Milestones That Fail to Make it Into the Childhood Development Books

Child Books

Everyone knows it is a big deal when your child says their first word, learns to walk, and is finally out of diapers.  Those are really big moments and we celebrate them when they happen.  But, there are some other really big moments that happen in our children’s lives that the baby books fail to take note of.  So this blog post is dedicated to the lesser known milestones that are ignored but oh so important for moms everywhere.

1.  The day your child finally learns how to drink WITHOUT backwash.  I can’t even count the number of times I had a beverage of some kind and once a small child took a sip out of it I was done with it.  After one sip I could see bits of food particles and gunk now floating on the surface.  Yuck!!

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2.  The day your child finally figures out how to wipe their own ass.  Sure, you just successfully potty trained your kid.  Kudos to you!  But your days of poop are far from over.  For the next year or two you are still going to be wiping your kid’s ass, only now you have to bend over them and look down into a toilet bowl to do it.

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3.  The day your child graduates from a 5-Point Harness Car Seat to a Booster Seat.  This was a big day for me.  Buckling a child into a booster seat is so much easier than struggling with all those straps and fasteners, especially when your child is bundled in heavy winter gear.

4.  The day your child is tall enough to reach the sink and get his or her own cup of water.  It always happens.  You sit down in front of the TV for five seconds only to have a child ask for a snack, or a glass of water, or something!  Then on day your kid figures out that they can get it themselves and that is truly a magical moment.

5.  The day your child learns to buckle their own seatbelt.  I can now walk to my car, open my own door and sit down.  Seriously!  No more walking to the other side of the car, waiting for a child to scramble up into the booster seat and then reaching across them to buckle a seatbelt I can’t even see.  Both my boys can now get in the car, close their own doors, and buckle their own damn seat belts.  Halleluiah!!

6.  The day your child finally learns to wipe their own ass really well.  Yes, technically I already covered this topic, but there is wiping your ass, and actually cleaning your ass.  It is my experience that boys in particular don’t really learn to clean their ass until they are about 11 years old.  Every now and then I will do the laundry and come across a pair of underwear so disgusting I’m not even willing to put them in my washing machine so I just throw them out.

7.  That magical day when you can actually make your child do manual labor!  This summer my oldest has mowed the lawn every week, helped to stain a 50 foot deck, and helped my husband to rip out a chimney.  I am starting to understand why farmers back in the day used to have a dozen children.  Free labor!

Please feel free to add more magical milestones if you have one that I did not think of!!
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Always & Forever My Baby You Will Be

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Last night I was lying in bed with my youngest reading him a bed time story and saying our prayers.  My oldest used to come in the room and listen to the stories and say prayers with us but about two months ago he stopped.  He now brushes his teeth, calls out good night, and goes in his room and shuts the door.  I follow him in to grab a quick hug before he shuts off the light, but the hug is more for me than for him.  He doesn’t need a hug and a kiss from his mommy anymore to go to sleep.

But Casey is still young and refuses to go to bed without his night time ritual followed to perfection, and I am happy for that.  Last night after we were done he kneeled on his bed, gave me a bug hug and said, “I love you mommy.  I’m giving you an extra hug because I know you like hugs.”  My heart just melted.  I do love hugs, and kisses, and cuddles, the feel of holding my little boy close, the unconditional love of a mother and child.

I stared at his little face, his blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and a thought hit me so strong.  In two weeks my baby is turning six-years old.  In a week he will start 1st grade.  My baby hasn’t been a baby for a very long time, but he is still small, and sweet and cuddly, but time refuses to stand still.  He is growing, and soon he will choose friends over me.  Soon, kisses in public will be embarrassing.  Soon he will tell me he doesn’t need to hold my hand in a store.

“Casey, promise me you will stop growing,” I asked.  “I want you to stay this size forever.”

“Okay, mommy,” he replied sweetly.  Then he thought for a moment about what I had asked him to do and he said, “But I don’t know how to stop growing.”

“I know.  Mommy is just being silly.  I am so glad you are my little boy.” I said.

“Me too,” he replied and gave me another kiss good night.

“Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.

“All the way to the moon and back,” he answered immediately, “and I love you all the way to Pluto.”

Then he rolled over, tucked his tiger under his chin, and grabbed a handful of his wobi before closing his eyes.  I turned off the light and shut the door.

I can’t freeze time, but I can take a minute to write down these brief but wonderful moments before they slip through my fingers.  Children will grow, become independent, and leave us one day, but the memories we make we will carry for a lifetime.

Make the Most of Summer’s End

Summer's End

The Sunday paper is filled with inserts shouting “Back to School”.  Your new issues of Parenting and Parents are all about getting ready for school.  By now you have probably bought all your school supplies and loads of new clothes for your kids getting ready for the day after Labor Day.  Hopefully you have already begun implementing earlier bedtimes and morning routines.

But there is still a few weeks of summer left and there is still time to make some awesome memories before returning to the school year routine.  It is time to plan some inexpensive activities to get you and your little ones out and enjoy this precious time.

A Day at the Beach 

Peaceful.

Peaceful.

I have to admit, I have yet to go to the beach this year.  And I live in the Lakes Area!  So, one day this week I will be packing a cooler with some PB&J sandwiches, fresh fruit, and water bottles, grab the sand toys, and head off to the beach with my boys.  Yes, we will be sticky with sun block, smell like lake water, and get sand in our cracks, but that’s what summer is all about.

I love these adorable individual picnic baskets from Sophistimom.

I love these adorable individual picnic baskets from Sophistimom.

A Picnic at the Park

Okay, we have been to the park this year, but there is still time to squeeze in a couple more trips.  Make it extra special by bringing a blanket and a simple picnic.  I have learned the trick to this one is to bring a friend or two for the boys to play with.  This way I can actually sit and read a book for a little while and keep an eye on them at the same time.  To get even more time to read, bring some Nerf guns (no darts) and let them run around the jungle gyms and pretend to be at war.

Have a Water Fight

These are the best for having a water fight.

These are the best for having a water fight.

Fill up the kiddie pool full of water for reloading.  Everyone grab a water gun or an aqua zooka and let the battle begin.  Kids love doing this by themselves, but if you really want to make some summer memories get out there with them.

 

 

The Farmington Civic second run movie theater.

The Farmington Civic second run movie theater.

See a Summer Blockbuster Matinee

Going to the movies with kids can add up fast.  Tickets and snacks can cost a small fortune these days.  So hit the 10:00 am Matinee for $5 tickets.  Eat a hearty pancake breakfast before you go, then when the movie is over go home for lunch.  Even better, check out your local Second Run Movie Theaters.  As long as you see a movie you never saw before, who cares that it came out four or five months ago.  It is still new to you!

 

Spicer Orchard in Hartland, MI

Spicer Orchard in Hartland, MI

Visit a Farm

Take the kids to a U-Pick farm and enjoy the fruits of summer.  Raspberries are in season right now in Michigan.  Or visit a farmer’s market and let the kids pick out something new to try.  The kids get to enjoy a family activity and the local organic community gets some support.  It’s a win-win!  Fresh, local, and organic will always taste better than fruit and veggies trucked in from hundreds of miles away and picked long before ripeness and left to finish ripening in a packing crate!

One Last Family BBQ

Time to get all the cousins together to play in the yard and have one last family get together before everyone gets real busy again.  Keep it simple!  Hot dogs on the grill, maybe a few brats, and a giant watermelon sliced up along with Trip Berry Trifle for dessert.

Cheap but yummy!

Cheap but yummy!

Triple Berry Trifle

A Sara Lee pound cake, some pudding and cool whip with a mix of berries makes for a refreshing summer treat.

A Sara Lee pound cake, some pudding and cool whip with a mix of berries makes for a refreshing summer treat.

1 large Sara Lee Pound Cake

1 box Instant Vanilla Jello Pudding

1 tub Cool Whip

1 container strawberries

1 container raspberries

1 container blueberries

  1. Let the Sara Lee Pound Cake thaw.
  2. Wash fruit and cut strawberries in quarters.
  3. Prepare Instant Pudding according to directions.
  4. Cut pound cake into 1 inch cubes.
  5. Layer pound cake, pudding, and fruit in large bowl. (cake, pudding, fruit, cake, pudding, fruit)
  6. Top with Cool Whip and use a few berries to decorate the top.
Our friend licking the Triple Berry Trifle bowl clean.

Our friend licking the Triple Berry Trifle bowl clean.

This dessert goes together super fast and super easy and I am not exaggerating when I say people go crazy for it.  The last time I served this one of our friends actually licked the bowl clean!

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I Will Not Raise a Self Entitled Spoiled Kid

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My oldest is a really good kid.  Yes, he has days when he drives me crazy and I threaten to mail him to Abu Dhabi, but he is also very loving.  He likes to give hugs, still likes bedtime stories, and cries easily over sad movies.

In the past year I had noticed that as those teen hormones and mood shifts started to kick in, though, he was becoming self centered.  Everything was me, me, me, and on several occasions I listened as he whined about how tough he had it.

Oh the poor put upon little lad.  As payment for three meals a day, a private bedroom, and laundry service he was expected to change the litter box, cut the grass, and load the dirty dinner dishes.  Quick, someone call the child abuse hotline!  I had sentenced my son to a life of white slavery and needed to be arrested and taken away in hand cuffs.

I have worked with children long enough to know that my son was not unique and that all kids go though this.  Yet, I also work with enough kids to know that I also wanted to limit how far I let my son wallow in the “oh poor me” mentality.

The last thing in the world I want to do is raise an entitled and spoiled young man.  It was important to me that he stayed the sweet and kind hearted kid that he usually was.

So the day after school finished for the summer we went to Hospitality House and I signed him up to volunteer once a week for four hours.  Hospitality House is our local food pantry and helps many wonderful families get the food they need.

My son was not happy with me.  It was his summer vacation.  He didn’t want to work especially when he wouldn’t even get paid for it!  I stood my ground.  He would be volunteering there, the end.

Once a week he stocks the food pantry shelves, bags raw chicken into six pound portions, unloads trucks, and helps people who genuinely have it tough.  He sees moms come in with their hungry kids and watches how grateful they are to receive food so they can take care of their children.

For the first three weeks he went because I told him to get in the car and I drove him there, but by week four I saw my little boy start to grow up.  Now he enjoys going even though it is hard work in a building void of air conditioning.  The adults who operate the food pantry absolutely love him and their praise has helped my son realize that sometimes the best thing in life is giving instead of getting, even if all you have to give is your time.

teach them An unexpected bonus I have seen is a new respect for money, and the realization that resources are limited.

Before, if we went to the stores to run a few errands he would have asked for this and that and been upset when I told him no, or not today.  Now when we are out and he see something he wants we talk about ways he can earn the money and how it may take him a month before he has enough to get it.  In a world filled with instant gratification, I love that he can now wait weeks to obtain something he wants.

As parents we work so hard to cultivate our children’s growing minds, but this summer I learn it is just as important to cultivate my sons growing heart.  Even with school starting soon my son will still volunteer and I hope the volunteer spirit will stay with him always.

 

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How to Pack Healthy & EASY School Lunches

Easy Lunches

Very cute, but would totally unappreciated by my boys.

Very cute, but would totally unappreciated by my boys.

I love to look at all those adorable pictures of the world’s cutest school lunches on Pinterest. I mean, they are absolute works of art! It is almost a shame to eat them.

lunch

Honestly, I just don’t have time to this.

Then I go into my kitchen and get real. Hello, I am a tired working mommy here. As much as I would love to send my kids to school with one of those precious Benito lunches the truth is I don’t have time for that. Not to mention I have boys. Boys don’t eat their food. They shovel it into their mouths in five bites or less and then race out the door to go to recess.

I need quick. I need easy. I prefer organic when I can get it. So what is a tired mom to do? Well it starts with a trip to Costco! The greatest big box store in the world has made it so easy to buy healthy ,and even organic, foods in bulk that I can just toss into a lunch box and forget about it.DSC_2308

Organic milk boxes, nitrate free deli turkey and sliced chicken, Brownberry multigrain bread, organic strawberry jam, low fat high protein Greek yogart, and even small treats.  Costco has it all.  We also love to buy their bananas, big containers of blue berries, raspberries, and grapes.  One exception to the organic rule is my Jif peanut butter.  I love peanut butter, but I can’t stand the “natural” or organic peanut butters because they are practically drowning in the separated oil.

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The containers all snap together, even the ice pack.

I also fell in love with these BPA free containers from Rubbermaid.  The sizes are perfect, the sandwich container is big enough to accommodate the larger sized Brownberry bread, and the built in ice pack totally rocks.

There were $2 coupons for them in this past Sunday’s newspaper, plus Target has them on sale this week for $3 off.  Even if you don’t have the Sunday coupons there are $1 peelies attached to the packaging.

Rubbermaid LunchBlox review

There are high value coupons inside which makes these containers almost free when you budget in the savings, the sale price at Target, and use a coupon.

As you can see I stocked up on them so I’ll have plenty for the new school year!

So once you have your containers and you made your run to Costco, what goes in the lunch box?

I try to cover the four food groups and make sure their is plenty of protein, complex carbs, and nutrition for growing minds.

DSC_2314I am very blessed that both of my boys are allergy free.  So I have an organic milk box.  The picture shows Horizon, but my boys also love the Kirkland Organic Chocolate Milk Boxes from Costco.  I only buy organic and hormone free milk.  I truly believe all the hormones in dairy products are the reason children are entering puberty earlier and earlier.

If your child is allergic to milk then use juice boxes or soy or almond milk.

Because this is a lunch for a first grader, there is half a sandwich which has turkey, sharp cheddar, and spinach leaves.  My boys are not big veggie fans so I compensate with a double fruit serving, fresh blueberries and an Apple Go Go Squeeze.  Finally, a little crunch comes from a Cheeze-It 100 Calorie pack.

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The lunch bag is from Pottery Barn Kids. I love their backpacks and lunch boxes. I especially love that the lunch boxes clip onto the back packs!

The only part of this yummy lunch I actually had to make myself was the sandwich, which is the way I like it!  To keep everything cool I slide the ice pack into the zippered netting on the lid and close it up!  Done, done and done.  I pack 15 school lunches a week, ten for my boys and five for me.  I’m not going to apologize for cutting corners by using prepackaged healthy options!

I also have a small thermos for each of us so I can let the boys take hot soup, chili, stew, spaghetti or whatever leftovers we have from the previous nights dinner.  I cook in double batches frequently.  I have to use a thermos because my children do not have access to a microwave at school.  I don’t know of any schools around here that allow the kids to use microwaves but I have seen lots of articles in Parenting and Parents lately to say to do just that.

Here is a list of really great products from Costco:

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My little guy with his big boy backpack and his matching lunch box.

Brownberry Oatnut Bread
Jif Peanut Butter
Kirkland Organic Strawberry Spread
Nutri-Grain Bars
Kirkland Almonds
Kirkland Organic Milk Boxes
GoGo Squeeze Applesauce
Pepperidge Goldfish Crackers
Honey Maid Graham Crackers
Ritz Crackers & Cheese
Annie’s Fruit Snacks
Yoplait Go-Gurt
Fruyo Greek Yogart
Nature Valley Granola Bars
Kraft String Cheese
Nature Valley Sweet & Salty
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
100 Calories Snack Packs
Kirkland Organic Tortilla Chips
Tree Top Fruit Snacks
Stretch Island Fruit Strips
Snyder’s Pretzels

I hope this list is helpful.  So often we feel under pressure to do everything bigger and better until it is ridiculously over the top!  At the end of the day kids need to eat nutricious food, appropriate sized portions, and it needs to be a little bit fun.  So don’t feel guilty if your child’s lunch box isn’t Pinterest picture worthy.  If you have more suggestions please add them in the Comments below!

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I’ll Love You Forever…Even When You Are Driving Me Crazy

Love you Forever

I remember the days before I was pregnant with my first child the time spent longing for a baby.  I remember buying pregnancy tests in three packs because I was too impatient to wait the recommended number of days after sex to see if I had conceived.  I remember the joy I felt one January day when I tested positive for a baby…only to cry my eyes out when I started my period the very next day.  You wouldn’t think it would hurt that much.  I had only been knowingly “pregnant” for 24 hours, but after two years of trying it was like a knife through the heart all the same.

That day was the day I said out loud, “I give up!”  I was done trying to get pregnant.  It was just too painful to fail month after month, year after year.  Who knew the secret to getting pregnant was to stop trying to get pregnant?  Seriously!  I conceived my son the very next month.  No counting days, no plotting of ovulation times, not even the routine purchasing of a pregnancy test.  Before I knew it, January was mid March and it dawned on me one day that I couldn’t remember having a period in February.  I doubled checked the calendar and saw the date circled for January, but no circle for February, and now it was March.

A quick trip to Rite Aid and one bathroom use later and there it was.  Two blue lines.  Not one, but two.  I was scared to be excited.  After all, I had two blue lines in January and that ended in the blink of an eye.  I kept the knowledge of my condition to myself for a couple of days.  I was afraid to jinx it.  It was like if I actually spoke the words, “I’m pregnant,” out loud then it would suddenly go away.  After a week of it not going away I finally told my husband.

baby ajEvery mom-to-be hears over and over that the first three months are the most risky.  Most miscarriages will happen during the first trimester.  What I didn’t know, though, was that during the first trimester your uterus is building up lining and preparing to grow a baby, so you feel a lot of cramping.  For a woman scared to death of a miscarriage cramping and that “feeling of starting” a period makes for a living hell.

It is no exaggeration to say that every day for the entire first trimester I would go to the bathroom constantly to check my undies for any signs of blood.  I tried not to focus on it.  I really did.  I knew the fear and stress and I was putting on myself was no good for me, and probably not for my baby, but trying to tell yourself to not to be afraid of your worst fear when you body constantly feels like your worst fear is in process of happening is like telling a fish not to breathe water.  It can’t be done.

baby aj 2Finally the days passed on the calendar and I entered that oh so much safer second trimester.  Yes, women could still lose a baby even at this point, but somehow the pregnancy felt so much more real to me now.  I was in my fourth month and I had heard the heart beat at the doctor’s office.  There was a heart beating inside my belly and it was magical and my own heart was filled with joy.

Everyone would always ask, do you want a girl or a boy, and my answer was always the same.  “I’m pregnant!  Finally!  I don’t care what it is!  It’s a baby and its mine.  As long as it’s healthy I am the happiest mom in the world.”

As much as I would have loved for this to be a magical time to go with the miracle happening in my belly, it wasn’t.  My marriage was falling apart.  My husband had agreed to a baby, but I am fairly certain now that when he made that agreement he was under the impression that I would never succeed in getting pregnant.  Now suddenly I was, and he was not happy about it, and he let me know just how unhappy he was about the situation every chance he got.

Further, my Rheumatoid Arthritis was out of control.  By the end of the pregnancy I was no longer worrying about the baby coming out of it alive, his daily kicks let me know he was just fine, but I was seriously worrying about whether or not I would get to the end still alive.

Miraculously, and being induced three weeks early, my sweet little baby boy was born, and my life was for ever changed.  I had a new purpose.  I was a mommy and this little tiny person needed me.

AJ 5 indy

Today my “baby” is soon to turn 13, and this morning he said some very harsh words to me that left me speechless.  The angry thoughts rolling through my head were very different than the ones that came out of my typing fingers today.  What started out as a snarky and angry blog somehow became a stroll down memory lane, and the realization that the mouthy teenager insulting me this morning is still my baby boy, still needs me, and hopefully will always need me just a little when he is grown up and living on his own.

my babyChildren can bring us to the brink of madness at times, but once the anger passes, only the love remains, always and forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Because I Have It All Doesn’t Mean I Want It All

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Want it AllI am woman.  I am invincible.  I am tired.  It is more than just a cute catch phrase on my Facebook page.  It is the truth.  Day in and day out I do it all.  Cook, clean, grocery shop, and laundry?  Done, done, done, and done.  Take care of two boys and keep them mentally and creatively stimulated?  Done!  Piano lessons for the oldest, T-ball for the youngest, volunteering at the local food pantry and with the coming school year religious education gets tossed into the mix.

Work a full time job under incredibly stressful circumstances in an impoverished inner city environment that is often violent and do my very best to be a force of good in my students lives.  You bet your ass!

Write a blog offering my words of wisdom, experiences, and tips, hoping someone out there finds all this useful and perhaps a little funny.  Yes, that too, while also maintaining a Facebook page and a Pinterest page trying to find the most useful of information to share with my followers.

full time job

We live in a modest home in a lovely little sub surrounded by woods.  We have two cars, two kids, and a fat cat.  I am living the American dream…right?  Right?!?  So why is it most days I don’t feel quite so dreamy?

My life consists of two parts.  The September to June career woman part, and the Mid-June to end of August stay at home part.  I can honestly say that I know what it is to be on both sides of the fence, and believe me when I say I know exactly which side of the fence is greener, and not because it is covered in bullshit.

yes dear2

I know there are women out there who will want to tell me off, cuss me out, and bitch that I am undermining womanhood as we now know it today, but I will take being a stay at home mom over the working mom gig any day.  What ever I do, I will always do it to the best of my ability, no matter how many jobs are on my plate.

So when summer comes and I am home with my boys it is wonderful to just be a mom, a wife, and a homemaker.  It is nice to slow down and plan out our meals.  It is nice to have the time needed to wash, and dry, and fold, and put away all the laundry.  It is nice to have the time to take the boys to the park, even if it isn’t my favorite thing to do.  It is nice not to make sure every minute of the day is scheduled to the exact minute for fear of not getting it all done.

ask meIt is especially nice to have time to focus on my blog and my “internet job” which at least fills my soul if not my wallet.  Writing has always been a passion of mine, one I had to give up for several years because I had too much to do, but now that my youngest is a little older, and writing a blog is faster than writing Fan Fiction, I am able to do it once more.  Maybe some day I will be able to make a living off my writing but I’m not counting on it.

Sometimes I dream of quitting my job, no longer commuting sixty miles a day round trip, and waking up at 4:45 in the morning.  I think about how wonderful it would be to join my children’s school PTA’s, be a room mom, and all that good stuff, but I can’t.  First, it wouldn’t be fair to my dear husband who works longer days than I do.  Plus, both boys are now in all day school.  Let’s face it, once the kids are in all day school and you are still a stay at home mom, most people would just label you as being too lazy to work.  People stupid enough to think that need to be slapped in the face with a frying pan.

two jobsEven with my boys in school my home would run a heck of a lot more smoothly if I were here to manage everything.  As it is, we pay for a.m. child care, rely on grandparents to pick the boys up from school when one suddenly gets sick, and have to scramble to make arrangements whenever the boys have no school but I do.  My weekends are spent doing all the housework I was unable to do Monday-Friday, when I would rather be free to relax or play with the kids.

So yes, I have it all…but I would seriously like to give some of it back.

Are there any other working moms out there who would love to chuck their full time job?

The Very Best of the Mommy Cookbooks

Cookbooks

My second child is a very picky eater.  Foods that he happily devoured while he was a baby and a young toddler he now turns his nose up to and refuses to touch.  He is especially picky about veggies.  So like many moms I turned to the assorted “Mommy Cook Books” to sneak some proper nutrition into my child.  For example, he hates tomatoes with a passion, yet loves tomato sauce.  So spaghetti sauce is one of my favorite weapons for deceptive cooking, along with using my Pampered Chef slap chopper to mince veggies so small they all but disappear into whatever I am cooking.  I learned a lot of great tips from some really amazing cooks and I want to share them with you here.

Annabel Karmel

This mom is a great cook.  I especially LOVE her Finger-Picking Chicken Balls.  They are delicious chicken meatballs packed full of granny smith apples and grated carrots, and I often even toss in a handful of fresh baby spinach into the mix.  The boys gobble these down faster than any chicken nugget and because I buy hormone free chicken I know exactly what they are eating.  The two books worth the money for me are:

Superfoods lunchbox

Her Homemade Tomato Soup is another highly recommended recipe!

Jessica SeinfeldDeceptive

I was reluctant to buy this book at first because of the lack of pictures.  As a rule I want to see a photograph of what I am about to make, but this book was highly recommended to me by several of my mommy friends who also have a picky eater or two so I gave it a try.  I am glad I did.  I found many good recipes in here.  My boys especially love her Sweet Potato Pancakes and her Mac & Cheese with hidden cauliflower.

 

WeeCatherine McCord

I personally am a lover of all things Mexican and Italian when it comes to food so Catherine McCord was a perfect fit for my family.  This book has traditional types of food in it that kids already love, like quesadillas, enchiladas, and many kinds of pasta, but all prepared in a healthy fashion.  Plus, her Breakfast Cupcakes are nothing short of genius.  I mean, who doesn’t want a “frosted” cupcake for the occasional breakfast?  An added bonus is lots of beautiful pictures.

Betty Crocker

This cook book probably isn’t what you are thinking about when you think of cooking for kids, however, these recipes are very easy to modifyBig Book and very simple to prepare.  I may be a mom who wants her kids to eat healthy, but I also am a working mom who does not have all day to prepare and prep for out of this world dinners.  The Big Book of Weeknight Dinners is filled with traditional and new recipes of great food that can be assembled fast.  To keep the recipes healthy stick with your organic produce and hormone free meats.  The Moment’s Notice Menu Guide is also a life saver of those nights when you walk in and say to yourself, “What the hell am I cooking tonight?”

Pampered Chef

Everyone, and I mean everyone, I have ever served these Pampered Chef recipes to have absolutely loved them.  Maybe it is because so many of them rely on Pillsbury Crescent Rolls as the base of the recipe or maybe the seasoning is just perfect, I don’t know and I don’t care.  All I know is that the food is beyond delicious and the children devour it.

I admit that you do have to take a little care with these recipes because they can get high in sodium and fats due to their use of processed foods.  I have learned to purchase the reduced fat Pillsbury products if they are required and swap out seasoning packets and can soup for the reduced sodium versions.  For example, Ortega now has an envelope of Taco Seasoning that has 40% less sodium.  In my experience there is no difference in the taste of the final product when you are done cooking.

Further, these recipes, just like the Betty Crocker ones, go together extremely fast.  The books I have pictured below are the two that I recommend spending your money on.  Pampered Chef has many other cookbooks, but none of them, in my opinion, come close to these two.

All The Best Main Dishes

All of the cookbooks in this post can be purchased from Amazon.com, even the Pampered Chef ones, and of course if you spend $25 or more you get that wonderful free shipping.  One further note, none of the authors I have mentioned here are sponsoring this post.  These are cookbooks I have purchased over the years and use repeatedly because they work for me and my family.

 

Please share in the comments any chefs or cookbooks that you have found to be invaluable as a tool for putting quick and healthy meals on your dinner table in the comments.  I love to hear from my readers.

Children…My Life…My Passion…and the Reason I Take Zoloft

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was 23 when I became a teacher. Fresh from college and eager to change the world by helping one child at a time. I was 29 when I became a mom and took a year off to raise my little boy. After that year was over I returned to teaching. I was 35 when I had baby number 2. This time I took two years off to be a stay at home mom, and would have taken a third if it had been possible. What shocked me was how much harder it was being a mom to two instead of one.

Perhaps it was because I was older, perhaps it was because suddenly the mommy stuff was never ending, or perhaps it was because I was newly married, newly relocated, and just had one to many changes in a short amount of time.Kisses

As hard as I worked the two years I was a stay at home mom though were nothing compared to when I finally returned to teaching. Just because I returned to the classroom didn’t mean that all that mommy stuff went away. Laundry still needed to be done, cleaning taken care of, dinner cooked, quality time given to my boys, quality time given to my husband, making time to visit a sick parent. I was at my wits end. I remember standing in front of the stove cooking dinner as tears rolled down my face because I was so tired.

Part of it is me. I want things to be perfect always, whether it is at home or at work. Part of it really is my situation. I basically do the kid thing 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year. My job and my home life are just too much alike sometimes.

But I had to acknowledge one more factor that I really didn’t want to face. I am not a spring chicken anymore. I am now forty and like it or not, my hormones were starting to get a little wonky. Can we say “premenopausal?” Yep, it was definitely a factor.

When you teach first grade patience is literally the #1 job requirement and I used to have it in spades. The past two years, however, I noticed that I was becoming more and more stressed out. At first I thought that I had just taken on too many responsibilities. I was on the fund-raising committee, the reading committee, and the carnival committee, as well as that full time teaching gig and motherhood thing. So of course I had a full blown hyperventilation panic attack one March morning just as the children were entering the building. I was burned out, over worked, and NOT medicated. Although a trip to the doctor’s office that March day fixed that problem. One bottle of Xanax with two refills coming right up.

The following September I decided I needed to take better care of myself. So I quit all the committees and just focused on the job and home. Things would get better, right? Wrong. I was still stressed, and now, I was easily angered by little things. My heart would race all day and I constantly felt like I was in “Fight or Flight” mode. I left work completely exhausted, and then when I got home I had no energy left for my own kids. All I wanted my boys to do was go away and leave me alone. I started to realize that the problem I had wasn’t a job problem. The problem was me. I was broken and didn’t even recognize the person I had become anymore. I finally realized that I needed help.

I scheduled a visit to see my OB/GYN. After a very long office visit where I talked about everything that was going on with me she confirmed what I was already suspecting. I was indeed in the early stages of menopause and my hormones were steadily driving me crazy.

She started me on a low dose of Zoloft which ended up getting increased just once. After a while I started to notice a difference. I still felt angry at times, but the anger didn’t control me. I was able to take a deep breathe and respond in an appropriate way. The same was true at home. I could now give my boys the quality time they needed and not feel resentful.

I don’t feel ashamed to admit that I needed a prescription. I know a lot of people would just say to suck it up and deal, but that strategy had stopped working for me and I was seriously going to have a heart attack if I didn’t find a way to calm down and get control of my emotions. If taking a little blue pill helps me to cope and be a better mom then I will do it.

I would love to hear from other moms, especially older moms who are also dealing with this situation. How are you battling your menopause?

An Ode to Spring

An Ode to Spring

The Tulip

The Tulips strength is in it’s stem
It holds it’s head so strong and straight
Into the soil it sinks so deep
There it stays til it’s time to reap

The Tulips beauty is in it’s head
It’s colour varies from yellow to red
Find a colour, find a room
Leave it there and it will bloom

The Tulips warmth is in it’s petals
They overlap and keep so tight
When it’s dark they close right up
And open up when it is light

When uncut in fields of plenty
Dancing to the winds own beat
Watch them swaying in the breeze
You’ll think this sight is such a treat.
Thomas B Davies

I truly enjoy winter, but it seems as if this winter has been going on forever. Winter is a season that is particularly hard on parents. Sure, you bundle the kids up in their winter gear and send them out to play in the snow, but they can only stay out there for so long before fingers and noses start to lose their feeling. That means for most of the season the kids are in the house, under foot, whining that they are bored, and begging to play video games, which we strictly limit. The one salvation is that my boys are now old enough to go play at a friend’s house or a friend will come over to help entertain them.

I am deliriously happy to see the arrival of spring! I can’t wait to plant ice cream tulips in my new yard. I had never even heard of ice cream tulips until about a week ago and I think they are absolutely gorgeous! Hopefully I can convince Casey not to pull them and bring them to me to put in a glass of water., something he loves to do.

The grass is slowly turning green again, the trees are all in bud, the robins are chirping, the squirrels are scampering, and the kids are outside running amuck in the warm sunshine. Sure, they are ruining their sneakers in the mud, AJ has already put a hole in the knee of one of his jeans and Casey already lost a sweatshirt, but they are out of the house getting exercise and working up healthy appetites. Plus the bonus of all this playing outside is that my home becomes suddenly quiet, as in you could actually read a book kind of quiet.

I am really going to miss the sub we are moving out of. Even though we have totally outgrown our condo, the neighborhood is full of kids who all love to play outside. I am hopeful though of our new neighborhood. The last couple of days moving things back and forth I have seen a lot of kids playing basketball and running around. Fingers are crossed that the boys will make new friends as good as their old ones.

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