Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A dream is a wish your heart makes {mine wishes for Thin Mints}

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I changed my mind a bunch.  For awhile I fancied myself a librarian - we played library a lot growing up, with a deck of cards to use as library cards and to indicate the day the books were due to be brought back.  I also wanted to be a priest.  I liked the idea of preaching so I wore my bathrobe and read stories and passed out crackers.  I played lots of house and imagined myself a mom.  I was a teacher and a secretary and a restaurateur   I photographed many Barbie weddings.  I wrote lots of stories.  I directed plays, complete with practice schedules and costumes and a mom-based audience.

When I was in high school I took a skills test.  It said I should be a teacher, so that's what I decided to study.  The course of study seemed pretty straight forward.  My first year I had a "shadow teaching" placement (basically an unpaid, glorified aid) with a 7th grade English class and also at the Alternative Learning Center.  Those kids caused me to questioned my calling.  I transferred schools and started to take some business classes.  I'm not sure what I thought I could do with them; accounting was a total flop and the economics classes that I had to take bored me to tears, but I found that the management part of business spoke to me - and the business writing class I took was my favorite of the semester.  I also liked the preschoolers I taught in the morning, so I switched to Elementary Ed, although I quickly tired of the extension it was going to add on to my graduation date, so I dropped those classes and stuck with an English and creative writing degree.

What I planned to do with it, I'm not sure. Journalism wasn't my cup of tea and I was unskilled and relatively unmarketable right out of college (the downside to my area of study - no internships required to wedge some toes in doors for potential job opportunities after graduation).  I bounced around for awhile, trying to find something that fit.  I still haven't found it, but I find I'm fairly decent at this house-wife gig I've currently got going and sometimes that makes me shudder a little bit.  Years of schooling and I'm happiest being at home, making dinner for my family, singing songs about ducks and turtles with my son, teaching Abby's religion class (well, maybe the religion kids are a stretch...they sort of remind me of the Alternative Learning Center kids, and I'm quite glad I chose not to go into teaching.).  I feel like I'm spitting in the face of all of those bra-slinging ladies who fight for equal rights between the sexes.  Don't get me wrong - equal pay for equal work is obviously a no-brainer, but I also think that it's okay to say to girls: staying at home to take care of your family is an acceptable choice, too.

Am I happy that I have a degree to fall back on should the need arise?  Yes, absolutely.  I wouldn't change 4 years of college (plus 2 summers of summer school); I did love studying and the growth and maturity that higher education provided me, personally.  But the fact that I sometimes feel like I was born about 50 years too soon is not lost on me.  I think I would have thrived in the 40s and 50s as a housewife and mother, even though I know that now, in 2013, the choice is mine and perhaps back then, in say 1950, wives and mothers felt stifled because they really didn't have much of a higher education choice; their choice was to be a teacher or a nurse until they got married and then they quit their job to stay home.  Or they could be nuns.  I think we all know that I probably would have failed as a nun (me+martinis=bf4evr).

So...when I grow up I'm going to be ________.  I don't know.  Right now I'm going to be Uriah's wife and Finn's mom and Abby's mom.  And in between all of that house-maintaining and kid-rearing and dinner-cooking, I'm going to work on figuring out what I want, because I never truly explored those options.  And I think that maybe, just maybe, there might be something else out there for me.

Today I'm a mom, though, and in my world, mom's make cookies for their kids.  And my kid isn't a Girl Scout anymore (bummer) and I don't know any Girl Scouts, so I have to resort to making my own Girl Scout cookies.  On the plus side, because of these life-changing cookies, I don't have to wait for Girl Scout Cookie season anymore.  I can make these whenever I please.  Look at me, already I'm being proactive and growing as a human.

Maybe I'll open a bakery...
Or be a life coach...
Or photograph food...
Or write a cookbook...
Or become a doctor without borders...

Chocolate Cookies:
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup powder sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 tablespoon milk

Chocolate Coating:
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (you can use more or less depending on how minty you want them)

For the cookies, cream the butter in the mixer until it is light and fluffy.  Beat in the powder sugar and and vanilla.  Add the salt and cocoa powder.  Beat until the cocoa powder is fully incorporated, scraping down the sides once or twice.  Add the flour and mix until incorporated, dough will be kind of crumbly.  Add the peppermint and the milk and mix.  Dough will still be a little bit crumbly.  Turn the dough onto the counter and gather it together into a ball.  Divide in 2 and flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough on a floured counter very thin, about 1/4 inch.  You'll need to dust the rolling pin with flour, too, as the dough can be kind of sticky.  Cut out cookies using whatever kind of cookie cutter you want.  Using an off-set spatula or a kitchen knife, coat it with flour a little bit and run it under the cookie cut outs to un-stick them from the counter.  Place them on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

If your dough is too firm when you take it out of the refrigerator, soften it in the microwave for about 5-10 seconds.  (I made half the dough one night, after having left it to chill for about 15 minutes.  I didn't need to soften it at all.  The other half of the dough I left to chill overnight and when I took it out to work with it the following day, it was really firm.  I microwaved it for 5 seconds, and then felt it for firmness.  It was still pretty solid, so I microwaved it for another 5 seconds, and it was easy to work with.)

To make the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate chips and shortening over a double boiler until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint extract; beat until smooth and allow to cool for just a few minutes.  Dip the top of each cookie in the chocolate coating and allow excess chocolate to drip off.  I tried dunking the entire cookie in the chocolate coating (like an original Thin Mint so it was coated all the way around) and that just got to be too messy and too time consuming, so I flopped them in face down, picked them up by the edges, waited a minute for the extra chocolate to drip off and put them on a baking sheet in the freezer to set up the chocolate coating.  After they set up completely  I put them in a ziplock bag and stored them in the freezer (I like my Thin Mints crispy and cold!). Beware that if you leave them out on the counter, a) they might not last very long because you'll eat them all and b) the chocolate coating might get a little soft. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Random act of kindness.

Yesterday morning I heard the back door open - this the opposite of good when you have a 2 year old - so I ran downstairs (which was actually more like hurtling myself down two flights of stairs) to find that Finn had slipped his little feet into his Lightning McQueen slippers and was casually walking the trash out to the garbage can for me.

And on his way back into the house, he told me he'd probably have to shovel the sidewalk.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spring is in the air (or I may be delusional, either way...)

  • I love being outside when it feels like spring.
  • 34 degrees feels like spring to me these days.
  • I did not wear a jacket.  Or a hat.  I made my kids, though, proving once again my solid parenting skillz.
  • Finn and I went for a run/walk this afternoon.  
  • Happy trails, I tell you, happy trails...even if it was sort of wet and sloppy.

  • Finn originally picked this hat out for Baby Jac.
  • I failed to look at the size.  It said 3 years and up.
  • Jac'll get it as a hand-me-down in a few years, I guess.  In the meantime, we're putting it to good use.

  • Contrary to what this picture might imply, Abby had nothing to do with the building of the snowman yesterday.  
  • She was shoveling out a million feet of snow at the end of our sidewalk because I told her she could no longer walk through the snow pile. 
  • She was not happy about it.
  • I was willing to wait for spring for the snow to melt.  It was a lot of snow - I wasn't going to shovel it.

  •  Finn named the snowman "Cat the Snowman."
  • At least the kid has an imagination. 
  • The coal eyes look like aviator sunglasses, so I would have gone for something like Goose or Maverick, but that's just me.
  • Abby wondered - out loud - if I should be wasting Uriah's charcoal on a snowman.  
  • We haven't grilled for months - and probably won't until at least next month, so I think he'll be okay with the loss of two pieces.

  • The squirrels ate the carrot nose sometime last night.
  • Finn was a little disappointed this morning when he saw.
  • He even had to tell Abby when she got home about the squirrels who ate his snowman's nose.  He was very vocal in his disappointment.

  • In her defense, she did tell Finn never to eat the yellow snow.
  • Unfortunately, now I think he's just going to be on the look-out for yellow snow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mayday! Mayday!

{ April 2007 }

I am working very, very hard on stepping back and allowing my small humans to grow in their own ways these days, hence the quiet on the blog front.  You have no idea how hard this is for me - truthfully, everyone in this house is experiencing growing pains and I am exhausted by the end of the day.  I am struggling to be open to these outbursts of personality - to try to welcome their burgeoning uniqueness rather than to fight it and to embrace their decision-making abilities even when they are not decisions that I would make or how I would react.

With Abby this has been especially hard because she and I are so similar yet so, so different.  Somehow she got it screwed up in her head that she should have a say in chores/decisions/consequences (read: if she doesn't want to do it, why should she have to?).  She struggles mightily with authority and being told what to do (mostly just my authority and me telling her what to do - we've had zero issues with school, thank God.).  And I struggle not to wash my hands of her poor decision making habits/raging hormones/teen angst and walk away from the whole sordid emotional breakdown that seems to be happening again with more frequency.  I remind myself daily that the mentality of: "Well those are habits she learned before she came to live with us and you can't really teach an old dog new tricks, now can you?" does nothing to help or solve any underlying issues.  Oh, but it is hard.  I wish with much of my being that I could wipe away what it is she thinks a parent-child relationship is and show her that good parents give boundaries, even if the child doesn't like them.  Good parents ask for input, support good behavior and redirect bad behavior.  Good parents ultimately make the big decisions.  Good parents teach their kids that children do not dictate and poor choices have consequences.  Good parents...good parents...good parents.  I do not feel like a good parent.  Truly, she is 13 and the drama that she seems to wrap around herself like a security blanket can usually be whittled down to one or two main things that are bothering her.  The trick is to stay calm enough in the face of her angry words and an even uglier attitude to get to the bottom of what it is that's really bothering her.  And I am learning to say nothing when it's readily apparent that sometimes her outbursts are just about testing parental resolve and pushing the limits.  

Having a conversation with a 13 year old inevitably turns into an argument these days because, you know, she's so grown up and has it all together and really does see the big picture however, logic takes a back-seat to everyone else's parents do this or that or the other, why do you have to be so different?  And her reactions and her thought process are so tunnel-visioned that I can't even point out to her that she is not, in fact, seeing the big picture because she's so focused on what's right in front of her and how everything affects her.  Her...her...her.  It is really incredible how selfish teenagers can be (and trust me, I know it's not just my kid!) but I shudder to think that I spoke to my mom with such a sharp tongue, or rolled my eyes at my dad so hard they might very well be stuck in the back of my head to this day had it not been for them standing their ground firmly.  I suppose the additional 20 years of maturing I have on her makes a difference, too.

I feel as though I'm constantly discussing how the decisions that both Abby and Finn are making are affecting themselves, me, their dad, each other.  But isn't that what parenting is, after all?  A constant classroom in the school of life?  And if so, why do I feel like I'm failing 9 days out of 7?  Do other parents feel this as acutely as I do - or is this another of those ebb and flow parts of life.  I am sure that there will be smooth days to balance these difficult days.  Right?  Smooth days ahead...before her high school graduation?

In the meantime, I guess I will firmly cinch my life vest and look for shore, because these waters are rough and I am getting sea sick.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'll eat you up...I love you so!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mighty Big Love

I have been loving these 14 Days of Valentine's.  All right, mostly, I've been loving them.  I tried to make them as simple as I could (sometimes I have mighty big ideas) and I tried to be as prepared as I could.  I'm sometimes a really huge a procrastinator (as evidenced by every single college paper I ever had to write).

I let Abby loose in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon in an attempt to practice giving up some control (me) and for some baking practice (Abby).  She made chocolate cupcakes and then I made pink and purple frosting for her and Finn to decorate their cupcakes with (Yes, I made the frosting.  I said I was practicing giving up some control).  It kept them busy during our 8 plus inches of snow storm.  Okay, so Finn ate more frosting than he actually used on his cupcakes and they both went a little overboard with the sprinkles, and Abby was right there with him, surreptitiously eating spoonfuls of frosting when she thought I wasn't looking.  And I wasn't looking because I was eating spoonfuls of frosting when they weren't looking.  It was good frosting.

Finn and I (mostly me) made Valentine's for his once-a-week preschool class.  Damn Pinterest for giving me holiday celebration ideas that my inner Martha Stewart feels an overwhelming need to act on (see every Elf on the Shelf idea that I had and 14 Day's of Valentine's for two years as evidence).  Let's all be thankful I decided to forego the 40 Days of Lent Countdown, since that really isn't so much of a celebration and actually would probably be considered a tad sacrilegious by some of the more devout.  I'll save my spring thing for Easter instead, since that actually is something to celebrate (complete with dyed Easter eggs, and this year, chocolate filled eggs made with real shells.  Because I want to, that's why.).

Happy Valentine's Eve (not a real holiday to celebrate, but I don't care!).

Sunday, February 10, 2013


This is from 2006.

Life was quiet and dating was long-distance, but super fun and we could have more than one cocktail with dinner.  I'm trying to remind myself that we were fun once - going to the state fair and walking to Kansas (it was literally a block from our first apartment, but it was always fun to say we walked all the way to Kansas.) and spending an evening roaming the shelves at Barnes and Noble and picking out furniture at Restoration Hardware that we were never going to buy and holding hands while we walked down the sidewalk and kissing at stoplights.

Now a good night is when Finn allows himself to relax enough that we don't have to sit by his bed for 45 minutes until he falls asleep, because hearing "I just need a snuggle" between sobs is heartbreaking.  A really good night is when he doesn't get in bed with us until after 6 am.  Abby dipped her toes into teenage rebellion this weekend.  Actually, she stepped in up to her ankles.  I have no words for the crushing exhaustion that episode turned into.

I find this parenting from the trenches is straining to our relationship and I'm endeavoring to find ways that we can put the exhausting part of parenting aside, even for just an evening, and remember what it was like before our conversations included poop discussions and puberty hormones.  Some nights that means foregoing the ten o'clock news for a game of cribbage or Scrabble.  Some nights it's date night in.  We need to work on date night out more.  I'm trying to let go of the control more: Abby gets to make dinner every Tuesday and this afternoon I let her loose in the kitchen to make chocolate cupcakes - and low and behold, I got only the minimal amount of complaining when I sent her outside to do some shoveling, instead of her usual "I am not your slave!" speech.  I let Finn eat ice cream for breakfast this morning, and after he put his spoon in the sink and his paper carton in the trash by himself, he said to me, "That was a lovely breakfast!" and we snuggled on the couch.

Is it really as simple as cupcakes and ice cream?  Do I really just need to pull back a little to see big rewards?  Can we find a balance between parenting/jobs/housework and being a married couple who feels that spark from when we were first dating?

I don't know, but I'm will to try and find out.