreams that include indulgent, decadent naps? Tell me a great nap story.