Tick-Tick-Tick!

There is something you need to know about me right now.

I am suffering from a very serious condition. It’s as desperate as it is dangerous.

I have been struggling with this condition for a while, but in recent months, it has steadily been getting worse.

It’s the dreaded…

BABY FEVER!

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(That is Youngest, by the way, just a few hours old)

You see, Youngest is about to start school in August, and I am about to turn 29 on Saturday. And I love babies. This is a recipe for Stage 4 Baby Fever!

Boy oh boy, do I want another baby….bad. My biological clock has been speeding up into overdrive, and it has grown so loud, people look around when I walk by to discern the source of that loud ticking noise.

Unfortunately,  we currently live in a house about the size of a postage stamp, with two small bedrooms. There is no place to put another child. Furthermore, as a single-income family, our financial situation is not such that we could feed another child, let alone cover all the other expenses that come along with a new baby.

Logic tells me this……..

My biological clock, however, tells me otherwise.

For now, I have to soothe myself by going through Youngest’s baby pictures.

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This was his first day home from the hospital…he clearly is not impressed with my camera antics.

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This is when he decided to protest, and give me his best ninja face.

Ok, maybe looking at the baby pictures was not such a good idea.

I’ll just look at my bank statements for a while…that should cure it…I hope.

Break Out the Holy Water!

Every weekday, I spend the my mornings dreading 4:00 p.m.

Between 4:00 p.m and 5:30 p.m., something strange and inexplicable happens. You can always see it coming, because it is right up there with death and taxes on the list of “things in life that are certain. ”

I’ve tried to avoid it….I’ve tried to prevent it….and I’ve tried to find the cause to no avail.

But every day, right around 4:00 p.m., it happens anyway.

My perfect, sweet, well-behaved children morph into Tasmanian devils. 

Literally. You can even see the cartoon-like vortex as they spin into insanity.

It’s like they’ve tossed back several Red Bulls with espresso chasers. They fight, they run, they scream and make sounds that I am sure only dolphins and dogs can hear. Mostly, they single-handedly create enough chaos to drive me out of my mind, and turn me into a screaming banshee.

I hate being a screaming banshee…it ruins my whole Supermom persona. When you spend your days cleaning the bathroom you share with three males, you need your illusions, especially that of your Supermom awesomeness.

This insanity comes every weekday without fail. I’ve tried adjusting their snacks, separating them, distracting them and a myriad of other tactics, but I still can’t prevent the 4:00 p.m. descent into madness.

I have several theories on why this happens.

  1. They save up all their rebellion and acting out for the day, and expend it all at once.
  2. They are just so excited about Dad coming home, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
  3. Since Oldest is in school, and Youngest is not, they have 8 hours of sibling conflict to make up for once Oldest gets home.
  4. They subconsciously feel the need to give me another challenge as I try to get some kind of meal together for dinner.
  5. They really are possessed, but 4:00 p.m. is the witching hour, since midnight is past their bedtime.

Regardless of the cause, I seem to be stuck with the 4:00 p.m. freak-out. 

For now.

But I am nothing, if not determined. If I can cure this mysterious condition, I think they might just invent the Nobel Prize for Mommy Awesomeness.

Fake It Till Ya Make It–Dinner Rescue

Living deep in the heart of BFE (and if you don’t know what that means, google it), I cannot just run to the grocery store on a whim.  Every time I need to go anywhere, I can bank on at least on a 30 minute drive…one way. It’s my lot in life, the bane of my existence and a constant source of road rage on two-lane highways from hell.  Add in this oh-so-fun event back in November:

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and I find driving around town stressful to say the least, but that’s a story for another day.

When I do shop for groceries, I have to plan meals in two week blocks, so I can minimize extra trips to the store. We only have one car, so even if I was willing to burn an hour’s worth of gas and drive time, I hardly ever have the actual car to do so. If you really want to make Bayou Husband snarly, ask him to stop at the store on the way home…it’s a riot.

This shopping plan has worked thus far, but I’ve also learned to expect the I unexpected. For those two week blocks, I may have planned  gorgeous, delightful homemade meals from scratch, but inevitably, I’ll have one day that blows even the best laid plans out of the water. It may be a child with a fever, or an exploding hot water heater, or even those fun times when our po-dunk town randomly shuts off the neighborhood’s water with no warning…oh good times. Every mom has those days when we just can’t seem to get things to stay on track, but we still have a family depending on us for dinner.

These days are why I always plan “the back-up meal.” This is a meal you can get on the table in less than 30 minutes, and unlike some food network chef, it will not dirty up every dang dish in your kitchen (why call it 30 minute meals, when it is 30 minutes of cooking but 1 hour of clean up?). The back-up meal is one that you plan for, you buy for, and you save it for that day when all hell breaks loose. You’ll know that day when it comes…it will be right about the time Mom goes to DEF-CON 2, and you are in danger of launching the missiles.

But most importantly, the back-up meal has to be something that the family will actually eat. I could probably toss together a quick soup and sandwich, but after Bayou Husband quit laughing, he would hand me the phone and tell me to call for pizza (well, not really, but he would give me that pitiful look like he is going to starve to death). And let’s not even talk about what the kids would do, it makes me queasy just to think about it because it would start with something like this:

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No, the back-up meal is only a good plan if it means you still get Mom-Credit for cooking dinner.

The following dish, One Pot Pasta, is definitely a good back-up meal. Only one pot to wash? Who wouldn’t like that? I sure do. I’ve been known to throw out dishes I don’t want to wash. Once, when Bayou Husband and I lived in a tiny apartment, I forgot about some Thanksgiving leftovers hiding in the back of the fridge….for a month and a half. Needless to say, that went into the garbage, tupperware and all.

So, a meal that takes less than 30 minutes and only one pot? That is an essential in any Mom’s bag of tricks.  Pick up the stuff for this dish next time you hit the store, and wait for that inner-voice to tell you it’s time for a back-up plan. Pick up some wine while you are at it, so you can also enjoy a restorative cocktail while you whip up a home-cooked meal, even in the center of chaos.

one-pot-pasta

One Pot Pasta

  • 1  pound  lean ground beef
  • 1  small onion, diced
  • 1  (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1  teaspoon  vegetable oil
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  (26-ounce) jars tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • 1  cup  water
  • 1  tablespoon  dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  pepper
  • 1  (20-ounce) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook ground beef in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Wipe Dutch oven clean.

Sauté onion and mushrooms in hot oil over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in beef, pasta sauce, 1 cup water, and next 3 ingredients.

Bring sauce to a boil; add ravioli. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

If you do have that kind of day, just keep a nice back-up plan handy so that you can fake your domestic mastery. There’s always time to be Supermom for real tomorrow.

I have a Green Thumb of Death

Don’t let the banner fool you. Me and Gardening?

Not so much. Those are my husband’s efforts, and they only look that pretty because I stay far, far away.

I want to be the princess of gardening, I really do. Every spring, I have visions of a beautifully landscaped yard. I want a vegetable garden that is the envy of my neighbors and capable of feeding a small army. I see pages of Southern Living dancing in my head. As a result, I end up spending a ridiculous amount of money at my local home and garden store, and getting in way over my head. It’s my own personal brand of spring fever.

Spring in Louisiana, all two weeks of it, is perfect. And its’ perfection lures me to create grandiose plans for the garden of my dreams. I fantasize, I plan and I drastically overspend, all while my husband grumbles, sighs and tries to stop the cycle of garden mayhem that strikes every year about this time.

Because said husband knows something  very, very true about me:

I have the memory of a goldfish, and a green thumb of death, both of which are not conducive to gardening.

My goldfish memory always lets me conveniently forget that spring eventually turns to summer, and in summer, Louisiana gets hotter than Satan’s sauna. Weather over 100 degrees with humidity at 100 percent…who wouldn’t want to be outside in that happy state? Me, that’s who. To make matters worse, bugs emerge that are the size of small cars, and lie in wait to attack me the second I walk outside. Giant bugs…think Mothra, but with teeth.

Heat and bugs….those are two horsemen of Bayou-Mama’s personal apocalypse.

If that were not problem enough, I always have my green thumb of death. I kill any plant I try to cultivate. I could kill a cactus because I am a gardening moron, and should have my own support group or something. Gardening apparently takes a part of the brain that I just don’t use. Or maybe it just takes someone willing to risk the heat and Mothra-size bugs with only a kinked water hose for protection.

Good thing for me, Bayou Husband is not so afflicted. Bad news for him, that just means that he gets to do all the work while I “supervise.”

 Last year’s garden succumbed to my green thumb of death, despite efforts to quarantine it from my influence. It was truly tragic, and made my husband swear off gardening forever.

So, when we planted the garden again this year (the fever is contagious by the way) we’ve tried a little experiment with raised beds for all our vegetables. I think the raised beds are to ensure that my green thumb of death is not mysteriously spread simply through the ground I walk on.

We have tomatoes:

tomatoes

Squash and zucchini:

squash

An assortment of peppers:

peppers

and a few marigolds for good measure:

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I’ll keep you updated on the precarious progress of this year’s garden. It’s sure to be a soap opera, but I’ll try to keep the histrionics to a minimum.

Demon-Baby

I had my oldest child literally two days after I graduated from college. There was even a pool going among our friends as to whether or not I would go into labor at graduation. My pregnancy had been less than fun, because finishing my thesis and pregnancy-brain proved to be nearly incompatible. The last two weeks of my pregnancy, I began to swell up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, and scared friends and strangers alike.

After being induced, laboring and pushing for just five minutes short of eternity, I was wheeled into an emergency c-section, where my husband got up close and personal with parts of me that God never intended man to see.

My first impression of G-Man was the pediatrician exclaiming “dear God that is a big baby!,” and the fact that my beautiful baby had a huge section of road rash on his head where his ten pounds met my wide-but-not-wide-enough pelvic bone. Poor thing looked like you had dragged him across the concrete or something. At 10 pounds and 22 inches, he looked 3 months old, and was already too big for all newborn clothes and diapers. It was an omen, I just didn’t know it at the time.

When we brought G-Man home from the hospital, he revealed his true nature, and Demon-Baby emerged. I kid you not that that child cried for the first six months of his life. He screamed for two hours, and slept for five minutes, only to scream again. It was like the Exorcist, pea soup and all. I would not be surprised if his head spun around while my back was turned. We were tempted to sprinkle the Holy Water on him just to see if he would sizzle. We visited the pediatrician 6 times in the first two weeks, begging to know what we were doing wrong. All he could offer was the dreaded “C” word….Colic.

Being a new mom was hard enough, but being a new mom with a child that was unsoothe-able, unsatisfiable and contained a set of lungs that could be heard from space almost broke me. We tried everything. Sometimes the vacuum would soothe Demon-Baby, so my husband burned up a Hoover giving us the cleanest floors in the state of Louisiana. Sometimes you could pat Demon-Baby’s butt while he was on his tummy, so my husband gave himself carpel tunnel from hours of butt-patting. I wondered if my breast milk was toxic, so I changed my diet sixteen ways from Sunday, and went on rapid diet coke detox (which was oh-so-smart in the post-partum hormonal frenzy) while Best Friend M. guarded me from causing too much destruction in my withdrawal.

Today, my husband and I still tell the tales of those days like soldiers with a serious case of PTSD. I get a cold sweat just writing about it. It was almost enough to ensure that my oldest was an only child.

Here is a rare shot of Demon-Baby in his natural habitat:

envolope

 

Demon-Baby eventually relaxed and let the real G-Man emerge, but he kept making frequent appearances just to keep us living in a constant state of fear. I spent 5 years feeling pretty much like the worst mother on the planet.

But then something remarkable happened. G-Man started school, and sure enough, Demon-Baby reemerged every morning for the first three months, begging not to go, and screaming down the classroom. However, once he adjusted, G-Man emerged from his Demon-Baby cocoon, and was suddenly the best child you could ask for. He was sweet, kind, well-behaved, an excellent student, and in two years, has never gotten a single bad grade or conduct report. He was even Student of the Month this year. I still have whiplash at this incredible transformation.

Our Demon-Baby days taught me a lot about being a mom. I had to toss out all of the books and my preconcieved expectations of motherhood, and pretty much make it up as I went along. I got to see just how awesome my husband is, because I tell ya, he was right there with me in the trenches during Demon-Baby’s reign of terror. I was reminded why Best Friend M. is my best friend, because she stuck with me and my insanity over Demon-Baby even before she was his Godmother and had to.

But mostly, I learned that motherhood is a journey, and you just have to keep being the best mom you can be, even if you can’t see what is around the corner. Sometimes you get Demon-Baby, but sometimes you also get this:

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The Vegetable Battle

As a woman with two highly picky children and one moderately picky husband, my house is often a battleground at dinner time. The reason? Vegetable diversity. These guys like few, if any vegetables. Furthermore, they have no desire or interest to expand their culinary palates beyond the two vegetables they will actually eat.

This problem is mostly my fault. When my husband and I first got married, I did not have a whole lot of vegetable love either. I still ate more than he did, but not by much. Then my oldest entered the picture, aka “Demon Baby,” and I was willing to feed that kid anything just to shut him up for 30 seconds (but that’s a story for another day.) Basically, I created a house full of picky eaters, and now I am reaping what I sowed.

In the past few years, I’ve expanded my personal vegetable diet, and have worked on preparing them in more healthy ways. After all, frying the okra probably cancels out its’ nutritional benefit, right? And smothering broccoli in cheese knocks out any good points you get for eating the broccoli in the first place, I’m sure. Unfortunately, my family is not exactly on the bandwagon with this whole vegetable diversity plan. I’ve tried bribery, begging, threatening and an assortment of other theatrics to no avail. My current plan involves sneaking them into other foods, so they can’t be avoided.

While my plan is still hit and miss, I have discovered a secret that has helped all of us like a few more vegetables than before. My magic secret? Roasting (which just means baking the vegetables in the oven.) Most vegetables that can be roasted taste WAY better compared to steaming, boiling, etc.

Here is an example:

The other night I started with this:

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I chopped it up, tossed with some olive oil, sprinkled on some salt and it looked like this:

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I baked it on a sheet pan about 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees, until the vegetables were turning golden brown and delicious. Yummy! Of course, I had to mix it up with some rice to coax the kids into eating it, but Lord, for these small victories I am grateful.

This also works with asparagus, which can roast up in about 8 minutes flat at 375 degrees. Again, just toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt (after cutting off the woody ends), and you’ll end up with  the best dang asparagus you ever put in your mouth. If you close your eyes, you can almost pretend it’s french fries. Don’t take my word for it; Granny, Grandaddy, Sister Emmers and Best Friend M. all agree.

I actually got Bayou Husband to eat some roasted cauliflower the other day, though it was sprinkled liberally with Parmesan cheese.

Next time you are waging Vegetable War at your house, roast the veggies. You may be surprised at how much better they taste, or at least how much more you can force feed your kids before they enter full-scale riots.

To get you started, here is a recipe from this month’s Southern Living that I tried last night, and to my surprise, everyone actually ate it. Just roast your asparagus instead, and toss it in at the end! You can have this on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Chicken Tortellini with Asparagus

  • 1  (20-oz.) package refrigerated herb-and-chicken tortellini
  • 1  pound  fresh asparagus
  • 1/4  cup  chopped green onions (about 2 onions)
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1  medium-size red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1  (10-oz.) jar sun-dried tomato pesto (this is usually by the jarred pasta sauces)
  • 1/4  cup  (1 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2  to 3 Tbsp. sliced ripe black olives (optional)

 

Preparation

1. Prepare tortellini according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces.

3. Sauté onions in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to medium-high, add asparagus and bell pepper, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes.

4. Stir in pesto. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and, if desired, sliced black olives. Serve immediately.

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It may not be pretty, but it’s dang tasty, and it got some asparagus into the opposition. We’ll call that a victory for vegetable diversity.

Bayou-Mama Gets Fit….or at least less sloth-like

At the beginning of the year, I came to the startling realization that my youngest will be starting school this fall. Obviously, I knew this was coming, but the reality of the situation chose to sink in right about New Year’s Day. Other than the obvious emotional issues I have with this, I realized that my perfect excuse for carrying around about 35 pounds of extra weight was now bordering on ridiculous.

My husband waited until about 2 seconds after I was pregnant to break the news to me that he was a 12 pound baby. Nine insane months later, I gave birth (via c-section, obviously!) to Oldest, who was 10 pounds and 22 inches….That’s right, he looked three months old the day he was born. Two years later, I gave birth to Youngest, who tipped the scales at 9 pounds, 2 ounces, and THAT was because he was delivered early…to avoid the 10 pound repeat.

So, you see, I had the perfect excuse to be a little plump. “I gave birth to two 10 pound children,” was my standard justification for everything, including my crippling diet coke addiction, gallons of margaritas, and my tendency eat enough junk for 3 people in a given day.

Alas, my New Year’s wake up call came, and I decided to do something about this situation. How does the laziest, most unfit person in the world go about getting fit? Since I have never been able to stick to a diet or exercise program in my life (excerise….now that’s just funny…), I instead decided to commit to one small change at a time, and focus on staying committed to that change until it really became a lifestyle. I would set the bar so low every week that even a flake like me couldn’t fail.

So, for my first week, I dusted off the WiiFit and committed to 30 minutes of activity on it a day, even if it was just the Free Step while I watched Battlestar Galactica.

Wii Fit

This was perfect for me, since I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without panting like a sissy-girl. I was starting from literally zero level of activity.

Once I actually managed to keep up for two weeks, I then adjusted my diet just a tad. I can’t really change up dinner too much, because I have three beanpole males in this house who would riot, but I did start watching what I ate during the day. I also replaced some of my diet coke with water. Not all, mind you, I am not a masochist.

I then decided to challenge myself , so I bought this game for the Wii:

My Fitness Coach

As someone who has never been able to follow a workout DVD (you should have seen the disaster that was Tae Bo), I was skeptical. However, this game is interactive, and can adjust to your fitness level, how you feel on any given day, and it continuously adjusts itself based on how you are doing. Furthermore, you can pause during a specific exercise and see a tutorial until you think you’ve got it right, then jump right back to where you were in the workout. It is literally perfect for fitness dunces like me.

Using this game, and walking 30 minutes on the days I was too sore from the previous workout, I’ve lost 22 pounds since the New Year. Not too shabby, considering I did have a week or two with no working out because of illness.

So far, I have kept up with these changes longer than any other attempts at diet and exercise, and I am continuing to add tiny challenges as I go. On 30 minute walk days, I’ve started to add some jogging. Sure, it is only about 40 seconds at a time…downhill, but that is 30 seconds longer than I could four months ago. For me the key has not been a “program.” I don’t think drastic diets or fitness plans would work for me, because I am a too resistant to change. I simply started with one tiny goal, and mastered that change before I added another.

We’ll see how the rest of the year goes, but if I can drop 10 more pounds, I dare say I will have one less reason to have emotional breakdown come August.