Bear Decorates a Cake and Reminds Me to Chill Out

Bear made his First Communion this weekend!

As much as I wanted to pull together a big to-do, Bean kept us under her Reign of Colic Terror all week. However, I was still determined to make Bear a super-cool cake. If I couldn’t manage a party, I certainly should have been able to decorate a cake.

Unfortunately, Screamy-Bean had other ideas:

But Bear, being the magical boy he is, solved this problem before he knew it was a problem. As the cake layers were cooling, and I was desperately trying to calm Bean down long enough to get to them, Bear exclaims, “Can I decorate the cake? It will be like a cake decorating party!”

With my mom-guilt already at an all-time high, I asked him repeatedly if he was sure he didn’t want me to do it. Nope, Bear found the prospect of decorating an entire two-tier cake all by himself to be too exciting to pass up. I gratefully turned him loose with an assortment of sprinkles and went back to angry-baby detail.

Let me tell ya, that kid was oh-so-proud of his First Communion cake:

After seeing how happy he was, I reminded myself that kids often care more about experiences and memories than appearances. Sure, I could have made him a fancy cake, but looking back, would he have cared about its’ appearance? I don’t think so. Bear will probably remember the fun he had decorating his very own First Communion cake, rather than what the cake actually looked like.

I guess the moral of the story is that, when my urge to be supermom turns what should be fun into a stress fest, I need to remember to see things through the eyes of these clowns:

 

They don’t care if life looks like the perfect pages of a magazine. I need to keep reminding myself of that, because they’d much rather have a happy, less stressed mom than a perfect cake.

Unsolicited Advice—Why Is My Baby Your Free Pass for Intrusive Behavior?

We’ve had a rough few days around here. Bean is not a happy camper, and has taken to throwing epic fits that are reminiscent of Demon-Baby. I finally dragged my semi-hysterical self to the pediatrician yesterday, and came out with a revised feeding plan, reflux medicine, and a definitive timeline for testing the theory that Bean has tummy troubles. If that doesn’t work, I’ll suck it up and accept the dreaded colic explanation.

Prior to my desperate doctor visit, I’ve learned that every Tom, Dick and Harry I pass on the street thinks they know more about my kid than I do. To add insult to injury, they feel compelled to share with me their infinite wisdom on how to fix my crying baby, using their Google medical degree.

Case-in-point #1:

Right about check-out time at Target the other day, Bean erupted into full-on screaming. The lady behind me, who clearly was a mother who had been in my situation, kept her mouth shut and simply offered to load an unwieldy box into my cart…God bless her. However, between the check-out line and the door, I was stopped by no less than five people to inquire about my screaming infant, then offer me their arm-chair diagnosis of what she needed.

“No, my baby is not hungry.”

“Why yes, she is pissed off. Thank you for that astute observation.”

“No, she doesn’t need her diaper changed.”

“No, she is not in need of a nap.”

“Yes, I’m sure *insert zany advice here* worked well for you, but I’ve got it covered…thanks.”

“No, I don’t want to hear about your pregnant daughter-in-law.”

“Can’t you see that you are blocking me from getting my screaming infant out of here???”

Yeah, I was about to end up on the news after that gauntlet. What is it about a baby that makes perfect strangers forget all boundaries, manners and common sense?

Case-in-point #2:

After a night of endless fussing, I took Bean to the park with the hope that fresh air and a few laps in the stroller would do us both some good. Not halfway through our first lap, she let loose with her guttural screams of “nothing you do will make me happy.” Of course, I turned to head back to the parking lot, only to get stopped by three people along the way.

“Somebody must be hungry!” Um, I fed her 10 minutes ago, but I love your insinuation that I’m letting my baby starve while I take a little stroll.

“Did you pinch that baby?” “No, but I’m tempted to pinch you right about now.

“She must be tired!” WHY didn’t I think of that??

Maybe it’s the sleep-deprivation talking, but I’ve had enough unsolicited advice today. To my armchair baby whisperers, please reengage your propriety filters, or you may draw back a nub next time.

*This public service announcement was brought to you by me, the soon to be mayor of Margaritaville*

Sunday Dinner & My Husband’s Breadsticks

 

We had a nice weekend, and with the help of my industrious husband, we enjoyed a wonderful Sunday dinner. While I whipped up some Chicken and Sausage Spaghetti, he broke out the bread machine. I love it when we does that…what girl wouldn’t be giddy when her husband bakes for her?

My husband knew his way around a bread machine long before he met me, and his repertoire included homemade cinnamon rolls, oat bread and breadsticks. Our busy schedules have not allowed much time for baking lately, so when I heard he was mixing up a batch of Garlic Breadsticks, I practically swooned.

Want to try ’em? Here’s the recipe:

Garlic Breadsticks

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  • 1 1/8 cups water (70 to 80 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 cups flour (Bread flour is ok too).
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine, melted

Directions

  1. In bread machine pan, place the first nine ingredients in order listed. Select dough setting. When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 20 portions. Shape each into a ball; roll each into a 9-in. rope. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Brush warm breadsticks with butter.

 

Trust me, they are dang tasty.

A Good Book I Read…

Last week, we took the Heathens to the local library so that G-Man could select a biography for his upcoming book report. While we were there, I perused the cookbook section for some fresh ideas. I love my Kindle, but when it comes to cookbooks, I need the real thing. Why? Well, I guess it has to do with my mom. When I hijack her cookbooks, I always find the recipes I’m looking for by finding the dirtiest pages in the book. When I was looking for the brownie recipe in a cookbook that had several, I only needed to find the page that was the most stained and smudged with her fingerprints. Cookbooks in our family are a microcosm of our history, and the spotted, splattered pages are sometimes as memory-evoking as the food itself.

When it comes to new cookbooks, the library is the perfect place to “try before you buy,” so I usually grab five or six to preview for their potential. On this particular trip, I stumbled across this book:

 

What I didn’t know at the time was that this book is far more than a collection of recipes; it’s a virtual manifesto in support of revitalizing family dinners. It includes research, essays, games and an encyclopedic collection of information that not only supports the importance of family dinners, but also gives the reader a tool box for starting or reinstating their own family dinner traditions.

Family dinner is a subject that is near to my heart, because I grew up in a home in which we gathered around the table every night. I was blessed with a stay-at-home mom, who also happened to be a fabulous cook, and an ironic combination of southern lady and quiet liberal. We ate at the table together, which was always set with cloth placemats (though we did use paper napkins…my mom is a saint, not a masochist). Setting the table was one of my first chores as a child, and to this day, it’s my favorite part of planning a meal, because it’s one thing in life that is entirely within my control.

It wasn’t until I was moving into my first apartment that I began to realize the impact those dinners had on me. Family dinner was security, sharing and the place where we learned about manners and conversation. Even as a dirt-poor college student, my priority for my first apartment was a dinner table, which my grandmother bought for me. My husband and I used it well, even if our meal was just cooked chicken and Pasta-Roni. We hosted our classmates with regularity, always at the table we had set with our dollar-store placemats. Our friends came, we cooked and we all recaptured that sense of familial normality we often missed in our wild college days. I spent that semester driving up my mother’s phone bill with collect calls, so she could walk me through the cooking basics. My husband and I still cherish those memories, because they helped us grow as a couple, and fortify the values we wanted to develop in our future family.

Before I went back to work, I continued with the traditions my parents instilled in me. I cooked (sometimes poorly) and we ate at the table…even if dinner resembled warzone with two picky toddlers. When our house burned down, we spent more time deciding on a new kitchen table than anything else…and as soon as the insurance check cleared, my husband ordered my 20 favorite cookbooks because he knew that was the quickest way to help us feel normal.

When I became a working mom, I got a big, fat dose of reality. Getting dinner on the table after working all day, while juggling the kids, house and everything else, suddenly became a Herculean effort. We ate out more often, relied on convenience foods and somewhere along the way, I lost my joy of cooking. I very easily fell into a rut, and found our nights to be more about getting caught up on our to-do list than enjoying each other. We still had family dinners, but I think I was always in too much of a hurry to truly engage in them the way I should have.

Now that I’m back at home, I am slowly working to recapture the quality of our family dinners, even when my fussy newborn has other plans. This book definitely inspired me to get back on track, and I highly recommend it for anyone that needs a little encouragement to come back to the table as a family.

For These Small Victories…

Over the past couple of days, reality set in that I just can’t get everything done, all at once, all the time. I’m not complaining, because I knew a baby would be a game-changer. However, with the sleep-deprivation making me loopy, my OCD fretting over the floors that need vacuuming, and new mom instincts telling me I need to be snuggling/feeding/carrying Bean more, I’m a little on edge. I know it’s just a matter of time before I find the groove, but that restless feeling that I need accomplish more, no matter what I’m actually doing, is a voice I need to silence.

In the meantime, I’ve had two small victories this week. The first is actually not such a small victory. Bean’s two-week check-up was yesterday. As a nursing baby, our goal was to see Bean regain the post-delivery weight loss; so, we wanted her to tip the scales at her 6lb, 13oz birth weight.

Not only did she regain her birth weight, Bean put on an additional pound on top of that. For a mom with a past of nursing frustrations and failures, that is a major accomplishment. She is thriving and I confess, I honestly felt like high-fiving the doctor…or at least doing the happy-dance.

My second major victory this week was that I also made it to the park for my first post-baby workout. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but yeah, I was that pregnant girl. About two seconds after the test was positive, I threw diet and exercise out of the window, and spent the next nine months eating…and eating…and eating. I basically used pregnancy as an excuse to indulge in every food I had been missing.

Alas, those actions came with consequences. I put on an embarrassing amount of weight, especially when I realized that Bean only made up about 1/10th of that. Now that I’m back on my feet, I’m ready to remedy this.

Having already been down this road before, I’m sticking with my philosophy of starting any fitness endeavor oh-so-small. My goal for the next two weeks is to walk 30 minutes every day…no more, no less. While I’ll try to challenge myself with the pace, I will also take care not to overdo anything, because that’s what leads to discouragement and failure.

So, these victories may seem trivial to you, but to a sleep-deprived, OCD-crazy, guilt-ridden mess of post-partum hormones, they feel absolutely epic.