You Grow It, You Eat It

This year, my husband has worked to get our kids invested in the vegetable garden, under the theory that they will be more inclined to eat/try foods to which they have an experiential connection. We’ve made definite strides in combating their overly picky palates, and victory usually comes in getting the kids active in meal planning and preparation. By making meals seem like events, instead of just pit stops between school and video games, we’ve seen that we can transform their attitudes about the foods they eat. For example, we recently started a “make-your-own” night (once with pizzas, once with tacos), and the boys not only ate, but clamored for more. I also give them cookbooks and magazines to peruse, and they occasionally pick out new recipes for us to try. Don’t get me wrong; I still have to put the Mom foot down on occasion and remind them this is not a restaurant, but still, this is progress.

So, we extended this theory of interaction to the garden, hoping that the boys would feel the same excitement about eating something that they helped grow. Other than our usual staples of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant, my husband let the Heathens pick a few seeds when it was time to plant. They both picked green peas, which I’m sure they felt was a fairly safe bet; after all, canned peas are one of the few vegetables they will eat without excessive dinner table theatrics. However, we both know there is a big difference between a fresh vegetable and a canned vegetable, especially in the eyes of an 8 year-old.

We harvested our first round of peas this weekend, and though the Heathens were excited, they were also mildly fearful now that it was time to pony up and eat the fruits of their labor. I finally took pity on them, and decided that we wouldn’t go for the full monty this first go out of the gate. Instead of making them scarf down a helping of plain peas, I decided to mix the peas in a familiar dish. I wanted to set them up for success, and not let their picky-eater anxiety get the best of them. I made grilled chicken and gnocchi, tossed in an Alfredo sauce with a splash of Marsala. I added the cooked peas and called it done:

The boys got to eat their peas, and we celebrated another small victory in our quest to eat a little fresher and a whole lot better.

On a random aside, my husband has also proven that the picky eater does not fall far from the tree. He decided he doesn’t like gnocchi, but he loves pierogi. Explain that one to me…

Diet Kryptonite

My husband went on another baking frenzy this weekend, and I will be jogging extra miles all week to undo the damage to my waistline. He found a recipe online that ended up being the best dang cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. I was all prepared to resist temptation, but alas, I failed.

It started out innocently enough:

But then, it got worse:

And then, he went and did this:

And then, they looked like that:

And then I committed diet suicide…twice. ’nuff said. If you see desperate woman running frantically around the park, that would probably be me.

Want to try the best dang cinnamon rolls ever? You really should, but don’t blame me if you need new pants later.

Cinnabon Copycat Cinnamon Rolls



  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Schooool’s Out for SUMMER!!

It’s the first day of summer vacation!

Having learned my lesson about how summer days can go awry, I am going into this year with a plan. Two bored boys, with no structure to speak of, will inevitably descend into bickering out of sheer boredom. And then the bickering becomes full-on fighting, and I end up being a shrill, screeching harpy. I don’t want to be a harpy…it will give me frown lines.

I decided that from day one, we would have some basic rules, a loosely structured schedule and the plenty of projects to keep things interesting. As both my mother and our pediatrician will tell you, kids like routine. Sure, a little spontaneity is always fun, but they still thrive in the comfort of knowing what they can expect. Coincidentally, we are now working to transition Bean from her on-demand lifestyle to a more predictable daily routine…one that hopefully includes naps that last longer than fifteen minutes.

I know I want each day to have three key components: chores, some type of educational activity or reading, and exercise (obviously disguised as any outside play). As long as we accomplish those three things, we can play the rest by ear. With the boys, my greatest downfall has always been inconsistency, and with inconsistency comes Heathen anarchy. I’m hoping to have a basic routine that is still loose and adaptable, so we can stay consistent without being tied to an overly structured schedule.

So, we started the morning with breakfast and the customary cartoons. While Bean napped, we cleaned up and did a few chores. Then, we headed off to the park to get some exercise and fresh air before it got too hot outside.


We had lunch, made cookies and then had a little work time (summer reading and journaling…can’t have their little brains turning into Swiss cheese, now can we?). After that, they got the rest of the afternoon to do whatever they wanted until it was time to start dinner.

Over the next few days, I’ll be building a list of low or no-cost ideas of how to keep them entertained this summer, so we can make the most of their time off while keeping the peace.

Why? Because we’re only one day down, and I still have 87 to go.

The Anatomy of a Smile

Our internet has been down this week. After my husband tried a little home improvement on our internet, we ended up with a mangled phone line and no phone or internet for several days. Two kids, one husband and no internet? That’s another definition of Chinese water torture, if you ask me.

In the meantime, Bean had her two month check-up (as well as three shots and an oral vaccine), and she is absolutely perfect.

In the meantime, I finally managed to catch a smile.

Wait for it…


Oh Dear God..

The cuteness!

Yep, she’s perfect, alright.


The Good News is that We Are Not Crazy…or Haunted…or Crazy AND Haunted

Let me preface this post by telling you that Bear thinks our house is haunted. He’s talked about this for a while, and I am sure it’s not helping matters that we let him watch My Ghost Story on A&E. Yeah…I get the gold star for questionable parenting choices sometimes.

Last night, my husband and I were jolted awake by the sound of our bedroom door rattling…loudly. The door was locked, and it literally sounded as if someone was on the other side of the door, trying to get in. I was instantly convinced that a bogeyman had broken into the house, and my heart pounded desperately. My second thought was that one of the kids had been shaking the door, because they don’t know the meaning of the word “knock.” I was prepared to either fight off the bogeyman with a baseball bat, or explain to my kids in no uncertain terms that shaking the door at 3:00 AM was not in their best interests.

My husband jumped up and went to investigate…and found absolutely nothing. We racked our brains as to what could have caused the rattling door.

Obviously, it was neither an intruder nor a wayward child, and we were both severely freaked out. I could find no rational explanation for what could make the door rattle all by itself. Maybe Bear was right and our house really was haunted…

We went back to sleep, and as I drifted off, I wondered if this was a problem that would require copious amounts of holy water and that little old lady from Poltergeist.

Weeeellll, guess what I found out when I woke up this morning:

See that blue box? That’s a freaking EARTHQUAKE!

Of all the possible explanations for the mysterious rattling door, I never would have guessed earthquake…this is Louisiana for cripes sake!

So, the good news is that we don’t need a voodoo priestess.



Summer Amnesia…or Denial…or Wishful Thinking

We are in what I like to call the “honeymoon” period of a Louisiana Spring. The flowers are blooming. My husband’s garden is thriving:

And the temperate weather is just enough make me foolishly optimistic. The yard and garden sure don’t seem like that much of a chore when it’s only 80 degrees outside.

But deep down, I know it’s coming.

The heat…dear God, the heat. By mid-June, I know my currently euphoric love of the outdoors will morph into bitter misery.

I’m already a big sissy when it comes to the oppressive Louisiana heat, but last summer traumatized us all. We had months of temperatures over 100 degrees (often reaching 110) and absolutely no rain. The record breaking heat and drought destroyed lawns, landscaping, trees, and crops. Our electric bill nearly put us in the poorhouse, and our kids dang near went stir crazy because they couldn’t play outside for most of the day. When we tried cooling off, we failed. Even if we waited until late evening to swim, the pool was still hotter than most people’s bath water. I really, really do not want to relive that.

Every year, a beautiful Spring makes me hope that maybe, just maybe Summer won’t be so bad. Maybe we won’t be constantly confined, or burning our hands on scorching seatbelt buckles, or dreading the double whammy of excruciating electric and water bills. Maybe my poor husband will be able to mow the lawn without the real danger of heatstroke. Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised.

And maybe pigs will fly…*sigh*

Finger Pointing

The baby weight is not coming off as quickly as I had hoped. Why do you ask? Because my husband is a SABOTEUR!!!

He has been on a baking kick lately, and makes things like this:

And this:

And it would just be rude not to eat them after he went through all that trouble to bake them.

Yep, my inability to drop the baby weight is all HIS fault!


When Too Much Information is a Bad Thing

It’s only taken me several weeks too many, but I’ve come to the realization that too much information can be a very bad thing. Especially when it comes to parenting.

I had the Heathens in my early twenties, and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I basically flew by the seat of my pants, and I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes along the way. I fumbled my way through early motherhood, and counted each day a success if everyone ended up fed and in moderately clean clothes.

In retrospect, I feel like I could have avoided certain frustrations if I had only done things differently; for example, maybe I could have bypassed the picky toddler food wars if I had given the boys more table food from the start, and less of the jarred stuff. When all the other moms were structuring their kids’ playtime, I confess I often told my kids to go play and let them be. I wasn’t overly proactive, and if anything, I was really put off by the intensity of the hyper-parents we saw at t-ball practice (in fact, we quit t-ball shortly after watching parents argue about which three year-old was going to play first base). Still, as the boys got older, I wondered if maybe my inexperienced laissez-faire approach to parenting kept my kids from being all they could be. I still fretted, as does any new mom, but I didn’t really know enough about raising kids to worry about half as much as I could have. Little did I know that a modicum of ignorance was actually a good thing.

When I got pregnant with Bean, nearly ten years later, I was oh-so-determined to do things better than I had before. I read, and read and then I read some more. I poured over Dr. Sears books and spent hours on the internet soaking in all of the latest trends that promised to give us the smartest, healthiest, most well-adjusted baby. I was going to be ready this time…hell, I was going to be Supermom. I would be armed with information, do everything right and breeze through Bean’s babyhood with confidence.


You want to know what all that reading really did? It made me neurotic. I spent the first weeks of Bean’s life fretting, and fearing, and plagued with insecurities. I worried I wasn’t holding Bean enough, feeding her enough, or engaging her enough. I feared the smallest misstep would damage the perfect bond that those Dr. Sear’s books claimed we were supposed to have. And dear God, if she was crying, I better be holding her, lest I damage her little psyche with feelings of abandonment. I had to be the perfect parent, even if it came at the expense of my common sense and sanity. Instead of relaxing and trusting my instincts, I was destroying my confidence as a mom with an overload of “expert” parenting advice.

Now that my post-partum insanity is finally waning, I’ve remembered something very important. I raised this guy:

And this one:

And they’ve turned out just fine, if I do say so myself. I did without a pile of parenting books, or endless internet searches. My husband and I did it by being ourselves, and not by trying to follow someone else’s manual for how to raise our kids.

I don’t want to be the mom that is so paralyzed by fear of screwing up her kids that she can’t enjoy their childhood. So, the Dr. Sears books headed to the donation pile and I’m going to spend less time worrying and more time enjoying this: