Monday, February 9, 2015

Spring has sprung... Just like the button on my jeans

It's February, and in California that means we've weathered one day of rain and can now jump straight into Spring. Need confirmation? Just look at all the beautiful colors around you: grassy green, daffodil yellow, flowering purple lavender, and the red of tulips.

Only I'm not talking about nature, silly.

I'm referring to the beautiful hues on the multiple boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in my pantry. The green of Thin Mints, yellow of Savannah Smiles, purple of Samoas (or Caramel Delites), and red of Peanut Butter Patties. Yes, it's that time of the year. Regardless of what that bastard, Punxsatawney Phil says, girls come out of the woodwork in early spring, preying on our lack of willpower and our desire to support female entrepreneurs. Girl power! Goal-setting! Sense of community! Blah blah... Now give me those damn Do-Si-Dos.

At some point the Girl Scouts employed a marketing genius who bet people would become addicted to these sweet, sugary confections. Someone who said, "But wait, we'll only sell them for a brief time each year to keep up demand! (cue evil laugh)".

It starts out innocently enough. I buy a few boxes from my niece. Good. Done. I'm on a diet, and I don't need these things. Just enough for my husband and boys to sample some over the next few weeks. Right? Sure. Only, soon enough I need my fix. And suddenly I'm addicted. What kind of crack do they bake into those little shortbread cookies? I can't get enough! Must have more!

Next thing I know, I have an empty box and I'm surrounded by flaky crumbs. I don't want my family to know that I've binged on a whole box of Thin Mints, so I must buy another box to replace it. But then they'd know it was a new box. I better eat half to make it look realistic. Eh, why not finish that one off too? Suddenly I'm driving around, desperately looking for little girls in green vests like some kind of pervert. Why are there no tables in front of stores when you really need them? How did my neighbors get rid their giant towers of cookie boxes so quickly? Don't they stockpile, knowing I'll need more before it's even March?!? "Thin Mints" - what a misnomer. Maybe "Big Fatty Mints" would be better. True, sales might be affected.

I'm relieved I don't have a Girl Scout. All those boxes calling to me throughout the day? I'd have to pay for the entire shipment myself and I'd look like Jabba the Hutt. Any daughter of mine would have the highest sales, however! Thank goodness Cub Scouts don't sell cookies. How long do you think a table of nicely-stacked cookie boxes would last with hyper boys running around it, playing tag, possibly using the boxes as footballs? No boys would be calmly carting wagons full of cookies around the neighborhood. The wagons would become go-carts with boys falling out as they careen down a hill. Maybe that's just my boys.

Enjoy your spring, bursting forth with new growth! May it be flowers and not your waist size.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Sorry Kids! Your Mom's a Nurse

My son went to the skate park yesterday. The place was hopping with skateboarders of all ages perfecting tricks. But the first thought that entered my son's head was: "Mommy would not be happy. Look at all the kids riding around without a helmet!" 

Yes! My crazy insistence on injury prevention has seeped in. My boys know that I will call out to any random kid on wheels, "Where's your helmet?!" Because I am a nurse in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. I have seen firsthand the protection that a little plastic bowl can provide your noggin... and the horrifying effects that a hard hit on concrete can leave on an unprotected skull. I wish I could pass out business cards with photos of kids who have suffered head injuries. Too much? Yeah, you're probably right, but it's annoying to see kids needing hospitalization for injuries that might have been prevented if they had actually clipped their helmets in place.

And yet... being the child of a nurse presents an interesting dichotomy. My kids know that while you can never be too careful, you're never quite sick enough to need an ER visit. Is your arm still attached to your body? Then you'll be fine. It's barely hanging on by the ligament and you're bleeding profusely? Well, maybe we should call the advice nurse... right after you use your good arm to clean up that blood!

My older son had a broken clavicle last year. I'm embarrassed to say that we didn't even get x-rays until 5 days later. Hey, don't judge! He came home after flipping over his bike handlebars and complained that his shoulder hurt. In retrospect, I should've known that a broken collarbone is the most likely injury from this kind of Superman stunt, but I was more concerned with whether or not he had been wearing his helmet. And, in my defense I wanted to take him in at least a day earlier but he insisted he was too busy with school projects to find time for a measly doctor's visit. Surprisingly, he toughed it out without much complaint, but loves to tell people how his parents neglected him for the good part of a week.

Heaven forbid either boy has the sniffles though! He will whine all day about his congestion and how his sore throat feels like it's on fire, and how he hates the gross-tasting medicine. On and on. Yeah, we've all had colds. Buck up Buttercup! You'll manage.

My younger son came down with a mysterious illness right as winter break ended. I think it might have been a nasty strain of "I enjoyed my time off and don't want to go back to school just yet". I wasn't falling for it and insisted he'd be just fine. I'm not really impressed unless you have a raging fever and some color change. I sent him off to school with the assurance that he could come home if he truly felt miserable at school since both mom and dad were home and available at a moment's notice. After running errands and doing housework I noticed that there was a message on the machine. A sad little voice pleaded, "I'm not really feeling good. Can you come pick me up?" The time indicated that he'd called three hours before! (My husband didn't hear the phone when I was out.) I rushed to call the office, picturing my baby lying on the hard cot all alone and miserable. She assured me he hadn't been in and patched me through to the classroom. My son's teacher didn't know he had tried to call earlier so nobody looked up my cell number to reach me. When asked how he was feeling and if he needed to be picked up early (with only an hour of school remaining) he said he felt fine. Like 7/10 good. This is why I never worry right away.

Well that's not really true. When you work with extremely sick kids you see a lot of scary diseases that can spring up unexpectedly. Nurses know too much and sometimes we freak out unnecessarily. I'm guessing most people's kids don't wake up to a parent leaning over them with a stethoscope or shining a light in their eyes, or bending their chin down to their chest to check for meningitis. Is it a headache or an invasive brain tumor? A twisted knee or osteosarcoma? Oh my  God - leprosy??? Oh, wait, that's just a hangnail. Yeah, okay, time to dial it back a notch.

We all have our weird parental neuroses. My boys' immune systems will be stronger for having battled mild diseases without the help of antibiotics. They'll know how to tough it out when they sometimes feel like crap. That doesn't mean there won't be whining, but they'll be fine in the end. We got this.

Pass this on to anyone who was lucky to survive having a nurse for a parent!

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Pal-e- Oh, My Gosh, No!

I've been trying to eat healthier lately. As any mom knows: it's a challenge to find healthy foods to suit the entire family. Actually, successful meal plans are a challenge on any given day. I'm pretty sure kids conspire to see who can get Mommy's eye twitching when they complain about the food. It could be donuts, but one of them will whine and push the plate away in disgust because that's the agreed-upon rule.

My quest has been somewhat successful. I'm eating healthier and losing weight. My kids are... well, they're losing weight too. Mainly because they pretend to be full when they see the dinner that's in front of them. "Uh, I ate earlier. That banana really filled me up. But, it looks uh... great mom. I'm just not hungry." And then I find them eating their third bowl of cereal an hour later.

I've been focusing on a diet low in carbs and high in protein. For me at least. I'll have my chicken with vegetables and the boys get additional pasta or bread with their meal. Inevitably one boy complains because he "hates chicken" and swears I'm torturing him because he's a vegetarian (even though he devours In-N-Out burgers). The other boy complains because I put something green on his plate. The horror! It's like Kryptonite - it weakens him until he's slumped over in defeat, slowly dissecting each green bean pod to smash the individual beans before gagging them down.

I turned to Pinterest to find new recipes to torture them... I mean, to find amazing new food creations to tantalize my sweet sons' palates. Thankfully, each post has a picture so I can quickly judge the time from presentation to rejection. "Nope, too many weird colors. That one has a brown sauce that will make him cry." Some experiments have met with mild success, meaning that only half of our family hated it. I keep trying, going back to the drawing board - or pinning board as the case may be.

When you start looking for Paleo recipes or anything low-carb you stumble into a world of food substitutions. Vegetables masquerade as grains in any number of ways. I have to say that I enjoyed cauliflower "fried rice" and even cauliflower "pizza dough". Both were a bit different, but not horrible. (That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, but it's hard to compare cauliflower to a good doughy pizza crust). Instead of traditional flour there are a million other "flours" that qualify as Paleo. Coconut, almond, tapioca. All of which require a special trip to the store. You don't just have this stuff sitting around in your pantry when you decide to start a low-carb diet. It becomes a hunt. Does the regular grocery store carry this stuff, and where is it? I lucked out and found a wall of bins filled with various flours, millets, seeds, and other mystery materials I've never used before. I had to Google whether I could use Coconut oil in place of Palm oil because I don't even know what this stuff is but it's supposedly good for me and I must have it for my no-carb muffins. Don't even try to figure out what "ghee" is.

I'm becoming better acquainted with some of the Paleo ingredients and tricks to cut the carbs. But some substitutions surprise - and scare - me. I found a post for a "meat bagel". Seriously. It's a bagel-shaped ground beef creation. People! That's a burger with a hole in the middle. Just because you sliced it in half and stuck lettuce in the middle it's not magically a "bagel"! No one is fooled by food masquerading as something else. Even turkey-shaped tofu knows it's not real turkey just because it donned a disguise. Broccoli "breadsticks" would never stand a chance with my kids. "Chia" and "chocolate" should not be used in the same sentence. And just because a recipe has the word "cake" in the title does not mean it should be in the same category as an actual sugar-rich, flour-heavy creation. Raw avocado vanilla cheesecake anyone? Um... No.

I believe we've come full circle and are back to the strange food combinations that some people tried to pass off as "creative hostess dishes" last century. Have you seen the Vintage Recipe pictures that feature meats, veggies, and gelatin in ever-stranger configurations?

Why did anyone think this was a good idea? And why do most of the jello salads feature olive-eyes that stare straight into my soul? I guess next time my kids are complaining about a meal I will just pull out a few old-time recipes and see what they think. I bet they'd eat their meat bagel and be happy about it.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

When Moms Have Free Time, Look Out!

I've been waiting for this day since my kids were born: the day that I can finally do the things I like to do. For me. Without guilt.

It's been a long time coming. When my boys were babies people gave the typical advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, yada, yada, yada... Seriously, who do they think is going to do the dishes and laundry when I'm sleeping all day? I quickly figured out that you get as much done as possible when the little ones are snoozing. No other way around it. Yes you're exhausted and irritable - but hey, welcome to Motherhood! Get used to it.

This year marks the first time that both of my boys are able to ride to school on their own. You know what that means? When I close the garage door at 8:05 I AM FREE!!! No schlepping grumpy kids to school, or fighting for a parking space with other harried, caffeine-deprived moms. If nobody sees my face on campus they can't talk me into another volunteer position. Ladies and gentlemen, I am on my own for the next seven hours (so long as my husband is not home, getting in the way of my newfound freedom)!

So what's a girl to do with all this free time? Well, herein lies my problem. I have lots of ideas for projects and I can find a million more ideas online. Pinterest is like the devil on my shoulder whispering, "Sure, you can do that! Try it! Go for it! Who wouldn't want a life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex made out of wine corks???" My dad was an artistic, crafty kind of guy with lots of project ideas as well. When we cleaned out his house we found countless bags from Michael's with random supplies that were never opened or put to use. Who needs 6,000 rolls of wire ribbon? Beads, wreath supplies, styrofoam birds... I have no idea what he thought he'd make with all of this, but he's passed on the mentality that you can create something extraordinary in your time off.

So I signed up for a painting class!

I've promised myself that I will work out more.

That novel I'm writing is finally getting more words on the pages. When people ask me how it's going I can reply "It's coming along, thanks!" instead of screaming "I'm still on page 103 just like 3 months ago goddammit!"

I've been meaning to paint our coffee table and side tables in the living room, so that's on my to-do list.

I will definitely recover that ugly recliner that we "inherited" from my mother-in-law. I can't get rid of the thing because it's comfy and all the testosterone-people in my house insist it's the best thing ever. They don't care that it looks like a reject from Sanford and Son's junkyard. So I just need to get some hip fabric, sew a custom cover, staple it in place, and then screw the wooden arms (freshly painted to match the tables of course) back in place. Should be done sometime soon, I'm sure.

I decided that since I've been enjoying the painting thing I should create custom paintings of peoples' pets for them as an additional source of income. (Before my novel gets published and lands on the New York Times Bestseller List, giving me millions of dollars just like all other debut novels). I should get a few examples done before the school's holiday boutique so I can show my work and rack in the orders. Orders that would need to be filled right around the holidays. No stress there.

You know what I don't like to do on my time off? Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Cooking. I'm pretty sure that my kids won't appreciate the fancy "new" furniture if there's no food in the house. In fact, they might find me snoozing face-first in crusted acrylic paints.

I'm thinking that all of this free time has destroyed my sanity. As a mom I can't just slip into selfish-mode without some residual guilt that I'm not doing enough for my kids. I should probably go to school and see if they need me for yard duty today. Maybe I can shelve some library books.

On second thought, I think I'll go take one of those naps I neglected early on.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back-to-School Shopping Hell

Here's the dream version of how it would go down:

I take both smiling, happy boys to a few stores. They pick out stylish new clothes and shoes, try them on willingly, and then we go to the register where everything is on sale. We leave the store with bags in hand and cash in wallet and they return home to clean their rooms and get ready for the next school year to begin.

Ha! Yeah, right. Obviously, that would never happen. No school kid is this excited.
Image courtesy of photostock at

I wasn't prepared for the full rebellion. I would absolutely love it if someone took me shopping every year for a new wardrobe. No complaints here. But I'm not a teen or pre-teen boy, obviously. I had to endure eye-rolls, giant sighs, and whining. (I forgot to mention that my husband came with us.)

My older son didn't mind having new clothes thrust upon him, he just didn't want to actively choose them. He couldn't believe I'd ask him to walk around some racks and pick out things he liked. What a terrible mom I am. And then, when I told him to go try stuff on? You'd think I was putting him in a torture chamber instead of a dressing room!

"Why do I have to try these on? Medium looks like it fits fine."
"I'm not buying this unless you try it on. What if it's too small?"
"Fine, then just get the large. If it doesn't fit me now I'll wait until it does."

Um, how will that give you clothes to wear for school? You'll just wait until November to attend class when your clothes might fit you? Come on! 

He did get excited about some items. He wants all of the tee shirts with rude, sarcastic sayings or questionable images. I'm not paying for that kind of first impression. Teachers don't need a shirt to tell them you're sarcastic and snotty.

My younger son was somewhat easier. He doesn't mind shopping or trying on clothes. It's his fashion sense that concerns me. If I'd let him, he'd wear super-tight skinny jeans with neon compression shirts. I'm glad he's not self-conscious, but nobody wants to see that much physical detail if you know what I mean. And yet, you can't quite look away either.

When we'd found some acceptable shirts and shorts we headed to the shoe department. My older son tells me, "I didn't wear socks." Sure enough, he had his flip-flops on and his toenail talons on display for the world. The disposable stockings the store offers were no help. They barely covered half of his foot, and he wasn't going to be slipping into heels anytime soon. So, he surreptitiously tried on a few pairs in his bare feet - I know, gross! But listen, I was ready to get the hell out of there and I knew I'd never be able to drag him back to a store before next year, so no judging!  

We slumped out, defeated, with large bags of mostly-overpriced clothes that they may or may not even wear. You'll probably see my kids in exercise shorts and tiny shirts all year. Because even though we've had all summer to clean out the closets it hasn't quite happened yet. Heck, we might even find new clothes from last year when we finally get around to hanging stuff up.

It's the ritual of the back-to-school shopping that's important. It'll leave my kids with nightmares for the rest of the year. And I wouldn't know how to start a new school year without a headache and a hangover from all the "therapy" I need to make it through.

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